Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Nuff' said

Sometimes you've just got to step back and take look at the great-big picture.

It's been a year ... and I've got nothing to add ... the video says it all ...nuff' said.

Don't let this fade to a memory ... this shit does not happen in the American I want to live in … and it should never happen again ... but only WE can make it so.

hat-tip to Man Eegee for the video - he's also got a great list of Katrina related links

Katrina Blogswarm


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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Honk for English: Fun with maps & hypocrisy

The Modern Language Association has posted a new version of their interactive US language map. Given the current interest in certain political circles about exactly what languages should be allowed to be spoken in the US and an obsession with those who might speak languages other than English, this excellent interactive tool presents an opportunity to really see what all the hubbub is all about.

The map allows you to breakout any of the 33 different major languages spoken in the US by region, state or even county. With a little extrapolation one is able to find hidden ethnic enclaves or patterns of mass migration. Most importantly for our purposes, it lets us see exactly where all these non-English speakers that are causing such concern are located … or more importantly where they're not.

(There's more)

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Before we begin our little journey into the world of linguistics, a little background information might be in order. In May, during the height of the debate over immigration reform in the Senate two dueling amendments were added to the Senate legislation dealing with English as a national language. One amendment, sponsored by and passed the Republican majority, made English the "official language" of the United States and stated that " no person has a right, entitlement, or claim to have the Government of the United States or any of its officials or representatives act, communicate, perform or provide services, or provide materials in any language other than English." A second amendment was immediately added to supercede the first. Sponsored by Democrats and passing with bipartisan support, the second amendment made English the "common and unifying language of America" and made sure that "nothing herein shall diminish or expand any existing rights under the law of the United States relative to services or materials provided by the government of the United States in any language other than English."

Not willing to lay down the torch of language purity quite so easily, a month later House Republicans took up the fight. This time it was in the form of a threat by 79 Republican Representatives to block the renewal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 if its requirements for bilingual voting materials were not removed from the landmark legislation. Eventually, realizing the impending public relations nightmare if the Act were to stall out, enough Republicans came on board and the Act was renewed. Yet, 33 House Republican still voted against the renewal.

What does this have to do with the linguistic map? …

A little general information is needed first.

Just under 47 million people speak a language other than English in the US according to the latest census figures. That comes out to 18% of the population.

28,101,052 10% Spanish or Spanish Creole
2,022,143 0.77% Chinese
1,643,838 0.63% French (incl. Patois, Cajun)
1,383,442 0.53% German
1,224,241 0.47% Tagalog
1,009,627 0.38% Vietnamese
1,008,370 0.38% Italian
894,063 0.34% Korean
706,242 0.27% Russian
667,414 0.25% Polish
614,582 0.23% Arabic
564,630 0.22% Portuguese or Portuguese Creole
477,997 0.18% Japanese
453,368 0.17% French Creole
418,505 0.16% African languages
365,436 0.14% Greek
317,057 0.12% Hindi
312,085 0.12% Persian
262,900 0.10% Urdu
235,988 0.09% Gujarathi
233,865 0.09% Serbo-Croatian
203,466 0.08% Other Native North American languages
202,708 0.08% Armenian
195,374 0.07% Hebrew
181,889 0.07% Mon-Khmer, Cambodian
178,945 0.07% Yiddish
178,014 0.07% Navajo
168,063 0.06% Miao, Hmong
162,252 0.06% Scandinavian languages
149,303 0.06% Laotian
120,464 0.05% Thai
117,973 0.04% Hungarian

As far as the distribution of these foreign language speakers goes, it doesn't take a demographer to figure out that different areas of the country have far different concentrations of non-English speakers. California for example has a 40% non-English speaking population, New York - 28%, New Jersey -26%, and Texas – 32%. On the other hand, West Virginia has only 3% of its population speaking a language other than English, Montana – 6%, Iowa -6%.

Lets take a look at how these percentages of non-English speakers corresponds with the states that have produced the most vocal proponents of English-only initiatives in Congress.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) – sponsor of the English as national language amendment in the Senate – 8% non-English speakers (7.4% if you discount Native American Language Speakers) - a full 10% lower than national average.

Rep Steve King (R-IA) – Sponsor of the effort to block the Voting Rights Act – 6% non-English speakers. In fact the majority of those House members supporting King's effort to remove the bilingual provisions of the Voting Rights Act came from states with below average numbers of non-English speakers. Only 15 of the 55 original signatories of Kings letter to the Judiciary Chairmen about the VAR came from states with above average numbers of non-English speakers.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) – 28%
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) – 6%
Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) – 6%
Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA) – 10%
Rep. Gresham Barrett (R-S.C.) - 6%
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) – 13%
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) – 32%
Rep. John Boozman (R-AR) – 5%
Rep. Jeb Bradley (R-NH) – 9%
Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL) -16%
Rep. Henry Brown (R-SC) -6%
Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) -7%
Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN) – 7%
Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) -40%
Rep. John Campbell (R-CA) -40%
Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC) -9%
Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-WY) -7%
Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) -32%
Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R-VA) -12%
Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA) -10%
Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) -40%
Rep. John Duncan (R-TN) -5%
Rep. Scott Garrett (D-NJ) -26%
Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA) -12%
Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX) -32%
Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) -10%
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) -12%
Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) -6%
Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-MN) -9%
Rep. J. D. Hayworth (R-AZ) -26%
Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN) -7%
Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC) -6%
Rep. Ernest Istook (R-OK) -8%
Rep. William Jenkins (R-TN) -5%
Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) -9%
Rep. John Kline (R-MN) -9%
Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL) -20%
Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-OH) -7%
Rep. Donald Manzullo (R-IL) -20%
Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA) -40%
Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) -16%
Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC) -9%
Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) -32%
Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) -9%
Rep. Todd Platts (R-PA) -9%
Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) -10%
Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-MN) -9%
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) -40%
Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) -40%
Rep. Jim Ryun (R-KS) -9%
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) -32%
Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) -9%
Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) -16%
Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) -9%
Rep. Roger Wicker (R-MS) -4%

We have know for quite some time that many of those who voice the loudest opposition to immigrants rights and comprehensive reform come from areas least effected by growing immigrant populations. The American Immigration Law Foundation did an excellent study of the voting patterns of those House members who voted for HR4437 and found that Representatives from district with few undocumented immigrants supported the bill while those with large undocumented populations opposed it.

Representatives From Districts With Fewer Than 5,000 Undocumented Immigrants Were Most Likely To Support The Bill

There are 96 congressional districts that have fewer than 5,000 undocumented immigrants. Most of these districts are largely rural and located in sections of Appalachia, the Midwest, and the Mississippi Valley that are experiencing little economic growth and low levels of immigration in general. Constituents in many of these districts face tough economic times, but the cause is not immigration. Immigrants are attracted to regions of economic dynamism and job expansion. This is why greater numbers of undocumented immigrants are found in western states that have agricultural, livestock, fishing, and tourist economies that need the kinds of less-skilled labor that undocumented immigrants often provide.

Undocumented immigrants in the 96 lowest-immigration districts make up no more than 0.8 percent of the population (each of the 435 congressional districts has roughly the same total population: about 650,000 as of 20001). The votes on H.R. 4437 in these districts tell you something about immigration politics in the United States today. The supposed threat from undocumented immigration is enough to rally voters and move levers of power even in areas where the actual impact is minuscule. Among representatives from districts with the smallest populations of undocumented immigrants, 74 percent (71 out of 96) voted for the bill: 90 percent of Republicans (56 out of 62) and 44 percent of Democrats (15 out of 34)

Representatives From Districts With More Than 50,000 Undocumented Immigrants Were Most Likely To Oppose The Bill

The voting pattern of the representatives from the 61 congressional districts with 50,000 or more undocumented immigrants tells a different story. These districts for the most part are located in densely populated urban areas such as New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and are relatively small in geographic size compared to rural districts that include many counties. In these high-immigration districts, the undocumented alone can account for as much as one-fifth of the total population. As a result, representatives who hail from these areas are familiar with undocumented immigrants and their impact on local communities. Among representatives from districts with the largest populations of undocumented immigrants, a mere 5 percent (3 out of 61) supported the bill: none of the 53 Democrats and only 3 of the 8 Republicans.

