Arizona, my state, the nation’s shame

Obviously I haven’t been in a blogging mood lately. I just got back from China last weekend, and wondered for the next two days why the jet lag coming back from Asia is so much worse than going there. And I came home to my bigoted, small-minded, ignorant state of Arizona and reading the newspaper I simply felt too numb to blog.

I am forcing myself now to write so this site doesn’t atrophy. But that doesn’t mean I’m not passionate about this subject. I am.

In case you haven’t heard, the state I moved to 20 years ago has, in a single week, voted to institutionalize racism, to legitimize the literally deranged “birther” movement, and to permit citizens to carry concealed guns without a permit.

As I was packing to move here way back when I was still a news reporter, I remember the controversy raging over our then-governor Evan Mecham, who refused to recognize Martin Luther King Day, resulting in a massive boycott and companies around the country canceling their conventions in Arizona. Money talks, of course, and Mecham was soon impeached and tossed out of office.

And here we are all over again.

No matter what they tell you, this law discriminates against Latinos, and the argument that if you have nothing to hide you shouldn’t worry simply won’t wash. If you are Latino, the odds are now far, far higher that you, and not your white counterpart, will be stopped and asked for your papers, Gestapo-style.

The law is not only racist, it is irrational. No one understands it, and yet 70 percent of the cretins citizens of my state are embracing the bill as necessary.

After signing the new law requiring police to check out people who may be illegal immigrants, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer was asked how the cops are supposed to know when someone should be screened. “I don’t know,” she replied. “I do not know what an illegal immigrant looks like.”

No kidding. But she has a lot of company in her ignorance. When I called University of Arizona law professor Marc Miller and told him I wasn’t sure what some of the law’s provisions mean, he replied, “Neither is anyone else on the planet.” We will find out what it means after it takes effect, not before.

The law says cops must inquire anytime “reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States.” Since most of the state’s illegal immigrants are Latinos, the natural impulse of police may be to interrogate every Latino with whom they cross paths.

All over the Interwebs and local talk radio we’re hearing how 70 percent of Arizonans are in favor of the bill, as are 51 percent of Americans overall. But since when do numbers like that mean a bill is right or constitutional? Ask the people who will have to enforce it what they think.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik knows his protests could get him taken to court, but he says he won’t enforce Arizona’s new law criminalizing illegal immigration anyway.

This week, Dupnik, the top law enforcement official in one of the state’s largest counties, called the state’s tough new law “racist,” “disgusting” and “unnecessary.” He said it would force police officers to use racial profiling, which is illegal in Arizona.

This is going to become a nightmare for our police, who can be sued if, in the eye of the citizens, they fail to enforce the law. And because it’s so hopelessly murky, the cops will, understandably, err on the side of caution by demanding proof of citizenship with anyone who might be suspicious, i.e., anyone with darker skin or a Hispanic name. And it will waste vast amounts of time, diverting the police from handling actual crimes.

I know – we need to do something about immigration. I know – an Arizona rancher was murdered last year, possibly by an illegal immigrant. I know – the drug war in Mexico is spilling over into Arizona’s borders and leading to crime over here. But none of those things makes this bill redeemable. If we want to really address the problem at its roots, we should first legalize the drugs and liquidate the incentive to commit drug-related crimes. That would be a helpful start, and then we can move on to how best to secure the border.

So no, I don’t have the perfect answer. But this bill means nothing but trouble, and everyone here in Arizona knows our governor signed it because her party has become so radicalized she would stand no chance of winning the next election without sucking up to the base. (Ironically, she has no chance of winning anyway, but that’s another story.)

Arizona, you brought this on yourself. Now every baseball and football team and conventioneer and tourist will have to stop and consider whether it’s worth it to come here. Let Arizona feel for itself what it hath wrought. Maybe, just maybe that pressure will force it to look in the mirror and do the right thing: scrap this bill for one that makes sense and will actually provide a solution without licensing racism.

Update: I should have put in a word or two about the freak who is behind this bill, one Russell Pearce. Just a bit of background:

In October 2006, Russell Pearce forwarded an email from National Alliance, a white separatist group, to a group of supporters. The email titled “Who Rules America” [6] criticized black and white intermixing and Jews in the media for promoting multiculturalism and racial equality, for depicting “any racially conscious White Person” as a bigot, and for presenting the Holocaust as fact. He quickly apologized. The article reports, “He does not agree with the sentiments in the article, but that the title and the first paragraphs about media bias appealed to him. He said the article had been forwarded to him by someone else and he would not have sent it if he had read it in its entirety.”[7] He stated in one of his apologies, “Ugly the words contained in it really are. They are not mine and I disavow them completely. Worse still, the website links to a group whose politics are the ugliest imaginable.”

In April 2008, Pearce sponsored a measure, Senate Bill 1108, that would prohibit students of Arizona universities and community colleges from forming groups based in whole or part on the race of their membership. Pearce said he didn’t want students indoctrinated with seditious or anti-American teachings. The bill would ban groups that serve minority interests such as the Mexican American study program and the Black Business Students Association.

There are a lot of kooks here in Arizona. The Tea Party movement resonates with them, and they love our criminal sheriff Joe Arpaio because of his bulldog, tough-on-crime image, ignoring the fact that he is a corrupt extortionist who opens investigations into anyone who criticizes him. (How sweet to see the feds finally investigating Arpaio, who will hopefully end up in the cold cell in which he belongs). To the wingers, he’s a saint. They love the idea of raw masculine power without boundaries. They love the immigration bill, which dresses up their bigotry and rage and makes it seem respectable. What am I doing here?

______________

Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 76 Comments

I know – an Arizona rancher was murdered last year, possibly by an illegal immigrant. I know – the drug war in Mexico is spilling over into Arizona’s borders and leading to crime over here.

To be fair a lot of these ranchers are the ones hiring illegal Mexicans in the first place. And the drug war is in large part fueled by demand in other nations on the continent.

This along with Prop 8 are reasons why a “pure democracy” is not necessarily good for a nation or human rights.

