Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Archive for April 2010

The face of Arizona’s harsh immigration law isn’t just brown

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Would you suspect this person under the new law in Arizona, where police can ask people to prove they are American citizens?

If police had “reasonable suspicion” against this person, should they be able to ask this person to prove he is an American citizen?

This is not a hypothetical person; this person is real, lives and works in the Phoenix area. And this person was not born or raised in the United States. This person may or may not be a U.S. citizen, might just have a work visa or some other legal document. But there is every right to suspect that this person isn’t a U.S. citizen or might be here under illegal circumstances.

The reality is that even in a traffic stop or other such excursion, this man won’t be asked for his papers.

For non-sports fans, you might not recognize Steve Nash, star NBA player with the Phoenix Suns. Nash was born in South Africa and grew up in Canada. You might have seen him during the 2010 Winter Olympics as one of the final torchbearers, or on the TV ad promoting life in British Columbia.

If anything, the police are more likely to ask for Nash’s autograph than his citizenship papers.

The new law in Arizona isn’t designed to stop Canadians, or other athletes from various countries who play for the Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Suns, or Coyotes — or any of the minor leaguers, Arizona fall league players, or Cactus League participants.

What good is the new law if it won’t be applied equally under the law? If the people who want this law passed really feel this is needed, then they should be up in arms over the grave potential that this new law won’t be processed equally, and won’t be equally enforced.

Of course, they aren’t upset by the inactions of the new law they so passionately want for Arizona and other states. Because they know that the law will be used on people of certain backgrounds, legal or otherwise.

Yes, that’s right. The law will be used to upset the lives of legal U.S. citizens of certain backgrounds. And whatever you might think of the new law, this is a violation of the U.S. Constitution. You know, the Constitution of the United States that guarantees certain rights for its citizens.

Those who fought and successfully passed a law making it a state crime to be in the United States illegally are willing to sacrifice the rights of U.S. citizens to make sure there are only U.S. citizens here.

Those who know the least make the biggest decisions: what a sense of democracy.

Standing up for reform, not racism

Standing up for reform, not racism

The “good news” in all of this is that people who hadn’t given much thought to immigration issues are now upset. The protesters in front of Wrigley Field in Chicago before an afternoon contest between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Chicago Cubs are proof that concern goes well beyond the borders of Arizona.

And this new law could affect the Senate race for John McCain’s seat in the Republican primary and the general election.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t immigration issues in Arizona and other states. And yes, immigration reform should be addressed. But the alleged impatience of Arizona’s Republican power base is a false reason to pass bad legislation.

Conservatives claim that liberals don’t respect the police over the way they fight crime. But conservatives passed a law that disrespects the police because the police don’t just fight crime. They protect people.

If you are attacked or robbed or otherwise need the police in this country, you want to feel like you can trust the police. In Arizona, thanks to this new law, you can’t trust the police anymore if you fall under certain backgrounds. Remember, liberals didn’t do this; conservatives did.

If people don’t feel comfortable reporting crimes to the police because they fear the police will focus more on their skin color than the crime involved, those of us who aren’t of those races will still suffer. How often do you hear in crime stories — “If only they had been caught earlier, my [relative] would still be [ok/alive].”

Laws that hamper the ability for the police to do their sworn duty should be discouraged, especially by conservatives. But those who are blind don’t know that they can’t see. If only they were color-blind too, then we wouldn’t have had this legislation.

Photo credits: Steve Nash courtesy of this site; protest pictures taken by me with all proper copyrights applying.


If you don’t want FDA to control salt, how do you want to solve the problem?

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Understandably, people are freaking out over the prospects of the Food and Drug Administration controlling the amount of salt in processed food and restaurant meals. It’s the classic “I don’t want the government to interfere in my right to eat as much salt as I want.”

Well, there are a few problems with this scenario. The FDA is only considering the idea. And they aren’t likely to go nearly as far as many will fear. And no one will ever stop you for consuming as much salt as humanly possible.

Politically, the right thinks the FDA shouldn’t be going after salt. The left wants the FDA to go after high-fructose corn syrup before salt. Whatever you think the government’s role should be in this manner, we already have the problem.

If you don’t want the government to solve the issue, then ask yourself what should we do.

“Government control” becomes the boogeyman. And they mean “federal government control.” If states wanted to regulate salt consumption, theoretically that would be OK but they would likely come up with a reason why that would be bad as well.

