Monday, May 31, 2010

I Become An Economic Policy Dick...

... and I regret nothing. Sometimes the skewed priorities of economic conservatives are so infuriating that I can't feel any remorse when I give them a tongue-lashing.

Matthew Rozsa
If you want to understand why the economic policy propounded by the "experts" in power displays such a shocking lack of sensitivity to the needs of the working class, just read Paul Krugman's latest editorial.

Tiguhs OndaBayou
Guess he missed the news that Spain lost it's AAA rating... truth is we got some scary fiscal imbalances that are rooted in unsustainable entitlelment programmes, one day push is gonna come to shove

Matthew Rozsa
Arguments like yours, Tom, remind me of an important quote by Franklin Roosevelt:

“Our Republican leaders tell us economic laws — sacred, inviolable, unchangeable — cause panics which no one could prevent. But while they prate of economic laws, men and women are starving. We must lay hold of the fact that economic laws are not made by nature. They are made by human beings.”

Sadly, the primary difference between the America of 1932 (in which FDR uttered this line) and its 2010 counterpart is that today, far too many Democrats are becoming gelded echoes of deficit hawks, laissez-fairers, covert plutocrats, myopic shills of Wall Street (such as yourself), and other birds from the Republican economic aviary.

No one is denying that our budget deficit and national debt pose a great threat to our country's fiscal soundness, and that both will eventually need to be addressed. That said, our priority right now must be to alleviate the great human suffering that has been caused by the economic calamities of the Bush years - rising unemployment, stagnant or declining incomes, a deterioration of our education system, and a dwindling of our national competitiveness with other nations in the industries of the future. These are not problems that can be solved while simultaneously trying to fight the budget deficit and reduce our national debt. Therefore, we need to temporarily accept three hard truths about what our policies need to be:

1) We will need to drastically increase spending, and with it the deficit and our national debt, until the aforementioned side effects of this economic disaster have subsided.

2) To offset the deleterious impact those spending increases will have on our deficit and national debt, we will need to make dramatic cuts NOT in social programs, but in the military-industrial complex and war on drugs (such as by legalizing marijuana and de-criminalizing a host of other drugs), as well as raising taxes on the wealthy back to Eisenhower-era levels.

3) After unemployment is down, wages are up, and investments in our economic future (education, job training, growing industries that will improve our competitiveness with China, India, Japan, and so on) have all been put in place, we will then need to tackle the problem of the deficit and debt by raising taxes. Walter Mondale put it best in 1984: It needs to be done. A good politician will try to conceal this fact; a good leader will explain to the people that, unsavory though it may be, it is a necessary evil, one that will prevent a far greater one in the future.

Tiguhs OndaBayou
Cliff notes?

Matthew Rozsa
Oh come now, Tom. It isn't that long.

Tiguhs OndaBayou
1960 percent of total spending:

49.5% national defense
2.9% Health (incl. Medicare)
13.4% social security

2004 percent of total spending
20.5% national defense
24.2% Health (incl. Medicare)
17.6% social security

Tiguhs OndaBayou
Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Matthew Rozsa
I fail to see how your response - which consists of comparative cost percentages from the national budget, with the most recent example you cite being about half-a-decade out-of-date - in any way rebuts my initial argument.

My assertion is that, in order to offset (not entirely resolve, but at least temporarily address) the budget deficit and national debt crises, we should cut spending on the military-industrial complex and the drug wars, while simultaneously raising taxes on the wealthy. That said, we also need to acknolwedge that the deficit and debt WILL have to increase, at least temporarily, until the human suffering caused by the Great Recession is alleviated. Once that problem has been solved, we should THEN focus on raising taxes in order to pay off the debt.

Tiguhs OndaBayou
You raise taxes on the wealthy, the wealthy will setup shell corps to protect their income/expenditures from the govt.

Tiguhs OndaBayou
human suffering? lol, let's be real Matt, poor people in the US are fat!!!

Matthew Rozsa
That is why the government needs to enact laws - perhaps through Executive Orders, if Congress is uncompliant - to make it illegal for American citizens to move their assets in such a way as to immunize them from their tax obligations. The people who have for years been benefiting by their citizenship in this country have no right to find clever loopholes so as to avoid paying their fair share for the privileges of being in this great country.

Matthew Rozsa
Your second commment is beneath contempt. If you had any sense of decency, you would be ashamed of yourself for writing it.

Tiguhs OndaBayou
I'm all for cutting military spending and ending the war on drugs, neither are near the radar screen of what's on the agenda though.

Are u simply making a policy wish list?

Tiguhs OndaBayou
It would cost more to enforce such a financial regulatory regime than it'd get back. It's easy to hide money and you cannot reign in the transnational liberation of capital flows in any practical manner

Matthew Rozsa
I'm creating a list of policies that I believe would solve our economic problems. The fact that the two major parties do not propose these solutions - with the Republicans being entirely in the pocket of big business and Wall Street, and with Democrats being co-opted by the DLC and other so-called "centrist" groups - doesn't mean that they aren't valid. It's simply a sign that the Democratic Party of which I am a member - the one of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Adlai Stevenson, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, and George McGovern - has been corrupted by the party of Max Baucus, Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson, and Blanche Lincoln.

