Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Deporting 5 Million People Makes No Sense

You were brought to the U.S. as an infant. You grew up here. You speak no language other than English. You know no one in the country your parents left behind. You consider yourself an American. Yet, Republicans want you to "go back to Mexico or wherever you came from." This, my friends, isn't "compassionate conservatism," it's xenophobia.

But hey, punishing children for the "crimes" of their parents makes total sense, right?

Today, a federal judge suspended an executive order by President Obama that would have, among other things, made sure that someone who grew up in America could not be pulled from their home, locked in a cage, and shipped to a country they've never seen. It also made sure no child born in America (and therefore a citizen) would lose their parents to deportation. Obama's order was apparently wayyyy overstepping, according to Republicans, because hey, "once a wetback always a wetback," right?

It's not that Republicans haven't considered the economic impact of suddenly removing 5 million people from the country-- they believe that every single one of these people is a drain on our economy, and removing them will suddenly open up 5 million jobs for good, hardworking white folk.... er.. real Americans. There's just one problem with this economic analysis-- it's simple-minded and wrong.

The Center For American Progress points out, and I'm paraphrasing here, that no nation in the history of civilization has benefited from the sudden loss of 5 million people. Mainly because these 5 million people don't only take-- they give. Like every person ever, they spend money in addition to earning it. And the money that 5 million people spend has a ripple effect throughout the economy.

The Center made this handy infographic to show the economic difference between legalizing these undocumented workers and deporting them:

Even if you don't buy the Center's methodology, or believe them to be commie pinko lesbian freedom-haters, it doesn't take a liberal ideology to do a Google search and find out that uprooting 5 million people is a project that has only been undertaken by the Nazis, Stalin, Genghis Khan, and the most brutal despots of the Roman Empire (also, that thing we did to the Native Americans). While some Republicans may believe these are historical models that America should totally follow, most human beings would agree that there might be a better way of solving the problem of undocumented workers than simply shoving them into cages and removing them to places where many are likely to suffer.

After all, what makes us so special? Because we were born here? Whoop-de-fuckin-woo. You know who else was born here? Charles Manson. The Unabomber. Kim Kardashian. Being born here doesn't make you a good American or a positive contributor to our society. The biggest crime committed by the majority of these immigrants? WANTING TO WORK. Oh no! Oh no!!!!

Sure, they've taken our jobs. How is a real American supposed to get a dangerous, minimum wage job that no one wants? The immigrants have taken them all--like they have since our country's inception. Back in 1776 we gave those kinds of jobs to slaves and indentured servants. Then that free labor dried up (thanks alot, Lincoln), and we turned to the influx of Irish, Italians and Jews that came to our shores from Europe. Then those people joined the middle class, and the next wave of immigrants filled those roles. THIS IS THE WAY ITS ALWAYS BEEN. The previous generation of immigrants moves up the ladder, the new immigrants work their way up from the bottom.

The only difference now is that the oligarchs in charge of America have decided they want to hold on to a greater percentage of America's money than any generation of upper class fatcats in our nation's history. As a result, the middle class is finding less and less money available to sustain a comfortable lifestyle. And the oligarchs, realizing that middle class voters may not like that, have looked around for a powerless group of people to blame... like those "damn Mexicans."

Of course, as more legal immigration occurs, "those damn Mexicans" are getting less and less powerless. Don't think the Republicans don't see this coming. Defenders of the fabulously wealthy for the last three decades (at least), they see their precious "white power" constituency shrinking as a percentage of the population. They see more and more brown and tan faces, and they realize the prospect of winning a national election is becoming increasingly doubtful. The only solution they have is to stem the tide--remove as many of "those people" as possible from the country. The undocumented workers are the low-hanging fruit, the easy sell-- they "don't belong here." But this is not rooted is sound economic or humanitarian policy. It's all about the fear that 5 million people could become legal... and vote for Democrats.

That's it. That's the only reason it makes sense to deport a group of people en masse.

By all means, deport those who commit crimes. Deport those who abuse government services. Deport the layabouts who aren't working, aren't contributing to the American economy. And sure, make it harder for future illegal immigrants to come here, by tightening border security and enforcing laws against employers who hire new undocumented workers. Do more to direct these desperate people toward legal pathways of immigration. Heck, you can even set a deadline at which this "amnesty" will no longer apply. This is all essential for maintaining security and healthy population growth. No one is advocating for opening the floodgates.

But for those who are already here? Who slipped the net long ago and have established themselves? They're not the enemy. Neither are the kids who grew up here, who have little ties to the homeland their parents fled many years before. All Obama did with his executive order was acknowledge that it's too late to get rid of these people without destroying our economy and causing a large-scale humanitarian crisis. This isn't overstepping. It's being realistic.

