Paul Tullis's Grim Tidings

Bitter musings on politics and policy

Archive for April 2010

Proving the AZ anti-immigrant bill's sponsor a liar in under 60 seconds

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After I dropped my daughter off at school this morning, I heard on NPR the Republican state representative in Arizona who sponsored the state’s new draconian anti-immigrant law claiming that boycotts against the state would be ineffectual because once people saw how much safer Arizona would become with fewer undocumented aliens as a result of the new law, tourists would return.

I really wish members of the media wouldn’t allow fact-free assertions such as this to go unchallenged; it took me less than 60 seconds—I knew it would be easy, so I timed it—to disprove this elected official’s lie.

Here are the links:

While the undocumented alien population doubled, crime went down.

Crime rates are lowest in the states with the highest immigration rates. (pdf)

Native-born men ages 18-39 commit crimes at a rate 1/5 of immigrants. (pdf)

Do some homework, NPR. Letting this kind of thing pass creates false impressions in your listeners, which is the opposite of what you’re supposed to be doing as a news organization.

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Written by ptullis

April 30, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Why AZ's immigration law is bad for conservatives

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There’s a genius column by Byron York, who works for The National Review, in today’s Washington Examiner.

York, who once defended to me George W. Bush’s inaction after receiving a Presidential Daily Briefing on August 6,2001 stating that “Al-Qa’ida members–including some who are US citizens–have resided in or traveled to the US for years, and the group apparently maintains a support structure that could aid attacks,” has the gall to say that a law which allows law enforcement to use race or ethnicity as a determining factor in deciding whether to question someone’s immigration status is “reasonable.”

The heart of the law is this provision: “For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency…where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person…”

York and supporters of the measure make a big hullaballoo over the fact that race or ethnicity may not be the “sole” factor in deciding whether to demand proof of citizenship. Law enforcement may still use race as a factor, just not as the “sole” factor.

Yet when race is one factor among others, as it is here, that a college admissions committee uses to admit applicants, Republicans call this unconstitutional.

Funny how it’s OK to use race as a factor to throw people they don’t like out of the country, but not when it’s used redress 391 years of systematic oppression under force of law, as with affirmative action.

One of my favorite things about Republican rhetoric is that it is so often against what they proclaim to be their own interests. York–whom I’m willing to bet dinner at the Capitol Grill has never exchanged more than 12 words at a time with an illegal immigrant, and whom I’m also willing to bet has either his home lawn-mowing, childcare, or janitorial services at his office done by Latino immigrants–does not even realize that the bill will undermine law enforcement’s ability to solve crimes.

That is because anyone with dark skin is going to avoid any possible interaction with law enforcement, including providing information that may lead law enforcement to the solving of a crime.

Say you are Latino, and you witness a hit-and-run. You’re on the way home from the playground with your kids, and you didn’t bring your wallet so you don’t have your driver’s license on you. Are you going to offer yourself as a witness to the aggrieved party, and be interviewed by the cops, so that one of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s over-aggressive deputies can haul you downtown, resulting in considerable inconvenience, embarrassment in front of your kids, and expense to prove that you are here legally?

No, you are going to hot-foot it out of there, and the drunk driver who did the hit and run is going to get away.

Encouraging law enforcement to get involved in immigration matters always results in less interaction between immigrant communities and law enforcement. If the Republicans who argue in favor of this measure weren’t so closed-off in their gated communities and their private schools, and actually bothered to interact once in a while with Americans who do not look like them, they might understand this.

The Arizona anti-immigrant measure is bad for law enforcement, bad for immigrant communities, and bad for everyone else because more crooks will go free. So much for law and order.

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Written by ptullis

April 26, 2010 at 10:28 pm

Tea party disses birther: Are Republicans recognizing how wing-nuts hurt their brand?

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The Los Angeles Times reports today that an Orange County attorney who has repeatedly challenged the legality of President Obama’s holding of the office has been booted from a Tea Party rally scheduled in northern California tomorrow.

The rally will feature Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina and other mainstream candidates; they denied knowledge of the birther’s scheduled appearance at the rally until so informed by the Times.

The local Tea Party organizer who dis-invited the wing-nut–and what is the world coming to, when Tea Partiers are sane in comparison to other elements of the GOP–told the Times that she had been “getting calls from candidates like crazy” since the Times informed them the birther would be sharing their stage.

“It’s not worth it,” she told the L.A. Times. “She’s too controversial.”

Are Republicans finally getting wise to the fact that even a big tent can be too small for some?

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Written by ptullis

April 14, 2010 at 5:02 pm

Three key financial reforms

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If you want to follow whether the financial-reform bill introduced by Sen. Dodd and recently sucking up a greater percentage of oxygen inside the Beltway now that health care is done, actually means anything in the end: Pay attention to these three key changes. Each will be a crucial factor in preventing a repeat of the breakdown of the financial system that occurred in fall 2008 (or not, in which case my advice is to invest in canned soup and bottled water, arm yourself, and move to a cabin deep in the woods somewhere.)

