Thursday, April 29, 2010

Border Enforcement Can Be Done Today

Well, the promises for the enforcement part of the Democrats' proposal sounds good but there is nothing but their own political will depriving them from passing a bill to help the government enforce federal immigration laws now on the books. The federal government could enforce our immigration laws now.

Representative Raul Grijalvo Contradicted Himself on Hardball

Get a load of this exchange between Representative Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona) and "Hardball" host Chris Matthews.

REP. RAUL GRIJALVA (D), ARIZONA: "Well, I think the issue is that we have to deal with the reality that there are people in this country, and that are law-abiding, and that..."

MATTHEWS: "Right."

GRIJALVA: "... for some reason, need to have a path to legalization. And that should be open to them."

They aw "law-abiding" but need a "path to legalization," which means they are "law abiding" but illegal.

One can be "law abiding" or "illegal" but not both. Why didn't Chris Matthews challenge him on that point?

Grijalva would use the next few minutes to propose the other ways he'd reward those who immigrated to this country in a manner that wasn't "law abiding."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Debunking Gutierrez and Keith Olbermann On Immigration

First, let me refute the claims Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-Illinois) made on Countdown with Keith Olbermann Monday night.

1. The Penalizing Status and Not Conduct Charge

Gutierrez: "Because, as you have stated—look, when the police intervene with me
or with you or with anyone, it should be on the basis of our conduct, our
behavior. Not the country they suspect we came from and whether or not we
were born here or not. That—I‘ll tell you something, the criminal
element, those human smugglers, the drug dealers, the rapists, those that are causing so much damage in Arizona and across this country, they‘ve got
to be happy with this law, because what is going to happen is—the eyes,
the ears, that the police need so much of the community in general, so that hey can combat crime, they‘re going to—they‘re going to cause a division between the people in the population and the police department."

Arizona's new immigration law was crafted, however, imperfectly, to target "conduct" or "behavior" - illegal immigration. Those who follow our immigration law are rewarded with a job, health benefits, and education within our public school system. Those who do not at minimum live with the fear that they may be pulled over by a police offer, separated from his or her family members, detained, and ultimately removed from the United States involuntarily at a moment's notice. No one is born illegal. An immigrant can choose whether he or she will respect the host country's immigration laws and request approval for a visa before making the trek, or whether he or she will ignore the host country's immigration laws, evade the legally appointed authorities, and sneak across the borders.

Representative Gutierrez says our immigration laws should target behavior and "not the country they suspect we come from and whether or not we were born here or not."
The two sets of criteria cannot be so easily separated when the identification of the behavior (in this case illegal immigration) requires some knowledge concerning the latter (whether or not the person belongs here because or she was either born here or given papers authorizing his or her stay here).

Those who supported the law in Arizona overreached. In practice, their law will unfairly target anyone of color, whether he or she is legally residing within the state or not, and for that particular reason, Gutierrez is right. The law unfairly targets people on account of their perceived race or color. A Mark Furman might pull an individual to the side because he or she does not like people with darker skin. As a general rule, police officers who harbor no animus or prejudice towards ethnic minorities will be pressured into pulling a Hispanic over on the off-chance that he or she is an illegal immigrant. The white or African American will get the benefit of the doubt that a Hispanic American would not.

Gutierrez, however, misinformed Keith Olbermann's viewers by failing to acknowledge that illegal immigration describes conduct which the country wishes to discourage and not an ethnic trait which is to be celebrated.

2. The Illegal as a Scapegoat

You know, I think they understand that the Latino community isn‘t going anywhere. Those that have come under desperate straits are probably going to say, what you‘re going to do is you‘re going to push them further underground and allow them to be even further exploited in the condition that they‘re in. But I think what it really is—it‘s the easy out, right? It‘s like, let‘s blame someone. You know, we have a failing foreclosure system with homes going in foreclosure. We have a high unemployment. The educational system really isn‘t serving our children well. You know what? Why don‘t we just go against—after those immigrants?

Actually, the Arizonans who passed and support this law are placing the blame where it belongs - the illegal immigrants. They, and this nation in general, have every right to expect those who want to live here to respect our laws, including no doubt, the law concerning how one is to immigrate into this country. The Arizonans aren't blaming illegal immigrants for the housing foreclosures. They are blaming the illegal immigrants for some of the crime, as well as the burden on the school system (increases in population lead to the higher taxes needed to hire more teachers and build more schools), and on the hospitals (hospitals lose money on Charity Care, particularly when states are looking to make cuts to balance their budgets).

