Another stellar ad from Joe Biden’s very good team of advertising makers, below.
Wish I’d gotten this up a couple weeks ago. But I like a good cartoon anytime. It’s not Tex Avery, not Chuck Jones — but it’s good.
Who? He’s the patron saint of Paris (and France, by some accounts), and possessed people. Take a look at this statue, from the “left door” of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris: portail de gauche). He was martyred by beheading, in about 250 C.E.
Our trusty friend Wikipedia explains:
According to the Golden Legend, after his head was chopped off, Denis picked it up and walked two miles, preaching a sermon the entire way. The site where he stopped preaching and actually died was made into a small shrine that developed into the Saint Denis Basilica, which became the burial place for the kings of France. Another account has his corpse being thrown in the Seine, but recovered and buried later that night by his converts.
Clearly, he is the guy to pray to about Donald Trump, Bill Barr, Ben Carson, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, intelligent design, and the Texas State Board of Education, no? In 2013, we added Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Louis Gohmert, the entire Tea Party, and the entire GOP crew of the House of Representatives. You catch my drift. In 2018 we added a raft of people: Marsha Blackburn, Ryan Zinke, Sid Miller, Denny Marchant, Jeff Sessions, Sarah Sanders, Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham. We’ve left 253 Republicans off for lack of space.
Who would you nominate to pray about for 2020?
Perhaps you can use this factoid to some advantage, enlightenment, and perhaps humor. In Catholic lore, St. Denis is one of the “14 Holy Helpers,” and his aid is sought to help people with headaches, or who have been possessed.
Crazy GOP members who I suspect of having been possessed give me and America a headache. St. Denis seems to be our man. Or saint.
Who else do you know of in this modern, vexatious time, who keeps talking after losing his/her head?
As Rod Stewart sang, just “let your imagination run wild.” Maybe St. Denis is listening.
Yes, this is mostly an encore post. I had hoped to have to retire this post someday. I still hope. Perhaps this will be the last year we’ll have so many wackaloons running loose. Pray to St. Denis.
Not sure where this sign is, but I want one for the hearings and Senate vote.
Women on the Senate Judiciary Committee improve things a lot. Especially true for Kamala Harris.
Republican campaign consultants and others who want to save the Republican Party, and America, from Donald Trump, put a fine twist on the old Ronald Reagan campaign ad from 1984, “It’s Morning in America.”
“Mourning in America” came out of the The Lincoln Project, a group of Republicans who find Donald Trump to be unacceptable as a president, including Rick Wilson, the author of Everything Trump Touches Dies.
At their YouTube site, the project say:
Donald Trump’s failed presidency has left the nation weaker, sicker, and teetering on the verge of a new Great Depression.
News accounts say this video’s one actual broadcast, in Washington, D.C., was seen by Trump, who erupted in a fountain of angry Tweets indicating that the ad hit where its makers and funders wanted it to hit.
In just a few months, over 71,000 American lives have been lost to this deadly disease, a loss that stands in glaring contrast to the president’s assertion, just a few weeks ago, that it would just “disappear . . . like a miracle.”
Trump didn’t create this virus. But his failure to prepare the nation for the pandemic has directly contributed to the growing number of COVID-19 deaths as well as economic devastation.
As of Wednesday, more than 30 million Americans have lost their jobs. Millions more will likely do so in the weeks ahead. The Paycheck Protection Program, intended to save small businesses across the country, instead distributed much of its funds to large corporations, leaving thousands of small businesses with little hope of survival.
Today is the 135th anniversary of the U.S. publication of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, another installment in the novelization with great embellishment of the childhood of Samuel Clemens in Hannibal, Missouri, before the Civil War. Earlier installments included The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
It is THE great American novel. It is the novel in which America faces its coming-of-age, in the metaphysical ramblings of a 13-year-old boy in the dark, on a raft in the Mississippi River, with an escaped slave who is a good friend, and has saved his life. Huck Finn confronts reality: Should he do what the preachers say to do, or should he do the moral thing instead?
America, most of it, grew up with that realization, coming even as it did, a generation after the Emancipation Proclamation.
