Tuesday, February 28, 2006

First Mark-Up of Senate Immigration Bill Completed

This past Friday, Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA), introduced his “Chairman’s Mark” of "The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006". This first draft of the Senate's version of an immigration reform proposal will be moving to the full committee for debate on March 2.

Although a marked improvement over the earlier version passed by the House, James Sensenbrenner's (R-WI) 'Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005"(HR4437) , this preliminary mark-up still contains some of the more draconian provisions from that bill, including the criminalization of "illegal presence", essentially making all undocumented immigrants subject to felony prosecution. It also contains new criminal penalties for the use of a fraudulent identification or passport even for asylum-seekers and others without the ability to obtain the paperwork legally, and calls for the further militarization of the border and the building of a "wall" across the border.

This preliminary proposal also calls for the following:

  • A temporary guest worker program limited to three years with an additional three year extension.

  • Increase in the current quotas for both employment and family reunification.

  • A limited "amnesty" for those here since Dec.2004


But the devil is in the details.

As currently proposed, the guest worker program makes little provision for worker protections to ensure that foreign-born workers receive just wages and benefits, and provides no means for the workers to gain "earned" credit toward permanent residency.

The proposal to increase the current quotas does call for an adjustment to the per-country ceilings for both employment-based and family-based immigrant visas but does not go into any detail as to how. Currently no more that 7% of total immigrates admitted in any given year can come from a single country. Unless provisions are made to have a flexible ceiling that acknowledges the differing circumstances of various regions and countries, the quota system will remain a stumbling block to a practical immigration policy.

The provisions in this proposal to confer "Nonimmigrant Work Authorization and Status" to those living and working in the country prior Dec. 2004, while a step in the right direction, contains no provisions to place these workers and their families on a path to citizenship. Without a guaranteed path for those who wish to take it, the possibility of relegating these workers to a permanent underclass without full legal rights is possible.

This is just an early draft of the Senate proposal and much debate and compromise is bound to occur before it reaches the floor. You can contact the Senators of the Judiciary Committee to let them know your concerns at:

Justice for Immigrants
American Immigration Lawyers Assoc.



Cross posted from: Migra Matters

Mardi Gras Open Thread



Photo courtesy of The Union Shop

I'm mindful today of the people of New Orleans,
and their continued need for support.
Politically. Financially. Morally.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Growing pains...

I'm in a very muddled state of mind at the moment. The reasons are many, but I think it's important for me to try to explain what has led up to my current cloudiness.

As a human being, I am the only one who can be fully responsible for my emotions, the way I deal with them, and the methods that I choose to interact with other human beings. As a personal rule, I have a very guarded heart. I operate better in small groups of friends rather than an expansive list of acquaintances. The blogosphere has sort of changed that for me, though. I've become better at seeing the value in strangers, and to feel a bond with our common humanity, that I used to completely ignore or avoid due to my comfort zone levels. I've read enough threads and flamewars to appreciate that behind every keyboard is a real human being with real human emotions.

My befuddlement started when I allowed myself to feel safe. I didn't recognize it until that safety was shaken up for reasons not important to the current message. As things have continued to be shaken over the past days, I've noticed something flowing underneath all of it: growth.

It has been painful, disconcerting and tinged with a hint of resentment that I find myself here at this moment, writing words that will never scratch the surface of what I'm feeling.

I fear that I am currently dealing with one of my worst nightmares: the fact that I have allowed the world to know exactly what has been in my heart and it has been mishandled. I feel vulnerable and the natural reaction is to second-guess my actions but I am trying not to do that.

I know that my truth has the potential to (and more than likely has) hurt others. It is always a risk when making a decision that you won't sugarcoat what is in your heart. But that's the thing, it is my truth. And I can perfectly understand a situation where different people can view different truths in the exact same moment, viewing the exact same scenario.

So now what? Do I try to undo the past? If anyone knows how to do that, then please drop me an email at the address listed to the right. I have yet to meet anyone in the annals of history who has mastered that skill....

...or do I just let be what has happened and hope that there will be growth from all directions and an honest attempt to not only acknowledge my truth, but to understand why it was such.

It is easy to make things about arguments and debate in forums like this. It is much more difficult to incorporate the infinitely complex reality of emotions that comes with our humanity when engaging here or within other groups of people.

I am willing to challenge myself enough to recognize that I may have been profound or profoundly full of shit over the past several days, either way I am growing. And that's what matters the most to me.

Namaste.

"They are our neighbors and friends"

This is gonna be a quickie, but I wanted to get this quote out there that I think is very important to the immigration debate, especially as it relates to the militarization of the U.S./Mexico border.

Maj. Gen. David Rataczak of the National Guard questioned what role they would have and noted that the militarization of the border could spur immigrants to take up arms and could lead to gunbattles.

"What do you want 'em to do?" he said, adding that most guardsmen aren't trained for this style of border enforcement. "It would put our people in some really serious, significant decisions."

Allen countered that military personnel enforce borders all over the world, including those stationed in Iraq. But Rataczak said the comparison is inaccurate.

"We're not at war with Mexico," he said. "They're our neighbors and friends."

linkage

Neighbors and friends. I think that point is lost on those who vehemently oppose a workable solution to the broken immigration system.

[UPDATE] The Governors have been gathered this week to discuss their common issues and are calling out the White House for the utter destruction of the National Guard. You see, with the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan circulating their troops, they are concerned that the force won't be strong enough to hold back the brown invasion.

They also are pushing for federal action on illegal immigration, which governors from border states and beyond say is long overdue.

"This is a national issue," said Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona, where 500,000 attempts to illegally cross the border were turned back last year — let alone those that get through. Nationally there are an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants.

"We're absorbing through taxpayer dollars the incarceration costs, health care costs, education costs," Napolitano said.

linkage

Sigh, there she goes again, playing the populace card again, sounding off on right-wing arguments against a reasonable reform of immigration policy. Keep digging, Janet, you're going to find your Pima County vote lacking next time around if you keep it up.

Monday News Dump



And one for fun:

Approaching Zero-Hour to McCain-a-Palooza

[bumped up for more exposure]

If you've been wondering why the focus around here has picked up regarding immigration reform, it's because the time has arrived for the Senate to initiate the long-awaited debate on the bi-partisan bill sponsored by Ted Kennedy and John McCain. I hope Teddy is vocal in the media, because McCain is going to milk this opportunity to set up his Presidential campaign for 2008. Trust me, he'll deny it to till he's blue in the face, but it's obvious.

It begins on Tuesday.
The Arizona Republican will headline a series of rallies organized by immigration advocates and immigrant-service groups beginning Thursday in Miami before moving on to New York and Los Angeles and possibly other cities. The goal: to push the Senate to approve his guest-worker proposal rather than the narrow approach focused on border security already passed by the House.

If Congress puts off immigration reform for another year, "quite frankly, it would be an abrogation of our duty," McCain said during a telephone news conference from Arizona, adding that he believes "the overwhelming majority of the American people support our proposal."
I haven't seen the poll numbers on the plan, so I can't verify the claim of support by McCain, but I do know that his counterpart here in Arizona, Jon Kyl, has co-sponsored a bill with John Cornyn (R-TX) with a more hard-lined stance that focuses on deportation and militarization of the border. If the Republican base is whipped into a frothy rage, the better bet is that they will support Kyl and Cornyn over the bi-partisan option.

So what are the details of Kennedy/McCain? Here is a snippet of the guest-worker portion that will cause the most outrage from the crazies, along with a link to a fuller look.
Title VII: Adjustment of Status for H-5B Non-Immigrants
  • Undocumented immigrants in the U.S. on date of introduction can register for a temporary visa (H-5B), valid for six years
  • Applicants have to show work history, clean criminal record, and that they are not a security problem to be eligible for a temporary visa
  • They will receive work and travel authorization
  • Their spouses and children are also eligible
  • In order to qualify for permanent status, workers will have to meet a future work requirement, clear additional security/background checks, pay substantial fines and application fees ($2000 or more per adult) as well as back taxes, and meet English/civics requirements
It is important to note that this issue has the potential to split the left end of the political spectrum. The labor unions are already in disagreement over how to deal with a guest worker program, while ensuring that wages and jobs are not hemorrhaged.

