Tag Archives: politics

330. Dred Scott Rides Again

The issue at hand is constitutionality v. right and wrong.

My respect for the constitution is profound, but terrible things have been done in the name of constitutionality. Some of them are being done right now. (see yesterday’s post)

There is no question of the constitutionality of the move to deport undocumented immigrants, but a great deal of question as to its wisdom and its morality. Trump’s motives are unknowable and irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if he thinks he is saving America from an enemy within, or if he just jumped on an issue to provide a path the white house. The real question is — should it happen.

History has lessons for us on this issue. The constitution allowed Chinese immigrants to be deemed unfit for citizenship. The same was true of Japanese immigrants. Chinese were, eventually and quite constitutionally, denied entry into the US altogether simply for being Chinese. (see 306. White Men Only)

Andrew Jackson used his constitutional powers to make treaties in his removal of the southern Indian tribes. He also used trickery and deceit, but that is politics. American Indians living a settled life in agricultural villages, whose ancestors had been in America since before Columbus was a gleam in his father’s eye, were led by trickery and force to sign away their lands and were removed from the United States by military force, all quite constitutionally through the Indian Removal Act of 1930. (see 247. The People’s President)

Let’s turn the calendar forward from Indian removal to 1857. This was the era of the Missouri Compromise, which allowed new northern states to enter the union as non-slave states, while new southern states entered the union as slave states.

Dred Scott was born a slave in Virginia. His owner took him to Illinois and later to what is now Minnesota. Later, he was returned to Missouri where he eventually sued for his freedom based on his long residence in free states. The litigations passed through multiple trials, which Scott sometimes won and sometimes lost, and finally made it to the U. S. Supreme Court as Dred Scott v. Sandford.

Scott lost. Chief Justice Taney stated that any person descended from Africans, whether slave or free, is not a citizen of the United States, according to the constitution. He further stated that the government could not confer either freedom or citizenship to non-whites, and the Missouri compromise could not exclude slavery from the northern territories.

All this in the name of the constitution. It brought anger, the election of Lincoln, and the civil war.

At the end of the Civil War, the 14th amendment stated that “all persons born or naturalized in the Unites States .  . . are citizens.”  That did nothing to help the Chinese and later Japanese who came to this country, but could not be naturalized because they weren’t white. (again, see 306. White Men Only)

And it does nothing for the Mexican-Americans who came to America illegally because the laws made it impossible to come in legally. If you read yesterday’s post, and if you followed the link and actually looked at the Permanent Residence application form, you know this to be true. If we native born Americans were required to positively answer all the questions on that form, three-quarters of us would have to leave the country.

I respect the Constitution, but I don’t respect those who misuse it. Trickery and deceit gave Andrew Jackson his way, but this is not 1830, and it should not happen again.

329. Green Card Blues

Just before Christmas, I wrote a post from the viewpoint of a little Mexican girl, born in the US, whose parents were about to be deported. I received a comment suggesting that the problem was caused by Mexicans breaking the law. I posted that comment because everyone has a right to his opinion.

Why don’t Mexican immigrants just follow the law? I’m no expert, so I did a bit of research. Here is what it says on the Homeland Security website.

Because more people want a green card than there are visas available, not everyone who wants a green card can get one immediately. Therefore, some people have to wait in line until a visa is available. The U.S. Department of State (DOS) gives out 140,000 employment-based visas each year. . . . Currently, about 234,000 people have employment-based adjustment of status (green card) applications pending in the United States and are waiting to get a visa.

And from the site of the North American Immigration Law Group

Each application must also be supported by evidence that the alien will not become a public charge.

That suggests the applicant has to already have an employee, or has to be rich.

According to information scattered through half a dozen websites, the wait for a visa can easily take up to nine months. I can’t credit this to an official source, so call it a strong rumor.

Okay, let’s say you have a visa? That gets you over the border, but to stay, you have to apply for permanent residence. So what does that application look like? Here are some excerpts; you can download a PDF if you want to look at the whole thing.

