Monday, November 24, 2014

Do Republicans have grandparents too?

     This is my grandfather, Irwin Bramson. I don’t believe his picture has ever appeared in a newspaper before. He would be delighted to see it here.
     My grandfather was not famous, or successful, beyond supporting his family, working in a factory in Cleveland that made machine parts. He eventually owned his own house, on Rossmoor Road in Cleveland Heights. He was very proud of that.
    My grandfather was born on a farm in Bialystock Poland, in 1907 and was sent to this country because things were very bad there and he had a relative, a distant cousin in Cleveland who owned an automobile parts factory and would employ him. He left at 16 and never saw any of his family again; they were all murdered, man, woman and child by the Nazis and their henchmen.
     When he got here, he no doubt faced the scorn of those who felt that America was being corrupted by racially inferior immigrants such as himself that all manner of subhumans and Jews, were poisoning American blood, that they were constitutionally different and would never fit in.
    But he did fit in. He never went to college, but he met my grandmother, got married—they went to the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago on their honeymoon in 1934. They had three daughters, my mother being the eldest. Had they been born in Poland, they all would have been murdered too. 
     All of my memories of him involve him sitting in a green Barcalounger, watching “The Price Is Right.” He smoked cigarettes and drank bourbon. He sucked Luden’s Cherry Cough drops for his throat—he would die of emphysema in 1981.
     He taught me chess. He would give me a dollar if I won and a dollar if I lost. He took me to my first baseball game. There was nothing mean or difficult about him. He did not complain. He asked nothing of anybody. In fact, he rarely spoke. He was a simple man, and I loved him.
     Everyone in the United States, unless they are a Native-American, has a person like my grandfather in their past, someone who came over here to escape hardship or horror and make a life. Whether it was 5 or 50 or 500 years ago, the story is the same. They came over and the country let them in.
     My grandfather became a citizen, not because he was a genius, not because he was harder working or smarter or better than any Mexican fording the Rio Grande. But because he could back then. There was an Ellis Island and a system that worked. Today Ellis Island is a shrine to ideals that half the country doesn’t believe anymore, who adopt the cruel role of the Americans who harassed their own forebears.
     I thought of my grandfather, after I watched Barack Obama’s brief speech Thursday night—lucky I have cable because none of the networks, the supposed mainstream media supposedly in his thrall, bothered to show it. He announced his changes to immigration policy, to allow undocumented immigrants who have been here longer than five years to “get right with the law,” register and not fear deportation. 
     Before Obama even spoke, the Republicans, who oppose everything the president has done, is doing, or will do, made a show of opposing this too, a rare trifecta blending economic myopia, longterm political suicide, and lack of basic human decency. Only time will tell if they respond by trying to impeach him, shut down the government or some new strategem. The only thing that they are certain not to do is pass the comprehensive immigration reform which, announcing his stopgap, Obama called for.
    That this is the right thing, that it is long overdue, that it will help the United States economy, that to do otherwise is cold hypocrisy and a denial of their own family, an insult the memory of my grandfather and theirs and the millions like him, never wrinkles their brow.
     My wife and I watched the speech.
     “He looks tired, frustrated,” my wife said.
     “He’s trying to talk sense to idiots,” I said.
     I’m glad I saw the speech, because I was starting to think very little of Obama, just by osmosis, just by living in a country where he is so despised. I wish he had done this three months, six months, a year ago. Not doing so was the kind of small, mean political calculation that has hobbled his presidency. The Democrats got drubbed anyway.
     But now I realize, the bottom line with Obama is: he did what he could do. He didn’t waste effort trying the impossible. Even his narrowed options were tough to manage.
     The good news is, he’s already won.
     As with gay marriage, the notion of no longer keeping millions who came to this country illegally in rightless limbo forever will seem an impossibility until suddenly it doesn’t and everybody wonders what took us so long to do the moral thing. Then the people who are castigating the president now will be hard to find. Cornered, they will shrug off their fanatical opposition to people just like their own grandparents with some easy rationalization. What really struck me about the president’s speech is he could speak the words at all, that he somehow found the stamina to present a cogent argument to rabid enemies who stopped listening long ago. There is a nobility to that.