Eliseo Medina, who is the Vice-President of the Service Employees International Union supports the bi-partisan bill, but he is meeting resistance from other unions.
If such a plan is passed by Congress, it could result in the largest reshaping of immigration policy and the workplace in decades. The A.F.L.-C.I.O., which fiercely opposes the guest worker proposal, says it would result in the disappearance of thousands of permanent jobs and create an underclass of poorly paid foreign workers.

[snip]

In decades past, labor unions have often viewed immigrants as the enemy, accusing them of depressing wages and breaking strikes. That view has changed as the number of immigrants in the work force has surged. In 2000, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. reversed course and called for the legalization of illegal immigrants and an end to most sanctions against employers who hire them.

But the question of a temporary guest worker plan remains thorny.

linkage (free registration required)
Regardless of where you stand on immigration reform, it's important to start beefing up on the details of the competing Senate measures that will do battle in the committees and the floor. To this day, Duke1676 has provided for me the clearest breakdown of camps: Open Border advocates, Economic Development advocates and Closed Border advocates, details can be found here on the delineation.

I am obviously in the Open Borders camp because a) this country has always been a nation of immigrants, b) I'm sick of hearing racist wingnuts like Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs, Tom Tancredo and Russell Pearce demonize my people, c) I'm practical enough to recognize that our country would shut down without immigrant labor and d) there's no way they are going to round-up all of the current immigrants and ship them off to the various corners of the world.

It's time, my friends. This legislation has a chance at causing a major shift in the political, economic, and ethnic winds of the United States.

Crossposted at Migra Matters

Friday, February 24, 2006

Bud Blogging - Weekend Open Thread

FBI and Pentagon Trade Pie Shots

Let me just say that I don't believe anyone who is trading blame for the torture of detainees in U.S. custody. They are all complicit, in my opinion, for the middle-finger treatment given to our moral responsibility to follow the Geneva Conventions.

The only good thing these pot-shots provide to the discussion is the occasional mention of names of high-level neocons who will one day face accountability, if the Flying Spaghetti Monster's favor falls upon us.
FBI agents repeatedly warned military interrogators at the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that their aggressive methods were legally risky and also likely to be ineffective, according to FBI memos made public Thursday.

A senior officer at the prison for terror suspects also "blatantly misled" his superiors at the Pentagon into thinking the FBI had endorsed the "aggressive and controversial interrogation plan" for one detainee, according to one of the 54 memos released by the American Civil Liberties Union.

[snip]

FBI officials, whose names were blacked out, indicated that senior military officials, including former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, were aware of and in some cases had approved of putting hoods on prisoners, threatening them with violence and subjecting them to humiliating treatment.

[snip]

FBI special agent Richard Kolko, a spokesman in Washington, said FBI agents properly reported abuse allegations through the bureau's chain of command, but noted, "It is not within the scope of the FBI's jurisdiction overseas to investigate reports of alleged abuse of military detainees."

linkage

Wolfowitz, I'm not surprised. When he was nominated by George to head up the World Bank, I knew that we were sinking deeper into their black hole. As PNAC continues to flex its muscles, it becomes apparent that our recovery from this nightmare will be long and involve a lot of scar tissue.

We should not give up, though. Standing up for humane treatment of prisoners (who deserve judicial due process and the presumption of innocence under our failing system) and advocating for a fair judicial process is the best antidote to their poison. The world community is starting to speak in a louder, more unified voice regarding torture. It should help to strengthen our resolve to fight for the right thing.

Onward.

Russell Pearce: Dim Bulb, Part Two

First, the announcement of the Great Arizona Witchhunt of 2006
A House panel voted Thursday to ask Arizona voters to have the state start auditing some companies to make sure they're not hiring undocumented workers.

Legislation approved by the Judiciary Committee would require all state and local agencies that issue licenses to audit up to 5 percent of those companies to ensure that all workers are legally entitled to work in this country.

That would include things like licenses for contractors and to serve alcohol. And that, in turn could target some of the types of businesses that appear to hire illegal immigrants including construction companies and hotels and restaurants with liquor licenses.

But it also would mean audits of barber shops, doctor's offices, real estate agents and funeral directors.

And all companies, whether state licensed or not, would be subject to investigation of their hiring if they pay their workers in cash and don't comply with various other employment laws.
And now, the money quote, which I would like to get your reaction to:
On the other side of the issue, Rep. Ben Miranda, D-Phoenix, said the measure to dry up undocumented workers ignores the nation's declining birth rate.

"Who's going to fix my air conditioning?'' he said. "Who's going to mow my lawn? Who's going to assist the dentist putting dentures in?''

Pearce called that reasoning flawed. "That's the same argument used when we tried to abolish slavery: Who's going to bring in the crops,'' he said.

"We have 18 million Americans out of work,'' Pearce said. "What we don't have is employers willing to pay the wages to lure them to the jobs.''
(Yes, it's the same flag-waving Russell Pearce that I wrote about earlier this week.)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Open Thread

[UPDATE] Something weird has been happening with Haloscan and the comment links are disappearing every once in a while, my apologies for the problem. Try hitting the 'Refresh' button in your browser to see if they magically re-appear. I have an email already sent to Haloscan to figure out why.

I wonder if this is due to my Khaled el-Masri story. [/tinfoil hat]


I have a three day weekend!
Maybe I'll check out la Fiesta de los Vaqueros

Lou Dobbs: Broken Record

From the Southern Poverty Law Center comes this look at CNN’s Lou Dobbs, and the guests he chooses to feature on his nightly show:

Broken Record
Lou Dobbs' daily 'Broken Borders' CNN segment has focused on immigration for years. But there's one issue Dobbs just won't take on.
By Heidi Beirich and Mark Potok

Lou Dobbs is a genial sort, a pleasant-faced CNN anchorman who regularly presents himself as standing up for American working men and women against those who would injure them. Hosting "Lou Dobbs Tonight" for a prime-time hour every weekday, he is also well known and powerful. So when Dobbs focuses on an issue, millions of Americans learn just what it is that Dobbs thinks they should know.

For more than two years now, Dobbs has served up a populist approach to immigration on nightly segments of his newscast entitled "Broken Borders." He has relentlessly covered the issue, although hardly from a traditional news perspective -- Dobbs favors clamping down on illegal immigration, and his "reporting" never fails to make that clear. He has covered the same issues, and the same anti-immigration leaders, time after time after time. In recent months, Dobbs has run countless upbeat reports on the "citizen border patrols" that have sprung up around the country since last April's Minuteman Project, a paramilitary effort to seal the Arizona border.

But there's one thing Lou Dobbs won't do. No matter what others report about the movement, Dobbs has failed to present mounting and persistent evidence of anti-Hispanic racism in anti-immigration groups and citizen border patrols.

And now for a little dose of reality:


GLENN SPENCER, head of the anti-immigration American Patrol, has been interviewed at least twice on the show, on Jan. 7 and June 4, 2004. Spencer's Web site is jammed with anti-Mexican vitriol and he pushes the idea that the Mexican government is involved in a secret plot to take over the Southwest -- facts never mentioned on Dobbs' show.
-snip-
Spencer has spoken at least twice to the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, which has described blacks as "a retrograde species of humanity," and once to American Renaissance, a group that contends that blacks are genetically inferior to whites. Dobbs has never reported those ties…

The article goes on to profile many more of Dobbs’ guests along with analyzing some of Dobbs’ reporting:


… according to Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), a media monitor. In 2003, FAIR added, a reporter on Dobbs' show grossly mischaracterized a National Academy of Sciences report. The report found that immigrants provided a net gain of $1 billion to $10 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product, but the CNN reporter said the report had found the economic impact of immigrants worked out to a net loss of up to $10 billion.

To read the entire report from the Souther Poverty Law Center: Link

Just a little present for Catnip….