In a good school, one probably unaffected by the damage done to learning by George Bush’s “No Child Left Behind Act,” nor more recent purges of quality in the classroom such as “value-added teaching,” “Racing to the Top,” or Common Core State Standards or the folderol conservative backlash against education in general, Tom Sawyer is often a child’s introduction to Twain, and to book-length literature.
In my youth, Tom Sawyer was so popular with teachers, and reading aloud by teachers was considered such a great idea, I think I heard the book three times. I know Mrs. Eva Hedberg, in my third grade class in Burley, Idaho, read parts of it. My recollection is that Mrs. Elizabeth Driggs and Mr. Herbert Gilbert both read it to us, in fourth and fifth grade, in Pleasant Grove, Utah. (There were other books; I think I heard five of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books between those three teachers. Reading was golden to them. Mrs. Hedberg even gave me credit for reading encyclopedia, cover to cover, with each letter of the alphabet counted as a book. Our World Book volume for the letter S had disappeared; I’ve never been good at snakes.)
Twain once remarked that he didn’t think a youth could read the Bible and ever draw a clean, fresh breath of air again. Tom Sawyer can similarly haunt the life of a person, though generally to higher moral standards.
I had hoped they’d continue to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. When they didn’t, I borrowed it from the Pleasant Grove Junior High Library and read it through. I read it in the middle of the modern civil rights struggle, between 1963’s horrors and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, just as our Vietnam tragedy was really ramping up.
Wait. I remember Mr. Gilbert being stopped by a question on Huck’s father, Pap. This was in Deep Mormonia, in Utah County. Pap drank a bit. Well, that’s not accurate. Pap drank to excess, often. Most of my fellow students had no knowledge of the drinking of alcohol. Their parents didn’t drink, not in front of the children if they did, since imbibing alcohol was a violation of the LDS Church’s Word of Wisdom, a commandment that they treat their bodies as temples, not as amusement parks. That bodily purity rule put alcohol, tobacco and caffeine off-limits. Most of the parents simply didn’t drink. It would have put sugar off-limits, too, had there been enough sugar to abuse as late-20th century America did. Also, there was the issue of the LDS Church having significant holdings in the U & I Sugar Company (Utah and Idaho), which made sugar from beets, and blessed the church with a significant stream of income, from the Coca-Cola bottlers alone. But I digress.
Maybe we did hear some of Huck Finn. I didn’t hear all of it — mumps, or something. And I checked it out on my own later.
In any case, there is that point where Huck Finn grows up and becomes an American who recognizes the possible misfortune awaiting his decision to do something contrary to the advice of the moral poobahs of the moment. But there, on a raft in the middle of the muddy Mississippi, at midnight or near it, Huck decides to do the right thing instead of what the preachers tell him he should do. It’s a nation-turning decision.
. . . I went to the raft, and set down in the wigwam to think. But I couldn’t come to nothing. I thought till I wore my head sore, but I couldn’t see no way out of the trouble.
After all this long journey, and after all we’d done for them scoundrels, here it was all come to nothing, everything all busted up and ruined, because they could have the heart to serve Jim such a trick as that, and make him a slave again all his life, and amongst strangers, too, for forty dirty dollars.
Once I said to myself it would be a thousand times better for Jim to be a slave at home where his family was, as long as he’d got to be a slave, and so I’d better write a letter to Tom Sawyer and tell him to tell Miss Watson where he was. But I soon give up that notion for two things: she’d be mad and disgusted at his rascality and ungratefulness for leaving her, and so she’d sell him straight down the river again; and if she didn’t, everybody naturally despises an ungrateful nigger, and they’d make Jim feel it all the time, and so he’d feel ornery and disgraced. And then think of me! It would get all around that Huck Finn helped a nigger to get his freedom; and if I was ever to see anybody from that town again I’d be ready to get down and lick his boots for shame. That’s just the way: a person does a low-down thing, and then he don’t want to take no consequences of it. Thinks as long as he can hide it, it ain’t no disgrace. That was my fix exactly. The more I studied about this the more my conscience went to grinding me, and the more wicked and low-down and ornery I got to feeling. And at last, when it hit me all of a sudden that here was the plain hand of Providence slapping me in the face and letting me know my wickedness was being watched all the time from up there in heaven, whilst I was stealing a poor old woman’s nigger that hadn’t ever done me no harm, and now was showing me there’s One that’s always on the lookout, and ain’t a-going to allow no such miserable doings to go only just so fur and no further, I most dropped in my tracks I was so scared. Well, I tried the best I could to kinder soften it up somehow for myself by saying I was brung up wicked, and so I warn’t so much to blame; but something inside of me kept saying, “There was the Sunday-school, you could a gone to it; and if you’d a done it they’d a learnt you there that people that acts as I’d been acting about that nigger goes to everlasting fire.”
