Papers? We Ain’t Got No Papers!

21 04 2010

Let me start out by saying that illegal immigration is a significant problem for the United States. In my opinion, the biggest threat posed by illegal immigration is the fact that both major political parties in this country use the issue to goad their followers into a frenzy. People living along the US border with Mexico might not agree, which is their privilege. They’re closer to the problem, and deal with the short-term consequences of it every day. I, however, live in the Shallow South. We have a much smaller problem with illegal immigrants here, which allows some of us to look at the forest, while others are focused on the trees.

My personal opinion is to allow open immigration, with the stipulation that every would-be immigrant gets photographed, fingerprinted, and gives a DNA sample. Make the immigration process inexpensive and not particularly time-consuming, then open the flood gates and put ’em to work- at regular wages and paying taxes.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in this country making money- and scoring political points- from illegal immigration. The money bit we can deal with by fining to smithereens any company employing illegal immigrants (and jailing the company executives). The political issue, however, is a tougher nut to crack. The folks on the right like using illegal immigration to stir up thinly-disguised racism among their followers. The folks on the left like using illegal immigration to push through ever-greater entitlement programs in their quest for cradle-to-grave government dependency for all. Both groups also enjoy getting campaign contributions and other baksheesh from grateful company executives who get to use illegal immigrants as not-quite slaves. I am admittedly painting with a wide brush, but the fact remains that many politicians have vested interests in illegal immigration.

In Arizona, for example, the state legislature has sent an illegal immigration bill to the Governor for signature. Among other things, this bill would require all legal immigrants to carry their residence status documents with them at all times. That, in itself, is only slightly fascistic. Another part of the bill allows law enforcement to demand proof of citizenship from anyone who- in the opinion of the law enforcement officer- might be an illegal immigrant.

For those of you with quizzical expressions on your faces, here is a capsule description: Any cop in Arizona can demand proof of legal residence from any brown person in the state- anywhere, anytime. For those who are still wondering why this is a problem, ask yourself what will happen to the throngs of American citizens (born and raised here in the US) of Latin American descent. Now ask yourself this: how would you provide proof of citizenship if required to do so? Don’t bother reaching for your wallet- your driver’s license alone won’t do. Passport, birth certificate, or other US Government documentation proving legal residence por favor.

I’m reasonably certain that the standard of “innocent until proven guilty” is still in effect in this country, but this Arizona bill threatens to turn that on its head. Any person who looks like they might be an illegal immigrant to any cop in Arizona will now be forced to prove his or her innocence at any moment. How anyone with a functioning brain (I include Arizona politicians as a courtesy) can believe this is a good idea is completely beyond me. It’s not just un-Constitutional, it is industrial-strength stupid and utterly un-American.

I’m told that there is a large community of expatriate Canadians living in Arizona, no doubt some of which have expired visas. Will the Arizona police agencies be conducting sweeps for people wearing touks? Will there be INS raids for people who can’t quite master the words about or house? I somehow doubt it. The cops in Arizona will most likely take the path of least resistance and just pull over every person with brown skin and toss ’em in jail if they cannot provide proof of citizenship or legal residence.

Here’s a better idea: Arizona cops should make a policy of pulling over every single member of the state legislature and demanding that they provide proof of legal residence. Make ’em squat on the side of the road while the cops check their ID, all the while speaking to them in broken Spanish. See how long this law stays on the books.

If the Arizona legislature wants to do something about illegal immigration, fine. Draft a law punishing employers who hire illegals. That will dramatically reduce the number of illegal immigrants. Passing laws which turn every law enforcement agent into stereotypical gestapo (papers, bitte!) is a colossal waste of time and money, and furthermore takes law enforcement personnel away from their primary tasks in favor of harassing brown people. Imagine the lawsuits under the 4th Amendment from legal residents and natural-born citizens who get victimized by this law. The money spent fighting these inevitable legal battles would be far better spent on dealing with more important issues, in my opinion. There is no excuse for violating the civil rights of any American in this manner.

For those of you living in Arizona, you might want to un-elect every incumbent next election. The ones you have are obviously morons.

Current status: Visibly peeved

Current music: No Rain by Blind Melon


18 04 2010

If you were to read a news article about a government seizing a couple’s property against their wishes and in direct violation of valid powers-of-attorney and living wills, what country would first come to mind? Would it be the US?

