Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

religious freedom: immigrants need not apply


Kevin Johnson summarizes this Daily Tar Heel article, and asks, “What have we come to as a nation?”

The pastor of the María, Reina de las Américas parish in Mt. Olive, North Carolina has a majority Latina/o congregation, including many of undocumented immigrants. The church is less than two miles from al slaughterhouse, where many parishioners work. Several months ago, local law enforcement officials set up roadblocks three weekends in a row on the two roads that provide access to the church. Parishioners were stopped and asked to show their driver's licenses on the way to and from services. Attendance at Mass eventually began to drop as the roadblocks increased in frequency.

The contradictions of this story are heightened when you consider the history each American learns in grade-school about immigrants escaping religious persecution to begin a new experiment in government. Now new immigrants can expect to encounter religious persecution in the country founded on the principle of free expression of faith.

Religious freedom, like any other kind, depends on the legal status of the individual. Without meaningful access to the courts, the ballot box, or law enforcement, the Bill of Rights is essentially worthless to these individuals, though technically, it applies to them, too. The restrictionist vision of the world is one where American values and freedoms are tightly restricted to citizens, but are more broadly transmitted to the outside world primarily by example. It’s an incoherent, indefensible view that, unfortunately, makes some sense in the context of the existing state-based international legal/political system. That system is gradually and painfully changing, but traditionalists (excepting those out-of-status traditionalist immigrants trying to get to mass on Sunday) will fight these changes tooth and nail. They always have.

[Image: Daily Tar Heel/Julie Turkewitz]

history lesson

Atrios recounts a crucial bit of blogospheric history:

Beating back George Bush's plan to kill social security was probably the first major victory for the broadly defined netroots movement. I say that not really knowing if things would have been different if blogs and the like didn't exist, but it seemed like a victory. And while we never got together in a dark smoky room to plot our strategy, it basically ended up being a two-pronged one. The first was to beat back against the "social security crisis" frame much beloved by every very serious pundit in Washington. The second was to beat back against the idea that since George Bush had a "plan" (which he never actually did in any form until very near the end of the whole debate) the Democrats needed to have a "plan" of their own. The first part of this is a perpetual game of whack a mole, necessary on just about every day the Washington Post is still publishing. And the second was a very necessary emergency tourniquet which needed to be applied very quickly.

Beating back the steady stream of misinformation about the nonexistent crisis was done throughout the blogs, on Media Matters, etc. And trying to stop the Democrats from coming up with their own crackpot plan was done through a combination of bloggers trying to explain repeatedly that people like social security, they don't want to change it, opposing changing it is a political winner, and most importantly that once the minority party proposes their own plan they've guaranteed that something will happen. And that something would have been very bad. In addition, Josh Marshall especially kept an eager eye out for any wavering Democrat in Congress who decided that his/her awesome social security plan must be unveiled to the grateful public in order to beat them back with phone calls and whatever bad press could be created.

Tt worked. Again, absent blogs it may have played out just like that anyway. Nancy Pelosi realized at some point that the "no plan" plan was indeed the best one, and she likely doesn't spend much of her time looking at my pictures of ponies. In any case, somehow George Bush's social security monster was driven back into its cave and it was done in just the way the liberal blogosphere and netroots more broadly orchestrated it to happen, in a very decentralized way of course. We're not members of any organized political party, remember.

As Atrios points out more than once, it’s hard to know what would have happened absent involvement by liberal bloggers, but the psychological impact of the “save social security” meme was profound. In early 2005, Bush was apparently invincible, and I felt more or less resigned to living in a country that had permanently lost its mind. Then, as we know now, things all went to shit for the president. But it started with a technical, wonkish debate on which there was “bipartisan consensus” among the D.C. elite that some sort of change had to happen. (I’ll admit to wavering a bit myself early on due to a couple of seemingly reasonable Tierney op-eds about the Chilean “miracle.” Then the Times did me and the world a favor by yanking their columnists from public view.) Well, nothing happened except that, for the first time, the Democrats held firm and Bush didn’t get his way. Without the TPM-directed collective effort to gather key information about public positions of individual Democrats and leverage it to apply selective pressure on them, one by one, I doubt there would have been nearly as favorable an outcome.

DNA evidence points to innocence of West Memphis Three

American justice means locking up teenagers for crimes they didn’t commit. Two of them are 13 years into life sentences; one is on death row.

In 1994, three teenagers in the small city of West Memphis, Ark., were convicted of killing three 8-year-old boys in what prosecutors portrayed as a satanic sacrifice involving sexual abuse and genital mutilation. So shocking were the crimes that when the teenagers were led from the courthouse after their arrest, they were met by 200 local residents yelling, “Burn in hell.”

But according to long-awaited new evidence filed by the defense in federal court on Monday, there was no DNA from the three defendants found at the scene, the mutilation was actually the work of animals and at least one person other than the defendants may have been present at the crime scene.

Supporters of the defendants hope the legal filing will provide the defense with a breakthrough. Two of the men, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, are serving life in prison, while one, Damien W. Echols, is on death row. There was no physical evidence linking the teenagers, now known as the West Memphis 3, to the crime.

“This is the first time that the evidence has ever really been tested,” said Gerald Skahan, a member of the defense team. “The first trial was pretty much a witch hunt.”

. . .

The story the defendants’ supporters have presented — of three misfits whose fondness for heavy-metal music made them police targets — has won the men the support of celebrities like Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, Marilyn Manson and the creators of “South Park.” Many learned of the case through an HBO documentary, “Paradise Lost,” and a sequel.

The prosecution hinged on a confession riddled with factual errors and a Satanic cult expert with a mail-order degree. Mr. Echols’s own lawyer called him “weird” and “not the all-American boy.”

. . .

The three victims — Christopher, Steve Branch and James Michael Moore — were last seen riding their bikes on May 5, 1993. They were found the next day in a drainage ditch in Robin Hood Hills, near West Memphis, a low-rent town across the Mississippi River from Memphis. The boys were naked and hogtied with shoelaces.

The police quickly zeroed in on Mr. Echols, then 18, who was familiar to them because he was on probation for trying to run away with his girlfriend. They also believed he was involved in cult activities.

But they could find little evidence against him until Mr. Misskelley, mildly retarded and with a history of substance abuse, came in to speak with them. At the time there was a $30,000 reward.

After hours of questioning, Mr. Misskelley, 17, gave the police a taped statement that implicated himself, Mr. Baldwin, then 16, and Mr. Echols, then 19. Despite coaching by the investigators, Mr. Misskelley was incorrect in several significant details, including the time of the crime, the way the victims were tied and the manner of death. He said the children had been sodomized, an assertion that even the state medical examiner’s testimony appears to refute.

The team of forensic experts assembled by Mr. Echols’s lawyers, which included Dr. Michael Baden, the former medical examiner of New York City, also said there was no evidence of sexual abuse. Many of the wounds sustained by the victims were caused by animals, they said, including the castration of Christopher.

