Thursday, June 23, 2011

How's that working out for 'ya - Phase II


I'll have to admit, I was a little stung by a comment of your's on my last post, that being:

"Chris, to point your finger-of-shame at Republicans (on the immigration debacle) specifically is beneath you..."

Then, no sooner had I started to deal with the emotional trauma caused by that remark, you added:

"I do NOT believe racial or religious bigotry is a factor AT ALL."

Let's break this down.

OK, sure, I'll admit I'm a little quick on the trigger finger when it comes to Republicans. But for Pete's sake, on this issue specifically, I was talking about a fairly blatant attempt by Georgia Republicans to cynically mine the issue of illegal immigration for votes. Of interest to me is how this attempt has now backfired in a way everyone on the planet (including those same Republicans) knew it would. Liberals in the Georgia legislature are as lame and cynical a bunch as those from the GOP, but willy nilly, they managed to get on the right side of this issue and oppose HB87. Which, ironically, closely aligns them with Georgia business interests in one of Georgia's most important industries. This issue won't go away and I intend to post more on it presently.

As for racial bigotry, I assure you I wouldn't even be participating in this blog if I thought Steve Green had a bigoted bone in his body. As a matter of fact, it has been the total absence of racial bias which has made it possible for us to reach general agreement on the most ideologically divisive points. I would only point out however, that the world outside the calm and reasonable confines of this blog is not nearly as open minded. For example:

I came across a post by Jay Bookman on HB87 in the AJC (from June 17th, a full 10 days after mine - which only proves how far ahead of the news cycle we are). Jay's article pretty much followed the same general outline of my post. The most interesting part of this was not the article itself, but the 92 comments which follow it. Among them, you will find a pretty fair number of overtly racist remarks - all made by obviously conservative readers.

One early commenter cited "an excellent rebuttal to this nonsense..." in the Marietta Daily Journal. The MDJ article itself is an example of some pretty crude journalism ( "one of my favorite sources of amusement are smug, leftist columnists who wail in anguish..." ), by one D.A. King. For factual substance, Mr. King references "the respected Center for Immigration Studies in Washington". Oh really?

Now a reader looking for confirmation of bias, and no more, would probably stop with the D.A. King piece and toddle off to beddy-by, secure in the knowledge that his opinion was buttressed by research by such an imposing, non-partisan outfit like the "Center for Immigration Studies". Steve, that's how confirmation bias works. If you want to believe the moon is made of Wisconsin White Cheddar, there's probably a "think tank" somewhere willing to provide you with intellectual ammo. But wouldn't it make sense to check out your sources first, since typing "The Center for Immigration Studies" into your search bar only takes a few seconds?

I did. And what emerges is the image of an anti-immigration astro-turf organization, one of a network of as many as 13 founded by retired opthamologist John Tanton, who has been credited with almost single-handedly creating the anti-immigration movement in America. The Southern Poverty Law Center has this to say about the CIS:

“Although the think tank bills itself as an “independent” organization with a “pro-immigrant” if “low-immigration” vision, the reality is that CIS has never found any aspect of immigration that it liked. There’s a reason for that.

Although you’d never know it to read its materials, CIS was started in 1985 by a Michigan ophthalmologist named John Tanton — a man known for his racist statements about Latinos, his decades-long flirtation with white nationalists and Holocaust deniers, and his publication of ugly racist materials…”

But, isn't the Southern Poverty Law Center itself just some kind of glorified liberal front group? I don't think so, but on this issue at least you can check out the veracity of their claim simply by going online to John Tanton's magazine, "The Social Contract", and doing a little first hand research of your own. Check out the archive of articles, the articles themselves, the book reviews, the book reviewers, and all the rest. If you don't have time for that, you might as well accept the verdict I myself arrived at by doing this. "The Social Contract" is little more than a portal for a great deal of hard core racial and religious bigotry to creep into the national dialogue.

Steve, its like peeling an onion, and it works like this: One supposedly neutral observer, like D.A. King of the Marietta Journal, writes an article with important, but barely discernible racial overtones, and cites a source which occupies a marginally more racist level. That source is supported by others, and those in turn by still others, and to follow the trail you find yourself going deeper and deeper into world of frank, unapologetic racism.

