When a loving family-run business turns to distrust and rancor

An amusing article in today’s Wall Street Journal about what happens when close-knit Indian families who run a business together have serious falling outs:

B. Vivekanandhan, the 51-year-old owner of a popular restaurant called Moonrakers, competes fiercely for customers in this southern Indian holiday town. So fiercely, in fact, that fists have flown.

His chief foes are his own flesh-and-blood. His older brother operates a seafood joint called Moonwalkers right across the street. Just down the same lane, his younger brother runs Moonrocks. The menus are nearly identical.

“Sometimes it’s like a street fight,” Mr. Vivekanandhan said. “People say, ‘This is a complicated family. We just came down to eat.’ ”

India prides itself on close-knit families who often live together and run companies side-by-side. All that togetherness can spawn epic business breakups.

Ninety-one percent of companies listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange are family controlled, and nearly all small-to-medium-size companies are owned by families, said Kavil Ramachandran, a professor at the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad. By comparison, about 35% of Fortune 500 companies are family-controlled.

In the southern Indian city of Chennai, rival branches of a family run competing versions of a snack chain, both called The Grand Sweets & Snacks. The founder had two daughters, who split the business about a decade ago after their families clashed. They sliced the original shop in half by hanging plastic sheeting down the middle.

Priyanga Madhan, the founder’s 38-year-old granddaughter, said the breakup was inevitable because she and her cousins kept fighting over the company’s future. She now runs half of the business on behalf of her mother.

One of her cousins, Saravana Mahesh, 50, said his branch of the family no longer speaks to Mrs. Madhan’s side, even when they run into each other at the flagship shop, now split by a concrete wall. “It is still awkward, even after 12 years,” he said.

Families can be so complicated. And, as I’ve gotten older, I know definitively that most of them are dysfunctional in their own ways.

I remember when I was young and watching the Brady Bunch from the perspective of living with an extremely dysfunctional family, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a family like that? Where nobody gets drunks and fights in the front yard so the cops are called, but instead works together to figure out how we’re going band together to help our sister who breaks her nose right before the big prom when Billy the football team captain had just asked her out?”

If only!

I’ve known families who approached that level of love and commitment to one another, and they always seemed like aliens. I was always half-expecting the perfect mom and perfect dad and perfect kids to suddenly split in half as aliens shed their human disguises and reveal that it was all an other-wordly field experiment in earth family dynamics.

In the southern Indian city of Chennai, rival branches of a family run competing versions of a snack chain, both called The Grand Sweets & Snacks. The founder had two daughters, who split the business about a decade ago after their families clashed. They sliced the original shop in half by hanging plastic sheeting down the middle.

Fascist rumblings in Europe got quite a bit louder last weekend

The fascist storm clouds in Europe are becoming darker:

The election of the first woman prime minister in a country always represents a break with the past, and that is certainly a good thing,” Hillary Clinton said to an Italian journalist at the Venice International Film Festival earlier this month. She was speaking of Giorgia Meloni, a member of the Chamber of Deputies, who could make history if the Brothers of Italy party does as well as expected in Sunday’s elections.

That would be one sort of break with the past. But Meloni would also represent continuity with Italy’s darkest episode: the interwar dictatorship of Benito Mussolini. As Clinton would surely concede, this is not such a good thing.

If Meloni comes to power at the end of this month, it will be as head of a coalition whose other members—Matteo Salvini’s League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia—were each once the main force on Italy’s populist right. Brothers of Italy, which was polling at 23 percent earlier this month, has overtaken these more established parties and would represent the bloc’s largest component.

Brothers of Italy, which Meloni has led since 2014, has an underlying and sinister familiarity. The party formed a decade ago to carry forth the spirit and legacy of the extreme right in Italy, which dates back to the Italian Social Movement (MSI), the party that formed in place of the National Fascist Party, which was banned after World War II. Now, just weeks before the 100th anniversary of the March on Rome—the October 1922 event that put Mussolini in power—Italy may have a former MSI activist for its prime minister and a government rooted in fascism. In the words of Ignazio La Russa, Meloni’s predecessor as the head of the Brothers of Italy: “We are all heirs of Il Duce.”