The inverse relationship between support for H.R. 4437 and the actual presence of undocumented immigrants in a representative’s district represents a widespread voting pattern. Among all Democrats, those who voted in favor of the bill had roughly 10,000 undocumented immigrants in their districts. Democrats who opposed the bill, on the other hand, had about 37,400. Among all Republicans, the same pattern holds: those voting for H.R. 4437 had an average of 14,500 undocumented immigrants in their districts, while those who voted against the bill had an average of 30,800


While playing around with the MLA linguistic map is neither as scientifically sound or comprehensive as the study done by AILF, it yields pretty much the same results and in fact is quite educational. I was not aware that there was an enclave of Yiddish speakers in central Washington State, or that there was a growing Filipino community in South Texas. For those with more ambition than I, it would be interesting to see the exact linguistic makeup of the various districts of House members who are most vocal about immigration. While I’m pretty sure we know the answer already it would make for an interesting study. Even in states that have high concentrations of non-English speakers, those concentrations don’t translate into across-the-boards numbers statewide. California for instance, while having a very large percent of non-English speakers still has many congressional districts that look no different than Arkansas or West Virginia. Additionally the map would be very useful in determining some the ethnic makeup of the Congressional districts in play to see exactly where immigrant voter registration drives might play an important role in upcoming elections. I’m sure I haven’t even touched the tip of iceberg as to the uses for this interactive tool, and recommend to anyone with a few extra moments to play around with it and see what you can find out … about your own area and others.

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Saturday, July 22, 2006

Minutemen not so vigilant when it comes to watching funds

At the end of May when perennial electoral failure Alan Keyes went to Palominas, AZ to join Minuteman Civil Defense Corps founder Chris Simcox at the groundbreaking ceremony for Minutemen's newest border fence project, everything looked promising in the world of border vigilantes. The immigrant marches and raging congressional debate only brought increased media coverage of the immigration issue that gave the Minutemen not only increased publicity, but a huge influx of cash from their base of disgruntled xenophobes. Now it appears that much of the money raised for fence building, binoculars, and beverages never reached the average minuteman on the street.

Apparently much of the $1.6 mil raised over the past fifteen months by Simcox is unaccounted for. Now leaders of the vigilante group want to know where the money is, and why it was funneled through Alan Keyes' Virginia based charity organization, Declaration Alliance.

(There's more)

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Over the Memorial Day weekend about three hundred border vigilantes gathered in the hot Arizona desert to listen to rousing speeches and begin their "work" securing the borders. Joining them was a who's-who of the anti-immigration movement including Rep. Steve King of Iowa, sponsor of the effort to scrap the renewal of the Voting Rights Act due its bilingual provisions, and Arizona governor candidate Don Goldwater who recently called for using incarcerated immigrants as workers to build border walls. One address they heard was that of failed presidential candidate and conservative commentator, Alan Keyes. Keyes spoke before the cheering crowd and thanked them for doing Gods work in saving America.

"And right now as America faces what I think is the greatest crisis of our institution in its history ... When a country loses the will to defend its borders, when a country loses the will to assert its identity, when a country loses the will to stand in defense of its way of life, that country is doomed....Now, I'm here to tell you right now that however we may sometimes feel discouraged, that however we may sometimes think that there is no hope, you need to remember that when we pray to God for a blessing, you have come forward to be the answer. You have come forward to be the defenders."

Now it appears that Keyes and Simcox may have had more on their minds than defending America against the "invading horde" from south of the border as they riled the faithful that weekend. Members of the vigilante group have raised serious question about where all the money raised since the groups founding in April of 2005 has gone.

The members say money promised for supplies like food, fuel, radios, night-vision scopes and binoculars never reached volunteers staffing observation posts to spot and report illegal border crossers.

“This movement is much too important to be lost over a question of finances,” Gary Cole, the Minutemen’s former national director of operations, told The Washington Times. “We can’t demand that the government be held accountable for failing to control the border if we can’t hold ourselves accountable for the people’s money.”

The organization has not released any financial statements or fund-raising records since it was created. Several of the group’s top lieutenants have either quit or threatened to do so, saying requests to the group’s president, Chris Simcox, for financial accountability have been ignored, The Times reported.

Mr. Cole said he personally collected “tens of thousands of dollars” in donations during the Minutemen’s 30-day April 2005 border vigil in Arizona. But he said that despite numerous requests, he was never told where the money went.

Mr. Cole said Mr. Simcox removed him as a national director of the border campaign “for asking too many questions about the money.”

Mike Gaddy, a retired Army veteran of Vietnam, Grenada and Beirut who helped organize the Minuteman's April 2005 border watch as a field coordinator, said he and other volunteers challenged Mr. Simcox on numerous occasions to come up with a financial accounting and are suspicious of the need for hiring outside consultants.

"When we heard he was hooking up with outside consultants, I pleaded with Simcox that he had to keep this thing squeaky clean because the Minuteman movement was essential to this nation's sovereignty," Mr. Gaddy said.

He said Mr. Simcox rejected his offer last year to personally pay for an audit to answer growing concern among the ranks about the group's finances. "He told me what he did was his business."

"Something is seriously wrong," he said. "I saw firsthand the dedication of the men and women who volunteered to stand these border watches, sometimes under very difficult circumstances, and proudly came to the conclusion that this is what America was all about. But a number of people I thought I could trust have since disappointed me."

Mr. Gaddy said he did not know how much money the organization had collected, but said, "It would be a substantial sum."
Washington Times

Both Keyes and Simcox deny any financial wrongdoing.

Keyes claims his organization handles the MCDC's finances through his organization because he "wished to do all in (his) power to assist the Minutemen's growth into a national civic movement as quickly as possible -- as the public exposure of the lawless state of our southern border is a matter of utmost urgency," he adding that his "organizational team has an established history of effective issues advocacy, grass-roots activism, political campaigning, financial accountability, regulatory compliance and fundraising." Additionally Keyes claims that the MCDC is still in the process of applying for IRS nonprofit status so it was advantageous to funnel the funds though his established organization.

As for his part, Simcox stated that he receives no salary from MCDC despite the fact that "hours of toil and sacrifice necessary to run this national organization" had taken a toll on his personal life and finances. Simcox claimed that he was forced to sell his newspaper, the Tombstone Tumbleweed due to the financial pressure.

"My present source of income has been the honorariums and fees received from organizations who request me for speaking engagements," Simcox said. "I have also received money from selling my life story for a movie that will soon go into production. Even with those combined sources of income, I have made just enough to keep my head above water." He added that any other information about his finances was no one's business.

Despite their denials of any wrongdoing, many questions remain unanswered.

Earlier this year, Vern Kilburn resigned as director of operations for the Minuteman's northern Texas sector because of what he called "professional differences with the management and business practices" of the MCDC national headquarters.

In a letter of resignation, he said Mr. Simcox and other Minuteman leaders offered "no acceptable answers" to concerns that he had about the management, accountability, ownership and the distribution of money for the Texas operation, adding that they were unable to verify Texas' share of the Minuteman donations.

Mr. Kilburn said that only two checks for $1,000 came from MCDC headquarters in October for the Texas operation and that other Minuteman leaders across the country "are having similar problems concerning money or the lack of."

Although he resigned as director of operations, he said he sought to remain with MCDC to continuing his work with "like-minded patriots" but was fired by Mr. Simcox. He declined to expand on his letter, saying only he "pretty much had my fill of the Minuteman as far as Chris Simcox goes."

Mr. Gaddy, Mr. Cole and Mr. Kilburn are among only a few Minuteman leaders and volunteers who have come forward publicly over questions about accountability. The vast majority declined to be identified for fear of hurting the movement.

"I have no interest in going on the record in this matter," said one top MCDC leader who heads one of the organization's most active groups. "I have a lot of the same questions and have never received answers that are satisfactory. I have been contemplating resigning for a number of reasons, and lack of public accountability is one of those reasons."
Washington Times

It appears that many leaders of the vigilante group have been asleep at the wheel while Simcox and Keyes have had free reign over the MCDC's finances. It is yet to be seen how the financial problems of the fledgling group of border ruffians will effect their ability to further their agenda of intimidation and fear, but I'm sure those who care about true immigration reform will not be shedding any tears over the minutemen's current dilemma.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Thoughts on W's recent birthday, and my own.

