The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

The First Sanctuary City Surrenders!

The First Sanctuary City Surrenders!

Beautiful.

President Trump is hailing the first victory in his fight against “sanctuary cities” after a South Florida mayor ordered his employees on Thursday to begin working more closely with federal immigration authorities.

For years, Miami-Dade County has refused to hold some undocumented immigrants in its jails for federal immigration agents. But after Trump signed an executive order threatening to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez changed his mind.

Gimenez signed an executive order Thursday ordering the director of his corrections department to begin honoring all requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement(ICE) to hold immigration suspects in Miami-Dade County jails.

“Miami-Dade County complies with federal law and intends to fully cooperate with the federal government,” the order read.

Gimenez said he made the decision to ensure that the county does not lose out on $355 million in federal funding it has coming in 2017.

The Trouble With the Newly-Recharged ‘Accountability Journalism’

Over at the Neiman Journalism Lab, Ken Doctor offers an essay about mutual accountability – the audience holds the media accountable, the media holds the powerful accountable – that runs along fine until we hit this point:

If publishers, editors, and general managers — at dailies, public radio stations, alternative weeklies, TV outlets and emerging digital startups — assert such values, what work will they point to, each week or each day, that fulfills that promise? Those news organizations — The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, Mother Jones, The Guardian — that have seen a boom in subscription sales have done just that. They’ve done the visible work, and readers have responded.

Er, okay, except… all of those examples are center-left to pretty far left. If you can’t find any publication on the Right that represents the values of good journalism you want to salute, then I start to draw some conclusions about how you define “holding the powerful accountable.”

He continues with this example:

The real-life implications for Americans, given the spate of policy/law changes, looks like it is going to be profound. Especially at the local level (where, let’s remember, everyone lives), health care, environmental, education, and criminal justice impacts should be quite reportable. This week, via NPR’s All Things Considered, I heard the kind of report we need. NPR, in partnership with Phoenix’s KJZZ and Kaiser Health News, produced “Arizona Children Could Lose Health Coverage Under Obamacare Repeal.” In less than four minutes, it made human impacts clear.

The NPR piece does quote a health care policy expert from the Goldwater Institute, but otherwise it follows a really familiar narrative: The good and generous government is giving something to the deserving needy, and bad people want to take it away. Repealing a law that has been largely disliked since its inception is framed as cruel act to a mom who survived ovarian cancer in college.

Perhaps the potential repeal of Obamacare strikes many journalists as outrageous. It’s a free country, and they’re free to come to that conclusion. But what else outrages them?

Did the falsity of ‘if you like your plan, you can keep your plan’ outrage them? Did veterans dying while waiting for care from the VA outrage them? Did the administration’s actions before, during and after the Benghazi attack outrage them?  This isn’t “whataboutism,” allegedly a disingenuous form of changing the subject. This is a challenge to political journalists, that if they saw these other Obama-era scandals as regrettable, but inconsequential snafus, with no larger lesson or meaning… why?

If you see certain other stories of scandal and incompetence as deeply meaningful, and national “teachable moments”, why is that? Hopefully your sense of a meaningful and consequential cause for outrage doesn’t align perfectly with one party’s interests. Ideally, the course of human events will periodically bring you to offer a critical assessment of someone you previously liked or agreed with. (Ahem. Bob McDonnell. Ben Carson. Mike Huckabee.) 

There is desire among the president’s most high-profile critics to build a broad bipartisan coalition of permanent opposition to Trump, to minimize his ability to change national policies, and to leave him a legacy as one of America’s least consequential presidents. But is the motivation for that opposition Trump’s deviation from traditional Republicanism, or because of his partial alignment with it?

Trump critics catch my attention when their argument is that he is uniquely troubling in the Oval Office because of his lack of impulse control, his belief in implausible theories, his petty vindictiveness, his crude comments and language, his contradictory statements and persistently ameliorating perspective on Russia.  These critics lose me when they suggest Trump is dangerous because he wants abortion restrictions, border security, Obamacare’s repeal, to cut particular government spending, and for sanctuary cities to start cooperating with federal immigration authorities. Trump is a controversial personality, but that doesn’t mean that everything he does is automatically controversial.

