A Proposal For Real Immigration Reform.

Since the Kansas-based group known as F.A.I.R. (there’s some irony for you) convinced the simpletons in the Arizona legislature to pass its immigration law, it has begun peddling it to other states. As of this writing, 12 more states are now considering it.

It’s as if our state legislatures have been taken over by Forrest Gump and Gomer Pyle.

The only good to come out of this mess is that it may force Congress into passing real immigration reform. But it’s not enough for people like me to complain about the Arizona law. We should contribute ideas to real, long-term reform. Here are mine:

Let’s start by recognizing that we can’t (nor should we want to) round up all 12-15 million undocumented immigrants and send them back to their countries of origin. Many of these people have been in the U.S. for decades. They have families here who are legal citizens and they’ve spent more time here than in their countries of origin. Let’s also recognize that, for someone to endure days in the desert or to resort to working with human smugglers, they must be in desperate straits and may need some help. And let’s not lump together hard-working individuals who seek a better life for their families with those involved with drug cartels and other criminal activity.

Let us also admit that, in some ways, illegal immigration has financial consequences for U.S. taxpayers. Undocumented workers not only take jobs from American citizens. Since they are willing to work for less, and without benefits, they force the salary scale downward. In addition, they mostly have no health care insurance. So when they need care, they visit our Emergency Rooms (the most expensive access point to health professionals) and the rest of us pick up the tab.

On the other hand, many illegals work for corporations thereby contributing to lower costs of goods and services.  They pay sales taxes and property taxes.  They also pay income taxes, Social Security taxes and Medicare taxes under someone else’s name.  The government is aware of this, but looks the other way because the unclaimed funds help prop up the trust funds that have been repeatedly raided by Congress over many years.

With agreement on most of these issues, we can begin to look for solutions that just may benefit everyone.

First, let’s encourage illegal aliens who have been in the U.S. for longer than 5 years with no criminal history to come forward for residency permits. Let’s provide them with U.S. identification and give them a short period of time (let’s say 2 years) to apply for U.S. citizenship. If they can’t meet that deadline, they should either provide a good reason why they have failed to become citizens or be deported.

For those who wish to come to the U.S., let’s institute a foreign worker program. Our infrastructure is crumbling and these people need jobs. See the connection? Instead of spending billions on more border guards and a fence that is destined to fail, let’s provide these people with foreign worker permits and use the money to put them to work in a way that will benefit our nation. At the same time, let’s institute meaningful punishments for businesses and their owners who hire undocumented workers. If the businesses can prove (and let’s be tough with this) that they can’t operate without foreign workers, they can apply for foreign worker permits that must be renewed annually. Next, let’s create free or low-cost health clinics and other low-cost services. It’s a lot less expensive than paying for ER visits.

Let’s also work with the illegals’ nations of origin and incentify them to engage in helping curtail the problem. It’s not enough to have a border patrol on only one side of the border.

Finally, let’s recognize that the ultimate solution to the problem is to equalize the economies and opportunities in the U.S. and the nations of origin. And, no, I don’t mean bringing our economy down to their level, but to lift all nations and people. But that’s just me. I’d rather pay to help people than pay to punish them.

© LaMaster Propaganda – All rights reserved.

Corporate “Citizens”

Anyone who has ever founded a corporation knows that the entity exists only on paper. It’s a legal agreement between the shareholders and the government. Incorporation is designed to encourage the creation of jobs by offering legal protection to the shareholders in the event the corporation defaults on its financial liabilities. That’s it. It’s a legal “veil” of financial protection. Yet the current Supreme Court has disregarded long-established legal precedents to give corporations the same rights as individuals with regard to freedom of speech.

For the Court to make this ruling, it had to re-write the Consitution in two regards. One is that, according to the Court, money is now the equivalent of free speech. Two is that corporations are equal to individual citizens. If protecting a woman’s right to make decisions with respect to her own body is evidence of “activist” justices, what do these rulings represent? Super activism?

But now that conservatives on the Court have created this quagmire, I suggest they take it a step farther.

Why not rule that corporate “citizens” are subject to the same criminal codes as individuals? After all, aren’t conservatives always reminding us that rights must be accompanied by responsibilities?

