Friday, November 30, 2007

Pico's Wee-Wee List

Today Pico pisses on:

Karl Rove: "Congress pushed Bush to war." Right, and I'm the Virgin of Guadalupe. Doesn't the Bible say something about bearing false witness, Herr Rove?

Tom Tancredo: Hires undocumented workers but wants them all deported. What a bastud.

Nancy Pelosi: Impeach the SOBs, already. It's really NOT YOUR CALL, Nancy.

The Archbishop of Canterbury: Get clue, bubba.

The Virginia GOP: Will require Repubs who register for the primare to sign a vow to vote for the Republican candidates in 2008. I call that (a) scared, and (b) Kremlin.

Speaking of: Pooty-Poot. He's ahead? Who saw that comin'?

Britney. Tie the tubes, stat.

Sharia Sleight of Hand

We see masses in Sudan screaming for the execution of the British teacher whose charges named a teddy bear “Muhammad.” We hear that the Saudis sentenced “the girl from Qatif,” who was gang-raped by 7 men, to 6 months in jail and 90 lashes, and then upped the lashings to 200 on appeal. We’re informed that two youths in Iran were imprisoned, lashed 218 times, and then hanged for being gay. We learn that a woman in Iraq and another in Afghanistan were stoned to death in so-called “honor” killings, and that these are not isolated incidents.

Since the Occupation, cable TV periodically spotlights a case involving an incomprehensible punishment for women, and, less often, the gay media report a similar event involving gay men. In both cases, reporters’ contextual analysis is pretty much limited to allegations about the victim’s character or behavior, and to justifiably shocked indictment of Sharia, the Islamic code of law.

To this combustible mix, add our fury at the 9-11 attacks and the tons of toxic waste pumped out about Islam by Far Right talk radio and prominent but ignorant televangelists and White House denizens. The probable result is that most average Americans equate Islam with exactly this kind of thing.

Not. The reality is that Sharia is not a monolithic code of law in the Western sense. It's a complex legal/theological/cultural tradition influenced by the Koran among other things, but by no means synonymous with it.

Furthermore, there are five official varieties of Sharia, and how each is interpreted and applied depends on historical, tribal, political, secular legal, and circumstantial variables, among other things--including who's doing the judging.

Five crimes, known as the Hadd offenses, are mentioned in the Koran as “affronts to God.” They and the crime of apostacy receive the harshest punishments and thus also the western spotlight. These are:

*Wine-drinking and, by extension, alcohol drinking, punishable by flogging
*Unlawful sexual intercourse, punishable by flogging for unmarried offenders and stoning to death for adulterers
*False accusation of unlawful sexual intercourse, punishable by flogging
*Theft, punishable by the amputation of a hand
* Highway robbery, punishable by amputation, or execution if the crime results in a homicide
Experts insist that extreme Hadd punishments are rare and that they are applied under the strictest evidentiary and regulatory conditions. This is fine as far as it goes. However, as in Christian lands, sometimes these punishments are meted out by vigilantees who, by definition, operate beyond official control. That’s what makes them vigilantees.

OK, now factor in international political agendas, village illiteracy and extreme cultural isolation, and the ease with which all people, including us, can be whipped into frenzies of outrage by manipulative religious and secular leaders. (Duh!) Now, possibly, one begins to comprehend some of what we're dealing with confronted with these events and in their reporting, and can approach an estimate what we're not comprehending.

Come to that, I don’t recall ever being informed by cable news of even one of the hundreds of thousands of judgments made daily under even one version of Sharia in even one Islamic country in, say, business or finance, or even one temperate judgment or exoneration made under Sharia in personal law. As a matter of fact, all I know of Sharia is pretty much encapsulated in a misogynistic stoning-amputation-hanging frame. How about you? (Here's another take.)

To wrap it up, I don’t subscribe to the notion that people outside a culture can’t fairly or ought not comment on it. But when they do, in my view, they’re obligated to be as informed as possible about the whole context—religious, traditional, cultural, legal, circumstantial, and political—and to be as critical of their own cultural barbarities and aberrations.

Certainly these hideous practices should be condemned and eliminated immediately. But I'm not holding my breath, and I'm not waiting for us to set the example by cleaning our own act.

Eliminating these practices would be like extracting the keystone from an elaborate arch venerated for eons and relied on for culture-wide social control. That is, whether imposed by illiterate vigilantees or the courts, these “honor” killings and barbaric punishments are all of a piece. They are about male supremacy, an institution there, as here, that is profoundly threatened by liberated women and by liberated homosexuals. That is because the patriarchy depends on rigid sex role assignments for its ideological coherence, and liberated women and Queers who won't oblige them reveal its arbitrariness and motivations.

But critics ought not equate these brutal practices with Islam, as CNN's Jack Cafferty did just this evening. It's demagoguery. It's inadequately informed, inaccurate, and unfair. Doing so should make us feel roughly as we would if most Arabs equated reports of the rail-fence execution of Matthew Shepard with Christianity and American justice. Remember, those American village boys grew up thinking the Bible condemns gay people. It is like Arabs equating lynching with Christianity and American justice. Remember: The Ku Klux Klan was and remains driven by exactly the same priorities now, and is populated by similar kinds of ignorant extremists who, similarly, justified their agenda by reference to their own holy book, and in some villages, is sanctioned implicitly by offician and ecclesiastical silence.

We also ought not overlook the political context, our own and theirs, in which these news reports occur. To its credit, CNN this morning pointed that out with respect to today’s events in Sudan. What we’re seeing there actually is not about the Koran or Sharia, neither of which says anything about naming a teddy bear “Muhammad.” It’s about providing a bunch of illiterate villagers a vulnerable westerner to stand in for Tony Blair and George Bush and be made to pay for real, perceived, and manipulated political humiliations. It’s not about Islam. Ultimately, what's happening in Sudan is about Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, bases in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and George Bush. It's about rage.

It's also about how the White House would like us to think of Islam.

Shoot when you must. But don’t be like Cheney. Aim first.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Centro Presente

This is what Lou Dobbs wants us to hate, fear, and deport? Man, they sho' look scary to me.

Ron Paul

I wouldn't call Ron Paul a libertarian any more than I'd call a cat a buffalo. I'd call Ron Paul a Far Right, control-freak, hyper-conservative, paranoid-delusional wing nut, and that's when he's having a good day.

In case you've been engaged by his unpolished approach to political campaigning or tempted by his stance on the occupation of Iraq, please see Orcinus' roundup of Ron Paul's legislation. It speaks loudly and clearly for itself.

Paul is everything we don't want in a public servant. If the fact that he's too far Right for this Republican party doesn't tell you something, seek a brain transplant.

And did I read that Kucinich is considering Ron Paul for his VP? Fetch the smelling salts and shoot me now. That's a waltz I never want to see.

Great Turkey Dressing

Time to lighten up.

I made the best turkey dressing I've ever made this year. Of course when it comes to my cooking, 99% of the credit goes to Miss Jane, my late, great, gorgeous southern mother, whom I call "Miss Jane" with a certain very affectionate and specifically southern nuance. It's a tribute to the Queen.

So, assuming that you like improv in cooking, here goes, and if you mess it up, just know it's your fault:

Make a batch of cornbread. You know what a "batch" is, right? The Three Rivers brand is terrific if you can get it. I can't. (I live in a culinary backwater when it comes to the three major food groups: country ham, corn bread, and shrimp.) Fortunately, this year my cousin took pity and sent me some very special corn meal ground at the old mill in Cades Cove, TN, our ancestral turf.

Let it sit a spell to cool. Then crumble the cornbread into nickle-size bits and mix it with an equal measure of seasoned breadcrumbs (like Pepperidge Farm's). Add chopped up scallions, diced yellow onion, and diced celery, salt, and ground black pepper to taste. I usually use at least a cup of diced yellow onion, a cup of diced celery, and half a cup of diced scallions. It won't hurt to let this mixture stand at room temperature for half a day or so, tossing often.

Brown and crumble a pound of Jimmy Dean's sage sausage. Drain. Mix in the sausage (amount appropriate to the mixture you've set aside--your call). Refrigerate the mix and let it stand overnight.

When it's time to cook the dressing, but not before, add half a can or so of chicken broth and a raw egg -- enough to make the mixture stick together when a bit of it is squeezed. Transfer to a lightly greased baking pan. Make sure not to pack down the moistened mix. Keep it lumpy. It'll taste better.

Bake covered for 20 minutes or so at 350 degrees F. Then uncover and bake until brown on top and heated well throughout--another 10 or 15 minutes, depending on the quantity you're making, your altitude, the temperature outside, and your oven.

(You can make this up and freeze it, but NEVER, NEVER freeze raw egg. If you freeze it, thaw the egg-free mix and add the egg right before you plan to cook the dressing.)

I'm sure the secret this year had to be that Cades Cove cornmeal, but just in case, it might have had something to do with letting the mixture sit long enough for all the flavors to blend nicely.

If you make it, let me know how it goes. (You wouldn't dream of eating turkey dressing without turkey and gravy, would you?)

MIA? Part II

My last post on progressive immigration policy, MIA?, began thus:

Have progressives have lost our way on the immigration issue? We don’t seem to have articulated, let alone stood as one in support of enlightened immigration law reform. We don’t even seem to have effectively exposed the myriad misconceptions that are currently running this dog and pony show, or to have begun to educate our base on the issues.

Nope, we seem either to have been smashed to aspic or thoroughly co-opted by the brilliant way in which Luntz, Rove, Tanton and the rest of the corporatist, xenophobic, nationalist, anti-Hispanic Far Right have framed the issue. (Have I heard this complaint before?)