Gutierrez says these illegal immigrants won't be going anywhere. He's probably right because our country has failed to enforce this country's laws. The Republicans don't want to offend the Chamber of Commerce or any of the businesses that profit by exploiting the cheap labor and neither party wants to offend the Hispanic Americans they are courting for the November elections. Our government should be imposing high fines on those which employ illegal immigrants and it should be conducting frequent raids on facilities suspected of employing them so that they can be rounded up and deported.

In the meantime, the government should not be in the business of making an illegal immigrant's life easier. Doing so will only encourage further illegal immigration while rewarding their bad behavior. The exploitation which illegal immigrants face is one of their own doing. They dug their own graves. When confronted with the choice of immigrating legally or immigrating illegally, they chose the latter when they could have chosen the former.

3. Ethnic Heritage: The Irish/Italian Comparison

Gutierrez: "And I‘ve got to say this. Look, it‘s not new. This is pretty old stuff. When the Irish came here, oh, they talked about crime and how it was going to be terrible in America. And the Italians, when they came at the turn of the century in 1910 and 1920s, they said, only by the rule of law could we ever help to contain these people, referring to Italian immigrants in New York City.So, look, they accused the Italians of crime. They accused the Irish of crime. They were wrong about them and they‘re wrong about us today. It‘s an old trick to divert attention about the real pressing issues that the American public wants us to deal with."

OLBERMANN: "My ancestors got it the same way during the First World War, Germans, Poles and Russians. So, it‘s universal to us and it‘s terrifying that some people don‘t seem to understand that it‘s—that it is the same thing, as you point out."

Here Mr. Gutierrez and Mr. Olbermann are conflating illegal immigration with legal immigration. The Irish and Italian Americans were process by United States Immigration and Naturalization Service at several locations, most prominently among them, Ellis Island. Yes, the Hispanic Americans face some of the same contempt and prejudice White Anglo-Saxon Protestants directed at Irish and Italian American immigrants. Some of it is deserved. Some of it is not. It is deserved when the immigrant sneaks across our borders or when the immigrant overstays his or her visit and fails to apply for a renewal. It is undeserved when the immigrant followed the legal process.
The immigrant who follows the immigration process may appeal may compare themselves to the Irish and Italian-American immigrants that came before them. The immigrant who sneaked across the border can not.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Arizona's New Immigration Law and Immigration

Governor Jan Brewer (R-Arizona) signed into law a bill that requires anyone whom the police suspect to be illegally residing in Arizona to provide documentation proving they have authorization to live within the United States. Senate Bill 1070 - represents another tool for our state to use as we work to solve a crisis which we did not create and the federal government has refused to fix," the governor said as she announced her decision to sign the legislation. "Border-related violence and crime due to illegal immigration are critically important issues to the people of our state, to my administration and to me, as your Governor and as a citizen. ... We in Arizona have been more than patient waiting for Washington to act. But decades of federal inaction and misguided policy have created a dangerous and unacceptable situation."

Hispanic Americans criticized the governor for passing this law and vowed to fight it in the courts. Some fear it might stigmatize anyone of color, whether they are legally residing in the country or not, since police would, in all likelihood, consider the person's race or skin complexion as they ask for a suspect's papers.

This is a legitimate concern which the governor says will be addressed by the state's Peace Officers and Training Board when it issues guidelines that comply with her executive order to bar the police officers from relying exclusively on one's perceived ethnic or racial status. "Racial profiling is illegal. It will not be tolerated in America and it certainly will not be tolerated in Arizona," the governor said.

We'll have to see if the the Patrol officers and Training Board develops standards that could withstand the expected legal challenge filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Mexican-American Defense Fund and judgment of this law should be withheld until we see if and how this law can be implemented without unfairly targeting those who are entitled to live and work in the United States.

The board must develop guidelines that help the police avoid racial profiling accusations. Such activities would clearly call into question our commitment to the 14th Amendment's due process and equal protection clauses as well as this nation's unprecedented and welcomed commitment to religious, ethnic and racial pluralism.

