The Watering Hole; Friday November 28 2014; Immigration

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“. . . emotions of xenophobia — hatred of foreigners; nativism; the policy of keeping America ‘pure’ (that is, of preferring old immigrants to new) — continue to thrive.” ~President John F Kennedy

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Fox News Hosts: Immigrants Kids Are Getting School Lunches So ‘Your Kids Are Getting Shafted’

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Earlier this month, while plowing through some old folders and some old files on an old hard drive in an old computer, I ran across a whole pile of interesting old ‘stuff’ in the form of old essays that I had, 10 to 15 years ago, written and contributed/posted to various internet discussion groups and blogs. What strikes me about many of them this day is the fact that with a simple change of embedded names, dates, etc., the subjects/topics/contexts remain virtually unchanged.

It was just shy of ten years ago, for example, that the following “discussion” on immigration was taking place. As a long time Arizona resident, I wrote a post in response to a blog post whose topic concerned  southern Arizona’s so-called “Minuteman Project” and its gun-toting “heroes” that had, at that time, begun hanging around in southern Arizona in order to save the USA from all those illegal Mexican lazy bums. It was on April 03 2005 that I contributed the following essay — my personal view of and my personal involvement in the (observed) realities of “illegal” immigration and the consequences thereofWhat follows is the verbatim transcript.

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I’ve lived in Arizona since 1962. During those 43 years I’ve traveled to Mexico uncountable times, both on the border and into the interior; I’ve enjoyed the close friendship of many dozens of people — from both sides of the border — who are today referred to with a sneer as “mexicans” (lower case intentional).

Twenty years ago I was a watermelon grower in the Gila Bend area, and the great majority of my harvesting crews were from Mexico, “illegals” in the current vernacular, and a finer and harder-working, more honest and trustworthy group one could never find anywhere. During harvest, at least once each week the Border Patrol would happen by and gather up most of the crew and return them to Mexico; the next morning (or at worst, on the second morning) they’d be back, a little worse for the wear but nonetheless ready to work. We paid them a fair wage, in cash, always under a two-way ‘gentlemen’s’ agreement: we wouldn’t screw them, and they wouldn’t screw us. They worked hard and were completely reliable; meanwhile, they provided us with an address in Mexico to which we promised to send their earned wages should they be hauled away and not return. On one occasion, only one, we did indeed have to send a man’s earnings to the address he had provided us. And we did. He made it back the following year, made it a point to thank us, then went back to work — this time for a higher wage than the previous year and in a better position.

Those were, in a sense, the remnant of the good-old-days; since then, laws have been passed making employers into criminals if they should hire, knowingly or unknowingly, “mexicans” who are here illegally. More recently, a gathering fever has infected Arizona, a fever I’ve not seen since the racism that infected much of America in the fifties and early sixties. There is an unreasonable and perhaps unconscious sense of fear (that’s the polite word — hatred may be more to the point) rustling through society which has resulted in efforts designed to keep “mexican” laborers out of the US. And those efforts have, in effect, caused a tremendous and probably proportional increase in illegal border crossings. Every year, dozens of innocents — men, women, children — die of exposure as they attempt to cross the desert on foot, unprepared; hundreds, perhaps thousands more, pay human traffickers — coyotes — money to deliver them to the US. Coyotes are, without a doubt, consummate scum who care nothing about humanity, only about profit (they’re probably republicans, in other words). Often, bodies of murdered “mexicans” are found in remote desert areas, shot and killed by coyotes because their payment was not there on demand, or was insufficient. Meanwhile, *legal* (I’ve lately come to hate that word) “mexicans” are also victimized in the same way, usually because they agreed to pay the coyote to bring a family member to the US but then came up short when payment was demanded.

The coyote process works, however; scarcely a month goes by where, in the greater Phoenix area alone, a collection and distribution point (usually what appears to be a private home) is not discovered along with its hundred or more occupants — illegals waiting to be distributed elsewhere. These places are, metaphorically, what wholesale produce warehouses are to a supermarket chain. In a more down-to-earth context, however, they’re parcel to an emerging slave trade.

