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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.

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Entries since May 2011

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Obama Will Address Immigration Issues Today - Don't Hold Your Breath

May 10, 2011 ·

President Barack Obama will debut his 2012 stump speech on immigration in El Paso, Texas today. I expect he'll say the usual about how the current system hurts all U.S. workers and threatens national security. He'll urge Congress to work on a bipartisan manner.

His lackluster message is doomed to fall on deaf ears in Congress. As for voters concerned about immigrant rights, they're going to pay more attention to his actions. Obama has overseen a record-breaking rise in the number of deportations, and pushed the controversial immigration enforcement program Secure Communities, which is phasing in forced local police participation in a national fingerprinting database.

Facing pressure from state legislatures, constituency groups and Spanish-language media outlets, Obama wants to stay ahead of the debate. He's making the speech at a key moment when the military operation that killed 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden and the release of positive job numbers are bolstering his popularity. Like national security and the economy, immigration is a very complex issue that could affect his re-election chances.

"I strongly believe we have to fix this broken system so it meets the 21st century needs for the American economy and security, he told a group of supporters gathered at the White House's Cinco de Mayo reception last week. "This is not going to be easy, and it will require bipartisan support."

Bipartisan cooperation will prove difficult, though. Across the nation, highly partisan state legislation is attacking the Obama administration's immigration policies from both sides of the political spectrum. Last year, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer pointed to federal inaction on immigration enforcement as a pretext for the "Papers Please" SB1070 law. Now, democratic-controlled state legislatures in Illinois and California seek to challenge Obama over the Secure Communities program.

One by one, states are taking sides on immigration. Indiana, Alabama, and Louisiana are moving closer to adopting tough rules that will, in practice, deny undocumented youth access to higher education. On the other hand, Maryland, Oregon, and Connecticut are close to giving undocumented youth access to in-state tuition fees at state colleges and universities.

As state legislatures take immigration policy in their own hands, Congress seems determined to avoid the subject at all costs. Obama will be judged by his  actions on immigration policy, not his stump speeches.

The Lineup: Week of May 9-15, 2011

May 9, 2011 ·

This week's OtherWords editorial package features a Jim Hightower column about a company that's trying to override Vermont's decision to shutter a nuclear reactor and an op-ed by Peter Weiss on why torture doesn't "work."

If you haven't already, please also check out the commentaries we ran last week on our blog following the big news on bin Laden. We ran this week's cartoon five days early and pre-released Donald Kaul's column as a blog post.

Get all this and more in your inbox by subscribing to our weekly newsletter. If you haven't signed up yet, please do.

  1. Free Private Manning / Saul Landau
  2. Torture: Immoral, Illegal, Counterproductive, and Un-American / Peter Weiss
  3. The Game is Changing in Iran / Laicie Olson
  4. Making a Statement with Our Tractors / Joel Greeno
  5. Making an Exception for Osama bin Laden / Donald Kaul
  6. Entergy Goes Nuclear over Vermont's Decision / Jim Hightower
  7. The Abortion War Cranks Up / William A. Collins
  8. Osama's Descent / Khalil Bendib
What Mom Really Wants this Mother's Day

May 5, 2011 ·

This Sunday, American families will celebrate Mother's Day. For centuries, we have venerated mothers for the selflessness and the tender caregiving that allows us to feel safe and to thrive. Beyond the vases of roses, the boxes of chocolate, even the spa gift certificates, we can do more for the caregivers in our families.

There are many forms caregiving relationships that are full of tenderness and intimacy — not just between mother and child, but between a son and his and aging father, or between the home health aide and the Alzheimer’s patient, or between the working woman with a disability and the attendant who helps her get ready in the morning. Comedian Amy Poehler commented on the indispensable role of caregivers at the Time 100 event last week:

"I have thought very hard and long about what has influenced me over the past couple of years, and…it was the women who helped me take care of my children…who come to my house and help me raise my children. And for you working women who are out there tonight who get to do what you get to do because there are wonderful people who help you at home, I would like to take a moment to thank those people, some of whom are watching their children right now, while you’re at this event. Those are people who love your children as much as you do, and who inspire them and influence them and on behalf of every sister and mother and person who stands in your kitchen and helps you love your child, I say thank you and I celebrate you tonight."

Care workers, those who provide the childcare, housekeeping, and direct care services that allow us to go to work and support our families, or who allow our loved ones to receive care at home with dignity instead of being institutionalized, need our attention as a nation. Those who aren’t lucky enough to work for the Amy Poehlers of the world are often working under strenuous conditions, vulnerable to abuse and burn out. Many workers lack pathways to career advancement and citizenship, compromising working conditions and jeopardizing the quality of care.

