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“Trump And The “Low-Skilled” Labor Myth”: The Latest Expression Of A Widely Shared Elite-Conservative Notion

In an otherwise sensible column about the limitations and possible consequences of dubbing Donald Trump a fascist, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat suggests that one of “the legitimate reasons” Trump’s campaign has endured so long is that conservative voters share a “reasonable skepticism about the bipartisan consensus favoring ever more mass low-skilled immigration.” 

This is just the latest expression of a widely shared elite-conservative notion that a mix of concerns about labor supply and the rule of law animates anti-immigration sentiment on the right. That, to put it crudely, “they’re taking our jobs!” is an expression of anger about wages, employment displacement, and people breaking rules.

But in my experience, growing up with no small number of undocumented Mexicans and white xenophobes in inland Southern California, these technocratic and philosophical concerns were way, way subsidiary to cultural anxiety and racism.

For instance, I vividly remember this old Pete Wilson ad depicting illegal immigrants as invaders.

Shortly after its run was complete—with the overwhelming support of whites across the state, and particularly in the Inland Empire region—California passed Proposition 187. It, among other things, sought to kick undocumented children out of public schools.

It’s hard to see how persecuting children (or, charitably, persecuting undocumented parents by targeting their children) principally addresses worries about labor supply and rule of law.

This isn’t to say that wages and fairness were absent from the white immigration critique, or that the racial and cultural sentiments weren’t in some sense rooted in economic insecurity. But it is to say that racial and cultural antipathies often dominated the expression of their hostility to immigration and immigrants.

This is no less true today. We saw it last year, when many on the right depicted child-migrants from Central America as ISIS infiltrators and Ebola carriers. Again, it’s hard to see that as mostly an expression of opposition to low-skilled immigration.

You can’t, in my view, gain real insight into Trump’s appeal without accounting for the fact that way above and beyond their passion for playing by the rules, many of these whites simply dislike Mexicans and other Hispanic immigrants a great deal. It might also explain why the Republican establishment, embodied in this election by Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, has failed to gain footing at the rule-of-law-centered sweet spot between comprehensive reform and mass deportation. Enforcement first, but no mass deportation—the Bush/Rubio position—might be roughly the middle point on a theoretical continuum between Trumpism and the Democratic Party view. But it bears little resemblance to the normative preferences of xenophobic whites.

Giving voice to their rage, as Trump does, is a more apt response to their desires than mild appeals to law-abiding, economic fairness, and pragmatism. Elite conservatives like Douthat can’t wish that away.


By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, December 4, 2015

December 7, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Immigrants, Nativism | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Same Monstrous Reasoning That Defended Slavery”: The U.S. ‘Right’ To Own Guns Came With The ‘Right’ To Own Slaves

For most of the last two centuries, Europeans have been puzzling over their American cousins’ totemic obsession with guns and their passion for concealed weapons. And back in the decades before the American Civil War, several British visitors to American shores thought they’d discerned an important connection: people who owned slaves or lived among them wanted to carry guns to keep the blacks intimidated and docile, but often shot each other, too.

In 1842, the novelist Charles Dickens, on a book tour of the United States, saw a link between the sheer savagery of slave ownership and what he called the cowardly practice of carrying pistols or daggers or both. The author of Oliver Twist listened with a mixture of horror and contempt as Americans defended their utterly indefensible “rights” to tote guns and carry Bowie knives, right along with their “right” to own other human beings who could be shackled, whipped, raped, and mutilated at will.

As damning evidence of the way slaves were treated, in his American Notes Dickens published texts from scores of advertisement for the capture of runaways. Often these public notices described the wanted men and women by their scars. One especially memorable example:

“Ran away, a negro woman and two children. A few days before she went off, I burnt her with a hot iron, on the left side of her face. I tried to make the letter M.”

Dickens also compiled a list of several shooting incidents, not all of them in the South: a county councilman blown away in the council chamber of Brown County, Wisconsin; a fatal shootout in the street in St. Louis; the murder of Missouri’s governor; two 13-year-old boys defending their “honor” by dueling with long rifles, and other examples.

What could one expect, he asked, of those who “learn to write with pens of red-hot iron on the human face” but that they carry guns and daggers to use on each other.  “These are the weapons of Freedom,” Dickens wrote with brutal irony.  “With sharp points and edges such as these, Liberty in America hews and hacks her slaves; or, failing that pursuit, her sons devote themselves to a better use, and turn them on each other.”

