Thursday, July 17, 2008

Why We Will Always Have Illegal Immigrants

RENO, Nev. — Two executives and the corporate owner of 11 northern Nevada McDonald's restaurants pleaded guilty to felony immigration charges and agreed to pay $1 million in fines.

And so it goes... red-staters crowed this morning over this report on Fox News - where else? This is, no doubt, evidence that we're taking meaningful steps to address the problem of illegal immigration in our country.

I submit to you that it's not.

I say, if we REALLY wanted to do something about illegal immigration, we wouldn't waste our time congratulating ourselves that 30 people got deported here. Do you honeslty think McDonald's cares about a million dollar fine? It's MCDONALD'S, dumbass. They'll make that million back before midnight tonight. It's chump change to them. We see that number and we ooh and ahh as if the mighty hand of justice actually DID something meaningful. Wrong. It's a token gesture, and that money means nothing to McDonald's. Hell, fine them TWO million. See if they care. Fine them TEN million. It won't matter. When you're dealing with a company the size of McDonald's, a million dollars is NOTHING.

If we really wanted to end illegal immigration, we'd be going after the EMPLOYERS, the ones who make illegal immigration happen - we'd be boycotting McDonald's, we'd be boycotting Wal-Mart and Sam's Club, and any business busted for having illegals on the payroll.

But we won't. I know we won't. How do I know? Because - only white trash people bitch about illegals, and no way a white trash person would last a week without McDonald's and Wal-Mart. They don't have the stomach for it. They bitch about the illegals between your mouthfuls of Big Macs and french fries, while making their weekly trips to Wal-Mart. They complain, but they aren't willing to back up their ideas with meaningful action. They won't boycott. They won't picket. They won't circulate petitions or organize letter-writing campaigns. They'll sit on their asses and bitch on Craig's List, as if their opinion meant ANYTHING, all the while patronize the very buinesses that hire most of the illegal immigrant labor in this country, and all the while complaining that their government isn't doing enough about the problem.

And that's why we will always have illegal immigrants in this country. Because an opinion without meaningful action to back it up is just that - an opinion. And as long as we continue to support those businesses, nobody cares what our opinion is. Nobody ever changed the world with just an opinion.

Personally, I have no plans to boycott either. I'm not the least bit interested in ending illegal immigration. I think it serves two valid and important needs. One, it gives people the opportunity to come to this country and help it grow. In other words, to live out the American Dream. Secondly (and here's where the selfish bastard in me comes out), I love a bargain - what can I say? I'm not paid to blog, so I'll take my bargains wherever I can get them. And if companies like McDonald's can afford to give me my double cheeseburgers for a buck because they're paying their employees slave wages, that's between them and their workers. Someday, the glorious revolution will comes, comrades, and the rich fat robber barons that oppress the proletariat will be crushed under the heels of the working man. Fairness and equality will be the order of the day, and on that day I imagine I'll have to pay more for my greaseball burgers. And I will, gladly. Because nothing satisifies more than two all-beef patties, unless it's seeing these corporate fat cats get what's coming to them.

Bon appetit.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

When Did Hate Become Patriotic?

I have a confession to make: I'm a Craig's List junkie.

I spend at least an hour a day reading the politics board on the Los Angeles Craig's List site, and occasionally posting my two cents. Before that, it was the Rants and Raves section. I confess I ran out of use for Rants and Raves quickly, as it's nothing more than bunch of mindless hate from the “Who’s Who in Racist Idiots” most elite. All rants, no raves. No joyous ebullience at the small fortunes of life. No crowing over good fortune, accomplishment, or blessings. All that negativity began to cloud my own view, and so I went to the politics board, hoping to find less hate and more intellectual discourse.

I was not wowed.

What passes for political debate on Craig's List would not be tolerated in any government studies class in any school. No civics teacher would stand for the racist droolings on that site. True, the occasional voice in the wilderness cries forth suggesting tolerance and the need for change, but its rarity only goes to draw attention to itself as being just that - a rarity.

And yet, these are the people in my neighborhood, in my neighborhood, in my neighorho-od. These are the Angelinos I live with. I share the freeways with them. I work alongside of them. I shop in the same grocery stores, I breathe the same air, I drink the same water. For all I know, I live next to them. And yet I have to remind myself that it is not my place to consider myself above them. Still, I cannot bring myself to think of myself as one of them either. It would be safe to say I have no tolerance for their intolerance.

I'll given you a moment to digest the irony.

Ready? Okay, let's move on.