April 30, 2010 @ 8:05 am | Comment

Merp, I’ve always said democracy is terribly imperfect and not for everyone, and almost certainly not for developing countries that lack a high enough education and income level to see that they’re run properly. And even in America, where we have those things, it can go terribly wrong. Only problem is that for all its imperfections it’s still the best alternative.

April 30, 2010 @ 8:22 am | Comment

which part of it though? the part where people decide on stuff totally irrelevant to their lives (like someone else’s marriage) through a vote? you can have rule of law in non-democracies as well.

April 30, 2010 @ 8:29 am | Comment

You’re a Zona kid too? There seem to be a lot of us out here in the Middle Kingdom.

I agree with everything you say, but I wanted to share with you a post from The Awl with which I heavily identified: http://ow.ly/1Eyk8 The statistic in that article about AZ being the ‘stupidest’ state is… sad.

April 30, 2010 @ 8:30 am | Comment

Mark, that is quite an article. Thanks for sharing it, and for making me even more depressed about where I live.

Merpy, what I hate about the current state of democracy is the cynical use of wedge issues to keep people at each others’ throats and to influence them to vote against their better interests. That is my main complaint, but it’s a huge one. By using idiotic wedge issues – Obama’s birth certificate, abortion, dark people slipping over the border to destroy America’s soul from the inside out, global warming as a socialist fraud, etc. – the GOP has ground America’s legislative process to a halt, and turned our lives onto an ongoing battle that deflects our attention to the true problems and the outrageous crimes like the banksters’ plundering of the nation’s wealth.

What I like about it is the freedom of speech (and I know where you stand on that one, but trust me, having lived in China – where this site is blocked – and the US, I know we have much more of it than they do), rule of law, the ability to impeach our leaders and call them to account, if only by voting them out of office, etc. I know, it’s fucked up and it’s terrible, but compared to most other systems it works fairly well.

April 30, 2010 @ 8:41 am | Comment

Freedom of speech and rule of law are separate from democracy, unless I’m just hinging on semantics.

You have to realize that the GOP was a product 2,000 years in the making. It’s the inevitable end game of a political system that draws upon the common idiot and popular sentiment for important long-term decisions.

April 30, 2010 @ 8:59 am | Comment

I mean think about it. In most given populations at least 50% of the voters will be morons at best. Obviously, in every society you will also have a minority of selfish, money grubbing douchebags.

How else will well-leveraged banksters and theocrats win any elections? I don’t think the GOP would do well if they actually advertised what they were really selling, which is basically going back to the stone age and enriching a few elites at everyone else’s expense.

So of course they will have to pander to Christian fundamentalists and other subhumans.

April 30, 2010 @ 9:03 am | Comment

Richard,
The point is that it is their right to do so, and since the Federal government is imposing more and more rules on the States, it is a natural reaction for the states to have an increasingly defiant agenda.

Other than this, I do not think it is wise to bundle these three issues together, as each of them stems from different concerns and has a different purpose in mind:

1. The “Truther Bill” is a clear response to the President’s aggressive imposition of his will on the states. It is an unsavory, yet legitimate, means for the state to remind the president that they still have some rights and can exercise them at will.

2. The Concealed Weapons Permit is not without precedent, and is, to the best of my knowledge, in accordance with constitution of the US of A.

3. The “immigration” bill seems to be the most problematic, but so far the discussion of its purpose has been mired by populism and hidden (or irrelevant) agendas. Once you take the other two laws (above) out of the equation, you can start judging the immigration bill based on its merits. Once you do that, you can conclude that it is extreme, unpleasant, and possibly unnecessary. Still, to call it “racist” charges the debate with unnecessary prejudice and makes it difficult to have a proper discussion. After all, is there any immigration law that cannot be called “racist”?

The bottom line, Richard, is that you should run for State Senate and shape the future of your fellow Arizonians. We’ll support you. Just don’t forget to bring your birth certificate.

April 30, 2010 @ 9:54 am | Comment

And by the way: “the cynical use of wedge issues to keep people at each others’ throats and to influence them to vote against their better interests”

Is that not the definition of Obama’s political style?
Calling people who have legitimate criticism of ones agenda “racists” is the ultimate form of wedge politics in the US. Lighter form include bashing vaguely defined enemies such as “big business”, or Obama’s favorite enemy – “They”, as in “They said we cannot do this and that…. they said America is not ready for…. They said Americans don’t deserve….”.

April 30, 2010 @ 10:01 am | Comment

Before we get too deep into the death of democracy, this is about 1 state in a union of 50, in one democratic country out of….gosh, how many others?

April 30, 2010 @ 10:13 am | Comment

Dror, you are obsessed with Obama, just admit it. Obama is your typical moderate, centrist American politician who has created a swarm of hysteria and outrage, mainly because he’s black. His HCR bill was as radical as Mitt Romney’s, and his TARP bill was as radical as Bush’s bailout. This reaction, this bizarre flurry of accusations against Obama as though he were not just a continuation of American politics as usual, is as irrational as the immigration bill. And if you don’t see the inherent racism of the bill, which my state’s own police officers openly call racist, then there’s nothing I can do. Considering where you are from, Dror, I would expect you more than anyone to see the ugliness of a “where are your papers” mentality, and I would expect you to recoil from it. I certainly do. Be sure to read my “Update” re. the man behind this bill. Sound familiar?

Finally, did you know that radical Obama-loving leftist Jeb Bush has condemned the bill? Please, Dror, don’t try to defend something that rational people should know is bad.

Mike, true enough – but at least seven other states say they are planning to use the Arizona law as a model for their own upcoming laws. Stay tuned.

April 30, 2010 @ 11:00 am | Comment

So what? It’s their state and they can do pretty much whatever they want to do.

And if America can stop minding other countries’ business, I don’t mind if it becomes racist or facist – it is Americans’ choice.

April 30, 2010 @ 11:27 am | Comment

Richard,
I did not “defend” or support the bill, I suggest you revisit my comment above. All I said was that the debate over it is mired with various irelevant issues (such as Obama’s race!) and your response proves my point.

But you did not stop there. You went further to imply that standard police procedures in Arizona are comparable to the persecution of Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe. Apart from being wrong and irrelevant, don’t you think it’s just a little over the top?

