Category Archives: Random Blogging

You’ve REALLY Got to Hate Brown People….

Politico recently calculated the cost of Donald Trump’s oh-so-realistic immigration plan. It came to 166 Billion dollars. (Billion with a B.)

I guess when you’re rich and delusional, a billion here and there isn’t daunting, but really– are the Republicans who are cheering Trump on really prepared to pay that much money to deport the people who–among other things– are picking their vegetables?

Here’s Politico’s breakdown– the price tag for each of Trump’s immigration policies:

• Mass deportation: $141.3 billion
• Triple the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers: $8.4 billion per year
• Building the wall: At least $5.1 billion (not including yearly maintenance)
• Nationwide E-Verify system: $2.15 billion
• Visa-tracking system: $7 billion
• Mandatory detention: $1.7 billion

These are just the cash outlays; the total doesn’t include the higher prices of produce and other economic “hits” to an economy that depends much more on the exploitation of undocumented workers than we–or The Donald– like to admit.

This is only one of Trump’s spectacularly stupid positions, of course.

Although it is really difficult to choose a favorite idiocy (and increasingly difficult to distinguish satire from reality), my favorite to date has to be this gem, uttered during an interview with Bill O’Reilly (who, next to Trump, actually looked reasonable): in a discussion of the Fourteenth Amendment provision granting “birthright citizenship” to children born in the U.S., Trump said that the Fourteenth Amendment “would never hold up in court.”

Putting aside the obvious–Trump doesn’t understand the difference between a Constitutional provision and a statute (or the operation of the American legal system, with the exception of bankruptcy law)–this effort by nativists to eliminate birthright citizenship has been embraced by a number of Republicans. Including Indiana Governor Mike Pence when he was in Congress.

A recent interview with WRTV included discussion of Pence’s sponsorship of the “Birthright Citizenship Act of 2009,” a bill to “redefine” birthright citizenship to prevent children born in the U.S. of immigrant parents from being considered citizens. (Fortunately, like virtually everything then-Congressman Pence sponsored during his tenure in Congress, the bill went nowhere.) Most Hoosiers had been unaware of Pence’s assault on that part of the 14th Amendment until Trump’s antics focused attention on the issue.

As for Trump–I don’t object to the spectacle of an yet another un-self-aware, self-aggrandizing, self-parodying jerk running for President. What freaks me out is that this one is currently leading the GOP pack.

An “Extra Long” Campaign…”

Okay–I am seriously considering a move to Canada.

A good friend who recently vacationed in Vancouver thoughtfully brought me a copy of the Vancouver Sun. The paper was thick with news and commentary, making me nostalgic for the days when we, too, had a real newspaper, but that wasn’t the reason for the gift.

The reason was the headline–first page, above the fold: “Long campaign officially on.”

Long, in Canada, is eleven weeks. Actually, that is “extra long”–an opinion piece in the same paper was titled “Harper bets extra-long campaign will favor Tories.” A few lines are illuminating:

With the longest federal election campaign in our modern history now grinding into motion, despite the electorate being mostly still in flip-flop and barbecue mode…

Harper’s decision to opt for more than twice the minimum 37-day length for a campaign held hints for what’s ahead….

Saturation media, especially web video, de facto makes this more a popularity contest than any previous election in our history…

Contrast that to the nonstop coverage of an American election that is fourteen months away. Here in the US of A, we are already being “saturated” with reports from the Iowa State Fair and the results of New Hampshire polls; partisans are already training their guns on opponents and digging for scandals. Obscenely rich power brokers are launching SuperPacs and spending unthinkable amounts of money to elect people who will preserve their government subsidies and tax loopholes.

And unless we can crawl into a cave somewhere, we won’t be able to escape any of it.

It is highly unlikely that the additional year of campaigning will make us a more deliberate or informed electorate than Canada’s. It’s more likely to make us crazier.

Canada has universal healthcare, great public transportation and short election campaigns. Sounds like heaven to me…

 

Research Can Be Eye-Opening: ALEC Edition

Recently, a reader asked me to write something about ALEC–the American Legislative Exchange Council. I didn’t know much about the organization, so I consulted Dr. Google.

Here’s how ALEC’s official site describes the organization:

The American Legislative Exchange Council is America’s largest nonpartisan, voluntary membership organization of state legislators. Comprised of nearly one-quarter of the country’s state legislators, business and thought leaders, think tank scholars and individuals, ALEC provides a unique forum for diverse groups to exchange ideas and develop real, state-based solutions that encourage growth, preserve economic security and protect hardworking taxpayers.

Sounds good. But as it turns out, a wee bit inaccurate. A significant number of ALEC members are not legislators, but corporations, and virtually all of its funding comes from those corporations, whose interests–unsurprisingly– it serves.