Part of the blame for this lies with President Obama. While I suspect his heart is with the party of FDR, he is a weak leader, and as such has allowed the Baucuses to exert undue authority. The price for this unwillingness to use the bully pulpit of the presidency is one that the entire country is paying.

Matthew Rozsa
1) It would not be that expensive to enforce such regulatory mechanisms. In fact, many of the existing organizations could easily do this work, thus significantly reducing costs.

2) It is indeed easy to hide money, and transnational capital flows are hard to control. That doesn't mean that it's impossible. It just means you'd need a president who had the balls to stand up to the financial powers-that-be. We've had them before (see the Roosevelts), and we can have them again.

Tiguhs OndaBayou
So you're upset about the leverage the mod dems yield? certainly an impediment but politics is politics, as someone waiting for c&t to pass, I share your frustrations.

Tiguhs OndaBayou
We'll have to agree to disagree on the financial oversight bit. Read the Black Swan man, it's not so much related to any of the above and doesn't have an ideological angle, more philosophical/emprical. I think you'd enjoy it. At least look it up on amazon and read the reviews :)

Matthew Rozsa
I think we can end this debate on that note. It's about as close to friendly as this thing is likely to get. lol ;-)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Something Troubling in Arizona...

Arizona officials want immigrant teachers with heavy accents removed from classes for students still learning English.

How blatant, how severe, how unjust must the persecution of Latinos in Arizona become before the far right joins liberals, moderates, and independents in expressing outrage?

I would like to believe that there are enough people with basic human decency that we would be witnessing a widespread outcry against the persecution of Latinos in Arizona. The fact that what is happening there is deeply morally wrong should be the only thing that matters.

Assuming that this simple fact isn't adequate to the task of inflaming the indignation of the average Joe and Jane, however, perhaps a statement - written by Pastor Martin Niemoller during the Holocaust - will do so. Although its common sense appeal focuses on self-interest rather than fighting for what's right, the message it conveys is still extremely powerful.

THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Why Rand Paul Is Wrong On Civil Rights

Let me begin by saying that I am not accusing Rand Paul of racism.
That least sentence doesn't mean that I'm arguing Paul isn't a racist, just like this sentence isn't meant to imply that I actually believe he is one.
In my mind, the key to determining whether someone's political views are motivated by bigotry is to see whether they can back up their statements with a logically sound and factually accurate argument, particularly one that is consistent with the broader ideological principles they espouse. As a rule of thumb, if they can't - as is the case with those who claims that Barack Obama is not a native-born citizen, that homosexuals shouldn't be allowed to marry, or that Jews are responsible for the war in Iraq - then it's quite likely due to the unsavoriness of their motives (which, deep down, they generally know is the case). If they can, however, then they deserve the benefit of the doubt.
This brings me to Rand Paul, the libertarian Republican who recently won his party's nomination for a Senate seat in Kentucky. While being interviewed by Rachel Maddow on her show, Paul was asked whether he would have supported the provision of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that prohibits private businesses from refusing to serve potential customers on the basis of race and religion.
Maddow: Do you think that a private business has the right to say we don't serve black people?
Clearly aware of the fact that providing an honest answer would open him up to charges of racism, Paul's response is replete with adamant claims that he does not condone discrimination and in fact openly disapproves of those who practice racism. Nevertheless, he goes on to say...
I do defend and believe that the government should not be involved with institutional racism or discrimination or segregation in schools, busing, all those things. But had I been there, there would have been some discussion over one of the titles of the civil rights.
And I think that's a valid point, and still a valid discussion, because the thing is, is if we want to harbor in on private businesses and their policies, then you have to have the discussion about: do you want to abridge the First Amendment as well. Do you want to say that because people say abhorrent things -- you know, we still have this. We're having all this debate over hate speech and this and that. Can you have a newspaper and say abhorrent things? Can you march in a parade and believe in abhorrent things, you know?. . .
Now, inevitably, Rand Paul is being accused of racism.
There are two points that need to be made in reaction to this controversy:
1) The position Paul has espoused is not inherently racist. Indeed, it is very consistent with the tenets of purist libertarianism - the idea that the government should not discriminate between any of its citizens, and at the same time has no right to tell private individuals what they can say or believe. As such, while Rand Paul supports those measures of the 1964 Civil Rights bill that outlawed government discrimination against African-Americans (such as making it difficult for them to vote, segregating schools and public facilities, and so on), he opposes the part of the bill that would have made it illegal for private individuals to express racist ideas through their speech or ban racial and religious minorities from their private businesses. That position, because it is logically well-constructed and consistent with the larger principles Paul has advocated, is not enough to warrant accusing him of racism.
2) At the same time, that position is wrong.
While I agree with Rand Paul's belief that government must focus on protecting individual rights, he fails to take into account how certain individual rights - if exercised to their fullest - naturally compromise the rights of other individuals, even if the damage isn't done directly and/or isn't intrinsic to the action being committed. For example, even though drinking alcohol while driving a car doesn't intrinsically hurt anyone else (after all, there are people who manage to drive while intoxicated without harming anyone), it has been rightfully made illegal because the probability that someone doing these things will endanger other human beings is too great. Even though two rights that are normally mine - the right to drink alcohol (since I am above the age of twenty-one) and the right to drive a car - are being restricted, it is necessary that this happen, since the increased likelihood that my drinking and driving will harm someone else makes it necessary that I not be allowed to do so.

