Ambrose Bierce on Immigration

Ambrose Bierce.  Cynic, observer of the human condition, disappointed idealist.


“Think what a better world it would be if we all-the whole world-had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.  And it is still true, no matter how old you are-when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.” Robert Fulghum

It seems like some issues in American politics never go away, they just change their context.  One such issue is the question of Immigration Policy.

This election year we hear the Republican candidate spewing racial stereotypes and absurd solutions to the problem of illegal immigration.  While members of his own party have condemned his statements, the truth is that for the last eight years their own stand on illegal immigrants has not been that much different than his.  Before the Great Recession of 2008, moreover, they positively welcomed “undocumented” immigrants because, they said, “we can’t get Americans to do hard work” and similar excuses for allowing cheap unskilled labor to undercut the American worker.

Conversely, the Democratic Party has embraced illegal immigrants–supposedly–even as President Obama has deported more illegal immigrants than his predecessors combined.  To be sure, some humane immigration policies have been temporarily put in place by the present POTUS, but this is like putting a topical anesthetic on the skin to cure an internal tumor.

The truth is, many American blue collar workers have seen their good paying jobs disappear over the years, only to be replaced by low wage, no benefit jobs.  Americans are not lazy, nor they unwilling to do hard work; they simply want to be paid a decent wage, something the multinational corporations who run our government and who are writing the international “Free” Trade deals that continue to ship whole factories overseas don’t want.  What most working class Americans don’t understand is that each wave of illegal immigrants flooding into our country are the byproducts of these phony trade deals, which are neither free, nor even much about trade.  NAFTA spurred a flood of illegal Mexican workers, displaced by the deal, who came north seeking work; CAFTA did the same thing to Central Americans, also desperate for work at any price.  Nothing spurs ethnic animosity like the perception that these new arrivals are here to take your already substandard paying job.

The moral philosopher and humorist, Robert Fulghum, once observed that “All I Really Need to Know, I learned in Kindergarten.”  Consider, if you will, the game of Musical Chairs; every time the music stops, everyone scrambles for a chair and someone ALWAYS LOSES. Then another chair is taken away and the music starts again;  again and again, the music stops and another chair is taken away, until only one person wins.  Do you all remember how many fights and arguments broke out over that game?  I do.  Our “rigged” economy is very much like that game of Musical Chairs.  So, yes, a lot of working class Americans are bigoted against immigrants, legal or illegal, because they blame them for the loss of their once prosperous and affluent lifestyle, without ever stopping to think who it is that is really manipulating the music and the chairs.

What has all this got to do with Ambrose Bierce?  Actually, precious little; but in the late nineteenth century many “real Americans” were also concerned about immigration and worried that the furriners were going to ruin our country. Having delved into Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce’s life and works for over six years as I worked on my current book, whenever I see a current political issue heatedly debated, it naturally reminds me of something Bierce said or did.  For you edification, therefore, I present Bierce’s take on immigration:

“America has issued a general invitation. Whether that may have been judicious or not is not for them to say who have accepted it. If we keep open house, we do not need, neither will we tolerate, an intimation from a guest that the company is not sufficiently select.” In other words, only Native Americans have a right to complain about more recent immigrants.”  AGB

Things have changed greatly from the day Bierce uttered his observation, but I would aver that his words still contain much wisdom.


Ambrose Bierce and the Period of Honorable Strife cover
Ambrose Bierce and the Period of Honorable Strife, due out in 2016 and available at all the better bookstores.








Hillary Dumpty

The question of what is the purpose of a political convention may seem a trifle simplistic to modern media pundits, but as three generations of teachers—and Democrats—in my family were want to say, there are no stupid questions; just stupid answers.  So to all the politically savvy “experts” in the media and the Democratic political establishment nationwide, I recommend that you seriously consider—or reconsider—your own answer to this question, as well as my own answer below.

Thomas Nast dead elephant and Donkey over cliff
The GOP is a dying beast but can still do great harm; meanwhile, the Democratic Party establishment seems bound and determined to follow Hillary Clinton over the precipice.  Their convention in July is the place to correct their mistake.

