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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Thursday, June 28, 2007

 

A Bad Bill's Death (for Now)

He's persistent, I'll give him that. George W. Bush wants this immigration bill to become law. It's almost like he's obsessed with it. Let's face it, President Bush just isn't use to people saying "No!" to him. After all, his whole life has been spent going from excess to excess; favor to favor; and failure to failure at the behest of his father's very, very wealthy friends, a.k.a. his "base" of "haves and have mores".

Although the Senate, just a few days ago, voted with 54 "Yea's" to allow further debate on the really, really bad bill, when push came to shove, GW and his henchmen just couldn't seem to push or shove hard enough.

The bill is dead! Long live (a better) bill!

The problem with this bill wasn't that it was the wrong bill at the wrong time - it was the wrong bill at any time. Many of our nation's elected representatives went along with it because they felt pressured to. Others went along with it because they felt that doing something was better than the status quo. Unfortunately, in this case, status quo beats the tar out of doing something, if the "something" is this bill.

"Legal immigration is one of the top concerns of the American people, and Congress' failure to act on it is a disappointment. A lot of us worked hard to see if we couldn't find common ground. It didn't work."
-President Bush

There's a lot wrong with this statement. First, it accuses Congress of doing nothing on immigration when, in fact, it did the best thing it could do: to disallow a horrible bill. The next thing it does is attempt to place the blame for a bad bill in many, if not most, of the Senators' eyes squarely on our representatives. This has been a tactic of the Bushies for as long as they have been in office: If you don't get your way, whine and blame it on the opposition. In this case, the opposition included many from GW's own party. The tact is a simple one that has worked to perfection, with the aid of organizations such as Fox news and the rest of the duped Main Stream media. Finally, this statement says that a lot of people "worked hard" on this bill. I'm sure there have been a lot of bad ideas that people have worked hard on. This just happens to be one of them.

The vote was 46 "yea's" to 53 "Nay's". That's a whole lot of "nay's" there fella.

"Congress really needs to prove to the American people that it can come together on hard issues,"
-Bush

Oh, but they have, President Bush. A majority of our Senators said they couldn't support an immigration bill which divides families; forces immigrants to work as near-indentured servants; doesn't offer any protection for them as human beings, let alone as workers; and disregards the wishes of the American people as a whole.

"But I didn't get my way! Whah-ah-ah!"
-From the mind of GW

Let's face facts here: The only way to begin true immigration reform is to control our borders. Once we do that we can decide on a better way to allow people into our society as contributing members. If they come, they should bring their families and buys the goods they're helping to make, not just go to work, come to an apartment they share with a dozen or so other workers, send their money home and then go back to work in the morning to begin the whole monotonous routine all over again.

Just as galling as the "leave the family at home - guest worker" part of this bad bill was the unrealistic, ideological "send 'em home after two years" clause which allows a "guest worker" to come here and work for two years, then forces then to go home for one year before applying again to work for another two years.

C'mon... I thought you guys had a sense of humor. This bill should prove that those who wrote it do.

Besides from these guest workers coming into our country to work at the jobs "Americans won't do"; and besides from them earning the great American income a.k.a. "The Minimum Wage"; they're going to get the chance of paying back taxes to the federal government. after sending nearly all of their hard-earned greenbacks home, just what is going to be left?

Remember this: Someone earning a minimum wage salary, who worked forty hours per week, will earn $290 for that week's worth of work. After taxes and such, just what will that leave them? It wouldn't even allow them to pay off their tax bills, let alone send money home. In fact, $290 per week is just barely above the poverty line.

Jim DeMint (REPUBLICAN-SC) put it best when he said, " think the only victory here is for the American people and, symbolically, a government of the people and for the people. The people responded to this issue in a very emotional and just a very engaged way, which changed the minds of many people here in the Senate. We'll proceed with the security and enforcement aspects of this bill, and that will pave the way of how we solve some of the other problems."

Good idea, Jim. And good for those other 52 Senators who realize that doing something bad and stupid is worse than doing nothing at all.