Here’s the documentary on the case, Paradise Lost, and the sequel.

[Image: Creative Thinking/NY Times]

Sunday, October 28, 2007

slow news day

Sometimes when George Bush, subway pole-hoggers, or hidden kitten puke have brought my spirits down, I think back to this modern classic, and feel better about life.

I would swallow my pride
I would choke on the rinds
But the lack there of would leave me empty inside
Swallow my doubt
Turn it inside out
Find nothing but faith in nothing
Want to put my tender
Heart it in a blender
Watch it spin round to a beautiful oblivion
Rendezvous then I'm through with you
Duuude, they like wrote this in high school. Pretty impressive, huh? Where did they find all those words . . .
I burn burn like a wicker cabinet
I love it!
Chalk white and oh so frail
I see our time has gotten stale
The tick tock of the clock is painful
All sane and logical
I want to tear it off the wall
Damn those sane, logical clocks, with their tick tocking and their logic and oh-so-precious sanity. Damn them!
I hear words in clips and phrases
That actually explains a lot. Maybe he never got the early educational assistance he desperately needed to overcome his hearing disability.
I think sick like ginger ale
My stomach turns and I exhale
I would swallow my pride
I would choke on the rinds
But the lack there of would leave me empty inside
I would swallow my doubt
Turn it inside out
Find nothing but faith in nothing
Want to put my tender
Heart it in a blender
Watch it spin round to a beautiful oblivion
Rendezvous then I'm through with you

So Cal is where my mind states
But its not my state of mind
I'm not as ugly sad as you
Or am I origami
Oh, snap! Check it out--"or am I" sounds almost the same as "origami." This is some groundbreaking stuff.
Folded up and just pretend
Demented as the motives in your head

I would swallow my pride
I would choke on the rinds
But the lack there of would leave me empty inside
I would swallow my doubt
Turn it inside out
Find nothing but faith in nothing
Want to put my tender
Heart it in a blender
Watch it spin round to a beautiful oblivion
Rendezvous then I'm through with you
Here comes the best part.
I alone
Am the one you don't
Know you need
Take heed feed your ego
Make me blind
When your eyes
Close sink when you get close
Tie me to the bedpost
I alone
Am the one you dont
Know you need no you don't
Make me blind
When your eyes close
Tie me to the bedpost
Tie me to the fucking bedpost!!
I would swallow my pride
I would choke on the rinds
But the lack there of would leave me empty inside
I would swallow my doubt
Turn it inside out
Find nothing but faith in nothing
Want to put my tender
Heart it in a blender
Watch it spin round to a beautiful oblivion
Rendezvous then I'm through with you
Now im through with you

Through with you
Rendezvous then I'm through with you
Indeed. Through. With. You. Words to live by.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

illegal immigration causes 'warming of the globe'

VDare's Brenda Walker, as usual breaking stories the corrupt Mexiphile MSM covers up for drug money, links to a story from the Boston Globe on the pending nationwide water crisis:

An epic drought in Georgia threatens the water supply for millions. Florida doesn’t have nearly enough water for its expected population boom. The Great Lakes are shrinking. Upstate New York’s reservoirs have dropped to record lows. And in the West, the Sierra Nevada snowpack is melting faster each year. Across America, the picture is critically clear — the nation’s freshwater supplies can no longer quench its thirst.

Out of a series of causal factors, Walker touts one in particular as the primary explanation. See if you can guess which it is:

The government projects that at least 36 states will face water shortages within five years because of a combination of rising temperatures, drought, population growth, urban sprawl, waste and excess.

She has underlined it for the attentive reader.

So out of five factors (counting “waste and excess” together), all but one of which could be addressed by sensible environmental policies, it’s that other factor—population growth—that has been causing problems with the national water supply. Walker provides her analysis:

Droughts are a normal part of nature, and Georgia’s lack of rain has been severe. But the MSM tends to underplay any negative effects of population growth, particularly when it is diverse. As a result, we don’t read that the state has doubled in population since 1960, from 4 million then to over 8 million counted in the 2000 Census. In other words, there has been much attention paid to the dwindling supply of water but little to increased demand from immigration-fueled population growth.

And if hypocritical electricity-using Al Gore or the NY Times tells you it’s global warming that’s melting Western snowpack instead of illegal immigration, you know where to tell them to stick it!

Friday, October 26, 2007

attack at mexican consulate

An explosive device went off today at the Mexican Consulate in New York City:

Police and bomb squad units were called to the Mexican Consulate in Manhattan early Friday morning after some kind explosive device detonated at the building, WCBSTV.com first reported.

Sources say the device -- which initially was said to be some sort of hand grenade, but sources later confirmed it may have been something else -- exploded outside the building, located at 27 E. 39th Street and Fifth Avenue, shattering glass and sending debris into the building.

There are no reports of any injuries, but consulate employees were tense as the news spread. "Everybody got nervous when they heard something about this, but we can stay calm," said Alejandro Aquino.
We'll see whether law enforcement manages to track down the suspect and if they can determine his/her motives, but in the current antagonistic environment regarding immigration,
it's easy to speculate that this was an act intended to terrorize the Mexican community in the United States. There are a lot of crazy people in New York City--I ride the subway every day, so I know--so any motive or no motive is possible. But I hope we don't get to a place where legal services organizations and foreign consulates have to undertake the kinds of security measures that abortion clinics have been forced to take since they have been attacked so many times.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

won’t you be my neighbor

My wife told me today that there were three or four activists outside our subway stop when she came home earlier this evening. What were they protesting? Me! That is, white people moving into our historically (since WWII, anyway) black neighborhood. Apparently, one woman was standing in front of the grocery store handing out fliers yelling, “How many white people have to move onto your block before you say ENOUGH?! They’re pricing you out, and you’re not doing anything about it!”

[Image: from Do the Right Thing; source: Wikipedia]

I wonder what she wants to “do about it.” I was glad not to have been there, and not to have been there with my wife, who is black. That’s not a scenario I look forward to.

Last Sunday in the checkout line at the grocery store in Restoration Plaza, I heard a young woman talking on her cell phone speculating about how the neighborhood was going to turn out like Williamsburg, which she seemed to think was a good thing. She intended to hold on to her apartment to keep paying low rent as the neighborhood became safer and more prosperous.

A coworker told me the other day about how all her neighbors in Canarsie are picking up and going to the suburbs as even the outer portions of Brooklyn become too expensive for long-time residents. Of course, in New York, where neighborhoods seem to change with the weather, “long-time resident” might not be all that long. She said lots of houses are for sale in her neighborhood, and as commuting time and living expenses rise, she expects more people will leave New York City. Many neighborhoods are experiencing the pain of reverse white flight, as the grandchildren of whites who ran for the ‘burbs decide that suburbs suck and the city is the place to be. I have been a part of this gentrifying phenomenon, except that my family didn’t leave the city, but instead the desert farms and ranches of Utah.

