Friday, September 10, 2010

More Troops and Fences on the Border Won’t Fix Our Troubles

I get all kinds of obvious political “hit pieces” forwarded to me by lots of friends and neighbors. These deal with all kinds of things; one of the more frequent subjects is illegal immigration from Mexico. What follows is a typical forward of a video on YouTube that implies all our border violence and danger troubles are due to illegal immigration. The facts in the piece are true, it is what gets left out that is so very telling. I tried to debunk the “hit piece” by supplying as much of the whole truth as I understand, in my response.

From a friend in Austin, dated 9-1-10:
This is a crying shame! When is Washington going to get off its ass and do something? Making them all citizens is stupid! Are we not going to enforce the drug laws either? I heard the other day the they are complaining that Austin and Travis County is the biggest location for deporting "undocumented aliens" who haven't broken any laws in the country! Excuse me, isn't being an "illegal alien" a crime??

The link was to a video of a Texas Congressman blaming all the border violence on illegal immigrants and drug cartels from Mexico. He got it half right: the cartels are indeed causing a public danger to Americans. But not so much the immigrants. I do agree with his criticism of the federal government for shirking its duties in this area. I disagree that more guards and more fences would stop either the drug runners or the illegal immigrants.

This was my response to my friend, dated 9-2-10:

What you're talking about and what's on the video is all true, but not quite complete. The drug violence that is now spilling across the border is fueled primarily by demand for illegal substances here in the US. There is a drug "industry" in Mexico that thrives only because it can command high prices for its illegal product. Those prices are high precisely and only because those substances are illegal (we've seen that effect before, with alcohol during Prohibition). And that's their Achilles heel, too.

Another piece of that puzzle is that there have been drug cartels in Mexico plying this trade for many decades. There is a history of ever-more violent competition among those cartels all during those years. It has really extremized by the current time. Ever since about 1970, the cartels were better armed than the Mexican military. I'm talking armed jet aircraft, tanks, machine guns, and heavy weapons, all funded by drug revenues. Most of that is supplied by no-questions-asked arms dealers on the US side of the border. Our border guards never looked (and still do not look) for weapons being taken into Mexico. Stopping the arms supplied to the cartels is what Calderon wanted to talk about while he was up here a few months ago. It's still a wide open flow of heavy weaponry south, and they still outgun the Mexican military today, by a longer shot now than ever before. Until that flow of arms is stopped, the Mexicans cannot win their drug war, and the violence spilling across the border cannot be stopped, on either side.

Now, did you notice that absolutely none of my discussion has anything to do with immigration, legal or not? Any illegal immigrants who commit violent acts (and there are some) are very tiny small change compared to the drug war problem in Mexico. Stopping entirely the flow of illegal immigrants (or even all immigrants whatsoever) will not stop the violence spilling over, and has nothing to do with the cartels that are the real problem. There is no border fence that cannot be breached. Blaming all this violence on illegal immigration is a political campaign fiction, pure and simple. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the truth of the matter, or with any reasonable plans we might make in order to deal with it.

What needs to be done about the spillover drug violence is two-fold: (1) stop the southward flow of weaponry to the cartels (which is clearly a higher priority than stopping any northward flow of immigrants, legal or not), and (2) kill the revenue streams of the cartels by legalizing, regulating, and taxing the drugs they sell. Made legal, prices fall, quite dramatically. If the cartels can't make scads of money at it, then they get out of the business, and that problem goes away. It won't even take very long: the Mafia was out of bootleg booze within a year or so of Prohibition's end, and all the bootlegging violence died with that change.

The illegal immigrant problem is pretty much separate from, and insignificant compared to, the cartel drug violence problem. No amount of campaign sloganeering, posturing on the floor of Congress (the video you forwarded), or political party propaganda is going to change that simple truth. But facing and telling the truth does not win votes at this time in this country, scapegoating groups that cannot defend themselves does, just as it did in 1930's Nazi Germany! And that's exactly what the right-wing extremists in this country are doing, and for several years now.

I quite agree that illegal immigrants shouldn't be here. I quite agree that we need to get the illegals out of this country. I disagree with a lot of schemes to do that, but there is a workable and fair way, and it will be found. I disagree that illegal immigrants are the cause of "all our troubles" (really meaning border violence). I disagree that securing our borders against illegral immigration is a "top priority". Yes, it needs to be done, but the top priority is ending the drug cartel war in Mexico, and I already told you how to do that, and how it has almost nothing at all to do with illegal immigration.

It is seeing that scapegoating thing going on right now, in this country, that scares the bejeezus out of me. History is repeating itself, and that is one ugly history.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Dangers of Extremism in America

As one of a series of writings debunking some of the viral nonsense sweeping this country, I wrote a piece exposing the right-wing extremist takeover of the US that has been in progress for some time. Here is the piece in its entirety, just as I submitted it to the Waco "Trib". What you have to remember is that I am a centrist independent politically. However, the crowd that I expose to scrutiny here considers me (and all like me) "liberals". And that's crap. Read on...

The Dangers of Extremism in America 9-5-10

Over the last 3 decades, the extremist conservative movement has made our lives far worse by deregulating everything. This removed governmental controls that (at least sort-of) functioned, which let the corporate giants take over everything.

We are now economic slaves to the super-rich giants, the same as about 1890. That time is known variously as “the gilded age” or “the age of robber baron capitalism”.

These giants outsourced our highest-paying jobs overseas, and converted this country to a third world-style service economy by offshoring most of its manufacturing-for-export. They did it for profits which they just pocketed. “Trickle-down” economics was a lie.

Ever since, we have had jobless recoveries, precisely because it takes industrial production-for-export to drive an economy forward regardless of conditions. Ours was gutted decades ago.

This same politically-extreme movement intermingled itself with the extremist religious movement. Combined, they now preach that extremist-conservative political action is a religious duty, which is exactly why I call them “America's Taliban”.

I see no difference in goals between this movement in our country, and the ones we fight overseas. The only real difference is scale and scope of the evil done in God's name: our “Taliban” isn't yet into mass killings.

In the 8-20-2010 issue of "Science", a refereed professional journal published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, there was a little news article about what's on a web site named "conservapedia".

This site describes itself as “an encyclopedia written from a conservative viewpoint”. According to the "Science" news article, that site has links to things like black holes, dark matter, and the theory of relativity listed under "liberal pseudoscience".

In other words, politics trumps facts-as-best-we-know-them!

All scientists and engineers have doubts about some proposals in current science thinking, but these doubts lie in what the truth actually is, not its "political worth". Outfits like “conservapedia” clearly want to discredit all modern thought contradicting their politics.

That is why the news stories about the antics of the Texas State Board of Education are so important. Until quite recently, the majority of its elected members were believers in the same extremism. Before getting voted out, they rewrote school textbooks (that will be used for the next decade or two) to reflect politics instead of fact.

The threat of an extremist political / religious takeover of the US is real. There are but two choices: (1) take back our state and our country at the ballot box, or (2) take it back with guns in the streets.

You decide, then act. Myself, I prefer the ballot box: less mess to clean up afterwards.

What alarms me is that so many friends and neighbors seem to believe in this movement that threatens our freedom even to think. Look at the idiotic (but viral) political hit pieces they forward around as if gospel truth.

Alarm me? It scares the hell out of me.