Meanwhile, the percentage of “brown-skinned” Hispanics continues to grow, and grow, and grow. I can’t recall offhand the specific estimates, but it’s likely not too long (a decade, give or take) before “white” will be a minority in many Southwestern states, and if trends continue unabated, “white” will, one day in the foreseeable future, become a minority “race” in the US. That scares the shit out of a lot of people, and brings forth the worst traits of even otherwise seemingly decent folks: overreaction to trumped-up fear — always the Repug’s motivational tool of choice.

Last November, Red-state Arizona passed a referendum which was couched in an “honorable” protect-America-from-illegal-immigration-$$-expense pretense, but which really grants legal permission to harass by virtue of profiling (let them greaser fuckers know who’s in charge here in Amerikuh).

And, of course, last but by no means least, out come the gun nut vigilantes, the fruitcakes for whom a gun is little more than a pecker-extender, a deadly weapon which helps (in their own dementia) portray them as “Real Men” rather than the cowards they truly are. Sometimes I wonder: if gun ownership could somehow be (gender)-restricted to that small percentage of males who are happy and satisfied with the size of their schlong, would all the gun companies go broke within the year?

Probably not, but the NRA’s membership would fall off to nothing, and in the process a huge portion of the Repugs financial base would fall into the toilet — where it belongs.

Let’s recognizing this emerging fruitcake posse for what it really is: the American equivalent of the German Sturmabteilung — the SA, brown shirts, storm troopers — those paramilitaries that Hitler found most useful and used accordingly. In other words, WAKE UP America!

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Later that same day — April 03 2005 — a response was posted, one that I felt was ‘worthy’ of immediate comment. Here, then, is my response to commenter who called himself “SmirkySmirk. His comments are highlighted in red.

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SmirkySmirk:
I have been a SoCal resident since 1982 and during that time have witnessed a steady meltdown of the economic, educational and social landscape: formerly pleasant areas of town are now crime-ridden, drug-infested, gang polluted ghettos-this phenomenon is growing and spreading now to other areas; elementary schools are overcrowded to the point of bursting, where housing historically the greatest number of students per classroom-and growing (moreover 2/3 of the 5th grade children in the SF Valley school district B system do not speak English- typical and in some areas of Los Angeles County the incidence of non-English speaking children is much higher); wages have been decimated in parts of SoCal since the 1980s (many laborers are working for well below the state and federal minimum wage- I personally knew dozens in my area working for $4-$6/hr. and there is no reason for me to believe their plight was unique); and finally a subject I rarely hear addressed in debates on illegal immigration but equally relevant- the impact of illegal immigration on the critical housing shortage in Southern California that has led to exorbitant rents in even the seamiest parts of town; furthermore, the delivery of healthcare, particularly in Los Angeles, is in acute crisis with many shelters closing due to shortfalls caused in large part by the burden of low payed illegal immigrants overtaxing the system.

What I object to is people reacting to immigrants with unjustified and implacable hatred for what is the failure of the Federal government to do its job. What I object to is business getting a free pass on a problem they have created by transferring the cost of maintaining their underpaid, undocumented workers onto the shoulders of society.

Oh, and I also object to anyone turning a purely economic issue into a humanitarian one and accusing the opposition of odious racial motivations or inhumanity for objecting to illegal immigration.

The problems of illegal immigration will never be solved via vigilante posses, nor will they be solved via a modern day “Maginot Line” of contiguous military security. There is no necessity, either, of opening the borders for all of Mexico and Central America to move north into the US. But none of that’s to say or suggest that there aren’t solutions amenable to all concerned.

The big problem began in the sixties with the elimination of the Bracero program during the Lyndon Johnson administration. That program allowed Mexican nationals to come to the US and work, to send their money home, and to return home after their work stint was completed. The program was, indeed, plagued by employers who treated the workers effectively as slave labor, but that was a problem addressable by means other than slamming the door.

The solution, of course, will take place naturally if and when the economies of the US and Mexico come into a sort of equilibrium, whether by a declining US standard or an elevating standard in Mexico (illegal immigration along the Canadian border isn’t much of a problem, for perhaps obvious reasons). Equilibrium between Mexico and the US is a long way off, however, at least if the gap is to be closed by Mexico attaining par prosperity — there are way too many political and cultural roadblocks in Mexico for that to happen in the short term. OTOH, the US is in a position to assist AND to reduce its border problems at the same time by resurrecting some form of the old Bracero program, this time in a way which denies practices of exploitation. That is, in fact, the one suggestion Bush himself made during his first four years that I could agree with.