So the argument comes up with “let the free market decide.” Clearly, in terms of salt in these foods, the free market concept is prevalent.

But those people who fought so hard against health care reform are pretty much the same ones saying “No government control over salt.”

From a health standpoint, some of us can’t afford to wait until they sort out their contradictions.

We eat about 1½ teaspoons of salt per day, more than double what we need. We’re not getting that from the salt shaker at home; we buy the products in the store and eat out in restaurants.

We eat Double Down sandwiches, not knowing/realizing/caring about the sodium level.

High blood pressure is rampant, and leads to much more expensive medical issues.

Putting pressure on food companies is a good place to start, but even as an assembled group, we don’t have the power that, say, government does to make a difference. And if you say “avoid all processed food and restaurant meals,” ask yourself how realistic this is.

Denying the problem exists sounds charming, but the problem doesn’t actually disappear.

Even liberals might freak out over government controls on salt. But at least they acknowledge that there is a problem and they are offering a solution. Conservatives, can you rise up to the challenge?

We get upset when there is lead in the drinking water or asbestos in our walls. We believe in some basic concept that the government should work to make us safe. We can disagree over what that role should be, but all people should be working toward a solution.

Health care costs rise because people ingest too much of something that they shouldn’t. We can’t stop someone who wants to ingest as much salt as they can, but we should make it more difficult. Right now, it’s too easy.

(For more, check out my expanded take on my food/nutrition blog,

John Paul Stevens fought for underdog, even if teabaggers remain clueless

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This was the week of the teabaggers, er, tea party enthusiasts. Their tea party theme is best celebrated in mid-December, when the actual Boston Tea Party existed, but we assume their knowledge of history and events may not cover that knowledge.

The fascinating element of the teabaggers in their lack of information and knowledge is that they feel like victims, they feel like second-class citizens. Again, never mind the reality and actual truth; they feel like society is working against them.

But if they believe that they feel like a minority in their own country, they should be standing tall to find a replacement on the Supreme Court in the spirit of the retiring John Paul Stevens. Chances aren’t they won’t even consider the idea.

This is too bad because Stevens feels like a minority on the Court. Unlike the teabaggers, Stevens’ paranoia is real. Oh, it wasn’t always like this for Stevens. Appointed to the Court in 1975 by President Gerald Ford, Stevens was considered to the right in the balance of the Court.

Stevens has moved somewhat over the years, but the Court has flipped considerably. The flip hasn’t been 180 degrees because the Court has never been as liberal on the level of the conservative nature of the current Court.

If Barack Obama wants to help the people who elected him, and those aren’t the teabaggers, Obama will pick someone with the fighting spirit of a John Paul Stevens. Despite being picked by Republican presidents, Stevens has had very little in common with names such as Rehnquist, Scalia, Alito, Thomas, and Roberts. The most significant dissents of the past decade has Stevens in the top spot.

From the vantage point of the left, no one is prepared to rise to the level of Stevens: Ginsburg and Breyer — not a chance. Sotomayor — not sure but given her conciliatory manner, not bloody likely.

Given Obama’s conciliatory manner, the Court will likely end up with a “lover, not a fighter.” In a Court that considers corporations to be people, this speaks bad news for regular people.

This spells bad news for teabaggers, but don’t expect them to be marching with liberals to get a fighter on the Court. The teabaggers might be willing to march if they knew the ramifications of a sharply right-wing court willing and eager to take away people’s rights in the names of corporate interests.

But that would require the teabaggers to know what is going on in politics and the political impact made in their own lives. No, the teabaggers would rather carry “Obama is Hitler” signs and rant about the evils of socialized medicine, even if some of them on Medicare and Medicaid.

If teabaggers knew what was going on in the Supreme Court, they might rise to the streets and beg Obama to have more fighters on the Court. True, Fox “News” might stop covering the teabaggers or substitute other footage to appease their own causes.

As citizens, we can applaud the spirit of the teabaggers and the ability to protest. And we can impressed with the MSM’s desire to cover their ability to protest, even if they don’t extend the same courtesy to other Americans.

But as enlightened citizens, we mock how little these protesting teabaggers don’t understand what is happening to them. They should do a lot more reading so that their anger can be channeled in a way to help their lives. They could start by reading about John Paul Stevens, a fighter for the teabaggers, even if they have no clue about him.

