Saturday… Immigrants and Immigration

Good Morning, the sun should have come up on another weekend day, which for most of the politicians and corporate big wigs is just another day to enjoy what ever it is most politicians and corporate big wigs do.

And while they are off playing golf or raising money for the flavor of the week, I am certain there is some Latino pushing a lawn mower, or perhaps a Latina, washing their clothes and linens and taking care of the kids…If these fat cats live in Alabama, they still can have their “day labor” help without worrying about being charged with aiding and abetting the immigrants they hire.

Well, whatever the 1% do on the weekends, it is what they do during the week that has me writing about the subject for today’s post.  Getting anti-immigrant “reform” laws being proposed or passed in state houses around the south are becoming a favorite pastime of the conservative politician and big money corporate class.

I guess being two generations removed from immigrants, who came to America searching for a better life, makes me a bit sensitive to these draconian laws that are turning immigrant brown into the new south black. Some may think this is taking it a bit far, but as we have seen with the anti-woman PLUB agenda, the hate towards immigrants will only get worse.

This past week we saw one of the most severe immigrant laws in the nation go into effect. After an Alabama judge decided to block only a small part of the law, the Obama administration appealed the decision. Friday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals gave a temporary order, that only blocks two items from the law.  The court blocked a section of the law that allowed Alabama schools to check on the immigration status of new students enrolling in school. It also blocked the portion of the law in which police can charge an immigrant who did not provide proof of their citizenship.  A final decision is expected in a few months, but now according to the Washington Post:

The judges let stand parts of the law standing, including allowing police to check a person’s immigration status during a traffic stop. Courts can’t enforce contracts involving illegal immigrants, such as leases, and it’s a felony for an illegal immigrant to do business with the state for basic things like getting a driver’s license, the judges ruled.

The three-judge panel blocked a portion of the law that made it a crime for the “willful failure to complete or carry” proper immigration documents. The law does not require students show proof of citizenship to enroll, and students who do not have the right documents would not be prevented from attending school.

Liz Betancourt, 19, with her daughter, Idelfy, is scared to leave her house in Florence, Alabama. An illegal immigrant whose family came from Mexico to the U.S. when she was an infant, Betancourt lives in a state that recently instituted a tough new immigration law. (CBS News)Under the state’s new law, if she’s picked up by police, she could be deported. And during that process, which can take months, there’s no legal guarantee her daughter Idelfy — born in Alabama and a U.S. citizen — would stay with her.

Betancourt is one of many immigrants who has made arrangements for her daughter if she is deported, fortunately she has her aunt,

If Betancourt’s deported, her aunt, a U.S. citizen, would care for Idelfy so the baby could stay here.

Fear of deportation is spreading through families living here illegally. In Albertville, Alabama’s public schools, 81 of 1,100 Hispanic students have dropped out in the last two weeks.

For those people who do get deported, they have the option of taking their US born children with them…And what about Betancourt who was surprisingly vocal about her illegal status…

The Friday decision by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals here in Atlanta is only temporary. Its final decision could be months away. And Liz Betancourt — the woman interviewed in our story — was fired by her cleaning company right after she spoke with CBS News.

Not all of Alabama’s employers are happy about the new law.  Alabama immigration: crops rot as workers vanish to avoid crackdown | World news |

Brian Cash can put a figure to the cost of Alabama‘s new immigration law: at least $100,000. That’s the value of the tomatoes he has personally ripening out in his fields and that are going unpicked because his Hispanic workforce vanished literally overnight.

For generations, Cash’s family have farmed 125 acres atop the Chandler mountain, a plateau in the north of the state about nine miles long and two miles wide. It’s perfect tomato-growing country – the soil is sandy and rich, and the elevation provides a breeze that keeps frost at bay and allows early planting.

For four months every year he employs almost exclusively Hispanic male workers to pick the harvest. This year he had 64 men out in the fields.
Then HB56 came into effect, the new law that makes it a crime not to carry valid immigration documents and forces the police to check on anyone they suspect may be in the country illegally.

After the law went into effect…

…there is no-one left. The fields around his colonial-style farmhouse on top of a mountain are empty of pickers and the tomato plants are withering on the vine as far as the eye can see. The sweet, slightly acrid smell of rotting tomato flesh hangs in the air.

We had the same thing happen here in Georgia. When the Immigration law was passed in the “Peach” state, the Vidalia onion season was just getting underway. Many Georgia farmers had their crops rotting in the fields. However, Georgia’s answer to the problem? Prison labor…

But what about all those unemployed Alabama resident’s jobs that this law is supposed to miraculously save from the evil Latino?

Cash gets angry when people tell him that his Hispanic workforce was taking jobs away from Americans. Since the new law began two weeks ago only two American citizens have come by his farm asking for work.

The couple had driven two hours from a city to offer their services, but they barely lasted that long in the fields. Cash discovered that they were trying to fiddle him by notching up two baskets of tomatoes for every one they picked – as they were paid by the basket that would have fraudulently doubled their earnings.

“That’s just the kind of stuff you come across. Somebody who really wants a good job and is prepared to work hard and honest for it isn’t going to come up here for four months in the year.
“But Hispanics will do that, and move on to Florida when the picking’s finished.”

To me this law is not about saving jobs for American Citizens, it is about discrimination, and getting the brown out of the state.

There are more personal stories here at this link:  The grim reality of life under Alabama’s brutal immigration law | World news | The Guardian

Please give that article a full read, it does put a human face on all the hate this anti-immigration law brings about.

In this next article, Paul Kleyman discusses Alabama’s Immigration law: From Jim Crow to Juan Crow — a Boomer Reflects on Alabama’s Civil Rights Legacy

Last week the Water Works — in the ironically named community of Allgood, Ala. — informed local residents that they must now present a valid driver’s license or ID. Otherwise, the notice threatened, “You may lose water service.”