George Bush recently celebrated a milestone birthday, reaching his sixtieth year. Like him, I also passed a milestone about a month ago, reaching the half-century mark. This puts us both in good company with millions of fellow boomers, George at the front end of the generation, myself somewhat towards the back. Our parents were called the "greatest generation", we can only claim being the "largest," and as such, for better or worse have dominated much of American society and culture for the last forty years.

Passing this milestone got me thinking about how we got to our current political state. You see, being part of a not so exclusive club does give us boomers a unique perspective on just what's wrong the current ruling class in this country. Figuratively, we know these guys; we met them years ago hanging at parties, or at school. We know what they were into, how they fit it, where that stood in the cosmic order of things. I'll ask that you youngsters indulge me for a minute while I ramble on. To my fellow boomers... you'll know where I'm coming from as I ponder this topic.

Karl Rove 1969

Everyone else 1969

I rest my case.

"That's not fair," I can hear some youngsters saying, " not everyone was all "hippie-ish" with long hair, and freaky cloths, smoking pot and dancing around, no way ... they were a minority made famous by the media. Most young people back then probably looked more like young Karl, and besides ... you can't judge someone just by how they dress or how they look, that's wrong."

Sorry kids .... Wrong on both counts.

We ALL looked like freaks to a certain degree. We all wore hippie cloths and had long hair at one time or another. Your mom probably went to concerts, dressed in her peasant blouse and patched jeans and danced around barefoot like a whirling dervish. Dad had a big bushy mustache or muttonchops and smoked joints before, during and after the show. They most likely were not full-blown Hippies, riding on the bus with the Merry Pranksters, but they were part of what has now been termed; “the youth culture.”

As to judging a book by its cover, you have look at it with historical perspective. At that time we were in the mist of a REAL, full-blown culture war, not like the bizzaro-world one that goes on politically today, and like in any war, people wore uniforms to tell friend from foe. Our uniform was "freak." The opposition ... take a look at young Karl there.

But it goes some much deeper than that. At that time the music you listened to, your cloths, the books you read or movies you saw, all spoke volumes as to who you were, not only politically, but personally. Those so far removed from the mainstream youth culture were not individualists, or contrarians ...they were anti-social, misfits and miscreants.

The vast majority of us we had common social experiences that united us. We were the first TV generation and grew up watching the same shows from the big three networks. We were the rock n roll generation who grew up with our own rebellious musical art form that we all knew inside and out. It was our secret code. It not only spoke to us and about us, it gave us common ground and united us. We were a generation of tumultuous times. The civil rights movement, anti-war movement, womens rights, riots in the streets, the drug culture, these things effected our generational psyche. We were the first and last generation to be able to engage in sexual activity without the fear of pregnancy or life threatening diseases. These things gave our generation a sort of monolithic nature that to this day affects American culture. Our music still plays, our fashions once again find popularity with a younger generation; we're generally a cultural pain in the ass for those who have come after us.

This almost monolithic nature also allows us to do one other thing; spot those who were so out of the norm, so different from the rest of us that they remain to this day societal misfits. This is what we see in the current leadership of this nation; Just look at that picture of young Karl Rove.

Just think about this current crop of conservatives. What kind of 18 or 19 year old could have listened to Barry Goldwater in 1964 and said ... "Hell yeah.. That guy's got some good ideas there. In fact I'm going to idolize this guy and spend the rest of my life trying to bring HIS vision to reality."

Then there's Nixon in 68 or especially in 72?; How the hell at that time, could anyone under the age of thirty possibly support the most reviled man on earth?; Hell, he was burned in effigy on street corners daily just for fun, what kind of island of the misfit toys kind of person would have supported him. Yet these guys loved him.

And don't get me started on "A Hippie is someone who walks like Tarzan, looks like Jane and smells like Cheetah", cultural warrior, Governor Reagan. This guy was the anti-Christ long before sat in the oval office, yet these people worshipped the guy.

We boomers know who these guys are. They're the ones with the ironed, straight-legged jeans with cuffs when everyone else was wearing bells. They had a record collection that included "The Ray Conniff Singers sing Dylan", and "Up With People."

They'd never smoke pot because it would make them have "mutated children" and to them "Reefer Madness" really was a documentary.... And a damn accurate one too...thank you very much.

Yeah, we know these guys. They went to the movies and loved True Grit while everyone else was watching Easy Rider. We listened to Nashville Skyline until we could rattle off the lyrics in our sleep; they thought that "People" song by Barbara Streisand was kind of catchy. We watched Dick Cavett to see Janis, they liked Merv Griffin with Zsa Zsa.

I could go on infinitum ... the point is we boomers know these guys. We all met one or two of them. And you know what ... they always freaked us the fuck right out. You'd ask all your friends "Hey... you know that freakin guy?" and hope to God someone would say, "Oh yeah, don't mind him, he's OK ... he's my cousin, just visiting from Bumfuck".

Now, I know what you kids are going to say. "If you guys knew how fucked up these guys really were, why didn't you warn everyone". I don't know what to say... I guess maybe they were right about all that pot ruining your memory and all …sorry, just kidding

Perhaps it's just that at the time we thought so little of these outcasts and they were so weird that it never dawned on us that they would one day hold the reins of power.

One thing I do know ... when the right wing tries to paint themselves as mainstream representatives of their generation, and attempts to marginalize everyone else as some sort of out-there minority... I know better and the majority of my generation knows better also, if they cared to admit it. "Freak" was the norm then, and it's the repressed, social misfits that now run this country who always stood out from the crowd ... and not in a good way... more in a Norman Bates kind of way if you know what I mean.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Who really stalled the Voting Rights Act renewal?

Did an anti-immigrant site draft 'King letter?'
Letter signed by 79 GOP House members stalled Voting Rights Act renewal.

On Wednesday morning, June 21st, in an increasing common display of Republican disunity, 79 Representatives presented Judiciary Chairmen Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) with a letter stating that they would not support the renewal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Voicing opposition to the provisions for bilingual ballots contained in the forty-one year old landmark civil rights legislation, the rebellious Republican Representatives refused to lend their votes until the requirements were removed.


It now appears some questions have come to light about exactly who is behind both the King letter and the effort to shelve the renewal of the VRA. The official copy of the letter that appears on the web site of the US Congress (www. apparently was not generated by a house member or their staff, but rather by one of the leading anti-immigration/English only advocacy groups.

The copy of the letter that originally appeared on the House of Representatives web site appears to have been authored by someone named KC McAlpin using a computer registered to the anti-immigration advocacy group NumbersUSA. KC McAlpin is the Executive Director of an organization called ProEnglish


The group is one of thirteen like-minded organizations founded by anti-immigrant advocate John Tanton. Tanton’s multi-million dollar web of groups includes not only ProEnglish and NumbersUSA, but also the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and the Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR).


John Tanton has been credited for single-handedly creating the modern anti-immigration, English-only and Nativist political movements in the United States. Over thirty years he has managed to create a network of think tanks, advocacy groups and fund raising organizations that not only shape public opinion, but public policy. His experts testify before Congress and reports and studies by his various groups are used to formulate legislation. His pundits appear in all forms of media to pontificate and propagandize. By his own admission he says, "I would certainly have no reservations about claiming credit for being the guy secretly manipulating U.S. immigration policy."


Although he claims to do so only because he believes that "the overwhelming majority of Americans … want to see immigration levels reduced," his motivations seem to stem from a firm belief that America is in peril due to a worldwide trend of third-world populations taking over the wealthy first-world nations. His philosophy contains a strange mix of environmentalism, protectionism, xenophobia, eugenics, and racism. A philosophy he has been able turn into a political movement though his network of organizations. This network includes both organizations founded by Tanton himself and those started by others that he takes under his wing and then integrates into his network and funds

Complete story available at ePluribus Media

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Saturday, June 17, 2006

Getting to the root of the problem

Today there is much discussion about what many are terming an "immigration crisis" in America. Undocumented immigrants flood over the borders daily risking their lives, and sometimes losing them, in order to find work and security in the United States. Perhaps upwards to a million undocumented people each year find a way, whether it be by overstaying a visa, or crossing hundreds of miles deadly desert, to enter this country in hopes of making a better life.