By “smashed to aspic” I mean “silenced,” which, paradoxically, shows up as not showing up, as avoidance of or as skirting the issue. By “completely co-opted,” I mean “constrained to discussing immigration (a) within the rubrics established by the Right, (b) on terms designed to appease the Right, and (c) under the safer heading of partisan political strategy as contrasted with principled or enlightened policymaking.”
This is a continuation of that conversation. Here, I’m discussing what I perceive to be the characteristics of the progressive blogosphere’s immigration law reform debate.

1. Avoidance. It’s a relative term, so my perception is that, relative to the emphasis the Far Right gives to immigration and the intensity with which it is being editorialized and op-editorialized in the MSM, the issue has seen little more than a sprinkling of commentary from leading progressive blogs.

It’s reasonable to ask why, since immigration reform packages a whole big chunk of our traditional turf: anti-racism, justice, fair labor practice, fair trade, women, children, health care, social safety nets, multiculturalism, etc. One would expect a strong, virtually unified progressive voice on this issue, but it’s not there, leaving a giant black hole on the Left and a giant opportunity for the Far Right to frame, brand, and own the immigration issue--a coordinated effort begun in the 1980s by Tanton, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) , et al. (Note: Wittingly or not, CNN's Jack Cafferty just tonight quoted a CIS report as if it were, like, true.)

Perhaps one reason for our silence is that we progressives have been gaslighted. First, we too are side-tracked, misled, and derailed by Tanton, Buchanon, Dodd, Tancredo, et al. (It's out there. It doesn't matter if it's true or not.) Alas, this means that we haven't even done our own homework.

And we've been confounded. The word “illegal” has performed as expected. It has been a phenomenally effective wedge in our neighborhood, and a phenomenally effective mobilizing device on the Right and in the center. (There’s nothing people like more than feeling morally superior.)

But to be fair, the complexity of immigration law, the perceived clash of low-skilled immigrant workers’ and native-born workers’ interests, the huge discrepancies in the methodologies and assumptions used to study immigration, complex and hard-to-measure economic impact—all these things and more have given us pause. Way too much pause.

In this respect it’s as simple as the classic dilemma: The Right isn’t hampered by a fealty to truth and accuracy. Plus, it is tooled up to churn out sound bites like Fox pumps BS. Meanwhile, we go beyond concern for truth and accuracy. We agonize over nuance. We just don’t do soundbites, and when it takes weeks to research an issue thoroughly, we may issue drive-by opinions but not in-depth analysis. Besides, blogs don’t lend themselves to depth all that well.

2. Political strategy: We’ve pretty much limited our analysis to immigration as partisan strategy. From time to time, a flurry of posts appears on Firedoglake, Kos, Digby, or another influential blog, triggered mainly by a specific piece of legislation, a leaked or controversial political strategy, or a particularly egregious anti-immigrant action. Hence outraged reaction, the disclosure of Luntz’s proposal for framing immigration for the GOP, and a thoughtful diary about the “temporary worker program” that was included in Bush’s (defeated) “comprehensive immigration reform” bill this summer. As there and here, occasionally someone touches on a principle that could form the core of an alternative policy, or elucidates a Far Right shill's statistical distortions.

However important they are, these takes don’t adequately indicate what we stand for and why. Unless we say that, we can hardly expect America to take our view into account. What I’m asking for is something deeper than episodic outrage and political strategy analysis. I’m looking for serious dicussion of policy substance and its supporting rationale, something along the lines of this policy sketch.

Where in all this is the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party? And where is the Martin Luther King, Jr. wing of the African American community? We are talking about race-based economic fundamentals and about who will control America's future. The choice is between us and the corporatist plutocrats. To the extent that they divide us, they win.

3. Co-optation: Our conversation tends to be reactive, not proactive; defensive, and constrained by the Right’s talking points. For instance, the conversation on the blogosphere picked up a little bit recently on account of the convergence of four recent events: (1) party consultants’ thoroughly co-opted advice to the Democrats to go nativist on immigration law reform;(2) the ensuing thoroughly co-opted, abysmally stoopid, craven, and all but treasonous Democratic support for the SAVE Act of 2007, a nasty and dangerous piece of (privatized) border militarization, privatization, domestic policing powers and apparatus posing as immigration reform; and (3) the flap about NY Governor Spitzer’s proposal to give driver’s licenses to unauthorized immigrants.

As Digby and others point out, it's a mystery why the Democratic Party go nativist when the GOP strategy to use immigration as this cycle’s wedge bait, just bombed in VA? Why go that route when poll after poll after poll shows that the American people actually do not want a mean immigration policy? When reputable study after reputable study shows that the Far Right's spin on immigration is, well, bullshit.

Because the Democratic Party is co-opted. Behind its face is a looming corrupt and unprecedentedly greedy Corporate America. No big news. Our Democratic Party in Congress has been co-opted about everything. But there’s no reason why our blogs have to be.

So far, when we’re not avoiding the issue, our responses are formulated within the Far Right’s rhetorical box: illegal; amnesty; undercut wages; driver’s licenses. Surprising that we've fallen for that old trick, but here's a news flash: We won’t make a dent until we step out of that frame and discuss this on our own terms, in a distinctly American, not utterly reactionary (white European) way.

Immigration of low-skilled Mexican and Central American workers is about economic refugees. It is rooted in US, Mexican, and Central American plutocracies, in their and our tax policies, in colonialism and neo-colonialism (aka “free trade”), in Monsanto’s genetically engineered agriculture, in water privatization, in desperate poverty, equivalent need, and a Janus-headed US policy inviting with one hand and slamming back with the other. It is about the great realignment of wealth in the USA, turning us from the New Deal to the Screw Deal, and it is fundamentally about who we are and who we intend to be five, ten, thirty years from now.

Here’s the deal: We are not all Christians, or conservatives, or progressives, or Native Americans, or, or heterosexuals, or Republicans, or Democrats, but by virtue of one construct, we are all Americans. Our core values are specifically defined in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. As FDR did, we ought to let these principles govern how we analyze the immigration data, the needs, the competing interests, the objectives. That’s the only way we’ll make it possible for everyone to pull together in one positive direction.

What does that mean? For instance, it means that we would propose wage and workplace safeguards to ensure that corporatist profiteers don’t exploit immigrants and use their labor to undercut wages, and we won’t allow “deregulation” or tax policies or fear to pit native-born American workers against immigrant would-be American workers.

You see where I’m going with this? Can I get a witness? Better yet, will the people who know this issue propose progressive policy specifics on the leading progressive blogs--white, African-American, and Hispanic, and all?

Comments welcomed.

(*I'll be back to add links.)
(**Links added.)

That Was Some Debate, Huh?

That opening shot looked like the Rockettes in suits, only waaay uglier.

Huckabee: Nice guy until you look at how he treats living, walking-around people like gays and lesbians. His blowing off the question about Jesus and the death penalty was craven, beneath us all, and distinctly unfunny. But I agree with his observation that the Bible isn't meant to be understood entirely. Let us pray fervently that this doesn't give further license to the Rightwing fundies who so wildly, and vocally, misunderstand it.

Romney: I don't find anything salient to comment upon there, so I'll just note that Romney makes me fwow up. We don't need a rear shot to be sure there was a microphone pac on his shoulder. If ever there's been a more scripted, less sincere, more opportunistic and cynical candidate, I can't think who. Oh, wait: George Bush!

Giuliani: One-trick pony phenomenally fortunate that last night's breaking news about billing tax payers for his (adulterous) love-nest didn't come up.

Paul: I confess to liking his take on Iraq. Abolishing the IRS is a lovely thought but stoopid, as is abolishing the Department of Energy now at the very hour of global warming, but I, too, can do without the Department of Education, having seen how readily it can be used to destroy US education. And I keep hearing of his connections with and appeal among white supremacists. Total deal breaker--as if just being a Republican weren't.

McCain: Crazy ol' Senator Loose Cannon. We know him well out here. But I had to clap when I heard him refer to immigrants as "God's children, too," and express dismay at the tenor of what passes for discussion of this issue. Clearly he's flown his jet up up a dark, narrow passage on Iraq, and what he said about gays in the military was of such enormous moment that I can't remember it.

Tancredo: Mean little viper, isn't he? If I were from CO, I'd have to succumb to embarrassment. His bizarre little victory dance about forcing everyone to his Right on immigration gave me the creeps because, well, he's alarmingly close to correct about that dynamic. Good glimpse into the cavity that poses for the mind of the Right.

Was there anyone else? Oh, yeah, our savior, St. Fred: Why does anybody think he's "presidential"?

The questions: Get a new editor! There were too many questions on the Bible and immigration and guns, and too few questions on everything else. Where were the questions on corporate control of government? The consolidation of media? The skewed influence of talk radio on public policy? Global warming? NAFTA, CAFTA, and, um, SHAFTA? The suppression of science? Domestic spying? The meaning of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution? Privatized milias? Creeping fascism? The cost and quality of education and the preparation of the next generations for global competition? On Iran? Health care? Energy alternatives? Oh well, I guess we can be glad that Britney didn't play host.

Sean Taylor

I don't follow pro football, haven't fooled with the 'Skins for twenty years or more, and wouldn't have known Sean Taylor if I had walked into him. Still, I'm moved by his senseless murder and feel his loss. I send my sympathies to Sean's wife, daughter, and larger family, to those who knew and cared for him, to the 'Skins, and to all of us.

The little I know of Sean Taylor comes from one clip of him and three televised interviews with men who knew him well.

What struck me was a jarring deconstruction in all three interviews. First, the interviewer posited Taylor's evolution from some sort of difficult youth to a man matured by the birth of his daughter. Then the interviewee expressed mystification and insisted that that the story didn't fit the man they knew at all. Rather, they said, they didn't know of a troubled past, and said that he was shy, gentle, focused on his work, brilliantly talented, unassuming, and devoted to his family.