List your present and past membership in or affiliation with every organization, association, fund, foundation, party, club, society, or similar group in the United States or in other places since your 16th birthday. Include any military service in this part. If none, write “None.” Include the name of each organization, location, nature, and dates of membership. If additional space is needed, attach a separate sheet of paper.

Have you received public assistance in the United States from any source, including the U.S. Government or any State, county, city, or municipality (other than emergency medical treatment), or are you likely to receive public assistance in the future?

Have you EVER been a member of, or in any way affiliated with, the Communist Party or any other totalitarian party?

Have you EVER received any type of military, paramilitary, or weapons training? 

These are a few of the most egregious questions found in five tightly packed pages of questions. It looks a bit like an IRS tax form on steroids.

If you were a Mexican doctor or businessman facing this document, you would set down for a hour with your lawyer and all would be well. But what if you were an uneducated, non-English-speaking farm worker?

Trump wants to build a wall. There is already a wall, built of paper, keeping poor and uneducated Mexicans from legally entering the US, and sending them across the border illegally to find work to feed their families.

This post is only a first look at a process full of complications and permutations. I’ve followed the paper trail as far as I care to. Knowing the full story of any government program would take a lifetime, and I have other things to do. But I have one more question to ask:

Is the system set up this way to turn Mexican laborers into virtual slaves, afraid to speak up from fear of the INS? No one can answer with certainty. But we can suspect, and I do.

327. The Lone Hero

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                         A note before we start  ——

     Yesterday, someone searched on the sub-title of this blog (be not ashamed . . .) but my software doesn’t tell me who. For your information, unknown and curious person, I explained my relationship to this poem on the last day of 2015, and included a copy of the poem the same day.

     And now to our regularly scheduled business ——

===============

In my youth, before Star Trek and Star Wars and computer generated effects, the typical movie hero was a cowboy, riding into town alone, beholden to no one, ready to stand or fall on his own.

Even the word “beholden” seems old fashioned. Ancient. Outmoded — like the western hero himself. And to be fair, he never really existed. If you spend any time at all reading histories of the old west, you’ll find out that things were done by groups, not by lone heroes. When the Dalton gang tried to hold up two banks at once in Coffeyville, Kansas, it wasn’t a John Wayne figure standing tall in the street that stopped them. It was a dozen or so armed citizens that blew them out of the saddle from windows and doorways. Same story in Northfield, Minnesota when the James gang bit the dust.

I called them armed citizens. That sounds pretty good. Put them up on horses with Winchesters and send them as a posse after the bad guys. It still works — unless you are the one they are after. Call them vigilantes, and some people will start to feel uncomfortable, but not everyone. Call them a gang and people will start thinking about locking their doors.

Put them in white hoods. What do you think of them now?

It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

The lone, self-sufficient individual or small family did exist. There were soddies on the Kansas prairie miles from the next settler. Or log cabins in the deep woods of Ohio and Indiana — back when Ohio and Indiana had deep woods. And there were the mountain men. You can’t get more independent than that — except that they moved across the prairie in companies, and only dispersed once they were in the mountains.

One thing is certain. The idea of the loner was always there.

I wrote my first book, a young adult novel called Spirit Deer, with the idea of the loner front and center. The young man Tim — he didn’t need a last name — got lost in the Sierras while deer hunting and found his way out without help despite innumerable trials and tribulations. You can still sell that kind of book (see Two Hands and a Knife), but they are becoming rare. Today’s YA novels seem to be about how to get along in the world.

There’s nothing wrong with that. It better fits the world today’s youth live in. The — ask a friend, seek companionship, don’t rock the boat, politically correct, do no harm, love yourself, make no judgments, everything is morally right as long as you don’t hurt someone’s feelings — world.

Granted, there is much good in these “civilized” changes, but whatever happened to standing up on your hind feet and saying, “I don’t agree. That’s not for me.” There’s nothing wrong with having an opinion different from the crowd.

No wonder Trump won.

He’s as fake as Rooster Cogburn, but he represents something Americans have come to miss. The cowboy hero, riding into town alone, beholden to no one, ready to stand or fall on his own.