Gentrification is a difficult issue to deal with, but as an advocate for immigrants, placing restrictions on where people can live based on race, income, or nationality is worrisome to me. Of course, in much of New York City now, there is a de facto income restriction in certain neighborhoods as housing becomes ever more expensive. This often breaks down along racial lines, but not always, for example in middle-class Fort Greene or Harlem or in the Caribbean-owned brownstones of Bed-Stuy. But freedom of movement is a universal human right—recognized most generally as freedom to stay or freedom to leave, if not yet absolute freedom to enter another country. (It helps to think of it in the sense of an East German in the GDR or a Cuban or North Korean imprisoned in her home country against her will.) Thinking in the context of international migration, surely freedom of movement ranks higher than maintaining the character of a neighborhood. Of course, I’m not the one getting priced out.

As one half of a mixed-race couple, I can’t see how racially segregating neighborhoods for any reason can be a good thing—at least not for us. According to the woman in front of the grocery store, my wife can stay but I have to leave? That doesn’t make sense. I think back to my high school in rural/suburban Utah. There was not a single black student in school of over a thousand. There were only a handful of students of color. That would be a difficult place for us to raise a family. Apparently others have come to the same conclusion and self-segregated themselves out of Utah.

There have also of late been some anti-immigrant scrawls in the stairwells at the subway stop in our neighborhood. This to me is utterly bewildering, since the neighborhood has a substantial settled population of first and second generation immigrants from the Caribbean. This nativist graffitist should voice his opinions at the annual West Indian Day Parade—he’d get a multinational boot to the ass. But even if the local solitary restrictionist and the anti-gentrication crusaders join to form some unholy coalition, I think they’ll mostly be ignored as the composition of the borough ebbs and flows, mirroring the changes in the lives of its constituent families.

best and brightest

As the DREAM Act goes down in flames and Congress continues to cower before the restrictionist lobby, it was encouraging last night to sit at the New York office of a major law firm in a room overflowing with young lawyers learning how to represent detainees swept up in the latest raids in Long Island and elsewhere in the New York metropolitan area. The tactics ICE is using in their “Return to Sender” raids are like something out of 1984 or Stalin-era Soviet Union. Breaking down doors in the middle of the night, terrorizing young children, violating DHS regulations, trampling the Constitution—these are your taxpayer dollars at work in today’s Immigration Customs and Enforcement agency. It is heartening to see the reaction to these raids among professionals with the skills and resources to do something about it. In many ways, it is a losing battle, as ICE does its best to ship detainees off to other states to disrupt their constitutional right to counsel, and then moves quickly to deport them with a minimum of legal process. But I saw some last night who will not let this injustice stand without a fight.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

DOJ: a tangle of legal confusion

From the LA Times, via Atrios, comes word of the collapse of the DOJ’s prosecution of a U.S.-based Islamic NGO that the government had shut down in 2001 on never-substantiated charges of supporting terrorism abroad.

DALLAS -- The U.S. Justice Department suffered a major setback in another high-profile terrorist prosecution Monday when its criminal case against five former officials of a now-defunct Islamic charity collapsed into a tangle of legal confusion.

. . .

President Bush announced in December 2001 that the Texas-based charity's assets were being seized, and in a Rose Garden news conference accused the organization of financing terrorism. Monday's outcome, however, raised serious questions about those allegations as well.

"I think it is a huge defeat for the government," said David Cole, a Georgetown University law professor specializing in 1st Amendment cases and terrorism prosecutions.

"They spent almost 15 years investigating this group, seized all their records and had extensive wiretapping and yet could not obtain a single conviction on charges of supporting a terrorist organization."

. . .

Juror William Neal, 33, who said his father worked in military intelligence, said that the government's case had "so many gaps" that he regarded the prosecution as "a waste of time."

. . .

The Holy Land Foundation was created in Los Angeles in 1988 and later moved to Richardson, Texas, outside Dallas. By 2001 it had become the largest Muslim charity in the U.S. and is believed to have distributed about $56 million here and abroad.

The FBI first began investigating the foundation nearly 15 years ago. Court records show that it was periodically subjected to government surveillance. After the Bush administration ordered the charity closed, Holy Land officials fought unsuccessfully in federal civil courts to reinstate it.

In 2004, the government alleged that Holy Land and its officials funneled about $12 million to Hamas through local charities called zakat committees. The government argued that from its inception Holy Land was intended to be a fundraising tool for Hamas, a contention that was never documented in court.

. . .


Additionally, he said, the case should raise questions about the administrative process that enabled the government to shut down Holy Land almost six years ago, long before criminal charges were brought.

"That was a summary process that involved no trial, permitted the government to rely on secret evidence and barred the defendants from ever introducing their own evidence in court. Now we see when they are required to put their evidence on the table, the government is not able to prove a single charge," Cole said.

This sounded familiar to me. A quick trip to the State Department’s website reveals this:

December 2005 amendments to the administrative liability code impose large fines for violations of procedures governing NGO activity, as well as for "involving others" in illegal NGOs. The law does not specify whether "illegal NGOs" are those that were forcibly suspended or closed, or those that were simply unregistered. The amendments also increased penalties against international NGOs for engaging in political activities, activities inconsistent with their charters, or activities not approved in advance by the government. The February 2004 banking decree, although ostensibly designed to combat money laundering, was selectively enforced to prevent both registered and unregistered NGOs involved in human rights or political work from receiving outside funding.

. . .

During the year the government also forced many international NGOs to close, citing alleged violations of the law. The closures were part of government efforts to minimize the presence of Western organizations, based on the stated belief that their programs aimed to forcibly introduce democracy and subvert the existing regime.

. . .

On January 11, the Tashkent City Civil Court ordered the human rights NGO Freedom House to suspend its operations for six months based on the charge that the organization had provided Internet access without a license. On February 7, an appeals court rejected the organization's appeal of the suspension order. Following an unsuccessful appeal of the suspension and a criminal investigation of the organization's staff, the civil court ordered Freedom House to close on March 6. In 2005 the government had subjected Freedom House and its employees to frequent harassment in 2005. Official television stations publicly accused Freedom House of supporting suspected terrorists in documentaries on the May 2005 violence in Andijon.

On March 6, the Tashkent office of the Eurasia Foundation voluntarily suspended its activities after the MOJ filed a request for its suspension with the Tashkent Civil Court. The request alleged that the foundation had made grants to local NGOs and conducted seminars without prior government permission, among other technical violations.

On April 19, the country director of the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) departed the country, and the representative office subsequently liquidated its operations, following its unsuccessful appeal of a December 2005 court order to close and a criminal investigation of several of its local staff members. The government based IREX's expulsion primarily on the charge that the organization had provided Internet access without a license.

