Monthly Archives: August 2009

Guns, Wackiness, Health care and the First Amendment

For the past several days I have been disturbed by the recurring imagining of the gun toting Obama opponent that was allowed to walk around the NH town hall site with w gun strapped to his leg. Reports said police were monitoring the guy but still he and thousands of other Birthist/ deathist anti Obama wackos were permitted in close proximity to the president. One gun related arrest was reported.

It wasn’t so long ago, during the Bush presidency that unarmed, passionate but not dangerous political opponents were kept in cages several blocks away from President.  Demonstrators, even persons who were not demonstrators, but merely members of the opposition–democratic–party, were denied proximity.

so, my questions:

since when does one’s right to bear arms trump free speech? Why is it that attempts to forbid some gun toting nut-job from close proximity to the president  are thwarted ostenisibly out of fear of intruding on his second amendment, while free speech advocates have never enjoyed such zone of privacy around their liberty?

Consider this. the first amendment is a fundamental right. The right to bear arms is not. And yet, the first amendment free speech and right to assembly has always been regulated, recentl w/ free speech zones, better known as free speech cages that were constructed some distance away from the republican conventions in 2004 and 2008.

It is one thing to countenance the fact-free attacks and hate driven tirades that are increasing in intensity around the president and the issues he cares strongly about, but adhering to the value of free speech to this country’s larger spirit of liberty and democracy. I’m all for giving them play, but think they should be shouted down.

it is quite another to hold the second amendment in a place never intended for it by the framers nor countenanced for it recently by the Court. That  may be a sign of the times but given such signs, it is just plain dangerous.

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Racial Politics in a Post Racial America

Since the election but really finding its stride this summer, the GOP/right has found its voice in some of the most scary demogagic race- baiting  the country has experienced since the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of the mid 1960s, and busing crisis of the 1970s.

Our president is being depicted on posters as an African tribesman w/a bone thru his nose; as Hitler, Stalin; as someone who wants to kill old people and disabled babies. He was forced to open a recent press conference by saying. No, we are not trying to kill grandma.” as John Stewart observed, if this is your opening line, your inspirational moment for reform has passed.

The recent Gates-gate had police arresting an african american home owner in cambridge for having entered his own home and then arresting the cop who arrested him to the white house for a beer.

And consider the Sotomayor nomination battle that pitched the most experienced nominee to the court in generations against cries that she had not proven herself as fit to serve because of one perfectly appropriate comment she made in terms of empowering the Latino community to serve in the field of law. Sotomayor’s “wise Latina” comment became the meme pushed ad-nauseum by the 24/7 news cycle, that eventually forced her to recant by insisting she believes “wise latinas” are no better than wise white guys.  Absurd to have to even say such a thing.

This discussion barely conceals the incredible fear of a small and shrinking number of aging whites about looming demographic changes in the country– the fear that one day soon whites will not longer comprise the majority–

Suffice it to say, this formula of scare and attack became clear during the current health care debate, as richly described recently by Rachel Maddow. Right wing activists and self appointed leaders 1) fabricate wildly distorted untruths designed to scare  core followers (ex. Sotomayor or Obama for that matter don’t like white people); use the media and corporate funded and constructed faux grass roots (astro turf) orgs to whip up the hysteria and unleash small and unrepresentative but angry and intense crowds–teabagging; town halls…; then GOP leadership and MSM observe a populist uprising that they insist represents the fears of most americans; mainstream conservative dems and moderate repubs take notice and feel intimidated; their support for reform weakens…and the cycle continues

Along the way, facts get no play for one key reason: the right has no agenda of their own other than their desire to defeat/eradicate Obama at all cost, which includes Sotomayor, health care and whatever lays in waiting, immigration reform?  It’s all the same.

Thus it matters little that Obama is compared to Hitler/ fascism/ socialism. anyism… or Sotomayor to Lucy Ricardo.  The purpose is to destroy an agenda. It is nihilistic, and as Howard Dean has observed, it is self defeating. The GOP core is shrinking with each death panel and birther fabrication.