This nation was founded by immigrants. The first crossed the Berng Strait in their search for food. European settlers fled from their homelands so they can worship as they saw fit. Others were looking for a fortune which they could not find in their homeland. Future waves of immigration followed. Some were English-speakers but many were not. Some had a darker skin complexion or they affiliated with religious beliefs which the white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants rejected. These cultural differences were not insurmountable. Eventually they found a way to fit in and we eventually accepted them as find, morally upstanding American citizens.

Regulations must be crafted to ensure that the police stigmatize the Mexican but not the Mexican-American, the Haitian but not the Haitian American, the Korean but not the Korean American, and the Russian and not the Russian-American. Those of us who support restrictive immigration policies must remind our opponents as well as those of us who are undecided that our problem lies with the illegal (as opposed to the legal) immigrants.

Some who oppose this legislation, however, alluded to their opposition to any enforcement mechanism. Mary Rose Wilcox, Maricopa County Supervisor, said Brewer acted as if she was "cold-hearted" by signing onto this legislation. "I'm extremely disappointed at the governor's actions, that a governor with a caring heart has allowed individuals like Russell Pearce and Joe Arpaio to make her a puppet governor whose strings are controlled by them," Phonix Mayor Phil Gordon said. Alfredo Gutierrez said he was astonished to find "acts of such overt hatred anywhere in this country" in this day and age.

Implicit in each of their statements is the flawed belief that the state (as in The United States) should not (even if it could) regulate our borders to determine who can and cannot enter the United States or that, at a minimum, the feelings of those who have violated our immigration laws takes precedence over our right to enforce those laws.

We are a nation of laws and as such are entitled to offer those who respect us enough to follow them preference over those who do not. Protecting our borders and determining who may and may not cross them is one of the most basic tasks of governing and our administration has an obligation to enforce our immigration statutes so that the terrorist who might plan an attack on a US. city, the disease-afflicted who might infect our country's citizens, or that the impoverished who might cost the Americans too much tax payer money by utilizing our social welfare programs, can not enter the United States. We are broke so it would seem reasonable to give preference to the skilled workers who can make it on their own with minimal support from the American taxpayer.

President Barack Obama said the law "threatened to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans." When he presses Congress to pass an inaccurately described "comprehensive immigration reform package" Americans should ask themselves whether it is fair to offer those who refused to follow our immigration law whether the United States a "pathway to American citizenship" when many who are still waiting for the prerequisite approval to live and work in the United States or any country that would respect their rights languishing in refugee camps (like those found in Turkey) or in their country they wish to leave behind.

Or if it is fair to offer the Haitian illegal refuge, Haitians that might have cheated death, when their compatriots died or languished in hospitals because they were waiting for our approval before they entered the United States. Or whether it is fair to expect the American people to be blackmailed into welcoming with open arms, those who flouted our immigration laws in return for the mere promise that the powers at be in Washington will enforce the laws they were already required by law to enforce, particularly when this grand bargain was made before to no avail.

Our president and our elected legislators on Capitol Hill should recall that the people who seek to "come out of the shadows" cheated by either coming into this country without the government's authorization or by overstaying their visas without the government's authorization. They are not the "law abiding" immigrants Representative Raul M. Grijalva claimed they were when he spoke to Chris Matthews on "Hardball." By coming here without the proper documentation or by overstaying their visas, these immigrants broke the law. They cut in front of the line while others who might have been in even more dire straights respectfully waited their turn.

And because they cheated and because they cut in front of the line, these illegal immigrants are entitled to nothing which this country has to offer them but a one-way ticket back to their country of origin and this nation's scorn as long as they continue to reside in this country illegally.

They are not entitled to send their children to our public schools. They are not entitled to in-state tuition. They are not entitled to drivers licenses. They are not entitled to enroll in our welfare programs and they are not entitled to live or work in the United States. The services which they seek from the United States are owed to them by the administration that governs their country of origin.

I would urge the American people to contact their elected representatives in order to tell them that they oppose any "comprehensive immigration reform" package that offers illegal immigrants a "pathway to American citizenship," or in-state college tuition rates offered to law abiding American citizens.

Arizona's Republicans in the state house and the governor's mansion may have signed onto a law that in application will unfairly target the innocent along with the guilty but the concerns that led them to pass and sign that bill into law are entirely justified.

Monday, April 19, 2010

An Alternative to Obama's Financial Reform Plan

Our proposal, then, is for a new system of regulation that protects the systemically relevant obligations of large financial institutions — making sure they would be repaid by the institution (not by taxpayers) in the case of bankruptcy — but leaves open the possibility that non-systemically relevant obligations will not be protected.

