Category Archives: anti-immigration

Amodei Does The Phone Thing: Immigration Edition

Amodei 3Please don’t ask me to transcribe what I heard during Representative Mark Amodei’s (R-NV2) Telephone Townhall thing he had tonight, during the dinner hour.  I always seem to be contacted while the “town hall is already in progress,” and Amodei’s dismaying propensity for scrambling his answers into disjointed phrases interspersed with touching attempts to give the questioner reason to believe he might have heard and understood the question, combined with hunger, means I rarely stay for the whole performance.

I got in just as “Linda from Reno” was posing a direct question: “When are we going to close the borders? Don’t you think we ought to close the borders?

There’s nothing nuanced about this inquiry.  It’s about as straight forward as it gets. Closed border good?  Representative Amodei responded, as he nearly always does, by starting a sentence — shifting to an independent clause — shifting to another thought — reverting to the initial topic long enough to — insert another qualifier, before — circling back to touch on whatever it was that made him think of — another qualifying statement, leading to the beginning of another sentence.

As nearly as I can guess, Representative Amodei believes that the current crisis of too many undocumented and unaccompanied children at our border detention facilities means we have no control over our borders.

Whoa — if we didn’t have control over our borders then they wouldn’t be in DHS Border Patrol detention facilities would they?

The obvious point that if the southern border were “open” these children would be “all over the place” instead of in detention and case processing facilities stipulated, the notion that the opposite might be the case leads Representative Amodei to suggest that deploying the National Guard should be implemented.

For what? We have 21,000 border patrol agents, local, state, and tribal governments have programs funded by the Federal government to assist in border security, and we need the National Guard? According to Representative Amodei (I think, from my notes with arrows and lines trying to track his answer) this is necessary to have “absolute control of the border.”  I’ll return to this point in a moment, but first there’s a need to be more specific about the difference between the question from Reno and the answer from Amodei.

Closed Minds and Borders

Let’s pause for a moment, because Representative Amodei really isn’t offering a direct answer to “Linda’s” direct question.  She wasn’t talking about controlling the border she was advocating closing the borders. Closed borders have serious consequences, consequences “Linda” may not have considered when expressing her desire to stop all immigration.

First, and most obviously, a closed border works both ways. While closing the borders would prevent immigration, it also prevents trade and tourism.  If country A closes down its border with country B, B always reacts.  The reactions, and the economic implications thereof, create a plethora of issues which often have consequences intended and unintended.

The most obvious example of a closed border in recent memory is that between East and West Germany.  The destruction of the Berlin Wall provided iconic images, but the process of reunification was far more problematic.  For example, East Germany had been considered one of the more prosperous Eastern Bloc countries, but without Russian assistance/hegemony, and without a universally valued currency, when the wall fell so did the East German economy.  Further, there were those, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher included, who saw a re-unified Germany as a threat to European security and urged the Russians to prevent the process as much as possible.  However, a central point to remember is that for all the drama associated with PM Thatcher’s practice of carrying a 1937 map of German borders in her handbag, or the complex problem of what to do with East German industrial subsidies, the closed border between the two Germany-s before 1990 allowed the economy on the East side of the line to paper over serious economic flaws and abysmal infrastructure.

In other, simpler terms, closed borders hide and obscure as much as they secure.

Secondly, borders don’t exist in the imagination, they define regions, and in doing so they create “border areas,” those sections on either side of a closed border which create social, political, and economic environments simply because they are border areas.  There’s another European example of the consequences of closed borders as they apply to border regions.

In 2005 a study was conducted of the consequences of the Emerald Curtain, i.e. the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. [The Emerald Curtain pdf] Unlike it’s German counterpart, the Emerald Curtain didn’t come as a response to any specific migratory or economic trends, it accreted over time.  Established in 1921, and discussed intermittently until 1925, the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic is a “tale of unintended and unforeseen consequences.”

One of those unintended consequences was the creation of a border area, without major urban areas, and without any robust trade, which engendered dependence on agriculture, under-employment, lack of market access, lack of transport, and the inaccessibility of services like education.   The areas on both sides of the Emerald Curtain tended not to be amenable to economic diversification, which in turn exacerbated social and economic trends including low disposable incomes and higher levels of illiteracy.  Even the “Irish Tiger” boom period, didn’t have the same impact in the southern border regions as it did further south.

For all the attention, verbiage, studies, plans, and parliamentary speeches about improving the Emerald Curtain border regions — the area in 2005 was still characterized as “lagging behind national benchmarks for growth, employment, and development.” [The Emerald Curtain pdf]

The Emerald Curtain isn’t even drawn that tightly shut, but still Ireland’s largest customer is the United States, followed by the UK, Belgium, Germany, and France. Most Irish imports are from the UK, followed by the U.S., Germany, Netherlands, and China in that order. [MIT.edu]  Meanwhile, the economy in Ulster moves forward, with most trade between the UK and the Republic of Ireland. The economy in the north is still tied to the economy of the UK. [Belfast Telegraph]

Whether “Linda in Reno” is advocating a militarized tightly controlled border like the Iron Curtain, or a softer, less organized one like its Emerald counterpart, the results are essentially the same.  The fencing may obfuscate and render opaque issues which will cause major problems over time, and may as easily create regions in which economic activity is stunted or diminished.

