Thursday, December 20, 2007

Current Comedy 12/20/07: For Now the Peasants Still Say Please

Throughout recorded, or more specifically televised, history there are few instances captured that have as profoundly displayed the sudden realization of a people of their power as the day in Romania, December 21st, 1989, when the long oppressed citizens gathered at the presidential palace in protest and the dictator, Nicolae Ceauşescu, stepped out on his balcony intending to calm and condemn them. Condescendingly Ceauşescu gestured for them to hush, but instead the crowd hissed their disgust back at him.
And in that instant, as the camera zoomed in on the tiny man on the balcony, Ceauşescu cringed, showed his fear and ducked hurriedly inside. There is a stunned moment as the crowd, so long crushed and brutalized by the Ceauşescu regime, suddenly and profoundly realized their strength and the dictator was overthrown by morning. In an instant the people overthrew the totalitarian oligarchy which had left them to suffer for its own whims. His power after all was given to him and could just as decidedly be taken away.
Here’s why I bring this up. What has got to be the absolutely most pathetic moment in a presidency marked by an unprecedentedly long parade of pathetic moments surely had to be this past Dec. 15th, when thousands of activists in Bali at the 13th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change gathered to protest US anti-environmental policies and CNN showed a photo of a banner that simply read “Please.” As in “Please, you arrogant selfish-to-the-point-of-destroying-us-all US consumers who account for only 6% of the world’s population but squander 50% of everybody’s resources could you please stop insisting on your right waste everything you want so all of us, yourself included, can live out the century? Please?”
I mean when Kevin Conrad, the representatives from Papua-New Guinea, a country where only 60 yrs ago many of citizens had so little technological awareness that when they first saw planes in WWII they thought that they were gods, when those people can correctly call our president backward and ignorant of the realities of global warming then it was definitely time to wake up. Conrad put it simply: “We seek your leadership, but if you cannot lead, leave it to the rest of us. Get out of the way.”” Luckily America’s representative at the conference, Undersecretary of State Paula Dobriansky, had her own Ceauşescu-esque deer-in-the-headlights moment and realized that if you don’t occasionally indulge the peasants they will quite justifiably overthrow and eat you. And so she agreed to not support mandatory reductions in greenhouse gases, but did agree to continue to talk about it.
See what I mean? Pathetic.
Of course Republicans have two major challenges when it comes to even considering environmental restraint. Typically you can’t depend on them to stop thinking about their wallet till they get bitten in the ass. Every since Reagan famously proclaimed the real polluters in North America were those damned trees, GOP leaders have been dramatically wrongheaded on environmental issues. For example they claim to appreciate the raw majesty of our American wilderness as if they invented the term “outdoor” and then champion plowing up ANWR to collect the spare barrel or two available there saying it is to make America strong. They then turn a blind eye when, despite posting new record profits of $9.4 billion last quarter, Exxon has gone back to court to attempt to get out of paying the 5 billion dollar settlement they owe Alaskan natives for their 1989 oil spill that devastated Prince Williams Sound.
Pass a bill that allows increases in logging and clear-cutting of old growth primordial timber and call it the “Healthy Forests Initiative.” Arrange for your favorite campaign donors to increase their pollution allowances and call it “the Clear Skies Act.” Shove through a reworking of environmental protections in West Virginia to allow the coal industry to blast the tops of mountains off and shove them into the forests and rivers below thus destroying dozens of small towns, thousands of acres of virgin wilderness and hundreds of rivers and say it improves the quality of life.
But for whom? Meanwhile the peasants are revolting.
Small wonder. Earlier in the week long Bali debate which featured ten thousand delegates from more than 180 nations someone drew attention to a carefully thought-out study that proposed measures to reduce carbon emissions world-wide from 25-40%. When the word got back to Bush he scowled like someone who just found a turd in their refried beans and spit his pronouncement that the two-year multi-national research project was quote “totally unrealistic” and “unhelpful.” This comes when just the week before our own nation’s top scientists explained that if the world does not reduce all greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050 all hope will be lost.
Of course, even though oil prices have spiraled up into the nosebleed seats and are hovering in the $100 a barrel range, the real problem is not that the world is running out of oil, but that there is still too much oil. Some estimates note that there are potentially still several—count ‘em—trillion barrels of petroleum in the earth’s crust. At three bucks a gallon there is little possibility oil companies and the politicians they own will make any serious changes to stop global warming till we’re all using gondolas to navigate Manhattan.