Americans of all political stripes are concerned about this situation and there is great division on exactly how to solve the problem. Some have advocated a tightening of security and closing of the porous border as a solution. Others have promoted a method to regulate and legitimize the flow of the undocumented. But there is one thing missing in both of these strategies. Neither contains any analysis of why this problem exists, and more importantly, why at this time in our history this influx of new immigrants is causing such great concern for the American people. Neither group seems concerned with root causes.

The number of immigrants has not really changed
Throughout our history we have encountered many waves of immigration. In fact all of us can trace our roots back to foreign shores. The number of new immigrants who come today, both entering through proper channels and the undocumented, is no greater as a percentage of population than at many other times during our history. From the mid-nineteenth century, through the first thirty years of the last, immigrants represented about13% of the total population; today that number is 11%. Certainly our earlier immigrants were not rich, and most had limited education, but they like our current crop of immigrants, had the drive and determination to seek out a better life. This influx of new vitality and ambition has been a cornerstone on which the nation was build. So why today do we find ourselves in the middle of what some would term a crisis?

What is different today then during past immigration waves?
Historically there have always been a small minorities of the closed minded who've oppose immigration for xenophobic or racists reason, but generally we as a people have accepted new immigrants with open arms and absorbed them into society. Yet, today we find this harder and harder to do. Many believe the new immigrants are putting undo pressures on our economy, creating stresses on a tight job market, and stretching already taxed social services and education systems. Why today do we find it so hard to absorb these new immigrants? Why at a time in our history, when we have never been richer as a nation and more educated as a population, do we find these new immigrants putting such great stresses on our society? Perhaps we need to look at some of the changes that have taken place over the last twenty-five or so years to find the answer.

(There's more)

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The systematic assault on working and middle class Americans
Over the past twenty five years it appears that there's been a systematic assault upon the working and middle classes of this nation which now leaves many vulnerable and in a position where they must compete for an ever decreasing pool of resources. At one time, a family could live comfortably on the income of one earner, but today it takes two just to make ends meet. A guaranteed pension for retirement is no longer the norm. A union card no longer guarantees a lifetime of job security. Health insurance costs have become an overwhelming concern for both workers and employers and forty five million Americans in fact go without any. A job with one of the nation's largest companies no longer means yearly raises and increased benefits; in fact it doesn’t even guarantee job security. An advanced degree no longer means a career in your chosen field. Today working and middle class Americans can expect plant closings and layoffs, pay cuts and increased hours, loss of benefits and outsourcing. They can expect economists to talk about "jobless recoveries" and increased productivity. It is no wonder that many working class Americans are feeling the added stresses of our new modern global economy. It is also no wonder that they are ready to lash out against those they feel they must now compete against. Our nation is sick, and current "immigration crisis" is not the cause of this national illness, but just another symptom of it.

Who is responsible for this situation?
Who or what could have caused our national illness? The answer is simple … the economic and social policies of those who claim to be Conservatives. Of course, many working class Americans might scoff at this idea. Certainly a philosophy of smaller government, personal responsibility and free market economics sounds appealing to many, and on face value alone is quite in line with the principles on which our nation was founded. But in practice, what these so called Conservatives have done with this philosophy has been the antithesis of what the founders had in mind. These Conservatives have used this philosophy to consolidate economic and political power in the hands of the few at the expense of the many. They have turned the ideals of fair play and Christian charity upside down and transformed them into grotesque parodies. They have taken two hundred years of struggle to raise the standard of living for the average American and thrown it to the winds in the name of "fiscal responsibility" and "smaller government." All along being neither fiscally responsible nor providing smaller government.

How did they do this?
How did these self-proclaimed Conservatives wage this war on the working and middle class? It started in the eighties with two policies; deregulation and union busting. Then continued with more failed and flawed policies right up until our present day.

Union Busting
Starting with the firing of the air traffic controllers in 1981, Conservatives have set forth an agenda through legislation and judicial decisions to slowly disassemble the American labor movement. At the time many Americans supported the idea, feeling that unions had become too powerful, corrupt and greedy, but the results of this policy have had devastating effects on American workers. Ever since then the number of union households has been steadily declining. At the beckoning of corporate interests, Conservatives have managed to take what was once the bulwark of working class America, the very entity that allowed millions of American workers to move themselves or their children into the middle class and render it powerless.

Under the guise of increased competition and lower prices through free market forces, Conservatives began a campaign of deregulation. They would no longer allow the government to regulate business, but rather leave it up to the free market. Again, on paper this practice looked reasonable, but under their control we have ended up with the reverse. Instead of government controlling business, we now have business controlling government. We have allowed business combinations that rival any of those of the Robber Barons of the late nineteenth century. We have seen regulated monopolies in the energy, telecom, airline and other industries destroyed, only to recombine into unregulated monsters like Enron. We have seen the merger of mega oil companies that are larger than those of Rockefeller's Standard Oil, who make profits that would make King Midis blush, while the average American can't afford to fill up his gas tank.

Globalization and outsourcing
The next logical step after deregulation for Conservatives was globalization and the taking of their idea of the free market economy, without any government regulation, to a global scale. Conservatives passed legislation and trade agreements that allowed their huge multinational masters to operate with impunity throughout the world. They have allowed companies like Halliburton to set up shadow entities on foreign soil to avoid paying taxes. They’ve allowed American businesses to sell American jobs to the lowest bidder on the global market all on the name of free market economics.

Rewriting the tax codes and starving the beast
Conservatives often say that the only thing wrong with government is government, and promise to lower taxes, reduce the size of government, and be fiscally responsible. Yet, after years of Conservative leadership we have the largest government in US history, a record federal deficit and a record national debt reaching 9 trillion dollars. The only part of their philosophy they seem to be able to stick too is tax cuts. They have systematically worked over the last twenty-five years to shift the tax burden from both big business and the top 1% of the nation's wealthiest people and place it on the middle and working class. They have consistently rewarded corporations and the rich with larger and larger tax breaks. Through cuts in funding to education, health and human services and many other state and local programs they have managed to shift the tax burden down to the local level so that the now average Americans pay more in real estate, state and local, use and sales taxes than ever before. They have not given the American people "back their money" as they claim, but rather forced them to just pay more to other government agencies.

The other aspect of the Conservative tax cutting agenda has been to use cuts as a means to, as they term it; "starve the beast". It's been conservative policy to try to assure that social programs for education, childcare, healthcare and the poor are "starved to death" due to the lack of available federal funds. Their philosophy has resulted in huge benefits for the rich while programs that working and middle class Americans rely on are cut. The best example of this is public education, where Conservatives have consistently cut funding while placing ever more increasing demands upon the system.

Another big concern for average Americans is healthcare and its skyrocketing costs. Conservative deregulation and free market philosophies have influenced this also. While fighting vehemently against any form of a national healthcare program, they have through legislation and governmental agencies, allowed large pharmaceutical manufactures and healthcare conglomerates to set the agenda. National health policy has been allowed to be written by insurance companies and other corporate interests rather than physicians and medical professionals.

But what does all this have to do with immigration?
These Conservative policies have had devastating effects on the working and middle classes, yet in order to remain in power Conservatives have tried to shift the blame. Every problem that is claimed to be a result of the "immigration crisis" can be seen to have its roots in Conservative economic and social policies. Conservatives have been trying to convince the American people that it is the immigrants who put all the stresses on education, social services and healthcare institutions and that they take jobs from American workers and drive down wages. But it must be understood that while immigrants do highlight the problems of working class Americans, they haven’t caused them. All these problems can be seen as direct results of twenty-five years of Conservative policy. This is obvious when you look at the ROOT CAUSES. The Republican controlled Congress for the last ten years has exacerbated the situation by rubber-stamping every Conservative policy that has come down the pike. With each passing year they have taken more and more from working Americans and given it to their corrupt corporate masters. Now there is nothing left, and the American working man and woman knows it. They just need to stop buying into the Conservatives "blame game" and look at the ROOT CAUSES of their problems.

What can we do?
We, as a nation need to stop letting those who don't have our best interests at heart to control the agenda. We must not allow them to divide us along lines of class, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender. We must not allow then to misdirect us or mislead us with appeals to our patriotism or national pride. We must not let them blame the symptoms rather than the disease. The "immigration crisis" is just another symptom of a far greater disease … the disease of a Conservative agenda that favors the rich and big business over average Americans. Immigrants certainly put added stresses on society and highlight the problems of the now decimated social programs, education and health care systems, but they did not cause the national illness.