Good fences may make good neighbors, but they tend not to encourage economic growth and development.

Absolute Control

As promised earlier, it’s time to get down to an item on Representative Amodei’s wish list: US absolute control of its borders.   This sounds good — it’s also meaningless.  But wait, meaningless is good, especially for the Republican talking point generators and distributors.

By oversimplification and sloganeering complicated and thorny issues can be reduced to ‘sound bites,’ easily digested and something of a Rorschach Test for the listener.  “Linda in Reno” may come away from her portion of the Amodei Word Salad Shooter Session believing that when he says “absolute control of the border” he’s espousing her version of a closed, militarized, border — or a softer more informal one, as might be characterized by a line between two groups of people not yet completely over the Battle of the Boyne.  The beauty of the oversimplified, and thus meaningless, sound bite is that whatever interpretation might be applied to it, the politician using it can pivot at any point and walk away … “I really didn’t mean precisely That…” Whatever “that” might have been.

Yes, Representative Amodei wants “absolute control of the border,” BUT not so much that the Mexican government responds with a closure on its side?  Or, BUT not so much that cities like Brownsville, Nogales, El Paso, and Laredo suffer economic declines from a lack of cross border trade?  Or, BUT not so much that the flow of international trade, commerce, and currency is disrupted?

What is “absolute” control?  Does that mean not a single solitary migrant moving over the borders without a visa is to be found?  Or, is there an acceptable level of ‘leakage?” If so, what’s the level? Once again, the Rorschach Test comes into play. The message means whatever the listener wants to hear.

Who do we intend to “control?” Another Rorschach Test — are we ‘controlling’ for racial or ethnic characteristics? Political or ideological perspectives?  Does “control” mean keeping lower income, ethnic minority populations, at bay?  Does it mean deporting PhD candidates in the field of applied physics? In order for there to be “control” there must be something, someone, under that control.  Who or what that might be is left to the interpretation of the listener.  These little bits of meaninglessness are handy for politicians who don’t want to specify policy positions or describe their legislative proposals.  They are also incredibly useful for criticizing the proposals of opponents.

Using sound bite slogans makes it an easy task to critique the elements of S. 744 by saying it “doesn’t provide absolute control over the borders.” Whatever that might mean. Or, “it doesn’t require enough from those applying for naturalization? Whatever “enough” could be. Or, “it’s too close to amnesty.”  What’s amnesty and what’s too close?

In the final segment, Representative Amodei wanted to reassure “Linda from Reno” that he’d contacted the Department of Homeland Security and they had indicated to him that there were no federal facilities in Nevada to which the unaccompanied children or families would be transported. Hint: There’s no need to round up the pick up trucks, letter the signs, and power up the bull horns?  Once up this easy grade, Representative Amodei got entangled in his explanation of how the federal government couldn’t insure that private organizations in Nevada, especially churches, wouldn’t accept detainees during processing. If I were to attempt to translate my notes this paragraph would read:

“Something, something, Federal Government can’t tell churches what to do, something, something, especially in light of the Supreme Court decision, which I agree with, something, something, it’s a sticky wicket, trying to tell churches what to do, something, something, government should stay out of church business. ”  I’m guessing he’s referring to the Hobby Lobby decision. I’m guessing he’s telling “Linda from Reno” that if a church or private non-profit organization wants to house detainees during processing there’s nothing he can do about it.

I lasted one more question and answer, and then the desire to return to dinner overwhelmed my inclination to try to make intelligible notes from Representative Amodei’s Word Salad Shooter.  Each one of these sessions makes me all the more appreciative of the members of the local press in Nevada who have the Herculean task, as a part of their job, to make sense of Representative Amodei’s verbal barrages, interminable regressions, and equally predictable sloganeering.   Somewhere there is a Salad Shooter spewing Scrabble tiles that needs a hug.

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Filed under Amodei, anti-immigration, Immigration, Nevada politics, Politics

Voices in the Wilderness

When the Northern Nevada Development Authority compiled its study of agriculture in Nevada (pdf) the report offered some insight into the political views which inform economic practices.

Unsurprisingly, the report cited the following survey results concerning the lack of expansion or “impediments to business growth,” “The biggest impediments to business growth were identified as laws and regulations (23.0%),transportation costs (20.9%), cost or availability of goods or materials (15.3%), reduced consumer spending (10.2%), and financing (10.2%).” Also unsurprisingly, the Federal government was the “impediment” for 65.5% of the respondents, 20.2% cited the state, and 10.8% blamed county or local governments.

“Regarding Federal agencies, the primary challenges for Nevada Agricultural companies are reported as excessive fees, burdensome permits, adjudication and process time and the lack of empathy in dealing with real world issues.” [AgriNV pdf]

The problem with words like “excessive,” “burdensome,” and “lack of empathy,” are that they describe qualitative impressions rather than quantifiable factors.  Let’s look at the fees first.

