The price of xenophobia

You may recall that Arizona has passed some rather comprehensive legislation to “discourage” illegal immigration.  An interesting piece at Disloyal Opposition starts to quantify economic loss due to immigrant bashing.

…advocates of the sanctions law will say that this is exactly the result they were hoping for; they want Hispanics to flee the state (usually, they’ll claim that they just want the illegal ones to leave). But with workers leaving Arizona, taking their rent money, mortgage payments and shopping dollars with them, and with state employers facing rising labor costs — if they can even find workers — the economy is likely to take a major hit. In fact, the University of Arizona predicts a $29 billion economic loss if illegal workers are successfully purged from the state (full report here in PDF).

Curious. Meanwhile the wingnut caucus has taken to calling McCain “Juan” because he’s not ready to draw and quarter all brown people north of the Rio Grande.  It’s unfortunate because McCain’s right to be out of step with his comrades on this issue.  Fewer things would bring about more economic benefit to the nation, or to the poor worldwide, than freeing up the movement of people across national borders.

Hat tip: Coyote Blog

Warning Bloomberg

via satirist Andy Borowitz:

Only Room for One Egomaniac in Race, Activist Says

Not so fast.

That was the message delivered today to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg by consumer activist Ralph Nader, who warned Mr. Bloomberg, “If some egomaniac is going to jump in and screw up this election, it’s going to be me.”

Mr. Nader established an exploratory committee for a presidential bid today to let Mr. Bloomberg know that there was “only room for one self-absorbed gas-bag in the 2008 race.”

At a press conference in Washington, Mr. Nader said that voters who are looking for someone to spoil the 2008 election should be suspicious of Mr. Bloomberg’s motives: “Michael Bloomberg has a track record of winning elections, not screwing them up.”

In contrast, Mr. Nader said, “I know how hard it is to wreck an election, and I am prepared to put in the long hours necessary to mess this one up big-time.”

If both Mr. Nader and Mr. Bloomberg were to enter the race, they would be competing head to head for the vote of egomaniacs, who make up three percent of the electorate nationwide but closer to fifty percent in California and New York.

Speaking to that egomaniac constituency, Mr. Nader called Mr. Bloomberg a “novice spoiler,” adding, “When it comes to screwing up elections, experience matters.”

“Michael Bloomberg can’t point to a single election he’s messed up – I can,” he said. “I am ready to screw this one up on Day One.”

Elsewhere, Attorney General Michael Mukasey clarified his position on waterboarding, saying, “Having to answer questions about whether waterboarding is torture or not is torture.”

Kennedy for Obama

Obama has received the endorsement of the Kennedy dynasty, and the media’s hearts are a flutter. Here’s a very well done ad featuring Caroline Kennedy (for which HT MNPublius).

It’s a well done ad, and at a very fundamental level I “get” the excitement over an Obama candidacy.  Indeed, I have myself been looking forward to his greater exposure in the national media and his viability as a candidate for higher office.

It goes without saying, if he’s the candidate for the Democrats this go around, he’ll have my vote.   But I’m afraid at this point in time he’s still my third choice, not my first. For all his motivational rhetoric and bipartisan platitudes, there are some genuine concerns about what it might all mean in terms of an Obama administration.

Melissa McEwan has also been thinking in this direction, and compiled a list of concerns that are a wonderful place to start.  She begins by pointing out that Obama says he wants to be applauded by both sides of the aisle in the annual SOTU ritual.  She observes:

1. Why will the Republican members of Congress rise to applaud you, and the conservative half of the nation tune in to support you, unless you pursue an agenda that appeals to them? How do you pursue an agenda that appeals to conservatives, but is also progressive?

2. What is the common purpose around which you envision the country rallying? Do you regard “transcending partisanship” an end in itself, and do you foresee the GOP rallying around this goal? If so, how and why do you imagine that will happen?

These are important.  The vision thing is wonderful and exciting to behold.  But what do you plan to actually DO that is different in a meaningful way from what has been done before?  I’m sick of partisanship getting the short end of the stick, particularly when it comes about in part due to legitimate and significant disagreement on major issues, and a desire to bring about policy change for the better.