So if a young male is sentenced to 5-10 years for robbing a convenience store, why shouldn’t the CEO of a corporate giant get at least that many years if that corporation defrauds millions from customers? If an undocumented immigrant is jailed and deported when found working in a meat-packing house, doesn’t it stand to reason that the corporation’s CEO be subject to penalties, including jail time, for hiring that immigrant? If a teenager is imprisoned for vandalizing public property, why shouldn’t BP executives get a prison sentence for causing the Gulf catastrophe?

Wouldn’t it be satisfying to see BP executives (and their government regulators) handcuffed and forced to do a perp walk in front of the national media? And once they’ve been imprisoned, maybe we should put them on a diet of water and seafood from the Gulf.

The Republican Playbook.

If you’ve ever been directly involved with a state or national political campaign, you may know that the people operating the campaigns are generally law school and political science graduates who view political campaigns in the same way most people view sports. It’s all about winning – often at any cost. That stated, it seems that Republicans take this philosophy to a completely different level.

Following is the Republican checklist for getting candidates elected:

1 – Create a variety of “think tanks” to “study” political issues. These groups are generally labeled with patriotic sounding names. A few examples are American Enterprise Institute, Cato Institute, Center for Individual Freedom, Center for the Study of Popular Culture, Coalitions for America, F.A.I.R., FreedomWorks, Heritage Foundation, Leadership Institute, National Taxpayers Union, Club for Growth, Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, American Center for Law and Justice, Family Research Council, Catholics United for the Faith, National Right to Life Committee, Center for Military Readiness, United Seniors Association, United States Border Control, American Civil Rights Institute, Media Research Center, Students for Academic Freedom… (Are you ready to salute, yet?).

The organizations bill themselves as independent and they generate lots of studies that are used to attack Democratic values. They also generate many of the Republican-sponsored bills that are introduced in Congress or in state legislatures. For example, the NRA wrote the liberal “Conceal and Carry” laws that have been passed in many states. And Kansas-based F.A.I.R. wrote the ill-conceived immigration bill recently passed in Arizona.

2 – Control the discussion. Ever wonder why Republican pundits on news programs never shut up? By controlling the discussion, they hope to control the agenda. They want the public to view each issue through a Republican lens. If Democrats bring up an issue first, Republicans do everything possible to re-frame the issue in a way that benefits them.  So Democrat-sponsored financial reform becomes a “government takeover” of banks.

3 – The big lie. The bigger the lie, the better. For example, a provision in the health reform bill designed to help people create living wills, became “death panels to pull the plug on Granny.” T.A.R.P., which was passed by the Bush administration to avoid worldwide financial collapse, is suddenly an example of Obama-inspired “Socialism”. And gays are an abomination under God, except for the ones Republicans sleep with.

4 – Names that disguise the reality of legislation. Bush’s “Clear Skies Initiative” was designed to weaken environmental protections. And “No Child Left Behind” was designed, not to improve education, but to punish impoverished schools with the most problematic enrollments.

5 – Wealth redistribution. You know how Republicans are always talking about Democrats wanting to redistribute wealth from the top down? (See #3) For 40 years, Republicans have been redistributing wealth upward.

6 – Small government. By repeating this mantra, Republicans have succeeded tapping into people’s dislike and distrust of bureaucracy. But it’s really just a cover for deregulation of stock markets, commodities, pharmaceutical companies, oil companies, etc. Republicans abhor anything that stands in the way of corporate profits, even if it prevents calamities such the BP oil geyser in the Gulf. Funny how Republicans never seem to mind big military and big Homeland Security.

7 – Fear. The Bogeyman is going to get you unless you vote Republican. Only Republicans can save you from terrorists, communists, socialists, fascists, secularists, gay marriages, gays in the military, immigrants, drug lords, etc., etc.

8 – Unity and payback. You’re either with us or “agin” us. Compromise is a dirty word. So is bipartisanship.

9 – Activist judges. You’ve heard all about the evils of activist judges who rule on behalf of civil rights and the woman’s right to choose. But have you heard about the activist judges who decide the outcomes of elections and give corporations the rights of individuals, including the right to donate millions to Republican candidates?

10 – Media whores. Namely Fox News Channel and Rush Limbaugh who can be counted on to repeat Republican talking points without question.

11 – Obstruct Democrats in every way possible, then blame Democrats for the delays.  Just look at the current situation in Washington.  Republicans have invoked the filibuster rule more times this session than any other time in history to “stop Obama’s socialist agenda.”

12 – Repetition, repetition, repetition. This goes hand in hand with the big lie.  If they keep repeating a lie long enough, people begin to think it must be true.