Grazing FeesNow, we might ask is the grazing fee “excessive” when it’s $15 in Nevada, but $19.40 in California? Or $33.50 in Nebraska? Or $17.50 in Colorado. Or is it “excessive” because the fees are $9.00 in Arizona? Or, $13.50 in Washington? [NASS]  For those wishing to delve into the weeds and details of the formulation, the National Agricultural Statistics Service provides the calculations. (pdf)

Is it “excessive” when the price at the Fallon Livestock Exchange (pdf) ranges from $144 to $242/per for steers? From $118 to $210 for heifers?  And, we should note at some point that states without federally available land for grazing have their cattle operations on private land, land often subject to modified property taxation.  Eastern growers complain Western ranchers are getting a government subsidy, while Westerners complain about the cost of transporting cattle.

There are those who accept the notion that “ranching for profit is an oxymoron,” however, this doesn’t have to be the case.  A major caveat should be inserted at this point — size matters.  Because profit margins tend to be tight the larger operations will almost inevitably be more profitable than the smaller ones.  IF the ranch is not one of the major models, then keeping labor costs low is essential, as is placing more emphasis on grazing than on feeding.

There are two other factors which bear consideration. First, the debt/equity ratio is an essential factor just as it is in any business.  For example, some cattlemen have fallen for the siren call — buy more land — or buy more ‘stuff’ — and profits will increase.  However, there is a point at which the debt level impinges on the credit capacity and the manager/rancher is headed toward the predictable financial disaster.

Secondly, altogether too many ranches have too much overhead.  There are buildings, shops, assorted equipment, etc. all of which must be depreciated and all of which can be a drain on the business end of the operation. [BFmag]

Are fees “excessive” if the rancher is getting a reasonable price for the cattle at auction, BUT has a ranch too small to be economically viable in this general economy, or has taken on too much debt, or has too much overhead, or has hired or taken on too many people on the payroll?

And, those “burdensome regulations?”  Is a regulation burdensome if it entails too much time to fill out paperwork? Or, if it cuts the profits? Or, must it do both?  Is the regulation a burden if it requires the individual to change methods or means of production instead of maintaining the status quo?  If a person were to consider any imposition a burden if it caused him or her to make any changes in means or methods then nearly all restrictions of any nature could be considered “burdensome.”  In short, the term may well be an instance in which an ideological expression is translated to an economic factor.

Here’s where the conflicting interests in a multi-faceted economy come into play.  The rancher may want to graze cattle ‘fence to fence,’ but the local tourism sector may need for grasses and other vegetation to remain on stream banks to enhance the trout fishing which draws enthusiasts and their dollars to the communities along a river.  The rancher may want to let cattle munch down the fire prone cheat grass in an area, but fire fighting interests would be better served if the burned areas were restored with alternatives to invasive vegetation, which might need to be restricted until the new vegetation takes hold.  A rancher may not consider local wildlife much more than pests, however in a wider, broader, view the wildlife may have environmental and economic value beyond the measure of a ranch’s profit margin.

Lacking empathy?  If we accept the definition that empathy is the ability to understand another person’s condition from their perspective, then other questions arise.  Are the respondents to the survey looking for empathy or sympathy?

Empathy generally means that one person understands the situation in which another person finds him or herself; sympathy acknowledges the condition and seeks to offer comfort or support.  A official may very well understand with some precision what a rancher is concerned about, but a rule or regulation might easily be such that there is little comfort or support which can be rendered.  If by ’empathy’ the individual wants the official to fix his or her problem, make it go away, or modify general rules so that he or she doesn’t have to make any changes then this goes well beyond empathy, and often beyond sympathy.

Generally speaking none of us wants to readily admit that a goodly portion of our problems are of our own making.  And, it’s entirely more satisfying to assert that they are the result of onerous forces beyond our control.   So, when we hear from an individual that “excessive fees,” “burdensome regulations,” and “lack of empathy” prevent him from creating a better business (of any type) how do we factor in his possible superfluous overhead? Her potential debt to equity ratio which impinges on management flexibility? His prospective over-extension of employment costs? Her conceivable  lack of capacity to utilize economies of scale?

How do we interpret responses such as “the federal government is impeding the expansion of my business” when we don’t know if the operation in question, whether agricultural, commercial, or industrial, had any viable capacity for significant economic growth in the first place?

It’s not that agriculture is unimportant, or that we might be justified in  dismissing the complaints out of hand. Agricultural activities add about $5.3 billion annually to Nevada’s economy.  The sector employs approximately 60,700 persons.  Alfalfa hay is the predominant crop, worth approximately $232,100,000 in a 2012 USDA report. This makes sense considering that cattle operations represent 62.5% of all agricultural receipts, or about $732,883,000. [AgriNV pdf]  However, the numbers pale when we consider that the total civilian workforce in the state totals 1,367,000. [BLS] Thus agricultural employment is about 4.4% of the total Nevada labor force.

