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The March for Ferguson: Houston

By: Coach Bill Wednesday November 26, 2014 9:24 am

The notice of the March for Ferguson and Michael Brown came through Facebook. It would begin in a park near where I work so I thought I would take a look.

When I arrived, I thought there might actually be more media and cops than demonstrators but the crowd slowly swelled. A few people spoke in turn through a megaphone but the chants soon took over, “ Hands up, don’t shoot”.

The leaders began to move the crowd toward the nearest intersection cautioning that once out of the park, their actions would be illegal. As the protestors moved into the intersection, blocking traffic in every direction, the police established a perimeter but did not interfere. After about 10 minutes, we began to march. The police formed an escort, ahead, behind and on the side, lights flashing but no sirens and most importantly no interference. There was also a sizable contingent of Mounties always present in Houston at crowd events.

As the march moved away from the park and headed toward the University of Houston, I noticed that a reporter from the local CBS affiliate had embedded herself in the march with her camera crew. She stayed with us till the end.

We marched through the campus and on to the Texas Southern University campus. At this point I realized how far we were from my car and I headed back to the park.

Two things left an impression on me.

Social media was everywhere in addition to members of the MSM and independent press. At one point as we marched through and blocked an intersection.  I noticed the drivers of the impeded cars holding their mobile phones out the window, recording us as we marched by. I was texting photos to a friend in Denmark who in turn was posting them on Facebook. Later my feed was full of photes from marches in cities across the country.

The police were out in force but they were clearly well prepared to facilitate the march. They provided an escort and at no time did they attempt to impede the march. None of those accompanying the marchers were wearing anything but their everyday uniforms and with the exception of one with a bag of large plastic wire ties. None was carrying anything but everyday police paraphernalia. I spoke with several and all replied with good humor and no evidence of rancor.

When I returned to the parking lot where my car was parked, I took a moment to speak to a group of officers still standing there. I observed that they were clearly well prepared for the event and had acted with professionalism in a situation that was potentially volatile.

I shook their hands and said thank you.

They smiled.

 

There Goes Virginia’s Climate

By: David Swanson Wednesday November 26, 2014 8:49 am

A snowstorm is the ideal time to write about climate disruption, as it allows us to immediately set-aside the cartoonish claim that if any spot on earth isn’t warmer than it was yesterday then all is well. The following things we know:

There are giant snowflakes falling outside my window.

Five-year averages of temperature in Virginia began a significant and steady increase in the early 1970s, rising from 54.6 degrees Fahrenheit then to 56.2 degrees F in 2012.

The Piedmont area, where I live, has seen the temperature rise at a rate of 0.53 degrees F per decade.

At this rate, Virginia will be as hot as South Carolina by 2050 and as northern Florida by 2100, and continuing at a steady or increasing pace from there.

Sixty percent of Virginia is forest, and forests cannot evolve or switch over to warmer-weather species at anything like that fast a pace. The most likely future is not pines or palm trees but wasteland.

From 1979 to 2003, excessive heat exposure contributed to over 8,000 premature deaths in the United States, more than all deaths from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined, and dramatically more than all deaths from terrorism.

Between 1948 and 2006 “extreme precipitation events” have increased 25% in Virginia. Precipitation in Virginia is likely to increase or decrease dramatically overall, and is extremely likely to continue the trend of arriving in ever more intense bursts of storms interrupting droughts. This will be devastating to agriculture.

Acidity in the ocean has already increased by 30 percent and if current trends continue will hit a 100 to 150 percent increase by 2100 and continue to spiral upward from there. Oysters’ shells in the Chesapeake Bay have grown thinner as a result. The oyster population is 98 percent gone. Shell fish are becoming and will entirely become extinct, if current trends remain unaltered. By 2100 we can expect 60 to 100 percent of the world’s coral reefs to be gone.

Fish off the Virginia coast are moving north and east to survive, some species having already vanished from Virginia waters either by migrating or dying out. In Virginia 46 percent of fish species, 25 percent of birds, 46 percent of reptiles, 43 percent of amphibians, and 28 percent of mammals are listed as threatened or endangered.

