Tag Archives: Immigration

Fences & Neighbors: A Blast From The Past

Published / by Stephen

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Robert Reich wrote this for the November 30, 1998 issue of the New Yorker magazine. He posted it to his blog today. It could not be more time appropriate.

Do Good Fences Make Good Neighbors?

It used to be that people who owned a lot of things could protect themselves and their things by erecting sturdy houses and, if necessary, putting a lock on the door. Today, it seems, that’s not enough. It’s estimated that three million American households live within gated communities – twenty thousand of them, often equipped with private security guards and electronic surveillance systems. Some years ago, the town of Rosemont, Illinois, erected a beige wrought-iron fence. Rosemont is a suburb of Chicago, with a population of four thousand, and it has one of the largest auxiliary police forces in the United States.

A wall is being erected around the nation, too – an outer perimeter, separating the United States from the Third World. So far, our national wall extends along only sixty-four miles of the nearly two-thousand-mile border with Mexico, but Congress has appropriated funds for lengthening it and also fortifying it.

The urge to erect walls seems to be growing, just as disparities in wealth are widening. Many of the Americans who reside within gates like Rosemont’s have become substantially wealthier during the past several years, whereas a great many Americans who live outside the gates have not. (One man, appropriately named Bill Gates, has a net worth roughly equaling the combined net worth of the least wealthy forty percent of American households.)

On a much larger scale, inhabitants of the planet who reside at latitudes north of the national wall are diverging economically from those who live south of it. The consequence is that at both perimeters – the town wall and the national wall – outsiders are more desperate to get in and insiders are more determined to keep them out. Yet the inconvenient fact is that increasingly, in the modern world, the value of what the insiders own and of the work they do depends on what occurs outside.

Half a world away from Rosemont are places whose currencies, denominated in bahts, ringgits, rupiahs, and won, began toppling more than a year ago, and seem to have come to rest only in the last several weeks at levels far below where they started. This has caused most of these countries’ citizens to become far poorer. An Indonesian who had worked for the equivalent of three dollars and thirty-three cents a day before the rupiah’s decent is now working for about one dollar and twelve cents. Efforts by the International Monetary Fund to build back the “confidence” of global investors in these nations by conditioning loans on the nation’s willingness to raise interest rates and cut their public spending have had the unfortunate side effect of propelling more of their citizens into ever more desperate poverty. After the tremors spread to Russia last summer, and it defaulted on its short-term loans, the worldwide anxiety grew, spreading all the way to Brazil, the largest economy in Latin America, with the widest gap between rich and poor. In return for its promise of austerity, Brazil is now set to receive an international line of credit totaling forty-one and a half billion dollars, designed to convince global investors that its currency will not lose its value, and that, therefore, there is no reason for them to take their money and run.

All this commotion has also diminished the economic security of quite a number of people who thought of themselves as safely walled in. …. Recent government data show that in the third quarter of 1998 the profits and investments of Americans companies shrank for the first time since the recession year of 1991. This is largely because their exports to Asia and Latin America have continued to drop, while cheap imports from these regions are undercutting their sales in the United States. In consequence, they have been laying off American workers at a higher pace, and creating new jobs at a slower pace, than at any time in recent years.

We do not know how many residents of Rosemont will lose their jobs or the value of their stock portfolios because of the continuing global crisis. No burglars will climb over the steel barrier now walling off the United States and then scale Rosemont’s beige wrought-iron fence, but some residents of Rosemont will lose a bundle nonetheless.

The major risks of modern live now move through or over walls, sometimes electronically, as with global investments, but occasionally by other means. A lethal influenza virus originating among a few Hong Kong chickens could find its way to Rosemont via a globe-trotting business executive. Drugs are flowing across the border as well, not because the walls are insufficiently think but because the people behind them are eager to buy. Something these is in capitalism that doesn’t love a wall.

So why do we feverishly build more walls when they offer us less and less protection? Perhaps it is because we feel so unprotected of late. Amid all the blather about taking more personal responsibility for this or that, there is a growing fear that random and terrible things can happen to us. Solid walls at least create the illusion of control over what we call our own, and control is something we seem to need more of these days, when almost anyone can be clobbered by a falling baht.

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The Travel Ban

Published / by Stephen

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In the words of Dan Rather

In the past few days Mr. Trump has launched a very serious and very dangerous campaign of suggesting that if an attack occurs it will be the fault of federal judges who ruled that his Executive Order on immigration was Constitutionally problematic. And more recently he suggested it might be the fault of the press for not reporting on terrorist attacks – an assertion which any fair read of the evidence shows is a lie. As with the sweeping allegations of millions of fraudulent voters (where is the investigation of that dire threat to our democracy now?), the White House cannot supply facts to back up the President’s claim.