The warning stems from part of Alabama’s drastic new immigration law stipulating that no one can qualify for a driver’s license or any other government service in the state unless they can prove citizenship or are otherwise authorized to be in the United States — especially those who are brown or have a Spanish accent.

Just a sidenote, the temporary ruling on Friday did not block the part of the Alabama law that dealt with contracts…

The article goes on to say that Allgood’s no water for you notice is not the first time water was part of a racial divide in the southern state:

Similar images flowed through my mind during a long bus ride 46 years ago. I was on my way to join the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery. That was a time of shocking black-and-white TV pictures of police blasting demonstrators off their feet with water canons, a time of separate toilets and water fountains — legislated by other laws — for blacks and whites.

Today, Jim Crow has become Juan Crow.

Kleyman continues to describe his experience in Jim Crow South:

But the Alabama decision — coming the same week that witnessed the death of Fred Shuttelsworth, who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King, Jr., and Derrick Bell, the Harvard law civil rights advocate — sent my mind rolling back through Birmingham on a chartered bus full of college students almost a half-century ago.

I was 19 and one of about 20,000 people wheeling in from around the country following Bloody Sunday. That was the police riot that left protesters like John Lewis — now a member of Congress — bloodied as they tried peacefully to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the first leg of a march to the state capital in Montgomery.

He took a bus from University of Minnesota that went south to heed Bobby Kennedy’s call.

In the ensuing days after the attack on the marchers, U.S. Attorney General Bobby Kennedy called out the National Guard to protect marchers from the likes of the Klan and police thugs, such as Selma Sheriff Jim Clark and Birmingham’s Commissioner of Public Safety, one Eugene “Bull” Connor.


In the early morning light, I felt the bus pull into a gas station. Drowsy at first, I took in the station’s homespun blue-and-white paint job. Then I found myself wide awake at a sight I’d only read about until that moment.

Two water fountains were marked “For Whites” and “Colored.”

The signs had a deep effect on Kleyman.

I was not prepared for the jarring emotional impact that sight had on me. As I glanced over at my ebony friend and idol, Teddy (whom we on the Minnesota Daily staff all called the coolest, most worldly guy), I felt tears moisten my eyes and anger tighten my chest.

There it was, right in front of us, in all of its banal, institutionalized expression of fear and hatred. The prosaic sight now before me was somehow even more unsettling than the televised images of police dogs, Billy clubs and flailing limbs in water.

By Alabama law, Teddy and I simply could not share the same spout for a drink of water because — because why?

There is a cultural bias in the south towards anyone who is not white. Even in my little part of redneck North Georgia, my family has experienced the unfriendly attitude towards immigrants…Having the last name of Lopez, and the olive complexion that comes from our Mediterranean Spanish and Italian roots, people here automatically assume we are Mexican. My father is an electrician and plumber and when he first moved here would call himself Loper to avoid the discrimination when someone would call him for work.

In the twenty years since he has been here, the local population has become more integrated. But there is still a lot of discrimination. One of the local cops would always hang out by the Catholic church during the Spanish Mass, then he would pull over many of the Mexicans as they left church.

We would see lots of Latin sounding names on the arrest sheet printed in the weekly paper. No insurance, no licence etc…but there always was a charge for no signal or a busted tail light. Which actually meant…brown driver of unknown Hispanic origin.

I think this attitude is what fuels the underlying hate these immigration bills glorify.  Since the Georgia anti-immigrant law hit, we don’t see those arrest in the paper. Most of the Mexicans have moved out of our community. Kids who were born here in the states were pulled out of school, because their parents feared being deported. I have mentioned one of my son’s friends, whose older brother is living with another student so that he can finish his last year of high school. His younger brother, mother and father are in North Carolina…just hoping to return someday.

Anyway, the Kleyman article ends with this realization:

The decades have rolled by like so many state “Welcome To …” signs, and the years have sped along fueled by many causes, loves and regrets, among the latter a falling out with Teddy — all my fault — that remains unrepaired.

But in the miles toward Selma that morning — and again now — I couldn’t help but think of the folk-music inquiry of those days, “When will they ever learn?” Sad to say, even after this “long time passing,” the answer remains, not yet…

No it would seem the legislators of these states have not learned anything. The latest anti-immigration law out this week in South Carolina is going to court…Groups sue to halt South Carolina’s new immigration law | Reuters

The suit contends the law is unconstitutional, invites racial profiling and interferes with federal law, according to a statement by the coalition, which includes the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Immigration Law Center.

South Carolina’s law, set to take effect on January 1, requires police to check the immigration status of anyone they stop or arrest for another reason and suspect may be in the country illegally.

Under the new law, employers in South Carolina will be required to use the federal E-Verify system to check the citizenship status of employees and job applicants. Penalties for knowingly employing illegal immigrants will include suspension and revocation of a business license by the state.

“By requiring local law enforcement officials to act as immigration agents, this law invites discrimination against anyone who looks or sounds ‘foreign,’ including American citizens and legal residents,” said Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina.

I guess it would also allow for police arrest sheets to admit the real reason for pulling someone over…as I said above…brown driver of unknown Hispanic origin.

There is a good article that explains the effect this anti-immigration law has on Alabama families. Judith Browne Dianis: Missing: Alabama’s Latinos, Obama Must Act!