  1. I can't imagine it being said any better.

  2. " Everyone in the United States, unless they are a Native-American, has a person like my grandfather in their past, someone who came over here to escape hardship or horror and make a life."

    False - African-Americans' ancestors didn't come here to escape hardship or horror and make a life. And not coincidentally African-Americans are the group hurt the most by illegal immigration. The jobs that were once cliché (sometimes racist cliché) to escape poverty: nanny/elder caretaker, janitor, food service, etc. are now dominated by immigrants from Mexico, Central America and Eastern Europe. What everyone over 40 has observed of this has been verified by researchers, including a Harvard economists whose work was reviewed and approved of by Paul Krugman.

    Mr. Steinberg and the people supporting the Gang of Eight bill and executive action are the people who stopped listening to arguments. Goodness knows how many times I've tried to raise economic research and economists to him to argue we're already past the point where we have enough low skilled workers already and failing to tie amnesty to border and employment security will have very harmful long term effects. The most he responds (as he has a head-nod to in this column) is an inapt comparison to countries with declining populations and effectively no immigration, as-if that's the United States and that the choice is between uncontrolled low skill labor vs. mass deportations/no further immigration at all.

    Noble people can differ on what our immigration policy should be, but it's not noble for those who face little-to-no competition from illegal immigration to ignore those who speak for those who do, especially when they are our most vulnerable citizens. If that means we'll be called "idiots" so be it.

  3. Actually the local NBC and ABC stations carried the president's speech. I fully support what he has done because otherwise nothing will happen. There's a story going around the Internet that the President should warn people not to eat yellow snow because the Republicans will immediately launch a campaign in favor of eating it less he get credit. Barbara Palmer

  4. Your grandfather followed the law & came here legally. He got on a ship, went through the system.
    The illegals either sneak across the border or come here on a student or travel visa & never leave.
    They're criminals & need to be treated as such.

    Plus, Anon - not - anon is correct on the economics.
    When's the last time you saw anyone black working at a North Side McDonald's?
    Not one of the cooks speaks English!

    1. Clark St. - I don't blame an illegal immigrant for putting his/her family first and escaping a bad economic situation (or in many cases violence) above our immigration law. Someone who speeds down the highway at unsafe speed is acting illegally and directly endangering others and doesn't invoke the same passion. In the case of our grandfathers (mine (and great-grandfather) like Mr. Steinberg's, came here legally but flee persecution in Russia, but given the opportunity I suspect would have done the same, as I hope both of us would have the courage to do for our families. If you're living in Darfur and your daugher faces high odds of being raped and all your children at grave risk of murder and extreme poverty, you'd chop your arm off to get here.

      The villians here are the employers - from companies like Hormel who ran radio ads in Central America inviting workers to the Zoe Bairds of the world. Note how neither side of the politicians and pundits talk much about going after illegal immigration with a serious employment check system that involves draconian, criminal penalties for violators. Again, special interests at work.

      But the grandfather thing is troublesome in another way: it doesn't stop to ask if there's any effect of illegal immigration on the number of persecution refugees we take in. I like to think my ancestors are in heaven talking with the victims of genocide through history - if so I suspect they'd prefer we take in more of those and less economic refugees. It's not a zero-sum relationship by any means, nor would they want mass deportations to "make room" but I doubt they'd object to tying amnesty to getting control over our immigration system. And I think they'd want those who take up immigration reform with such fervor not to be mouse-quiet on the world's ongoing genocides and religious persecution.

    2. They can't come here legally. I guess it's essential, in denying the obvious bigotry, to cling to the "illegal" fig leaf. It don't hide as well as it used to.

    3. Neil,

      I don't understand why the bigotry is "obvious" if you object to illegal immigrants being given permanent residence in this nation. Of course, we've got to come to some solution since I doubt that we would kick millions of people out of the country including those who have lived here their whole lives. I think that illegal immigrants should be deported but I recognize as a practical matter that it's not going to happen. I'm open to suggestions but I don't understand why illegal or whatever term you want to describe them immigrants would register since a GOP administration could easily overturn Obama's executive order and then they'd have their names and addresses right there in a database that would make it much easier to pick them up.