It made me shiver. And I about made up my mind to pray, and see if I couldn’t try to quit being the kind of a boy I was and be better. So I kneeled down. But the words wouldn’t come. Why wouldn’t they? It warn’t no use to try and hide it from Him. Nor from me, neither. I knowed very well why they wouldn’t come. It was because my heart warn’t right; it was because I warn’t square; it was because I was playing double. I was letting on to give up sin, but away inside of me I was holding on to the biggest one of all. I was trying to make my mouth say I would do the right thing and the clean thing, and go and write to that nigger’s owner and tell where he was; but deep down in me I knowed it was a lie, and He knowed it. You can’t pray a lie—I found that out.
So I was full of trouble, full as I could be; and didn’t know what to do. At last I had an idea; and I says, I’ll go and write the letter—and then see if I can pray. Why, it was astonishing, the way I felt as light as a feather right straight off, and my troubles all gone. So I got a piece of paper and a pencil, all glad and excited, and set down and wrote:
Miss Watson, your runaway n***** Jim is down here two mile below Pikesville, and Mr. Phelps has got him and he will give him up for the reward if you send.
I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn’t do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking—thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me all the time: in the day and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a-floating along, talking and singing and laughing. But somehow I couldn’t seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I’d see him standing my watch on top of his’n, ’stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had small-pox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one he’s got now; and then I happened to look around and see that paper.
It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:
“All right, then, I’ll go to hell”—and tore it up.
Huck’s deciding he’ll stand by his friend, a great human being, and “go to hell” instead of turning his friend in to continue a life in slavery, is the moment America grew up.
Now Americans pretend to have forgotten that growing up and the lesson Huck learned.
Another line jumped out at me from the start. It is a powerful lesson in government and democracy.
In the course of the novel, Huck falls in with a couple of crooks, the Duke and the King. They make their swindles in land deals on lands to which they don’t have title.
In Chapter XXVI (26), Huck accompanies the two swindlers to an orphanage of sorts. The Duke and the King decide to sell the orphanage, and leave town before their purchasers discover the sales are frauds. Early on in their hustings they collect a bag of gold. Then Huck sits down to dinner with one of the girls at the place, and he meets a few others who all treat him rather kindly, and in the course of an hour or two he begins to have second thoughts, fearing for the fate of the orphans.
Meanwhile with investments coming in so fast, the Duke and the King ponder leaving town earlier than planned, with at least the bag of gold, fearing they might be discovered. In the course of their conversation, overheard by Huck hiding in the room, the King works to convince the duke that most of the town’s people remain bamboozled:
Well, the king he talked him blind; so at last he give in, and said all right, but said he believed it was blamed foolishness to stay, and that doctor hanging over them. But the king says:
“Cuss the doctor! What do we k’yer for him? Hain’t we got all the fools in town on our side? And ain’t that a big enough majority in any town?”
Savor that one, and let it sink in for a bit. “Hain’t we got all the fools in town on our side? And ain’t that a big enough majority in any town?”
James Madison and Thomas Jefferson trafficked in democratic institutions at a metaphysical level, understanding men were no angels, as Madison put it, but with a bit of education a people should be able to rule themselves as well as, or better than, a tiny elite, even if that elite were educated. But they understood at the wholesale political level that a check was necessary on the people; in 1822 Madison defended free public education in a letter:
A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance. And a people who mean to be their own governours, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.
In Huck Finn, just over a half-century later, Twain was writing about applied politics, the theory, not the hypothesis, on a retail level. Without education for the masses, the group who cynically bamboozles for money or power wins once they’ve got every fool in town on their side.
We have a political system that is more subject to corruption due to lack of education than lack of money.
