Spring Break Reading

With my post below on Iraq, I’m off for a while (spring break). See you all (metaphorically) back on these funny pages sometime next week. If you are bored beyond repair with all this free holiday time on your hands I give you an early gift for your Easter Basket (feel free to return it for something you really want. You’ll find below the preface and first chapter of a story I’ve been plugging at: a worrisome warning of a tale of what 21st century American politics could become subsequent to the next, even larger terrorist attack. I’ll post addiitional chapters down the pike subject to your interest or protests….

(And apologies for the line-breaks between paragraphs–can’t get WordPress to indent for me..)

And To The Republic
(A work in progress by Carl J. Luna.)
Preface

The bourbon was particularly good. He inhaled the smoky aroma, enjoying the glint of the amber liquid within the cut crystal, savoring the woodsy flavor, the taste of fiery peat, as it rolled across his tongue.

Thirty years old. Perfect. That the bourbon came out of the cellar of a man now dead, a man he despised and in whose death he took no small relish, only made the liquor all the more precious. That he had helped engineer the man’s death—he hadn’t pulled the trigger but he had most certainly done everything but cock the gun and place it in the poor bastard’s hand—only added to the moment. And that he had managed to buy the deceased’s entire wine and spirits cellar at fire sale prices—the desperate widow trying vainly to fend off the voracious creditors, the IRS first amongst these–completed the tour de force. All he had to do to achieve total victory over his vanquished foe would be to sleep with the wife.

But he wouldn’t do that. He was happily married. And he was a good Christian man. An agent of the Hand of God, indeed. God’s axe with which to hew and clear away the treacherous. And there were a lot more trees in that particular forest to fall.

He gazed out of his private office window down the steps of the Capitol and across the mall. There at the far end, past the World War II memorial, past the great testament to Washington, old Abe sat in his marble temple. He toasted the slain president.

Lincoln had been correct. Well, maybe not about violating the rights of states and, thereby, siring the power hungry whore that would become the Federal Government. But he was right that a house divided against itself could not stand. And the house of the United States had been divided for too long. Divided between the patriotic and the scurrilous, the god-fearing and the profane, the right and the wrong. It was time to put the house of the United States in order. The divine Hand had marked the United States as His chosen people, His most exceptional people. And he would be an agent of His Hand, clearing from the path those who would bring their own country low.

He would crush and destroy anyone who got in the way of his divine mission. For the greater good, of course. And for the power. The power to finally reshape America as it should be, to finally complete the revolution begun thirty years, four presidents and two terrorist attacks ago. And he would finish that revolution, vanquishing its foes for a hundred years – a hundred hundred years—thereby guaranteeing America’s exceptional role in the affairs of God and man in perpetuity. It was war. Jihad. And he would win it.
He took another long sip of the bourbon, allowing it to roll across his tongue, producing a most delightful burning sensation. He swallowed. That was enough. Just a finger of the delightful fluid. He put the glass back on the sideboard. Temperance in all things had always been his motto. All things but the accumulation of power, of course.

His private phone rang. He crossed over to his massive, hand carved desk and lifted the receiver.

“Yes?”

“This is the White House operator. Please stand bye for the President of the United States.”

POTUS on the line for him. He smiled.

“Mister Speaker,” the receiver reverberated with the familiar, deep southern drawl of the current President of the United States.”

“Mister President, a pleasure,” he drawled back.

“I want to thank you for all you did today, Mikey. I always know I can depend on your, boy.”

“Anything I can do, Mister President. I am always at your service.”

“I’m flying down to the house this weekend. Want you and Belle to drop by.”

“That’s most kind of you, sir.” He would be flying south this weekend, anyway. Always had to work on the base, even as strong and resurgent as it was. Perhaps he would have time to drop in on the leader of the increasingly freer world. But business came before pleasure. And he had a significant piece of business to deal with this weekend. Perhaps not as pleasing as the business which had placed that particularly fine bourbon in his possession, but just as, if not more, important. “Belle and I will most certainly try and take you up on your kind offer.”

“Atta boy. Night, Mikey.” The phone disconnected. The Speaker of the House of the United States of America returned the phone to its cradle. He walked back to his window and looked out over the mall. He could just see a portion of the White House down Pennsylvania Avenue.

POTUS.

Maybe some day, he smiled. Hell, even with the repeal of the 22nd Amendment, the current holder of that office couldn’t hang on forever. And as he continued to gather more and more of the reins of real power, well, who would be the most natural heir to the mantle of the revolution they had been forging, despite the occasional interrruption over the last forty years?

He looked back over at the bourbon and briefly considered having one more small glass, but rejected the idea. Discipline in all things was another one of his mottos. It was discipline that had brought him to the heights of power. It would be discipline that would bring him to the absolute summit of power.

And God help anyone who got in his way.

Chapter 1

Please stop by an see me before you leave—Travis.

I looked at the note for a long moment, the usual anger and nausea I felt whenever Travis invaded my life swelling from bowels to throat. I fought off the temptation to crumple the note into a wad and chuck it into the corner wastebasket even as my fingers, sensing their master’s mood, began to close in on the foul little missive. Travis would want to see the note—in tact—in my hand. A final confirmation that I was indeed doing his bidding, the summons alive and answered.