After Republicans won a super majority in the Alabama legislature in 2010, they orchestrated a home-grown extremist attack on immigrants. Upping the ante on Arizona’s draconian anti-immigrant law, the legislature passed a law that makes it a felony to enter into contracts with undocumented persons, permits police to ask immigration status (racial profiling), prohibits government transactions with undocumented immigrants and requires that schools check the citizenship status of all children (allegedly, for data collection purposes only). So, what’s the practical effect? Undocumented immigrants cannot rent a home, or get water or electric service, or a job, or obtain any government service for that matter. Immigrants will be too scared to be helpful to the police. For the past several months, families have left the state because the law also required that when undocumented parents enroll their children in school (to obtain their constitutionally protected access to free, public education), they must reveal to the school that they are in the U.S. without legal status. This part of the provision was put on hold (but not yet struck down) by a federal court on October 14th. But news of this temporary block to the law is too late for many families and it doesn’t correct the other wrongs in the law.

The impact has been devastating for families. Recent news reports document that Latino families are fleeing the state. Feeling unwelcome and scared, they are leaving in search of a place to call home, where they can go after the American Dream and get out of the shadows of society. Workers are quitting their jobs and packing up. Many families are withdrawing their children from school, and are being forced into a life on the run. Other families are preparing for the worst — deportation — and asking teachers and friends to serve as legal guardians of their U.S.-born children. Where is our humanity?

She ends with a plea to Obama to help the situation and fight for the immigrant…yeah, like that is going to happen…but I want to touch on this question she poses…Yeah, where is our humanity…it is becoming more apparent every day that we are becoming a society of cruelty.  The far right religious and economic austerity is a guise for persecuting those who do not met their ideal definition of a person or personhood. Whether it is immigrants, women, children, or former fetuses, when a government that supposedly represents the people, puts more effort into celebrating corporations as people…or passes laws that make a fertilized egg a person…it should be no surprise these draconian immigration laws are moving the discrimination agenda forward, by making cruelty an acceptable and “legal” behavior.

I wanted to end on a positive note…so this last link may give some hope for a future.  An alternative to Alabama’s direction on immigration | Care2 Causes

Despite the fact that the Obama administration deports one person every 79 seconds, the past twelve months has seen an even stronger push across US states against immigration.

This has led to Alabama’s immigration law, which surpasses all other state laws in its harshness and stringency. The law means that residents now have to prove their citizenship to secure their water supply. Others are drawing up documents to make sure that their children are looked after should they be deported.

The Care2Care article goes on to state that in 2010, one in four children was part of an immigrant family. It looks like a few states are taking this into consideration.

Rhode Island’s Board of Governors for Higher Education, encouraged by Gov. Lincoln Chafee, has approved a state version of the DREAM Act which allows undocumented students to pay in-state college tuition. Students without papers must sign an affidavit promising that they will pursue U.S. citizenship as soon as possible.

Last weekend, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the second half of his state’s DREAM Act. The first half, enacted in July, sanctioned private scholarships and loans for undocumented college students. These students, with the passage of the second bill, can now pay in-state tuition rates and apply for state aid.

Other states have versions of the DREAM Act, but because it can’t be passed at the federal level, the state acts don’t include a ‘path to citizenship.’ What they do allow is for kids who have already received a public education to obtain a college degree, earn better wages, pay taxes, contribute to the economy and give back to society.

And just last week, NY Governor Cuomo sign an executive order which makes state agency forms and instructions available in six different languages.  Even in the mid-west, some communities are bucking the anti-immigrant trend.

…last week the ‘rust belt’ city of Dayton, Ohio voted to turn their city into an “immigrant friendly” destination with the explicit goal of replenishing the city’s population. A “Welcome Dayton” program is about encouraging new businesses and spurring investment in immigrant neighborhoods. It involves ESL and literacy courses, actively involving local youth in community building and encouraging cross-cultural events.

Advocates argue that rather than marginalizing immigrants and treating them as scapegoats these governments are finding ways to integrate them because they see immigrants as vital and economically integral — crucial to the nation’s future.

Well, it is a step in the right direction, but states like California have a way to go…California Babysitter Bill: Understanding A.B. 889

Officially, Louisa Araneta* is a live-in caretaker for an elderly woman who needs help eating, bathing and getting dressed. Unofficially, she’s also a servant to the woman’s daughter and son-in-law, as well as their autistic son.

Araneta, 68, gets paid $35 a day to clean the house, cook for the whole family and attend to her primary charge. And since one shift usually spans at least 10 hours of work, her per-hour take ends up well below California’s $8.00 minimum wage standard.


An assembly bill introduced in February of this year sought to protect Louisa — along with thousands of other personal attendants like her — with provisions like overtime pay, rest breaks and the right to sue her employer if those conditions were violated. A.B. 889 became known and derided as the “Babysitter Bill.”

While it was passed in both the assembly and the Senate, A.B. 889 never made it to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown (D) because the Senate Appropriates Committee put it in the “suspense file.” A.B. 889 isn’t dead, but its suspension means that personal attendants like Araneta still have almost nowhere to turn when employers take advantage of their time. The bill’s authors have another year to amend it for review at a later date.

This August, when the bill had passed the assembly and was poised to do the same in the Senate, Sen. Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) conjectured that the bill would be a job killer for domestic workers, shifting care work to institutions. As explained in his op-ed, “Unfortunately, the unreasonable costs and risks contained in this bill will discourage folks from hiring housekeepers, nannies and babysitters and increase the use of institutionalized care rather than allowing children, the sick or elderly to be cared for in their homes. I can’t help but wonder if that is the goal of A.B. 889 — a terrible bill that needs to be stopped.”

According to Marci Seville, a professor at the Golden Gate University School of Law and the director of the school’s Women’s Employment Rights Clinic.

“Domestic workers do the work that makes all other work possible,” she said. “Without domestic workers to clean homes and care for children and elders, the doctors, lawyers, business people, legislators and others would not be able to do their work.”