ALEC is neither “diverse” or non-partisan. There is one Democrat out of the 104 legislators holding “leadership” positions, and Its website listed speakers at a recent meeting: Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker and Ted Cruz. Other featured speakers at ALEC events have included: Milton Friedman, Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney, Dan Quayle, George Allen, Jessie Helms, Pete Coors, and Mitch Daniels.

The site listed people to whom ALEC has given awards: Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, George H.W. Bush, Charles and David Koch, Richard de Vos, Tommy Thompson, Gov. John Kasich (currently portrayed as the “moderate” running for President), Gov. Rick Perry, Congressman Mark Foley, and Congressman Billy Tauzin. 

So much for diverse opinions…

All that was from ALEC’s own site. Other sources described the organization as a corporate bill mill.

Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC’s operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy’s ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our PRWatch.org site.

Heavily funded by the Koch brothers, ALEC’s bills undermine environmental regulations and deny climate change; support school privatization; undercut health care reform; defund unions and limit their political influence; restrain legislatures’ abilities to raise revenue through taxes; mandate strict election laws that disenfranchise votersincrease incarceration to benefit the private prison industry, among many other issues.

The good news is that after the 2010 elections, ALEC’s success in getting GOP legislators to introduce bills written to benefit their corporate members raised the organization’s profile. In the ensuing public outrage, a number of major corporations severed their ties with ALEC. Google, Microsoft, Visa, Merck, General Motors, Walgreens, Amazon, McDonalds, Coca Cola…even Walmart has left. And the exodus continues.

I wonder how many would have left if the organization had remained in the shadows.

They’re Out to Get Us..

According to a recent story in something called the Civic Tribune,

The internet is abuzz with reports of forced micro-chipping taking place in Clint, Texas. Dozens of families were said to be rounded up by American troops, and given the option of an RFID implant, or imprisonment for an indefinite amount of time.

Well, as you know, Obama is using Jade Helm to take over Texas. He also plans to confiscate everyone’s guns. The moon landing was faked. The government is hiding the remains of aliens and their flying saucer in a secret compound at Roswell. Agenda 21 is a U.N. plan to destroy American sovereignty…

According to Time Magazine, there are more people who subscribe to these and other loony-tune theories than most of us would guess. (And I thought Donald Trump was the most depressing aspect of contemporary American life…)

According to a pair of new studies published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, conspiracy theorists—and there are a lot more of them than you may think—tend to have one thing in common: they feel a lack of control over their lives.

Jan-Willem van Prooijen, associate professor in social and organizational psychology at VU University Amsterdam, has been studying conspiracy theories and those who believe them for six years. “When I started this research, one of the things that I really found astonishing was how many people believe in certain conspiracy theories,” he says.

Conspiracy theories often crop up during times of uncertainty and fear: after terrorist strikes, financial crises, high-profile deaths and natural disasters.

We certainly live in a “time of uncertainty.” The Great Recession, the yawning gap between the rich and the rest of us, the incessant news reports highlighting terrorism both foreign and domestic, and–perhaps most of all– the constantly accelerating pace of social and technological change have combined to create a free-floating anxiety to which few of us are immune.

Still, it’s hard to believe that social uncertainty really explains the Birthers….and the Black Helicopters…and the New World Order….and the “proven” fact that Obama plans to cancel elections and make himself President for Life…

The distance between feeling a loss of control and embracing bat-shit-crazy is evidently a lot shorter than we knew.

Shoot Me Now–Pun Intended

File under: Parishioners packing heat.

A church in Alabama has opened a gun range. Right behind the church.

According to the pastor,

“We had quite a number of church members, some elderly ladies, for example, and some not so elderly women that had purchased guns, but didn’t know how to use them,” Guin told WIAT-TV.

He said the safety classes evolved into a ministry, the Rocky Mount Hunt and Gun Club.

“This is an opportunity for us to reach out in the name of Jesus Christ in a setting that is completely unique. Even odd by some people’s standards. But who’s to say that church can’t happen right here,” Guin said…..

“Really, the whole purpose of this range is to provide recreational and gun safety in a warm, loving, Christian environment,” Guin said. “We wanted to come up with some different ideas to help our church grow, and we thought this would be a unique ministry to offer to the community.”

Evidently, in Alabama, the way to grow a congregation is to offer a “gun ministry.” The NRA will be so proud….

(It’s probably unfair, but when I read this, I immediately recalled an old Second City comedy routine from Cold War days, in which the repeated exhortation was to “kill a Commie for Christ.”)

I don’t pretend to understand the theology involved, but I’m worried that I do understand the marketing approach….