Travis. What a piece of work. He could just as easily have left me a voice mail or emailed me with his “request.” But taking the time to deliver hand-written notes to people’s mailboxes was just another of his many anal retentive—and effective—ways to monitor and control. We now were supposed to check our boxes twice a day, as opposed to the once in whenever the hell I got around to it of years past. Years long past, so they felt, even though they really weren’t. A lot can change in a man’s life in a short time.

Miss stopping by your box twice a day and you ran the risk of missing a message from the big T. Oh, it wasn’t like that would be the end of your career or anything. You certainly wouldn’t be bundled up and shipped off to Bismarck. But Travis would make note of it as he checked the boxes that night on his way out to be sure they were empty, their contents picked up by their owners. An orphaned note would be another tick against you. Just a little tick. Get enough, though, and you would be ticked out.

No, not to Bismarck. None of us were that important. Just to the unemployment line. Where, with the endless recession and all (or, as the Administration preferred to call the “R” word, “net positive economic growth”) a displaced academic could cool his heels for quite a long time. Not too long, of course, what with criminalization last year of long-term unemployment. They wouldn’t send you to Bismarck for that, either, of course. Just to county detention where you would be subcontracted to one of the manpower corps as part of your sentencing. Impressed pool cleaning in the tonier neighborhoods of town not being my particular thing, I had managed to get into the habit of checking my box the requisite twice a day.

I carefully folded the note and slipped it into the breast pocket of my Dockers. While the new dress codes—professors and staff now were expected to wear full business regalia to the campus, from shoes you couldn’t play sports in to the real deal jacket and tie combo– were both insulting and juvenile, they did mean I also had at least one pocket available at all times to tuck something into. Couldn’t do that so easily back in the T- or Polo-shirt wearing days. Change can do a man good.

I emptied the rest of the box’s contents – nothing but memos and other miscellaneous paperwork that could just as easily been emailed but, if they had been, would have left nothing to put into our boxes to justify the twice a day pick up requirement. One must always marvel of the self-reinforcing circular logic that marks a bureaucracy. Or a dictatorship.

As I left I carefully closed and locked the mailroom door with a swipe of my ID card– another protocol, to protect the memos and, more importantly, Travis’ notes from paper thieves, no doubt–and walked back towards my office on the other side of the building. Pulling my cell phone from yet another of those darned convenient jacket pockets, I checked the time. Four fifteen P.M. A brilliant piece of control, that. Schedule a face to face just after four-thirty to be sure the talent wasn’t skipping out of work a few minutes early. Not that any of us really could, any more. I slid my ID card through my office lock, resulting in an audible, mechanical “click.” The lock scanner not only read my card and opened the door, it also recorded my entry time. When I left I had to slide the card again – a ridiculous extra effort, as the door could just as easily been left in a default locked setting. But, then, they wouldn’t be able to gather the data on when I left. And Travis wouldn’t have all those files delivered to him weekly to pour over to be sure all the children had stayed in their rooms when they were supposed to. And anyone cutting out early would eventually be detected. And they would receive a tick.

Tick. Tick.

But, in 2014, that was the lot of most people, college professors included. And I am a college professor. Or, at least, I was. An academic. An academic living in a dictatorship. At least a developing dictatorship. A developing dictatorship called the United States of America. Not that anyone actually called it that. Dictatorship, I mean. Developing or otherwise.

They would send you to Bismarck for that. Ask Streisand.

Happy Birthday, Shock & Awe

You can find my comments on this, the fifth year anniversary of the Iraq War in the pages and bytes of this week’s City Beat. Meet you all at Dick’s Last Resort (that would be the one run by Dick Cheney in that party capital, Baghdad) after work for the party. First round of Mujehedin Martinis–Bombay (emphasis on the “Bomb”) Star Saphire straight up and dirty. With, of course, an IED instead of an olive.

Cheers.

Lucky Star

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Mike Aguirre must have been born under a lucky star. Which will serve him well through June though it might go into eclipse by November.

The City Council doesn’t like him, the entrenched city bureaucrats don’t like him, the city labor unions don’t like him, the cops don’t like him, the Chargers want him to fall in the bay (right in front of where they’d like that new, downtown stadium, if possible, the Union Trib loathes him, the Mayor is sticking pins into his little Mikey voodoo doll and the public has become progressively less enamored with him. (Rumors that his dog has declared “undecided” in a recent poll appear unfounded—I don’t think he has a dog. I do hear that his fish is looking at him with suspicion, however….)

And a recent Competitive Edge poll (the local gold standard on the public pulse) shows Mike Agonistes losing to all three of his major competitors: Judge Jan, President Peters and, well, Brian Maienschein—a guy so blandly nice that its hard to even come up with a handle for him. (Note to self: Call W on this one. He’s always got a good nickname or two…) Goldsmith beats him by 23 points, the other two by less than half that.

Conventional wisdom has Agonizing Mike surviving the June primary with maybe 25% of the vote, enough to win in a field divided between Aguirre and everybody running as “Not Aguirre.” But then he goes bye-bye come the November big show.

Not so fast. The assumption here is that those who will vote for different candidates to replace Aguirre June will rally around the second place winner in the fall—which, according to the CE poll, seems to be how likely voters are currently thinking.