Putting Sec’y Clinton’s tone deaf assessment aside, this move to the right is happening in places on the continent that we might never thought could happen given what happened during World War II.

Italy’s not the biggest shock of them, at least from my personal experience. I have two close friends from Italy who now live in the U.S.

Both of these men are educated and progressive. But, in late-night meandering conversations with them — after a few strong drinks — the tenor of their politics changes from progressive to vaguely fascist, especially when the subject of immigrants is broached.

However, as writer Jen Kirby notes in this Vox article, this turn to the extreme Right is not just an Italian phenomenon:

These shifts are happening as Europe enters another precarious moment: a war on the continent that is increasingly unpredictable, and an inflation and energy crisis that will deepen as winter approaches.

The politics of Sweden, in northern Europe, and Italy, in the south, are very different, and the historical origins and reasons for the far right’s recent successes in each of those countries are unique. But, the far right shares certain trends across Europe — and, really, the globe. What is happening in Sweden, and Italy, is not all that different from what is happening in Brazil, or India, or the United States of America.

Pietro Castelli Gattinara, associate professor of political communication at Université Libre de Bruxelles and Marie Curie Fellow at Sciences Po, said that the far right is a global movement and a global ideology, even though one of the core tenets of these parties is a kind of nativism. That translates into a rejection of migration, but also of the social and cultural changes taking place within societies. The “woke” culture wars may look different in the US or Italy, but they are a feature of the modern far-right.

“New ideas coming from abroad are considered a danger to the nation-state,” Castelli Gattinara said. “We see that quite strongly when it comes to civil rights and, in particular, gender equality.”

Her entire interview with Gattinara is instructive and worrisome.

I get the impression that most of the people I know, including well-informed progressives here in the U.S., cannot be bothered to care much about what is going on in Europe right now. They think that fascist gains are temporary blips on the political radar in well-established liberal democracies. Or they think, even if fascism gains in Europe, it will not affect us here.

Which are the exact same things everyone thought in Europe and the U.S. in the 1930s.

We fight not to get rid of fascist political movements, as they will always be there lurking beneath the surface, ready to move into any voids created by economic or social turmoil. We fight to keep them from taking over while the rest of us are looking the other way, preoccupied with seemingly more pressing concerns.

fascism in italy
Fascism in Italy is making an alarming comeback.

Sweden, one of the world’s most progressive democracies, elects right-wing extremists to run country

More proof (if we needed any) that the ascendance of far-right politicians and crazy proto-fascists ideologies is happening around the world, and not just in the U.S.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has conceded defeat in the country’s close-fought election, paving the way for the far-right Sweden Democrats and allied parties to attempt to form a government.

The center-left Social Democrats, led by Andersson, received 30.3% of the vote, reaffirming its position as the country’s largest party with almost all the votes counted.

However, the left-of-center parties — the Social Democrats, along with three others — failed to achieve a majority in Sweden’s 349-seat parliament, or Riksdag.

Instead, a right-wing group of parties, led by Ulf Kristersson’s center-right Moderates, looks to have won a narrow majority of seats, and will have the first go at forming an administration.

This so-called “blue bloc” includes the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats. The party, once shunned by the political establishment, recorded its best election result yet with 20.5% of the vote.

It represents a historic turning point in Swedish politics.

The Sweden Democrats now stand on the cusp of gaining influence over government policy. The nationalist party campaigned on law-and-order issues following a rise in gun violence and has vowed to bring in longer prison sentences and reduce immigration.

Sweden, a Scandinavian country of roughly 10.5 million, has a reputation for being one of Europe’s most progressive states and consistently ranks among the happiest nations in the world.

Fascism never really went away after World War II. It’s just been biding its time on the fringes until populations with short (or no) memories forget what a disaster they were last time.

I guess the days of thinking only the Americans with Donald Trump were the easy marks for the loony Right.

