As a coda to yesterday’s post on Chinese homogeneity it’s worth noting the counterargument that China has a great deal of internal diversity. The total non-Han population is a pretty small share of the whole, but it constitutes a kaleidoscope of different ethnic groups. And among the Han Chinese there are a number of different spoken languages that have their own regional sub-variations, different cuisines, etc. Vienna in the late-Habsburg era would have been a city almost entirely populated of people born inside the Habsburg lands, and yet also a reasonably diverse place with all kinds of internal migrants who spoke different native tongues.
Today, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) proudly announced the launching of “America Speaking Out,” an ” unprecedented initiative of engagement with the American people that will lead to a governing policy agenda for America.” In other words, America Speaking Out is a website that allows visitors to vote for or against user-generated proposals. According to Pence, Republicans will use “this conversation to build on our long-standing belief in a smaller and more accountable government.” “We’ll incorporate your ideas as we develop policy solutions and concrete plans for reforming the way Washington works,” writes Pence.
One of the ideas proposed today questions the patriotism of Latinos and wonders why the U.S. would support immigration reform that would bring the country “down to the level of Mexcico [sic]“:
Fortunately, the user, Kathy Brunatti, expressed an idea that does not represent the views of the majority of the American public. In fact, a poll released today by America’s Voice shows that 76 percent of voters want Congress to take action on immigration reform now. National support for comprehensive reform jumps from 57 percent to 78 percent after respondents hear a description of the reform proposal — which does not include sending Latinos “home.”
Other popular immigration-related “ideas” on America Speaking Out include: “the influx of illegal aliens across our southern bornder [sic] is an invasion and should be treated as such,” “being an illegal immigrant should stay a Crime [sic]!!!,” and “congress should end birthright citizenship for so-called anchor babies.” Many of those users, including Brunatti, have already racked up hundreds of “action points.” While these passionate views are not representative of most Americans, they do raise the question if any of the ideas on America Speaking Out are anything other than the opinions of a handful of radical right-wingers with poor spelling skills and a lot of free time on their hands.
On his radio show today, Bill Bennett pressed project chairman Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on what “the set up” was “for the listening.” McCarthy replied by touting upcoming “town hall meetings” that will have “suggestion boxes,” adding that “you’ll find our actions from listening from what we gathered and we’ll introduce”:
BENNETT: Ok. And what’s the system for or the set up for the listening? Not the talking, but the listening? The listening at your end. How will we know that you and Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan and John Boehner and everybody’s going to listen?
MCCARTHY: Well, you look from a couple different from our actions. From in the site itself, you’ll have discussions. If you go in and say you want to talk about the tax policy, find that Paul Ryan, Dave Camp, myself and Eric Cantor will be part of a discussion in there. Debating the different legislations. You will soon see next week town hall meetings across the country. Where as you will come in, the members will have one suggestion boxes, you can directly give it. You can speak to the member themselves and you will find many of them will have white boards where they’re even writing it down so people can see what they’re writing down. Part of this is making sure people realize one we’re listening, but also then you’ll find our actions from listening from what we gathered and we we’ll introduce.
Hari Sevugan, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, seized on the initiative as evidence that the G.O.P., in addition to objecting to almost all of Democrats’ proposals, have no ideas of their own. “Republicans abdicated their responsibility to govern a long time ago,” Mr. Sevugan said. “If Republicans actually listened to the American people, or for that matter the results of the special Congressional election in Pennsylvania, they would know that knee-jerk opposition, obstruction, delay and taxpayer-funded gimmicks are not a substitute for leadership.”
Mr. Pence rejected that notion. “This is not a political party in search of a keel or in search of principles. It’s not a listening tour. House Republican know what we believe,” he said. “House Republicans know that the American people know better than elected officials and politicians about what putting those principles into practice really looks like.”
Pence’s admission confirms Ryan Powers’ observation that America Speaking Out is “all kind of a farce” because “House Republicans won’t incorporate anything they don’t already agree with.” “This isn’t American Idol,” said McCarthy told the Washington Post, “adding that the top vote-getting idea on the site might not be adopted by the GOP. Referring to the party’s broader platform, he said, ‘we are in the process of creating ours, so it’s based upon our principles.’”
At the Wonk Room, Andrea Nill points out that “one of the ideas proposed” at America Speaking Out “today questions the patriotism of Latinos and wonders why the U.S. would support immigration reform that would bring the country ‘down to the level of Mexcico [sic].’”
BP’s name being dragged ‘literally through the muck.’
