Sunday, November 23, 2014

Obama's Execution of Immigration Policy

This is a commentary on President Obama’s Nov. 21st, 2014 announcement of an executive order on immigration policy.  The most contentious element was his formalizing the intent to concentrate prosecutions on the most serious and dangerous cases, forbearing prosecutions of some cases which could be inhumane to the defendants and/or their families.   I noted in a Facebook post that Ronald Reagan had acted on immigration in a similar manner in 1986, and then I got a couple of well-reasoned and solidly-founded comments, condemning Obama’s action.  They sent me to researching the topic, and I found that I still agree with Obama’s action, but now I am confident that it is not only best for the nation, but quite legal and proper.

It is true that in 1986 Reagan signed a bill, whereas Obama is using and executive order, but Obama is both upholding the spirit of legislation already passed, and faithfully choosing to concentrate limited prosecutorial resources on the most egregious and dangerous cases.  On CNN's State of the Union,  Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said, "Shame on us as Republicans for having a body that cannot generate a solution to an issue that is national security, it's cultural and it's economic. The Senate has done this three times."  In other words, the (Republican) Speaker of the House has stalled a bill the Senate passed, by refusing to bring it to the floor for debate and vote.  Obama must therefore enforce existing law to the best of his ability, and he has used an executive order to clarify his decisions about how he can best do so.
Timothy Sandefur criticizes Obama here, yet also admits that, “A president faced with limited resources who chooses to prosecute only the severest crimes the budget will allow, is faithfully taking care that the laws be executed.”  Sandefur clearly refutes his own complaint, making it obvious that his issue is not with Obama's legal action, but with Obama as a representative of forward thinking and fairness to all.  Therefore, we see that Obama has merely formalized a policy which he is bound BY LAW to implement.

It is also noteworthy that the restrictions on immigration by present law are considered unconstitutional by strict constructionists, including many of those squawking about the President’s executive order.  Until 1889,  Congress did not have a general power to restrict immigration, so Obama’s restraint in enforcing these laws makes good, conservative sense.  I understand the complaints against this executive order, and find them groundless.  I agree that we must not allow scofflaws to circumvent our laws, nor disrespect legal immigrants. (Here's a blog post from 2009)  I do not find that Obama’s recent action encourages that, but rather implements existing law in the best manner possible, until Congress gets off their duffs.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

...Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary... --Steve Jobs, 2005

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Let's get rational about IMMIGRATION:
>>I wrote this and posted it elsewhere a couple of years before moving it here,
but although other issues have up-staged this one, the situation has hardly changed.<<
The United States is basically a nation of immigrants.  Even the "Native Americans" who preceded the Western Europeans by many centuries probably migrated here.  I have many friends who were born in other nations and moved here for various reasons.  I married one, and she has since become a naturalized citizen.  Some of my friends even came here illegally, because they saw no other way and their situation was dire.  I understand their reasons and sympathize with them.  I will vote for reform of the laws, and improvement to the bureaucracy, and what ever leniency and accommodations are deemed fair and equitable by our electorate. I can not, however, countenance the brazenly irresponsible calls I hear for blanket amnesty, nor the inane babblings about a "guest worker program" when we already have one.  It's called an H-1 visa.  To simply call "king's X" for all the current crop of illegal immigrants is to invite another wave of scoff-laws on their heels, and is an insult to my friends and relatives who went to the trouble of immigrating legally, many of whom have struggled for years to gain citizenship.  I recently received an editorial which may illuminate this subject:

[begin guest editorial] Recently large demonstrations have taken place across the [United States] protesting the fact that Congress is finally addressing the issue of illegal immigration. Certain people are angry that the US might protect its own borders, might make it harder to sneak into this country and, once here, to stay indefinitely. Let me see if I correctly understand the thinking behind these protests.

Let's say I break into your house. Let's say that when you discover me in your house, you insist that I leave. But I say, "I've made all the beds and washed the dishes and did the laundry and swept the floors; I've done all the things you don't like to do. I'm hard-working and honest (except for when I broke into your house).