I already know the answer to my initial question: it became patriotic to hate on September 11, 2001. I remember watching the news in the days that followed. I was living on the east coast then, and there was a story about local New Yorkers' reaction to the idea that Middle Eastern terrorists had carried out the attacks. Okay let me just state the obvious: the terrorists, or whoever was flying those planes, died that day. Hating them will not undo what they did, and hating people with the same ancestry is just plain stupid. But I digress. There was a shot of a local New Yorker in this report, leaning out of his window as he drove past, yelling at the camera "round 'em ALL up! Deport all those Middle East bastards!" Fist pumping in the air to give this sentiment additional gravity, he rumbled off into the sea of New Yorkers, presumably feeling right at home with his new-found xenophobia.

Okay - so the idea of not liking people from the Middle East wasn't exactly thought up on 9/11. I get that. I remember the Iran Hostage Crisis - 444 days' worth of bad news about angry Muslims who hated us and wanted us dead. The images have, suffice it to say, stuck.

We've seen countless images in TV and films of the crazy-eyed Middle Eastern dude, hell bent on destroying us godless infidels in a sea of holy fire, usually surrounded by like-minded loonies. They fire their machine guns in the air and ululate in a frenzy that falls somewhere between psychosis and religious fervor. The American viewing public has been systemically groomed to accept that at some point these yahoos were going to leap off the screens and into our lives. 9/11 seemed to contradict our worst fears, that lots and lots of Middle Eastern guys were pissed at us and were willing to die to bring harm to us.

But the paranoia borne of that day should have dissipated. The anger should have cooled. If there was one thing I thought we could count on, it was the forgetfulness of the American people. But in the weeks and months following 9/11, you couldn’t turn on the television for more than a minute without seeing images of the Twin Towers under attacks. The American public was eager for revenge, seething with an impotent rage because those 9/11 baddies were already dead, and we had yet to get our hands on anyone remotely responsible. I remember watching a concert of all-star rock stars and movie stars, with proceeds benefitting the victims of the attacks. Richard Gere came out and talked for a few moments about the need for peace and understanding. He was the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. That crowd was more willing to take up torches and pitchforks and storm the village looking for Muslims than join hands and sing Kumbaya with this well-meaning Buddhist. He was promptly booed off the stage, and the Who were brought on to sing a well-received "Won't Get Fooled Again". You get the idea.

At that point I realized that this was to be one of those periods in American history where the common citizenry just lost its fucking mind for a while. In World War One, we actually passed a law making it legal to lock people up for speaking out against our participation in the war. In World War Two, we rounded up Americans of Japanese ancestry and threw them into camps. In the 50's and 60's, we turn high-pressure water hoses on black Americans uppity enough to try registering to vote. These things happen. I remember reading about these events and thanking the gods that I was born in a more modern and civil period of American history, where we had evolved beyond the need for mob mentality legislation and institutionalized prejudice.

Then somewhere along the way, someone started equating illegal immigration with national security. One of the shills on Fox News, no doubt. They had been complaining about all the damn Mexicans forever, and this new issue of National Security (which no one dared question) seemed the perfect way to create stronger legislation aimed at picking on immigrants. The theory goes something like this: if Mexicans can sneak across the border undetected and find their way into large cities like Los Angeles, what's to stop a terrorist cell like al Qaeda from doing the same? See how that works? Soon, we're imagining "sleeper cells" planting in our very communities. Every Middle Eastern cab driver has bombs strapped to their chest. Every woman in a headscarf is a jihadist, most likely bent on killing the Great Satan.

I’m going to state the obvious here, because I’ve spent too much time already trying to see things from the other side’s perspective: it is NOT patriotic to hate. It does not demonstrate your love for your country by bashing people from other countries. Picking on Mexicans does not make you a better American. Muslims in American, people of Mexican heritage in America, all immigrants, whether here legally or not, are entitled to be treated civilly. They are entitled to the protection of the law. They are not our enemies.

Someday, this war will end. Someday we will have to kiss and make up with the world. I remember my father having disdain for Japanese people decades after the Second World War ended. I knew then that it was stupid and pointless to harbor grudges against people for such a flimsy reason, for so long. I remember thinking then, as I think now, “Please don’t let us become that”. But, my fellow Americans, I see this generation heading down the same path, and I wish I knew how to stop it.

Monday, July 7, 2008


Sorry for the absence, gang. All the summer hoopla has commandeered the majority of my free time. Plus, with the two major parties all but decided on their sacrificial lambs, I mean nominees, there seemed to be precious little to blog about. We know who the players are, we know what the stakes are, and from this point on it's just a matter of comparing campaign rhetoric to voting records, and choosing which candidate is less likely to provoke the Apocalypse.

For my part in this little passion play we call democracy, my loyalties are with Obama. I do like the Bobby Kennedy-esque aura, even if I doubt that even Bobby Kennedy could have lived up to the hype. These are cynical times, my friends, and voting seems less and less about picking the best man for the job than it does about choosing the lesser of two evils.