Back on May 6, I discussed how dispersants do not solve the Gulf Coast’s oil problem (see “Out of Sight: BP’s dispersants are toxic “” but not as toxic as dispersed oil“). They do decrease the amount of oil that directly reaches the shores or the creatures that live on the shores or sea surface. But they increase the exposure to oil by creatures that live in the water or on the sea floor “” like, say, shrimp or oysters.
Now, finally, we have some must-see video of the hidden underwater “nightmare” BP has created, from Good Morning America, which had the help of “Philippe Cousteau and a team of specially-trained divers”:
One of the main objectives of the Pentagon group studying the implications of repealing the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy is to survey troops and their families and report on how servicemembers would respond to serving alongside openly gay troops and how gay and lesbian members feel about lifting the ban. Since the study began, the Pentagon has expressed concern over how to go about surveying gay troops without unintentionally outing them or allowing some members to use the benefit of anonymity to shower the comments with homophobic remarks. The Defense Department has hired a contractor, Westat to confidentially gather the views of troops and their families. “The company will use that data to assess the possible impact of a change in policy on military effectiveness and identify possible changes needed in military recruiting, housing, spousal benefits, and other areas.”
While the military attempts to elicit the opinions of gay soldiers, my colleagues at the Center for American Progress have produced a video of former gay members who chose not to re-enlist in the service because of the DADT policy:
- VETERAN: “At the end of five and a half years of service I decided to get out because I couldn’t lie about who I was anymore.”
- VETERAN: “I choose not to re-enlist. When I came back from Iraq and I looked out of the aircraft and there were always these flags and welcome home signs and I realized my partner couldn’t be there on the tarmac, that was like a slap in the face.”
- VETERAN: “The law basically allows for a lot of disruption in the unit. This law is completely illogical. It doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do. It’s a failed, failed law.”
- Jeffrey Goldberg on settlers in 2004. And Goldberg, in 2008, on the American Jewish community: “Barack Obama… should be able to talk, in blunt terms, about the full range of dangers faced by Israel, including the danger Israel has brought upon itself. But this won’t happen until AIPAC and the leadership of the American Jewish community allow it to happen.”
- BP is better at keeping reporters out of its oil than oil out of the Gulf.
Late last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Arizona Department of Education “recently began telling school districts that teachers whose spoken English it deems to be heavily accented or ungrammatical must be removed from classes for students still learning English”:
State education officials say the move is intended to ensure that students with limited English have teachers who speak the language flawlessly. But some school principals and administrators say the department is imposing arbitrary fluency standards that could undermine students by thinning the ranks of experienced educators. [...]
“This is just one more indication of the incredible anti-immigrant sentiment in the state,” said Bruce Merrill, a professor emeritus at Arizona State University who conducts public-opinion research.
At one school, for example, state auditors complained that teachers pronounced “words such as violet as ‘biolet,’ think as ‘tink’ and swallow the ending sounds of words, as they sometimes do in Spanish.” The principal at that school acknowledged that teachers “should speak grammatically correct English” but said they shouldn’t be punished for having an accent.
The man in charge of this project, far-right Arizona superintendent Tom Horne — who is running for attorney general — has been going on national media in recent days to defend his policies. Yesterday he went on Hannity, and this morning he went on Fox and Friends. Yesterday he was also on CNN and argued that he isn’t targeting teachers with accents — just people who use “faulty English.” However, the “faulty English” he cited was an example of someone having an accent:
HORNE: We’re not going after any accents, including Spanish accents. It has to be faulty English. If students are being taught English, and they’re going to refer to a “comma” as a “COH-ma,” people are going to misunderstand them.
Horne is the same person who has taken an active role in ridding the state of ethnic studies classes, saying that they encourage “ethnic chauvanism.” Earlier this year, he took heat from Arizona Latinos for referring to venerated civil rights leader Dolores Huerta as a “former girlfriend” of Mexican American labor leader Cesar Chávez — even though she was actually his sister-in-law.
Doc Shabbitt [Standing in for Hawkeye Pierce] says:
I had a German math teacher in school and he used to say “I zink you is in trouble” to me a lot.
Who perpetrated the attacks of 9/11, and what was their religion?
Are suicide attacks or other forms of violent jihad acceptable under any circumstances, including against American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Does Israel have a right to exist as a Jewish state?
Do they agree with the State Department’s designation of Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations?
What aspects of Shariah law, if any, do they repudiate?
Will their center invite the input and participation of Muslim gay and lesbian groups?