Likewise, private business owners who prohibit racial and religious minorities from entering their shops are not simply making decisions that only affect themselves. Through their actions, they create a social environment in which the groups being targeted are isolated and identified with a status of "otherness" - one that, in turn, has been shown historically to lead to other forms of persecution and discrimination more often than not. As a result, the signers of the 1964 Civil Rights Act determined that - even though the right to decide who can patron your private business is normally inviolable - allowing the exercise of those rights against specific racial, religious, and other minorities should not be allowed.

This ultimately traces back to my basic disagreement with purist libertarians - their tendency to oversimplify complicated issues such as this one. Hence, even though I do not believe it is fair to accuse Paul of being a racist, he is very clearly making one of the classic mistakes of the uncompromising ideologue: he is forgetting that any ideology, to retain its value, must be capable of accomodating reality.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Jimmy Carter on Liberal Government

The following is an excerpt from a speech delivered by Jimmy Carter during his 1976 presidential campaign. Delivered to a California gathering of fifty Hollywood stars assembled by actor and liberal activist Warren Beatty, I consider it to be a remarkably frank and eloquent expression of how liberals feel the American government should prioritize its focus.

If we make a mistake, the chances are we won't actually go to prison, and if we don't like the public-school system, we put our kids in private schools. When the tax structure is modified, which Congress does almost every year, you can rest assured that powerful people who are well organized, who have good lawyers, who have lobbyists in the Capitol in Washington - they don't get cheated. But there are millions of people in this country who do get cheated, and they are the very ones who can't afford it...

I can go a mile from my house, two hundred yards from my house, and there are people there who are very poor, and when they get sick it's almost impossible for them to get a doctor. In the country where I am from, we don't have a doctor, a dentist, a pharmacist, a registered nurse, and people who live there who are very poor have no access to preventive health care. We found in Georgia that poor women, who are mostly black, in rural areas have twenty times more cervical cancer than white women in urban counties, just because they haven't seen a doctor, because the disease has gone so far that it can't go further...

So, I say, public servants like me and Jerry Brown and others have a special responsibility to bypass the big shots, including you and people like you, and make a concerted effort to understand people who are poor, black, speak a foreign language, who are not well educated, who are inarticulate, who are stymied, who have some monumental problem, and at the same time run the government in a competent way, well organized, efficient, manageable, so that those services that are so badly needed can be delivered.

That last paragraph is so important that it bears repeating...

So, I say, public servants like me and Jerry Brown and others have a special responsibility to bypass the big shots, including you and people like you, and make a concerted effort to understand people who are poor, black, speak a foreign language, who are not well educated, who are inarticulate, who are stymied, who have some monumental problem, and at the same time run the government in a competent way, well organized, efficient, manageable, so that those services that are so badly needed can be delivered.

Leave it to America's most unappreciated president to best articulate one of our country's most unappreciated principles.

Racism in Arizona - Part Two

Continuing where we left off...

Kevin Reagan
Sorry it has been a few days, but I did want to respond to that.
Matt, your profound pessimism with regards to the current state of racial biases in America is disappointing but not surprising. In fact, it is one of the ideological pillars of liberalism (I believe Jim mentioned your ideology before). Liberals are, without fail, pessimistic and cynical about American progress and excellence. They downplay any progress America has made over the years in favor of pointing out all of the negatives of the past. This serves to inflame and prolong any racial conflict that might still exist.
The fact that the Arizona bill uses the term "reasonable suspicion" when referring to whether someone is an illegal alien or not is not racist. It really isn't that different from the idea of probable cause in other crimes. Remember, simply being in the United States illegally is after all, a crime. And to answer your (rhetorical) question, there are plenty of ways an officer may determine if an individual is an illegal alien. A few examples would be 1) if the person didn't speak English, 2) if the person did not have any government ID, 3) nervous or evasive behavior around law enforcement (which officers are trained to detect), etc. If you would like, I could think of more examples of how a law enforcement officer could have reasonable suspicion as to the legality of an individual's immigration status.
Also, I disagree with your categorical dismissal of the education bill's intentions as "unavoidable and obvious." Remember, the measure was supposed to promote a more racially equal atmosphere and discourage resentment of other racial groups. So was the bill targeted at Latinos to keep them from resenting white people?