When Dickens was writing in the 1840s, remember, keeping Negro slaves was defended as a Constitutional right with the same vehemence that we hear today when it comes to keeping and bearing arms, and perhaps with more foundation. The original U.S. Constitution was built on an explicit compromise (Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3) that allowed slave-holding states to count human chattel, described as “other persons,” as three-fifths of a human being for purposes of taxation and state representation in the House, but allowed them no rights as human persons whatsoever.

The Second Amendment, adopted a couple of years later as part of the Bill of Rights (of free white people), was essentially written to protect the interests of Southerners in the states that formed militias—often known as “slave patrols”—to crush any attempt at what was called, in those days, a “servile insurrection.” That’s why the full text of the Second Amendment reads:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

To keep slaves in slavery, you needed militias and they needed to be armed. Such is the fundamental “right” assured by the Second Amendment.

Dickens, who saw a lot that he disliked about America, but disliked slavery and the irrational and immoral thinking behind it the most, wrote quite correctly that there was a substantial, stubborn class of people “who doggedly deny the horrors of the system, in the teeth of such a mass of evidence as never was brought to bear on any other subject.”

A few years later, after the messianic abolitionist John Brown tried and failed to start a slave uprising by attacking the Federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry in 1859, Southern paranoia reached new heights, and so did gun sales.

“I do not exaggerate in designating the present state of affairs in the Southern country as a reign of terror,” wrote British Consul Robert Bunch in Charleston, South Carolina, the epicenter of secession and slavery. “Persons are torn away from their residences and pursuits, sometimes ‘tarred and feathered,’ ‘ridden upon rails,’ or cruelly whipped; letters are opened at the post offices, discussion upon slavery is entirely prohibited under penalty of expulsion, with or without violence, from the country.”

Bunch, the central figure in my recent book Our Man in Charleston: Britain’s Secret Agent in the Civil War Southnoted that “on the part of individuals the sense of danger is evinced by the purchase of fire-arms, especially revolver pistols, of which very large numbers have been sold during the last month.”

In 1861, the great British war correspondent William Howard Russell, traveling through the South in the early days of the Civil War, was as bemused as he was appalled by what passed for “dueling” in Mississippi, which amounted to little more than random, often drunken murders. One resident told him “without the smallest animus, and in the most natural way in the world … tale after tale of blood, and recounted terrible tragedies enacted outside bars of hotels and in the public streets close beside us.”

It is a grim irony, therefore, that the legal precedents set in the antebellum South are still with us today, embedded in recent federal court rulings that make it easier and easier for more people to carry guns,  as Fordham University historian Saul Cornell and New York University law professor Eric M. Ruben pointed out in The Atlantic in September.

As Cornell and Cohen made clear, “gun-rights advocates find themselves venerating a moment at which slavery, honor, violence, and the public carrying of weapons were intertwined.”

Back in the day, what Dickens, Russell and Bunch understood was a basic truth that seems to have escaped our contemporary legislators and jurists, just as it did those of the slave-holding South. As Russell observed in Mississippi, the government seemed unable and unwilling to rein in gun violence, and the consequences would be inevitable.  “The country in which it is tolerated,” he wrote, “will become as barbarous as a jungle inhabited by wild beasts.”

Day after day, week after week, we see in America the toll taken by gun “rights,” whether the shooters wear beards and veils and murder colleagues in California in some bizarre Bonnie-and-Clyde version of jihad, or shoot people at a Planned Parenthood center in Colorado, or settle scores in Chicago, or slaughter children at a school in Connecticut.

The guns are still with us, and so are the beasts.


By: Christopher Dickey, The Daily Beast, December 6, 2015

December 7, 2015 Posted by | Charles Dickens, Gun Violence, Militia's, Slavery | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Urgency Of Six Years Later”: Ryan Sees ‘Urgent’ Need For GOP Alternative To Obamacare

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) delivered a fairly long speech at the Library of Congress yesterday, fleshing out his vision for making America “confident again” through a far-right approach to governing. There wasn’t anything particularly surprising about the remarks, and the Republican leader conceded his vision won’t be implemented so long as President Obama is in office.

