Kirstjen Nielsen said she would have to get back to us with the numbers she didn’t know at that particular point in time how many people had died in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security which is to say how many people had died in her custody. You might understand the head of a large government agency not being able to get too granular about all the minute details of everything they oversee like how much money they spent on blankets that quarter say or how many calories the children they’re holding are being fed a day. Someone knows that sure but maybe not the boss right but the number of people that have died on her watch seems like a reasonable one to have access to offhand. How many people have died on your watch for example I bet you know.
Well she didn’t have the numbers handy despite the fact that a young girl named Jakelin Caal Maquin had just died on her watch something that would probably make me go were I the head of Homeland Security for example Jesus Christ how many people have died with me at the wheel I’d go then I’d rip someone a new one.
The girl was seven years old a birthday she had just celebrated on the long trip from Guatemala with her father. She had gotten her first pair of shoes for the trip her family said after she died in America the famous country.
Some reporters found her family back where they had traveled from in a “tiny wooden house with a straw roof, dirt floors, a few bedsheets and a fire pit for cooking, where Jakelin used to sleep with her parents and three siblings” they said.
The brothers were “barefoot, their feet caked with mud and their clothes in tatters.”
In the home “a heart constructed out of wood and wrapped in plastic” commemorated Jakelin’s death.
It’s not clear if Secretary Nielsen had access to any of those details why would she but the House Judiciary Committee were nonetheless just as much in shock at her ignorance as the rest of us.
Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island was particularly red-assed when she said she didn’t know how many people she let had gone and had die.
“Madame Secretary, did I understand you correctly to say that as you sit here today, you do not know how many human beings have died while in custody of the department that you lead, and in preparation for today’s hearing, you didn’t ascertain that number?” he asked using her formal title which is the legislator version of when your parents are very disappointed in you.
“I don’t have an exact figure for you,” Nielsen said.
“Do you have a rough idea?”
“Sir, what I can tell you is…”
“I’m talking about people who have died in your custody. You don’t have the number?”
“I will get back to you with the number,” she said which is what you say when your boss asks you what the sales projections are for next year or something I don’t know I’ve never been able to hold an office job so just imagine whatever it is bosses ask you that isn’t super important and you just have to go poke around a second and figure it out.
Over the summer people were all very excited about activists going after Trump administration officials and other prominent Republicans while they tried to eat out at restaurants. A group of DSA members chased Nielsen out of a Mexican restaurant near the White House in June.
Nielsen’s attempt to have a casual dinner in public on any other day would be ample cause for disruption I wrote at the time. But on a day that the firestorm over her enforcement of the separation of children from their parents at the border reached a crescendo and news was circulating wildly about the existence of literal baby jails it was a mind-boggling show of hubris only further adding insult to injury that the incident occurred at a Mexican restaurant.
Sometimes people come back from war I guess and they get a taste for the local cuisine.
Kirstjen Nielsen is either a particularly stupid person or a particularly evil one and when we’re talking about anyone in this administration your guess is as good as mine. Some of them can be both I suppose. Sometimes especially when I’m drinking a lot I get this pressure inside of my skull and I want to run into a wall over and over again to make it stop but I don’t ever end up doing that and probably won’t but I just remembered that that happens.
Later in the hearing Nielsen was asked why the administration was threatening to shutdown the government over a dispute about Congress paying for a wall that Trump had promised for so long would be paid for by Mexico.
“From Congress, I would ask for wall. We need wall,” she said.
Here’s a press release form her department from the week before that may or may not be illuminating on her particular elocution there I don’t fucking know anymore man. They went back and fixed the typos since then but I promise this was real.
We’re all still waiting to hear back from DHS on the number of people who’ve died in their custody this year or last year or the year before that. While deaths along the border or on the journey here aren’t super rare deaths once people have been taken in by the U.S. government tend to be or at least seem to be it’s hard to say since the most recent data they’ve released is from 2015 when there were ten.
Whatever the number is this year in case you’re reading this Secretary Nielsen you’re going to need to add one to it because and I’m not sure if you’ve seen this yet maybe you were offline for the holiday but a few days after your appearance in front of the House committee on Christmas Eve an eight year old boy named Felipe Alonzo-Gomez also from Guatemala died in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection which is to say on your watch Madame Nielsen. They’d taken the boy to the hospital and prescribed him some medicine and then a few hours later he was vomiting and they took him back to the hospital but he died there and is now dead.
