The Watering Hole, Saturday, November 29, 2014: Debunking Right-Wingers Is Exhausting

Most weeks I like to check out the good people at Right Wing Watch to see what the loonies in Conservative World (where good times go to be publicly denounced as immorally anti-Christian) are up to, or down to, depending on your perspective. I have to tell you, it can be exhausting. And that’s from me, not the good people who actually delve into their world to report back to us so we may be properly warned. It just boggles my mind how distorted their view of Reality is. And thanks to a well-funded right-wing movement dedicated to ensuring their views are treated as being equally valid with more thoughtful, reality-based thinking, these people have had conferred upon them a credibility they should otherwise lack. Because they’re nuts. There’s no other explanation for it.

Take Dr. Ben Carson, for example. No, please, take him. Far away. While discussing race in America, conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt asked Dr. Carson if things were “going to get worse” before they get better, and he responded with a true statement followed by a false one. He said, “I actually believe that things were better before this president was elected. And I think that things have gotten worse because of his unusual emphasis on race.” The first part was true in the sense that things were not as bad in 2008 as they are now, but the second part is totally off base, and an indication of how conservative minds think. The president isn’t the one who emphasizes race in everything, at least not from the comments I’ve heard him make as president. (I’ve never read his books, so I can’t speak to how much he emphasized race before 2008.) But if he gets asked about it more often than the forty-two white men who preceded him at his job, maybe it’s because he can offer a point of view his predecessors lacked. And maybe it’s because racial incidents are on the rise since our nation elected its first black president. But to ascribe these things to President Obama’s “emphasis on race” is to totally twist the reality of the situation. Carson then lied to explain how he came to that conclusion. Referencing the Henry Louis Gates incident (in which a college professor was arrested for trying to break into his own home, when he was in fact trying to open a stuck front door), Carson claims Obama said that the police “always do this kind of thing”. Actually what Obama said was that the Cambridge Police acted “stupidly.” Referencing the president’s comments about how if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon Martin, how is that not taking a “balanced, objective look at things”? Is there some merit to the belief that if Obama had a son, he would be white? Why do conservatives feel the truth must be “balanced” with something? Like what, totally delusional thinking? Ever since the election of FDR, Conservatives have been trying to get their viewpoints treated as anything other than the selfish, greedy, me-first kind of thinking they represent. (You can read a partial transcript of Hewitt’s interview with Carson here, but then you might accidentally read my reply to some delusional Christian in the comments section.)

Now that you’ve taken Ben Carson away from me, take Representative Peter King (R-NY) with him. King, who is an ardent supporter of the Irish Republican Army (the first terrorist group I remember hearing about growing up), thinks that Officer Darren Wilson has been getting a totally bad rap just because he shot an unarmed young black man out of complete fear and didn’t even get indicted for it. So Wilson should get invited to the White House, so the president can thank him for doing his job. Yeah, Steve Benen (who wrote the article to which I linked) couldn’t believe it, either. But he has a link to video of the Congressman saying this. The problem with that suggestion, of course, is that it’s not the job of a police officer to kill unarmed people from down the street, nor is it the job of a prosecutor to find a way to prevent that cop from being charged with a crime for doing so, but that’s what happened in Missouri. I mean, it’s not as though Officer Wilson was visiting Washington, DC, and did the Secret Service’s job by stopping a White House intruder (by shooting him from down the street), so why should he be invited to the White House? In typical Conservative fashion, King wants to make heroes out of people who kill other people for no valid reason. (Face the truth. Officer Darren Wilson’s life was never in danger, he only thought it might be. And that should not be sufficient grounds to use deadly force.) Conservatives love to step up and support cops who kill people for not obeying orders, because in their warped minds, failure to obey a police officer is a capital offense, punishable by an immediate execution. IOW, do what you’re told or die.

And while you’re taking away Ben Carson and Peter king, please take away all those Conservatives who think the first Thanksgiving was a celebration of the Pilgrims’ triumph over Socialism. I’ll let the author of the article explain:

The storyline goes like this: The early settlers at Plymouth at first experimented with a system of collective ownership of farmland, which, as with their compatriots at Jamestown, led to widespread famine. When they eventually abandoned this system in favor of private ownership, farmers were more productive, the harvest was bountiful, and a feast was held in celebration. Pass the stuffing!

As usual when it comes to Conservative interpretations of reality, it’s completely wrong and misses the point entirely! The first Thanksgiving celebration for a bountiful harvest was in 1621. The Pilgrims abandoned their Collective Course strategy in 1623. And they didn’t do it because of widespread famine (which contradicts the idea that their first harvest was bountiful) but because they wanted to make more money. It’s true that one reason they abandoned the Common Course was because there were bachelors who didn’t want to work for the benefit of other men’s wives and families, and there were women who objected to washing the bachelors’ clothes. This had more to do with the fact that these early settlers were not all from one town in England, but from all over the country. This was also at a time when people rarely traveled more than ten miles form their homes.

Communal farming arrangements were common in the pilgrims’ day. Many of the towns they came from in England were run according to the “open-field” system, in which the land holdings of a manor are divided into strips to be harvested by tenant farmers. As Nick Bunker writes in 2010’s Making Haste From Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World, “Open field farming was not some kind of communism. All the villagers were tenants of the landlord.”

There was no local baron in Plymouth, but it was a commercial project as much as a religious one, and the colonists still had to answer to their investors back in England. It was this, not socialist ideals, that accounted for the common course. Bunker writes, “Far from being a commune, the Mayflower was a common stock: the very words employed in the contract. All the land in the Plymouth Colony, its houses, its tools, and its trading profits (if they appeared) were to belong to a joint-stock company owned by the shareholders as a whole.”

He continues: “Under the terms of the contract … for the first seven years no individual settler could own a plot of land. To ensure that each farmer received his fair share of good or bad land, the slices were rotated each year, but this was counterproductive. Nobody had any reason to put in extra hours and effort to improve a plot if next season another family received the benefit.”

The Pilgrims’ unhappiness with this arrangement was not a rejection of Socialism, but of the corporate rules under which they had to live. You’ll never hear Conservatives talk about the early European settlers in this country that way – as anti-corporation.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss anything you wish, but preferably not right-wing distortions of reality, thank you.

The Watering Hole; Friday November 28 2014; Immigration

“. . . 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

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”

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.