The voices are real, they are in the wilderness, and they are complaining.  However, the time it takes to get permitting accomplished will not be reduced by cutting personnel from the Department of the Interior, or from the Department of Agriculture.  The time available for the BLM officials to attend to individual problems will not be enhanced by stripping its budget or freezing the number of people who can be hired to fill vacant positions.

Wishing that the Taylor Grazing Act had never been enacted, or that the Federal government didn’t exist, or that  clean water regulations don’t matter, will not make it so.  Empathy for “real world” issues means coming to terms with the business environment in which any enterprise must operate.  Even in the wilderness.

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Unemployment Insurance: S. 1845 and its appendages

BillTo say, as I did in the last post, that S. 1845 to extend unemployment insurance benefits to our long term unemployed was headed for the House was premature, as aptly pointed out by the Nevada Rural Democratic Caucus.  The bill may get there eventually — after our solons have tacked on various and sundry amendments.

This, as the redoubtable Club For Growth, never one to shy away from its Supply Side Hoax and 0.01% perspective, had the following to say about those who voted in favor of Senator Dick Durbin’s (D-IL) cloture motion:

“Congress should end the federal unemployment insurance program and return the authority back to the states, which already have programs in place. Absent this, Congress should pay for this extension by cutting spending elsewhere in the budget. After six years, an extension can no longer be called an “emergency” with any credibility. There is plenty of waste in the federal budget from which to find an offset.

Our Congressional Scorecard for the 113th Congress provides a comprehensive rating of how well or how poorly each member of Congress supports pro-growth, free-market policies and will be distributed to our members and to the public.”  [Club for Growth]

There’s nothing subtle about their agenda, “end the federal unemployment insurance program...”   And, we can guess where they want to cut — Social Security, Medicare, SNAP, Meals on Wheels, School Lunch programs, etc.  It’s also safe to conjecture that they don’t mean major cuts to defense spending or to subsidies to major multi-national corporations.  Also missing is any reference to a solution other than cuts.   For example, raising revenues?  However, back to the amendments:

Some of the amendments proposed to S. 1845 are interesting. There’s Senator Ayotte’s  amendment about Social Security numbers (SA 2603) which sounds innocuous until it’s recognized as an obvious bit of “immigrant bashing.”

“Ayotte proposed an amendment Tuesday to make low-income American citizen children of undocumented immigrants ineligible for the refundable Additional Child Tax Credit by requiring parents have a Social Security number to claim the credit. On the Senate floor, Ayotte claimed the benefits are being exploited by “people who are claiming a refundable tax credit for children who should not be entitled to it” and asserted, “Many of these children do not even live in the United States or may not even exist.” [ThinkProgress] (emphasis added)

This isn’t anything new.  Senator Vitter and Senator Rubio have advanced bills in previous sessions on this subject, basing their “case” for “rampant fraud” on the testimony of one, single, self admitted, tax preparer. [AmProg] Unfortunately all this amendment does is to further advance the odious notion that some citizens born in this country are “more equal than others.”

Speaking of Senator Vitter, there’s Senator Vitter’s (SA 2604) Bash Obamacare 101 review which says in part:

“Not later than 30 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Chief Administrative Officer of the House of Representatives and the Financial Clerk of the Senate shall make publically available the determinations of each member of the House of Representatives and each Senator, as the case may be, regarding the designation of their respective congressional staff (including leadership and committee staff) as “official” for purposes of requiring such staff to enroll in health insurance coverage provided through an Exchange as required under section 1312(d)(1)(D) of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (42 U.S.C. 18032(d)(1)(D)), and the regulations relating to such section.”

Senator James Inhofe’s amendment (SA 2605) has nothing to do with unemployment benefits and everything to do with giving individual states control over energy development on public lands.

Senator Coburn’s watching out for the little guy?? His amendment (SA 2606) says, “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no Federal funds may be used to make payments of unemployment compensation (including such compensation under the Federal-State Extended Compensation Act of 1970 and the emergency unemployment compensation program under title IV of the Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2008) to an individual whose adjusted gross income in the preceding year was equal to or greater than $1,000,000.”

Of greater utility is Senator Richard Blumenthal’s Pathways Back to Work Amendment (SA 2608) which puts some money into getting the long term unemployed back to work.

Then there’s Senator Coats’s SA 2611, which would delay the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act until December 31, 2014, as well as other implementation delays.   We already knew they couldn’t pass up another opportunity to obsess over the ACA.  Senator McConnell’s already gotten heat from Senate Majority Leader Reid on this one. [The Hill]

Senator Moran has a lengthy amendment (SA 2612) which starts out speaking to foreign nationals and entrepreneurship, and then goes on this tangent:

“The Secretary shall award grants to support institutions of higher education pursuing initiatives that allow faculty to directly commercialize research in an effort to accelerate research breakthroughs. The Secretary shall prioritize those initiatives that have a management structure that encourages collaboration between other institutions of higher education or other entities with demonstrated proficiency in creating and growing new companies based on verifiable metrics.”  (emphasis added)

Nothing like completely shattering the wall between independent academic research and corporate R&D projects?

