The Local Crank

Musings & Sardonic Commentary on Politics, Religion, Culture & Native American Issues. Bringing you the finest in radioactive screeds since 2002! "The Local Crank" newspaper column is distributed by Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.

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Location: Cleburne, Texas, United States

Just a simple Cherokee trial lawyer, Barkman has been forcing his opinions on others in print since, for reasons that passeth understanding, he was an unsuccessful candidate for state representative in 2002. His philosophy: "If people had wanted me to be nice, they should've voted for me."

Sunday, April 30, 2006


Members of the Six Nations (the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, more popularly known as the Iroquois League, ancestors of the Cherokee) are reclaiming Native land in Ontario, Canada, to protest white development on land that was awarded to the tribes by the British Crown in 1784 as a reward for service in the American Revolution.
The standoff has reunited, at least temporarily, peoples who were divided when the Canadian government tried to replace the tribal government in 1924. The Iroquois League, consisting of the Mohawk, Seneca, Cayuga, Onandaga, Oneida, and later the Tuscarora tribes, inspired the US Constitution with its governing law, the Gayanashagowa or "Great Law of Peace." More information is available at the official web-site of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory.

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Keeping America Safe?

Okay, get this. The Bush Administration had several opportunities BEFORE THE INVASION to kill Abu Musab Zarqawi, responsible for some 700 killings in Iraq. Yet they refused to do it, because "...the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam." In other words, preserving a pretense for invading Iraq was more important than actually destroying a vicious terrorist leader.

What If Bill Clinton...

...had apologized to the dictator of Red China for a protestor demonstrating against religious persecution?


Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Ongoing Freedman Saga

The Cherokee National Council tabled for 60 days a constitutional amendment authored by Councilmember Jackie Bob Martin that would block the Freedmen from becoming members of the tribe. While this amendment purports to limit tribal membership to "Cherokee by blood," it deliberately ignores the fact that no blood quanta were entered on the Dawes Roll for the Freedmen, the descendants of Cherokee slaves. Thus, Freedmen with Cherokee ancestry could never prove it. Absolute reliance on the Dawes Roll already produces the bizarre result of persons with very low blood quanta, no association with the culture and who have never lived in Oklahoma being eligible for tribal citizenship, while denying it to others born in the Cherokee Nation, speaking Cherokee and with high blood quanta, based merely on whether or not our great grandparents signed the Roll. Even if you don't think the Freedmen earned their right to tribal citizenship because their ancestors were also victims of the Trail of Tears, not to mention victims of enslavement by Cherokee, consider this: if the Cherokee Nation adopts the racist a-yo-ne-gv notion of "racial blood," how are they not racist themselves?

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They Don't Call Him "Randy" for Nothing

It appears that in addition to bribes, former Republican Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham was provided with prostitutes. It also appears, as Daily Kos notes, that Homeland Security can't even be bothered to run background checks on its contractors, even ones that drive around sensitive personnel with access to top-secret information!

Cleburne Times-Review Column for 30 April, 2006

“When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. ‘What do you think, Simon?’ He asked. ‘From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own sons or from others?’ ‘From others,’ Peter answered.”
--Matthew 17:25-26

And so, once again, like a Biblical plague, a fleet of clown cars descends on Austin to disgorge the nitwits, charlatans, bootlickers and toadies that comprise the Texas Legislature. One imagines mothers pulling their children off the streets in fear and honest men averting their eyes as this horde of incompetents crashes the gates like extremely stupid Visigoths, or the Barney Fife-like posse of a modern Sheriff of Nottingham—stealing from the poor to give to the rich. Only the Texas Legislature, which makes the Iraqi Parliament look like a model of legislative efficiency, could manage to do absolutely nothing as expensively as the rough beast of “reform” currently slouching its way through the Capitol Building. And we have to cut the Iraqi Parliament some slack, anyway. After all, they have little experience with democracy, are used to brutal one-party rule, are rife with vicious sectarian hatreds and dominated by religious fanatics. Oh, wait, I’m sorry; that was the Texas Legislature again.

Let’s do something the Legislature won’t do: examine the problem. Texas spends an average of $7,104 per pupil per year. The national average is $8,287. We now rank 38th among the states (thank God for Mississippi!), which is actually DOWN from 35th last year. Despite increases in costs and enrollment, Texas has not increased education funding since 1999. Of the money we do spend, 51.4% comes from local property taxes, 38.3% comes from the state (a decrease of 2.5% from 2002-03) and the federal government kicks in the rest. Out of all the states, Texas ranks 47th in spending from state sources, and 16th in spending from local sources. Since the amount and value of taxable property varies wildly from school district to school district, that means rural and inner city schools can have higher tax rates, in fact they can max-out their rates, but still have less money than suburban schools with lower tax rates. While it is true, as Right-wingers who hate public education anyway endlessly point out, that money doesn’t automatically translate into a good education, it’s hard to listen to these kinds of bromides from property-rich districts who can afford to hire 13 football coaches for a 3-A school or pay a coach $100,000 per year. The Texas Supreme Court has given the Lege until June 1 to change the current financing system, which they ruled amounts to an unconstitutional statewide property tax—thus, it’s time to send in the clowns.

