Tag Archives: politics

House Republicans & Heroin

Governing is the opposite of dope.

It’s real world. It’s working the program. Accepting blame and accountability, breaking with fantasy. It’s hanging out with people who don’t think like you. It’s reminding yourself that life is full of constraints and you can’t just do whatever occurs to you. It’s realizing that you are not perfect and there are others whose opinions matter in this world.

That said, the recent health-care fiasco displayed House Republicans behaving like heroin addicts.

It’s easy to go on Fox News for years, blame someone else for everything when you don’t have to be accountable for finding solutions. It’s easy to rant about the endless failures of those people who do. Ranting is a narcotic; so is outrage; so is complaining and destroying. It gives us a big blast of dopamine to the brain. As does spending a lot of time insisting on all the nifty ways you’d do things better when you are king of the world. Feels so luxurious. Feels a lot like heroin, I suspect.

Being an opposition party means never having to put an idea to a constituent smell test. You get used to it – your tolerance for fantasy rises like an addict’s tolerance for a narcotic. Like addicts, you hang out with folks who think like you, talk like you, and never force you to face anything resembling reality, or the necessity of compromise.

Living without compromise is a nice idea in theory, but it’s possible only when you’re high on, and surrounded by, ideology — or dope.

A heroin addict brooks no compromise. He wants a world his way only. No messy complications, no one telling him no. Ask any parent of an addict.

What I think we saw was people addicted to a warm, euphoric ideological fantasy world in which they’ve lived for the last several years. Addicted to the idea that they could do it alone, didn’t need anybody, didn’t need to compromise. This Freedom Caucus seemed dead-set on depriving anyone but the wealthiest of what most would deem civilized health care: maternity care, ER visits, not to mention addiction-treatment coverage.

It was bizarre to watch them line up to take away benefits needed by so many who had just elected them and their president, and give them to our aristocracy.

Harold Pollack noted in this article in Politico that Democrats working to forge Obamacare held hearings over months and accepted more than 150 Republican amendments to the bill they passed. House Republicans this time took 18 days and “the payout to the top 400 families [in America] alone was estimated to exceed total ACA subsidies in 20 states and the District of Columbia.”

How do you come to the conclusion that thinking like the upper classes of pre-revolution France is okay?

Well, perhaps because House Republicans lived in a bubble for seven years, voting to repeatedly repeal Obamacare knowing it would be vetoed. Then the fantasy ended and they finally had the power to do it. They had nothing to replace it with. (John Boehner is, I’m sure, happy to be away from all that.) What they came up with would have savaged the very people who put them in office.

The word `compromise’ gets a bad rap these days, but it’s actually another way of saying something else. It’s saying, we’re behaving like adults. We’re not going to act like petulant children who want a world run according to their whims alone, which is, in turn, another way of describing how a heroin addict thinks.

Something like this, I suspect, is what Ryan was referring to when he spoke of House Republican “growing pains.” Getting off the dope of viewing compromise as a dirty word.

A big part of addiction recovery is relating to others again, accepting that your views are not the only ones that matter, that you have to modify your behavior, answer to others who may not think like you.

It’s like governing.

It’s messy and ragged; it’s hard and far from perfect. It’s adult, in other words, and it’s the opposite of dope.

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Filed under Culture, Dreamland, Drugs

An Ohio Farmer: Trump, Dope, Jobs & PC

A DREAMLAND PODCAST – John Russell is 26 and an organic farmer, raising melons in rural Ohio, not far from Columbus. This year he ran for the Ohio state legislature as a Democrat – and lost badly.headshot-1

I had the chance to talk with Russell today.

We had a wide-ranging  conversation, about his decision to go into farming, about his campaign, about Donald Trump, as well as job loss and opiate addiction in America’s Heartland, PC culture, the challenges Democrats face in rural areas.

He’s one of the few, it seems, to go away to college then return to a rural community. So many towns have lost young people to the cities where the jobs are.

We talked about that as well, and about what happened to guys on his high school football team.

This is the first interview I did like this, via Skype, so I’m still working out the kinks, and there are a few buzzes and etc. So please bear with me.

Meanwhile, contact him at www.johnrussell.info, and follow him on Twitter: @JCruss

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Filed under Dreamland, Podcast, The Heroin Heartland

MIGRANTS: The Handy Clan of Vermont – a Lebanese immigrant story

Tonight, as I was writing, I was looking for a term that connoted “a wandering peddler” — hopefully from some foreign culture. Wandering myself through the Internet, I came upon a wondrous piece of journalism.

It’s the story of the Handy Clan of Vermont — a vast group of now politically powerful extended families who descend from two Lebanese immigrants, Maronite Christians, a century ago who became “back peddlers,” selling what they could carry on their backs through what had to be some forbidding geographic and cultural landscape.

That morphed into an ice company, then several ice companies. More people arrived. The families expanded and intermarried.

“By the 1930s, Peter Handy was known as “the ice king of Vermont,” says the writer, Ken Picard, of Seven Days. (Hats off to him and the newspaper.)

Eventually, the Handys transitioned and by the 1950s owned a bunch of drive-in movie theaters across Vermont. (I love this story!)

Now they’re in all kinds of businesses: hotels, motels, Burger Kings, car repair. Their descendants have names like Larry, Floyd and Earl.

(Btw, Handy may have originally been El Hindi or some version of that.)

Along the way, the Clan learned valuable lessons that almost any immigrant group learns. First: get into politics.

Apparently, the Handy Clan is now a central part in any Vermont political campaign.

As they should be.

Photo: Rev. Elias ElHindi and Solomon Hindi 

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Filed under Migrants, Uncategorized

IMMIGRATION: The reform debate and mixed alliances

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The immigration reform debate has always created alliances uncommon in regular domestic political battles, as illustrated in this LA Times story.