On April 27, the Tashkent Civil Court ordered the Tashkent office of the American Bar Association's Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative (ABA/CEELI) to close. According to the government controlled press, the decision was based on activities that ran counter to ABA/CEELI's charter, including supporting and providing legal assistance to local NGOs. On May 23, the court denied ABA/CEELI's appeal of the ruling.

On May 4, the court ordered the closure of the NGO Counterpart International, ruling that the organization had violated its charter.

On June 1, the court ordered the closure of the American Councils for International Education (ACTR/ACCELS), a student exchange organization. Government controlled press agencies attributed the closure to the allegation that ACCELS had sent over 100 high school students abroad without informing authorities. The city prosecutor subsequently initiated a criminal investigation of its staff, but closed it without any findings because the organization's former office director died.

The report goes on in a similar vein for another page or two. Of course, the country under discussion here is Uzbekistan, whose government slaughtered hundreds—maybe thousands—of its own citizens at Andijan in May 2005. Perhaps the U.S. government should confer with Uzbek President Karimov for some pointers on how to more effectively stifle dissent and suppress free association, because the DOJ’s current efforts aren’t going so well.

[Image: AP/Wide World Photos - Donald Rumsfeld and Islam Karimov]

outsourcing torture

There is a wild, even by this administration’s standards, story of corruption, cruelty, and incompetence over at Psychsound:

The long and the short of it was that an Egpytian national, Abdallah Higazy, was staying in a hotel in New York City on September 11 and the hotel emptied out when the planes hit the towers. The hotel later found in the closet of his room a device that allows you to communicate with airline pilots. Investigators thought this guy had something to do with 9/11 so they questioned him. According to Higazi, the investigators coerced him into confessing to a role in 9/11. Higazi first adamantly denied any involvement with 9/11 and could not believe what was happening to him. Then, he says, the investigator said his family would go through hell in Egypt, where they torture people like Saddam Hussein. Higazy then realized he had a choice: he could continue denying the radio was his and his family suffers ungodly torture in Egypt or he confesses and his family is spared. Of course, by confessing, Higazy's life is worth garbage at that point, but ... well, that's why coerced confessions are outlawed in the United States.

So Higazy "confesses" and he's processed by the criminal justice system. His future is quite bleak. Meanwhile, an airline pilot later shows up at the hotel and asks for his radio back. This is like something out of the movies. The radio belonged to the pilot, not Higazy, and Higazy was free to go, the victim of horrible timing. Higazi was innocent! He next sued the hotel and the FBI agent for coercing his confession. The bottom line in the Court of Appeals: Higazy has a case and may recover damages for this injustice.

The Second Circuit released its decision explaining how the FBI agent forced a false confession out of Higazy: by threatening to turn his family in Egypt over to the Egyptian security forces to be tortured, raped, or killed. The decision was posted online. Then Steve Bergstein blogged about the decision, and shortly afterwards, it disappeared from the official site. The original pdf decision had already been reposted elsewhere, however, and the Second Circuit actually contacted the site owner and asked him to take it down. He refused. The court then released a redacted version of the decision omitting the section describing the FBI agent’s unlawful actions. That portion has now been classified—except it’s also still available online thanks to the diligence of these bloggers. Check out the whole story, and see how, in the name of national security, the U.S. government threatens to have innocent people tortured by dictatorial allies.

Via Jim Henley.

Spitzer ID plan for immigrants under attack by the restrictionist mafia

Bad news in the NY Times this morning:

ALBANY, Oct. 22 — Spurred by overwhelming public opposition to Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s decision to allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, the State Senate yesterday passed legislation that would overturn the policy.

The 39-19 vote, which passed with the support of all the Republican senators present as well as several key Democrats, capped a debate laden with accusations of racism and demagoguery and warnings about terrorism and voter fraud. The vote also followed a raucous protest outside the Capitol, during which some opponents of the plan called for the governor to be recalled or impeached.

The Times once again shows its susceptibility to getting snowed by right-wing propaganda. Does Nicholas Confessore really believe that on a state-wide level, with over one-third of New York City’s residents foreign born and a position as the historical gateway to the country, there is “overwhelming public opposition” to Spitzer’s plan? Or is a more likely explanation that a relatively small but motivated core of restrictionists have again implemented their patented technique of flooding their legislators’ offices with phone calls, emails, and letters, followed by angry public protests? Confessore mentions in passing the major issues in dispute without explaining any of them: "the vote . . . capped a debate laden with accusations of racism and demagoguery and warnings about terrorism and voter fraud." That is not particularly enlightening, and unlikely to inform readers confused about the issues. This is some pretty shoddy reporting.

Frank J. Merola, the Rensselaer County clerk and one of the most vocal local officials to oppose Mr. Spitzer’s policy, appeared at the rally and later filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court challenging the administration. Under state law, several dozen other county clerks act as agents of the D.M.V. and must process driver’s licenses on behalf of the state.

Mr. Merola and a number of other clerks, most of them, like Mr. Merola, Republicans, have said they will not obey the new policy, though state rules do not give them any discretion on the matter. Mr. Merola said that he had not consulted the county counsel about his plans to ignore the new licensing regulations.

“I don’t want him to tell me that I shouldn’t be doing it, because I’m the one who’s going to be in that office and I’m not going to do it,” Mr. Merola said. “It’s easier if I don’t ask.”

So much for the “rule of law” that features so prominently in restrictionist arguments. Rule of law for thee but not for me.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Mukasey and immigration

Adam Francoeur of Immigration Equality explains why the process of selecting the Attorney General deserves special scrutiny by immigrant advocates:

1- the Department of Justice sets the tone (legally and figuratively) in protecting the rights of citizens and immigrants, but explicitly the civil rights and due process rights of individuals in the U.S. These rights have eroded under the previous two Attorney Generals and immigrants are often the first to lose these rights.

2- much of the immigration process, including Immigration Judges, the Board of Immigration Appeals, and ultimately the Attorney General, create immigration policy and precedent and these confirmation hearings give direct insight into the values an Attorney General would bring to the job. And finally

3- homoterrorism. That’s right, the U.S. government has waged war on gays under the cover of the threat of terrorism, specifically within U.S. immigration policy in the wake of 9-11 and has used the threat of terrorism to track, threaten, and deport immigrants not to mention used anti-terror language as a red-herring to deny rights to LGBT immigrants.

As others have pointed out, any nominee for AG who can’t admit that waterboarding is torture should not be charged with managing the Department of Justice. If this rules out anyone George Bush is likely to nominate, so be it.

former immigration judge Bruce Einhorn addresses flaws in immigration courts

The September/October volume of Immigration Law Today, a bimonthly publication of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), featured an interview with retired Immigration Judge Bruce Einhorn (not available online). Earlier in Einhorn’s career, he worked in the DOJ’s Office of Special Investigation prosecuting Nazis and other accused war criminals. He served on the immigration bench for 17 years. He talks about some problems he sees with the current immigration system:

It has been reported that DOJ has appointed several individuals to serve as IJs even though they have little or no experience with the U.S. immigration system. Have you witnessed how a lack of experience on the part of IJs has played out in the courtrooms?

