The Painful Lives of Our Youngest Pawns

DD

(Warning: Disturbing image near the end of the article.)

What does a grown man feel as he kicks and punches a child viciously in the head? What fear or anger propels the blows? Doesn’t the thud against the bone make his stomach sick? Is politics so sick with our own vitriol that we beat and kill our children and feel dead? That instead of stopping, we spread beatings and killings and harm to children who are not our own?

What makes a person strike a child until a child’s face is unrecognizable to his mother? Is swollen so badly that he cannot speak or see? What security or vengeance or justice is gained from such insanity?

In the time of the world’s greatest prosperity, attacks of all kinds on children multiply. Wealth is used to buy infants for sex to cure HIV infections in South Africa, prepubscent children are purchased for work in brothels or as brides across Asia and Africa; boys are taken from schools and given guns and drugs and taught to kill and rape as child soldiers; in Mexico, adolescents who carry out hits ordered by drug lords are given Mercedes to drive, for which they are to young to have a legal license.

A child holds a banner as she participates in an anti-Syria regime protest held by Bahrainis at United Nation Headquarters in Manama

In a global cry for help, the children who throw away despair and evil, violence and crime; the ones making a heroic witness of hope by walking across the central America isthmus, facing down the ravages of hunger and starvation, the exhausting fatigue that weighs each step (to protest against their conditions and search for a better life build on moral truth) arrive in the US to face shouting adults with signs that say, “We didn’t ask for you,” “Go back.”

The government hears their cry, turns the buses around, and sends a funding request to Capitol Hill. We seek funds for judges for hearings to deport children, to send our youngest, most innocent neighbors back. We are sending the children of the world, who have shown the greatest courage of our era, back to iniquities and atrocities. Because they have challenged our ideas and laws, we treat them like criminals—which some decry as free meals. As we do, we are making hope a crime and hate a matter of law. Communities that a generation ago didn’t lock their doors now close their borders.

Am I a bleeding heart jumping on the most recent liberal bandwagon? Am I guilty of ignoring the national balance sheet? Deaf to limits of policy? Am I advocating taking jobs and resources away from Americans? Encouraging reckless behavior? No.

Children are dreamers, not schemers. Their turning to America by a path of footprints is an act of brave hope, not cynicism. Meeting needs, material and social, helps create prosperity. The economy is not a static or fixed sum, shared by pluses and minuses. It is a dynamic, interactive system, in which issues create opportunities, and opportunities lead to jobs. Protecting, rescuing and saving children no more takes away jobs and paychecks than buying a Chinese-built iPad or iPhone—the money spent on idevices and Galaxy 5s creates no American jobs except retail and transportation, drains the trade balance, increases the deficit, and the bulk of the purchase price for idevices will rest in Apple’s cash reserves—now larger than the entire GDP of all but the world’s 55 largest countries. Continue reading The Painful Lives of Our Youngest Pawns

Stormy Monday, 7/7/14

StormyMondayThe Republican National Committee unveiled a new fundraising gimmick over the weekend, and this week’s sales figures might provide a handy gauge for just how far gone Republicans currently are. The RNC will reward a $27 donation with a t-shirt bearing the slogan “I MISS W.” The GOP somehow being unaware of that whole universally known red versus blue symbolism thingie, you can have any color you want as long as it’s blue. Though I wonder if a rejected alternate slogan was “I’M STILL WITH STUPID,” I suppose “I MISS W” is close enough. It’ll be an effective way to telegraph to people that they should cross the street if they see you coming, but I’ll bet the RNC could raise way more money by modifying the slogan to “I MISSED W” and adding an image of a shoe to the design. Or a pretzel.

Afghanistan’s election commission, prudently, has not announced preliminary results from the controversial mid-June presidential runoff, but might this week. Meanwhile, Senator Carl Levin, visiting Kabul, and US Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham have joined other US officials (like the lamentably ubiquitous Lindsey Graham and John McCain) in calling for an audit of the ballots. In retrospect, our clumsy attempt to bring democracy to Afghanistan should at least have omitted hanging chads.

With all the travails they’ve endured daily for many years now, at least the people of Afghanistan won’t be deprived of, um, Facebook via government decree, as was initially mooted. Hooray. I guess.