-Noah Greenberg



Calling the Puppet-Master Out On the Carpet

Some of you might remember Senator Pat Leahy (DEMOCRAT-VT) as the guy who elicited the famed "Go f<---> yourself!" insult hurled towards him from Vice President, and President of the Senate, Dick Cheney. Today Senator Leahy got to return the favor and offer up his own comment to the VP: Mr. Cheney, here is your subpoena.

"Our attempts to obtain information through testimony of administration witnesses have been met with a consistent pattern of evasion and misdirection. There is no legitimate argument for withholding the requested materials from this committee."
-Leahy

Of course, Cheney has other ideas. Remember that Dick Cheney, a.k.a. "The Puppet Master", was the guy who wouldn't even allow President Bush the opportunity to testify behind closed doors to the 911 Commission. So what are the chances that he's going to go along with a Senate subpoena ordering him to testify. after all, it is Cheney who used to giving the orders around here. There may be a new bird coming Sen. Leahy's way - "The one in the Middle", as sung by Country and Western newcomer Sarah Johns:

And now I'm givin' you
The one in the middle
The one that's a little bit longer
And I got another one
On my other hand
So I can say it even stronger
If you're askin' if I'm done
Well, I'm sure not sayin' you're number one


There is little to no chance that Cheney will cooperate with a Senate probe - subpoena or not. After all, this is the guy who held secret meetings about our nation's energy future; only allowed oil and gas company executives to participate in the discussions; and allowed Enron a major voice in the hearings even as evidence was beginning to pile up against the likes of Jeffrey Skilling and Ken "Kenny-Boy" Lay. When environmentalists and anyone else concerned about our nation's, and the world's energy future complained, they were given a photo-op with the Veep, but only after the deal was done.

This is the most opaque White House ever and it is being run by an equally opaque Vice President.

"We're aware of the committee's action and will respond appropriately. It's unfortunate that congressional Democrats continue to choose the route of confrontation."
-White House spokesman Tony Fratto

Funny thing about this subpoena, though - This time three of the six Republicans on the Justice Committee voted to give Sen. Leahy the go-ahead to ask for the documents and testimony which they are, in fact, asking for. The only "appropriate" response is for Cheney to get his fat, five-Vietnam War deferment, two-time drunk driver, friend-shooter's ass down to the Capital and answer some questions. Tell him to bring David Addington, John Soo, Alberto Gonzales and Harriet Miers with him. They got some 'spailnin' to do, too.

If these guys want to usurp the US constitution, let them do it our in public view where we all can watch them tear to shreds the most important document of the modern era. Let them explain, in open court, just what they mean by "limited" and "legal" when referring to spying on Americans. Let them make the case for the difference between what they say and what they do, then tell us that they didn't say the first thing at all.

Remember when White House Press secretary Tony Snow said that the eight fired federal prosecutors weren't fired for political reasons and that they were let go for performance-related issues? Just a short while after that he stated that he never said such a thing. As john Stewart asked on "The Daily Show", "Don't they know we're recording them?"

No more closed door sessions. No more secret meetings. No more claiming that your office is, or isn't a part of the "executive branch" when it suits you. we want to hear answers and we want to see the documents.

We all expect the likes of Cheney et al to bring their cases all the way up to this very friendly Supreme court. I'll be curious to hear what Cheney uses as his next excuse even after these partisan justices (the gang of five) finally tell him that he has no case and he has to testify.

-Noah Greenberg



Taking Stock of the Political Process

The ever-increasing numbers of youth disgusted with the GOP and who are taking an active part in politics, not only voting in greater numbers but registering and working as Democrats, was noted in yesterday's TRUTHOUT. I expect that all of us have seen youth outnumbering the middle-aged and us ancient decrepits at many of the impeachment, pro-labor, renewable energy, gun control, universal healthcare and antiwar gatherings--not only collegians and older high school kids who resent the militarism and poor education caused by "Every Child (Except the Rich) Left Behind", but also young working people, many of them families with small children who can't make ends meet.

