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Hometown: Xenia, OH
Member since: Tue Sep 19, 2006, 04:46 PM
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Journal Archives

The term "amnesty" in the context of immigration reform is an invention of the far-right. Liberals

know better.

This Graph Explains Why Immigration Reform Is Not "Amnesty"

Conservative media figures have attacked House Speaker John Boehner for accusing tea party groups of undercutting Republican Party interests, claiming that Boehner did so to facilitate passage of "amnesty" in 2014. But the "amnesty" label that right-wing figures affix to immigration reform has been disputed even by Republican lawmakers opposed to reform.

Indeed, the comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate imposes severe hurdles and makes undocumented immigrants wait 13 years before they can even begin to apply for citizenship.

As the Washington Post explained:

One of the weaknesses of the public conversation about immigration is that any proposal under which the final result for some undocumented immigrants is citizenship gets labeled "amnesty." But in reality, most proposals put a ton of hurdles between such immigrants' current status and that goal.

The Post included this graph from the Center for American Progress, which drives home the absurdity of calling what basically amounts to a 13-year wait -- that may or may not result in citizenship -- an "amnesty":


In Defense of Nationalism: Civic nationalism vs. ethnic nationalism

Nationalism is resurgent, says Gideon Rachman in a recent column for the Financial Times. This is surprising, he argues. Not long ago we were contemplating a new age of globalization: "In a borderless world of bits and bytes the traditional concerns of nations -- territory, identity and sovereignty -- looked as anachronistic as swords and shields."

Quite the opposite, it turns out. As Rachman says, consider the separatist drive in Scotland, or Catalonia; the growing strength of right-wing populism in England, France and elsewhere in the European Union; Russia's moves to reclaim its empire; the electoral success of Hindu nationalism in India; the mutually antagonistic strands of chauvinism in China and Japan. Almost wherever you look, those supposedly anachronistic concerns are driving politics.

I said "a judicious measure of the right kind of nationalism." What does that mean? Each democracy needs enough nationalism -- call it patriotism if you like -- to bind its people together but not so much as to set them at odds with outsiders. Nationalism turns toxic, and patriotism becomes chauvinism, when it's belligerent and sets foreigners up as the enemy. That's true, no doubt, of many of the cases Rachman highlights -- but it would be wrong to assume this goes with the territory (as it were). Toxic nationalism isn't the typical case.

Note too that nationalism comes in different flavors as well as different intensities. A useful distinction is between civic nationalism and ethnic nationalism. The U.S. exemplifies civic nationalism -- its idea of nationhood defined by a constitutional design and shared political culture, open (in principle) to newcomers without regard to race or creed. Ethnic nationalism sees nationhood as a matter of tribe or religion or language. It's exclusionary by nature. That makes it far more prone to perversion into forms that see neighbors as rivals or enemies.


It makes sense that some degree of nationalism is useful for a functioning democracy. An important distinction between 'civic nationalism' - based on a shared history and political culture - and 'ethnic nationalism' based on race, ethnicity, religion, etc. is more exclusionary and prone to viewing foreigners as evil.

New study: Europe's far right - anti-EU, pro-Putin, anti-globalization, anti-immigrant, nationalists

Yet despite the extreme Right’s much-vaunted irredentism, it has also mounted strong critiques of the very modern phenomenon of globalization. The internationalization of capitalism, its unprecedented ability to cross the boundaries of national political and legal jurisdictions, has led to a sea-change in the way fascists respond to the vital question ‘where does the national interest lie’. Today, fascist and nationalist movements don’t just wave the flag of the nation-state. Despising the liberal values of Europe, deploring the subservient actions of European governments in the face of the EU’s hegemonizing tendencies, extreme-right leaders gaze admiringly across the EU border to authoritarian leaders abroad, longing for the day when they too can govern illiberally.

