Posts from — June 2011
I am stunned by the new Alabama law that requires local police to check the immigration status of people who they believe may be in the country illegally, schools to check the immigration status of students and landlords to validate the legality of potential tenants.
Salon writer Justin Elliott describes the new law this way:
It is everything that was included in Arizona’s SB 1070 – including everything that was enjoined by the courts when they evaluated that bill. The twist is a provision in the Alabama law that requires schools to determine and verify immigration status of any student who is enrolling and any parent of students who are enrolling.
My horrified reaction is prompted not only by the obvious racism behind the legislation – it’s what I expect from places like Alabama – but also by the implied assumption that a flood of immigrants, illegal or otherwise, would choose Alabama as their new home.
It has to be one of the last places in North America that anyone would voluntarily move to.
One of the poorest states in the nation (with poverty levels hovering above 15 percent), Alabama offers lousy education, a crotchety climate, and high unemployment.
It is also ironic that Alabama would seek to shut out Hispanics when it was a Hispanic, Hernando de Soto, who put the place on the map in 1540. And it was “foreigners” who settled there first – French colonists founded a settlement at Fort Louis de la Mobile in 1702. The British gained control of the area in 1763 (as spoils of war with the French) and lost it in the U.S. War of Independence.
So people like Governor Robert Bentley are descended from interlopers who were probably just as unwelcome in old Alabama as any modern-day immigrant.
Oh, and by the way, the biggest early boosts to the state’s economy came from “colored people.” Not just because it was their (free) labor that planted and harvested the cotton, but also because of Dr. George Washington Carver’s agricultural research at Tuskegee Institute – founded in 1881 by Booker T. Washington. As all the world must know, both were black. And Carver was once a slave.
Obviously ignorant of the debt that Alabama owes to Hispanics and blacks, present-day politicians preen themselves over the state’s more recent industrialization, which was achieved by shutting out labor unions.
And they harbor the delusion that America belongs only to those immigrants – many of whom were entirely undocumented – who came from the British Isles or Europe.
It’s no wonder that oppressed black people boycotted the buses in Montgomery and marched from Selma to Montgomery (despite the brutal opposition they encountered along the way) back in the late Fifties.
Today, in states like Alabama, the embers of the Confederacy smolder yet; latter-day Johnny Rebs still fly the flag of secession and nostalgically keep Confederate memories alive (see photo above).
Any immigrant would have to be desperate indeed to choose such a place – even without the new law.
June 12, 2011 5 Comments
I wonder how the Republican leaders and their media mouthpieces will manage to blame President Obama for the wildfires in Arizona? For blame him they probably will. They’ve found a way to blame him for just about everything else.
Their latest absurd claim is that the Obama administration deliberately enacted policies designed to raise the price of gasoline.
Why? Because, they say, it will encourage the development and use of alternative “green” fuels.
Now if I were president, that claim would make sense. I would try to keep gasoline around $5 a gallon to keep people off the roads. Or encourage them to use bicycles or shank’s pony. It would be a lot healthier for all concerned.
I can’t see why people are still getting up in the morning and driving to some office building 20 miles away to sit at a computer and do exactly what they would be doing if they had stayed home. Those office buildings are dinosaurs. Work-at-home policies would eliminate maintenance and cleaning costs – and promote more productivity. Those folks with their coffee cups who stand in your doorway and waste your time would have to contact you by email (which you could deal with at your convenience).
I played golf with a guy named Bob yesterday. He did his day’s work on his cell phone between shots. A lot of people could do that if they weren’t required to show up at the office.
Obama is not the president I would be. He is much more friendly to Big Oil. His administration has granted a lot more drilling permits than I would (click here to see what I mean).
And he goes on and on about developing “green energy,” but where’s the funding to back up the talk?
But whatever he is, he is certainly not to blame for the high prices at the pump.
The reasons for $4-a-gallon gas are numerous and complicated. They include price fixing, of course, and cartels and stock market speculation. But the big underlying cause is global development – especially in China.
Here’s how Andrew Leonard puts it in an article in Salon today:
Bottom line: World oil consumption hit an all-time record high of 87.4 million barrels a day in 2010, driven by a surge in demand from emerging nations, but primarily led by China. China has now overtaken the U.S. as the world’s largest energy consumer, with demand for all kinds of energy growing 11.2 percent in 2010. In 2010, Chinese oil consumption grew by 860,000 barrels a day. Since 2000, China’s oil consumption has grown an incredible 90 percent.
Supply, globally, is not keeping up with demand growth. And barring a major global economic meltdown, that dynamic is not going to change. The rest of the world is going to continue to consume more oil, and finding and developing new sources of oil is going to continue to get more expensive. And Obama can’t do a damn thing about it, except to put in place policies that encourage U.S. consumers to consume as little oil as possible.