Isolation and vulnerability are hallmarks of the industry, especially for immigrant women who speak English as a second language. Since most work alone, scattered across residences all over California, domestic workers aren’t easy to educate or mobilize en masse.

“We can’t unionize these people because there is no big employer to organize against,” said Victor Narro, project director for the UCLA Labor Center.

There may not be a “big employer” to organize against, but…

Ironically, one factor impeding A.B. 889’s implementation is the fact that too many workers would benefit from the bill. According to the Senate Appropriation Committee’s analysis, the personal attendant industry’s labor violations are already so rampant that the state would be flooded with a “major increase in claims” that would necessitate the hiring of at least five new investigators to manage the caseload. The committee also estimated it would cost $385,000 to hire new staffers, and that’s just too much to pay in the midst of California’s budget crisis.

In an attempt to escape the domestic worker world, Araneta took a free computer course at the senior center, learning how to create an email account and write resumes to send to prospective employers. But, like millions of unemployed Americans have already discovered, “unfortunately, when you send a resume, they usually don’t reply,” she said.

“If I can find a better-paying job and a good employer, I’ll leave,” Araneta continued. “But right now, since I am a realistic person, I will suffer in silence.”

I think there will be countless numbers of people suffering in silence…and living in fear of being deported, worried about what will happen to their US born children.

So that is what I’ve found on the topic of immigration reform in America. What else are you reading and blogging about today? See you later in the comments, and have a wonderful day.

Thursday Reads

Good Morning!! Here are the stories that caught my eye this morning.

Reuters: Exclusive: Obama authorizes secret help for Libya rebels

President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing covert U.S. government support for rebel forces seeking to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, government officials told Reuters on Wednesday.

Obama signed the order, known as a presidential “finding”, within the last two or three weeks, according to government sources familiar with the matter.

Such findings are a principal form of presidential directive used to authorize secret operations by the Central Intelligence Agency. This is a necessary legal step before such action can take place but does not mean that it will.

Washington Post: In Libya, CIA is gathering intelligence on rebels

The Obama administration has sent teams of CIA operatives into Libya in a rush to gather intelligence on the identities and capabilities of rebel forces opposed to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, according to U.S. officials.

The information has become more crucial as the administration and its coalition partners move closer to providing direct military aid or guidance to the disorganized and beleaguered rebel army.

Although the administration has pledged that no U.S. ground troops will be deployed to Libya, officials said Wednesday that President Obama has issued a secret finding that would authorize the CIA to carry out a clandestine effort to provide arms and other support to Libyan opposition groups.

I can’t imagine why anyone would be surprised that the CIA is involved in Libya (they are everywhere). But the progs are looking down their noses in strong disapproval.

Emptywheel: Where Will Obama Try Himself for Material Support for Terrorism?

After all, according to Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project any help to a terrorist group–even counseling on how to make peace–is material support. And no matter how we try to spin arming rebels as an act of peace, it’s a good deal more help than legal counsel.

And, as the DC Circuit’s decision yesterday in Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed Uthman’s habeas suit makes clear, it’s not enough for a person to stop associating with al Qaeda in the 1990s, nor does the government need any real evidence of a tie between someone in al Qaeda’s vicinity to claim that person is a member of al Qaeda.

Glenn Greenwald: The wisdom and legality of arming Libyan rebels

Then there’s the question of the legality of arming Libyan troops. Salon’s Justin Elliott reported on Monday that the administration was actively considering arming the rebels despite an absolute arms embargo imposed by U.N. Resolution 1970 (“imposing an arms embargo on the country”). Today, The Guardian elaborates by citing numerous legal experts insisting that it would be a violation of the U.N. Resolution for the U.S. to arm the rebels. For its part, the U.S. insists that it is legally entitled to do so, with Hillary Clinton announcing that the arms embargo has been “overriden” by the broad mandate of U.N. Resolution 1973, allowing “all necessary measures” to be used to protect Libyan civilians.

On the strictly legal issue, this seems to be a close question. Can the specific arms embargo really be “overriden” by a general clause allowing the protection of civilians? That seems redolent of the Bush arguments that specific prohibitions in the law (such as the ban on warrantless eavesdropping) were “overriden” by the broad war powers assigned by the AUMF. More to the point, can it really be said that arming Libyan rebels is necessary for the protection of civilians? That sounds much more like what one does to help one side win a civil war.

I don’t know, and I admit I don’t like the idea of this action in Libya expanding too far. I remember when Reagan armed the “Contras.” Of course back in those days we were arming right-wing groups and the US was involved in countless human rights violations. In Libya, the opposition forces are trying to depose a genuinely evil dictator who has been involved in terrorist attacks.

But here’s my question: why don’t the progs convince the guy they supported to get us the hell out of Iraq and Afghanistan? They wanted this guy, they forced him on us, and now they’re whining. and what are they doing to find a decent alternative? A big nothing.

I’m not going to be happy if we get involved in a ground war in Libya or anywhere else, but it hasn’t happened yet. We’ve been in Afghanistan for almost ten years!

Raw Story: Most Americans think Obama does not deserve re-election, according to new poll

Obama’s approval rating is also at its lowest point ever, at 42 percent, while his disapproval rating rose from earlier in the month to a new high of 48 percent.

A similar Quinnipiac poll published March 3 found President Obama with 46 percent approval and 46 percent disapproval.

In that earlier poll, voters also split on whether Obama deserves reelection, with 47 percent saying yes and 45 percent saying no.

The latest poll reflects the president’s sliding fortunes in other studies, with a full 50 percent now saying that he does not deserve to stay in office beyond 2012.