But for many of the up-and-coming demagogues of the populist and anti-Communist extreme Right, ranging from UKIP’s Nigel Farage to the FN’s Marine Le Pen, from Gábor Vona of Jobbik to Nikos Michaloliakos of Golden Dawn, it is the autocratic leadership of Russian president Vladimir Putin that is most admired and emulated.

HRF suggests that eight European far-Right parties – the Austrian Freedom Party (FPO), Vlaams Belang of Belgium, the FN in France, the German National Democratic Party, Golden Dawn, Jobbik, Lega Nord in Italy and the Lithuanian Order and Justice party (TT) – have aligned themselves with Russian interests and hints that Russia is funding some or all of these parties. In the context of the ‘Trojan Horse’ theory, the modest gains for the extreme Right in the European parliamentary elections could be seen as ‘a victory for Moscow’.

Despite this analytical weakness, there are solid accounts of the roots of Golden Dawn in its support for past military dictatorships, new information on anti-immigration violence and a welcome critique of the government’s failure to allow non-Greeks the benefits of witness protection schemes (which would have allowed immigrants to give evidence against Golden Dawn), as well as intimations that GD’s ability to maintain seventy offices and distribute food to the poor could be due to the financial backing of major ship owners and businessmen. Rather oddly, though, there is no mention of the mass racial profiling, Operation Zeus, under which, between April 2012 and June 2013, more than 120,000 foreign nationals were subjected to identity checks and countless were exposed to racism, brutality and other abuses of their human rights.


Krugman on why Obama is a historic success

When it comes to Barack Obama, I've always been out of sync. Back in 2008, when many liberals were wildly enthusiastic about his candidacy and his press was strongly favorable, I was skeptical. I worried that he was naive, that his talk about transcending the political divide was a dangerous illusion given the unyielding extremism of the modern American right.

But now the shoe is on the other foot: Obama faces trash talk left, right and center – literally – and doesn't deserve it. Despite bitter opposition, despite having come close to self-inflicted disaster, Obama has emerged as one of the most consequential and, yes, successful presidents in American history. His health reform is imperfect but still a huge step forward – and it's working better than anyone expected. Financial reform fell far short of what should have happened, but it's much more effective than you'd think. Economic management has been half-crippled by Republican obstruction, but has nonetheless been much better than in other advanced countries. And environmental policy is starting to look like it could be a major legacy.

I'll go through those achievements shortly. First, however, let's take a moment to talk about the current wave of Obama-bashing. All Obama-bashing can be divided into three types. One, a constant of his time in office, is the onslaught from the right, which has never stopped portraying him as an Islamic atheist Marxist Kenyan. Nothing has changed on that front, and nothing will.

There's a different story on the left, where you now find a significant number of critics decrying Obama as, to quote Cornel West, someone who ''posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit.'' They're outraged that Wall Street hasn't been punished, that income inequality remains so high, that ''neoliberal'' economic policies are still in place. All of this seems to rest on the belief that if only Obama had put his eloquence behind a radical economic agenda, he could somehow have gotten that agenda past all the political barriers that have con- strained even his much more modest efforts. It's hard to take such claims seriously.


During World War II, the human population lost 300 of every 100,000 people each year to war.

"Count the number of people killed in war, plot the trend over time. That’s how you get a picture of whether the world has become more, or less, violent. It’s the only way to get such a picture.”

During World War II, the human population lost 300 of every 100,000 people each year to war. During the Korean War it was in the 20s, before dropping into the teens during the Vietnam era. In the 1980s and 1990s, it fell into the single digits. For most of the 21st century it’s been below one war death per 100,000 people per year.

There has been an uptick globally as a result of the civil war in Syria, doubling from 0.5 per 100,000 to 1. But Pinker says “you can’t compare 1 with 15 or 25 or 300.” Everywhere else in the world, the stats are still trending downward. The same is true for homicides.