Now, I never claimed to be all that smart, but it seems to me that the solution is obvious: either pass a constitutional amendment for a state income tax or pass a constitutional amendment to collect all property taxes statewide, and then pass the money out to schools on a per pupil basis. This would result in lower property taxes for most of the state and more money for schools. And, like the state sales tax, if a local school district wants to vote to tack on an extra half-cent to fund a new stadium or whatever, let them do it. And let them keep that money. But, this is the Legislature, so they can’t do anything unless they can find a way to stick it to working people or short-change the children. So, instead, we have HB1 that purports to lower local property taxes by $1, but according to Lt. Governor David Dewhurst really only comes to about 35 cents. And while property taxes are deductible on your federal income tax, the taxes that will be raised to make up the shortfall (or the tax costs passed along to you by businesses) aren’t, so property owners end up getting tooled in the end. Next, you have HB2 that says that all future new business tax revenue has to go to lowering property taxes, which means not a single penny more will be spent on schools. Not one thin dime. Not surprisingly, Rob Orr, having previously voted to give Texans the highest sales tax in the nation, voted like a good little robot against his constituents and against the schoolchildren of Texas for HB2. Couldn’t we just save the money we waste on his legislative salary and buy Tom Craddick a real sock puppet? Or maybe just a remote control device to activate Orr’s vote as needed and eliminate the middle man? I am absolutely dumbfounded at the thought that the voters of Johnson and Bosque Counties would continue to support this trained parakeet.

And finally, you have HB3 which is supposed to close some pretty blatant loopholes that allow some of the largest businesses in the state to duck the franchise tax. A good idea, but the version that passed merely shifts the tax burden off big business and onto the backs of small businesses. Goodies were ladled out to restaurants, banks, real estate and (of course) the oil and gas industry. The net effect stinks so badly, even some Republicans felt their stomachs lurch and are now denouncing it as a “state income tax.” Of course, these same Republicans are living in some sort of Bizarro fantasy world where the second largest state in the union can magically have world-class schools without ever actually paying for them. Perhaps they expect the Tax Fairy to come flitting over and create dollars out of thin air with a wave of her magic wand.

It’s time for the Legislature to grow up! They need to realize what Texans already know: there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. If we want good schools, it’s going to cost money. The only way the government can raise money is through taxes. And if we have to pay taxes, the pain should be spread evenly and fairly. Everyone should pay, not just those of us without a flotilla of trained lobbyists in Austin to cut deals for us.


Thursday, April 27, 2006

One Hundred Years Later...

On April 26, 1906, the US Congress passed the "Five Civillized Tribes Act," which unilaterally and in violation of numerous treaties dissolved the tribal governments of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole Nations. Under the Dawes Act, tribal lands were broken up and "allotted," supposedly to individual Indians. The "surplus" was opened up to white settlement, to pave the way for Oklahoma statehood. Senator Henry L. Dawes of Massachusetts and others through these actions sought to destroy the tribes, robbing Native Americans of their land and identity and forcing them to "assimilate," in order words, "become white." In this, ultimately, they failed. Yes, they caused suffering and hardship. And yes, through the pernicious racism of the Dawes Act and other federal legislation caused divisions that still persist among members of the targeted tribes. But the so-called "civillized" tribes survived civillization and still exist today, still proud, determined and resolute. A-yv-wi-ya ne-ho.

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...Senator Domenici pennied Senator Wyden's office door shut and threw water balloons at him from a third-story window in the Russell Senate Office Building.

The Battle of Ideas

From I Drew This!

Monday, April 24, 2006

George W. Bush Right...

In other news, pigs frozen while flying over Hell.

Bush: Massive Deportation Is Unrealistic

Better Late Than Never...

Any Questions?

Our Man In Austin

From the Muse, a letter from Scott Hochberg, Dr. James Leininger's least favorite state representative, outlining the major proposals before the Lege in this latest legislative trainwreck.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Texas Criminal Justice System Different for Poor, Rich!