Nor, should we blind to the evident hypocrisy of Senator McConnell’s rationale for slapping a GOP filibuster on S. 1845 in the first place,

“We’re now in the sixth year of the Obama administration,” McConnell said. “We all know the stock market’s been doing great. So the richest among us are doing just fine. But what about the poor? What about working-class folks? … Well, record numbers of them are having a terrible time.” [LAtimes]

Yes, indeed they are.  Thanks to the Trickle Down Theory, Supply Side Hoax, and Austerity Politics of the Republican Party.

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Filed under anti-immigration, Economy, Immigration, Politics

Mountains and Mole Hills

Mountain MolehillOne of the more unpleasant aspects of today’s media offerings is the tendency to confuse mountains and molehills.  No disrespect to all those diligent moles out there assiduously plying their turf disrupting trade, but when Everything Is A Crisis! perspective is the first casualty.

Mountain:  We have an immigration policy in place which doesn’t work for us.  There are two bills addressing this issue, S. 744 which passed the Senate and H.R. 15 which languishes in the House while the TeaParty/GOP leadership decides which they’d prefer to tick off — their corporate backers or the xenophobic right wing.    Representative Amodei (R-NV2) thinks he could support Rep. Eric Cantor’s “Kids Act” and he provides a summary of the issue on his webpage, but his statements on comprehensive immigration policy reform remain fuzzy.  Where Representative Heck (R-NV3)  stands is a bit more clear, given his statement on October 25th:

“I have spent countless hours meeting with community members and addressing town hall meetings on the topic of immigration reform. There is no doubt in my mind that reforming our immigration system is right and necessary and I remain committed to enacting real solutions that will fix our current broken system. I will continue to urge the House leadership to move forward on immigration reform with all possible haste.”

While he’s “urging leadership to move forward,” the question remains — toward what?  A piecemeal enactment of immigration policies which serve only to protract the issues, and may never arrive at a complete picture — or — legislation like S. 744 or H.R. 15?

Congresswoman Dina Titus (D-NV1) drilled down to one of the major issues in the piecemeal approach to immigration policy reform:  What of women who work in the service sector?

“Comprehensive immigration reform must take into account the fact that many immigrant women work at home or in the informal economy.  If, for example, eligibility for the path to citizenship requires proof of employment, providing paystubs cannot be the only acceptable proof or we risk leaving millions of women behind.  Approximately 74 percent of undocumented domestic workers do not receive documentation of their pay from an employer.  Thankfully, H.R. 15, the bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill recently introduced in the House, addresses this issue by allowing flexible forms of proof of employment. It is critical that we incorporate this thoughtful approach into any immigration reform bill considered by the House.”

Meanwhile, the mountain remains, impervious to rational debate and reasonable action.

Mole Hill:   Those who have purchased individual health insurance plans constitute about 5% of the population. [UI]  This translates to a maximum of 16,500,000 individuals out of a total 330,000,000; if we count every single person large or small, young or old.  The actual percentage is probably closer to 14.3 million individuals. [UI pdf]  Some of these people bought JUNK.  In a search for low premiums they purchased policies that didn’t cover much, if anything, or bought policies the coverage terms of which were so confusing that the insurance corporation was able to deny compensation for even basic treatment options.   The infamous Barrette Case is a classic example of a JUNK policy.   Forbes magazine estimates that about  4 million Americans were sold some 1,200 of these junk policies.

Thus, it should be fairly easy for the press to find some individual examples for popular consumption of these Outraged Individuals who want to keep the cheap junk they purchased, out of a category of 4 million.   Therefore, the media cry “there are millions of Americans affected by this ‘mistake'” is technically accurate but ultimately misleading.   Some broadcasters have jumped on the “Crisis” bandwagon, only to have their stellar examples debunked within hours.  You can tell when the mole hill is being magnified into a mountain IF (1) the report doesn’t compare the junk policy to the coverage available in the health insurance exchanges, (2) if the report doesn’t take into consideration the subsidies available to assist the policy holder pay for the premiums, and (3) if the report relies on individual examples to generate conclusions for which there is no other substantiation.

Mountain:  Speaking of health issues — 32,163 Americans died as a result of gun fire in 2011.  6,220 died as a result of a homicide. 19,766 individuals used a gun to commit suicide.  [GP]  73,883 Americans were injured by gun fire.  432 Americans died in gun related accidents. [GP]  By contrast, in 2011 there were 9,878 fatal automobile accidents in which there was a driver with a BAC level above 0.08 or even higher.  [NRD pdf]  We are coming perilously close to the point at which the number of gun deaths equals or surpasses the number of automobile deaths.  According to figures released by the CDC 33,687 Americans died in auto accidents, 31,672 died as a result of gun violence.  We do something about drunk drivers.  We restrict the licenses of some drivers. We have yet to address the issues related to the easy access to firearms in this country.