Texas Border Wars

Blogger XicanoPwr has a new entry up regarding the situation in Texas. Here's a section regarding propaganda and its usage in the xenophobic fires raging in the borderlands.
The mass media is not the only one to portray, a possible border war, the local media as well. Midland's KWES has done a three part series on the Border Sheriff's Coalition's "Operation Linebacker," which also could be found on South Texas Chisme. (See here, here and here). It is interesting how the talking heads at KWES can make things sound so ominous.
It's a place that appears to have no boundaries ... an area so vast and so isolated, that most would have no idea an everyday war is being waged, right here, in Brewster County.
...
Dodson and his deputies are on a mission ... to stop illegal immigrants and drug smugglers from getting into the United States ... a mission known as 'Operation Linebacker.'

"Operation Linebacker is an operation dubbed by the Border Sheriff's Coalition," Dodson explained. "'Linebacker' meaning, just like a football team, we're trying to help out the Border Patrol."

Is it really that simple to manipulate the American public? Apparently so. Sure, we don't think of ourselves as being susceptible to propaganda, or that we are even exposed to propaganda. But we are, it is called advertising. In this case it is not only trying to shoehorn people's attitudes in a particular direction, towards a certain product, but also towards a vision of a culture where the product and the company selling it can flourish.
Go read the whole thing, it's worth it.


Crossposted at Migra Matters

President Pigpen

Does this remind you of someone?
He walks around in a cloud of dust, sprinkling dirt on all he comes in contact with. Pigpen is happily messy. He doesn't try to explain it, hide it, fight it. For him, it's just a fact of life.
Sounds about right.

A decision two weeks ago by a U.S. consulate in India to refuse a visa to a prominent Indian scientist has triggered heated protests in that country and set off a major diplomatic flap on the eve of President Bush's first visit to India.

The incident has also caused embarrassment at the highest reaches of the American scientific establishment, which has worked to get the State Department to issue a visa to Goverdhan Mehta, who said the U.S. consulate in the south Indian city of Chennai told him that his expertise in chemistry was deemed a threat.

linkage
It seems like he can't do anything without completely destroying the precedents set over time. He and his minions are hell-bent on making their mark in the history books.

Might I suggest an entry in the chapter labeled Tyrrany?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Civil War Unleashed

This picture says it all:




Well, maybe not everything.

Professor Cole explains why today will probably be remembered as the official beginning of civil war in Iraq.
...The guerriillas blew up the domed Askariyah shrine in Samarra. The shrine, sacred to Shiiites, honors 3 Imams or holy descendants of the Prophet. They are Ali al-Hadi, Hasan al-Askari, and his disappeared son Muhammad al-Mahdi. Thousands of Shiiites demonnstrated in Samarra and in East Baghdad, against this desecration.

The Twelfh Imam or Mahdi is believed by Shiites to have disappeared into a supernatural realm (just as Christians believe in the ascension of Christ) from which he will someday return.
So much for the wingnut meme that sectarian violence would be unleashed after we withdrew our troops. Looks like it arrived ahead of schedule.

[UPDATE] Riverbend has posted an update at Baghdad Burning with her take on the situation.
All morning we'’ve been hearing/watching both Shia and Sunni religious figures speak out against the explosions and emphasise that this is what is wanted by the enemies of Iraq- this is what they would like to achieve- divide and conquer. Extreme Shia are blaming extreme Sunnis and Iraq seems to be falling apart at the seams under foreign occupiers and local fanatics.

No one went to work today as the streets were mostly closed. The situation isn'’t good at all. I don'’t think I remember things being this tense- everyone is just watching and waiting quietly. There's so much talk of civil war and yet, with the people I know- Sunnis and Shia alike- I can hardly believe it is a possibility. Educated, sophisticated Iraqis are horrified with the idea of turning against each other, and even not-so-educated Iraqis seem very aware that this is a small part of a bigger, more ominous plan…

Several mosques have been taken over by the Mahdi militia and the Badir people seem to be everywhere. Tomorrow no one is going to work or college or anywhere.

People are scared and watchful. We can only pray.

(thanks to Duke1676 for the link)
I hope she's correct and some type of stability is maintained, but I'm not optimistic. For my Christian friends, this was analogous to someone blowing up the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem.

We have unleashed unspeakable horrors in the cradle of civilization. I'm speechless.

The Unending Cycle of Death

The Arizona Daily Star reports the year's first of many Cochise County casualties resulting from failed immigration policies
Border Patrol agents found the body of the first illegal border crosser known to have died this year in Cochise County, the county Sheriff's Department said.

The body was found about 10 a.m. Monday at a spot near Parker Canyon seven miles south of Arizona 83, about 70 miles southeast of Tucson, said Carol Capas, spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Department.

Authorities said they believe the man, estimated to be in his late 40s found wearing jeans, gray socks, a black belt and with no shirt or shoes died from hypothermia, Capas said. The official cause of death is pending an autopsy.

linkage
This brings the death total to 19 for the fiscal year that began on October 1, 2005. Fiscal year...doesn't that make it sound so business-like? as if these human lives are akin to transactions in the market?

There are two forces at war in the borderlands. On one side you have an army of workers, willing to risk everything to ensure the survival of their family. It's a basic human instinct, if you think about it, the need to care for your own.

On the other side are racist hate-mongers like these groups.

Now do you see why I am frustrated with ambiguous positions by Democrats? Look at the unholy alliances they are considering by taking a closed-border stance. These are groups that hate Latinos, even American-born Latinos.

It's so unnerving.

Crossposted at Migra Matters - thanks for the invitation, Duke1676

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Story of Khaled el-Masri

On December 31, 2003, a German national with Lebanese lineage by the name of Khaled el-Masri was allegedly kidnapped by CIA agents and shipped off to a prison in Afghanistan where he has was held for five months, tortured, then released without charges being brought against him.

If his story sounds familiar, it's because this tactic has been used repeatedly in George Bush's Global War on TerrorTM. Known commonly as extraordinary rendition, this practice is a blatant violation of international law and spits in the face of morality. Earlier this week, catnip posted two different entries highlighting the expansive reach of this scandalous activity. The first involved the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian national who endured a similar fate to el-Masri but with a Syrian twist, and the second was regarding confirmation by the UK media that Great Britain has cooperated with U.S. officials to use their airports as staging grounds for the flights that carry the rendered detainees.

Now, thanks to a surprisingly thorough job of reporting by the NY Times, Germany can be added to the list of cooperative countries in this tangled web of torture and secrecy.
For more than a year, the German government has criticized the United States for its role in the abduction of a German man who was taken to an American prison in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he said he was held and tortured for five months after being mistaken for a terrorism suspect.

German officials said they knew nothing about the man's abduction and have repeatedly pressed Washington for information about the case, which has set off outrage here. At a meeting in Berlin last December, Chancellor Angela Merkel demanded an explanation from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice over the incident.

But on Monday in Neu-Ulm near Munich, the police and prosecutors opened an investigation into whether Germany served as a silent partner of the United States in the abduction of the man, Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen of Arab descent who was arrested Dec. 31, 2003, in Macedonia before being flown to the Kabul prison.

The action came after a two-and-a-half-hour meeting at police headquarters in which Mr. Masri told the police that he was "90 percent" certain that a senior German police official was the interrogator who had visited him three times inside the prison in Kabul but had identified himself only as "Sam." The German prosecutors said Monday that they were also investigating whether the German Embassy in Skopje, Macedonia, had been notified about Mr. Masri's kidnapping within days of his capture there, but then had done nothing to try to help him.

linkage
The German government is denying, of course, that they were a "silent cooperator" in this outrageous practice. They are following the Bush War Council's lead by questioning the integrity of the victim rather than holding someone accountable for torture and other violations of international law. The problem with their smoke and mirrors is this:
  • Khaled el-Masri is not the only person to have been rendered since George's war was unleashed
  • He is an innocent man, no charges were brought against him during his detention, and
  • other governments have been proven to be "silent partners"
I remain hopeful that someday history will vindicate people like Maher Arer and Khaled el-Masri, but it is clear that the web of deception runs deep through the halls of power across the world.

