Saturday, May 15, 2010

Juan Varela's Family Says White Neighbor Gunned Him Down Over SB 1070, Demand Hate-crime Charges

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

John called out the case in Phoenix involving the murder of a Latino man by his white neighbor the other day: Turns out the murder indeed involved Arizona's new immigration law:
Tension surrounding the passage of Arizona's tough new law cracking down on illegal immigration contributed to the slaying of an Hispanic man, allegedly shot by a white neighbor, a representative of the dead man's family said Friday.

Police and the family said the arrested man, 50-year-old Gary Thomas Kelley, allegedly directed racial slurs at 44-year-old Juan Daniel Varela before the May 6 shooting near their homes.


A probable cause statement filed May 6 said Kelley confronted Varela outside Varela's home and repeated racial slurs at Varela. Varela then apparently attempted to kick Kelley who then allegedly pulled out a revolver and shot Varela, police said.

A police statement said the two men had gotten into altercations several times in recent years. The family wants Kelley charged with premeditated first-degree murder, not second-degree murder, with a hate crime allegation, Galindo said.

"This family wants justice. They're asking that violence stop and that Gov. Brewer and other elected officials take responsibility for this hostile atmosphere they have created" by the immigration law and other legislation, Galindo said.

But Phoenix Police Department spokesman, Officer Luis Samudio, said Friday the shooting was not a hate crime, an allegation that under Arizona law could subject a person convicted of a crime to a stiffer sentence.

Robert Shutts, homicide bureau chief for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, said the case remained under investigation and that the murder charge could be upgraded to first-degree and a hate-crime allegation added if evidence warrants.

Shutts wouldn't comment on whether the new immigration law was a factor in the case. But he said authorities weren't trying smooth over the case or minimize it, as the Varela family has alleged.

"That's not even close to the truth," he said. "We are treating this case with ... utmost seriousness." Kelley on Friday remained jailed in lieu of $750,000 bond, facing one count each of second-degree murder and aggravated assault.
The story has more details:
The alleged killer was yelling racial slurs seconds before he fired the shots that killed 44-year-old Juan Varela.

Varela was a third-generation American,
yet his family claims he was called a “wetback” who was going to be sent back to Mexico by the man who murdered him.

They claim it was a hate crime and the police are not doing their job. That is a charge the department denies.

A family spokesperson says, “We ask for justice, that’s what the family wants is justice.”
As someone reasonably knowledgeable about hate crimes, I can say that this case throws up all kinds of red flags. It is true that the mere use of ethnic slurs in the commission of a crime is not enough by itself to warrant hate-crime charges, but it is a potential piece of evidence in such a case. More significant is the fact that he had a prior history of agitation in the neighborhood, and it sounds as though that was racial too.

There certainly is plenty to investigate here. The Phoenix police should not be dismissing the potential for this to be a bias crime. And frankly, second-degree murder sounds pretty light, too: This guy went over to his neighbor's property with a gun and began shouting racial slurs at him. Those sound like powerful elements of premeditation to me.

There's some comfort in knowing, at least, that the case is not being handled by Joe Arpaio's detectives. But this case bears close watching.

There's A Reason We Need To Keep Reminding People About George W. Bush

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

The other day, Rep. Ed Markey made the following mundane but true observation:
For years, the Bush administration's oil strategy placed the granting of drilling leases ahead of safety review.
This irked Neil Cavuto no end:
Ipso-facto — Bush to blame for the big leak-o.

Just like he's apparently behind that big thousand-point swing-o.

Just like he's to blame for the unemployment rate that's higher than when he left office, and the deficits that are much higher than any year he was in office.

All problems, all Bush, all the time — probably until the end of time.
Cavuto wants a "statute of limitations" on blaming Bush. "Just give it a break," he pleaded.


It's true that the miseries we're currently enduring are not merely the fault of the sole personage of George W. Bush, the man now widely viewed by conservatives as The Man Who Betrayed Conservative Values. He had lots and lots of help. In fact, he had millions of little helpers -- all those movement conservatives who now want to pretend that he wasn't a real conservative.

This is because, in reality, Bush is The Man Who Nearly Destroyed the American Economy. It wasn't Bush's "betrayal" of the "conservative values" they believe are so time-honored and proven that caused his abysmal failure -- it was those values themselves, and Bush's steady adherence to them throughout his tenure. Right-wingers like Cavuto and everyone else at Fox, however, simply cannot accept this cold reality; the resulting cognitive dissonance has now driven them pretty much insane.

The conservative approach to mis-governance comes up at every turn today for the liberals and centrists now dealing with repairing the damage, from managing the economy back onto its feet to fighting the two wars Bush got us into to coping with environmental disasters produced by his safety regulations. And it would be stupid to pretend that it's not what we're dealing with.

Because you see, if we don't constantly remind people of the disastrous consequences of conservative rule, they start listening to people like the talking heads at Fox News. They start forgetting just who got them into this big damned mess in the first place. Some of them even start blaming liberals for it (especially the hard-core insane conservative defenders).

We can't let that happen. Conservatives need to be slapped with the Bush legacy on a daily basis.