Combatting right-wing extremism is a never-ending process, sadly.

Right-wing fascists, who have often clashed with their fellow countrymen in Scandinavia, have slowly been gaining ground even in progressive countries such as Sweden.

The royal family is really just a company — and a fabulously profitable one, at that

This article in the New York Times today ought to give pause to anyone on this side of the pond who still admires the British monarchy.

It examines the manner in which Prince Charles — now King Charles — has managed to become even more grandly wealthy than before by building up the Duchy of Cornwall:

The conglomerate’s holdings are valued at roughly $1.4 billion, compared with around $949 million in the late queen’s private portfolio. These two estates represent a small fraction of the royal family’s estimated $28 billion fortune. On top of that, the family has personal wealth that remains a closely guarded secret.

As king, Charles will take over his mother’s portfolio and inherit a share of this untold personal fortune. While British citizens normally pay around 40 percent inheritance tax, King Charles gets this tax free. And he will pass control of his duchy to his elder son, William, to develop further without having to pay corporate taxes.

The growth in the royal family’s coffers and King Charles’s personal wealth over the past decade came at a time when Britain faced deep austerity budget cuts. Poverty levels soared, and the use of food banks almost doubled. His lifestyle of palaces and polo has long fueled accusations that he is out of touch with ordinary people. And he has at times been the unwitting symbol of that disconnect — such as when his limo was mobbed by students protesting rising tuition in 2010 or when he perched atop a golden throne in his royal finery this year to pledge help for struggling families.

Today, he ascends to the throne as the country buckles under a cost-of-living crisis that is expected to see poverty get even worse. A more divisive figure than his mother, King Charles is likely to give fresh energy to those questioning the relevance of a royal family at a time of public hardship.

That part about inheriting billions without having to pay taxes like every other schlub is likely not sitting well with many people.

Sort of put Charles’ promise to serve Britain “until I die” in a different light, does it not? I’d serve every day until I die if someone threw in $28 billion.

I wonder how the Crown can possibly survive now that the beloved Queen is gone. Taking money from a grandmother figure who served in a world war is one thing. But I doubt Charles inspires that kind of loyalty, and I doubt William will, either.

The Firm.

After the initial shock of the death of a monarch, more people are starting to ask if what she represented was really as good as it was portrayed to be

As the initial shock of Elizabeth II’s death has started to lessen, and with it the time when people in love with the idea of The Queen can scream “too soon!” regarding criticisms of the Crown, cracks have been begun to appear in the hagiography that has thus far been emblematic of the media coverage, at least on this side of the Atlantic.

Such is the case with this piece in the New York Times by Hari Kunzru, whose ancestors fought in bloody battles to overthrow the the brutal and rapaciously greedy monarchy in the far-flung empire.

The British elite have always understood that the monarchy is a screen onto which the people project their own fantasies, and Elizabeth’s greatest asset as queen was her blankness. She liked dogs and horses, and rarely betrayed strong emotions. She seemed to accept that her role was to be shown things, so very many things: factories and ships and tanks and local customs and types of cheese and the right way to tie the traditional garment, to receive bouquets of flowers from small curtsying girls, and in return never to appear bored or irritated by what was surely often a boring public role.

The queen bridged the colonial and post-colonial eras. But for those of us who have a complicated relationship to Britain’s imperial past, the continuity represented by Elizabeth was not an unmitigated good. My father’s side of our family was made up of staunch Indian nationalists who worked for the end of imperial rule in 1947. Like many other people around the world whose families fought the British Empire, I reject its mythology of benevolence and enlightenment, and find the royal demand for deference repugnant.

Elizabeth was queen when British officers tortured Kenyans during the Mau Mau uprising. She was queen when troops fired on civilians in Northern Ireland. She spent a lifetime smiling and waving at cheering native people around the world, a sort of living ghost of a system of rapacious and bloodthirsty extraction. Throughout that lifetime, the British media enthusiastically reported on royal tours of the newly independent countries of the Commonwealth, dwelling on exotic dances for the white queen and cargo cults devoted to her consort.