Somebody clearly got the story wrong. But what's odd is that though it was not accurate, still it was lodged firmly in the files of the sportscasters. I don't get that. Is this a measure of the quality of sports reporting?

Hmmmmmm. Now that I think about it, I seem to recall hearing just this mythic oddyssey applied to other famous African American athletes. If I followed pro sports maybe I could give examples. Since I don't, I can't, but I'm sure I'm not making this up.

In a way, it's standard fare. All men have rebellious youths. Boys will be boys and then they grow up.

But what in my experience plays as charmingly picaresque for young white men plays differently (among Anglos) for young African American, Hispanic, and Native American men. I so hope it's different for them in their own worlds. I hope they're cut the same amount of slack we cut for our (middle class) boys' testosterone factor, because in my world, we don't cut slack at all for young men of color. Nuh-uh. What we first trivialize and then assume a young white man has left permanently behind, we convert to living sinister potential in a young man of color: There's just no telling when he'll revert "to type," we think, but thank God somebody's civilized him. For now.

Sean Taylor is iconic. His murder is the tragedy of wasted talent, potential lost to us all, forever, and I don't mean only his football skills. There was a whole man there. Taylor's early success speaks of his focus, his priorities, his discipline, his remarkable ability even as a kid to pursue a dream that you know didn't always seem to be within easy reach. And yet he didn't limit his life to football. In the one clip I saw, he himself alluded to his life off the field in ways that made it clear he knew pretty well which was his life and which was his job.

Sean Talor is iconic. How many other brilliantly talented, gentle, focused, shy, unassuming, and devoted young African American, Native American, and Hispanic family men are boxed inside that myth, and what happens when they aren't pro football stars of massive talent? Where do they end up?

Oh wait, don't tell me.

At yearend 2005 there were 3,145 black male sentenced prison inmates per 100,000 black males in the United States, compared to 1,244 Hispanic male inmates per 100,000 Hispanic males and 471 white male inmates per 100,000 white males.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Saluting Brig. Gen. Keith Kerr

Here's my whole-hearted salute to Brig. Gen. Keith Kerr, who came out to the nation tonight at the YouTube Republican debate. Thank you, Sir, and thank you for your integrity and for the clarity of your perspective on what makes us Americans. You get it that it isn't biblical fundamentalism. It's the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. Nothing but, and no ifs, ands, or buts.

So, Republicans: How does a person get to be a Brigadier General as a Queer man if "unit cohesion" is a real issue?

And, if you say that most enlistees are conservative people who aren't used to challenges to their worldview, aren't you also saying that racism and sexism never should have been challenged, in the military or the general populace?

What part of "all men [and women] are created equal" don't you understand, GOP?


Have progressives have lost our way on the immigration issue? We don’t seem to have articulated, let alone stood as one in support of enlightened immigration law reform. We don’t even seem to have effectively exposed the myriad misconceptions that are currently running this dog and pony show, or to have begun to educate our base on the issues.

Nope, we seem either to have been smashed to aspic or thoroughly co-opted by the brilliant way in which Luntz, Rove, Tanton and the rest of the corporatist, xenophobic, nationalist, anti-Hispanic Right has framed the issue. (Have I heard this complaint before?)

By “smashed to aspic” I mean “silenced,” which, paradoxically, shows up on our blogs as not showing up, as avoidance of or as skirting the issue.

By “completely co-opted,” I mean “constrained to discussing immigration (a) within the rubrics established by the Right, (b) on terms designed to appease the Right, and (c) under the safer heading of partisan political strategy (as contrasted with principled or enlightened policymaking).”

Before I attempt to make my case, let me say that I have nothing against political strategy. In fact, I’m all fer it. What I don’t like is when we mistake or try to pass off political strategy for principled moral position and responsible leadership. (If there’s a national political malady, if any one thing underlies the rancor in Congress and abroad in the land, it may well be that we’re doing just that.)

When everything our politicians say or do in public is first filtered through the PR/framing/polling sieve, what comes out is pretty slim pickins' indeed. It’s merely the smallest amount of what works best for the biggest number of the worst informed people in the country. Even Trent Lott has seen that light, warning that “talk radio is running America.” And Lou Dobbs.

There are consequences besides lousy laws. On the long term, this eschewing of principled moral leadership in favor of cheap expediency guarantees that coming generations of Americans will be dumber than a gaggle of geese. Routinely given nothing tougher to chew than that thin gruel, our people will soon be intellectually incapable of anything other than grunting their assent to the crudest manipulation.

That, my dears, is the cheapest form of tyranny. Armies and gulags cost more. Unfortunately, a strong case can be made that we’re there now. After all, look how well we’re dealing with separation of church and state, the right of privacy, universal healthcare, immigration law reform, domestic spying and detention, torture, and the unprovoked occupation of foreign countries (oh, and the slaughter of a million of its citizens).

On the shorter term—as a matter of pure political leverage—when we progressives offer no substantive alternative, we create a policy vacuum that, in turn, creates a giant black hole into which our folks in the statehouses and the general electorate are sucked. In other words, there’s just no place for a moderate or progressive to go to for political support because we haven’t done the legwork or exerted the leadership to create that place.

In effect, we have created a situation that forces our own incumbents to veer hard to the Right because there’s no place else for them to go—as is happening here in Arizona. Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano recently signed an economically suicidal employer sanctions law in the name of “border control.” It was dumb, offensive, probably unconstitutional, and really enraged our Hispanic citizens. But this is a two-party country and the other side controls the political climate and the terms of the debate.

This sanitized, dumbed-down "debate" is no way to run a country, as we should know intimately by now. We should demand better, if not for ourselves, for our children. But I digress. Kind of.

Apart from Duke 1676’s proposal for immigration reform, which was retrieved from the bowels of Kos and made visible to the masses on Nov. 11, and the response by Stephen, and a few posts like this from Ian Welsh, for example, I haven’t seen much in the way of comprehensive policy discussion on prominent progressive blogs. (There’s plenty on immigration sites and blogs devoted to immigration, but I’m talking now about the leaders in the progressive blogosphere.)

I’d love to be proved wrong, but as of this writing, it’s my belief that leading Left/progressive bloggers have not stepped up on this issue. Maybe that’s too much to ask of them, given that the Democrats haven’t either, but judging from the intensity of the issue, I think it’s a fair criticism, though not one offered unkindly.

I’m not asking Kos and Digby and Jane Hamsher and other prime-time progressive bloggers to draft legislation. I'm not even asking them to do all the heavy lifting. But I am asking our front line to cough up at least some core principles, to create the forum in which focused and serious policy discussion can occur, and to give us leadership designed to pressure our party to act like the party of progressive Democrats. And that goes for the lead African American progressive bloggers, too. I’m just saying.

Let’s lay out what we want to see on, say: root causes like NAFTA; tax policies; regulation and transparency of detention and deportation; use of state and local police in immigration control; a path to citizenship for immigrant workers; mixed-status immigrant families; access to social safety nets; drivers’ licenses/identity cards; ways to estimate and meet employer demand for workers for low-status dirty jobs; wage floors and labor protections for both immigrant and native-born workers; national security considerations; border militarization; militarization a la Blackwater privatization; border fences; care at the border for immigrants at risk of death or severe disability; tying legalization to military or other public service; severing security policy from immigrant labor policy; severing low-skilled immigrant policy from high-skilled immigrant policy. How’s that for starters? (I’m sure I’m missing something.)

Anyway, in my next post, I’ll make my case about the state of progressive debate on immigration law reform. (And by the way, this isn’t about blame. It’s a call to action.) See what you think.

(*I'll be coming back later to add links. Right now I just want to get this up.)
(** Links added.)


I totally love Alas, A Blog, almost as much as I totally love The Angry Black Woman which, in happy serendipity, links to Alas, A Blog for "How Not to Be Insane When Accused of Racism (A Guide for White People)."

I found that title irresistible, and wasn't disappointed at the "Guide" or the rich collection of comments that it attracted. I recommend the lot.

Once in a while in the midst of serious (and edifying) commentary, something really funny pops up. That happened here, and at the risk of possibly pissing somebody off, I stole this from one Daran's comments on "How Not to be Insane When Accused of Racism" because it made me laugh out loud--too rare in my world. I hope it has a similar effect on you:

Axiom 3: If you are conservative, and something is said which has the remotest chance of changing your world-view, you can switch [off] your brain by uttering the word ‘liberal’. It’s sort of a self-inflicted Vulcan nerve-pinch.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ted's Book Deal

Cable news is abuzz with Senator Ted Kennedy's new memoirs deal, said to run into the millions, right up there with Bill Clinton's and Tony Blair's.

It didn't take twenty minutes for CNN to dig up Chappaquiddick.

Is anyone else concerned about the timing of this book deal? I'm worried that the Democrats yet again have handed the GOP another weapon to use in the upcoming election propaganda cycle.

Here's why. When I searched just now on "Chappaquiddick," this came up--straight from AOL's search engine summary. Note the headline and the blurb content: Special Report: Clinton Accused
Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts drove his Oldsmobile off a wooden bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, drowning his passenger, a young campaign worker named ... - Similar pages
I don't use AOL's search on purpose. It's just what I get when I open my Google homepage to do searches. I don't like it. This is how my new post-burglary computer arrived. Sigh. I'll have to figure out how to uncouple AOL from my searches because I know AOL's founder is no fan of progressives, liberals, and Democrats, and that makes me no fan of AOL. But I digress.