“If you get your view of the world from the news, you’re always going to think that we’re living in violent times,” Pinker says. “Because if anything blows up, if there’s any shooting anywhere in the world, it instantly gets beamed across the globe. News is about stuff that happens. It’s not about stuff that doesn’t happen. And as long as violence hasn’t gone down to zero, there will always be enough incidents to fill the news.”

“Look at all the places that aren’t blowing up,” he adds. “That is not going to be on the news. You never see a reporter standing on the streets in Mozambique or Colombia saying there’s no war this year. But there were wars in past years, and we forget about them because they are not news.

As a psychologist, Pinker suggests a couple of explanations as to why people believe the world is falling apart. “Cognitive psychologists speak about the "availability bias" — a term invented by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky — according to which we judge risk by how easy it is to remember examples. Now, of course you take a course in intro stats and you realize that’s not a good way to estimate probability. But that’s the way the human mind works without statistical training.”

In addition to this cognitive bias, Pinker says = psychologically there can also often be a moralistic bias.

“If you have some sort of cause, if you’re trying to rally supporters behind a movement, people think the most effective way to do it is to give people an impression that things are getting worse, and that they have to act now, otherwise things will get worse still.
Personally, I’m not convinced that’s the best way to mobilize people for a cause because it’s easy to throw up your hands and say that part of the world is a hell-hole; they’ve always hated each other; they always will hate each other; it’s intractable; there’s nothing we can do," he explains. "When you start to see that intractable conflicts are not, that is, people can seemingly hate each other for a long time and then lay down their arms and not pick them up again, it kind of emboldens you to say, well, maybe we can do that again.”


It is amazing to see exactly how violent WWII actually was and how much of the world it affected. The Korean and Vietnam wars were also violent but more localized so that rate of war deaths dropped by more than 9/10s. The recent deaths in the Syrian civil war and in Iraq have caused a blip up in the rate of war deaths from 1/2 per 100,000 to 1 per 100,000.

Pressure from the EU is thought to be the main reason Serbian officials allowed gay pride parade

Marchers were protected by strong security lines as anti-gay activists protested before event

It was a rare sight for Serbia, one of the most conservative countries in Europe, to witness a march akin to those found in the more cosmopolitan cities of London and Berlin. Albeit on a smaller scale and with far more security.

After a march in 2010, pride events were banned for three years because of clashes between police and extreme right-wing groups, which saw more than 100 people injured. This year there appears to have been little violence, despite threats made by ultra-nationalists.

Pressure from the EU is thought to be the main reason Serbian officials allowed Sunday’s event to take place after the three year ban. The country is keen to join the organisation and wants to burnish its human rights credentials.

There is some way to go before members of the LGBT community can enjoy full acceptance in Serbia however, as thousands of anti-gay campaigners protested against the march on Saturday and the head of the country’s Orthodox Church denounced the march.


Serbia obviously has a long way to go before gays are accepted by society but this is a first step. Serbia's desire to join the EU is motivating it to become less homophobic, though it is still a very conservative society with a long way to go.

Assad's troops have control of western Aleppo and drop barrel bombs on the eastern half every day.

The Syrian Front: Waiting to Die in Aleppo

Eastern Aleppo has been virtually abandoned, as have most residential districts located away from the front. Those left in the city prefer to crowd into housing right up against the battle lines, which have remained virtually static in the last two years. Paradoxically, people feel safest living within range of enemy tank and sniper fire. Such are the rules of Aleppo.

The reasons are pragmatic. For one, the lower floors of the buildings along the front still offer some protection from artillery shells. More important, however, is the fact that no "baramil" fall here, those half-ton barrel bombs dropped from helicopters flying high overhead. The bombs are murderously effective, but they are so imprecise that the Syrian Air Force refrains from using them too close to its own troops.

The rest of eastern Aleppo, though, is fair game. Filled with explosives and shrapnel, the bombs can destroy entire buildings and the Syrian army has tried out various designs in the city. Some even have tanks of gasoline attached so as to start fires when they detonate; others are so heavy that they are rolled out of the helicopters on small gun carriages.