Our other nation-gelding – uh, building enterprise in Iraq has to be going better, though, no? In fact, no. 30,000 Saudi troops are amassed at the border between the countries, and the insurgents – ISIS, IS, or whatever they’re calling themselves this week – control some cities large enough that Fox News cheered when troops from the “Coalition of the Willing” took them 11 years ago. Will Iraq’s civil war become a regional war this week? Could be. It’s hard to understand why anyone has to “MISS W,” when in some respects it’s like he never left. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 7/7/14

Sunday Talks, 7/6/14

On ABC’s This Week, Texas Governor Rick Perry (R-Oops) and Bishop Mark Seitz of the Catholic Diocese of El Paso will be discussing the immigration crisis. US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske will . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 7/6/14

Freedom Isn't Protected; It's Practiced

DDThink above the noise. Blot out the video images and the inane questions about fault, authority, notification, gangs, judges, hearings, surges, resources, executive action. Find the quiet within yourself.

Think about the faces of children—your own face, your friends when you were young. Would you have walked a hundred miles when you were nine, ten, eleven? Could you have walked two, three, four, five hundred miles across three countries to reach a dirty inland river crossing a scrub bush prairie? Could you have confronted an uninhabited wilderness under a burning sun, without food or love?

The enslaved were once guided by the North Star. What guides the children—is there an intangible sense of security and freedom strong enough in young hearts to drive them from home and hugs? Should our laws make us blind to their dangers, the threats of violence they report?

Played out on our borders, stretching back into the depths of Central America to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, beginning in 2012, but rising rapidly, we are witnessing the greatest tragedy for children since the Crusades, when Europe sent children off to fight its religious wars.

It has created an internal conflict.

Protesters blocked the paved streets of Murrieta, California. Waving large American flags, they blocked the entry of three buses of children and adults to a federal border facility, calling the 140 detainees on aboard a security threat—a danger to peace and safety—chanting: “We want to be safe.”

Children, driven by fear, propelled by opportunity, who walked hundreds of miles, are blocked by organized adults (some with children!) who believe displaced children and mothers are a safety threat? Yes.

When people respond directly to human needs without regard to class, race, condition—or law—those in need become our neighbors. However they have arrived, barriers are removed. Yet the reaction of many around the nation and along the borders is one that acts as though the displaced who came in hope are our personal enemies. We see a response that says their being victims is making victims of us, too.

Many reject what seems to be the most natural of claims: the heroic demonstration of their desperation for respect, the vivid demonstration with each step of their journey of how their status has broken down at home. Some defy their need and demand the new arrivals submit to humiliation and blame, to reject the birthright which is the arc of human history and accept painful consequences for an amazing example that is no longer considered an expression of the strong relying on integrity, but the weak turning to an inner urge of calculation and cunning that is measured as mere irregular, illegal behavior. Panic and public rage form; protests begin.

Many of those protesters were answering the Mayor of Murrieta’s call. He asked his community to block the processing of the detainees at the Border Patrol station so they could not be released to the care of a group of religious volunteers who agreed to provide for them until they can receive a hearing.

With this thinking in our political leadership, we have become a threat to ourselves. Quick to point out others are breaking the law, many are exceptionally slow to recognize we are abusing freedom and violating its pillar of wise restraint and the knowledge that freedom grows when it is a gift that grows for all.

Freedom isn’t protected. It’s practiced. It’s not defined by a set of laws—those regulate society. Freedom is the space we step into after the law is in place. Do we use that space to express our fear of children without walking in their shoes? Do we call for law and order without knowing freedom demands a cry for justice?

What is right is often above and beyond the law. It is the path of living where we build community and trust.

“We didn’t ask them to come here,” one protester shouted. “We are never given sufficient warning,” a city spokeswoman said. Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone said, “This caught us all by surprise locally. We are getting 140 traumatized people. Our services are strained.”

ImmigrationOverloadCalifornia-0e863

More than 52,000 children have crossed the southwest US border from Central America since October 2013, a 92 percent increase over the same period last year.

In May, 9,000 crossed, an all-time record. Since last October, 39,000 adults with children have been detained, another record. And the Border Patrol projects more than 240,000 illegal migrants, about three-quarters from Central America, will cross the Rio Grande Valley to enter America during this fiscal year.