And by the way “where I come from” all citizens must carry an ID card and it is normal for a police officer to ask you to show it to him if he suspects you are somewhere you shouldn’t be.

My issue is not with the bill, but with the quality of debate. If you think the bill is illegitimate, explain why. I assume you have something more substantial that “racist” to say about this bill and I’ll be happy to hear it.

As for Obama – you have to admit that he is the most cynical president in living memory (and probably ever). You may admire him for it, but you cannot deny it.

April 30, 2010 @ 11:35 am | Comment

Dror, Arizona is not Nazi Germany. But the “show me your papers” aspect of this legislation raises inevitable comparisons that I would expect you of all people to be wary of, or at least sensitive to. I certainly am. I did not, however, make any allusion to the occupation of Eastern Europe. The “where are your papers” line was implemented by the Gestapo in Germany proper not long after Hitler’s ascension to the chancellorship. I believe I explained why I feel the bill is illegitimate – because it is impossible to enforce or define. Even our police say so. Even Jeb Bush and some of the Tea Party leadership say so! It’s not that hard to see, especially for people who have an acute awareness of the dangers of lumping people into racial categories.

Obama is not my favorite president and I have lots of complaints against him. But for cynicism, no one even comes close to McCain or Palin or Cheney or Gingrich. All members of the landed gentry, the obscenely rich and privileged, and going out of their way to aign themselves with the grassroots, anti-big-government “Tea Party.” What has Obama done in terms of cynicism that comes close to this hilarious hypocrisy? But we’ll never see eye to eye on this, so let’s just agree to disagree.

Oiasunset, good to see you back. What would this site be without its resident right-wing haters?

April 30, 2010 @ 11:47 am | Comment

@merp
In most given populations at least 50% of the voters will be morons at best.

Does merp/ferin count himself as one of those 50%?

April 30, 2010 @ 11:55 am | Comment

Richard,
Sorry – but the image of a police officer asking someone to see his ID does not bring back any traumatic memories. It seems like a natural thing for a police officer to do. I am even more sorry that you do not feel the same way. In any case, the point is not whether or not there is any actual similarity, but the fact that all you can say in opposition to a bill in Arizona is that it reminds you of the Gestapo. Why not talk about substance?

As for Obama: It’s a shame you cannot see him for what he is – a cynical politician that squeezes the most out of every possible wedge issue and in turn polarizes American society. I am sure you will see it more clearly one day. Since “cynicism” is a subjective matter, I will let that one slide. But to say that Obama is a “centrist”? Are you serious? Is that not the same Obama that rammed through the most radical social legislation since the Great Depression just a couple of months ago?

April 30, 2010 @ 11:59 am | Comment

Dror, let me ask you a simple question: What exactly has Obama done that is radical, that is not centrist, that has not already been done by Republicans, such as the Romneyesque HCR and the Bushesque TARP? A simple question: what has Obama done that is cynical and non-centrist? (And that is my main complaint with him, that he has not lived up to his progressive promises.)

Sorry – but the image of a police officer asking someone to see his ID does not bring back any traumatic memories. It seems like a natural thing for a police officer to do.

Totally wrong. That is what a “police state” is all about. In America it is without legal precedent. I think you are bending your own principles to excuse a piece of foul legislation that is supported by the Ron Paul crowd you associate yourself with. Stop it, Dror, that isn’t you. You’re above that.

April 30, 2010 @ 12:07 pm | Comment

Wow! This keeps getting better and better. You are saying that the Healthcare Bill is centrist. Remind me again, how many non-Democrat senators and congressman voted for it?

As for “Police State”: In many democratic countries – Japan, Korea, Israel, France, Italy, Netherlands, Spain – it is standard for a police officer to ask for an ID if he suspect anything. And foreigners (i.e. – non-citizens) are required to carry their passport on them at all time in most countries around the world.

In New York, for example, one must show his ID when entering all major public and private buildings. Does that make NYPD the reincarnation of the Gestapo?

I hope you realize by now how over the top the comparison you made is.

As for substance, I see you are trying hard to avoid it, but let me give you some anyway: Do you realize that Arizona’s border with Mexico is open? Do you realize that it is the Federal Government’s responsibility to close it, but that so far, it has not done so? Would you say that this puts the rest of this discussion into perspective?

As for comment about the “Ron Paul Crowd” – I am not sure what that means, but, again, I am sorry to see you have nothing substantial to contribute to this discussion and all you can muster is tired name-calling and political slogans.

April 30, 2010 @ 12:24 pm | Comment

@Dror,

“It seems like a natural thing for a police officer to do.”

In bizarro world or China, yes. In America, no. This is what makes this law so disgusting and unconstitutional. The first thing I thought when I read about it was “this is what they do in China”. I thought it was a conservative position to limit the power of police from randomly asking for my private information, but apparantly not. For all of Obama’s socialist tendencies, they pale in comparison to the nazism of Arizona with this insane bill.

April 30, 2010 @ 12:26 pm | Comment

Dror, I’m not calling you names – you are a Ron Paul supporter, no? That’s a good way to dodge the actual topic: I asked you to back up your claims about Obama, and all I hear are crickets chirping. Where are the things he has actually done that make you so aghast? How is he so different from his predecessors? Still waiting

Chip, thanks for the comment. I agree with you, up to the last sentence. And there I have to ask you, what has Obama actually done that is socialistic? Mitt Romney-style HCR that tosses another bone to big capitalistic American companies? (And despite that I feel it’s an important step in the right direction.) I mean, where is the socialism? What has he done that’s more socialistic than Medicare or Social Security? Aside from that, I’m with you all the way.

April 30, 2010 @ 12:31 pm | Comment

@Chip: I agree with you that citizens should not be required to carry their ID and the police should be limited. However, Arizona has unique challenges – an open border with Mexico – that require a unique solution. I do not necessarily agree with the current solution, and I would be happy to discuss better alternatives with you.

Most importantly, is the latest bill comparable to gestapo policies? I think not. Is it without precedent in the democratic world? Definitely not. If anything, the fact that police officers in Arizona did not have these right until now is the amazing thing in this story. And there’s no need to demonize in China. If you are a non-citizen and do not carry your passport , you are much more at likely to get arrested in Boston, Sydney, or Tokyo than you are in China (believe me, I tried it).