Bush and Co. have done so much damage, nationally and internationally, that young people will be stuck all their lives with paying for the mess, trying to clean it up and reverse some of the damage--if possible. They know they can't find jobs that pay well or get adequate health care or even buy a car without going into massive debt, not because of phony immigration competition (unless they plan to pick strawberries for a living) but because the multinational CEOs who own this country's politicians have sent well-paying American jobs overseas, and delight in the ever-increasing gap between their own gated life-styles and everyone else. Of course youth are also worried about endless imperialistic war into which they could be drafted, and this administration's neglect of global scorching, overpopulation, disease, and rational science. These incredible dangers, some of which could destroy the world, are either drummed up or denied by the NeoCons Disgust with NeoCon evil and stupidity is turning youth toward liberal solutions, which is good, but it's also resuscitated some extremes that don't seem productive. I'd rather see Leftist radicalism than apathy, but why does the pendulum always have to swing so wildly when it would be better to settle on something like Keynesian economics, which not only works well but gives us the choice of selecting the best aspects of Socialism OR Capitalism when picking and choosing from them would be useful to the people?

There's still a lot of apathy and disgust among young people, too. Youthful pride in the best aspects of America, which I felt the day I registered to vote on my 21st birthday, has been (understandably) replaced by disillusion, deep anger and cynicism. I've heard young cynics say that 99% of the Republicans are hopeless crooks and destroyers of life who should disappear as a political party, that most of the Democrats are equally evil if people don't constantly prod and scream at them, and that the Greens are a self-important bunch of snobs who do more damage than good to progressive causes. They don't like ANY of the current parties in the news.

There's some truth in these opinions, but exaggerated--except for the prodding and screaming. Americans of any age need to realize that maintaining a democracy REQUIRES the constant demand of vigilance and suspicion of politicians' motives! Not the warped paranoia of the Right, but never-relenting public pressure from letters, emails, faxes, face to face meetings, public rallies, speaking out at town meetings, and so on, to keep elected legislators' attention focused always on the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and needs of the people--"the greatest good for the greatest number"--not just on behalf of the NeoCon power base of super-rich and pseudo-religious fanatics. Ours is ideally a government of, by and for the People, and "by the People" means that we must never allow a fascist regime like Bush's to puff itself up, ever again, because we were too lazy or preoccupied. We can never sit back and ignore politics, but always follow the news, study the issues, get indignant, get involved, participate--and look for the best solutions. A lot of our political problems would be vastly improved if we did just two things--(1) public funding of campaigns at a low level of spending, plus making any private, corporate or institutional campaign money illegal, and (2) taking away all the special privilege benefits ("Congressional Socialism") that began back in the greedy 1948 Republican Congress; bringing federal elected officials entirely under Social Security and Medicare like the rest of us.

Our Independence Day activities here in the Delaware Valley start this afternoon with a big commemorative march of the Grannies for Peace from the Friends' Center to the Philadelphia Recruiting Station where they were (illegally) arrested one year ago for offering to enlist as substitutes for their grandchildren. A lot of other Granny brigades from other cities will be here, including NYC's Raging Grannies, and we military veterans will support them by carrying tombstones.

This will be followed by the monthly Honk for Peace at the RecSta tomorrow during 5:00 PM rush hour, several benefit screenings of SICKO (I've organized one of them) to fund actions working for national health care and veterans' health benefits. All over South Jersey from June 30 through the 22nd of July a series of Eyes Wide Open memorial displays of military boots will honor and mourn the New Jersey KIAs in Iraq. There's also a drumbeat march--"Declare Peace"--in Philly on the afternoon of July 3rd from Christ Church to the Federal Building, the usual weekly Wednesday Honk for Peace rush hour demos all over town, picketing the appearance of slimy Samuel Alito in Philly (who had the gall to pollute Our City by his presence and will ring the Liberty Bell on July 4th--enough to make you barf, isn't it?), two big rallies on July 4th and 5th which I believe were largely organized by young people, picketing Tom Delay during his appearance in Philly, July 16(why isn't he in jail?), and probably more. In the meantime our youthful Iraq veterans are traveling on their Peace Bus from city to city around the country telling people the truth about the war. In this excessive heat (104 heat index predicted for today with nearly 90% humidity, plus thunderstorms) I dunno how much of this my 71-year old heart can take, but I'll do my best.