There is one thing to remember though. When the smoke cleared and the sound of six guns faded at the end of that movie, half the town was dead in the street. That may work when you can leave the theatre and drive home to your secure suburban house. It doesn’t work so well when you have to pick up a shovel and go bury your dead.

The self-certain loner and the soft spoken conformer. As Kirk said to Spock, “The truth probably lies somewhere in between.”

306. White Men Only

Mostly, A Writing Life is a look at science fiction and writing in general. However, I am an American, and my country did something seventy-five years ago that needs to be remembered. See also Monday’s and Tuesday’s posts.

The Naturalization Act of 1790 stated that citizenship was available to “any alien, being a free white person”. That set the tone for the future. When the law was amended after the Civil War, it’s new iteration was taken to mean that Chinese were not eligible for citizenship.

Economic reality brought them to America anyway, where their children became citizens by birth, even though their parents could not be naturalized. The Chinese importance to the transcontinental railroad is well known. When the golden spike was driven, Chinese by the thousand were thrown out of work, and in the years that followed, downturns in the American economy were blamed on cheap Chinese labor. By 1882, Chinese were forbidden entry into the United States, a condition that continued until the 1940s.

In 1880, only 148 Japanese were living in the United States. Between 1885 and 1894, the need for cheap labor in Hawaii coupled with economic difficulties in Japan led 25,000 Japanese to emigrate to Hawaii. Many of those later moved on to the mainland.

During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, particularly during the Alaskan gold rush, there was a need for cheap labor all over the American west. Chinese were prohibited from entering the US, but Japanese were not. The result was predictable; between 1901 and 1908, 127,000 Japanese entered the United States. Many entered the fishing industry. Many were skilled in a kind of small scale, intensive agriculture that was new to the United States. All came from a culture that emphasized the entrepreneurial spirit.

Like the Chinese before them, the Japanese immigrants were denied citizenship, but their children became citizens at birth.

Most of these Japanese settled in California, where they formed a tiny minority. By 1941, only a small minority of that minority were both native born and of voting age, leaving the Japanese politically voiceless.

Throughout the half century before Pearl Harbor, the Japanese, especially in California, were subject to virulent racism. Repeatedly, the California legislature made it illegal for Japanese to lease or own land, but these were poorly conceived laws that were universally evaded. Japanese children were segregated out of public education.

It is a familiar pattern. Most ethnic groups endured it when they first came to America – then used the same tactics against whoever came after them. Like hazing at West Point, it is a long-standing American tradition.

Then came Pearl Harbor. Unfounded fears of the Japanese led to Executive Order 9066, and in 1942 the American military moved 120,000 Americans from their homes and incarcerated them thousands of miles away in “relocation centers”. I call them Americans because they were either actual citizens or long time residents who intended to live out their lives in their new country, but were prevented from receiving citizenship because of their race.

Much is made of the harshness of the centers, but that is not the point. Tens of thousands of GIs lived in barracks identical to those that made up the relocation centers. There was one difference, however, that does matter. The GI barracks were not surrounded by barbed wire fences, with guard towers manned by soldiers with guns.

And those GIs who made it back from the war, returned to their homes. The homes, farms and businesses of the Japanese were largely taken by the neighbors who had sent them away.

* * * * * * * *

I said in the beginning that I would not shove conclusions down your throat. I will, however, leave you with this quotation from Personal Justice Denied, p. 28:

(Japanese relocation) is the bitter history of an original mistake, a failure of America’s faith in its citizens’ devotion to their country’s cause and their right to liberty, when there was no evidence or proof of wrongdoing.

For me, 2017 is beginning to look a lot like 1942. Decide for yourself.

305. Relocation – or not

Mostly, A Writing Life is a look at science fiction and writing in general. However, I am an American, and my country did something seventy-five years ago that needs to be remembered.

