Posts Tagged‘politics’

Immigration Polling

While President Obama continues to work toward immigration reform (or talk about it, anyway), a disturbing poll released a few days ago shows that this may be a moot point, at least for the time-being.

Quinnipiac University recently conducted a national poll asking about immigration issues and how it might be impacting Obama’s polling numbers (which, admittedly, are less than impressive). From the look of things, the poll seems to be legit (as opposed to the joke of a polling organization that is Rasmussen). It supports a lot of traditional opinions about immigrants and enforcement of immigration laws, but there were definitely a couple of disturbing trends.

First, the usual suspects. According to the Los Angeles Times, the poll had a “strong anti-immigrant tilt, favoring, by 68% to 24%, stricter enforcement of immigration laws rather than integrating illegal immigrants into society.” This is problematic, but by no means does it stand out. Traditionally, Americans have always favored reducing the number of immigrants entering the country. Seriously, there could be one immigrant entering the country per year, and it would still be two too many.

As if that wasn’t a big enough problem, Americans also will overestimate the number of people of color in this country, along with the number of undocumented immigrants. And I’m not just saying they’re off by one or two. Researchers call it “innumeracy,” and it is evident when Whites are asked to calculate the percentage of the population that is Black, Latino, and Asian. The most recent of these studies was conducted in 2005 by Richard Alba, Ruben G. Rumbaut, and Karen Marotz in their article, “A distorted nation: Perceptions of racial/ethnic group sizes and attitudes toward immigrants and other minorities.” They found that a number of Whites actually estimated that, in the United States, Whites were in the minority (already!) and that the rest of the country was 30% Black, 22% Latino, and 16% Asian. For me, the kicker was that they estimated 12% of the country was American Indian (and all I could think about was the Chris Rock routine–after all, around the time of this study American Indians clocked in around .17% (yes, point one seven percent–I did not mess up the decimal point)). And yes, for those of you keeping track, that number of people of color combined with the estimated number of Whites does add up to 100 percent.

Along the same lines, not only do Americans over-estimate the number of immigrants in the country, but they ridiculously over-estimate the number of undocumented immigrants in the country. In fact, in an extensive survey by the PEW Research Center for the People & the Press, respondents stated that most immigrants were in the United States illegally. (For the full report, click here) Seriously. Even though, according to the census only about 30% of foreign-born immigrants are here illegally, Americans (who already believe there are far more immigrants here than there actually are) think that “most” immigrants are here illegally. It still shocks me.

However, by that reasoning, it’s not terribly surprising that the Quinnipiac University survey revealed that there was so much concern about needing to do something about immigration enforcement. If I’m a citizen and I believe crime is so bad that as soon as I walk out the door I’m going to be gunned down by street thugs a la Death Wish 3, then of course when someone asks me about my concerns, I’m going to say that we need more police and less crime. It’s human nature, however flawed the logic might be.

Now, what really threw me off was this result:

“The poll, carried out during the first week in September, found that, by 48% to 45%, an end to the constitutionally guaranteed practice of granting U.S. citizenship to children born of illegal immigrants.”

This absolutely shocked me. Contemporary U.S. immigration policy has almost always worked to keep families intact and to not punish children from their parents’ actions. The fact that so many people might actually be opposed to allowing children of undocumented immigrants to be citizens is just unbelievably devastating.

I could only come up with two possible suggestions as to how these results came to be:

1) Again, I think it all comes back to estimations. I’m wondering how frequently this happens (undocumented immigrants giving birth so their children can be citizens), and I can’t imagine it’s often. After all, that’s a long, dangerous journey to make, especially if someone is pregnant. It could be that this just doesn’t happen as frequently as people envision.

Along the same lines, I wonder if perceived intent has something to do with it. Are these respondents picturing a pregnant Latina pulling herself onto the U.S. side of the Rio Grande and immediately giving birth? Or are they picturing a husband and wife living in the U.S., deciding to have kids because that’s the next step in their relationship?

