Saturday, July 29, 2006

They have names

I am in Modesto, California for the wedding of my wife’s brother. Last night we went to the Modesto Prospect Theater Project, a store-front theater with 70 seats, to see a production of “Hard Travelin’ – A Tribute to Woody Guthrie.” I really enjoyed the energetic and enthusiastic young cast and their spirited singing of Woody Guthrie’s music. I also was once again struck by how timely many of the issues that Woody Guthrie addressed in his songs still are 60 or 70 years after they were written.

I have heard Woody’s song “Deportee” many times over the years. The lyrics talk about the crash of a plane over Los Gatos canyon. Rather than listing the names of the victims as is usually done when a plane crashes the radio news account simply noted that they were deportees. Woody Guthrie did not know the victims but he knew that they must have had names.

When I heard the song last night I was struck by how Woody made poetry with the Spanish names and phrases:

Goodbye to my Juan, farewell Roselita
Adios mes amigos, Jesus e Maria
You won’t have a name when you ride the big airplane
All they will call you will be deportee.

I don’t think Woody ever studied Spanish in school. The knowledge of Spanish reflected in the above verse must have come from his encounters with Mexicans as he traveled around. They were fellow workers in some of the hard-scrabble jobs he held. They also were traveling around looking for whatever job they could find. From his lyrics we can tell that Woody thought of them as people like himself and did not like them being exploited and treated differently because of their illegal status.

Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can raise our good crops?
To fall like dry leaves and rot on out topsoil
And be known by no name except "deportee."

We would do well to remember Woody’s point as we debate immigration policy. The “illegal immigrants” we are discussing are people with names.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Eyewitness Report on California Heat Wave

Yesterday, Tuesday July 25, I flew from Moline, Illinois to Modesto, California with my family. My wife's brother Tim is getting married on Saturday. It was 112 degrees in Modesto when we arrived. It will be that hot again today but it is supposed to cool off a little by Saturday. The local news is full of reports of people and animals which have died from the heat. So many farm animals have died that the rendering plants are over-taxed and now in addition to the heat the piles of dead animals waiting to be hauled away are an additional sanitation and health problem.

We have not yet experienced any rolling blackouts but have experienced some of the other unique challenges California offers. My wife's niece who was driving up to Modesto from Los Angeles and had expected to be in Modesto in time to pick us up at the airport arrived hours late because a wild fire in the mountains had jumped the highway and all traffic was stopped for hours when the road became part of the front lines of the fire-fighting efforts. Fortunately we had already decided to rent a car and were able to wait for her in the comfort of our hotel room rather than at the airport.

The wedding and reception were planned months ago to be outdoors, usually a safe bet in the Central Valley in late July. With about 100 people expected there is no way to move everything in-doors. Everyone agrees that there exists no established appropriate dress code for a wedding and reception where the temperature is going to be 110 degrees. "Extremely casual" seems to be the consensus choice.

Monday, July 24, 2006

ABA says Bush's use of signing statements threatens "the survival of our democracy"

A task force of the American Bar Association has concluded that the president's unprecedented stream of signing statements poses a dangerous challenge to the constitutional checks and balances central to power in the United States. One of the signing statements reserves the right to torture detainees held in the war on terror.

The ABA report released today calls on Congress to exert more oversight and empower the courts to review presidential signing statements asserting the president's right to "ignore or not enforce laws." If unchecked, ABA President Michael Greco said in a prepared statement, the presidential use of signing statements "raises serious concerns crucial to the survival of our democracy."

read entire article

I watched the press conference in which the American Bar Association presented their report, recommendations and statements and answered questions. One reporter asked if it were not the responsibility of the Congress, rather than some group like the ABA, to defend the Constitutional perogatives of the Legislative branch. Members of the task force replied that we all as Americans have a stake in the balance of powers and the rule of law. They felt our democracy itself was at stake.