According to the protesters, not only must you let me stay, you must add me to your family's insurance plan, educate my kids, and provide other benefits to me and to my family (my husband will do your yard work because he too is hard-working and honest, except for that breaking in part). If you try to call the police or force me out, I will call my friends who will picket your house carrying signs that proclaim my right to be there.

It's only fair, after all, because you have a nicer house than I do, and I'm just trying to better myself. I'm hard-working and honest, um, except for well, you know.

And what a deal it is for me!! I live in your house, contributing only a fraction of the cost of my keep, and there is nothing you can do about it without being accused of selfishness, prejudice and being an anti-housebreaker.
Oh yeah, and I want you to learn my language so you can communicate with me. [end guest editorial]

I enjoy learning languages and discovering cultures foreign to my own, but I find it selfish, lazy and ego-centric of any immigrant to demand that government documents like ballots and tax forms be translated into languages other than English.  The right to vote entails a responsibility to understand the issues, and demands the due diligence of becoming fluent in
the language of broad public discourse in which those issues are framed.
If I went to France and complained about having to speak French, they would simply laugh at me.  The same goes for almost any nation on earth except the United States.  I believe that our fear of the '
tyranny of the majority' has led us to such excessive plurality that a 'tyranny of the minorities' is crippling us. We are ever more gridlocked by the many-headed-animal syndrome, giving veto power to parochial partisans simply because they have the chutzpah to brand themselves disenfranchised.
It is true that laziness and greed are rampant in modern America.  It is also true that our self-indulgence has been a factor in creating the immigration problems we face today, as well as our difficulties with the Middle East and drug trafficking, but "legalizing" more drugs, or more subsidized labor, or polygamy will not save us.
We need to do what Americans have always done best: roll up our sleeves, face our (best and worst) selves and get to work. Work out better ways to get crops harvested and move goods, make the immigration system work, and the same for the schools and the kids in them, and most of all their parents- yes, you and me. We can do it. Our parents (and/or grandparents) did wonders with willpower, ingenuity and sweat. Can we afford to do less? 

Friday, September 25, 2009

Eat your OWN cake!

I got a cute email today:
Letter from the office of the CEO:
As the CEO of this organization, I have accepted the fact that Barrack Obama is our President and that our taxes and other government imposed fees will soon increase substantially. To compensate for these increases, we would have to increase the price of our products and services by approximately 10%. But since we cannot increase our prices at this time, given the dismal state of the economy, we must lay off sixty employees. This has weighed heavy on my heart, since I believe we are all like family. Deciding who to let go was not easy but, after much thought and consideration, I finally devised a plan. I walked through our parking lots and counted sixty 'Obama' bumper stickers on our employees' cars. I decided these employees will be the ones to let go. I can't think of a more fair way to approach this problem. They voted for change...... I gave it to them.

I will see the rest of you at the annual company picnic.


...and I had to respond.
The BOSS above does sound like the typical irresponsible, shortsighted, selfish, reactionary (not just conservative) Republican curmudgeon, accustomed to making unreasonable profits off the hard work and gullibility of others. Self-satisfied, self-righteous, sure of the entitlement they convince themselves they have earned, by what they tout as hard work, yet 90% of the world would consider a walk in the park. And, when their scheme goes South, they are quickly vindictive toward those who hoped and worked for more equity, honesty and sensibility. 'Let them eat cake- just not MY cake.' Enron, Goldman-Sachs, Shearson Lehman, Bernie Madoff and Charles Ponzi are not terribly different one from another. They are moral descendants of the Robber Barons Teddy Roosevelt railed against and the royalty George Washington refused to join.