You can also read this very good piece by the Times‘ Serge Schmemann, titled, “Queen Elizabeth Embodied the Myth of the Good Monarch.”

And then there is this piece by Maya Jasanoff, titled “Mourn the Queen, Not Her Empire.”

I see these pieces not as trampling on the memory of a Queen who was indeed admirable in so many ways, but rather as attempts to say that, as good as she was, she represented a system and monarchy whose history is the opposite of the anodyne public performance art she embodied.

I think young people — in Great Britain, as well as around the world — are, if you are to believe news coverage since Elizabeth’s death, more willing to see the monarchy without rose colored glasses.

After all, if I support the movement to remove Confederate monuments as representations of a racist, murderous past — and I do support it — then how can we not turn the same critical eye to a monarchy which practiced murderous racism on a far larger scale?

The Queen at her coronation.

I’ll not be watching the funeral and coronation, thank you

As with many people, I’ve had conflicting feelings about The Queen. Mostly due to her family and family history.

I felt admiration for the figurehead, Elizabeth II, thrust into a largely ceremonial role as monarch she didn’t want, the same role that is widely thought to have caused the early death of her beloved father. She embodied much that was good, and much that was very bad, about Britain and the British monarchy.

There was nothing ceremonial about the fabulous inherited wealth passed down and around in a royal lineage full of inbred social climbers. Lords and ladies and princes and princesses galivanting around the Commonweath in luxury to cut opening ribbons and give tepid speeches about charities they likely knew little about.

They were interesting, in a TMZ kind of way, as long as you don’t look too deeply in their bloody past to discover where all that money came from. Elizabeth II headed a family who lived their lives in studied indifference as they stepped over a lot of corpses — in Ireland, Africa, India, and elsewhere — to get and keep their money and monarchy.

To take just one example: under British rule, India shifted its focus toward cash crops like cotton, sugar cane, and tobacco that could not feed local populations. They imported food from other parts of the empire to feed its citizens. This policy, combined with the unequal distribution of food, led to 24 famines killing tens of millions between 1850 and 1899 alone.

The policy was not to interfere in grain markets even in time of famine, originating with the economic theories of Adam Smith. Famine relief was to remain as cheap as possible and ideally follow natural market forces. Racism was an influence, as Britain would interfere for their own poor, but never in India unless famines became too severe. The most startling case was the Bengal famine if 1943, which killed up to 3 million people. Britain policy chose not to import extra food into India after Japan took over Burma.

Britain also destroyed the existing system of Indian businesses in favor of British ones who shipped their profits back to Britain, leaving India a nation of servants without generational wealth. This was repeated throughout the British Empire.

Much of Britian’s aristocracy, including the royal family, can trace its generational wealth back to the exploitation of people of color during the British Empire.  These are families who should be paying reparations, not staging elaborate garden parties.

They were interesting, in a TMZ kind of way, as long as you don’t look too deeply in their bloody past to discover where all that money came from. Elizabeth II headed a family who lived their lives in studied indifference as they stepped over a lot of corpses — in Ireland, Africa, India, and elsewhere — to get and keep their money and monarchy.

Elizabeth II’s sense of duty and decorum contrasted with her dysfunctional family that is the largely the creation of her inability to be the mother and sister she ought to have been. She had a willing helper in husband Phillip, whose notions of masculinity and femininity, power and poverty, were toxic influences on Elizabeth and the rest of the family. (I imagine Elizabeth arriving at the pearly gates, only to be told, “Sorry, that awful Phillip and the equally detestable Queen Mother didn’t make it. But here’s a pack of corgis to lead you inside!)

I understand that, as a constitutional monarch, her functional power over day-to-day British politics was limited. And that too much overt public meddling might have caused problems of another kind for the Crown. But what behind-the-scenes powers she did have she did not use wisely when they were most needed. She was also a bigot on other issues — hello, gay rights? — although with age she seemed to mellow out of some of those.