There always have been the occasional nepotistic appointments to immigration judgeships. However, in my 28 years with the Justice Department, spanning five different presidential administrations, and my 17 years as an IJ, I have never seen anything like the attempt under George W. Bush to politicize the selection of immigration judges. After all, I am a moderately liberal Democrat who was appointed to the immigration court in the administration of the first President Bush. The more partisanship has become a staple of judicial appointments, the less independence the immigration courts and the [Executive Office for Immigration Review] have enjoyed within DOJ. More and more, my colleagues have started looking over their shoulders to see what kind of political animal the new Bush appointees to the immigration court are. Remember that immigration judges serve at the pleasure of the attorney general. Therefore, the independent judgment and intestinal fortitude of sitting IJs may well be affected by the partisanship that influences the selection of new judges. All this is not a criticism of my colleagues, who, after all, are human beings with families and bills to pay. Rather it is a criticism of a militantly right-wing administration possessed of an imperial presidency and a raging contempt for the independence of the judiciary.

I know of one instance—reported recently in the Los Angeles Daily Journal—of a Bush-Gonzales appointee to the immigration court at the detention center in Lancaster, CA, who was “persuaded” to resign after he regularly walked into his courtroom carrying a revolver. He also was reputed to routinely utter the “F” word in hearing after hearing. Even DHS prosecutors were appalled by his extreme and injudicious behavior. I know of other Bush administration appointees who have required and received additional coaching and hand-holding from the chief judge’s office because of their lack of knowledge in immigration law and their inability to demonstrate proper judicial demeanor in the courtroom.

With case loads at around 1400 per year per IJ (roughly five cases each business day), the overstretched and underfunded immigration courts can’t afford ill-prepared judges who effectively increase the workload for qualified judges. Also, immigrants appearing before judges who hold their lives in their hands deserve judges who treat them and their attorneys with respect.

What qualifications do you think should be required of judges who sit on the immigration court?

. . .

Frankly, it is high time that the immigration court be made an independent, Article I institution, whose appointments are made by the president upon recommendation of a nonpartisan panel of sitting and retired judges, the chief immigration judge, some academics, and distinguished DHS and private counsel. Such changes would ensure the independence of the court, and better guarantee the bona fides of its judges.

Most people probably don’t realize that immigration judges are not actually part of the judiciary. They are employees of the DOJ, and part of the same branch of government as the Immigration Customs and Enforcement prosecuting attorneys. This seriously impedes their ability to act as fair and impartial arbiters of immigration law. Some judges are more aggressive and punitive towards the immigrants whose cases they decide than are the ICE attorneys prosecuting the cases.

You were instrumental in drafting legislation that is the basis of current asylum law. How did your involvement in this come about? What further reforms in this area do you believe are necessary?

Most people, and many immigration lawyers, are unaware that the United States had no general law for asylum until the Refugee Relief Act of 1980 was passed. During its early years, [DOJ’s] Office of Special Investigation (OSI), where I served as an attorney, was its default agency for human rights issues. The evening before a vote was to be taken in Congress on the asylum bill, DOJ and OSI assigned me to work on a revamp of the legislation, and to include in it a bar from relief for those who had participated in the persecution of others. At that time, personal computers and home faxes were nonexistent, so armed with a pen, paper, and the hubris of youth, I spent the whole night dictating a rewrite of the bill over the phone to DOJ and congressional staffers. The bill was then passed, and I was granted the privilege of having a small role in the advancement of human rights law.

I would like the asylum law—or the regulations that further its application—to specifically include “rape,” “attempted rape,” and “sodomy” as cognizable forms of persecution on account of race, religion, political opinion, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion [sic]. I would like to see the same done for “domestic abuse” and “incest” under the social group category—at least where the home government was unwilling or unable to prevent the violence in question. Finally, I also would like to see DHS spend more resources and time on reviewing asylum applications filed. DHS asylum officers should have more than 20 minutes or so to interview asylum applicants. Most of those applicants are simply referred to the immigrant courts for prosecution. Careful analyses of asylum applications by DHS might decrease the number of asylum cases referred to the courts.

The success or failure of many gender-based asylum claims still depends largely on which circuit court has jurisdiction over the proceedings, with the more liberal-leaning Ninth Circuit being the most favorable. Amending the statute to take into account the way in which much persecution is prompted or exacerbated by gender or sexual orientation could save many lives.

A claim of asylum can be filed either defensively in immigration proceedings, or affirmatively with an asylum officer. If an officer decides not to approve an asylum application and the applicant is not in lawful immigration status, the case will be referred to an immigration judge to make the final decision. Like immigration judges, asylum officers are also overstretched. The easiest thing for an overworked asylum officer who may not want to deal with a complicated case is to simply refer it to the judge. This adds stress to the overloaded immigration courts.

There is no filing fee for asylum applications, but before they are referred to an immigration court, asylum claims are adjudicated with funding from other immigration application fees. So some portion of the fee an intending immigrant pays to file an application for a green card, for instance, goes to pay the cost of deciding somebody else's affirmative asylum application. In addition to raising questions of fairness, this leads to unwieldy caseloads, shortchanging asylum applicants of an opportunity to have their claim fully heard by an asylum officer. This is just one of the ways the U.S. undermines its treaty obligation of non-refoulement—the prohibition against sending refugees back to territories where their life or freedom would be threatened.

See also this LA Daily Journal profile (pdf) of Einhorn from earlier this year.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

the American War

In Chicago recently at the Museum of Contemporary Art (a great museum, by the way), I saw a piece by Chris Burden called The Other Vietnam Memorial.

The piece is intended to help viewers visualize the stark disparity between American and Vietnamese deaths in what is known in Vietnam as the “American War” by comparing the standard mental image most Americans have of Maya Lin’s Vietnam War Memorial with an as-yet unrealized memorial listing the 3,000,000 Vietnamese who died in the war.

James Tatum reviewed Burden’s piece a few years ago:

Knowing that no such official war monument could help but omit as much as it commemorates, the antiwar activist and artist Chris Burden took Maya Lin's design and used it to unheal memory's wounds. A preliminary sketch of his Other Vietnam Memorial foresaw a "list of three million Vietnamese killed during the US involvement in Vietnam"; it would be on "Copper pages, hinged on [a] central pole," and could be turned by viewers. In the catalogue prepared for a 1992 exhibition of The Other Vietnam Memorial at the Museum of Modern Art, Burden is quoted as saying, "I just thought somewhere there should be a memorial to the Vietnamese that were killed in the war. So I wanted to make this book, sort of like Moses' tablet, that would be an official record of all these three million names. I would suspect that we will be lucky if we get twenty-five percent of the names; other ones would be nameless, basically faceless, bodies. . . . I want the size of the sculpture . . . to reflect the enormity of the horror."