Also, air is good for you! I shouldn't be so snarky, but things like this rarely surprise me anymore. Maybe I've gotten too cynical for this job. Granted, this is a pretty egregious example of the double-standard, but in my experience it has less to do with race than it does with class. I have seen my share of poor whites given a harsher sentence than a well-to-do person (of whatever race), given the same fact pattern. Part of it, of course, is human nature; judges and prosecutors (and defense counsel and jurors) are people, too. They have their own built-in prejudices, or more to the point, they have a natural tendency to identify more with people who are like them: professional, well-educated. Another problem is the indigent defense system. Dallas County now has a public-defender's office staffed with professionals, and there are now minimum standards for attorneys who accept court appointments in counties that don't have a public defender (the overwhelming majority of them). When Tyrone Brown was adjudicated in 1990, it was not unheard-of for lawyers literally straight out of law school being assigned to defend persons facing first degree felony charges, with the possibility of life in prison. A wise old attorney from New Braunfels once told me the (possibly appocryphal) story of his first court appointment right after being sworn in as a member of the bar: a capital murder trial. And, of course, there's the unfortunately not apocryphal story of the death row inmate in Texas whose lawyer slept through significant portions of his trial. And, finally, you have the fact that trial judges in Texas are elected, and on partisan ballots. And so are courts of appeals and so is the Court of Criminal Appeals, which has become so rabidly one-sided in its opinions as to become a "national laughingstock," according to one of its own members, Justice Tom Price.

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My Infamy Spreads

I can't begin to tell y'all how moving it is to know that Dr. James Leininger was so profoundly disturbed by my April 16, 2006 Cleburne Times-Review column (in which he was mentioned in passing in one sentence) that he had a press monkey shoot off a generic press release of the same sort that's been running in papers all over the state. Of course, this spam statement completely missed my point: I will grant the benefit of the doubt and assume that Leininger is sincerely motivated by the desire to help children through public school vouchers. And he is well within his rights to donote money to candidates who share his beliefs, just like you and I are. The difference, of course, is that the good doctor is a multi-millionaire and we aren't. And, thanks to the Supreme Court, that means he gets more free speech rights than we do. And that, regardless of what cause he champions, is wrong. It's not democracy; it's plutocracy.

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Republicans Hate Kids

Speaker and jacked-up little tin dictator Tom Craddick has rammed through a rule to limit amendments to the school financing reform proposal. This will have the effect of preventing any use of the surplus to increase teacher pay, or spend more money on schools or textbooks.


Recuerden San Jacinto!

On this day, a small, outnumbered and outgunned force of Texians faced off against the brutal forces of a corrupt dictator. No, I'm not talking about the special session; today is the 170th anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto which secured independence for the Republic of Texas. I was lucky enough to spend part of the day today at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, an experience I recommend to anyone interested in the heroic history of our state.


Monday, April 17, 2006

Promptly Ratified by the Texas Ethics Commission...

...thanks to Wonkette for inspiration.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Kitten Biting Republicans On the March!

My Right Honorable Colleague Blognonymous coined this lovely phrase based on my description of Republicans who are so blind in their worship of their leaders (George W. Bush, Arlene Wohlgemuth, whoever) that they would support him or her even if he or she bit the head off a kitten on live national television. Now, apparently, it's slowly spreading through the internets like some sort of snarky virus. VERY slowly...


Saturday, April 15, 2006

What Not to Wear, Border Edition

From the lovely and talented Blognonymous.

And This Is Surprising Why?

With tanking poll numbers, Republicans are ramping up on social issues to appeal to their base, since that's rapidly becoming all they have left. From the good folks at MyDD.

Totally Missing the Point

The World, advertised as a "Christian Magazine," completely and utterly misses the point about the Indian Child Welfare Act, instead portraying tribal governments as thuggish, indifferent to the suffering of children, and cruel. Barely a mention is made of the historical reasons behind the Act, and NOTHING is said of the countless numbers of Indian children who were forcibly kidnapped from their families and handed off to white families, to have their culture beaten (sometimes literally) out of them.


Forgive and Forget

From HuffPo, a thoughtful piece by Arianna herself on why those opposed to the war should warmly embrace war-proponents who change their minds. I would argue that this attitude should extend beyond just the war; anytime a Republican decides to get right with the Lord and walk the sawdust trail, Progressives should treat him like the Prodigal Son. We've had enough division and bitterness slung by this White House through the Right Wing Echo Chamber; if Democrats are going to govern after 2006 (or 2008), we will need a national reconciliation.