I have been aware of the relocation of the Japanese for a very long time, but in preparing these posts, I put on my historian’s hat and did my research. The final word (or as close to a final word as ever exists in history) comes from the government commission empaneled to investigate the matter in 1980. Their report, Personal Justice Denied, is available on line at https://www.archives.gov/research/japanese-americans/justice-denied

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Executive Order 9066 began with these words:

Whereas the successful prosecution of the war requires every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage to national-defense material, national-defense premises, and national-defense utilities . . .

Certainly, no one could argue with that. The devil was in the details of how Executive Order 9066 was carried out.

There were four groups of American residents who were affected by this order, in two categories – Japanese, German, Italian, and Aleut. The Aleuts were living in a war zone on distant Alaskan islands and had to be removed for their own safety. Their story is not a happy one, but their removal was necessary.

Our concern is with the other three groups, residents and citizen descendants from the three countries against which America was at war.

Italians were dismissed by the government and military as of no danger. They were so little regarded, that it almost seems embarrassing in retrospect. FDR called them “a lot of opera singers” and they were quickly removed from the category of “aliens of enemy nationality.” Whatever distrust individual citizens may have had, the government did not move against them, even though Executive Order 9066 allowed it to do so.

Germans were also treated differently than the Japanese in spite of the powerful pro-Nazi movement among German Americans before the war. The Bund rally for Hitler in New York in 1939 drew 20,00 people, and Bund membership nationwide was more than 200,000.

Of course, mass exclusion of Germans and Italians would have required dealing with a million detainees. And they were white, which Japanese were not, by the standards of the day.

Nevertheless, German and Italian individuals were at risk. Military commanders used their powers to exclude many individual citizens of German or Italian ancestry from the areas under their command. Many non-citizens were arrested and brought before INS hearings, where they were not allowed lawyers and could not object to the questions put to them. Any issues of loyalty were decided in favor of the government. By three months after Pearl Harbor, 1393 Germans and 264 Italians had been incarcerated by this system

Everyone knows that Japanese were relocated en masse, but there is a twist to the story. Not all Japanese were treated equally, either. Japanese from the west coast were the ones relocated. That means mostly California, Oregon, and Washington – Hawaii was only a territory at that time.

The Japanese in Hawaii were not relocated. Why? There is no single, simple answer. At least part of the reason lies in the fact that Hawaii was tightly under martial law. Part of the reason lies in the personalities of the regional generals, Emmons in Hawaii and DeWitt on the west coast. Part of the answer lies in sheer numbers. In 1942, 35% of the population of Hawaii was of Japanese ancestry.

However, most of the reason lies in years of racism in the western part of America. We will look at that tomorrow.

304. Another Day In Infamy

Seventy-five years ago yesterday, FDR signed Executive Order 9066 which allowed the Army to remove tens of thousands of American citizens from their homes and place them in relocation camps. America has long recognized the error of this action. Now, more than ever, we need to look at how it came about – not only because of the anniversary, but because of what is happening in our country today.

First, however, an aside. This is not a reaction to Donald Trump and his travel ban or his planned expulsion of undocumented residents. I’ve been planning this series of posts for over a year. I announced them in early December (See 266. The Other War), and I would be writing the same series of posts if Donald Trump had never existed.

Nevertheless, these posts do shine a sidelight on his policies.  You can make the comparisons for yourself.

* * * * * * * *

Executive orders are neither good nor bad, as a class of action. They are just the way legislation gets fine tuned and enforced. There are times when a president oversteps his authority and gets slapped down by the courts. There are times when a president should act, but does not. It would be easy to find citizens who applauded Obama’s executive orders and hate Trump’s – and just as easy to find the reverse.

Every executive order has to be seen on its own merits, even executive orders by the same president. Although Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 will receive harsh criticism here, we should also remember his Executive Order 8802, which prohibited racial discrimination in the defense industry. There are very few full time villains, and probably no full time heroes. That’s why, in a democracy, we choose our leaders carefully, and watch them just as carefully after they are in office – no matter who they are.

* * * * * * * *

The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. On December 8, America declared war. On December 12, FDR issued Executive Order 8972 which ordered military guards and patrols within the US to protect national defense areas. The justification was protection of America from domestic sabotage by internal enemies. That would also be the justification for Japanese removal.