Mr. Trump is the Commander in Chief. The armed services and intelligence community report to him. Searching for scapegoats to blame even before an event occurs is to sow the seeds of destabilization to the very fabric of our republic. These are the tactics of a thin-skinned bully who may realize he is in far over his head… This is a common tactic of authoritarian rulers I have seen around the globe.

… I do not see either judges or reporters backing down. Quite the contrary.

Is Trump a Populist or Authoritarian?

Published / by Stephen

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With regard to Trump being a “populist'” Krugman has some things to say about this,  Reality TV Populism. For example:

Europe’s populist parties are actually populist; they pursue policies that really do help workers, as long as those workers are the right color and ethnicity. As someone put it, they’re selling a herrenvolk welfare state.

Trump, however, is different. He said lots of things on the campaign trail, but his personnel choices indicate that in practice he’s going to be a standard hard-line economic-right Republican.

…in what sense is Trump a populist? Basically, he plays one on TV — he claims to stand for the common man, disparages elites, trashes political correctness; but it’s all for show. When it comes to substance, he’s pro-elite all the way.

So what is the evidence that he an “Authoritarian?” Recently there has been lots written about this. For example Trump’s Authoritarian Approach to Managing Public Opinion, Trump ‘Is a Fraud’ Sending Nation in ‘Authoritarian Direction’. A CNN opinion piece by Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Trump is following the authoritarian playbook, makes a couple of persuasive arguments:

  1. Trump is targeting the media.
  2. Strongmen also target the judiciary.

Strongmen show aggression to the press as part of a slow-drip strategy of discrediting all information that is not dispensed by their close allies. Many were surprised at Trump’s rude treatment of CNN at his recent press conference. Calling the media outlet “fake news,” he refused to allow reporter Jim Acosta to ask a question. This was classic authoritarian posturing.

Strongmen also target the judiciary, since it stands in the way of their “reforms” that often veer into extra-legality. ..So look forward to Trump administration efforts to tar individual judges who seem to block the fulfillment of GOP agendas or interfere with Trump’s personal interests.[e.g., U.S. District Judge James Robart temporary block of the travel ban]

Assuming that Thump and his set of White House advisors are “Authoritarians” — probability 1.0 — what should we do?  I found two sets of advice that appeal to me. One is from a Keith Ellison interview on Trevor North Feb. 6 where Ellison gives advice on strategy for dealing with Trump and the current set of Republicans. The other is from Global Voices, These Venezuelans Have Some Ideas to Share With Trump Opponents. Both argue that we have to fight tooth and nail to regain the support of those that depend on us the most.

From the Keith Ellison Interview: We have to fight him at every turn. People do not expect you to be always successful but they expect you to be faithful.

From Global, Voices: Recognize you’re the enemy they need; show concern, not contempt, for the wounds of those that brought Trump to power; by all means be patient with democracy and struggle relentlessly to free yourself from the shackles of the caricature the populists have drawn of you.

 

 

Facts Not Fear

Published / by Stephen

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New York Times Opinion Pages, Feb 2: Op-Ed Contributor Angelina Jolie: Refugee Policy Should Be Based on Facts, Not Fear.

Selected excerpts:

Every government must balance the needs of its citizens with its international responsibilities. But our response must be measured and should be based on facts, not fear.

Refugees are in fact subject to the highest level of screening of any category of traveler to the United States.

Furthermore, only the most vulnerable people are put forward for resettlement in the first place: survivors of torture, and women and children at risk or who might not survive without urgent, specialized medical assistance.

And in fact only a minuscule fraction — less than 1 percent — of all refugees in the world are ever resettled in the United States or any other country.

If we create a tier of second-class refugees, implying Muslims are less worthy of protection, we fuel extremism abroad, and at home we undermine the ideal of diversity cherished by Democrats and Republicans alike: “America is committed to the world because so much of the world is inside America,” in the words of Ronald Reagan.

Give Us Your Tired Your Poor…

Published / by Stephen

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What happened to Give us your tired your poor…? According to Trump immigrants/visitors are welcome as long as they are white christians. No Mexicans, no Muslims. We don’t want immigrants, we don’t want imports.  We will sell you goods but we don’t want your goods. Let’s turn the country into an island unto itself.

This will not make us great again. It will not make us safer. It will make us infinitely poorer.

Background on the poem from which the famous lines that adorn the Stature of Liberty (from a Katie Reilly TIME article); Emma Lazarus, who was born in New York City in 1849 to a wealthy Jewish family, composed “The New Colossus.” Lazarus drew inspiration from her Sephardic Jewish heritage and from her work on Ward’s Island, where she helped Jewish refugees who had been detained by immigration authorities, according to the National Park Service.

“Wherever there is humanity, there is the theme for a great poem,” she once said, according to the Jewish Women’s Archives. The poem in its entirety:

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “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-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”