April 30, 2010 @ 12:35 pm | Comment

Richard,
“I am not calling you names you are a Ron Paul supporter” – I see we are sliding towards the absurd. You are calling me names and claiming not to do so in the same sentence.

Still, I will answer you: I agree with Ron Paul’s views on fiscal and monetary matters. I cannot say that I support him, and I definitely did not vote for him or endorse him as my preferred candidate for anything.

As for Obama: did you not notice the example I gave you? The Healthcare Bill was passed without a single non-democrat voting in favor. Do you call that “centrist”? Seems more like the definition of partisanship.

April 30, 2010 @ 12:44 pm | Comment

“What has he done that more socialistic than Medicare or Social Security?”
—that’s one of the things that confused me about the GOP position. They were dead set against the public option, yet everyone who’s lucky enough to attain a certain age already gets a public option. If the principle of a public option is socialist and abhorrent to them, shouldn’t they have worked to repeal Medicare and Medicaid? And if it’s good enough for the old folks and the financially-disadvantaged, why is it categorically not good enough for working stiffs? On the flip side, why is socialism acceptable for the American elderly?
In Canada, all we have is the public option. We also live longer, and have a better quality of life while we’re living. Of course, that’s merely an association, and doesn’t prove that a public option is causally related to living longer and being happier while doing it.

April 30, 2010 @ 12:45 pm | Comment

@DP

“A national Hart-Teeter poll in 2004 showed only 16% of Americans favored having a national ID system. “

The “show your papers” idea is just (using words of the libertarian right wing lingo) so “Un-American”.

April 30, 2010 @ 12:48 pm | Comment

@DP

I agree with Ron Paul’s views on fiscal and monetary matters.

Are you sure you want to go back to the gold standard?

April 30, 2010 @ 12:50 pm | Comment

@SPZ: I agree that it is un-American, and I am generally against it. But there’s a difference between saying it is Un-American and saying it is Gestapo-like, especially when it is a standard procedure in most democratic countries.

The second question is the impetus behind this un-American legislation. If you do some research, you will see that the border between Arizona and Mexico – under the responsibility of Federal Government – is virtually open. No fence. No proper security. Might it be that this lack of action by the Federal Government leaves no choice to Arizona other than to take extreme measures?

Maybe the impetus behind the Arizona bill is “racism”, but at this point there seem to be many other, better justifications for it. Hence, the best way to resolve this matter would be to ask the Federal Government to protect the border properly. Once that is done, if Arizona still resorts to “Un-American” laws… the accusation of “racism” might carry more weight.

And as for the Gold Standard: Sound money does not necessarily mean the gold standard, but if the only options are that or what we have today then the answer is surely – yes, bring it back.

April 30, 2010 @ 12:58 pm | Comment

In Canada, all we have is the public option. We also live longer, and have a better quality of life while we’re living. Of course, that’s merely an association, and doesn’t prove that a public option is causally related to living longer and being happier while doing it.

To be fair Canada does not have the same demographics as America, but yeah Canada’s life expectancy is still a bit higher.

Though most of these excess deaths in America are related to traffic accidents, murder and fatness.

April 30, 2010 @ 1:01 pm | Comment

As for Obama: did you not notice the example I gave you? The Healthcare Bill was passed without a single non-democrat voting in favor. Do you call that “centrist”? Seems more like the definition of partisanship.

Yes, Dror the HCR bill vote was partisanship. When a bunch right winger politicians vote against a centre right, corporatist bill (If you believe that the HCR bill is leftist then you are a moron – yes, I’m calling you names. Boo hoo) then it is partisanship, but it’s not Obama’s partisanship.

April 30, 2010 @ 2:10 pm | Comment

As things get tougher economically and more people are dispossessed, these “kooks” and other radical are going to be have increasing sway in with the general populace. I hate to fulfill Godwin’s law this early but is anyone else disturbed by the parallels with 1920′s and 30′s Germany? Perceived decline in a state superpower, blame externalized to certain distinct ethnicities, rise of various fringe movements, internal political discord and mistrust, polarization of society, etc.

There really is an uncomfortable level of paranoia in America.

April 30, 2010 @ 2:45 pm | Comment

@Twisted: I did not call it right or left, and it is definitely a corporatist bill, which brings into a sharp relief the fact that the left/right divisions in US politics are illusionary, especially when it comes to big government / big business. The defining conflict of our times is the one between big government and big business and between small government and free markets.

Still, to call a bill that was supported solely by a single group “centrist” is a contradiction in terms, regardless of what name choose to call that group (left, right, socialist, fascist, etc.).

And I don’t mind people calling me names as long as they do not misrepresent my views. Thus, you can call me “idiot” but you cannot call me “right wing”.

April 30, 2010 @ 2:52 pm | Comment

@Justin: don’t feel sorry for fulfilling Godwin’s Law. Richard already called on the ghosts of Nazi Germany several posts above you.

April 30, 2010 @ 2:53 pm | Comment

Richard, you may be interested in my dkos diary on this topic, here—

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/4/29/861827/-Im-a-foreigner-here,-and-I-look-like-one-(but-my-boss-doesnt!)

—which has a China hook, too.

My question: why not go after the employers? I think the answers are telling.

Eric

April 30, 2010 @ 3:00 pm | Comment

@DP
The second question is the impetus behind this un-American legislation. If you do some research, you will see that the border between Arizona and Mexico – under the responsibility of Federal Government – is virtually open. No fence. No proper security. Might it be that this lack of action by the Federal Government leaves no choice to Arizona other than to take extreme measures?

Recall why the Pilgrim Fathers came to America. Are they strictly “legal” immigrants too?

Give me your tired, your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free;
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me-
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

I wonder whether the so-called “conservatives” still remember all these.
So you are right– what Arizona did is totally un-American and a betrayal of American values as a land of the free.