    4. Hmmm, I doubt I can explain it to you -- first, good to have you back, been a while. But being an optimistic sort, I'll try. Let's pretend you didn't want to deport millions of people because they entered the country despite the lack of a legal way for them to do say. Let's say you wanted to kill them. I'd say, "Gosh David, that reflects a hostility toward this group of people -- you certainly don't want to kill people who have had speeding tickets." And you'd say, "No, it's just my love for legality that inspires me to want this." And I'd say, "But you don't want to punish any other lawbreakers in such a manner." And you'd say, "Well, each person is allowed to have a special field of interest." And I'd say, "Why do people who, oh, shoplift, get to pay some minor penalty, but people whose paperwork is not in order have to have their lives destroyed?" And you'd say, what, "They smell." Nope, I don't think we'd get to the point where you'd understand. Which doesn't mean it isn't obvious. But I don't expect you to understand that either. Still, nice to have you back.

    5. Neil,

      What I don't understand is why we as a nation need to open our doors to people who take jobs from our own citizens? Wouldn't you object if someone decided to take up residence in your home without your permission? You talk about seeing lives destroyed but I have seen that happen almost in my own life and in the lives of others because they cannot find jobs due to competition from others who have no right to be here. Should not your first concern be for those who are citizens of this nation? A porous border is condemning more and more of them to lives where they will never be able to get ahead.

      One last thing. You bring up the example of shoplifting but did you know that almost all the classifications of shoplifting are considered to be felonies in Illinois? Having a felony on your record pretty much squelches any chance you have of finding work. I feel bad for those who come here because of poverty in their home countries but I feel even more for those who are citizens of this nation.

      I'll be starting work soon and so I do not know how much I will be able to contribute in the future. However, I always made it a point to read your column because it was one of the few enjoyable things in my day.

    6. For those of you wondering how H1-B visas have whacked tech jobs, you can read the latest article online at:

    7. IOW, the fact that he MIGHT have a job that a white man MIGHT want is justification enough to deport him.
      But no bigotry here. No siree.

    8. Anonymous - when there are plenty of people looking for work who can't find it, your comment is sophomoric at best and let them eat cake at worst. By the way, neat little attempt to turn this into something about race on your part. However, I won't take the bait. Do you think that only white males have lost jobs to H1-B visa recipients? Hiding behind "Anonymous" makes me wonder if you're just a troll out for some laughs.

  5. As I've mentioned to Mr. Steinberg, in my experience when progressives are confronted with the question of illegal immigration's effect on the African-American underclass, most (but not all) of the time they wind up with a nice way of calling them lazy you-know-what and blaming them for not having "hard work and strong families" (you never hear that on Fox News, like, five times a day!). Of course, this is belied by the images of the lines of applicants at urban factories after an immigration raid.

    A couple days ago Mr. Steinberg wrote about displaced bank tellers and what would happen to them. He speculated they'd probably end up working in warehouses and as baristas. I wish he had followed that up with some research as to how many applicants there are for each warehouse job that opens up. I wish he'd had viewed the 2013 60 Minutes segment that showed robots working in warehouses, moving up and down rows and grabbing items off of shelves. Mr. Steinberg has a powerful voice - he could be campaigning for a non-special-interest compromise on permanent immigration reform: a border fence which would double as a good economic stimulus and an E-Verify system with teeth that would offend the Koch Brothers and US Chamber, and in exchange full amnesty for all immigrants here now. Instead he treats immigration as an economic win for everybody and opponents as nothing more than monsterous racists looking to deport 12 million people and raise the drawbridge.

  6. Mr. Steinberg is a liberal/progressive – nothing worse. But his ideas boil down to the linchpin slogan of Marx – “From each according to his ability – to each according to his need.” They also boil down to an open borders agenda.

    Where do we stop? If Mr. Steinberg has extra room in his home after the children move out do we mandate that he take in poor boarders for free. Do we place an luxury tax on anything that might remotely be considered a luxury and give this money to the poor huddled masses of the world.

    And when I say “remotely considered a luxury” I refer to new – not second hand clothes, furniture, and autos – and almost all electronics plus steak, wine, beer, etc.

    Most illegal aliens crossed the border not to flee a war or genocide. Rather they crossed because Mexico and other such countries are poorly run. Rather than fix things there – they sought to take advantage of things here.

