Wednesday, April 30, 2008

What Do You Know About NAFTA?

It's one of the main causes of the diaspora of Mexican and Central American people in search of a means of staying alive. Unless you understand how NAFTA and other so-called "free trade" agreements have affected both US citizens and Mexican citizens, you will be vulnerable to a lot of misinformation disseminated by interests organized specifically to make sure that you direct your anger where they want you to and not where it belongs.

Here's a brief summary of some of NAFTA's effects on US workers. Go here for more about that as well as for the facts on how NAFTA has affected Canadian and Mexican workers. You can see at a glance who benefitted and who is losing. Not surprising that those who are losing are also the main militia and minuteman and anti-immigrant constituency, is it? Unfortunately, they're shooting the wrong goose.

Growing trade deficits with Mexico and Canada have displaced production that supported 1,015,291 U.S. jobs since NAFTA took effect in 1994 (see Table 1-1b).

Contrary to the rhetoric of most government officials and economists, industries that compete with imports from Mexico pay 1% to 5% more than export jobs (see Table 1-4 and Appendix Table 1-A1). This result is quite robust, and is confirmed with six different methods for computing average, trade-weighted wages. [This caused a drop in wages for US workers in related jobs.]

Workers with at most a high school education were particularly hard hit by growing trade deficits—they held 52% of jobs displaced; these workers make up 43% of the workforce.

Most of the jobs displaced by NAFTA trade deficits are in the manufacturing sector, which employs a higher share of such workers than any other major industry (see Table 1-5).

NAFTA displaced into lower-paying jobs 523,305 workers with a high school degree or less.

Men, who make up 55.2% of the labor force, lost 649,048 job opportunities, or 63.9% of total jobs displaced due to NAFTA deficits.

Women, who make up 47.8% of the labor force, were especially hard hit by rising imports in apparel: they lost 34,855 job opportunities, 67% of all positions displaced in the apparel sector.

The 1 million job opportunities lost nationwide are distributed among all 50 states and the District of Columbia, with the biggest losers, in numeric terms: California (-123,995), Texas (-72,257), Michigan (-63,148), New York (-51,582), Ohio (-49,886), Illinois (-47,701), Pennsylvania (-44,173), Florida (-39,987), Indiana (-35,157), North Carolina (-34,150), and Georgia (-30,464) (see Table 1-2).

The 10 hardest-hit states, as a share of total state employment, are: Michigan (-63,148, or -1.4%), Indiana (-35,157, -1.2%), Mississippi (-11,630, -1.0%), Tennessee (-25,588, -0.9%), Ohio (-49,886, -0.9%), Rhode Island (-4,482, -0.9%), Wisconsin (-25,403, -0.9%), Arkansas (-10,321, -0.9%), North Carolina (-34,150, -0.9%), and New Hampshire (-5,502, -0.9%) (Scott 2005, Table 1-3).

NAFTA is a free trade and investment agreement that provided investors with a unique set of guarantees designed to stimulate foreign direct investment and the movement of factories within the hemisphere, especially from the United States to Canada and Mexico. Furthermore, no protections were contained in the core of the agreement to maintain labor or environmental standards. As a result, NAFTA tilted the economic playing field in favor of investors, and against workers and the environment, resulting in a hemispheric "race to the bottom" in wages and environmental quality in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Sound familiar?

Grab Your Barf Bag

And here I thought I was beyond shockable.

There's a woman in Illinois who heads up a militia/minuteman group and is the spokesperson for Illiois "FAIR." She's just graced the airwaves with quite the little rant on YouTube.

There's a bill pending in IL that would permit clergy to have access to detained immigrants: Illinois HB 2747 "Religious Ministry Access." You'll have to listen yourself to La Belle Rosanna, a self-described Christian missionary, explain her opposition to this measure. I couldn't possibly do it justice. But bring your barf bag.

If I hadn't just begun to read Chris Hedge's American Fascists and if I didn't personally know ordained clergy who've been refused admission on the basis of their denomination (UCC, Presbyterian)to the cattle pens--er, detention centers--run by CCA and Wackenhutt, I wouldn't have a clue what's going down here. Only fundamentalists need apply.)

The surface message is clear enough: pure anti-immigrant venom and cruelty, based, as usual, on AIPAC and FAIR and Tanton's sorry league of liars. However, underneath, I suspect, lurks a militant white supremacist Christianist who understands that both mainstream Christianity and the US Constitution and Bill of Rights stand between her and her vision of a new totalitarian, pseudo-Christian white America.

The deal is same-old, same-old. Just as the Jews were the Nazis' means, so are immigrants the Christo-Fascists' means.

It's axiomatic that whenever organizing occurs on the scale of the Far Right to demonize any segment of the population, something else is going down that they don't want you to know about until it's too late. Isn't that painfully, horribly obvious?

But if you're one of those persons inclined to think global warming is a hoax, you probably don't believe that, either.

Well, tell you what: At the end of the day I'd rather be standing on my bets than on yours.

Anyway, I haven't seen the edition of the Bible that Rosanna's reading. I guess it's the Minuteman's Portable Expurgated Version, in which the "New Testament" comprises Revelation and drops the part about Jesus. Easier to pack with your guns and ammo.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Napolitano Vetoes HB 2708

Side-stepping the racism, due process, and social cohesion issues it entails, Gov. Janet backed off a step or two from her previous and controversial alignment with anti-immigrationists. Her statement, however, did nothing to discourage devils' deals between local police and sheriff's departments and ICE. She'll get credit from neither side and damnation from both.

From azstarnet:

Napolitano vetoes bill requiring local cops to enforce immigration law By Howard Fischer

PHOENIX -- Gov. Janet Napolitano vetoed legislation today to require police departments and sheriff's deputies to do more to enforce federal immigration laws.

Napolitano said HB 2807 is unnecessary because nothing in state law precludes local police agencies from entering into agreements with the federal government to have their officers certified to stop, question and detain people not in this country legally. She said the only thing they need is the proper federal training.

'Many of these have already entered into these agreements on a voluntary basis,' the governor wrote. 'A legislative mandate to that effect is unnecessary.'

What the legislation would do, Napolitano said, is potentially put the state on the hook for $100 million in training costs.

I’m Sure We Would be Horrified

I just took a look at 32 of some 44 anti-migrant bills introduced by far-Right Republicans in the AZ legislature.

The merry band responsible for these measures shows thoroughgoing contempt for the Constitution and Bill of Rights, no comprehension of the actual operations and costs of state government, and all the demonic zeal of the long-term, unmedicated insane. And when you stop to consider that the "crisis" being addressed here is 80% hype, the extent of their madness and the scope of our slack-jawed gullibility begin to be revealed.