I will probably get a few site hits from the intelligence community for posting this entry, but I don't care. These stories must be told by someone, and these immoral practices exposed case-by-case. It is the only way we will be able to restore our collective dignity.

For further reading on el-Masri check out the Reuters article, and Gandhi over at Bush Out who was covering this case back in May of 2005.

Crossposted (and now frontpaged) at Political Cortex and Booman Tribune

Open Thread

Window Dressing a Nation

This morning, as I was enjoying my cereal, I was listening to CNN's American Morning and their coverage of George's Midwest Kiss-the-Ring Tour. He's been promoting alternative energy plans all week because "America is addicted to oil."

Since the State of the Union, I've been intrigued by his insistence on co-opting liberal plans for calls to research alternative fuel sources for transportation that isn't tied into the growing profits of OPEC. Is he sincere? or is this all a ploy to convince the masses that he is working to fix the gas price situation, when really he could care less?

You be the judge
On the eve of a presidential visit to a renewable energy lab in Colorado, the Department of Energy said it has transferred $5 million to the operation, which had funding cut and employees laid off this month due to budget shortfalls.

U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman transferred the money over the weekend to restore jobs at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, according to a department news release.

[snip]

According to The Associated Press, 32 workers, including eight researchers, were laid off two weeks ago at the Colorado lab.

The restoration of funding left lab employees and renewable energy proponents puzzled about the motivation behind the decision.

linkage

The article continues with one of the employees remarking
"It makes me question ... the seriousness of the commitment [of] the administration and the government in Washington to renewable energies and moving the U.S. forward in our energy policy."
It looks like one more light bulb has been turned on to their lies. It sort of reminds me of the New Orleans neighborhood whose lights were restored for the Emperor's address, then abruptly shut off when they weren't needed as props any longer.

Any bets on how long the Colorado facility keeps its funding? I'll keep an eye out and report back.

Monday, February 20, 2006

NOLA Newspaper Wins Award

Congratulations to the hard-working staff of the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper for winning a George Polk Award for outstanding journalism. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the reporters gave the world a direct window into the immediate needs of the people in the Gulf Coast region who were abandoned by their government. There was no spin and no pulled punches in their coverage.

When the New Orleans' newspaper operations resumed four days after the August 29 storm, its first headline read: "HELP US, PLEASE," the university said. Much of the paper's staff was displaced by flooding, and the paper was forced to publish online when it had no access to its printing presses.

The Polk awards were established in 1949 to honor the CBS correspondent murdered while covering the civil war in Greece in 1948. A committee of jurors, faculty members and alumni of Long Island University selects the winners.

linkage

If you would like to offer your congratulations to the staff, visit this link for a listing of email addresses. This was well-deserved.

Russell Pearce: Dim Bulb

The Phoenix metro area's Wingnut in Chief, Rep. Russell Pearce, is at it again, this time calling for mandatory 3 x 5 American flags to be displayed in every classroom in the state.
"We live in a time when we need to recognize our heritage," he said during a hearing on the bill before the House Committee on Universities, Community Colleges and Technology. "The flag is a symbol of freedom, and we need to protect that."

[snip]

Pearce says he's not trying to be a patriotic bully.

"I'm not trying to cram patriotism down their throats, but I think everybody ought to appreciate our freedom and the sacrifices that people have made since the Founding Fathers," he said. "The flag represents our freedom. We have soldiers dying in Iraq every day and thousands of them serving for our freedom."

linkage

The problem with people like Mr. Pearce is that they think their heritage is the only one worth honoring. His online bio states that he's a 5th generation Arizonan, his family founded the town of Taylor. That's great, but he is creating a legacy that is supportive of the extermination of the cultural diversity that exists in the region. He is the biggest supporter of militarizing the border, and has been a frequent guest of Lou Dobbs on CNN, advocating a xenophobic attitude towards illegal immigrants.

He is not a friend to the Latino people, and as someone who claims to be a proud Arizonan, his respect for the full history of our state is lacking. Don't believe me? Let's see if he would be willing to attach an amendment to his proposal honoring the Native American tribes that were here long before Taylor, Arizona was a glimmer in the eyes of the pilgrims' march West. I doubt he would have anything positive to say about their sacrifices.

And on a semi-related note, the Tucson Citizen has a great article about a UA doctoral student that is studying the methods used by the Hopi tribe to create pottery that dates between the years 1350 and 1630.

Monday Morning News Dump

Coalition of the Willing

What is going on?

It seems like every community site I visit in Lefty Blogistan is being roiled with heated exchanges and in some cases, flamewars, about the future of progressive politics. To my discerning eye there are three camps duking it out:
  • those that are supporting the Democratic party with unwavering loyalty, hoping to transform the caucus from within
  • those that have given up on the Democratic party and are working to push progressive ideals through supporting individual candidates and third-party initiatives; and
  • those who have decided to pop some Kettle Corn and watch the fireworks, chiming in every once in awhile with snark and questions.
I don't know about the rest of you, but I find myself caught in Progressive Purgatory Limbo at the moment, not able to stake my flag in the group of any of these camps. I understand the frustration with the Democratic Party leadership, a quick perusal of headlines give plenty of reason to scream in outrage at their corporate pandering. I also worry about the fate of the congressional elections in November because there is one thing I'm not ambiguous toward: continued Republican rule. They must be stopped. Soonest.

The fact is, the blogs are loaded with activists of all stripes. From newly empowered voters to veteran policy wonks, these sites gather an international community that are craving leadership. There is an empty podium right now on the left in the United States, and that more than anything else is what I think is causing the seething anger and frustration.

Who speaks for me? John Conyers? Howard Dean? Raul Grijalva (my congressman)?

It has been a long time coming for the Democratic Party to allow a liberal voice to ascend as their mouthpiece. Too many years of triangulation and lack of assertive pushback to Republican led war-, hate-, and fear-mongering is causing a hemorrhage of prospective voters in their camp.

Things do not bode well if they continue their current track.

More than anything else, the passionate voices I read on the blogs are hungry for an end to the nightmare that has been unleashed by the Bush War Council. We are sick of hearing about torture, rendition, lack of due process, continued (and spreading) war, and the consolidation of fascist power in Washington that seeks to divide our people based on any whim of an issue.

It is easy to give up when things get this bad. It's easy to turn off the television, or stop reading the papers, or flip the power switch on the computer when all you see is an uphill climb, but that is only half the equation.
Sam: "It‚’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn‚’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened."

"Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now.

Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn‚’t. Because they were holding on to something."

Frodo: "What are we holding on to, Sam?"

[Sam walks to Frodo and gets him up]

Sam: "That there‚’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it‚’s worth fighting for."


linkage (emphasis mine)
These are the moments when Revolutions are born. People who have had enough of their oppression and marginalization. People who are empowered so strongly that the force they command surprises even themselves.

The time to plant our feet firmly on the ground has arrived. Whether you choose to work within the Democratic Party, or through outside resources, we must all unite against the forces of Wingnuttery and put an end to the suffering. If enough of us wake up to our collective power, and wake up others, we will be able to transform all facets of power in Washington. Believe it can happen, it's the only way we will be able to succeed, and remember:
Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.
--JRR Tolkien

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Democrats: a Reality Check

Over the last few years, Lisette and her family have had to make some changes. They are both working two jobs now, just to pay the mortgage, and the utility bills, which keep going up. In fact it seems like everything is going up but their salaries. They get "raises" but they are token raises that don't increase their take home pay more than a few dollars a month after taxes. They've cut out the extras they used to enjoy, like cable TV, taking the kids to the Olive Garden on Sundays, Lisette has even started buying the kids' clothes at the Goodwill. Instead of Hamburger Helper for supper, now they usually eat canned soup. They've used up their savings, and for the last couple of years, even things like a new tire for the car, or their insurance co-pays, have had to go on the credit card. And now it's a struggle to make the minimum payments. They are starting to realize that they can't really afford the payments on their home, but they can't afford an apartment either. They looked into bankruptcy but found out that with the new law, even that wouldn't help them. Neither has parents they can move in with for a while.