So moderate and upper-class Republicans and liberals join together. Working-class Democrats and working-class Republican often band together in opposition, joining many of those who live in the area most impacted by the smuggling of illegal immigration — Arizona of late.

It’s all about who is harmed and who is hurt by immigration, seems to me.

I know that it’s fashionable to call those opposed to immigration reform racists or bigots. I don’t see that. I think that’s specious, bogus and facile — an ad hominem attack that mostly reflects someone wanting to silence someone else, not address a point of view.IMG_9784

I’m quite sure there are some racists out there. But really, your feeling on immigration reform corresponds most strongly to whether you perceive yourself bearing costs or reaping benefits from immigration.

Working-class black Americans seem, from my vantage point, particularly opposed to more immigration from Mexico and Central America. That’s not surprising, as those immigrants take jobs that those black Americans might well have had — and I’m not referring to fast food work, but to jobs in other, slightly higher paid sectors: truck driving, for example. Construction and landscaping are others.

Another group with some opposition to Mexican and Central American immigration — and for the same reason — are working-class Mexican-Americans. I’ve had fascinating conversations with some Mexican-Americans, whose relatives came here in the 1920s, about what they termed the “invasion” of Mexican immigrants who took the jobs in their neighborhoods (restaurant, car wash) that Mexican-American kids usually considered theirs.

IMG_7969When the LA Times publishes an immigration story (of any kind) the comment section quickly fills with illiterate, trashy, bickering comments. This one is interesting, though:

“I am a working class democrat.

I have wanted less immigration for years.  Immigrtaion hurts the environment. depresses wages, steals job opportunities, reduces civic involvement, and creates divisions where none existed before to create a distraction from the rich at the top pitting black against brown against white, and left against right while those globalists Americans in name only at the top plunder the country.

For wanting less immigration I am called a racist,xenophobic,nativist, anti immigrant white supremacist bigot in order to shut me up.

The author of this article says it is an odd alliance pushing this new immigration bill . It is not odd that the elites want to import a new electorate more easily duped and more compliant and cheaper and younger workers for the open border cheap labor anti American worker lobby . It is merely a word the author is afraid to say if he has actually studied the situation and been able to put two and two together. It is simply called  TREASON.”

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Filed under California, Global Economy, Los Angeles, Migrants

COMPTON: In SoCal, the best stories come from smallest towns

I’ve long thought that in Southern California, the best stories come from the small suburbs — particularly those just to Compton Fashion Centerthe southeast of Los Angeles, which have become a vast Mexican-immigrant suburbia.

Their names belie a wild and wholly politics: Maywood, Huntington Park, South Gate, Bell, Bell Gardens, Hawaiian Gardens.

These towns are unprecedented in American immigration history. Other immigrant groups advanced politically and economically into America at the same time, and almost always in big cities, where their numbers were large but not dominant: New York, Chicago, Boston, Miami and others.

Mexicans long ago put down economic roots here in Southern California, usually when most were living in Los Angeles. But politically they are neophytes. However, they now live in these small suburbs I mentioned above, where they make up the vast majority of the population.  (More on why that is later….) I don’t believe this is true of any other major immigrant group in American history.

But this is why these towns have produced such astonishing and bizarre stories of municipal governance.

As it happens, Compton (pop. 97,000) is one of them and varies from the others only in the fact that the population being slowly displaced is black and not white.

Today’s LAT article (not mine) on its mayoral election chronicles one of those great small-town LA stories … which almost involved child TV star Rodney Allen Rippy.

Former mayor Omar Bradley, under whose administration the $4999 city expense check was notoriously invented (lookRuben's Bakery, Compton that one up), is running against a young woman, Aja Jones, with serious municipal credentials but not the emotional connection to black voters. So somehow Omar Bradley is again a political force in Compton.

Almost always, the reason these towns turn out such remarkable stories has to do with Mexican immigration.

In this case, Compton, the town where gangsta rap was born, is now 70 percent Hispanic, but both mayor candidates are black.

That’s because Mexican immigrants cannot, or choose not to, vote. So a very small percentage of the population has any say over who runs the town. Were there more Mexican immigrant civic participation, these two candidates likely wouldn’t even be in the running.

Very similar to what the other towns went through in the 1990s, which were once white but then transformed into almost entirely Mexican-immigrant suburbs.

But more on that in other posts….

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Filed under California, Los Angeles, Migrants

STORYTELLING: Amazing Global Kidnapping story from Joel Millman at WSJ

images-2My homeboy from years in Mexico, Joel Millman, at the Wall Street Journal, has written a fantastic story of kidnapping of Eritreans, who are then traded by networks of kidnapping gangs, sometimes several times and across several borders.

The Eritreans are migrants/refugees fleeing their country and looking for work in nearby countries and are kidnapped by Bedouins.

The kidnapping gangs have blossomed in the vacuum of political supervision in Egypt’s Sinai desert as Egypt has been dealing with its many other issues in the last year.

Remarkable story about the global economy and the vast lagoons of impunity that exist due to political borders and agencies that have faltered or have not changed with the same velocity as economics — which might be exactly the prescription for what spawns criminal gangs and mafias.

Screen Shot 2013-03-04 at 6.12.50 AMCheck out the video of Joel talking with one kidnapping victim, and explaining the genesis of his story.

By the way, Joel’s been doing these kinds of stories about migrants and the borderless world for many years now and he’s one of the best around.

His book, The Other Americans, is a great series of vignettes about folks from around the world changing our country. His chapter on the Patel motel clan is worth the price of the book.

Photo: Sinai Desert; Photo Credit: Wall Street Journal

Map: Middle East; Credit: Google Maps

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Filed under Books, Global Economy, Migrants, Storytelling