These people are no longer Mexicans, or whatever. They're Americans, whether the Republican Party likes it or not. Fearing their potential voting power is not a valid excuse for unconscionable cruelty.

And when you uproot families and separate parents from their children, what else can you call it?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Is Birthright is Responsible For An American Kid's Death? No.

My Birthright Israel Group (guy with the gun is our security guard)
According to Allison Benedikt, the death of an American boy who joined the Israeli army in their battle against terrorists is partially the fault of Birthright Israel, the program for young American Jews that sends them to Israel, all expenses paid, for 10 days and teaches them about the country and its people. If Max Steinberg hadn't gone on Birthright, she says, he never would have joined the IDF, and would still be alive today.

There's a lot of finger pointing going on as the latest Gaza-Israel crisis drags on, but this is a new low.

The mission of Birthright, as quoted by Benedikt, is to "ensure the continuity of the Jewish people by strengthening Jewish identity, Jewish communities, and solidarity with Israel." Nowhere in this mission statement is joining the army mentioned. Yet Benedikt writes, "Though most trip alumni do not join the IDF (Birthright’s spokeswoman told me they don’t keep track), to do so seems like the ultimate fulfillment of Birthright’s mission—the ultimate expression of a Jew’s solidarity with Israel is to take up arms to defend it."

Yes, apparently "solidarity" = becoming an Israeli soldier.

Soldiers in training, according to Benedikt
This couldn't be further from the truth. Birthright Israel is really about one thing, and that's getting Jewish boys and girls to make babies together. Everything about the trip points out the precariousness of the Jewish people, our shaky place in the world, something not always evident within the upper middle class Jewish communities of the United States, where, by and large, we're free from antisemitism and generally accepted. The biggest threat to Jews today is not Hamas, but intermarriage, conversion and secularism, which is achieving over many generations what Hitler attempted to do in just one. For many Jews today, being Jewish is watching Curb Your Enthusiasm and enjoying lox on a bagel... and if that's the extent of it, then what about the next generation? What kind of faith will they pass on?

Orthodox communities are growing--with the amount of children they produce, that's a given. But the middle-of-the-road, Conservative Judaism movement that gave me my upbringing and once served as a model for modern Judaism is falling apart. This brand of Judaism doesn't pretend someone is dead if they marry outside the faith... and while that's the right thing to do, it means that subsequent generations are one step further removed from the culture and beliefs that withstood the Spanish Inquisition, the crusades and Hitler. It means as time goes on, American Jews are becoming simply Americans. The Jewish part, the part that survived centuries of persecution, is being lost.

Birthright Israel attempts to restore a sense of duty to maintaining this Jewish identity-- that even if we do choose to intermarry, even if we don't share the religious beliefs of our ancestors, we have a responsibility to keep the ideals and beliefs of Judaism alive. For most Birthright participants, this may mean going to synagogue a bit more often, celebrating Shabbat on Friday nights, or simply educating themselves more about Judaism and Jewish history. For others, they may seek out a Jewish spouse (maybe the girl they hooked up with on their trip).

Joining the IDF is something apart from that. Yes, on my Birthright trip, we spent time with kids our own age who wore IDF uniforms. But none of us joined the IDF. Instead, one member of our group fell in love with one of them. Teddy from California and Shilana from Tel Aviv have been together for close to five years now. That's the endgame.

Benedikt writes, "What makes an American kid with shaky Hebrew and no ties to the state of Israel suddenly decide he is ready to make this sacrifice? Maybe Max was especially lost, or especially susceptible, or maybe he was just looking to do some good and became convinced by his Birthright experience that putting on an IDF uniform and grabbing a gun was the way to do it."

Max Steinberg's sense of duty extended to fighting for Israel, the same way so many young Americans join the military here, in the United States. But it's a decision separate and apart from a 10-day program aimed at getting Jewish kids to bone each other. Max could have moved to Israel later in life, waiting until he aged out of military service (age 30). Instead, he chose to join the IDF even sooner than he legally was required to as a new immigrant (olim, as they're called, have 1 year of acclimation-- Max signed up six months after his Birthright trip), and joined an elite sharpshooting force voluntarily. He didn't have to do any of that. Birthright certainly didn't tell him to, unless I was in the bathroom when everyone else was taking target practice.

It's clear Benedikt sees Birthright as a brainwashing organization: "It turns out that it’s not that hard to persuade young people to see the world a certain way and that Birthright is very good at doing it. You spend hundreds of millions of dollars to convince young Jews that they are deeply connected to a country that desperately needs their support? This is what you get."