They said that because members of the Executive refuse to tell Congress what they are doing we do not know what the White House is telling members of the Executive Branch about the laws it has challenged in signing statements more than 800 times. For example the Congress and the American people do not know whether the White House is telling the military and the CIA that they must not torture after Congress passed and the president signed the McCain amendment which makes torture illegal or if the White House is telling them that the President has determined that torture is necessary to protect the nation as the President asserted he had the right to do in the signing statement he quietly issued after signing the McCain amendment to great fanfare.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Drinking Liberally in the Quad Cities Again

The second meeting of Illinois Quad Cities chapter of Drinking Liberally was held last night at Jack's Place in downtown Moline. As you can see in the photo Amanda made us a beautiful sign to meet under. Candidate Phil Hare, his lovely wife Becky, son and daughter-in-law honored us with their presence. As more and more people showed up we kept shoving tables together until the waitress started worrying that our line of tables would eventually extend out the door. There was an unconfirmed sighting of The Inside Dope. A great time was had by all.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Gutknecht goes wobbly

Just a month ago on June 15, 2006 Rep. Gutknecht was catigating Democrats for talking about withdrawing from Iraq:
"Members, this is not the time to go wobbly. Let's give victory a chance," said Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-Minn.).
Read entire article

What a difference a month makes. After a visit to the war zone guess who is now calling for withdrawal:
Congressman Gil Gutknecht found the situation in Iraq more bleak than he anticipated during a weekend visit to the war zone, and said a partial withdrawal of some American troops might be wise.
Read entire article

Sen. Reid: "100 a day being killed .. we need .. a debate"

If you had been wondering how bad things would have to get in Iraq before the Democratic leadership in Congress would start publicly questioning the Bush Administration about it you now have your answer -- this bad.
Declaring that he believes the situation in Iraq has devolved into a civil war, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday he plans to try to bring the war back up for debate on the Senate floor.

The Nevada Democrat said he has been "somewhat gingerly approaching this.... No longer. There is a civil war going on in Iraq. In the last two months, more than 6,000 Iraqis have been killed. That's averaging more than 100 a day being killed in Iraq and we need to make sure there is a debate on this."

Read entire article

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Are American men weak?

I was watching CSPAN's Book TV this weekend and saw a panel of conservative book authors and publishers. The only person on the panel whose name I recognized was Phyllis Schlafly. When the discussion turned to “Women’s Lib” I was shocked to hear Phyllis Schlafly say that the real underlying problem was that men had become weak. She said that we needed to return to the days of strong men and then "Women’s Lib" would fade away as women no longer needed to fill the gap by being strong in the way men no longer were. All the other panelists appeared to nod in approval and agreement with this analysis.

In what way are modern men "weak"? Is it weak to not beat your wife? Is it weak to share family decision making? Is it weak to allow a woman who has the ability and desire to become a business manager or executive? In many, if not most, American families the woman has no choice but to work outside the home in order to make ends meet, so there is no way we can go back to the days of the "stay at home mom". What do these people have in mind? What in heaven’s name are they talking about?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Bush's 'Iraqi Democracy' Jeered

During a press conference today at the G8 summit in Russia, President Bush told President Vladimir Putin that Americans want Russia to develop a free press and free religion "like Iraq." To laughter and applause, Putin responded: "We certainly would not want to have same kind of democracy as they have in Iraq, quite honestly."
read entire article

One of the justifications for the War in Iraq was that we would establish a democracy in Iraq that would be a "shining light on the hill" to the rest of the region and to the world. One can only imagine how President Bush felt to hear foreign jeers of derision at his notion that a democracy is being established in Iraq that other nations might want to emulate.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Report from Baghdad

Riverbend blog for July 11, 2006

"They began pulling people off the street and checking their ID cards to see if they had Sunni names or Shia names and then the Sunnis were driven away and killed. Some were executed right there in the area. The media is playing it down and claiming 37 dead but the people in the area say the number is nearer 60.

…. No one is quite sure why the Americans and the Ministry of Interior didn't respond immediately. They just sat by, on the outskirts of the area, and let the massacre happen.

…Why don't the Americans just go home? They've done enough damage and we hear talk of how things will fall apart in Iraq if they 'cut and run', but the fact is that they aren't doing anything right now. How much worse can it get? People are being killed in the streets and in their own homes- what's being done about it? Nothing. It's convenient for them- Iraqis can kill each other and they can sit by and watch the bloodshed- unless they want to join in with murder and rape."