Sonoma County, California did exactly this to an elderly gay couple when the older man, Harold Greene,  had to be taken to the hospital after a fall at home. The hospital and county case workers refused to allow his partner Clay in to see Harold. They absolutely refused to consider Clay as anything other than a room-mate, with no rights regarding Harold’s care. The county tried to get a court to rule that Harold had no family in order to gain access to Harold’s assets. When the judge denied their claim, the county went a step farther.

Without bothering to determine which man owned what or even the value of their combined assets, Sonoma County seized and auctioned off everything Harold and Clay owned. The county evicted Clay from his home and confined him to a nursing home against his will- choosing a different nursing home from Harold’s. The county terminated their lease on the house and returned it to their landlord.

Harold died alone in the nursing home a few months later, and his partner of twenty years was not permitted to visit him (family only, you know). All Clay has left is a scrapbook of pictures he and Harold had put together in the last year before he died.

I don’t care how you feel about homosexuals. Even the most rabid homophobe this side of Phredd Phelps should be up in arms over this case.  The fact that a government agency in this country can throw someone into a nursing home against their will, then auction off that person’s assets to pay for their care in direct violation of legal powers-of-attorney and valid living wills is such a gross travesty of justice that I find myself lacking the proper words to describe my outrage. Sonoma County appears to have willfully abrogated the rule of law in order to sentence two old men to spend their remaining lifetimes in nursing homes, then stole all of their belongings to pay for this act. It took legal action by his court-appointed attorneys to get Clay out of the nursing home. Despite his good health, he was now indigent, thanks to Sonoma County.

The laws in this country have been developed over centuries, stretching back beyond the founding of America to English Common Law. There is a mountain of case law throughout this period which holds that governments are bound by legal documents such as wills and powers-of-attorney. The fact that a local government can blithely set all that aside is monstrous. Revolutions have been started for acts such as this.

Clay has filed a lawsuit in Superior Court against Sonoma County, showing that he’s a far better man than I. He is demonstrating far more maturity than I possess at this action by the county government, and I am not even directly victimized by this. I say, directly victimized, because the entire body politic of the United States has been victimized by these byzantine excesses of local authority against a citizen. The preamble to the Constitution starts with We, the People. There is no mention of exceptions for homosexuals, ethnic minorities, speakers of foreign languages, left-handed people, or followers of one religion or another. We, the People of the United States, have suffered an injustice in the form of atrocious bad actions on the part of a county government against an innocent citizen.

Make ’em pay.

Current status: Speechless with rage

Current music: Lido Shuffle by Boz Scaggs

Yuri’s Night

12 04 2010

Lest we forget, today is April 12- the 49th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s becoming the first human in space.

Please watch and- more importantly- listen to this video. In a very short time, we- as a species- have climbed out of the abyss of ignorance to the point where we can physically leave the planet that gave us birth. Think how much more we could achieve if we were not so Hell-bent on dominating this or that tiny corner of an otherwise unremarkable world orbiting a fairly common star in a relatively unimportant section of a modest galaxy.

We have everything to lose, and the entire universe to gain. All we have to do is raise our eyes from the ground and cast our gaze unto the skies … and wonder.

Current status: Humbled

Current music: Universe Song by Monty Python

Non-Momentary Lapse of Reason

12 04 2010

You have achieved discontinuity of meaning.”

I find myself shouting those words at my television a lot these days, along with a great deal of choice invective in a variety of languages. The sheer number of brain-dead, mouth-breathing wastes of genetic material who manage to get media coverage is literally staggering. Where do I begin?

How about the Hutaree- the apocalyptic fundamentalist christian doomsday cult militia who were so totally insane that other militias turned them in to the cops? It turns out that these stellar examples of the “master race” were collecting coffee cans to make explosively-formed projectiles. They discovered a hitch in their cunning plan when it turned out that the coffee cans in question did not- in fact- contain any metal. These people are stupid beyond belief- not merely because they are trained by their loathsome version of christianity to be credulous dolts and therefore have little idea of how science works, but because they believed that murdering a few dozen policemen and their mourning relatives would somehow bring about their apocalyptic war against the heathens.

Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is none more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory in itself than this thing called Christianity. Too absurd for belief, too impossible to convince, and too inconsistent for practice, it renders the heart torpid or produces only atheists or fanatics. As an engine of power, it serves the purpose of despotism, and as a means of wealth, the avarice of priests, but so far as respects the good of man in general it leads to nothing here or hereafter.” – Thomas Paine

Next we have a “retired” politician telling her fellow low foreheads that America doesn’t need “this snake-oil science stuff“. I have not yet made up my mind about anthropogenic climate change- largely because no follower of Saint AlGore has yet been able to explain the Medieval Warm Period in the context of their religion. That said, the rabid anti-intellectualism implicit in her comments ought to strike a chill in the heart of all Americans. For those of you who slept through their high-school science classes, here’s a couple of clue chits for you: The only field of endeavor in which the US is dominant today is science and research. The US has dominated the sciences and medicine for decades, and this pre-eminence attracts the best and brightest from around the world to our universities and research centers. Science is practically the only thing we can reliably claim to be the best at, but this political hack and her fundamentalist cronies seem to want to turn back the clock on science because they don’t like the answers science gives them.

Geology shows that fossils are of different ages. Paleontology shows a fossil sequence, the list of species represented changes through time. Taxonomy shows biological relationships among species. Evolution is the explanation that threads it all together. Creationism is the practice of squeezing one’s eyes shut and wailing “Does not!” – Author Unknown

Speaking of the American Taliban, the former head of the Texas school textbook commission is famously quoted as saying, “Someone has to stand up to the experts!” Sorry, sparky. Your personal relationship with a dead jewish guy does not trump the evidence easily available to anyone with an open mind. It ought to be enough to see that the garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies in the bottom of it, too (to paraphrase Douglas Adams). Why is it easier for these loons to believe easily-debunked fables when the truth is much more interesting? There’s an entire universe out there for us to learn about and explore, but these religious fuckwits insist on fixing their heads firmly inside their collective rectums because they like the view so much better. Worse, they insist that everyone else has to be limited to the same field of view.

I am treated as evil by people who claim that they are being oppressed because they are not allowed to force me to practice what they do. – D. Dale Gulledge

Lest I be accused of “bashing christianity”, let us examine another pack of rabidly batshit fundies. The Hasidic community in Brooklyn has their beards in a tangle over the fact that “scantily clad” females ride their bicycles down the public thoroughfares near their self-created ghetto.The Hasidim in question are the descendants of a large community which moved to Brooklyn in a body to get away from the persecution they experienced in Europe- just after the end of the second World War. The irony of the situation must be totally lost on these fundamentalist ass-hats: they came to Brooklyn because they wanted the freedom to practice their religion as they saw fit, but they now insist on denying those same freedoms to everyone around them. Unfortunately for the bearded ones, those public thoroughfares are public fucking thoroughfares. So long as the laws of the city, county, and state of New York are not broken, they’re just going to have to put up with it.

We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart. – H.L. Mencken

What do all of these episodes have in common? Fundamentalism. There is something terribly wrong in the way these people think and see the world. To the fundamentalists, perfection is just a round the last corner. They all want to live in a free society, but they only want those freedoms for themselves. Everyone else has to behave and believe exactly as they do, or else. Here is the core disconnect between the religious fundamentalist and any moron of average intelligence: Any mass-murderer can ask for forgiveness on his death bed and go to heaven, but Ghandi burns forever in hell because he was not christian. How about this- if God doesn’t like the way I live, let him tell me, not you.

Gods are fragile things; they may be killed by a whiff of science or a dose of common sense. – Chapman Cohen

These are not isolated incidents. They are all part of a growing trend toward fundamentalism here in this country that is by nature destructive to American ideals and individual liberties. The religious neo-barbarians are all intent on destroying the very core of our civilization. We, the People, need to exercise our own rights to free speech and free association to counter the religiously deluded at every turn. These creatures must be confronted with facts and logic whenever they spew their lies and innuendo in public. Their histrionics and stupidity must be countered with rational discourse and firm resolve. Those who refuse to submit to the religious thought police must stand united against the darkness those fanatics seek to draw across our country.

It is very important not to mistake hemlock for parsley, but to believe or not believe in God is not important at all.  – Denis Diderot

I will not submit to the will of any god- or the followers of any god. I will make my own way … and leave a trail for others to follow if they wish. I will not force my ideas upon any other, nor demand they believe as I do. All I ask in return is the same privilege.