Except it's not what you get. You get Teddy and Shilana. You get me. You get the thousands of other participants who did not join the IDF, but have a deeper appreciation for their roots. Max's brother and sister, who were on the same Birthright trip, did not make the same decision. Perhaps they were just snoozing when Birthright made the "take up arms for Israel" pitch?

Max is dead because of a Hamas gunman. That's it.  Pointing a finger at Birthright is shifting blame away from the people with guns, rockets and bombs. And that's where the blame should lie.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Dammit Gary Oldman. Why'd you have to say those things?

Dammit Gary Oldman. Why'd you have to say those things?


Oldman has long been one of my favorite actors. I dare anyone to watch The Professional and then the Batman movies, and find any resemblance between the evil cop Stansfield and the hero cop Commissioner Gordon. Oldman imbues each role with a personality that goes beyond what's written in the script. One is a monster, the other a saint, but they both feel real, thanks to Oldman's acting talents.

And now he says this:

"No one can take a joke anymore. I don’t know about Mel. He got drunk and said a few things, but we’ve all said those things. We’re all fucking hypocrites. That’s what I think about it. The policeman who arrested him has never used the word nigger or that fucking Jew? I’m being brutally honest here."

And this:

"Mel Gibson is in a town that’s run by Jews and he said the wrong thing because he’s actually bitten the hand that I guess has fed him—and doesn’t need to feed him anymore because he’s got enough dough. He’s like an outcast, a leper, you know? But some Jewish guy in his office somewhere hasn’t turned and said, “That fucking kraut” or “Fuck those Germans,” whatever it is?"

Oh boy. Are people really still using the whole "The Jews run Hollywood" line? Forget about "political correctness," this is just a stupid, meaningless thing to say. What exactly are you getting at? That the titans of Hollywood don't decide which summer blockbuster to promote until they first consult with their rabbis? That because somebody's ancestor didn't stop the Romans from crucifying Jesus, they gained a superhuman ability to control the box office? That every Jewish child is guaranteed to get a starring role on the silver screen, so that movies can brainwash the populace into eating kosher? What do you mean that the "Jews run this town?" Did I miss the city ordinance that requires Christians to stitch crosses to their clothes if they want to walk the streets of L.A.?

Many of those in the entertainment field are Jewish. So what? I am Jewish and I am not in showbiz (yet). My grandfather was a taxi driver. His brother was an auto mechanic. Both Jewish, and yet, far from the limelight of Hollywood. (Although my great uncle did retire to southern California).

The line, "the Jews run Hollywood," is so inherently bigoted because of what it implies--a brainwashing agenda of some sort--that there's no defense for it. There are those who long for the days when nobody worried about being "politically correct." These people are racists and bigots.

Because that time those people are talking about? It's a time where nobody but white, male, Protestant people were in positions of power and influence. As long as you didn't insult THEM, you weren't at risk of consequences. Calling an Italian guy or a Polish guy or a Jewish guy by a derogatory slur was of no consequence--because no one was in a position to do anything about it.

Make no mistake though, if you had slurred your white male Protestant employers, you'd face consequences. At your job and in society.

Our society has changed. People in power are still mainly white male Protestants, but it's a more mixed lot. A racist joke faces greater scrutiny because more people offended by that joke are in a position to have their voice heard.

We have freedom of speech in this country, but not freedom from consequences. Mel Gibson had every right to say the shameful things he did-- and the Jewish people who often hired him for their movies had every right to say, "listen, you anti-Semitic fuckhead, we don't want to hire you again." There is nothing hypocritical in this arrangement. If you act like a complete ass in public, insult people, and sound like a raving lunatic, you probably don't deserve to be broadcast on a platform that reaches millions of people.

I am a Jewish guy, sitting in an office, and I can tell you, I've never said those words Gary Oldman assumes everybody says in private. People who say those things in private, and seriously mean them, are racists and bigots. Is Oldman saying EVERYBODY is a racist or bigot?

Keep in mind, Mel did not say this stuff in the privacy of his office either, and wasn't responding the the ethnic cleansing of his people by another ethnic group. In one case, he was insulting a police officer he assumed to be a Jew. In the other, he was threatening a woman with violence. This is defendable? People are hypocrites if they punish this behavior?

Now, with Alec, I can maybe see a point. Full disclosure, for many years, I used the f-g insult... Directed at straight, heterosexual douchebags who were itching for a fight. I justified using the term because I deemed it a bigger insult to a straight male than a homosexual one... There were few things you could say that would insult some meathead hothead more. I wasn't using it against gay people.

But then one day, a friend mentioned, in casual conversation, that someone had "Jewed him down." Growing up in a pretty Jewish, liberal area, I never heard that term before. He didn't intend it to insult me--"the guy wasn't even Jewish," he explained--but nevertheless, I reconsidered using ANY racial, ethnic, or sexual slur ever again. Some people, like Gary Oldman, apparently, call this "being PC." I call it, "not being a prick."