And once the detainees reach the land of freedom, carrying only their dreams, in the final mile of their journey, they find their path rerouted by protesters. One held a sign: “Return to sender.”

What if God sent them, and their dreams? Are we still deferring dreams?

And are we saying God tells at least some of us who own businesses to deny birth control to women while we pay for Viagra for men through insurance. Many of those same few who who would deny women the insurance purchase of birth control buy goods from China, a country that actively practices abortion as state policy, affecting millions of families.

Those same few also invest in pension funds that hold shares in the pharmaceutical manufacturers of birth control. So God—and the Supreme Court—has said it’s okay to provide men aids for sexual dysfunction, trade with countries that have mandated abortions as official government policy, and invest in companies that make and sell the very products the women who work for them cannot buy—the women who work for the chosen few who allow their God to direct their balance sheet to trade with China and invest in pharma, many of whom insist detainees be handled by the full letter of the law. Continue reading Freedom Isn’t Protected; It’s Practiced

Stormy Monday, 6/30/14

StormyMondayThe Supreme Court might get the week off to a terrible start with a bad decision in Harris v. Quinn, which could hobble the right of public sector unions to act as sole representatives of their membership, and/or a bad decision in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, which could open a mile-wide “religious conscience” loophole in Obamacare requirements that for-profit corporations furnish particular birth control services under employee health plans.

Monday, the President will nominate former Procter & Gamble CEO Bob McDonald to head the Department of Veterans Affairs, which could sure as hell use a good cleaning. McDonald is a West Point grad with five years of Army service, but he would enter the job as an outsider. If you’re impressed by such things, be advised that he apparently acquitted himself with some distinction at P&G. Whether that’s any qualification for straightening out his new organization is very much an open question.

With Arizona’s Joe Arpaio teetering on the brink of jail and/or senility, the title of America’s Worst Sheriff could soon go to Louisiana’s Julian Whittington, of Bossier Parish (“fastest-growing parish north of Interstate 10″). Whittington will celebrate the Fourth with his second annual “In God We Trust” rally. Roll your eyes if you want, Mr. or Ms. Smartypants Lieberal, but the event will feature, among many other delights, “patriotic and God-lifting music,” just as the Founders – George Washington, Ronald Reagan, Pat Robertson, Ron Paul and PT Barnum – intended. Bobby Jindal can’t make it this time around, but he’s recorded a video for the occasion, and we all know how scintillating Jindal is in front of a video camera.

Teabagger Chris McDaniel, who failed to dethrone Senator Thad Cochran in last week’s Mississippi Republican primary runoff, continues his inspiring quest to become the highest-profile crybaby in US politics, as he ratchets up claims that Cochran won with votes cast by Democrats who had already voted in the Democratic primary. Should that desperate tack fail, McDaniel will likely have to spend the rest of the summer rummaging under couch cushions and down sewer grates for the roughly 7,000 votes he would need to edge Cochran.

McDaniel’s chief competition for highest profile crybaby is of course Oklahoma Teabagger Timothy Ray Murray, who will move to contest his primary loss last week to Congressman Frank Lucas on the grounds that Lucas is actually deceased and has been replaced by a body double. (While it’s a bafflement that anyone aspiring to rationality could continue to support Republicans, don’t forget that 60,932,152 Americans saw fit to vote for the Romney/Ryan ticket in 2012. Be afraid. Be very afraid.)

But hey, if it’s any consolation to voters in Oklahoma and Mississippi, things are also just a tad muddled in Afghanistan since its presidential runoff two weeks ago. The imaginatively named Abdullah Abdullah, after showing initial deference to the country’s Independent Election Commission, has decided they can go to hell, deepening the uncertainty surrounding the vote. The commission will announce “preliminary” results as early as Saturday. You know, it’s beginning to seem that we really did bring that nation American-style democracy. More’s the pity. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 6/30/14

Sunday Talks, 6/29/14

On ABC’s This Week, President Obama is interviewed by George Stephanopoulos. (I’m shocked! They aren’t asking Darth Cheney about the President!) House Counterterrorism and Intelligence Subcommittee Chair Rep. Peter King (R-NY) will discuss Iraq and . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 6/29/14

Friday Talking Points [310] -- Courtin' Season

FTP3‘Tis the season when the political press all goes a-courtin’. So to speak.