Of course, we could nuke the place I suppose, but both that and an impermeable armed border sound a little rash.

Why am I not surprised that someone who has profited so much as yourself financially from illegal immigration are also an advocate for it. Can’t find US citizens to do the work? Don’t give me that crap! Pay A DECENT WAGE AND BENEFITS and you will have droves of Americans lining up at your door to work for you. But, you’re right, I’m sure Americans probably would not work for the pittance wages you paid illegals to do the work.

I’ll ignore your presumptions of profit and dismiss them as coming from someone who knows nothing about farming. Beyond that, I’ll guarantee you that any decent farmer would happily pay a “living wage” as you call it, to each and all of his employees AND would happily add a full benefits package as well. All he would ask would be that he still be able to market his (perishable!) crop quickly and at a decent profit. I suppose you and yours would joyfully and willingly pay ten or twenty bucks a pound, give-or-take, for fresh produce? Hey, people pay that much for fresh tuna, right? Why not for broccoli? I give up, why not?

Let me ask you a question, did you provide your employees with health care and a living wage?

Nope, but that part wasn’t terribly concerning — for a small operation, margins are also too thin to provide “the bosses” with health care. As for a living wage, what is that, exactly? Is that a salary paid to one who works in an air conditioned and cushy office, a wage that goes up annually without regard to production or accomplishment (yes, I’ve worked in corporate offices too), or is it whatever accrues when one works in his fields for 12-15 hours a day, 7 days a week and hopes the markets will pay enough for him to get his costs back plus make a small profit? My instinct suggests that you’re probably damned fortunate to have a supermarket handy where you can buy your food at a reasonable price, that if you’d have to grow your own you’d be on a diet.

Or did you just expect the taxpayers to pick up the tab with subsidies to YOUR EMPLOYEES?

I look at it this way: if the taxpayers can pick up, among other things, a “defense” tab that totals more each year than the next ten or fifteen countries combined, if taxpayers are willing to reduce the taxes on those who can best afford to pay them to the tune of a hundred billion a year, give-or-take, such income shortfall to be added to an already balooning deficit, then what the hell difference does it make if they subsidize someone who works for a living too? Sorry for the smart-assed answer (not really), but that was a stupid question.

There are some very serious issues on the table surrounding illegal immigration. And dismissing concerns of those opposed to it with calumniating epithets of “racist” and “hatemonger” is a red herring that has no place in the debate over the true merits and demerits of illegal immigration. In fact, if I were Boardnanny, I would delete your post as the kind of dung that were only worthy of flowing from the pen of a troll.

I didn’t use a pen. Meanwhile, you’d be much better off if you’d take some time to investigate realities and then maybe work to delete instead the undercurrents of racism and hate that are parcel to the anti-immigration movements in the Southwest. Whether you choose to see or acknowledge them or not, they’re here and they’re becoming pervasive. And, they accomplish nothing but to further the polarization, to exacerbate the problem.

I agree with you that something must be done. But unless it’s an enlightened approach that takes the CAUSES into effect AND addresses them directly and responsibly, the result will be roughly the same as pissing into the wind.

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As I said up top, not much has changed in the ensuing decade. Reaction to Obama’s executive actions on immigration (forced, essentially, by Congressional inaction on the matter, by Speaker Boehner’s obtuse refusal to consider ANY legitimate options to address the continuing problem) remain every bit as vitriolic as were SmirkySmirk’s responses to my attempts at rationally addressing the humanitarian aspects of the immigration issue overall. Near as I can tell, the bottom line that has come to define far too much of this country is the embedded attitude of White Superiority along with commensurate fear and hatred of any other race/ethnicity. Those attitudes have persisted since before the US gained independence; my suspicion is they’ll continue to persist well after our independence is sacrificed upon the altar of oligarchic greed.

Katrina Vanden Heuvel: GOP ‘Driven By Know-nothing Nativism’ And Was Never Going To Reform Immigration

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole, Monday, November 24th, 2014: “Black Friday”

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We didn’t have “Black Friday” when we were kids–hell, when I was a kid, we didn’t even have a mall in our area until I was in high school. Personally, I hate shopping on any day, let alone on a day when I would have to push my way through crowds of (shudder) “people.”