To an honest politician, this is a huge burden. You won the election? You got the vote of every fool in town? Then it’s up to you to act wisely, despite their foolishness. Robert Redford’s character in “The Candidate” pulls an upset win in a U.S. Senate race — the film closes with the candidate, rather scared, sitting down with the party-provided campaign advisor, and asking in all earnestness: “What do we do now?”
Happy anniversary, Huck Finn. Perhaps we should fly the flag today in honor of the publication of the book. We would fly it a bit nervously, perhaps.
What do we do now?
NOAA’s chief scientist reminds everyone that accuracy with honor is necessary for science to be good.
Here is the entire message from NOAA Assistant Administrator Craig McLean, to NOAA staff, sent out Tuesday, September 10, 2019.
A Message from Craig McLean: Hurricane Dorian and Exceptional Service
This following is the original message Craig McLean, NOAA Research Assistant Administrator, sent to all NOAA Research employees on the morning of Monday, September 9th regarding Hurricane Dorian and its wide-ranging impacts.
The fierce storm we know as Hurricane Dorian has concluded its ferocious path through the Bahamas and along the U.S. East Coast. Many of you have contributed to the excellent science that has underpinned the forecasts and current understanding of storms such as this one, which accelerated quite rapidly in intensity. The storm also presented challenges in track which improved with enhanced observations. We know that our collective work, from the scientists in the aircraft penetrating the storm, to the scientists deploying the glider picket line, to the modelers and folks working the physics of the storms, across OAR and in our CI’s, and across all NOAA Lines, we are working the problem in order to give the NWS forecasters the best tools we possibly can to keep America and our neighbors safe. Thank you.
During the course of the storm, as I am sure you are aware, there were routine and exceptional expert forecasts, the best possible, issued by the NWS Forecasters. These are remarkable colleagues of ours, who receive our products, use them well, and provide the benefit of their own experience in announcing accurate forecasts accompanied by the distinction of all credible scientists—they sign their work. As I’m sure you also know, there was a complex issue involving the President commenting on the path of the hurricane. The NWS Forecaster(s) corrected any public misunderstanding in an expert and timely way, as they should. There followed, last Friday, an unsigned press release from “NOAA” that inappropriately and incorrectly contradicted the NWS forecaster. My understanding is that this intervention to contradict the forecaster was not based on science but on external factors including reputation and appearance, or simply put, political. Our NOAA Scientific Integrity Policy and Code of Scientific Conduct make clear that all NOAA employees shall approach all scientific activities with honesty, objectively, and completely, without allegiance to individuals, organizations, or ideology. The content of this press release is very concerning as it compromises the ability of NOAA to convey life-saving information necessary to avoid substantial and specific danger to public health and safety. If the public cannot trust our information, or we debase our forecaster’s warnings and products, that specific danger arises.
You know that the value of our science is in the complexity of our understanding, our ability to convey that understanding to a wide audience of users of this information, and to establish and sustain the public trust in the truth and legitimacy of that information. Unfortunately, the press release of last Friday violated this trust and violated NOAA’s policies of scientific integrity. In my role as Assistant Administrator for Research, and as I continue to administratively serve as Acting Chief Scientist, I am pursuing the potential violations of our NOAA Administrative Order on Scientific Integrity. Thankfully, we have such policies that are independently cited as among the best in the federal community, if not the best. Your NOAA and OAR management and leadership team believes in these policies and principles. I have a responsibility to pursue these truths. I will.
Thank you for your continued excellent work, and your trust. Carry on.
Craig N. McLean
Oceanic and Atmospheric Research
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The original Tweet:
It’s a Twitter thread from David Rothkopf. It’s not hopeful, but it’s important to read and digest.
Rothkopf is CEO of the Rothkopf Group, a high-level consulting firm on international and world problems, based in Alexandria, Virginia.
Rothkopf continued his Tweet thread (I won’t post all the Tweets here, just the main content):
The Attorney General sneered at the Congress and placed himself imperiously above its questions. He continued to arrogate onto himself what portions of the Mueller Report–paid for by the people, essentially in its totality to the Congress to do its duty–we would see.