2) I also wonder about the wording of the question. It reads:

“As you may know, under our constitution and current laws, all children born in the United States are automatically granted citizenship. Do you think we should continue to grant citizenship to all children born in the US or do you think this should be changed so children of illegal immigrants are not automatically granted citizenship?”

I wonder about the phrasing “automatically granted.” I think most people born in the United States believe that they “deserve” to be here, and I think that they somehow feel that they have earned the right to be citizens. Plus, given the cultural stubbornness of the powerful Horatio Alger mythology, I think the idea of someone just being “automatically granted” anything is bound to be challenged.

I’m not saying the poll was conducted incorrectly–I just wonder how much influence these kinds of factors can have.

Polling Health Care

A bit tardy, but a similar story appeared over a month ago on Newsweek recently reported that respondents voice strong opposition to Obama’s healthcare plan…until they learn about the details.

This actually is similar to a fascinating book called Why Americans Hate Welfare by Martin Gilens. In it, Gilens finds that welfare is despised by many people in this country. To be honest, that’s not too surprising – on standard “feeling thermometer” tests (“On a scale of 1-100, with 1 being cold and 100 being hot, how do you feel about xxxxxxx group/person?”), the only people who who rate below those on welfare are “illegal immigrants.” For reals.

What is surprising is that Gilens found that, when welfare was broken down into its components, it received significant support from people surveyed (e.g., people who despised welfare were the same ones who would argue in the next breath that welfare and unemployment were necessary). It was an interesting disconnect, and one that Gilens (convincingly) explained was a result of racial prejudice. In other words, when respondents felt that the poor were Black, the prevailing attitude was that these were “undeserving poor’ who were unfairly leeching off of the government and taxpayers.

So why the disconnect? It’s a combination of the Democrats not properly conveying the message of healthcare and the Republicans contributing to the disinformation campaign. I’m still baffled as to why Obama just doesn’t hammer this “31 million people without healthcare.” Seriously. Drive that home. Get a bunch of people to do testimonial commercials, sell out and put helpless children up there…do whatever you need to do. At some level, Americans have to have some sort of compassion for something like this. If not, we’re worse off than I thought.

Secondly, we have the aptly-named Republican Noise Machine (though I would have gone with the catchier “Republican Constant Bitchfest,” but whatever) throwing out a steady stream of “blah blah socialism blah blah blah death panels blah OMGEE COMMUNISMS!!!11!!1!” Back in the day (when he was relevant), Rush Limbaugh was significantly better at driving down opponents’ poll numbers than raising those in his own party. This is more of the same.

Still, the fact that these ideas are still embraced is enough to make one hopeful about the entire process.

Dear Allen

Yesterday Jared’s in-laws sent him this video of this latest conservative malcontent in an effort to explain (and justify) to him how they feel

Since Jared’s too polite so send a response (actually, he’s probably composing one as I type), this is how I would have handled it:

Dear Allen,

Hey, I just watched your video on YouTube. I had some thoughts, if you’re interested. This is going to be lengthy, but rest assured that it won’t feel as long as that joke of a speech I just watched.

I disagreed with practically everything you said, but honestly the way you said it pissed me off the most. Was that speech written by a ninth grader? Honestly, replace “president” with “our school rivals” and it sounds like something you’d hear at a pep rally—a quickly-assembled, poorly-planned, sparsely-attended pep rally.

Let me recap your speech for you:

Something something incoherent point something something inaccurate description of the American revolution something something something failed comparison something something awkward personal anecdote something crazy-ass example something painfully awkward acknowledgement of armed forces something failed attempt to rally crowd. BEAT STATE!

It was painful. You try to compare this struggle to the Revolutionary War (did you get your information from a Mel Gibson movie?) to try to set-up your call to arms (literally) at the end. You offer what might be the vaguest, most generic critique that make Sarah Palin look like a keen political mind (lower taxes, cut spending, create jobs, change this country’s attitude!), like you were afraid of offending any one of your potential voters. Then you build your case by making a comparison to someone who “won’t be paying for gas under Obama.” Hey, I can generalize to a larger population based on one person too! Timothy McVeigh had ultra-strong right wing beliefs. That means all Republicans love blowing up children in nurseries! Wheeee, what fun!