What do the Democrats have to offer Lisette and her family?

Justin and his partner want to be married. They don't want a civil union, they don't want a marriage that might be recognized in one state, but not another. Justin's job requires a lot of travel. What if something happened to him in a state that doesn't recognize Ben as his spouse? His parents, who never accepted him or Ben for who they are, might try to get assets he wants Ben and their adopted daughter to have. He's talked to a lawyer and done all he can, and for their family, things might be OK. But he worries about other couples who may not have money for a lawyer, and he just doesn't like the idea of a tiered system of equal protection under the law.

What do the Democrats have to offer Justin and his family?

Keisha lives in the projects with her mother and two small children. She is lucky to have her mama to watch the kids while she works. She is lucky to have a project apartment, although she might lose it because her cousin got caught with a joint when he left the apartment the other night. They have this zero tolerance thing, and he KNEW that. Keisha doesn't make enough money to get an apartment if they get kicked out. Her oldest baby's daddy is dead. A policeman shot him, said he thought Calvin had a gun. It wasn't a gun. It was her baby's bottle. The father of her youngest is in jail. He tagged a wall, there was no money for a lawyer, public defender, it's a story you hear a lot in Keisha's neighborhood. Both the kids have asthma. Keisha has taken a second job to pay for their medicine, and make up the difference in Medicaid and the bills for her mama's diabetes, but everything keeps going up every month. Some dressed up people were in the projects the other day, not the dangerous one where Keisha lives, but the new one. Her cousin lives there. They gave her a brochure about some politician. It's a good thing too, because the baby spit up and Keisha didn't have any Kleenex....

What do the Democrats have to offer Keisha and her family?

Earlene is retired, and her main concern is high medical costs. She is confused by the new Medicare prescription drug program, but she has figured out it isn't going to save her any money. In fact, when she went to the drugstore, they wanted $800 for just one month's worth of medicine. Then they said she could have two month's worth, but time is running out, even though she cuts all the pills in half . She's on a fixed income and doesn't have any money to give to the insurance companies, but even if she did, none of them offer coverage on the medicines her doctor prescribes.

What do the Democrats have to offer Earlene?

Annabeth just got kicked out of her apartment. The rent kept going up, but her hourly wage didn't. She was already working two and a half jobs. Now she lives on the street, with her two small children. The other day somebody came around with some sandwiches, talking about some program to let homeless people vote. They had literature about some politicians. Annabeth looked at it, but didn't really see anything that had anything to do with her. She doesn't believe that it makes any difference whether she votes or not.

What do the Democrats have to offer Annabeth and her family?

Karen is pregnant. She used protection, a gel she bought from the drug store, but evidently something went wrong. On her salary, she can't afford to go to the doctor, and the health insurance they have only pays if you are in the hospital for more than a week. Plus it costs an arm and a leg, and she's had to take a weekend job to be able to pay her rent. It doesn't pay much, and since it's part time, she can't afford to take a day off work to go wait at the planned parenthood place. Her state doesn't offer any financial help for abortions, and the women's clinic wants just about what Karen takes home every month. She doesn't want to be a mother, and couldn't afford a child even if she wanted one. She is so desperate she even asked the guy who got her pregnant to lend her the money, but he said no, it's too bad if she has money problems but he is seeing someone else now. He asked Karen not to call him again.

What do the Democrats have to offer Karen?

Elaine is a nurse. She is fed up with the things her country is doing, both at home and overseas. She keeps up with the news, and in her job it's impossible to ignore the fact that just a fraction of the money being spent to invade other countries could save a lot of lives right here in the US. She's heard a lot of speeches and promises from politicians her whole life, but things keep getting worse, not better. She's decided to move to Norway. At 35, she's begun to think about getting married and starting a family, but not in America. It's no place to raise a child.

What do the Democrats have to offer Elaine?

Paul, after twenty years of supporting Democratic candidates, is fed up. It seems to him that there is not really much difference between the two parties anymore, if there ever was. The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were for him, the last straw. And soon it'll be Iran. Meanwhile, he sees the lives of his friends, his family, falling apart, mostly because of health care and housing costs. And Paul knows they're the lucky ones, with jobs and insurance, and a roof over their heads, at least for now. Nobody he knows is living more than three checks or one serious injury or illness from the street. His parents are getting older, he worries about how they will care for them. Just the other day, his mom fell in the bathroom. He put in some handrails, but soon handrails won't be enough. How will he care for them? How will he pay for their medicine that isn't covered by either the new Medicare or that sorry ass insurance policy they bought? His salary is barely enough for him, and the company has been downsizing. Paul is through with the Democrats. He's looking for a party that isn't owned by the corporations, one that will actually do something for the people, not just make the same old tired speeches.

What do the Democrats have to offer Paul and his family?

The Republicans clearly have nothing to offer any of these people.

What do the Democrats have to offer them?

Friday, February 17, 2006

Immigration News from the Front Lines

Living in the Borderlands of the Southwest U.S. provides an interesting outlook on the immigration battles being waged in Washington, D.C. There are currently two dueling bills in the Senate alone, both with Arizona lawmaker-support. President Bush has taken a somewhat moderate position on any future reform packages, but it is clear that many members of his base are not willing to budge from their hardlined stance.

Here on the homefront, the state legislature has been working to actively encroach on the rights of undocumented immigrants. The ideological split is decidedly conservative, so it is frustrating for me as a Latino liberal to read the headlines whenever they decide to combat their fear of the eeeeeevil aliens crossing the border.

For example, yesterday a bill was passed that would allow local law enforcement agents to get in on the human round-up action
The Arizona Senate approved a bill yesterday that would expand a trespassing law so local authorities could arrest illegal immigrants.

Supporters say the approach would help communities catch illegal immigrants who manage to slip past federal authorities in Arizona, the busiest illicit entry point along the nation's porous southern border.

It's not easy maintaining a cool temper when you stop to realize that you are a member of the only group of people who are actively hunted in the United States. Hunted!

This follows on the heels of two proposals passed on Wednesday that will increase penalties for employers who hire undocumented immigrants

A committee of the Arizona Legislature approved two proposals Wednesday that would create a state law prohibiting employers from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants.

Some advocates for lessening Arizona's role as the nation's busiest illegal entry point said employers are fueling the problem by giving construction, agricultural and service industry jobs to immigrants.

Illegal immigrants account for 10 percent of all Arizona workers and more than 4 percent of all workers in the U.S. economy, the Pew Hispanic Center estimates.

[snip]

While both state proposals would prohibit illegal hirings, the key distinction between the two is that one bill would protect businesses from prosecution if they trained their human resource employees to comply with federal hiring rules and if they followed other requirements.

linkage

Before I forget, they also want to build the Great Wall of Arizona...

A legislative committee endorsed a proposal Wednesday to ask voters to approve the construction of a wall at the Arizona-Mexico border to keep immigrants from entering the state illegally.

If the proposal clears the Legislature and is approved by voters in November, the wall wouldn't stretch the full length of Arizona's 375-mile border with Mexico, but would be built in spots where radar and other sensor technology couldn't stop the flow of illegal immigrants, said Republican Rep. Russell Pearce of Mesa, sponsor of the proposal.

"Whatever it takes," said Pearce, the Legislature's staunchest advocate for reducing illegal immigration.

And just to make sure that everyone gets on board with their racist-driven temper tantrum, they have enlisted the support of our Democratic Governor to tie in the state's drug problems with the flow of people north.

Bill Ekstrom, a former Mohave County attorney who fought against the rise of illegal labs in his area, said meth is smuggled into Arizona through tunnels, cars or planes. He saw firsthand how meth addiction ripped apart families when parents left their children at home while they desperately tried score more drugs.

"I don't know exactly how the governor's plan will work, but she's definitely going after the illegal flow of meth from Mexico to Arizona," said the former county attorney who now does special cases for Mojave County. "This is an important statement for the governor to make. Meth isn't a partisan issue."
Sigh, and so the fight continues...

