Trump’s Border Policies Let More Immigrants Sneak In

“President Trump’s top policy priority was supposedly “border security.” But government data show that he failed to improve it. Border Patrol recorded 41 percent more successful illegal entries in fiscal year 2019 than in 2016 and was on pace for 47 percent more through four months of 2020. As he left office in January, reports indicate that the numbers have reached even greater heights.

Government officials and the media typically measure border security by the number of people “apprehended” (or arrested) by Border Patrol. But the main security concern for the agency are those it cannot interdict—who it calls “got‐aways”. Border Patrol released a horrifying video last year that fantasized about a “got‐away” evading capture and murdering someone in a dark alley.

Yet despite this supposed focus, the government records show that Border Patrol was observing more immigrants sneaking into the country than when President Trump took office. In fiscal year 2016, Border Patrol agents witnessed about 100,000 successful entries. By 2018, the number had risen to nearly 128,000. In 2019, it hit 150,000. Through four months of 2020, it was on pace to hit almost 156,000.”

American Politics Now Has Two Big Racial Divides

“In many ways, the 2020 election was basically like every recent American presidential election: The Republican candidate won the white vote (54 percent to 44 percent, per CES), and the Democratic candidate won the overwhelming majority of the Black (90 percent to 8 percent), Asian American (66 percent to 31 percent) and Hispanic (64 percent to 33 percent) vote. Like in 2016, there was a huge difference among non-Hispanic white voters by education, as those with at least a four-year college degree favored Biden (55 percent to 42 percent), while those without degrees (63 to 35) favored Trump. (There wasn’t a huge education split among voters of color.)1

Other surveys tell the same general story: Trump won white voters overall by a margin in the double digits and won whites without four-year degrees by even more; Trump lost among whites with at least a four-year college degree, lost by a big margin with Asian American and Latino voters and lost by an enormous margin among African Americans.

So the main reason that Trump nearly won a second term was not his increased support among Latinos, who are only about 10 percent of American voters and are a group he lost by more than 20 points. Trump’s main strength was his huge advantage among non-Hispanic white voters without college degrees, who are about 42 percent of American voters. His second biggest bloc of support was among non-Hispanic white Americans with degrees, who are about 30 percent of all voters. According to the CES, over 80 percent of Trump’s voters were non-Hispanic white voters, with or without a college degree. In contrast, around 70 percent of nonwhite voters supported Biden, and they made up close to 40 percent of his supporters. So it is very much still the case that the Republicans are an overwhelmingly white party and that the Democratic coalition is much more racially diverse.”

“however …”

“Trump did 7 percentage points better among Asian American voters in 2020 compared to 2016, 4 points better among Hispanic voters and 1 point better among both white and Black voters, per the CES. Biden did 4 percentage points worse among Asian American voters and 1 points worse among Hispanic voters compared to Hillary Clinton, while doing 1 point better among Black voters and 3 points stronger among white voters compared to Clinton.

“Other surveys and precinct-level data suggest that the Trump swing among Hispanics could have been larger than CES found, with Trump gaining in the upper-single digits and winning the support of over 35 percent of Latino voters. (Ultimately, we will never know exactly how different racial and ethnic blocs voted, since people aren’t required to state their race or ethnicity when they cast ballots.) But generally, the story of 2020 is that Trump did better with Asian American and Hispanic voters than in 2016, while Biden did better than Hillary Clinton among non-Hispanic white voters.”

Why Black Women Are Often Missing From Conversations About Police Violence

“Women account for less than 4 percent of fatal police shootings, but according to our analysis of the Post’s data, almost 20 percent of the women fatally shot by police are Black, even though Black women make up only around 13 percent of women in the U.S. And since 2015, when the Post first began tracking fatal police shootings, at least 51 Black women have been killed. Half of those women have gotten some national media attention in the 60 days surrounding their death, according to FiveThirtyEight’s analysis of media reports, but in most cases, the coverage is limited — five stories or fewer.”

“Researchers at Brookings Institution and the University of Maryland analyzed nearly 300 phrases used as Twitter hashtags between August 2014 and August 2015, a year after the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Though these hashtags are often used to name Black victims of police brutality, not one specifically mentioned a Black woman or girl.

“Mainstream narratives are often still written by men or are tailored toward a male perspective,” said Keisha Blain, a history professor at the University of Pittsburgh and the president of the African American Intellectual History Society. “For these reasons, among others, Black women’s experiences with police violence are too often marginalized.””

Top Trump officials pushed the Covid-19 lab-leak theory. Investigators had doubts.

“In February 2020, 27 scientists penned an open letter in The Lancet saying “scientists from multiple countries have published and analyzed genomes of the causative agent … SARS-CoV-2, and they overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife.” “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that Covid-19 does not have a natural origin,” the scientists wrote.”