What Republicans Really Stand For:

Since Republicans like to attack any (make that every) Democrat idea, I thought it might be useful to look at what Republicans want.

1. Guns for everybody, no training required, the more the better.

2. Elimination of income taxes. Replace them with sales taxes, so the rich are taxed disproportionately less.

3. Elimination of labor unions. Who needs collective bargaining when corporations are so caring and generous to their employees?

4. Elimination of welfare, unemployment benefits, Social Security and Medicare. Only the wealthy deserve entitlements.

5. Elimination of public schools. After all, who wants children learning about such controversial issues as evolution anyway?

6. The criminalization of abortion, birth control and sex education. You can never have enough unwanted, uneducated children, right?

7. Repeal of health care reform – if you can’t afford health care on your own, you deserve to die.

8. Unlimited campaign contributions from corporations, but only for Republicans.

9. Deregulation of Wall Street, Big Oil, mining, Big Pharma, military contractors, commodities and any other campaign contributors.

10. Elimination of community organizers – you know, anyone who will fight for the underpriviledged and, most importantly, anyone who will register poor people to vote.

11. Elimination of mandatory minimum wages. It’s a drag on business to have to pay employees a living wage.

12. Downsizing of government, except for Homeland Security, I.C.E., border patrols, and any agency that looks out for wealthy Americans.

13. Privatization of the military, the Post Office, National Parks, and almost every other branch of government. There’s no profit for shareholders if the government does it.

14. Elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency. Climate change is just a myth perpetuated by Al Gore and those tree-hugging liberals. Besides, what good are natural resources if corporations can’t exploit them? Right?

15. Recognition of Christianity as the state religion. God bless America.

If you think I’m exaggerating, you just haven’t been paying attention.

What if?

The oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico should pose a number of questions for Americans to ask themselves. 

What if we prioritized quality of life and the sustainability of our planet over corporate greed?  What if we stopped treating our oceans, lakes and streams as landfills?  What if we stopped treating our planet’s resources as if there’s a limitless supply?  What if we stopped treating everything, including other species, as disposable? 

What if we didn’t have such an insatiable appetite for oil?  What if we quit buying large, gas guzzling cars and bought smaller, more efficient ones?  What if we each cut out one unnecessary trip a week?  What if we replaced long haul trucking with a modern rail system?  What if we manufactured most of what we need in our own country instead of shipping it halfway around the world?  What if we committed to a modern mass transit system? What if our Congress created subsidies for renewable energy that equaled those for oil and coal? 

What if we had listened to Jimmy Carter when he called for oil independence in the late 70s?  What if we had listened to Ronald Reagan when he did the same in the 80s?  What if we listened to George H.W. Bush’s call for energy independence?  What if we listened to Bill Clinton’s?  What if we listen to President Obama’s call for green energy today? 

What if we don’t? 

© LaMaster Propaganda – All rights reserved.

Let’s Stop Flattering Teabaggers.

They’ve been called the Tea Party and the Tea Party movement.  (I admit I’ve been guilty of falling for this fraud myself.)  But the more you investigate this group, the more it becomes apparent that they’re really just a figment of Republican imaginations.  Republican strategists, Fox News Channel and Dick Armey created this band of way-far-right lunatics to criticize President Obama without making the Republican candidates answer for the racist signs and epithets, and to distract the public from the horrendous failures of the Bush administration.

So far, it appears to be working.

Most of the media bought it hook, line and sinker.  They credited them for winning the Massachusetts Senate election, instead of rightfully pointing out the incompetence of the Democratic candidate.  The media has also credited them for purging moderate Republican incumbents.  But that phenomenon has been going on for decades.  And the teabaggers are anything but an independent, legitimate political party.  They have no platform.  No policies.  No organization.  Instead, the teabaggers are directed by Republican strategists, composed almost entirely of Republican voters, sponsored by American FreedomWorks (Dick Armey’s Republican organization) and Fox News, and led by the failed Republican Vice-Presidential candidate (and half-governor) Sarah Palin.  Their candidates even share voter registration booths with Republican candidates.

What about that sounds or looks like anything other than a front for the GOP?

So let’s stop over-reacting to them.  Let’s stop covering their racist, anti-everything demonstrations.  Let’s stop giving them the attention they crave.  And let’s start referring to them as what they really are.  A pathetic group of angry, racist and aging white people who are being manipulated by the Republican Party. 

Poisoned Gulf. Poisoned Minds.