Seventy-eight percent of Virginians live within 20 miles of the Chesapeake, the Atlantic, or tidal rivers. On the Eastern Shore and in the Hampton Roads-Norfolk area, flooding has already become routine. The sea level will rise, if current trends continue, between 3 and 18 feet by 2100. Already it has risen an inch every 7 or 8 years — 12 inches in the last century. Some 628,000 Virginians live within 6.5 feet of sea level. Paul Fraim, Mayor of Norfolk since 1994, says the city may need to soon establish “retreat zones” and abandon sections of the city as too costly to protect. Real estate agents are discussing the need to require disclosure of sea level as well as lead paint and other defects when selling property.

The famous ponies of Chincoteague live among trees killed and grasses weakened by risen saltwater, and will not live there much longer.

The U.S. military, headquartered largely in Virginia, the world’s largest Navy base in Norfolk, and the swamp-built Capital of the United States in Washington, D.C., face potential devastation directly contributed to by the endless wars for oil, and the consumption of that oil, despite the widespread belief that the results of the wars are distant. Just as ice melting in Greenland lifts water onto the streets of Norfolk, investment of trillions of dollars in pointless death and destruction not only diverts resources from addressing climate damage but heavily contributes to that damage. The U.S. military would rank 38th in oil consumption if it were a nation.

If any image can wallop someone with the need to adjust our priorities it is one of Wallops Island just south of Chincoteague but protected for the moment by a $34 million rock wall.  Wallops Island hosts tests for the $4 billion crash-prone Osprey helicopter, and all sorts of war training, plus a space port from which multi-billionaires can blow themselves up or launch themselves into space to starve in tin cans literally as well as subjectively above the rest of us.

There is no Planet B. Nobody has found anywhere for humans to live apart from earth, at least not remotely in the time frame of the current crisis.

Virginia has taken in thousands of refugees from Hurricane Katrina and can expect to take in many more and to create many refugees itself. The only thinking that says every future Hurricane Sandy will miss Virginia is wishful thinking.

The warming will bring the mosquito varieties (already arriving) and diseases. Serious risks include malaria, Chagas disease, chikungunya virus, and dengue virus. Look them up. The television won’t explain them until they’re here.

Virginians, like others in the United States, consume vastly more energy and produce vastly more warming per capita than do people in other countries, including countries in Europe that they don’t look down on. Proposals to actually halt the climate catastrophe generally call for Americans to start living like Europeans (the horror!).

Virginia’s Constitution requires the state to “protect its atmosphere, lands, and waters from pollution, impairment, or destruction, for the benefit, enjoyment and general welfare of the people.” In a decent court system, any member of the public could have that enforced through a massive emergency Marshall-Plan effort to preserve our climate.

Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality does not concern itself with climate change.

Virginia lags significantly behind Maryland and North Carolina in addressing climate change.

Numerous reasonable steps can be quite easily taken if the political will is found, but they get harder with each passing year.

The financial corruption of state governments is not nearly as advanced as at the federal level, although some states lag behind the national average in intellectual awareness and enlightenment. The possibility certainly exists for Virginia to compete with Germany and Scandinavia in renewable energy, recycling, and reduced consumption.

If the day after being thankful for things, Virginians rush out to stores and buy crap, rather than rushing out to organize actions to save the climate, we will need to all be thankful we are not our kids or our grandkids. “Here’s a plastic toy. Glad I’m not you!”

Apart from the snow outside my window and a few odd remarks like “stop shopping!” everything stated above is well documented in a new book called Virginia Climate Fever by Stephen Nash, for which I am thankful and which I hope every Virginian reads before New Year’s resolution time.

Over Easy: Transcripts show #DarrenWilson lied to the grand jury

By: Masoninblue Wednesday November 26, 2014 4:55 am

Officer Darren Wilson testified that he knew about the theft of a box of cigarillos from the Ferguson Market, before encountering Michael Brown and Dorian Johnson. However, Officer Wilson’s supervisor testified that he spoke to Wilson after the shooting, and that Wilson “did not know anything about the stealing call.” In an apparent effort to turn unreasonable actions into a reasonable excuse to pull the gun out, Wilson connected the stop to the call about the in-store theft.

