Saturday, May 27, 2006

Los inmigrantes como chivos expiatorios y la construcción de una Crisis

The essay I had published on CounterPunch has been translated and republished in Spanish on I also found it (in English) on this website with nutty comments like this one:
6. To: Starshadow (#1)

"The more obvious and simpler solution would be to raise the minimum wage for everyone."

I only got that far before I realized we were listening to a socialist.

Pessimist posted on 2006-05-17 14:42:44 ET

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Change of Plans

P5220020 1I told a lot of folks I was going to the desert, but for various reasons I stayed closer to home. I've been hiding at Half Moon Bay and travelling up and down Highway 1 between Santa Cruz and the Devil's Slide (about 8 or 10 miles north of Half Moon Bay, where Highway 1 is shut down right now because of mud/rock slides). I want to return soon without my dog and with a mountain bike and a boogie board. I am staying in a standard motel, but Half Moon Bay also offers quaint Bed and Breakfasts and cute little shops and restaurants - needless to say, I've stayed away from all of that. This has been a great trip because I've discovered that I live very close to a lot of natural beauty that - depending on the day of the week and time of year - is not too crowded and a very close escape from the filthy city that I now love. I've posted a lot of photos on my flickr page, which you can find here.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Wilder On Libal

My old friend (and on-time roommate) Forrest Wilder was published today on AlterNet - a good piece on my old campaign against private immigrant jails in Texas. He relies on invaluable commentary from my friend (who let me dj his New Years party once) Bob Libal.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Deport the Illegals!

These illegals are everywhere. Crossing rivers, driving trucks on our highways, wandering through our ranch land. We need to round them up and send them away! Of course I am speaking of these people who are violating our laws. They are hunting and/or fishing without a license. Some people call them poachers, but I call them "illegals" and there is no greater problem in our nation today. You want to fish in OUR rivers, you follow OUR rules!

Seriously though, I got a few emails about the piece I wrote on CounterPunch, and surprisingly no one really disagreed with the substance of what I wrote. The main complaint was that these people were "illegal." One person even claimed that they must be called "illegal aliens" not "immigrants."

These bigots desperately want a pejorative to use for this nonexisten threat, and "illegal" or "alien" is what they've chosen. But it's silly because if you agree with the substance of what I wrote: Immigrants whether here legally or not, are more of a benefit than a burden, and the real burden is war, tax cuts for the rich, corporate greed, etc.; then why is it such a big deal that they violated our immigration laws? People drive over the speed limit, spy on Americans without warrants, and fish without a license, so why aren't these people as outraged about these things?

It kind of reminds me of all the homophobic Christians who focus so much attention on the evils of homosexuality while they ignore their own gluttony and greed. No, you aren't principled, you're just a bigot, sorry.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Immigrant Scapegoats and the Manufacturing of a Crisis

Published today on CounterPunch

Pundits and politicians in Washington have called for rounding up and deporting millions of people, breaking up families and fracturing communities. Now politicians and the Pentagon want to put military troops along our border with Mexico along with hundreds of miles of fencing, not unlike the Israeli border with Palestine or walls and fences installed in Eastern Europe during the Cold War. With these facts in mind, it appears we are facing a crisis of enormous proportions that is sapping our nation and threatening to cause enormous harm to Americans. But behind the scare tactics of Lou Dobbs and Bill Frist, the truth is that immigrants have strengthened our country and any negative effects of their presence are outweighed by the benefits. Furthermore, there are indeed policies that are burdening our country and many working people--the war in Iraq, tax cuts for the very rich, corporate greed--but loose restrictions on immigration are more a benefit than a burden.

Some of the arguments for the immigrant/border overreaction:

Low Wages and Competition for Jobs.

Dobbs claims that immigrants in the U.S. illegally depress wages for American citizens by an estimated $200 billion a year. But declining wages have a multitude of causes and much more logical solutions than restricting the movement of labor. The more obvious and simpler solution would be to raise the minimum wage for everyone. According to OMB Watch, the federal minimum wage of $5.15 has lost over 17 percent of its purchasing power since 1997. While American economic productivity has been rising, in large part because of the influx of immigrant labor, wages remain relatively stagnant. Working people, whether legally in the country or not, are not seeing the benefits of higher productivity, but corporations, shareholders, and executives certainly are. An Economic Policy Institute Report shows since 2001, the share of the gross domestic income going to corporate profits has jumped 3.9 percent compared to a 1.4 percent decrease in labor compensation.

Burdens on Social Services such as Health Care and Education.

This argument is laughable as the U.S. has so few social services compared with other Western nations. In light of the billions we spend on war and tax cuts for the rich, it wouldn't take much to improve our schools and hospitals for every American resident, whether citizen or undocumented.

