The Vietnam War on PBS

If you haven’t been watching this, you should be. It’s wonderfully good and it’s not pulling any punches about American misconceptions while at the same time explaining the politicians’ and the generals’ thinking. If you’re my age you recognize a lot of the music playing in the background or during interludes. The film and cinematography are amazing, too.

Watch it. You’ll be educated and heartbroken at the same time.

To the phones again!

Next week the Senate Republicans will put forth an abomination called the Graham-Cassidy bill, which intends to repeal the Affordable Care Act and eliminate health care for millions of Americans. Oh, its sponsors would deny that hotly, but it’s nonetheless true.

In reality, Graham-Cassidy is the opposite of moderate. It contains, in exaggerated and almost caricature form, all the elements that made previous Republican proposals so cruel and destructive. It would eliminate the individual mandate, undermine if not effectively eliminate protection for people with pre-existing conditions, and slash funding for subsidies and Medicaid. There are a few additional twists, but they’re all bad — notably, a funding formula that would penalize states that are actually successful in reducing the number of uninsured.

Surely they can’t think this bill helps Americans, can they? Here’s what it does.

People, get on your phones to your Senators and Representatives. Tell them this is a horrible plan. If you’re in a state where the Senators will vote against it, call ’em anyway to say thanks and ask them to try to persuade some of the more moderate Republicans (Collins, Murkowski, possibly McCain).

Goodbye, Cassini

Tomorrow at roughly 7:55AM EDT Cassini will commit suicide by jumping into a planet. Okay, maybe that’s a little too human a verb. Put it that it’s being sent down to the surface (?) of a gas planet whose radius is 36, 184 miles, second in size only to Jupiter. It’s traveling at 76,000 miles per hour, so it won’t take much contact with the giant’s atmosphere to rip it to pieces. As that’s happening, though, it will continue to send data as long as it’s capable, plucky little (not so little — 22 feet high and 13 feet wide) spacecraft that it is.

Read that link when you have a few minutes. It’s got excellent audio-video links and graphics.

NASA TV will broadcast live commentary online of Cassini’s end, beginning at 7 a.m. Eastern time on Friday.

Harp, harp, harp

I know it. I know I’ve said enough about the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico and their suffering from Irma’s effects.

But man alive, our news media stinks sometimes. On the Evening News from both CBS and NBC their reporters in the Florida Keys repeated the same phrase: “Here, where Irma made its first US landfall…”

The US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are both territories of the United States, as are fourteen other places around the world. The USVI, Guam, the Northern Marianas Islands, American Samoa and Puerto Rico all have sizable populations. Their citizens are US citizens, albeit ones with no voting representation in Congress. Parenthetically, I have lived on two of those five islands, Guam and Puerto Rico. They’re as American as any small city in the United States.

St. John in the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico both got hit by Irma, hours before the storm hit the Keys. It does them a disservice to ignore their status as part of the United States.

Come on, media, grow a brain.

Weather coverage

If you look at Fox, CBS or NBC today you’ll see the opening games of the NFL season, played in glorious sunshine on pretty green fields, with thousands of people in the stands. If you look at cable Fox, CNN and MSNBC you’ll see reporters out in the streets in various cities in Florida, all of them being battered by wind and rain.

The dissonance is remarkable.

This lady has a complaint about the coverage. I’m sure she understands all about “news you can use” aimed at the largest number of viewers, but she’s a native of the US Virgin Islands, and from her home in Houston she saw this:

On every channel and news site I turned to, the coverage of Hurricane Irma seemed to be directly correlated to its projected impact on the state of Florida, with little to no mention of the dozens of Caribbean islands the storm would surely devastate days before affecting the state — including the U.S Virgin Islands and the unincorporated U.S territory of Puerto Rico. I read through report after report and watched multiple videos where statements like “There is no immediate threat to the U.S. until it nears Florida” were made.

I was not the only one watching. More than 100,000 U.S citizens in the U.S Virgin Islands and 3.4 million more in Puerto Rico watched as numerous newscasts practically dismissed the impact this category 5 hurricane was sure to cause to our beloved homes.

This was not the first time we had witnessed our dismissal during hurricanes. Of the dozens I’ve experienced in my lifetime, many have gone by with little to no mention of our territory via national media. It always begins and ends the same way. And yet with limited local media outlets and sources, residents relied on mainland U.S. news sources to provide them with regular updates on what to expect of Irma. Instead, they were forced to listen to the familiar reports of concern for the continental United States hundreds of miles away.

She’s got a point. The networks can all make the excuse that they have limited resources and can’t put reporters on every flyspeck of an island, but as Ms. Quiñones says, two of those flyspecks are American territories.