The anonymity inherent in a project of killing so many people in an impoverished, autocratic country is reflected in Burden’s work, for which the names were randomly generated by computer. I hope one day a large-scale version of the memorial is erected somewhere so that Americans can realize the terror and pain bound up in this simple ratio:

58,000 < 3,000,000

Or, for every American who died in Vietnam, 52 Vietnamese died.

There’s no need for numerical manipulation based on relative population size here, the numbers are clear, though the latter is more an educated guess since the U.S. government doesn’t like to count with too much precision the people it has killed.

Or, for the contemporary sensibility, there’s this:

3829 < 75,151

Or, more worryingly, this (now a year old):

3,000 < 655,000

(approximate U.S. deaths as of 10/2006 vs. excess Iraqi deaths related to the war estimated by the Second Lancet survey)

We’re in the middle of another “American War” with no terminus in sight. What we can count on with certitude is that we will suffer less than they do—in the end, that is what these wars are all about.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

unapologetic

Nezua lays it down.

I wonder if those coming to la lucha these days understand how long anti-Mexican sentiment has been part of US conversation. I think all of us Mexican Americans understand. And other brown™ folk, as a matter of course. I will tell you, in case it is not immediately easy to infer from what I write: Anti-Mexican sentiment has been part of the background of society's conversation—books, movies, jokes, TV shows—ever since I first learned how to speak and listen. All of my life. It is not new. All this Buchanan talk, all this Tancredo talk, all this white supremacist bullshit that tries to dress itself up in a hundred different ways. It doesn't have to do with HR 4437 or even Prop 187 or the War on Terror. That's one reason why it is so infuriating or insulting. These voices simply have a foothold now. An excuse. But they've always been there. I just lived with it after a while. You learn to duck, to defer.

I've gradually come out of my shell, more and more. And each inch I have moved forward is one I can never move back.

. . .

When I met up with my biological father finally, it was a shock to the system in a few ways. Mostly racial, or ethnic. As I've said, I thought I was "white." That means both when Marlene counted me in as "mexican' I was surprised to be included, and when my father and his familia talked about "white people" at the table, I felt insulted. It was a hard time, figuring out who I was. It's been a hard time, between now and then. With people who can either treat me as if I am Xicano, or as if I am white. And you can never tell which will be which. Like Jessica Alba, I feel as if neither world fully accepts me. Although the acceptance I get from the brown world is always nourishing, always empowering. And the acceptance from the white world, when it thinks I am not brown, is always degrading, debasing. If you can understand that, then you understand a lot.

My father asked me a year or two after he met me, "Why are all your girlfriends white?" Which seemed a very strange question to me. (Aside from not completely true, as the second girl I was ever with was black.) It took me a few years to answer. At which point I said "How can you ask me that? You picked my mother, and she was white!" But I hadn't yet realized that my mother was but a brief foray into a world that my father did not really feel part of, nor want to, nor would he again enter in such a way. He was young, less sure of who he was and what he wanted, and he only stayed long enough to make my existence in that world (as well as my brother, five years younger than me) a reality. And then he stepped out.

It's not a secret to me what the taint of whiteness means to my father. Even if he never says it out loud, and even if he refuses to admit it. I am too old to be fooling myself with other peoples' personally-fashioned illusions. I understand that he, as a person who wants to be decent and kind, cannot tell me these things outright. Perhaps he is even ashamed of his own feelings. Perhaps he even thinks he is (or actually is) past that, and now sees everyone equally. It doesn't matter. And I don't want to guess at his reality too much, nor psychoanalyze him. But his actions and words over the years spoke their own truth.

Nor can my my mother fully understand this path. Nor can most of my friends. Not the white ones. And not all the "brown" ones. Not the ones who don't deal with a "mixed" identity.

But this is my path, and this is for me to be at peace with. Or not. Like all the difficult battles in my life, this is for me to come to understand in my own way.

Also, XicanoPwr has a rebuttal to those who believe we live in a post-racial America.

a good deal



Img227356620
Originally uploaded by XAlpha
Prepare for more stories ahead like this one (via Matthew Yglesias) as U.S. “partners” and “allies” abroad edge towards greener pastures.

A controversial nuclear deal between the United States and India appears close to collapse after the Indian prime minister told President Bush yesterday that "certain difficulties" will prevent India from moving forward on the pact for the foreseeable future.

The main obstacle does not involve the specific terms of the agreement but rather India's internal politics, including fears from leftist parties that India is moving too close to the United States, according to officials and experts familiar with the deal. Besieged over the past two months by growing opposition to nuclear energy cooperation with the United States, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh indicated over the weekend that he would rather save his coalition government than the nuclear pact.

. . .

State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters yesterday that the administration still believes the deal is "a good one for the United States, for India and for the broader efforts at nonproliferation."

Let’s examine this more closely:

the deal is "a good one for the United States,

It's not good for the U.S. if it means, as it does, the effective dissolution of the NPT, leading to the further spread of nuclear materials. Dismantling the existing international framework for controlling the diffusion of nuclear weapons without preparing any replacement will make America less, not more, secure.

for India

See above—more nukes in the hands of India’s enemies is not good for India, even if this deal in the short term would bind India closer to the still-powerful U.S. and lend its widely-condemned nuclear program some undeserved legitimacy.

and for the broader efforts at nonproliferation."

Not true in this or any other universe.

Opponents of the pact in India include an alliance of communist parties that forms a minority bloc in Singh's coalition government and says the agreement brings India too close to the United States.

Apparently “soft power” means more than just Charmin’s next ad campaign. The U.S. can't ignore international opinion indefinitely without consequence.

Others say the pact could be resurrected if Singh challenges opponents inside his coalition and in parliament. "If Singh went to the polls on this issue, he would win," Green said. "But he would have to run against members of his own coalition to do it. And there's a nervousness about having an election."

If only politicians representing citizens of other countries would decide to pursue the best interests of the U.S. rather than those of their constituents, then this problem could be resolved. This is a familiar theme that only makes sense if the interests of India’s politicians or its citizens are actually best served by pleasing the U.S. (or rather, the interests of the political clique currently running the executive branch of the U.S. government, since this deal does not serve the long-term interests of U.S. citizens). This may have once been true. However, due to America’s status as declining hegemon, this calculus is no longer settled to America’s benefit. This is something Americans should get used to.

overheard in New York

Little boy in the waiting room this morning at the asylum office in Rosedale, NY, explaining to an asylum officer why his little sister is in tears:

“She’s crying because she misses my mom. If my mom steps out of the house, she starts crying.”

At the time, her mom was in another room in an asylum interview asking to be allowed to stay in the U.S. as a refugee. The Rosedale staff were very kind and worked to entertain the children for hours as their mother was interviewed. But if her application is denied and she is put into removal proceedings, she may be deported. Then her children will have a difficult choice: stay in the U.S. or stay with their mother. That’s a tough call for a 6-year-old to make.