And who are the politicians they own? Well, you can start with Condoleezza Rice, a former top executive at Chevron, one of the few companies that refused to divest itself from the military junta in Burma because they’re making so much on their oil fields there. What does it matter if a few thousand monks are sacrificed every now and then to keep the rabble in line and the oil pumps flowing. After all, oil is thicker than blood.
Or how about good old Tricky Dick Cheney himself, former head of Halliburton and it former subsidiary KBR, under investigation now not only for screwing the American public to the tune of multiple billions in corrupt bloated no-bid contracts; but now also for concealing the fact that its male employees out and out gang-raped one of its female employees and told her she’d be fired if she talked.
And then there’s Bush himself who, like his dad and grandpa before him spent much of his life in the energy industry and made many of his millions there. Bush was drilling dry holes with the Bin Ladens and other Saudis back in his Harkin and Arbusto Oil days and was laying around with Ken Lay before the rest of us understood what a dirty joke that really was.
With leadership like that it is small wonder we have done so little to save Sudan and spent hundreds of billions in Iraq. We didn’t save the country’s 7000 year old cultural heritage, killed over a million of them, devastated millions more, but the first building we secured with troops was the oil ministry. We spent years crafting a PR campaign to get the country behind attacking Iran; but when the truth finally gets told it turns out that they don’t have nukes after all. But they do have oil.
Of course if we’d really wanted an environmental president we would have had to go the other direction back in 2000 in such a clear way that the even the republican vote-stuffers and Poppy Bush’s pals on the Supreme Court couldn’t have twisted the results. For as everybody knows by now, Al Gore has indeed won Nobel Peace Prize, making him 4th American elected president to win this prize.
Unlike Bush who was busy sneering about the presidential palace over the latest affront that the peasants were complaining about--the CIA destroying evidence of their torture practices--Al Gore was in Bali, after having appeared in Norway to collect his Noble Peace Prize. He said if we didn’t show the resolve now, our grandchildren, the few who survived, will bitterly ask us why we didn’t do something, why didn’t we care. That is of course unless America meets with its own Cleacesque moment first. So far the peasants are still saying please.
So far.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Current Comedy, 10.8.07:Can't Believe We're on the Eve

Originally posted on

Current Comedy, 10/8/07: I Can't Believe We’re on the Eve...
mikel weisser
--2400 words--
For reasons that sound too paranoid to comfortably convey, I currently fear our world may be coming to the end of times. I know you’ve heard lines like that before, generally from some guy in a bath robe who hasn’t showered since the Reagan administration, and I cannot pinpoint the date, BUT, next week, beginning Oct. 15th, could be the end of the world as we know it. A conjunction of events is coming together so major it makes the harmonic convergence look like a kazoo solo.
Lead among the key factors coming into play is the Whitehouse’s relentless press for yet another trifecta of terror, for, as you know, Bush is just jones-ing for war with Iran. One could hardly blame him, considering how well the current two debacles are going. Of course, what can you expect when you leave the shooting to Eric (the Dark) Prince from the Black Lagoon?
The estimated total spending already in place in this war on error should top 850 billion which doesn’t include the spending for the next 6 years, which even Dems acknowledge is a “rushing it” timetable, nor does it leave time or money for things like saving the environment or poor children’s health insurance and that just how the B-man wants it, conservatively compassionate after all.
So, what’s another couple of trillion if it distracts Americans from the fact we can’t risk having ’08 elections, lest the terrorists win? Bush has been begging for this war on Tehran’s supposed “Islamofascists” (as opposed to the “Christo-fascists,” AKA the Religious Right, AKA Bush’s base) for over a year. Recently, thanks to Jon Kyl (a repug so conservative he won’t even invest enough in education to learn how to spell his own name correctly) and Joe Lieberman (a Dem so rabidly right-wing he makes Rove look red), Congress gave the prez the authorization he needed to light up Tehran like a kosher Christmas tree any time his whim impels him. As it stands, the only thing that stands between linking the war in Iraq to the war in Afghanistan is that pesky theocracy in the middle: Iran. Since Bush has been working so hard to establish a theocracy of his own (remember his 2001 slip acknowledging that his war was a “crusade”?), it is not surprising he would want to knock out the competition.