Crossposted at My Left Wing

Friday Bud Blogging

Patience

It might be a virtue, but that doesn't mean it's an unlimited resource
Appealing for patience, President Bush said Friday that Americans should not be discouraged by setbacks in Iraq and said the nation must realize that it is still at war.

The president said there is a "tendency of folks is to say this really isn't a war. People kind of want to slip to the comfortable."

linkage
Now why do I have a rabid case of deja vu? Perhaps because of this, this, this, and this. It's the same, tired speech that takes no responsibility for mistakes made, it's "more of the same" as Kerry remarked during the debates last year.

With all the patience George has for Iraq, I bet Iran wishes their whole situation was based on a typo instead of oil and natural gas.

Pelosi Puts on Her Boxing Gloves

It appears the constitutionality of the budget bill is going to be challenged by the House Democrats after all:
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi demanded an ethics investigation Thursday into the passage of deficit-reduction legislation that President Bush recently signed, a new twist in an episode of Capitol intrigue that blends election-year politics and questions of constitutional law.

[snip]

On a party-line vote, Republicans shelved the call for an investigation, and Hastert's office did not respond directly to Pelosi's charges.

linkage
Kudos to Pelosi for keeping the Democratic caucus together to challenge the horrific bill. The reason the Republicans don't want to have a re-vote on this issue is because it only passed by a two-vote margin. They would rather violate the Constitution than take a gamble on the passage of their immoral budget.

Coyote Carnival - 1st Edition

A hearty Old Pueblo welcome to the members of the Arizona Blogger Network and its readership who have found their way to my humble blog via the First Edition of the Coyote Carnival.
...In the near future, these carnivals should be hosted at a local Arizona blog, to drive traffic to that site. If you are interested in hosting, please contact me. To ensure wide exposure, I am going to be cross-posting this first carnival to BlogForArizona. This first edition doesn't have a theme except that all the entries are from Arizona-based blogs. We got a few submissions that broke that rule, as well as a number that were essentially commercial advertising, but the great majority of the submissions were acceptable, and most were accepted.
I'm happy to support this initiative, and perhaps will volunteer to host one in the future. This is a great way to build traffic and awareness of the various voices in the Grand Canyon State.

Ironically, the highlighted entries for my blog were written by guest bloggers Duke1676 and DuctapeFatwa on their recent exchanges on immigration reform. They raised several important factors that affect not only the border region, but the entire country. A comprehensive plan for immigration overhaul must be inclusive of the human effects and safety that is often ignored in the debate.

So without further delay, here are the highlights of the first-ever Coyote Carnival

We start with a photographic trip down memory lane. Tortoise Trail has a post that takes us back a few years to those rare times when it snowed inside the city of Tucson, Arizona.

Next, Firefly Forest gives us a photo-documentary of natural history. The entry explores dead cacti of our desert home.

Graphic Politics brings us a photographic parody of recent events involving Dick Cheney.

For the most disturbing image, Stranger Fruit hits home with an image of an assassin spider.

It is rare for a politician to be honest, genuine, and personal with the electorate, but that is exactly where Jeff Latas dared to go in his Kos diary about a visit to Walter Reed.

Kieran Healy points out a little noted nuance in the absurdity that was Bush's 6th SOTU with biting wit.

Continuing in the theme of biting wit, few are better at it than Ted Prezelski at Rum, Romanism and Rebellion, as he amply demonstrates in his excoriation of a local politician for inconstant loyalty.

ManEegee gets plaudits for best series on a local topic with his three part series on Open Borders policy. His post is an excellent example of how bloggers can catalize an interesting discussion on a difficult issue. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.

Capturing the flag for best addition to the mainstream media's reporting of an issue is Kevin Spidel for his coverage of the DoD's bid for emergency control of Arizona elections through our Secretary of State.

For coverage of religion, Blog For Arizona gets a nod for coverage of the contemporary currents in biblical scholarship.

For best sports coverage, Temple Stark takes the trophy for his coverage of the Super Bowl.

For best coverage of a local issue, Kaibab Journal takes the prize with its chronology of the Canyon Forest Village development.

For best local business bloging and multimedia, Go Daddy takes the cake with it's documentation of the process of finalizing its Superbowl ads.

For best coverage of the upcoming Gubernatorial race, Wactivist gets kudos for his coverage of the Len Munsil trainwreck in waiting.

For best dissection of Right Wing propaganda, Stranger Fruit again takes a victory lap for his post on the Protect Marriage Arizona initiative.

For best defense of Right Wing propadanda, Arizona Watch takes the gold for "Napolitano Hates Children". (Hey, you don't like my editorial bias? Ask to host Coyote Carnival your own self, OK?)

For best media catch demonstrating that the operator is definitely awake at the switch, Arizona Congress Watch for catching Kyl proposing to violate the Constitution even better than the President in a Denver paper.

For best personal writing and nature writing in one package, Firefly Forest takes another laurel for her post on Black Phoebes at Sweetwater.

And finally, for best interview, Darksyde of Unscrewing the Inscrutable for his interview with science author Carl Zimmer.

That's it for this month. I hope you discover some writing here that inspires you, and some blogs that you didn't know where out there. Please leave comments and suggestions for improvements, and feedback on anything you especially liked.

Thanks for visiting and hope you'll stop in regularly and say hello.

Paz,
Man Eegee

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Hello...? Is this on?

So many things seem to come with either no instructions at all , or with pages and pages of them that are impossible to understand. Sort of a metaphor of how people of different personalities go through life, no?

Me, I'm afraid that Reading the Fluty Manual is my last resort... after I've put slot A into slot D, or bought the completely wrong batteries or computer cord needed, and so on. Also, I don't own a recipe book... I estimate, with admittedly sometimes startling results. I am usually convinced that I will be able to intuitively figure out what goes where, or how much flour or seasonings to add. I'm sure it's way more efficient to go step by step, but it can't possibly be as adventurous. Ahem... or as frustrating. ;)

So, what about you guys? Step by step? Or "let's try this and see what happens"? (Like this post... if it posts... I have no clue how to work blogger, so... bonzai!).

Kofi Annan: Close Gitmo

I think it's safe to assume that his meeting with George last week was his last
Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday said the United States should close the prison at Guantanamo Bay for terror suspects as soon as possible, backing a key conclusion of a U.N.-appointed independent panel.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan rejected the call to shut the camp, saying the military treats all detainees humanely and "these are dangerous terrorists that we're talking about."

The panel's report, released Wednesday in Geneva and leaked earlier in the week, said the United States must close the detention facility "without further delay" because it is effectively a torture camp where prisoners have no access to justice.

linkage

I wrote about the report last week here. I'm embarrassed and disgusted as an American with the conduct of my government. What can I do to stop it? Seriously, suggestions are welcome.

Open Thread and Fiesta!



Congratulations to catnip for taking the plunge and FINALLY starting her blog:
liberal catnip

Effects of an Incestuous Government

George is loyal to his followers. It's one of his trademark personality flaws traits. He rewarded Condi with a job at the State Department, Wolfowitz at the World Bank, Miers with a brief stint on the SCOTUS hot-seat, and Gonzales at the Justice Department. It appears some of that seed-spreading is starting to catch up with him.
Thirty-one Senate Democrats on Thursday asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to remove himself from the investigation into the Jack Abramoff scandal, saying the lobbyistÂ’s dealings with President Bush and others in the administration should compel Gonzales to step aside.

"“FBI officials have said the Abramoff investigation ‘involves systemic corruption within the highest levels of government,"’ the Democrats wrote in a letter to Gonzales. "In light of your previous service as White House Counsel and your close connection to many Administration officials, the appearance of conflict looms large."”

The attorney general "“can avoid any appearance of impropriety by recusing himself," said Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, one of the signers of the letter. "If there was ever a case that was both sensitive and rife with potential conflict, it is this one."”

linkage

I won't hold my breath that he will actually do it, but I enjoy seeing headlines that raise questions about this misAdministration's objectivity.

Another Activist Judge

Don't you hate when they force the government to follow the law? Outrageous.
A federal judge dealt a setback to the Bush administration on its warrantless surveillance program, ordering the Justice Department on Thursday to release documents about the highly classified effort within 20 days or compile a list of what it is withholding.

