Friday, June 22, 2018

Chris Hayes Makes It Clear

I mention Chris Hayes of MSNBC a fair amount here, but I don't quote him very often outside my Twitter roundups. Here's a series of tweets from him today on the question of immigration more broadly than the immediate crisis:

Since I'm seeing a bunch of zombie takes about "How To Solve The Politics of Immigration" today, a brief thread on my experience covering this issue the last 13 years.

Since 2005's McCain-Kennedy legislation, the basic approach to comprehensive immigration reform has been the same: you need to be *tough* on the border, assure people there is a rigorous and orderly process and then people will accept legalization for the undocumented.

This was the same general structure of the Gang of Eight immigration bill in the Senate in 2013. And it makes a lot of sense: there's strong majority support for this approach in poll after poll.

In fact that bill passed the senate 68–32!

But both those pieces of legislation were killed by hard-right, restrictionist mobilization against it. The plain fact of immigration politics in this country is that the Steve King/Stephen Miller wing of the GOP, a small minority of the country, has a total veto on it.

Now what *has* happened during the last 13 years is that unauthorized immigration has fallen significantly, net migration from Mexico has reached zero, and funding and manpower at the border has doubled. There have never been more border patrol and more ICE agents.

Deportations in the first term of Obama hit record highs. In short, the border has never been more patrolled and militarized. And yet somehow the anti-immigration forces during this time have only gotten stronger and more extreme.

That's because the politics of opposition aren't driven by concerns about border security or lawfulness. There *are* lots of persuadable *voters* who do have those concerns. But they're not the obstacle.

No, the hardcore opposition is driven by demographic and racial panic.

The leaders of that wing, Steve King for instance, are very open and clear about their opposition to demographic change. Steve Bannon even pointed to having too many Asian tech CEO's as an example of the problem he's trying to solve. The president himself lamented immigration from Haiti because it is a shithole country and openly pined for more people from countries like Norway.

They are not subtle about this.

And that is why no amount of border security or enforcement ***will ever be enough*** to assuage their opposition.

The only political solution is for the pro-immigration faction, which is closer to the majority's views on the topic, to organize sufficiently to deal Steve King et al total defeat. That's what happened in California after Prop 187. I see no other way out.
That, plus two interviews from his show last night informed me more than most everything else I've heard. One interview was with Texas. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who actually appears to know what he's talking about, and the other was with former acting ICE director (under Obama), John Sandweg. From O'Rourke, I learned these facts which come from Customs and Border Patrol:
  • 1.6 million people entered the U.S. with documents in 2001 as George W. Bush took office
  • That number is now only 400,000 (which, as we all know, is 25% of the earlier number). 
  • The number of families entering was down 4 percent between fiscal year 2017 and 2018; the number of unaccompanied minors is up 3 percent over that same time period... so hardly an explosion overall in the already historically low number of entries.
From Sandweg, whose interview doesn't seem to be online anywhere (to my frustration) I got a better sense of how the asylum process could work in a way that's more humane, effective, and cheaper — even if it's being enforced with so-called zero-tolerance (which I disagree with in the first place).

Mulligan and his hooligan minions created this crisis out of whole cloth and racism, nothing more.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Learning from the Gulag

Today there are three notable posts on

The Gulag post will be one I think about for a long time, particularly. The items Kottke excerpted are among the best ones, but not all so be sure to read the original post. The most shattering one of all, for me, is this:
30. I discovered that the world should be divided not into good and bad people but into cowards and non-cowards. Ninety-five percent of cowards are capable of the vilest things, lethal things, at the mildest threat.
I've never formulated this thought before, but I think in the back of my mind I fear that I would be one of the cowards and I spend my time trying to convince myself that it isn't true (through my actions). But I know I haven't faced a decision point anything like the gulag, either, and I doubt myself.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Another Look at Virtue-Signaling

I has been a busy day, but I have just enough time to post these thoughts from John Scalzi:

There is a high correlation between complaining about someone else "virtue signaling," and being a fucking piece of shit who wouldn't recognize virtue if it was wearing glittery spangles and a neon sign.
Well said. (Here are my earlier thoughts on virtue-signaling.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

In a Nutshell

Organizers have announced a march against Mulligan's child separation actions on Saturday, June 30, in Washington. I know it takes time to organize a large event, but that's 10 days from now and if something hasn't changed on this by then, I'm not sure what it will mean.

In some ways, my biggest fear is that they'll back off slightly on the family separations and many people will call it a victory, leaving the center on this issue moved violently to the right.

