Saturday, September 07, 2013

Johnstone Strait Orcas: The Video

This is my latest video from my recent trip to Johnstone Strait, B.C. -- on the northeastern side of Vancouver Island. It's a bit of a break from my traditional slide show. Instead, this is video footage of whales passing by (unfortunately, my only good footage on this trip came from shore at my camp at Kaikash Creek; my attempts to video from my kayak didn't pan out this time). The best part is that you can hear them breathing, something missing from my slideshows.

I've added the sounds these whales made passing by the camp as a secondary soundtrack, so you can get an idea of what was going on underwater at the same time. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Immigration Hangout: A Chat About 'Border Security' and the Minutemen

Here is our conversation earlier today discussing the Minutemen and the "border security" scam, featuring:

  • Juanita Molina from the Border Action Network in Tucson, Arizona, will discuss how these groups and personalities shaped the debate over immigration reform in her state.
  • Julieta Garibay from United We DREAM will explain how that discussion led to a growing push to militarize the border.
  • Frank Sharry from America's Voice, who moderated.
 Hope you find this enlightening. Many thanks to Frank Sharry, Matt Hildreth and Joe Sudbay for making the hangout happen.

Along the same lines, be sure to check out the interview I did with David Kortava at The Mantle in which some of the same issues are raised:

I think a lot of people really underestimate the influence and power and impact of these kinds of groups on the mainstream right. They tend to have a gravitational effect on conservatives, pulling them farther towards the right. A lot of the positions we’re seeing bandied about now as normative—particularly within the Tea Party—were the views of radical militia types back in the 1990s.

Rightwing extremism has broader impacts on society. It’s true that only something like 8 or 9 percent of hate crimes are committed by members of hate groups; the vast majority are committed by people who are otherwise considered mainstream normal kids, usually young men. But something like seventy percent of these crimes are accompanied by verbiage associated with hate groups. In other words, you have people picking up on cultural cues from the extremist right and incorporating them into their worldview, even if they aren’t necessarily adopting the broader ideology.

Anti-immigration organizations like the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) hand out these pseudo-academic studies suggesting that immigrants are using up taxpayer money, bringing in disease, and committing crime. While none of this true, it does produce a toxic effect on the conversation about immigration. Instead of focusing on the problem—antiquated laws—we focus on the supposed criminality of people who are themselves victims, victims both of those laws and of the economic forces compelling them to make these death-defying crossings through the desert.

Finally, you should check out my interview with Matthew Filipowicz, who as always manages to find the humorous vein in all this.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Why the Right-Wing 'Border Security' Fetish is a Sham Concocted by Criminal Nativists

Here's my op-ed at America's Voice:
Back in the days when he was a media darling appearing on every network – before everything would collapse in an appalling heap of criminality – Chris Simcox would promote his border-watching “Minuteman” movement as an essential component of national security because of the ominous threat that terrorists might cross over the border into the USA from Mexico.

“It is frightening to think that just one terrorist hiding among thousands of illegal immigrants who come across the border each day could easily carry chemical, biological or even nuclear materials into the U.S.,” Simcox told a reporter in 2005. “At this point, it’s not a question of ‘if’ but of ‘when.’”

Naturally, this was the entire purpose of his organization. “While officials are talking, Minutemen are acting,” said Simcox pronounced. “They need to put our money where their mouth is, and start doing something about our borders.”

Simcox also had something of a paranoid streak about the borders: “Take heed of our weapons because we’re going to defend our borders by any means necessary,” he told an audience in 2003. “There’s something very fishy going on at the border. The Mexican army is driving American vehicles — but carrying Chinese weapons. I have personally seen what I can only believe to be Chinese troops.”

For Simcox and the Minutemen, the rubric of reason for the “citizen border watches” they organized all revolved around “national security” – at least when the TV cameras were on. When they were off, it was a different story: Minutemen border watchers were fond of explaining in private to people they thought were fellow participants that the best solution to stopping “the invasion” (as they liked to call it) of Latino immigrants they hoped to catch in the act was to start shooting one or two of them.

