On a recent trip to Mexico I noticed that the sea life has been absolutely decimated since the last time I had been there. Nobody knows what they’ve lost.
Evanston, Illinois launched the first reparations program for Black residents with a $10 million housing and mortgage program. Considering the horrors and legacy of slavery, ultimately nothing short of handing over the whole country will suffice—and that still wouldn’t be enough. Next in line are America’s countless other victims…
Illegal immigrants, President Trump claims, are pouring over the border from Mexico into the United States. That’s not true now; notwithstanding the ballyhooed caravan of Central American migrants who recently arrived at a California crossing, illegal crossings are hitting historic lows. There’s actually a net outflow. But it was true until the early 2000s — which is when the left was calling for a border wall.
“Legal immigration should become safe, legal and commonplace,” I wrote in 2005 in response to George W. Bush’s call for a guest worker program for illegals. I opposed Bush’s plan because it would hurt American wages and job prospects. “At the same time, no nation worthy of the name can tolerate porous borders. We can and must seal our borders to prevent economic migrants, terrorists and others with unknown motives from entering the United States.”
It seems strange to recall, but support for stronger border controls was a common thread among both the populists of the America-First Pat Buchanan right and the labor-protectionist left that backed Bernie Sanders. Now the right, led by Mr. Trump, monopolizes the cause of economic nationalism — but recent history shows that there’s a even stronger, non-xenophobic for protectionism on the left. The problem is, Trump and Congressional Republicans haven’t been willing to make concessions to get The Wall (or a cheaper high-tech alternative to bricks, mortar and corrugated fencing with negative environmental impacts).
For their part, Dems have adopted a policy stance that thoughtful leftists recognize as nonsensical and ideologically incoherent.
First, mainline Democrats have been arguing, we should look the other way as foreigners enter the country unchecked because we need undocumented workers to take low-wage occupations — picking fruit, plucking chickens, making our hotel beds — that Americans don’t want. But that’s not only is not true, it cannot be true. Without undocumented workers, employers would be forced to offer higher wages for those tasks they couldn’t automate. Inflationary risks and agriculture sector disruption notwithstanding, raising wages for unskilled labor would create upward pressure on wages up the salary chain. Simple supply and demand. The removal of 11 million consumers, however, would depress spending on goods and services as well as sales tax collections.
The other pillar of Democratic immigration policy is so absurd that the party rightly refuses to articulate it: that border controls are inherently racist and xenophobic. No other country thinks so. You can’t sneak into Uruguay or Tanzania or the Seychelles without a visa (much less look for work) and hope for anything other than arrest and deportation. Controlling the flow of human beings into one’s country isn’t bigotry. It’s one of the fundamental characteristics of a modern nation state. One could sooner do without minting one’s own currency or issuing postage stamps.
Yet the status quo, a tacit open door at various crossing points, is all Democrats have to offer: more of the same lunacy.
The only reason the Democrats get away with their sophistry is that Trump’s comments about illegal immigrants during the campaign (Mexican rapists, etc.) were so vicious and toxic. On immigration, he out-crazied the Democrats. In power, the Trump Administration’s aggressive enforcement of immigration laws has come across as gratuitously cruel.
Trump’s ban against visits to the U.S. by citizens of six Muslim nations said to be associated with terrorism was launched so haphazardly that families with visas and/or official refugee status were turned away at JFK airport after boarding planes in their home countries with legitimate documents. Refugees from Syria, where a civil war rages in part because one side was funded and armed by the U.S., have almost all been refused entry although most Syrians fleeing the war zone are doing so precisely because they are enemies of ISIS and other radical Islamist groups out to attack American interests.
News reports have showcased sobbing families watching relatives who came here illegally from Latin America but have lived exemplary, law-abiding (except for their immigration status) lives as entrepreneurs and parents, being sent to countries like Honduras where they fear for their lives. Trump threw the “Dreamers” — kids without criminal records who came to the U.S. essentially as luggage, with their parents — under the bus. Americans support borders, but not these kinds of deportations — and thus not this Wall.
You may have been born here. But there’s a good chance that someone in your family tree arrived at Ellis Island or somewhere else without their paperwork in perfect order.