First we have a transcript of his grand jury testimony:

Question by Prosecutor Ms. Whirley:

Q: Okay. Did you get any other calls between the time of the sick baby call and your interaction with Michael Brown and Dorian Johnson?
A: While on the sick case call, a call came out for a stealing in progress from the local market on West Florissant, that the suspects traveling toward QT. I didn’t hear the entire call, I was on my portable radio, which isn’t exactly the best. I did hear that a suspect was wearing a black shirt and that a box of Cigarillos was stolen.
Q: And this was your call or you just heard the call?
A: It was not my call. I heard the call.
Q: Some other officers were dispatched to that call.
A: I believe two others were.
Q: Was it a call you were going to go toalso?
A: No.
Q: So you weren’t really geared to handle that call?
A: No.
/snip/
A: As I approached them, I stopped a couple of feet in front of Johnson as they are walking toward me, I am going toward them. As Johnson came along my driver’s side mirror I said, “why don’t you guys walk on the sidewalk?” He kept walking, as he is walking, he said, “we are almost to our destination.”
Q: Do you think he used those words destination, we are almost to our destination?
A: Yes, ma’am. He said we are almost to our destination and he pointed this direction over my vehicle. So like in a northeasternly (sic) direction. As he did that, he kept walking and Brown was starting to come around the mirror and as he came around the mirror I said, “well, what’s wrong with the sidewalk?” Brown then replied, um it has vulgar language.
Q: You can say it, say it.
A: Brown then replied, “fuck what you have to say.” And when he said that, it drew my attention totally to Brown. It was very unusual and not expected response from a simple request.
When I start looking at Brown, first thing I notice is in his right hand, his hand is full of Cigarillos. I looked in my mirror, I did a double check that Johnson was wearing a black shirt. These are the two from the stealing.
And they kept walking, as I said, they never once stopped, never got on the sidewalk, they stayed in the middle of the road.
So I got on my radio and Frank 21 is my call sign that day, I said Frank 21 I’m on Canfield with two, send me another car.
I then placed my car in reverse and backed up and I backed up just past them and then angled my vehicle, the back of my vehicle to kind of cut them off, kind of to keep them somewhat contained.

[GJ, Vol. V pp. 202-209]

Second, now we have a transcript of his direct supervisor’s testimony. Sergeant LNU* responded to the scene within minutes after the shooting and was the first person to interview him.

Question by a Prosecutor Ms. Alizadeh

Q: Did he know about it? Did he talk about knowing about the stealing?
A: He did not know anything about the stealing call.
Q: He told you he did not know anything about the stealing?
A: He did not know anything. He was out on another call in the apartment complex adjacent to Canfield Green.
[GJ, Vol. V, pp. 52-53]

Question by a GJ member

Q: Now, my question to you is this. Are you saying that because he told you he didn’t know about it or are you saying that because he didn’t mention It to you when you were talking to him?
A: He did not mention it to me again. I learned about it at a later time.
Q: Has he ever told you, yeah, I didn’t know anything about what happened up at the Ferguson Market?
A: Yes, he told me that in subsequent conversations.
Q: He told you he didn’t know about there being a stealing at the Ferguson Market?
A: Correct

[GJ, Vol. V, p. 58]

The shooting happened on Saturday, August 9, 2014. Wilson was not questioned by anyone else until after he conferred with his lawyer at the station house. Both witnesses testified before the grand jury on September 16, 2014, which was 5 weeks after the shooting.

My question is, how can anyone believe Officer Darren Wilson regarding any material issue of fact when he lied about the reason he stopped the boys to portray them as criminal thieves?

*LNU means last name unknown

Officer Darren Wilson’s story is unbelievable. Literally.

So Brown is punching inside the car. Wilson is scrambling to deflect the blows, to protect his face, to regain control of the situation. And then Brown stops, turns to his left, says to his friend, “Here, hold these,” and hands him the cigarillos stolen from Ferguson Market. Then he turns back to Wilson and, with his left hand now freed from holding the contraband goods, throws a haymaker at Wilson.

