Monthly Archives: December 2009

Happy Holidays 2009! Happy 2010!

Happy Holidays 2009!  Happy 2010!  

For the Koulish family, 2009 was a busy one. As a family, we watched the inauguration train race through Newark, DE with an excited crowd.  Joe & Barack waved from the rear balcony, at least we think they did.

Rob and Olivia watched the inauguration at Matilda’s, our favorite local restaurant, and Steph shared in the history with her Loyola colleagues.  We visited DC , spent a lot of time at our community pool in the summer, went to the Philadelphia Zoo, saw the Yankees and Wilmington Blue Rocks, visited friends and family in NYC, Grandma Joan and Grandpa Sash in FL , and had a sleepover at Grandma Denny’s and Grandpa Robert’s in Frederick, MD while Daddy was at the Law & Society conference in Denver.  And Steph and the kids saw twin calfs born at the Maryland State Fair.  Our big vacation was our drive to MI for the media literacy conference for Steph in Detroit and vacation days in beautiful and cool (in the hip sense), Traverse City on Lake MI.

Fred came along for the long trip and especially enjoyed the royal dog treatment at the fancy Detroit hotel.  Without Fred we saw Joan Baez and the children’s performing group Hot Peas and Butter (pictured with Olivia) at gorgeous Interlochen. We arrived in Traverse City the day after Michael Moore’s film festival ended, and stayed in a cabin right on the bay—beautiful! On the way home we even  visited Steph’s relatives in Bay City.

In May, we sadly said goodbye to our dear pet, Coco, our cat, who died suddenly, but at the ripe old age of 16.  He had been Steph’s companion before anyone in our family arrived on the scene, and we duly honored his memory.  By December, we knew that Fred needed a new companion, and so we brought home our new kitty as a holiday gift for everyone.  Olivia came up with the name Ginger unaware of the irony of having pets named Fred & Ginger.  The day we brought her home ended up being especially memorable since Olivia lost her first tooth that very evening!

Julian turned 3 in June at Dutch Wonderland and is happy at Newark Day Nursery, this year in the pre-K room.  He bravely rode a horse for the first time this summer.  He likes basketball and race cars, but best of all, he still wakes up happy every morning.  Mommy’s favorite thing about Julian is how he so often spontaneously tells her that she’s beautiful.

Olivia, 6, graduated from kindergarten at Newark Day in June and started 1st grade at West Park Elementary (home of the Pandas) in September.  Her best friend is still Brynn.   This summer Olivia went to a nature camp and horse camp, each for a week, half days, and she became a lot more comfortable in the water after taking swim lessons.  For school, Olivia took field trips to the Camden Aquarium, a pumpkin patch, Iron Hill nature museum, and Old New Castle, DE, a Williamsburg-like colonial area.

Professionally, this was a big year for Steph, as she earned promotion to Associate Professor and Tenure in the new School of Education at Loyola University Maryland (which also changed names this year from Loyola College).  She was thrilled and inspired by seeing the Dalai Lama discussing education and schools in DC in October, so much so that she too wrote an op/ed in the Baltimore Sun.  It compelled her re-commitment to renewing and rethinking schools as creative and nurturing environments in which tests and test scores no longer dominate.

Rob continued to build the Law & Society program and enjoy teaching those courses, but perhaps most important this year was the recent release of his book, Immigration and American Democracy, which has become a family event. Rob also published another op/ed in the Baltimore Sun, and looks forward to begin working on the sequel and public intellectual activities in 2010.

2009 also brought a lot of losses for too many dear friends, and we shared in their grief.  We hope that they especially find solace and renewal in 2010 and beyond.

We do not yet know what’s in store for us in 2010, yet we’re hopeful, and mostly joyous for our loving and healthy family!  Our blessings and hopes go out to all of you dear friends, for joy, wisdom, health, and happiness in 2010.  We hope that we are fortunate enough to visit with some of you in 2010.


Senate HCR Bill Piles on Undocumented Immigrants

The Senate HCR bill is going to appease nativist birthers while hurting constituents.

Mark Willen from the Kiplinger Letter, just raised an important point about how the Senate is about to enact draconian provisions against undocumented immigrants which happen to go against the interests of American citizens. When anti-immigrant nativism cuts against pocketbook interests for most Americans, I get a foreboding feeling of what is in store in 2010 during the comprehensive immigration reform debate.

The bottom line from Willen’s piece is that the Senate believes most Americans will be willing to subsidize emergency care for undocumented immigrants, and will also be willing to pay higher insurance premiums just so long as Senators can tell their constituents back home they voted against allowing undocumented immigrants to have access to the private insurance exchange that will follow passage of HCR.

Joe Wilson, you are such an asshole. Yes, I know you are not a senator but it was your incredibly loud and rude “you lie” statement during President Obama’s speech before Congress that will result in your constituents paying higher insurance premiums. Defend that in 2010, buddy.

In the meantime, here’s two important points worth summarizing  from Willen.

First, because undocumented immigrants will not have access to health insurance, they will not seek medical assistance until illnesses/ injuries get real bad and expensive. Then they will receive assistance at emergency rooms, and the cost of this free service will be passed ontto hospital and insurance company customers.