The Death-Stroke for Heavy-Handed Gun Control Storylines

The news of the gun violence storyline in DC Comics’ Deathstroke comic isn’t quite as absurd and insufferably politically-correct as it seems at first-glance. For starters, the writer, Christopher Priest, at least recognizes that a Deathstroke comic is just about the last place to expect a story that talks about how bad guns are. See, if you collected comics in the late 80s and early 90s, this is what you’re used to with Deathstroke:

And the more recent live-action version of the character on the television series Arrow used guns as well:

Deathstroke is perhaps the most gun-focused comics character this side of the Punisher. Yes, he also uses swords and various other weapons, but Deathstroke shooting a gun at a bad guy is the bread and butter of his stories. A Deathstroke comic telling you that “gun violence is bad” is like Baskin Robbins telling you that calories are bad. What the heck do you think you’ve been selling all these years?

Secondly, Deathstroke is one of those former-villain anti-hero characters. Meaning that he’s not the kind of character with the moral authority to shake his head in disapproval of America’s gun laws, or just about anyone else. At least when I was reading, his day job was being an assassin. The standard gun control message is even less persuasive within the fictional world depicted in superhero comics books. With dangerous killers like Deathstroke and every other super-villain threat running around, any civilian in the D.C. comics universe would be foolish to not own every possible gun he can.

But at least Priest – interestingly, a Baptist minister – recognizes his character cannot be a plausible messenger for the message he wants to send:

Priest uses a reporter to investigate rumors that the families of shooting victims have hired Deathstroke to take out the armed killers of their children. Deathstroke is mostly silent through the issue, while Chicago citizens debate whether an eye for an eye can ever be the right way to answer back to violence.

The silence from the assassin was intentional, according to Priest. “I wanted Deathstroke to be a force of nature more,” Priest said. “I wanted to have as objective an analysis of the crisis as I’d be able to do. So I used a reporter’s voice.”

Still, even the modified effort within the story runs into some serious cognitive dissonance with the comic’s established narrative and rules. The preview of the comic at the link features an “armed citizen” story going horribly wrong – a case of mistaken identity causes a fatal shooting of a child on a bicycle. Surely, we are to conclude from this sequence of events that private citizens carrying guns is just a formula for tragic, unnecessary bloodshed.

Except… Deathstroke has been around in the comics since 1980, and in every time he’s been on the heroic side of the line, he’s been a private citizen carrying a gun – sometimes really huge ones – and blowing the smithereens out of villains and looking awesome while doing it. Having access to cool guns and good aim has been a big part of what made Slade Wilson a heroic character. DC Comics has glamorized being a good shot with a gun for decades now – ask Deadshot, Nemesis, Vigilante, Jonah Hex, etcetera – and now this fictional sequence is supposed to make the audience believe that gun ownership is recklessly dangerous and morally abhorrent? Come on. You cannot have your cake and eat it on a scale like this, comic book creators.

Coming next week: the Deathstroke creative team teaches us all that torture and threats are not effective interrogation tools!

ADDENDA: This morning, as you read this, I am off to the Koch Network’s winter meeting. Pardon me, as the Democrats and their aligned media prefer to call it, “the shadowy Koch brothers far-reaching network” gathering; I imagine the whole thing is going to look something like the secret Stonecutters meeting from The Simpsons, lots of masked individuals in robes singing about their far-reaching power:

Who controls the British crown? Who keeps the metric system down? We do, we do!

Who keeps Atlantis off the maps? Who keeps the Martians under wraps? We do, we do!

Who holds back the electric car? Who makes Steve Guttenberg a star? We do, we do!

Who robs cavefish of their sight? Who rigs every Oscar night? We do, we do!

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