Entire nations like Albania have fallen under this same delusion of unearned entitlement. Like the poor dupes in Charles Dickens' 1857 novel Little Dorrit they saw the unparalleled affluence of the U.S. and listened to the Laissez-Faire prophets of prosperity and were again enslaved and impoverished. 
What may be too easily missed are the implications of saying 'Let them eat cake.'  In making this suggestion, Marie Antoinette exemplified the egocentrism, the belief in personal entitlement, the classism and actual ignorance of that day and nation's oppressors.  Not only did she betray a lack of concern for the people who fed and clothed her, but she (likely without know it) showed us the real key to enslaving others.  If I replace the rough but nutritious bread of truth and hard work with the sweet  yet empty cake of self deception, I will eventually die fat and flabby, of malnutrition.  Few would look at my bloated corpse and believe that I starved to death, yet that would be the real truth.  Many members of the lowest socio-economic levels in the United States today are in EXACTLY this situation [Poor],  [Native Americans] [African Americans] and it is emblematic of a malaise that saps the vitality of our entire Western-European society.  Multi-national food corporations churn out tons of flavorful rubbish, and carefully optimize their pricing and advertizing to entice ignorant consumers to buy what they think they want, confusing it with what they actually need to stay healthy.  The chief method of making foods seem nutritious today is to replace the natural ingredients with air or synthetic polymers, allowing us to consume ever-larger quantities of ever less-nutritious stuff.  We are stuffed, but we are empty.
As goes our nutrition so goes our entertainment, our education, our political understanding and our economics.  We too easily accept facile, attractive rationales like, 'If they want to work, there's a job for them,' 'I earned what I have, let them do the same,' and 'It was good enough for our parents- I't good enough for us,'  when in reality, we who have more are very often beneficiaries of an accident of birth, the mercy or generosity of some forebear or employer, or just dumb luck.  For instance, Christians forget too easily that they believe (or at least CLAIM to believe) that all they have is theirs due to grace, rather than their own effort.  It is true that we will always have the poor with us, but that is an opportunity to grow and to gain peace from our efforts to help them.  The 'good old days' were seldom as good as today.  None of us really wants to return to a time before toilet paper, nor to the days of slavery, yet each advance in the human condition has been met with opposition from those who believe that they have something worth preserving, and fear that ANY change might endanger it.  It would be folly to throw the baby out with the bath water, but we are tempted to let that baby stew in the dirty water, which would also be a mistake.  Wild-eyed liberals like Jesus Christ,  Galileo GalileiFrederick II of Prussia  and Abraham Lincoln have often, as Albert Einstein said, '
...encountered violent opposition from weak minds."
That is the true essence of today's news noise.  It is a disagreement fueled by a mix of disinterest, disinformation and institutionalized dysfunction.  I was told that our healthcare system, for instance, serves 85% of our population with varying, but generally adequate results.  Some of those 85% fear that changing it might kill it, and they would lose what they have.  They might be happy with a car that ran six days a week but not on the seventh, but I doubt it.  The 15% uninsured or inadequately provided-for must be addressed, because they will either get medical care in expensive, inappropriate ways, or cause epidemics.  The emergency rooms and Public Health departments of this nation are paying (therefore WE are paying) an outrageous price for the lack of comprehensive planning to effectively provide for the health needs of ALL persons within our borders.  Illegal aliens can spread disease as easily as citizens.  They are all-too-often here supplying subsidized (NOT cheap, but subsidized by the government) labor to the same BOSS that I deride above.  He hired them because they were cheap and afraid to complain about his abuse of their labor for fear of deportation, but it would not be such a deal for him if he had to pay their medical, worker's comp, unemployment and social security costs.  So what he has done is to shift that cost to welfare, non-profit charities and ICE.  Now that someone wants to connect the benefit to the cost, he will snatch up his ill-gotten gains and blithely abandon those who have worked to build him up, disavowing any responsibility, and of course, reserving his greatest disdain for anyone who dared to hope that we might do better.  It didn't seem broken to him, because he had learned a way to cheat the system.  When someone else tries to fix it, the BOSS is bound to get irate- even to the point of picking up the marbles he has stolen and going home.
Yes, he sounds like a lot of Seagull Managers I have known: They swoop in and pounce on any goodies the workers have managed to create, squawk a lot, and then fly off, excreting as they leave.  Good riddance, and may we find a better way of doing business once he's gone.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Do 'good fences make good neighbors'?