I think the most interesting thing to happen in her last year of life was when she announced that, on her death, as son Charles ascended to the throne, his wife Camilla was to be known as Queen Consort.

That was huge.

Camilla, the divorcee (nee adulteress) whose sneaking around with Charles contributed greatly to all the drama and infighting that would eventually lead to the death of Princess Diana, would be given a title nobody thought possible at the time Elizabeth’s father was thrust onto the throne by her uncle The King choosing his love for an American social climber. He chose her over his monarchy because the Church of England would never allow him to marry a divorcee.

I wonder if The Queen finally confided to someone near the end of her life that she realized it all didn’t have to happen the ways that it did. The abdication. The early death of a much-loved father not emotionally equipped to be King. Her becoming the Queen she never thought she would be. Charles being miserable with a first wife he did not have to choose. The traffic accident that night in a Paris tunnel that killed the most beloved member of the royal family.

In any case, I still think the monarchy is outdated and silly. I’ll not be watching the funeral nor the coronation.

But I understand what The Queen meant to millions of her subjects who loved her and her reign. Then there are the countless others around the world who felt a connection to her as a diminutive grandmother figure in dowdy hats.

So I’ll not be whining about the non-stop coverage because, to much of the white world, she was and will always be the only Queen who mattered to them. That makes for a bit of understandable public keening and wailing, even though I’m going to ignore what amount of it I can.

British-caused famines in India killed tens of millions. Notice the dead or dying little babies.

Scientists find 31,000-year-old skeleton with signs of medical amputation

The only surgery I’ve had was after some inattentive goon in an SUV made a wide right turn in front of me at a Boston intersection, which sent me flying off my Vespa and into a fire hydrant.

Shattered right ankle, mostly. What I remember most vividly about the incident is how the city ambulance seemed to have no suspension whatsoever, so the entire time between the accident scene and Boston Medical Center we were hitting Boston’s ubiquitous potholes. Everything in the ambulance — including my shattered ankle — would bounce violently.

What a relief it was when we arrived at the emergency room and they gave me a shot of pain killer. And then put me under for emergency surgery.

I was in that hospital bed for a couple of days and nights while they gave me shots of glorious morphine every four hours — I watched the clock closely, let me tell you.

And I remember thinking, “I cannot imagine that they used to do all of this without pain killers of any kind. Surgery without being asleep.”

Life before general anesthesia must have been grim and terrifying.

On a related note, researchers in the journal Nature have revealed that they found a very old skeleton that shows signs of pre-planned amputation that had healed:

A 31,000-year-old skeleton missing its lower left leg and found in a remote Indonesian cave is believed to be the earliest known evidence of surgery, according to a peer-reviewed study that experts say rewrites understanding of human history.

An expedition team led by Australian and Indonesian archaeologists stumbled upon the skeletal remains while excavating a limestone cave in East Kalimantan, Borneo looking for ancient rock art in 2020.

The finding turned out to be evidence of the earliest known surgical amputation, pre-dating other discoveries of complex medical procedures across Eurasia by tens of thousands of years.

By measuring the ages of a tooth and burial sediment using radioisotope dating, the scientists estimated the remains to be about 31,000 years old.

Palaeopathological analysis of the remains revealed bony growths on the lower left leg indicative of healing and suggesting the leg was surgically amputated several years before burial.

Dr Tim Maloney, a research fellow at Australia’s Griffith University who oversaw the excavation, said the discovery was an “absolute dream for an archaeologist”.

The stuff of nightmares.

Europe is battling “semi-fascism” in ways similar to America

Europeans like to laugh at Americans and how stupid they were to elect Donald Trump. Some of that is well-deserved.

But we Americans are not alone in our susceptibility to the siren call of fascism — excuse me, “semi-fascism” — and right-wing candidates. After all, the Italians appear set to choose Giorgia Meloni who thinks Mussolini was not all that bad:

Meloni’s critics say the world should wake up to just how extreme her views really are, warning of a return to the dark days of 1930s fascism. Media coverage pointing out that Italy’s new government should be sworn in around the time of the 100th anniversary of Mussolini’s March on Rome has reinforced the point.