But there was one part of the speech that jumped out at me as noteworthy. On health care policy, the new Speaker said “the other side” – presumably, Democrats – opposes giving consumers choices, while Republicans want to encourage “insurance companies to compete for your business.” It’s an odd line of attack, since the Affordable Care Act’s exchange marketplaces were specifically designed to invite insurers to compete for consumers’ business. I’m not sure how he could have missed this detail.

Ryan added:

“There are a lot of other ideas out there, but what all conservatives can agree on is this: We think government should encourage personal responsibility, not replace it. We think prices are going up because people have too few choices, not because they have too many. And we think this problem is so urgent that, next year, we are going to unveil a plan to replace every word of Obamacare.”

Let’s just skip the usual points about the efficacy of the ACA, the law’s many successes, and the millions of Americans benefiting from its implementation. Suffice it to say, there’s no credible reason to try – or even want to try, really – to replace “every word” of the Affordable Care Act.

What I found amusing, however, was Ryan’s use of the word “urgent.”

As the Republican leader sees it, there’s no time to waste. The problems in the health care system are so great that the Speaker believes it’s “urgent” for his party to present their conservative alternative – nearly six years after the ACA was signed into law, nearly two years after the ACA was fully implemented. Now Ryan’s serious about his party’s replacement plan.

It’s hard for even the most charitable observers not to laugh. On June 17, 2009, then-Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of the House Republican leadership at the time, publicly declared that he was helping craft his party’s alternative to the Affordable Care Act. “I guarantee you we will provide you with a bill,” he said six and a half years ago.

The same week, then-Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told reporters that the official Republican version of “Obamacare” was just “weeks away.”

The Huffington Post’s Jeffrey Young has gotten quite a bit of mileage out of a joke, documenting all of the many, many times in recent years GOP officials have said they’re finally ready to unveil their big health care solution, only to quietly fail every time.

We were told 2014 would be different. In April 2014, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said his party’s plan was nearly done, but was being delayed “at least a month.” That was 20 months ago.

Then we were told 2015 would be different. Ryan was tasked with personally heading up a Republican “working group” that would finally put together the GOP’s health care plan. Then-House Speaker John Boehner promised Fox News, “There will be an alternative, and you’re going to get to see it.”

That was 11 months ago.

As of yesterday, however, Ryan believes the issue is “so urgent” that we’ll see the Republican “plan” in 2016. And who knows, maybe we will. I wouldn’t bet on it, but anything’s possible.

But revisiting a piece from February, I think we can safely assume that the House GOP alternative to “Obamacare” – if it ever exists – is going to be cover-your-eyes horrible. How can I know that? Because in order to actually reform the pre-2010 health care system – “replacing every word” of the ACA – policymakers have to commit to extensive public investments, expansive government regulation of the insurance industry, and a commitment to help struggling families receive guaranteed benefits.

In other words, to do reform right, Republicans would have to willingly take policy steps that are anathema to everything they believe about government. It’s a safer bet they’ll do reform wrong – if they follow through at all – and when the GOP alternative stands alongside “Obamacare” and consumers are allowed to compare, it won’t be much of a contest.

This point is routinely lost on much of the chattering class, but Republicans don’t actually like health care reform, which is why we’ve waited so many years to see a plan that still doesn’t exist. GOP lawmakers didn’t see the old system – the bankruptcies, the uninsured rates, the deaths, Americans paying more for less – as a problem requiring a solution, which is precisely why they haven’t invested time and energy in writing a detailed reform blueprint.

Ryan seems to think this time will be different.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 4, 2015

December 7, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Reform, House Republicans, Paul Ryan | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Trump Keeps Insulting Our 9/11 Dead”: Twisting The History Of A Sacred Day Shows Why He’s Unfit To Be President

Because Donald Trump has to destroy everything in his path, why not the true history 9/11? Trump would have us revise and edit our historical memory of 9/11, turning it from a unifying narrative of heroism, tragedy, and war and recast it to serve the political ends of a man unworthy of the presidency.

Let’s be specific, because history matters. Here is Trump’s claim, which he’s been obsessively defending for weeks now:

“I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.”