Furthermore, the rise in health care costs has a lot more to do with the greed of insurance and pharmaceutical companies than immigrants who use ambulance and emergency room care. The California Nurses' Association announced at the end of last year that the world's 13 largest pharmaceutical companies earned $62 billion in 2004, while the 20 largest HMOs in the United States made $10.8 billion in the most recent fiscal year, and hospital profits hit a record $26.3 billion in 2004. With such record profits, why are both major political parties blaming immigrants for the lack of resources and high cost of health care? Perhaps it is because both political parties accept millions of dollars from the health care industry and insurance companies.

Drugs and Crime.

Yes, both political parties are involved in this scapegoating. For example, the Democratic Governors of Arizona and New Mexico have each declared a state of emergency because of the fictitious border crisis. Governor Janet Napolitano of Arizona, declaring a state of emergency, said, "the health and safety of all Arizonans is threatened daily by violent gangs, coyotes and other dangerous criminals." Democratic Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico even cited "damage to property and livestock."

As to Governor Richardson's point, loosening restrictions on immigration would help lessen property damage because human beings wouldn't be forced to sneak into this country over private land. The more serious and violent criminal activity appears to be tied to illegal drugs that may or may not have anything to do with border policy. It would be a huge task to tackle all the arguments over the "War On Drugs" here, but it is increasingly obvious that enforcement has wasted billions of dollars and done little if anything to solve the problem of drug violence or addiction. We could do a lot more to treat addiction and lessen crime by legalizing some drugs and decriminalizing many others while focusing on treatment. Not to belabor the point, but we could do a lot more of that effectively if we weren't spending so many resources on an unnecessary and harmful war in Iraq while giving tax breaks to a wealthy few who don't need them.


There are no confirmed reports of any terrorists entering this country across the Mexican border. Most of the recent terrorist attacks in this country were performed by people who entered this country legally through airports or people born and raised as citizens like the Oklahoma City bombers. But the bottom line on this argument is that it has very little to do with the actual objectives of those who seek to close our Southern border. The emphasis in the debate has been about the millions of working poor from Mexico and Latin America entering this country, not the random sophisticated terrorist who would probably have the resources to get into the country one way or another. If this were the real issue, people would be calling for the same militarization on the Canadian border. Terrorism is just a red herring and one more conveniently frightening detail to add to the mix.

Immigrants Dying in the Southwest.

This is the ultimate liberal argument for securing the borders--it is at once both tough but seemingly compassionate--we must secure the border not because we are racist but because we care about the welfare of the immigrants attempting to cross. But the reason so many immigrants are perishing in the deserts of border states is because of how militarized the border has become elsewhere and because of our restrictive immigration laws. Again, the best solution for this problem is fewer restrictions, not more.

In a global economy with the level of trade we have between the North and South, it is absurd to see walls and weapons as a solution to a mobile labor pool. The way to make such policies seem less absurd is to blame immigration for low wages, tight social services, drug addiction, crime, and terrorist threats. Immigrants are people, not problems. The solutions to these issues do exist; they just aren't in the interests of the corporate media or our two corporate parties. Immigrants have increased our productivity, paid into our social security system, paid taxes, and consume products and services in our country, creating more demand. Neither their presence nor their crossing our Southern border constitute a crisis, but they certainly serve as a convenient distraction from the real crises our nation is facing.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Morrissey's Third Comeback

Morrissey proves he is more relevant than he's been since the Bona Drag era with his newest album, Ringleader of the Tormentors. "Older" and "wiser" now both apply to him in his 3rd comeback as a solo artist. He is truly the patron saint of Indy Pop! Ben Gibbard should be shaking in his boots because of how bad he sucks - the Moz will send him to Indy Hell!

So what was the first comeback? Viva Hate of course. Johnny Marr was brilliant but only with the magic of Steven Patrick, after that it was Electronic's first album (catchy); The The (interesting); and then a bunch of horrible music after that. But Morrissey kept fighting it out with himself and a never ending series of hooligans. His second comeback was We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful - a rockabilly-esque punch to the face of MTV's after midnight lineup.

Sure he had flashes of talent and desperation worthy of 99 cent downloads - his album just before this one (You Are the Quarry) wasn't bad, and reminded everyone that he wasn't going anywhere, yet it now seems like just a prelude.

Ringleader has its low points, namely "I Just Want to See the Boy Happy" and "To Me You Are a Work of Art." Both good songs, but not great. On the other hand, the stand out songs are "In The Future When All's Well," which begs to be the next single with an octave-busting, r-rolling, memorable feel and relevant lyrics full of mature angst ("I will lie down and be counted in the future when all's well ... please stand up an defend me in the future when all's well; confront what you are afraid of in the future when all's well; everyday I play a sad game called 'In The Future When All's Well'"); and Life Is A Pigsty - classic self-pitying Morrissey at his best, with a sorrow-filled thunderstorm to match - the Moz uses his deepest droning voice and announces "it's the same old S.O.S. but brand new broken fortunes; I'm the same underneath; but this you ... you surely knew ... life is a pigsty."