Like any other country, the United States ought to vet everyone who seeks to enter its territory. We need less illegal immigration and more legal immigration. As we reduce unauthorized land crossings and overstayed visas, we ought to increase opportunities for foreigners to apply for legal visas with a clear path to a green card and citizenship. Unlike undocumented workers preyed upon by rapacious employers because they live in the shadows, legal immigrants can insist upon fair legal wages. Admitting them puts less downward pressure on wages.
We need a realistic approach to the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants currently here. So what if we wind up “rewarding” people who technically broke the law? We left the border open, we hired them, we chose not to enforce our own laws. This is what happens when a rich country leaves open its border with a poor one. Those who committed serious felonies (far fewer than three percent) should be carefully evaluated to see if they are likely to reoffend after serving their prison sentences; those determined not to have been rehabilitated should be deported to their countries of origin.
The others should receive amnesty. Most of the beneficiaries of Ronald Reagan’s 1986 mass amnesty worked out fine.
Immigration hardliners worry that each amnesty is a precedent for the next one, but that will only be true this time if we again fail to secure the border.
If Republicans keep the House next year, Trump will get his wall — or groundbreaking on one before a future Democratic regime halts construction. With that outcome less than certain (to say the least), Trump could secure the assent of the progressive populist base of the Democratic Party if he were to throw in legalization of the straight-and-narrow illegal immigrants who are already here along with an end to his Muslim ban.
Republicans could point to a promise kept on border protection. Democrats could throw a bone to a restive base on economic nationalism without climbing in bed with Trumpian xenophobia.
A win-win. Almost like Washington in the old days.
(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the editorial cartoonist and columnist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
“If Donald wins the general election, who the heck knows what he’d do as president?” —Ted Cruz
March 15, 2017 — In the most devastating attack on American soil, a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile carrying at least two nuclear warheads struck downtown Seattle just after 8 am, killing tens of thousands of residents at the height of the morning commute. “There’s nothing left…the city is just gone,” a spokesperson for the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced after hours of silence from the nation’s capital, which went on lockdown after the explosion. There has been no word from President Trump, who has presumably been taken to a safe location.
“The imperialist forces should now understand that Seattle is but the beginning, and the whole of the United States might turn into a sea of fire due to the foolhardy insults of the American tyrant,” Pyongyang announced in a statement released through its official Korean Central News Agency.
January 20, 2017 — Derided as a carnival barker who can read a crowd but never reads a book, President Donald Trump defied the pundits at an inauguration ceremony observers from across the American political spectrum called artful, unifying and universally inspiring.
Taking the microphone on a chilly but beautiful Washington morning before a crowd of several hundred thousand spectators — all of whom were treated to a People’s Breakfast on the Washington Mall beforehand — Trump focused on bringing the nation together after last year’s brutal four-way race between him, Democrat Hillary Clinton and independents Bernie Sanders and Paul Ryan.
“We may disagree about how to make America great again,” he said, an open smile across his face, “but we all want to make her great — and we love her. Toward that end,” he said, citing presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, “Mine will be a team of rivals — a team of smart, talented, diverse people. And I will listen to them!” he said, drawing applause as he pointed to Vice President Clinton and new economic czars Sanders and Paul Krugman.
Referencing one of his key campaign promises, he pledged to “begin building the wall” along the border with Mexico, but allowed that “there’s no way we can or should ask Mexico to pay for it.” At the same time, Trump said, “I’ve been listening to my excellent brain and my conscience, both of which say the same thing: if you haven’t committed a serious crime, you’re welcome to stay here — in your new home — and citizenship is yours if you want it.”
December 24, 2016 — During her primary battle against Bernie Sanders, President-Elect Hillary Clinton co-opted many of Sanders’ campaign promises to alleviate poverty and income inequality, and to go after Wall Street. Analysts say tacking left helped her seal the deal with the progressive base of the Democratic party.
Today, however, the Clinton transition office released a list of her cabinet picks — which read like business as usual. “It’s as though the Bernie surge never happened,” approvingly editorialized The New York Times, which endorsed Clinton.
Clinton’s choices are drawn from familiar center-right figures who served in the Obama and Bill Clinton administrations. Private equity executive Timothy Geithner is returning to his former post as secretary of the treasury. Clinton plans to nominate controversial Harvard economist Lawrence Summers to replace Janet Yellen as the head of the Federal Reserve Bank. In a move sure to dispirit liberals, she plans to nominate Republicans like Senator Orrin Hatch — “best friend I ever had in the senate” — as secretary of state and, most controversially, nonagenarian Henry Kissinger as national security adviser and to a new position, Director of Unmanned Aerial Defense — running the nation’s drone program, which Clinton announced last week she plans to expand.