The big problem with this is that the Republicans are bound to nominate someone who is to the right of Atilla the Hun and about as crazy and unempathetic as Muammar Gaddafi. I refuse to vote for Obama, but what if we end up with Michelle Bachmann or Mike Huckabee as President?

Anyway, the Tea Party’s polls are in the crapper along with Obama’s.

Just 32 percent of respondents viewed the tea party favorably, while a record-high 47 percent had a negative view of the movement that propelled Republicans to dramatic Congressional victories last November. Fourteen percent had no opinion, and 7 percent said they’ve never heard of the tea party.

I sure hope the Congresspeople find out about that.

Russ Feingold doesn’t think Jeffrey Immelt is a very good jobs czar. No kidding, lol.

Feingold’s new group, Progressives United, is set to launch a new campaign to pressure General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt to step down as the head of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competiveness. Feingold’s campaign — which I’m told will be joined by Move On later today — is based on two pieces of news that, Feingold says, render Immelt unfit for the gig of Obama jobs chief: GE paid no American taxes in 2010; and Immelt’s compensation doubled .

In an email to members of his new group, Feingold will argue that if Immelt doesn’t step down, Obama should fire him, arguing that Dems need to stop coddling corporations whose behavior undermines our economy:

I’ve got a couple of semi-humorous stories to get your mind off all the bad news. Get out your tiny violin. Did you know that the super-rich are unhappy and dissatisfied with their lives?

The Atlantic: Secret Fears of the Super-Rich

Does great wealth bring fulfillment? An ambitious study by Boston College suggests not. For the first time, researchers prompted the very rich—people with fortunes in excess of $25 million—to speak candidly about their lives. The result is a surprising litany of anxieties: their sense of isolation, their worries about work and love, and most of all, their fears for their children.

Awwwww. Too bad, so sad. Then give your money away to people who actually need it, why don’t you. And then get a real job.

Raw Story: Death anxiety linked to acceptance of intelligent design: study

Research conducted at the University of British Columbia and Union College found that people’s death anxiety was associated with support of intelligent design and rejection of evolutionary theory.

Death anxiety also influenced those in the study to report an increased liking for Michael Behe, a prominent proponent of intelligent design, and an increased disliking for Richard Dawkins, a well-known evolutionary biologist.

The findings suggest that people are motivated to believe in intelligent design and doubt evolutionary theory because of unconscious psychological motives.

Okay, time out. Because? No. This is a correlational study, and as we all should have learned long ago, Correlation does not equal causation.

The study was lead by UBC Psychology Assistant Professor Jessica Tracy and and UBC psychology PhD student Jason Martens. It was published in the March 30 issue of the open access journal PLoS ONE.

“Our results suggest that when confronted with existential concerns, people respond by searching for a sense of meaning and purpose in life,” Tracy said. “For many, it appears that evolutionary theory doesn’t offer enough of a compelling answer to deal with these big questions.”

There are a lot of variables unaccounted for in this description of the study. Maybe death anxiety is just associated with fundamentalist Christianity. I guess I could look up the study and see what the findings really were… But I probably won’t.

That’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about?

Mr. President, How About Supporting Democracy in the U.S.?

Yesterday, President Obama hypocrically praised the Egyptian pro-democracy demonstrators and argued forcefully in favor of the Egyptian government listening and responding to the demands of its people.

There are very few moments in our lives where we have the privilege to witness history taking place. This is one of those moments. This is one of those times. The people of Egypt have spoken, their voices have been heard, and Egypt will never be the same.

By stepping down, President Mubarak responded to the Egyptian people’s hunger for change. But this is not the end of Egypt’s transition. It’s a beginning. I’m sure there will be difficult days ahead, and many questions remain unanswered. But I am confident that the people of Egypt can find the answers, and do so peacefully, constructively, and in the spirit of unity that has defined these last few weeks. For Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day.

Back here in the U.S., President Obama listens only to the rich and powerful while ignoring a level of inequality higher than that in Egypt and an unemployment rate approximately the same as Egypt’s!

In the speech, Obama quoted a man who really stood for nonviolent protest and the fight for democracy:

As Martin Luther King said in celebrating the birth of a new nation in Ghana while trying to perfect his own, “There is something in the soul that cries out for freedom.” Those were the cries that came from Tahrir Square, and the entire world has taken note.

How dare you, Mr. Obama? You are a disgrace. You repeatedly imply comparisons between you and Martin Luther King, while behaving more like Mr. Mubarak.

What happens here in the U.S. when people peacefully protest the government’s policies? If it happens at Democratic or Republican party conventions, protesters are put in cages ironically called “free speech zones” that are far enough from the action to prevent the powerful from being disturbed by democracy-seeking rabble. Peace activists who identify as socialists or dare to support freedom movements in foreign countries are targeted by thuggish FBI raids and secret grand juries.

Mr. President, you and other members of your administration have repeatedly called for the Egyptian government to repeal its emergency laws. What about the emergency laws that have been in place here in the U.S. for many years?

Although most Americans would be surprised to hear it, the United States is technically experiencing more than one ongoing national emergency. In 1979, during the Iran Hostage Crisis, president Jimmy Carter declared a national emergency by executive order, which every president since has renewed. George W. Bush declared a separate state of emergency after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which Barack Obama renewed.

These emergency measures are limited rather than general in nature. The 1976 National Emergencies Act set a two-year term on emergency declarations (although it’s possible to extend a declaration indefinitely), and requires the president to specify what, exactly, the state of emergency empowers him to do. The Sept. 11-related emergency gives the president the right to call retired officers back into active duty (among other powers). The Iran emergency prevents American citizens and companies from entering into oil development contracts with the Islamic Republic.

