December 21, 2007

Happy Holidays, America!

I was thinking about making another post about the imaginary so-called “War on Christmas,” but I thought it would be a much better and fitting sentiment to simply say, Happy Holidays. Here’s wishing you a safe and joyous holiday season, regardless of what you celebrate, or even if you celebrate nothing at all. Take care, be safe, and see you all in 2008.

Happy Holidays to you and yours from Not So Humble dot net. 2008 is going to be a big year. But until the holidays are all done, allow me to leave you with the same poem from last year because it’s so incredibly accurate:

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the nation
Friends of Freedom knew it was a special occasion.
Lady Liberty stood taller just off the shore
Her torch shining brighter than a few weeks before

But it wasn’t the flame turning her cheeks all rosy
It was thoughts of Snowe, Feingold and Nancy Pelosi
And leaders from every side of the aisle
Who would soon bring the Bill of Rights back into style.


White Backlash and the Right

While the Republicans are eager to find a candidate that reminds them of their departed friend, Ronald Reagan, and invoke the image of Barry Goldwater at every turn to describe “good conservatism,” I cringe. I remember Barry Goldwater’s riotous opposition to civil rights and equality in America under the guise of the same arguments that conservatives drag out today – that by granting civil rights and equal protection under the law that you somehow give special treatment to someone.

As time has progressed since the heyday of the civil rights movement, those of us who have had our ears to the ground and eyes on the prize have always known there have been elements on the conservative right (and yes, even on the left) that have sought to undo the decades of progress towards a more just and equitable America for all of America’s children, regardless of their skin color or ethnicity. Children were raised to remember – like I was raised to remember – that there are still people out there to whom you’re nothing more than a ni**er, even if you’re well educated, in a high-profile position, or successful at everything you do. You’ll still need to work twice as hard as someone who has access to the good-old-boy network of white privilege, and you’ll still need to be acutely aware that there are and will be people who will seek to diminish you for no reason than who you are. You always had to know that there were people who, when they said they wanted the “good old days” back again, they really wanted you away from their water fountains, out of their restaurants, didn’t want to see you in their bathrooms, and abhorred letting you sit in front of them on the bus, much less speak to and marry their daughters and apply for the same jobs.

To a degree I’m not surprised that this backlash exists, but I am surprised that it a: surprises some and b: has gained so much momentum from the far right; the same people who claim to have the moral high ground:

Indeed, as Digby observes, “The racist beast is clamoring to be set free.” The old once again is new: there’s a “new racism” that pretends to be daring new thinking, dashing the molds of political correctness, but really is just the same old shit recycled. And it’s not even relegated strictly to the right: Witness, for the most recent example, William Saletan’s sally into the rancid fields of eugenics.

That this is happening is acutely clear for African Americans, historically the chief victims of racist hate in America, as the noose episodes suggest. But it’s also becoming true on a broader scale as well, with a rising tide of openly espoused ethnic bigotry manifesting itself in myriad ways, particularly on the immigration front, where Latinos are increasingly targeted by rhetoric emanating from the very highest levels of Republican leadership that manifests itself in a tide of hate crimes; and in the “war on terror,” which has provided for an opening for a variety of right-wing figures to spew hateful anti-Muslim rhetoric, with similarly predictable consequences.

One kind of hate feeds another; one open expression of bigotry without significant consequence only provides permission for many more to follow, and the inherent violence of such talk inevitably gives permission for people to act it out. Thus this shifting social tide has, just as predictably, brought the broader result of a significant increase in bias crimes of all kinds across the country.

And the breadth of the tide also tells us that this is not really about blacks or Latinos or Muslims specifically, but is about the people who fear and despise them: white people. It’s about defending white privilege.

That’s pretty much what it boils down to.

[ White Backlash and the Right ]

December 2, 2007

White House Seeks to Slash Anti-Terror Funds

One thing that I’m consistently appalled at is how insistent the Administration is when they believe we’re under “threat” and how the Congress should give them as much money as they want for whatever tasks they choose without asking why, and how the American people should be prepared to give up whatever freedoms and rights the government sees fit to take from us to protect us from a mysterious and ever-lurking threat using means and results that we aren’t allowed to know, and specifically aren’t allowed to hold them accountable for.

So while the Administration claims that we’re under constant and never-ending threat, even though the Administration has never seen fit to properly embrace the findings of the 9/11 Commission, and never seen fit to properly provide federal funding to state and city-level first responders like police and firefighters, and even though the Administration hasn’t even seen fit to properly fund its own security and screening programs – screening cargo at American ports, screening all luggage on flights, updated scanning technology that will speed airport lines and enhance security, or even properly train federal security staff like the TSA, even though all of that is indisputably true, the Administration is cutting anti-terror funds across the board. Likely to make room for what they call the “front-line” on the war on terror – a manufactured conflict of their own making. Namely, the war in Iraq. Not even the war in Afghanistan, which so severely needs American support and redoubled efforts but is sadly ignored thanks to the quagmire just to the west, over the other big player in the area (and a whole other topic), Iran.