There may be many more tears ahead for this little girl.

Monday, October 15, 2007

guilty in Argentina

Like the Nazis tracked down by human rights workers decades after WWII, searchers have located and brought to justice a Catholic priest complicit in the kidnapping and murder of Argentine citizens during el proceso, known in the U.S. as the Dirty War. From the NY Times last week:

RIO DE JANEIRO, Oct. 9 — An Argentine tribunal sentenced a Roman Catholic priest to life in prison on Tuesday for conspiring with the military in murders and kidnapping during the country’s “dirty war” against leftist opponents, in a case that has become for many a powerful symbol of the church’s complicity with the former regime.

The Rev. Christian von Wernich, who worked as a police chaplain during the military dictatorship, was found guilty of involvement in seven murders, 31 cases of torture and 42 kidnappings. He is the first Catholic priest prosecuted in connection with human rights violations in Argentina, where at least 12,000 people were killed during the military regime from 1976 to 1983.

. . .

Nearly a quarter of a century after the junta was toppled in 1983 and democracy was restored, the trial of Father von Wernich has forced Argentina to confront the church’s dark past during the dirty war. It illustrated how closely some Argentine priests, who had strongly aligned themselves with the power of the military, worked with the regime’s leaders.

Over several months of often chilling testimony during the trial, witnesses spoke about how Father von Wernich was present at torture sessions in clandestine detention centers. They said he extracted confessions to help the military root out perceived enemies, while at the same time offering comforting words and hope to family members searching for loved ones who had been kidnapped by the government.

His lawyer, Juan Martín Cerolini, maintained that Father von Wernich had been made a “Catholic scapegoat” for those who wanted to prosecute the church. Father von Wernich fled Argentina for Chile but was found in 2003 in the seaside town of El Quisco by a group of journalists and human rights advocates. He was working as a priest under the name Christian González.

Argentina’s past stands in stark contrast to the role the church played during the dictatorships in Chile and Brazil, where priests and bishops publicly condemned the governments and worked to save those being persecuted from torture and death.

[photo: Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press]

Sunday, October 14, 2007

scary out there


"Whoa, dude, I don't think I'm ready for this . . . "

(My nephew is TEH CUTE!)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Latino vote may decide 2008

A recent report (pdf) from Simon Rosenberg’s New Democrat Network (NDN) sheds light on the changing political dynamic emerging from the immigration debate. The report projects a Democratic victory in next year’s elections as the likely result of the immigration debate on Hispanic voting patterns.

NDN highlights the growth of the Spanish-language consumer market (p. 10):

In 2006, driven by millions of Spanish-language viewers on Univision, the 2006 the World Cup Soccer Finals had twice the viewership of the average game in the NBA finals.

The Univision Democratic Presidential Debate drew 4.6m viewers, more than the 4.3m average of all other Democratic Presidential debate this year (this of course is drawing from a total audience of around 10 percent of the US population).

As a result of Bush and the GOP’s strategy since 2000 to specifically target the Hispanic vote with Spanish-language advertising, the GOP nearly doubled its market share with Hispanics, from 21% in the 1996 elections to 40% in the 2004 elections. That changed in 2006, with immediate results: the GOP’s share of the Hispanic vote dropped to 30%.

Indications are that it hasn’t stayed at that level in the succeeding year. I’m guessing the GOP will be lucky next year to retain its 1996 share of 21%.

From the report (p. 26):

Citizenship applications have increased 61 percent over last year. Anecdotal evidence is that they are registering very heavily Democratic.

This would be a reasonable response, given the partisan, anti-immigrant tone of the recent debate. In addition, a fee increase in July which raised the standard naturalization fee from $400 to $675 led many tens (hundreds?) of thousands of permanent residents to naturalize. In the current political climate, many of them will vote, and vote Democratic.

And Republicans aren’t giving newly naturalized citizens much reason to support them (p. 26):

All of the major GOP Presidential candidates, with the exception of John McCain, have adopted a hard-line anti-immigrant approach, including the opposition to Comprehensive Immigration Reform. No GOP candidate attended the recent NCLR conference. Only one candidate, Duncan Hunter, attended the NALEO conference.

Univision has announced that their GOP debate, scheduled for September 16th is being “rescheduled.” To date only one GOP candidate, John McCain, has announced his intent to participate.

However, LatinaLista notes that in last night’s GOP debate, all the candidates but Tancredo carefully avoided the topic of immigration, perhaps recognizing their electoral vulnerability stemming from the issue.

But simply letting their already publicized anti-immigration views stand without rebuttal will not be enough in the face of redoubled outreach by Democrats to Hispanics. And the GOP base will not permit the candidates to remain silent for long. To get the nomination, candidates will have to beef up their restrictionist bona fides, which may then doom the nominee in the general election.

NDN looks at the changing composition of the Florida electorate as one example of the changing dynamic (p. 29):

Huge new waves of Hispanic immigration in Florida – largely Puerto Rican and Central and South American – has left the long-powerful Cuban-Americans a minority of the statewide Hispanic vote.

. . .

With an increase of participation of two groups much more Democratic than the original exiles - 2nd generation Cuban-Americans and those who came after 1980 – the Cuban vote itself is becoming less Republican.

. . .

Taken together, what all this means is that Florida Hispanics are no longer majority Republican, and may in fact now be majority Democratic. In 2006 Senator Bill Nelson won the Florida Hispanic vote 58%-41%, and Jim Davis, while losing in the non-Hispanic electorate 53%-44%, tied with Hispanics 49%-49%. As there are more than a million Hispanics in the Florida electorate, this type of big shift can mean a shift of hundreds of thousands of votes over time, clearly enough to swing a state decided by a mere 500 votes in 2000.

The report breaks down possible Electoral College scenarios (p. 30):

Democrats have won 248 Electoral College votes or more in 4 consectutive Presidential Elections.

Winning AZ, CO, NM and NV in 2008 gives the Democrats 277 EVs. Winning Florida alone gives them 275. Together they put Democrats at 304 even without Ohio.

What this means is that if in 2008 Republicans are denied these 4 swing Southwestern states, or Florida, they will have to win a state they have not won since the 1980s. While possible, of course, it is not something they can count on. Simply put there is no reasonable GOP roadmap to victory in 2008 that does not require them to win these 5 heavily Hispanic states, something that will now be much more difficult given the degradation of the GOP brand in the Hispanic community in the aftermath of the immigration debate.

