Stu 1 year, 11 months ago on KING: Will Georgia's U.S. Senators vote 'YES' on amnesty again?

It's hard to say what's sadder to see -- such closed minds or such hardened hearts.

Feel lucky that you can be ignorant of the history of US policy towards our neighbors to the south and its impact. The folks who live there, and who have to live with its consequences, don't have that luxury.

We'd all be better off if we spent a little less time obsessing about the lawfulness of others' behavior and a little more time reflecting on the morality of our own behavior and our government's policies.

It's also interesting that this obsession with lawlessness focuses on the most vulnerable group in our society, instead of the big corporate interests and banks that are profiting at the expense of U.S. citizens and immigrants alike. But I guess that standing up to them would actually take some guts. It's easier to once again scapegoat the immigrant.

As with many other prejudices, the calcified views of the immigrant bashers can only be sustained by a complete lack of actual contact with immigrants, curiosity about their lives, and knowledge about the conditions that brought them here. Such ignorance, smugness, and heartlessness make for a pretty toxic -- and un-Christian -- mix.


Stu 1 year, 11 months ago on KING: Will Georgia's U.S. Senators vote 'YES' on amnesty again?

It's alll very well to talk about freely taken choices when one is living in comfort and safety. When one's family is starving or in danger, that choice doesn't seem quite so free.

Many immigrants are driven by horrendous conditions, some of which our government has been complicit in causing. Many Mexican immigrants are former farmers whose livelihoods were wiped about by NAFTA, which flooded their market with cheap American crops.

Many Guatemalan immigrants are refugees from a genocidal war waged by a right-wing general against that country's indigenous (Indian) population. That general, who President Reagan famously said got "a bad rap" for human rights abuses, was just convicted of these abuses.

Many refugees from El Salvador fled from a brutal civil war in which religious leaders, union organizers, and ordinary citizens were routinely kidnapped by U.S.-armed and -trained soldiers and death squads, tortured, and left beheaded in the streets. Our government kept supporting El Salvador's military even after it killed four U.S. nuns and a Catholic Archbishop. I used to wonder why a Salvadoran friend always wore a turtleneck. I eventually found out that he had had his throat slashed by the military and been left for dead.

If you and your family faced such conditions, would your first concern be the intricacies of U.S. immigration law? Or would the reasonable reaction be to do whatever it takes to get your family to safety, and then make amends later?

And would the humane reaction on our part not be to thank God that we have not confronted such a situation, and to judge not lest we be judged?

Ask yourself -- why are there no illegal immigrants from Cuba? Because they are given favored immigration status on ideological grounds. They deserve it. But refugees from right-wing regimes that our government is buddies with should receive the same treatment.

Should Harriett Tubman and others who established the underground railroad to help runaway slaves escape north before the Civil War be condemned for violating the law? They were undoubtedly breaking the law. But sometimes the imperatives of compassion and common decency take precedence over unfair, discriminatory laws.

If you want immigrants to follow the laws, give them a rational, fair system of immigration law that gives them a fighting chance to become U.S. citizens within their lifetimes if they work hard and contribute to our society, instead of making them play a lottery that is stacked against them. That's precisely why we need comprehensive immigration reform. The current immigration laws are unenforceable because they are broken -- they fly in the face of economic forces, refugee flows, and basic fairness. No matter how high we build the border wall, no matter how many immigrants we support, no matter how many families we separate, they won't solve the problem.


Stu 1 year, 12 months ago on KING: Will Georgia's U.S. Senators vote 'YES' on amnesty again?

I have to give Mr. King credit for his perseverance, if nothing else. I have no doubt that he will continue to proudly beat his drum long after the state of Georgia has followed Gwinnett County’s lead in becoming majority-minority.

Unfortunately, Mr. King’s line of reasoning too often calls to mind the statement of his namesake Martin Luther King, Jr. that “Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”

Let’s take a rational look at the immigration issue for a change, examining it from the perspective of our Senators’ professed priorities and principles.

Senators Chambliss and Isakson profess to be committed to fostering economic growth. Study after study has shown that Hispanic immigrants contribute far more to our state and national economy than they take from it, in large part for the simple reason that they work extremely hard and pay taxes for many services that they are not eligible to receive.

