Sunday, December 24, 2006

Political Cover for the Minutemen

Today's North County Times profiles the anti-immigrant group, the San Diego Minutemen. In it the group's virulent racial bias is clearly exposed, as are the local politicians who give hate groups like the Minutemen a veneer of respectability.
"My view is that the minutemen are the 21st century's Ku Klux Klan," said Bill Flores, an Escondido activist and retired San Diego County assistant sheriff. "They will dress up their racist attitudes as an immigration issue and act as if they are the victims and not the day laborers."


Flores and other critics say the fact that several prominent elected officials have participated in similar demonstrations is troubling. Former state Sen. Bill Morrow, R-Oceanside, last year attended California Minuteman vigils at the border and Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Escondido, recently shared the stage with Schwilk at a rally organized by another group in Escondido.

"What's disturbing is that certain elected officials would give their ear to extremists and give these groups an air of legitimacy," said Flores, spokesman for El Grupo, a coalition of civil rights and Latino activist groups from around the county. "I think it's very shortsighted of politicians to align themselves with these groups."

Bilbray could not be reached for comment. His spokesman said he was unsure if the congressman knew Schwilk.

Escondido Councilwoman Marie Waldron was among a slate of candidates endorsed by the group in this year's primary elections. At a news conference accepting their endorsement, Waldron called the minutemen "fine Americans and patriots who are working to secure our borders because our government has failed to do so."

Waldron later proposed an ordinance passed by the Escondido council to punish landlords who rent to illegal immigrants. Civil rights activists successfully sued to block the city from enforcing the law.

The San Diego Minutemen are a loose affiliation of concerned citizens, misguided nativists and outright racists. As this website notes, it is the racists who drive the agenda and ultimately it will be the violent haters who will define the Minuteman movement. The organization can't survive without catering to the most extreme elements in our society. And, without the political cover provided by politicians like Representative Brian Bilbray, the Minutemen would just be a bunch of disgruntled racists meeting in someone's trailer out in the boondocks of San Diego County.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Reason Prevails .... For A Minute

In October the city council of the San Diego County community of Escondido voted to deputize landlords as immigration agents. To some observers the council action seemed to be more a pre-election ploy by some council members to curry favor with the North County various klan chapters, including the Minutemen.

...the election of Waldron and Daniels can be seen as a mandate for the misguided – and decidedly not-conservative – policy of drafting city government into the national struggle over illegal immigration. Waldron was behind Escondido's 3-2 council decision to penalize property owners who rent to illegal immigrants. And Daniels generally supports the policy.

The Escondido city action was scheduled to go into effect in November, but a court order prevented that as the ACLU and several other organizations went to court to stop the city from implementation. The Escondido council was warned that its action was unconstitutional and that it could not survive a court challenge, but in the pre-election days the council ignored those warnings.

Now that the election is over and immigrants are needed in Escondido to do the city's dirty jobs the council has decided that it might not be a good idea to continue to fight in court. In a closed session on Wednesday, the Escondido city council decided not fight to maintain its new ordinance and abandon any legal efforts to fight to implement the law it so proudly voted to enact in October.

Council members defended themselves against any public backlash by avoiding a vote on their decision.
The council's action Wednesday was taken in closed session without a formal vote, council members and City Attorney Jeffrey Epp said.

"They don't usually use formal parliamentary procedure," Epp said. "It's more a discussion aimed at achieving some kind of consensus. Sometimes a council member makes it clear that he or she doesn't agree, but says 'I won't stand in your way.' "

Discussions with council members make it evident that if a formal vote had been taken Wednesday, the tally would have been 4-1, with Waldron voting against.

The council's apparent practice of taking action in closed session without a formal vote may technically violate the Brown Act, the state law governing public meetings, experts on the law said.
Such courage.

The next day some of those same council members who technically didn't vote to end the court fight came out swinging. Courageous councilman Ed Gallo, speaking on right wingnut Rick Robert's local wacko talk radio show, blamed the whole thing on a stinking liberal judge.

Among the callers that Roberts heard from Thursday were two of the three council members who voted in favor of the ordinance ---- Ed Gallo and Marie Waldron. Both called the regular talk line and were not invited guests, he said.