Cleburne Times-Review Column for 16 April, 2006

“To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny Him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.”
--Titus 1:15-16

The stench of corruption wafting from the Republic Party has billowed into a choking miasma. Republicans did not, of course, invent political corruption; in fact, a good argument could be made that the first Democratic President, the despicable Andrew Jackson did with his institution of the “spoils system” for Presidential appointments, which in those days extended from Secretary of State all the way down to the local postmaster. However, with the Mussolini-like efficiency for which they are justly renowned, the GOP appears to have perfected the art of transforming government into a giant cash machine for the benefit of politicians and their corporate puppet-masters. Since the Republicans took control of Congress in 1994, the system of earmarks (adding pet pork projects to big spending bills) has exploded, reaching 7,000 in the bloated $328.1 billion 2003 Transportation Bill. And they are fiercely protected; when Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn (a Republican, and to his credit, despite past racist comments about Native Americans and truly bizarre opinions on abortion) tried to redirect $453 million for two bridges in Alaska) including the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere”) to disaster relief in Louisiana, Senator Ted Stevens threw a childish temper tantrum on the floor of the Senate. And yet Tom DeLay, the official spokescreature for Republican corruption, was able to say with a straight face that there was “no fat” in the federal budget. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, a powerful Republican congressman from California, recently pled guilty to taking literally millions of dollars in bribes, including a yacht and an antique toilet seat, all according to a “bribe menu” he maintained for lobbyists. You wouldn’t see that kind of efficiency and courtesy from Democrats. Heck, the best the Democrats could manage was selling books and kiting checks.
And, of course, there’s never too much we can say about good ol’ Tom DeLay, an endless source of amusement, disgust and outrage, kind of like watching a clown get run over by an eighteen-wheeler. The only thing more appalling than his antics is the fact that 62% of the Republican Primary voters in District 22 actually voted their approval of the vicious, hypocritical, jacked-up little tin dictator. DeLay’s thuggish behavior was evident even after he announced his resignation, when several of his more moronic foot-soldiers crashed a press conference held by Nick Lampson and pushed people around, reminiscent of the time DeLay sent his top aides to Dade County, Florida to stage a riot in order to physically stop the recount of ballots that would’ve shown that Al Gore had carried the state.
DeLay’s ultimate legacy, the notion that money buys power and power can get you anything, is of course not new to Texas, but truly amazing in its modern scope. Multi-millionaire Dr. James Leininger can literally attempt to purchase the Legislature for his pet cause, private school vouchers; though in the recent primary elections four of the five sock puppets he recruited to run against Republican legislators who had dared to offend him managed to lose anyway. Rick Perry, allegedly the Governor of Texas, sells appointments to high office to his top contributors; again, nothing new, but astonishing in the amounts of money being slung around. The Texas Ethics Commission, surely the most impotent toothless “watchdog” ever, rules with a straight face that Bill Ceverha, a Perry appointee to the Texas Employees Retirement System, properly disclosed a “gift” from Texas homebuilder and Swift Boat organizer Bob Perry simply by writing the word “check” on the disclosure form, with no amount. Perry had previously delivered enough cash to ensure the creation of the “Texas Residential Construction Commission,” tasked to prevent homeowners from ever being able to sue homebuilders for shoddy construction.
And notice we haven’t even mentioned Jack Abramoff.
It must be stressed the Republicans aren’t the first or the only ones to betray the public trust and prostitute their offices to the highest bidder. There is, however, every indication that we are experiencing a tidal wave of backed-up sewage from the entrenched GOP establishment. Public anger against the Republicans is apparently driven mostly by resentment against President Bush for the war in Iraq, though the Republicans’ loss has not automatically been the Democrats’ gain. If 2006 turns out to be a watershed election year like 1994 or 1974, Democrats must not yield to the temptation to use Tom DeLay-style tactics to consolidate their hold on power and shake down money from lobbyists. For the sake of democracy over plutocracy, they will need to take firm and immediate steps to break the stranglehold of big money on elections. As long as Buckley v. Valeo, the worst Supreme Court decision since Dredd Scott, remains the law of the land, holding that money equals freedom of speech and therefore the more money you have, the more freedom you have, tinkering around the edges won’t do. Reluctantly, I’ve come to the conclusion that the only cure for the cancer of plutocracy is public funding of elections, combined with a mandatory requirement for free political airtime as a condition of obtaining an FCC license. In the past, I was opposed to public financing on the grounds that it gave the government too much power, with the incentive for mischief. However, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont and Arizona have all had recent successes with voluntary public financing; now is the time to go national. Additionally, thanks to scientific, computerized redistricting, free elections to the House have virtually been abolished, and the People’s House is now approximately as competitive as the Soviet Politburo. This cannot continue; it is corrosive to freedom and spawns only cynicism and apathy. Therefore, if the Democrats manage to take the House of Representatives, they should use that body’s Constitutional power over the election of its members to mandate that every state institute a non-partisan system of redistricting that is strictly limited to once every ten years, to avoid anti-democratic fiascoes such as occurred in Texas and Georgia. Finally, all gifts of any kind, all meals, all trips, all honoraria of any kind to any sitting member of Congress should be outlawed and a ten-year ban on lobbying by former members of Congress instituted, on pain of forfeiting their Congressional pensions. If the Democrats have the guts to propose a bold reform agenda, they will deserve to win on their own merits, and not just because the voters are disgusted with how far the Party of Lincoln has fallen.


