Full disclosure: I don't have a drop of Irish blood in me that I know of. I don't wear green on St. Patrick's Day, or drink green beer. I don't kiss people because they're Irish. But that doesn't stop me from recommending a terrific op ed in today's New York Times by Fintan O'Toole, a columnist for The Irish Times: Green Beer and Rank Hypocrisy.
Stop reading this right now and link to his column! Or, if you prefer, stick around and read what I have to say about it.
O'Toole's basic thesis is, don't forget that most of the Irish-Americans we celebrate today are descendants of reviled immigrants.
[The Irish] were nobody’s ideal of the desirable immigrant. The typical Irish Catholic arrival in New York or Boston was a peasant with little formal education and few material resources. Worse, these people were religious aliens — the papist hordes who threatened to swamp Protestant civilization and, in their ignorance and superstition, destroy enlightened democratic American values.
Today in a proclamation, Trump celebrates "the achievements and contributions of Irish-Americans to our nation . . . overcoming poverty and discrimination and inspiring Americans from all walks of life with their indomitable and entrepreneurial spirit.”
Even by the crooked yardstick of the Trump administration, the disconnect is surreal: The president will salute the legacy of one wave of immigrants even as he deploys against other immigrants the same calumnies once heaped upon the Irish.
O'Toole says of those members of the Trump administration with Irish ancestry, like Sean Spicer, Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway:
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) made the headlines this week with a tweet that celebrated the philosophy of far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders, whose Party for Freedom got knocked down by voters in yesterday's election in the Netherlands. In subsequent interviews, King has stood by his tweet.
So far, U.S. Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ02) is not joining those critical of King. Her office did not respond this week to two requests for comment on King's tweet and comments.
But Southern Arizona's two Democratic congressmen condemned it.
Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ03) responded with this statement before GOP politicians began speaking out against King's comments:
Congressman Raul Grijalva
Steve King’s tweet, and his subsequent defense of the bigotry it promoted, are wakeup calls for all Americans about the Republican Party’s true motivations in pursuing immigration reform. King was an early supporter of Donald Trump; he is a trusted advisor of the president on immigration reform; to characterize these views as anything other than mainstream in today’s Republican leadership would be false. The deafening silence from each and every one of King’s GOP colleagues only further conveys their silent approval of the hate he’s spewing.
The sad truth is that, among this crowd, immigration reform has very little to do with enforcement. For King and his ilk, this is about race and ethnicity. The GOP has exploited themes of bigotry and racism in their campaigns for years, and the fear they stirred up among their base played right into Trump’s hand last November. With each new policy proposal, and each glimpse into the GOP’s thought process, we see a concerted effort to create a European nation-state inside the United States. Deportations, restrictions on visa opportunities, and the broad targeting of immigrants, ethnic minorities and religious groups in this country, all serve the white nationalist cause that Rep. King and his allies have whole-heartedly embraced.
There was a time when virulent racism was considered appalling fringe behavior by both parties – now it’s clearly become the driving narrative for Republican leadership under Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump.
Congressman Tom O'Halleran (D-AZ01) issued this statement:
This is too good to pass up. Kevin Eck, recently hired staffer for Betsy DeVos' Education Department, was unhappy with Mark Hamill, aka Luke Skywalker, for his criticism of Trump. So in November Eck tweeted:
Now that Eck is at the Dept. of Ed, Hamill decided it was time to reply.
Congresswoman Martha McSally is carefully reading the healthcare proposal and listening to local stakeholders.
The Congressional Budget Office's Trumpcare score has been all over the headlines in recent days, so by now, you know the basics: The winners are America's wealthiest citizens, who will pocket a nice tax cut, and the losers are folks on the end of the economic spectrum, who will likely lose their Medicaid coverage or find that private insurance is now too expensive to afford. Hey, freedom isn't free, people.
So who is supporting and who is not?
Congresswoman Martha McSally (R-AZ02) is on the fence. McSally District Director C.J. Karamargin didn't respond to our specific questions about the much-criticized cuts in Medicaid for low-income Arizonans, but he did send along a generic statement that has been shared with various nosy news organizations that are wondering where McSally stands:
Congresswoman McSally is encouraged that the American Health Care Act includes provisions she fought for: It keeps in place coverage of pre-existing conditions, allows young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance until age 26 and maintains the prohibition of putting lifetime caps on benefits. The congresswoman is carefully reading the 123-page bill, listening to local stakeholders and in the days ahead will work with House leadership for a viable solution to the healthcare challenges facing Southern Arizonans and all Americans.
BTW, there's another protest against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act outside of McSally's Tucson offices at 4400 E. Broadway at 2 p.m. Wednesday, March 15. Organizers—including Indivisible Southern Arizona, McSally Take a Stand and the East Side Bad Hombres and Nasty Women—are calling it an "open mic" where you can share your story about the ACA.
Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ03) compares Trumpcare to the scandal-plagued Trump U:
CBO confirmed this week that the Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with "TrumpCare" is nothing more than an attack on the poor and elderly. Twenty-four million people will lose coverage if the GOP manages to force this bill through Congress. Many will choose to forgo health insurance because this bill incentivizes young, healthy people without coverage to remain uninsured. That means higher premiums for everyone else, and particularly the elderly who will no longer be protected from price gouging the way they currently are under the ACA.