Of course I also love the swipe at America's imperialist foreign policy in the opening track "I Will See You In Far Off Places" - "If your god bestows protection upon you, and if the U.S.A. doesn't bomb you, I believe I will see you somewhere safe ..." He uses some sort of children's chorus (which he uses elsewhere as well) in the irreverant "The Father Who Must Be Killed" which is a playfully evil track. And of course there is the first single "You Have Killed Me" which has a pleasant chorus delivering the unpleasant message that Morrissey is Dead and indeed you have killed him. The video for this number pounds the final nail in the coffin of washed-up, mid-life sad songs - Morrissey doesn't make them.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Lou Dobbs, Why Are You So Angry?

On the day that it was revealed that the NSA has been spying on all of us with the help of major corporations, as Bush attempts to put a military man in charge of the traditionally civilian CIA, and as billions in tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans moves forward while the working class struggle to pay for basic health care, it makes sense that Lou Dobbs is furious with Bush. Except his beef with the President is over immigration, not the war, the spying, the attack on civil liberties, the massive inequality. Immigration - which many would argue has benefitted this nation whether legal or illegal. That is the crisis that has Dobbs using this fiery rhetoric:
The problem in our lack of border security and illegal immigration is becoming increasingly obvious: two political parties that are beholden to corporate America, the largest employers of illegal aliens, and the leadership of both parties that are selling out American citizens in search of cheap labor and political advantage. How dumb do you all think we are?
Pretty dumb. He goes on to write, "Over the next few days on my broadcast, I'm going to make a suggestion that I hope may help the leadership of both the Republican and Democratic parties begin to take some notice of our laws and our expectations that those laws be enforced." Surely he realizes that Congress creates laws. It creates, and destroys laws. Remember Mr. Dobbs, at one time we had prohibition, at one time women could not vote, at one time African Americans had to ride on the back of buses. Since then laws changed and new laws took their place. This is exactly what Congress may be contemplating (though I'm not as optimistic as Dobbs is pessimistic). So don't go ballistic over law and order issues. What else do you got?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Danielle Should Win BECAUSE of Her Accent!

Perhaps you've seen the show America's Next Top Model. Today they went from 4 to 3 potential winners with Danielle barely making the cut. Danielle is from Little Rock, Arkansas. Her favorite food is fried chicken. She has a gap in her front teeth. And Tyra Banks and the other judges' main problem with her is her accent. When she speaks you can tell she is from what some affectionately call "the Dirty South." Tyra claims that to be a Cover Girl, to do Cover Girl commercials, you can't talk like that. You have to talk like a Cover Girl. Translation: you have to talk like a well-educated white girl with a bland American accent.

One of Danielle's biggest assetts is her accent. It makes her unique and sexy in a way none of the other women are on the show. If Cover Girl doesn't want her, it's their loss. Their makeup sucks anyway. Am I right ladies?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Summer's Back By The Way

I'm still listening to the new Morrissey, Built to Spill and The Coup albums to decide if I like them or not and how much. I'll try to post some reviews soon.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Over 1 Million March in U.S. for Immigrant Rights

In San Francisco I was part of the 100,000 people marching on Market Street. Nationwide from Los Angeles to New York City there were over 1 Million immigrants and their supporters in the streets. I have never been in a political march or demonstration of that size before. There were lots of American flags but they were waved with a different kind of sentiment than you might find at, say, a Navy Air Show. In fact there were upside down flags, people rested the flags on the ground, they were worn as capes. In other words, it was more of a statement that this is our home rather than this is our homeland.

The economic boycott was also very effective. Whether or not there was an economic impact, it was very noticeable all over the country. In San Francisco, most businesses in the Mission were closed with signs announcing they were honoring the one-day boycott.

Meanwhile Lou Dobbs, who increasingly reminds me of the fascist talk show host in V For Vendetta, continues to complain that these are not merely immigrant marches they are illegal immigrant marches. Well, yes, the call is for amnesty, meaning a lot of people are in violation of the law, but the law should be changed. Remember Mr. Dobbs, it used to be illegal for slaves to escape from their masters, but the bigots ultimately lost that "law and order" argument.

Then there are the liberals like Barbara Boxer, the San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Times who all said something like, "we support immigrants, but boycotts and missing work or school really aren't good ideas." Their rhetoric was completely demeaning: o.k. you made your point now go back to school and work and the grown ups will handle the immigration laws.

In fact the marches were clearly not asking for a guest worker program; they were asking for real amnesty. Everyone here can stay - no fines, no job requirements, just total amnesty. Unfortunately there are few leaders, whether in Washington, in the corporate media or even in some of the largest Latino/Immigrant organizations, who are reflecting this sentiment. At least the most reactionary immigrant bashing seems to be off the table in Washington (though not necessarily on the cable news shows), but to win the May Day Demands struggle must continue.