With all the major posts filled, liberal supporters are pushing for ex-Obamaite Van Jones to get a spot like deputy undersecretary of agriculture.
January 21, 2017 — As expected, newly inaugurated President Bernie Sanders threw down the gauntlet, telling a joint session of the Republican-dominated Congress, “Enough is enough. The American people elected me to carry out a political revolution and now, goddammit, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
Decrying Republican intransigence — “the politics of saying no for its own sake, and for the sake of the top 1%” — Sanders warned congressmen and senators that they would pay a heavy price if they refuse to pass three pieces of legislation within the next 10 days: a $15 minimum wage, free public college tuition and Medicare for all.
“You can do this the easy way, and respect the mandate represented by my victory,” he said, “or you can make tens of millions of Americans come here to Washington, surround your offices and your homes, and refuse to leave until you do the right thing.”
Senate Majority Mitch McConnell struck a defiant tone following Sanders’ speech, calling it “blackmail” and “using democracy as a cudgel.” But GOP insiders say Sanders is likely to get much of what he wants.
“He ran on this income inequality stuff,” said a top-ranking party official who requested anonymity. “He’s been talking about it for decades. No one can claim there’s a bait and switch, or that they didn’t know exactly what he’d do if elected. How can we justify blocking the people’s will when it’s this clear?”
(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “Bernie” is now on sale online and at all good bookstores.)
SYNDICATED COLUMN: Those Kids Crossing the Border from Mexico Wouldn’t Be There if Obama Hadn’t Supported a Coup the Media Doesn’t Talk About
If you’re reading this, you probably follow the news. So you’ve probably heard of the latest iteration of the “crisis at the border”: tens of thousands of children, many of them unaccompanied by an adult, crossing the desert from Mexico into the United States, where they surrender to the Border Patrol in hope of being allowed to remain here permanently. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s detention and hearing system has been overwhelmed by the surge of children and, in some cases, their parents. The Obama Administration has asked Congress to approve new funding to speed up processing and deportations of these illegal immigrants.
Even if you’ve followed this story closely, you probably haven’t heard the depressing backstory — the reason so many Central Americans are sending their children on a dangerous thousand-mile journey up the spine of Mexico, where they ride atop freight trains, endure shakedowns by corrupt police and face rapists, bandits and other predators. (For a sense of what it’s like, check out the excellent 2009 film “Sin Nombre.”)
NPR and other mainstream news outlets are parroting the White House, which blames unscrupulous “coyotes” (human smugglers) for “lying to parents, telling them that if they put their kids in the hands of traffickers and get to the United States that they will be able to stay.” True: the coyotes are saying that in order to gin up business. Also true: U.S. law has changed, and many of these kids have a strong legal case for asylum. Unfortunately, U.S. officials are ignoring the law.
The sad truth is that this “crisis at the border” is yet another example of “blowback.”
Blowback is an unintended negative consequence of U.S. political, military and/or economic intervention overseas — when something we did in the past comes back to bite us in the ass. 9/11 is the classic example; arming and funding radical Islamists in the Middle East and South Asia who were less grateful for our help than angry at the U.S.’ simultaneous backing for oppressive governments (The House of Saud, Saddam, Assad, etc.) in the region.
More recent cases include U.S. support for Islamist insurgents in Libya and Syria, which destabilized both countries and led to the murders of U.S. consular officials in Benghazi, and the rise of ISIS, the guerilla army that imperils the U.S.-backed Maliki regime in Baghdad, respectively.
Confusing the issue for casual American news consumers is that the current border crisis doesn’t involve the usual Mexicans traveling north in search of work. Instead, we’re talking about people from Central American nations devastated by a century of American colonialism and imperialism, much of that intervention surprisingly recent. Central American refugees are merely transiting through Mexico.
“The unaccompanied children crossing the border into the United States are leaving behind mainly three Central American countries, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. The first two are among the world’s most violent and all three have deep poverty, according to a Pew Research report based on Department of Homeland Security (DHS) information,” reports NBC News. “El Salvador ranked second in terms of homicides in Latin America in 2011, and it is still high on the list. Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are among the poorest nations in Latin America. Thirty percent of Hondurans, 17 percent of Salvadorans and 26 percent of Guatemalans live on less than $2 a day.”