Under this new system, banks would be required to hold two layers of capital to protect their systemically relevant obligations. The first layer would be basic equity — not much different from today's standard capital requirement, except for the fact that the amount of equity required would be determined not by an accounting formula, but by a market assessment of the risk contained in the second layer.

That second layer would consist of so-called "junior long-term debt." Being explicitly labeled "junior" means this debt would be repaid only after the institution has made good on its other debt, and so also means that it would involve more risk for those who buy it (therefore offering higher rates of return). Such debt would provide an added layer of protection to basic equity because, in the event the institution defaulted, the junior long-term debt could be paid back only after other (more systemically relevant) obligations have been repaid. Perhaps most important, because this layer of debt would be traded without the assumption that it would always be protected by federal bailouts, it would make possible a genuine market assessment of its value and risk — and therefore of those of the financial institution itself.

This is the crucial innovation of the approach we propose. The required second layer of capital would allow for a market-based trigger to signal that a firm's equity cushion is thinning, that its long-term debt is potentially in danger, and therefore that the financial institution is taking on too much risk. If that warning mechanism provides accurate signals, and if the regulator intervenes in time, even the junior long-term debt will be paid in full. If either of these two conditions is not met, the institution may burn through some of the junior-debt layer — but its systemically relevant obligations will generally still be secure. In this case, the firm may suffer, but the larger financial system will be kept safe.

Oliver Hart and Luigi Zingales
in The Wall Street Journal

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Republicans to Block Financial Reform

I guess the Republicans want to go down in history as the party that protects the businesses that brought our country to the brink of financial ruin so that they can do so again.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Prosecution for Whistle Blowing but Not for Torture

Prosecuting this informant won't go well with the civil libertarians. Thomas A. Drake blew the whistle on former President George W. Bush's constitutionally dubious national wiretapping program. The civil libertarians haven't quite forgiven the president for ruling out any major criminal investigations on torture.

Hospital Visitation Rights

Yesterday the White House Press Office released a presidential memorandum directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue (and then enforce) rules designed to protect hospital patients and their loved ones in their moment of need. Hospitals that participate in Medicare and Medicaid (in effect most hospitals), would have to respect their patients' right to designate visitors with "visiting privileges that are no more restrictive than those that immediate family members enjoy."

The new rules would include provisions barring hospitals which receive reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid from denying visitation privileges "on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability."

Most people, either because they are married or because they have a loving son or daughter, take these rights for granted. They expect their husband and wife to be there for them in their moment of need, when they are feeling particularly weak and vulnerable and they expect the doctors, nurses and residents who may be caring for their physical needs and provide any family members or significant others with the space to care for their emotional needs.

Hospital staff in general respect the visitation rights of a patient's spouse, parent, or child. And most Americans, nowadays, would be surprised if hospital staff denied visitation rights to a spouse of a different race or religion. These rights which most people take for granted, however, are denied, may be denied when the hospital staff dealing with a gay patient and his or her same-sex lover, partner or spouse.

Occasionally we may hear about such cases from a surviving partner who decides to tell their story so that this would not happen again. Janice Langbehn, accused a social worker at Jackson Memorial Hospital of denying her the right to visit her partner, Lisa Pond. Pond died of a brain aneurysm while in the hospital's care.

A spokesperson for the Family Research Council, a conservative political organization that opposes anything that could make a gay person's life easier, predictably condemned the president for issuing this memorandum. Peter Sprigg said that the memorandum, "In its current political context, "clearly constitutes pandering to a radical special interest group." Though he claims that the Family Research Council does not object when gays have advanced directives, Sprigg says "the memorandum undermines the definition of marriage."

No one apparently bothered to ask Mr. Sprigg how granting someone the right to visit their loved one, or allowing a patient the right to determine who can or cannot visit him or her during a hospital stay undermines marriage. I guess Mr. Sprigg believes marriage is undermined because hospitals will be forced to respect the weight a patient gives to a relationship he or she has with another individual, whether it is the approved sexual relationship or not.

Providing these benefits can easily be justified without reopening the debate over marriage. The hospital, after all, is a business that is providing a service to its customers who in this case include the patient and those whom the patient confides in. The customer wants to leave the facility as soon as possible with as little stress as possible. Respecting the clients' wishes at this point in their lives shouldn't be too difficult when this is taken into account.