But in my research, my endless channel surfing of all the news programs (including the erstwhile Fox News), I'm starting to hear more and more the long-expired term "flip-flop". You veterans of the red state/blue state wars will remember this term as the nugget that very well may have cost Kerry the presidency in 2004. Karl Rove, Nazi douche bag extraordinaire orchestrated the notion that Kerry was far more malleable on the issues than Bush. This, to the Red State Kool-Aid crowd, signified that he could not be trusted to keep his word. He would promise one thing and then later glibly abandon his convictions to acquiesce to the prevailing winds of our fickle political landscape. Evidence, no doubt was to be found in Kerry's willingness to go to war in Vietnam, only to come home and speak out against it later on.

The Democrats accuse McCain of flip-flopping, the Republicans accuse Obama. Not since the recent Wimbledon have we seen such endless back and forth. They point to incident after incident where each candidate has changed their position. In the end, what does it all mean? If both major party candidates are both guilty of changing positions, NEITHER party can hold it out there to try and make the other guy look bad.

The sad truth is, they're politicians. They're liars and cheats. I'm reminded of the scene in the Hunt for Red October where the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs privately confides to Jack Ryan: "I'm a politician - which means when I'm not kissing babies, I'm stealing their lollipops. But it also means I keep my options open." These guys want to be elected, it's no secret. And that means they're BOTH going to try to appeal to as many people as possible. Abraham Lincoln famously said "you can fool some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time." Wise words, considering he was a Republican. And yet every election we see candidates try to prove Honest Abe wrong. Perhaps it's enough to fool 51% of the people, at least until November 3rd.

When it comes to this question of "flip-flopping", I think we need to research it before judging it. Elected officials change their minds all the time on issues - it's not just the domain of the Democrats, nor is it the domain of republicans. Why do candidates change their views on issues? Is it just to get elected? Possibly, but I suspect this is a pretty simplistic viewpoint. When a candidate says something in a speech, odds are it's been filtered through a number of campaign workers, from the speechwriter to the handlers, so that by the time the candidate says it into a microphone, it's been scanned for any potential blowback. Even if a candidate forgets how he may have voted on some bill years back, his staff is paid to remember for him, and to not let him contradict a previous voting record. That is, unless the situation has changed...

One could argue that in 2000, Bush never had intentions of sending troops into Afghanistan. But then 9/11 happened, and the rules changed. Did Bush flip flop? No. The situation changed, necessitating a change in view. Circumstances can radically alter a candidate's view. Now far be it from me to defend Bush; I think he's a war criminal, and I've made no secret of it. But it bears mentioning, if only to remind our neocon friends that flip-flopping can, and often does, have totally legitimate reasoning behind it.

Remember, Reagan (the poster child for all things conservative) used to be a Democrat. Does that make Reagan the king of all flip-floppers? Watch the howls of righteous indignation come pouring in from the right wing when you ever *suggest* such a thing. Things changed, candidates change along with them.

In the 1980's our government was cozying up to people like Saddam Hussein, because we wanted Iraq to go to war with Iran. We gave them money, weapons, we even sent experts to train their soldiers. There is a famous picture from the late 80's showing Donald Rumsfeld happily shaking hands with Saddam Hussein. It seemed like a good idea at the time, I guess. Did we flip-flop since then? By Karl Rove's standards, we absolutely flip-flopped. Same Saddam, same Rumsfeld, total reversal in policy. That's how you define a flip-flop, yet no one points it out. At least no one on the Republican side...

Also in the 1980's, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, we supported the "freedom fighters" who eventually repelled the Soviets. Among those freedom fighters was a guy named Osama bin Laden. That's right gang, our government gave weapons, money and training to Osama bin Laden in the 1980's because it served our needs at the time. Did we flip-flop since then? The same Republicans that were in charge then are in charge now, and both Saddam and bin Laden quickly got moved over from the "Friends" list to the "Enemies" list. Things changed.

Another one: John Kerry went to war in Vietnam when his powerful daddy could have prevented it with one phone call. Lots of powerful Washington people kept their kids out of harm's way in war time by using their influence. John Kerry went - we felt it was his patriotic duty to fight. Then after seeing what went on firsthand, he came back and publicly spoke out against the war in Vietnam. Was he flip-flopping? Republicans would have us believe he was. But the simple truth is, his viewpoint changed based on his experience.

And so it goes. As the facts change, as situations evolve, we all come to view things differently over time. Something that once seemed like a good idea can quickly look like a bad one. This isn't just true for politicians, it's true for the rest of us as well. In any case, both candidates have changed their stance of more than one issue over time, so this term "flip-flop" has become a meaningless term. If they're all guilty of it, then no one gets to accuse anyone else of it.