So, the real people responsible for pain at the pump in America are the bigwigs who thought up (and profit from) globalism. And they are the ones who provide a big chunk of the Republicans’ funding.
But that doesn’t faze the party’s propagandists. To them it’s Obama’s fault.
Everything is Obama’s fault.
June 10, 2011 2 Comments
As far as I am concerned, sex is a private matter. What happens in the bedroom should stay in the bedroom.
But lying is something else.
I will find it hard to trust Congressman Anthony Weiner (pictured above with wife Huma) after all this (click here to read about the scandal).
But it’s not for me to say whether he should remain in Congress.
That is up to the voters in Brooklyn.
Members of Congress who are screaming for his head should check out their own hard drives before “casting the first stone.” And the Democrats among them should be ashamed of themselves. What happened to party loyalty?
Now, can we get back to discussing the real challenges facing America – such as raising the debt ceiling and saving Medicare?
June 9, 2011 6 Comments
In the aftermath of the 2010 elections, America is getting a sample of the kind of society conservatives want to create. It is not a pretty picture.
With the House of Representatives under Republican control, and many states with Republican governors and legislatures, a pattern is emerging that foreshadows the future we can expect if conservatives recapture the Senate and White House next November.
Florida, under Governor Rick Scott, provides such examples of conservative rule as drug testing for welfare applicants, removal of all consumer protection, absence of child welfare and degradation of education. Meanwhile, the state is slashing corporate taxes and abolishing business regulations.
All of the other Republican dominated states have adopted a similar approach. And they all have attacked workers’ rights and laid off firemen, law enforcement officials and teachers.
The effect will inevitably be to reshape society into two classes – the very rich and the miserably poor. You can find examples of this type of society all over Latin America. Americans used to scoff at these countries as “banana republics.” Now, America is becoming one.
But that’s just a part of the story. There’s an even more sinister movement afoot.
It’s the sadistic persecution of the powerless.
I cannot figure out why some people delight in exercising power over others, and in punishing and tormenting those who break their draconian rules. It seems to be a part of human nature. I knew boys like that at boarding school. They took pleasure in the pain of others.
These bullies have grown up and become Republican politicians. They are picking on gays and women and other minorities, while blasphemously quoting the scriptures as justification.
Nowhere is the effect more tragic than in the criminalizing of abortion.
As a young reporter, I used to write stories about the horrible business of back-alley abortions. When abortion was illegal in North America, only the rich could afford to have one legally. They could hop on a plane and fly to some country that had legal abortions. The poor had to resort to amateur abortionists with coat hangers.
Sadly, this kind of butchery is returning to America as Republican legislatures enact laws to make legal abortions more and more difficult to obtain.
In a Daily Beast article, Michelle Goldberg reports that:
Underground abortions have returned to the United States, just as pro-choice activists have warned for years. And women have started going to jail for the crime of ending their own pregnancies, or trying to.
Here’s the picture as she found it:
In recent years, several women have been arrested on suspicion of causing their own abortions, or attempting to. Most have come from conservative rural states with few clinics and numerous restrictions on abortion. In America’s urban centers and liberal enclaves, the idea of women being prosecuted for taking desperate measures to end their pregnancies might seem inconceivable, a never-again remnant of the era before Roe v. Wade. In fact, it’s a slowly encroaching reality….
A woman doesn’t even have to be trying to abort to find herself under arrest. Last year, a pregnant 22-year-old in Iowa named Christine Taylor ended up in the hospital after falling down a flight of stairs. A mother of two, she told a nurse she’d tripped after an upsetting phone conversation with her estranged husband. Though she’d gone to the hospital to make sure her fetus was OK, she confessed that she’d been ambivalent about the pregnancy and unsure whether she was ready to become a single mother of three….
These cases are a harbinger of what’s to come as abortion laws have become increasingly strict and abortion clinics harder to access in the more conservative parts of the country. They demonstrate the lengths to which women will go to end unwanted pregnancies. But even more, they demonstrate that criminalizing abortion means turning women who have abortions into criminals.
It’s a sad and ugly picture. And it’s what the conservatives are fighting for – one of the things they are fighting for.
The others are just as wretched – downtrodden minorities, abused consumers, overbearing employers, a decaying infrastructure and a populace so uneducated that they can easily be manipulated by an unscrupulous theocracy.
June 6, 2011 4 Comments
I know Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner looks as if he’s hiding something. I’m sure he’s getting the Third Degree from his wife about that. But I believe him when he says his Twitter account was hacked.
It’s the kind of thing that Republican activists do.