This is as good a time as any and a better time than most. Just like Aug. of ’01, Bush’s rep is in the toilet and spinning downward, precisely the time a player like Bush would swing for the fences. You can bet he’s just thinking, right now wouldn’t it great if we could just have another “catastrophic and catalyzing event––like a new Pearl Harbor"? Yet, despite the entire corporate news spin machine amped into overdrive trying to make Ahmadinejad appear to be guilty of everything from having a smoking gun in the shape of a mushroom cloud to dropping a deuce in Santa’s eggnog, America hasn’t quite embraced the idea of a third front just yet. But maybe with a bit less freedom to decide what freedoms we choose to exercise we can be forced, er, persuaded, to back another shockingly awful attack.
And that threatening juncture begins, hopefully only in test drive, next week when Operations Vigilant Shield and TOPOFF4 kick off (Oct. 15-21). Combined they are a war games scenario for national martial law and crisis response to two “dirty” bombs and a flu pandemic striking Portland, Oregon, Tucson, AZ and Guam all at once. This baby’s going to involve everybody from NORAD and NORTHCOM to Barney Fife and Deputy Dawg. The last time we had this huge a wargames scenario going on was in London, where they were working on a drill of what would happen if the subway was bombed when, guess what? The subway was bombed. The time before that was a scenario where planes crashed into the Pentagon and buildings in New York. Care to guess what day that was? This time the scenario is likely to incorporate the hundreds of Christian ministers and priests who have been training with FEMA to help conduct martial law and “quell dissent” with the same passage the Nazis used to control their public, Romans 13, which translates out of the original ancient text roughly to “shut up and do as you’re told.” Not to mention the dozens of quietly erected detention centers around the country built to house up to 400,000 non-compliant citizens. Of course, it is all just a practice session, and “just in case” and so the detention centers and army of ministers won’t have to be called into play. Or so we can hope.
However, on Wall Street, just as on that fateful day back in 2001, several billion has been placed on “put options,” essentially gambling that the whole shebang is going to go to hell in a handcart before the end of Oct. Gosh-ee, think they again know something that we don’t? Throw in the recent B-52 incident and … you remember that one right? About how on August 30th, a Minot South Dakota Air Force Base B-52 gets loaded with 6 actual live nuclear missiles, the big boom kind Slim Pickens rides at the end of Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, except a jazillion times bigger?
Anyway despite ten yards of red tape and an entire Diebold semi trailer tractor truck’s worth of failsafes, this “Bent Spear” loose cannon flies across the U.S. of A. all the way to Louisiana … by mistake. Sure. Just like the 2000 election Palm Beach chads were slightly misaligned by mistake.
It would have just been a funny story of “News of the Weird” type inhuman interest, if it wasn’t for the follow-ups stories that didn’t make the mainstream news feed. Like: that Barksdale Air Force, where the bird finally landed, is the embarkation point for US Middle East air strikes; that several Air Force and CIA insiders say that the whole thing was part of a coordinated attack plan with Israel on Syria and Iran that fell through when various whistleblowers made the incident public before the 6 missiles could get sent to their next unnamed destination. (Israel went ahead and attacked Syria anyway just for good measure.) Or, that all 6 of the airmen involved in the flight died within two weeks (Sept. 19) of the incident becoming public. Or that three weeks later (Sept.25) a Nashville FAA center shut down and no flights in the entire Southeast were tracked for two hours, which in itself isn’t so scary until you add the fact that only 5 of the 6 missiles are currently accounted for.
So, is it time for building bomb shelters, hoarding duct tape and developing a taste for one’s own urine? Hopefully not, but, if that were the case, that would preferable to the scenario that wakes me up at nights: the wailing and gnashing of teeth Armageddon style end of the world that some have been expecting for almost two millennia and dozens of websites like Signs of the End Ministries and ministers around the country have been anticipating for late 2007, starting in all earnest as far back in 2003.
The Revelations style whore of Babylon brought to her knees by thermal nuclear weaponry is a decidedly Christian fear, and here in the United States there are a lot of Christians. It’s also for many, for many, many years, a fondest modest wish that might at last come true. Our president himself claims to be one, a Christian that is, though how you could call yourself a Christian while displaying such hubris, greed and murdering hundreds of thousands of people is beyond me.