Matthew Rozsa
Your first paragraph is a classic example of an ad hominem fallacy. It does not directly address the larger argument that I am making, instead attempting to discredit it by associating it with a larger belief system that you assume automatically weakens its validity. The fact that you are completely wrong in your description of what the liberal philosophy actually entails is an afterthought.
Your second paragraph is equally disingenuous. How exactly would a law enforcement official be able to tell if a driver doesn't speak English or doesn't have government ID simply by watching him or her drive by in a car? All of that information can only be gleaned AFTER someone has been pulled over; the initial identification must therefore be made based on some other criterion (namely, whether someone looks Latino). As for your third standard of "nervous or evasive behavior around law enforcement"... once again, you have chosen a category so vague that it can be used to encompass virtually any word or action that the police officers in question choose. It is dangerous to set a precedent in which police officers have the power to curtail other people's freedoms based on standards so inherently subjective that they leave interpretation and discretion almost entirely with the law enforcement officer.
As for the education bill... remember, racist legislation that has been passed in this country almost always presents itself in some innocuous package, so as to make its real motives harder to call out. Legislation supporting segregation after Brown v. Board of Education would very often use the prospect of interracial tension as an excuse for continuing the unjust status quo; likewise, legislation discriminating against homosexuals who wish to adopt children, visit loved ones in the hospital, and get married will claim that it wishes to protect "family values". So too with this measure. You claim that it is being passed to protect whites from potential discrimination, but since when do we pass bills making an activity illegal based not on crimes that HAVE been committed from that activity, but rather because crimes MIGHT HYPOTHETICALLY be committed from that activity? What's more, even if interracial tensions DID erupt due to these classes, isn't taking away the coursework that teaches Latino history essentially sending the message that one side (white people) are right and the other side (Latinos) are wrong? Wouldn't it be more impartial (to say nothing of effective) to simply have a zero tolerance policy toward peer hostility as an overarching rule of thumb?
By the way, much earlier in this conversation I repeatedly asked you: "How do you work out the logic of arguing that the discrimination endured by past groups somehow negates or mitigates the wrong being suffered by Latinos in the present?"
You still haven't answered this question, so I might as well explain why I asked it: I assumed you were making that comment as a snide way of alluding to the so-called discrimination that has been suffered by white people. Your latest comment about wanting to prevent Latinos from resenting white people more or less proves that this is where you were going with that line of logic. I will respond to this with a simple observation: It speaks volumes about your mindset that you would curb the freedoms of an entire ethnic group just to prevent them from possibly resenting your own race. The relationship between your fears and their causes has layers and layers of irony.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Rand Paul: Future of the GOP?

In an earlier blog article, I predicted that Texas Congressman Ron Paul represented the future of the Republican Party - staunchly libertarian, intellectually sound, and capable of revitalizing the fundamental ideals of conservatism while ridding the GOP of the unsavory detritus it has accumulated since the advent of the Reagan era (an over-dependency on Wall Street and the American plutocracy, a hypocritical championing of big government via the military-industrial complex and the drug wars, a ridiculously overblown dependence on the Christian Right for grassroots support, etc.) Indeed, so powerful is the Ron Paul movement that I even went so far as to predict that - should the economy turnaround by 2012 - the Republican Party, unable to nominate former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (whose business career would make him the ideal candidate during a period of economic distress), would quite likely veer toward the underdog candidacy of Ron Paul.

Of course, there was one variable that I overlooked - by 2012, Ron Paul will be a 77-year-old man.

That doesn't mean that his brand of Republicanism doesn't represent the future of his party, however. Of the other potential Republican nominees, only Mitt Romney offers anything remotely as appealing as Paul on the national level (once again, his business expertise). Mike Huckabee's gubernatorial record is too controversial (see Wayne Dumond, Maurice Clemmons) and some of his past remarks too hateful (see "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?") to make him a viable choice; Newt Gingrich's personal history (divorcing his cancer-ridden first wife and then withholding child support, forcing his wife and children to receive financial help from their local church) makes even Huckabee seem appealing by comparison; and Sarah Palin's horrendous personal image, governmental inexperience, and lack of intellectual heft has caused her potential candidacy to be received with great skepticism even among those who would otherwise be her supporters.

In short, assuming the Republicans don't opt for the politically pragmatic choice (Mitt Romney), the chances are that the only candidate who is conservative enough to appeal to their hearts, ideologically revolutionary enough to remake the party (a la what Wendell Willkie did in 1940, by pushing them to the left, or what Barry Goldwater did in 1964, by pushing them back to the right), and possessing of enough intellectual and political clout to make a real dent in the primaries is none other than Ron Paul.

But Ron Paul is too old.

That's why I think more attention should be paid to the outcome of tomorrow's Kentucky Senate primary, wherein Ron Paul's son, Rand, is a surprisingly strong contender. Should he emerge as his party's nominee, and should he go on to win the general election in November, I have a sneaking suspicion that he will supplant his father as the champion of the libertarian purist movement. Indeed, I wouldn't be entirely surprised if - come 2012 or 2016 - Rand Paul's name appears on the Republican national ticket. And not necessarily on the vice presidential end, either.

PS: Personally, I miss the Republican Party of Wendell Willkie. But that's just me.

Argument Provoked by Pitchfork Pat

The following is a heated debate I had on Facebook provoked by the words of "Pitchfork Pat" Buchanan, the far right-wing zealot beloved by paleo-conservatives across the land.

Matthew Rozsa
Recent comment by Pat Buchanan:
"...of the last seven justices nominated by Democrats JFK, LBJ, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, one was black, Marshall; one was Puerto Rican, Sonia Sotomayor. The other five were Jews: Arthur Goldberg, Abe Fortas, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan... Is this the Democrats' idea of diversity?"
Now I'll just wait to hear that Buchanan ISN'T a racist...

Tiguhs OndaBayou
Well, if the dems reasoning on SCOTUS picks involves diverisity, he's got a point. What percent of Americans are Jews? Despite the fact I agree w/ their opinions more so than those WASP fuckers (+ the Italians). I personally prefer a diverse SCOTUS---wish he'd have picked a gay Muslim. The reaction alone from teabaggers would have been worth it.