Those states of emergency have allowed you and your mentor predecessor George W. Bush to gain authoritarian powers for the executive branch through the USA Patriot Act and other unconstitutional laws like the Military Commissions Act. The powers granted by these laws have frequently been abused by government agencies.

Free Speech Zone at Democratic Convention, 2008

The Patriot Act has been reauthorized multiple times and is currently up for renewal.

So, Mr. Obama, what is your position on the latest attempts to keep the most intrusive parts of the Patriot Act from expiring?

When the act was first signed into law, Congress put in some “sunset” provisions to quiet the concerns of civil libertarians, but they were ignored by successive extensions. Unfortunately, those concerns proved to be well founded, and a 2008 Justice Department report confirmed that the FBI regularly abused their ability to obtain personal records of Americans without a warrant.

The answer to that question is that the President wants those provisions extended for three years–two years longer than the Republicans in the House are pushing for!

The Senate is working on an extension also, and one of the leaders in support of that effort is “Democrat” Diane Feinstein (whose investment banker husband has profited handsomely from defense contracts and other government largess related to the financial crisis)

At least one mainstream journalist has called attention to the hypocrisy of your policies this morning, Mr. President–focusing on your disdain for the poor and unemployed in the U.S. In the NYT, Bob Herbert writes:

As the throngs celebrated in Cairo, I couldn’t help wondering about what is happening to democracy here in the United States. I think it’s on the ropes. We’re in serious danger of becoming a democracy in name only.

While millions of ordinary Americans are struggling with unemployment and declining standards of living, the levers of real power have been all but completely commandeered by the financial and corporate elite. It doesn’t really matter what ordinary people want. The wealthy call the tune, and the politicians dance.

So what we get in this democracy of ours are astounding and increasingly obscene tax breaks and other windfall benefits for the wealthiest, while the bought-and-paid-for politicians hack away at essential public services and the social safety net, saying we can’t afford them. One state after another is reporting that it cannot pay its bills. Public employees across the country are walking the plank by the tens of thousands. Camden, N.J., a stricken city with a serious crime problem, laid off nearly half of its police force. Medicaid, the program that provides health benefits to the poor, is under savage assault from nearly all quarters.

The poor, who are suffering from an all-out depression, are never heard from. In terms of their clout, they might as well not exist. The Obama forces reportedly want to raise a billion dollars or more for the president’s re-election bid. Politicians in search of that kind of cash won’t be talking much about the wants and needs of the poor. They’ll be genuflecting before the very rich.

It’s noteworthy that Bob Herbert is saying such things out loud these days, but what we really need is some serious consciousness-raising among the American people as a whole. We could be joining together to fight back against encroachments on our liberties and our economic stability like the people in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen. When will Americans wake up and see what is happening right here in the USA and begin to demand the restoration of our freedoms and our living standards? When will we fight back against growing government tyranny right here in the USA?

Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!

The first week of the New Year continues to bring College Football bowls and weird news.

The BBC thinks that Arkansas bird mystery may be solved. You may have heard that thousands of birds fell out of the sky on New Year’s Eve in the small town of Beebe.  Poison was ruled out since many of them wound up as midnight snacks for local cats and dogs that didn’t get sick. Now, investigators believe that fireworks may have caused the birds to panic and fly into each other and other things.

Initial laboratory reports said the birds had died from trauma, the AGFC said.

Residents reported hearing loud fireworks just before the birds started raining from the sky.

“They started going crazy, flying into one another,” said AGFC spokesman Keith Stephens.

The birds also hit homes, cars, trees and other objects, and some could have flown hard into the ground.

“The blackbirds were flying at rooftop level instead of treetop level” to avoid explosions above, said Ms Rowe, an ornithologist.

“Blackbirds have poor eyesight, and they started colliding with things.”

Here’s an interesting thing at The Economist on the PornoScans used by the TSA.    Evidently, they efficiently humiliate us, but terrorist find them pushovers.  They’re expensive, offensive, and they don’t work.

BOINGBOING’s brilliant Cory Doctorow has dug up a paper (published in the Journal of Transportation Security) outlining how easy it would be for terrorists to beat the new backscatter “full-body” imaging scanners that are being installed at major airports worldwide. Leon Kaufman and Joseph W. Carlson, two professors at the University of California, San Francisco, submitted their paper, “An evaluation of airport x-ray backscatter units based on image characteristics” ( PDF) on October 27, way before the John Tyner/”Don’t touch my junk” incident pushed the controversy over airport security rules into the cultural mainstream. The findings are pretty clear-cut: a smart terrorist could defeat backscatter units (or “pornoscanners,” as Mr Doctorow dubs them) with relative ease …

Here’s a story from NPR that should bring more shame to the Texas justice system that imprisons and kills people at an unbelievably high rate. Where’s the DOJ when you need them to investigate violations of civil rights on things like this?

Prosecutors declared a Texas man innocent Monday of a rape and robbery that put him in prison for 30 years, more than any other DNA exoneree in Texas.

DNA test results that came back barely a week after Cornelius Dupree Jr. was paroled in July excluded him as the person who attacked a Dallas woman in 1979, prosecutors said Monday. Dupree was just 20 when he was sentenced to 75 years in prison in 1980.

Now 51, he has spent more time wrongly imprisoned than any DNA exoneree in Texas, which has freed 41 wrongly convicted inmates through DNA since 2001   more than any other state.

“Our Conviction Integrity Unit thoroughly reinvestigated this case, tested the biological evidence and based on the results, concluded Cornelius Dupree did not commit this crime,” Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins said.

Dupree is expected to have his aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon conviction overturned Tuesday at an exoneration hearing in a Dallas court.

There have been 21 DNA exonerations in Dallas since 2001, more than any other county in the nation. Only two states — Illinois and New York — have freed more of the wrongly convicted through DNA evidence, according to the Innocence Project, a New York-based legal center representing Dupree that specializes in wrongful conviction cases.