You may recall, at the turn of the century Apocalypse was an anxiety that occupied the nation: What if, despite all the efforts and reassurances, maybe, the entire global grid would shut down at the stroke of the millennium and chaos would rule. Y2K? Why not? It could've happened for all most of us truly knew. Then midnight came and it didn't and we all went on and were gladder. Or thought we were, the new American Millennium Economy seemed to be chugging along, globalization was spreading and buying everyone a happy meal. But somehow, since then things have started to go haywire.
America in flames. Righteousness oppressed. The word "God" being ripped from the Pledge of Allegiance. Is America truly independent? Not anymore, with the jobs we've sold around the world, more and more of our commodities are tied to foreign trade. Is America truly free? Not if you intend to eat or in any other way inhabit this land of liberty. Is America truly just? Not on your life. Is this crap the work of Satan? Could be.
So it's no surprise that eventually some of the Christians among us turned to look to the good book of Revelations as a possible way to understand our troubled times, the commercialized version that is, the Left Behind series. Over 50 million copies of a fictionalized Christian Revelations adventure series have sold, creating some pretty stylish dread amongst the populace. Just a few years back, Time Magazine printed a cover story to further plug the publishing phenomenon by scandalizing the rest of us on the likelihood that America's contemporary global crises (plural) are harbingers of biblical Armageddon. According to Time’s author Nancy Gibbs, more than a third of Americans believe that the bible can be taken literally and a similar third contend that current news events somehow relate to the Christian mythology of the end of the world.
Some, like good ol’ Eric Prince, call themselves “Dominionists” and believe that as Christians it is their right to rule the country and the world, shooting first asking questions later, never mind whatever it was that those annoying atheists like Washington, Franklin and Jefferson had in mind. Others taking it a step further refer to themselves as “Revelationists,” who believe that the entirety of human history is a prelude to a Rapture of 144,000 (and they, not you, intend to be in that number), while the rest of us are headed for the deep end of the lake of fire; and if the time is not quite at hand then they’ll do whatever it takes to force it. While his ministers, like the late Billy Graham, were openly revelationalist, Bush has been cagier than that, so far, though he did claim god talks with him and encouraged the attack on Iraq. There should be little doubt that if George Bush continues kicking everyone in the ribs claiming he’s searching for weapons of mass destruction that eventually he’ll piss off someone who actually has some.
And so, with King George in power and his Prince at the trigger, millions of fundamentalist Christians, just like millions of religious fundamentalists of other religions are crossing their fingers that their own righteous and merciful god is about to start kicking the crap out of the followers of all the other righteous and merciful gods.
Of course, some of us are just glad that the Religious Right is finally seeing what liberals have been saying all along: George W. Bush actually is the devil. Sure, he's the evil-doer needing a good smoking out, that explains everything. We are not struggling with global warming, increased religious hostilities around the globe, and an unhappy globalization that’s now munching on everyone as if the world was its personal Big Mac, Bush is the antichrist and these are end times.
It all adds up now. Bush has preached peace while selling weapons, security by abusing, justice by torture, and democracy by genocide. Bush used to be in business with Osama's brother, in bed with Ken Lay, and is still in cahoots with Dick Cheney, who back in 1991, first bombed the heck out of Iraq, then made 22 million as a private contractor to rebuild it. And that ain’t nothing next to the booty Halliburton’s been raking in with the current wars on terror. Just imagine how much they can make if this Iran thing gets going, just imagine. You won’t be the first.
If you combine his environmental/educational debacles, with his social service budget plundering, Enron copulating, Civil Right eviscerating, propaganda spewing, militarist fetishizing, election stealing ways with the ongoing accusations that Bush's potential tacit approval of the 911 ambush was a way to bolster his sagging corruption ridden presidency, then reasonably respectable news sources combine to suggest the possibility that the Bush administration is involved in something far more evil than anything Clinton could've possibly construed with a cigar. Maybe, he is Satan; we’ve had floods, famines, and fire. Who, pray tell, was like unto this beast, er, Bush, who could make war with him?
Surely this torment of Armageddon could go no further, the end is nigh. Or maybe it’s all just a fever dream of someone who watches too much Free Speech TV. But, be warned, millions of Americans awake each day with a taste for fire and brimstone. After all, for some Christians, the idea of the apocalypse offers strange comfort: all those "evil-doers" in the world, the Saddams, the Bin Ladens, those pesky Kyoto Accord/World Court creeps, all the Amy Goodmans and Cindy Sheehans of the world, all the Henry Waxmans, all of them, all will be cast into the lake of fire like they've had coming for so damned long.