Max Price
i think the women airforce service pilots would take pretty good offense to what your friend said. he should be more open-minded

Jim Chambers

Matthew Rozsa

To Tom:
Nominating Jews to the Supreme Court has not been considered an act of ethnic diversification in quite some time; the chances are that, because Jews are disproportionately represented within the annals of the Democratic Party and among liberal jurists, Democratic presidents just wind up appointing them because so many are available. After all, of the seven Jews ever appointed to the Supreme Court (eight if you include Kagan), only one - Benjamin Cardozo - was selected by a Republican (Herbert Hoover).

To Jim:
I think about many, many other things besides how to accuse people of racism. Sometimes I think about the shapes clouds make as they pass by in the sky; sometimes I think about pretty girls and the not-so-pretty things I'd like to do to them; sometimes I even think about why squirrels bother burying their acorns when they just forget about their location a few seconds later (a scientifically-proven fact, by the way).
In all seriousness, though, Jim... I bring up instances of racism in the action and rhetoric of the right-wing because bigotry can have devastating consequences and needs to be called out when it's found. Unfortunately the actions and words of many right-wingers - such as the policies of the Arizona government and the recent statement by Pat Buchanan - provide me with ample opportunity to engage in this calling-out process.

Max Price
would it be somewhat bigoted to ignore the racist tendencies of those on the left, then? point is, it's best to leave jerks to their own devices. you'll drive yourself mad constantly thinking about such a convoluted topic.

Tiguhs OndaBayou
Matt, take Max's last post to heart. His point is valid and u should concede the point.

Matthew Rozsa
I've never denied that people on the left can be racist, anti-Semitic, sexist, and otherwise bigoted; just look at the misogynistic remarks of Larry Summers or the Mormon-bashing of Al Sharpton. That said, these problems are much more prevalent on the right, which is why they provide me with so much fodder.
It's also not a convoluted topic. Sadly, it's a very straightforward one.

Andrea Greco
I'm not sure why you're being criticized for this, Matt. Starting dialogue is good; it's certainly better than making lazy criticisms from the sideline. What Buchanan said was ridiculous, if debatably not racist (although he has shown his true colors on many occasions.) Sure, the court is not a good proportional representation of this country, but it'd be much more homogenous if not for the dems. More importantly, Jewish justices bring intellectual diversity to the court, and have a history distinct from the gentile justices'. In that sense, the left's nominations ARE diverse.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Racism in Arizona

The following is a transcript of a conversation conducted on my Facebook wall in response to a status update.

Matthew Rozsa
In case you doubted that Arizona's new illegal immigration law was racially motivated, read this:"Fresh on the heels of a new immigration law that has led to calls to boycott her state, Arizona's governor has signed a bill banning ethnic studies classes that 'promote resentment' of other racial groups."Any American deserving of the title should be horrified at what Arizona is doing to our Latino countrymen.

Kevin Reagan
That cuts more than one way, my friend. Latinos are not the only racial group that are the targets of resentment.

Matthew Rozsa
To Kevin: Given the context in which you wrote your remarks, you clearly believe the fact that other groups have experienced discrimination negates (or at the very least diminishes) the severity of the moral wrong being committed against our Latino fellow citizens by the current set of Arizona laws. How exactly do you work that one out logically?

Jim Chambers
"The measure doesn't prohibit classes that teach about the history of a particular ethnic group, as long as the course is open to all students and doesn't promote ethnic solidarity or resentment."

Jim Chambers
here's what the bill says. What would be racism would be a violation of this bill.

Matthew Rozsa
That language is similar to the one in the recent immigration law which prohibits pulling people over on the basis of race; i.e., it exists as a means of offering supporters of these racist measures a cop out from being called on their bigotry, even as the nature of the legislation itself all but guarantees that discrimination will result. After all, how are police officers supposed to identify whether drivers are illegal immigrants except on sight - that is, as to whether they "look" illegal? Similarly, the phrase "as long as the course is open to all students and doesn't promote ethnic solidarity or resentment" is intentionally vague enough that it can be used to encompass practically ALL classes that are taught to and/or about Latinos regarding their heritage.

Matthew Rozsa
Again to Kevin: How do you work out the logic of arguing that the discrimination endured by past groups somehow negates or mitigates the wrong being suffered by Latinos in the present?

Jim Chambers
I mean, you can make an argument, based on your ideological platform, with the first bill, but not with this one. It basically just prohibits courses that are custom made by Latinos, for Latinos, big whoop. It's not as if they're banning Latin-American Studies. And as to the first bill, I'm glad someone had the balls to do it.

Matthew Rozsa
1) How is my first argument based on an "ideological platform"? I didn't know that deductive logic was exclusive to one ideology (although given the rants of the Tea Party movement, perhaps that was an erroneous assumption on my part).
2) So you're saying that you support a bill which trounces on the civil liberties of a group of American citizens? I don't deny that illegal immigration is a problem, but doesn't a bill that denies Americans their most fundamental rights ultimately do more harm than good, regardless of its intent?
3) It's interesting how you first claimed that the education bill didn't target classes on Latino subjects; now you're arguing that it does, but is justified in doing so, since it only "prohibits courses that are custom made by Latinos, for Latinos". Of course, you fail to explain how one will be able to distinguish legitimate "Latin-American studies" classes from the "by Latinos, for Latinos" courses you deride. It seems to me that such assessments would ultimately be subjective, which sets a dangerous precedent.
4) So what if they DID teach classes "by Latinos, for Latinos"?