How did the WaPo's special report, "Clinton Accused," come to lead with a précis of the Chappaquiddick incident? I don't want to go all paranoid or anything, but surely "Kennedy" is not spelled "C.L.I.N.T.O.N."

Just under that entry is the FBI's FIOA (Freedom of Information Act) page on the incident. Just to satisfy my curiosity, I searched the same FBI FOIA page to see what turns up on "Iran Contra." The site yielded a press release about one Kevin Fryslie, which included this sentence: "Mr. Fryslie reported to the Washington Field Office in March 1985. While there, he investigated foreign counterintelligence and public corruption matters, including the Jonathan Jay Pollard espionage investigation and the Iran-Contra investigation." So much for Iran Contra.

I don't know who writes these pages or makes these decisions, but it comes as no big surprise to me that the Bush administration has used its powers and privileges of office for partisan gain, and that's a story for another day. Right now I'm more narrowly focused on concern that the Senator's book deal will become a launching pad for endless insinuations, ads and stories creating an association in the voters' minds between the Clintons and the Ted Kennedy of Chappaquiddick.

After Swiftboat, games like that are to be expected from Republicans, I suppose. I just don't see why we have to help them.

A Channel that Nobody's Watching

Still amazed at the silence, and worse, on the Left about immigration.

But before I get into that, I'm going to say one more time that if the Left doesn't learn how to frame our issues soon, the only future we'll have is the swirly.

It's a GIANT mystery to me that whereas advertising and marketing people have known about subliminal influences, our multisensory sensory "learning channels," and other mechanics of the power of words for ages, the leaders of the Democratic Party have not yet discovered this world. WTF!?

If I had a spare million lying around, I'd give it to the person who could both answer this question persuasively and change this situation. Skill in framing issues isn't just about influencing perceptions. It also has a role in why we hear more White House talking points on cable news than leftwing ones. In a word, it's easier to repeat a good talking point than half a page of flabby jabber. In other words, the last good Leftwing point I remember is, "It's the economy, stupid." And that was what, twenty years ago?

Framing is ultimately about action and inaction. That's what we don't seem to appreciate. Framing an issue determines who will act on it as well as the direction that action will take. Pro-choice or pro-life? This was a brilliant piece of framing that was designed to redirect public support from women's right to control our bodies ourselves, and to position abortion as an act of murder. It did so in seven letters and a hyphen.

"Illegals" or "refugees"? Framing the immigration issue in terms of legal and illegal immigration takes the eye off the real issues--not accidentally. The fundamentals--those things that can change the situation if honestly and creatively addressed--are individual and regional desperation, political and corporate corruption, systemic workforce exploitation, and Rightwing nationism/racism. But the Right's brilliance at framing the issue has determined how the country is responding to it. As a result, Americans feel morally superior, judgmental, and punitive, not empathetic, outraged, and supportive.

In such a climate, no form of political solution, and certainly not "comprehensive immigration reform" is possible, because no form of comprehensive immigration reform is wanted. And that's the bottom line.

The Left is speaking to the country on a channel that nobody's watching.

How do we change that? When?

On Sampling "the" African American Blogosphere

This morning I bumped into "the" Black blogosphere again.

(I should warn you now that the snarky tone you might pick up on is me making fun of my own apparently bottomless pit of blissful oblivion. Repeat: All snark herein contained is directed by moi at moi.)

I had not actually thought of "the" African American blogosphere as such until now. Why is that, you may ask? Because I live in a bottomless pit of blissful oblivion? Partly.

For instance, I've been so busy being wowed by Kos's unmatched blogofeat that it never dawned on me to consider that Daily Kos might be seriously skewed whiteward. Especially since the death of Steve Gilliard.

I can think of all kinds of things to say about that. The whole blogosphere is? Doubtful if by "whole" we mean "global." But we're here, not there. Or, the whole US blogosphere is? I guess. I don't know for sure, but that sounds right for all kinds of reasons. Or, that's one of those automatically self-replicating indictments: The more it is offered up, read, and taken seriously, the fewer the exceptions to the rule will be. Or, how many of us on the white side make a point of linking to blogs authored by black and brown people?

But to cut to the chase, what makes me want to kick myself in the rear, again, is that I rarely stop to evaluate a post or a blog from the perspective of the author's race or ethnicity unless (1) I know what it is, which I don't unless the author makes a point of defining his/her blog in those terms, or (2) race is the subject, and then I wonder, or (3) there's content there that I recognize as racist. And the operative word here is "recognize." That's the problem, for obvious reasons.

How many times do I have to learn this lesson about all the things I take for granted?

Oh, right: The reason I put "the" in quotes above is because the notion of "the Black blogosphere" strikes me as awfully ethnocentric on the part of us white folks. We don't speak of "the white blogosphere" any more than we speak of "the straight lifestyle." Put that way, we can see at once that the notion is absurd. Clearly there's no such thing as one straight lifestyle or one white blogosphere. So the notion that there's one black blogosphere is absurd, too. Unless all African American bloggers astral plane nightly to the Pleiades to plan the next day's agenda, there's no more a unifying perspective in African American-ness than there is in Galesbitrans-ness.

Except when there is.

As, for instance, on details such as, oh, the presidential debate, the perspective and content of the MSM, the YearlyKos conference, economics, healthcare, missing persons, and other stuff like that.

I don't mean that all African Americans reach the same conclusions, or that all galesbitrans people reach the same conclusions. Of course not. I mean that standing outside the big house, whether the big house of race or the big house of heterosexuality, is itself a distinct and different perspective from the governing point of view. After that, what we actually have to say depends on who we are as unique individuals. Anyway. . . .

So it is today that, for me, reading the opinions of some of the African American bloggers is once more climbing out of my pit. Doing so, I am reminded, still yet again one more time, that I live an insulated life owing to skin, class, biological sex, and gender. (Why do I STILL have to be reminded about that? Don't we all/yes/and some more than others/that would be you Trent Lott/Grover Norquist/George Bush.)

I'm also reminded that it's the rare white male who would think to write a sentence admitting that skin, sex, gender, and class actually do limit his viewpoint and experience.

I am reminded that the popular criticism of the Democratic Party--which I heard Tom Brokaw express as "fratricide"--namely, that it blew itself apart in the 60s by allowing too much emphasis on "identity" groups--is just another way of saying that we were all just stoopid. Stoopid to think that owning and discussing our differences openly might eventually lead to some kind of better way forward together than the rigid and violently enforced skin/class/sex/gender hierarchy had so far produced.

Oh, it's been messy over on the Left, all right, but I have to believe it has been worth it. This evaluation of course depends on point of view. Don't they all.

If the perspective is power and partisan primacy, then I guess the criticism is a reasonable strategic assessment, and whether our emphasis on "identity" been worth it is up for grabs. I'd say no if that emphasis has meant that while our attention was elsewhere, the GOP has been able to seize and hold power long enough to pull of a permanent coup d'etat. I'd also point out that the GOP's rise to power has been about a lot more than that, including voter fraud, caging, vote suppression, race baiting, flat-out lying. . . Maybe we should talk more about that?

But if the perspective is longer-term, if it's about a genuine attempt at authenticity, a genuine effort to lift up the rocks and see what's living there; if it was at all about learning how to climb out from under each others' power trips and mind fucks, as we used to say, then I guess the verdict is promising but still out. It depends what we as individuals and as discrete populations do with what we've learned. Forty years isn't long enough to decide that. The night is young and there's still a bit of mayhem abroad.

But I digress. I just wanted to say that I've discovered again for the billionth time that it's fun and important and informative and educational and challenging to venture outside my usual stomping ground.

I'm going back now to read more of "the" African American point of view. Join me at The Angry Black Woman, The Field Negro, African American Opinion, African American Political Pundit, Jack and Jill Politics. . . . and Electronic Village's list of the top ten Black bloggers, including Prometheus6

Monday, November 26, 2007

Where's Pico?

You might well ask.

Pico's been in a really bad mood about the banality of the debate surrounding this race for president, for one thing.

Consider: Governor Mitt Broomstick has declared that Guantanamo is not a national embarassment but rather is a monument to America's determination, and that if elected, he would double it. He opines that that "we" don't want to give terrorists access to lawyers.

I'm not a lawyer, and I'd like to think that a rich former governor running for president has access to better lawyers than I do, but I gotta say, whattya mean "we," white man?

"We" don't want to give terrorists access to lawyers? What happened to "innocent before proved guilty", or, is he saying that if you're charged with "terrorism," all bets are off? If so, given this administration's boundless expansion of the term, shouldn't we all now be rioting in the streets? Haven't we seen that "terrorists" include Quaker ladies opposed to the war and anti-Bush protesters in T-shirts? What's next? Writers on strike and people who drive Priuses? Don't laugh. Anyone who presumes to question the omniscience of a Bush or cut into his profits is bound to be pretty high up the list. It's looking like we can all kiss our attorneys farewell, but I think we knew that when we discovered the illegal wiretapping and the detention center contracts, when "rendition" entered the mainstream vocabulary.

After all, it's just a step from "don't need no stinkin' lawyers" to a lynch mob. If a person who's charged isn't innocent until proved guilty, why bother with judges and juries at all? (Like at Gitmo.) If, as Governor Mitt believes, detention is a synonym for conviction -- which it is, absent habeas corpus, then the Constitution is "just a goddamned piece of paper." Where have I heard that before?

Like most Republicans, Romney isn't big on constitutional due process. But Jeeeebus, wouldn't you think Wolf would have the gray matter to point that out? To ask the questions that expose his blithe dismissal of the one thing that makes us all Americans? That Constitution wasn't written only for US citizens. It was written for all who come under the scrutiny of our system of justice, because its authors had close personal knowledge of life under less humane and enlightened systems.