Sure, they'll whine. But they have it coming.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Polls On Arizona Immigration Law Remind Us Of A Historic Truth: Discarding The Civil Rights Of Others Is Always A Popular Idea

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Recent polls are showing that Arizona's police-state immigration law is broadly popular with the public -- and boy, are they all over THAT story at Fox News.

Here are the ugly results:

The Pew Poll, conducted in early May, shows that more than 60 percent of Americans support the Arizona law's separate provisions, which give police increased authority to question and detain people they suspect of being in the country illegally.

... Pew Research Center President Andrew Kohut said he was surprised by how popular the elements of the law are.

"What's going on here is while the public has had moderate views on dealing with the immigration problem, like support for a path to citizenship, they've long thought that more has to be done to protect to borders and to get better enforcement," Kohut said.

Kohut said he was particularly surprised about the level of support among Democrats. Fifty percent of Democrats said they support the law provision allowing police to question anyone they think may be in the country illegally.

... A similar poll conducted by the Wall Street Journal and NBC tells a similar story: 64 percent of American adults support the Arizona law.
Bill O'Reilly, upon seeing these results, naturally brought on Karl Rove to chortle about how these polls bode ill for President Obama and Democrats. And no doubt these polls are a heads-up to Democrats that they need to aggressively take control of the message, instead of letting Fox talkers and nativists define the terms of the debate.

Of course, if Rove devises the talking point, you can count on Fox's "news" shows to begin repeating them ad infinitum. Which, of course, is exactly what happened the next morning, especially on Megyn Kelly's America Live program. Kelly ran several segments on the poll numbers, including a "fair and balanced" debate with radio host Mark Levine and the utterly incoherent Mike Gallagher:

I'm always amused by right-wingers like Gallagher -- guys who make a fetish out of the Constitution, regularly claiming that President Obama is somehow violating it and instituting a "police state" -- who seem utterly unconcerned when their side tramples all over the Constitution, and Levine clearly explains why the law is unconstitutional.

Levine also says something well worth repeating:
Kelly: Mark, why would the president get involved in this? You've got -- you know, you've already got legal challenges that will be mounted by many other groups -- why would the Department of Justice, according to our attorney general, Eric Holder as of May 9, be considering challenging this law on their own when you've got these kind of approval ratings of the law on a nationwide basis?

Levine: It's a fair point, Megyn. Anyone can challenge the law, it's clearly unconstitutional -- it violates Article I, Section 8 -- and you're right that anyone can challenge it. I think the president, though is making clear that anytime you have a majority attack the rights of minority, that's something where you want the Justice Department involved.

I'll give you a great example: Jim Crow laws in Alabama and Mississippi were vastly supported by the great majority of people in the 1960s. That didn't make them right. Anytime you have a majority infringing on the rights of a minority, then that's usually when the Justice Department does need to stand up.
And Levine also points out one of the really disturbing aspects of the poll:
Levine: Hold on, Mike -- 71 percent said -- this is the most interesting poll -- 71 percent of Americans think that legal Latino citizens will be harassed by police. 71 percent! So you have 71 percent of Americans thinking that Latinos, legals, will be harassed, and they still support the measure! [Note: Kelly shortly points out that the actual figure is 66 percent.]
Of course, at this point Gallagher becomes simply incoherent, and meanders off into claiming that the recent defeat of an incumbent Democrat in West Virginia was related to the Arizona immigration bill.


Well, it's true that laws like the one in Arizona that purport to deal with a "real problem" -- that is, drug-related crime -- by taking away the rights of a despised minority have in fact always been popular.

Levine is right that Jim Crow laws enjoyed broad popular support for many years. I can think of an even more vivid example of a broadly popular measure to strip minority Americans of their civil rights:

Bainbridge Evacuation Dock 1_4b5d9.jpg

Those who've read my book Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community are aware that not only was the evacuation and incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans -- including some 70,000 American citizens -- during World War II an extremely popular measure, it was in fact avidly demanded by a near-hysterical public, particularly along the Pacific Coast, after Pearl Harbor.

From Personal Justice Denied: Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians:
From March 28 to April 7, as the program evolved from voluntary to mandatory evacuation, the Office of Facts and Figures in the Office for Emergency Management polled public opinion about aliens in the population. Germans were considered the most dangerous alien group in the United States by 46 percent of those interviewed; the Japanese, by 35 percent. There was virtual consensus that the government had done the right thing in moving Japanese aliens away from the coast; 59 percent of the interviewees also favored moving American citizens of Japanese ancestry. The answers reflected clear educational and geographic differences. Relatively uneducated respondents were more likely to consider the Japanese the most dangerous alien group, and they were also disposed to advocate harsher treatment of the Japanese who were moved away from the coast. The east considered the Germans most dangerous, the west the Japanese. People in the south, in particular, were prone to treat Japanese harshly. The Pacific Coast public led all other regions in believing the evacuees should be paid less than prevailing wages.
I'll have to go do some archival hunting for the actual numbers, but I've seen Gallup polls from the period that showed in excess of 90 percent public support for the evacuation policy. Historian Roger Daniels, one of the foremost experts on the internment episode, conjectures that evacuation, far from being ignored by apathetic citizens as some have suggested, was actually one of the most popular acts of the war.