Do they consider the Muslim Brotherhood to be extreme?
What influence will any foreign funding of Cordoba House have on its programs or on the literature it distributes?
This is pretty astonishing. Would Stephens, or anyone, dare propose a similar religious test for any other faith? What about asking Jews whether they condemn violence by Jewish settlers in the West Bank before they can build a synagogue somewhere? Or asking Christians planning a new church whether they will invite the input and participation of Christian gay and lesbian groups? You know, just as a “confidence-building measure”? Doubtful. It would be considered un-American.
Matt Green has a new book on the speakership and has been blogging at the Monkey Cage about Speaker Pelosi’s tenure in particular. He finds that by a number of historical metrics Pelosi’s leadership on the health care package does not look especially remarkable. He writes, “even speakers who wouldn’t make anyone’s top five list of most powerful speakers did at least a few things that subsequent historians believed were worthy of attention.” He concludes:
Pelosi’s role in the legislative process (such as her strong and successful push to avoid passing a more limited bill, which she dismissed as “Kiddie Care”), indicate that she clearly is an influential speaker: her leadership was critical to the final outcome (whether you agree with that outcome or not) and was impressive enough to be included in future histories of Congress and public policy. Nonetheless, her actions should be evaluated in comparison to what other speakers have done, and are expected to do, as part of their job; and in this respect, I do not think they were themselves sufficient to put Pelosi on a list of the greatest speakers in history.
I don’t pretend to be a congressional scholar, but I want to ask one question. I wonder if there is some way to factor in the media context in which each speaker has had to operate. Given the rapidity of today’s news cycle versus that of Rayburn’s or even O’Neill’s it seems like the legislative strategy game is different today than it was 30 or 40 or 70 years ago. Perhaps it is because we’re so close to it, but short-term legislative set backs seem to burn with much greater intensity in the media today than they might have in years past. While Pelosi seems particularly able to ignore the day-to-day chatter and keep her eye on the prize, I wonder if some of her less electorally secure colleagues can say the same thing.
I am, however, looking forward to reading Green’s book. You should too.
Today, Senate Republicans spoke with President Obama on immigration reform, including plans to deploy thousands of National Guard troops and drones to tighten border security. Prior to the meeting, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) appeared on Fox News to announce one of the ideas he planned on pitching to the President and will also likely introduce as an amendment to the $58.8 billion emergency supplemental bill currently being debated in the U.S. Senate. Cornyn told Fox News Host Bill Hemmer that his amendment will require that unspent stimulus funds be poured into securing the border rather than boosting the economy:
HEMMER: There are unspent stimulus dollars that are still in the pipeline. You would like to take a whopping $2.2 billion of unspent stimulus money and put it towards border patrol and border security. What’s your proposal there?
CORNYN: Well the fact of the matter is we need a credible immigration program starting with credible border security. Last year we had over a half a million people detained coming over our border illegally. No one with a straight face can claim with a straight face that we’ve gotten the job done. I think is as a pre-requisite to doing other things we need to do in immigration reform, we need to start with border security which means more boots on the ground. We need the technology, the airplanes, the drones, the helicopters.
However, Cornyn doesn’t mention that violence and crime on the US-Mexico border has been “on the decline” in recent years. As Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has said, the border is as “secure now as it has ever been.” ABC News reports that “cities like Tucson; Chula Vista, California; and Lardeo, Texas, have all seen year-over-year drops in violent crime, murder, and rape. El Paso, Texas, continues to have one of the lowest rates of violent crime of all U.S.cities.”
Despite the drop in crime, spending on immigration enforcement, particular border enforcement, has steadily climbed since 2002 and continues to rise under the Obama’s administration from about $9 billion in 2008 to over $11 billion in 2010. Overall, the U.S. will spend over $17 billion in FY 2010 just on enforcing immigration laws:
Comprehensive immigration reform, which would include border security provisions, but also do something about the 12 million undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S., would meanwhile generate at least $1.5 trillion in cumulative GDP over ten years. By creating a more flexible visa system, immigration reform would also likely allow border patrol to more effectively focus their resources on dangerous threats to public safety and national security instead of pursuing those who simply come to the U.S. to work. While quick to call for costly ramped up enforcement measures, the Republican Party has so far refused to pursue immigration reform in 2010.
The Hill reports that the Obama administration has decided to deploy 1,200 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border and is requesting $500 million in supplementary funds for border security. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is prepared to file a separate amendment to the supplemental bill calling for “6,000 members of the National Guard on the southern land border of the United States during fiscal year 2010.”