On Christmas Eve around the time that eight year old boy was dying I was at my parents’ house and I was trying to tell my mother about some of the stuff I was proud of this year like the time we all got together and raised over thirty thousand dollars so a woman would be eligible to receive a heart transplant even though the death panel overseeing her care had said hit the bricks lady due to they didn’t believe she would be able to afford the necessary post-transplant medicine. One thing I didn’t bring up to my mother is another fundraiser I started a few days ago to build giant escalators that would run over Trump’s imaginary border wall because we aren’t supposed to talk about politics.
As of today the fundraiser has pulled in almost nine thousand dollars which is something I know because GoFundMe sends me an update every single hour with who all has donated and I can’t figure out how to turn it off. The idea of course is a response to the GoFundtheWall nonsense that’s raised over seventeen million dollars for the famous wall we all love and know. The guy who started that thing is a triple amputee veteran which I feel terrible about but he also seems like a real piece of shit con artist who has had multiple Facebook pages he ran called like Patriotic Eagle Jizz taken down for being so bad at lying which is saying something because you can post literally any old shit on there.
The escalators are a metaphor I pointed out on the thing in part because the last thing I need is ICE coming to raid my house or whatever thinking I’m really trying to smuggle people over the border with giant escalators. I mean I would if that were plausible but it’s not and it’s not going to happen. You would think people would understand it’s meant as a joke but people are very very dumb I can’t really overstate that. The money is actually going to RAICES the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services. Here’s what they said they can use the money for:
"Donations will help us hire lawyers to defend unaccompanied children who have no guarantee of counsel otherwise, like those in Tornillo; they'll help pay for know your rights trainings in detention centers so people can navigate the asylum process; they help our general mission of providing free and low-cost counsel to migrants in detention centers generally; they help fund the refugee resettlement program, like enrolling kids in schools; they help hire support and advocacy staff to make videos highlighting what migrants go through to raise awareness; they help fund missions to Tijuana to help those in the migrant caravan, like the LGBTQ contingent we're providing housing and legal services to."
A lot of people left nice messages on the page like this one which I laughed at because it’s a Mitch Hedberg reference:
$10.00 from Rachel Maher
An escalator can never break: it can only become stairs. You should never see an Escalator Temporarily Out Of Order sign, just Escalator Temporarily Stairs. Sorry for the convenience.
But lot of them were like this though:
Comment From Donna
And idiots are actually donating
Comment From Pat
LOL - I think you're throwing your money away if you're donating to this!
Comment From Peter
So u are embezzling!! WTG
Comment From Terri
This account has been reported to GFM as fraudulent.
Comment From Michael
STUPID.. STUPID... It has to be a stupid idea from stupid people
Comment From Will
Ignorance is bliss
Comment From Kaibo
This is a fucking scam. Stop donating to this bullshit
"I didn't think 2018 could get any more 2018-er yet here we are at the last minute with something that perfectly encapsulates this combination of cruelty and stupidity that characterizes this entire year and everything to do with Trump and the wall," I told Mashable. "It just seems like a perfect metaphor for where we are right now."
"These sad people just want to belong to something and throwing their money at this weird racism wall makes them feel like they're buying a membership to part of something bigger than themselves," I said all of which is true but none of it is as true as what I told the Washington Times a very bad conservative website.
“Usually it’s impossible to parody the delusions of the Trumpist cult but something about the idea of thousands of MAGA nanas with terminal Facebook brain wasting the last of their Christmas gift money and red faced dads taking out a second mortgage on their hot tub dealerships to own the libs and support Mr. Trump’s imaginary racism wall seemed too good to pass up,” I said.
“It’s the perfect encapsulation of the intersection of loneliness and cruelty that binds all these weirdos together” I said.
I’d advise you to go read the comments there if you want to feel either a lot better or a lot worse about the world. Did I mention the smashing my head into the wall thing already on here I don’t remember.
We talked about a lot of things at Christmas Eve at my parents house one thing I learned was that my parents and my mother’s friend who was there and my uncle had all taken LSD which is something I have never tried since I never really did any psychedelics. My mother was dosed by my father though so I don’t think that really counts. Well it counts as having done it but not as having wanted to do it which is a big difference. My stepfather who is my father told me another thing which was about a time when we were driving from where we lived with my grandparents in Hanover, MA to go to Maine and I was about four or so I think and they saw my father-father standing on the side of the road as we drove away like Sideshow Bob or some shit and then he went and burned down the house. When they got to Maine my great uncle who was a World War II pilot handed my stepfather a shotgun just in case and he was like what the fuck do I do with this?