The helicopters appear in the mornings and late afternoons, usually at the same times each day, and circle for a while at altitudes of 4,000 to 5,000 meters (13,000-16,000 feet), little more than tiny dots in the sky, before dropping their payloads. The sound of the bombs falling can only be heard seconds before impact -- enough time to know that you are about to die, but not enough time to flee.


If the US and others want to bomb ISIS in Raqqa and other urban areas - and do not care about civilian casualties - they should just let Assad do the bombing. There is nothing 'precision' about the bombing his troops do, but it may be 'effective' in killing opposition fighters - if you ignore the 'collateral damage'.

Juan Cole: How Repression and Climate Change Drove the Civil War

How Repression, Drought & Climate Change Drove the Syrian Civil War

Long before March of 2011, when Syrian demonstrations calling for reform and in some cases, regime change, morphed into a full-blown military conflict that has transformed into a supranational bloodbath, the economic and political policies of Bashar Al-Assad’s Baa’thist regime undoubtedly fomented major discontent among various segments of Syria’s population. ... events in the south-Syrian bordertown of Dera’a would forever change the socio-political dynamics of a nation ruled by the iron fists of the Al-Assad clan for more than four decades. Upon assuming the mantle of power in Syria, Syrians hopeful of political and economic liberalization under the modern, western-educated ophthalmologist-turned-president Bashar Al-Assad were mainly met with disappointment.

However, in a nation where the mukhabarat (secret police informants/intelligence agents) have long infiltrated all segments of society and institutions, a general aura of fear, suspicion, and paranoia persisted well into Bashar’s reign. I witnessed this first-hand when I visited and stayed in Dera’a for a few days with family friends several years before the uprising and recall the kind of vexing stares I received from some of those whom I attempted to raise the issue of Syrian politics with. I was a bit naïve and so I, more than anything, wanted to know if the stories I had heard about Syrian fears of the regime were legit. They were.

During the same year Bashar Al-Assad took power, ninety-nine Syrian intellectuals, writers, and critics crafted and signed the “Statement of 99” calling for an end to emergency rule/martial law that had been in place since 1963, for the state to pardon political dissidents detained, imprisoned, deported, or exiled by his father’s regime, formal recognition and implementation of freedom of assembly, press, and expression, as well as an end to the surveillance of its citizens by the secret police and security forces. The movement behind the statement was composed of both anti-regime hardliners as well as moderates who collectively sought political reform. The result of long-festering political and economic dissent among Syrians, the “Statement of 99” was a brow-raising announcement that, at minimum, made the regime slightly uncomfortable. The formation of various think-tanks, organizations, and social and political ‘parties’ coincided with Bashar’s takeover of Syria- all of which were critical of the regime’s political and economic monopolies on the country caused the regime to crack down on dissenters. The following year, in 2001, one thousand academics, critics, and activists launched the “Statement of 1,000” which expanded on the previous statement’s tenets and called for a multi-party democracy to supplant the one-party Baa’thist state. This was met with another, albeit harsher, government crackdown.

All of these grievances began to fester when anti-regime protests began in early 2011. While initially limited to small demonstrations calling on the lifting of the Emergency Laws and better economic policies, the government was able to contain them with relative ease. When they grew as they did in Dera’a in March of that year, the government’s crackdowns intensified and greater numbers of Syrians became disillusioned by the regime’s insincerity in addressing and implementing political, social, and economic reforms. The zero-tolerance policies of the Assad regime only sought to radicalize some already, economically and politically disenfranchised segments of the Syrian population, some of which had been subdued by his father in previous years and had since been boiling with discontent.