He asserted again that he was the final arbiter of whether obstruction of justice by the president had taken place. He even went so far as to imply that law enforcement authorities carrying out their duty to protect America were somehow “spying”, perhaps illicitly…
on the Trump campaign. (Ignoring that the reasons for the investigation in question were not only sound…but the core reason…that Russia had sought to aid the Trump campaign in the election had been proven again by Mueller.)
At the same time, the Secretary of the Treasury and the head of the IRS determined to violate a law that required in no uncertain terms for them to provide the president’s tax returns to the chairman of the House Ways and Means committee.
to those who break the law, encouraging a crime and abetting it. We learned that they considered an egregious abuse of power that would involve releasing illegal immigrants in sanctuary cities controlled by Democrats.
We saw the president complain that our military would not rough up immigrants. We saw him continue the charade of an emergency at our southern border which was an excuse for him illegally divert government resources to an unnecessary, racist, vanity project.
The president repeatedly called law enforcement officers who investigated him traitors, guilty of treason–a crime that carries with it the death penalty. We discovered that the president considered appointing his grossly unqualified daughter to be head of the World Bank.
It is the stuff of the world’s most dysfunctional governments. But rather than generating a response from within our system commensurate with the threat, nothing occurred. The GOP leaders in the Senate circled round the president and supported his abuses.
In so doing, they sent a message that they would never challenge him much less convict him of the myriad crimes he has committed. The checks and balances our system was built upon are gone. Worse, the courts are being packed with Trump cronies–often unqualified.
Agencies are being left to appointed caretakers some outside the normal chain of succession, many unconfirmed for their current posts by the Senate. Political opponents tip-toed around these crimes daring not to appear “too extreme.”
This is how democracies die. The rule of law is slowly strangled. The unthinkable becomes commonplace. The illegal becomes accepted–from violations of the emoluments clause to self-dealing to Federal election law crimes to serial sexual abuse.
What once was black and white blurs into grey. Right and wrong, old principles, enduring values, fade from memory. Authoritarians arrive in our midst not in tanks but in bad suits and worse haircuts.
I have long thought our system was better than this–more resilient. But candidly, I’m no longer sure. I remain hopeful…hopeful that the next election cycle can redress this manifold wrongs. But it will not be easy. It will be too close. Trump may be with us for six more yrs.
Why? Because we allowed ourselves to become inured to the unthinkable. We are dying the death of a thousand cuts. Right now, this week, the president and his band of thugs are winning. They have become unabashed in their attacks on the law.
They are daring someone to enforce it. But what if…what if the courts rule against them but they ignore it? What if the Treasury Secretary has violated a law and no one arrests him. What if the president steals and canoodles with enemies and he goes unpunished?
Their crimes will only grow more egregious and their ways will only grow more ingrained in our system. Their violations will in fact become the system itself. Corruption will be the norm-greater corruption,to be sure,since it it was corruption that got us here in the first place.
Here is how some others responded on Twitter.
What do you think? Comments are open.
Rio Tinto mines metals, not coal. Still it’s notable when a mining company threatens action if mining company associations do not act to enforce the goals of the Paris Accord, don’t you think?
Rio Tinto has signalled it is prepared to quit its membership of industry associations, including the Minerals Council, if it makes public statements inconsistent with Australia’s Paris climate agreement commitment.
The company published a global statement on Thursday night setting out its expectations of the industry bodies it belongs to about commentary they make on climate policy.
It includes an expectation that Australian industry associations will publicly argue against government subsidies for coal.
The statement comes after more than a year of talks between Rio Tinto and the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, a not-for-profit group that targets social, environmental and governance issues within large corporations.
Rio Tinto published its environmental statement, urging action against global warming climate change, in 2017. Another giant company using natural resources, urging the rest of us to be wise stewards of the Earth.
It’s a start.
A poem for our time, from our time, for the State of the Union, and 2019, from Houston poet Leah McElrath.
I have threaded
that were on
this special necklace
but they are mine now
Special tip of the old scrub brush to Leah McElrath, on Twitter.
Barbara Jordan would have been 83 today.
(Thanks to Pam for alerting me to the anniversary, back in 2008.)
In her stirring keynote address at the 1976 Democratic National Convention, held in New York City in Madison Square Garden, Jordan said:
A government is invigorated when each of us is willing to participate in shaping the future of this nation.