Thursday, April 13, 2006

Again, I Accidentally Wander Into the Majority

According to a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll, most Americans want BOTH tighter border security AND eventual citizenship for the illegal aliens already here.


World's Greatest Understatement

"The White House is not the intelligence-gathering agency."--Scott McClellan, April 12, 2006.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Mr. Popularity

Fewer than 100 people showed up in Waco to hear Vice President Dick Cheney stump for congressional candidate Van Taylor, much less than the 400 who came in 2004 when he campaigned for Arlene Wohlgemuth. In all fairness, though, back then, people weren't generally afraid that Cheney might shoot them...

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Monday, April 10, 2006

Homeland Security, Keeping America Safe...

...from elementary school teacher's assistants.

You Have GOT To Be Kidding!?!

The Navajo try to negotiate top dollar for a pipeline across their territory and this guy accuses the tribe of treaty violations? Unbelievable!

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This is America; Speak Cherokee!

Just in case you were concerned that there isn't enough moronic anti-Indian bigotry in the world today, comes this bile spewed from something called Oregon Magazine. Normally, I wouldn't highlight this kind of stupidity, but these clowns are asking for it. Yeah, that's right, Cletus, when was the last time your "Gaelic and Norwegian ancestors" were kidnapped from their families as children BY THE US GOVERNMENT and forced to attend schools where they were beaten for speaking their native language? It's too bad stupidity isn't painful.


A Sleeping Giant?

It remains to be seen whether or not we are witnessing the beginning of a large-scale Hispanic political force in this country; for one thing, it's always easier to organize protests than build a movement. For another, Hispanic voter turnout has always been historically low and those with the greatest stake in this debate, illegal aliens, can't vote at all. Having said that, I was very impressed with the latest round of demonstrations, particularly with the leadership and keen eye for public relations shown by LULAC. For some pictures and commentary on the Washington, DC march by our good friends at AmericaBlog, click here. For some pictures from the Philadelphia rally courtesy of our good friends at Atrios, click here.

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Not As Lame As You Think

Excellent article from the Washington Monthly showing how Democrats are actually better unified, better organized and more politically successful than reported in the media. It brings up an excellent point about how Democrats are more often than not their own worst enemy. If Republicans suffer from hubris bordering on megalomania, Democrats have such low political "self-esteem" they often don't realize how well they are actually doing. Add to that, constant media reinforcement about how "disorganized" and "clueless" they are and, well, you get the idea.

Your Liberal Media At Work...

Cynthia McKinney? News. Tom DeLay's thugs breaking up a press conference? Not so much.


Sunday, April 09, 2006

Suppose They Gave A War...

...and nobody came? I have long been worried that the Iraq War would end up destroying the National Guard and the Reserves with punishingly long deployments. Now comes word that younger officers are leaving the Army at an alarmingly high rate.


The West Wing and the Twelfth Amendment

I watched the last 2/3rds of "The West Wing" tonight. Frankly, I thought the show jumped the shark about the time the President's whiny obnoxious daughter was kidnapped and John Goodman became President, but this is the last season, so I thought I'd check it out. As you all know, John Spencer the actor who played former Chief of Staff and Vice Presidential candidate Leo McGarry died December 16, 2005, so on tonight's episode they had the character die on election night. At the end of the episode, McGarry's running mate, Matt Santos, played by Jimmy Smits, wins, albeit barely. Putting aside the fact that a character like Leo McGarry, with a publicly acknowledged history of alcohol and drug abuse, would never be nominated for Vice President, I got to thinking: what would happen if the Vice President-elect died before taking office? My first thought was that the Senate would choose under the Twelfth Amendment, and I imagined that Santos would pick his Republican opponent, Arnie Vinick (ironically played by Alan Alda). Only once since the Twelfth Amendment was ratified has the Senate picked the Vice President, after the election of 1836 and they picked Martin Van Buren's running mate. But after I thought about it, the electoral college hasn't met yet, so there are no candidates for the Senate to vote on. And even then, after re-rereading the Amendment, the Senate could only pick from among the top three electoral vote getters, which would leave only Vinick's running mate, Ray Sullivan (I didn't notice anything about a Third Party Candidate winning any electoral votes). So, the electoral college gets to pick, right? Except some states (including Texas) have laws that require electors to vote for the ticket that got the most popular votes. I happen to think those laws are unconstitutional, but they are still on the books. So, it may well be that Santos takes office without a Vice President and has to nominate one under the 25th Amendment. If McGarry had died earlier than election night, I think clearly the DNC would have been able to name a replacement (like they did with Sargent Shriver in 1972), though there could be a problem in some states that had already printed their ballots. Jeff Greenfield wrote about a similar constitutional crisis in his 1996 tongue-in-cheek book "The People's Choice."