The fact that Honduras is the biggest source of the exodus jumped out at me. That’s because, in 2009, the United States government — under President Obama — tacitly supported a military coup that overthrew the democratically elected president of Honduras. “Washington has a very close relationship with the Honduran military, which goes back decades,” The Guardian noted at the time. “During the 1980s, the US used bases in Honduras to train and arm the Contras, Nicaraguan paramilitaries who became known for their atrocities in their war against the Sandinista government in neighbouring Nicaragua.”
Honduras wasn’t paradise under President Manuel Zelaya. Since the coup, however, the country has entered a downward death spiral of drug-related bloodshed and political revenge killings that crashed the economy, brought an end to law, order and civil society, and now has some analysts calling it a “failed state” along the lines of Somalia and Afghanistan during the 1990s.
“Zelaya’s overthrow created a vacuum in security in which military and police were now focused more on political protest, and also led to a freeze in international aid that markedly worsened socio-economic conditions,” Mark Ungar, professor of political science at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York, told The International Business Times. “The 2009 coup, asserts [Tulane] professor Aaron Schneider, gave the Honduran military more political and economic leverage, at the same time as the state and political elites lost their legitimacy, resources and the capacity to govern large parts of the country.”
El Salvador and Guatemala, also narcostates devastated by decades of U.S. support for oppressive, corrupt right-wing dictatorships, are suffering similar conditions.
Talk about brass! The United States does it everything it can to screw up Central America — and then acts surprised when desperate people show up at its front gate trying to escape the (U.S.-caused) carnage. Letting the kids stay — along with their families — is less than the least we could do.
(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan,” out Sept. 2. Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)
COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM
“By early next year,” reports The Times’ Ben Welsh and Robert J. Lopez, the [Los Angeles Fire Department] expects its dispatchers to be using new, streamlined scripted questions that will help get LAFD ambulances en route seconds — even minutes — faster during cases of cardiac arrest and other time-critical emergencies.”
I won’t be so churlish as to greet this decidedly positive news with a question: Isn’t it a bit odd to announce that “time-critical emergencies” occurring between now and “early next year” will be treated like they’re not, well, time-critical?
If you could just hold off on your next heart attack until, say, April 2015, that’d be awesome.
More from the report: “The changes follow a barrage of criticism of the department’s 911 response system, including what experts say are sometimes lengthy and confusing pre-written questions that panicked callers must answer before dispatchers can get help on the way.”
If you’ve ever had to call 911, you’re nodding your head right now. The old/current/won’t change until 2015 system has long deployed a “what’s the rush” that belies the whole idea behind 911.
In the movies, emergency response is high-tech and manically efficient.
911 Operator: “911.”
Caller: “Oh my God — someone’s in the house! [Line goes dead.]
911 Operator to Police Dispatcher: “A woman is in trouble. Address: 422 Patterson, Unit 302.”
Dispatch: “Units due to arrive in 20 seconds. SWAT backup team on the way. Probably drones. Maybe Mel Gibson.”
911 Operator to Dispatcher: “For God sake, hurry — a woman may be in trouble, and she may be a hot starlet!”
When I call 911 in real life, the response is…efficient? Not so much .
911 Operator: “911.”
Me: “I just saw a car lose control on the 405 and flip over.”
911 Operator: “What’s your name?”
Me (thinking): “What difference does that make?”
911 Operator: “What is your phone number?”
Me (thinking): “Can’t you ask the NSA? I mean, aren’t you supposed to know that? Or do you guys not have caller ID? And also, shouldn’t you first be asking me where the accident is?”
911 Operator: “Are there any injuries?”
Me (thinking): “Do you seriously think I’d be talking to you on the phone — i.e., not helping — if I’d pulled over to help?”
911 Operator (not thinking): OK, we’re sending someone out.
Me: Shouldn’t you have done that, like, three minutes ago?
So yeah, good on the LAFD for this change. The new 911 will save lives. Next year.
But who knows? We might miss the chit-chat.
I draw cartoons for The Los Angeles Times about issues related to California and the Southland (metro Los Angeles).
This week: Gov. Jerry Brown’s new budget projects paying off $28 billion in state debt. But the debt actually totals hundreds of billions of dollars. Possible solutions to paying off the whole thing? Maybe we could start by nationalizing Apple Computer.