In this election year we must define the common good and begin again to shape a common good and begin again to shape a common future. Let each person do his or her part. If one citizen is unwilling to participate, all of us are going to suffer. For the American idea, though it is shared by all of us, is realized in each one of us.
I covered that convention as a stringer for a western television station. I recall the spirit in the hall when Jordan spoke, and the great spirit that enveloped the entire convention and the City of New York. After the convention every night the cops would stop taxis so delegates could ride. I remember watching two cops help a woman out of a wheel chair and into a cab, and the cabbie saying that the cops had never done that before — and he liked it. Jimmy Carter came out of that convention, and won the election, defeating Gerald Ford.
43 years ago. In 2008 I wrote: “Barbara Jordan didn’t live to see her party come up with a woman and an African American man as the top two candidates for the nomination. That’s too bad. She could have given a great, appropriate speech. Maybe the Dems oughtta just run a film of Jordan from 1976.”
Barack Obama won that election in 2008, and Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination in 2016. Jordan didn’t live to see that, either.
In 2019, we face a Constitutional crisis again, with a crook in the White House hoping Americans forget about the Constitution. If ever we needed ghosts to come back to help us, we need the ghost of Barbara Jordan now. We could just run a film of her speech at the House Judiciary Committee markup of the articles of impeachment for Richard Nixon.
People wonder what Beto O’Rourke is going to do. He set new standards for ethical campaigning in the race for the U.S. Senate in Texas last year, refusing to go low even when polls showed he could win that way, and came the closest to unseating a Republican statewide office-holder in a couple of decades.
More important, Beto inspired a loyal corps of voters and campaigners to get out and change things.
One of my campaigning colleagues called this morning, alerting me to an e-mail from Beto on February 18, 2019, the first since thank-yous after the election in November.
Beto put heft to his comments in El Paso last week refuting claims from the White House that El Paso is a city in crisis, with bumbling leaders. O’Rourke mustered the facts, and held on to the inspiration. His message, below.
The President came to El Paso last week. He promised a wall and repeated his lies about the dangers that immigrants pose. With El Paso as the backdrop, he claimed that this city of immigrants was dangerous before a border fence was built here in 2008.
Beyond refuting his comments about border communities like ours (El Paso was one of the safest communities in the United States before the fence was built here), about walls saving lives (in fact, walls push desperate families to cross in ever more hostile terrain, ensuring greater suffering and death), and about immigrants (who commit crimes at a lower rate than those Americans born here), it’s worth thinking about how we got to this place. How it came to be that 11 million undocumented immigrants call America home, how we came to militarize our border, how we arrived at such a disconnect between our ideals, our values, the reality of our lives — and the policies and political rhetoric that govern immigration and border security.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the challenges we face are largely of our own design — a function of the unintended consequences of immigration policy and the rhetoric we’ve used to describe immigrants and the border. At almost every step of modern immigration policy and immigration politics, we have exacerbated underlying problems and made things worse. Sometimes with the best of intentions, sometimes with the most cynical exploitation of nativism and fear. Much of the history of immigration policy (and the source for the graphs that I’m using) is powerfully summarized in a report entitled “Unintended Consequences of U.S. Immigration Policy: Explaining the Post-1965 Surge from Latin America” by Douglas S Massey and Karen A. Pren.
In 1965, the U.S. ended the bracero farmworker program in part because of the substandard wages and conditions in which these Mexican workers labored. And yet, after decades of employing this labor, with our economy dependent on the laborers and the laborers dependent on access to the U.S. job market, the system of low-cost Mexican labor didn’t go away. Many of the same Mexican nationals returned to the U.S., returned to the same back-breaking jobs, only now they were undocumented. Ironically, despite the intent of the 1965 law ending the program, they enjoyed fewer protections and wage guarantees in the shadows as they continued to play a fundamental role in our economy.