[snip]

Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller said no determination has been made as to what the government's next step will be.

At a court hearing a week ago, Justice Department lawyer Rupa Bhattacharyya said the government would respond starting March 3, but she said she had no information on when the process might be completed.

Timing will depend on complexity, "and in this case there are a lot of complexities," Bhattacharyya said.

Kennedy wrote that "courts have the authority to impose concrete deadlines on agencies that delay the processing of requests meriting expedition."

This mirrors the situation with the Abu Ghraib photos and videos. The government has ignored FOIA requests even though they have been ordered to release the records by various judges.

Appeal after appeal will follow until it reaches the Supreme Court. With that strategy, it's no wonder George keeps nominating wingnuts to the bench.

(Did anyone else notice the absence of the word "domestic" in the AP Story? Looks like the White House pressure worked its dark magic)

[UPDATE] CBS News included this little tidbit in its "War on Terror Special Report" for today:
In a related development, the Justice Department said Thursday that it has begun an internal inquiry into the conduct of its lawyers who examined the NSA's eavesdropping program.

The investigation is being conducted by the Office of Professional Responsibility, or OPR, which reviews allegations of misconduct within the law enforcement agency.
The legality of the NSA spying program is ambiguous. Even though Sen. Roberts imbibed deeply of the koolaid prior to his public statement of support for King George today, don't forget that there is bipartisan support for a full investigation.

The Senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee wrote a handwritten message to Darth Cheney when this whole thing began. It is clear that we must push for a full examination of this issue.

Bushista Pushback to the Truth



As expected, the BWC (Bush War Council) is in full-spin mode regarding the release of the latest batch of Abu Ghraib photographs and videos from the Australian media. They like to pretend that the problem has been dealt with, but as we know, there have been repeated reports of abuse since the 2003 revelations at the Iraqi prison.

Rumsfeld is still at the helm of the Defense Department. If they were serious about ending this practice, he would only be a bad memory in the farce that has been their governance, but alas, he remains in control.
A Pentagon official told The Times that the broadcast threatened to exacerbate an already tense situation, saying: "The release of these images endangers the lives of US soldiers and in the case of Iraq not just American soldiers."

[snip]

But in Baghdad there was little surprise. "“Nothing is new to us,"” Muhammad Shati, 34, a Baghdad telecom engineer, told The Times. "“Those are the Americans we know already. They should stop giving speeches on fighting for freedom: an army of terror cannot defeat terror."

linkage
Indeed. There wouldn't be any resentment stirred up if the abuse didn't happen in the first place and proven to be sanctioned by the U.S. Government. It's shameful and immoral.

Meanwhile the smirking chimp and his minions continue their march of freedom.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Open Thread


Sunset from near my hometown

Living Document or Wet Blanket?



That pesky U.S. Constitution, it always ruins the fun!




From Article 1, Section 7:

All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States;
If the Democrats are smart, they will force a fight that will prove their status as the defenders of the Constitution. Literally.
A clerk's mistake could mean a budget bill President Bush signed isn't technically law, but congressional Republicans said again Wednesday they have no plans to try to fix the problem.
[snip]

The bill, which Bush signed Feb. 8, tightens rules for Medicaid nursing home eligibility to make it more difficult for those who have transferred their assets to their families or to charities to qualify for Medicaid.

[snip]

House Democrats, accusing GOP leaders of abusing the legislative process, have asked for another vote. On the last vote Feb. 1, the bill passed by the narrowest of margins, 216-214.

At issue is a provision involving the period of time the government pays to rent some types of durable medical equipment before medical suppliers transfer it to Medicare patients.

The Senate voted for 13 months, as intended by Senate and House negotiators, but a Senate clerk erroneously put down 36 months in sending the bill back to the House for a final vote, and that's what the House approved Feb. 1.

By the time the bill was shipped to Bush, the number was back to 13 months as passed by the Senate but not the House.

Their ineptitude would be comical if it didn't result in needless death, neverending war, and the screwing of the poor and working classes.

$75 million for Iranian Propaganda

They are the most incompetence group of leaders I have ever had the displeasure of seeing in action
President Bush wants $75 million to try to spur democracy in its adversary Iran, expanding a program that skeptics say can have little effect in the Islamic republic.

[snip]

Rice said the funds would be used to broadcast U.S. radio and television programs into Iran and pay for Iranians to study in America. She requested the money in a supplemental budget request for fiscal year 2006.

Congress has already approved $10 million for such programs for the year, which begins October 1.

linkage

Just so we're clear: For the Republicans, Iranian propaganda and war preparation good. Medicare, farmers, conservation, the NOAA, manufacturing advocacy, college student loans, plutonium production cleanup, water quality protection, preventative health grants, police officers, and housing assistance to the poor, disabled, AIDS-afflicted, and Native Americans bad.

News Dump

I slept horribly last night, even though I tried to silence my brain by writing first...here's a quick round-up of headlines. What's up today?
And one for fun

Fighting Back and Taking Control

The Bush misAdministration has conducted itself without honor since their appointment to power by the Supreme Court in 2000. George Bush was not elected President, and given the divided nature of the country at that time, should've governed from the middle. There should've been bi-partisan appointments to cabinet-level positions and a concerted effort to allow a diversity of voices to advise Junior on his policies and governance.

That fairytale was never given a chance to be realized.

From the moment this cabal of monsters took the reigns of power, they have fired any inner-circle dissenters to their neocon plan, marginalized the opposition party through propaganda and divide-and-conquer politics using wedge issues like abortion and gay marriage, and refused to admit any real mistakes along the way.

September 11th was the catalyst that helped to cement their ascendancy to the top platform of the American consciousness. Since then, by exerting stoic confidence in their failed policies, they have created an aura of resolve that has only recently started to crack.

The irony is, aside from progressives and non-koolaide drinkers, doubt has crept back into the psyche of the masses due to scandals that the Bushistas couldn't keep from leaking out. They have tried, oh yes, they have tried, but there are some evils that can't be kept hidden:
  • widespread torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo
  • the abandonment of the poor and elderly in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
  • secret prisons operating illegally in Europe
  • Domestic Spying that stretches the legality of Executive Power
With the exception of the hurricanes, which played out on international television for all to see, the remaining three scandals were exposed due to the courage of government workers who had the conscience and cojones to leak the details of these immoral programs to the press.

In true Bush War Council fashion, however, these whistleblowers are under fire from the government. They are being demonized as traitors to the cause of freedom, and I'm sure the likes of Karl Rove and Porter Goss are doing everything in their power to make sure others don't follow in their footsteps.

Luckily the trailblazers are speaking out and calling for increased protection for those who are willing to do the right thing and end the nightmare that the Global War on Terror has unleashed. From the Washington Post:
Five government whistleblowers said Tuesday they had faced retaliation for calling attention to alleged government wrongs, such as prisoner abuse in Iraq and illegal surveillance at the National Security Agency.

They told their stories to the House Government Reform Committee's national security subcommittee, whose chairman, Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn., indicated an interest in altering the law to better protect national-security whistleblowers.

Shays said they are vulnerable to unique forms of retaliation, including suspension or revocation of security clearance, which can have the same "chilling effect" as demotion or firing.

"The system is broken," Shays said.

Yes it is, Mr. Shays and the world is waiting for a restoration to our checks and balances. As a Republican, you have failed in your duty to hold George Bush and his warmongering minions accountable.

The experiment is over and the time for new leadership is needed now. Either through Impeachment or Resignations, the United States and the world deserve an end to this nightmare. As people of conscience, we are called to spread the fires of resistance to the widespread fascist control of the government.

Tell all of your friends and family that you have had enough, and tell them why, in detail, and ask them to do the same. It is the only way we will be able to save what's left of our democracy.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Abu Ghraib Photos Leaked

There is a diary at DKos with the photos, I am going to go throw up and ask the starry night for forgiveness of what we've done to these human beings.

I am sick.

