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

Watering Hole: Thursday, November 27, 2014 – The Day for Turkey

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For many of us non-vegetarians, today is the big “turkey day” of the year.  Some of us, spend this day with family and friends, some of us spend this day by ourself, and some of us spend this day giving and helping others.

No matter how you spend the day, turkey is often the highlight of the meal.  Even vegetarians enjoy a Tofurky.  Personally, I’m not much of a fan of Tofurky.  To each their own   :)  .

At our place, when the meal is done, Mr. Nonewhere starts working on the beginnings of turkey soup.  It is cold and damp in the Northwest and in the Northeast of this nation.  I understand that it gets cold and damp in other parts, too (hee, hee).  Nothing warms the inners like soup in the winter and turkey makes a great soup starter.  So to help you with some recipe ideas, here is a link to some yummy turkey soup recipes.

This is our Open Thread.  Speak Up and let us know how your day is going.

The Watering Hole, Wednesday, November 26, 2014. Yeah…Right…

President Obama, utilizing the authority granted to the President under the Authorization to Use Military Force in 2006, declared the Republican Party to be “Unlawful Alien Enemy Combatants”. This determination, made by the President alone, is unassailable under the Act. Under the sweeping powers, initially given to President Bush, anyone the President determines to be an ‘unlawful alien enemy combatant’ is subject to immediate arrest and indefinate incarceration in Guantanamo.

Speaker of the House John Boehner was heard to exclaim “He can’t do that!” as a black bag was slipped over his head and he was whisked off the floor of the House of Representatives shortly after calling for a vote on the impeachment of President Obama.

Moral of the story: be careful of what you vote for; you may get it.

Oh, 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.

Sunday Roast: Turbulence & Van Gogh

Wrap your head around this one!

Although it makes a weird sort of sense, to me anyway, that a mind in the midst of extreme suffering might perceive things in a different way than a calmer mind.  It is rather simplistic, but thinking about it that way feels good.

Let’s not neglect the gobbledygook math thing…on second thought, let’s do.

And now, a beautiful quote from one of my favorite episodes of Doctor Who, Vincent and the Doctor.

The Doctor:  Between you and me, in a hundred words, where do you think Van Gogh rates in the history of art?

Curator:  Well… um… big question, but, to me Van Gogh is the finest painter of them all. Certainly the most popular, great painter of all time. The most beloved, his command of colour most magnificent. He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray, but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world, no one had ever done it before. Perhaps no one ever will again. To my mind, that strange, wild man who roamed the fields of Provence was not only the world’s greatest artist, but also one of the greatest men who ever lived.

Can anyone doubt that Vincent van Gogh is my favorite artist?

This is our daily open thread — Get on with it.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, November 22, 2014: This Week in Paranoia: Facts vs. Freakery on Obama’s Immigration Reforms

President Barack Obama announced earlier in the week that he would later be announcing several reforms to the immigration system, largely because Republicans have been reluctant to pass anything in the House to address the issue. So, as he has said many times before in an ultimately failed effort to spur the House to pass the bill the Senate sent them, the president said that if Congress failed to act, he would. They didn’t, so he did, and now they’re totally freaking out. They’re claiming they now have grounds for impeachment (actually, some of them said this before he made the official announcement, based on nothing more than their own imagination about what the president would actually say) because the president is trying to ignite a civil war, and that citizens must resist “by any means necessary” any attempt to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants, and that it’s all part of a plot to not only guarantee millions of future Democratic voters, but to turn the United States into a Third World country and because now there will be all kinds of voter fraud (you just know it.) None of these fears are reality-based.

The calls for impeachment really crack me up because they were coming before the president’s announcement, and many were citing the president’s proposed amnesty for illegal immigrants as the primary charge against him. Former Florida Congressman (and current “Where Are They Now File” resident) Allen West told Newsmax, “It will be the president saying, ‘You know, I want to violate the Constitution and grant amnesty to people who are here illegally.'” Family Research Council President and Anal Sex Expert Tony Perkins said, in his very roundabout way, “What the president is about to do on amnesty is essentially tell, using his authority as the chief executive, the president, to the executive branch, Homeland Security, immigration, not to enforce the law, which is a violation of his oath to uphold the law.” Eagle Forum founder and former female Phyllis Schlafly thinks that amnesty by executive action constitutes a high crime or misdemeanor.

There are at least three things obviously wrong with these allegations. First, at the time each of these people made these remarks, the president had not actually announced his plan, and when he did, it didn’t include amnesty. The right wing is really afraid of that word – “amnesty.” They talk about it all the time as if granting it to millions of people whose only crime was in the way they entered the country would bring about the end of the United States of America. They talk about it it as if it’s the worst abuse of power a president could commit (including, apparently, lying us into a costly, unnecessary war). They talk about it as if it’s the most un-American thing a president could do. So their fears about amnesty are unfounded because the president wasn’t proposing any. Second, it is actually totally within the president’s constitutional authority to grant amnesty to millions of people who entered the country illegally. The president can grant amnesty to anyone he or she desires. The president can also selectively enforce the law and decide which laws won’t be as aggressively prosecuted as others, since there isn’t enough funding to enforce all the laws anyway. It doesn’t mean a succeeding president can’t prosecute if the statute of limitations hasn’t expired, so it isn’t the same as amnesty, which would deny prosecution later. By the way, the president’s oath says he will faithfully execute the office of president, not “uphold the law.” Executing the duties of the president sometimes involves deciding when to prosecute someone and when not to. Former President George Herbert Walker Bush granted amnesty to former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger for his criminal role in the previous administration’s plan to sell arms to terrorists in exchange for hostages. (A plan which, for the record, Bush later wrote in his memoirs that he was the only one who knew everything that was going on with the arms-for-hostages deal to raise money to illegally give to rebel fighters in Central America.) And third (speaking of Reagan), former President Ronald Reagan granted amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants. Care to comment on that example of un-American activity by a president, Right Wing? If you like some facts to chew on, check out this great post at PoliticusUsa.

That’s just the crazy people talking about impeaching the president for executing a constitutional authority he actually has but didn’t actually use. Check out the link to see who thinks we’re headed for civil war, how the vote is getting rigged while simultaneously increasing voter fraud. And the good people at Think Progress (with whom I’ve had many exchanges over the years) have found other people going similarly crazy over Obama’s use of executive authority (which he is constitutionally required to do.) There’s a lot of sadly misinformed people out there, and some of them are members of the Legislative Branch in our Federal Government. I think you should be very concerned about that. You can start by looking at your own state legislatures, where many of these people got their start. To undo Republican gerrymandering, we have to take back the state legislatures by 2020, so we can control the drawing of Congressional District maps, which is the only way we’ll ever take back the House of Representatives. And we have to get rid of electronic voting, which can easily be rigged and manipulated, and very likely has in some key races in recent years. It is not secure, and it can easily change election results to anyone in power who wants to stay there. Paper ballots are the best way. They don’t take that long to count, and the results can easily be verified and re-counted as needed. Only then can we restore Democracy to America.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss crazy paranoid right wingers serving in our government, or any other topic you wish to discuss.