But that was before the Age of Britney. That was back when people took liberty and their vote quite seriously.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Of Tribes and Territory

Chris Matthews is annoying at best. Today, he was simply bizarre.

To begin, he lambasted Hillary for “changing her position” on drivers' licenses for undocumented immigrants--this after having spent the previous week lambasting her for not taking a position. He doesn't seem to understand that she can't possibly change a position she never took, or that we remember exactly what she said and exactly what he said about it previously. In my assessment, this makes Chris a partisan hack liar still yet again one more time.

But what struck me today was Chris's fury at unauthorized immigrants. As he lobbed comments at guest Pat Buchanan (that legendary humanitarian), and Rachel Maddow about "illegal immigrants," I noticed Chris's barometer rising visibly and I started to pay attention to see if I could figure out what was heating him up.

I can't say for sure, not being Chris, but it seemed to me that for him, the main trigger word is "border," and the problem he perceives is personal. His affect suggests that national sovereignty may be the rational consideration he articulates, but there is another issue, an emotional charge buried somewhere beneath it.

I think that grenade may be this: Undocumented workers, whom I think Matthews visualizes as mainly male, represent an intolerable symbolic challenge to himself as jefe, as white territorial patrón.

I'm saying that, lacking something of such an intense, felt nature, I, for one, don't understand the personal quality in his anger or its level.

I can see that someone whose ranch is a highway for coyotes and their miserably exploited charges could be personally furious because she or he has experienced a threatening and often despoiling personal imposition.

Even though I haven’t experienced it personally, I also understand why I feel fury at Bush's espousal of torture. It's because my trust has been betrayed. And I can understand why any one of us would be furious at an armed occupation, because that would indeed be an act of domination and ego obliteration. But I just don't experience several hundred thousand people crossing a border because they’re desperate for a means to live in anything like that way.

And that is why I think they must represent something else for Matthews, Dodd, and Buchanan and those they speak for.

Each immigrant represents an irrepressible, autonomous Self with the impertinence to believe that his or her survival need overrides an arbitrary line in the sand. As I write, the image I see is a serf or slave being beaten but not defeated. The immigrant's persistence is a refusal to be defeated. There's something intolerable about that for any man or women who is accustomed to privilege and expects to be met with deference.

In this analysis, privilege is crucial. So I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in the debate about giving out drivers' licenses and green cards, privilege is a key theme. The license and the card convey legitimacy and status, and legitimate status is exactly what is being contested.

Call it arm-chair psychologizing, call me Michael Moore, whatever. There's something deeper than meets the eye that’s playing havoc with this national debate. And that “something” is deliberately poked and prodded by the rhetoric from the Far Right.

They are well aware that the immigration problem isn't about socially acceptable concerns: wages, jobs, national sovereignty, crime, etc. Those memes have been debunked time and again by respectable, nonpartisan academic studies of the impact of undocumented immigrant on our economy.

The “crisis” they’re selling is about white male domination. At its surface, it's about who gets to vote and how many of them there are. At its deepest level, it's is about tribe (race, culture, religion) and territory, and it’s atavistic: primitive and dangerous. The post-9-11 summons to our atavistic selves is, after all, what accounts for our having acquiesced to torture.

The Mean People's Academy Strikes Again

Take note of this warning from op-ed columnist Harold Meyerson's "What's on the Line in the Writers' Strike" (Washington Post):

Nations with more high-tech economies than our own, such as the Scandinavian states, have upgraded technology and increased productivity in ways that have enhanced, rather than diminished, the bargaining power and lives of their workers. In the United States, by contrast, our corporate elites, sometimes using technological innovation as a pretext for their power grabs, have destroyed workers' bargaining power and kept for themselves almost all the revenue from technologically driven productivity increases. The picketers at Paramount and Disney may look to be a chorus line of wise-asses, but their struggle is a deadly serious test of whether any American workers retain the clout to strike a deal with the unchecked greed that is the modern American corporation.
Makes sense to me.

Did these guys go to a different kindergarten or what? Weren't they ever taught to play nice?

Where do these people come from? Is there a Bush cloning institute, or an international mean people's training academy in a black hole somewhere, and does it spew its graduates onto the USA for any particular reason? Why not Scandinavia? If there really is a God, like Pat Robertson says, shouldn't He be especially annoyed at all those naked Swedes running around in the snow? And what about those sots, the Finns? Puh-leeze.

All I can say is that these boys better be glad they didn't go to my first grade. Mrs. Dansby would have cleaned their clocks.

"Outrage Fatigue? Get Over It."

Love Mark Morford:

True outrage, like Olbermann's, like (occasionally, hopefully) this column's, like what you should ideally be experiencing on a daily basis while Bush is in office, is honed and sharp and poignant. It contains a powerful sense of deeply informed decency, and therefore has a true feel for when that sense has been violated. Outrage has meat and substance and intellectual nourishment. It is actually healthy.

Smart, informed outrage engages you and fires your heart, your mind. It is fuel. It is the reason you claim you enjoy being an American, to question malevolent government actions and take a stand and demand accountability where there has, for the past seven years, been none. Bottom line: We simply cannot let them convince us, by way of an all-out assault on science, sex, love, et al., that the good fight just ain't worth fighting.

After all, the flying monkeys are far from done raiding the closet and stealing your babies and making a mockery of everything wise and calm and open-hearted people hold dear. And baby, if you ain't outraged about that, something is very wrong indeed.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Coming to a Country Near You?

For the last twelve years, I've been writing that the country is plummeting toward fascism, toward a theocratic/plutocratic take-over. For the first ten of them, folks sort of edged away from me, the way they do from somebody who's on the street corner with a megaphone, yelling that Jesus is coming tomorrow afternoon at three.

For the last two, however, more and more of them have been willing to notice what I'm seeing: signing statements, government secrecy, lying to Congress, legal torture, no more habeas corpus, wiretapping, search and seizure without court oversight, Christian extremists doing compulsory doctrination at the US military academies and in the force, prisoners denied lawyers, citizens detained and harrassed by customs, parts of US airports declared not subject to our laws, intensive detention center construction, a huge private army, an Attorney General who says the president is above the law -- you know, piddly stuff like that.

Now, in the wake of Naomi Klein's latest warnings, I've begun to see what's going on in Pakistan at two levels. There's the WYSIWYG level and then there's the avatar-play-within-a-play rehearsal level.

We all know BushCo is propping up Musharraf, so if he's doing that, I figure he's also giving Musharraf PR pointers. Therefore, I view the Pakistan drama as a possible pre-play (foreplay is something else) for a coming declaration of martial law in the USA.

For instance:

It will happen quickly, heralded either by war on Iran or a significant disaster here at home.

We'll told that it's an emergency, it's temporary, and it's vital for the security of the country (which we'll have no way of checking).

Congress and the courts will be disbanded.

Bill and Hill will be put under house arrest, along with all other high-profile, influential political opponents from all sectors. Like Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, John and Elizabeth Edwards, Keith Olbermann, Thom Hartmann, Bill Moyers, Randi Rhodes, Rachel Maddow . . .

Cheney will go to ground.

Generals and other high-ranking officers who have challenged Bush on any decision will be detained.

Our borders will be sealed to incoming and outgoing travel, using the huge influx of Blackwater guard reinforcements that will be authorized under this year's ostensible immigration control measure.

Blackwater and the other private militias will be directed to round up the lawyers, judges, and constitutional scholars first. I don't think the corporate defenders will have too much to worry about, but the constitutional lawyers and Democrat attorneys general better keep their tanks full. Bruce Fein, Jonathan Turley, take heed.

All centrists on the US Supreme Court will be removed and replaced summarily with heavyduty winger-thumpers.

We'll be told that anyone carrying an unauthorized weapon will be shot on sight, which will put NRA's panties in a bunch, but hey, what can you do?

All media except FOX and the Clearchannel affiliates will be blacked out.

Anybody who's written critically about the Bushes will be detained, starting with the most influential.

The cash registers at Halliburton and KBR will keep ringing.

Now, if you don't like the look of that, please call your senators and representative and demand impeachment of Cheney and Bush. Because if you don't, you'll get the government that you deserve.

Monday, November 12, 2007

"You Have Failed Us Miserably and We Won't Take it Anymore"

Address by Mayor Ross C. "Rocky" Anderson on October 27, 2007
By David Swanson

Monday 29 October 2007

Salt Lake City, Utah -

Today, as we come together once again in this great city, we raise our voices in unison to say to President Bush, to Vice President Cheney, to other members of the Bush Administration (past and present), to a majority of Congress, including Utah's entire congressional delegation, and to much of the mainstream media: "You have failed us miserably and we won't take it any more."

"While we had every reason to expect far more of you, you have been pompous, greedy, cruel, and incompetent as you have led this great nation to a moral, military, and national security abyss."

"You have breached trust with the American people in the most egregious ways. You have utterly failed in the performance of your jobs. You have undermined our Constitution, permitted the violation of the most fundamental treaty obligations, and betrayed the rule of law."

"You have engaged in, or permitted, heinous human rights abuses of the sort never before countenanced in our nation's history as a matter of official policy. You have sent American men and women to kill and be killed on the basis of lies, on the basis of shifting justifications, without competent leadership, and without even a coherent plan for this monumental blunder."

"We are here to tell you: We won't take it any more!"

"You have acted in direct contravention of values that we, as Americans who love our country, hold dear. You have deceived us in the most cynical, outrageous ways. You have undermined, or allowed the undermining of, our constitutional system of checks and balances among the three presumed co-equal branches of government. You have helped lead our nation to the brink of fascism, of a dictatorship contemptuous of our nation's treaty obligations, federal statutory law, our Constitution, and the rule of law."