On February 19, 1942, FDR issued an additional executive order, number 9066, toward the same end, but this time he called on the military to exclude “any or all persons” from areas of military importance, with wide discretion to decide who this meant and what constituted an area of military importance.

I have placed links to full versions of both orders at the bottom of this post. Here is a cut-down version of EO 9066, for those who don’t care to see the full text:

. . . by virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United States, and Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of War . . . to prescribe military areas . . . to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War . . . may impose in his discretion (and) to provide for residents of any such area who are excluded therefrom, such transportation, food, shelter, and other accommodations as may be necessary . . . I hereby further authorize and direct the Secretary of War . . . to take such other steps as he . . . may deem advisable to enforce compliance with the restrictions applicable . . .

As you begin reading the full text, at first it seems to be an order to do things like keep spies off Navy bases. But then you come to the part which says that “such transportation, food, shelter, and other accommodations as may be necessary” will be provided, and it becomes clear what is really intended.

They called it exclusion, as in being excluded from a Navy base. Today it is called removal, because it was not a Navy base from which these unnamed people were being excluded. It was the entire west coast of the United States. And the people excluded from their homes, farms, and businesses were Japanese Americans.

I know people who have no problem with this, who say we were at war with Japan and who see all Japanese as one. I know some whose hatred of Japan has never died.

Facts don’t support them. The Japanese, who were not a threat, were incarcerated. The Germans, with whose Fatherland we were also at war, had shown massive support for Hitler, but they were not incarcerated. Why? The details of all this will come in the next two posts.

Executive order 8972 https://fas.org/irp/offdocs/eo/eo-8972.htm

Executive order 9066 https://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?doc=74&page=transcript

297. Skylab (1)

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SKYLAB

The International Space Station has been continuously inhabited since November of 2000. if you are under twenty-five, you probably don’t remember a time when it didn’t exist. You also probably don’t know that scientists widely resisted it’s construction, feeling that far more could be learned by spending the equivalent amount in other ways. Whether or not they were right will probably never be known.

The space race that culminated in landing on the moon was fueled by the cold war. The construction of the International Space Station was fueled by the need to demonstrate that the cold war was over, and that Russia and America were now friends. How well that has turned out is also still in doubt.

There were space stations before the ISS, mostly Russian. Wikipedia has a nice list available. The US had an aborted space station project in the late sixties, the MOL (see 256. The Space Station That Never Was) and an actual one in the mid to late seventies. It came on the heels of the Apollo program and it was called Skylab.

Most Americans have forgotten it ever existed but for a few brief weeks in 1979, everyone in the world was looking at the sky and thinking about Skylab.

Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt were the last men on the moon in 1972 (see 293. Last Man on the Moon) because of funding cuts. Twenty Apollo missions had originally been envisioned. Apollo 20 was the first to be cancelled in January of 1970 to allow its booster to be used for Skylab. Later that year, Apollo 18 and 19 were cancelled.

If you think back only a few years, the last Space Shuttle flight brought rounds of congratulations for years of success, but at the same time the Cape, northeastern Florida, and NASA in general saw economic turmoil as thousands lost their jobs.

A similar thing happened at the height of the Apollo program. All the Saturn V boosters that were going to be built were in the pipeline, and the organization that produced them was in danger of disappearing. One of the schemes to keep the resource from disappearing was Skylab.

Space stations had always been envisioned. Early plans for reaching the moon called for building space station, then assembling the moon rockets there. It made good sense. Spacecraft have different design requirements from vehicles designed to cope with traveling through the atmosphere. Just look at the difference between the Lunar Lander and the Apollo Command Module. Now visualize a craft built in space for lunar or interplanetary travel; your vision will probably look a lot like the ISS looks today.

That plan to build a space station, then a moon rocket, made perfect sense, but it wasn’t going to happen fast enough to win a space race with the Russians. Hence the Apollo style moon missions, leading to victory in the space race, leading to an America that felt like a winner, but had no place to go next.

Enter, Skylab. more tomorrow