When Gallup polled Americans about controlling gun sales in the U.S. during the week of October 3-6, 2013 some 49% favored more stringent controls, 13% thought restrictions should be eased, and 37% called for controls to be kept the same.  A September poll by Quinnipiac University found 89% of Americans supportive of legislation to require universal background checks.  These numbers aside, on September 17th Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced he didn’t have enough support to reintroduce the background check bill in the Senate. [TheHill]

Mole Hill: I’m really pleased that there are at least seven retailers who will give their employees a break for celebrating Thanksgiving with their families.  [TP]   That said — when wages for American workers have stagnated for the past decade [EPI], when there are about 10% of our young veterans  still looking for work while the programs to help them are shrinking [CNN], and when the unemployment rate for Whites 6.3% while the unemployment rate for Blacks stands at 13.1% we have a problem far larger than whether or not people go home for Thanksgiving.

Mountain:  Did anyone read the IPCC climate report?   Did anyone delve into Chapter 12, wherein the commission discussed climate change implications for pattern scaling, temperatures and energy budgets, atmospheric circulation, the water cycle, the cryosphere, our oceans, and carbon cycle feedback?  [IPCC pdf] One newspaper noted that the report made the climate change deniers overheat.  Too many media outlets were engaged in sowing seeds of doubt about the report’s content and all but ignoring the conclusions and commentary contained therein.

Mole Hill:  There were 48 bills in the 113th Congress related to the abortion issue. [GovTrack]  There’s Sen. Rand Paul’s S.583 Personhood Bill, H.R. 2300 from Rep. Tom Price to “empower patients” (not), Rep. Trent Frank’s H.R. 1797 “pain” bill, and his H.R. 447 PRENDA, Rep. Jim Jordan introduced H.R. 1091, life begins at conception act, and the list goes on.

Meanwhile back in the world of reality — the rate of abortions per 1,000 women of child bearing age has declined from a high of 29.3 in 1981 to 19.6 in 2008. [Guttmacher]

A Suggestion

Could we start talking about the mountains, and minimize our time spent in elaborate and protracted debates about mole hills?

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Filed under abortion, Amodei, anti-immigration, ecology, Gun Issues, Health Care, health insurance, Heck, media

We Are Who We Want To Be: Dreamers

Amodei 3Here’s a sample of what Nevada Representatives Joe Heck (R-3) and Mark Amodei (R-4) voted against on June 6, 2013 in the Congress of the United States of America —

“For most of her life Anna Ledesma has been afraid. She was a model student at Centennial High School in Las Vegas – an artist and a member of Key Club. As one of the top academics at her large high school, she received the Millennium Scholarship to study nursing at the College of Southern Nevada. Now she’s studying hard for her nursing exams. But 23-year-old Anna has lived for a long time with the constant fear that she will be deported.

Anna is an undocumented immigrant. She was born in the Philippines and brought here by her parents when she was 7 years old. She was in the second grade.”  [Reid Senate]

Individuals like Anna Ledesma are the reason for the Morton Memo directives.   And, as noted yesterday, on June 6th Representatives Heck and Amodei voted in favor of the King Amendment to H.R. 2217 which would prohibit implementation of those directives.

Yeah but: She’s still an “illegal immigrant.”  Coming here illegally is a crime.  Not so fast.  Note that Anna came here at age 7.  Nevada law is specific on the subject of who can be punished for a criminal act — and who can’t.

“NRS 194.010  Persons capable of committing crimes.  All persons are liable to punishment except those belonging to the following classes: 1.  Children under the age of 8 years. 2.  Children between the ages of 8 years and 14 years, in the absence of clear proof that at the time of committing the act charged against them they knew its wrongfulness.  3.  Persons who committed the act charged or made the omission charged in a state of insanity.”

You don’t have to get any further than item one to determine that she was not old enough to be legally capable of committing a criminal act in the state of Nevada.

The Infancy Defense is slightly different in the federal courts.  In terms of Common Law,  persons under the age of seven are presumed incapable of forming the requisite intent to commit a criminal act; a person between the ages of 7 and 13  “a child is rebuttably presumed incapable of forming a culpable mental state. ” [C&D]   U.S. law presumes the applicability of the infancy defense for children under the age of 11.

Yeah but:  “Dreamers” will crowd into our institutions of higher education and place an unconscionable burden on our already cash strapped institutions. [CIS] We could fix that by adequately financing our public colleges and universities — but that would require someone to pay some … taxes.  Most radical right arguments assume a high number of enrollees, and further  presume that no one — under any circumstances — should ever pay more … taxes.   Conveniently omitted from the conservative assertions is the fact that immigrant families DO pay taxes, and they also tend not to take into consideration the fact that individuals, like the Dreamers,  who complete college degrees add to the U.S. economy.

As of May 2013 the unemployment rate for persons with less than a high school diploma was 11. 1%.  The unemployment rate for high school graduates was 7.4%.  Those with some college experience or an associates degree are looking at an unemployment rate of 6.5%, while those with a college degree (or more) are experiencing an unemployment rate of 3.8%.  [BLS Table A4]

The logic is relatively simple — since those with more education are less likely to be unemployed they must be in the work force.  If they are in the work force they are earning money, with which they will make consumer purchases and pay taxes.   Why wouldn’t a government at any level want more individuals enrolled in post secondary education?  It pays off in the long run.