Think ACORN. Think PBS. And what about that smear attempt that misfired down in Louisiana?
In all of those sordid sneak attacks, a conservative blogger named Andrew Breitbart was the instigator. In all of the incidents, the evidence was tampered with to imply guilt where none existed.
But by the time the trickery behind the smears was exposed, the damage had been done.
So why on earth did CNN give Breitbart a soapbox to smear Weiner – unchallenged? There’s no good answer to that question. Even the network’s own legal analyst has taken them to task over it.
It’s easy to sneak into someone’s Twitter account – through an ancillary service called yfrog – and post a picture (in this case a close-up photo of a male crotch covered by a pair of briefs).
ABC News’ Devin Dwyer reports:
Someone who simply knew Weiner’s yfrog email address could have emailed the photo, which in turn would have been simultaneously uploaded to both his yfrog and Twitter accounts — all without ever being prompted for a password or permission.
The blog Cannonfire tried it out and took screen grabs to demonstrate.
I don’t know why Congressman Weiner won’t say the crotch in the photo is not his. I can’t imagine him taking a picture like that – or having it taken. And who can say with certainty what male crotch was in the photograph? I would imagine they all look somewhat alike.
This whole thing is absurd.
Congressman Weiner is far too valuable to the country’s welfare to be thrown under the bus because of this kind of sophomoric dirty trick.
The media should drop the story and get back to more important matters.
But you and I know they won’t, don’t we?
June 3, 2011 6 Comments
The Republicans are acting like suicide bombers, threatening to destroy America’s economy if President Obama and his allies refuse to join them in shredding the country’s social safety net.
And they could be maniacal enough to mean it.
Here’s how Nobel prizewinner Paul Krugman sees the picture:
How bad will it be if we don’t manage to raise the debt ceiling in the United States? And what should President Obama’s negotiating strategy be? A few thoughts.
The direct effects of hitting the ceiling would be bad enough — sharp cutbacks in spending, which would undermine essential services, not to mention derail the economy. It’s not clear to me whether there would be some wiggle room through the accumulation of arrears — say, not actually paying workers and contractors, but promising to make it up when sanity returns. But it would be ugly indeed.
What might make it even worse would be indirect effects, of two kinds.
First, government debt plays a special role in the American financial system: Treasury bills are the universal safe asset, the ultimate collateral. That’s why, during moments of financial stress, the interest rate on T-bills has actually gone negative. Make that safe asset suddenly unsafe, and it might cause vast disruption.
Second — and I don’t think this is getting enough attention — failure to raise the debt limit could act as a terrible signal about the American political system….
Failing to raise the debt limit could be widely read as a signal that we are, in fact, a banana republic. In that case, however, what should Mr. Obama do? My answer is that he must not let himself be blackmailed.
Partly that’s because once he gives in the first time, the blackmail will never stop. Once the crazies know that they can get whatever they want by threatening to blow up the economy, they’ll just keep demanding more and more. Mr. Obama can’t let that dynamic get started without setting up an even worse crash down the road.
Plus, the conservatives on the far right may claim that they’re worried about deficits, but they’re actually deeply fiscally irresponsible. Realistically, the budget-deficit plan conceived by Republican Representative Paul D. Ryan would sharply increase the deficit — because its spending cuts are in many cases impossible, and its supposed revenue neutrality is a sham. So giving in to the right would be just as much a signal of banana-republic-hood as a temporary default.
This is going to be very ugly. But I don’t think there’s any way to avoid taking it all the way to the edge, and possibly over it.
You might think nobody would be so insane as to blow up their own country’s economy; it would be like blowing up a boat while you were at sea in it. But the Republicans are in manic mode.
Yesterday, Republicans in the House of Representatives even put forward a bill to raise the debt limit and then defeated it to show they mean business.
Now, the party’s leaders are meeting with the president to demand huge cuts in federal spending. And they won’t hear of cutting oil subsidies or the military budget. What they’re after is Medicare.
This, too, is suicidal – politically. Polls show that 80 percent of Americans want to keep Medicare. Polls also show that Independents are rapidly siding with Democrats now that they’ve seen what Republican policies really are.
Now that the GOP has a majority in the House and control of several states, their objective is obvious: enrich the rich and let the rest of the American population sink into poverty. Despite their campaign promises, they have not created any jobs; in fact, they’re handing out pink slips left and right.
With their Tea Party mentality, it’s entirely possible that they will blow up the American economy so they can claim it;s Obama’s fault. They don’t care what happens to America or Americans, as long as they can be in power.
I hope the president lets the crazies do their worst. It would be a small price to pay to get rid of them once and for all. For you can bet voters will remember their sabotage next November.
June 1, 2011 2 Comments