As this same population converted from being documented to undocumented a wave of scary metaphors was employed to gin up anxiety and paranoia and political will to employ ever more repressive policies to deter their entry. It was good for politicians and newspapers, terrible for immigrants and immigration policy. Thus began the “Latino threat” narrative. As Massey and Pren write:
“The most common negative framing depicted immigration as a “crisis” for the nation. Initially marine metaphors were used to dramatize the crisis, with Latino immigration being labeled a “rising tide” or a “tidal wave” that was poised to “inundate” the United States and “drown” its culture while “flooding” American society with unwanted foreigners (Santa Ana 2002). Over time, marine metaphors increasingly gave way to martial imagery, with illegal immigration being depicted as an “invasion” in which “outgunned” Border Patrol agents sought to “hold the line” in a vain attempt to “defend” the border against “attacks” from “alien invaders” who launched “banzai charges” to overwhelm American defenses (Nevins 2001; Chavez 2008).”
The fear stoked by politicians produced the intended paranoia and political constituency demanding ever tougher immigration measures. The result of this was not to stop undocumented immigration. Instead it caused the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States to grow.
Here’s why: as we made it harder for people to cross into the United States, we made it less likely that once here they would attempt to go back to their home country. Fearing an increasingly militarized border, circular patterns of migration became linear, with immigrants choosing to remain in the U.S., many of them ultimately joined by family members from their home country.
This government-created condition continued to feed on itself:
The “sustained, accelerating accumulation of anti-immigrant legislation and enforcement operations produced a massive increase in border apprehensions after the late 1970s, when the underlying flow of migrants had actually leveled off. For any given number of undocumented entry attempts, more restrictive legislation and more stringent enforcement operations generate more apprehensions, which politicians and bureaucrats can then use to inflame public opinion, which leads to more conservatism and voter demands for even stricter laws and more enforcement operations, which generates more apprehensions, thus bringing the process full circle. In short, the rise of illegal migration, its framing as a threat to the nation, and the resulting conservative reaction set off a self-feeding chain reaction of enforcement that generated more apprehensions even though the flow of undocumented migrants had stabilized in the late 1970s and actually dropped during the late 1980s and early 1990s.”
This would only get worse.
After terror attacks in the 1990s and in 2001, the Mexican immigrant was a ready scapegoat for politicians, and the intensity and brutality of enforcement and deterrence measures increased. In the face of terrorism that originated in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, the United States chose to conflate the war on terror with immigration from Mexico and Latin America.
With the passage of the Patriot Act in 2001 the number of deportations skyrocketed, with nearly 400,000 sent back to their country of origin in 2009 alone. Not one of the 9/11 terrorists entered through Mexico — and yet Mexicans bore the brunt of this country’s immigration response to the terror attacks. Last year, the State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism found that “there are no known international terrorist organizations operating in Mexico, no evidence that any terrorist group has targeted U.S. citizens in Mexican territory, and no credible information that any member of a terrorist group has traveled through Mexico to gain access to the United States.” This year’s report found much the same: “there was no credible evidence indicating that international terrorist groups have established bases in Mexico, worked with Mexican drug cartels, or sent operatives via Mexico into the United States.”
In addition, walls and fences authorized by the Secure Fence Act of 2006 pushed migration flows to ever more treacherous stretches of the U.S.-Mexico border. More than 4,500 human beings died crossing the border from 2006 to 2017. Far too many of them children.
In recent years, as Mexican migration slowed and then reversed (more Mexican nationals going south to Mexico than coming north to the United States), and as total undocumented immigration reached its lowest levels in modern history, the country was met with the challenge of tens of thousands of Central American families fleeing violence and brutality to petition for asylum in our country.
This too is an unintended consequence. Our involvement in the civil wars and domestic politics of Central American countries, in addition to our ability to consume more illegal drugs than any other country on the planet while leading a military- and law enforcement-first drug control policy, has helped to destroy the institutions of civil society necessary for those countries to function. They can no longer protect their citizens, and their citizens are coming to us.
And how do we meet this challenge? The President, using the same racist, inflammatory rhetoric of years past, seeks to build a wall, to take kids from their parents, to deploy the United States Army on American soil, to continue mass deportations and to end the protection for Dreamers. In other words, he seeks in one administration to repeat all the mistakes of the last half-century. And with past as prologue, we know exactly how that will end.