I did find this in Audrie Girdner and Anne Loftis' The Great Betrayal: The Evacuation of the Japanese Americans During World War II, discussing the sentiments of the American public about what to do with the internees after the war was over:
A Gallup poll conducted at the turn of the year, 1942-43, reported that while there was almost unanimous approval of the evacuation and detention of the Japanese minority, 53 percent of those polled would allow citizens to return to their homes. Of this figure 29 percent would include both citizens and aliens, and an almost equal number would oppose return of either group. A poll conducted by the Los Angeles Times at the end of 1943, on the other hand, revealed 9,855 readers would exclude American Japanese from the Coast as against 999 opposing exclusion.
This reflects a little-reported aspect of the internment episode, which I in fact described in some detail in Strawberry Days -- namely, the campaign by white xenophobes to keep Japanese American citizens from being allowed to return to their former homes after the war was over:

Kent Mayor 1_04b34.jpg

And the lessons of history apply deeply here, because the fate of this campaign is highly instructive in the current environment. Here's an excerpt from Chapter 6 of Strawberry Days:
The new Japanese Exclusion League was organized that spring with help from Miller Freeman and others. The core ideology seems to have been built off the bones of Freeman’s old Anti-Japanese League, which had gradually ceased activity after the passage of the Asian Exclusion Act in 1924. Freeman was a financial supporter of the new entity, but most of its leadership represented fresh blood in the anti-Asian movement, men named Dale Bergh, C.G. Schneider, Ralph Hannan, and Arthur J. Ritchie. And their June 1945 newsletter, dubbed the Japanese Exclusion League Journal, made their agenda quite explicit, describing the JEL as “an organization dedicated to legally, peaceably and permanently ridding this Coast and, ultimately, this country of the Japs.”

The newsletter was chock-full of various attacks on the Japanese. A Bainbridge Island resident named Lambert Schuyler attacked Japanese strawberry farmers:
“The beating that the Japs gave Bainbridge acres amounts to assault and battery,” Schuyler told the Journal. “The fact is that the Japs made their fortunes here by mining the soil—leased soil. Take a good look at our so-called berry fields today. Most of them will not even grow good weeds. At best they will produce very inferior berries. And it will cost plenty to restore them to any kind of farming. The reason: chemical fertilizers and no crop rotation. . . .

“Don’t believe it, either, when someone tells you that the Jap has brought wealth to our community. Actually, they mined this region. They made money, but they lived in filth and poverty. They did their spending in Jap stores, put their savings into Jap hotels and grocery stores in Seattle, sent the balance to Japan to help build battleships. They didn’t build us up. They tore us down. We want no more of them. . . .

“We can raise better strawberries ourselves than the Japs can. With the help of machinery and crop rotation we can produce them just as cheaply, too. Here is opportunity for some of our farm boys, returned from the wars. In strawberries we have natural advantages of soil, climate and market.

“Keep the Japs away and the white farmers will make money in berries just as they did before the Japs came in and drove them out of business.”
A Journal editorial titled “A Program That All Can Back!” outlined the League’s political agenda:
Almost daily letters come into the headquarters of the Japanese Exclusion League from persons who are anti-Jap but who confess their inability to go along with the League’s program because “it sets a precedent that will undermine the fundamentals of the Constitution and imperil other minority programs.”

Let’s re-inspect the program and see:

Item 1. Induce the government to keep all Japs out of the Western Defense Command until the war is over. That’s just good sense, with a war on. If only one among them was a saboteur, the exclusion of all, to prevent his dirty work, would be justified. And we heard a man, close to the military intelligence service, say in a public speech that six known Japanese spies were now operating in Seattle alone.

Item 2. Deport all alien Japs and all disloyal Japs. Who will argue that this is either un-American or unnecessary?

Item 3. Stimulate interest in a national post-war election (so the soldiers can participate) to amend the Federal Constitution and provide that, after a certain date, NO MORE descendants of persons not eligible for citizenship may automatically become citizens merely because their alien mothers were here when they were born.

Japanese now constitute only one-tenth of 1 per cent of our population. No great danger there. The peril lies in permitting fast-breeding races that are not assimilable to go unchecked, and to make American citizens of them as fast as they are spawned. Give them a few years and they will make good of their boast of dominating America. And they’ll do it without firing a shot. They will VOTE OUR COUNTRY AWAY FROM US.

If that kind of law is un-American, we set a bad precedent many years ago. We had such a law once. And we kicked it out the window.
This position was explored in greater depth in a pamphlet that Lambert Schuyler published independently: The Japs Must Not Come Back! Schuyler’s core arguments were not very distinguishable from those offered twenty years before by the exclusionists:
As a nation we stand prejudiced against orientals. This is something which our bleeding-heart idealists have overlooked. They claim our basic laws, the principles upon which America rests, are unanimously in favor of regarding all men as equals. The fact remains, however, that according to our statute books all men are created equal except those with yellow skins. Any race, color or creed, say our laws, may become naturalized citizens of our country except the Japanese, Chinese and Hindu. These are judged unfit for assimilation in our society.