"Because of you, and because of your jingoistic false 'patriotism,' our world is far more dangerous, our nation is far more despised, and the threat of terrorism is far greater than ever before.

It has been absolutely astounding how you have committed the most horrendous acts, causing such needless tragedy in the lives of millions of people, yet you wear your so-called religion on your sleeves, asserting your God-is-on-my-side nonsense - when what you have done flies in the face of any religious or humanitarian tradition. Your hypocrisy is mind-boggling - and disgraceful. What part of "Thou shalt not kill" do you not understand? What part of the "Golden rule" do you not understand? What part of "be honest," "be responsible," and "be accountable" don't you understand? What part of "Blessed are the peacekeepers" do you not understand?

Because of you, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, many thousands of people have suffered horrendous lifetime injuries, and millions have been run off from their homes. For the sake of our nation, for the sake of our children, and for the sake of our brothers and sisters around the world, we are morally compelled to say, as loudly as we can, 'We won't take it any more!' "

"As United States agents kidnap, disappear, and torture human beings around the world, you justify, you deceive, and you cover up. We find what you have done to men, women and children, and to the good name and reputation of the United States, so appalling, so unconscionable, and so outrageous as to compel us to call upon you to step aside and allow other men and women who are competent, true to our nation's values, and with high moral principles to stand in your places - for the good of our nation, for the good of our children, and for the good of our world."

In the case of the President and Vice President, this means impeachment and removal from office, without any further delay from a complacent, complicit Congress, the Democratic majority of which cares more about political gain in 2008 than it does about the vindication of our Constitution, the rule of law, and democratic accountability.

It means the election of people as President and Vice President who, unlike most of the presidential candidates from both major parties, have not aided and abetted in the perpetration of the illegal, tragic, devastating invasion and occupation of Iraq. And it means the election of people as President and Vice President who will commit to return our nation to the moral and strategic imperative of refraining from torturing human beings.

In the case of the majority of Congress, it means electing people who are diligent enough to learn the facts, including reading available National Intelligence Estimates, before voting to go to war. It means electing to Congress men and women who will jealously guard Congress's sole prerogative to declare war. It means electing to Congress men and women who will not submit like vapid lap dogs to presidential requests for blank checks to engage in so-called preemptive wars, for legislation permitting warrantless wiretapping of communications involving US citizens, and for dangerous, irresponsible, saber-rattling legislation like the recent Kyl-Lieberman amendment.

We must avoid the trap of focusing the blame solely upon President Bush and Vice-President Cheney. This is not just about a few people who have wronged our country - and the world. They were enabled by members of both parties in Congress, they were enabled by the pathetic mainstream news media, and, ultimately, they have been enabled by the American people - 40% of whom are so ill-informed they still think Iraq was behind the 9/11 attacks - a people who know and care more about baseball statistics and which drunken starlets are wearing underwear than they know and care about the atrocities being committed every single day in our name by a government for which we need to take responsibility.

As loyal Americans, without regard to political partisanship - as veterans, as teachers, as religious leaders, as working men and women, as students, as professionals, as businesspeople, as public servants, as retirees, as people of all ages, races, ethnic origins, sexual orientations, and faiths - we are here to say to the Bush administration, to the majority of Congress, and to the mainstream media: "You have violated your solemn responsibilities. You have undermined our democracy, spat upon our Constitution, and engaged in outrageous, despicable acts. You have brought our nation to a point of immorality, inhumanity, and illegality of immense, tragic, unprecedented proportions."

"But we will live up to our responsibilities as citizens, as brothers and sisters of those who have suffered as a result of the imperial bullying of the United States government, and as moral actors who must take a stand: And we will, and must, mean it when we say 'We won't take it any more.'"

If we want principled, courageous elected officials, we need to be principled, courageous, and tenacious ourselves. History has demonstrated that our elected officials are not the leaders - the leadership has to come from us. If we don't insist, if we don't persist, then we are not living up to our responsibilities as citizens in a democracy - and our responsibilities as moral human beings. If we remain silent, we signal to Congress and the Bush administration - and to candidates running for office - and to the world - that we support the status quo.

Silence is complicity. Only by standing up for what's right and never letting down can we say we are doing our part.

Our government, on the basis of a campaign we now know was entirely fraudulent, attacked and militarily occupied a nation that posed no danger to the United States. Our government, acting in our name, has caused immense, unjustified death and destruction.

It all started five years ago, yet where have we, the American people, been? At this point, we are responsible. We get together once in a while at demonstrations and complain about Bush and Cheney, about Congress, and about the pathetic news media. We point fingers and yell a lot. Then most people politely go away until another demonstration a few months later.

How many people can honestly say they have spent as much time learning about and opposing the outrages of the Bush administration as they have spent watching sports or mindless television programs during the past five years? Escapist, time-sapping sports and insipid entertainment have indeed become the opiate of the masses.

Why is this country so sound asleep? Why do we abide what is happening to our nation, to our Constitution, to the cause of peace and international law and order? Why are we not doing all in our power to put an end to this madness?

We should be in the streets regularly and students should be raising hell on our campuses. We should be making it clear in every way possible that apologies or convoluted, disingenuous explanations just don't cut it when presidential candidates and so many others voted to authorize George Bush and his neo-con buddies to send American men and women to attack and occupy Iraq.

Let's awaken, and wake up the country by committing here and now to do all each of us can to take our nation back. Let them hear us across the country, as we ask others to join us: "We won't take it any more!"

I implore you: Draw a line. Figure out exactly where your own moral breaking point is. How much will you put up with before you say "No more" and mean it?

I have drawn my line as a matter of simple personal morality: I cannot, and will not, support any candidate who has voted to fund the atrocities in Iraq. I cannot, and will not, support any candidate who will not commit to remove all US troops, as soon as possible, from Iraq. I cannot, and will not, support any candidate who has supported legislation that takes us one step closer to attacking Iran. I cannot, and will not, support any candidate who has not fought to stop the kidnapping, disappearances, and torture being carried on in our name.

If we expect our nation's elected officials to take us seriously, let us send a powerful message they cannot misunderstand. Let them know we really do have our moral breaking point. Let them know we have drawn a bright line. Let them know they cannot take our support for granted - that, regardless of their party and regardless of other political considerations, they will not have our support if they cannot provide, and have not provided, principled leadership.

The people of this nation may have been far too quiet for five years, but let us pledge that we won't let it go on one more day - that we will do all we can to put an end to the illegalities, the moral degradation, and the disintegration of our nation's reputation in the world.

Let us be unified in drawing the line - in declaring that we do have a moral breaking point. Let us insist, together, in supporting our troops and in gratitude for the freedoms for which our veterans gave so much, that we bring our troops home from Iraq, that we return our government to a constitutional democracy, and that we commit to honoring the fundamental principles of human rights.

In defense of our country, in defense of our Constitution, in defense of our shared values as Americans - and as moral human beings - we declare today that we will fight in every way possible to stop the insanity, stop the continued military occupation of Iraq, and stop the moral depravity reflected by the kidnapping, disappearing, and torture of people around the world.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

While FOX Enables and We, Congress, Blitzer, and Russert Accommodate. . .

A Far Right coup d'etat is on the way, here at home, in America. It's no longer a question. It's a fact.

Many folks have been saying so for some time. Inevitably, these are people skilled at long-range strategic thinking, committed to the Constitution, keenly interested in politics, and personally experienced to some degree with Washington's dark side. Few have been in places of high visibility until recently.

The warnings are coming faster and thicker now. Bill Moyers, former Press Secretary to President Lyndon Johnson Daniel Ellsberg, he of The Pentagon Papers, Vietnam vet, and former RAND analyst; Jim Hightower, Frank Rich, Gore Vidal, Naomi Klein.

That last one deserves urgent attention.

Other people, too, are slowly waking, each expressing rising concern as he or she sees this or that upsetting piece of the puzzle.

Conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan is alarmed at US Customs' treatment of visitors and returning Americans--and this is on top of his upset over torture, the Christianists, and other constitutional affronts from Bushco. Cruise his posts over the past year for more.

A handful of lawyers has challenged the legality of Gitmo and Abu Ghraib on several issues, starting with torture and illegal detention.

Several folks, including a CIA chief who was fired for it, are upset by our country's recent embrace of torture.

There's been a flap lately about BlackwaterUSA, the powerful private army owned by a fundamentalist Rightwing Bush funder/supporter and, in turn, a recipient of much (taxpayer) funding and support by Bush.

Some folks, including former Reagan White House assistant counsel and USAF judge advocate Michael Weinstein, and the Military Religous Freedom Foundation, have noticed and vigorously oppose the militant "Christianizing" of the US armed forces and military academies. I hope someone soon notices the plague of "Christian" military high schools sprouting up, funded, no doubt, by the US Depts. of Education and Defense.

Others are alarmed at ENDGAME, Homeland Security's written-down detention/deportation plan, and at Halliburton's contract to build big detention centers on US soil, allegedly for dealing with foreign invaders, and "for other purposes" not specified. If you haven't read this document, you're in for a real treat.

Some, including even conservative Constitution scholars Bruce Fein and Norman Ornstein, oppose the rapidly expanding domestic spying apparatus and the active involvement of giant telecoms--involvement that evidently requires retroactive immunity from criminal liability. They call domestic wiretapping impeachable.

Others oppose HR 4088 the Secure America Through Verification and Enforcement Act of 2007 (SAVE), the new bill introduced by uber-nationists Bilbrey and Shuler. Among other things, the bill would add 8,000 more privatized (read Blackwater) guards to the southern border. Some of us think this is just as handy for keeping people in as out, and for shooting the spunkiest, and is just another way to force taxpayers to fund the President's private fascist army.