Impeachment is, I feel, the most direct line to ending the scandals and evils of this administration--starting with Cheney, who is culpable of at least a hundred documented breaches of his solemn oath to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States.

-Jenny Hanniver



IMMIGRATION: AN AMERICAN TRADITION
by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2007, Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.

America is often called a “nation of immigrants.” Unlike any other country in the world, almost everyone in the U.S. came from somewhere else. Unless you are of Native American heritage, your family emigrated to the U.S.

One of the things I like most about America is that Americans have a less homogenous and more heterogeneous population than any other country. It makes us unique and diverse; multi-cultural, multi-racial and multi-ethnic.

Not everyone agrees, however. Hence the current fight over immigration.

There are an estimated 12 to 20 million illegal immigrants in America. Most of them are from South and Central America, primarily Mexico, although there are some undocumented aliens from other countries as well, notably Southeast Asia and China. Unlike legal immigrants to the U.S., nearly all of these people are poor, unskilled laborers who mostly work in agriculture or at other menial jobs.

The furor over illegal immigrant is an issue almost wholly fueled by conservative outrage, as this excerpt from an appeal I received from a conservative news outlet elucidates:

“In the next 24 to 48 hours, the U.S. Senate will hold a series of critical votes on the legislation to grant *Amnesty* to 12-20 million illegal aliens.

“While the Senate failed to *defeat* this disastrous legislation earlier this week...the fight is not over.

“We are only five votes short of the 40 needed to defeat this bill. That’s right, a shift of only *five votes*can still drive a stake into the heart of this horrendous bill.”
The hyperbolic language and hysterical tone of the appeal goes on for several pages. But the substance is clear: Keep out the Mexicans, they are like vampires who will suck our nation dry.

I think the anti-immigration fight is racist. I don’t see anyone building fences between the border of Canada and the U.S. I also think that the anti-immigration assault is an attempt to divert attention away from the truly important issues facing America, from the disastrous war on Iraq to the 60 million Americans don’t have health insurance to the one in five children in living at or below the poverty level. There are, I believe, far more pressing issues than illegal immigration.

But not according to Republicans in Congress and conservatives throughout the land. Arch-conservative pundit and failed presidential candidate Pat Buchanan encapsulates the conservative perspective in his book *State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America.*

The title is baldly obvious, and the text even more so: Buchanan notes, “The United States of 1960 was a First World nation, 90 percent of whose people traced their ancestry to Europe, 97 percent of whom spoke English. We were one nation and one people.

That America is dead and gone. The deconstruction of America—along the lines of culture and values, language and faith, allegiance and loyalty—has begun. By 2050, Americans of European descent will be a minority in the United States. One hundred million Hispanics with ties of language and loyalty to Mexico and Latin America will be living here, concentrated in the Southwest.”

Buchanan makes the case for sealing the borders and restricting immigration overall. The tone of the book is by turns dryly historical and pedantic, hyperbolic and hysterical.

Buchanan is smart–very smart. And he argues so well that even seasoned liberals can be swayed by his arguments. After all, we want America to look like *us,* right?

But the “us” has changed, as it has throughout Europe, Scandinavia and the U.K. As those nations have seen declining birth rates among their native-born, they have also seen exploding birth rates among the influx of immigrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

The crux of the argument is two-fold, yet still fundamentally racist. Assimilation *is* an essential aspect of immigration anywhere. One must learn the language of one’s adopted country and have some knowledge of how that nation works–it’s rule of law, it’s history.

However, assimilation isn’t innate. One doesn’t just move to another nation and “become” a native of that country without being embraced and welcomed into it. If we want immigrants to assimilate, we have to help them do so.