Trump’s Big Lie, as every fact checker from across the political spectrum has verified, is both simple and egregious: “thousands and thousands.” On the most-recorded day of our age, no record exists of “thousands and thousands” because it would have been a story of immediate, devastating consequences not only for the Muslims involved, but for this nation. It would have blown back immediately both on Muslims and on President Bush and Mayor Giuliani, who had called on Americans to refrain from assigning collective guilt.

Did any American Muslim celebrate 9/11? I’m sure some did. There are assholes in every walk of life, and in a metro area with 10 million people and a nation of 350 million, I’d be shocked if a couple of idiots didn’t act out. But it’s not a defense of Muslim extremism to stand for the truth of history.

Despite being called out on this lie repeatedly, Team Trump has produced nothing whatsoever to back up the “thousands and thousands” claim. Instead, they’ve produced a handful of anecdotes, secondhand news stories and hazy memories of what might have been a trivial number of Muslims celebrating the attacks.

They’ve failed—of course—to produce video, photos, news stories, police reports, eyewitnesses, or any other evidence for Trump’s “thousands and thousands” claim, and they never will. And when cornered with the facts, Trump’s talk-radio and online cheerleaders allege that a massive media conspiracy is keeping all the documentary evidence supporting the claim under wraps.

So why is this different from any other part of the Trumpendammerung cycle of outrageous statements, tornadoes of lies, and shoot-from-the-lip populism? Because we owe history, and the dead of that terrible September day something better.

We should tell the true stories of that day to honor the memory and sacrifice of those who perished on 9/11 and in the long wars since. We should remember the real events, not transform them into post-hoc, politically expedient exaggerations meant to amplify Donald Trump’s bravado.

The deaths of thousands at the hands of 19 Islamic radicals dispatched by Osama Bin Laden created an inflection point in our history, leading to tragedies and victories, losses and triumphs, in what is becoming a generation of war. We should tell the honest, painful stories of 9/11 because it dishonors the memory of heroes to invent a phony cast of villains when the actual terrorists were terrible enough to tear open this nation’s heart.

Trump is trying to write himself into a heroic narrative at the cost of truth, and of the memories of the real heroes who perished that day. While Trump sat staring at his television and imagining Muslims celebrating, better men and women than he will ever be died in Lower Manhattan.

They were heroes like Terry Hatton of FDNY Rescue Company 1, who charged in to the Towers without a moment’s hesitation, never knowing his wife was pregnant with their daughter. They were men of faith like Father Mychal Judge, who spent his last moments comforting the doomed as the Towers fell around them, praying “Jesus, please end this right now! God, please end this!”

They were immigrants to this country like Rick Rescorla—people who fought our wars, embraced our values more deeply than many born here, and died as heroes trying to save his charges in the Towers. They were men like Tom Burnett, whose last whispered conversation to his wife from Flight 93 was, “I know we’re going to die. There’s three of us who are going to do something about it.”

They were stockbrokers, secretaries, office techs, lawyers, waiters, firefighters, cops, and EMTs with stories of heroism and grace. They were Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, and everything in between.

The families they left behind deserve a truthful recounting of their end and of that day.

I should know by now that arguing with diehard Trump supporters is largely futile but, if any of you are reading this, I pray you’ll take this issue seriously.

Two equally grim prospects can explain your behavior. The first that you know Trump’s claim is untrue, but enjoy living in his Reality Distortion Field simply to tweak mainstream America and the news media. You’ve become inhabitants of a funhouse-mirror version of the liberal culture and media you mock: insular, aggressively contrarian, obsessed with narrative over fact and anger over history.

The second is that you want it to be true so badly that you’ll invent an imagined outrage rather than focus on the actual, terrible problem of Islamic radicalism (as we saw this week in California) because that fight is harder, more complex and more painful than the hokey nostrums of Trump’s “plan” to fight ISIS. (“Take duh oil! Bomb da shit outta dem!” “Muslim database!”)

Playing out Donald Trump’s lies doesn’t mean you’re fighting some political correct media trope about Muslims or that you’re teaching the press a lesson. It doesn’t mean you’re confronting radical Islam. It doesn’t mean you’re bravely revealing a media cover-up. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to teach the Republican establishment a lesson.