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Parthian Shot, Part 2

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says he's "certain" there's no British or US plan for a pre-emptive attack against Iran and "the idea of a nuclear strike on Iran is completely nuts." I'd like to find this reassuring, but given the Bush Administration's severe allergy to telling the truth, and Tony Blair's penchant for obediently following Bush's lead, I can't.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Parthian Shot

From The Moderate Voice, a discussion of a Seymour Hersch New Yorker article which claims that the Bush Administration is actively planning a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities USING TACTICAL NUCLEAR WEAPONS. The only thing scarier than this is the knowledge that, with this White House, I can't just dismiss it out of hand.

Cleburne Times-Review Column for 9 April, 2006

“Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt.”
--Exodus 23:9

Continuing our discussion from last week on illegal immigration. When most of us hear the term “illegal alien,” we automatically envision someone who snuck across the southwestern border from Mexico. However, according to statistics from 1996 (the most recent I could find, and bearing in mind that the illegal population was roughly half as large back then), only 54% of illegal immigrants come from Mexico. A total of 80% come from countries in the Western Hemisphere, but that only makes sense from a logistical standpoint. Forty-one percent, though, were “nonimmigrant overstays,” meaning people who came to America legally on a student or work visa and then stayed on after it expired. Building a Great Wall of Texas won’t do anything to keep this group out. Speaking of myths, I hope we can all dismiss out of hand the fear-mongering, race-baiting ravings of some Ultra Right Wing commentators like John Gibson and Michelle Malkin, who claim that Hispanics (not even differentiating between those here legally and those here illegally) have some nefarious plot to detach the Southwestern United States from the Union. These comments are as insulting as they are moronic, and echo the bile spewed by neo-Nazis.
Digressing back to the point, we can also (along with GOP Senator Lindsay Graham and Conservative talking head George Will) dismiss the asinine notion of deporting all illegals (which might cost as much as $40 billion a year, if it could even be done at all) or making illegal immigration a felony. The US prison population hit two million in 2002, at a cost of $57 billion per year. So, imagine multiplying those figures by a factor of six; because there’s no point in making something a felony if you aren’t going to lock people up for it, right? So, if we toss out the ludicrous, what’s left? The debate seems to mostly center on the dreaded “A” word: amnesty. The main thrust of the Senate Bill offered by Senators John McCain and Ted Kennedy is that illegal aliens who have been here five years, speak English, been continually employed, and pay some fines and back taxes, can then apply for naturalization. Senator Majority “Leader” (and I use the term very loosely) Bill Frist and the House are pushing a bill that makes illegal aliens and anyone who helps them felons and would build a really, really big wall. This is just more proof that Frist has about as much control over the US Senate these days as I do, and is being openly dissed like a substitute teacher by his own GOP colleagues.
I have to concede, though, that the critics of the McCain-Kennedy Bill make some valid points. Amnesty has, in fact, been tried before, in 1986, and illegal immigration continued to increase dramatically. Then, it was amnesty for about 2.7 million people; this time, it will be 11-12 million. Will we be having this same debate again in 2026? Moreover, amnesty, by definition, rewards or at least excuses people for breaking the law. The operative word in “illegal immigration” is, after all, “illegal.” There is also a valid argument to be made that amnesty is unfair to the 26 million legal immigrants currently residing in the United States, and the millions more waiting to make it through the process. It is interesting to note, though, that 68% of these newest Americans support the McCain-Kennedy Bill.
There has been heated debate over whether new immigrants (legal or otherwise) are “assimilating” like immigrants in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. Putting aside the definition of “assimilation” that seems synonymous in some circles to “acting white,” let’s instead define “melting pot” for what it really is and always has been: immigrants are changed by exposure to American culture (for good and for ill) and American culture is changed by immigrant culture, and often in some unexpected ways. For example, some culturally conservative Latin American immigrants resist “assimilation” because they see the dominant American culture as greedy and immoral. Hispanic immigration is even transforming Cleburne. When I was in school here (millions of years ago, when men were men and giants walked the Earth), you could count the number of Hispanics on the fingers of one hand; now, Hispanics outnumber African-Americans more than four to one. The “American Culture” of today is not the same as in 1900 or 1800 and the “American Culture” of 2100 will look even more different. Still, as I mentioned in last week’s column, I haven’t heard any arguments about the current crop of immigrants that weren’t also used a century or more ago about the Irish, Polish, Italians, Czechs and so forth. And I expect that in the long run, the results will be the same, and the grandchildren of today’s migrants will be arguing about the “dilution of American culture” in the future.
As for the protests or rallies, or whatever we want to call them, it’s a little hypocritical for the same folks who used to blast today’s youth for being apathetic to be up in arms when the kids finally find an issue that motivates them to get off their over-fed, under-exercised rear-ends, put down the video games, and start marching in the streets. Yes, from a public-relations standpoint, waving a bunch of Mexican flags was a dumb idea, but these were kids, not slick political operatives. They’ll learn. They’re already learning. In fact, if you want proof of assimilation, this is it. They know that in America, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. It’s possible, just possible, that these mass protests (made possible by technology that still befuddles old fogies like me) signal the start of a new Hispanic political awareness, where a population that has never exercised political power proportionate to its numbers finally finds its’ voice.
So, to sum up, if we decide to try amnesty again (and there seems to be no realistic alternative), it absolutely must be combined with increased border security (not walls; they went out with the Maginot Line) and a concerted effort to raise the standards of living in Latin America so that more of their people will want to stay there. The so-called “Free Trade” mantra pushed by Presidents from George H.W. Bush, to Bill Clinton, to George W. Bush has only worked to further impoverish already depressed regions in Central and South America, leading to additional pressures on the poor and landless to come to El Norte, the land of opportunity. Americans traditionally are opposed to foreign aid, and usually imagine that we spend way more on it than we really do (it’s actually less than 1% of the total budget, or about a tenth of what we’ve spent on Iraq and Afghanistan), but wouldn’t that be a wiser investment than either mass deportations, mass arrests, or an amnesty crisis every twenty years?