How do we "fix" immigration?
Fixing our broken immigration system will not be easy, and it will be a long hard process. Again just as in the case of working Americans, one key must be to look for the ROOT CAUSES OF THE PROBLEM. We must look at the reasons why millions of people every year risk their lives to come here? What is it about their countries of origin that make them so desperate to leave? Particularly in the case of Mexico, it’s a nation that has the 13th largest economy in the world, ahead of 167 other nations. They also are the second largest recipients of direct investment by US companies in the hemisphere. On top of this Mexico has vast amounts of untapped natural resources and oil reserves that rival those of any Middle Eastern power. So why do their people live in poverty? Why must they come here simply to survive? Could it be precisely because they are the second largest recipients of direct investment by US big business? Could it be because Conservative trade and economic policies have been crafted to favor the business elite and the rich of Mexico, just as they favor them here? Could it be because Conservative policies help perpetuate a system that leaves 55% of the countries wealth in the hands of 20% of its people? These are all things that need to be addressed when looking at the “immigration crisis”.

A new plan
In order to fix our nations problems we need to stop treating symptoms and start treating the disease. No “immigration plan”, be it a wall, arrests or amnesty is going to ever solve the “immigration crisis”. Only when the American people begin to demand a change in the paradigm will solutions be found. Only when government is returned to its rightful role as protector of the rights and interests of ALL Americans, not just the privileged few, can we begin to fix the problems that face us. It is only then that we can do something about the root causes both here and abroad that have brought on this “immigration crisis

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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Deconstructing a weapon of mass distraction: Immigration

Having spent some time reviewing the leaked conservative talking points on immigration reform put forward by Republican spinmeister Frank Luntz, one can only be awestruck by the right-wings’ ability to frame and manipulate an issue. “Respect for the Law & Economic Fairness: Illegal Immigration Prevention” is a brilliant piece of political propaganda. In twenty-five pages Luntz manages to hit upon a multitude of tried and true conservative frames. He starts with some classic “mom and apple pie” themes, such as Security, Law and Order, Personal Accountability and Respect for the Rule of Law. He then adds in some of the conservatives favorite “hidden” themes like racism, the economic victimization of average Americans by liberal policies, minority abuse of social services, minorities receiving “special privileges” or treatment, fear, and of course the new favorite; terrorism. In the end he manages to draw a clear line from Reagans “welfare queen”, through George Sr.’s “Willie Horton” right to Tom Tancredo’s “invading hordes” all without once having to stoop to ever having to say the words, or true meanings behind the inferences.

Contained in Luntz’s blueprint is a virtual laundry list of societal and economic woes he directs his conservative brethren to blame squarely on the influx of “illegal aliens” coming over border.

It comes as no epiphany that the whole “immigration crisis” is for the most part a fabrication of the right intended to distract the American electorate from their growing disenchantment with Republican and conservative policy. Luntz’s polling shows that thus far the campaign has been quite effective in misdirecting the American people’s wrath. According to Luntz, "While a majority of Americans believe it is the economic consequences of illegal immigration that is doing the most damage, it’s the “principle of prevention” that the public sees as the most important solution." But if we look at exactly what the "economic consequences of illegal immigration" are, we see a series of failures of conservative policy.

(There's more)

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Herein, might lay the Achilles’ heel in the conservative armor. Almost without fail every problem they wish to put at the feet of “illegal aliens” is in fact a result of failed conservative policy for the past thirty years. Job loss, deficits, a failed healthcare system, failing schools, failed social safety net, inequitable tax system, the downward economic spiral of working and middle-class Americans, lack of regulation of business, lack of security, and the increased competition for ever decreasing economic resources by those at the lower end of the economic scale, can all be seen as the direct results of conservative policies.

Perhaps to counter Luntz’s strategy we need to reexamine how we have been dealing with this issue so far. Up to now we have done pretty much what we always do when the conservatives lie and misdirect the American people: we try to educate them. When Tancredo says “illegal aliens, don’t pay taxes and collect welfare”, we counter back with statistics, and studies to demonstrate the opposite. We explain that undocumented immigrants don’t qualify for most government assistance, and in fact there is no “welfare" anymore. We rely on facts … we remain card carrying members of the reality based world. We firmly believe that we will eventually break through and the American people will see the truth. But that strategy has failed us for thirty years.

Perhaps it’s time for a little Sun Tsu thinking.

When we try to argue the merits of comprehensive reform or the impracticality or inhumanity of the conservatives immigration plan, we are not attacking their weakness, but rather the shield they are using to deflect the discontent caused by their own failed policies. We need to stop attacking the shield and instead focus on their true weakness. The root causes of the peoples dissatisfaction. That is the weapon for which they have no defense.

When Lutnz says:

“I think it’s important when we discuss illegal immigration to do so not out of anger but out of compassion. Out of compassion for people who came here legally, out of compassion for American citizens who’ve been here for generations and watch as their kids have to suffer through overcrowded schools, as they have to deal with overcrowded hospitals, as they have to face overcrowded streets and highways.

I do have compassion for illegal immigrants, but if I have to choose, I’m going to choose American citizens first, and we need to hold the system and the government accountable if they cannot get control of the borders.”


Economic revitalization starts with immigration reform.
“Our huge deficits are driven in part by the increased costs of social services for illegal immigrants who don’t pay their fair share. In fact, nearly 60% of those polled believe that illegal immigrants “use more in services than they pay in taxes so they are partially responsible for the deficit.” Fix the immigration problem and we begin to fix the economy. Fix the immigration problem and we reduce the cost of government. Fix the immigration problem and taxpayers get the break they deserve.”

We need to deconstruct Luntz’s assertions and attack their root causes.

For example when he blames undocumented children for overcrowded classrooms, we need to turn the argument around. We should be replying:

Every parent and educator in America knows our education system is failing. In some states and cities undocumented children do put some added stress on that failing system. Yet, they only represent slightly over three percent of the school-aged population in this nation, but overcrowding, and a lack of resources due to government under funding can be seen throughout the country. Conservatives have continually cut funds for education in the name of fiscal responsibility, while they run up record deficits. They have shifted the burden down to the municipalities increasing local taxes. They have mandated costly federal programs, yet fail to fund them. Our schools are indeed suffering, but not because 3 out of 100 little children are undocumented, but rather because conservatives have abandoned our education system

When Luntz speaks of overcrowded hospitals and emergency rooms, we should use the same model. We should be replying:

All Americans know our health system is in shambles. Skyrocketing costs, the price of prescription drugs, and a growing number of uninsured only demonstrate this fact. Undocumented immigrants do add to the problem but they are not the root of it. There are over 45 million Americans who lack any health insurance. These Americans are forced to rely on emergency rooms as their primary health care providers, often only going when easily treated conditions have become serious and expensively treated ones. Skyrocketing insurance costs have driven down real wages for American workers and have forced businesses small and large to lay off workers and in some cases close. Conservatives have ignored our healthcare system for years, instead choosing to work hand in hand with big drug companies and healthcare providers, giving them sweetheart deals and tax breaks at the expense of average working Americans. Our healthcare system is broken, but not because undocumented immigrants join millions of uninsured Americans in our overcrowded emergency rooms, but because conservatives have chosen to side with big business over average Americans.

As to Luntz's assertion that “Our huge deficits are driven in part by the increased costs of social services for illegal immigrants who don’t pay their fair share … Fix the immigration problem and we begin to fix the economy. Fix the immigration problem and we reduce the cost of government. Fix the immigration problem and taxpayers get the break they deserve.”

This one is almost laughable … in fact if confronted with it, any Democratic or progressive spokesperson should do just that….laugh. The reply is easy:

Conservatives over the past six years have taken a $230 billion dollar surplus and turned it into well over an 8 TRILLION dollar deficit, mostly underwritten by hostile foreign nations. To try to shift the blame for such gross mismanagement of our nation's economic future on undocumented immigrants who make up only 4% of our population is ridiculous. They would have had to EACH use BILLIONS of dollars of public services to even make the SLIGHTEST meaningful contribution to such a large debt. Conservatives have created the largest, costliest, and most inefficient government in all of history. This cannot be blamed on 12 million, hardworking, people looking to make a better life, but rather on the failed policies and mismanagement of our conservative leaders.