A recent poll shows that 6 in 10 Americans are still in favor of “Drill, Baby, Drill.”  Huh?  Have they not seen the estimated 70,000 barrels of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico each day, the equivalent of an Exxon Valdez tanker every 4 days!?  Have they not seen images of dead birds coated in oil?  Have they not seen the photos of dead fish and aquatic mammals?  Have they not read about the Gulf Coast fishermen and residents who will lose their livelihoods?  Have they not seen the effects on tourism along the Gulf Coast?  Have they not heard the concern by scientists of the devasting effects of this environmental catastrophe?

What could they be thinking?  (Assuming, of course, that they actually are capable of lucid thought.) 

The answer is that they are thinking only of themselves.  They have succumbed to the all too prevalent condition known as “head-up-the-butt” disease.  Apparently, they are more concerned about maintaining our artificially low gasoline prices than the health of our environment.  Damn the other species that inhabit this planet, especially the ones underwater that we can’t even see.  Damn the future generations. 

No doubt these selfish asses would tell you that they are environmentalists.  How much they like watching Discovery Channel and Animal Planet.  How often they take the kids to zoos.  How they recycle bottles, cans, paper and cardboard (as long as it’s convenient).  How they now purchase “environmentally-friendly” soaps and household chemicals (as long as they don’t have to pay more).

Yeah, that’ll save our planet.

Of course, they conveniently ignore reports of floating “continents” of plastic debris in our oceans.  They never hear of the “small” oil spills that regularly occur when drilling for oil.  And they actually admire the obscene profits being raked in by big oil and mining companies at the expense of our environment and workers’ lives.  (Profits are good for the 401k, right?) Unfortunately, most people don’t care about any of that.  They’re more interested in who got kicked off American Idol.  Or who their favorite celebrity is sleeping with.  Or who will win the latest episode of Survivor.

If only they were as interested in the survival of the nearly 17,300 species that are currently under threat of extinction.  Likely, humans will soon join them.

The Oil Boys’ Legacy.

In the first 90 days of the George W. Bush administration, Richard the Dick Cheney held a series of secret meetings on the subject of energy policy.  Famously (or should I say infamously), the Dick refused to list those who were present and what was discussed, but it’s well-known that the meetings included more than 100 oil industry officials who drafted a wish list of demands.  In all likelihood, those meetings led to almost every single negative event over the past 10 years.

Think I exaggerate?  Consider this:

Over that 10 years, our nation has suffered through skyrocketing gas and oil prices.  We have engaged in two wars, which interestingly enough have involved two nations considered critical to the oil industry.  (It’s well-known that Iraq has large oil deposits, and Afghanistan is necessary for the construction of a pipeline to get oil from the Balkans to world markets.)  We have seen pressure from the Bush administration to drill for oil in the Atlantic National Wildlife Refuge.  We have seen a Republican-led campaign to expand off-shore drilling.  And we have seen the oil giant, Halliburton, awarded enormous no-bid government contracts in Afghanistan and Iraq by its former CEO, Richard the Dick Cheney.  (Of course, it’s only coincidence that Halliburton paid the Dick $34 million after he was elected Vice-President.)

There’s another troubling legacy of the Dick’s meetings.

An internal investigation of the Minerals Management Service in 2008 described a “culture of substance abuse and promiscuity” by workers at the agency which regulates the oil industry. The investigation by Inspector General Earl E. Devaney found “a culture of ethical failure” at the MMS royalty collection office in Denver.  The report pointed to parties for MMS personnel and energy company representatives.  Indeed, the report stated that MMS personnel and oil companies were literally in bed with one another.  In addition to the sex, the Inspector General also reported that MMS employees accepted drugs, illegal contracts and gifts, such as ski trips and golf outings from oil representatives. 

Even more troubling, the Inspector General reported that the Bush/Cheney gang at MMS “showed no remorse” when confronted with the accusations.  And though they were disciplined, most of those people are still employed by MMS as regulators of energy.

It doesn’t take much imagination to see that the current oil gusher and environmental disaster in the Gulf is the direct result of Bush/Cheney policies and appointees.   Indeed, just this week, a whistleblower came forward with information detailing a pattern of negligence and falsified tests by BP and other oil giants along with lax oversight by government “regulators.”