Buchanan–of Irish descent–ignores, as do his anti-immigration scaremongers, the long history of the assimilationist process in America. The U.S. has always has huge influxes of immigrants from different countries at different periods in history. The original settlers were English, German, Scottish, Dutch. My mother’s family can be traced back to the 1600s and the Hudson Valley, where Dutch patroons settled the area. My father’s family came much later, in the mid-1800s, my paternal grandfather’s family from Germany, my paternal grandmother’s family from Sweden.

These were not English-speaking people when they arrived in America. Nor were the Italians, the Spanish, the French, the Scandinavians. In the 1840s, the influx of Irish to America due to the potato famine created the same kind of outrage from conservatives as is being voiced today. Signs in shop windows read “No dogs or Irish allowed.”

From 1919 to 1921, the Attorney General under Woodrow Wilson, Alexander Palmer, was so obsessed with issues of assimilation that he instituted raids on anarchist immigrant groups advocating worker’s rights and socialist revolution.

Post-Vietnam, the influx of Southeast Asian refugees enraged others. In the late 1980s the concerns were over immigrants from India and Pakistan. Today it is Mexicans.

Anyone who has lived in different regions of America knows that the melting pot myth is just that–there are enclaves throughout America of people who are basically unassimilated. Every large city has a Chinatown, for example. Brooklyn has its insular Hassidic Jewish community. Miami has always been as much Cuban as American. Go from neighborhood to neighborhood in any large American city and you find pockets of people from different countries living among their “own kind,” be they Russian, Pakistani, Chinese, Vietnamese, Jamaican, Honduran, Swedish, Polish, Irish, Mexican.

Somehow we have managed, over 300 years, to absorb the differences that make this nation so remarkable.

Is the “threat” from Mexican immigrants so great that it threatens the American way of life? Wasn’t that same “threat” posed by other groups in the past–and not always immigrant groups, as the battle for black civil rights illuminates?

The fears some white Americans have of “muddying” and “mongrelizing” the white race underscores much of the concern over illegal immigration. Why don’t we fear an influx of Canadians? Because Canada is predominantly white. But Mexicans....

America was founded on the ideal–not always realized–that we could accept anyone from anywhere. Our early history of tormenting those who weren’t from the right groups and our enslavement of African Americans aside, that was indeed the principle.

So what changed?

At present American is still over 60 percent white, of European, Scandinavian and English/Scots/Irish heritage. Fourteen percent are Hispanic. Twelve percent are black or African American. Four and a half percent are Asian. One percent are Native American, another one percent are Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. Another six percent are of mixed or other races.

What scares people like Buchanan, however, is that as of the latest census, 45 percent of children under five in America are minorities.

Closing the borders isn’t the answer to the demographic shift in America, however. Perhaps Buchanan and other conservatives look at the percentage of Native Americans left in the U.S. and see themselves in a few decades–wiped out by invaders from across the border.

But the reality is, people cross borders throughout the world because they can and must to survive. The majority of Mexicans in the U.S. illegally risked their lives to come here to work and live. They didn’t come to America to be white collar workers, but to do the work “real” Americans snub.

Go to any hotel in America and see if you can find a white, American (or even black American) worker there. Everyone is an immigrant–from Asia, Africa, South and Central America. Go to a hospital–the majority of nurses are Filipino. Go to a nursing home–the majority of nurses aides and orderlies are Jamaican and Haitian.

Assimilation happens over time and generally with the second generation. Just as previous influxes of immigrants produced the children of German, Italian, Russian and Chinese immigrants who learned English and assimilated, so too will the next generation of current immigrants learn the tricks of assimilation.

But assimilation takes time, patience and the will on the part of those of us who were born here to accept and embrace the new immigrants. Some of that process is individual, some of it is legislative.

The Senate resuscitated the immigration reform bill on June 26th with a vote of 64-35. At press time the bill had only been revived, it had not been passed by the Senate nor by the more volatile group of Congresspersons in the House.

What seems to be holding up the passage of this legislation is what always holds things up in American government: the desire to punish. Our government is at its core punitive and reactive, rather than proactive and compassionate.

The immigration issue requires compassion and proactive measures, however. But many in Congress and the nation are intent on meting out punishment, which is the worst impediment to assimilation, driving illegal immigrants into hiding and retreat to their enclaves of other immigrants.

