Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Thomas Riggins

A specter is haunting Washington. The specter of the second Bush Administration. This specter is possessing members of the present administration. On Monday (5-10-10) the New York Times reported that Attorney General, Erich H. Holder Jr., wants a law so the US can "interrogate terrorism suspects without informing them of their [Miranda] rights." Do we really want the government to ignore people's rights? People SUSPECTED of a crime have a right to a fair hearing, a lawyer, a presumption of innocence, etc.

Holder thinks the government needs "greater flexibility to question terrorism suspects." But the government has been expanding the definition of who is a terrorist. It's not just the mad bomber from abroad anymore. Now there are mentally disturbed folks being labeled "domestic terrorists"-- no Miranda for them. There are animal rights activists being charged as "terrorists"-- no Miranda for them. Warning bells should go off anytime the government wants to take rights away from suspects, especially the usual suspects, because there is a danger we will all end up without these rights.

Holder is just pandering to the Republicans and their fear mongering instead of standing up to them and pointing out that the Miranda rules are necessary to protect everyone's rights. The Times reports that "Conservatives have long disliked the Miranda ruling, which is intended to ensure that confessions are not coerced."

It is so much easier to get a coerced confession, as the Innocence Project has shown and the almost weekly announcements of some poor soul, after umpteen years in jail, and been released as innocent. Holder should tell his Conservative critics that he understands and even appreciates their desire to help the US win more cases and get more convictions by the use of coerced confessions, but it's a bad idea since our stance is that we represent truth and justice and all that good stuff.

The Times also reports that "Despite the political furor over reading terrorism suspects their Miranda rights , it is not clear that doing so has had a major impact on recent interrogations." In fact it is all just political theatre. If you want to look tough, Mr. Attorney General, then stand up and fight for the Rule of Law and the Constitution and tell the Republicans their days of ignoring the Constitution and peoples rights under the law are over (at least for now).

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Why These Evictions?

Thomas Riggins

This from Friday’s New York Times front page (5-7-10 by David Streitfeld): Nearly four million households nationwide are severely delinquent on their mortgages, THE BIGGEST BACKLOG SINCE THE HOUSING CRISIS BEGAN. As more and more of the homes edge toward repossession-- A RECORD QUARTER OF A MILLION WERE SEIZED BY LENDERS IN THE FIRST THREE MONTHS OF THIS YEAR....

Why hasn't the government acted to halt these evicitions and change the terms of these home loans? We all know who these lenders are-- bailed out banks living off of our tax money but with no government oversight (they should have been nationalized) AND lenders who misled vulnerable people into taking out loans they could not afford, often by telling them lies about the terms of the loans.

These lenders have one thing in common. They are all run by big shot capitalists who, on the whole, see the government as working for their interests.

The people being evicted are mostly working class people trying to stay alive and feed their families. The government is NOT looking out for their interests. It is not clamping down on the lenders and halting evictions.

This is a major battle in the CLASS WAR between working people and their exploiters. Where is the progressive outrage? Where is the leadership to stop this outrage? Why have not the White House and the Congress taken action?

Saturday, May 01, 2010


Thomas Riggins

The Arizona immigration laws are humane and legal, or so says Kris W. Kobach, former chief adviser on immigration issues to former (thank goodness) Attorney General John Ashcroft. Herr Kobach is presently working as a law professor at the University of Missouri at Kansas City.

In a recent New York Times op ed (4-29-10) he gives five reasons to show that the new laws (he helped draft them) are really good for Arizona and the nation. His reasons are given in the form of rebuttals to the criticisms of those who predictably (his word) “favor relaxed enforcement of immigration laws.”

I want to show that his five “rebuttals” are ridiculous right-wing fewfaw for those who objectively and predictably favor racial profiling, and the treatment of undocumented workers as subhumans unworthy of constitutional protections or even basic humanitarian treatment (keeping their children from getting free medical care or education, for example.)

Criticism One: “It is unfair to demand that aliens carry their documents with them.” First I want to say even this terminology is dehumanizing. “Aliens”-- we are not talking about Klingons. Herr Kobach may be confusing undocumented workers with the aliens of V.

Well why is it not unfair? Herr Kobach objects to a statement by President Obama: “Now suddenly if you don’t have your papers ... you’re going to be harassed.” Is Obama right or wrong? Here is Rebuttal One:

The new law will make it a misdemeanor for an “alien” to be caught without his or her papers. It is already a federal offense for “aliens” to be paperless, all Arizona has done is make it also a STATE offense. Anyway “as anyone who has traveled abroad knows, other nations have similar documentation requirements.”