The rest of Luntz's talking points should be treated in the same manner:

On "Security" we should reply: The "border" extends well beyond the area between San Diego and El Paso, it stretches all along thousand of miles of coastline from Maine to Florida, from Washington state to Baja California, across the north with Canada and Great Lakes and includes our seaports and airports. None of these areas have been secured by conservative leaders. 2.5 billion tons of uncheck cargo enter our nation yearly both by sea and air. When given the opportunity they chose to turn over our port security to foreign companies. Our conservative leadership now chooses to concentrate all efforts and resources on preventing undocumented immigrants from crossing our southern border at the cost of true security. Security is important, but conservatives have not focused on it for the five years since 9-11, and now want to concentrate on migrants crossing a deadly desert looking for work rather than terrorists who fly here first class to attack our country.

On "Rule of Law" we should reply to quote Luntz: “Those who flaunt the rule of law should be held accountable." Accountability applies to all Americans not just immigrants who cross the border illegally. Our Conservative leadership has recently shown a flagrant disregard for the Rule of Law. From Corporate boardrooms where CEO's steal millions from hardworking Americans while working hand in hand with conservative politicians, to Washington where a culture of corruption prevails, we have seen in the last six years of conservative leadership complete lawlessness and a lack of accountability. The American people want everyone to have respect for the rule of law. This goes for the migrant worker who sneaks across the border to pick fruit all the way up to the highest leadership in the halls of power.

While I'm no evil political genius like Luntz or Rove, I do believe there is method to defeat their spin. I think the key to dealing with Republican talking points is:

• Continually use their own words against them.

• Always turn the issue into one about their failures

• Republican ALWAYS equals "conservative"

• Conservative ALWAYS equals failure

• Play by their rules, not ours. Don't try to educate

• Facts are good, emotion is better.

• Don't let them scapegoat, it's always about them … not their victim

I think if we followed these simple rules we might just be able to take some of the steam out of the great right wing noise machine.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Today we march, tomorrow we vote: A suggestion for Democrats

Over the past few weeks over two million people have taken to the streets in cities large and small across this country. On Monday perhaps another two million will join that number. Yet, despite this obviously growing movement, the Democratic Party, both the mainstream component in Washington , and that more "progressive" segment represented in the liberal blogosphere, have been blind to the seismic shift taking place right before their very eyes. It's time to wake up and see the great opportunity that’s been presented to not only do the right thing morally and ethically – but also politically.

When millions of people take to the streets, organized only through a grassroots movement, to protest a Republican sponsored bill, passed by an overwhelming Republican majority in the House of Representatives, that was opposed by the majority of Democrats in both the House and Senate – and Democrats don't see that as an opportunity – either they are totally out of touch, or just plain stupid.

What are these protests really about? The answer is simple; H.R. 4437 and its draconian provisions to make all undocumented immigrants and those who would help them into criminals. That's it – nothing more, nothing less.

Over the past year or so I've had more than my fair share of debates about immigration reform, and quite frankly I'm done arguing. To those Democrats who support the enforcement only, wall building, "what part of illegal don't you understand?" school of thought – I say fine, that's your opinion and you're welcome to it. Nothing I can ever say will ever change your mind, and I seriously doubt you could ever change mine, so we'll have to agree to disagree and call it a day.

But ... to all the rest who support some form of a comprehensive, humane and practical immigration policy I say … What the hell are you waiting for?

Why are you standing by idly while a potential political revolution is passing you by?

If 2 million people took to the streets tomorrow to protest against the war, the PATRIOT act, political corruption or any number of other Republican sponsored travesties, we as a party would be cheering. Yet when millions march through the streets with signs that say "Stop HR4436" we hem and haw.

Despite what Lou Dobbs might say, the marches are not about "illegal aliens" trying to demand "rights they're not entitled to." These marches are made up all kinds of people. Some are undocumented, some are the citizen children, wives, husbands and friends of the undocumented. Many others are second, third or forth generation Americans who feel the tone of this debate has turned nasty, and in many ways the attacks upon the undocumented immigrants reveals an underlying racism that has always laid just beneath the surface. Still others are humanitarians and people of faith who feel that the criminalization of the most vulnerable in society and those who serve them is morally wrong.

The one thing all these people have in common is their vehement opposition to a piece of REPUBLICAN LEGISLATION and their support for the comprehensive immigration reform that is overwhelmingly supported by Democrats in Washington. To me that sounds like democracy at work.

On Sunday 500,000 people marched in Dallas. That's 500,000 out of a population of approximately 1.3 million. That's more than 40%. Certainly even Mr. Dobbs can't believe that over 40% of the population of Dallas is made up entirely of "illegal aliens". Obviously this issue has touched a nerve with a large number of American voters…. Let's say that together now: V…O…T…E…R…S.

There's a reason why one of the slogans for this movement has been "today we march…tomorrow we vote" – because that's exactly what's going to happen.

Why are we as a party not embracing this movement? Why aren't we actively out there trying to register new voters? Why can't we see that these are the people who are fighting OUR battle ... and we should be fighting it with them?

In a day when national elections are fought in "key battleground states" where both parties vie for favor from smaller and smaller groups, why are we ignoring millions upon millions of people?

For arguments sake, lets say that only one in four of those who've already marched is an eligible voter who is unregistered or apathetic (I would believe it's much higher, but I'll lowball just to be safe), that's more than half a million potential new voters. What would 500,000 votes have meant in 2000 or 2004? What will half a million or more mean this November?

This to me is a no-brainer.

The demonstrators want comprehensive immigration reform – most of the Democratic legislators and all its leadership want comprehensive immigration reform. The demonstrators oppose HR 4437, Republicans support HR4437. What more do we need to know.

The Republicans set up the immigration issue as a distraction and wedge to try to divide the American people and provide them with an imaginary enemy to demonize and blame for failing Republican policies. I say it's jujitsu time, it's time to turn this issue back in on them.

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Monday, April 03, 2006

Anatomy of a wedge issue: immigration

In order to truly understand all the nuances and complexities of the current immigration debate it would seem that one would need to have a working knowledge of the current immigration laws, the economic ramifications of immigration both legal and illegal, and be familiar with the foreign policy and trade agreements that effect the countries of origin of the current crop of undocumented immigrants.

Or maybe you would just have to understand how Republicans play political hardball, how the Rovian reptilian mind works and to what extremes they are willing go to stay in power.

On November 3, 2004 , the day after eleven states had run referendums on their ballots to ban gay marriage, the right-wing powers that be must have felt pretty good about themselves. They had successfully taken what should have been a non-issue, and turned it into a referendum on "moral decay", "family values" and the "destruction of the family". They had fabricated an issue they could put before close to one fifth the electorate and be assured it would bring out an army of the faithful to pull the lever for a Republican candidate who would protect them from those pushing "the gay agenda" and ruining America with their "out of touch", liberal, Hollywood ideology.

The pundits analyzed the election ad nauseam and for weeks all we heard about were "values voters" and how liberals just didn't "get it". It was a diabolically brilliant plan. For many there was no need to debate about war, a failing economy, deficits, Presidential lies or overreach, no reason to talk about missing WMDs, or insurgencies; instead, it was an election about whether two people of the same sex should be afforded the right to marry.

The plan did what it was supposed to do… it brought out the "base." The Republicans had pulled off a cheap magician's parlor trick and misdirected many from the important issues and instead had them concentrate on something that for the most part had no effect on their daily lives.

Now though, the Republicans were faced with a problem. What could possibly be the follow-up to such a successful act, how could they craft a sequel to top it? They had already played the fear card with their "keeping you safe from terrorism" and "everything changed on 9-11" rhetoric, and now the "values" card had been played also. It looked like the Republican deck was getting slim. But, au contraire…when all else fails in the Republican playbook …the answer is to return to your roots and go back to the tried and true, the one thing that always works….Willie Horton….or in this case Juan Hortona.

The answer they came up with was the not so subtle mix of race, fear, xenophobic populism and the backlash to a bad economy and globalization that now constitutes "The immigration debate". They would put together a coalition of old school racists, economically marginalized middle and working-class Americans who have been left behind in the new "flat world" economy of outsourcing and globalization, those most effected by the destruction of the US manufacturing base and those who have suffered most from the conservatives conscious effort to shift wealth from the middle to upper classes and then present them with a new enemy on which to channel their discontent. In other words a classic wedge issue.