Oh, and great timing, Allen. Way to speak out now. You know why you didn’t “go down and tell my children that I didn’t have the courage, the commitment, the conviction, or the character to fight for this country” Allen? Because you were too busy going down on George W. Bush for the last eight frickin’ years.

What has Barack Obama done to upset you so much that it prompted you to spend 13 whole minutes writing that speech? Was it the fact that he’s trying to provide healthcare for everyone? Was it when he lifted the ban on stem cell research? Tried to salvage relationships with other leaders from around the world?

You want to talk about “freedom” and “liberty,” where have you been for the last eight years, you ignorant asshole? Where were you when Bush passed the Patriot Act and made warrantless wiretaps and rendition not only legal, but also acceptable? When Bush invaded Iraq and got thousands of Americans killed for phantom WMDs? When Bush used cronyism to erode our government, causing us to be unprepared for natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina? The first bailout? The second one? Where were you, you selfish hypocritical sonofabitch? Oh, it was okay then, because politics is just like a sports game and you want your “team” to win, even if that means the downfall of this country.

Oh, and my favorite part of your speech? That “bayonet” bullshit at the end. What does that even mean? THAT was your solution??? Like so many other people in your rapidly-shrinking base, all you can do is bitch. Bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, BITCH. You don’t want universal healthcare? How about providing a viable alternative, something other than the typical Republican wet dream of building a time machine to transport back to the halcyon days of the 1950s, where it was all bobby-sox and malt shops.  Actually, Allen, if you opened your history book past the 1700s, you might be disappointed to find out where you end up in that Republican paradise.

But I digress. Seriously, do something other than complain. If you’re a member of the opposition party, you have to do something other than saying “Nuh-UH!” That way lies madness and, I think, a Monty Python sketch. How about you go back to your room, get out your crayons, and come back to the grown-up table when you want to have a real conversation.

Lastly, I want to be extremely honest with you, Allen. You’re not a viable candidate. You’re an amateur pundit, leeching off the populist emotions and catering to the lowest common denominator while clinging to the fading hope of staying relevant. At least the talking heads on Fox News get paid to spew their manufactured outrage. You’re just some dupe who’s working pro bono to put the next Republican into office. And it’s not going to be you. You’re doomed to live forever in obscurity, every once in a while opening up your pathetic YouTube clip, staring at the stagnant view count, and wondering what could have been while knowing, deep down, that you never had a shot.


Josh Grimm

Default Now!

The New York Times had an interesting article entitled “Walk Away From Your Mortgage.” In it, reporter Roger Lowenstein discussed a new phenomenon: homeowners who were voluntarily defaulting on their housing loans. Yes, voluntarily – it’s not a result of an immediate financial crisis or emergency of some sort, they don’t want to pay, so they don’t.

The same phenomenon was discussed by Megan McArdle in The Atlantic, but in the opinion piece “A New Breed of Deadbeats.” It’s pretty clear to see where she falls on the issue.

McArdle discusses the issue from a moral standpoint. She acknowledges that a vast majority of foreclosures are from people who cannot possibly pay the mortgage and therefore have no other choice to default. However, she argues that a growing number of people are trying to game the system by simply walking away from the mortgage because they owe more than the house is worth (especially after the housing market collapse on the cusp of the recession that Dennis Haysbert keeps talking about). She calls these people “morally appalling” and points out that there are a “sizable” number of people who are okay with this practice.

At first glimpse, it’s hard to see why. After all, a contract is a contract, and by voluntarily walking away from something like that while others are struggling to hang onto their homes is appalling. Or at least I thought so.