Most of our politicians are claiming that we can't just "cut and run." Why not?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Illegal Immigrantion will be a big campaign issue

All indications are that Carl Rove and the House Republicans plan to make illegal immigrantion a big issue in this year’s Congressional campaigns. Illegal immigrants will be described as the biggest problem facing America and they will be accused of destroying everything we hold dear. A number of solutions will be offered for the problem such as the now familiar strengthening border security, making sure illegal immigrants cannot get welfare or other forms of government assistance and making English the official language. Other suggested solutions will include legal sanctions against landlords who rent to illegal immigrants and national identity cards.

Increasing border security has not been effective in the past and will not be any more effective in the future. Restricting where illegal immigrants can live will just move the problem from one place to another. Laws requiring English will not stop anyone from coming. Very few illegal immigrants know anything about our welfare and government assistance programs so changing them would have no effect on illegal immigration. The only thing that would stop the illegal immigrants from coming would be if they could no longer find employment in this country. They are coming because they are looking for work and they have heard that there are jobs here.

Putting Americans who hire illegal immigrants in jail is the one thing that would reduce the numbers of illegal immigrants coming into our country. Because corporations and farmers who hire illegal immigrants have a lot of clout in the Republican Party it will never be mentioned by the Republicans as a possible solution to the problem. As you listen to the politicians talking about this issue remember that anyone who claims to be interested in reducing the number of illegal immigrants coming to America who does not propose employer sanctions is just engaging in demagoguery.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Arrested for wearing a T-Shirt

A Vietnam War veteran was recently arrested for wearing a "Veterans For Peace" T-Shirt in the V.A. Medical Center in Chicago. He was just sitting by himself quietly in the coffee shop when he was confronted by V.A. security who accused him of demonstrating.
Read the article

"I have to believe that this whole country has not yet gone insane, just the government. This kind of behavior can’t be tolerated. It must be challenged."

Bush: "I'm solving the global warming debate"

President Bush reveals his understanding of the global warming issue in this quote from a recent interview:
"I think we have a problem on global warming. I think there is a debate about whether it's caused by mankind or whether it's caused naturally, but it's a worthy debate. It's a debate, actually, that I'm in the process of solving by advancing new technologies, burning coal cleanly in electric plants, or promoting hydrogen-powered automobiles, or advancing ethanol as an alternative to gasoline."
Read the entire interview

Drinking Liberally in the Quad Cities

Andy Waeyaert and Amanda York have established an Illinois Quad Cities chapter of Drinking Liberally and hosted the first meeting last night (Friday, July 7) at 7:30 pm at Jack's Place in downtown Moline. It was decided to meet the 1st and 3rd Fridays of the month at 7:30 pm at Jack's Place. My wife and I came and had a great time. I was surprised to see so many college-aged politically involved people. For the first hour Rich Miller Sr., my wife and I were the only ones there over thirty. In spite of the range of ages everyone got along great because they shared a common interest in liberal politics. Later Pat and Cecilia O'Brien showed up to keep the party going.
Add your name to the Illinois Quad Cities Chapter email list
Read the discussion forum

Friday, July 07, 2006

French politician would prefer the French national soccer team to have more white players

For those of you who are not international soccer fans, the national teams of France and Italy are going to play on Sunday for the World Cup Championship. Alert reader Saul Thomas sent me a link to article by Dave Zirin and John Cox talking about the controversy within France caused by the fact that the team is more multi-ethnic than some French people would prefer. The team leader is of Algerian descent -- Zinedine Zidane -- and the most feared striker is black-- Thierry Henry.

"Proud racist and leader of the ultra-right wing National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, decried France's multi-ethnic team as unrepresentative of French society, saying that
France 'cannot recognize itself in the national side,' and 'maybe the coach exaggerated the proportion of players of color and should have been a bit more careful.'"

Read the entire article

Jean-Marie Le Pen has run numerous times for the French presidency. In the presidential elections of 2002, he obtained 16.86% of the votes in the first round of voting.

