Freed Inmates Were Detained, Causing Fears In The Immigrant Community

Originally posted to my Patreon and Substack pages.

Nearly 100 New Jersey inmates were released into federal immigration custody during a release that was supposed to be part a humanitarian prison amnesty program designed to stop the spread of COVID-19 in state prisons.

The release, reported by …

A Six-Year-Old Thought Experiment and Personal Essay Has Trump Supporters and Other Conservatives in a Rage

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Conservatives are on the warpath about this piece from Ezekiel Emanuel, accusing him of endorsing euthanasia and calling for a cap on how old we can get. Their arguments are absurd and based on a misreading of what he actually says. The piece is a personal consideration of the issues that surround aging, including the policy issues that an aging populace raises.

Emanuel, an oncologist and medical ethicist, is a member of Joe Biden’s coronavirus task force, one of 10 medical professionals appointed by the presumptive president-elect to advise him on policy during the pandemic. His essay — “Why I Hope to Die at 75” — ran in The Atlantic in 2014 and is now being (willfully?) mischaracterized and his message distorted to make political hay. This is not surprising, really, given our tendency as humans to look only for evidence that supports our beliefs, and because past history (“Harry and Louise,” death panels). …

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Barack Obama won election in 2008 with 69.4 million votes. It was the most votes cast for a presidential candidate in history until this year, when both candidates for president surpassed Obama’s total. Let that sink in. Both candidates.

Put another way, Donald Trump won more votes than any presidential candidate in history, aside from Joe Biden. Donald Trump won 69.7 million votes — and we are not done counting.

So, while Joe Biden is likely to be president, while Biden won more than 73 million votes, more than anyone ever, we can’t look at the 2020 election as a repudiation of Trump or Trumpism. …

Notes on Patriotic Hagiography, Establishment Resistance, and the 1619 Project

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History has always been contested terrain. As the cliche goes, history is told by the winners — though, I think a more accurate statement might be to claim that the powerful get to control how history is presented, to raise up the myths that govern our understanding of ourselves, and that control our politics.

Battles over history implicate our self-described identities and belief systems. When Donald Trump calls for the teaching of patriotic history, what he is advocating is indoctrination into the myth of American exceptionalism — America the great and infallible — while the symbols and historical he chooses to extol and defend — Confederate heroes, slave holders, racists — tell us that his exceptionalism is also a form of White supremacy. …

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Nineteen years ago today, a high school friend was at work in the World Trade Center when planes hijacked by Islamic terrorists purposely crashed into the towers, causing structural damage and fires that quickly led them to topple. Mukul Agarwala was among the nearly 3,000 who died that day.

Keith Estler, another high school friend, managed to escape the towers — you can see him in one of the documentaries that was produced in the months after the attacking fleeing from an elevator that had been stuck between floors but that, somehow, miraculously, luckily, managed to get started again. …

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Bret Stephens’ column today raises some interesting questions about how the next few months will play out politically and whether we can rid ourselves of the tumor that is Donald Trump. …

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COVID has made a bad situation worse for temporary workers

Jonathan Gonzalez has a story to tell. It’s not about himself, but about a single day in April when he was assigned by temp agency to a Jersey City manufacturing facility as the novel coronavirus pandemic was taking hold of the state and the country.

The facility, which I’m not naming, packages food — cans, boxes, bags of prepared and pre-prepared food — for shipment to intermediate warehouses and supermarkets, and runs 24 hours. Gonzalez worked an overnight shift, what was supposed to be 5 p.m. until 1 or 2 a.m. …

Rutgers English Department Victimized by Right-Wing Hit

Rutgers University’s English Department plans to increase emphasis on grammar through a critical approach designed to make students aware of the choices they make when writing — an effort that runs counter to reports circulating on social media that seemed on fanning the flames of the culture war.

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The report, written by a Texas Christian student for a student-run, conservative website called The College Fix, distorted a letter from the department chair that outlined ways in which the English Department is working toward creating an “anti-racist classroom.”

The College Fix piece presents the plan as part of a process of a “decolonization,” using language common on Fox News and conservative websites, and describing it as “an effort to deemphasize traditional grammar rules.” On Fox, one former professor claimed that the changes, in particular efforts to de emphasize grammar, would hurt minority students, following through on a narrative pushed by the conservative spin machine. …

“We tell outselves stories in order to live.” — Joan Didion

There is a famous quotation from Joan Didion, which opens one of her most famous essays, “The White Album”: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” The quotation often is used to fete the writer, to proclaim the essential nature of what we do to the culture at large. But that distorts what Didion is saying, which is relevant to the damaging narratives we use when discussing race in America.

Didion is not celebrating the storyteller, but deconstructing the need to tell stories. …

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We’re nearing 140,000 dead from COVID-19 (disproportionately black and brown), another 550 killed by police (disproportionately black and brown) in the first six months of the year, tens of millions (disproportionately black and brown) out of work, millions (disproportionately black and brown) on the precipice of eviction and homelessness.

On the Fourth of July, I posted this flag in black and white, along with the poem “To America” by James Weldon Johnson:

How would you have us, as we are?

Or sinking ‘neath the load we bear?

Our eyes fixed forward on a star?

Or gazing empty at despair?

Rising or falling? Men or things? …


Hank Kalet

Poet, professor & longtime newsman, who covers economic & other issues for NJ Spotlight and other publications. Check out my blog @

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