Who's behind the immigration issue

To understand the way this plan is now playing out one need only take a quick look at two recently released studies that show how this dynamic is playing out and just how those least effected by the "broken borders" and increased flow of undocumented immigrants are the very people leading the charge to close them.

A new analysis of Congressional voting patterns by The American Immigration Law Foundation shows that those representing districts least likely affected by the influx of undocumented immigrants are the first to champion restrictive immigration policies.

An analysis of the Congressional representatives who supported the draconian House enforcement only bill,HR 4437 reveals that those representing districts with the fewest number undocumented immigrants generally supported the restrictive immigration plan, while those with large numbers of undocumented immigrants in their districts were more apt to oppose it.

Representatives From Districts With Fewer Than 5,000 Undocumented Immigrants Were Most Likely To Support The Bill

There are 96 congressional districts that have fewer than 5,000 undocumented immigrants. Most of these districts are largely rural and located in sections of Appalachia, the Midwest, and the Mississippi Valley that are experiencing little economic growth and low levels of immigration in general. Constituents in many of these districts face tough economic times, but the cause is not immigration. Immigrants are attracted to regions of economic dynamism and job expansion. This is why greater numbers of undocumented immigrants are found in western states that have agricultural, livestock, fishing, and tourist economies that need the kinds of less-skilled labor that undocumented immigrants often provide.

Undocumented immigrants in the 96 lowest-immigration districts make up no more than 0.8 percent of the population (each of the 435 congressional districts has roughly the same total population: about 650,000 as of 20001). The votes on H.R. 4437 in these districts tell you something about immigration politics in the United States today. The supposed threat from undocumented immigration is enough to rally voters and move levers of power even in areas where the actual impact is miniscule. Among representatives from districts with the smallest populations of undocumented immigrants, 74 percent (71 out of 96) voted for the bill: 90 percent of Republicans (56 out of 62) and 44 percent of Democrats (15 out of 34)

Representatives From Districts With More Than 50,000 Undocumented Immigrants Were Most Likely To Oppose The Bill

The voting pattern of the representatives from the 61 congressional districts with 50,000 or more undocumented immigrants tells a different story. These districts for the most part are located in densely populated urban areas such as New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and are relatively small in geographic size compared to rural districts that include many counties. In these high-immigration districts, the undocumented alone can account for as much as one-fifth of the total population. As a result, representatives who hail from these areas are familiar with undocumented immigrants and their impact on local communities. Among representatives from districts with the largest populations of undocumented immigrants, a mere 5 percent (3 out of 61) supported the bill: none of the 53 Democrats and only 3 of the 8 Republicans.

The inverse relationship between support for H.R. 4437 and the actual presence of undocumented immigrants in a representative’s district represents a widespread voting pattern. Among all Democrats, those who voted in favor of the bill had roughly 10,000 undocumented immigrants in their districts. Democrats who opposed the bill, on the other hand, had about 37,400. Among all Republicans, the same pattern holds: those voting for H.R. 4437 had an average of 14,500 undocumented immigrants in their districts, while those who voted against the bill had an average of 30,800

Overall 67% of all those who supported the bill from both parties came from districts with fewer than 15,000 undocumented immigrants while 62% of those opposed came from districts with more than 15,000.

Voters proximity to immigrants effects perceptions and attitudes

A new report released last week by the Pew Research Center entitled "America's Immigration Quandary" reveals what common sense would lead us to assume: Those with the least contact with immigrants have the most negative opinions about them and feel they are a threat to the American way of life. The survey was taken during the period February 8 – March 7, 2006, prior to the current heating up of the issue due to increased media attention.

The survey finds a complex relationship between exposure to immigrants and opinions about them and the immigration problem, more generally. People who live in areas that have high concentrations of immigrants are less likely to see them as a burden to society and a threat to traditional American customs and values. However, they are more apt than others to see immigration as an important problem for their local community.

In sharp contrast, native-born Americans who live in areas with few immigrants understandably are less inclined to see immigration as a local problem. However, many more of those in areas with relatively low concentrations of foreign-born people see immigrants as a burden to the nation and as a threat to American customs. People living in areas with few immigrants have a considerably more negative opinion of Hispanics and a slightly more negative view of Asians.


Moreover, native-born Americans who live in areas with the highest concentration of immigrants hold more positive opinions of them. Analysis of the survey indicates that their more favorable views do not merely reflect their demographics or political composition, but suggests that exposure to and experience with immigrants results in a better impression of them. However, Americans living in areas with more immigrants rank immigration as a bigger community problem.

And while there is concern about the impact of immigration on the availability of jobs, nearly two-thirds (65%) say that immigrants coming to the country mostly take jobs that Americans do not want, rather than take jobs away from Americans. In this regard, the recent influx of immigrants into such metropolitan areas as Phoenix, Las Vegas and Raleigh-Durham has not undermined the generally positive perceptions residents have of the local job market.

The most telling statistic was how important most Americans viewed the issue. While 21% said immigration had an effect on their community only 4% viewed it as a major problem facing the country.

In general, however, the issue of immigration is not a top-tier problem for most Americans. Just 4% volunteer it as the most important problem facing the country, far fewer than the number mentioning the war in Iraq, dissatisfaction with the government, terrorism, and several other issues

What we appear to have with the "immigration debate" is an issue that most Americans don't find very important, being moved to the front of the political agenda by politicians from areas least effected by immigrants and representing a constituency that although they have little practical reason for concern feel that immigrants somehow threaten their way of life. Or as we like to say a classic Republican wedge issue of misdirection.

The BIG picture, we're all being played

There are many who will offer up anecdotal evidence about their cousin who lost his job hanging drywall at $20 an hour because immigrants work far cheaper, or their brother who can't find an IT job because the market is flooded with foreigners with H-1b visas. I would not argue that in some cases the failures of US immigration policy have had an adverse effect on some sectors of the native workforce, particularly those from the most vulnerable segments of the population, those with the lowest educational levels, from minority communities and from in areas of economic depression due to the loss of manufacturing jobs. Others will tell stories of how they waited in a hospital emergency room for hours when their child broke a finger at a softball game because the staff was overwhelmed with a mass of humanity looking for treatment of common illnesses. Again I won't argue.. the healthcare system in this nation is a mess and yes undocumented immigrants only add to the 45 mil uninsured Americans who are forced to use our nations emergency rooms as their primary source of medical care.

But … I would put forward this test for all those who the favor the "tough" approach to immigration reform favored by Tom Tancredo and Jim Sensenbrenner …. If all the undocumented immigrants in the nation were to leave tomorrow, all 12 million of them, would this solve ANY of this nations most basic economic and social problems.

  • Would it bring back the millions of good paying jobs that have been outsourced overseas?

  • Would it mean that quintessential US companies like GM would not be laying off thousands of workers and closing plants?

  • Would it balance a federal budget that now is so far into the red that we can't even keep up with the interest payments on the debt?

  • Would it reverse a trade deficit that sends billions of dollars every year into foreign coffers?

  • Would it change a tax code that has systematically moved the wealth of this nation out of the hands of the middle class and into the hands of the top 1% of the population?

  • Would it fix an education system that is being under funded and dismantled piece by piece in order to set up a two tier system with public education for the poor and middle class and private education for the wealthy?

  • Would it end an aggressive foreign policy that costs trillions of dollars and countless lives each year?

  • Would it fix a healthcare system that leaves millions uninsured, that is underwritten by lobbyists from the big pharmaceutical and the insurance companies?

  • Would it end a political system whereby our representatives no longer care about the needs of their constituents but rather spend their careers as spokesmen for business interests?


That in essence is the whole point of the immigration issue… to keep the American people fighting against imaginary adversaries in order that they don't start to address the real problems that effect them …Literally the elephants in the room.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Internment of undocumented immigrants to begin.

On Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced that DHS would be opening detention facilities in the next few weeks to house thousands of Chinese immigrants who have been denied immigration to the United States, yet were refused readmission by the Chinese government. Currently there are an estimated 39,000 undocumented immigrants caught in this diplomatic limbo, but if the more punitive immigration legislation passed in the House back in December, and now being debated in the Senate, was to become law perhaps millions more would join them.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Chertoff said that China last year readmitted 800 people. But that made only a small dent in what he described as a backlog of thousands illegally in the U.S.