    I agree that we cannot deport everyone and as a practical matter should not try. But granting amnesty is an act of charity. I am for some charity. But let the charity be done legally not through the lawless diktat of an executive leader.

    And if the present Congress is not willing to do what we wish in the way of charity -- then win elections to change things . Go door to door to campaign for your guy or gal.

  7. Neil,

    One thing about the President's new policy unmentioned in your comments is how he's throwing open the door with H1-B visas instead of restricting them. After more than a few years of looking for a job, I will soon be starting back to work after just barely making my savings last long enough. Part of the problem both for me and many in information technology is the H1-B visa. The H1-B visas allow employers to bring in IT staff from overseas for wages far lower than that paid to Americans. Plus, it's been documented how many employers make visa recipients work ridiculous hours by threatening them with the loss of the card and return to their home country.

    Some employers bleat about not being able to find qualified Americans to do these IT jobs. However, what they really mean is that they can't find qualified citizens willing to do these jobs for next to nothing while putting in incredibly long work weeks.

    And as others have said, I think you would have a different perspective on Obama's executive order if you had to face the same kind of pressure that others do in competing for jobs with people from overseas. I know that sounds hard but I lost almost everything including my house while trying to get a new job. The economy out there is not kind to people trying to find jobs. Obama's policies make it even harder for Americans to get jobs and that's just dumb.

    Illegal immigrants ought to be returned to their home countries with only the kids who were born here being able to return once they turn eighteen. I understand why many come here but a nation has to give preference to its own citizens. I can appreciate the sentiments by the Status of Liberty but in all honesty it should be pointed out in those days that the United States needed cheap labor for its industries. When businesses ship jobs and even complete factories overseas, those days are long gone.

  8. Jerry, what's truly getting tiresome is your side wringing every last drop of political advantage from blatant, unreconstructed bigotry, then screaming like stuck pigs when you're called on it.

  9. Ms. Unknown of 11:12 AM:

    "My side" -- apparently the side on which Graf, A-not-A, David Brooks of the NYT's, the WSJ, SNL opening comedy sketch, and many others who oppose the Obama Diktat resides.

    So we are "unconstructed bigots?"

    1. You dredge up David Brooks and WSJ as devastating examples of "both sides do it"? Seriously?

  10. 1000 words:

  11. Andrew Sullivan may not be the respected voice to some that the WSJ, David Brooks, or the SNL Opening Sketch are. ; ) Regardless, I'm gonna paste something he wrote on his blog here, with the hope of offering a bit of perspective:

    "One reason I’ve been somewhat forgiving of Obama’s executive action on immigration deportations is that I see it as a function not of his choice to be an 'imperial' president, but as a result of unprecedented Republican obstructionism. It is, for example, jaw-dropping to hear the GOP declare its shock at the president’s refusal to take into account the results of the mid-terms as a democratic norm he should respect. These are the same people who, in January and February of 2009, responded to Obama’s landslide amid a catastrophic and accelerating depression by giving him zero votes on a desperately needed stimulus package.

    We now know they decided as a conscious strategy to say no to anything and everything the new and young president, inheriting two failed wars and an imploding economy, wanted or needed. They were nihilist then as they are nihilist now with respect to the practical demands of actually governing the country. At some point, something had to give, and I can see why, after the GOP had again refused to allow immigration reform even to come to a vote in the House, he might have decided to fuck it."

  12. Jakash:

    You referenced my last post. We are never diametrically opposed. I respect you.

    From 2008 onwards both sides played hardball. This was not 1994 when Bill Clinton double-crossed labor and completely capitulated to the Republicans and help pass a lot of world trade stuff. Think NAFTA and the WTO.

    Now the Republicans are claiming that the Democrats are the party of “No” by their filibuster of Keystone Pipeline legislation. Next term both houses of Congress will pass a lot of legislation which President Obama will veto asserting that it is bad for the country. He has already rhetorically trashed the Keystone project.

    Republicans do not have mystical powers – they are not aided by Zeus, Jupiter, Vishnu, Thor, or whomever. President Obama and the Democrats are great at fund raising and the President has the ultimate bully pulpit.