Then the right religious Christians will have their righteous asses whisked away and get to live in paradise forever with 49 virgins, or something like that. And while that may all sound cool, I don't believe it is a good enough reason to justify the violence of, say, crashing airplanes into buildings, much less destroying the whole freaking planet. But then personally, unlike some Christians, I am disinclined to follow the voice of destruction, even if it comes from a Burning Bush.

Current Comedy: 11/3/07: Let's Make Immigration Legal

Originally Posted on

Current Comedy, 10/29/07: Make Immigration Legal
-2500 words-

During the recent raging inferno of the Southern California fires, desperate poor families of color once again had to seek solace from an overwhelming natural disaster by huddling into the home of a professional football team and once again were humiliated by our national government. This time, instead of New Orleans’ Lower 9th Black families fleeing Katrina, they were the So-Cal fire refugees, San Diego area farm workers, and the government agency was the INS, La Migra. Just after midnight on Oct. 24th the Border Patrol and local police began rousting families who had barely escaped with their lives to check to see if they remembered to bring their green cards. Anyone Hispanic looking who did not have IDs was ejected from the stadium as agents harassed and detained legal and illegal immigrants alike, as well as other under-documented suspected Hispanics.
This same week New York state governor, Eliot Spitzer, continued to roast in the firestorm of controversy over his decision to join Arizona, Vermont and Washington in the process of licensing foreign nationals driving vehicles in his state, provided they had valid passports from their home countries. Right wing xenophobes, including CNN’s Lou Dobbs, frothed at the mouth vilifying Spitzer as an illegal alien enabler. (It’s worth noting that Dobbs’ repetitiously repetitious use of “arrogant” as an epithet while belittling Sptizer could not help but remind one of the old playground retort about rubber and glue.)
Also that same week GOP wannabe candidate bottom feeder Tom Tancredo tried to gobble up a little attention by narcing out IL senator Dick Durbin’s press conference on the DREAM act, a proposal to allow immigrants US citizenship for risking their lives in the military. Ever the loyal patriot, Tancredo called in to tip off the INS that illegals would probably be there. Like so many Republican voters have done, the INS simply ignored Tancredo. But between naps second tier GOP sleeper, Fred Thompson, has recently tried to generate some nativist traction by proposing that cities and states be stripped of their federal funding if they allow illegal immigrants in their midst, suggesting that the fugitive slave act is still alive and well in Tennessee. Even GOP stalwarts acknowledge that kind of law would be a tall order.
And so, in a time when the mainstream media would have you believe that the allowable debate on the immigration issue is A) punish ‘em a lot or B) punish ‘em a lot more, let me offer a suggestion that even Bill Richardson isn’t secure enough in his paperwork to suggest. Let’s make immigration legal. Bring on your tired huddled masses and let’s let them breathe free. America living up to its ideals? Sure it’s a harebrained notion, but hey, this is supposedly a comedy column.
Let me open with a story: long ago and far away I grew up in rural south Texas not far from the Rio Grande border. Illegal immigrants were an extremely visible fact of daily life. The border patrol had guards right on the river and then there is a second perimeter of checkpoints about 50 miles in. The town I grew up in was the last town south of the interior border. As an Anglo in South Texas, that is, in general, 80% Latino, I grew up a minority and spent much time in the company of people who spoke a different language than me. You get used to it and I didn't think to wonder where the people around me fit along the spectrum from full blooded US citizens for generations since that land was taken from their great-great-great-great-grandparents in the Mexico-American War 1848, down through second and first generation US citizens, to documented aliens, to illegals who had been there for decades, to those who'd slipped across the river that morning.
It was all business as usual UNTIL, one day in my early 20s when I was looking for work and took a job at a commercial plant nursery. The work was tedious, and the pay was minimum wage, but I knew, or thought I knew the owner, a former professional football player who now hustled himself up a living in a variety of ways, including this nursery. Like I said the work was tedious and, as usual with the manual labor jobs I did plenty of in South Texas, I spent most of my time surrounded by people who didn't speak English to me except when absolutely necessary. Finally Friday arrived and we gathered 'round for our paychecks. The owner stepped up on a table, and his foremen gathered closely around him. The owner then waved a fist full of envelopes at us and called out that he would distribute the checks to all workers who could show him their social security cards.