The end of June is an important time on the political calendar, but it is one which most Americans don’t really think about all that much. It’s hard to fault this, since summer is the low ebb of the political season in general, and since Independence Day is just around the corner. But the end of June is also the end of the Supreme Court’s judicial year, when they issue the biggest decisions of the past session. So, let’s take a very quick run through the important decisions handed down in the past week or so, shall we? In other words, “a-courtin’ we will go….”

The biggest news for court-watchers this year is that around half of all the decisions this year have actually been unanimously decided. Seems John Roberts may be trying to push back a bit on the impression that most cases in his court are decided in a 4-5 split, yea or nay. Only the wonkiest of court-watchers have so far noticed, but it’s something to keep an eye on.

The other thing worth noting, before we run through the decisions themselves, is that this week is chock-full of anniversaries. It’s the 50th for the “Freedom Summer” of registering black votes in Mississippi, and it is the one-year anniversary for the Senate passing a comprehensive immigration bill with a strong bipartisan vote. The House has yet to do anything more on the subject than dither, in the meantime. Judicially, though, it has been only a single year since the decisions on gay marriage were handed down. Think about the immense progress marriage equality has achieved since, and it’s easy to forget how monumental these decisions were, only one short year ago. An appeals court just ruled that marriage equality must take place in Utah, of all places. That just wouldn’t have been possible a year ago, and it likely wouldn’t have happened at all if the high court hadn’t ruled against DOMA and Proposition 8. The only question now remaining is: will the case in which the Supreme Court sweepingly tosses out all remaining state laws against marriage equality happen next year or the year after that? That is an immense amount of progress in one year’s time, folks.

From the Supreme Court, there was some good news and some bad news for people across the political spectrum. Aereo lost its case against the broadcast networks, as the Supreme Court ruled that recording shows pulled off individual antennas and then providing them later to mobile devices was, essentially, no different than running a cable company. Massachusetts “buffer zones” around abortion clinics were struck down, unanimously (although different justices used different rationales to arrive at the same conclusion). Many have pointed out the incredible irony of a Supreme Court who says buffer zones are illegal while maintaining their own buffer zone which removes protests from their doorstep (in other words, their own steps aren’t a “free speech zone”).

The Environmental Protection Agency mostly won the right to regulate carbon emissions, although they did lose on one technicality about how they go about doing so. This still means they’ll be able to regulate about 97 percent of what they were claiming, so overall it’s an environmental win (the decision could have been a lot worse, to put it mildly).

President Obama got his wrist slapped for recess appointments made while the Senate was “in session.” Those scare quotes are necessary, because what being “in session” means, in this case, is that during their many many weeks-long vacations scattered throughout the year, the Senate calls upon members from nearby states (wouldn’t want to make anyone else fly back, in other words) to drive down to the Capitol once every three days, unlock the chamber, flick on the lights, move to the podium and gavel the Senate into session. After performing this onerous duty (to a completely empty room), the gavel comes down again, and the session is closed. A walk back up the aisle, the lights flicked off, and don’t forget to lock the door. Every three days, this has been happening, in recent years. Because of this, the Senate claims it is not actually in recess, but still in session. Continue reading Friday Talking Points [310] — Courtin’ Season

How Black Voters Decided Mississippi's Republican Senate Run-Off

DDListening and ordering too many songs from Amazon of Cape Verdean music as I sipped a single source Ethiopian coffee delivered by United States Postal Service (USPS) from Durham’s legendary wholesaler, Counter Coffee, I began to think about how the world is organized. Then I turned to the Republican run-off after their primary for one of the Senate seats in Mississippi.

The establishment won; Thad Cochran is the last of the Southern elder statesman who manages a pipeline of public funds for his state. First elected in 1984, he won the run-off to earn his seventh Republican nomination with help from African-American voters who hadn’t even bothered to vote in the earlier Democratic primary. Who would think Mississippi politics would transcend party labels? Not to mention race! That a Republican in a run-off would successfully turn out the African-American vote in Mississippi?

Astoundingly, the run-off drew a larger turnout than the primary two weeks earlier, It polled 374,000 voters as compared to a turn out of 319,000 for the primary; then, Cochran had trailed his party challenger by 1,500 votes after the vote. Combined, the campaigns spent $17.4 million. The Super PACs invested $11.4 million, as the outside groups invested in Cochran’s opponent by almost 2 to 1.