Bart Stupak to leave Congress, but script likely remains the same

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The difficult thing about casual followers of politics is that you learn a new name, someone who has been in Congress for, let’s say, about 18 years in office. But you only learn about them, say, last summer. And the first you hear of this person isn’t flattering.

Bart Stupak (D-MI) is retiring from Congress. Quietly serving the Upper Peninsula in Washington, Stupak has been a conservative Democrat. No doubt about it.

Voted against an assault weapons ban in the 1990s. Probably cited the hunters in his district in upper Michigan, but then again, real hunters don’t need assault weapons to kill deer and other animals. Like or hate fellow Michigander Ted Nugent, he does hunt with a bow and arrow.

But you most likely heard of Stupak this summer when he successfully squeezed in legislation into the health care reform bill that was much harsher on abortion than current law. All of this rather amazing given that abortion is actually legal in the United States.

Ironically, and this issues screams irony, Stupak — with whom he has a lot in common with the teabaggers — is a major target by the teabaggers. This because Stupak actually wanted health care reform, despite the stick he threw into the gears of the health care reform bill.

The district will likely either end up with a non-liberal from the Democratic Party or a conservative Republican. And that person will be brand new to the process in 2011. Another new name to learn, even if the script might be very similar.

If you embrace faux lesbians, you must accept real lesbians and gays

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I’ve been enjoying the MLB Extra Innings/NHL Center Ice free preview. Sure there are plenty of free baseball games as its season begins and lots of hockey action as playoff slots are determined.

But the extra fun is watching out-of-town and in some cases, out-of-country commercials. Two of them had an interestingly similar theme, especially given the audience of the ads.

Commercial #1 is from Jack in the Box featuring its new grilled sandwiches. Two women describe why their sandwich is the best. Jack turns to the camera and says this is the worst commercial he has ever been in. One woman says, “We could kiss.”

Commercial #2 is from Yellow Pages Canada. A woman sits in a restaurant eyeing a guy across the way. The woman’s imagination runs away from her and we soon see her in a wedding dress as the guy takes off. A waitress comes into view and the announcer says that she could be “Plan B.”

We have in these two commercials the hint of lesbianism. At least, there is the hint of faux lesbianism.

We also got a hint of faux lesbianism during the RNC lesbian bondage scandal. One of the themes of the place is to have faux lesbians on display sharing affection.

So we’ve established that women sharing affection is considered OK as long as they don’t really love each other. The Canadian commercial involves a wedding, but then again, lesbian can legally get married in Canada.

And since Republicans officially endorse faux lesbianism, why does the real thing scare them and others?

Why are real people who love each other who happen to be the same gender so scary and faux situations be OK?

We hear how gay marriage is a horrible idea, in much the same way as we heard that interracial marriage was a horrible idea. But fake gay people sharing affection is cool.

As a straight male, I am not here to deny any man the thrill of watching women pretending to be lesbians. It would violate the straight man rules, and I won’t hear of any violation.

But what should be part of the guy code is that if you embrace fake lesbians, you should accept real lesbians. And real gay people. And let them live their lives in freedom, peace, and harmony.

If you blasted the young woman in Mississippi for wanting to take her girlfriend to the prom, if you voted for or supported drives to thwart gay marriage, if you have ever said the word “f*gg*t” to scare or intimidate someone, you should lose the right to enjoy faux lesbians.

If you truly believe that two people of the same gender shouldn’t love or communicate affectionately, then you should be consistent and look away when two women are pretending to like each other that way. You can’t imagine your wife or girlfriend and a friend of hers locked in an embrace. You can’t have fantasies about two women rolling around in their underwear, remnant of this classic Miller Lite ad.

A few years back at a Chicago White Sox game, the Kiss Cam was going around the park. If you aren’t familiar with the concept, the camera shows couples throughout the ballpark and stays on them until they kiss. They try to pick married or committed couples, but sometimes they pick brother-sister combos or friends, but not the kissing kind.

In this game, they centered on a group of women who happened to be sitting right in front of us. Two of the young women were on the screen, and motivated by the exposure and the crowd egging them on, they kissed right in front of us and for the camera.

My friends and I cheered when they did it. The crowd loved it. And by no coincidence, the White Sox came from behind after the kiss to win the game.