Every bullshit detector in me went off when I read that passage. Which doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen exactly the way Wilson describes. But it is, again, hard to imagine. Brown, an 18-year-old kid holding stolen goods, decides to attack a cop and, while attacking him, stops, hands his stolen goods to his friend, and then returns to the beatdown. It reads less like something a human would do and more like a moment meant to connect Brown to the robbery.

A prominent legal expert eviscerates the Darren Wilson prosecution, in 8 tweets

Documents and transcripts.

“I Hate That Oil’s Dropping”: Why Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant Wants High Oil Prices for Fracking

By: Steve Horn Tuesday November 25, 2014 9:14 pm

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Gov. Phil Bryant

Outgoing Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC) chairman Phil Bryant — Mississippi’s Republican Governor — started his farewell address with a college football joke at IOGCC’s recent annual conference in Columbus, Ohio.

“As you know, I love SEC football. Number one in the nation Mississippi State, number three in the nation Ole Miss, got a lot of energy behind those two teams,” Bryant said in opening his October 21 speech. “I try to go to a lot of ball games. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it and somebody’s gotta be there.”

Seconds later, things got more serious, as Bryant spoke to an audience of oil and gas industry executives and lobbyists, as well as state-level regulators.

At the industry-sponsored convening, which I attended on behalf of DeSmogBlog, it was hard to tell the difference between industry lobbyists and regulators. The more money pledged by corporations, the more lobbyists invited into IOGCC’s meeting.

Perhaps this is why Bryant framed his presentation around “where we are headed as an industry,” even though officially a statesman and not an industrialist, before turning to his more stern remarks.

“I know it’s a mixed blessing, but if you look at some of the pumps in Mississippi, gasoline is about $2.68 and people are amazed that it’s below $3 per gallon,” he said.

“And it’s a good thing for industry, it’s a good thing for truckers, it’s a good thing for those who move goods and services and products across the waters and across the lands and we’re excited about where that’s headed.”

Bryant then discussed the flip side of the “mixed blessing” coin.

“Of course the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale has a little problem with that, so as with most things in life, it’s a give and take,” Bryant stated. “It’s very good at one point and it’s helping a lot of people, but on the other side there’s a part of me that goes, ‘Darn! I hate that oil’s dropping, I hate that it’s going down.’ I don’t say that out-loud, but just to those in this room.”

Tuscaloosa Marine Shale’s “little problem” reflects a big problem the oil and gas industry faces — particularly smaller operators involved with hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) — going forward.

That is, fracking is expensive and relies on a high global price of oil. A plummeting price of oil could portend the plummeting of many smaller oil and gas companies, particularly those of the sort operating in the Tuscaloosa Marine.

Tuscaloosa and Oil Price

Governor Bryant’s fears about the price of oil are far from unfounded, serving as a rare moment of frank honesty from Mississippi’s chief statesman.

As discussed in Post Carbon Institute‘s recent report, “Drilling Deeper: A Reality Check on U.S. Government Forecasts for a Lasting Tight Oil & Shale Gas Boom,” the fracking industry relies on high oil prices to stay on the drilling treadmill and keep shale fields from going into terminal decline. Further, future projections of shale gas and oil fields are wildly over-inflated, argues the Post Carbon report.

Engelhardt: Iraq War 4.0?

By: Tom Engelhardt Tuesday November 25, 2014 5:58 pm

This article orginally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three time a week, click here.

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Here’s a small suggestion as the holidays approach.  If you want to lend a hand to TomDispatch before the year ends, why not make a donation of $100 (or more) for a signed, personalized copy of my new book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World. If you’d like to have it signed for a friend this season, go to our donation page, make the necessary contribution, and email me telling me whom to sign it for. As for the rest of you, don’t forget to pick up a copy of the book for yourself or a friend. It’s a great way to spread the word about TomDispatch. By the way, if you want to read an interview Don Hazen and Jan Frel of Alternet did with me on the new book and our ragged old world, click here.