The only winners under the GOP’s healthcare repeal are wealthy Americans who stand to pocket a $600 billion windfall in tax breaks. Those cuts, and the meager deficit reduction in this scheme, come at a heavy price for working families and people on Medicaid. For millions of Americans, "TrumpCare" will go down in history as the healthcare equivalent of Trump University – that is to say, a complete and utter sham.
Congressman Tom O'Halleran wants to find a bipartisan agreement to improve the Affordable Care Act:
Zona Politics: Patrick Phillips and Pamela Rotner Sakamoto
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On this week's radio edition of Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel, author Phillip Patrick talks about his book author of Blood at the Root, a nonfiction account of a 1912 racial cleansing that took place in Forsyth County, Georgia. The book has been celebrated as one of the best of 2016 by The New York Times, Boston Globe and many others.
Then author Pamela Rotner Sakamoto discusses Midnight in Broad Daylight, an fascinating account of a Japanese Amercian family caught between two worlds during World War II.
Both authors were in town over the weekend at the Festival of Books.
Zona Politics airs at 5 p.m. Sunday on community radio KXCI, 91.3 FM, and at 1 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. Sundays on KEVT, 1210 AM.
Lisa Graham Keegan is the bluebird of "education reform" happiness. Keegan, former state legislator who sponsored Arizona's original charter school bill (and got it passed by threatening Democrats that a voucher bill was coming next if the charter bill failed), then the Superintendent of Public Instruction who got charter schools rolling (and budgeted as little as possible for charter school oversight to make sure the "invisible hand of the marketplace" could work its magic), isn't one of those privatization proponents who spends all her time talking about "failing government schools" and abysmal standardized test scores. She'd rather write, as she did in a recent op ed in the Capitol Times, that you can find excellent schools everywhere.
These models of excellence can be found in charters, traditional district schools, and district magnet schools. They’re in likely and unlikely places: affluent areas and low-income communities, rural, suburban, and urban.
Isn't that nice? Yes it is. And I have to say, I agree with her wholeheartedly — up to this point, anyway. Unfortunately, though, her sunny depiction of educational excellence is a soft-sell setup for her real point: that we should give more money to the schools she defines as "excellent," a definition that just happens to favor district and charter schools with lots of kids from high-income families.
Keegan, who has played a major role as an educational advisor to both former governor Jan Brewer and current governor Doug Ducey, is pushing Ducey's "results-based funding model" which awards "excellent" schools with more money. She and Ducey maintain that successful schools deserve to be rewarded for their success.
The reward system ignores a few education-related points. First, in most European and Asian school systems—the ones that eat our schools for lunch, "education reformers" never tire of reminding us—extra money is funneled into schools where student performance is low to cover the cost of improving the quality of the schools, not into schools where students are already doing well. Second, the Keegan/Brewer/Ducey definition of "excellence" leans heavily on standardized test scores, and, as virtually every reasonable study indicates, in the U.S. and around the world, test scores rise as family income rises.
"Vrag naroda" is Russian for "Enemy of the People." I didn't pull the phrase from some online English-to-Russian translation engine. It is, or was, a much used term in the Soviet Union to describe people who the leadership believed were dangerous and were sent away to some distant prison camp, or executed. Until Stalin died, anyway. Nikita Khrushchev, when he came to power, decided to tone down the rhetoric a bit, because he thought Enemy of the People "eliminated the possibility of any kind of ideological fight."
Trump apparently disagrees with Krushchev. He thinks Enemy of the People is an excellent term to use against people, like journalists, who state facts or espouse views he finds objectionable.
A few weeks ago when I wrote about the literary antecedent of Trump's use of the phrase—Ibsen's play, An Enemy of the People—I was being too clever by half. It's true that Ibsen uses the term ironically to refer to people who try to tell the truth—journalists, scientists, whistleblowers—and are condemned for their efforts by the powers that be, just like Trump is doing. But really, that was an English major/English teacher showing off. Far more important is the Soviet Russia reference, given the Trump campaign and administration's many ties to Russia. Trump, I'm certain, didn't pull the phrase out of thin air, any more than the use of the word "purge" to describe the ousting of people suspected of loyalty to Obama from positions of influence is a coincidence. It's a chilling reminder of the close philosophical, ideological and personal connections between the people surrounding Trump and Russia.
I had the honor of moderating a great discussion on freedom of the press under the Trump administration with The New York Times' Maureen Dowd, the National Memo's Joe Conason and longtime political reporter Evan Thomas at the Tucson Festival of Books. If you weren't able to get the festival to see it, you can watch it here on C-SPAN's website.
I ran into Brenda Viner, one of the major forces behind the festival, over the weekend and she asked if I had any suggestions to improve Tucson's awesome weekend of celebrating books.
My only suggestion, which is basically impossible because of the limitations of using the UA campus: Make it longer than two days! There's so much good stuff happening that it's nearly impossible to take it all in on Saturday and Sunday.
Thanks to all the volunteers that make the Tucson Festival of Books possible. In less than a decade, it's become one of Tucson's finest events.