Mind you, we on the Pacific Coast are glad of it. What irks us is the loop-hole in our Constitution through which orientals may purchase the farm next door to us and defy us to kick them out. The loop-hole is this—all babies are created equal providing they are born in the United States. The Japs, Chinese and Hindus are no exception to this rule. Oriental babies born here are automatically American citizens. . . . Obviously this is a contradiction of principle which cannot be justified within the bounds of either religious or political idealism.
For Schuyler, in keeping with the anti-Japanese tradition, the tenets of white supremacism and pseudoscientific racial eugenics were paramount:
The dividing lines between the races are necessary to prevent mixed breeding. The white race does want to survive!

There is no dodging it. This is a white man’s country. The white man runs it. And he is not going to let his own rules of behavior drive him from his own soil. So, as long as we remain a people of spirit we will refuse to sanction the mixing of colored blood with ours.

Japanese in America will never be the social equals of the whites for the simple reason that they are not assimilable. Germans? Italians? Jews? Yes. We can assimilate any of the whites. But the colored races are different. We reserve the right to reject from our midst those who are not patently assimilable.
His final solution: designate a passel of Pacific islands permanent territories of the United States, and then remove all persons of Japanese descent to this new permanent homeland. Of course, no one of Japanese blood would be permitted to become a permanent resident of the mainland afterward.


As is often the case with well-laid plans, the Bellevue “mass meeting” of Monday, April 2 [1945] didn’t quite run according to script. Much to the dismay of the Japanese Exclusion League, some people actually showed up to voice their opposition.

As expected, the Overlake Elementary community hall was filled to overflowing with about 500 people. The parade of speakers began with assurances—soon shattered—that the organizers supported the principles of free speech. Crandell launched into his expected diatribe against the evacuees, concluding that “the one and only way to solve the Japanese question is to exclude them forever from all American territory!”

League executive A.E. McCroskey of Seattle added that the entire nation “is fully aware of the danger of giving American citizenship to those who have proved unworthy of it time and again.” He then went on to make a pitch for league memberships, asking for a show of hands from all “who favor exclusion of all American-born Japanese from this country,” and about 400 hands went up. Ritchie, who had previously tried to make a quick buck by selling busts of FDR by a “famous Northwest sculptor,” held up for the audience door prizes he promised to give away: busts, created by the same artist, of “America’s No.1 Jap hater”—and as he peeled away the tissue, the image of Gen. Douglas MacArthur was revealed.

However, there also were about 100 people in the crowd who apparently weren’t ready to sign up at all. Some of them began questioning the league’s positions, and two women began heckling the speakers. In response, McCroskey decided free speech wasn’t such a good thing after all and threatened to oust their antagonists, telling them to “hire your own hall to heckle in . . . and if there are any more outbreaks you will be ejected.”

The outburst apparently put a damper on the evening, because at the end of the night, only 200 or so of those who had raised their hands stayed to put up their $10 for a Japanese Exclusion League membership.

A similar fate befell the would-be organizer of an anti-Japanese effort in Seattle announced the same day as the Bellevue gathering. Lloyd Young, who ran a glass shop in South Seattle, announced he was going to cobble together a local chapter of the Remember Pearl Harbor League, though his dues would only cost $5. But that mattered little to the 150 or so University of Washington students who showed up at his meeting that Thursday to distribute pamphlets and ask questions making clear their opposition to his plans. The opposition far outnumbered the would-be league members. The students refrained from heckling the speakers, but spontaneous laughter erupted at times—as when a speaker declared that white pioneers had “taken this country away from the Indians and now the Japs are trying to take it away from us.” The would-be organizers were taken aback by the opposition and said little afterward. No record exists of any further activity by the league in Seattle.

The interest appears to have waned almost as quickly in Bellevue, despite the reported sponsorship of the first meeting by “business men and women.” In the edition of the Bellevue American following the meeting, no account of the gathering itself appears, except for a discussion of it in a front-page editorial by editor A.J. Whitney.

Whitney backed away from his earlier pro-exclusion tone, though his inclinations against the Japanese were still evident—reflective, perhaps, of his long association with Miller Freeman, who actually purchased a minority interest in the paper a few years later. He bemoaned, for instance, the fact that there was little anyone could do to stop Japanese citizens from returning to their own land. “We were unable to discover anything that could be done about relocation—except protest,” his editorial in the April 5 edition observed. “But, even a protest is effective, and we believe that it is honest and fair to notify in advance those Japanese who are planning to relocate here that many people here do not want them to return now.”

Whitney was also aggravated by the fact that the internment camps had been closed before the end of the war in the Pacific, and seemed inclined to the Japanese Exclusion League’s suggestion of a national plebiscite: “We are of the opinion that the War Relocation Authority . . . made a terrible mistake in trying to force the relocation of the Japanese on the Pacific Coast during the war. Instead, we believe the Japanese should have been encouraged to stay where they were until peace is established, and the nation can attack this grave problem in a rational manner.”

He did, however, suggest that a proposal to pass a constitutional amendment to exclude all Japanese from the country “presents many difficulties.” And he noted that he “holds no brief for the Japanese Exclusion League,” adding: “We do not guarantee the men who are organizing the league. We cannot tell you how the money [collected for memberships] will be spent.”