Next, check out Dr. Leighton Ku’s (from GWU) recently published an article in the AJPH, which concludes that since immigrants are on the whole healthier than citizens, insured immigrants help subsidize health care for the rest of us. In other words, insuring undocumented immigrants would lower costs for voters.

In sum, the exclusion of undocumented immigrants from health exchanges, even if they want to pay with their own money (no subsidies) raises insurance costs for everyone else. What does this suggest. For starters, the undocumented immigrant exclusion in the senate bill is irrationally punitive. It also suggests, that self interested senators are willing to appease anti immigrant constituencies even when against the interests of all their constituents and the public good.  oh boy, next year’s gonna be fun.

late addition: TNR just reported that Senator Harry Reid just thew a bone to immigrants in HCR, meaning that the bill will reverse a provision in the 1996 immigration reform law that placed a 5 year wait period on newly naturalized immigrants before they would become eligible for medicaid. According to Sen. Menendez, Reid promised him that this 5 yr ban would be reversed when HCR gets to conference.

How “undocumented immigration” has destroyed Obama’s America

Immigration Reform may or may not end up being the hot button issue for 2010, but as the end of year reviews and one-year assessments of the Obama Administration hit the press, one thing is certain: Barack Obama’s presidency owes a good deal to the undocumented immigration meme.

Looking back at the October 2007 democratic party debate as a turning point in Obama’s journey to the nomination, it is quite possible that had Hillary Clinton not stumbled on the question about Real ID and drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants, Obama would not have reversed the polls of that month which showed Clinton with a double digit lead.

During the waning days of the 2008 campaign, as Obama looked nearly invincible against the aging and incredibly lackluster John McCain, McCain’s veep candidate Sarah Palin started questioning   where Barack Obama was born. The blatant subtext was that barack Obama was an undocumented immigrant and had no legitimate claim on the presidency. The trope of being undocumented connoted illigitimacy and danger.  Obama was too different, too foreign, too black, too “muslim”, too threatening to ever be president.

Such “know-nothing” attempts to discredit the legitimacy of Obama presidency didn’t cease when he took office. Quite the contrary: It spread virulent attacks against Obama which have made fiction of the democratic process.

During Obama’s address to both chambers of congress, Joe Wilson shouted “you lie”  when the President declared that HCR would not cover undocumented immigrants.

The breech of decorum aside, Wilson’s outburst was an exclamation mark framing the idea that deliberative democracy in America is gone. It has been sabotaged by Obama’s right wing opposition which is now favored to have a resurgence in 2010.

So, here’s the bigger question, what is it about the “undocumented immigration” meme that permits its use as a cudgel on democracy?

Undocumented immigration hay have destroyed America, but not the way political conservatives would have us believe.

Obama’s incrementalism: a trend?

In a recent column, Glenn Greenwald provides one of the first year in review critiques of the first year of the Obama Administration that I find engaging and worthwhile. Greenwald’s analysis makes good use of of Ed Kilgore’s piece in TNR, “Taking Ideological Differences Seriously,” and Matt Taibbi’s rave piece in RS, “Obama’s Big Sellout,” to reframe Obama as a corporatist* president, and his presidency as one that continues the past 32 years, albeit while offering incremental change. (another important voice is Robert Kuttner’s)

I wholeheartedly agree with the analysis, (with minor caveats) tho I think it warrants a good deal more fleshing out. (as for the caveat, I disagree with the appropriateness of the term corporatist here. I think the better term is plutocracy)

The part of the argument that are most salient for me in this blog has to do with how these critiques discuss divisions within the democratic party. Greenwald makes the case regarding the senate deal on health care reform. In my conclusion I analogize it to immigration reform, which is next on the president’s agenda.

According to Greenwald

If one judges the bill purely from the narrow perspective of coverage, a rational and reasonable (though by no means conclusive) case can be made in its favor.  But if one finds this creeping corporatism to be a truly disturbing and nefarious trend, then the bill will seem far less benign.

Yep, framing, a term I’m not particularly fond of, has much to do with understanding the split within the democratic party between progressives and corporate democrats.  As I see it through the progressive lens, health care reform package is a net plus from the perspective of concern that the millions of poor people receive coverage. Both corporate democrats and progressive would like to see this achievement.

But while corporate democrats would stop there, progressives integrate a social justice piece. This is the piece that condemns the corrupt and unaccountable profits to be reaped by the insurance industry by the individual mandate provision in the bill that will coerce individuals into getting coverage without sufficiently controlling costs w/ a public option. Cost controls will be passed on to families. Subsidies for the poor will not cover all the costs. Premiums and co-pays will remain high and likely get higher, and the resulting quality of coverage remains an open question.

Here’s the larger prevailing frame that I find most important here:

  1. expand coverage — the safety net– while doing nothing to plug the many holes that people witll likely fall thru.
  2. expand coverage, while throwing gazillions of dollars to the insurance industry. Consider how stocks have gone up in the few days since the demise of the public option.
  3. Give corporations greater control over the system as long as they abide an expanded safety net.
  4. Let corporations profit from expanding safety net.
  5. Let poor people become increasingly beholden to corporations. And give corporations control over costs.