Jim Chambers
1) I mention your ideology because it is what makes you have an issue with the immigration bill, while I don't, while we are both seeing the same thing.
2) I don't see how anyone's civil liberties are being trounced on. Getting my ID checked hardly qualifies as such, especially if I am legal, and I just don't see what the whole racial profiling uproar is based in. Statistically, essentially all of the X million illegal immigrants in the US are Latinos.
3)I never said it didn't target classes on Latino subjects. Of course it does. So what? If said classes are a problem, they're a problem.
4) It'd be fine with me, if there were no problem with classes "by whites, for whites", but we all know how that would go down.

Jim Chambers
and as an addendum on #4, I don't really see the point in either a "by Latinos, for Latinos" course, or a "by whites, for whites" course, in fact, both make me slightly uncomfortable, I just think the level of sensitivity about it should be equal, and considering how obsessed public education has been with diversity and minority studies for the last 40 years, to a fault, I applaud a step away.

Matthew Rozsa
1) I believe in the sanctity of civil rights, which is the extent to which my ideology plays a role in my opinions. That said, you may notice that I didn't write "I oppose the immigration bill because I'm a liberal and that's what Barack Obama, Keith Olbermann, and Paul Krugman told me to believe". I wrote "how are police officers supposed to identify whether drivers are illegal immigrants except on sight - that is, as to whether they 'look' illegal"? This is an argument based not on ideology, but on very basic logic. For your sake, I hope that you're wrong when you say that "we are both seeing the same thing" when we look at this immigration bill, because if we ARE actually seeing the same thing, then your support of this measure says something very frightening about you.
2) Making it legal for law enforcement officials to single someone out on the basis of their race is a serious civil rights violation. It essentially makes a whole group of people into second-class citizens.
3) How are said classes a problem? They have existed for years without provoking hostility; if students from either racial group uses them as an excuse for conflict now, teachers should, um, DO THEIR JOB AND DISCIPLINE THE OFFENDERS! Instead, Governor Brewer is basically punishing the Latino students for something that (a) hasn't even happened yet and (b) would best call for a very different kind of solution if it did occur.
4) There is no such thing as "white" history in the same sense that there is "Latino" history. White people are a conglomeration of countless groups - English, Irish, Scots, Germans, Dutch, French, Italian, Russian, Polish, Scandinavian, Jewish, etc. The only reason the term "white" exists as a distinctive category is because it was initially intended to separate allegedly "superior" ethnic groups (namely, those lucky enough to be classified as "white") from inferior ones. Hence the flaw in your logic there.

Jim Chambers
my major problem with your arguments, and that of many others, is that the immigration bill, or its proponents, are "racially motivated". I am not anti-Latino, by any means. For one, I'm a catholic (and a real one, not a Nancy Pelosi); Latinos represent a HUGE chunk of my church, and gave us Guadalupe. Secondarily, I'm a met fan :)
Are there elements to the bill that will cause a certain race to be targeted more? Of course, because that's who's committing the crimes! Those who aren't can politely go on their way.

Matthew Rozsa
I do not believe that all proponents of the first bill are racist (although I would make that claim about the second one). That said, the inevitable consequence of the first bill IS one that would discriminate against a racial group. Even though you downplay the significance of having one group of people singled out because of their race - both justifying this on the basis of their being more likely to commit a certain type of crime and excusing it on the argument that those who are innocent will be allowed to continue unmolested - what you ignore is that THE VERY FACT that these Latino citizens will have been pulled aside because of their skin color and national origin is, in its own right, a grave injustice. It sets up a societal standard in which being of a given ethnic background automatically makes you suspect for certain types of crimes; this, in turn, renders one into something of a lesser citizen, both in your own eyes and in the eyes of others.And these are just the direct consequences of the measures that have been passed. When you consider what has, historically, happened to minority groups in other Western countries who have been the victims of similar laws in the past (see Jews in Nazi Germany, African-Americans in the South), there is reason to be even more concerned about where this bill could be heading.

Matthew Rozsa
PS: How exactly is Nancy Pelosi less of a Catholic than you?

Jim Chambers
Professional athletes are tested for steroids regularly, as they are more likely to use them. There was a murder (of a family friend) in my town on Cape Cod. A man was presumed to have committed it. All men in and out of the center of town were cheek swabbed.I would never say that any legal Latino is less than because some of his fellow Latinos... See More are illegal, but I want them punished. I really don't care what anyone's race is; I'm not obsessed with race, and that's why limited racial profiling doesn't bother me. I could be stopped, detained even, in a heartbeat if white males with l&t brown hair and tattoos driving trucks were leading a militia uprising, until I was determined to be not a part of. That's fine with me. It makes sense.

Jim Chambers
And as for Pelosi, it's very simple. Being a Catholic involves believing what the Church teaches, period.

Matthew Rozsa
1) Professional athletes are employees at a private corporation, which automatically makes that analogy fallacious. What's more, all of those athletes are steroid-tested indiscriminately; they aren't singled out on the basis of race, creed, etc.
2) Once again, the men who were cheek swabbed were selected (at least based on what you've told me) indiscriminately. They were identified as a result of their proximity to the crime scene and the plausibility of their involvement, and then tested. What's more, this was something that only happened to each of them once, rather than a stigma that was codified into law.
3) It's easy for you to say that you wouldn't mind if you were forced into comparable circumstances, but you have a luxury in making such a statement - realistically, it isn't likely that truck-driving white males with light brown hair and tattoos are going to be persecuted on a massive social and legal level. Considering America's less-than-admirable history with regard to African-Americans, Latinos, and other minority groups, the same can not be said for them. Thus your glib analogy here betrays a very basic lack of understanding of the larger issues in play.
4) I know plenty of Catholics who disagree with the teachings of the Church. Heck, even archbishops and cardinals are known to openly dispute individual positions taken by the Vatican! It's one of the things Catholics and Jews have in common - our contentiousness.