Not only will it lead to thousands of Americans losing their farms and ranches and homes through eminent domain to build a wall despite the fact that we have the lowest level of northbound apprehensions in my lifetime; it will lead to greater suffering and death for immigrants who are pushed to more dangerous points of crossing; it will fail to meet the legitimate challenge of illegal drugs that are brought to this country (the vast majority crossed at ports of entry); it will further erode our humanity and our standing in the world; and it will not do a single thing to reduce the number of undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers coming to this country.
But we still have a choice. In this democracy, if in fact the people are the government, and the government is the people, we still have a chance to prove it.
We can decide that we’ll get past the lies and fear, focus on the facts and human lives in our midst, and do the right thing. The end goal is a stronger, safer, more successful country. Critical to achieving that goal is having immigration, security and bilateral policies that match reality and our values.
Last week, we welcomed the President to one of the safest cities in the United States. Safe not because of walls, and not in spite of the fact that we are a city of immigrants. Safe because we are a city of immigrants and because we treat each other with dignity and respect. A city that has the opportunity to lead on the most important issues before us, out of experience, out of compassion and out of a fierce determination to see this country live its ideals and rise to its full potential.
We can learn from the errors of our past, have the courage to do what’s right while we still have the chance, and ensure that the President doesn’t commit this country to making mistakes from which we may never recover.
It’s up to us.
What do you think about immigration and actions Beto proposes? Comments open; as Beto asks, speak with respect, please.
Beto O’Rourke, to the Texas State Democratic Convention in Fort Worth, Texas.
Sound feed came from a microphone on the camera, and not from the arena sound system — so it’s rather crummy.
But I’m not finding the official Texas Democratic Party version of this speech all the way through. And I think it ought to be preserved.
It’s not a usual “thanks for supporting me; let’s go win” convention speech. It demonstrates what happens when a thinking candidate tailors remarks to the audience in the hall, somethings thinking as she or he goes.
It’s why Texas should have sent him to the Senate.
Do they make Republicans so patriotic and thoughtful any more?
On the death of President George H. W. Bush, I think it’s good to revisit the evidence that, on the surface, a little deeper, and deep down, George Bush the elder was just a very decent, kind human being. We should celebrate his decency and kindness, and encourage it in others.
Most of this post is a repeat from just before the elections in 2016.
1992’s election was unnecessarily nasty, I thought. Incumbent George H. W. Bush had fallen from record approval ratings after Gulf War I, due to economic problems. GOP campaigning targeted Bill Clinton’s failings in personal life, and imaginary policies — much of what were real issues were ignored, I thought.
Transition was relatively smooth. GOP continued the tactic’s they’d adopted in 1977 against Jimmy Carter, constant harping on small issues, some refusal to cooperate.
George H. W. Bush
is was always gracious. In his last hours in office, he penned a personal letter to the man who had defeated him, Bill Clinton. He left the letter on the President’s Desk in the Oval Office, one of the first things Clinton would see after the ceremonies, and as the weight of his new job began dragging him into reality.
Bush’s grace, then, shines now as an example of a lost time, when despite deep divisions, Washington politicians understood the nation needed to run, and were willing to compromise to make the laws and appointments necessary to help America.
Bush wrote to Clinton:
You will be our president when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well.
Your success is now our country’s success. I am rooting for you. Good Luck.
Are there any such Republicans left in the party? Does anyone make Republicans like that now?
We need that grace, and resolve to make America a better and happier place, back again. Send a thank-you letter to someone you know today.
Do you get the newsletter from the Academy of American Poets?
A 2012 newsletter included this list:
Poems of American Experience
People in some states complain that the liquor stores and bars won’t open on election day. So, try the next best thing, or the better thing, and read some poetry.
What works of poetry, or literature, or visual arts, strike you as appropriate for the U.S. election day? Which works would be most useful in school classrooms, to teach our young people about voting, how to vote, and why it’s important?
U.S. Flag Code urges the flag be flown at every polling place on any election day. Be sure to compliment your poll judges if the flag is up. You may fly your flag at home, too.
U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s campaign for the U.S. Senate features travel prominently. Beto’s started out with a listening tour of all 254 Texas counties — something no other politician I can find has done — and continues with visits to every odd corner of the state. Beto’s been on the road constantly for almost two years.
It shows in his rallies, which tend to bring in hundreds where others get a few dozen, and thousands where others may have got a hundred.
To Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again,” Beto O’Rourke.