A panic of confusion filled the room as the workers gathered frantically to figure out what he was saying. I too was scared, for even though I remembered the number, I hadn't seen my actual paper social security card in years, but he called out to me and handed me an envelope without pause. Then he went back to explaining in broken Spanish that there was some sort of law that said he only had to pay people who could prove they were US citizens. The foremen were still working at controlling the crowds when I walked out and never went back.
I had worked the same hours as the other people and had my pay, but it wasn't because I had a piece of paper in my pocket with a series of numbers on it. And it wasn't because I was a better worker than those other men who had sweated and strained. I surely was not. It was because of which side of a river I had been born on and, like the others, that man could have gotten away with cheating me if I had been born just 30 miles more South. I was so incredibly ashamed of being a White, Anglo, American, of even being associated in any way with that guy that I winced for years anytime I even had to pass by that nursery.
Nowadays I teach junior high in Western Arizona where the line between one country and another isn't even a river, just an invisible stripe somewhere in a desert. The school where I now work is 65% Hispanic, including some whose trip across that line is still fairly fresh. In my classes I am currently teaching about the 1920s and we are learning that one of the leading social movements of the time was called the "nativist movement," essentially a political reform movement based a rallying cry something like "America for us ‘mericans!" a oft recurring slogan in US history; one which every citizen of color clearly understands to translate out to: White People Only. While that is simplified version of the politics of the more mainstream members of this movement it aptly captures the sentiments of their more strident branches like the then recently revived KKK who reviled not only Blacks, but also Catholics, Jews and immigrants of all stripe. It was essentially the same laundry list Hitler would use a decade later to set up his cleansing of Europe. It is worth noting that the KKK is again managing to revive itself on the immigrant issue with new news stories about KKK justifying their hatemongering in Arizona and Alabama because of the threat of “those durned foreigners.”
Back in America in the 1920s the nativist movement gained adherents of all classes, though, obviously, not necessarily all colors. Politically the movement successfully established strict immigration quotas in general and virtually eliminated émigrés from African and Asian countries. This political movement was in reaction to an as of today still unequaled period of immigration between 1900 and 1920 when up to 20,000,000 immigrants, mostly from non-English speaking countries, teemed up on our tempest tossed shore. Their numbers swelled the population from 70 to 100,000,000. This is important to remember the size of that immigrant wave because, even though the present wave of immigrants is also twenty million, that figure is a ratio equal to more than triple the current wave of immigration we are now seeing. It is small wonder then that the nativists were scared. They were on their way to being outnumbered.
It is also worth noting though, that this was not the first such nativist movement to resort to claims of patriotism to their underlying racism. In fact, former massively unpopular president Martin Van Buren made one of his several unsuccessful runs for the presidency in the 1850s with the "Know Nothing" party which championed expulsion of all foreign born residents in America. The 1860s era of this movement was portrayed in the Martin Scorsese film Gangs of New York. At that time the offending immigrant minority were the Irish, whom like immigrants today, were expected to trade military service for citizenship and occasionally shipped right off of one boat (the freighters from Europe) onto the other (the troop transports heading South).
There should be no doubt that immigrants have always and always will have a powerful impact on the country. Just ask the Awaraks what they thought of the Spanish who moved here with that Italian, Columbus. Or the Powhatan of the arrival of the colonists at Jamestown, or the residents along the Rio Grande of the coming of Zachary Taylor or for that matter you could just as well ask the Alaskan mammoths what they thought about the coming of the cavemen.
I personally feel that the changes to the country are inevitable, but, given that political power in this country is a zero-sum game, I don't see the transition as ever having been, nor likely to be a smooth one. I am convinced that the forecasts are true that, by the middle of this century, providing there is still an America, the dominant ethnic group will be the Hispanic, largely the children of immigrants, just the latter 20th century population explosion was the result of the children and grandchildren of the immigration wave of the early 20th century. Through my mother's second marriage; I myself am one of those step-grandchildren of “durned foreigners” who didn’t know a word of English when they washed up on Ellis Island.