But likely voters are still seeing June as a race between Aguirre and his competitors. It’s not. The race is now between Goldsmith, Peters and Maienschein. And, according to the CE poll, Goldsmith is in the lead in the race for second—but not so far out in front (17.6% to Peters 14.2% to Maienschein’s 9.5%) that he’s a juggernaut. With attorney Dan Coffey dropping out of the race and endorsing Peters, if his 2.1% of supporters throw in with Prez Peters he and Goldsmith are almost tied.

Had Jan Goldsmith been allowed to challenge Mike Aguirre Mano-a-Mano without the other wanna-be Mike whackers piling on Aguirre’s plight would have been dire indeed. Given the abysmally low voter-turnout likely in June—consequence of the early March Prez Primary—which would favor a more conservative candidate like Goldsmith, Aguirre might have been turned into a lame duck before the June Gloom had cleared.

But it’s not. Peters and Maienschein, both realizing their paycheck ends this year, decided a) they didn’t like Aguirre enough to run; and b) they might be able to beat him. (And, if either was the only candidate against Aguirre in June, they might have—though Peters was and is clearly the more logical City Council candidate to take vengeance on Menacing Mikey.)

So now if either hopes to advance to the title bout in November they have one job: convince the anti-Aguirre voters that “Mr. Ferret” (as a Republican assemblyman Goldsmith’s major accomplishment was to unsuccessfully push a bill to legalize the private ownership of the furry little rodents) is not the guy to take on Mauling Mike. That means they have to aim their energies at making Goldsmith look bad.

For both Peters and Maienschein this means showing San Diego voters that Goldsmith is a) an outsider originally from Poway (where he was Mayor) and who had to move his residency from Coronado to Little Italy so as not to appear the carpet-bagger he is); b) that Goldsmith is an outsider from Poway (where he was Mayor) and who had to move his residency from Coronado to Little Italy so as not to appear the carpet-bagger he is) who has had almost no experience in local San Diego City politics; and c) that Goldsmith is an outsider from Poway (where he was Mayor) and who had to move his residency from Coronado to Little Italy so as not to appear the carpet-bagger he is) has the worst hair in San Diego politics. Peters can also throw in that, being a Democrat, he is the safe Democratic alternative to Aguirre compared to the other two Republicans.

Goldsmith, meanwhile, is taking the high road of running against Aguirre as the generic establishment candidate. But if he doesn’t pay attention he could well be pulled down by the hounds of ambition nipping at his heels. Which could yield the unusual result of having two Democrats running in a City-wide general election for a higher office—Peters and Aguirre. Which, also, could also be the best chance for anti-Aguirreistas to remove him from office.

Come fall the political landscape changes dramatically. Especially if Barrack Obama is the candidate. Come November the combination of an energized Democratic base (and the city is now majority Democratic in registration) and depressed Republicans base (at least conservatives, of which San Diego has more than its share) uninspired by their party nominee could translate into a surge of voters more inclined to go Mikey should he be running against establishment Republican Goldsmith. If Peters is the opponent it becomes much murkier.

And, probably, nastier, as all the city’s dirty political laundry gets recycled yet again.

My money (all $7.39—don’t let my kids know or they’ll raid Dad’s wallet…) is that Aguirre survives into a second term by another narrow margin.

An Open Letter to Dennis Prager

I find it interesting that Dennis Prager has not responded directly to my own email to him last week , criticizing him for having stated that the internment of Americans of Japanese descent had no racist dimension and asking him to reconsider that position and retract it. He did respond to a member of the Japanese-American community who was alerted by my complaint and wrote in to him. Here is the text of his response:

Dear Ms. XXXXXX:
I never in my life “spoke out against the Japanese.” Any references to Japanese-Americans I ever expressed have been in the positive.
You will notice that the professor, another one of those people who yell “racism” where there is none and thereby damage the fight against real racism, never once quoted me directly.
I did say that the internment, which I consider a moral wrong, was not animated by racism. I still believe that. Unlike the professor, quick to judge America 66 years after Pearl Harbor, I do not believe that Franklin Roosevelt and all the other Democrats who supported him were racists.
Thank you for contacting me. Dennis Prager

Okay, Dennis, you want me to quote you directly? No problemo.

The context of Mr. Prager’s comments was a segment he was doing towards the end of his show Thursday entitled: Has America been Good for you? (You can listen to the broadcast yourself here ).

The segment began with Mr. Prager saying he wanted to discuss a proposition he had recently gotten a Hindu Professor to agree to that US is least xenophobic country in the world. (Which, is in itself, not an unreasonable argument, by any means.) His first caller, a Kathy from Granada Hills stated she had moved to the US from Costa Rica in 1977 when she was ten years old and that she had ever felt prejudice or racism (in Florida, Virginia or Boston until she moved to LA. Now she finds herself being categorized as now Hispanic. She said it was “Probably because of the kind of foreigners we have here and their not so American behavior.” Prager’s response was:

“the irony is the more homogenous white America has become for you, that’s been less xenophobic.” He continued: “What has happened is the left has played the pol—remember, race geneder and class, those are the three determinants of human behavior for the left, and so they are far more race, ethnicity oriented and celebratory than American values are and mainstream America is. And so you are in a place which is very, very politically correct on racial/ethnic matters and, therefore, far more sensitive to it in a way that draws attention to it. Where as the average American couldn’t care less.”