I am somewhat shocked. Most American racists have no objections to black players on the teams they support once it has been shown that they make the team more likely to win. Jean-Marie Le Pen seems to be a more rabid and outspoken racist than we have seen on America's political stage. Can you imagine an American politician saying that an American team which was about to play for the world championship had too many black players to properly represent America?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

What part of illegal do you people not understand?

I just took the dog for a walk around my neighborhood this (July 4) evening and noticed that an awful lot of people are violating the state’s fireworks laws. This did not bother me very much. I have long been aware that there are a number of our laws that are widely broken and rarely enforced, such as exceeding the speed limit by up to 10 miles/hour, bringing into the state and setting off illegal fireworks and non-citizens being in the country without valid visas or residency papers. The fact that these laws are widely violated and rarely enforced is an obvious signal to most of us that they are not to be taken as seriously as the laws that the police do enforce.

But I have been noticing in blog comments and letters to the editor that there are a number of people who do not accept this state of affairs. They mostly seem to focus on the widespread violation of our immigration laws but their logic applies equally well to speeding and illegal fireworks. They argue that any sort of illegality is unacceptable. If they feel that way I would guess that all these illegal fireworks going off around them must send these people into a rage. So, on behalf of the tender sensibilities of these people who cannot stand any sort of rampant illegality I ask all of you patriots to cut it out with those illegal fireworks.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The dog that did not bark in the night

In one of his adventures Sherlock Holmes tells Watson that the most curious aspect of the case they are investigating is what the dog did during the night. “But,” objects Watson,“the dog did nothing during the night.” “That was what I found so curious,” Holmes replies. (From the story “Silver Blaze” by Arthur Conan Doyle.)

Like Holmes I notice a lot of things curiously not happening. Where is the outrage by the supporters of the invasion of Iraq about the recently revealed cases in which our troops are accused of murdering and raping innocent Iraqi civilians? The invasion was only justified if the Iraqis are better off now than when Saddam was in power. If a murderous Saddam has been replaced by a murdering, raping and pillaging foreign occupation then all the deaths and other costs have been in vain. If electricity and water still have not been yet restored to pre-invasion levels then it is not clear that the Iraqis are better off. Surely those who supported the invasion for idealistic reasons are upset by this. Where is the outrage?

In the Illinois 17th Congressional District race where is all the national money and attention that some predicted? The election is less than 4 months away. President Bush, Laura Bush, John McCain and other prominent Washington figures are appearing for various Republican candidates around the country. When is one of them going to stop by in support of Andrea Zinga?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Previous waves of immigrantion orderly?

A comment in the Speak Out section of today’s Moline (Illinois) Dispatch newspaper caught my attention. The anonymous comment: "At one time immigrants came to America to become Americans in a coherent, orderly and legal manner. None of these things apply today."

Six of my wife’s eight great-grandparents came to America from Ireland between 1860 and 1890. I am no expert on that period of American history but apparently I know at lot more about it than that Speak Out caller because I know that there was nothing coherent or orderly about the process of integrating that wave of Irish immigrants into American society. One of my wife’s great-grandparents came to America through Canada, walking across the border, never passing through Ellis Island. Was that legal at the time? We don’t know, but like the illegal immigrants made legal by the amnesty in 1986, they and their descendants are legal now.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Noah's Ark found?

Texas archaeologists believe they may have located the remains of Noah's Ark in Iran's Elburz mountain range.

"I can't imagine what it could be if it is not the Ark," said Arch Bonnema of the Bible Archaeology Search and Exploration (B.A.S.E) Institute, a Christian archeology organization dedicated to looking for biblical artifacts.

"It wasn't impressive at first," Cornuke said. "Certainly didn't think it to be Noah's Ark. But when we got close, we were amazed. It looked similar to wood."

read the entire article

I have noticed this a lot lately. People trying to prove that every word in the Bible is literaly true thinking that their lack of imagination -- "I can't imagine how an eye could arise through incremental changes", "I can't imagine what it could be if it is not the Ark" -- is a persuasive argument for their position. I wonder if there is a Latin phrase for that kind of logic. Perhaps something like "I limit my mind, ergo limit yours."