Way back when, the dire predictions made about that group of immigrants a century earlier did have some truth to them: They didn't speak the language and so were slow to assimilate and surrender their cultures. There were pockets of intense poverty and the resultant suffering and increased crime. There was also a moral shift in the country from the agrarian fundamentalist society of the American 1800s to the "decadent" cosmopolitan urban society we see today. I expect that all those things, or this century's variation on them, are in the offing with the current wave of immigrants.
But in looking back at that movement I also see a rich infusion of ideas and energy, of styles and fashions and foods and the myriad of cultures that make America the interesting place it is and I look forward to finding out what exciting ideas and energies this generation of émigrés will bring. And I hope that like their forefathers they will help promote and perpetuate the comparatively tolerant country people like me depend on to exist. In the nativist all-white all “normal” world of the 1880s per se, an essentially radical personality such as myself would have been either neutralized or eliminated.
Knowing all this, I think that the problem of immigrants coming to the US from Mexico in illegal ways could best be solved by loosening restrictions, not tightening them. If you really want to end illegal immigration, make immigration legal. Surely any rational person can accept that an immigrant would much rather enter the country through a functional welcoming low-cost official border crossing than by spending his life savings to risk life, limb and jail-time trying to sneak in through the middle of one of the least hospitable deserts on the planet. Surely every one accepts that an immigrant would much rather fill out commonsense paperwork in a language they could read to take a job at a reasonable wage than to have to seriptiously take sub-existence wages in a shadow economy, where one error or one objection could lead not just to firing, but deportation.
I further assert that we might as well make immigration legal since there is no legitimate political will in the US to seriously attempt to end illegal immigration. Intentions of the immigrants aside, just like the "drug problem," it's the demand that guarantees the supply. And I am not just talking about nannies, gardeners and maids. Too many "legitimate" American businesses "illegitimately" thrive on the cheap labor they enjoy from keeping immigrants under the table. And it is not just the backyard back-of-the-pickup landscaping companies I'm referring to. We have seen somewhat public scandals involving corporate giants like McDonalds, Swift and Tyson; and those are just the ones that have surfaced. As long as corporations embrace the practice of employing and exploiting immigrant workers, we will never see an end.
I believe that Bush is aware of the importance of the underground economy. His uncharacteristic ineffectiveness on immigration in either direction simply shows me it wasn't something he wanted to have changed. Certainly his constituents, who are quite clearly not the American people, aren't in favor of reform.
And so our ideals claiming to be to contrary and our national “leadership” (I told you this was a comedy column) opposing action on it, xenophobes can rant all they want, but we are not likely to see further restrictions on immigration, so why not just make immigration legal. Yes, immigration changes things and not in all ways for the better; but no, I don't believe that that is a reason to stop it, or to waste political energy and tax payer money to further fail at stopping it. And please can we take action soon so those creeps on our southern border who call themselves “Minutemen” will stop crowing about their so-called patriotism and have to acknowledge that what they actually are, are bigots with guns.
Instead allowing this stalemate to keep going, couldn’t we just legislate it and improve the lives of the people who suffer due to the oppression designed to keep one group of people poor and scared and another wealthy and callous. Free those who feed us from having to fear the midnight knock at the door and all the Tancredos of the world looking to grub a few votes. Not just amnesty from prosecution, but a reprieve from the persecution immigrants face each day simply to feed their families and inevitably, ours.

--mikel weisser teaches social studies and poetry on the West Coast of Arizona.

Current Comedy: 11/23/07: If The Dems Really Wanted Us to Vote ...

Current Comedy 11/12/07: If They Wanted Us to Vote …
By mikel weisser
--1000 words-

For those of you who read this column on a regular basis, turns out my much feared nightmare about a military coup installing martial law did indeed come true, complete with motorcade bombings, dissidents beaten in the streets and disappeared to detention centers, opposition leaders rendered to house arrest “for their own safety.” Even the nation’s lawyers have risked bodily injury to bring the weight of the letter of the law to bear on the unconstitutionality of the dictator’s power grab and the world cringes in fear of the shadow of the nuclear peril such instability brings. Face it, when even the country lawyers are out risking their lives pro bono you know the problem reaches to the root of their society.