Lowenstein’s article in the Times was an interesting one in that it explained how corporations do this kind of thing “routinely.” The example given is of executives at Morgan Stanley deciding to stop making payments on a group of San Francisco office buildings (as a result of the plunging values of the buildings). Lowenstein writes, “Nobody has said Morgan Stanley is immoral – perhaps because no one assumed it was moral to begin with.” And yet, individuals are held to a morality code that doesn’t exist for businesses.

And so goes the debate. Why should homeowners not take advantage of strategic defaults when corporations have no such qualms? Of course there will be consequences (largely financial), but the disconnect remains: it’s the difference between a business decision and a moral one.

I’m honestly still divided on these so-called strategic defaults. In my ideal world, if homeowners are somehow morally obligated to hold onto (and eventually pay off) their mortgages, then no double-standard should exist. Lenders should be obligated (morally, legally, whatever) to renegotiate those mortgages if the country’s financial situation changes significantly.

But something tells me that’s not going to happen.

I Want This

Red Nightmare is a short propaganda film about Jerry, a man who takes living in the United States for granted (he even lied about his wife’s parents coming to town so that he wouldn’t have to go to a union meeting!!1!!one!!!). Dragnet superstar (and Red-hater extraordinaire) Jack Webb has decided to teach Jerry a lesson, and so Webb decided to give Jerry a Red nightmare (just like the title!). Jerry wakes up in an alternate reality where the U.S. is run by Commies. There is no such thing as church, the State comes and takes his daughter off to a Commie work farm, and (what finally pushes Jerry over the edge) the Reds have even claimed that they invented the telephone. Bastards!  Watch this film in its entirety here, if only for the beginning (the Commie training camp) and the end (when Jerry loses it).

When Mr. Ken Conaway showed this to my high school history class, I became fascinated by anti-communist propaganda from the 1950s and 1960s.  I immediately decided to start collecting anti-communist propaganda. I’ve bought a few movies (including shorts and instructional films) from the era, and a number of my monster movies feature creatures who represent clear warnings about the dangers of communism (I’m looking at you Them! and The Blob). Alas, that’s about it, mostly due to the TA salary the past six years.

That said, when I do start my collection in earnest, I want my first item to be a board game called “Victory Over Communism.” Listen to this description from

“Players are given cards containing questions and answers about communism. Every correct answer gets a player a Slave Country card, which frees that country from Communism. Every wrong answer brings the players one year closer to 1973, the year the rules quote as when the Communists will meet their goal of world domination.”

The questions the players have to answer are far from unbiased. Here are a couple from the playing cards (with answers):


QUESTION: Is the “cold” war a real war?  ANSWER: Yes, the “cold” war is a very real war. It has enslaved more people than any “hot” war in history.

QUESTION: How much less per bushel did the United States government sell wheat to our enemy, the Communists, than to the baker who bakes your bread here in America? ANSWER: The enemy, the Communists, bought wheat from the United States for 62 cents less per bushel than your baker pays for it right here in America.

QUESTION: What would have happened to anyone who suggested sending food or military goods to Nazi Germany during World War II?  ANSWER: Anyone who suggested sending food or other goods to an enemy would have been tried for “treason” or carted off to a mental institution.

Here are a few more images:

Commie_Game_Cards_EnslavedII Commie_GameII

I can’t find this anywhere online for sale, but someday I’ll track it down and I will rescue the enslaved Communist countries, Jack Webb-style! BAM!

Unemployment Woes

While the posts tell a different story, I swear I’m not Johnny Businessnews–most of the time I avoid it because I tend to stumble across depressing news about my student loans. That said, I thought this was a really interesting interactive map of the current unemployment situation in the United States. 

Oh, and while I realize that the employment rate is probably low anyway, what the hell is going on in Alaska? Get off the “snow machine,” Sarah, and do your job! Or at least give it to someone else and lighten that sienna.

Credit Crisis

While I really enjoy reading news, I have to admit that my eyes glaze over when it comes to financial stories. That’s why I was thrilled to find this flash video presentation explaining the current credit crisis in the United States. It’s well-done, with no partisan blame and an explanation of terms that I’ve heard a million times but never truly understood. If you get a chance, check it outhere