In other words whatever feeling of exclusion the caller was feeling came from left wing political ideas. As opposed to right wing, anti-Hispanic rhetoric which has flourished in recent years, particularly in Southern California and particularly on AM talk radio and which, of course, has not the slightest tinge of xenophobia about it. (The Minutemen are, of course, as concerned about illegal Irish immigrants in Boston and collusional Canucks sneaking across the Canadian border as they are about Hispanics coming up from the south.) Or because the increase in the number of organized anti-Hispanic hate groups (up by more than 200 over the last five years according to the Southern Poverty Law Center in a report release just yesterday.) But, then, they must be just another collection of looney liberals. Prager’s formulation is simple: anything perceived as wrong in America is the product of America-hating leftist propaganda. All is perfect in Pleasantville, USA. I

Indeed, according to Mr. Prager’s logic, once all Hispanic-Americans—or Americans of whatever hyphenation—become more homogenous to White Americans the more they will be accepted by White America. What some may perceive as racism or discrimination therefore becomes, what? The fair price to be paid for daring to be different and heterogenous?

The next caller, Jennifer in Des Moines Iowa, teed up the Internment issue. She began by saying she hadn’t ever really heard the expression xenophobic used to describe American politics. But she went on to talk about the internment of Japanese Americans in concentration camps during WWII. Mr. Prager immediately corrected her saying,
“They weren’t concentration camps. The word shouldn’t be used. They were detention camps. It’s important that we not use the term.”

As I pointed out in my blog yesterday, Dictionary.com defines “concentration camp” as:
“a guarded compound for the detention or imprisonment of aliens, members of ethnic minorities, political opponents, etc., esp. any of the camps established by the Nazis prior to and during World War II for the confinement and persecution of prisoners. [Origin: 1900–05, applied orig. to camps where noncombatants were placed during the Boer War]”

Based on this standard definition of the term calling the Interment Camps “concentration camps” is, at least technically, correct. You could also call them Prison camps, State detention facilities or even Coercion-based Year-Round Summer Camps With Attitude. I concede Mr. Prager’s underlying point, however, that the term “concentration camp” is historically and politically charged—though so, too, is the underlying issue of Internment. If the purpose of using the term is to equate the treatment of Americans of Japanese descent to Jewish and other peoples incarcerated in Nazi concentration camps the usage is totally inappropriate. The Nazi camps were death camps dedicated to one goal: systematic genocide. The American Internment camps were driven by security concerns and those incarcerated, while seeing their general standing of living decline, were not treated with brutality or subjected to excessive (as in life ending) hardships.

If the point of using the term Concentration Camp is, however, to point out that the mass detention of peoples of a particular social, ethnic or racial group without probable cause and due process, even without the presence of mass lethality, a direct perversion of the rule oof law and the Constitution, then I believe its usage is appropriate. In any event, if the people who went into such camps (which would include by own niece’s grandparents) and their descendents chose to use that term I find it inappropriate for those who did not share this experience to quibble with them.

Jennifer went on to say that, with 9/11 she saw rising suspicion of people looking Arabic. She reported she knew of a gas station who’s windows were smashed in after 9/11. She said, “One thing I think that should be thought about too, is, you know, that we can get kind of suspicious of anybody who’s a little different from us when things start happening.”

Prager responded: “Well, those are two examples and they are…America’s embarrassed about the issue of the internment camps, the Japanese-American internment camps. The issues is that we were at war with a country that had attacked us and then had committed enormous atrocities in Asia, and there was a fear that the, the…those who had moved here from that country may have a split loyalty in that war. Whether that fear was founded or not I don’t know. But it wasn’t based on racism, it was based on—on a, on a concern—and it may have been an illegitimate concern-but it was based on a concern—I mean afterall, other Asians were not locked up. IT was only a matter of Japanese and since there was such a, a deep, deep emotional connection to Japan and to the Emperor it was thought of—by a liberal administration, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration—that these people should be removed from society for the time being—they were well fed, they were taken care of, they were returned to their jobs. It is an embarrassing chapter in American history, but it is not specifically racist. It wasn’t done against any other Asian group or against any other different racial group. They were the people who attacked us, who were committing all of these atrocities and there was that worry. “

An “embarrassment,” Mr. Prager? (As opposed to, say, an injustice, an abomination, a disgrace? ) Why was the internment of Americans of Japanese descent for no greater reason than they had a Japanese lineage an “embarrassment” if, as you say, it was a rational response based on legitimate security concerns of a nation that had just been attacked by another nation engaged in atrocities in Asia?

You state that Japanese-Americans had “deep, deep emotional connection to Japan and to the Emperor,” because of which, the implication being, Japanese-Americans must not have assimilated as well into American society as had other immigrants and, therefore, their loyalty could be challenged prima facie without any additional proof or verification.

Do you, Mr. Prager, have any evidence—any qualified studies, facts, measurements—to demonstrate that Japanese-Americans indeed could reasonably be seen as suffering from “split loyalty” any more so that Italian Americans attending Son’s of Italy Dinners or German-Americans attending anti—war Bund meetings? Or is that just a gut-instinct because making this critical assumption about Japanese-American loyalties is necessary to advance any rational argument that the Internments had the slightest real justification? Given that the overwhelmingly vast majority of the interned proved themselves to be loyal Americans – so loyal that, even after their internment, they did not actively protest their unjust treatment by their own government—a reasonable person might just have to concede that, indeed, in retrospect, there was absolutely no justification—security or otherwise—to justify the forced incarceration of over one hundred thousand American citizens.