"The math is pretty easy — at that rate, we wind up with increasing numbers of migrants who, if we're going to detain them, we're going to have to house at enormous expense," Chertoff said.

He added: "We can't be in the position any longer where we are paying the burden and bearing the burden for countries that won't cooperate with us and take their own citizens back."

The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately return a call for comment.

Currently, 687 Chinese are being held in federal detention facilities, at a daily rate of $95 each, while some 38,000 have been released on bond or under a monitoring program, such as wearing an electronic surveillance bracelet, the Homeland Security Department said later Tuesday.


Chertoff also said Homeland Security would open detention facilities in the next few weeks to house entire families of illegal immigrants who hope to bring their children along in order to avoid jail time. "It'll be humane, but we're not going to let people get away with this," he said.

Chertoff's remarks comes as the Homeland Security Department aims to end its "catch and release" immigration policy by Oct. 1. After that date, all illegal immigrants will be held in U.S. detention centers until they can be returned to their nation of citizenry.


Japanese-American internment camp during WWII

The Department of Homeland Security's decision to end the "catch and release" immigration policy by Oct.1 comes on the heels of last month's announcement by the Army Corps of Engineers that a $385 million contract had been awarded to Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Root and Brown to build "temporary immigration detention facilities".

Halliburton Subsidiary Gets Contract to Add Temporary Immigration Detention Centers
New York Times

Feb. 3 - The Army Corps of Engineers has awarded a contract worth up to $385 million for building temporary immigration detention centers to Kellogg Brown & Root, the Halliburton subsidiary…

KBR would build the centers for the Homeland Security Department for an unexpected influx of immigrants, to house people in the event of a natural disaster or for new programs that require additional detention space…

A spokesman for the corps, Clayton Church, said that the centers could be at unused military sites or temporary structures and that each one would hold up to 5,000 people.

"When there's a large influx of people into the United States, how are we going to feed, house and protect them?" Mr. Church asked. "That's why these kinds of contracts are there."


In recent months, the Homeland Security Department has promised to increase bed space in its detention centers to hold thousands of illegal immigrants awaiting deportation. In the first quarter of the 2006 fiscal year, nearly 60 percent of the illegal immigrants apprehended from countries other than Mexico were released on their own recognizance.

Domestic security officials have promised to end the releases by increasing the number of detention beds. Last week, domestic security officials announced that they would expand detaining and swiftly deporting illegal immigrants to include those seized near the Canadian border

As the Senate Judiciary Committee takes up immigration reform this week they will be debating provisions that may increase the number of incarcerated undocumented immigrants into the millions. Both the current Senate proposal, "The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006", sponsored by Sen. Arlen Spectrer, and it's House equivalent, the "Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005"(HR4437) would criminalize almost any immigration infraction and leave the entire undocumented population vulnerable to incarceration. Both bills, in theory, call for the arrest and possible detention of all undocumented immigrants.

Mandatory Detention
Under current law, individuals who arrive without documents, including asylum-seekers, are subject to mandatory detention. Again this applies mainy to those arriving at airports or by sea. 60% of detainees are held in local jails under contract to the federal government, where they are generally not segregated from the criminal population even if they are asylum-seekers and others with no criminal record.

Under this new bill, the mandatory detention policy would be extended to all non-citizens who are detained at any port of entry or anywhere “along” the border for any reason.

“Illegal Presence” and “Aggravated Felonies,”
Section 203 of HR 4437 calls for the creation of a new federal crime of “illegal presence”. As defined in the bill it includes any violation, even technical, of any immigration law or regulation. Even if the immigrant was to fall “out of status” unintentionally, or do to paperwork delays. In essence, the bill makes every immigration violation, however minor, into a federal crime. As drafted, the bill also makes the new crime of “illegal presence” an “aggravated felony” for immigration purposes. This classification would have the further effect of restricting ordinary undocumented immigrants (including those with pending applications) from many forms of administrative or judicial review. Those convicted of an "aggravated felony" would be subject to indefinite detention and/or expedited removal.

Indefinite Detention
Indefinite detention currently applies to non-citizens ordered removed from the United States whose countries refuse to accept them or who have no country because they are stateless. Most often they come from countries without good relations with the United States.

Section 602 of HR 4437 would permit indefinite detention of an increased broad class of non-citizens, including:
  • those with a contagious disease
  • any non-citizen convicted of an “aggravated felony,” (see above)
  • non-citizens whose release would pose foreign policy problems
  • non-citizens charged even with very minor immigration violations who, based on secret evidence, are deemed a national security risk.


With the internment of undocumented Chinese immigrants and their families becoming a very real possibility, we need to start to look at the real ramifications of some of this proposed legislation. Homeland Security has already announced its intent to greatly increase the incarceration of undocumented immigrants and Halliburton is ready to supply the facilities to hold them. With HR 4437's provisions for indefinite detention and the reclassification of even minor offenses as aggravated felonies it is quite possible that all 12 million undocumented immigrants in this country could shortly end up in internment camps no different from the refugee camps we see throughout the rest of the world. We just never thought it could happen here.


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Monday, March 06, 2006

Lou Dobbs: Broken Record

On a nightly basis, CNN anchorman Lou Dobbs warns viewers of the ever increasing threat our "broken borders" present to the average working American. Relentlessly pursuing his cause, Dobbs parades a plethora of "experts", activists and scholars out to back up his assertions and claims that our nation is being invaded by hordes of illegal immigrants who are causing economic ruin for "average" Americans.

His message is compelling, so compelling in fact that even many progressives(see comments) seem to have fallen under his spell. But … Now from the Southern Poverty Law Center comes this look at CNN’s Lou Dobbs, the accuracy of his reporting ,and the nature of some of 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: Many of Lou's " American patriot " guests who represent organizations that help protect our "broken borders" have ties to various white supremacist groups, racist organizations and recognized hate groups. Lou often presents his "minutemen" guests as the bulwark against the rising tide of illegal immigration, when in fact these guests are in fact no more than racist vigilantes.

more below the fold

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.
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…


BARBARA COE, leader of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, was quoted on a show last March bitterly attacking Home Depot for "betray[ing] Americans," apparently because Hispanic day laborers often gather in front of the store looking for work. Not mentioned were her group, listed by the SPLC as a hate group, or the fact that she routinely refers to Mexicans as "savages." Coe recently described herself as a member of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a "white pride" group formed from the remnants of the segregationist White Citizens Councils of the 1950s and 1960s that were once described by Thurgood Marshal as "the uptown Klan." She also told The Denver Post in November that she had given a speech to the group.

A man named JOE MCCUTCHEN was quoted last April as part of a feature on the Minuteman Project, described by Dobbs as "a terrific group of concerned, caring Americans." No mention was made of the fact that McCutchen, who heads up an anti-immigration group called Protect Arkansas Now, had written a whole series of anti-Semitic letters to the editor and given a speech to the Council of Conservative Citizens -- facts revealed the prior January by SPLC, causing Arkansas' Republican governor to denounce McCutchen's group.

In fact Dobbs regularly praises the excellent work done by the Minutemen and the other "border security" militias that patrol our southern borders. This, despite the fact that many of these groups are following in a long tradition of racist border vigilantism.

In 1977, David Duke and a handful of his Knights of the Ku Klux Klan got tremendous media attention when they inaugurated their 'Klan Border Watch.' The patrol turned out to be little more than a publicity stuntAlthough Chris Simcox and Jim Gilchrist are seen as the fathers of the Minuteman movement, citizen vigilante border patrols are not a new concept. Simcox and Gilchrist are following in the footsteps of other anti-immigrant activists before them, and it is well-trodden ground.

Klansmen were on the Mexican border 28 years before the Minutemen co-opted the concept. And they were talking about the Hispanic immigration threat more than five decades before that. Southern Poverty Law Center

The article goes on to profile many more of Dobbs’ guests along with analyzing some of Dobbs’ reporting, particularly his tendency to present misrepresentations, and sometimes downright lies as fact.

… 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.


Your mother always warned you that you would be judged by the company you keep, This is perhaps some advice Mr Dobbs should take to heart.

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