The consequences however could be quite real and long lasting. The seem to be forcing the voices of reform to compromise beyond what is necessary, thus subverting good faith efforts to address really difficult and comples social problems in society.

It is also whipping up latent and not so latent racism that is playing out in increasingly violent ways, which is something that should concern everyone.

Our president may want to act as if we live in a post racial  society, but is being confronted w/ a much different reality, to our chagrin.

Obama’s Risky Policy for Immigration

While the public waits anxiously for President Obama to unveil comprehensive immigration reform, the Administration has already adopted a good deal of the Bush Administration immigration enforcement regime which is bound to taint the impact of any subsequent reform.

Since his inauguration, President Obama has 1) added $420 million dollars in supplementary spending to the militaristic Merida Initiative in Mexico; 2) committed to the completion of the 700 mile border wall at $3.9 million dollars per mile, and a several billion dollar virtual fence outsourced to Boeing; 3) hoped to rebrand the Real ID program, which intended to turn state issue drivers licenses into a national ID and which 24 states have rejected, into Pass ID, a slightly less egregious proposal which accomplishes essentially the same exclusionary goals; and 4) supported E-verify, an electronic verification system that screens job applicants, but has a high error rate and cannot account for fraud and identity theft.

These seemingly disparate policies are all part of a high tech immigration enforcement regime that criminalizes immigrants and has been a catalyst for domesticating the war on terror with dataveillance technologies.  The Merida Initiative militarizes the Mexico side of the border, which, along with the wall and virtual fence, sends a message to potential emigrants in the Americas that the golden door is closed.  Such deterrence messages aside, however, militarization doesn’t deter.

According to scholars the only effective deterrence to undocumented immigration during the past several years has come from economic recession, not from an18-foot wall that immigrants traverse with ladders, shovels and human chains or just plain walk around.  As Secretary Napolitano of the Department of Homeland Security has said, “You show me a 50 foot fence and I’ll show you a 51 foot ladder.”

Quite frankly, even members of congress are hard pressed to define success regarding a border wall.  The same goes for the virtual fence and other technology-driven projects.  The virtual fence, a network of surveillance towers, sensors and cameras fails to distinguish among human beings and wildlife.  Although “Project 28,” the pilot 28-mile stretch of virtual fence in Arizona was a dismal failure, Obama seems eager to continue the project.

Further, in doubling down on such high tech policies that include Real ID, E-Verify, and US VISIT, the Administration wastes billions of taxpayer dollars on what a broad consensus of experts suggest are failed projects and so plagued with technical kinks that it is unlikely they would ever achieve their deterrence objectives, unless of course they are not supposed to.

In short order, the Obama team has bought into the risk approaches to governance that have accompanied the recent rise in government using high tech gadgetry as policy responses to complex social issues. They have also bought into the canard that enforcement practices could replace good social policy.  Like his predecessor, the Obama approach to immigration control continues to define undocumented immigrants as prey, which is highly problematic, but then nets everyone who ever applies for employment, a drivers’ license or goes to an airport or federal building, even more problematic. In exchange for going about their everyday activities all individuals must now hand over a good deal of their personal privacy so that the government might construct simulated identities that are inputted and kept in government databases.

With such an overbroad approach to undocumented immigration, everyone is considered guilty until proven innocent by data mining technologies.

This also amounts to the sort of invasive national ID system that civil libertarians have feared for decades; it has become a reality hidden within the new Administration’s immigration agenda.

The shame of the new Administration’s approach is that it disappoints the hopes and expectations of millions of Obama supporters, myself included.  Obama could have recalibrated the immigration debate along human rights and civil liberties grounds.  Instead, if one follows the allocation of funds rather than lofty rhetoric as the more accurate guide of Administration priorities, human and constitutional rights for immigrants won’t get much of a hearing in this Administration.