Meanwhile back at Senator Reid’s exemplar — I thought we needed nurses?  The median age of a nurse in this country is 46 and some 50% of our nurses are nearing retirement. [ANA]  Those who argue that there is no current nursing shortage (WSJ) seem to be assuming the recession is going to last forever.  Those nurses who put off retirement during the downturn are going to be looking at the prospect again as the overall economy improves.  And it does look to be improving for those in the “education and health care” sector, which saw a 5.3% unemployment rate in May 2012 and a 4.8% rate as of May 2013.  [BLS Table A 14]  The Occupational Outlook for registered nurses is a “faster than average” rate of +26% during the 2010-2012 decade.

Median pay for a registered nurse is about $65,000 annually.  [OOH]  So, if we perhaps had a few more individuals who would like to complete the training necessary to enter a field with optimistic prospects for employment, and to earn $65,000 per year which in turn flows into the economy with some of that amount paid in taxes — What’s the problem?

Yeah but: This is sending a “horrible message.”  [Atl] All those “illegal” people will clamor to send their children to American schools…. Kids the world over will leave their friends, their families, and their homes to come …. Whoa.  Some few might leave their families, but anyone who’s ever been accompanied by an adolescent offspring on vacation knows full well that removing the said adolescent from the peer group — even temporarily —  is the social equivalent of multiple root canal surgeries. So, if the extrapolation of Immigration Nightmares is patently irrational, what explains the opposition?

If the message that we want ambitious, education oriented, civic minded, enterprising, and industrious  individuals to come to this country is “horrible,” what would be the reverse position?  Not to put too fine a point to it, but for some opponents of immigration reform the answer is “Nobody.”  No one would be welcome, and they’d be even less welcome should the persons in question be non-WASPs.

This has been an all too common refrain, a chorus repeated as The Nation Was Being Changed From What We Were by — Germans, Irish, Italians, Poles, Slovaks, Russians  — OK we’d have missed out on John Jacob Astor (born Heidelberg), the ancestors of Bill O’Reilly and Danica Patrick, Domingo Ghirardelli (Who doesn’t love chocolate? Born in Rapallo, Italy),  Max Factor, Sr. (born in Lodz), the fourth son of Slovakian immigrant Andrej Varhola, known to us as Andy Warhol,  and Yuliy Borisovich Briner (born Vladivostok, AKA Yul Brynner).     With no apologies to any of the Nativists — if they can indeed figure out who besides the Native Americans actually ARE natives — the Astors, the Patricks, the Ghirardellis, the Factors, the Warhols, the Brynners, the Longorias, the Musials, the Goldwyns, the Warners, the Sikorskys, the Sanchezes, the Trevinos, the Hinojosas — ARE who we ARE.

Maybe we were sending the right message all along?

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Filed under anti-immigration, Economy, Immigration, Politics

GOP: Hey Little Lady, Go Home, Sit Down, and Shut Up

What might be so controversial about reauthorizing the 1994 Violence Against Women Act that not a single Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee was willing to support the bill? [NYT] The problem areas? Patently obvious:

“The main sticking points seemed to be language in the bill to ensure that victims are not denied services because they are gay or transgender and a provision that would modestly expand the availability of special visas for undocumented immigrants who are victims of domestic violence — a necessary step to encourage those victims to come forward.”  [NYT]

It’s all about the usual anti-gay, anti-immigrant rhetoric from the Republican Party.   The GOP did have a substitute, but it cut out the improvements in the bill, called for a huge reduction in spending, and sought the elimination of the Department of Justice office which administers the enforcement of the law.

Last week we were treated to the spectacle of rules published by the Department of Health and Human Services for basic health insurance coverage, to include contraception, and the Conference of Bishops tossing a hissy about insurance corporations being made to pay for employee health benefits — which some Catholic institutions like DePaul University already provide.  The latest incarnation of the GOP attack on women comes on the heels of this Poutrage in the form of an amendment from Senator Blunt (R-MO). Unfortunately, he isn’t alone. The National Women’s Law Center explains:

What would happen if some of these bills became law?

  • Any employer could offer a plan that does not cover maternity care for unmarried women in its plan, claiming that such coverage violates its belief that sex and procreation are permissible only within the marital relationship. (Amendment No. 1520 sponsored by Senator Blunt, R-MO, also known as the “Blunt Amendment”/H.R. 1179)
  • Any corporation whose CEO opposes contraception based on his “moral convictions” could deny all coverage of contraception or any other service to the company’s employees. Even more disturbing, a CEO’s view of “morality” could potentially include concern for the cost of a particular benefit. (S. 2092, also known as “The Manchin-Rubio Bill” and the “Blunt Amendment”/H.R. 1179)
  • Any employer who objects to coverage of vaccines for children could deny this coverage to all employees. (The “Blunt Amendment”/H.R. 1179)

In the winners column we have “The Health Insurance Corporations” which would no longer be required to cover maternity expenses, contraception medication, and children’s vaccinations. In the losers column insert women and their families from one coast to the other.

