Ignorance and Incompetence Mar Sex Crimes Battle

This article at the BBC bears reading:

“Ignorant” officials are obsessed with punishing victims of trafficking rather than targeting those behind the crime, a report claims.

They cite specific examples, this looks like more than mere claims.  Until we make viciously and effectively prosecuting slavers, pimps, and rape organizers a priority over attacking sex workers and immigrants without documentation, we will not make progress stopping slavery.

Articles like this engender a certain natural rage and helplessness.  How can we help?  There’s a lot we can all do to help fight slavery and human trafficking.  In addition we can organize campaigns from the grassroots to start dialogues and set the tone.  Criminals who force adults and children to have sex for their gain, and who bring in slaves to do unpaid or low paid work under threat, should face the same penalties as cross state kidnappers and murderers.  The crimes are that serious.  We need to recognize their victims as just that, victims.  Thus make every effort you can to set the priority to supporting trafficking victims and taking down slavers.  Every tool for PR is open to you: letters to the editor, blog posts, emails, word of mouth, and social networking status updates.

We need to electrify public opinion so that there is a real demand to end these crimes, rather than the current status quo of prosecuting the victims and letting the criminals escape to prey on more innocents.

Friendly Reading

Brad sizes up the bailout (emphasis mine):

First of all, I think we should pay attention to how things are being worded. First of all, this is a bailout. The definition of a bailout, in this day and age, is “to rescue from financial distress”. But if you look at the important part of that work, being “bail”, you get a better picture of how this is going to play out.

As a verb, bail means “to clear (water) from a boat by dipping and throwing over the side“. This only solves the problem of water in the boat. It doesn’t necessarily solve the problem of how the water got in the boat, and if you don’t keep bailing then your boat is going to sink.

This ought to give us pause: “and if you don’t keep bailing then your boat is going to sink”.

Information overload doesn’t mean we absorb enough to feel confident about our choices.  Marco explains:

I have many other things I’d rather do than watch MSNBC for 4 hours every day to catch all the sound bites.  I’m not going to spend my time verifying that John McCain has actually voted the same as George Bush 90% of the time.

By the end of the post, his position comes across pretty damn confident:

John McCain is disingenuous to the point where he comes across as an asshole.  He smiles at inappropriate times.  He tries to talk intelligently about things he doesn’t know about.  He makes rash and ill-advised decisions just to get himself ahead (Who the effing hell is Sarah Palin?!!)  In any other circumstance, these things would make you deeply distrust a person.  By contrast, Barack has presented himself as straightforward, trustworthy, consistent and genuine.

In short, I’m voting for Barack Obama because he has convinced me that he has integrity. And in a world full of dishonesty and corruption, that’s worth a whole hell of a lot.

I think knowing there is so much information out there produces enough anxiety to make us forget that we do have enough knowledge to form solid opinions and talk about them intelligently.

Over at Daisy and Emily’s, Five Links That Are Important:

1. Grassroots preparation for more ICE raids, via ImmigrationProf Blog.

2. Gardasil to be made mandatory for U.S. immigrants?

3. “50 Arrested as ADAPT Takes Affordable, Accessible Housing Crisis to Congress.”

4. Two posts at Echidne of the Snakes on the Wall Street bailout. Echidne recommends reading about this alongside Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. As someone doing just that, I couldn’t second that recommendation more eagerly.

5. Margaret Cho disappoints.

Finally Adam lays into a particularly annoying Republican tendency:

It never fails to aggravate me when Republicans or any one for that matter try to play off something as outrageous as this Palin quote by playing the blame game.

This Palin quote comes off as something you would read on a high school exam from some kid that was grabbing at straws and promptly write an F next to. I guess throwing in some out of context, nonsensical, intelligent-sounding words will work to convince some voters that you know what you are talking about.

We’ve been seeing a lot of that lately with Palin.

American Slave Labor

This should be getting a lot more play in the news:

The thirty workers from San Luis Potosi in Mexico have have been living with all-too-typical slave-like conditions — with their passports held by their vicious “employer,” wages as low as $2 an hour and constant threats of deportation (even though they are part of a legal “guest worker” program). The exploitation and mistreatment was brutal. Their strike started on Valentine’s day, with organizing help from the local Workers’ Center for Racial Justice.

This video shows a delegation of African American supporters (from the Alliance of Guest Workers for Dignity) confronting this utter pig, Charles “Bimbo” Relan. Bimo then fired the striking workers. And hunted by the U.S. authorities — they are in hiding in New Orleans. Bimbo has (predictably) not been charged with anything — even though holding the passports of workers is a classic case of felony “human trafficking.”