Within a week, a counter-meeting had been organized. Whitney was in full retreat. A headline in the lead positions of the April 12 American announced yet another “Town Meeting,” this one to be held in the Bellevue School Auditorium on April 19. The meeting, the story declared, “indicates that East Siders believe in fair play and want to know all the facts on the problem of American citizens of Japanese descent.”

The story listed organizers from each Eastside community. All were important civic, business, and church leaders, and all wanted the other side of the debate heard. The Bellevue contingent included Charles Bovee, whose wife had been the kind overseer of Mitsi Shiraishi’s dog (and who also had sparked the Japanese “panic” two years before).

Again, several hundred attended. Support for their Japanese neighbors’ rights was voiced. “I’m not for or against any group,” said speaker John Fournier, publisher of the weekly newspaper in Kent. “But as a newspaper publisher and King County businessman, I am deeply concerned to see that the Constitution is upheld and the rights of citizens respected.” Other speakers questioned the motives of the exclusionists. Some observed that many of the anti-Japanese backers were businessmen who stood to gain by having the Japanese lands remain vacant.

The tide changed quickly in Bellevue as the town’s deeper nature manifested itself. Among longtime Bellevue residents, Miller Freeman was—discreetly—viewed as an overbearing self-promoter and a rich man with little in common with the average rural Bellevue resident. Moreover, many of the former neighbors of the Japanese, who had lived among them and attended school with them, were repulsed by the jingoism they were witnessing. They knew better.

“There were people around here that were madder than all get-out about the Japanese,” recalled Robert Hennig. “I didn’t particularly feel that way. I was mad at what happened at Pearl Harbor, but as far as the Japanese that lived here, it wasn’t their fault.
“I know one guy, lived over here on 24th, and he says, ‘Well, if a Jap ever came to my house, I’d shoot him right off the bat.’

“And I said, ‘What the hell for? . . . You ever realize that there’s a bunch of them over there in Europe, 442nd, the most highly decorated bunch in the Army? . . . They’re fighting for us.’

“Well, he—he was a knothead anyway.”

Of course, Hennig had a cautious perspective on the entire internment episode, considering his own German ancestry: “I always had to laugh about it, because—I said, they shipped all the Japanese out of here, Japanese descendants—they’d never been near the country of Japan—and here I am a hundred percent German descent and they didn’t even look at us.”

Bellevue at the time was largely populated with working-class people like Hennig, and his attitude about their Japanese neighbors was relatively common, though often unspoken. As the weeks went by, that view prevailed. The Japanese Exclusion League dropped entirely out of sight; there was no evidence that it organized any further meetings or published any more newsletters. And the American, as expected, never was able to report how the membership money had been spent.
The experience in Bellevue, in fact, was largely replicated along the Pacific Coast: Attempts to prevent the return of the Japanese occurred in every community in which they had been present, and in every one of them, the campaign was largely a failure, inspiring counter-campaigns to welcome back their former neighbors.

What we saw in this episode is that it's very easy for the public, angry and eager for some kind of action to resolve an urgent fear, to embrace some kind, any kind of action, even if it takes away the rights of someone other than themselves. And with a certain segment of the population, there is real relish in taking those rights away.

But much of the population goes along with these kinds of solutions often thoughtlessly, and then when confronted with the very human realities and consequences of them, realizes its mistake, changes course, and then works to repair the damage.

That certainly is the course of the American experience when it took away the basic civil rights of all its citizens of Japanese descent: We wound up paying huge amounts of money to the victims in the end, and the long-held public view is that the internment was a horrendous mistake of catastrophic proportions, one of the true black blots on the nation's history of protecting civil liberties.

Of course, at the time, it was extremely popular. Most great mistakes are.

I suspect, in the long run, we will see the same thing happen with Americans and the Arizona immigration law. Once they see that, put into action, the laws really will create a nightmarish police state for anyone of Latino descent or with an immigrant background, their basic decency will rise to the fore, the tide of popular opinion will shift, and we will again wind up having to work to repair the mistake.

In the meantime, it will be the duty of Americans of good conscience to wait for the tide to change -- and to work for it. Because doing the right thing is not very often the popular thing.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Appalling Video Of Oil Pouring Into The Gulf From BP's Wellhead: Remember 'Drill Baby Drill'?

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Well, BP has released the video of that oil wellhead pouring crude into the Gulf of Mexico, and brother, does it give you pause. Someone at YouTube even obtained the deep-sea audio that goes with it.

How much is it? Joel Achenbach at the Washington Post reports:
It's clearly a lot -- anyone can see that. But experts say that, without a meter, it's impossible to estimate the flow, particularly since it's a mixture of oil, gas and water.
"Anybody who can tell you how much oil is coming out of that thing is likely lying to you," Bruce Bullock, director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University, said after reviewing the video.