The Republican controlled House of Representatives has had time to consider 27 bills dealing directly or indirectly with abortions (but no time to take up any jobs bills), even though the subject is of intense interest to only 3% of the U.S. population. [PRpt]   In 2011, H.R. 3 pulled some slick drafting tricks to narrow the definition of rape such that victims of rape had to prove they were impregnated by force. [ReidRpt]

Why make Planned Parenthood a special target? Because 3% of its services are abortion related. [PP]  Republicans seem to have no trouble advocating birth control for wild horses, but stop cold when it comes to women who aren’t resident feral equines on public lands. [BFC]

There have always been voices from the extreme right advocating against the access women have to the courts in cases of domestic abuse, the vestiges of the Rule of Thumb Crowd (don’t hit your wife with any stick greater in diameter than your thumb), and there have been some marginal calls for removing access to contraceptive prescriptions.  The problem for women (and their husbands) in 2012 is that these formerly extreme positions have now become part of the Republican mainstream.

All the more reason for women NOT to sit down, shut up and stay home in 2012.

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Filed under 2012 election, anti-immigration, gay issues, Health Care, Heath Insurance, Republicans, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

>Dear Sharron Angle: How Do You Have An Immigrant Crime Wave When The Numbers Are Dropping?

>** There seems to be no depth too great for the Sharron Angle campaign — the latest immigrant bashing advertising is, as can be noted elsewhere, a dismal effort at xenophobic racism. Here’s the link to the commercial, which you can see if you must. The most obvious point is that the fearmongering continues from the Angle camp, despite all evidence pointing toward the contrary.

There is no flood. The latest available information from the American Community Survey (Census Bureau) shows Nevada has 484,537 foreign born residents. That’s approximately 19% of our total population.  Of the foreign born population 180,151 are naturalized citizens. [ACS] 344,006 came to Nevada before 2000. [ACS] Is there a sudden influx of foreign born residents in Nevada? Not if you consider that 334,006 arrived before 2000 while approximately 140,531 have arrived after 2000. [ACS]

There is no crime wave. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports violent crimes have declined nationwide since 2008 by approximately 11.2%. (*pdf file) Incidents of rape and sexual assault declined 38.7%. Robberies are down 4.%. Assaults are down 12.9%. Household burglaries have been reduced by 2.6%. Motor vehicle theft is down 8.4%, and other forms of theft off 6.0%.  We can get closer to home by looking at the statistics from the Clark County Sheriff’s office in its Annual Report. (* pdf file) In 2009, the law enforcement officials were serving and protecting 1,432,590 persons in their jurisdiction. The annual report provides crime rate comparisons in this jurisdiction for the previous five years (2004-2009) The murder and non-negligent homicide crime rate is down 29%. Forcible rape reports are down 4%. Aggravated assaults are down 21%. Burglaries are down 21%. Thefts are down 28%. Auto theft is down 54%. Total crimes against property are down 34%.

If there is no “flood,” and there is no “crime wave,” then the only logical conclusion one could reach about the Angle campaign ad is that it is a blatant racist ploy to pander to the illogical and irrational fears of people who are ill-informed or ill-willed.

** If you haven’t already, click on over to Maven & Meddler’s summary of the conservative and Republican groups pouring money into Nevada and other states during this election season.  Here’s a list of the Senators who voted against the DISCLOSE Act: No Votes. The list includes Nevada Senator John Ensign (R). 

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>Tancredo’s Babel-ing

>babel
We have a cult of multiculturalism. This is what permeates our society,” he said. Immigrants who come to the United States but refuse to assimilate by learning the language and following the laws water down what it means to be an American, he said. “It’s a cultural, political, linguistic tower of Babel,’ he said.” Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) Des Moines Register Feb. 4, 2007 via (Huffington Post)

Unfortunately, the Know Nothing Party Platform of 1856 doesn’t seem to be quite dead yet. [Ans.com] Those 60 or so diehard nativists who showed up for Tancredo’s speech may well be the anti-intellectual descendents of the Philadelphia Bible Rioters of 1844. [Wiki] Or, the modern day version of those who supported the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Whomever they may be, they are a group whose time perhaps never was, and if it ever was — then it certainly should be over and gone by now.

What encouragement these cultural xenophobes receive of late comes from the right wing rantings of Islamophobic and Hispanophobic radio commentators, and their equally irresponsible print colleagues. This “Babel” gave us Italian opera and pasta, Irish bars and St. Patrick’s Day, German sausage and beer — why else would the All American Pastime include the Milwaukee Brewers? One of the joys of visiting San Francisco is being in a Taco Bell listening to Chinese American teens ordering burritos. That’s America.

It’s just as well that Tancredo’s spiel only captured the attention of 60 people in Des Moines — his version of vanilla-drab tribal unAmericanism sounds perfectly, and absolutely, boring. Now, is there someone who knows where to get a good plate of Dejaj Meshwi in Nevada?

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Filed under anti-immigration, Tancredo