April 30, 2010 @ 3:37 pm | Comment

“He won’t enforce Arizona’s new law criminalizing illegal immigration anyway.”
Can someone please explain to me what the problem is? If something is ILLEGAL, how is it not already criminalised? If Canada all of a sudden found North Dakotans invading Manitoba, wouldn’t it want to secure its borders and maintain the integrity of its society? I don’t mean to sound stupid or, in PM Brown’s parlance, bigoted, but if you are in the US illegally then, ummm, you are acting in a criminal manner. So they should just be left where they are?
By the way, ANOTHER maniac today attacked school kids in China. With a hammer. Killed himself by setting himself on fire.

April 30, 2010 @ 3:39 pm | Comment

First? Obama’s Health care bill IS Mitt Romney’s bill. Now Romney has to pretend that it’s something else because he’s thinking of making a run for the White House and his “base” is batshit crazy. But Obama is about as centrist as they come. It makes me nuts that he gets called a socialist and whatnot because this makes it impossible to criticize him on legitimate issues.

I do agree that this “centrism” is basically corporatism.

I also think that the Arizona law is racist. There’s no way that it’s not. It’s asking police officers to look at someone and decide in an instant if he or she looks “illegal.” Now you tell me. Am I, Ms. green-eyed Euro-mutt likely to get stopped and asked to provide identification? Not so much. Who is going to get asked? By and large, Latinos. Who by the way are a HUGE percentage of Arizona’s population. Who as an ethnic group have lived in the southwest longer than Anglos.

The whole thing is disgusting.

Regarding immigration, well, first, Americans need to come to grips with the fact that not only do we share a border with Mexico, huge chunks of the US once were a part of Mexico, so there are cultural and family ties going back hundreds of years. Second, we need to honestly look at why so many Mexicans — because this is ALL about Mexicans, not other immigrant populations — come here illegally, in spite of the increasing difficulties in crossing the border. Mostly it is because of economics, and while much of the blame for Mexico’s sad state can be laid at the feet of a corrupt and uncaring political system, America’s economic policies (NAFTA) have played a role as well.

Plus, we have a corporatist system here in the States that is perfectly happy to have an undocumented and therefore exploitable workforce. It exerts downward pressure on the wages and working conditions of all Americans. It also helps keep prices down, particularly of food. Just like Walmart, low prices have a cost.

As for the drugs, I totally agree with Richard — legalize and decriminalize, end this whole idiotic drug war, and you will perhaps not destroy the Mexican cartels (they’ve diversified into all kinds of things) but you will weaken them and maybe cripple them.

The thing that I find most disturbing about this bill is that it proposes to JAIL people in violation of immigration law. They are already punished under the law as it is, by deportation. Now we are supposed to JAIL them? Good god. Our prisons are already severely overcrowded, and while the prison industrial complex might be thrilled to have yet more captives from whom they can profit, I shudder to think of how the additional strain on the system will further degrade prison conditions.

I’m just gonna lay it out there — illegal immigrants who have been here for X number of years have significant ties to the communities in which they live and contribute to those communities and to the economy. A lot of them have long-standing family ties here as well. Legalize them. Establish a green card program for temporary agricultural workers, because we need them. Legalize marijuana and decriminalize other drugs.

There. Problem solved.

April 30, 2010 @ 3:41 pm | Comment

@DP
regardless of what name choose to call that group (left, right, socialist, fascist, etc.).

That group is simply “obstructionist”. They rub their hands with glee as long as they can keep America as the only developed nation which no universal health care for its citizens and in the process damage their political opponents.

April 30, 2010 @ 3:42 pm | Comment

@SPZ: Poetry aside, it is still a FEDERAL law that people must have valid entry visas or be citizens in order to live and work in any of the states.

April 30, 2010 @ 3:44 pm | Comment

@DP

Sound money does not necessarily mean the gold standard, but if the only options are that or what we have today then the answer is surely – yes, bring it back.

Have you considered the grim prospects of the deflationary spiral with the gold standard? “Sound money”? Didn’t the world suffered before economically because of the so-called “soundness” of the Treasury view?

April 30, 2010 @ 3:47 pm | Comment

Yeah, it’s a FEDERAL law, so let the FEDERAL laws handle it.

April 30, 2010 @ 3:49 pm | Comment

Not interested in getting into the fray here but just wanted to let you know there’s another Arizonan who is ashamed to be living in AZ… :(

Not to mention the fact that some of our state leaders were asking for Obama’s birth certificate a week or two ago… :( This state is going to hell in a hand basket. I’ve lived here for 32 years and can’t wait to get to China to start my business.

April 30, 2010 @ 3:51 pm | Comment

@DP
The defining conflict of our times is the one between big government and big business and between small government and free markets.

Sorry DP, but i would have to say that this view of yours above is too simple, sometimes naive (courtesy of JZM). Small government and free markets are just utopian ideas, very much like Marx’s dreamy final stage of utopian communism. Markets are never “free”, for it almost always incline towards oligopolistic and monopolistic tendencies. Small government is also euphemistic. It just means making sure that the government is an ornamental one that does not deal with corporate excesses, no labour laws, no minimum wages, no legislation on working conditions, no pollution limiting laws etc so as to create a “free” market for narrow wealthy interest groups to do as they please.

April 30, 2010 @ 4:08 pm | Comment

@SPZ: Would be happy to to go through the justifications for sound money with you, including your misconception concerning its instability. Feel free to email me.

As for the “defining conflict of our times”: If you would like to hear my view on any specific issues, you can ask. Making strange assumptions on my behalf and arguing with yourself about them is not productive. It is a matter of fact that the larger the government is, the larger the corporations are, and the weaker the consumers are. Which of us is naive?

@Lisa: The Federal laws should handle it, but so far they failed to do so. Do you suggest border states do nothing until the Feds decide to built a fence? (keeping in mind that the Federal Government, whether Republican or Democrat, has a strong incentive not to do anything serious about it?)

April 30, 2010 @ 4:33 pm | Comment

And I don’t mind people calling me names as long as they do not misrepresent my views. Thus, you can call me “idiot” but you cannot call me “right wing”.

Ummm…..

Now, about misrepresenting views. Are you saying that because no Republican voted for the HCR bill then Obama or the bill is partisan?

April 30, 2010 @ 4:38 pm | Comment

Twisted: Can you see the logical problem with calling something that was done without any support of those on the other side of the fence “centrist”?