But BP could use established scientific methods to measure the flow if it chose to do so, said Rich Camilli, an oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. One technique, for example, would use sonar in a manner quite similar to sonograms used in medical diagnostics, he said. Or BP could use the containment dome that was lowered to the sea bottom as a kind of measuring device.
The "official" estimates -- which have been ridiculously low from the start -- now are that the leak is spilling "just" 5,000 barrels a day into the Gulf. However, as Achenbach notes:
Two weeks ago, an outside researcher, oceanographer Ian MacDonald of Florida State University, used satellite images gathered by the organization SkyTruth to produce an estimate of 26,000 barrels of oil a day. But MacDonald has made clear that it's a rough estimate and hasn't been subjected to scientific peer review.
Oddly enough, the story is raising little concern so far among the public -- mainly, we'd guess, because the oil hasn't hit the beaches yet. Frank Newport at Gallup reports:
No sign of any major uptick in concern about the environment, energy, or gas prices as a result of the Gulf oil spill. Yet. Our May update on most important problem facing the country, in the field last week, shows no change in the small number of people mentioning any of these issues.
Laura Parker at AOL News outlines three likely scenarios. I'm guessing we're looking at No. 3, but that's just me.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Megyn Kelly Gives A Nice Demonstration In Corporate Censorship: She Won't Let Josh Silver Explain How Net Neutrality Works

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

One of libertarians' real blind spots is that they seem to believe that only government is capable of taking away your freedoms and your rights. Which is how right-wingers like Glenn Beck and his fellow Foxheads (see especially Michelle Bachmann) have managed to turn things smack on their heads and create the Planet Bizarro talking point that "net neutrality means censorship of the Internet".

It never seems to occur to them that, you know, lots of other people are perfectly capable of taking away your freedoms. Especially the giant corporations who control our media.

Megyn Kelly gave a succinct demonstration of how this works at propaganda shops like Fox News yesterday on her America Live program. To discuss net neutrality, she brought on Jim Harper of the libertarian Cato Institute and Josh Silver of Free Press.

Kelly proceeded to let Harper ramble uninterrupted at length, pitching the hogwash notion that "free enterprise created the Internet" (um, no it didn't). Then, when it was Silver's turn to talk, Kelly aggressively interrupted him, notably just as he was getting to the major point: Maintaining net neutrality is about ensuring that there will be no corporate censorship of content -- in other words, about maintaining the architecture that made the Internet the free and open medium that it is.

Then, when Silver finally got a chance to raise that point again, Kelly again interrupted:
Kelly: Is that right, Jim? Because everything I've read about this says this is a push, the beginnings of a push by the Obama administration to control the Internet to some extent -- more so than they had in the past.
Well, she's obviously reading from diverse sources, isn't she?

In any event, Kelly again let Harper ramble on, speculating that taxes would be imposed, blah blah blah -- and cut the segment off before Silver could point out the blatant falsity of his claims.

It was quite an exhibition in "fair and balanced" TV news. And it demonstrated rather neatly what happens when corporate news channels control the flow of information: They pretend to offer "balance," but facts that undermine the predominant narrative are never given the light of day.

All the more reason to defend our Web freedoms by maintaining net neutrality. And what's bizarre is that the supposed defenders of "liberty" are on the side of the would-be corporate media controllers.

But then, we already knew that libertarianism is fundamentally incoherent.

Arizona's Immigration Law Creates A Police State For Immigrants In Order To Solve A Drug-war Problem

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Have you noticed how the people who defend Arizona's new police-state immigration law constantly conflate the issue of illegal immigration with drug-related violence?

Indeed, the entire rationale we're hearing from Arizonans for why they passed this law points to incidents and issues arising not from illegal immigration, but from the activities of Mexican drug cartels along the border.

It happened again yesterday on Your World with Neil Cavuto on Fox News. Cavuto hosted two Arizonans eager to defend their state's honor from the threat of boycotts -- Phoenix city councilman Sal DiCiccio, and Barry Broome from the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. Broome, it's worth noting, was threatening retaliation if people organize boycotts against Arizona. (Ooooooh. We're quaking, dude.)

But it was DiCiccio -- predictably, a right-wing Republican -- who conflated drug-war problems with immigration issues:
DiCiccio: You know, if you look at what's happening in the state of Arizona -- I really want to talk about this, this is more a plea to the national audience -- they need to take a look at what's happening in our state. In the city of Phoenix alone, the area that I control along with the other members of the council and the mayor, but we have a responsibility to protect our citizenry. We had over 350 kidnappings in the city of Phoenix alone, primarily due to the illegal immigrant trade.
But, while human smugglers have been part of Phoenix's kidnapping scene, according to Phoenix police, the vast majority of these kidnappings have been related to Mexican drug cartels. Illegal immigrants, as the L.A. Times story explains, often are drawn into kidnapping work on behalf of the cartels -- but the violence is a result of their employer's line of work, not the fact that they are immigrants.

As we noted previously, much of the hysteria that was whipped up to push this bill through was based on the murder of Arizona rancher Robert Krentz, who was in fact almost certainly slain by a scout for the drug cartels.

Nonetheless, the Right -- embodied by Fox News -- consistently described his killer as an "illegal immigrant" -- even though the man was not crossing the border to emigrate, but to enable drug crossings on the border.