You can read more here.  Immigration reform is a sick joke, unless there are laws and enforcement to give crimes like consequences.

Understanding nazis, Fascism and Socialism

Some readers aren’t on the same page when it comes to nazis. Not even the same book.

Its an irritating trick of the right to claim someone like Hillary Clinton is a socialist, or claim the nazis were socialists because they had the word socialist in their name. These claims are all demonstrably false, and I’d like to take a moment and explain why.

I’ll be referring to David Neiwert’s appendix on fascism. Folks who already understand these matters may want to bookmark it anyway for reference. Its excellent.

Let’s start with some words from George Orwell:

Fascism, at any rate the German version, is a form of capitalism that borrows from Socialism just such features as will make it efficient for war purposes.

But the idea underlying Fascism is irreconcilably different from that which underlies Socialism. Socialism aims, ultimately, at a world-state of free and equal human beings. It takes the equality of human rights for granted. Nazism assumes just the opposite. The driving force behind the Nazi movement is the belief in human inequality, the superiority of Germans to all other races, the right of Germany to rule the world. Outside the German Reich it does not recognise any obligations.

From just that section, we can show why each wingnut claim is decidedly false.  Let’s start with the nazis were socialists.  Socialism is about equality.  It is a complete equality, that recognizes that economic inequality is still (shocker!) inequality.  However every other form of equality is also at play.  So a violent and racist regime like the nazis cannot possibly be socialist.

Next, the claim that Hillary is a socialist.  No, she isn’t.  Hillary Clinton supported the war in Iraq.  She doesn’t support universal health care.  She doesn’t support state ownership and the abolition of private property.  Calling anyone to the left of Mitt Romney a socialist is simply idiotic, and shows a fundamental misunderstanding of socialism.

Let’s take a look at some other definitions of fascism:

Paxton’s nine “mobilizing passions” of fascism:

— a sense of overwhelming crisis beyond the reach of any traditional solutions;

— the primacy of the group, toward which one has duties superior to every right, whether universal or individual, and the subordination of the individual to it;

— the belief that one’s group is a victim, a sentiment which justifies any action, without legal or moral limits, against the group’s enemies, both internal and external;

— dread of the group’s decline under the corrosive effect of individualistic liberalism, class conflict, and alien influences;

— the need for closer integration of a purer community, by consent if possible, or by exclusionary violence if necessary;

— the need for authority by natural leaders (always male), culminating in a national chief who alone is capable of incarnating the group’s destiny;

— the superiority of the leader’s instincts over abstract and universal reason;

— the beauty of violence and the efficacy of will, when they are devoted to the group’s success;

— the right of the chosen people to dominate others without restraint from any kind of human or divine law, right being decided by the sole criterion of the group’s prowess in a Darwinian struggle.

As you read that list, are you thinking George Bush as much as I am?

Roger Griffin:

Fascism: modern political ideology that seeks to regenerate the social, economic, and cultural life of a country by basing it on a heightened sense of national belonging or ethnic identity. Fascism rejects liberal ideas such as freedom and individual rights, and often presses for the destruction of elections, legislatures, and other elements of democracy. Despite the idealistic goals of fascism, attempts to build fascist societies have led to wars and persecutions that caused millions of deaths. As a result, fascism is strongly associated with right-wing fanaticism, racism, totalitarianism, and violence.

This is why I make such a big deal about the immigration debate.  Every politician and pundit who screams about the impact of immigration on culture, who whines about “having to dial 1 for english” or the presence of ESL classes in the schools, who talks about any number of white supremacist conspiracy theories, is feeding into one of the core components of fascism.

Fascism is something to fight tooth and nail until it is stripped from the world.  The first step in doing so is understanding what fascism is, and how to recognize it.  A good next step is taking the time to counteract false and misleading statements that dilute the truth about fascism and leave us unable to recognize it when it tries to sneak up on us.  Keep a special eye turned on the discourse surrounding the debates.  Fascists are being sold as freedom fighters and serious politicians, while the label fascist is being slung around carelessly in the most inappropriate places.

If you want a good example of modern politicians heading towards fascism, look no further than the Republican primary field.  You’ll find plenty of examples.

Identity vs Circumstance and Hate

I have an odd way of seeing myself in the world. How I fit in the larger picture, so to speak. I’d like to talk a bit about identity and circumstance, and how these two very separate ideas get confused.

I wish I could say an example of “self” hate like this was startling (David Neiwert, Orcinus):

I was on David Goldstein’s radio show last night and, in between segments, we wound up chatting briefly on the subject of anti-Semitic Jews. Not being Jewish, I’m not very comfortable wrestling with the issue — but Goldstein, being very Jewish, has no compunction about it at all. He said he’s looking forward to talking about them when the subject arises, and he thinks it will a lot in the coming year.