Empathy was never Peter Sprigg's strong suit but hearing socially conservative spokespeople condemn the president for issuing a directive that merely protects a hospital patient and his or her family in their most desperate time of need does have its assets. Mr. Sprigg, apparently would be perfectly satisfied if the hospital or any doctor or nurse that works in it rejects a gay patient's plea to see his or her same-sex loved one while recovering from bypass surgery, and he would be content if the doctors and nurses in any such institution denied the loved one access to the patient he or she loves.

By opposing this memorandum, Mr. Sprigg's reminded us that religious conservatives like him rationalize empathy like health insurance companies rationalize care. People who adhere to his understanding of what is right and what is wrong are deserving of our sympathy while those who do not are reserved none.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Supreme Court Majority Opinions in Stevens' Absence

A very interesting point is brought up on the SCOTUSblog. Swing Justice Anthony Kennedy will end up assigning the justice who writes an opinion in which he sides with the liberals to form the 5-4 majority.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Justice Stevens

Justice John Paul Stevens, the oldest member of the United States Supreme Court, said he will retire at the end of the Court's term this June, giving President Barack H. Obama one more opportunity a second chance to shape its direction.

In at least two respects, Justice Stevens did the president and the progressives that voted for him a favor. By leaving at the end of this term, he provides the president an opportunity to nominate a solidly liberal justice who will uphold our civil rights before voters go to the polls in November. Had Stevens retired next year, the president might have settled for a candidate whose civil rights credentials were not as strong since the Republicans are poised to gain a few seats in the senate.

The announcement also provides the Democrats with an opportunity to re-establish its ties with the progressive base that shows up at the election booth. The party's relationship with the progressive community soured as the president and his allies on Capitol Hill shifted towards the center.

The president's latest decision to provide for more offshore drilling as well as his decision to permit more nuclear power plants, has disappointed environmentalists hoping to see our national energy production directed elsewhere. Gay American bloggers were enraged when the president defended the misnamed "Defense of Marriage Act" using talking points that one would expect from the Family Research Council or the Alliance Defense Fund. And liberals in general were less then thrilled when they saw the president drop his support for the "public option" even before negotiations over health care reform got underway.

Here there is a clear divide between those who want the Supreme Court to at least preserve if not build upon rulings that recognized the civil rights and liberties of all American citizens and those who believe that the Court should return the debate over these rights to the states as long as they were not explicitly written into the Constitution.

Democratic voters will be more inclined to vote in the midterm elections if the president and the Democrats on the Hill fight for the nominee that will vote to uphold our right to privacy on any number of issues, from contraception and abortion to the issuance of warrants and warrantless wiretaps.

They might be more inclined to vote in the upcoming elections if the Democrats vote for a nominee who will uphold civil rights legislation like the Lilly Ledbetter Act or the Employment Nondiscrimination Act that has yet to be passed by the House and Senate and then signed into law by the president. They might get out the vote if they believe that his nominee will be more inclined to impose huge fines on companies that flout environmental laws and they might get out of the vote if they believed that the justice will vote to uphold legislation that was signed into law, like the Matthew Shepherd Act or the recently passed health care reform bill.

We cannot expect a nominee to answer these questions during the senate hearings which must commence as soon as the president announces his nominee for Justice Stevens' seat but legal scholars and reporters will read between the lines in their statements in order to see how they think about these issues.

Justice Stevens has served the United States well. He started his tenure on the court as a conservative but his position shifted to the left, most prominently on affirmative action and the death penalty. Those of us who are gay will remember that he sided with us from the very beginning. He authored one of the two dissenting opinions in Bowers v Hardwick, and eventually saw the Court embrace his position seventeen years later.

Civil libertarians will appreciate his support for the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base at a time when the people in this nation fear giving them any of the rights they themselves take for granted. He knew that our rights were not really protected unless they were defended when invoked by those we like the least.