The Bush administration intends to slash counterterrorism funding for police, firefighters and rescue departments across the country by more than half next year, according to budget documents obtained by The Associated Press.

The Homeland Security Department has given $23 billion to states and local communities to fight terrorism since the Sept. 11 attacks, but the administration is not convinced that the money has been well spent and thinks the nation’s highest-risk cities have largely satisfied their security needs.

The department wanted to provide $3.2 billion to help states and cities protect against terrorist attacks in 2009, but the White House said it would ask Congress for less than half — $1.4 billion, according to a Nov. 26 document.

The plan calls outright elimination of programs for port security, transit security, and local emergency management operations in the next budget year. This is President Bush’s last budget, and the new administration would have to live with the funding decisions between Jan. 20 and Sept. 30, 2009.

Read it and weep America. Especially those in major American cities – which by and large, even though they’re the largest terrorist targets are usually hotbeds of the Administration’s political opposition – your funding is going to dry up instantly, and the programs that were designed to protect you will do so as well. And those expansions and additional funding that your police and fire departments desperately needed in order to complete their security planning and risk analysis after September 11th? Say goodbye to those as well.

The Administration will probably try to say that they want to spread out the funding to other potential targets, but I don’t buy that for a second. They said they would look into funding security around critical infrastructure elements like bridges, power plants, refineries, and water-treatment facilities, but they’ve done no such thing and it’s looking like that task – like all of the others – will fall to the states, which will undoubtedly have to raise taxes to support security planning that the federal government should really do (think of it – a patchwork security plan depending on what city or state you live in). If it’s not the responsibility of the federal government to protect us, whose is it?

Instead, the administration will likely funnel more money into the Pentagon towards cold-war era military projects like the Osprey and the scientifically-proven-not-to-work missile defense program that they’re trying to provoke a conflict with Russia over.

The proposal to drastically cut Homeland Security grants is at odds with some of the administration’s own policies. For example, the White House recently promised continued funding for state and regional intelligence “fusion centers” — information-sharing centers the administration deems critical to preventing another terrorist attack. Cutting the grants would limit money available for the centers.

The White House’s plan to eliminate the port, transit and other grants, which are popular with state and local officials, would not go into effect until Sept. 30, 2008. Congress is unlikely to support the cuts and will ultimately decide the fate of the programs and the funding levels when it hashes out the department’s 2009 budget next year.

The White House routinely seeks to cut the budget requests of federal departments, but the cuts proposed for 2009 Homeland Security grants are far deeper than the norm. Congress has yet to approve the department’s 2008 plan.

“This budget proposal is dead on arrival,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. “This administration runs around the country scaring people and then when it comes to putting their money where their mouth is, they say ’sorry, the bank is closed.”’

Well said, Senator Boxer (she always knows what to say). It’s remarkable how the administration is willing to use fear to keep the American people in check, even drive us to war in a foreign country over nothing but smoke, mirrors, dust, and their word, but when it comes time to ante up, they’re not willing. Instead, they propose cuts that they know Congress won’t accept, or more importantly, accept blame for if they actually cut the funding.

To zero out essential Homeland Security programs which have more to do with protecting Americans and fighting the war on terror than much of the money spent in Iraq shows how warped and out of touch this administration’s priorities are,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat.

My thoughts exactly.

[ White House Seeks to Slash Anti-Terror Funds ]
Source: MSNBC

African-American Worker Wakes Up To Find White Co-Workers With Noose Around His Neck

I’ve been of the mindset that sometimes, every now and again, when we come upon another one of these “noose” incidents that we need to just go ahead and let it go. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not because I don’t get the severity of the statement, and it’s not because I’m not full of the same righteous anger that any other black American would feel – it’s just that I’m starting to wonder if all of the attention is really working to increase awareness or just letting the pranksters who hang them sit in the background and watch the entire black community work itself into a lather about the entire stunt; thus encouraging others to repeat the process.

This, unfortunately, is more than one of those cases. This isn’t a prank; this is assault.

Full disclosure – this took place in 2003, and the victim is now getting his documents in order and his legal representation believes now’s the time to strike back at this company for punitive damages. Full text, including commentary from the post author on some right-wing race “commentators” (read: ignorance spreaders) who have had sympathies for such “pranks” in the past:

f this is true–and I have no reason at this time to believe it isn’t–it is just example number 157,000 of how right-wing, think-tank-welfare-babies like Dinesh D’Souza are complete and utter morons.