I share in David Goldstein’s enthusiasm. The very thought of so many inconsistent brick heads makes my rhetorical karate chops water in anticipation. But that’s not the only reason. This kind of hatred for one’s own group provides an excellent opportunity to take a peek into the logic behind affirmative action, immigration policy, hatred, peace, and a number of issues that revolve around how we see ourselves and others.

First there is the matter of my own identity. I was born into the culture and faith of Judaism. How I got to where I am now is a bit of a story, so I’ll be brief. A combination of exposure to various philosophical traditions and my own intellectual curiosity have left me something of a theist. That said, there is still this ingrained sense of identity with the Jewish tradition. A love of humor and stories as a way of understanding and interacting with the world, and a sense of familiar and comfortable logic when traveling through the words of those who came before me.

But that is not how I view myself. I see myself purely as a human being, and I understand my heritage in those terms more with each passing day. I am every bit the heir to Gandhi, hitler, pol pot, MLK, FDR and Rumi as I am to any other luminary or dark stain upon history. I share in the shame and guilt of the German people, and in the pain and suffering in Darfur. Every tyrant shares my blood, as does every revolutionary.

This view cuts at one of the core components of hatred. Exclusive Identity: Here is where we get into one of the driving misunderstandings of the right wing movement. I’ll start with an example: Affirmative Action.

Affirmative action is viewed on the right in terms of Identity. You have a certain identity, and you get certain privileges. Whereas on the left it is viewed as a response to circumstance. In other words Affirmative Action was a response towards inequality generated by identity based hate, to address the circumstances created. It was also a rhetorical slap towards that hatred. So in one sense, switching to a economic based set of criteria is entirely natural. On the other, we are losing that rhetorical punch packed by group based affirmative action.

What we have is a gulf in how we see each other. When it comes to immigration, we see individuals responding to circumstance. Conservatives see a group of “permanent criminals” or “invading hispanic hordes”, depending on how far down wing nut lane you traipse.

Which brings us back to the example of the Conservative Jew (not to be confused with religious conservatism within Judaism) who is so caught up in the culture of hate that she engages in a flimsy defense of her new friends on the far reich:

The rapid Islamisation of Europe must be fought. In order to fight it, political parties must be engaged. If not, how then to effect change?

I will make the case for the Europeans desperate to save their country(s). I did research (and continue to) and see the ghosts but VB or more particularly the Swedish Democrats have done nothing in recent years that I need to worry about. The Swedish Democrats have had their purge a few years ago and are now clean. I see a pattern of such transformations in several European countries. If they want to become respectable, pro-Israel, I am thrilled to be part of the process.

I can’t be held captive to past associations. That’s like the left repeatedly running the pic of Rumsfeld and Saddam back in the 80s. Every party, every person, everywhere has past associations that are irrelevant to what’s happening now. Hell, I was once a Democrat.

Hell, why not join the KKK? They had their purge years ago, and are now clean. This kind of convenient douche logic never holds up to even cursory examination. It fails in a spectacularly instructive way now.

Take another look (emphasis mine):

Every party, every person, everywhere has past associations that are irrelevant to what’s happening now.

This is absolutely the crux of the problem with the right wing today. They do not understand that the relationships and histories we built in the past are driving world events in the present. A group of neo-nazis that once attacked the Jews are now attacking Muslims. This is very relevant. The whole mess we call the Middle East is a hotbed of past grudges being played out day after day. Those “past associations” are what keep the Middle East burning.

We absolutely must understand and grapple with those associations, just as we must understand how the hatred in our own past has made efforts like affirmative action and the civil rights law necessary. What we must be careful of is falling into the trap of exclusive identity politics. In the Middle East, we are on the side of both the Israelis and Palestinians, the Sunni and the Shiite, Turk and Kurd. Here at home, that applies with the same urgency.

Our identity is shared. Our circumstances are not. If we want to make the world a better place, we can start by recognizing our shared past, and offering our help to those who are, quite literally, our people: humanity.

Immigration: Yay Ethnic Cleansing!

Orson Scott Card is an effing geniusHis take on the immigration debate is scholarly:

The National Guard is activated and the city and state police forces are nationalized. Sweeps of Hispanic neighborhoods round up all the Spanish-speaking people with brown skin and sort them out according to who has the right documentation.

Six million of them are found to be illegal immigrants.

They are loaded into buses, trucks, cattle cars and transported to the Mexican border. It’s all handled very humanely – they’re well fed on the way, and we pay the Mexican government a hundred dollars per returnee to pay for their return to their homes. That’s $600 million, but it’s so worth it.