Collectively, these 32 measures would deputize every public servant and a good many private citizens as untrained, uncompensated immigration officers; fine or imprison those who let a peasant into a public school; prohibit Arizonans from marrying non-US citizens; create a new class of indentured slaves without rights or recourse and a bunch of babies without countries; construct a 360-degree continuous harassment zone around every non-white in the state, and plunge AZ even further into fiscal catastrophe. Go. See for yourself.

And for what?

Hype. What's real is that immigrants are coming in growing numbers. Otherwise, ALL the indictments recited by Lou Dobbs, Tom Tancredo, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Ann Coulter, Pat Buchanan, and the rest against undocumented workers have been concocted and orchestrated by one guy. These claims have been disproved time and again by every reputable immigrant study conducted in the US in the last ten years.

This goes for healthcare utilization, public education impact, and "welfare" utilization, crime rates, general economic impact, resistance to assimilation, infectious disease, and all the rest. Except for the fact that growing numbers of economic refugees are coming across the border, everything you think you know about immigration is pretty much wrong.

So then WTF is going on? My name ain't Alan Greenspan or George W. Bush so I can only speculate.

One, the banking/finance, multinational, domestic corporate, and government pirates who've delivered us huge, life-threatening problems at home and abroad need to find a place to hide. Immigration hype, like terrorism hype, contains a kernel of truth and a saving facade of plausibility, which make it a very effective diversion.

Two, so-called "fair trade" agreements and the pandemic of shock-doctrine capitalism being visited on Central, South, and North America are indeed causing a growing tide of economic refugees, native and foreign. How an already teetering domestic economy, which is outsourcing its jobs as fast as possible at the same time that it is reeling from the costs of the Iraq occupation, the housing/mortgage/lending meltdown, and the astronomical rise in gas and food prices can absorb all the native unemployed and a growing wave of desperate immigrants, and employ eligible workers at all levels and provide retirement for the Boomer generation is not clear to anybody.

Detention centers—many and huge—must be built to stave those incoming migrants off, but first, Americans have to be fed plausible reasons, prepped for a brutal, primitive anti-immigrant backlash. These have been scripted and we are being fed. All the better if prison privatization lays on blessings of riches to salve the consciences of the corporate pirates, state and federal lawmakers, and media tools who are either causing the economic implosion or making the hype and the cover-up come together. When CCA and Wackenhutt are reimbursed on a per capita basis, what incentive do you suppose is created for detaining and incarcerating as many "capitas" as possible?

That's my take. Of course clucks like Arizona GOP state Rep. Russell Pearce aren't intelligent or powerful enough to devise such things. But they are clever enough, and as Republicons, positioned well enough to know how to capitalize on recession and terrorism fears, and unscrupulous enough to do so. I use the word "capitalize" for a reason.

All that's at stake for a Pearce or a Sheriff Joe Arpaio is merely re-election. They don't give a rat's fanny whether what they say is true, or fair, or right, or decent, so long as it appeals to enough voters and works to undermine the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. When these guys get to beat up on demonized people of color, they're playing to type. It's an easy gig if you ask me, fit for a bunch of puking cowards.

Pandering to worried, angry average Joes who see the border crossings at the same time as rising bills dwarf their paychecks or SS benefits are sitting ducks. They're easy prey, particularly in this high-tech era where testosterone and bull strength aren't much called for anymore. Plenty of core masculine self-esteem issues here, and plenty of pent-up rage at pert' nigh everybody—women, people of color, and all those high-talkin' libruls who abandoned blue collar whites in the Reagan union-busting years, whatever. Their world view is delivered ready made by Fox, and they figure somebody up there must know something they don't. But hey, call me "elitist."

In some other contexts, many of these guys are decent people, and most of them aren't idiots—they do see who's been driving the bus lately. Nevertheless, they've got themselves in a dark, small hole of their own devising: If it's "treason" to criticize 'Murka or the Presnit, their anger has to find another outlet, somewhere where there'll be negligible consequences. This is easily arranged. Happily too, gilded by the luminous back story of the Old West, all this high-decibel racist, xenophobic "law 'n order" rhetoric and the promise of gunfire on the border makes for a new hyper-masculine heroic epic. That is, if you don't look too closely at the rationale or at the soldiers.

The "enemy" isn't Santa Ana's army, after all, and the white guys aren't Davy Crockett. The "enemy" this time is just a scraggly bunch of desperate peasant furriners clinging to the peculiar convictions that hard work is a virtue and that people have a right under the common law of human dignity to go where they need to go to survive. Hell, even caribou do that.

Plus, they aren't armed and they have no high-powered Washington lobbyist to defend them. What could be better for a pony-tailed, fanny-packed RV militia? At some level for them, this is just a theme park, a new kind of "psychodrama," if you'll forgive the pun; just another variation on Paintball. After all, they don't risk a thing and they don't get hurt.

For us and the migrants dying in the desert answering the summons of a gigantic multinational bait and switch, it's not theatre at all. Mindlessly cruel and brutal things are happening here in Arizona, on the border, on our city streets, in our jails, and in our for-profit detention centers. If only we weren't so busy playing our assigned role as audience for the Great Republicon-Job, I'm sure we would be horrified enough to do something.

Monday, April 28, 2008

ACT NOW: Urge Napolitano to Veto HB2359 and HB 2807

From Border Action, a sample letter/email or script for telephone talking points. Please act on this immediately.

April 22, 2008

Governor Napolitano:

On behalf of (insert organization name here), I urge you to veto HB2807 and HB2359. These bills will jeopardize the safety and security of Arizona communities and the integrity of local law enforcement agencies.

HB2807 requires all Arizona police and sheriffs departments to create programs to address federal immigration violations. Police and sheriff’s departments in Arizona and across the country have reiterated that blurring the lines between local law enforcement and federal immigration enforcement undermines their ability to effectively police their communities. Trust and confidence in the police is an essential element of public safety. Victims and witnesses of crimes, be it domestic violence, sexual assault, or child abuse, need to know that reporting a crime will not result in their deportation. HB2807 will result in less effective policing and will make Arizona communities less safe.

HB2359 allows the Sheriff, without the authority of the board of supervisors, to enter into agreements with Customs and Border Protection. Arizonans are already terrorized by the actions of the unaccountable Maricopa County sheriff who operates as if he is above the rule of law. We need the system of checks-and-balances between sheriffs and boards of supervisors. We need accountability and community safety.

[Insert a description of your organization here if applicable]

We want Arizona to be a state where the basic human dignity of all people is upheld and respected. We want communities that are safe and secure for everyone. HB2807 and HB2359 will not promote a better vision for Arizona. We urge you to veto these two bills.



I would also add that these measures are deadly dangerous precedents. The emphasis today is on undocumented immigrants, and the rationale, though few understand this, is entirely made up. Tomorrow the emphasis can shift abrupty on equally bogus grounds.