Never one to concede, his Tea Party opponent called Cochran’s election victory and increased turnout and broader appeal the beginning of the end of the power of the establishment in Mississippi.

What most people don’t know is that while the primaries are organized by party, Mississippi (and most states) operate under an open primary system. Voters are free to vote their interests without regard to their own party affiliation. Arizona, California, New York, Maine, Maryland, North Carolina, Florida, among others, hold closed primaries—primaries restricted to voters of a party that is indicated when voters register (and which later can be changed).

But for primaries, there is no party litmus test in Mississippi, and the Tea Party and outside PAC money created its own backlash. A last-minute suit to prevent “crossover voting,” voting by members of other parties, was dismissed. Believing their own stereotypes, they failed to realize blacks are keen political observers and understand political strategy and calculus.

The news media wouldn’t know it (and if they did, wouldn’t report it) but the winning coalition in Mississippi is old news. In South Carolina, in the 1880s, in order to end the rampant corruption under Reconstruction, the state’s highest ranking Confederate general, the commander of the Confederate Cavalry, Wade Hampton, one of the South’s largest former property holders of those enslaved, who had once talked the firebrands of the state out of seceding, ran for governor and appealed directly for the votes of the newly emancipated freemen. He won.

One of the really great moments of Civil War history is a remarkable exchange of letters over foraging between Hampton and the Union General William T. Sherman, written during Sherman’s South Carolina campaign. If you haven’t seen or read it, the official Civil War correspondence (in massive, multi-volume sets) is worth spending a day with. You are holding in your hands the accounts of the battles, the reports of the brave and the dead, the plans of action, the firsthand account of the war from the field.

Cochran’s opponent, as do so many Tea Party members, claims to support and follow the Constitution. But in their secret hearts, they want to replace it with their state’s Declarations or Ordinances of Secession. Continue reading How Black Voters Decided Mississippi’s Republican Senate Run-Off

Stormy Monday, 6/23/14

StormyMondayIn a primary season that has already seen the odious Eric Cantor kicked to the curb by voters for not being quite odious enough, it’s probably smart to take nothing for granted. Charlie Rangel certainly isn’t, despite the latest poll showing him up by double digits over rival Adriano Espaillat mere days before tomorrow’s vote in the New York 13th. If he wins, Rangel might want to mend some fences with the New York Times, which endorsed Espaillat last week.

Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran, another odious Republican, faces a runoff against teabagger Chris McDaniel on Tuesday, after nearly being bested by him in the June 3 primary. McDaniel’s support among blinkered conservative tax-me-not voters has been steadily increasing even as their state slides ever further toward Third World status. If Republican infighting is one of your favorite spectator sports, check out the Cochran campaign’s eleventh-hour ad, which takes a metaphorical 2×4 to McDaniel’s metaphorical cranium.

After passing a resolution on Saturday calling for President Obama’s impeachment (ostensibly for exchanging five Taliban detainees for POW Bowe Bergdahl, though mostly, I suspect, for being not entirely white) the South Dakota Republican Party can now go on to other important business, like resolutions opposing gravity and the changing of the seasons. Word is they’ll also consider a resolution to seize Mount Rushmore from the National Park Service and alter all the faces to likenesses of Ronald Reagan.

Speaking of Sgt. Bergdahl, he was discharged from hospital last week and transferred to Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, where he will receive outpatient care for up to a month. His long-term prognosis is still unknown, but what’s already certain is there’s no known cure for the syndrome that has so many on the right still howling about his release and repatriation.

John Kerry kicked off a busy week with a visit to Cairo for talks with new Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri on Sunday, before making a surprise visit to Iraq for private meetings with PM Nouri al-Maliki and several sectarian leaders. To the edification of absolutely nobody, least of all the Iraqis, he described the current precarious situation as “a critical moment for Iraq’s future” and “a moment of great urgency.” Continue reading Stormy Monday, 6/23/14

Sunday Talks, 6/22/14

On ABC’s This Week, former Vice President Dick(head) Cheney crawls out of his bunker to blast President Obama for the situation in Iraq, and completely ignores the fact that he, the Dickhead himself, was one . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 6/22/14