Meanwhile, the struggle to find quality, affordable caregiving services becomes more challenging by the year. Even as the economy "recovers" from the destruction caused by Wall Street speculators and tax-evading corporations, budget shortfalls are prompting cuts on the state and Federal level to many of the basic human services that we depend on in this country, including Medicaid and Medicare. Some lawmakers are pushing to repeal some of the most promising programs in the new healthcare law that will help our seniors and fellow citizens with disabilities access home care, such as the CLASS Act, which provides long-term care insurance, and have threatened to block grant Medicaid, which according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities would cause "serious hardship."

A burgeoning movement of domestic workers and direct-care workers, alongside advocates for the elderly and disabled came together this week in Washington, DC for the latest meeting of the Caring Across Generations campaign. This multi-organization campaign is led by the National Domestic Workers Alliance (whose director Ai-jen Poo was recently featured in a New York Times article by IPS board member Barbara Ehrenreich), Jobs with Justice, and Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employer’s Association.

Care meetingThe meeting brought together dozens of organizations from the disability rights, senior rights, and worker rights worlds, and included a panel discussion with policy experts like Dean Baker and Van Jones. A broad coalition, including the Institute for Policy Studies, has come together to provide leadership to the campaign, which is based on the values of quality, affordable care, dignified and meaningful jobs, and the values of inclusiveness and interdependence. In addition to joining the fights to preserve the services and programs that families depend on today, the long-term vision of the Campaign includes: 

  • Creating jobs to meet the growing demand for caregivers
  • Improving the quality of jobs so that these jobs respect the rights of workers who provide this valuable care
  • Providing training and a meaningful career ladder
  • Providing a path to citizenship
  • Supporting individuals and families to access and afford quality care, and to address the needs of unpaid family caregivers. 

 The campaign will be fully launched in DC at the first "Care Congress" on July 12. I hope you will join us, and the more than 700 people from all around the country who want to be part of the movement to transform care in the United States.

What mom really needs this Mother’s Day isn’t a bouquet of flowers or greeting card. It’s a new respect for the value of care, in all its forms, and a new vision for what we deserve as Americans when it comes to giving and receiving care.

A Generation Exhales with Bin Laden's Death

May 4, 2011 ·

The enthusiastic flag-waving. The gaudy red, white, and blue jumpsuits, the booming chants of "USA, USA, USA." The huge crowd of jubilant young people gathered outside the White House, celebrating Osama bin Laden's death.

Is it right to celebrate the death of an individual, even one as abhorrent as bin Laden?

His death won't bring home the thousands of troops fighting and losing their lives in the name of "nation-building" in Iraq and Afghanistan. The "Global War on Terror" (a never-ending war on a tactic) won't end with bin Laden's death. Is it really appropriate to engage in such unrestrained partying?

I feel it's somewhat jarring to see the images of Americans marking this historic moment by partying outside the White House and across the country. We may be effectively guilty of celebrating death and exhibiting the worst of Western excesses, while we continue to condone drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan that kill terrorists and civilians alike.

However, from the perspective of someone who was only 11 years old when the 9-11 attacks happened (as were many of the college-age revelers), there's a real emotional and mental aspect to this event that is being overlooked. Every young person in my age group vividly remembers where he or she was when the terrorist attacks happened. I remember hearing the news crackle through the radio on my school bus in London and then seeing the horrific images of the attacks once I got home.

While my contemporaries and I may not have had the ability to look at the events through a critical lens, the images from those days will be forever burned into our psyches. There was a definite feeling that the world we knew before the attacks was gone and that things would never be the same again.

For those of us who grew up in the West under the shadow of the attacks in New York, Washington, Madrid, and London, Osama bin Laden is really the embodiment of a world that has become gripped in fear and hatred. A man who was responsible in whole or in part for murdering thousands of people, encouraging a climate where human rights and freedoms are limited, destroying the popular image of Islam as a religion, and radicalizing the debate on identity so that it has become "them vs. us." Perhaps  my generation, he has become a literal bogeyman who changed the world we live in for the worse.

The kind of celebrations that erupted in front of the White House could be seen as a disturbing sign of people who have been whipped up into a jingoistic frenzy. However, I suggest that these celebrations are something else: the collective "exhale" of a group of young men and women who have grown up in a world that lacked confidence, belief, and any semblance of "peace."