Other populations in this country--African Americans, Mormons, gays and lesbians, Asians--know just how precarious our lives are when this kind of xenophobia rampages through a community, but few Americans actually know what it's like when implementing mob hysteria becomes part of the job description of the police. For first-hand accounts of what that's like, we need to talk with European Jews.

I've written elsewhere that laws which are designed to target any segment of the population on the basis of a genetic or cultural difference don't merely achieve the violence they set out to accomplish. They also do a much larger violence to the whole community. They turn ordinary citizens in to surrogate enforcers. As any South African, German, Austrian, Chinese, French citizen, or resident of any fundamentalist, totalitarian regime can attest, the result is bloody chaos.

Arizona is on a deadly path. I hope that enough of us recognize it in time to stop it. For if these and the other noxious measures pass, it won't be the fault of the governor alone. It will mainly be our fault.

Anti-Immigrant Fusillade Ready for Firing in AZ Legislature

A fusillade is "a simultaneous and continuous firing of a group of firearms on command." (Wikipedia)

From Border Action: "With the 2007 approval of Representative Russell Pearce’s “Legal Arizona Workers Act,” Arizona was catapulted into the national spotlight for what has been termed the nation’s harshest state employer sanctions law. The employer sanctions bill, however, was not isolated legislation targeting undocumented immigrants in the state; for the last several years, Representative Pearce and a handful of other legislators have whipped up a border-security frenzy within the legislature that has been running at full-speed to criminalize and alienate immigrants and their labor in Arizona."

From Border Action, this April 18, 2008 tally of the fusillade of nasty anti-immigrant/anti-human rights bills now pending in the AZ legislature.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

AZ's SB 1108: Thought Control for the Homeland

Frankly, we should welcome this bill because it outlines the world that Pearce and Kavanagh, with the blessings of Uberchancellors Bush, Cheney, McCain, and Kyle, would have in store for us.

This analysis explains that what is not said is actually as important as what is said.

SB 1108 in effect defines non-white persons as de facto threats to national security; proposes an unelected, partisan, ideologically-driven Council of Censors to determine the content of Arizona public education curriculum from first grade through college or university; legislates replacing the liberal arts curriculum that made America great with pure, ideologically-driven far-Right indoctrination; encourages far-Right forces to disrupt public education with bogus "bias" lawsuits, defines nonconformists as agents of sedition and so subtly legitimizes the use of violence against non-white students and educators who are perceived to violate The Plan; proposes to use your tax dollars to force Arizona teachers to become indoctrinators, not educators; and establishes vague and unspecified punishment anybody who doesn't get in line.

Here is the text of SB 1108, a bill sponsored by AZ Republican state Rep. Russell Pearce and others to revise Sec. 41-4258, Arizona Revised Statutes, relating to the Homeland Security Advisory Council. As here, I’ve italicized key phrases for your reference when reading the comments that follow. Also, as you read the italicized passages, keep in mind their authors' implied objectives and the administrative infrastructure that would be required to implement this measure.

This is the bill to which I've referred sarcastically in a couple of previous posts. Now I'm taking a more serious look. First the bill, then my comments.


Section 1. Title 15, chapter 1, article 1, Arizona Revised Statutes, is amended by adding sections 15-107 and 15-108, to read: 15-107. Declaration of policy. The legislature finds and declares that:

1. A primary purpose of public education is to inculcate values of American citizenship.

2. Public tax dollars used in public schools should not be used to denigrate American values and the teachings of western civilization.

3. Public tax dollars should not be used to promote political, religious, ideological or cultural beliefs or values as truth when such values are in conflict with the values of American citizenship and the teachings of western CIVILIZATION.

15-108. Denigration, disparagement or encouragement of dissent from values of American democracy and western civilization; prohibition; enforcement; prohibition of race-based organizations; definition:

A. A public school in this state shall not include within the program of instruction any courses, classes or school sponsored activities that promote, assert as truth or feature as an exclusive focus any political, religious, ideological or cultural beliefs or values that denigrate, disparage or overtly ENCOURAGE dissent from the values of American democracy and western civilization, including democracy, capitalism, pluralism and religious toleration.

B. This section does not prohibit the inclusion of diverse political, religious, ideological or CULTURAL beliefs or values if the course, CLASS or school sponsored activity as a whole does not denigrate, disparage or overtly ENCOURAGE dissent from the values of American democracy and western civilization.

C. On request of the superintendent of public instruction or the superintendent's designee, a public school shall promptly provide copies of curricula, course materials and course syllabi to the superintendent of public INSTRUCTION. The superintendent of public instruction, after providing appropriate notice and conducting an appropriate hearing, may withhold a proportionate share of state monies from any public school that violates subsection A. The superintendent of public instruction may take reasonable and APPROPRIATE regulatory actions to enforce this subsection. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to enlarge the authority of the superintendent of public instruction to regulate the CONTENT of curriculum in public schools.

D. A public school in this state, a university under the JURISDICTION of the arizona board of regents and a community college under the JURISDICTION of a community college DISTRICT in this state shall not allow organizations to operate on the CAMPUS of the school, UNIVERSITY or community college if the organization is based in whole or in part on race-based criteria.

E. For the purposes of this section, "public school" means any of the following:
1. A school district.
2. A school in a school district.
3. A charter school.
4. An accommodation school.
5. The arizona state schools for the deaf and the blind."

Pico's Comments

Frankly, we should welcome this bill because it outlines the world that Pearce and Kavanagh, with the blessings of Uberchancellors Bush, Cheney, McCain, and Kyle, would have in store for us.

This analysis shows that what is not said is actually as important as what is said.

SB 1108 in effect defines non-white persons as de facto threats to national security; proposes an unelected, partisan, ideologically-driven Council of Censors to determine the content of Arizona public education curriculum from first grade through college or university; legislates replacing the classic liberal arts curriculum that made America great with pure, ideologically-driven far-Right indoctrination; encourages far-Right forces to disrupt public education with bogus "bias" lawsuits at will; defines nonconformists and non-whites as agents of sedition and so subtly legitimizes the use of violence against students and educators who are perceived to violate The Plan; proposes to use your tax dollars to force Arizona teachers to become indoctrinators, not educators; and establishes vague and unspecified punishment for anybody who doesn't get in line.

Historically, in rightwing discourse, the word "race," unless modified by "white," is code for non-white races. Here, because the bill is attached to a state homeland security law instead of to a tax bill, say, or to a public school funding bill, we see plainly that its authors regard "race" as a national security issue: Non-white = threat to national security.

Militia types and other far-Right fascists always co-opt the American flag to symbolize their hate-based ideology. This is the statutory equivalent.(PS: Isn't it about time for us to be flying the American flag on our side of the street where it belongs?)