Of course the nation in question is Pakistan and not the US, but watching the way that the Bush backed the Islamo-fascist, Pervez Musharrof, practice a takeover of his country as he holds the elected government at bay and dismantles the judiciary to keep it from hampering his aims, is like watching Bush’s understudy warming up the crowd prior to the lead’s big show stopper number. Coincidentally enough, Musharraf made his move just in time to interfere with the upcoming elections.
Wonder who had the idea first? It will just take a certain set of circumstances for Bush to have to set up his own set of emergency measures for our own safety. Consider the ongoing posturing towards Iran. Even though I have received a personal letter from Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) reassuring me that we are not about to attack Iran, Bush, Cheney and all the in-crowd continue pushing for confrontation. Condi Rice says she’s sure that Iran is lying about its nuclear plans. And of course we should trust her to know a lie when she hears one; for after all it takes a liar to know a liar. Though which lie of hers is hard to pick as the best example. There’s the WMD lies from ’03, or the 9/11 “we had no idea any one would ever think of flying planes into buildings” from ‘01 or how the one about her being an oil company executive and the US attacking an oil rich country is not a conflict of interest.
Certainly if we are hoping for the supposed loyal opposition to protect us from BushCo’s abuses of power, on Nov. 6, 2007 we found out who the Democratic Party is actually loyal to. When the Dems were finally placed in a position to put up or shut up, they definitely showed what they were made of. For when Denis Kucinich finally dug his impeachment measure out of the House leadership’s imposed mothballs where its languished since April, using a privileged House motion to finally get it heard, the Repugs in the House tossed Kucinich’s House Resolution 799 (AKA HR333) right back in Pelosi’s face by backing Kucinich’s move to bring a full-on discussion over impeachment for Dick Cheney right out into the open before the full house, majority leader Steny Hoyer, et al, hustled little Denis off to the side like humiliated parents whose four-year old just brought out the secret porn collection at family reunion. All this time of thinking that Pelosi loved truth, justice and the American Way, it turns what Nancy really loves is Dick.
If there is one thing Pelosi and Hoyer don’t want to have to do, it’s sell an impeachment to the Capitol Hill GOP, who are still clinging to Bush like they’re the emperor’s imaginary clothes. The rest of America is largely ready (55% of a Nov. poll say they’re convinced Bush’s committed impeachable offenses), but in the LaLa-land inside the Beltway, the GOP insist Bush is still the powerful “Uniter” who works by dividing, the “builder” who creates by destroying. You know, War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength, that kind of thing.
Meanwhile Pelosi looks the other way and is busy having the Department of Homeland Security investigating the San Francisco oil spill. If that’s the kind of leadership the Dems provide, it’s no wonder that even though they are facing the least popular world leader since his long lost cousin (true fact) Vlad the Impaler, the Democrats can’t guarantee a victory next November. Stats show that even Nixon was better loved than Bush at this stage of the game and, let’s face it, being less loved than Nixon is one of those special categories usually reserved for folks like Leona Helmsley and Pol Pot, both of whom Bush is indeed beginning to resemble. After all, what kind of guy grabs up yet another 450 billion for more weapons at the same time he vetoes bills for health care, education, and water safety.
He’s the kind of guy who runs up the greatest debt our government has ever known then complains when congress tries to pass a bill like the SCHIP that they’re acting like a teenager with a brand new credit card. Then he stops the SCHIP, a bill for children’s health care, twice by saying it will cost too much; even though the cost of protecting the health of 10 million American children for a year is less than the cost of destroying the health of Iraqi children for 3 months. I mean which fabled world leader’s footsteps is this guy trying to follow, Hoover, Harding, or Hitler?
But still, somehow, the Dems continue avoid addressing the 3000lb elephant stomping all over the peanut butter. When the impeachment word gets mentioned at the Democratic debates, even though the audience roars in applause, the Dems onstage wince like someone cut the cheese. If that’s the best they can do to protect us from Bush, it’s small wonder that even after all these debates most of America still isn’t sure why we should vote Dem. In some ways they seem to suffer an identity crisis. I mean, come on, Barack Hussein Obama sounds like a terrorist; Bill Richardson sounds like he is not Latino; Biden sounds like he can wait forever; Dodd sounds like a dud; Kucinich sounds like it is Polish for Dukakis; Gravel sounds like you can treat him like dirt; and Clinton sounds like she ought to be a Democrat. Like the old joke goes, if they really wanted us to vote for them, they’d offer us candidates.