Naomi Klein provided the anatomy of the coup in The Shock Doctrine, noting the longstanding ties among this set of high-level administration officials, the University of Chicago, the Pinochet coup in Chile, the occupation of Iraq, and the "management" of New Orleans. The connections are deep: economic ideology, political philosophy, the Pinochet coup in Chile that turned a 160-year-old stable democracy into a gulag and playpen for the uber-rich, and trashed its middle class. The themes of "free market," "de-regulation," justifiable lying to the public, strong-man rule, and privatization run throughout all of them. We're talking Wolfowitz, Perle, Rumsfeld, Friedman, Cheney. . . .

There's also the business about the Right's ongoing effort, begun under Reagan, to concentrate media ownership into a few hands . This has caused a wrinkle here and there, along with Karl Rove's orchestration of Rightwing (ahem) "talking points" and purchasing of "news" commentary and "swiftboating" (lying about) opposition candidates.

The rampage of privatization, begun under Reagan but powerhoused by Bushco, and the tiny group of plutocrats who benefit. But see The Shock Doctrine on that. And New Orleans.

Then there's the soundtrack, the 20-year campaign of hate and demonization spewed from Rightwing firehoses like Coulter, Savage, Beck, and Limbaugh at Liberals, gays and lesbians, minorities, immigrants, and its desensitizing effects. Things that once no decent person would think are now said aloud: the new vernacular. We have permission to brutalize anybody who Bush labels a terrorist, from environmentalists and Quaker war protesters to 9-11 terrorists as long as they're not from Saudi Arabia.

Here in Phx, I hear from a pastor involved in our migrant watch that border enforcement snatched a two-year-old from its mother's arm at a Target store, deported his mom and dad, and put him in detention. Decent Americans demure. A two-year-old in detention? Hello? It's not the first time. Our pulpits are not ringing in righteous condemnation.

Pastors jailed for six months merely for attempting to deliver a letter of protest to Ft. Huachucha. Willkommen nach Amerika.

Systematized and professionalized vote tampering.

The demise of habeas corpus.

Why, even Congress itself was troubled when Mukasey opined that the president need not obey our laws. It just wasn't troubled enough to bar him from becoming the first Attorney General in our history who won't call torture "torture" and who believes the President is a Divine-Right monarch. We owe special thanks to Sens. Feinstein and Schumer, both Democrats, for caving on this one. It could have been the path to timely impeachment.

It's deductive reasoning, isn't it--I always get this mixed up--that extracts its conclusions from a set of given data?

Or you could just call it rubbing two brain cells together. How much more evidence is needed? What would a smart person do?

If my tone is sarcastic, it's because I doubt we Americans will be any different from the Germans who filed their nails for ten years as Hitler built his mighty Third Reich. It doesn't happen overnight. It does happen, though, deliberately in tiny steps easy to dismiss. It does happen. Unless we suspend our disbelieve, stop squelching our concern and outrage and fear, and defy it.

If not us, who? If not now, when?

At the very least, call your senators and representative daily and demand immediate impeachment. Remind the Republicans that not even they are safe from the reach of a violent dictator.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Identifying with the Oppressor

How can someone as intelligent and well informed as Andrew Sullivan be so thick?

The context is the allegedly politically expedient decision of Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi to drop transgender people from ENDA, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act. Defending his support of that expediency, Sullivan writes:

If we are defined by those who hate us, LGBT makes some sense, although it could also include straight women who don't conform to traditional roles, straight men in the same position, and so on, which would mean LGBTSFSMQ or something. My point is that the respective experiences of being gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender are very distinct and different. And I do not define myself primarily by shared victimhood. Indeed, as many angry LGBTQWhatever readers have insisted, I am not a victim. I am a privileged, white sexist patriarchal rich HIV-positive-with-meds guy. So why, then, pray, am I still regarded (in your acronym at least) as a part of your "community"?

You're a gay man, Andrew, and you make a profession of it. To say that you don't primarily identify by "shared victimhood" is disingenuous. You're a victim of orchestrated hatred, contempt, and violence whether you've experienced them or not. But I don't have to scroll far among your posts to find your complaints about your unrecognized marriage, so I'd suggest that you drop the contempt expressed in "victimhood" and own your membership among those who have been severely victimized by homo-hatred and sexism.

I take your point that internalizing victimization can be debilitating, can ultimately magnify the consequences of bigotry when it isn't healthily processed. That isn't always or necessarily the case, however. As I found out when I came out in 1973, owning victimization is also a necessary first step to empowerment. Properly processed it empowers us by helping us to put responsibility where it belongs. It gives us the insight, impetus, and courage to resist and effect great change. That's certainly what the Gay and Lesbian Left has done since Stonewall, your contempt for us notwithstanding.

Bruno Bettelheim, Dachau and Buchenwald survivor and famed child psychologist, named the malady you appear to manifest: Identification with the oppressor. It's a classic if flawed survival adaptation. But straight men are not likely to let you into their club as long as membership is predicated on faithfully playing by the rules of fixed gender roles.

What you don't seem to grasp is that this homo-hatred is a war of sorts, so far an unaccomplished genocide, but on the part of the Right, a wished-for genocide nonetheless--sometimes literal, sometimes psychic. Whether you were shot or not, others in this war have been. If you are one of us, then like it or not, either you share our victimization in solidarity and honor the price we've paid collectively or you trivialize it as "victimhood," dishonor us, and commit a kind of treason. There are consequences for you, which Bettelheim pointed out. There's no middle ground here.

To your second contention, that straight men and women who don't conform to gender role assignments also could claim membership in our group, why, yes, of course. What links us all, transgendered folk, and gays and lesbians, and nonconforming straight men and women, is the phenomenon of sexism: that is, the imposition onto maleness and femaleness of fixed, specific, and hierarchical gender roles. How you come so close to seeing this, but completely miss it, is a mystery. To the extent that a "mannish" straight woman and a "feminine" straight man are ridiculed and taunted, they are united with us as gender-role outlaws. The consequences--or experiences, as you put it--differ by degree but not by kind.

But you risk even your tenuous acceptance by straight, rich, white men of power, and your conservative ideology, if you acknowledge this.

A Day Without a Mexican

That giant sucking sound was the brains of 42 Democrats vanishing into lala land. That's how many (so far) who have sponsored H.R. 4088, the "Save America with Verification and Enforcement Act" (SAVE), introduced by Heath Shuler (D-NC) and Brian Bilbray (R-CA).

"SAVE" would sanction employers who hire undocumented migrant workers, require them to verify hires using the controversial E-Verify program, add 8,000 new border patrol agents, and expand the investigation capabilities of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, among other things. (New rule: No more BS legislation titles.)

If Kos is correct, almost as bad is word that "centrist" Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Rahm Emmanuel (D-IL) is quietly pushing House Democrats to sign on to this darling of uber-nativists Tom Tancredo (R-CO) and Duncan Hunter (R-CA).

One, as Kos has been commenting all week, Republicans found out in Virginia's election outcomes on Tuesday that hard-line anti-immigrant posturing isn't turning out to be the magic bullet they thought it would be. Why, then, would Democrats now decide to drape themselves with the white sheet? I guess because we have an unmatched genius for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Two, this big brother of Arizona's Employer Sanctions law, due to take effect in January 2008, suffers from many of the same "circle the wagons and fire" notions of our home-grown measure. The main one is that nobody knows exactly what percent of the GDP is contributed by undocumented workers, but study after study tells us that they give more to local economies than they take from them. If that's the case, removing them from employer payrolls is going to bring bad things to life, starting with crippling the employers who presently engage them. How is that helpful? If the assumption is that all those middle managers, programmers, and technical support personnel whose jobs have gone to India are going to become busboys, construction workers, dishwashers, and fruit pickers, well, HELL-BLOODY-O????

Three, let's pause a moment in reverent gratitude for all who understand the velocity of money theory. It notes that each dollar dropped into a local economy circulates through it many times. See, that's why cities love it when conventions come to town. It's not just the hotel fees and restaurant patronage. It's not just rental cars and the parking lots and the gasoline and the taxi services and the night club and entertainment tabs and, oh, the liquor, or the souvenirs and T-shirts and the airport traffic. It's all that AND this: Every one of THOSE dollars cycles back through consumer world, generating ever more sales taxes and ever more capacity for local folk to buy or rent houses, remodel, get new clothes for the kiddies, get groceries, have clothes cleaned, grab a Tecate, have the carpets cleaned. . . .

So why would any Democrat, especially in this market, intentionally grow the ranks of the unemployed? Why would anybody voluntarily subtract X dollars from the national economy? Why would anybody shut down viable businesses, add X million people to the detention/deportation rolls, fracture their families, do physical violence to them, ensure lasting psychological damage among them, give legs to racist impulses, and, oh yeah, alienate their votes? Have we had a collective breakdown here?

Four, and by the way, the E-Verify program is full of errors, and word here is that our Employer Sanctions law, at least, will probably be found unconstitutional. Could that be a clue?

Five, supporters believe that Latinos will self-deport in anticipation of the law's taking effect. That's begun to happen here in Maricopa County, and one result is that public schools are seeing their operating budgets tank in tandem with enrollment declines. Oh Yah-hoodley-hoo! Great public policy! (Unless, of course, you subscribe to the shock doctrine school of shakedown government, in which case you think it really is great public policy.)

Six, employers aren't thrilled. We know that because the US Chamber tells us so, and because here in Phoenix, it's a small big cowtown where people talk with each other.

See, if I were running the DCCC, I would look upon that fact as offering an opportunity to make alliance with employers in order to push for safeguards against exploitation and abuse, in order to begin the long-term effort to instill a commitment to a healthy workplace ecology--meaning equitable treatment of workers and owners. But I'm not.