"A primary purpose of public education is to inculcate values of American citizenship."
By definition, there's only one primary (first, leading, main, most important) purpose of anything. The proper article isn't "a," it's "the." So for Pearce (and Bush, and Cheney, and all the rest of the GOP), we see a very telling confusion about the meanings of "indoctrinate" and "educate."

I grant that one purpose of education is to socialize each generation with the norms of its culture. But education and socialization are not the same thing. If they were, we could scrap our entire school system and save gazillions. Our kids could be indoctrinated in a select few mantras by age 5 without ever leaving the house. Perhaps that's the plan.

Education, which also differs from training, is about critical thinking skills. These cannot be taught without exposing students broadly to conflicting ideas, good 'uns and bad 'uns, and debating them.

Measures like this actually imply that the US Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are too fragile to withstand alternatives. Oh. Er. Oops. Silly me. When they say "the values of American citizenship," I thought they meant LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL. FREEDOM OF THOUGHT. FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY. FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION. FREEDOM OF SPEECH. That kind of thing.

Clearly they have something else in mind, so let's ask them: What, precisely, are "the values of American citizenship and where are they found?" What, exactly, sets "American citizenship" apart from, say, "Canadian citizenship" if not the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights"?

This should be fascinating. If the anwer is anything other than our founding documents, the bill's backers will have to tell us what it is and when we ratified it. If the answer is our founding documents, they'll have to explain why they propose to nullify large chunks of our guaranteed freedoms.

This bill shows between its lines that people like Pearce in fact despise the founding documents and actually do propose to nullify large chunks of our guaranteed freedoms. As American neo-fascist racists, they have no alternative. America, by origin and law, is a classic liberal culture that, by design, is meant always to stand for liberty and justice for all. This is the meaning of American patriotism. But because that isn't good news for white supremacist American neo-fascists, these sacred founding principles really must be put squarely in their gun sights along with people of color.

In truth, small-minded people fear your liberty. If the last seven years under far-Right GOP rule haven't taught Americans that much, we really are on the verge of losing everything.

Public tax dollars should not be used to promote political, religious, ideological or cultural beliefs or values as truth when such values are in conflict with the values of American citizenship and the teachings of western CIVILIZATION.
But according to this bill, they can and must be used to promote far-Right ideology and to fund an unelected Council of Censors to decide which is which. Well, isn't that special. Shades of the Spanish Inquisition. Such an irony!

All the obvious questions--So, we can't excoriate Enron? Which teachings of "Western civilization"? When does "Western civilization" begin? What cultures does it encompass? Is it English-speaking only? Who decides? Based on what qualifications, please?--all these are moot. This bill is "need to know." If the bill's sponsors know the answers, you don't need to know them.

Fortunately, the bill is so flagrantly unconstitutional that, at least for now, it can't stand. Meanwhile, a word to the wise is sufficient: The whole point is that it isn't merely unconstitutional. It's anti-constitutional.

The rest of the measure--the parts about what may be taught and who may assemble--don't just go to the heart of our constitutional liberties. Again, that's the point. These sections also subtly encourage nuisance lawsuits against courses and instructors perceived as violating far-Right ideological mandates.

We know that all across the country, rightwing financed interests have challenged specific courses and individual instructors as promoting a "liberal" bias when, in fact, they are actually teaching solid constitutional values. Here, Pearce et al. are providing the legal underpinnings for those interests to make war on traditional constitutional values in Arizona courts using your tax dollars. (Do you begin to see why Bush has seeded the US Court of Appeals with far-Right judges?)

Finally, SB 1108 encourages violence against non-white persons because it links "race" explicitly to national security, and defines "race-based" assemblies, multicultural content, and dissent as sedition.

Bottom line: For Pearce and the Uberchancellors--Bush, Cheney, Alito, Kyle, McCain, and the rest--the idea is that, for classic constitutional liberals and people of color, it's going to be a short walk from ASU or Rio Salado Community College to your friendly local detention center. For Pearce, McCain, Bush, and the rest, it's a win-win. After all, prison privatization is just a permanent employment plan and stream of cash for Republican cronies, and the state pays by the head.

That would be your head and mine.

Call your state legislator. Now.

PS: Grab an American flag and start showing Americans what "patriotism" really means.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Yeah, Let's Ban Ethnic Studies and "Dissent"

State Sen. Russell Pearce, a Mesa Republican (what else?) is even more a moron than I thought. The Pearce-Kavanagh bill, HR 1108, would ban books and classes that "overtly encourage dissent," such as ethnic studies courses taught from a Marxist perspective, from AZ community colleges and universities.

Yep, I really think that the way to prepare next generations for leadership in a complex society is to ban all "dissent" and stifle all perspectives but that of Reader's Digest.

Pearce has nothing on me. I've long thought that the world in general would be a much better place if we all read just the King James version of the Bible, limited our creative appetites to the paintings of Norman Rockwell, and educated our children using Reader's Digest abridged versions of the classics of Western lit.

More later. Busy day. Meanwhile, drop your state legislators a line. Tell them to vote against anything Pearce proposes.

Friday, April 25, 2008

AZ's Annual Mecham Memorial March of the Morons

Led by such towering giants of wisdom and statecraft as Mesa Representative Karen Johnson and (former) Parker Representative Babara Blewster, Arizona's Republican legislature is queuing up again to show the world just exactly what "a bubble shy of plumb" looks like.

Johnson, known for her bill to arm school students, and Blewster, who once expressed amazement that a House colleague is Jewish because she lacks a "big hook nose," have done more than all other American women combined to prove the proposition that women really ought to stay barefoot and pregnant.

In grateful recognition of her contributions to gender equality, Blewster's GOP colleagues have nominated her observation that "even African-Americans are more advanced than Native Americans" be engraved in tasteful 106-point red, white, and blue type over their cloakroom door.

Blewster joins Johnson to lead their Republican colleagues in periodic competitions for the coveted "Bacon Award." (Note: Long-time Zonies believe that the prize was originally meant to have been called the Beacon Award, but the GOP proofreader preferred the subtle pork allusion.) The Bacon Award goes to the Republican with the highest score on the Slackjawed Stupid Index, the SSI, a measure of Arizona GOP legislators' intellectual capacity that is administered quarterly. (It doesn't take long.)

However, keen GOP-watchers know that springtime really brings out AZ Republicans' primordial urge to pee in the gene pool. For it is in late April that they conduct their annual Edwin Mecham Memorial March of the Morons. Mecham, you may recall, graced the state as governor until he was impeached for various things. But not before inviting a national boycott of Arizona for his decision to prevent the state from celebrating Martin Luther King Day.