You do state that concern over Japanese-American loyalties may have been “illegitimate.” Yet just before that you state that the fear of split loyalty may have been justified – you just didn’t know? So why not give the benefit of your doubt to FDR and the people living 66 years ago? After al, you castifated me in your email response above for being “quick to judge America 66 years after Pearl Harbor.” If you have the courage of your convictions why not simply say that, under the circumstances, the Internment was justified, especially since it was not race-based in any way?

Oh, and as for FDR—you stated in your email “I do not believe that Franklin Roosevelt and all the other Democrats who supported him were racists,” meaning Roosevelt could only have supported a racist policy if he, himself were a dedicated racist and that, if he were, anyone who supported him must have been a racist too. You stated on your show that the Internment policy was “by a liberal administration, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration “ implying that, since liberals have never been racist, the policy could not have been racist. Both are historically inaccurate assertions and logical non sequiturs. The fact of the matter is that the Roosevelt with the strong record against racism was Eleanor, not Franklin. FDR deliberately chose not to engage the race issue in America for political reasons. And many of his Democratic supporters, particularly in southern states, were proud to embrace racist doctrines, particularly when it came to African-Americans, Catholics and Jews. To say the either none of FDR’s supporters were racist or all of them were makes no historical or logical sense. Many economic and social liberals in the 1930s and 1940s harbored social racist viewpoints, just as many Republican conservatives were anti-segregation. In any case, the direct racism , or lack thereof. of Roosevelt or his supporters is not evidence, one way or another, of whether or not the policy itself was racist. It is the intent and consequence of the policy that must be judged.

After a break you made the following comment: “By the way, a point to be made as well about the Japanese internment camps—it was only on the west coast because of fear of Japanese attack on the west coast, so if it was race-based it should have been for Japanese—Amerricans everywhere in the country.” That statement paired up with your statement before the break—“I mean afterall, other Asians were not locked up.”—are also non sequiturs. According to this argument – unless all Japanese and Asian Americans were the victims of a state-sponsored racist policy then none can be considered victims of racism is akin to saying “Since every state in the Union did not allow slavery or segregation and every person of color was not a victim of slavery and segregation slavery and segregation were not racist. “ Which, of course, is complete horse-hockey. As is the argument you made concerning the Internment.

You concluded the segment by saying that “It may well have been wrong—and probably was—but it wasn’t rascist.” Again, what do you base your assertion that the policy was wrong upon, given how systematically you laid out its defense? Unless you do understand that this was not simply a policy decision gone awry?

Finally, as for your categorizing me and my complaints about your illogical and insulting argument on Internment as “another one of those people who yell “racism” where there is none and thereby damage the fight against real racism” I have a question for you. If the internment of Americans of Japanese descent precisely because they were Americans of Japanese descent isn’t racist, what is? Slavery and only slavery?

You concluded by saying: “ That’s all, I’m talking about how unxenophobic Amerrica is, how welcoming it is, of all backgrounds.” Was the systematic discrimination against the Irish, Jews, Italians, Eastern Europeans, Catholics, Hispanics and just about every new group that ultimately melted its way into our cultural melting pot an example of Americans’ being “welcoming”? Or is it an example of the true success of American history, that, despite the prejudices and fears we, as Americans, carry within ourselves we have, over time, managed to conquer these baser all-too human emotions and rise above them to create a country that is strong enough to admit when it has made mistakes and corrected them in the future?

I’m not arguing, Mr. Prager, with your underlying assertion that the US is the least—or, at least, one of the least, there being Canada and all that—xenophobic nations on earth. But being the least doesn’t mean being without. It is precisely in recognizing where we have had are darker, xenophobic moments as a nation that we become best prepared to avoid repeating those past mistakes.

Thus the correct argument you should have advanced in support of the supposition that the US is not a xenophobic nation was not that the Internment of Americans of Japanese had no racial dimension but, rather, that we learned as a nation from that moral and constitutional wrong and avoided doing something similar to Americans of Russian descent during the Cold War and Americans of Arab descent after 9-11. American democracy is an experiment in learning to live up to five simple words: “All men are created equal.” We weren’t very good as a nation on the equality thing in 1771 or 1788. We were a little bit better at it by the end of the Civil War. We were certainly better at it by the 1960s compared, say, to the 1890s and the era of State-sponsored segregation. And there is still great room for improvement. Does that mean the US is a terrible country? Of course not. The US is a great country—but can, and should, be greater still. Achieving that greatness and perfecting it is the duty and obligation of each generation of Americans.

You, Mr. Prager, however, prefer the lazy approach to patriotism: never criticize any action by America and condemn anyone who does as being un-American—a product of the America-hating liberal left. But, then again, you never seem to hesitate in criticizing precisely those Americans who disagree with your own narrow-minded, revisionist view of this country and its history.