 

Laurence Hull is a former Foreign Policy In Focus intern at the Institute for Policy Studies. He lives in London, UK and is studying history and international studies at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. www.ips-dc.org

Red, White, and Blue Frenzy

May 3, 2011 ·

Honking cars and shouting young people made their way to the White House on Sunday night. American flags were everywhere. Revving motorcycle engines rattled downtown Washington in the middle of the night. Hurried news reporters jostled to get the best footage of the jubilant crowds celebrating Osama bin Laden's death. Draped with red, white, and blue the crowd sang the national anthem and chanted "USA, USA!"

It all evoked the joyful scene at President Barack Obama's inauguration. This time, however, the aggressive euphoria of carousing soccer hooligans ruled. The mob consisted largely of local college students, many donning their school colors. One large group from Georgetown University sang their school's football song: "Ra, ra, ra, cheer for victory today!" An odd assortment of chants rang through the night. One group chanted, "Lower gas prices! Lower gas prices!" as they made their way around the Treasury Department.

Many in the cheering crowds seemed unclear on why they were celebrating. Newscasters were saying that this was a "mission accomplished" moment, as if the Afghanistan War and its tens of thousands of deaths, were all about capturing one man.

But did anyone really think that the whole of "Operation Enduring Freedom" was just a bin Laden snipe hunt in the lawless desert hills? What about the oil, the drugs, the other regional factors? What about the devastation and domination of an entire country? Those questions didn't seem to be on the revelers' minds.

"I am here celebrating. It's justice day," said Jeremy Stern, 21, a George Mason University student who was wearing the stars and stripes. Stern had traveled from his Fairfax, Virginia campus to participate in the festivities, walking over a mile at the end to avoid traffic congestion. "USA! It's about f**king time! Freedom is the only way!" he shouted.

Joyful scene at the White House in response to Osama bin Laden's death. Creative Commons photo by thisisbossi

When asked why he was so enthusiastic, Stern became more sober. "As a Christian, I do feel a little bit guilty that I'm celebrating a human being's death," he said. "I'm sorry, love thy neighbor. I feel that. And in the end, I am out here celebrating."

Young people seemed cheer for almost anything. A crossing guard, a young guy climbing a lamppost with an American flag, and a fiddler playing a foot-stomping bluegrass tune — they all got love from the crowd.

"Osama bin Laden has been hunted for over half my life," said the fiddler, Henry Meyers, 18. "It's unreal to see this happen," the Washington, DC high school student added.

For 10 years, many Americans have seen bin Laden as the personification of evil, especially those who were young when the attacks occurred on 9-11. The news of his assassination seemed to strike a chord with the younger generation.

"America, f**k yeah!" said the handmade sign held aloft by Sean Levy, 20, a George Washington University student. The slogan, shouted often by the crowd, is the title of a soundtrack from "Team America: World Police," a 2004 film known for ironic jokes about U.S. imperialism. Levy explained that his sign means that "America is one of the greatest countries ever." He added that bin Laden's death "means a lot to the country."

Few revelers had much to say about the impact of bin Laden's death. They weren't sure whether the death would change U.S. foreign policy toward the Arab world. Not many asked whether bin Laden's compound may have been known in advance to U.S. intelligence personnel. There were no questions being murmured about whether any official autopsy was performed on bin Laden's body before his "burial at sea." Or how many civilians were killed during the raid that ended his life. For all of the loud voices at the White House on Sunday night, there were few questions asked.

A much more subdued participant had some clarity as to why he was there.

"I've been a little motivated tonight. I'm a United States Marine," said the man, a war veteran in his late twenties who declined to give his name because he's not authorized to represent his branch of service. He was draped with an American flag  and wore a gray T-shirt reading "USMC." The man said he served in Afghanistan for a year.

"Today's a big deal to me because me and my friends, we all signed up after 9-11, and a lot of them didn't come home. So it means a lot to me that one of the main reasons that we signed up is now kind of over."

One thing is certain. There are now fewer excuses for U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan or Iraq, and fewer reasons for the Pentagon to continue aerial drone attacks on people in Pakistan. No matter what the real reasons are for the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, whether it's oil, drugs, money, influence, something else, Washington can't continue to cause death and destruction in the name of some unholy manhunt to find America's most wanted terrorist.

Now it's really time to call on the government to bring our troops home now and stop the needless killing in the Arab world. Let the death of bin Laden, and the decisions the Obama administration now faces, lead us away from military aggression, and towards peace.

Matias Ramos is the 2011 Carol Jean and Edward F. Newman Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Lacy MacAuley is the Institute's Media Relations Manager. www.ips-dc.org

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