This year's Grand Marshall, of course, is GOP Sen. Russell Pearce. Pearce made national headlines recently when he introduced the fondly-titled "employer sanctions" measure, which actually turned out to be the "bankrupt Arizona" bill. It penalizes employers who knowingly hire undocumented immigrants to do hideous things like pick crops, bus tables, and make beds. . Consequently, these workers are fleeing our state, taking their wallets with them. The result? Many AZ agricultural, service, entertainment, mining, construction, and landscaping businesses are filing for bankruptcy< This has the effect of shutting off the entire downstream flow of their tax dollars. In all, Pearce has given us home foreclosures, lagging rentals, closed businesses, swelling unemployment rolls, gutted school budgets, stalled highway repairs, and even more crumbling overpasses. His brilliance is surpassed only by his emulation of Jesus.

Pearce has more genius in store for us, no doubt, but he may soon be eclipsed by Scottsdale's GOP Rep. John Kavanagh. Kavanagh's newest brainchild would bar state public university and community college students from organizing groups based on race--you know, like the Black Business Students' Association and the Cinco De Mayo Festival planning committee. Kavanagh, whom we assume is illiterate, certainly hasn't read that a major corporation is cooling on Oklahoma. The reason? It's anti-diversity, homophobic climate, which is being carefully nurtured by GOP state Rep. Sally Kern. Nor has he read the Constitution, which, I'm pretty sure, guarantees freedom of association.

Not to be outdone, the heavily "Christian" and Republican Center for AZ Policy, and that darling Cathi Harrod, its main stone-thrower, are showcasing their sagacity again this year by pushing still yet again one more time for an anti-gay amendment, SCR 1042.

As you know, even though McCain supported them (of course) the sane among us kicked their asses last year by making Arizona the only state in the nation to defeat their nasty little marriage proposition. Of course it wasn't just anti-marriage and it wasn't just anti-gay. In its infinite wisdom, the Center pushed for language that also would have outlawed any cohabiting couple from receiving the privileges and benefits of marriage. I suppose we can expect them to sharpen their focus this year just to queers.

Gee, Zonies who aren't straight, white, fascist, and phobic have a lot to look forward to. Time to haul out the shit-kickers.

But wait! What's that giant sucking sound?

Oh. That's just bottom-feeding. The AZ Republican caucus is over at the neo Salt River having breakfast with GOP presidential contender and Rev. Rightwing Racist Homophobe Hagee courtier, John McCain. Oh, you heard the part about his calling Cindy the "c" word. Nice crowd.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Confused about Immigration? Get the Facts

One of the toughest things about fighting in this nasty anti-immigrant war is that there seem to be more nativists than there are pro-immigrant sane people. Or at least they talk more and talk louder and have their own TV show. Ever been to a family reunion where the Republican uncles and the Democrat uncles are having what's euphemistically called a "conversation"? It's like that, only they're on steroids and we're not. Oh, and I, for one, don't claim kin.

They're also better organized and better funded, and they don't have any compunction about lying. This makes their tedious habit of using sane-sounding organizational names really dangerous. But lest I digress, see the Southern Poverty Law Center's expose of the anti-immigrant stampede orchestrated wholly by the racist, nativist Right.

Seriously, the far Right spin on immigration is dizzying, relentless, and deadly. People are dying because of it, and people are being detained and expelled without the means to survive or even a way to notify or contact their own families. Parents are being shipped out while their infants are kept in US detention camps.

Cruel things are happening daily to immigrants in your name. If you don't like that, do something about it.

You need facts -- and I mean, like, real ones -- to fight back. You and I. Actually we need a lot more than facts, but all I can deliver at the moment is a wonderful reliable online source where you'll find a world of facts organized in a way that anybody can find them. Even in a hurry.

Go there now. Bookmark. And then head out to do battle with the spawn of Dobbs Tancredo Tanton. California Immigrant Policy Center

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Where Are the Young Ones?

A great friend sent me some CD mixes recently -- rained them on me, actually. This morning I woke determined not to listen to the offal spewing from the mouths of Russert and Kurtz and the rest, and instead popped in one from my heyday.

Damn if it didn't start with Nina Simone's "Strange Fruit," bald, galling, rage. Soon it rolled into Baez's powerful "All the Weary Mothers of the Earth," and on through Sweet Honey's "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child," into Grace Slick's weirdly activist, brilliantly surreal "Dream," letting up a little for Carole King's lyrical "Way Over Yonder," and Laura Nyro's magnificent "Eli." Bizarrely athematic, thematic selections. Or maybe it's just me.

I realized by the second pass that part of why we're starving here, ossified by fear and overwhelmed by the complexities and sheer weight of it all is that we ain't got great women protest artists.

We need them so badly now, even more now than then.

Every generation has them, right? Where are they? Where are the young ones? Somebody tell me who's calling us up and out now, who's feeding our spirits with liquid fire, who's showing us which way to go? Somebody tell me they're out there and I'm just listening to the wrong station.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Art of the Heart: Irma Turtle

The reason I’m writing about Irma today is that this week saw the opening of a show of her paintings, and I want you to see these unique and beautiful works and read attentively what she says about them.

If you’re very, very lucky, you meet someone who changes the world.

Irma Turtle is such a person. It was as if she woke up one morning, combed her hair, and commenced to change the world. She was no more equipped to begin, alone, non-exploitative cultural, medical, and ecological tours into the depths of West Africa than a saguaro is to do cruises up the Inside Passage. But precious indigenous cultures were disappearing because of economic, medical, and environmental perils. The UN and relevant African governments couldn’t be bothered to help, so someone had to do something, fast.

Who would help them? Turtle would. Irma, Smith-educated, piss-elegant, pricey Jewish American Madison Avenue advertising princess. Not by flinging pennies from her penthouse, either. By putting both well manicured feet on hard, dry African ground.

I am many things, but pricey and high style just aren't among them. So I confess: I was really nervous when I first drove the 30 miles to her Cave Creek home to meet her. Though I should have known better, I actually thought she’d live in a 6,000-sq. ft. adobe palace, and that she’d be six feet tall, a social X-Ray odalisque sipping chilled Perrier by her vanishing-edge pool overlooking Four Peaks.

I was there because I had been impertinent enough to ask if I might use some of her slides to show trade beads in their living context. Doubtless because of a mutual friend, she had consented. So I thought I’d be ushered into The Presence and leave ten minutes later, sticky from condescension. After all, what could I bring to a life like hers--except maybe the walking stick I’d made for her of a saguaro cactus rib, the one I’d carved a turtle on. Now it seemed all too completely lame.

Down the dirt road I drove, through stands of prickly pear cactus, a gaggle of Gambel’s quail, and wicked cholla thickets, dust roiling in great baffles behind me. I parked in a turnout to the left of the house, beside the carport, catty-cornered from a walled courtyard painted with black and brown West African geometrics.