So what is the result of our brave new no tolerance policy? (Emphasis mine)

And when it has all settled out, a new equilibrium is found. We didn’t just throw out the illegal immigrants, we threw out their jobs, too, and closed down all the businesses that served them.

The people who starved to death in Mexico aren’t here to enjoy the growing prosperity in their country, with so many American jobs now available to them – but free market economists never mind a few thousand deaths here and there. The free market always recovers. “Let them die,” the free market economists said, “and reduce the surplus population.”

Throw in a man on the street reaction:

As for all those Americans who had angrily rejected the idea of amnesty for illegal aliens, many of them were certain the right thing was done.

“If you reward them for breaking the law, they’ll just break it more,” they say.

“But you’re paying more for everything,” the reporter asks.

“Worth it,” they say.

“Why?”

“Because every illegal immigrant was a criminal!”

The reporter nods wisely. “So there’s no more crime now.”

“Well, no.”

“At least the worst criminals were gone. All the murderers, the thieves, the rapists, the child molesters, the drug dealers – they’re all gone, right?”

“Well, no. Some of them, but … look, we’re no longer subsidizing the education of their children! They’re no longer using public services without paying taxes!”

“Interesting,” says the reporter. “And yet poor Americans pay no income taxes, and they use the public schools without paying property taxes, either.”

“But their landlords pay property taxes.”

“But the landlords of the illegal immigrants paid property taxes. So I guess they weren’t being completely subsidized by the American people, after all.”

“And we aren’t having to pay for all those extra English-as-a-Second-Language classes, right?” goads the reporter.

“Absolutely right! Everything’s better! I can look around me and look at the people on the street and it feels like America again. Everybody’s talking English! Except for the orientals and the towel-heads, of course, but you’ve got to take things one step at a time.”

I think this about sums up the side of illegal immigration the Republicans don’t want us to talk about:

“Those are good laws! We don’t want the riff-raff of other countries!”

“But we weren’t getting the riff-raff, sir! We were getting the bravest, the hardest-working, the most determined to feed their families. We were getting the ones who scraped together the money to pay the illegal smugglers to get them across the border.”

And here is the brilliant closing (emphasis mine):

“What do you mean, until now?”

“Because it’s time to take down the Statue of Liberty, sir. We no longer accept the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. We no longer lift a lamp beside the golden door. The door is steel, and we’ve shut it tight. This isn’t America anymore.”

“That’s treasonous!”

“No, sir, you are the traitor. You’re the one who declared that America was no longer a nation built around an idea, which accepted all who embraced that idea. Now it’s just like any other nation on Earth. It stands for nothing except for holding on to what we’ve got and making sure there’s no room for the people most desperate to come and join us.”

“They didn’t want to live under our laws!”

“Yes they did. All we had to do was change a law that made far less sense than the traffic laws Americans break or bend all the time! If you make breathing a crime, then yes, all the breathers are criminals, but the people who made the laws are the stupid ones.”

“How dare you! We’re the ones who wanted to keep America American!”

“America is a nation that thrived because of a constant infusion of eager new citizens. You have closed the door against the best and bravest of them. You have cut off the lifeblood.”

“At least we’re still speaking English!”

“That’s right,” says the fuzzy-headed liberal. “It takes a lot of brains and determination to learn to speak two languages fluently. We kicked out six million people who were willing to try to do that. And what we have left is … you.”

It proves a very salient point.  For many Republican positions, actually implementing them leads to a horrible madness.  Conservatism is about as effective in practice as Communism.  It looks great on Heritage Foundation letterhead, but when put to the test it always shows its true color, the color of the Republican party: the color of blood.

Go on over and read the whole thing.  This should be required reading for anyone diving into the immigration debate.

Especially us fuzzy headed liberals.

The Human Cost of Anti-Immigration Fervor

The mother and child you see there are Elvira and Saul Arellano. As many have noted (Nez at Unapologetic Mexican, Xicanopwr, Lindsay at Majikthise), this is painful to watch. No matter what side you take on the immigration debate, you must acknowledge the human cost.

There is a beautiful and ancient tradition that has long been a part of our culture.  Throughout our history it has been there: quiet and subtle, hidden and mysterious.  I am speaking of mercy.  The notion that even when someone is guilty of a crime, we can reach into our better selves and act compassionately.

The responses to this are sure to revolve around “She broke the law”.  Yes.  But how we respond to that is an expression of who we are and how we want to be.

So I am asking for the moment that we put aside our considerable differences on immigration, and simply consider the human cost of our policies.  And maybe when we pick our differences back up again, we keep that in mind when we try and find a compromise.