Obama would serve himself well if he would nominate a justice whose ideological viewpoints and skills of persuasion matched the man he is replacing.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Bob McDonnel's Proclamation: The Gay Angle

Now that the governor has found it within his heart to proclaim April "Confederate History Month" even though they fought for "an evil, vicious and inhumane practice which degraded human beings to property, and it has left a stain on the soul of this state and nation" I wonder if the Governor will proclaim June Gay Pride Month. If the governor could overlook the Confederate soldiers who fought for a breakaway republic designed to protect the right to rape, torture and sell slaves he should be able to overlook the gay person's sexuality (Remember, we are talking about the governor's thoughts about homosexuality, which are negative, and not mine. Hence the use of the word "overlook.") If he could find something positive to say about the influence the Confederate soldiers had on Virginians' lives I'm sure he could say something positive positive about the gays' contributions to Virginia.

Just don't hold your breath.

Marsh's Reaction to McDonnell a Little Off Base

In an interview with CNN's John King, Virginia State Sen. Henry Marsh III lumped Governor Bob McDonnell's support for charter schools and cuts to public education with his proclamation of Confederate History Month. I don't think any explanation is needed to see where the state senator's logic went wrong. John King's follow-up was enough to cut through his argument:

KING: We try every night to take you outside of Washington to take the pulse of the country. Tonight we head to Virginia, where the governor, Bob McDonnell, just issued an apology for what he calls a major omission in a proclamation honoring Confederate History Month. It called Confederacy a defining chapter in Virginia's history, noted that Virginians fought for their homes and made sacrifices and admitted the state was overwhelmed by insurmountable numbers. But that initial proclamation made no mention of slavery.

Joining me now, Virginia state senator Henry Marsh III, a prominent member of the Civil Rights community in the state. Senator, the governor has now apologized. He has said slavery is an evil and inhumane act, that it should have been in the proclamation, and he's issued an amendment to the proclamation putting it in. Case closed? Do you accept the apology?

HENRY L. MARSH III (D), VIRGINIA STATE SENATE: Well, he has a right to apologize, but I don't accept that as a good answer because this is a pattern of this governor. He says the wrong thing. He sends a signal to his base, and then he makes an apology. And this has happened many, many times. So I think it's a question of whether or not he's sincere or not.

KING: A question of whether or not he's sincere -- and I want to follow up on that point. I believe you were the first African- American mayor of the city of Richmond. Governor Wilder, we had on the program the other night, is the first African-American elected governor in the United States and from a state that was once the capital of the Confederacy. We have our first African-American president, who lives in the White House. Why are we still having these controversies and these debates, sir?

MARSH: Well, I think it's a question of recognizing that this is not the last century. This is a new century and people are different. We have different expectations. Governor McDonnell came on saying he was the unity governor, he was going to bring us together. And we expected him to do that, but his actions have belied what he said. I mean, he came in cutting public education K-12 to a horrible degree. We restored some of the cuts, the Democrats did, but...

KING: A lot of states have had to do that. I don't mean to jump in, sir, but a lot of states have had to do that because we're in this painful recession. Are you saying he did that in a way that was race motivated or just...

MARSH: Well, I'll put it this way. K-12 education is critical not just for African-Americans but for all Virginians to keep us competitive in the race for industry and for tourism, and to cut K-12, which has a disproportionate impact on poor people and African- Americans, in my opinion, was a tragic mistake. And he also unfroze (ph) the standards of quality funding, which left the part of Virginia where most African-Americans and poor people reside -- left them in a situation where they almost couldn't function. And later on, because of pressure, some of the money was restored. But he also pushed a charter school initiative that put the local school boards out of the situation. The state board could intervene to push charter schools and to push charter schools which would only serve the elite of public education.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Confederacy and the African American Community

Governor Bob McDonnell (R-Virginia), once again reminded us why the African American community that embraced Republicans have shifted their allegiance to the Democratic Party when he issued a proclamation declaring April Confederate History Month. The proclamation, which was issued last week, calls on Virginians "to reflect upon our Commonwealth’s shared history, to understand the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War" who "fought for their homes and communities and Commonwealth in a time very different than ours today."

This one-sided ode to the soldiers that fought against the union angered members of the civil rights community, as well as some conservatives like Ramesh Ponnuru of The National Review. Absent from the proclamation was any reference to the soldiers who died protecting the union as well as, until today, any reference to the institution which the Confederates were protecting - slavery. Today the governor apologized for the glaring omission and consequently amended his proclamation to include this reference to our sordid past.

