Week's End Thoughts & Reflections, June 23, 2018


In Man's Fate, André Malraux's novel about an episode in the Chinese revolution, Suan, a young terrorist, remarks that the sons of torture-victims make good terrorists. Suan and his comrade Pei are sons of torture-victims. I thought of this when I read that it was only in 1999 that Israel's High Court issued a decision prohibiting torture in investigations of Palestinian detainees suspected of involvement in terrorism. Many thousands of Palestinians were tortured over the two or three decades before 1999. Sons of torture-victims make good terrorists.

Nikki Haley blamed human rights groups for the US withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council (Stephanie Murray, Nikki Haley casts blame on NGOs for U.S. withdrawal from rights council, Politico, June 20, 2018). There are ample grounds for criticizing the Human Rights Council. I suspect, though, the US withdrawal has more to do with our country's determination to turn a blind eye to Israel's human rights abuses in Gaza and the occupied territories than to the council's neglect of abuses in other countries. Human Rights Watch acknowledged problems with the council while asserting that the decision will sideline the US from key global initiatives to protect human rights. Kenneth Roth, the group's director, said, "The US has been threatening to walk away from the Human Rights Council ever since President Trump came into office, so this decision comes as no surprise. Trump has decided that 'America First' means ignoring the suffering of civilians in Syria and ethnic minorities in Myanmar at the United Nations." (UN: US Retreat from Rights Body Self-DefeatingOther Countries Need to Step Up at Human Rights Council).

Full disclosure: I have been a card-carrying, dues-paying member of Human Rights Watch for a number of years.

An email from the Department of Health and Human Services obtained by Talking Points Memo says

...lawmaker visits must be set up two weeks in advance, with no exceptions. When they are allowed to visit, members of Congress are not allowed to take any photos, record audio or speak with the detained children. They are not allowed to bring any staff members with them on the visit.

"To protect the privacy and vulnerability of children in its care, we cannot allow visitors to record or photograph anything within the facility property, nor are visitors allowed to interact with the children," Sara Morse, the deputy assistant secretary for legislation at HHS, wrote to Capitol Hill offices. "We appreciate your cooperation." (Alice Ollstein, Trump Admin: No Surprise Lawmaker Visits To Child Detention Centers, No Talking To Kids, June 20, 2018)

I take this as evidence supporting my earlier surmise that privacy concerns are being used to shield the child-detention program from oversight.

Among the most striking features of the regime's "zero tolerance" policy, and there is a lot of competition here, is the utter absence of planning or any thought whatsoever about how to implement the damn thing. No thought was given to tracking children and parents, how they would reunited, where people would be detained, how an already overburdened system would handle the increased caseload, any of it. The sheer incompetence of these blockheads, or maybe the obliviousness to competence, once again leaves me spluttering for words. There is at the highest levels of government not an iota, not a scintilla, zero, nada, no sense there is more to government, and more to management, than signing an executive order and declaring this fixes the problem.

Yesterday I wrote about heckling and harassment of Kirstjen Nielsen and Stephen Miller as they dined in Mexican restaurants in the DC area (Troubling Developments). This morning brought reports that Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave a Virginia restaurant because she works for the president. It is not clear whether she was asked to leave and complied gracefully or was kicked out.

To say that I have no love for Sanders is an understatement. To call it an understatement is an understatement. But the incident is disturbing, as was the heckling of Nielsen and Miller. Some might argue that Sanders, Nielsen, and Miller are involved up to their necks in policies and executive actions that are so wrong, so much beyond the pale of what is acceptable, that they should not be allowed to go about their personal lives as if everything is copacetic. I would be hard-pressed to come up with a counterargument. Yet I find refusal of service in a public establishment, heckling, and harassment disturbing.


There is something in it that begins to smack of the mob and vigilantism. There must be better ways.

And on a cheerier note, baby ducks at Laurelhurst Park!



The little guys are hard to see. They blend right in. As they are supposed to.


Memo from the Editorial Desk, June 24, 2018

An article in The Guardian includes owner Stephanie Wilkinson's account of Friday's incident at the Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia:

[She] told the Washington Post Sanders was served with a selection of cheeses before she decided, following a consultation with staff members, to ask her to leave the premises. "I was babbling a little," Stephanie Wilkinson said, "but I got my point across in a polite and direct fashion. I explained that the restaurant has certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty and compassion and cooperation. I said, 'I'd like to ask you to leave.'" Sanders, Wilkinson said, replied: "That’s fine. I’ll go." Others at her table followed. Wilkinson said: "They offered to pay. I said, 'No. It’s on the house.'"

The owner added: "I would have done the same thing again. We just felt there are moments in time when people need to live their convictions. This appeared to be one." (Martin Pengelly, Expert: Sarah Sanders broke ethics rules with tweet about restaurant ejection)

While I remain uneasy about this sort of thing, I am sympathetic to Wilkinson. She acted out of conscience. Sanders took the issue public when she tweeted about it using her official government account. This precipitated "online efforts to boost or damage its [the restaurant's] customer reviews, hoax booking calls and differing opinions locally."

I like the response of Congressman Elijah Cummings (Dem–Md): "I think, as far as the restaurant incident, I think the restaurant owner should have served her. I really do. But, this tone is horrible. But again, I think President [Donald] Trump has created this."

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David Matthews

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