I'm not sure who made this illustration, but I saw it via the Twitter account of Carlyle Gordon.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Boomer Naivete

This concept has been in my head, but it was put into words by two other people on Twitter today. First Jamelle Bouie (@jbouie) of Slate wrote:

I think we’re witnessing, with the Trump era, how many Americans explicitly understand citizenship and deservingness to be a function of whiteness.
And then Angus Johnston (@studentactivism), professor of history at CUNY, wrote in response:
What's striking and disheartening to me, as a historian raised in the seventies and eighties, is how brief the period of acceptable-opinion consensus to the contrary actually was.
As I've written before, it's odd to be part of a generation that grew up assuming the way things were is the way things are — that living wage jobs were possible without advanced education, for instance, or that debtors prisons were a thing of the past — only to realize it was a bubble. Some of the things I thought were a consensus (like civil rights for all or that the extreme income inequality of the Gilded Age or 1920s was inherently bad) probably weren't exactly a consensus, but they were at least the acceptable-opinion consensus, as Johnston puts it.

It has taken me years to accept that what I thought was reality was only a blip. But it's the reality I work to create.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sheep in Wolf's Clothing

A few days ago, I saw this T-shirt at a vintage store:

It was amusing enough to photograph as a possible blog entry. Yes, that is a black wolf in white sheep's clothing. Ha ha ha.

But when I looked up that organization name, I found out it's a group of self-appointed welfare-fraud investigators. Yuck!

The only good news is that, from the looks of their website (to which I will not link), the group has not been very active for a few decades. It does appear to have an annual conference in October 2018, though the text on that page is mostly hidden by a photograph, so maybe it's a secret conference for all of the cop wannabes.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

RBG, a Real Tear-Jerker

I was busy being a new parent for much of the 1990s. I'm sure I was aware that Bill Clinton appointed Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court in 1993, but I don't remember thinking about it much. I know for sure I couldn't have come up with her name, based on her work, until she was nominated.

So it's odd that I spent about half of the time in tears while I was watching the new documentary RBG, directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen. Ginsburg isn't exactly an unsung hero at this point, but she used to be. As one of the commentators in the film says, her work in the 1970s affected every American, especially women (but that affects everyone, of course). And I never knew it until relatively recently.

I have to confess, the first I knew of that work was from a 2017 RadioLab broadcast called Sex Appeal, which tells the story of the Craig v. Boren case RBG tried before the Supreme Court in 1976. I highly recommend it if you can't get to see the film, or even if you can.

Another reason the movie touched me so deeply is that Ginsburg is only a year younger than my mother. They were both smart young women attending college in small upstate New York cities at around the same time. While life took them along different paths, that similarity made me feel even closer to Ginsburg than I would just from her achievements.

Do yourself a favor and see this film. You may not cry as much as I did, but you'll still learn a lot.

Friday, June 15, 2018

In Case You Didn't Hear

The cartoonist who created this image (among a number of others that were repressed by his editor) was just fired from his job:

Rob Rogers worked for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette until yesterday. He had been there for 25 years and has been a Pulitzer finalist. The paper's editorial director, appointed by its Trump-supporting publisher, said he

did not “suppress” Mr. Rogers’ cartoons but that Mr. Rogers was unwilling to “collaborate” with him about his work and ideas.
Collaborate? Is that what political cartoonists do, generally? Quoting from the same story (from the Post-Gazette):
Mr. Burris [the editorial director] began overseeing the Post-Gazette’s editorial pages in March after the paper’s owner, Block Communications, combined them with the editorial pages of its other newspaper, The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. He was formerly the editorial page editor for The Blade and now splits his time between the two cities.

He acknowledged that he is “more conservative” than past editorial page editors and that even prior to Mr. Trump’s election in 2016, the owners of the newspaper had been trying “to right the ship” to reflect less liberal views.

Mr. Rogers said he began to feel “a lot more pushback” about his work after Mr. Trump announced his run for office in 2015.

But few of his cartoons were killed until Mr. Burris took over the editorial page, he said. Since March, nine cartoon ideas and 10 finished cartoons were killed, he said.
The First Amendment doesn't apply here, of course, since that's about government intervention. But this is still worth exclaiming over. Personally I can't get over the part where the editorial director complained that Rogers's cartoons weren't funny enough.


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Tiger Burning Bright

I picked up the book Tiger Burning Bright by Theodora DuBois at a used book sale recently. I succumbed partly because of the charming three-color cover illustration and partly because I remembered seeing it during my 1970s library days, even though I was pretty sure I had never read it.

Well, now I have read it and I'm certain it was the first time. Published in 1964 by an author who was then 74 years old, it's set in 1857 India and tells the fictional first-person story of an American teen-aged girl swept up in the violent Sepoy Rebellion. I had never heard of this revolt before (thank you, U.S. education system), but it's easy to analogize it to China's "Boxer Rebellion," which I did learn about in school from a Western perspective. As with Gene Luen Yang's graphic novel Boxers, this story of India could use a telling from an Indian point of view.

I knew going into my reading that the book was unlikely to be from the point of view of the colonized Indian people, and I was right. The author, I think, thought she was a progressive, but she carries her Western bias throughout. Before the book opens, for instance, she explains in a section called "A Few Facts about India" that the East India Company was in control of the country, backed up by the British military. However, it
by no means used [its powers] only for the enrichment of the English. Roads, aqueducts and irrigation systems were constructed throughout the country. Famine suffering was alleviated. Hospitals and schools were built.... Education was encouraged and missionaries came and began to spread Christianity.