April 30, 2010 @ 4:42 pm | Comment

@DP
Would be happy to to go through the justifications for sound money with you, including your misconception concerning its instability. Feel free to email me.

Haha, i am fine and to talk about “misconception” in something like economics is sort of arrogant and snobbish. Why not just say which part of of it do you think is “misconceptions”? Even Hayek had the guts to debate with Keynes just that he didn’t win it.

Making strange assumptions on my behalf and arguing with yourself about them is not productive. It is a matter of fact that the larger the government is, the larger the corporations are, and the weaker the consumers are. Which of us is naive?

I don’t think i am making assumptions. What is your empirical evidence on “the larger the government is, the larger the corporations are”? You cut more taxes for the rich, the corporations gets bigger. Wait a minute, wasn’t legislation on consumer protection an unwanting feature of a big nanny state which interferes with the working of the “free” market?

When you call markets “free”, you are already more naive than any of us here, old sport.

April 30, 2010 @ 4:43 pm | Comment

Can you see the logical problem with calling something that was done without any support of those on the other side of the fence “centrist”?

Haha, does that matter? At the end of the day, it’s part of the GOP plan to score political brownie points with legislative obstructionism. They have been squeezed into such a minority group on Capitol Hill and obstructionism is the only thing they can fall back on to stay politically relevant.

April 30, 2010 @ 4:51 pm | Comment

@SPZ: Please enlighten me. You can start by answering the following questions:

A. Can you state the single most significant factor in sustaining corporate monopolies?

B. Can you state the single most significant factor in resisting the “creative destruction” of entrenched market leaders (whom you call “the rich”) and blocking their replacement by better, more efficient competitors?

C. Can you list America’s most regulated industries and then list America’s largest monopolies/cartels and see if you find any correlation between the two?

D. Finally, can you name one (one!) longstanding monopoly that was not (1) established by government, (2) mandated by government, or (3) otherwise protected from competition by government?

April 30, 2010 @ 4:56 pm | Comment

@DP

First of all, the phrase “single most significant” is problematic, (nothing is monocausal if you are in academics and it is very normative to say which is “single most signifcant”, by whose criteria and whose value-system is “significant”, yours? mine? And what do you mean by “significant”? ) but i will still answer them to satisfy your arrogance. So those answers below are my views.

A. I know your answer will be legislation. But mine is their possession of a huge market share. Once they capture the market, they can cut-throat and outbid any small competitors. You are stuck in Thatcherite thinking of the 1980s. Public monopolies just become private monopolies after deregulation and privatization. Just look at National Rails in the UK. It become a group of oligopolies of railway giants with one of the biggest being First Group after privatization.

B. The ability to engage in cut-throat competition to wipe out the new entrants.

C. Do you include Microsoft and Walmart?

D. Microsoft.

April 30, 2010 @ 5:09 pm | Comment

@DP

C. Can you list America’s most regulated industries and then list America’s largest monopolies/cartels and see if you find any correlation between the two?

Oh, and even if you can prove correlation, it does not mean causation.Hope you do know research methods 101.

April 30, 2010 @ 5:14 pm | Comment

@DP

I suggest you read some of the downsides of deregulation and privatization in other parts of the world:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Privatisation_of_British_Rail#Effects_of_privatisation

Link REIT controversy
http://finance.thestandard.com.hk/chi/comp_news_view.asp?code=2888&aid=85581

April 30, 2010 @ 5:25 pm | Comment

@SPZ: I cannot see any arrogance in my questions. I am giving you an opportunity to voice your opinion, I am listening, and I am not calling you any names or passing judgments in advance.

As for “the single most” – this is definitely a subjective assessment and I do not ask (or expect) you to accept it. Even if we agree on the facts, they importance we ascribe to them may vary.

As for your answers:

A & B. Sorry, but I did not ask for your theoretical answer. I asked whether you can state actual factors that influenced actual companies. Let me know.

C. Yes, including Microsoft and Walmart. And I am aware of the difference between correlation and causation. Can you answer the question?

D. Can you please state the business in which you claim MSFT is a monopoly, the amount of time for which it has been a monopoly in this business? (and in preparation for our next question, can you name other companies in the same business, their market cap, and current trends in that market)?

April 30, 2010 @ 5:27 pm | Comment

@DP

I have given my answers and certainly i am not obliged to answer it in a way which is satisfactory to you.

I did not ask for your theoretical answer.

I don’t see them as theoretical at all. period. Unless you are telling me that the privatization of British Rails and its consequences are theoretical, which is beyond anyone’s comprehension.

April 30, 2010 @ 5:36 pm | Comment

@DP

And talking about answers, when you claimed that i have “misconceptions” about your idea of “sound money”, you have not even spoken a word about what those “misconceptions” are?

April 30, 2010 @ 5:37 pm | Comment

@SPZ: I did not realize that “misconception” is an offensive word. You attributed various results to the gold standard which, upon closer study, can easily be attributed to other, specific factor. As I said, happy to clarify this with you on email if you are interested.

As for the rest of the discussion: didn’t expect you to give up so quickly, but at least you can contemplate these questions in your spare time. I am sure you will figure it out!

April 30, 2010 @ 5:42 pm | Comment

@DP
D. Can you please state the business in which you claim MSFT is a monopoly, the amount of time for which it has been a monopoly in this business? (and in preparation for our next question, can you name other companies in the same business, their market cap, and current trends in that market)

Read the whole case on United States v. Microsoft and then proceed to Microsoft v. Commission. Take your time to do your reading.

April 30, 2010 @ 5:46 pm | Comment

@DP
As for the rest of the discussion: didn’t expect you to give up so quickly, but at least you can contemplate these questions in your spare time. I am sure you will figure it out!

At the end of the day, what ever answers i give will not satisfy you. But hey, why don’t you enlighten my “misconception” of the gold standard first instead of the hassle of email?

April 30, 2010 @ 5:49 pm | Comment

@DP

AND why don’t you deal with my example of the privatization of the British Rails?

Wasn’t the British Rails a monopoly that was in your own words “established by government, (2) mandated by government, or (3) otherwise protected from competition by government?”