One of them even explained it on camera once: “No, we ought to be able to shoot the Mexicans on sight, and that would end the problem,” he told a reporter. “After two or three Mexicans are shot, they’ll stop crossing the border. And they’ll take their cows home, too.”
Of course, we're still hearing the same excuses from the right:
“Border security” was just a verbal rubric pasted over the real source of these nativists’ anxieties. It was a coded phrase for the underlying intention: “Keep out the brown people.”

Seven years down the road, that reality hasn’t changed a bit. What has changed instead is an electoral landscape where it’s becoming increasingly clear that the need for comprehensive immigration reform has become inescapable, but when faced with legislation to achieve it, those same nativists and their Tea-Partying cohorts in Congress continue to revert to the same old saw: “We need to secure the border before we can pass reform.” And it still means the same old thing.

What, exactly, do they mean by “border security”? It’s hard to pin down the exact definition of a “secure border” – reflective of the fact that it is a coded phrase – but in the hands of various Congressional Republicans, what emerges is a fantasy portrait of a militarized fortress-style border with Mexico secured by a towering fence and the constant buzz of manpower patrolling it. In the immigration-reform bill passed by the Senate (but still bottled up in the House), the legislation requires construction of 700 miles of new double-walled border fence and 20,000 more Border Patrol agents to man it.

Notably, these proposals all envision such a facility along the 1,954 miles of border the United States shares with Mexico. No such fence is envisioned for 5,525 miles of border that we share with Canada – even though, when it comes to national security, we already know which border terrorists are likely to cross. And it’s not the southern one. Of course, building a second fence two and half times as long as that proposed for the Mexico border would be outrageously expensive – especially when the latter already fits that description.
Go here to read it all.

As the Need for Immigration Reform Grows, Congress Grows Less Likely to Act

[Note: Crooks and Liars will be hosting a Google Hangout on Thursday discussing immigration reform on live video with a special panel of experts, including Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America's Voice; Juanita Molina, Executive Director, Border Action Network and Julieta Garibay from United We DREAM, and C&L's own David Neiwert, author of And Hell Followed With Her: Crossing the Dark Side of the American Border. Be sure to tune in at 10 am PDT!]

The WaPo's Ed O'Keefe has an excellent piece looking at the real-world consequences of Congress's mishandling of immigration reform so far, from the point of view of people who actually live along the border:
They say that lawmakers should instead consider the economic benefits of legal immigration. About 20 percent of the $500 billion traded annually between the United States and Mexico passes through ports of entry along this part of the border, and locals say the numbers would climb dramatically if trucks carrying goods could cross faster.
More than 100,000 jobs in the region rely on the lawful movement of people, goods and services between the two countries, and officials predict that even more business and jobs would be created if Congress made it easier for guest workers to cross, or if illegal immigrants could come out of the shadows.

“It would seem to me that the key to immigration reform is providing some type of work visas to shuffle out those who are just here to work and many times want to go home,” Wiles said. “They want to come, work, support their families and eventually go home.”
Yet the cold reality is that the Tea Party faction controls Congress, and as long as that's the case, there will be no immigration reform bill to emerge from the black hole of negativity it has become.

The public agrees. According to Rasmussen, only 28 of the American public thinks immigration-reform passage is likely this year -- even though a substantial majority favor it.
Most voters still want the emphasis on border control, and with this in mind, fewer than ever think Congress is likely to pass immigration reform this year.

Fifty-three percent (53%) of Likely U.S. Voters favor a reform plan that gives legal status to many of those now here illegally as long as the border is really secured to prevent future immigration. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 30% are opposed to this plan even with the guarantee of stricter border control. Seventeen percent (17%) are undecided.
As Rep. Pete Gallego observes in the WaPo piece, this doesn't say anything very flattering about the anti-democratic forces that are overwhelming our political process:
“If immigration reform doesn’t happen, that doesn’t say good things about our democracy, that everybody wants it but Congress couldn’t pass it,” Gallego said during a recent dinner meeting with constituents.
It does, however, underscore the need to get the House out of the hands of the Tea Party.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.