AM talk Conservatives (which I consider a separate and minority breed compared to mainstream, main street conservatives I have known) always blast those they disagree with for being “Politically Correct.” Yet AM talk conservatives like yourself practice your own brand of “PC”: America, love it or leave it or, at least, shut up about it; tobacco doesn’t kill; any reference to global warming is a sign of insanity; anyone can make it in America so those who don’t deserve not to; anyone who complains they are a victim aren’t—they’re just liberal whiners; etc. In your overarching imperative of proving your point that America is not xenophobic (a point, which I hope I have made clear I, for the most part, agree with) you were willing on your show to reduce the a historical injustice of historical proportions to nothing more than a policy “oops”—probably unjustified, probably shouldn’t have been done but not a symptom of any deeper problem in American culture and society of the time. In so doing you emptied your argument of any legitimacy and logic it may have had. That you simply reject this charge without the slightest amount of deep reflection is regrettable.

The irony of all this is that, of the various voices on the AM talk spectrum, I typically find yours to be one of the more rational. Indeed on topics of inter-personal relations and religion, in particular, your observations are usually well-founded and insightful. It seems to be in the discussion of things political that you have the greatest tendency to allow ideology to overcome reason, history and logic. Such is the sad case with your unfortunate and inaccurate statements on the internment of Americans of Japanese-descent. These statements added nothing to the understanding of just how America has, over time, been able to emerge as one of the least xenophobic societies on Earth. Instead, they were needlessly provocative, insensitive and detracted from the legitimacy of your argument.

I hope that, in the unlikely event you actually read this missive, it my give you cause for pause and reflection on this topic. Unfortunately, experience with people who have turned to becoming ideologues is that such reflection diminishes the more ideological

Respectfully,
Carl Luna

Dear Mr. Nolan

I posted this as a comment in response to a series of comments I received for Friday’s Blog, “Dennis Prager is an Ass.” But it’s jjust so spiffy a comment I find myself compelled, in my ego, to publish it as a whole blog:

Mr. Nolan:
A word or two on the meaning of words. Dictionary.com defines “concentration camp” as:

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1) – concentration camp–noun: a guarded compound for the detention or imprisonment of aliens, members of ethnic minorities, political opponents, etc., esp. any of the camps established by the Nazis prior to and during World War II for the confinement and persecution of prisoners. [Origin: 1900–05, applied orig. to camps where noncombatants were placed during the Boer War]

As the entry points out, the concept of the concentration camp was not developed by the Nazis but by the British to incarcerate Boer civilians during the Boer War so as to deprive Boer guerillas of the support from said civilians. Given that the internment centers for American’s of Japanese descent were a series of “guarded compound for the detention or imprisonment of aliens, members of ethnic minorities…” the use of the term “concentration camp” to describe them is factually accurate. It is, also, emotionally loaded, admittedly. But, then so to is the legacy of that policy.

“Racism,” meanwhile, is defined as:

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1) -rac·ism [rey-siz-uhm] –noun
1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
3.hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.

Was slavery racist? Was segregation? Or were these institutions based on legitimate security concerns or sound policy initiatives based on the historical contexts of their times? My father told a joke about his experiences as a swarthy-skinned Sicilian doing military training in the deep south: A swarthy Sicilian-American gets on a bus in Biloxi, Mississippi during WWII. The bus driver looks at him and says “Back of the bus, back of the bus.” The Sicilian-American fellow says, “I’m not black, I’m Sicilian.” The bus drive looks at him and says, “Off the bus, off the bus.”

Did my father experience anything that might meet the dictionary definition of racism in his experiences in the South during WWII? Are you, Mr. Nolan, arguing that America has never experienced intense, institutionalized racism in its history?

Mr. Nolan, you dismiss my argument as being “based on an irrational hatred for your country and an over-zealous eagerness to see racism at its heart.” Many people profess to “love” their country when what they are really in love with is their sense of self. Such people, having no empathy for the problems of others, reject any criticism of any reason for the country they “love” because it is an assault on their own ego. To love someone is to want the best for them—not one’s self. Criticism of one’s country when that country is legitimately wrong, with the hope of making one’s country an even better place, is far more of a demonstration of “love” than is willful ignorance of mistakes and injustices simply for the ego-satisfaction of saying “my country is perfect and, by inference, so I am. This is not love of country. It is the love of Onin disguised as patriotism.

Three last points. First, you state in your third post that “Nearly half of those interned were of European ancestry.” That statement is simply in factual error. An estimated 11,000 people of European ancestry (primarily German) were interned during the war (as opposed to over 100,000 Americans of Japanese descent). Most of these were foreign German nationals who, in many cases, had family members voluntarily accompany them into internment. There was nothing voluntary for the Americans of Japanese descent who were overwhelmingly American citizens. Given the small number of Americans of Japanese descent in the overall population, especially given the huge percentage of Americans at the time of German descent, to argue that the treatment of these two groups was equal is simply ludicrous.

Third, you ask “Why not take your argument a step further and say that our entire involvement in WWII was a pretense for stealing land from Japanese Americans?” That is also a ludicrous non-sequitur. Well, actually, the US did enter the war to protect property – our battleships, to be precisely, bombed at Pearl Harbor. American entry in to WWII was, by any measure, a just and noble cause. But what we did to Americans of Japanese descent—and the fact their properties were seized and never returned—was simply neither just nor noble.

And, given all the justifications of the internments you provide, why do you then hesitate and say it was “probably a mistake?” What is the basis for your reversal? Why do you simply not have the courage of your convictions to argue that yes, indeed, the internment WAS justified and that under similar circumstances a similar policy might be justified in the future (or even the present)?