I’ve seen this before. I can’t even count the number of times there’s been a big story in Hawai’i that’s been covered by the networks from Los Angeles or even NYC. The media needs to figure out that a lot of Americans live beyond the North American border and do a better job of providing news to them. In this case the people in the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico surely needed more and better information than they were getting from the big networks. That they didn’t get it makes the networks and big cable nets look insular at best and uncaring at worst.

Irma la not-so-douce

I know I have some former high school classmates who live in Florida or who have relatives who live there. My best wishes to all of them. Hawai’i has had its share of hurricanes, but none recently (knock wood) and certainly none the size of Irma.

I was here for Iniki in 1992 and wrote about my experience here. Fortunately for us on O’ahu the wind gusts never got much higher than 65mph. It ripped the hell out of Kaua’i, though. In fact, one of the best-loved resorts there, the Coco Palms, is only now being demolished and restored, 25 years later.

From the television pictures we’ve seen so far of the damage to the islands in the Caribbean that were in Irma’s path, Florida looks to be at grave risk of calamity and huge property damage with no way out. I just hope there are no deaths.

Now what for Dreamers?

Remember that 800,000 people voluntarily gave their personal information to the government with the assurance that it was confidential and would not be disclosed to other agencies:

Applicants gave that information with the assurance that it would not be shared with Immigration and Customs Enforcement or Customs and Border Enforcement, the agencies that otherwise would be charged with deporting them. As the Citizenship and Immigration Services’ own guidance states, “information provided in this request is protected from disclosure to ICE or C.B.P.,” unless the applicant commits a crime or poses a national security threat.

Dreamers divulged information to the government, expecting that their information would not be shared. The information includes not only potentially incriminating information like date of initial entry and length of stay in the United States, but also details like their names, addresses, school information and Social Security numbers — precisely what the government needs to locate and detain them quickly.

Anybody taking any bets that the people Trump has put in charge of the Citizenship and Immigration Services won’t be heavily pressured to pass that data along to the enforcement people at ICE or CBP despite that guidance?

Also, there are big loopholes in the six-month “window” AG Sessions begrudgingly announced today.

those whose DACA status is set to expire during the next six months can renew their status, which lasts two years. But that last bullet point, while cryptically worded, means that those whose status expires after the six-month cutoff cannot renew it. (DACA status lasts two years from the date of implementation, and recipients have been renewing their status after expiration. Because people have been signing up on varying dates over time, their two-year statuses have been expiring in rolling intervals over time, too.) The group whose status expires in the next six months can renew one more time for two more years. But those whose status expires after the six-month deadline cannot. When their status expires, their work permits and protections from deportation are gone.

I hope no one is fooled by Sessions’ mealy-mouthed whine that DACA is executive overreach and unconstitutional; he was a consistent vote against relaxed immigration law every time it came up in the Senate while he was there. He is, as my friend and now-deceased Alabama blogger Mac Thomason often called him, an evil little troll.

Whither DACA?

The Internet seems to think Trump will announce Tuesday that all those people known as Dreamers, who were brought to America as children, will be deported. There may be a six-month delay before the actual expulsions begin in order to give Congress time to craft a law to validate their immigration status, it’s reported, but that’s a fig leaf. Congress has tried to pass immigration laws for years and run into hard-line Republican legislators who screech “Amnesty!” and “if they didn’t come in legally they must be deported!” Guys like these weasels:

…Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his former aide, Stephen Miller, who is now the president’s top national policy adviser, have been pushing Mr. Trump to end the program. Both are immigration hard-liners who see ending DACA as a core campaign promise that the president must adhere to.


Eleven state attorneys general wrote to Mr. Sessions in June threatening to mount a legal challenge to the DACA program unless the administration phased out the program by Sept. 5, which is Tuesday. In a meeting at the White House, Mr. Sessions informed Mr. Trump that he would not defend what he considered an unconstitutional order in court, according to people familiar with the conversation, and officials at the White House and the Department of Homeland Security have made the case to the president that his administration would look foolish if it argued in favor of preserving it.

Tennessee’s AG has withdrawn his signature, but that still means there are ten states threatening to sue unless DACA is shut down and the 800K people it covers expelled.

If it were me I’d say to hell with looking foolish, what’s the right thing to do? But for Trump, who’s looked foolish, idiotic, unpresidential and generally worthless since the day he gave that “American carnage” inauguration speech and the next day when he argued that there were more people at his inauguration than had ever attended one before, deliberately looking foolish is the last thing he wants to do.

So now the fate of 800,000 young people whose only “crime” was being brought to this country as children by their parents years ago rests in the hands of the United States Congress. A Congress that has a ruling party that’s already fighting within itself and a minority party which would be willing to help solve this problem but who, it’s thought, can’t be worked with by the majority on pain of primary challenges to its members.

Of all the stupid and wicked things Trump and his Cabinet Secretaries have done in his first seven months, this (barring nuclear war with North Korea) may be the worst.