As I got out of my car, the door from the carport into the tiny 1950s adobe opened. Out she stepped, on the far side of her beat-up old Jeep Wagonneer with its AZ plate reading “Timbuktu.” In her magenta dashiki and half a pound of hand-made silver African jewelry, she was striking, gorgeous even, in a sunburnt, Wise Woman, Been There/Done That kind of way. Yet, there for a moment she seemed slight, even tentative.

Irma Turtle shaded her eyes, peered into the white Arizona glare at the backlit stick in my hand, and said, “Did you bring a baseball bat?” Her white teeth flashed and in that moment her whole being smiled. Rhodo, a brindle pit bull mix beside her, her soulmate, inseparable except for Irma’s African expeditions, gently asked if I really meant to let that Doberman out of my car. Now suddenly I didn’t.

Of the few things I truly admire, one surely is the combination of world-class accomplishment and zero pretention. Irma had me from “hello” and so did Rhodo.

From that day to this I’ve been devoted to her. I’m certain that this is not unusual, that it happens to her 13 times a day and 14 on Saturdays. For me, it started with her completely unwarranted generosity, grew geometrically as, over time, she shared her perspective on life or a healing massage, and was a totally done deal once it sunk past my cynicism that the warmth surrounding me in Irma's presense really wasn’t about fund raising at all.

The reason I’m writing about Irma today is that this week saw the opening of a show of her paintings, and I want you to see these unique and beautifu pieces and read what she has to say about them.

I had the privilege of a private viewing some months back and listened as she talked to me of willing a better world into being, of living with intentionality, of expecting epiphany.

You see, Irma goes places most mere mortals just won’t bring ourselves to go, spiritually and philosophically arriving long before the physical trek even begins. It couldn’t happen any other way.

She routinely says the most impossible things right out loud, like they make sense. If anyone else said these things to me, I’d be out the door. But Irma isn’t merely saying them. She has done them. She continues to do them. She proves that what she says is actually how it is, all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding.

Yet here I stand on my hyper-rational high dive, mute and ossified, afraid to lose control. As if I ever had it to begin with.

But I’m in awe. Ask anyone. Irma springs off a drought-baked AZ desert as if it were a trampoline, back-flips over Kilimanjaro, lands head first in a lake of fire somewhere in Niger, and looks back smiling: “Come on in! The water’s fine!”

And this is what she does every day, right after breakfast, for a living--for her living and for theirs, the Wodaabe and the Fulani and the Tuareg and the Hamar and the Songhai. I’ve seen this with my own eyes.

I could go on. And on. I bid you, instead, to visit her art website, linger over her paintings, and read what she says about them. And then visit Turtle Will—-who will? Turtle Will! See what she accomplishes. Irma's the Real Thing and she's obviously on to something big.

Oh, by the way: Your generous financial support won’t go to waste. It's desperately needed and in the hands of Irma Turtle, it will change the world.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The American State of Mind

Pondering the notion that Americans might actually elect John McCain led me to wonder if we are the stupidest and most uninformed people on earth, or the most gullible and easily deceived, or all the above. A case can be made.

If being stupid is repeating the same catastrophic actions over and over while hoping for some outcome besides disaster, then to my mind we indicted ourselves in 2004. If we do it again, there's no point saying "God help us." We're past help, too stupid to splash around in the gene pool.

Lots of us have agonized about how low we have sunk since George Washington was first sworn in, and why. Back then we really were "the land of the free and the home of the brave." Despite our shortcomings, back then we had a magnificent collective vision and were willing to die to achieve it.

We had just come from tyranny. That is why we hadn’t yet forgotten that, although liberty resides in the soul as our human birthright, it can’t be actualized or preserved without first understanding what it is and that it is worth any price.

This is the "freedom" state of mind. It is, ultimately, a self-fulfilling attitude. Without it, freedom and liberty just don’t happen. That's what worries me.

You know, it’s been almost 400 years since those English colonists fled the tyranny of religious and political repression to create a free society. Whatever the shortcomings then and since, they and our later forebears had a clear vision and set out to accomplish it.

Since then, however, we seem to have forgotten the meaning of being without freedom, or else we’d never have consented to being ruled again by a tyrant.

But we have consented. What do I mean? A tyrant is above the law, unitary, aloof, arrogant, and unaccountable. That is precisely the stated perspective of this administration, and its vision for us of serfdom, intimidation, disenfranchisement, and perpetual surveillance is being realized as we speak--above all through defiance of the Constitution. Everything—-wiretaps, torture, contempt for Congress, politicization of the Justice Department, cruel capitalization on tragedy, stolen elections, pirated Treasury, rigged voting machines, stolen archives, trashed economy, and planted "news"-—stems from this fact. Despite swearing an oath on the Bible to protect and defend the Constitution, this Jesus-lovin' President perjured himself. He thinks the Constitution is just a piece of paper. He disdains it, ignores it at will.

And what of us? Rather than take George W. Bush's lies and assaults on our liberty seriously enough to defend ourselves and our birthright, we've bowed and stooped, stammered and excused, enabled, and folded. We are as responsible for this disaster as he is. If we lose that magnificent vision and all that has been achieved before, our children can rightly blame us all: you and me.

Why? Because, no, actually we are not brave. All our founding myths and folktales notwithstanding, we have shown that we can be manipulated so easily that even an obvious lie will cause us to approve really appalling things out of sheer terror. That's weak. That's really despicably weak.

We’ve several times now proved our abject cowardice by caving to mere rumors of war and warnings of catastrophe. I have in mind why we occupied Iraq, are terrorizing undocumented Mexican laborers, are excusing torture, are permitting a surveillance culture, abandoned New Orleans, allowed Bush to steal our treasury and rape our land; why we are, again, relinquishing our right to universal health care, why we are refusing to impeach this war-criminal and treasonous administration. Treasonous? What else do you call it when the Constitution is trashed, the commonwealth stolen, and the Congress and the people are treated with contempt? What else when our generals conspire to deceive us so that they'll get Pentagon consulting contracts?

We're the shiftless, blissful agents of our own demise. All that anyone with a blog or a microphone has to say these days is that we’ll suffer dire consequences if we don’t do as we’re told and do it now. And then we do.

That makes us puking cowards. It makes us ignorant, puking cowards. We can be stampeded by lies and rumors because we're uninformed, and worse still, we cherish our ignorance. We're so proud of it, in fact, that we even ridicule education as "elitist." We're so stupid that we even ridicule education itself as "elitist," when, as anybody with two brain cells to rub together knows, manipulation is elitist and education its only antidote.