Looking ahead, judging from the HRC package, here’s what to expect next:

1) expand coverage and 2) expand/deepen government/corporate partnership and corporate control over immigrants.

Imagine immigrants/ poor people will be fodder for corporate profits. It is clear that Obama will pursue a policy of regularization/ amnesty. This  is likely to placate many people in the democratic party. Hopefully progressive holdouts will and should be bothered by the control that private industry holds over detention/ and the surveillance parts of the enforcement provisions that will be part of even the most progressive– even the Gutierrez– proposals.

more on this later.

MT&T Bank Stadium Opens, Schools Close

Yesterday, I was watching the Eagles play on television and wanting to see the Ravens but couldn’t because we live in Newark, Delaware and Comcast only gives us Phila. channels, while my kids were beginning to go a little stir crazy. We were all outside earlier in the day and found a hill in Newark, which is pretty cool, and if you know Newark, somewhat amazing, and did some sledding. It was Olivia’s and Julian’s first time sledding down a hill solo and so the day stands out for that reason alone. But, by late afternoon, after having been cooped up the previous day and 1/2, the kids were ready for some school come Monday, and so were mommy and daddy.

Both the Eagles and Ravens got to play in part on the backs of local prison populations which helped the snow removal prior to kick-off. Both the  and Ravens won, which is a good day for Delaware. But come this morning we saw that the kids were getting a snow day today. Nothing wrong with that per se. Snow days are fun and they weren’t alone. Almost all the schools for from Baltimore to Philadelphia are closed today.

Which begets a question about priorities: football over school. Cities will spend millions of dollars and orchestrate deals which bring priosners over to help remove snow in preparation of football, but not schools. The roads are clear this morning: the issue had to do with snow removal on school sidewalks and parking lots.

Half a million dollars and 1,750 people to remove the snow for the Ravens.  And my kid is home today.

I would like to see it come to pass that priorities favored opening schools more than opening professional sports stadiums, but that’s just me..

The Undocumented and the Census Undercount

If you fail to fill out and return your census form you do not exist as far as government social services are concerned.  For several years I have been reminding students that if they don’t vote they forfeit having a voice in the democratic process.  On December 15, at a panel on the census undercount, sponsored by Demos, I was reminded of something far more primal. If you don’t fill out the census, you do not count; you do not exist.  I never thought before of the census being a matter of ontology, but it is, at least in a civil society sort of way.

This is the mobilizing cry coming from the census bureau, and it’s a good one.  Bare bones survival trumps democratic participation, and if you are poor, and do not exist as far as social services are concerned, survival becomes a real challenge.

Here’s the argument:

Is the census undercount a problem? Yes. In 2000 about 4.5 million people, mostly black and Hispanic, were not counted. Why is this a problem? For starters, $400 billion dollars is at stake. This is the amount of federal funding that is targeted to communities around the country on the basis of census returns.  These funds go to such diverse social services as Medicaid, federal transportation funding, and Title I funding to public schools.  Everything from the digital divide to emergency room funding is impacted by the census.

If undocumented immigrants do not fill out the form, the undercount means their communities receive less funding than would be suggested by an accurate count. Where undocumented immigrants live in concentrated numbers, in cities, colonias, suburbs and rural areas, this is a real problem.

Why don’t undocumented immigrants fill out the census form? Fear stemming from the past and fear of the present/future.  During the 1940s, the federal government released confidential census bureau about Japanese Americans, but it did so in response to existing law, the Second War Powers Act. Margo Anderson and Bill Seltzer have written extensively on the topic. They argue convincingly that the term “confidentiality” is an evolving concept, and that during the 1940s, the existing census law did not contain the air tight confidentiality assurances that presently exist in the U.S. Code Title XIII.   Under Title XIII data can only be released in a statistical manner, and personal information is exempt from FOIA or court subpoena.

Although Anderson and Seltzer’s analysis also hints at a government conspiracy responsible for breaching confidentiality, and as Peter Irons and others have documented, the State Department during FDR’s war years was severely compromised by racists and anti semites, I know of no credible claims about the government compromising census data in the present day.

But that doesn’t stem the fear, particularly when the census bureau plans strategy for the 2010 count in neighborhoods where ICE has mobilized raids against undocumented residents, which is what happened recently in East Harlem, according to participants at the Demos sponsored event at Hunter College on the census Undercount (December 15, 2009)

As census bureau officials at the event as well as representatives from Demos, Drum Major Institute, and the Leadership Conference suggest, the best way to get members of the undocumented community involved in this process, which is in their interest, is to work through trusted community leaders and non governmental organizations.

I have studied the mobilization of the undocumented community in May 2006 (See Immigration and American Democracy: Subverting the Rule of Law), and am quite aware of  the great success that can be achieved when agencies representing hispanic and the undocumented community purposively organize along common interest.  A mobilization last seen in 2006 would fight the undercount and give undocumented communities a good deal more of their share of social services throughout the country.

“Immigration and American Democracy” Arrives

\”Immigration and American Democracy: Subverting the Rule of Law\”