Note as well that there will be no TomDispatch post on Thanksgiving. Tom]

Russians Invade Afghanistan (Again!), Chinese Fight Iraq War (Again!) 
What If It Weren’t Us? 
By Tom Engelhardt

Let’s play a game, the kind that makes no sense on this single-superpower planet of ours. For a moment, do your best to suspend disbelief and imagine that there’s another superpower, great power, or even regional power somewhere that, between 2001 and 2003, launched two major wars in the Greater Middle East. We’re talking about full-scale invasions, long-term occupations, and nation-building programs, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq.

In both countries, that power quickly succeeded in its stated objective of “regime change,” only to find itself mired in deadly conflicts with modestly armed minority insurgencies that it simply couldn’t win. In each country, to the tune of billions and billions of dollars, it built up a humongous army and allied “security” forces, poured money into “reconstruction” projects (most of which proved disasters of corruption and incompetence), and spent trillions of dollars of national treasure.

Having imagined that, ask yourself: How well did all of that turn out for this other power?  In Afghanistan, a recent news story highlights something of what was accomplished.  Though that country took slot 175 out of 177 on Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index, though its security forces continue to suffer grievous casualties, and though parts of the country are falling to a strengthening Taliban insurgency, it has for some years proudly held a firm grip on one record: Afghanistan is the leading narco-state on planet Earth.

In 2013, it upped its opium poppy cultivation by 36%, its opium production by almost 50%, and drug profits soared. Preliminary figures for this year, recently released by the U.N., indicate that opium cultivation has risen by another 7% and opium production by 17%, both to historic highs, as Afghanistan itself has become “one of the world’s most addicted societies.”

Meanwhile, where there once was Iraq (171st on that index of kleptocracies), there is now a Shiite government in Baghdad defended by a collapsed army and sectarian militias, a de facto Kurdish state to the north, and, in the third of the country in-between, a newly proclaimed “caliphate” run by a terror movement so brutal it’s establishing records for pure bloodiness.  It’s headed by men whose West Point was a military prison run by that same great power and its bloodthirstiness is funded in part by captured oil fields and refineries.

In other words, after 13 years of doing its damnedest, on one side of the Greater Middle East this power has somehow overseen the rise of the dominant narco-state on the planet with monopoly control over 80%-90% of the global opium supply and 75% of the heroin. On the other side of the region, it’s been complicit in the creation of the first terrorist mini-oil state in history, a post-al-Qaeda triumph of extreme jihadism.

A Fraudulent Election and a Collapsed Army

Though I have no doubt that the fantasy of relocating Washington’s deeds to Beijing, Moscow, Tehran, or any other capital crumbled paragraphs ago, take a moment for one more experiment.  If this had been the work of any other power we thought less well of than we do of ourselves, imagine the blazing headlines right now.  Conjure up — and it shouldn’t be hard — what the usual war hawks would be spouting in Congress, what the usual suspects on the Sunday morning talk shows might be saying, and what stories cable news networks from CNN to Fox would be carrying.

You know perfectly well that the denunciations of such global behavior would be blistering, that the assorted pundits and talking heads would be excoriating, that the fear and hysteria over that heroin and those terrorists crossing our border would be somewhere in the stratosphere.  You would hear words like “evil” and “barbaric.”  It would be implied, or stated outright, that this avalanche of disaster was no happenstance but planned by that same grim power with its hand on the trigger these last 13 years, in part to harm the interests of the United States.  We would never hear the end of it.

Instead, the recent reports about Afghanistan’s bumper crop of opium poppies slipped by in the media like a ship on a dark ocean.

A Quick Whirl Around the Mining and Fracking Worlds: 25 Nov 2014

By: KateCA Tuesday November 25, 2014 2:32 pm

Celebrate the cycle of life with a Hoop Dance accompanied by Jazz music, both unique to this country.

Today’s article is a combination of news items for both Mining and Fracking, beginning with Mining.  Next week, it’s back to the usual schedule (Mining on Tuesdays, Fracking on Thursdays).  

MINING THE EARTH

*AKThe Pebble Mine is back in the news as a federal judge “temporarily blocked” the EPA’s efforts to stop the mine, following Northern Dynasty Minerals’ objections to the process.

*KY.  A judge has ruled that the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet is “so understaffed they can no longer effectively enforce clean-water rules.”  He also tossed a “$310,000 proposed agreement” between the E&E Cabinet and the Frasure Creek mining company—and ruled that certain environmental organizations be included in resolutions.