Since when is Arizona a nation? Checking people’s immigration status is a federal function why would a state want to take on that job. except to harass people the local cops take for being “alien.” Is it reasonable to think “humane” law enforcement types such as Sheriff Arpiao and his ilk, armed with this new state mandate will increase their harassment of the immigrant community in Arizona? Only a fool or a racist would think otherwise. Rebuttal One is meaningless fewfaw-- at least until Arizona succeeds from the union and becomes an independent nation.

Criticism Two: “’Reasonable suspicion’ is a meaningless term that will permit police misconduct.” Rebuttal Two. Herr Kobach says the federal courts over the last forty years have refined the meaning of “reasonable suspicion.” Sheriff Arpaio has to take into consideration “the totality of circumstances” before he can demand your papers. The example given by Herr Kobach as “most likely” is a “speeding van” stuffed with people without papers zooming along “a known alien-smuggling corridor “[i.e., any road or highway in Arizona] and having a driver “acting evasively.”

Really! That is the most likely scenario. A perfect storm of alieness. The best part is the driver of the van. Knowing the new law, stuffing his van with aliens, driving along a known alien-smuggling corridor (and hence knowing it to be heavily patrolled by officers on the look out for a totality of circumstances) this driver decides to speed right under the noses of the Arizona guardians of the law.

This is really the “most likely” way the new law will come into play. Deputy Bigitbrane brings his latest catch to Sheriff Arpiao. “What were the totality of circumstances deputy that led to this arrest?” “The whaaat?” “Why did you arrest this person?” “Well, he was hanging around a McDonalds and looks Mexican and only really speaks Mexican, his English ain’t any good, and didn’t have no green card or anything so he must be an illegal.” "Good enough! Lock him up!" That is what will really be going on all over Arizona (it practically already does.) Rebuttal Two is meaningless fewfaw.

Criticism Three: “The law will allow police to engage in racial profiling.” Rebuttal Three: It won’t because the law says the police “may not solely consider race color or national origin” when stopping people or demanding to know their immigration status. But let’s be real. In the real world a police officer sees five or six young white males hanging out in a McDonalds parking lot. Maybe they are just “hanging out” or waiting for some friends to show up.Who knows. Technically they are “loitering.” What is “most likely” is that the cops will cruise on by and not stop and demand their papers.

But what about a group of five or six Hispanic males? The cops can’t just say they look Mexican let’s demand their papers. They can’t “solely” use race or ethnicity. But “Mexicans” + “loitering” = it’s ok because there are now two reasons not one solely. Herr Kobach wants us to believe this doesn’t amount to “racial profiling.” Well the Bushites and the right in general can say this all they want. Any honest person who knows what really goes on in America vis a vis the police and racial profiling won’t believe them. They won’t even believe that Kobach believes it. It is just an excuse for teabagers and others to use to dodge charges of racism. Rebuttal Three is meaningless fewfaw.

Criticism Four: “It is unfair to demand that people carry a driver’s license.” Rebuttal Four: The new laws won’t require anyone to have a driver’s license. Arizona doesn't allow illegal aliens to have a driver’s license. So, if you produce a driver’s license the police can’t ask for any other papers. They must accept you as being legally in Arizona. But if you don’t have a driver’s license-- what then? That and being Hispanic = “reasonable suspicion.” Technically this rebuttal works but it is still fewfaw because it is not the real criticism which is that it is unfair to demand that people without a driver’s license prove they are “legal.”

Criticism Five: “State government’s aren’t allowed to get involved with immigration, which is a federal matter.” Rebuttal Five admits that the federal government is primarily responsible of immigration law but the Supreme Court has held that states can enact laws “to discourage” illegal immigration. The only example he gives is a law which makes it illegal to knowing hire an illegal. But this law targets American citizens and legal residents of the US and punishes them NOT the undocumented workers directly. The Arizona law, however, preempts the federal enforcement of laws directed at discovering and detaining illegal residents of the United States. Traditionally this has not been done by individual states and these kinds of laws reflect an upsurge of racism and jingoism by reactionary forces who are uniting around dangerous and even fascistic agendas in their opposition generally to progressive advances being pushed by center-left political coalitions and specifically by out and out racist forces opposed to President Obama because of who he is not because of his political ideas. This rebuttal is also just so much fewfaw.

My conclusion is that the immigration statute MAY be legal, the Supreme Court will decide, and I hope they find it unconstitutional, but it is definitely NOT humane and must be fought by all progressive forces. I’m sorry Herr Kobach, but it is difficult for me believe that anyone working for John Ashcroft knows or cares very much about the Constitution of the United States of America.