Thursday, April 06, 2006

What If Bill Clinton...

...had authorized the leak of classified information in order to score political points?


A Bullhorn Not A Whimper

Tom DeLay's career of political thuggery ends on an appropriate note, as a gang of idiots from his campaign, including a candidate for judge, crash Nick Lampson's press conference. Why is Lampson smiling? Because he knows these morons have virtually guaranteed his election against whatever tool the GOP nominates to fill DeLay's golf shoes. More here and here.


Scales Fall From Their Eyes

Live from the Road to Damascus, conservatives apparently now realize that Tom DeLay was not really a nice man, after all. Courtesy of the The Last True Republican, Bull Moose.

Respect My Authori-tah!!

Okay, now this is funny.

Wal-Mart: Low Prices and Terrorists!

From our good friends at The Daily Kos. A recent study by the AFL-CIO documents how Wal-Mart has systematically worked to weaken or defeat regulations designed to increase port security. As if you needed another reason to hate Wal-Mart...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

NOW I Feel Safer...

The Deputy Press Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security is (allegedly) a pedophile who tried to prey on underage girls over the internet. Isn't this sort of illegal prediliction exactly the kind of thing that you would expect to pick up in background check for someone in a sensitive position? Can Homeland Security not do ANYTHING right?


Monday, April 03, 2006

Tom DeLay, We Hardly Knew Ye...

Tom DeLay is leaving Congress, to terrorize and bully pastures greener. Sugarland Mayor David Wallace is apparently the inside favorite to defumigate his place on the ballot, according to Harvey Kronberg.

Scenes From A Convention

The Local Crank addresses the Johnson County Democratic Convention. Photo courtesy of Bill Conover.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Bell May Toll for Perry

Yes, I'm still trying to get mileage out of "for whom the bell tolls" headlines. Sue me. From our good friends at Off the Kuff, a piece showing that in two out of three major recent polls, Chris Bell is outrunning Carol Strayhorn as the main contender to beat Rick Perry, who is hovering in the mid to high 30% range.

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More "Benefits" of "Free Trade"

From HuffPo, an interesting piece by David Sirota that examines the link between "free trade" and the increase in illegal immigration.

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Thank You!

From the Daily Kos. Republicans make a big deal out of loyalty to the President being a patriotic duty "during a time of war,", but how did the GOP react when it was a Democratic President involved in an armed conflict? A good reminder.

I Accidentally Find Myself In the Majority...

AP Poll shows 56% of Americans favor granting "some temporary legal status" to the 11-12 million illegal aliens already in the United States. Two-thirds do not think a wall across the southern border would work.