Although this Cracked.com article is from 2011, it’s got some interesting historical information and some tips if you’re one of the crazies folks who like going Christmas shopping on Black Friday. Here’s a few excerpts from “5 Black Friday Myths the Media Wants You to Believe”:

Actually, Black Friday wasn’t the biggest shopping day of the year until the advent of online shopping. Before that, it was rarely even in the top five…So why was the media paying so much attention to the fifth-biggest shopping day of the year? Well, partially because it’s a slow news day.”

“Black Friday finally did become the top revenue earner in 2003 by giving people who would rather stay home with their family a way to get at the deals…So the story that the media had been reporting for years that Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year finally came true, and suddenly they want to complicate it with a bunch of other days when you have to remember to wear riot gear to the mall.”

Myth #3, “Black Friday is the Day After Thanksgiving”, isn’t, as the author admits, really a “myth”, but in a sideways manner allows the author to elaborate on the history of Thanksgiving Day:

“Thanksgiving originally didn’t have a set date. George Washington proclaimed the first one on November 26, 1789, but the dates and even months changed for almost a century. Abraham Lincoln gave it a regular berth in 1863 as the last Thursday of November. It never occurred to Honest Abe that November sometimes has five Thursdays, and that this would create a problem down the road.

One of those Novembers with five Thursdays happened in 1939, when the United States was recovering from the Great Depression. At that time, waiting until after Thanksgiving to start the holiday shopping season was seen as almost holy, but Thanksgiving fell on the very last day of the month. A short number of Christmas shopping days, starting on December 1, could hurt the recovering economy. That’s why President Franklin Roosevelt had to put Turkey Day in its place.

A presidential proclamation was issued moving Thanksgiving to the second-to-last Thursday of November. Thirty-two states went along with FDR and issued the same proclamation, while the other 16 states said “fuck that.” For two years, a third of the U.S. celebrated Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November, while the other two-thirds of the country celebrated it on the second-to-last Thursday. For family members living in opposing states, this was a very short, lethargic version of the Civil War.”

Enjoy reading the rest of the article, particularly the captions under the photos. Heh.

This is our daily open thread, so go ahead and talk about anything.

The Watering Hole, Tuesday November 11, 2014 – Environmental News and Food Politics

Evolution

Ok, it is only a theory, and it has many holes in it, but if they start filling the holes with observable fact, does it become less of a theory and more of a science? Or is it just easier to say DOG made it in six days and shut down all this funding to pointy-headed intellectuals?

From the oceans to the land and then back to the ocean: One more piece of evidence on how species evolved

 

Evidence that a sophisticated God fine tunes creation through evolution?

The Watering Hole, Monday, November 3rd, 2014: Strange Laws

I’m too nervous about the elections tomorrow, so I’m going to avoid politics.

I found the following odd state/town laws here at brainjet.com:

Alabama: Bear wrestling matches are outlawed.
Alaska: It’s legal to shoot bears in Alaska, but it’s not legal to wake a bear up for the purpose of taking its picture.
Arizona: Writing in toilet stalls is illegal ONLY FOR PEOPLE WHO WORK IN MINES.
Arkansas: In Arkansas, pinball games are prohibited by the law from giving more than 25 free games to a high scorer.
California has a law that forbids a frog that dies in a frog race from being eaten.
Colorado: In Aspen, CO, snowball fights are illegal.
Connecticut: In Connecticut, a bushel of potatoes must, by law, weigh 150 pounds.
Delaware: It’s illegal to sell the (literal) hair of a dog.
Florida: For female hot dog stand workers in Broward County, it’s illegal to wear a g-string.
Georgia: In Georgia, moving a trout from one lake to another is prohibited by law.
Hawaii: In Hawaii, using imitation milk in a milkshake without warning is illegal.
Idaho: Idaho prohibits sale of eggs from another state without warning, and anyone who uses flour that’s not enriched with vitamins can face 30 days in jail.
Illinois: “Happy Hours” are prohibited.
Indiana: It’s illegal to sell cold beer in Indiana in a grocery store. If you want to get a chilled brew, you’ll have to make a trip to the liquor store.
Iowa: It’s illegal to surf while drunk in Iowa. This is actually a good policy, but it’s ridiculous in the landlocked state of Iowa.
Kansas: Apparently it’s possible to modify the weather in Kansas, but it’s illegal to do so without the proper permit.
Kentucky: All Kentucky lawyers must swear an oath to refrain from dueling.
Louisiana: In Louisiana, it’s against the law to insult players at a sporting event.
Maine: It’s illegal to place green crabs next to soft-shell crabs.
Maryland: It’s a crime in Maryland to possess more than 3 turtles at one time.
Massachusetts: Gift certificates are required to be valid for at least 7 years.
Michigan: It’s illegal to use foul language in front of a woman.
Minnesota: It’s illegal to go hunting with a ferret.
Mississippi: It’s illegal to take an animal that’s been hit by a railroad car.
Missouri: It’s illegal to pretend to be blind to make money.
Montana: It’s against the law for a water sprinkler to get a passerby wet.
Nebraska: In the city of Ogallala, it’s illegal to disturb public dirt.
Nevada: Nevada has respect for the dead. In the state, it’s prohibited to use bad language in front of a dead person.
New Hampshire: Prohibits seaweed harvesting at night.
New Jersey: In Haddon Township, flirting with somebody against their will is punishable by law.
New Mexico: It’s illegal to get on a ski lift while drunk.
New York: It’s illegal to walk in public with an ice cream cone in your pocket on Sundays.
North Carolina: It’s illegal to serve food to pigs that hasn’t been thoroughly cooked.
North Dakota: Kangaroo boxing is a crime.
Ohio: It’s illegal to disrobe in front of a man’s portrait.
Oklahoma: It’s illegal to break INTO a prison.
Oregon: It’s against the law to own more than 2 undeployed airbags.
Pennsylvania: A Pennsylvania fortune-teller cannot charge money to try to shorten someone’s life.
Rhode Island: Wrapping fresh fish in a newspaper is against the law.
South Carolina: Fishing with dynamite is illegal.
South Dakota: Shooting an animal from an airplane is against the law.
Tennessee: Roller skaters must proceed in a single file line to be in accordance with the state law.
Texas: Taking more than 3 sips of beer at a time while standing is illegal.
Utah: The state has banned the “look, no hands” trick by law, stating that bicyclists must keep one hand on the handlebar at all times.
Vermont: In the city of Middlebury, having more than one person on a skateboard at a time is illegal.
Virginia: It’s illegal to release more than 50 balloons per hour.
Washington: In Bremerton, it’s illegal to throw garbage into anyone else’s trash can.
West Virginia: An unmarried couple living together in the state can be sent to jail.
Wisconsin: On highways in Wisconsin, livestock always has the right of way.
Wyoming: Opening a gate and not closing it is against the law.

This is our daily open thread – talk about whatever you want.

Sunday Roast: Brown Pelicans

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Photos by Zooey

My oldest boy wanted to see Brown Pelicans, so we went to the Devil’s Punch Bowl and saw some damn pelicans.  Bam.

What did you do with your first Saturday in November?

This is our daily open thread — You know what to do.

Sunday Roast: 15 things atheists are tired of hearing

I’ve heard every single one of these obnoxious questions/observations — most of them from certain family members.

Being an admitted atheist is a fairly recent development in my life — the last 10 years, or so — mostly because religion, for many years of my life, was simply a non-thing.  I just didn’t care either way.  *shrug*

My family attended church and Sunday school when I was a child; it was just something we did.  I tried to believe in God and Jesus, but even as a young child, I just couldn’t make myself believe it.  I mean, come on, the whole concept was just so unlikely.

One Sunday, while I was enjoying the most interesting part of church — juice and cookies afterwards — I heard an older man was talking about the joy of feeling the presence of Jesus in every part of his daily life, and I remember thinking that he looked kind of dazed and sounded so child-like.  It felt really uncomfortable, since I was about 10 years old at the time.

Religion has begun to worm its way into our everyday lives, whether we want it or not, and it’s just not okay.  In fact, it’s destructive to the secular world, as well as to religion.  It’s not the American way, and openly saying that I am an atheist (feminist/Liberal/Socialist, etc) is a way of saying “NO, this has gone too far.  Get a fucking grip, people.”

This is our daily open thread — Discuss this topic or whatever.