Seven, measures like these are racist, mean, ugly, and a form of terrorism. If you think not, put yourself in the place of an immigrant who's been here for 9 years, with family and a hopeful life, working hard and paying federal and state taxes and FICA. It disgusts me that my country is capable of this kind of law-making, and appalls me that my party is complicit. Complicit in this just as in condoning the use of torture. I'm one hair away from becoming an Independent. It doesn't seem to do any good to write, call, fax, and otherwise express my outrage to the numbskulls and chair warmers that presume to "represent" me in Congress. I am beyond furious.

I just called the DCCC at 202-863-1500. You're asked for the extension of the person you're calling. I punched in 100 just for the heck of it, and got Charlie Rangel's voice mail. I wish I could say that the message I left him was eloquent and coherent, and so will he, I'm sure, but I think he got the gist that I'm really unhappy at the racist, stupid, moribund turns my party persists in taking.

Give 'em a buzz and let them know your feelings, too.

Window on My World

Friday morning.

Mama Java’s, where the décor is Seattle chic cum Goodwill, overlooks a strip mall parking lot. Across the street is Domino’s, Circle K, and Payday Loans. Big Brown just cruised by. The mall is called Gaslight Square. I kid you not.

Here I am in architectural middle America, ugly with palm trees. It’s Phoenix on Indian School Road, and there’s really no excuse. This part of Indian School is just I-surrender ugly.

Mama Java’s at least makes an effort, I give it that. Its butter yellow stucco walls are interrupted behind the counter by four flat black faux pillars, tall thin boxes, really, topped with flat black flared rectangles. In front of the cranberry-colored bar, a mix of blonde café furniture sits on the dirty-gold stained, cracked concrete floor. The bistro chairs are don't-give-a-damn uncomfortable with black vinyl cushions.

A drab plaid Ikea sofa along one wall sits beneath an unframed acrylic painting thematically reminiscent of Orozco but not anywhere near so iconic. Two middle-aged men with wrenches, bent over, wrestling a pipe valve shut. A ghostly naked woman looms over and behind them, arm raised, fleeing. On either side are streams of something --oil?--outside the formal painting proper but part of it, a variant triptych. If it’s oil, I hope they shut it off soon, and I hope the lady can come back. The colors echo everything in this room. Which came first, I wonder.

A black wrought-iron candelabrum sits on a square black laminate coffee table in front of the sofa. Somebody has jabbed five tall, bright red tapers in it. Three lean, tentative. One is snapped, half-mast. It looks like it’s giving us the finger in mute, insouciant grunge.

Along one wall, skinny black shelves of leftover books, everybody’s orphans, keep company with three tiers of large coffee bean bins and an étagère holding tiny frames for sale. One bright red, modernish microsuede armchair sits on a tubular aluminum frame looking hopeful in a motel hooker kind of way.

I’m the oldest semi-sentient being in the room but for one man with hair grayer than mine. He reads the Republic. I can’t imagine why.

Two other laptops are going, slowly, all of us waiting for the java to hit. It’s a musty, sleepy, looking-for-work, kids-in-school, having-a-biz-meeting, mostly 30-something group of 16 souls, enough to keep the business going, I guess. After all, it’s nearly 10 am. In comes a short, stocky brunette with a black porkpie hat crammed down on her head, large burgundy eyeglasses, a paisley scarf and a long skirt. A walking mushroom from the 80s with a tall, thin gay man in lively conversation. I imagine that she's really funny when you get to know her.

I think it’s the Travelling Wilburys on the CD. Mama’s working this morning. To me she looks exactly like Guy Pearce in his Priscilla, Queen of the Desert incarnation, only she has medium-length hennaed black hair and nice breasts. She’s wearing a chartreuse chenille top. It’s sleeveless but it has a rolled turtle-neck. (I don’t like chartreuse since having once been forced to walk past a casket in that color. At a funeral home. In Texas. Does it get any worse?)

But she makes a very good latte and I keep coming back.

Someone younger than I am just complimented me on my new Sony Vaio laptop. I am pleased. Accustomed as I am to the invisibility of middle-age womanhood, I feel found and reprieved even if was the laptop that sparked interest. I guess I'll go home now.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

De-Spinning the Immigration "Debate"

Globalization is a major 21st C phenomenon. As Mario Soares, former President and former Prime Minister of Portugal just pointed out, it is also nothing new. Modern globalization dates from the late 15th C maritime trade explorations from Europe to Africa and the Americas. Now as then, technological development, economic and monetary policy, religious and military conflict, exploration, trade dynamics, natural disasters, plagues, and other mega-forces stimulate massive changes in population demographics, the distribution of wealth, agricultural and other resource production and value, and territorial habitability.

These, in turn, prompt waves of migration comprising many, many thousands of political and/or economic refugees, and the stream of effects continues. Life goes on, its national histories etched with assimilations, diasporas, campaigns of repression, border realignments, and new forms of culture and social organization.

To understand immigration issues in the USA, it’s wise to begin thinking about them in this kind of historical perspective. Then it's obvious that migration is as universal and timeless as the wind, that it is frequently global, or at least regional and multi-national rather than bi-national, that it has causes and complexities that aren’t well communicated in sound bites, and that racist, punitive, and exclusionary strategies don't solve anything because they never, ever address underlying causes. Instead, what they do seem to accomplish, repeatedly, are festering social, psychological, and economic sores. What's astounding is that, unlike rats, we haven't mastered this part of Advanced Cheese Theory. There's just no cheese there.

In other words, knowing the context can be a good head start for detecting when the public debate is up to the challenge and when it's up to no good.

Soares outlines the consequences of the fall of the Soviet Union, the emergence of the USA as the world’s sole major power, and the ascendency of Reagan-Bush economic neo-liberalism (not to be confused with classical liberal social theory).

Americans rightly tend to link economic neo-liberalism to neo-conservatism because of pronounced connections among University of Chicago economists, principally Milton Friedman, University of Chicago political philosopher Leo Strauss, and neo-con defense/foreign policy architects including Wolfowitz, Perle, and Rumsfeld, among others.

Keep in mind that major elements of neo-liberalism are imperialism, "free" trade, deregulation, anti-environmentalism, anti-unionism, anti-government intervention(except subsidies for favored multinational enterprises and tax policy tilts), and privatization of certain government functions and most commonwealth resources (water, airwaves, forests, etc.).

Soares writes:

Under the command of George W. Bush, the US revived its imperial ambitions, began its dangerous but ultimately unsuccessful campaign to marginalise the United Nations, and guaranteed the triumph of neo-liberalism as the dominant economic-political ideology.

In truth, the influence of neo-liberalism was felt most strongly in the last years of the last century and was responsible for giving capitalism an essentially speculative and virtual financial face. One of its characteristics was the expansion of stock trading and the generation of multi-million dollar profits without having a significant impact in the real, productive economy.[Emphasis added.]

Globalisation increased social inequality and the gap between poor and rich nations and people. It brought about a growing concentration in business and the banking sector in particular, the outsourcing of production to areas with low wages if not slave labour, financial scandals, and high-level corruption, all of which are current practices of neo-liberal globalisation, which as a result has been thoroughly discredited.

This is familiar terrain to readers of Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, and this—continuing now from Soares—is becoming frighteningly familiar to anyone watching cable TV today:
It is no accident that the neo-liberal ideology loses more ground every day or that the world now finds itself on the verge of a grave financial crisis that is manifesting itself in the rapid seesawing of the stock market and is beginning to affect US society: a deepening of the real estate crisis, rising unemployment, fears of inflation, unprecedented increases in the price of oil, not to mention the colossal trade deficit which no one seems able to relieve.

It is a commonplace today to say that the policies of President Bush have resulted in total disaster both domestically and abroad.

A country’s economic prosperity is usually measured by GDP—the total dollar value of all the goods and services it produces in a given time—say, a year. But of course, as Hazel Henderson points out, GDP does not measure the health of our natural resources, our people, our schools, or our quality of life. Policies such as privatization of commonwealth natural resources, unchecked development, unregulated business, subsidized oil exploration, subsidized agribusiness, hostility to conservation, and refusal to mediate the effects of global warming, as well as an expanding draught, continue to degrade our air, water, and land and our living standard.

The consequences are more than economic. In physical terms, they are measured in our medical viability. What with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, ADD, sleeplessness, depression, and obesity, ours isn’t all that spectacular despite the outrageous cost of healthcare. And we know it.

To all this, add rising crime rates, lousy schools, drug abuse, out-of-reach higher education, escalating costs of living, wage stagnation, outsourcing and downsizing, plummeting house values, rising foreclosures, individual indebtedness, a wobbly stock market, a weakening dollar, threats of terrorism, the horrors and expense of the (optional) Iraq occupation, the threat of war with Iran, a president and veep contemptuous of Congress and the Constitution, bizarre weather patterns, and a marked increase in racist, fascist, fundamentalist, and nationalist organizations.

What you get is the “felt” if not necessarily rationally understood framework within which North Americans are trying to come to terms with immigration.

OK. That said, I think it’s fair to say that the US debate on immigration so far has been shaped by a mere handful of thought—nuggets linking immigration to crime, property values, stolen social services, deteriorated public schools, lost jobs, and so on. Singly and together, these memes are helpfully presented as if they alone explain the impact of (primarily) Mexican and Latino immigration.

I hope it’s clear now that they don’t, and that some of what they leave out is clearer. It remains to be seen why they fail so miserably to reflect and to grapple with reality.

But if you look at the source of these memes, the talking megaphones that shout them, and the "data" disseminated to support them, you’ll find that, just like neo-liberalism and the neo-cons, they come from the Far Right. I don’t think that’s a coincidence, do you?

More later.