Open the privatization party! Let the “free”market reign. A mere transition of public to private monopolies that was masqueraded as “change”. Woo Hoo. All thanks to Maggie Thatcher. How about saying something about this?

April 30, 2010 @ 5:54 pm | Comment

@DP
“It is a matter of fact that the larger the government is, the larger the corporations are,”

And I am aware of the difference between correlation and causation.

A quick reversal of position and back-pedaling. Sort out your contradictions first, you must be a very confused person.

April 30, 2010 @ 6:08 pm | Comment

@SPZ: Not correct. I am happy to learn new things and was looking forward to hear what you have to say. In any case, we can continue this privately (I am serious). I can already see Ricahrd’s face when he wakes up and sees what a mess we left him . . .

April 30, 2010 @ 6:09 pm | Comment

@DP
I did not realize that “misconception” is an offensive word.

I didn’t say it is “offensive” (you use the word yourself). It does,imply, that one knows better than others. Which i will label as “arrogant” and “snobbish”.

April 30, 2010 @ 6:12 pm | Comment

“But to say that Obama is a “centrist”? Are you serious?” — Dror Poleg

Dror, you’re one living, breathing example of the truism that in the USA the centre of political gravity is far to the right of anywhere else in the world.

Obama’s politics (and those of the Democrat Party generally) are to the right of the centre-right parties of western Europe, and indeed anywhere. David Cameron, the leader of the British Conservative Party, and almost certainly the country’s next prime minister, is far more of a “dangerous radical” in his social and economic policies than Obama will ever be.

And the same could be said of Angela Merkel of Germany and Nicolas Sarkozy of France.

Gedt real, please.

April 30, 2010 @ 6:30 pm | Comment

Sojourner – sorry, but the centre is defined as the middle of the specific country in which a policy is executed. If we transfer the Democrats to Europe, we can discuss where their policies stand in relation to those of other parties there. In the US, as it happens, there are only two parties and a few independents and a policy that is only endorsed by members of a single party is, by definition, not centrist., regardless of why you think other people oppose it (ideology, obstructionism, etc).

April 30, 2010 @ 6:47 pm | Comment

@DP

a policy that is only endorsed by members of a single party is, by definition, not centrist

Another absurd reasoning. So if a majority Conservative government passes a tax reduction for the middle class in the House of Commons but none of the Labour and Liberal Democrats voted for it, then the tax reduction ceases to be “centrist”? Whether something is centrist or not is determined solely by the voting patterns of the parties in parliament, then i guess alot of political science textbooks would have to change the definition of “centrist” each time the voting pattern changes in Parliament.

April 30, 2010 @ 7:28 pm | Comment

The centre of this or that political landscape is determined by where where its boundaries lie. In the American case, we have two political parties. One of these parties enacted a law that that was supported solely by members of one party, and not even all of them. Note only did not single Republican vote for the bill, but 34 Democrats voted against it.

If you would like to call that “centrism”, I can’t stop you…

April 30, 2010 @ 7:44 pm | Comment

Clifford, thanks for your comment way up north, which got caught in the spam filter. Let me know when you plan to go to China to set up a business – do you need a partner? :-)

Dror, your arguments are really weak, and that isn’t name calling. You keep going back to HCR as the sole example of Obama’s “socialism,” ignoring the facts that it is business-friendly and a copy of Republican-approved legislation. You ignore the fact that it is less socialistic than Medicare. Like the Teabaggers, you seem to be taking a conspiracy-theory approach, seeing all kinds of demons that aren’t there.

The Nazi analogy is not mine – it is all over the US media. Don’t believe me? Take a look! Now, that may not make the comparison true, and I don’t equate the Arizona government with Nazis. But the “show me your papers” does echo the Gestapo script and comparisons there are legitimate.

As usual, Lisa applied logic, common sense, humanity and knowledge to put the whole thing in perspective. The reason the GOP refuses to cooperate and get a federal immigration law passed is that it would be bad for business. And then they have the chutzpah to put all the blame on the president. Very slick. And yes, legalizing drugs would eradicate most (all?) of the crime from Mexican drug runners overnight.

Eric, thanks for the link to your post; it’s good to see I am not alone. About going after the employers – well, it’s nice to dream, isn’t it? Can you imagine our GOP state legislators and GOP governor ever doing such a thing? (And the Dems wouldn’t be so quick to do it, either. They all know where their bread is buttered.)

Back to Dror for a second: Your weakest argument, smashed to bits by spz, is that the HCR is bad because the GOP wouldn’t cast a single vote for it. That is over the top. They won’t cast a vote for anything Obama backs or approve his judges or give an inch. They finally had to cave, after a long filibuster and refusal to cooperate, on the financial reform bill because public outrage was so intense – they were virtually siding with the banksters. So the lack of Republican votes on HCR was a statement about the monolithic, hyper-partisanship of today’s GOP, not of Obama’s lack of reaching out and compromising. They worked for months compromising, whittling the bill down to a fraction of the original House version, and even then not a single Republican voted for it. And you then attribute it to lack of bipartisanship from Obama? Give me a break.

April 30, 2010 @ 8:40 pm | Comment

@DP

Note only did not single Republican vote for the bill, but 34 Democrats voted against it. If you would like to call that “centrism”, I can’t stop you.

If what is “centrist” is SOLELY determined by voting patterns in the legislature then if one lone Republican vote for the bill, will you call that centrist? If more than 30 Republicans vote it, will it be centrist? If 50 Republicans voted for a bill, will it make it a more centrist bill than one where 20 Republicans vote for it? AND if the Republicans were to recapture the House of Rep by winning 350 out of 435 seats next election and they pass a bill with 350 against 135 (all democrats), does that NECESSARILY mean that the bill is not “centrist”?

Such manner of determining of what is “centrist”, as demonstrated above, is essentially bullshit.

April 30, 2010 @ 8:52 pm | Comment

I mean 300, not 350, my math… hahaha.