Jim Chambers
They may call themselves Catholics, but we are not a democratic organization. Taking issue with certain church policies or programs, wanting to attend Latin Mass, or preferring guitar in church to organ, these are all one thing, but disagreeing with the magisterium on moral issues is the same as disavowing Catholicism.

Jim Chambers
Judaism is decentralized; Catholicism is not.

Matthew Rozsa
Since I'm not Catholic, I'm going to refrain from debating you on the tenets of that faith. Suffice to say that I have many Catholic friends who do not share the same set of opinions as you do, so at the very least, your position here is not as authoritative as you're making it out to be.

Jim Chambers
See, I resent that entire idea. I'm not espousing opinions here. These are facts. The Church is the Church is the Church. The people you speak of, they and Nancy Pelosi, absolutely, are Christians, even Christians with a heavily Catholic theological influence, but say you decided that you liked a lot of thigs about Hasidism, that you wanted to be Hasidic, and known as such from here on out, while still leading exactly the same life you currently do, only modifying a couple of things. Still you that are Hasidic, that you are just a "progressive" Hasid, shaving your sideburns and disavowing the teachings of Rabbi Baal Shem Tov. In such a scenario, would you be Hasidic?

Kevin Reagan
In answer to your question, Matthew, I was not necessarily saying that past discrimination negates any current moral wrongs. I was simply pointing out that the new bill is not targeted at Latinos. Instead, I believe it encompasses all racial groups, putting them on an equal footing when considering each other. It preempts ALL races' biases against each other. Isn't that a good thing? I would think you would be in favor of leveling the racial playing field, in a manner of speaking. I'm failing to see where and how that idea is racist.
Now, with regards to Arizona SB 1070, I see this as yet another example of mass hysteria and misinformation as a result of not having read the bill. We saw how that could be a significant problem both in favor of and against a bill in the case of healthcare recently. Contrary to popular belief, the Arizona immigration bill is NOT an open invitation to discriminate against Latinos. Having read the bill (it's actually relatively short), I can assure you that nowhere in the bill is discrimination or "persecution," as you put it, allowed or justified or even implied to be a possibility. I direct you to Article 8 subsection B which is the only place from which I believe people can be making such ridiculous discrimination and profiling claims (a la Obama and the "ice cream cone" comment): "FOR ANY LAWFUL [STOP, DETENTION or ARREST] MADE BY A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL OR AGENCY OF THIS STATE OR A COUNTY, CITY, TOWN OR OTHER POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THIS STATE WHERE REASONABLE SUSPICION EXISTS THAT THE PERSON IS AN ALIEN [AND] IS UNLAWFULLY PRESENT IN THE UNITED STATES, A REASONABLE ATTEMPT SHALL BE MADE, WHEN PRACTICABLE, TO DETERMINE THE IMMIGRATION STATUS OF THE PERSON. THE PERSON'S IMMIGRATION STATUS SHALL BE VERIFIED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PURSUANT TO 8 UNITED STATES CODE SECTION 1373."
PLEASE tell me how this is discriminatory/profiling/persecution. I really just don't see it.
Here is the link to an online copy of the bill:
And the Arizona House bill that made some minor changes to the original senate bill (the segments in brackets above):

Jim Chambers
agreed. My only point, Matt, is that there is obviously a good possibility that more Latinos than not will be stopped, bill or not, as long as they continue to dominate the illegal scene, and in my mind there's nothing inherently racist about that reality.

Matthew Rozsa
To Kevin:
Earlier this year I went on a ten-day trip to Israel. There were many things that I loved about that country, and quite a few of which I disapproved, but if there was one quality about Israelis for which I give them a great deal of credit, it is that they are extraordinarily blunt about their political opinions. For better or for worse, Israelis who hate their Arab and/or Muslim brethren will openly declare their position, rather than hide behind a shield of carefully-chosen code language and obfuscatory rationalizations in order to have their cake of bigotry and eat it too. Unfortunately, the same can't be said of Americans.
The new Arizona laws are a perfect case-in-point. Even though the immigration measure doesn't specifically mention Latinos as a group, using the term "reasonable suspicion" in reference to whether someone is an illegal alien is vague enough that it can mean practically anything its practitioner desires, and as I pointed out to Jim, "how are police officers supposed to identify whether drivers are illegal immigrants except on sight - that is, as to whether they "look" illegal"? Likewise, even though the education bill does not specifically mention courses on Latino subjects, the intention behind the measure is unavoidable and obvious, particularly in light of the current political and social climate in that state.
Interestingly enough, I recently read a chapter in the presidential memoirs of Dwight Eisenhower about his experiences with Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus during the former's struggle to enforce the Supreme Court ruling desegregating those schools. Even though everyone - Faubus's supporters as well as his adversaries - that Faubus was interfering with the integration of those schools for purely racial reasons, he nevertheless hid his underlying motivations by claiming that he was defying the Warren Court because he feared desegregating those schools would lead to outbreaks of violence, or because he wasn't sure that it was in the best interest of the students of the district... in short, any rationale that could allow him to implement racist policies while skirting the stigma of being labelled a "racist".
This makes me miss Israel, where at least racists aren't also cowards.