I’ve been posting some links down thread on some of the names floating around for the people on the probable list to replace Rahm and Summers at the White House.  Their main qualifications appear to be working for Investment Banking firms.  Leading contender for Rahm’s replacement as White House Chief of Staff is J.P Morgan’s William Daley.  Former Economic Adviser Larry Summer may be replaced by a Goldman Sach’s  beneficiary Lawyer Gene Sperling whose been an adviser to Timothy Geithner. Yes, that’s right; a lawyer for an economic adviser.  You’d think our economics-disabled POTUS would want an actual economist.  It seems, however, that Obama is highly worried that Big Business and Wall Street don’t like him.  Oh dear, we wouldn’t want any donations to dry up to the re-election campaign, would we?  Daley is close to Axelrod and Chicago’s Mayor Daley.  Feel all better now?

Antonin Scalia provided yet another reason why we need to reconsider resurrecting the ERA.  He just gave an interview and said women don’t have constitutional protection under the 14th amendment. He said this last September also.  There are lots of feminist blogs writing on this and you can find their links on Memeorandum.

Marcia Greenberger, founder and co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, called the justice’s comments “shocking” and said he was essentially saying that if the government sanctions discrimination against women, the judiciary offers no recourse.

“In these comments, Justice Scalia says if Congress wants to protect laws that prohibit sex discrimination, that’s up to them,” she said. “But what if they want to pass laws that discriminate? Then he says that there’s nothing the court will do to protect women from government-sanctioned discrimination against them. And that’s a pretty shocking position to take in 2011. It’s especially shocking in light of the decades of precedents and the numbers of justices who have agreed that there is protection in the 14th Amendment against sex discrimination, and struck down many, many laws in many, many areas on the basis of that protection.”

Greenberger added that under Scalia’s doctrine, women could be legally barred from juries, paid less by the government, receive fewer benefits in the armed forces, and be excluded from state-run schools — all things that have happened in the past, before their rights to equal protection were enforced.

Republicans are once again using Islamphobic slams to motivate the base and set ground for their continuing radical assault on constitutional rights.  We should be so lucky to have Shari’a compliant finance and banking.  Think no usurious interest and fees.   Also, the aim of investing in Shari’a compliant finance is ethical and moral investing and hoarding is prohibited.  Money must be used for the good of the community.   Plus some revenues must be set aside to take care of widows and orphans.  The most outrageous thing about some of these lies is that Orthodox Jews in places like New York have similar laws and practices already in place.  You don’t hear complaints about that though, do you?

Rep. Allen West (R-FL), a newly-elected member who has loudly scapegoated Muslims and campaigned on a promise to oppose religious diversity, appeared on Frank Gaffney’s radio program last week. Gaffney, who routinely says that Obama is both a secret Muslim and a member of the “Muslim Brotherhood,” asked West about how the new Republican Congress plans to “take on Sharia as the enemy threat doctrine?” West said that, although he has not spoken with all of the new members, he hoped that Congress would focus on the “infiltration of the Sharia practice into all of our operating systems in our country as well as across Western civilization.” He explained that targeting Sharia should be part of America’s “national security strategy” and that a response to Sharia would somehow include “tailor[ing]” American “security systems, our political systems, economic systems, our cultural and educational systems, so that we can thwart this”

Propublica reports that Obama is trying to expand his options on Guantanamo.  The problem is that they also expand executive power in a way that would give a pretty good hard on to Dick Cheney.  Obama may use a signing statement.

Obama has issued a number of signing statements taking issue with more than a dozen legislative provisions and has come under some criticism for it from both Republicans and Democrats. Shortly after he took office, Obama promised to use them with less frequency than former President Bush, noting in a presidential memorandum in March 2009: “I will act with caution and restraint, based only on interpretations of the Constitution that are well-founded.”Bush established Guantanamo through executive order and issued over 150 signing statements, more than any other president. The practice was especially controversial when Bush applied it to legislation dealing with detainee treatment.

The American Bar Association issued a report in 2006 that called signing statements “contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional separation of powers.” The report was signed by a number of legal scholars including Harold Koh, who was then dean at Yale Law School and is today the top lawyer at the State Department and one of several advisers involved in the administration’s Guantanamo policy.

It seems that deceit webs–once woven–keep entangling the rule of law.

Robert Reich calls Obama and the Democrats enablers of Republicans and Their BIG Lie on his latest blog thread.

Republicans are telling Americans a Big Lie, and Obama and the Democrats are letting them. The Big Lie is our economic problems are due to a government that’s too large, and therefore the solution is to shrink it.

The truth is our economic problems stem from the biggest concentration of income and wealth at the top since 1928, combined with stagnant incomes for most of the rest of us. The result: Americans no longer have the purchasing power to keep the economy going at full capacity. Since the debt bubble burst, most Americans have had to reduce their spending; they need to repay their debts, can’t borrow as before, and must save for retirement.

The short-term solution is for government to counteract this shortfall by spending more, not less. The long-term solution is to spread the benefits of economic growth more widely (for example, through a more progressive income tax, a larger EITC, an exemption on the first $20K of income from payroll taxes and application of payroll taxes to incomes over $250K, stronger unions, and more and better investments in education and infrastructure.)

But instead of telling the truth, Obama has legitimized the Big Lie by freezing non-defense discretionary spending, freezing federal pay, touting his deficit commission co-chairs’ recommended $3 of spending cuts for every dollar of tax increase, and agreeing to extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

Will Obama stand up to the Big Lie? Will he use his State of the Union address to rebut it and tell the truth?