April 30, 2010 @ 8:54 pm | Comment

@”To be fair a lot of these ranchers are the ones hiring illegal Mexicans in the first place. And the drug war is in large part fueled by demand in other nations on the continent.”

whats your point? ANY individual entering this country ILLEGALY is BREAKING the law. All LEGAL immigrants are welcome – those who make a choice NOT to follow legal procedure are ripping off every single person wanting to enter America legally. This is out of control. So what you are saying is because ranchers hire illegals that makes illegals less responsible for breaking the law? wait a minute- why not treat Mexican illegals coming into America the same way Mexico treats illegals entering their country.
Problem solved – and “humanely” To be fair – as YOU say.

April 30, 2010 @ 9:08 pm | Comment

Nahiku, you’re new here. Whatever merp-o-san says must be presumed to be nonsense.

Back to the bottom line: those crossing the border illegally present a problem. This bill does little to address that while creating a host of new problems.

April 30, 2010 @ 9:21 pm | Comment

@Richard: I see you have nothing of substance to say about Arizona… so you’re trying to turn this to a discussion about Healthcare. I wrote in my first post above, people are bringing to the debate about Arizona a lot of irrelevant baggage (like grudges about the HCR process and general Obama fandom). Now I see that things are even worse, the whole discussion about Arizona is actually part of the healthcare and general Obama discussion as far as you’re concerned, so there’s truly no hope of a sensible discussion the actual issues.

@SPZ (and Richard): “Centrist” is an elusive term. However, in this case, it is clearly a very partisan, polarizing bill. Again, I ask you to explain how come 34 Democrats voted against it. Is that because they “won’t cast a vote for anything Obama backs or approves”?

I guess that in your world, Centrist means whatever Obama says we should do. Anyone who opposes it – Republican or Democrat – must be a fringe-dwelling weirdo, racist, or both. Apologies for trying to reason with you; I forgot we’re talking theology here.

April 30, 2010 @ 11:07 pm | Comment

I see you have nothing of substance to say about Arizona… so you’re trying to turn this to a discussion about Healthcare.

False. You have harped onHCR, insisting, falsely, that it is proof of Obama being a socialist. And never once, even now, have you addressed the argument that it is Romney’s plan and is anything but socialist.

You are putting a lot of words in people’s mouths. I never said to vote against the president is to be non-centrist or to be bad. Not even close. But I am saying the GOP is cynical in their automatic filibustering and voting against everything Obama advocates, even if they were for those things originally. But we can end the topic of HCR right now and turn to Arizona, now that your specious claims about HCR have been successfully debunked by virtually every participant here.

Today’s NYT sums it up nicely:

The statute requires police officers to stop and question anyone who looks like an illegal immigrant. Gov. Jan Brewer signed the law but says she doesn’t know what an illegal immigrant looks like, leaving that to others who think they do.

The Justice Department knows what kinds of abuse that invites. It is already investigating the sheriff of Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio, who raids Hispanic neighborhoods in and around Phoenix. His deputies demand people’s papers based on the shirts and boots they wear.

Federal law requires noncitizens to carry documents but does not empower police officers to stop anyone they choose and demand to see papers. Arizona’s attempt to get around that by defining the act of standing on its soil without papers as a criminal act is repellent.

I live here, you don’t. I know how our sheriff already abuses his power to terrorize Latinos. This licenses the terror.

April 30, 2010 @ 11:35 pm | Comment

Richard, you are clearly impervious to any logical argument at (and on) this point. Interestingly, if you look at previous comments on your blog, you criticized the HCR bill yourself, months before it was passed. You then assumed it would change by the time it gets passed. It did not. And now you fully endorse it.

As for Arizona, again, the point was not to say that the law is good or bad, but simply that it should be debated based on its merits (or lack of) and not through a prism of race or partisanship. As I noted above, at this point in time, there seem to be plenty of legitimate reasons to pass a bill of this kind, as unsavory as it might be (chiefly the Fed’s reluctance to control the borders, or even to build a proper fence). In addition, similar rules are a matter of standard procedure in most democracies, so to claim this is some kind of earth-shattering right-wing maneuver is silly.

April 30, 2010 @ 11:58 pm | Comment

@DP
“Centrist” is an elusive term.

I am glad that you own up.

Again, I ask you to explain how come 34 Democrats voted against it.

There were Democrats who also voted against the Civil Rights Act in 1964. So? Its very normal in the US for party members to vote otherwise where party discipline is weak.

May 1, 2010 @ 12:04 am | Comment

@DP
similar rules are a matter of standard procedure in most democracies,

One could also argue that universal health care is a matter of state responsibility in most developed countries too and the US is the only exception. Cherrypicking examples from other places when it only suits one’s purposes is not something worth celebrating.

May 1, 2010 @ 12:09 am | Comment

@DP

I guess that in your world, Centrist means whatever Obama says we should do

I openly throw down the gauntlet and challenge you quote me in inverted commas where i have said or imply this. It’s a blatant lie and i openly declare you a liar if you can’t quote me where i said or imply this.

Blatant lies are far more dishonorable than any dubious theology.

May 1, 2010 @ 12:24 am | Comment

Dror, HCR just passed a few weeks ago. And you’re already condemning it as a failure? And you call me impervious to reason? I was critical of the law and I am critical of the law. Very imperfect, but I believe it’s an important step in the right direction. I have never, ever varied from this stance, and it’s up to you to prove otherwise. You can’t.

for Arizona, again, the point was not to say that the law is good or bad, but simply that it should be debated based on its merits (or lack of) and not through a prism of race or partisanship.

It has to be discussed through “the prism of race” because that is the only filter law enforcers can use to enforce the law. The law has no merits. It is a product of inbred paleocon kooks who also passed a birther bill, another reason for Arizona to be the nation’s laughingstock. This was totally “a right-wing maneuver,” from start to finish. If you were here, you’d know why Governor Brewer had to sign it despite knowing it’s a disaster in the making. She has to prove hersefl to her base, which is obsessed with litmus tests showing you are at least as far-right as Sarah Palin and other assorted right-wing kooks. A birther bill. Think about that. And you want us to think of them as serious, responsible legislators? Puh-leaze.

I am closing this thread – there’s another thread on the immigration law directly above where you can continue the conversation.

May 1, 2010 @ 12:26 am | Comment

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