Matthew Rozsa
To Jim:
Illegal immigration is a serious problem, and drastic measures do need to be taken to make headway in solving it. That said, the new Arizona legislation trades the civil rights of some of its citizens as the price for working toward a solution. I believe that that is a price much too high; what we are potentially gaining is nothing compared to what we are definitely losing.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Conservative Commentary on the Times Square Incident

"Human Events" is a weekly conservative magazine, with Robert Spencer's column JihadWatch ranking among its most virulent Muslim-bashing columns.

It should be a sobering sign to this country that, in his latest article, the words he pens are absolutely right.

Times Square Jihad? What Jihad?
by (more by this author)
Posted 05/11/2010 ET

Now that would-be Times Square car bomb jihadist Faisal Shahzad has been exposed as an Islamic jihadist, the liberal media are searching for an explanation, any explanation, for his attempted attack that doesn’t involve Islamic jihad.

Shahzad himself said he was acting in revenge for American drone attacks against Islamic jihadists in Pakistan. This establishes his jihadist leanings all the more vividly. But, according to clinical psychologist James Monahan of the University of New Haven, Shahzad was “the runt of the litter; the child who couldn't meet his parents’ expectations.” Or “maybe he was starting to see the hopes of living the good life in America die and he began feeling like a failure.”

Ezra Klein, writing in the Washington Post, was even more fanciful. Noting that Shahzad defaulted on the mortgage on his home in Connecticut and that the property is now in foreclosure, Klein discovered a brand-new motivation for jihadist violence: “Foreclosures generate an enormous amount of misery and anxiety and depression that can tip people into all sorts of dangerous behaviors that don’t make headlines but do ruin lives. And for all that we’ve done to save the financial sector, we’ve not done nearly enough to help struggling homeowners.”

In other words, the U.S. government had better bail out struggling homeowners, or car bombs will start going off all over the U.S.

Meanwhile, MSNBC talking head Contessa Brewer had her own reason to feel “an enormous amount of misery and anxiety and depression”: Shahzad turned out to be a Muslim. “There was a part of me,” lamented Brewer, “that was hoping this was not going to be anybody with ties to any kind of Islamic country.”

Brewer explained that she hoped that Shahzad’s jihad would not give rise to a resurgence of what she actually called “outdated bigotry.” This is a common mainstream media preoccupation that manifests itself in a flood of articles about Muslim fears of this “backlash” every time there is an attempted or successful jihad terror attack in America or Europe. The only thing that never appears is the backlash itself, which remains more a figment of the leftist media’s imagination than an actual threat against innocent Muslims.

Nonetheless, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was also preoccupied with this phantom backlash threat, warning New Yorkers to avoid any action against Muslims or Pakistanis. Bloomberg ought to be ashamed of himself. He should have been making statements about protecting Americans of all creeds, and calling the Muslim community in America to account for its tolerance of jihadists. There has never been a backlash against innocent Muslims in the U.S. It is a fiction that we hear about only when a Muslim plots mass murder of Americans. And then we hear about it endlessly, as if Muslims were the victims rather than the perpetrators.

Even before Shahzad was arrested, the leftist media were in full denial. Nation columnist Robert Dreyfuss was confident that the Times Square bomber would turn out to be a right-wing extremist: “It may be that the Pakistan-based Taliban, the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), has quietly established a Connecticut franchise while we weren’t looking.

That’s possible. But it seems far more likely to me that the perpetrator of the bungled Times Square bomb plot was either a lone wolf or a member of some squirrely branch of the Tea Party, anti-government far right, which actually exists in Connecticut, where, it seems, the car’s license plates were stolen.”

Pakistani authorities say that Faisal Shahzad attended a jihad training camp in that country.

He spent five months in Pakistan, including some time in Peshawar, a center of al Qaeda and Taliban activity. Shahzad parked outside the offices of Viacom, the parent company of Comedy Central, which presents “South Park,” the cartoon whose creators were just threatened with death by Islamic supremacists in New York for daring to lampoon Muhammad. The Muslim group that issued the threat, Revolution Muslim, was proselytizing in Times Square just hours before Shahzad’s car bomb was discovered.

The Times Square car bomb indicates yet again the persistence and determination of the jihadists who are targeting the United States—and of the continuing refusal of the mainstream media to admit that that jihad exists.

For my own commentary on the reluctance to indict Islamic terrorism after the Fort Hood shootings, see:

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Another Ron Paul

Remember how I wrote that the Republican Party may nominate Ron Paul in 2012?

Well, Salon just published an article about an up-and-coming GOPer who is out to seize the Ron Paul mantle:

I think Johnson has an excellent chance of doing it. Despite his pro-choice, pro-gay marriage stances - all of which are guaranteed to alienate the party's Christian Right base - Johnson is so beloved by libertarians within that organization that he seems like the natural heir to Paulism. He has all of Ron Paul's assets (obvious intelligence, ideological purity, stalwart conviction)without any of the disadvantages (advanced age, history of questionable racial remarks).

Just a thought.