Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Meg Whitman's Mexican Problem

By now we've all heard poor little rich girl Meg Whitman complaining about how mean old Jerry Brown is making her look bad. "I didn't know that my house keeper was not legally allowed to be in the states. How could I know? I'm not ICE.I used a service, the maid had a social security number..."


But let's take Ms. Whitman at face value. Let's assume that 1). she believed that her housekeeper, Nicky Santillan, was here legally, 2). that Whitman, a billionaire with political ambitions, didn't do a background check on a person who would have unfettered access to her home on a regular basis, and 3). both she and her husband managed to miss the letters from the feds telling them that Ms. Santillan's documents weren't right. If all of that is true, we still get to see how Whitman deals a slightly tricky problem.

While planning to run for governor, her employee confesses to being here illegally. What should she do? First, make damn sure that this employee is made to feel happy. Make sure that she is properly taken are of so that there is nothing even close to a legitimate claim of underpaying her or treating her badly. Then pay her a small severance, have her sign a document that says that she has been fully paid for all of her services, make sure that all of the taxes are paid and then send her on her way. If Whitman had done that, she'd have been able to "confess" that she too, like so many California employers, was stung by our dysfunctional immigration policy. But that she had treated this person well and complied with the law.

If she had done that, she'd have shown herself to be, at minimum, politically astute, and possibly even honest. But that's not what she did. She basically stick her fingers in her ears and said lalalalalala and hoped the problem would go away.

Let's be clear here, I don't buy for a second that Whitman thought Santillan was here legally. She knew better. She knew better because legal employees (especially of billionaires with political ambitions) demand to get paid for every minute that they work. They know that the employer has more to lose than the employee. But people working illegally have to put up with whatever abusive nonsense their employee dishes out. Make me work 45 hours but "forget" to pay my overtime? Have you ever met a legal employee who wouldn't deal with that issue on the day their pay check comes up short? In other words, not only did Whitman know Santillan was here illegally, she used that fact to steal from her (remember, that is the allegation here).

Whitman is just like most business people. They want cheap labor. Like some, she is willing to ignore the law to get it. In fact, Whitman and her ilk prefer illegal labor because those employees will not enforce their own rights and can generally be paid less than what they are worth.

Whitman is lying. And she doesn't even respect the voters enough to tell us a lie that we could believe without feeling disrespected.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

In Case it Wasn't Clear that the Prison Population Has Exploded

In case the graphic isn't clear, that's bouncing around between between 0.15% 0.2% from 1925 to and 1973, then 0.2% of the male population to 0.9% by 2000. And with the prison population being 44% black, what do you think the effect on the black community has been? How many fatherless families has this created? How does a community survive with almost 10% of its young men in prison? How does it survive when those men, after they get out, will face legal discrimination and disenfranchisement for the rest of their lives?

Why Are So Many Americans in Prison?

I read this post by Michelle Alexander:

How the War on Drugs gave Birth to a New Permanent American Undercaste

Then I remembered this passage from Atlas Shrugged (Dr. Ferris is basically Dick Cheney explaining the system to an honest but naive industrialist)

"Did you really think we want those laws observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We want them to be broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against... We're after power and we mean it... There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt."
I'm no Ayn rand fan. There is much wrong with her writing and ranting. But she's positively prophetic when it comes to the means by which those who control the government will extend that control to specific populations of people. She also nailed the reasons: the love of money and power.

The imprisoning of poor black men is not some unplanned byproduct of prison profiteering. It is intentional. We have to deal with this latest, and quite successful, attempt to enslave us. But we also need to address, head on, the fact that "they" are using our inability to connect with poor and working class folk who aren't black (e.g. white, Latino, Asian), to harm us. We are outnumbered and outgunned (we're trending to 10% of the population and have much less than a proportional share of wealth). We always w
ill be. We need to form alliances or we face permanent slavery.

One place to start is in the effort to overturn the prohibition on cannabis. It is the first step to dismantling the war on drugs. It's a great step. It will help us disproportionately and it's the right thing to do.

Put 5 (50, 500 or 5000 works too) on it. Do it today. Do it again tomorrow.