Yeah, racism is dead pal. Oh, and you actually earned the palacial mansion that encapsulates your brain-dead corpus in the suburbs of San Diego. That’s true too.

In fact, maybe Republican State Senator and immigration/race philosopher Denny Altes from Fort Smith Arkansas would have something to say about this?:

“We are where we were with the black folks after the revolutionary war. We can’t send them back and the more we p *** them off the worse it will be in the future. So what do we do,” the e-mail states. “I say the governor needs to try to enforce the law and sign the letter of understanding… and at least we can send the troublemakers back. Sure we are being overrun but we are being outpopulated by the blacks also. What is the answer, only time will tell.”

What say you, Mr. Altes? Perhaps you can re-segregate Central High?

This is what we’re still dealing with in 2007 folks. This gentleman was working on a rig off the coast of Louisiana, and takes a nap. He wakes up with a noose around his neck and three white workers standing over him. They say it was a “prank.”

In any case, this gets better. The victim tells his bosses at Noble Drilling (of Houston, call them and send your regards), and they fired him for “sleeping on the job.” It was during his break. God forbid workers take one of those.

That’s not just sad, it’s absolutely maddening. It’s assault, it’s illegal, and it should be punished accordingly. Check out the video at the link below.

Thankfully – according to some helpful individuals in the comments – the white employees involved in the incident have been fired. But the company has made no apologies to the victim. Noble Drilling has done quite well in the recent past thanks to the spike in oil prices and new government grants aimed at expanding oil drilling. That being said, here’s hoping they see fit – whether of their own choice or not – to share some of that goodwill with a man who came to work in good faith and was assualted, discriminated against, and tossed out without so much as a thought.

[ African-American Worker Wakes Up To Find White Co-Workers With Noose Around His Neck ]
Source: Alternet

Tom Tancredo Hired Illegal Laborers to Renovate His McMansion

It must be nice these days to be a conservative. You have the freedom to talk out of both sides of your mouth and go on without fearing that the major media outlets will catch you, and you’ll always have an ally in channels like Faux News and Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers to make you out to both look good and be a victim of some imaginary left-wing smear campaign. In today’s most recent case of a conservative politician suffering from a severe case of self-denial, it looks like Republican presidential candidate Tom Tancredo, the man who’s called illegal immigrants a “scourge” on America, gleefully hired a contractor who employed them to renovate his house.

Which is it, Mr. Tancredo? Are they a scourge, destroying America, stealing jobs, and dismantling everything we hold dear? Or are they a vital part of our economy; people who have come to fill gaps in our society that we ourselves have allowed to fall open with conservative policies towards social welfare and education, people who want nothing more than to be part of our culture and our society and take part in the American dream of freedom and equal justice that we ourselves claim to champion and hold dear at every turn and in every foreign nation?

When Republican Representative Tom Tancredo isn’t railing against the “scourge” of illegal immigration on the presidential campaign trail, he relaxes in the 1053 square foot basement recreation room of his Littleton, Colorado McMansion. There, he and his family can rack up a game of billiards on their tournament size pool table, play pinball, or enjoy their favorite movies in the terraced seating area of a home theater system. Tancredo, who dodged the draft during the Vietnam War by producing evidence that he suffered from mentally illnesses, especially likes entertaining his buddies with classic war movies.

When Tancredo hired a construction crew to transform his drab basement into a high-tech pleasure den in October 2001, however, he did not express concern that only two of its members spoke English. Nor did he bother to check the workers’ documentation to see if they were legal residents of the United States. Had Tancredo done so, he would have learned that most of the crew consisted of undocumented immigrants, or “criminal aliens” as he likes to call them. Instead, Tancredo paid the crew $60,000 for its labor and waited innocently for the completion of his elaborate entertainment complex.

During the renovation process, two illegal workers hired by Tancredo were alerted to his reputation for immigrant bashing. They went straight to the Denver Post to complain. Tancredo “doesn’t want us here, but he’ll take advantage of our sweat and our labor,” one of the workers complained to the Post on September 19, 2002. “It’s just not right.”

I’ll give Tancredo a little credit; I don’t expect him to put himself in the position where he would ask the workers on his house specifically, one-by-one, for their papers. I mean, given how much of a xenophobe he is, I wouldn’t have put it past him. But what I would have expected was him to bother asking the company that he hired as contractors to prove that they only hired legal workers. For someone so utterly and completely concerned and consumed by the issue of immigration, for someone who’s called the people he paid so much money to “criminal aliens,” and for someone who’s made this their presidential campaign’s central issue, I’m impressed. Impressed mostly at how concerned he – and those of his political fold – are so concerned about the rules only when they work for them and the way they want to. In short, it never ceased to impress me how hypocritical these folks can truly be.

[ Tom Tancredo Hired Illegal Laborers to Renovate His McMansion ]
Source: Alternet