WARNING: EXTREMELY GRAPHIC PHOTOS AT THE LINK

Dueling Immigration Rant part deux

If you wish to follow this conversation from the start please view the comments in the original diary here, Then read DuctapeFatwa's reply here

Oh and by the way, I would like to thank Man Eegee for being such a gracious host and allowing us to highjack his blog for this conversation.


`Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,' said Scrooge. `But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!'
Dickens

While the inevitable downward slide of Western civilization into a semi feudal state with racial warfare between the various factions of the underclass vying for the scraps thrown to them by their corporate masters is one way to view the current demographic shift taking place in America. Perhaps, just perhaps, it could turn out differently.

It’s not like we have an exemplary history as far as these issues go … and one would be foolish to think differently.

This nation was build from the start on slave labor and worker exploitation. The exploitation of each successive immigrant group and the pitting of that group against the next has been the hallmark of American style capitalism, Not to mention the proverbial “ace in the hole” of the black population who could count on having to re-fight with each new generation the battles it fought in the last.

But this aside, we must look to the ultimate outcome of each of these periods of demographic turmoil to see that despite the protestations of the No Nothings the nation did not fall to pieces. Each group eventually melded and mixed into the mosaic. So today salsa outsells ketchup and tortillas outsell white bread it’s all part of the process.

The current problem is one of a demographic shift coinciding with an economic restructuring. The nation is moving away from a manufacturing based economy to a service based one at the same time as it shifts from a predominately “white” nation to something a little more diverse.

Has this kind of thing happened before? Of course.

When the economy shifted from an agrarian base to an industrial one the shifts were seismic. There were mass migrations of people. Blacks left the south, immigrants poured in, and the population shifted from one that had been basically Anglo-Saxon and Protestant for almost 100 years to one that had far more diversity, but eventually equilibrium was reached.

Was there exploitation, racism, poverty, hunger, disease, ignorance and all the various other societal curses … yes… but overall, over time corrections were made and compensations and improvements made to allow for a greater well-being. Is it perfect system? … very far from it … but that is where we, as people of conscience, liberals, progressives or whatever we are to be called have always come in. In a small way we are the watchdogs. It is we who force the powers that be to be held accountable. Although far from perfect, the liberal/progressive policies of the last 100 years have served the nation and its people well. Could we do better? Without a doubt.

Is the present situation exceptionally gloomy? Hell yeah. The specter of fascism knocks on our door daily. The shadow of imperialism and empire looms overhead. But the test will not be how evil our leaders and corporate master can be, but rather how well we stand up to them.

When you speak of a permanent slave class of immigrants battling for economic survival with an ever-increasing underclass of unemployed and underemployed native born Americans you see only one vision of what could be. I can only hope and pray that there is another vision.

Now to the topic at hand: immigration reform

As one who sees the current immigration/economic “crisis” as a temporary “problem” as opposed to a long-range harbinger of societal collapse, I am compelled to try to come up with some sort of idea of what I would like to see done to alleviate it. From the point of view that the current system and status quo is ripe with inequities and serves no one any good, we must move on to basic assumptions.

1. WE have, through our own foreign policies and the supporting of corrupt and ineffectual regimes in most of the world, made living conditions in many parts of the world intolerable, particularly on this continent - making emigration the only viable option for many.

2. WE need immigration to fill the population needs of an aging population and because they reinvigorate and stimulate society both economically and culturally.

3. WE must find a way to allow for some mechanism to allow immigrants to enter the nation legally so that they are not marginalized and forced to live in constant fear of exposure and exploitation by unscrupulous employers and society on a whole.

One plan put foreword that has some promise is one by which all immigrants, past arrivals and those and presently coming , would be granted immediate legal status to live and work in this country and then be unionized in order to assure the worker protections so lacking in our current system. This plan would not only benefit the emigrants but also the native workers who have watched their bargaining power and ability to demand fair and equitable treatment diminished over the past 30 years. It’s just a thought… But one that holds some promise for the future.
There are many other ideas out there. We just need to explore them.

Do the powers that be like any of these plans? ….. hell no … they want the status quo …. Cheap labor, permanent underclass, class warfare … but they might not be the ones in the end who get to make the decisions. … Here Ductape you are right… here is where nature might take its course. It might not be us who are doomed to accept a fate set down long ago… but they … the users… who will have to face great changes. Here is where you and I see things differently.

Dueling Immigration Rant - oh did you come in in the middle?

In case you want backstory, check out the comments on the original post on this topic. Or if you are feeling carefree, just read on...

I'm quite aware of the programs, both current and in the pipeline to exterminate various sectors of the population. And I'm aware of Sensenbrenner's bill, and the neo bracero crap, as well as KBR's new contract to build domestic concentration camps.

I don't think Sensenbrenner's bill will get very far, for the same reason I think your plan wouldn't, leaving every other consideration or issue aside, neither of them would benefit the corporations.

And all the various neo-bracero proposals also fall short in that regard, and also share with your plan another disadvantage - most people would simply not sign up for it. They cannot make the wage low enough to suit the corporations, nor can they make it high enough to be worth the hassle versus the risks, not to mention the public relations aspect, and the politicians would still be arguing over the details long after our ten year old has grown up and married your daughter.

I know that those concentration camps are ostensibly for a "sudden influx of aliens" or some such wording, but I don't think so.

Regardless of the racist rants and Minute Man Mania, in the US, cheap labor is not going to be refused.

Now it is a fact that as US transitions to a single industry feudal state, there will be a surplus of serfs. Already some changes are evident, as the number of "white collar" and even the higher paying "blue collar" manufacturing jobs, those jobs that come with a union, the jobs that made it possible for so many of the Baby Boom to go to college and learn about Brie and the importance of thread count in linens.

The "jobs of tomorrow" are first and foremost, Wal-Mart and leash games at the Ghraib, and other than that, largely "service" jobs: food service, janitorial service, etc. They don't pay much, and we will at some point see, to an extent, the beloved meme of the Dobbs come true - immigrants will be taking jobs away from "Americans."

Now these are jobs that Americans don't want now, but as more are downwardly mobilized, at a last mad grasp at remaining in housing, they will want them. But they will not get them, for several reasons. One, the immigrants will work for less. Less even than the minimum wage, which is currently aroung 25% of the price of housing. Two, Americans cannot do these jobs as well. They are not able physically, emotionally, or any other way capable of competing with those exemplary young men from Guerrero.

Immigrants will become in effect, the new slave class with or without any programs. The new poor may blame them initially, but as other programs and pogroms are implemented, it will soon be apparent that it is not the Mexicans who deny the presciptions, who cleanse them from their new homes under the expressway, it is not the immigrants who have the guns. They don't need them.

And there is more than one way for nature to take its course. Can you imagine what would happen if some mystical little pajarito whispered into the ear of every human being working in the US with papers not purchased from Washington, and just for one day, none of those people went to work.

Think about it. Nothing to lose but one day's low pay, and possibly something quite more substantial than another few cents an hour or a card or the opportunity to fill out forms. Even if their employer fires them, they can easily obtain similar work somewhere else the next day. And many can, thanks to the fun and exciting features of racism, return to the same employer the next day, give a different name, and not even be recognized.

But what do you think would happen that one day, a sort of life imitates art Day without a Mexican?

How would it affect the US economy to have restaurants, hotels, all those "service industries" unable to function?

Whether that happens or not, for reasons mentioned above, the domestic conflict in the US will have an ethnic element, US already had a conflict with an ethnic element coming even before the process of reclaiming the continent intensified. But that will not be the whole of it. There will also be a religious element, political element, but as history has shown us, these things filter down to the age old have vs have not.

Kind of like the correction that occurred in Venezuela recently.

Anyway, if you have read this far, you have a gift for listening to the ramblings of old men, and you should consider a career in this field.

My point, and yes, I have one, is that the demographic shift in the US, as in Europe, is an issue. Say the word "issue" out loud. Whisper it, and you will hear the sound of the gentle twin zephyrs of Mendel and math. But it is only *an* issue, it is not *the* issue, for all the sound and fury of those who bat helpless wings, moth-like, against the twin zephyrs, as nature, like events set in motion long ago, take their course.