For senior Democrat Laura Boldrini, a critic and political rival of the Brothers, Meloni “represents the far right in Italy which has not had a reckoning with its past.”

Boldrini said: “Brothers of Italy is infiltrated by declared fascist elements.” The party “clearly wants a closed society that looks to the past while Italy needs to look to the future. Medieval times are over.”

And now the Brits are saddled with, inexplicably, a prime minster who may be even worse than Boris Johnson, as writer James Ball recounts in his article titled, “39 good reasons Liz Truss will be a terrible Prime Minister.”

The threat of right-wing extremism never goes away, almost anywhere in the world. Even in places that liberal Americans think are more civilized than America.

This is especially true when economic times are tough and people are susceptible to the easy answers of the demagogue and the scapegoating of whomever the political Right paints as being the enemy.

Vigilance and voting are the only answers to it, as tiring as the vigilance part can be.

It’s been like extremist whack-a-mole my entire life. You bat them down in one place and one election and they just pop up in another place and another election. Sometimes it’s the same people. Sometimes it’s new people encouraged by the people you thought you’d defeated.

They never go away. I think steeling myself to that reality has helped me to not give in to despair.

You do what you do, you stay informed and vote where you can, because you’re trying to keep them from completely taking over. Which they will do if the rest of us are not out there opposing them.

Semi-fascist Giorgia Meloni, probably the next Italian prime minister.

One of the right-wing’s most important money sources has dried up, further jeopardizing mid-term elections for GOP

The late multi-billionaire Sheldon Adelson revolutionized, in many ways, trade shows and casino management.

He was also one of the most reliable money spigots for Republicans and right-wing causes.

Sheldon Adelson gave more than a half-billion dollars in the last decade to GOP super PACs alone.

Sheldon’s wife Miriam is a bit of an anomaly in that she was an emergency room physician and substance abuse researcher before she married Sheldon. Although a right-winger when it comes to her native Israel, there were always clues she probably didn’t enjoy having to give money to, and rubbing shoulders with, the under-educated rabble of America’s right-wing GOP.

Well, now that Sheldon is dead, that gusher of money to the GOP and GOP causes has almost dried up.

Republicans aren’t seeing as many big checks from one of their most generous benefactors, creating a financial hole for the GOP just as Democrats get a fundraising windfall tied to abortion.

Miriam Adelson along with her late husband Sheldon Adelson were the party’s biggest donors over the past decade. But her only major contribution in the current election cycle is the $5 million she donated in July to the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC that backs House GOP candidates.

The couple, the largest shareholders of casino giant Las Vegas Sands Corp. and a long-time bugaboo to Democrats, donated $524 million to the party’s super PACs, committees and candidates between 2011 and 2020. They were high-profile backers of former President Donald Trump, who awarded Miriam the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2018.

But since her husband’s death in January 2021, Miriam Adelson, a 76-year-old physician, has largely eschewed the in-person events with politicians that typically conclude with big donations, according to two people familiar with her activity who asked not to be identified. Miriam, who spends much of her time in Israel, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Good for her. I’d stop giving money to the leeches of the American GOP, too, the second I had the chance.

Miriam, who never really liked leaving Israel for America, is no idiot. She knows deep down that if much of the GOP had its way, Jews would be second-class citizens. And the only reason many extremists in the GOP love Israel is because they think it will be the place where Armageddon begins.

If I had the chance, I would also decamp for Tel Aviv in my golden years. It’s an amazingly vibrant, interesting city filled with wonderful people. As long as you don’t piss them off in traffic. As you do regularly if you ride a scooter anywhere in Tel Aviv and the old city.

The late Sheldon Adelson and Miriam Adelson.

This article about the Trump family separation policy is just as jaw dropping as I’d heard it to be

I just finished writer Caitlin Dickerson’s exhaustive (and much talked-about) piece in The Atlantic about the insidious genesis and disastrous implementation of the Trump Administration’s family separation policy at the border. It’s a lot to digest given the byzantine nature of both the politics behind the policy, and the dizzying alphabet soup of federal agencies and programs involved.