Unhappily, many men of India misunderstood and resented the laws and innovations of the English (page x).
So...missionaries came to spread Christianity in a country with several other religions already in dominance, but the people "misunderstood" what the English were up to? Right.

The thing I was less ready for was the casual sexism from a woman author. Every one of the English adult women in the book is useless and horrible. They are the ones who express the worst anti-Indian racism; somehow, British men are all much more open-minded. The women all end up getting killed off one way or another, leaving our plucky American teen and another young Irish servant girl as the only non-child females in the story.

The book is especially hard on a woman called Mrs. Thompson, the mother of four young children, including a nursing infant. Her husband is murdered in front of her and the rest of the family (as well as the narrator and me, the reader). Mrs. T. can't snap out of it, though, and pitch in toward the survival of the group, darn her! As a reader, I was irritated with her, as the author intended me to be, of course. DuBois lays it on even thicker, making Mrs. T. irrational about maintaining English cultural mores in the midst of a life-or-death crisis and whining about needing more water. But stepping back, where is the allowance that this woman has recently given birth, could be in postpartum depression, and is, of course, nursing — which means she needs more water than everyone else? There isn't any, of course, from our teen-aged narrator. Mrs. T. finally dies of something after going mad. Her baby is left with no food source at that point.

Mrs. T's loss as a milk cow leads to an interesting combination of sexism and racism as the story nears its end, when the refugee party is saved from dying by the people of a Jat village, deep in the desert between Delhi and Multan. The Jat people are described as "very primitive and low caste, but kind." The narrator has enough presence of mind to acknowledge that "It's strange to think of oneself being the object of charity from a group of such half-naked, almost destitute" people.

Luckily, there is a young Jat mother with an infant of her own who can serve as a wet nurse to the orphaned baby, Peter. She herself is described as "a young ebony girl" who the protagonist actually thinks of as "dinner for our Peter."

This child-mother and her husband (who is described as a "not-very-bright but devoted individual") join the traveling party and are referred to for the rest of the book as "the Jats" — they are never given names, though one member of the refugee group can speak a common tongue with them, so they could easily have exchanged names.

In the end, after the English/Irish/American refugees reach Multan and the "safety" of English society once again, the Jat couple leaves for their village, taking the infant Peter with them. The English ladies of Multan decry this action ("he's been stolen by that dreadful wet-nurse, that Jat woman") and assume the couple will harm him or at least hold him for ransom. Our heroine knows better, saying the Jat mother is "not dreadful. She saved his life. She's kind and devoted. She took him because she was afraid he would die without her and she couldn't bear to give him up." But still, she makes sure the child is retrieved nonetheless. The retrieval is described this way by the character who brings the baby back:
We soon overtook them plodding along, the woman with both babies. I will say that she didn't want to give up ours. She screamed and kicked when I tried to take him from her and he howled and held onto her hair.... [laughs]... But an English officer had driven us and he gave the Jat man a gold piece. I saw the transaction. Even the woman was impressed and she finally relinquished the baby to Katie without too many tears.
That the Jat couple were okay with exchanging the baby for a gold piece may or may not be realistic, but it's written as if there could be no question that it was more than fair.

One final aspect of the book that left me shaking my head: our main character is 14 years old in the opening pages before she leaves for India with her parents, then 17 during the main action. There is a young man from her home town who was "at least 23" at the beginning and 26 for the main action as they struggle to reach safety. Our girl has had a crush on him for years, of course, but assumed he was not interested. At the end of the book, though, he suddenly declares his love for her and asks her to marry him, saying "I've had my eye on you since you were an infant!".

Well, ick, man. DuBois's husband was 10 years older than she, but they didn't meet until she was 27. The characters' age difference is a minor point in the book but it also seems to exist for no particular reason (why couldn't the narrator have been 20 or 22?), except to allow DuBois to sell the book as a juvenile instead of an adult novel, I suppose.

It was a final twist of distastefulness on top of all that had come before it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Professional Drone?

At first I had no idea what it was I was seeing. But then I pulled alongside it at a light:

(I only just now got the weak pun in the company name, though. It's a bit of a stretch.)

I am fond of saying that it's silly to ask young people what they want to do with their work lives. Who would have thought there would ever be something called a "drone professional"? Not me.

As seen on Snelling Avenue at University in Saint Paul.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

How "We" Think of Disability

From the Twitter feed of Dolly Sen (@dozzyangel), who describes herself as a "professional mad person, writer, speaker, artist, and filmmaker":

Think about that for a while, if disability isn't something you (or someone you're close to) live with on a daily basis. I know I will.

Monday, June 11, 2018

ICE in Their Veins

Today we were told by Jeff Sessions that people fleeing domestic violence or gang death threats aren't considered asylum seekers, yet MS13 is a scourge worthy of upending all of our civil liberties.

Children are being stored in cages after being taken from their parents through trickery or even violence.

How much longer can this go on?