I read an interesting post in Dick & Sharon's LA Progressive today
Iraq: Good Fences Make Good Neighbors | The LA Progressive: "Iraq: Good Fences Make Good Neighbors
by Ivan Eland posted on Thursday, 20 August 20090"
and being an English major, I couldn't resist commenting on Ivan's use (or possible misuse) of the line from Robert Frost' Mending Wall.  It's an aphorism often quoted, and seldom with real understanding.
Frost, like that 'something' in his poem, 'doesn't love a wall,'  and his poem portrays a man of very dim wit indeed, slaving to build a wall without conscious understanding of his own motivation.  Listen anew to Frost:
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors."

Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder

If I could put a notion in his head:

"Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it

Where there are cows? But here there are no cows. 30

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offence.

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,

That wants it down!" ........ I see him there,

Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top

In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.

He moves in darkness as it seems to me, 40

Not of woods only and the shade of trees.

He will not go behind his father's saying,

And he likes having thought of it so well

He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

... so I have to wonder if partitioning Iraq might be a terrible blunder by a well-meaning but ignorant coalition.  After all, it is a single nation, isn't it?  Like our States are United?  Before we build a wall we should consider what we're walling in or walling out, and to whom we are like to give offence (little spelling pun there, eh?)  Those folks all look and sound pretty much the same to me; 'why can't we all just get along?'
A quick Google search will yield some disturbing enlightenment, like this from Larry Everest :

Take three crucial dimensions of British actions: the creation of Iraq by combining three demographically distinct administrative units of the Ottoman Empire: Basra in the Shi'a south, Baghdad in the Sunni center, and Mosul in the Kurdish north, without regard to the aspirations of their peoples; the drawing of border?s to prevent Iraq from becoming a major power in the Persian Gulf; and the institutionalization of a pro-British ruling elite.

Consider Iraq's Kurds. They had been promised independence by the world's major powers after World War I. Yet their aspirations, like those of the Arabs, were betrayed and then suppressed for British imperial interests. The British wished to incorporate the former Ottoman Province of Mosul, an area populated mainly by Kurds and Turkomans, into the new state because without the oilfields of Mosul and Kirkuk, the new state of Iraq would not be economically viable.

Britain had no desire to see a strong state arise in the midst of the world's greatest oil fields, so when, in 1922, British High Commissioner for Iraq Sir Percy Cox delineated the borders between Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait with the stroke of his pen, he made sure to limit Iraq's access to the Persian Gulf: Kuwait, a much smaller country, was given a Gulf coastline line of 310 miles, while Iraq was given only 36 miles."

Everest gives what seems to me one of the clearer explanations of the tremendous divisions and passions fueling the strife in Iraq (and Afghanistan in somewhat similar fashion) and his account does not conflict with other accounts I have read.

I'm beginning to see more clearly why even the ministers of the 'nation' of Iraq itself have considered partitioning it into smaller ethnic / religious districts.  The West-Bank barrier, the Gaza Strip Barrier and the walls springing up along the US-Mexico border all stand in a long history of attempts by mankind to keep things sorted out and relatively peaceful.  When we are not getting along, we tire of the fighting and want to separate the combatants.  We don't really like walls, and a wall is not a real solution, but they may at least give us some time to work out something better.
Most of us like the idea of one day sharing peace and commerce uniformly across this globe, but we know that it is not going to happen any time soon.  In the meantime, we need to find ways for neighbors to co-exist with as little havoc as possible.  If this means delineating borders and separating peoples who have centuries of enmity to overcome, I can imagine it being a good thing.

Frost asks in lines 29 & 30, "Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it Where there are cows? But here there are no cows. "  And yet we know that there are 'sacred cows' in Iraq over which much blood has been shed.  The Shi'a/Sunni schism, the partition of Kurdistan, and the long history of European meddling in the affairs of that region all militate toward a cooling-off period during which the final state of the region is carefully considered and settled.  Mr. Eland sounds hopeful that if we convince the fledgeling government now present in Iraq to let the de-facto geographoic segregation of the warring parties continue, and even formalize it, they will be able to manage this adjustment period with minimal foreign involvement.  Perhaps this is the time when the adversaries have become both tired enough of fighting and pragmatic enough to brook compromise.  Perhaps the interminable list of grievance and counter-grievance can be at least deferred if not totally resolved.  I hope with him that this time, carefully thought-out and constructed fences can help to make good neighbors out of peoples who have been at war for generations.