I had no idea, for instance, of the myriad ways that immigrants seeking asylum at southern border — the vast majority who are not criminals, that is — can be handed off from the Border Patrol to ICE to HHS and elsewhere. The system already seems primed to lose track of people. Add into the mix an effort to purposefully yank screaming toddlers out of the arms of their mothers, and it’s easy to understand how people with nefarious motives could use the immigration bureaucracy toward amoral ends.

One part of the debacle that gob-smacked me was that I kept wondering, “Why had nobody thought to sit down and create a simple spreadsheet tracking the children who were taken away?” With just a few data points I could create one myself in an hour or two, and I’m no Excel expert.

I wasn’t the only one confused by that, as the Atlantic article makes clear:

[U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas John] Bash and other U.S. attorneys were flabbergasted by the ineptitude of those who had created the [family separation] policy. “I remember thinking, Why doesn’t someone just have an Excel file? ” Bash reportedly said. “I mean, it’s a large population in human cost and human terms, but it’s not a large population in terms of data management. We’re talking about a few thousand families. You can have all that on one spreadsheet with the names of the people, where the kid’s going. It was just insane. I remember being told that there was going to be a phone number parents could call and know where their kids were. And I told a public defender that and she was like, ‘This phone number doesn’t work, one. And two, most parents don’t have access to phones where they’re being held, or they have to pay for the use of the pay phone. So that doesn’t work.’ ”

Bash asked the Justice Department to launch an investigation into why parents and children were not being reunited expeditiously, still not fully understanding his agency’s role in the scheme. He created a list of questions that he wanted answered, which were shared with Gene Hamilton, Rod Rosenstein, and others at DOJ: “What technology could be used to ensure that parents don’t lose track of children?”; “Is it true that they are often pulled apart physically?”; “Why doesn’t HHS return the child to the parent as soon as the parent is out of the criminal-justice system, on the view that at that point the child is no longer an ‘unaccompanied minor’?” Rosenstein responded that the U.S. attorneys should try to find out what was going on themselves. The attorneys sent the questions to their Border Patrol counterparts, but their inquiries were ignored. “DHS just sort of shut down their communication channels to us,” Ryan Patrick, the U.S. attorney in South Texas, told me. “Emails would go either unanswered, calls would go unreturned, or ‘We’re not answering that question right now.’ ”

There wasn’t a way to track the children who were yanked from their parents because the Trump people wanted to inflict as much pain as possible. They didn’t want it to be easy, if possible at all, to reunite these terrified, damaged children with their loved ones. They fully expected — nay, they counted on it — that these children would never see their mothers again.

I seem to recall a government in the 1930s that thought taking newborns and toddlers away from undesirables and placing them with “acceptable” families in the homeland was good family planning.

I will admit here that I’ve always considered immigration to be a lesser issue, at least in terms of broad goals for a more just domestic society. Americans spend so much time being distracted and divided by the billionaire-funded right-wing echo chamber that has all of us fighting over immigration and abortion and drag queen story hours. Fighting about those important, but ultimately peripheral issues, keeps all of us from truly reforming laws related to Wall Street and the billionaires; from transforming the system so that Fox News and OAN and the people who pull their strings are no longer in charge.

If we did that rising up and taking power from the people who really hold it in this country, then many of these other issues would eventually become less controversial and easier to solve in rational ways, away from the white-hot cauldron of manipulated public opinion.

Now that I’ve read Dickerson’s heart-breaking article, however, immigration has moved up my list of motivations for the upcoming elections.

We cannot let the Trump monsters who pushed these inhumane policies — many of whom are federal career bureaucrats still employed at DHS, HHS and the Justice Department — from holding power. Because they are waiting for their chance to do it again. Next time, however, they will have lessons learned; namely, to first get rid of any of the people who stood in their way last time.

You can read Dickerson’s article at this link.