We’re probably the only culture in history that has not cherished learning for its own sake and expected (at least) its (male) youth to attain certain standards of knowledge as a condition of self worth, if not of success and cultural preservation.

But bravery, like liberty, is a state of mind. Follow me here. Bravery begins in the centeredness of soul that recognizes its own and its neighbor's worth. That is why a brave person can't easily be deceived or intimidated. When courage stems from self respect—that is, when it stems from having the strength to draw the line from the utter conviction that we're worth defending in the first place—-then brave people just do not accept being manipulated, lied to, and toyed with. Those things fly in the face of self respect.

So. When you come right down to it, the fact is that liberty, freedom, bravery, and courage all stem from understanding what's really valuable in life, and from the wisdom to act accordingly.

The genuinely courageous, and the authentically liberated therefore understand that Truth is as essential to self respect as it is to national security, and that self respect, therefore, is one of life’s greatest values. That is why brave people do whatever is necessary to encourage freedom of speech and ensure a vigilant, skeptical, honest, probing, and free press, whereas cowardly people try to silence it.

We can’t both be brave and fear the truth or fail to understand that Truth is most likely found in the clash of opposing convictions.

Alas, we can tell what we are by the state of reportage and debate in this country today. Our patron saints are Rush Limbaugh and the Militiamen, Ann Coulter and Bay Buchanan. Our brilliant analysts the likes of Wolf Blitzer, Howie Kurtz, Tim Russert, Chris Matthews. God Almighty. What they want, above all, is to control our thinking and stampede us into violent, racist, and xenophobic frenzies. Is that really what we want? Is that really what we think is in our best longterm interest? Have we learned nothing from the last 100 years?

Well, as my mother used to say, you can tell if God resides in an action by its consequences.

Anyway, maybe our susceptibility to the grossest manipulation and to institutionalized deception is a symptom. Maybe it indicates precisely that we've lost our self respect somewhere along the way.

Perhaps it was when we Americans chose to value flash over quality--around about the mid-1950s, I guess, when fins defined The Car. Perhaps it was when we decided to value profits over the people who achieve them, about the time Reagan busted the Air Traffic Controllers union. (The dues are coming now.) Maybe it was when we stopped teaching our kids that it isn’t winning; it really is whether you play the game with integrity. Maybe we lost that when Little League dads started cursing umpires instead of teaching their kids a better ball game. Maybe it was when we decided to equate dignity with celebrity and character with wealth. That gave us the Reign of the junk bond king and Britney Nation. Or maybe it was when we started building our mansions of particle board and Scotch tape, and our fortunes on Ponzi schemes, and our self esteem on designer jeans.

Maybe we Americans can be manipulated to accept deception in exact proportion to the extent that we ourselves have come to value appearance much more than we value reality. Think about that.

We love cheap thrills to the point that our kids can’t tell the difference between Yellowstone and Disneyland. We live our lives in fantasy worlds of cyberspace and television to the extent that reality either bores or offends us. How else explain cosmetic surgery and foregoing regular actual water for overpriced stuff that comes in a bottle? We flash our neighbors with a "prosperity" made of credit cards, interest-only mortgages, and Lease-a-Beemer. We reckon that a day at Wal-Mart or Saks or Neiman’s is a day of life in the Real World, laugh at environmentalists, and tell our kids they’re marvelous even if they’re despicable, cretinous little snots.

In this America we’ve made, of faux achievement, faux culture, and faux substance, we might as well be faux heroes and faux patriots, too.

Anything better would be wasted.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr. 40 Years Later

Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated 40 years ago today, on April 4, 1968. He was in Memphis, TN, at the Lorraine Motel, where he had come in support of striking garbage collectors in search of basic economic parity.

Martin Luther King, Jr., was a leader on a par with Gandhi, a man of deep faith, great courage, and magnificent hope for the promise of the Constitution of the United States of America.

The greatest honor we can pay him is to work as he did to bring that promise to fruition. Let us begin with renewed hope and determination, with eyes wide open, brains in gear, courage bolted to the task, and our hearts full of love for those whom life hasn't blessed as richly.

Our blessings were given to share.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Immigrant Rights ARE Worker Rights

Have you ever carried hundreds of pounds of blistering hot steel rebar up and down makeshift construction ladders for 14 hours in 115 degree heat? I didn't think so. Well, here's one thing you can take to the bank. When Enrique gets home from a day's work, sorry but he just really doesn't have the energy to go on a crime spree, and he can't afford a gun anyway.

Is every policy in the country based on BS, superstitions, and myths or is it just immigration policy and workplace safety and health?

So. See if this looks like a recipe for success: I live in the state with the worst ranking in the country for worker rights. It's also the state with the highest concentration of low skilled immigrant workers. See any coincidences here? I don't.

When desperation joins hunger and "foreignness," what you get is a powerless worker with no voice and no visibility. When you've got that, you've got paradise for a handful of unscrupulous rich white SOBs who rule this state and disaster for everybody else.

The Phoenix 50, I think they're called. The founding pastor of a church we attended -- note past tense -- used to brag that he hung out with them, was one of them. Maybe that explains why he didn't think the women on his staff needed a pension. This church, with its $8 Million endowment, thinks "social justice" means making sure every woman at the Christmas party gets asked to dance.

Anyway, last night I had the honor of interviewing an undocumented worker about what it's like to lay rebar in the corrupt and vicious Phoenix commercial construction industry. I got an education that made me cry. And made me ashamed and very angry.

1. Enrique (not his name) says it's good that he works for the worst construction employer in town, because the others don't have jobs. This company underbids everybody else. That's the main way to keep the profits in the white men's pockets and the risk on the back of the Brown men doing the work.

2. The company doesn't provide water at the work sites. You heard me. This is the Sonoran Desert, it gets hotter than hell here, and in the summer sun on bare dirt with huge piles of steel lying around, it is hell.

3. Starting out or a ten-year veteran with this company, you'll make $12/hour. They don't do raises. That's how it is for most of the guys. There's no training. You just learn the hard way.

4. Enrique has to bring 5 gallons of ice water to work every day and haul it himself wherever he's assigned, high up or on the ground. Along with his 50-pound tool belt. If the temperature exceeds 100 degrees, the company will give him a 10 cents/hour water supplement. That's 80 cents a day, and it doesn't even cover the ice.

5. He has to provide his own gloves ($2.50), hard hat $20), rebar pliers ($15), safety harness ($250), safety hook ($10), and tools. He goes through three pairs of gloves a week, even with duct tape. His safety harness lasts about a year.

6. He has no sick days, no vacation days, and no pension. When he starts to approach 35, he knows he'll be fired for younger, stronger, faster meat. But he's got nowhere else to go.