For a number of years, the presidential convention has simply been one giant publicity event, a raucous but essentially meaningless cheerleading rally for the pre-anointed candidate of the respective political party.  We now have a prolonged and incredibly expensive process for selecting a presidential candidate, a process which is neither designed to choose the best possible person for the job, nor even the most electable candidate; and if the current Democratic Presidential nominating process is any guide, it is also not reflective of the wishes of the rank and file members of that political party, but the cynical will of a small circle of political bosses and their financial handlers.  

Traditionally, the purpose of a presidential political convention has been to select a candidate; how the candidate was chosen has varied over the years, but in essence the convention was the medium through which this was done.  Caucus, primary or smoke filled room have all been methods for selecting a suitable candidate; but the purpose has always been to choose the best person for the job, not to acquiesce to the political operative most acceptable to the billionaire class.


Hurricane image royalty free
The Democratic Party is traveling straight into the Perfect Storm with #CrookedHillary and can’t see it.  Only the nomination of Bernie Sanders can save the day.

Since the late 1970’s, the leadership of the Democratic Party—the party of Jefferson and Jackson, the party of the common man, the working man—has transformed it into a “me too” party, mimicking the Republican Party, perhaps a little less austere and still giving lip service to American workers but in fact undermining them at every turn, but has been gradually abandoning the values of FDR and the New Deal, the very programs and values that had made the Democratic Party the dominant political party for half a century; the programs and policies that had not only reformed a broken economic system, but ushered in an era of unprecedented prosperity for most Americans. 

Mind you, the wealthy also benefited from the economic programs of the New Deal, since we are a consumer economy and the more money American workers have, the more they spend. 

The reverse, however, is not true: giving the wealthy undeserved tax breaks and various “corporate welfare” schemes to not result in wealth trickling down to the American worker.  They never have and never will: Trickle Down economics, or whatever label you rebrand it with, is a proven failure and just a con to rob the middle class of their wealth and transfer it to the top 1%.  What is a billion dollars in political contributions when it will return you in 100 billion in tax breaks, government subsidies and assorted outsourcing and off-shoring schemes?


The only way Hillary has gotten the primary wins she has was by out and out cheating.


Bernie Sanders portrays himself as a “Democratic Socialist” and that is fine if he wishes to characterize his solid New Deal derived programs and policies in those terms.  Perhaps all these years the Democratic Party should have been more forthright to the American people about all those “socialistic” programs which created wealth and prosperity in this country.  Those programs, and a strong Union movement, created the record postwar prosperity we enjoyed between 1945 and into the 1970’s.  Perhaps then the Repugnican NeoCons would never have gotten to first base with their vile economic voodoo even in the Republican Party. 


Now both the GOP NeoCons and the DINO Democrat NeoLibs are attacking Social Security and Medicare as “entitlement programs” that need to be cut to balance the budget.  Even Ronald Reagan laid it out in simple terms that, while Social Security is technically in the Federal Budget, it DOES NOT contribute to the deficit; it is fully funded by the American people and their employers. YES IT IS AN ENTITLEMENT: YOU ARE ENTITLED TO THAT MONEY BECAUSE YOU PAID INTO IT YOUR ENTIRE WORKING LIFE, NOT THE BILLIONAIRES!  However, every American should be aware that over the years Social Security has been raided by the Republicans and some Dems as a giant slush fund to finance Billionaire tax cuts and otherwise unfunded wars (like Hillary’s Iraq War).  So, no Social Security is not “going broke” but the Billionaires and their Congressional toadies have been stealing from the till and need to put the money back,

Reagan Defending Social Security: reagan

Bernie Sanders Defends Social Security

Why is this man smiling? Guess.

However, to learn what the Repugnicans and the NeoLib Democrats have been doing with your Social Security money, listen to this radio show:


Hillary Clinton is a DINO—a Democrat In Name Only—and she and her fillandering husband have worked very hard to transform the Democratic Party in the Republican Light Party.  Even many progressives in the party—and they are fewer every year—are largely afraid to cross the Clinton Crime Family or run too strongly against the NeoLiberal lies that the Clinton organization has made the new party dogma.


Delacroix Liberty at the Barricades
aux la barricades in July and take the Democratic Party back from the Oligarchs, America.