*NY. Hedge funds are reportedly betting on the failure of big coal in the US.  8 major coal companies, on average, were down 29% on the NYSE this year. Hedge funds bet “against the stock and debt of mining firms . . ., then snap . . . up the bonds when their prices fall as low as 40 cents on the dollar.”  When/if things improve, the funds will sell the mines at a profit.

*TX.  Parts of TX’s clean air plan have been rejected by the US Environmental Protection Agency.  which, instead, thinks TX should “require 15 coal-burning generating units at eight Texas power plants to install or improve controls that limit emissions of sulfur dioxide.”  TX’s Commission on Environmental Quality had proposed 2155 as the date for TX to have achieved clear skies.  Seriously.

*WV.  Massey Energy ex-CEO Don Blankenship, pleaded “Not Guilty” last week to federal charges of conspiracy, lying to investigators and not complying with safety and health regulations.  He was ordered to not contact family members of coal miners killed in the April 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine.  Possibility of 31 years in prison, currently out on $5 million bond.  Gag order imposed on Blankenship, mine-worker family members and lawyers.

*Africa.  Groupe Forrest International of Belgium “has consistently lied about the bulldozing of hundreds of homes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo . . . and has denied justice to those affected”.  Groupe Forrest operated the Luiswishi copper and cobalt mine in Kawama, Katanga until 2012.  Apparently there is involvement of the state in the destruction and cover-up.

*Australia.  Gina Rinehart, head of Hancock Prospecting, has plunked down $10 billion to develop the Roy Hill iron ore mine.  She’s complaining about the “negativity” toward mining which, she says, is “critical to Australia’s future.”  Presumably her $10 billion investment means mining is critical to her future, too.

*Australia.  Pssst, Gina RinehartBIS Shrapnel, an “economic forecaster”, says mining investment in Australia is to take the worst fall ever, and soon.

*Australia.  Another mining mogul, Clive Palmer, ran for office in 2013 and allegedly misused in the process $12 million in Chinese-government funds meant for iron mine investment. Why’d he do that?  He’s supposedly worth $1.22 billion, and he’s amusing himself these days by building full-sized replicas of Jurassic Park and the Titanic. He’s even named a political party after himself.

*China.  Following quickly on the heels of the G20 climate summit, China announced “it would cap coal use by 2020 [at] 4.2 billion tonnes”.

*ChinaIron ore’s down 48%, oil down 20%, coking coal down 20%, copper down 7%.  What a few months ago looked like great profits now looks like “a billion-dollar black hole” as China’s commodity prices nose-dive.

 

A QUICK WHIRL AROUND THE FRACKING WORLD

*USA.  The US Navy has announced it can turn seawater into fuel—at $3 to $6 a gallon!

*USA.  The “state department climate change envoy, Todd Stern, said the world would have no choice but to forgo developing reserves of oil, coal and gas” if global warming is to be stopped.

Cleveland Protesters Shut Down Major Freeway For an Hour

By: Ohio Barbarian Tuesday November 25, 2014 1:59 pm

Happening now, people protesting the Ferguson, Missouri, grand jury non-indictment are shutting down a major freeway near downtown Cleveland. In spite of the best efforts on the part of the local reporter to make it a race issue, most of the protesters are clearly white. So far, Cleveland Police are standing back and just observing. There’s no violence, at least not yet, but things are getting disrupted for sure.

More later as this develops.

<Update: The protesters left the freeway after an hour, apparently on their own volition. As for the police, no riot gear was in evidence; they just stood back and waited it out. How intelligent of them. If they had forcefully intervened, as some of the reporters seemed to be hoping for, there would have been violence and a lot of it.>

The Womb Lottery

By: Alan Grayson Tuesday November 25, 2014 11:56 am

I’m happy that President Obama finally has moved forward with immigration reform. But the six-year-long White House Bad Messaging Plague (WHBMP) continues unabated. We’re in danger of losing the public on this issue even before the first work permit is issued.