A recent quote from Michael Gerson sums up the report’s conclusions nicely (p. 38):

I have never seen an issue where the short-term interests of Republican presidential candidates in the primaries were more starkly at odds with the long-term interests of the party itself. At least five swing states that Bush carried in 2004 are rich in Hispanic voters -- Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado and Florida. Bush won Nevada by just over 20,000 votes. A substantial shift of Hispanic voters toward the Democrats in these states could make the national political map unwinnable forRepublicans ... Some in the party seem pleased. They should be terrified.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

immigration round-up

Hispanic voters are poised to turn several red states blue come 2008, virtually guaranteeing a Democratic presidential victory and a pickup in congressional seats as well, according to a new analysis of Hispanic voting behavior. "Border Wars: The Impact of Immigration on the Latino Vote," released by the conservative Americas Majority Foundation, demonstrates that congressional Republicans' ham-handed approach to immigration will cost them dearly at the polls.

Richard Nadler, the study's author, analyzed 2006 voting patterns in 145 Hispanic precincts or voting blocs in three congressional districts in the Southwest. In each district, candidates who favored an enforcement-only approach faced opponents who favored comprehensive immigration reform, including a guest-worker program and a path to legalization for illegal aliens. Mr. Nadler found that the enforcement-only approach significantly eroded support for the Republican candidates among Hispanic voters from their 2004 levels; in each case the Republican lost the seat.

jobs Americans *will* do

Daniel Gross reports on a new source of labor for struggling apple growers:

A few weeks ago, the New York Times ran a poignant article (subscription required) about anguished fruit farmers in California. Because of a crackdown on illegal immigrants, they couldn't find workers willing to pick their pears, even at $150 per day. And as a result, perfectly good fruit rotted in the fields.

Perhaps the California farmers, who depend on migrant Mexican labor, have got the wrong business model. Instead of paying workers to pick their fruit, they should try another strategy: making customers pay to pick the fruit themselves. Savvy farmers all over the country have discovered a practice that might not work as a nationwide agricultural policy, but that has allowed some economically inefficient orchards to thrive: Encourage yuppies and their progeny to come pick your fruit—they'll pay handsomely for the privilege, buy more than they'd ordinarily consume, and then shell out for all sorts of other value-added products. It's the best use of child labor since Manchester's early 19th-century textile mills.

Gross writes tongue-in-cheek, but these orchards are no longer economically inefficient; they are providing a valuable product to yuppies up and down the Eastern seaboard. The product is not just the apples—it is also the experience of picking the apples. These orchards are more efficient than most “productive,” highly-subsidized traditional farms.

Although I wouldn't be surprised if these enterprising apple growers are pulling down their share of subsidies, too.

Via Ezra Klein.

now playing …

Recently purchased from eMusic:

  • Thelonius Monk — Alone in Paris
  • Black Heart Procession — 2 (thanks, Brett)
  • Belle and Sebastian — Dear Catastrophe Waitress
  • Hexstatic — When Good Robots Go Bad!
  • Manu Chao — La Radiolina
  • Blonde Redhead — 23

So much better than iTunes!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

the bad boyfriend

IOZ's bags are packed and he's staying the night at his parents' place:

Here, at last, is what our friends, traditional and otherwise, might tell America at the bar. America, you're big, mean, paranoid, self-pitying, violent, unpredictable, fickle, self-satisfied, demanding, clingy, pouty, mercurial, vengeful, arbitrary, and dumb. You are in other words every boyfriend whose strong arms and handsome chin grew less attractive as the first date wore on into a relationship and the true outlines of your character overgrew the nice lines of your chest. You've got a nice ass, America, but you're a bad sport and you've got a shitty sense of humor.

Also, Canadians will be pleased to know that, according to conservative American pundit Anne Applebaum, they have no verifiable Canadian identity, but rather just a “not-American” one.

I knew about the gambit of American backpackers in Europe putting Canadian flag patches on their packs to avoid being stereotyped as jerks. What I didn't know until recently was that, according to one former Canadian backpacker, when Canadians want to act badly, they pretend to be Americans. Maybe this is the source of our image problem abroad!

Lumet on the next wave

Fifty years after making 12 Angry Men, Sidney Lumet talks about New York filmmaking:

You’re a linchpin of New York’s so-called seventies golden age. Did it feel like that then?
You know, I never really was friends with all those guys, and I don’t know why. Woody—well, he’s Woody, so you don’t expect to be hanging out with him. But Scorsese and all those guys? We didn’t hang out. I never felt like there was a school of New York filmmakers. We were all doing our own things. That stuff about a movement came later.

When people talk about that golden age, what they usually mean is that today’s films stink.
I think it’s a great time right now for New York film, actually.

So, who’s inheriting the mantle?
Oh, I can’t say names. Somebody would get bent out of shape.

Then, in the abstract, what do you imagine the next wave will look like?
Well, we were shooting out in Astoria, and one day I was watching all these kids standing outside a school near the studio. It was just marvelous: Indian girls in saris, kids from Pakistan, Korea, kids from all over. So I think you’ll see more directors from these communities, telling their stories. You know, I started out making films about Jews and Italians and Irish because I didn’t know anything else.

Imagine how American cinema would have been shortchanged had the immigration restrictionists of yesteryear had their way. No Pacino, no Brando, no Allen, no Coppola, no De Niro. No American cinema as we know it.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

TPM table for one

This week at TPMCafe’s Table for One, LA Times reporter Sam Quinones discusses his new book Antonio's Gun and Delfino's Dream: True Tales of Mexican Migration.

Having spent a decade in Mexico working as a freelance journalist, Quinones uses the book to examine the circumstances, effects, and selected personalities of Mexican migration to the United States, "the largest movement of people from one country to another in our time."

Among the subjects discussed are the depopulation of northern Mexico and the impact of remittances on the Mexican economy.

WWII and America's self-image

Publius speaks words of wisdom in discussing the new Ken Burns documentary on WWII:

WWII (as conceived today) tends to reinforce the image that America is an unambiguously good actor. One of the most dangerous tendencies in American thought is to treat foreign policy as a morality play in which we represent the Platonic ideal of good. To be sure, I love America. I love Big Macs and Elvis Presley. I believe in our underlying institutions, and I’m thankful that I was born here. I love my parents too -- but it doesn’t mean they’re perfect. You can criticize your parents even while you love them. The same is true for America.

No matter what you think of America, it’s done some terrible things in its history -- even in WWII. Putting aside the atomic bomb, there’s the fire-bombing of Tokyo. And Dresden. Beyond the war, there's the fact that we had state-sponsored apartheid for practically all of our history. That’s not to say America doesn’t have its good sides too. Of course it does. The freedom to write this blog is but one example.

The point though is that we need a measured, more realistic view of our selves and our own goodness. We need more humility. The lack of humility -- i.e., our excessive self-confidence in our goodness -- is one reason why Iraq was such an easy sell. For too many people, when our military does it, it can’t be wrong. (This view often stems from conflating emotional attachment to individual soldiers with support of the broader military policy itself. It's important to keep these distinct though).

Q: Could this be the final word . . .

. . . on the validity of charges of anti-Semitism against Waltz and Mearsheimer as they describe the outsize influence of the Israel lobby on U.S. foreign policy?

A. No, but it should be.