Finally, you advise me to “be careful when throwing around the term ‘disingenuous’.” Here I must agree with you. Dictionary.com defines disingenuous as:
dis·in·gen·u·ous [dis-in-jen-yoo-uhs]–adjective
lacking in frankness, candor, or sincerity; falsely or hypocritically ingenuous; insincere: Her excuse was rather disingenuous.

As such, it is an inaccurate word to use to describe Mr. Prager’s remarks. Ultimately, I fear, he—and you—actually believe you can reinterpret words and history at whim to make them comport to whatever world view you hold. “Delusional” would, therefore, be the appropriate adjective to describe Mr. Prager’s—and your—opinions.

Dennis Prager is an Ass

Okay, I usually try to avoid ad hominem attacks on politicians and my fellow pundits (and human beings in general, for that matter). If you remember your Logic 101 class, such argument present as a logical fallacy. But I was listening to the Dennis Prager Show briefly (Radio AM 1170 KCBQ just before noon as I was driving between teaching sites and got to experience one of those “Oh my God, he couldn’t have possibly have been stupid enough to have actually said that?” moments.

And my outrage has only grown since that moment. Thus this little bit of unprofessional punditry venting.

The issue Prager was pontificating on was the forced mass incarceration of Americans of Japanese descent after Pearl Harbor. Prager made the ludicrous and outrageous claim that there was nothing “racist” about the incarceration program. To prove this he pointed out that the mass internment was only carried out on the west coast. Expo facto, it was the outcome of legitimate fears that the thousands of Japanese-Americans residing on the West Coast (and, somehow, not those in the Pocanos) might become fifth column agents of their ancestral homeland.

Incredible.

Prager did go on to say that he thought the interment was “probably” wrong. Bully for you, Denny. But his overarching point was that the internment of thousands of American citizens based on their ethnic identity was an example of how non-xenophobic America actually is. Racism, for Prager, you see, is an artificial construct foisted on the American public by the victim-mentality liberal Democrats and not, even peripherally or incidentally, an actual part of the American experience.

(Note to Prager: Dude, maybe you should consider stopping inhaling so deeply on those cigars you love and claim don’t really give you cancer. At a minimum they seem to be giving you dementia or early onset Alzheimers…)

Look, Dennis, I can agree that Americans as a whole are not particularly more xenophobic than other peoples on this planet. I’ll even go so far as to say that, as a Nation, we have done a pretty good–and better–job of mixing more diverse people from more cultural, ethnic, religious and racial backgrounds under the same national roof than pretty much any other country one can think of. But to claim that xenophobia has never reared its ugly head in decisively mass-popular ways in American history is, at best, incorrect. At worst it is deliberately deceptive, disingenuous, divisive, disrespectful and delusional.

When WWII broke out the US found itself at war with the Empire of Japan—and the fascist dictatorships of Germany and Italy. Now, when our government set out to incarcerate thousands of Americans of Japanese descent—in many cases second and third generation Americans—in direct violation of their basic Bill of Rights and 14th Amendment Protections (as the Courts and Congress would later find) did it similarly set out to deal with the potentially equal (and even greater, given the numbers involved) danger of millions of Americans of German and Italian descent rising up to support their homelands?

When the war broke out my father, a first-generation American of Italian descent was a chemistry undergrad at the University of Niagara Falls. Did the government round up this dark-skinned Sicilian and send him to a government camp? Oh, wait a moment, they did! He was in the ROTC at the University. When the war started he was called up within months and sent off to an Army camp in Biloxi, Mississippi for basic and officer training. Coming out a second Louie, he went on to serve in combat in France, Italy, Austria and was part of the Japanese occupation forces.

So why did my dad get a uniform and a gun while Americans of Japanese descent, many of whom had lived in America longer than his family had, got the boot into Manzanar? Gee, what is the key difference between an American of Japanese descent and one of Italian descent?

To argue that racism played no role in the WWII internment policy is the logical equivalent of saying Hitler’s policies were not race driven – he simply targeted dangerous individuals who just happened to be overwhelmingly Jewish in heritage. (Given Prager’s own strong roots in the American Jewish community I would think that he of all people, indeed would be a tad sensitive to any instance of a government rounding up and incarcerating mass numbers of its own citizens for any reason, said incarceration being non-lethal or otherwise. But such is the sad case of AM talk conservatism that such obvious sensitivities and corollaries become sacrifices on the altar of ideological fervor.)

The Roman statesman Cicero once famously stated a simple theory of guilt and innocence. “Show me he who benefits and I will show you the guilty man,” he claimed. Who directly benefited from the incarceration of over one hundred thousand Americans of Japanese descent? Did it heighten security on the West Coast when dozens—hundreds—even one?—real case of American citizens of Japanese descent conspiring with the enenmy to subvert their country of birth or adoption? And even if there is record of a minute handful of countrymen participating in such schemes, what in the history of American constitutional thought could therefore justify the mass prophylactic incarceration of tens of thousands if US citizens?

To answer truthfully answer this question just follow the money. Who got their stuff? Their farms, their business, their houses, cars and personal possessions seized by the government upon their removal to remote desert encampments—what happened to it all? Why, it was auctioned off at pennies on the dollar to their white neighbors and business competitors who, through the tyranny of government, were able to achieve what they could not through the fair exchange of the free market. And when these citizens were finally released (only after which did the Supreme Court boldly step in to close the door on a flagrant abuse of the Constitution) they didn’t get their stuff back. It would take a half century, by which time many of the internees had shuffled off this mortal coil, before the US government would apologize for this egregious injustice and award monetary compensation to the survivors of the internment and their descendents.