The Democratic Party needs to get back to its roots; nominate Bernie Sanders, move heaven and earth to get money out of politics and push through financial reforms and all the regulations that were put in place after the “free market” bankrupted America.  The only reason these safeguards were removed was because of sheer greed.  During World War II, FDR proposed a Second Bill of Rights, also known as the Economic Bill of Rights.  Call it Socialism if you wish—but bear in mind the Pilgrims and the Puritans were socialists too and they never heard of Karl Marx.  Karl & Abe Book


Needless to say, all the phony trade treaties like NAFTA, the TPP and the upcoming TTIP and some 45 or so other scams to benefit multi-national corporations all need to be repealed and renegotiated into FAIR TRADE plans, where corporations are excluded and American workers benefited.  Then, and only then, can this nation come back from the precipice and begin to return to a prosperous and just society.


Unless the Democratic Natonal Convention in July does its true duty and nominate Bernie Sanders as their standard bearer, our nation is headed for an even bigger financial collapse than we experienced in 2008.  Hillary Clinton is a large part of the problem—her and the Republican NeoCons—and it is hard to say which would be worse, her or Trunp.  If Hillary is nominated, there is a strong chance the Democratic Party will go down to defeat; if she wins, it is almost certain she will be impeached.  Whatever vestige of Democracy we have is on the verge of disappearance.  The Democratic Convention can reverse this dangerous situation, but not if it nominates the worst candidate they have had since the era of Boss Tweed.

Hillary vs Bernie on Panama Trade Agreement


Which side is the Black Lives Matter Movement on?

In a primary season fertile in unpredictability, extremism and just plain weirdness, you have to go some way to stand out as the wild hamster of politics, but the Black Lives Matter and allied movements have managed to achieve that status.  Unfortunately, BLM and others who are new to Progressive politics and Civil Rights are, so far, doing their cause more harm than good.

The Obama Presidency, which started out as the crowning achievement of African Americans’ quest for full equality and integration into American society, has instead presided over a resurgence of overt racism and bigotry.  That’s not President Obama’s fault, but his passivity in the face of overt racism and bigotry is.  No longer content to simply use the ‘dog whistle’ politics, the Republican Party has chosen to enable the worst elements of their party and legitimize them.  Dog Whistle politics is nothing new to the GOP, but along with it they are engaging in massive efforts to disenfranchise Blacks, Latinos and whoever else they think might not vote their way.

Meanwhile, the American public has been horrified to witness unarmed African Americans murdered in cold blood by police, with government officials colluding in and whitewashing these outrageous acts.  Even some right wing politicians took pause at what has happened to our country when they witnessed armored cars and machine-gun armed cops dressed more for Iraq turn out to suppress peaceful demonstrators in Ferguson, Missouri.  Part and parcel with these acts of police brutality is the militarization of police forces across the nation.  Of course, what do you expect when you are continually declaring war on crime, war on drugs, war on running stop signs, war on jaywalking, etc.  and while politicians are being bribed and goaded by the Prison Industrial Complex to lock as many people up to enrich for profit prison corporations?

Enter Black Lives Matter and others of the same ilk from out of nowhere, outraged and angry.  The outrage and anger is legitimate and most Americans of any color would agree with them, except that they have gone about it in a manner calculated to alienate those most sympathetic to the cause.  Jumping up on stage when a candidate is speaking, in an age of terrorism and when we have seen too many Progressive politicians murdered since the sixties, seems more calculated to put themselves as individuals in the spotlight, rather than the issues the purport to support.  Too many in BLM seem interested in self aggrandizement rather than real progress.

Mind you, their basic premise is absolutely correct.  For example, there was the case where a black couple is killed in a hail of gunfire by cops because their car backfired while passing a precinct station; one of the cops, jumped on the hood of the car and pumped 16 bullets into the elderly couple; but he was not indicted because, the judge said, they couldn’t know if those 16 bullets out of the 150 shot were the fatal shots!  A black man is shot down in Walmart because he is handling a toy gun; a black youth in an OPEN CARRY state is shot down with another toy gun without even being given a chance to drop it.  Cops shoot first and think later and do so with impunity.  So yes, these and other acts are outrageous and should not be tolerated anymore—as they never should have been tolerated to start with.