7. If his wife and kids were here and he wanted health insurance for them, it would cost him $80 to $100/week.

8. There are no safety requirements in Phoenix, AZ. If he dehydrates, faints, and falls off the freeway he's building, that's his tough luck. He worries about that.

9. He's glad he works for this outfit all the same, because right now, they're building a highrise. Sheriff Joe Arpaio doesn't conduct suprise raids for "illegals" at high-end construction sites in nice neighborhoods. Sheriff Joe prefers freeway construction sites and dirt pits in Buckeye.

10. Enrique commutes by car 60 miles round trip. When he's reached 40 hours in a week, he's sent home. This is to avoid having to pay Enrique overtime. If he hits 40 hours fifteen minutes after he's driven 30 miles to get to work, well, that's just too bad. Worse still, if the foreman doesn't want to sign him in that day, he won't get paid for his commute time, either. This method keeps him from ever knowing for sure when he'll have reached 40 hours, so he can't plan his work week to take a second job.

11. If he sprains his back, he either misses work and risks being fired or he works with a sprained back. He knows. He's been there and done that.

12. Rebar lying in the desert sun gets too hot to touch barehanded, and blisters the men's shoulders. It burns through leather work gloves in two days. When he cuts the wire to wrap the rebar into its grids, the ends snap back and slash his forearms.

13. Sometimes he gets referred to another job site with no notice. But again, if either the sending or the receiving foreman doesn't like his looks, he won't be signed in and he won't get paid for his commute time. Sometimes he won't get paid, period. The gas his his problem. He spends $70/week just to get to work.

15. Enrique is terrified of being picked up. He says everyone he knows is terrified. Because what if he doesn't have his passport or any money with him? What if he's wearing shorts and flip-flops just to walk to the corner market? If he's caught in a raid, Enrique will be deported "as is." He knows Mexican guys who've ended up in Guatemala without a centavo to get home. As he's talking to me, he looks panicky, as who wouldn't. Enrique tells me that it's good that his wife and babies aren't here because what would they do if some day he didn't come home? What would they think? What would they do? How would he ever find them again?

Enrique has been here for five years. In that time, he has put himself through union training and, by moving back and forth between employers, has managed to build his marketable experience and to leverage the system so that he now makes $23.75/hour, which still is easily $12 to $15 less than he would make in Philadephia or New York or even L.A. as an experienced rebar man.

Enrique pays federal, state, and city taxes and Social Security because these are taken straight out of his paycheck, just as they are for you and me. He's not getting anything for free. But he never sees a tax refund and he'll never use Social Security. He'll either be dead or deported before he's 65.

This is who we're harassing, abusing, cheating, deporting, and terrifying.

Enrique is an innocent, naive, sweet, young peasant man. His dark brown eyes are big as a deer's, graced with long lashes. He's about 5'7" tall but his shoulders are massive. He's cooking his dinner when we arrive. It's beans and red chile and chicken left over from last night.

If Enrique were at home in Chihuahua, he'd be a farmer like his father and his brothers, except there's no more land and what there is can't support all these families.

He's never known anything but hard work. All that crap about "lazy" Mexicans is the biggest lie in town. I know. I've hired lots of these guys to help me with yard work and landscaping. They kill themselves.

Enrique wears his crucifix, goes to Mass when he can, and sends his money home to his wife. Enrique didn't come here to rip off the system or rape little old ladies. He came here to build his dreams. He came here on faith and trust, ready to bust his back to build a better life. He didn't think it would be like this in the USA.

Enrique isn't who we need to worry about. It's his bosses I fear. And the Phoenix 50 and the pols they put in office. It's the McBushes we have to fear, not Mexican peasants with an upward mobility complex.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

What Goes Around Comes Around

"We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny."

So wrote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., prophetically. We tend to think of "prophetic" in the sense of foretelling the future, and sure enough, when something is innate in the human condition like our interconnectedness, speaking of it as King does here would of course be foretelling the future as much as describing the present.

But in the biblical tradition out of which King was speaking, "prophetic" had another even more important meaning. It meant and it means speaking truth to power.

That's pretty clear when you think of the Old Testament prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. And speaking truth to power is what Dr. Jeremiah Wright did when he spoke of God's damning America for its horrendous affronts to the poor and destitute. It tells me a lot about the state of integrity in this country and the condition of its national security when we want to stone our prophets!

If it's not clear what King meant, nothing better illustrates it today than the immigration atrocity. Let me give you some examples.

Here in Phoenix, Sheriff Joe Arpaio has so terrorized the immigrant community by targeting Brown people that Hispanic people are afraid to go out. This means, among other things, that sick kids aren't being taken to the doctor's for fear of deportation. When those kids are sick with something contagious and they aren't treated, what do you think happens to their communities? We're all in this together.

And there's this, according to Man Egee over at Latino Politico:
CLARKS SUMMIT, Pa. (AP) — Saying the nation's immigration system is broken, Pennsylvania's largest grower of fresh-to-market tomatoes announced Monday he will no longer produce the crop because he can't find enough workers to harvest it.

Keith Eckel, 61, a fourth-generation farmer and the owner of Fred W. Eckel Sons Farms Inc., said he saw a dramatic decline last summer in the number of migrant workers who showed up to pick tomatoes at his 2,000-acre farm in northeastern Pennsylvania.

He said Congress' failure to approve comprehensive immigration reform had hindered his ability to hire enough workers to get his crop to the market. Most of Eckel's workers came from Mexico.

"There are a number of workers hesitant to travel, legal or illegal, because of the scrutiny they are now under," said Eckel, whose tomatoes have been shipped to supermarkets and restaurants throughout the eastern United States. "So there are less workers crossing state lines."

Eckel, who planted 2.2 million tomato plants last year, said he also will stop growing pumpkins and will plant half as much sweet corn as usual, resulting in a loss of nearly 175 jobs.

So now in our zeal to rid ourselves of the Brown Peril, we are sending our own food prices through the roof nationwide. And that's not all. In the communities where the crops are grown, jobs are disappearing and farms, soon enough, will go into foreclosure because, guess what? It takes pickers to get the produce to market, and it takes selling the produce to pay the farm mortgage. We're all in this together.

And speaking of mortgages? Did you think all those foreclosures and empty rentals are coming just from native-born white folks? Well, guess what? All those hoardes of undocumented workers--and their fed-up, pissed-off, terrified documented relatives who are leaving with them--all had to live somewhere, didn't they? We're all in this together.

And baby, what goes around comes around. Progressives figured that out a long time ago. It's why we offer the policies we do. A rising tide floats all boats. But conservatives still labor under the mutually devastating illusion that they are self-made men.

If the present multiple-Bush-engineered crises don't get the fallacy of this across, nothing will. Like, do you really think your $4 gas has nothing to do with Iraq? Duh!