I do not support religion because it demands that we give up our most important human asset, the ability to question. It demands that we simply believe. Isn’t that true of any dictator, of any totalitarian society? Insofar as social development is concerned, nothing is of greater importance than the human function of questioning. Questioning led to the development of civilization. – Vladimir Pozner

Current status: Profoundly irked

Current music: Free Will by Rush

Chronic Dumbassery

4 04 2010

Our species has a long history of shooting the messenger, regardless of the actual message being delivered. This is patently contra-survival behavior, but it continues to this day. This is largely due to the predominance of yet another cultural survival trait: Tribalism.

During most of human evolution, certain cultural traits have been selected for as survival-oriented. Foremost among these has been our concepts of self and other. It may be to the individual human’s benefit to think only of himself, but the survival of the species has long depended upon looking outside oneself- to recognize other humans as part of yourself.

The first phase of this manifests as the family group. Individual humans are easy prey for many of the contemporary predators, but the family group gave individual humans a better chance of survival and increased the likelihood of those individual human genes being preserved. The next step above family is the clan- essentially a hugely extended family group or a grouping of related families. With these larger organizations, individuals and the species as a whole had far better chances for survival. A tribe is loosely described as a large grouping of clans- some of which may not be related by blood to other groups. Above the tribe comes the nation, followed by the species as a whole. These are the cultural groupings which enhance human survival during our long evolutionary history.

Evolution- both cultural and physical- selected for humans who could operate- and cooperate- within these groups. For most of our evolutionary history, humans have been divided into clans and tribes. Survival for a tribe often meant conflict with other tribes for resources (flint, hunting grounds, fresh water, etc), and it therefore became imperative for tribe members to be able to identify fellow-tribesmen. Humans in your tribe were basically extensions of self, and everyone else was other.

This cultural evolution continued for thousands of years, impressing the tribalism trait deeply into human genetics. Only in the past three or four thousand years have we- as a species- started to rise above tribalism into the larger cultural organization of the nation-state. Unfortunately, the human predisposition toward tribalism all too often overwhelms the social and cultural benefits of the nation-state. Tribalism might almost be classified as an instinct, which can only be overcome by actively using the higher mental functions of reason and analysis. Humans who make the effort to understand and appreciate the benefits of belonging to a larger society and culture can leave behind the predisposition towards tribalism. Those who cannot strive to undo the underpinnings of the nation-state and revert to simple tribalism. These humans are capable of applying rational analysis toward their situation, but are unwilling to do so. Because it takes effort- mental effort. This is frequently unfamiliar and difficult to the tribalists.

Back to shooting the messenger. When a member of an individual’s higher sociocultural grouping tries to change the way that society works, the tribalists automatically revert to looking at him as other. Other has always been associated with a threat to the tribe (In many languages, the words for stranger and enemy were identical during our tribal pre-history). Regardless of whether or not the changes would be good for the larger society or even the individual human tribalist, the easy way to respond to this other has always been violence.

And so it was forty two years ago today. For all his human frailties and faults, the changes Dr. King proposed were and are better for our nation and for individual Americans. But the tribalists among us could not see beyond the simplistic “one … two…  many” thought processes of the tribe and reacted violently to those changes. The fact that Dr. King was right in almost every detail only made the tribalists even angrier and more violent, and so he was shot down by one of his fellow Americans for daring to suggest that people be judged by the content of their character instead of the color of their skin.

In the intervening four decades, we, the People, have come a long way in many ways, but the violent, xenophobic tribesmen are still among us. They rant and rave and demand that the clock be turned back to a mythical better day. They strive- sometimes unconsciously- to break the bonds that tie us together as a nation so they can get back to a tribe of like-minded barbarians. Their lack of understanding of the consequences of their chosen path makes them no less dangerous- both to the culture as a whole and to individual Americans. They must be opposed at every turn by everyone who understands and appreciates the benefits of being Americans. We have to stop these barbarians from shooting the messenger.

Because good messengers are too valuable to waste. And their messages are worth hearing- regardless of whether or not we like them at the time.

Early morning, April 4, a shot rings out in the Memphis sky.

Free at last, they took your life, but they could not take your pride.”

Current status: Somber

Current music: 1901 by Phoenix