My uncle has developed Parkinson’s disease which I always thought was going to get me because his father my grandfather died from complications from it but then he told me the other night it’s not hereditary and I guess he probably would have looked into that. Losing your hair is though he said and that was the first time he ever saw me with a shaved head so owned I guess. Not sure which I’d rather come down with to be honest. He also told me that one of the biggest heartbreaks of his life was when he had to stop playing soccer probably around when he was my age because his knee gave out. You do something you love for like thirty years and then one day your body just says fuck you pal and then you can’t do it anymore.
My uncle was in the merchant marine and now he works for the post office and he tells me about the places he’s been throughout the world and I’m always interested and sometimes my mother or aunt yells at him to shut up because he gets off on these weird tangents like a spaced out sixties type of guy but I don’t mind. He really likes Carlos Santana I know that. I went to see him play with Journey once in Mexico and it was a whole fucking thing and I wrote about it at the time if you want to know about how it went my phone ran out of battery was the main thing and I learned some life lessons.
After the LSD chat we all went inside and sang carols around the piano. The one I always sing with my mother and it’s a special moment for us is I’ll Be Home For Christmas and sure enough I am home for Christmas every time but some day either I won’t be or she won’t be there for me to return home to and then what will we do probably still sing it and everyone will be real raw about it.
Michelle and I didn’t get a Christmas tree for the first time in as long as I can remember this year and that was mostly fine by both of us for some reason. It could have been worse though at least we didn’t throw a fully decorated tree into a dumpster on December 22 like some people I saw did on Twitter.
I’d make a Hemingway saddest story ever joke here but I wish people would know about a different Hemingway story oh and while I’m thinking of it please learn another poem besides This Is Just to Say by William Carlos Williams you know the one about the fucking plums in the fucking icebox.
One poem I used to love by Williams was A Love Song which goes like this:
I painted a stanza from it above the window in the shitty Allston apartment I lived in when I was young with eight other people and the maggots in the pantry and the brown water pooled in the shower you had to stand in to get clean and I thought that was some real poetic seeming shit at the time.
I went on a radio show in the UK the other day to talk about the wall fundraising thing and I forget what I said but it was basically something like this.
First off there a couple of things you have to understand about America and the most important is that we are a deeply stupid country.
Secondly and this is probably a bit more alien to people in the UK is that we’ve come to rely on fundraisers as a solution to everything from funding our own medical bills to stupid stunts like this one people have gotten behind to fund the wall. That’s in large part because all of our money goes to tax cuts for millionaires and for the pursuit of endless empire around the world something you guys can probably also appreciate har har I said and the host was like you’re spot on there mate or whatever. He was really mad about America’s eternal wars and I could not argue with him about that.
I can't overstate how saddening and weird it is so to see so many people willing to throw away their own hard earned money at at this empty obelisk of xenophobia I said. I'm usually not one to say this is what you waste your money on but in this case that seems fitting.
From the very beginning of the Trump campaign the wall has been this amorphous thing constantly changing shape both always arriving and defined by its absence. It’s an ancient obelisk to racism unearthed on an archaeological dig in a Borges fable where those who gaze upon it see themselves reflected back in it. I didn’t say that part either.
It’s the perfect emblem of Trump’s entire mythos it’s a belief in something that isn’t there. It’s throwing good money after bad and hoping to come out on the other side made whole. It’s a desperate cry for help from the people involved hoping to belong to anything even if the group they’re buying into is defined entirely by its racism.
America is a prison. When you’re in prison you have to join gangs you might not necessarily have joined otherwise so you won’t be alone and vulnerable and that’s what Trump has given all these perverts a chance to feel like they belong.
Another thing from Hemingway I think about a lot and posted about back in June back when we were talking about the baby prisons we have now was the scene from For Whom the Bell Tolls when they gather up all the fascists in the town square and march them off the cliff. It’s really hard for the people to do at first because even when you’re in a war even when you spend so much time hating the other side it’s not as easy to execute people as it might have been in your imagination before you actually have to go ahead and carry it out. I suppose directing people to their deaths gets easier after time and with practice though doesn’t it. Once you’ve got a few under your belt maybe you start to lose track of how many you’ve killed.