Cleburne Times-Review Column for 2 April, 2006

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone.”
--Ephesians 2:19-20

First off, you have to understand that from the perspective of my ancestors (some of them, anyway) everyone who has set foot on this continent since October 12, 1492 is an illegal alien, so my view of this issue may be somewhat skewed. The question of what to do with an estimated 11 million illegal aliens in this country (and that’s probably a conservative figure) is a tough political issue, mostly for Republicans, but for Democrats as well. Republicans are divided between two impulses: the first, which we might call the Puritan Impulse, is to find a group of people to demonize in order to gain power from people who are afraid of the dreaded “other.” Welfare queens? Too 1980’s. Besides, we already “reformed” welfare, didn’t we? Homosexuals? Good, but we’re running out of civil rights to deny them. But illegal aliens, now there’s a target with some meat on it. There’s some solid history behind paranoid fears of aliens. And they can’t even vote! The perfect victims. Incidentally, an excellent book on the Puritan Impulse throughout American political history is “Hellfire Nation,” by James A. Morone. I highly recommend it. The poster-child for the Puritans could be Cong. Lamar Smith, and his asinine plan to build a wall around America. More about that later. The second impulse, which we can call the Plutocrat Impulse, is to bust unions and drive down wages. Reasonable minds can differ as to whether illegal aliens are a net plus (through sales taxes, some payroll taxes and purchasing power) or minus (the cost of education and health care) to the economy, but it would seem like a safe bet that they are a net drag on wages. Employers like illegal aliens because you can pay them below minimum wage, provide no health care, not even for workplace injuries, even stiff them on their paycheck entirely, and there’s nothing they can do about it. After all, what are they going to do? Call the police? So why even bother hiring an American citizen? The Plutocrat Impulse is best exemplified (if you doubt his sincerity) by President Bush. Whatever else you can say about George W. Bush, he does deserve a pat on the back for recognizing fifteen years ago that immigrant-bashing was a bad idea politically. Actually, Karl Rove probably realized it for him but still, give the man his due. Bush spoke out against California’s Proposition 187 when it looked like railing against The Alien Hordes was the wave of the future. This (along with a crooked election in Florida and five Supreme Court Justices) is why Bush is President and Pete Wilson isn’t even a footnote. The wage issue incidentally is also why the issue divides Democrats as well, torn between compassion for the underdog (or the more cynical might say a desire for Hispanic votes) and their traditional alliance with organized labor, which has enough problems keeping wages from stagnating without having to compete with illegal aliens. But, since the Republicans are in power, their schizophrenia is more open and obvious. As you might expect, there’s quite of nonsense floating around this debate. For starters, there is no way—and I repeat, NO WAY—we are going to deport 11 million people. It’s just not going to happen. It’s an impossible task, and the country would go bankrupt or be transformed into a police state trying to do it. And even if we could magically teleport every single illegal alien back home, broad sectors of the American economy (especially construction and agriculture) would collapse overnight. The 2004 indie film “A Day Without A Mexican” took a tongue-in-cheek approach to this, imagining a morning in California where all Hispanics had vanished. Panicked white yuppies wander about aimlessly, wondering who will watch their children, clean their houses and mow their lawns. Back to reality: if there’s no way to deport that many illegal aliens, we obviously have to differentiate between those who are already here and those who will come in the future. And that brings up the second myth: the idea that we can build a Great Wall of Texas to keep all illegal aliens out. Also not going to happen. Forget using the army to “seal the border,” as some have suggested. For one thing, that might very well be illegal because of the posse comitatus law. For another, we don’t have enough troops, even if we brought them all back from Iraq. And those self-absorbed wackos the Minutemen with their borderline racist rhetoric and Cabela’s camo aren’t going to do it, either. In fact, they are far more likely to get themselves or someone else killed in their stupidity. Now, this is not to say we shouldn’t increase funding for the Border Patrol (which has faced budget and personnel cuts from the Bush Administration)—we should, especially in light of a recent embarrassing test that showed how relatively easy it would be to sneak a “dirty bomb” across the border. But, unless you want to join falafel-loving grumpy commentator Bill O’Reilly in expressing admiration for North Korea’s border security program, forget having perfectly impermeable borders. Lastly, we shouldn’t be swept away with overblown rhetoric about “waves” and “invasions” and “hordes” of illegal aliens. The total foreign-born population of the United States (legal and illegal) as of 2002 was about 33 million, which represents 11.8 percent of the total population. For purposes of comparison, the highest percentage of foreign-born Americans in history was 14.8% in the 1890 census. Ironically, of course, it is now the great grandchildren of those immigrants who are using the same arguments that were used against their forebears in the current debate over the new generation of immigrants.
This is obviously a big issue, obviously, and can’t be thoroughly chewed over in just one column. Next week, we’ll debunk more myths about immigration, dissect some of the competing immigration reform proposals, and look at the protests that have (kind of) spontaneously erupted against them.