CAP: The Top 10 Solutions to Cut Poverty and Grow the Middle Class

Center for American Progress

With flat incomes and inequality stuck at historically high levels, one might assume that chronic economic insecurity and an off-kilter economy are the new normal and that nothing can be done to fix it. But there is nothing normal or inevitable about elevated poverty levels and stagnant incomes. They are the direct result of policy choices that put wealth and income into the hands of a few at the expense of growing a strong middle class.

1. Create jobs

The best pathway out of poverty is a well-paying job. To get back to prerecession employment levels, we must create 5.6 million new jobs. At the current pace, however, we will not get there until July 2018. To kick-start job growth, the federal government should invest in job-creation strategies such as rebuilding our infrastructure; developing renewable energy sources; renovating abandoned housing; and making other common-sense investments that create jobs, revitalize neighborhoods, and boost our national economy. We should also build on proven models of subsidized employment to help the long-term unemployed and other disadvantaged workers re-enter the labor force.

2. Raise the minimum wage
In the late 1960s, a full-time worker earning the minimum wage could lift a family of three out of poverty. Had the minimum wage back then been indexed to inflation, it would be $10.86 per hour today, compared to the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and indexing it to inflation—as President Barack Obama and several members of Congress have called for—would lift more than 4 million Americans out of poverty. Nearly one in five children would see their parent get a raise. Recent action taken by cities and states—such as Seattle, Washington; California; Connecticut; and New Jersey—shows that boosting the minimum wage reduces poverty and increases wages.

4. Support pay equity
With female full-time workers earning just 78 cents for every $1 earned by men
, action must be taken to ensure equal pay for equal work. Closing the gender wage gap would cut poverty in half for working women and their families and add nearly half a trillion dollars to the nation’s gross domestic product. Passing the Paycheck Fairness Act to hold employers accountable for discriminatory salary practices would be a key first step.

5. Provide paid leave and paid sick days
The United States is the only developed country in the world without paid family and medical leave and paid sick days
, making it very difficult for millions of American families to balance work and family without having to sacrifice needed income. Paid leave is an important anti-poverty policy, as having a child is one of the leading causes of economic hardship. Additionally, nearly 4 in 10 private-sector workers—and 7 in 10 low-wage workers—do not have a single paid sick day, putting them in the impossible position of having to forgo needed income, or even their job, in order to care for a sick child. The Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, or FAMILY Act, would provide paid leave protection to workers who need to take time off due to their own illness, the illness of a family member, or the birth of a child. And the Healthy Families Act would enable workers to earn up to seven job-protected sick days per year.


U.N. Investigators Cite Atrocities in Syria (both sides, of course)

As Western and regional powers prepared to step up the fight against Sunni militants of the Islamic State, United Nations investigators presented details Tuesday of more atrocities committed by Islamic extremists and the government in Syria, warning that there could be no battlefield solution to the “madness” in the civil war there.

In addition to the killing of two American journalists, James Foley and Steven J. Sotloff, and a British aid worker, David Cawthorne Haines, the Islamic State “has continued to subject scores of Syrians to the same fate in public squares in the north and east of the country,” Mr. Pinheiro told the council, describing the terror of communities in large swaths of Syria that it controls.

Despite the extremes of violence committed by Islamic militants, Mr. Pinheiro said, the Syrian government “remains responsible for the majority of the civilian casualties, killing and maiming scores of civilians daily,” describing killing “from a distance” by shelling and aerial bombardment and “up close at checkpoints and in its interrogation rooms.”

Mr. Pinheiro recalled that the panel had repeatedly urged the United Nations Security Council and influential states to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court and to push for a political settlement. Their inaction “nourished the violence” consuming Syria, he told the Human Rights Council. “Its most recent beneficiary is ISIS,” he said, using an acronym for the Islamic State.


The UN Human Rights Council must feel obligated to continue to investigate and publish the continuing human rights abuses in Syria. For the most part, the world seems not to care or only be interested in protecting one side or the other.

It is no wonder that the Syrian refugee problem is the most serious since WWII.
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