President Obama’s executive order removes the loaded guns pointed at the temples of five million human beings, who also happen to be undocumented U.S. immigrants. It is a sincere act of compassion and mercy that has eluded House Speaker John Boehner for years, Boehner’s utterly hypocritical nattering about the urgent need for immigration reform notwithstanding. If Boehner had ever looked up from his shot glass, he might have seen their sad eyes, and felt some urge to confer simple dignity on them.

But that’s not how the White House staff is telling it. Last night, I received the White House staff’s talking points, embargoed until 6 pm. (I received them at 6:03 pm, but nevermind.)

● The President will “help secure the border.” (This is the first thing – the very first thing! – that they said.)

● The President will hold undocumented immigrants “accountable.” How is he holding them “accountable” for entering or remaining in America without permission? By letting them stay.

● The President will “fix our broken immigration system.” How will he fix it? By not enforcing it.

● The President will “prioritize deporting felons not families.” Just as he has deported commas from that phrase, I guess. (Good alliteration, though.)

Please understand: I’m in favor of President Obama’s action – very much so. But this framing by the White House staff just . . . stinks.

Here is a test for you: Is there anything in these talking points that could not have come out of the Bush White House? Answer: No.

I’ve seen a poll or two in my life, so I understand that the terms “secure the border,” “accountability,” “fixing the broken [fill in the blank]” and “families” poll very well. Families, yay! Felons, boo! I’m very happy, and indeed relieved, that we Democrats now have established our bona fides as the anti-felon party.

I noted that the White House’s very lengthy (i.e., numbingly repetitive) talking points never mention Boehner or the Republicans – not even once. Instead, the White House extends its devastating six-year-long attack on “Congress,” which has succeeded in: (a) driving Congress’s approval rating down to single digits; (b) delivering the House to the Republicans in 2010; and (c) delivering the Senate to the Republicans in 2014. If some Higher Being did a retroactive global search and replace on every White House statement since Jan. 20, 2009, searching for “Congress” and replacing it in each instance with “Republicans in Congress,” Democrats would have supermajorities right now in both Houses.

Here is the basic problem: Fox News has gotten into their heads. If you think that the primary purpose of immigration reform is “securing the borders,” then your name is Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity, not Robert Gibbs, Jay Carney or Josh Earnest.

With all due respect, these White House staff talking points are a pitiful effort to put a right-wing mask on a left-wing policy – and a meritorious and virtuous left-wing policy at that. But as Professor George Lakoff has demonstrated, even when you rebut the right wing’s arguments, you’re inadvertently reinforcing them. (As he puts it, “Don’t think of an elephant!” You can’t. Once the subject of elephants comes up, you’re going to think about elephants, whether you like it or not.)

Look, this is important. The basic rules of existence for five million people are in play. Please, just this once, can’t we be progressives? What is so wrong with that?

Let’s try it this way: Every one of us draws a ticket in the womb lottery. Six Waltons had winning tickets; they were born billionaires. The victims of fetal alcohol syndrome have losing tickets; they suffer from terrible physical and mental disabilities.

There are seven billion people alive today. Only a quarter of a billion of them won the womb lottery, and they were fortunate enough to be born in the United States. Almost fifty million more worked the system well enough to acquire U.S. citizenship. But there are over ten million people who love America so much – so very much – that they left behind their communities, their families, their property, their jobs, and they came here or remain here without the permission of our government. They didn’t win the womb lottery, so it’s too late for them to be born here. They feel that they were born in the wrong country. Their passports are not blue. But they want to fix that problem. They want to make it right. They can’t be American citizens by birth, but instead, they desperately want to be American citizens by choice.

Isn’t that a good thing? That people love what we have created so much that they want to be a part of it, and contribute to it. This isn’t a threat, it’s a heartfelt compliment.

My mother is an immigrant. My grandparents were immigrants. We are all the sons and daughters of immigrants, and we are all the children of God. Can we please, please respect each other, and live together in peace and dignity?

Think of it this way: For whatever reason – lax enforcement of immigration laws, oppression in other countries, the need to survive, whatever – these five million people are our new sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law. The polite thing to do is to welcome them. Repeat after me: “Welcome to the American Family, and thank you for contributing to the American Experience.”

Courage,

Rep. Alan Grayson