“Several former national security and White House officials said they felt the circumstantial evidence they gathered in the spring of 2020 pushed them to believe the virus had originated in the lab.

“Just as a matter of common sense, the CCP destroyed virus samples, they only let the WHO investigation into the laboratory for three and a half hours, they bleached the site of the wet market, they didn’t let Taiwan into the World Health Assembly, not to mention that this lab was so close to the center of the outbreak,” one former senior State Department official said. “To me, I just thought right away, this came from the lab.””

““It’s entirely plausible this came from a lab, and it’s also entirely plausible it came from nature. As an intel analyst, you look at a whole set of coincidences and you start to wonder if they’re really coincidences. A lab working on this very issue as a locus for an outbreak — that’s a heck of a coincidence,” said Emily Harding, a former CIA analyst who was deputy staff director for the Senate intelligence committee last year.”

“One of those reports, circulated internally in May 2020 by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s intelligence unit, said it pulled on genomic analyses of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to determine that it was plausible that Covid-19 originated in the Wuhan lab, according to two individuals familiar with the classified report.
Another report, published in the scientific journal Cell by Chinese and American researchers made its way to Ruggiero’s NSC directorate. The authors had studied mice with humanized lungs and tracked how they responded to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Although the special mice were created years before the virus emerged, the study led officials on Ruggiero’s team to determine that the virus could have originated in the lab in 2019.

Over the course of 2020, the Trump administration gathered evidence that showed researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick in November 2019 “with symptoms consistent with both Covid-19 and common seasonal illness,” according to a State Department fact sheet published in January 2020 just before the inauguration of President Joe Biden. Months later, on May 23, 2021, the Wall Street Journal reported more details about that incident, including that there were three researchers — all of whom sought medical care from a hospital.

But those reports described the researchers’ symptoms as “consistent with” Covid-19 and other well-known viruses such as the flu. Nor is it clear whether the scientists worked with bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan institute, a large research facility in a city bigger than New York. Many studies have suggested that Covid was already circulating in Wuhan by November 2019, so it’s possible the scientists could have been infected outside of work.”

“Last month, Biden ordered the intelligence community to redouble its efforts in studying the origins questions. It’s unclear whether the Biden administration has obtained new intelligence from China or elsewhere that will help officials come to a clearer determination than the Trump administration did.”

“with China refusing to share vital lab data with the U.S., the Biden officials face a similar challenge as the Trump officials who kick-started the probe in 2020. They will have to rely in part on circumstantial evidence that could prevent them from reaching a conclusion on whether the virus originated in the Wuhan lab.

“It seems unlikely that we will get a definitive answer on Covid’s origins in 90 days, or maybe ever. My guess is that if a lab leak did occur, the likelihood of gaining access to definitive evidence would be near zero. This would be among the most closely protected secrets in the history of the Communist Party,” said Zack Cooper, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. “That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t continue to press to get answers, but we should be realistic about the likelihood that we’ll have definitive proof in 90 days.””

Mexico Just Took an Important Step Toward Ending Military Impunity

“The marines would soon be charged with kidnapping three men in early 2018 in the border city of Nuevo Laredo. These may be the first of many indictments stemming from that six-month deployment, which human rights activists said turned into an extrajudicial reign of terror over the city. Altogether, 257 of the marines special forces unit are suspected of kidnapping or murdering at least 49 people in the spring of 2018, some bodies found tortured and shot through the head in the desert. Others have never been seen again.

One of the disappeared, Jorge Dominguez, was a U.S. citizen, whose case was documented in December by POLITICO. He was 18, running an errand for his father, when he was snatched off the street by soldiers in military vehicles. But despite witness accounts and evidence of a slew of similar abductions, the Trump administration did not intervene on behalf of Dominguez’s family.”

“Mexico’s military is regularly accused of crimes, and the army has been implicated but not prosecuted in the 2014 disappearances of 43 school teachers in the city of Iguala. But soldiers are typically untouchable, and in the rare circumstance that Mexican soldiers have found themselves in court, it’s usually after intense international pressure.”

“the arrests could be viewed as an olive branch to a new U.S. administration. “Trump didn’t really care about oversight of human rights abuses by Mexican forces,” says Raul Benitez, a Latin American security professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. “But now, the Biden government may be looking with more detail toward the violations of human rights.”

But the arrests might also have a purely domestic explanation.

“One idea I’ve seen suggested is that, from the Mexican side, AMLO really doesn’t trust the navy in the same way his predecessors did,” says Duncan Tucker, who works with Amnesty International in Mexico City. Since his election, AMLO has increased the army’s power exponentially, awarding it building projects, giving it control of some ports and hospitals, granting it increased control of the border and expanding its budget. Past Mexican presidents had always favored the navy, perhaps because the U.S. also favored them. But AMLO is something of a nationalist. He may view the navy as tainted by U.S. influence, Tucker says, and so might be willing to see it punished publicly.”