Whether he was genuinely sorry or not, the governor should have apologized as soon as this glaring omission was pointed out to him. One has to question why this rising star within the Republican Party would issue such a proclamation honoring these men in the first place. They weren't merely protect "their homes and communities and Commonwealth" when rebelled against Washington. They were defending the institution of slavery and the evils that were committed along with them. They were defending the plantation owner who raped the African American women that he owned. They were defending the foreman who whipped the slaves who weren't working fast enough. They were defending the owner's right to buy and sell real live human beings, tearing families apart as fathers were separated from their mothers and children.

The Republicans of the 19nth Century fought against this. Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican elected to the White House, issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves from their masters. His track record wasn't perfect but it was stronger than the man that ultimately succeeded him, Andrew Johnson. His emancipation proclamation and the Republicans' initial efforts to rebuild the southern states won the African American community's allegiance.

That would change when a President Lyndon Johnson (D) signed major civil rights legislation like the Voting Rights Act. His successor would court these conservative southern Democrats who opposed this legislation. The African Americans understandably shifted their allegiance accordingly.

Today's conservatives say they aren't racists and they base their opposition to affirmative action programs because they hinder their efforts to create a "color-blind society." These same conservatives defended police officers when used racial profiling to narrow down their list of suspects and make inspection stops along major highways. One former Republican Governor, a moderate no less (Christie Todd Whitman), even posed during a frisking stop in Camden. Former NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, himself a moderate, defended his city's police officers from some visually graphic atrocities committed against African Americans.

African Americans can be forgiven for thinking that the Republicans tend to support any discrimination that is designed to hurt them while opposing any that might help them. And by courting the racists within his base, the Governor of Virginia gave the African American community yet another reason to believe that the Republicans truly don't care for them.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Rule about Holocaust Comparisons

Don't make them, unless you are comparing one government's systematic attempt to butcher or otherwise wipe out all men, women and children belonging to one particular ethnic, religious, or cultural group with Adolf Hitler's attempt to do just that.

The rule applies to everyone, whether you are "infallible" or not.

I hope this guy doesn't hide any children in the closet - for him or for anybody under him. Hearing this from the Anglican archbishop seems very unseemly, particularly since both, the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion are competing for the conservatives fuming over the Episcopal Church's gay-positive moral code. (The Roman Catholic Church had loosened its standards for Anglican married priests who want to affiliate with the Roman Catholic Church. Basically they would be treated like the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches that affiliate with it).

So here's rule # 2.

Rivals who claim to speak for "God" shouldn't make any statements if there is any reason to suspect that they have ulterior, opportunistic motives, for making such statements.

South Hadley Prosecution Logic (or lackthereof)

I'd think that the parents who send their students to South Hadley deserve a better explanation as to why the Northwestern District Attorney, Elizabeth Scheibel, is prosecuting the teenagers accused of taunting, harassing, and threatening Pheobe Prince, the 15-year-old girl who committed suicide, but not the teachers and school administrators who did nothing to stop it. The teachers may have, as Scheibel claims, lacked "understanding of harassment associated with teen dating relationships'," but they knew what harassment was.

They know what epithets are and are expected to know so that they can enforce the schools' rules and procedures if and when a student is harassed by his or her fellow peers. Calling a person a "slut" and threatening bodily injury is wrong, whether motive can be attributed to jealousy, a power trip, or your run-of-the-mill teen breakup. And the teachers know that. They are expected to know more than the students in their care so the claim that the students can be charged because their knowledge about what does and does not constitutes harassment is more developed than the teachers' knowledge seems flimsy at best.

Now, if the teachers who knew about the harassment intervened by interrogated the parties before the situation escalated any further they might have learned about the underlying problems that led to the harassment.

Since I don't have the evidence it would be hard to say whether the prosecutor made the right call. She may have no incriminating evidence to use against the teacher involved but if that is the case she should say that all of the evidence points to the students and none to the teachers who knew about the harassment.

South Hadley parents, meanwhile, must be questioning why the students are being held to a higher legal standard than the authority figures are responsible for them.

Two Extreme Situations in the Classroom

Perhaps one of the reasons our children are so confused is because we are confused. New York City's Department of Education had one 12-year old girl arrested for doodling on her desk. but five teachers - teachers who let the students under their supervision taunt, harass, stalk and threaten to harm one of their peers to the point at which she then committed suicide - may face "disciplinary procedures" but no prosecution.

Do the school administrators and teachers know anything about proportionate disciplinary procedures? or that, and this is only a suggestion, "the punishment should fit the crime?"