We talked with the young women, asking them if they went that way. They said no; they did because they felt like it. Good for them.

The crowd may have loved it because they knew it was fake. But that isn’t fair to them, regardless of their sexual orientation.

The hypocritical contradiction of embracing lesbians is at the core of our disturbing stance on “don’t ask, don’t tell” and gay marriage. Plenty of those against change don’t mind if two straight women kiss, as long as they don’t mean it.

You’re welcome to see real lesbians kiss and pretend that they don’t mean it. You’re welcome to have freedom of thought. Just keep your prejudice inside your head. And let consenting adults live in the freedom you preach of so high and mighty.

Written by democracysoup

April 9, 2010 at 6:31 am

Christiane Amanpour’s Sunday morning ascent shows foreign experience is valuable

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Congratulations to Christiane Amanpour, who will be the newest host of “This Week,” ABC’s Sunday morning political wrapup show. Amanpour replaces George Stephanopoulos, who is off to do cooking segments on “Good Morning America.”

With the exception of Tom Shales, Amanpour’s move to Sunday mornings on ABC is seen as a good thing, whether the category is gender, foreign policy emphasis, and new accents.

In society, we have generally accepted that a variety of inputs into the workforce makes for a better workplace situation. While we are all human beings, our perspectives are different.

We had this struggle after the death of Tim Russert, longtime host of “Meet the Press.” In the first opening on a network Sunday morning talk show since 2002, there was extensive debate over where we should go. I personally threw out the names of Keith Olbermann and Gwen Ifill as needing serious consideration.

But NBC went with the traditional white bread route of naming Tom Brokaw as the interim host and selecting David Gregory for the permanent nod. Even Shales might argue that NBC might have made a decent short-term decision, but not so much of a long-term strategy. Gregory’s shallowness is more visible in that traditional Sunday morning time slot.

This makes Amanpour’s selection all the more poignant. Since there is so little room for serious discussion elsewhere in the TV schedule, the hope for Sunday morning is that the discussion can be for adults instead of a click-through, “microwave isn’t moving fast enough” TV news mentality.

Having a host who has served overseas as an international reporter, someone who grew up not in this country with a true outside perspective — what a nice idea.

In the Dan Rather-Tom Brokaw TV anchorman era, the one who always seemed left out of the equation was Peter Jennings. Rather and Brokaw had been on our TVs more than Jennings before getting the anchor chair. And Jennings started out as a three-headed monster, anchoring in London while Frank Reynolds handled duties in Washington and Max Robinson in Chicago.

But Jennings, who was Canadian, and had served as a Middle East correspondent, had a more dramatic perspective of the world around him than his counterparts. Brokaw had been the White House correspondent before hosting “Today” and Rather was a top reporter for “60 Minutes.”

This doesn’t mean that every show should have a foreign accent — but it’s good for viewers to feel like they have a choice. Once August arrives, you have a show anchored by a longtime political reporter and former anchor (Bob Schieffer, Face the Nation, CBS), a pretty boy vacuous reporter (David Gregory, Meet the Press, NBC), and a seasoned foreign-based reporter (Christiane Amanpour, This Week, ABC).

That news plate has a lot more variety. Good for us, good for news viewers, good for journalism.

If Tim Geithner wants to keep his job, he should do something about our lack of jobs

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Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has come out and said unemployment figures will stay ‘unacceptably high.’

Thanks for the news update, Sherlock.

Seriously, why does Geithner still have a job? If his expertise in getting us into this mess — as head of the New York Fed — wasn’t enough, Geithner hasn’t done a whole lot to change the perception or reality that things have changed.

In the interview, Geithner is still defending TARP and the bailouts. Okay, maybe they were necessary. But those are old news. To quote the great philosopher Janet Jackson, “What have you done for me lately?”

If the American people wanted a lame, useless Treasury Secretary, they would have voted for John McCain, and Phil Gramm would be our Treasury Secretary. Okay, that would be worse, but not as worse as you would think it would be under Barack Obama.

“Change you can believe in” meant change. Geithner is more of the same. And if you’re unemployed at the moment, or know someone who is, you should be upset at Secretary Geithner. Because if he can’t point to anything he has done as being helpful to the American people, then maybe he should join the others in the unemployment line.

Written by democracysoup

April 1, 2010 at 9:28 am