Think I'm kidding? Or, maybe deluding myself into believing there's a guy in a white sheet behind every tree in the forest? Here's my take:

I detest intolerance in all its forms, and racism is probably the worst one. But I'm less disgusted by those who catagorically admit to downright racism. After all, they pay us the courtesy of identifying themselves as recognizable enemies of a tolerant and enlightened society. What bothers me far more are the stealth racists: those who try to pass themselves off as neutral academicians just trying to weigh the effect of race on society. If there's a level in Hell lower than that reserved for overt racists, that's where they're headed.

To say these stealth racists don't play a huge role in defining the immigration debate in this country is at best, naive.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How's that working out for 'ya?


Most Georgia voters didn't see this coming - except for those with the good sense to follow this blog. You may recall back in July last year I posted a timely column on the disastrous effects of successful immigration law enforcement by the Obama administration. Businesses which depended on the kind of labor only available with undocumented workers were suffering as the INS pursued "silent raids", which effectively made it impossible to retain those workers. Gebbers Farms, a huge, 500 acre orchard was losing hundreds of reliable employees this way - and couldn't replace them with Americans because, well, as one legal immigrant put it: "Show me one American --just one--climbing a picker’s ladder.”. In other words, after all the hue and cry that undocumented workers were stealing American jobs, the government did something about it, the jobs opened up, and suddenly there weren't any takers. That was back in July.

Well, wouldn't you know it, Georgia Republicans heard the same hue and cry and May 13th of this year passed HB87, the "Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011" to recover all the jobs illegals were stealing from Georgia citizens. Among other things, the Act requires Georgia businesses to check the immigration status of their employees through E-Verify - a strategy identical to what the INS was using with their effective silent raids. In addition, it "empowers police to investigate the immigration status of certain suspects. And it penalizes people who transport or harbor illegal immigrants or encourage them to come here". Practically overnight, the bill had precisely the effect it was intended to have, and thousands of undocumented workers began to leave the state and move on.

Then, on May 17th, ( 4 days after passage of the bill! ) the AJC ran an article - the mere title of which made me fall off my chair, seized by spasms of hysterical laughter:

"Governor asks state to probe farm labor shortages"

Honestly, I lack the necessary skills as a writer to describe how gigantically funny this is. Governor Nathan Deal signed an Act into law, knowing without any possibility of doubt it would cause labor shortages, now he's shocked!, shocked! that there are labor shortages and "... asked for the investigation [into the shortages] Thursday in a letter to Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black. Deal wants Black’s department to survey farmers about the impact Georgia’s immigration law, House Bill 87, is having on their industry and report findings by June 10..."


"The Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association has estimated the labor shortages afflicting South Georgia counties could put as much as $300 million in crops at risk."

Come on man. Does this guy really expect us to believe he didn't know this would happen? Of course he did. HB87 was nothing more than cynical pandering by Georgia Republicans to get votes. Heck, I remember months before, while the bill was still being debated, agribusiness concerns in particular were warning that it would result in severe labor shortages and the consequent loss of hundreds of thousands in lost revenues. Steve, I knew that - I mean, sitting here in my own comfy little house-e-by with only this dinky computer to work with - I knew that. And of course, so did you if you had bothered to read my post from last year.

Anyway, the results of the survey are in. As reported in the AJC, nearly half of the 134 farms surveyed across 61 counties say they are experiencing labor shortages, and only 24% said they had an adequate number of workers. The survey included space for additional comments. This one was representative:

"The labor pool has dried up because Hispanics are leaving Georgia as fast as they can. They are terrified about what will happen when this law goes into effect. Since we cannot find immigrant labor, we are trying to hire non-immigrant labor. Even with pay rates above $10 an hour, we cannot find people interested in working outdoors, in the heat. They will stay for one or two days and then leave. Our work is labor intensive, so we are losing money every day by not having dependable, hard-working laborers. This is just another blow to our business on top of what we have already lost due to the economy." (my emphasis).

Steve, this is serious. We're in a recession, Georgia is one of the most affected states and this is costing us real money. In 2008, a survey from UGA estimated the total impact of agriculture on Georgia's economy to be 65 billion dollars - and much of that comes from the cultivation of labor intensive commodities like fruit, vegetables and horticultural products. We can't afford to mess around with this industry.

One other comment from the survey struck me as exquisitely ironic:

"Agriculture desperately needs a workable labor solution–perhaps a user-friendly guest worker program."

Steve, up until they passed this bill, they already had one!