    Yet except for the Romney loss – it has been steadily downhill for the Democratic narrative and their election results.

    That is politics. If Democrats want to change things then does a good job governing, persuade people, and win elections.

    Democrats now have to decide if they can retrench to a defensible position or be subject to a rout. Playing the race card, the hate card, and other forms of ad hominem attack are a sign of desperation and will merely accelerate a rout.

    The narrative and public sentiment has now tipped towards the Republicans. Those in the middle -- with mixed feelings and doubts -- have the Republicans attempting to persuade them and Democrats more or less labeling them “bigots” as did Mr. Steinberg and Ms. Unknown here.

    You tell me who is more likely to win the “minds” of the great middle?

    Off course the Republicans can similarly screw up with another Sarah Palin. It is up to the iron fists of Boehner and McConnell to see that this does not happen.

  13. Jakash again:

    For the sake of argument – I want to even concede more of your point.

    Anyone could have beaten McCain/Palin. But candidate Obama beat Hillary based on the messianic fervor he provoked. President Obama had a 70 percent approval rating on Inauguration Day, 2009. Dealing then would have meant Republicans giving up way too much. Even the Nobel Committee was drinking the Kool Aid.

    Long term the United States is a center-right nation in contradistinction to Europe being center-left. So my strategy would have been the Russian Gambit. Let Napoleon and let the Germans overextend during the long mild summer on the Russian Steppes.

    Pelosi, Reid, and Obama massively overextended first with stimulus money massively misspent to reward public employee unions, and then with a deceptively advertised universal health plan. The Republicans let Democrats simply be Democrats.

    But now the long winter of discontent is upon us. Almost every lame-brain scheme of the Democrats has imploded. Everything they do merely digs deeper. They demonstrated that they are unable to govern.

    Republicans have been rewarded with both houses of Congress, the majority of governorships, and the majority of state legislatures.

    What is Hillary to do? Jettison Bill – another Crosby- like sexual predator? Trash/thrash Obama? Halpern opines that Hillary keeps her nose to the grindstone as a campaigner but that she simply cannot think outside the box. That is why Obama dominated her.

    Steinberg mentions chess. The style of the 1800’s was daring attacks. The modern style is to slowly strangle your opponent with a slowly developed superior position. Boehner and McConnell are the ultimate position players. Their retrenchment after the Obama win is as remarkable as the Obama win over Hillary.

    1. Jerry,

      Well, we're having fun, now, I guess.

      "The Republicans let Democrats simply be Democrats." In what alternate universe did this happen? Is that what voting dozens of times to repeal Obamacare represents?

      "Boehner and McConnell are the ultimate position players." Well, I prefer Sullivan's description of them as nihilists, quoted above. ToMAYto / ToMAHto, I suppose... Seems to me that you don't have to reread The Federalist Papers to realize that attempting to actually govern is more difficult than getting folks to vote "no" on anything that might be proposed.

      "Republicans have been rewarded with both houses of Congress, the majority of governorships, and the majority of state legislatures." Yes, their ability to dominate in an election in which 36% of eligible folks voted really gives them a stunning mandate. I'm sure they'll use it wisely. When Obama won, I was never one to attribute it to the great wisdom of the American electorate. If I were you, I might be careful about that now. Perhaps your dynamic duo can begin by attempting to inform the 46% of Americans who don't "believe" in evolution to enter the 21st century. (Or at least the 20th, or the late 19th.) Though I don't imagine that nominating Huckabee in 2016 would be a much of a step in that direction...

      I'll just paste another opinion to conclude. Written by a regular guy, evidently -- a Canadian, in a letter to the editor. Seems the Kool-Aid is even cooler in the vast land to the north. ; )

      "Many of us Canadians are confused by the U.S. midterm elections.

      Consider, right now in America, corporate profits are at record highs, the country's adding 200,000 jobs per month, unemployment is below 6%, U.S. gross national product growth is the best of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.

      The dollar is at its strongest levels in years, the stock market is near record highs, gasoline prices are falling, there's no inflation, interest rates are the lowest in 30 years, U.S. oil imports are declining, U.S. oil production is rapidly increasing, the deficit is rapidly declining, and the wealthy are still making astonishing amounts of money.