I really hope Gary was simply not thinking before talking, and that he really didn't mean to defend the words and actions of bigots by implying that everyone acts the same way. I sincerely hope he wasn't agreeing with Mel that "the Jews run Hollywood" is anything other than a loaded, ignorant statement that only serves to reflect badly upon the person saying it.

But he also bashed The Fifth Element, so even if that were the case, I'm not sure I'd be ready to forgive him.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

No Women In Star Wars? THAT'S PART OF THE PLOT

Amanda Marcotte, as well as many other well-intentioned female writers around the interwebs, has written an article bemoaning the fact that J.J. Abrams/Disney's new Star Wars trilogy apparently won't be adding new female characters to the mix.

Amanda quotes one of the other complainers: "Are we seriously still pretending that the universe is comprised almost entirely of men (and mostly white men at that)? Mythic tales are supposed to open up possibilities, not shut them down."

I wonder if any of these women have actually watched Star Wars.

The lack of women in the Star Wars universe is, arguably, the crisis that drives much of the action in the movies. It isn't just some happenstance of George Lucas' sexist mind. It's the result of a universe in which cloning technology, rampant violence and religious extremism has thrown life seriously out of balance--it's made women unnecessary.

Cloning means that no longer is a female womb necessary for reproduction. There are large swaths of planets, like the desert on Tatoonie, where women can't go out alone in fear they will be captured, enslaved, and raped by Sand People. And it's clear that however benevolent the Jedi forces may be, their views are decidedly paternalistic--to their detriment (Lucas doesn't shy away from showing that the Jedi council is far from as wise as they claim to be.  Heck, they preach celibacy!) The society of Star Wars is corrupt and on the verge of extinction, soon to be replaced by nothing but droids and clones-- the lack of women is a major contributing factor.

When Princess Leia uses a droid to send her desperate message, "Help me Obi Won Kenobi, you're our only hope," the word "our" is not only referring to the rebel cause. It's referring to life in the galaxy. The dark side that has infected the universe is not a side favorable to life--it's a side that develops planet-sized weapons of mass destruction.

To wit: what causes Anakin Skywalker to turn to the dark side and nearly lead to the destruction of all good in the universe? The deaths of the women he loves--first his mother, and then Queen Amedala.

And how do the rebels begin to turn the tide? Well, what transforms Han Solo, a faithless and ruthless smuggler (he shot Greedo first), into the hero of the rebel cause? The love of Princess Leia. Perhaps no scene better encapsulates the true battle at the heart of Star Wars than the one in which Leia, dressed as a slave girl, chokes that fat slob Joba the Hutt with her chains. Only by re-establishing women as beings with equal power, can the corruption and filth of this universe be cleansed (and that is not a housewife joke).

The end of Return of the Jedi does not, as some of the characters believe, restore balance to the force. The evil army is defeated, but life will take a longer time to balance out again. I can only assume the next three chapters will slowly build back toward this balance. After all, who is the new female character J.J. Abrams and Co. have added? A hero belonging to the next generation. None other than Han Solo and Princess Leia's daughter-- not a son, I should point out.

So when you read about women complaining about no women in Star Wars, ask yourself whether the movie would make any sense if it did have an equal number of women. There's just no way a gender-balanced universe allows something like Jar Jar Binks to exist.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Feds Reverse Approval Of Alcoholic Cocaine

Last week, Palcohol, a powdered form of everybody's favorite legal way to get fucked up and destroy lives, was approved by the FDA. Until somebody found the company's website and noticed that it contained a page enumerating every conceivable way this could go horribly wrong:
What's worse than going to a concert, sporting event, etc. and having to pay $10, $15, $20 for a mixed drink... Take Palcohol into the venue and enjoy a mixed drink for a fraction of the cost.

We have found adding Palcohol to food is so much fun. Sprinkle Palcohol on almost any dish and give it an extra kick. Some of our favorites are the Kamikaze in guacamole, Rum on a BBQ sandwich, Cosmo on a salad and Vodka on eggs in the morning to start your day off right. Experiment. Palcohol is great on so many foods. Remember, you have to add Palcohol AFTER a dish is cooked as the alcohol will burn off if you cook with it...and that defeats the whole purpose.

Let's talk about the elephant in the room….snorting Palcohol. Yes, you can snort it. And you'll get drunk almost instantly because the alcohol will be absorbed so quickly in your nose. Good idea? No. It will mess you up. Use Palcohol responsibly.
Kinda makes Four Loko sound like Aquafina, doesn't it?

Now the FDA has reversed their decision. Don't be too hard on them. They were drunk off some really strong guacamole at the time.

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