During that discussion, Gallo said U.S. District Court Judge John Houston, who issued a temporary restraining order against the ordinance after a lawsuit was filed by the ACLU and others, had an "empathetic attitude towards minorities."

Prodded by Roberts, Gallo quickly downplayed race.

"The whole thing hinged on one person making the decision, Rick," Gallo said during the call. "We ended up with a liberal judge. It was the luck of the draw, if you will. His decision said, 'You guys are out.'

Liberal judge. That's it. Not that it was a stupid law, enacted in the face of a promised legal challenge. A legal challenge that any judge would have to support. The Escondido council's action was a political ploy not an effort to make the community a better place. Still, it takes a big man to blame a "liberal judge," doesn't it Ed?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Way Out of Touch....

According to this analysis, evangelical voters stayed with the sinking Republican ship in the 2006 election. Not only could Republicans count on their votes, they also saw the number of evangelicals voting stay much the same as previous elections. Evangelical Christians ignored the ethical challenges and well documented hypocricy of the Republican Party and continued to led their support to the party of Mark Foley, Tom Delay and Randy Cunningham.
One of the most hotly debated pre-election questions revolved around whether, given all the Republican scandals and bad news emanating from Iraq, conservative Christian evangelicals would choose to sit the election out. They didn't. Instead, they stayed the course: The New York Times reported that about 24 percent of voters -- up from 23 percent in 2004 -- considered themselves evangelicals or born-again Christians. Seventy percent voted for Republican candidates, compared to 72 percent in the last election.
Evangelical voters stuck with Republicans because that is what the leaders of the religious right encouraged them to do. Ignoring the evidence that from top to bottom the Republican leadership was cynically using evangelical voters, the leaders of the movement stuck with their political allies, while abandoning their Christian principles.
Ken Connor, a Christian conservative leader who has consistently spoken out against this era's ethically-challenged Republican leaders and the evangelicals that support and enable them, lays part of the blame for the Republican's defeat at the doorstep of Christian evangelical leaders. "It is clear that Christian conservative leaders contributed to the Republican defeat, and in the process they've lost credibility," Connor wrote in a post-election commentary titled "Defending the Indefensible: The Road to Defeat."
Conner is very clear in his condemnation of the leaders of the religious right and points out that just like secular leaders, religious leaders are not immune to the seduction of political power.
Why have prominent Christian organizations and leaders behaved in this way? The sad reality is that many have been seduced by the Washington, D.C. political culture. They have identified themselves so closely with persons and parties that they have lost sight of principle. By excusing the behavior of the Republican Party, Christian conservatives set the party up for the 2006 defeat.
In their lust for power, men who presume to tell the rest of America how to live and who attempt to set standards for behavior, decide that they would rather court power than stand up for even the most basic moral principles.
Cal Thomas, one of the country's most widely syndicated columnists, maintained in a recent piece that intoxication with political power "often dulls the senses to morality and 'values.'" In a piece titled "Where do conservative Christians go from here?" Thomas argued that the "unholy alliance between people of faith and politicians... often ends in compromise on the part of the faithful and the cynical harvesting of their votes with little offered in return."
The case of Rep. Don Sherwood, a Pennsylvania Republican who lost his seat to a Democrat, is particular instructive, said Thomas. Here is someone who "cheat[ed] on his wife and allegedly abus[ed] his mistress, Cynthia Ore, [yet] he still gets an 85 percent approval rating from the Focus on the Family Action organisation. The delicious irony here is that he might have earned a 100 percent rating had he voted for the Marriage Protection amendment, which he supported."
So who's to blame for the Republican election debacle? According to one of the leaders of the religious right, Rev. Lou Shelton of the Traditional Values Coalition, suggests that it wasn't the moral failing of the Republican leadership that caused their defeat. No, instead Shelton blames the American people who voted against the corrupt Republicans.
The Rev. Lou Sheldon, the head of the Traditional Values Coalition maintained: "We know that in America the people are with us. They're just confused."
That's right confused voters failed to keep corrupt, lying, cheating Republican politicians in power.