Probably wrong, Dennis? Not racist? To say either is logically and factually incorrect. Beyond that, it is definitely insulting to hundreds of thousands of your fellow citizens whose families suffered the indignity and injustice of the internment policy. It crosses the line from insensitive to inflammatory and pushes right up against the boundary of outright immoral. What next, arguing that slavery was just another economic institution—probably wrong, but not race-based?

You, sir, should be ashamed. And so should San Diego News Radio 1170 KCBQ for broadcasting someone whose views are inaccurate, irresponsible and downright reprehensible. You, sir, owe the thousands of Americans of Japanese descent victimized (and, yes, Mr. Prager sir, there are such a thing as real victims) by their own government and fellow citizens—and their hundreds of thousands of descendents, an apology, post haste.

Of course KCBQ broadcasts Prager and the rest of its AM-squawk lineup for the most noble of reasons—it’s a business model that makes them a nice buck, no matter how vilely obtained.

So I have to ask myself, if I was an American of Japanese descent, enraged by such talk, would I a) continue to ever listen to KCBQ and b) ever patronize a company so insensitive to my only family history as to advertise on a program such as Prager’s and a station such as KCBQ ever again? A list of which you can find by clicking here. And might I send a strongly worded message condemning both Dennis Prager (who can be reached here) and KCBQ (which can be reached at Info@kcbq.com) for the audacious awful content of his mind and their programming?

You bet I would. Indeed, as a second generation American of non-Japanese descent, that is precisely what I am doing. And precisely what members Japanese American groups (examples of which can be found here and http://www.asiansinamerica.org/directory/dir_e_ja.html) around the country should be doing.

Prager, in the unlikely event he ever reads this or hears any negative blowback to his statements will, no doubt, try to dismiss my call as yet another call from whacky liberals to silence freedom of speech. That is, of course, utter bupkis. Prager has every right to say anything he wants. He does not, however, have any right to say it on commercial radio. As the wag said, if you want free speech, own a newspaper. Prager has no right, per se, to say what he wants on the radio. He’s only there because it makes money for the people (and himself, not incidentally) who own the stations that broadcast him and gains customers for the advertisers who pay him and them. If the marketplace as represented by listeners and other concerned consumers care to show the companies (which can be found here) that pay for his platform that he’s costing them more than he makes them, he’s gone from the airwaves.

And the world would, in my opinion be a better place. Hey Dennis, ain’t the free market a great thing.

Meanwhile, Dennis, your statements about the internment of Americans of Japanese descent today was one of the most galling, inaccurate and offensive things I have ever heard you send over the airwaves. Which, given the competition from some of your previous statements, is no small thing.

Oh, and Dennis—you’re an ass.

Duh!

Duh

My two big “Duhs” of the week. (Part of my award-winning series of insightful journalistic excellence entitled “Duh!”):

First, the front page  article in the NY Times yesterday  morning on how the bonds markets has been gouging cities and states on bonds fees due to the significantly lower credit ratings Wall Street gives City Hall than Corporate Headquarters.

Duh.

Of course the Bonds Industry sticks it to local governments.  They do it for the same reason the best and the brightest of the Wharton School and the Harvard School of Business gave us the S&L debacle of the 1980s, the Dot.Com debacle of the 1990s and the Sub Prime Debacle of the 2000s.  They did it because they can.  Wall Street is all about money, of course, but it is all about short term money, with every bonds trader and fund manager dreaming of one thing:  hitting the big bonuses for moving the most paper, worthless or otherwise and getting to retire as a modern feudal lord to a summer house in the Hamptons.  If you can get there quicker by screwing Main Street USA, be it consumers with jumbo, “yeah you’re going to default on this sucker someday but by then I’ll be promoted and it won’t be my problem” loans or City Halls from east to west with higher borrowing costs on bonds.

Funny thing about that.  The free market says credit ratings and the cost of borrowing money should be a function of risk.  So who is more likely to default on a loan – a municipal government or a corporation?  That’s right, corporations.  So why do they get charged less for loans?  Because the Bonds markets figured out years ago that municipal politicians, playing with taxpayer money, would be less likely to kick up a fuss about being gauged at the Bonds spigot than corporate leaders held accountable by irate share holders.

They screwed the cities and states for the simplest of all reasons: they could.  And they did.

Duh.

And then comes this from the Center for Policy Initiatives report on campaign contributions to local political races.  Brace yourselves:  Real Estate developers ponied up around 20% of the million plus dollars contributed in 2007 to the 2008 Mayoral and council district races.

Who’d a thunk it?  Real Estate developers want to curry favor with the people who, if elected, would craft the ordinances and policies dictating how real estate can be developed in San Diego.

Duh.

The surprising thing to me in the CPI report is actually what a small percentage of the total  contributions the development industry constitutes.  I mean, come on developers.  You stand to make tens of millions of dollars by turning Otay factory lands into compacted housing developments and cramming in  thousands of additional  residential units into the I-15 & I-54 corridors.  At least have the good manners to contribute real money to the political campaigns and not a paltry few hundred Gs.

I mean,  I’d like to think that if San Diego government is for sale, it at least goes for a good, hefty price….

Duh.