In other words, the Krentz case was not about illegal immigration, but drug smuggling across the border. The issues, as we've seen are not entirely separate: the cartels and human smugglers work hand in glove to control the trails over the border.

But the power and violence of Mexican drug cartels is not related to illegal immigration. It is related to our misbegotten drug laws, and the fact that the Mexican government is in an ongoing war getting control of heavily armed thugs who obtain their money and weapons through the sale of illicit drugs, largely to American consumers.

If Arizonans were serious about dealing with the crime wave they're seeing, they'd be pushing for marijuana-decriminalization laws, or some other more sane approach that actually tackles the core of the problem.

Instead, they're passing laws that try to tackle drug-war problems by attacking illegal immigrants, who represent a tertiary scapegoat at best. In the process, they're turning Arizona into a police state for Latinos, citizens and immigrants alike, who now must carry "their papers" proving their citizenship with them at all times, or run the risk of being swept up in a Kafkaesque law-enforcement nightmare.

Performances like DiCiccio's and Moore's do little to dissuade people that something is amiss in Arizona. Indeed, they just give us all the more reason to boycott them.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rudy Giuliani Tells Hannity He Could Easily Secure The Mexico Border. 'It's That Easy!' Gasps Hannity

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Gawd, if only we had elected Rudy Giuliani president. Just think -- as he did last night with Sean Hannity:
Giuliani: The reality is, we just need the political will to do it. It's a 2,000-mile border. It isn't that big. If you took about 20,000 border patrol agents and you put them in substations about every fifty miles, you'd be able to cover the border -- maybe even every twenty-five miles -- and then you'd use photographic equipment, nighttime photography, heat-seeking equipment, motion-detection equipment. You'd alert the people at the stations, they'd go there and stop people from coming in.

Hannity: It's that easy! It really is, that, it's --

Giuliani: It's a matter of political will. When I was running for president, I said that it would be easier to control illegal immigration than it was to reduce homicide in New York by fifty percent.
Of course, Giuliani doesn't explain how he would deal with the over 40 percent of illegal immigrants who crossed the border legally and overstayed their visas.

Nor does he contemplate the costs of running that kind of border security every twenty-five miles -- with simply no guarantee it will actually work. Indeed, every scheme they've ever devised has failed, because people always figure out ways around them. Didn't we just blow $2 billion on a "virtual fence" that turned out to be a "real world failure"?

But those are niggliing details, no doubt, too insignificant for real "terrorism experts" like Rudy Giuliani.

O'Reilly And Dobbs Agree: Arizona Immigration Law Is Fine And Dandy, And It Would Be Political Suicide For Obama To File A Suit

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Bill O'Reilly brought on "immigration expert" Lou Dobbs to talk about the Arizona police-state immigration law last night on his Fox News show. As you might expect, we were treated to the kind of judgment and insight that led to Dobbs' removal from his anchor's seat at CNN.

Both agreed that the new law was "obviously" perfectly constitutional, and Dobbs went so far as to predict that it would easily withstand any court challenge. With that in hand, the conversation went this way:
O'Reilly: If 70 percent of the country supports the Arizona law, according to the latest polls -- 70 percent! If the Obama administration sues Arizona, that's it for them! They're done! To me, it's a bluff!

Dobbs: I personally believe -- whether it's a bluff or whether it's a foreshadowing of their intent -- I truly believe it would be a great thing for America if this administration would sue the state of Arizona.

O'Reilly: You want them to sue.

Dobbs: Absolutely.

O'Reilly: Why?

Dobbs: Because we need clarity in this country. We need -- enough of the rhetoric from the left, the right, any of these factions. Let's talk about the responsibilities of the federal government, the responsibilities of the state government -- the last I looked, they hadn't suspended the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution. Arizona has every right to be taking these steps, particularly where this government is quite consciously, this administration, quite consciously, is refusing to enforce immigration law, either internally or at the border.
In other words, Dobbs too believes it would destroy the Obama administration -- and thus he wants them to do it. Because he's also so certain it would be upheld.

Anyone wanna bet that if and when the courts overturn the law, Dobbs will declare that everything is in chaos as a result?

Video Captures Seattle Cop Kicking Latino Suspect In The Face, Using Ethnic Slur -- And Then Releasing Him

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

A Seattle freelance videographer recently captured a local cop kicking a man in the head while prone on the ground and using ethnic slurs:
Interim Seattle Police Chief John Diaz said Friday he is going to have to "repair damage" in the community after the release of a videotape showing a gang detective and a patrol officer kicking a prone man and using ethnically inflammatory language.

The Police Department disclosed Friday that it has launched an internal investigation into the incident, in which the gang detective, Shandy Cobane, can be heard on video telling a man lying on a concrete sidewalk, "I'm going to beat the [expletive] Mexican piss out of you, homey. You feel me?"
One of the most disturbing aspects of the incident, as you can see from the video, is that it turned out that the man being kicked and verbally assaulted had nothing to do with the crime being investigated. Indeed, you can see police stand him up, dust him off, and send him on his way, with no medical care.

Here's how the Seattle Times described it:
According to KIRO-TV, which said it got the video from a freelance videographer, Seattle police officers responded to the area near China Harbor restaurant after several nightclub patrons called 911 to report an armed robbery in the parking lot. The patrons apparently described the robbery suspects as Hispanic.