All it means is you’re part of the profoundly recursive Trump dynamic; he feeds your fears, prejudices, and atavistic desires for revenge against your catalog of demons, be they Muslims, Mexicans, or Republicans who fail to kneel before the Donald. You feed his monstrous, boundless ego and like the master con artist he is, he shovels you a fresh line of easily-digested outrage and boob-bait rhetoric.

Embracing the thoroughly discredited claims of a serial liar and proven fabulist over on this history of 9/11 isn’t some bold rebellion or principled stand. It’s an insult to the dead.


By: Rick Wilson, The Daily Beast, December 6, 2015

December 7, 2015 Posted by | 9-11, American History, Donald Trump | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Death Comes From The Gun”: The Tragic Choice We Make About Guns

The common denominator in mass shootings is the use of firearms. Variables such as political ideology, religious fervor and mental illness are motivating factors, but death comes from the gun.

Until our society recognizes that simple truth, the list of place names to which Colorado Springs and San Bernardino were recently added will have no end.

I don’t know which is more obscene, the fact that deadly shooting rampages have become almost routine or the way we so quickly seek to make each incident follow a familiar script.

This process played out Wednesday after 14 victims were gunned down in San Bernardino, Calif. Quickly the speculation began. The carnage happened at an agency that worked with the developmentally disabled — not the kind of public place that terrorists generally choose for attacks. One of the alleged assailants worked for the county health department, which was having a holiday party there, so maybe this was a “disgruntled employee” story line. But there were two shooters, which would be weird in a workplace dispute. And they had Muslim-sounding names. And one of them was described as religiously “devout,” a word often used to imply saintliness in Christians and fanaticism in Muslims. So maybe it was terrorism after all.

But it turns out that one of the alleged shooters was a woman. And that the couple was man and wife. And that before the shooting, they casually dropped their infant off with Grandma, saying they had a doctor’s appointment. Is that what you do when you’re about to kill a bunch of people and then die in a Bonnie-and-Clyde-style shootout with police?

As of this writing, the San Bernardino massacre does not yet conform to one of the politically convenient templates. We’ll make it fit eventually, though. If the motive is deemed to have anything to do with religion, the far right will be able to rail about putting mosques under surveillance and giving the National Security Agency carte blanche to snoop into Americans’ lives. If an office-related grudge was the cause, we can all spend a couple of weeks bemoaning the inadequacy of mental-health services in this country, then do nothing about it.

In the case of the Planned Parenthood mass shooting in Colorado Springs, by contrast, we’ve already retreated to our ideological corners. The accused killer reportedly told police “no more baby parts,” so he must have been inspired by incendiary antiabortion rhetoric. Or else political speech had nothing to do with the atrocity, since the man is clearly deranged.

The truth is surely “all of the above.” What balanced, well-adjusted person is capable of mass murder?

After every incident, someone launches the mental-health discussion but it goes nowhere. Is Congress going to approve some sort of massive new program of screening and treatment? Is the nation ever going back to the days of involuntary commitment? No and no.

Likewise, we can argue to no end about political or religious motivations. I do fear that Muslims will become even more stigmatized, but the Constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom is absolute. Similarly, I deplore extreme political rhetoric that might inspire the vulnerable to commit violence — but the truth is that I probably deplore it more if it’s rhetoric I disagree with.

What we ought to do is stick to the facts, and the facts of these mass shootings are the guns.

More than 30,000 people are killed by firearms in this country each year. We are riveted when the victims number in double digits or hostages are taken or the venue is a place such as Planned Parenthood or Sandy Hook Elementary School, but these killing sprees are but a drop in the bucket of blood.

About two-thirds of deaths by gunshot are suicides. (Cue the mental-health discussion.) How many of these people would find other ways to kill themselves if a gun were not at hand? Some, surely, but not all.

Most of the remaining gun deaths are homicides. Other countries have people with mental illness and disgruntled employees and jihadist preachers and political fanatics of every stripe, but no other developed nation has a body count remotely this high. The only difference is that, in the United States, virtually anyone can amass an arsenal of handguns and assault rifles.

As long as there are as many guns in this country as there are people, as long as we don’t meaningfully restrict firearm purchases or keep track of weapons, we will have mass shootings and individual killings and gun suicides. Tragically, this is the choice we make.


By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, December 3, 2015

December 7, 2015 Posted by | Congress, Gun Violence, Mass Shootings, Terrorism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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