1) The bond-rating agencies, especially Moody’s, must become truly independent entities that are not paid by the companies whose products they are rating. As things currently stand, Moody’s is under strong structural pressure to rate crummy bonds and other debt instruments highly because they know who’s paying their bills. And with the most explosive products being issued by only a few institutions, there’s a paucity of data to rely on to rate them– it’s not like corporate or sovereign bonds, of which there are very, very many issued by very, very diverse institutions. Moreover, the data the ratings agencies rely on to rate the products comes from the very same banks whose products they are rating, and the models they use to forecast default are similar to what the banks use to create them. So what’s the point of a ratings agency at all, if that’s the situation? What happened in the lead-up to 2008 was, a bunch of shitty loans with low ratings and high likelihoods of default were packaged into securities which magically had higher ratings than the loans of which they were composed. This Alice-in-Wonderland logic misled investors to believe that the products they were purchasing were safe from default, when in fact the opposite was true. If Moody’s isn’t getting paid by the people whose products they are rating, this routine is likely to become less of a farce.

2) No more opaque transactions between banks. As things now stand, collateralized debt obligations and credit-default swaps are not only traded away from open exchanges, they are traded off the books of the parties to the transactions. How is this possible? Markets require information pertaining to them to be available to all participants in order to act efficiently. And yet—thanks to the intervention of Bob Rubin, Larry Summers, Allen Greenspan, and others, all of whom told Congress that regulating these derivatives was not only unnecessary but dangerous, when the opposite proved to be true—trillions of dollars are traded in ways completely invisible to investors or regulators. This is heretical to one of the core tenets of capitalism about which every economist who endorses the system from, Krugman to Friedman, agrees, and it must end if we are to be safe from another calamity.

3) No more side trading with taxpayer-backed funds, i.e. the “Volker Rule.” Since the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which was implemented to fix many of the problems that led to the Gerat Depression, in 1999, banks whose deposits are backed by the full faith and credit of the US government, the most credit-worthy institution in human history, can go around making whatever bets they like to the benefit of their own company (rather than their customers). So if they bet wrongly often enough or severely enough, the public foots the bill—even though it would’ve been a private institution profiting had the bet gone well. This is just patently unfair; if banks want to rely on the Treasury to back them when they fuck up, they should be cutting the Treasury a check when they succeed. (Try getting Jamie Dimon or Lloyd Blankfein to agree to that one.) Moreover, this state of affairs motivates banks to take chances they wouldn’t otherwise take—because they know that ultimately it’s not their asses on the line. If an institution wants to engage in this kind of activity, about which there is nothing wrong per se, they can get off the public till and become hedge funds or private-equity groups, which are not backed by the FDIC and which eat their own losses when they lose.

Unless, of course, they’re Long-Term Capital Management.

How about murder charges for the West Virginia mine CEO?

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The Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia where 25 (probably 29) people were killed, it’s been extensively reported, was the site of more than 400 safety violations in 2009. Bob Ferriter of the Colorado School of Mines, who trains miners and mine managers and has reviewed Upper Big Branch’s safety record, told NPR this morning that “To get that many violations…you’re letting a lot of things go.” He said that the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration reported repeated

‘unwarrantable failures’ [which] means that, from your experience and education, you should have known not to do something…and you ignored it, and you went ahead and did it anyway…A lot of operators put production ahead of safety, and that’s a corporate philosophy…They gotta have so many tons per dayand they’re gonna get it one way or another and if they squeeze the regulations and put somebody in jeopardy they’re willing to take that risk…They got kinda sloppy…To get that many violations…you’re letting some things go.”

The other day in Los Angeles, a truck driver who crashed his vehicle and killed two people in the process was charged with murder. He had previously been so charged, but the judge threw out the charge and let the man’s trial on manslaughter and reckless driving charges go forward. The driver is now serving time in jail under conviction for those charges, and a new judge has ordered that the murder charges be reinstated.

So if a truck driver can be charged with murder for totalling his big rig and killing two people of whose existence he was not previously aware, how about throwing Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship in jail for the rest of his life for the deaths of 29 people he employed? Blankenship was ultimately responsible for the fatal conditions in which these men were working; if he didn’t know of the violations per se, he should have directed, as a matter of policy, that any mine with “unwarrantable violations” be shut down until the problems are fixed.

How the fuck does an inherently dangerous workplace with more than one safety violation a day for an entire year stay open?

Speaking of which: Where was the Mine Safety and Health Administration in all of this? I’m not greatly mollified by the fact that Pres. Obama has ordered a report. Ooh! They have to give a report! I know first graders who’ve suffered worse consequences for their inaction. MSHA head Jospeph Main should suffer a worse fate than Michael D. “Heck of a job” Brown.

And Blankenship should be charged with murder. Maybe that will cut down on other mines operating with “unwarrantable violations.” Maybe if Blankenship or his underlings had acted differently, hundreds of West Virginians wouldn’t be going to bed tonight without their father, husband, or brother.

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