What the hell does “bipartisanship” mean anyway?  As practiced by the Republican’ts since 1994, it means, “You be bi, while we are partisan,” and unless one is in the habit of bending over and saying “ahhh” on every substantiative policy debate, you’re criticized as a partisan hack and divisive.  Bipartisanship is not a virtue in and of itself but only as a means to an end and the only thing it’s accomplished for the last eight years is a spasmodic dance toward the extreme right in terms of policy.

Look at the US Senate.  A Democratic “moderate” is one who votes with Republicans an unfortunate percent of the time.   A GOP “moderate” is one who quietly thinks unkind thoughts about Bush before falling into line and voting like a good doobie.  The whole reason Arlen Specter’s recent (correct) vote on FISA closure is noteworthy is precisely because he actually DID instead of just talked, for a change.

3. Assume for a moment that you are nominated and subsequently elected, and, despite being “the kind of president” in whom Americans can believe, the profound partisan rancor that currently plagues the nation doesn’t evaporate, that Americans fail to rally around a common purpose. What is Plan B? Do you move ever rightward trying to find support among those who refuse to rally, or do you say “Screw ’em,” and go leftward to honor those who voted for you?

This is a question that simply MUST be addressed.  Look, there are a lot of people out there with a process fetish. These are the “Unity ’08” nerds who whine about partisanship and conflict, but lack any signature issues – other than the process itself – to drive their campaign forward or give it meaning. 

Dialog for the sake of dialog, negotiation for the sake of negotiation, compromise for the sake of compromise…it’s all moot if the end result isn’t defensible policy.    We’ve been working for years to find a happy middle, a reasonable compromise.  And the results are not pretty.

So Obama, I’m not interested in compromise and discussion with the wingnut caucus.  Been there, done that.  It’s time to recalibrate and I want to defeat them utterly.   Can you be trusted to use your bully pulpit to move things in the correct direction?  And don’t feed us the lines about limited presidential power, congressional responsibility, et. al.  Clinton and Reagan both had hostile congresses during parts of their administration, and they made progress on their agendas notwithstanding.

What are YOU willing to go to the mat on?

4. Noting that the most bitter partisan divides on domestic policy regard issues of basic rights, such as reproductive rights and marriage rights, and noting further that the two sides of these issues are unlikely to come to spontaneous agreement, those subjects are likely to continue to play a divisive role in American politics. How do you plan to prevent such bedrock divisions from undermining the national unity you imagine? Do those of us on the progressive side of these issues have reason to worry that you will not be a vociferous advocate for any controversial or ideologically discordant issues?

Obama, let’s be brutally honest here.  You’ve thrown gays under the bus, you’ve attacked your primary rivals using the same rightwing talking points that would be used against you in the fall, you’ve fallen into scaring people about Social Security…  Your track record here doesn’t lend itself toward optimism.   What are the issues on which you have distinguished yourself as a real leader and what are your policy goals in those areas?

Don’t get me wrong – there are legitimate concerns about Hillary too.  But at least she has a lengthy record on the national stage.  We have a sense that there are lines she’s willing to draw in the sand, battles she’s willing to fight.  Obama….still hearing crickets chirp in the background.

So what are we to make of the Kennedy endorsements?  Certainly, they’re significant in terms of nostalgic yearnings for camelot and a passing the torch of sorts.  But we can’t get starry-eyed and forget that the Kennedy mystique is what it is in large part because JFK was assassinated.  In objective terms his record was mixed, and the real accomplishments of the times were driven by LBJ.

Which isn’t to say Caroline and Teddy didn’t do a good job – they did, and the symbolism is powerful.  But let’s not lose our heads and think it means more than it does.

Keith’s list

Congressman Keith Ellison, D, MN5 has a worthwhile opinion piece in which he shows what things are really costing:

We are currently spending $10 Billion a month in Iraq, more than $2.5 Billion a week.

Taxpayers in Minnesota alone paid $11 Billion for the cost of the Iraq War through 2007. For that amount of money, Minnesota could have provided:

  • over 3 million people with Health Care OR
  • over 13 million Homes with Renewable Electricity OR
  • over 250,000 Public Safety Officers OR
  • nearly 175,000 Music and Arts Teachers OR
  • over 1.2 million Scholarships for University Students OR
  • 1,300 New Elementary Schools OR
  • almost 70,000 Affordable Housing Units OR
  • over 3.5 million Children with Health Care OR
  • over 1.5 million Head Start Places for Children OR
  • almost 200,000 Elementary School Teachers OR
  • over 130,000 Port Container Inspectors