The conservatives claim that an American way of life is at stake. But they said that when the schools were about to be integrated in 1954, and the American way of life not only survived, it prospered. The worst thing you can do to a society is create different tiers of people.

The undocumented workers in the U.S. with either forged or no papers are, for the most part, incredibly hard working people who are essential to the U.S. economy. On ABC’s *Nightline* on June 27th, there was a segment about the importance of Mexican (illegal) immigrant labor to the dairy industry.

Three of the states with the largest influx of Mexican immigrants are Wisconsin, Iowa and Indiana. Apparently Mexicans like farming and dairy farmers like Mexicans. It’s win-win. According to dairy farmers in these states, Mexican workers are used to agricultural work–used to the dirt, the labor and the smells of cows. Whereas Americans have become more urbanized and are horrified by the grimy work required in farming.

The *Nightline* piece put the lie to the common conservative utterance that illegal immigrants take jobs from American workers. Not according to anyone running a farm or agribusiness in America. What has actually taken jobs away from American workers is the outsourcing of good mid-level white collar jobs to India and other countries and the outsourcing of factory work to Mexico.

The biggest impediment to passage of the immigration reform bill is one word that isn’t even in the bill: *amnesty.*

This is the buzz word conservatives have lit upon to stoke their argument. The bill, they assert, grants *amnesty* to the 12 to 20 million illegal immigrants in the country.

The bill doesn’t actually do that, but even if it did–so what?

These men and women are already here. Many have been here for years. They are working at jobs no one else wants to do–agriculture, sweat shops, car washes. They are almost never paid at the scale an American worker would be paid for the same work. They nearly all pay taxes, but cannot collect a tax refund for fear of being caught with a fake Social Security number. Few get any health benefits. Most live in crowded and grotesque conditions.

What exactly are these men and women taking away from other Americans–be they native or naturalized or legal immigrants? Why must we mete out Draconian punishment?

The conservative scaremongers claim that amnesty for the illegals already here would result in $1 trillion in losses to the U.S. government. Pundits like Buchanan imply that they will help to annihilate the white race.

Yet what we know from decades of illegal immigrants scrambling across the border, risking their lives to get here, is that the U.S. economy is utterly dependent on these workers.

Do we need better border security? Perhaps. But more importantly we need to be concerned about people coming to the U.S. either illegally or on student visas who are possible terrorists. Those people aren’t Mexican.

It’s true that drug runners come into the U.S. from Central and South America. But there are also home-grown drug runners already here. This criminal element from south of the border is the exception, not the rule. Studies show that immigrant communities are more law abiding, not less so, in part, perhaps, because they do not want to draw attention to themselves and risk deportation.

Deportation is itself a case for amnesty. How exactly do the conservatives plan to round up 12 to 20 million people and their families–including children who are American-born and thus American citizens--and deport them? Do we have a million extra INS workers to devote their time to nothing but deportations?
The only thing that makes sense is to legalize the illegals and legitimize their work–and lives–in this country.

Some people don’t want to be American citizens, they just want to work here. For them there is the guest worker policy. But for those who have made their lives here, the years of looking over their shoulders and fearing the INS agents need to end.

Independence Day is upon us and with it reflection on all America is supposed to stand for. We are supposed to embrace the poor and wretched yearning to be free, as Emma Lazarus wrote for the Statue of Liberty.

It’s time to grant these undocumented workers the means to do legally what they already do: live and work here. Perhaps if we stopped punishing these people for wanting to be in this country, they would be more likely to embrace our culture in addition to their own because they would feel they belonged, instead of being the perennial outsider, looking in.



To more emphasis this article's thesis, take a look at the US National Soccer Team. There aren't any two players you could confuse with being another player. In other words, the racial and ethnic dissimilarities between the members of the team are so diverse that there typical US team member, at least in appearance.

There's at least one Jewish player, at least one who was born in Africa, at least one of Chinese Descent, and so on. I dare say you probably won't find a more impressive collection of mutts anywhere in the world. -NG


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-Noah Greenberg