No and No.  Robert, you should know by now that Obama believes The Big Lie and that Democrats won’t stop him.  Raise your hand if you think The Big Question will be how long into the State of the Union Adress will it take before Obama tries to sell us The Big Lie and tells us we need to hand over and cut our Social Security?

We don’t appear to be the only group of liberals worried about Obama betraying the Democratic position on Social Security according to The Hill.

Maria Freese of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare said she thinks Social Security is “more at risk than it was in 2005,” when President George W. Bush proposed far-reaching changes to the program, including personal accounts. The plan was vigorously opposed by Democrats and liberal groups and never came up for a vote in Congress.

Now, with Social Security coming to the forefront once again, liberal groups are preparing a campaign to oppose any “backroom” deals on retirement benefits.

“What I am really afraid of is another deal behind closed doors,” said Nancy Altman, the co-director of Social Security Works. “At least with President Bush, he went around the country on a tour and presented his plan, and people didn’t like it.”

This is such a true statement.  We saw that Obama was more than willing to sell us out–behind close doors–to big Pharma interests during health care reform.  We witnessed Obama dropping a public option so  quickly–despite campaign promises–that it must  been prearranged.   There’s got to be a connection to all these Investment Banker people showing up in the West Wing and that big pool of  money and investments in Treasury Bills out there that are pledged to those of us that have paid into the program since our first day of work.

Whats on your reading and blogging list today?

White House Preparing Executive Order on Indefinite Detention

Dafna Linzer at ProPublica:

The White House is preparing an Executive Order on indefinite detention that will provide periodic reviews of evidence against dozens of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, according to several administration officials.

The draft order, a version of which was first considered nearly 18 months ago, is expected to be signed by President Obama early in the New Year. The order allows for the possibility that detainees from countries like Yemen might be released if circumstances there change.

But the order establishes indefinite detention as a long-term Obama administration policy and makes clear that the White House alone will manage a review process for those it chooses to hold without charge or trial.

Nearly two years after Obama’s pledge to close the prison at Guantanamo, more inmates there are formally facing the prospect of lifelong detention and fewer are facing charges than the day Obama was elected.

The stated goal of this new policy is to give detainees who have been designated for indefinite detention the opportunity for more frequent reviews:

…a minimal review every six months, with and then a more lengthy annual review. Detainees will have access to an attorney, to some evidence against them and the ability to challenge their continued detention.

However it isn’t clear to whom these detainees would plead their cases. Would they meet directly with the President or administration officials? What would be their chances of changing their status through these reviews? I guess we’ll have to wait until the next administration official decides to anonymously leak some more specific information.

According to the Washington Post:

Those designated for prosecution but who are not charged could also have their cases reviewed under the proposed system in the executive order, the White House official said.

Detainees at Guantanamo would continue to have access to the federal courts to challenge their incarceration under the legal doctrine of habeas corpus. Officials said the plan would give detainees who have lost their habeas petition the prospect of one day ending their time in U.S. custody. And officials said the International Committee of the Red Cross has been urging the administration to create a review process.

I guess I must be kind of simple-minded compared to the geniuses in the Obama administration, but I tend to agree with Laura Murphy of the ACLU, who told the WaPo:

“Indefinite detention without charge or trial is wrong, whether it comes from Congress or the president’s pen….Our Constitution requires that we charge and prosecute people who are accused of crimes. You cannot sell an indefinite detention scheme by attaching a few due-process baubles and expect that to restore the rule of law. That is bad for America and is not the form of justice we want other nations to emulate”

The WaPo speculates that the motivation for Obama’s executive order is to

preempt legislation supported by some Republicans, which would create a system of indefinite detention not only for some Guantanamo detainees but also for future terrorism suspects seized overseas.

Maybe, but to me it just seems like another in an endless string of broken promises from the guy who seduced the “progressives” with hope ‘n change and then delivered Bush’s policies on steroids.

I’ll end with an extended quote from Spencer Ackerman, who asks some very good questions:

And there’s a lot of unanswered questions, process-wise, that lend themselves to ad hoc solutions. Who will a lawyer be pleading her client’s case to, here? A judge or an administration official? What role will there be for the courts in reviewing this process, if any? How could a detainee’s counsel successfully argue that he no longer poses a threat? According to the official Dafna quotes, the criterion for determining a detainee’s threat level is inescapably a strategic decision. We’d never leave it for a judge to determine whether, say, Yemen is still a terror-exporting nation. So what’s the point of having a lawyer in the process, if this is an exclusively executive-derived process? None of the above should be construed as an endorsement of the administration’s decisionmaking here, but rather a statement of confusion as to just what system it’s in fact creating for its “Fifth Category” of detainee.

Also: why think this executive order will forestall congressional efforts at codifying an indefinite-detention architecture? Lindsey Graham is going to reintroduce his detention bill in the Senate. Buck McKeon is going to reintroduce his detention bill in the House, where chances are better than even that some indefinite detention bill will pass. The Republicans ran on a platform that included indefinite detention and did very well. Obama ran on a platform that included opposition to indefinite detention, won, and then pursued it anyway. Which of these political forces can we say has more fortitude?

Update, 6:58 p.m.: If I understand the Post’s story correctly, the annual review hearing would be in front of a judge, for a kind of re-habeas-ing. But having made the initial decision that the executive has the right to hold Detainee X, what question is the judge to answer, aside from “Is This Person A Th?reat?” which is not a judicial decision. If the question is “Is The Government’s Case Against This Person Valid?” congratulations — you’re in trial territory! Which isn’t what this is. What kind of hybrid is Obama creating?

I just have one more question. Why doesn’t Obama just “follow his bliss” and run as a Republican in 2012? Then maybe we could find a real Democrat to run against him.