      America is leading the world once again and respected internationally — in sharp contrast to the Bush years. Obama brought soldiers home from Iraq and killed Osama bin Laden.

      So, Americans vote for the party that got you into the mess that Obama just dug you out of? This defies reason.

      When you are done with Obama, could you send him our way?"

      Richard Brunt

      Victoria, British Columbia

  14. Obama also stepped up immigration enforcement and is continuing to deport felons persecuted by the racist justice system. We need open borders, citizenship for all, and tens of millions more immigrants to join us in bringing down this evil empire.

  15. Jakash:

    I enjoy corresponding with you because we share enough of the same universe that we can talk to each other. I read your kind post on the other thread.

    You posted here :

    "””” [JerryB said] The Republicans let Democrats simply be Democrats." In what alternate universe did this happen? Is that what voting dozens of times to repeal Obamacare represents?”””

    I meant that Republicans do not have their finger prints on any of the Democrat stuff. Repubs voting to repeal ObamaCare only amplifies that point.

    In the old says people like Raplh Nader claimed that there was no difference between Republicans and Democrats. I think we both believe that is not the case now.

    The best case scenario for you is that this is a mere mid-term “bump in the road” for Democrats. My response is “perhaps but not likely.”

    I am hoping that Republicans seize the narrative for the next twenty years. I cannot send everyone Hayek’s ROAD TO SERFDOM – the U of C Press’s best seller. Rather I hope the smart Republicans can teach those lessons to the public -- especially to the yutes.

    You point to the U.S.’s relative prosperity. That is an interesting point that has to be unpacked. Low paying jobs have replaced high paying jobs.

    The deep theoretical point is that even though the U.S. initiated the worldwide recession of 2007-2008 international money fled to – I said “to” – the U.S.-- because the US. is still the safest place to store money. Technically that is called the” flight to quality.” The U.S. receives a great benefit in being the world’s reserve currency and the best haven for really big money i.e. the money of sovereign nations such as China. That is why we bailed out AIG-- the most shadowy of shadow banks with its ‘’shadow upon shadows” credit default swaps.

    I look for small signs and omens. I am sure you are doing the same. Let's continue to compare notes.

  16. Well, Neil, apparently things that are self evident to you and me are less so to others.


  17. JerryB,

    The precursors to the Nazi party were in full bloom around the time that Neil's ancestors made it to the United States. How do you know that proto-Nazis or just plain anti-semites didn't give his grandfather grief?

  18. Graf:

    Check it out on Wikipedia. There was a Russian organized pogrom at the time.

    Key words "Bialystok pogrom."

  19. JerryB,

    Of course, the Nazis were not in Poland prior to the second world war but anti-Semitism was in full force. My point was that Neil's grandfather could well have experienced attacks by anti-semites without discussing it with Neil.

  20. Graf:

    Then why did you refer to proto-Nazis and precursors to the Nazi party in your post in your post?

    The Russians controlled the area in 1906. They did conduct an organized pogrom in Bialystok.

    Your are mixing up Germans with Russians when you speak of proto-Nazis and precursors to the Nazi Party in Bialystok in 1906-1907.

  21. JerryB,

    You did notice, didn't you, that I also referred to "plain anti-Semites" in my comment. It's interesting that you went full tilt on my reference to proto-Nazis but ignored my point that Neil's grandfather could well have experienced persecution.

  22. Jer,

    Please pay more attention when you read. Mr. Steinberg's grandfather was born in 1907, he did not come here in 1907.

  23. Interesting points from Jerry B. and Graf.

  24. After reading some of these three year old comments, I have a clearer picture of how a racist, fear-mongering, mental midget was elected President of the United States a year ago. This is our history, folks. Embarrassing, ain't it?

  25. It's now four years later, and that racist, fear-mongering, mental midget continues to self-destruct, and is taking the United States with him. We didn't know how well off we were in 2014, because nobody on the bus knew what was coming after the bus changed drivers...a maniac who would make a sharp right turn, lose control, and sail over the cliff. I vacillate betwen rage and despair several hundred times a day. I also miss Barack Obama, one of the two best presidents in my lifetime (the other was Harry Truman) more and more every day.


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