So what are the solutions to this mess?  (Of course, there is no solution to the ecological disaster taking place in the Gulf.  It will be decades, if not centuries, for the environment to recover.)  BP, Halliburton and Transocean should be held accountable for the environmental and economic disaster taking place in the Gulf.   Congressional Republicans should immediately release their holds on dozens of Obama appointees.  Congress should subpeona Cheney to testify under oath about his energy meetings. 

Most important, we all should push our representatives to vote for non-carbon renewable energy. 

Who are we afraid of?

Following the end of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, we have no military foes.  (At least not in a traditional sense.)  The Soviet Union is gone, replaced by Russia and a host of independent states.  China has gone from being a perceived enemy to our out-sourced manufacturing state holding billions in U.S. bonds.  And Germany and Japan have not been allowed to rebuild significant forces since the end of WWII. 

The only perceived threats are the failing state of North Korea, which has a large infantry and a few nuclear-tipped missles that are incapable of reaching our shores, and Iran, which has a smaller infantry and a nuclear bomb in the making.  In addition, there is nuclear-armed Pakistan with a government under seige by fundamentalist Muslims. 

True, it’s possible that our relationship with Russia could deteriorate enough that we might eventually have to worry about its nuclear aresenal.  But that would seem to be unlikely, and we have far superior technology along with our own enormous nuclear arsenal.

So, I repeat, who are we afraid of? 

What could possibly justify our continuing expenditures on military weaponry?  We spend more on our navy than the next 13 nations combined.   And, in total, our military expenditures exceed the next 11 nations combined! 

We could trim tens of billions of dollars from our weapons procurement budget and still be more than adequately prepared for any potential threat.  Indeed, one could argue that we could use that money more effectively to prevent poverty and other conditions that lead to war.  What if there were good schools for poor Muslim children and respectable jobs waiting for them after they graduate.  What if that helped them achieve the self-respect they are looking for?  Would they still consider blowing themselves up in a suicide attack? 

What if we relegated the neo-cons’ misguided “Plan for A New American Century” to the garbage bin of history where it belongs?  What if, instead, we quit trying to dominate the world?  What if we quit using our lone superpower status to support the imperialist designs of our large corporations?  What if we quit using our political clout and collective wealth to exploit the natural resources of less developed nations?

Or what if we used a portion of our enormous military budget to pay down our national debt?  Yeah, I know.  Why on Earth would we want to do that?

© LaMaster Propaganda – All rights reserved.

Can an entire political party be sociopathic?

A sociopath is defined as one who has no conscience; someone who’s every action is intended to help themselves.  Now, I ask you.  Does that not describe the Republican Party and its media whores?

Consider the following: 

Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama administration want to close Guantanemo and try those imprisoned there.  Republicans go ballistic that these “illegal combatants” don’t deserve to be treated as criminals.  How naive for President Obama to believe in our justice system!

Or how about the “underpants bomber”?  A confused young man from Nigeria decides to stash explosives in his underpants in order to blow up a plane.  The Republican response is to point fingers at the Obama administration for Mirandizing him.  Despite the fact that the Obama administration acted exactly as the Bush administration did in response to Richard Reed, the shoe bomber, Republicans pretended to be outraged that the young man was read his Miranda rights.  Never mind that the “underpants bomber” cooperated with authorities with torture.

Or how about health care reform?  A bill that regulates health insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies and provides health care to 33 million Americans is, according to Republicans, a socialist or communist plot.  The census?  According to Republicans, it’s an Obama plot to round up conservatives and place them in internment camps.  (Of course that’s wrong.  Instead, Obama should use the data to round up Republicans and put them where they belong – in insane asylums.) 

Financial reform?  Despite the fact that Republicans allowed the “free markets” to send our economy into a death spiral while those responsible made millions in bonuses, Republicans would have us believe that reform is a Socialist plot leading to a government takeover of banks.  The worst oil disaster in the history of America (or maybe the world)?  According to Republicans, it was caused by environmental terrorists.  And the government’s response was delayed so the Obama administration can put an end to off-shore drilling. 

A failed terroist bombing of Times Square was, in twisted Republican minds, the result of the Obama administration being soft on terrorists and reaching out to Muslim nations.  Pay no attention to the fact that the suspect was quickly caught and provided information that led to the arrest of at least one Pakistani national without our resorting to torture.

One wonders how Republicans can make these accusations without laughing out loud.  Are they secretly biting their tongues in order to keep a straight face?  Or are they, as I suspect, clinically sociopathic?  You decide.

© LaMaster Propaganda – All rights reserved.