Around 1:15 a.m. April 17, a patron of China Harbor, located at 2040 Westlake Ave. N., went to the parking lot to say goodbye to his girlfriend, who had gotten into her car, according to a police report on the robbery.

Four Hispanic men walked up to him, and one of them demanded money and pulled out a 3-foot-long machete, according to the report. The man told his girlfriend to leave and began walking to his car, but was followed by the four men, the report says. According to the report, a second suspect told the victim, "We can kill you right now. We can do whatever we want with you."

The victim gave the men $20, but they demanded more money so he gave them another $20 before getting into his vehicle and calling 911, the report says. He told officers the man with the machete appeared to be drunk or on drugs.

The victim was able to positively identify at least one of the suspects at the scene, the police report says. Police later arrested two of the four men — one told officers he was from Mexico while the other said he was from El Salvador, according to the police report. A third man was interviewed and released at the scene, and the fourth man was not found.

It's unknown if the man released from the scene is the same man seen in the video.
The Times piece features Cobane's tearful apologies as well:
"I know my words cut deep and were very hurtful," he said. "... I am truly, truly sorry."
A 15-year veteran of the department, Cobane, 44, said he never dreamed he'd "bring such notoriety to my department. Sadly, I did."

Apologizing to colleagues, the Latino community and Seattle, he said his "offensive and unprofessional" words did not reflect who he is.
Kinda like closing the barn door after the horse has been let out, isn't it?

Well, now the FBI is opening up an inquiry:
The FBI will conduct a preliminary inquiry into the incident last month in which a Seattle police gang detective and a patrol officer kicked a prone Latino man and used ethnically inflammatory language.


The inquiry was requested by the U.S. Department of Justice, according to Special Agent Fred Gutt of the FBI's Seattle office. Gutt said such an inquiry is routine in cases where there may be a possible civil-rights violation and could be followed by a full-blown investigation.
As Maegan at VivrLatino observes:
The fact that the man beat up in the video had nothing to do with the crime reported (a robbery with Latinos involved) is besides the point. If the police had beat up and used anti-Mexican slurs against the “criminals” would we, those who consume media feel a little better about it, think somewhere in the back of our minds “well, they had it coming”?

The point is that laws like SB1070 and the current Comprehensive Immigration Reform framework put out there by Senator biometric Chuck Schumer works from the default position that immigrants, painted broadly as Latinos, painted broadly as Mexicans are criminals. It works from the framework that we need to prove ourselves worthy of humane treatment via speaking proper English, paying fines disguised as taxes, getting to the back of the line. Resistance to this, asking for legalization and/or basic human rights is seen as ungrateful and as an unwillingness to play the political game we asked to swallow in the name of political efficiency.
There's also an interesting back story involving the video itself: It seems the freelancer originally offered it to the local Fox News affiliate, KCPQ, with whom he had been working earlier in the day, and they iced it. So he offered it to KIRO, which promptly ran with it, realizing the import of what they had.

Now KCPQ is threatening to sue, saying they were just figuring out how to release it. Right.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Three Years Ago, Immigrant-bashers Were Claiming 'Illegal Aliens' Killed 9,000 People A Year. Now They Claim 2,200. Eh?

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Have you noticed how the people who love to bash "illegal immigrants" by associating them with things like disease and crime -- nativists like Lou Dobbs, or that fellow Ed Kowalski of "9/11 Families for a Secure America", who went on Fox & Friends last week to claim that Arizonans faced an ungodly wave of violent crime at the hands of those dirty illegal immigrants -- never really seem to have a good grasp of numbers?

Remember, here's what he told Gretchen Carlson:
Carlson: According to you, politicians seem to be more concerned about the illegals' rights than the rights of the Americans, some of whom end up dead.

Kowalski: That's correct, that's correct. As best as we can estimate, 2,200 Americans a year are murdered by criminal illegal aliens. That number is staggering.
Of course, as we (and Media Matters) pointed out, that number was drawn from a bizarre magazine article whose methodology was anything but scientific or even logical, let alone ethical. It wasn't quite extracted whole from Kowalski's butt, but from some similar orifice.

Now watch the video above. It was taken on September 1, 2007, on the steps of the state Capitol in Harrisburg, PA, at a "Voice of the People USA" rally. Both organizations appear to be primarily dedicated to bashing immigrants as a supposed wellspring of a wave of crime -- even though statistics, as we've pointed out, substantively demonstrate that this is simply untrue.

But back then, after Kowalski had warmed the crowd up with his own personal tale, he proclaimed:
Kowalski: Twenty-five Americans on average a day are killed by illegal aliens. Folks, I'm gonna ask you to do the math. That works out to over 9,000 deaths per year.
Hmmm. So, according to Ed Kowalski, only three years ago, their "best estimate" was that 9,000 people were being killed by "illegal aliens". And in three years' time, that's now plummeted dramatically to 2,158! Wow! That's a dramatic shift, dontcha think?

'Course, you really don't want to ask Ed where he gets all these figures. He may just drop his trousers, turn around and show you.