But rather that protesting against the Republican legislators and district attorneys who enable this psychopathic behavior by police, BYM disrupts Bernie Sanders rallies, purposefully discrediting and disrupting the one candidate who is seriously committed to ending police abuse today—and who was protesting police brutality in Chicago long before they were ever born.

Bursting into a private Hillary fundraiser was perhaps more justifiable, although no less obnoxious.  But even here, the real issue of that meeting–that those attending it were billionaires, banker and oligarchs who were all backing Goldwater Girl Hillary with their millions—was ignored. The BYM protester managed to distract the media pundits from her civil rights message by the manner of her performance art.  In this and other incidents, their reason for disrupting the meeting is lost on the media pundits—their own grandstanding becomes the main focus of the news media.

The shutting down of the Trump rally last week in Chicago was not the doing of BLM, admittedly, but here again the intent of disrupting that rally was lost on the media and in the end did more harm than good.  Corporate media immediately portrayed Trump as the victim and the protestors as aggressors.  Trump even managed to pin the blame on Bernie Sanders for the disruption, despite the absurdity of the accusation.  Way to go, protesters!

What the mainstream media mainly focused on in this case was that demonstrators were throwing punches at Trump supporters.  In fairness, Trump’s choice of a U. of Illinois campus, whose student body was predominantly composed of ethnic minorities and immigrants, was probably deliberately provocative; filling the campus with Trump’s redneck and radical right supporters were the equivalent of waiving a red flag at a bull.  Also, from the footage, it was unclear who began throwing the punches first; perhaps the demonstrators were simply defending themselves against assault.  But that doesn’t matter: the message of that Chicago student protest was totally forgotten in reports of the melee.  Left wing violence was what got reported, whether that was a true portrayal events or not.

More than a generation ago, I produced a syndicated radio news show, where we taped an interview with Marshal McLuhan and another University of Toronto associate.  It was rather like an intellectual tag team wrestling match, with the two authors completing each other’s sentences in the interview.  McLuhan’s ideas about media and communications have become so familiar as to become trite; but many of McLuhan’s ideas remain relevant and especially in this present instance.

Marshall McLuhan coined the term “the Media is the Massage” which, besides being a clever turn of phrase, implied that the form of your communication is often more important than the actual content of the message itself. If you are trying to protest violence against minorities by police, yet you yourself visually communicate a message of violence, you hurt your cause, not help it.  It doesn’t matter one bit whether your intentions are good, if you give those who oppose you propaganda  to continue to obstruct that progress.  Others may disagree with me, but I maintain that BYM and other newbies the Civil Rights have been counterproductive, if not outright inimical to their stated goals.

In the 1960’s, demonstrators like Bernie Sanders and others used non-violent demonstrations, passive resistance, sit-ins and similar tactics for good reason; these methodologies employed was carefully thought so that opponents could not claim the moral high ground, especially when their racist opponents perpetrated violence against them.

Non-Violence is not an easy program to carry out; it not only requires self-restraint, it requires a great deal of moral courage.  When verbal insults and physical threats are hurled at you, it is natural to react in kind, but that is exactly the wrong sort of response; that defeats the very message you are trying to convey. The Civil Rights demonstrators of the sixties knew all this.  Apparently that lesson needs to be learned all over again–otherwise it is doomed to failure.

In just the last few years we have seen a dramatic rollback of voting rights and civil rights, this coming after a generation of rollbacks in worker’s rights and the rapid disintegration of the middle class,  as the top 1% have accrued more and more wealth and power to themselves.  Always bear in mind that racism is almost always based in economics; both the white trash racists and their minority victims are playing a game of musical chairs and are both fighting for the remaining chairs that haven’t been taken away from them by the 1%.  So wise up and stop playing by the billionaire’s rules.

A re-dedication to social and economic justice is needed and those new to the struggle, like the members of Black Lives Matter and the other recent arrivals are welcome—but don’t attack those who are on your side and don’t enable the enemies of social and economic justice with actions and images that end up hurting that cause.  Just sayin.