“the difference in Nuevo Laredo is that one man, former journalist turned human rights activist Raymundo Ramos, investigates, documents and publicizes the cases. Without him, it’s almost certain the marines would never have appeared in court.”

“While the 30 arrests are not insignificant, there were 257 marines deployed to the area, sharing three small barracks where some of the missing were hidden. And it seems that no high-ranking officials have been charged. The navy has even sealed the records of special forces commanders for five years, so that no one can know who was stationed where.”

The Facebook Ban Hurt Trump in Surprising Ways

“Facebook always was hugely important to Trump in his political rise and reign. Twitter, which has booted him forever, tended to be more front and center — it was for Trump a rough, running focus group, and a real-time, utterly un-private diary. But if Twitter was the loudspeaker, Facebook was the less flashy but nonetheless critical organizing, advertising and fundraising infrastructure. Compared to Twitter’s noisy café, Facebook was the underground pipes. It’s hard to see how Trump would have become president without it.

“I understood early that Facebook was how Donald Trump was going to win,” Brad Parscale, the digital media director on Trump’s 2016 campaign who then started as his campaign manager in 2020, said in 2017. “Facebook was the method — it was the highway which his car drove on.”

“… large numbers of conservative voters, ability to broadcast all day, multiple times to the same audience, and the numbers were showing in the consumer side that people were spending more and more hours of their day consuming Facebook content,” he said in 2018. “Being able to show a message directly from President Trump talking… talking directly to camera was very important. I could get it right there not filtered by the media, not filtered by anyone. It was his face. It was the person you wanted to hear from talking directly to you.”

A New Yorker headline in March of 2020 referred to “Trump’s Facebook Juggernaut.”

“He arguably has the best fundraising list in Republican politics right now, which means he has the best email lists and text messaging lists, but there’s a half-life on that — because people change emails, change cell phone providers. So it’s important that he keeps filling that pipeline with new contacts, and that’s where Facebook comes in,” Wilson said, noting that polling he’s done suggests that 60 percent of voters log on to Facebook every day.”

The Secret IRS Files: Trove of Never-Before-Seen Records Reveal How the Wealthiest Avoid Income Tax

“how do megabillionaires pay their megabills while opting for $1 salaries and hanging onto their stock? According to public documents and experts, the answer for some is borrowing money — lots of it.

For regular people, borrowing money is often something done out of necessity, say for a car or a home. But for the ultrawealthy, it can be a way to access billions without producing income, and thus, income tax.

The tax math provides a clear incentive for this. If you own a company and take a huge salary, you’ll pay 37% in income tax on the bulk of it. Sell stock and you’ll pay 20% in capital gains tax — and lose some control over your company. But take out a loan, and these days you’ll pay a single-digit interest rate and no tax; since loans must be paid back, the IRS doesn’t consider them income. Banks typically require collateral, but the wealthy have plenty of that.

The vast majority of the ultrawealthy’s loans do not appear in the tax records obtained by ProPublica since they are generally not disclosed to the IRS. But occasionally, the loans are disclosed in securities filings. In 2014, for example, Oracle revealed that its CEO, Ellison, had a credit line secured by about $10 billion of his shares.

Last year Tesla reported that Musk had pledged some 92 million shares, which were worth about $57.7 billion as of May 29, 2021, as collateral for personal loans.”

“after decades of wealth accumulation, the estate tax is supposed to serve as a backstop, allowing authorities an opportunity to finally take a piece of giant fortunes before they pass to a new generation. But in reality, preparing for death is more like the last stage of tax avoidance for the ultrawealthy.”

“Normally when someone sells an asset, even a minute before they die, they owe 20% capital gains tax. But at death, that changes. Any capital gains till that moment are not taxed. This allows the ultrarich and their heirs to avoid paying billions in taxes. The “step-up in basis” is widely recognized by experts across the political spectrum as a flaw in the code.

Then comes the estate tax, which, at 40%, is among the highest in the federal code. This tax is supposed to give the government one last chance to get a piece of all those unrealized gains and other assets the wealthiest Americans accumulate over their lifetimes.

It’s clear, though, from aggregate IRS data, tax research and what little trickles into the public arena about estate planning of the wealthy that they can readily escape turning over almost half of the value of their estates. Many of the richest create foundations for philanthropic giving, which provide large charitable tax deductions during their lifetimes and bypass the estate tax when they die.

Wealth managers offer clients a range of opaque and complicated trusts that allow the wealthiest Americans to give large sums to their heirs without paying estate taxes. The IRS data obtained by ProPublica gives some insight into the ultrawealthy’s estate planning, showing hundreds of these trusts.

The result is that large fortunes can pass largely intact from one generation to the next. Of the 25 richest people in America today, about a quarter are heirs”