Our Senators profess to believe in the American dream. The young Hispanics I know have a sense of patriotism, a work ethic, and an entrepreneurial spirit that put most of the rest of us to shame.

Senators Chambliss and Isakson profess to believe in prudent use of taxpayers’ hard-earned money. Yet the current crackdown on immigrants transfers millions in government funding from taxpayers’ pockets to private prison corporations.

Our Senators profess to believe in freedom. I can’t think of a more outrageous example of tyranny than a law enforcement regime under which Hispanics are pulled over at random traffic stops, whisked off to a privately operated detention center in the middle of nowhere with no recourse to an attorney and no practical way for family members to visit them, and then deported to a country that in many cases is completely foreign to them. This abuse of government power would make the Redcoats who occupied Boston blush, and would make Sam Adams and Thomas Paine turn over in their graves.

Our Senators profess their strong Christian faith and their commitment to family values. Yet our current immigration enforcement approach systematically separates husbands from wives and children from parents, while violating the moral precepts of the Bible and every other major religious text. The southern hospitality we are meting out to our Hispanic brothers and stands in stark contrast to the reception I have routinely received when traveling in Mexico, where the poorest campesino will give a traveler the shirt of their back and go out of their way to help a gringo out of a jam.

Finally, our Senators profess to believe in a diverse, tolerant Georgia that has confronted and overcome its legacy of racial injustice. Yet our cottage industry of immigrant-bashing belies this claim by continuing to demonize the latest target of convenience – perhaps the one remaining group that it is still politically correct to scapegoat, dehumanize, and bully – the dreaded, faceless “illegals.”


Stu 2 years, 3 months ago on WOODALL: Sequestration: Crisis or opportunity?

I find it telling that the one measure in the sequestration package that Representative Woodall seems to object to is the one humane provision that makes fiscal sense: releasing detained Hispanic immigrants who shouldn't have been detained in the first place. The folks who are being released were detained for manufactured "crimes" such as not having a drivers license or minor traffic offenses. But let's be honest: they were really detained because of the color of the skin and their place of birth.

I also find it ironic that Rep. Woodall, who bills himself as a champion of liberty, supports a program under which Hispanics are stopped at police checkpoints in our communities, seized, and sent to privately operated detention centers in the middle of nowhere, where they are accorded fewer fights than a common criminal, including no right to a lawyer. Is this really America?

Congressman Woodall also presents himself as a great champion of family values. I wonder how he squares that with a policy whose main effect is to systematically separate children from parents and husbands from wives -- sometimes for months, sometimes for years, sometimes forever.

Congressman Woodall trumpets his Christian faith, and I have no doubt that it is sincere. But the immigration policies he supports run counter to explicit Biblical injunctions to welcome the stranger among us, and indeed violate the principles of every major religion.

Representative Woodall is a great supporter of economic growth, yet his immigration policy damages Gwinnett's economy by driving out a population that contributes far more in sales, income, property, and social security taxes than it receives in services, and that is home to some of the most dynamic young business entrepreneurs.

I am sure that Rep. Woodall's misguided immigration policy is a product of ignorance, not bad intentions. Immigration is a complex problem, and, as Rev. Martin Luther King noted: "Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking . . . Nothing pains some people more than having to think."

Ignorance is excusable up to the point where it begins needlessly destroying innocent people's lives. Then it becomes unacceptable, even criminal.

I urge Congressman Woodall to rethink his immigration policy. While a vocal minority of your constituents may support it, the majority do not, and we are getting sick and tired of the same old rhetoric and the same old bankrupt policy. Instead of making us safer, the policy undermines our safety by making the Hispanic community distrust the police and by diverting police resources from combating real crimes. It hurts Gwinnett economically, taints our county's image, and endangers our liberties. Most importantly, it is flat-out morally wrong, and diminishes all of us.

At the end of the day, the only one who profits from this policy is the private prison industry -- the rest of us are all losers. It's time for a change.


Stu 2 years, 3 months ago on THOMAS: Gov. Scott to voters: Never mind

"No, governor, charities and religious bodies are obligated to help the weak and poor. State and federal governments have no such obligation. To claim they do empowers bureaucrats and politicians who are having a difficult enough time fulfilling their constitutional responsibilities. It also undermines the work ethic."

Wow. This statement reads like it comes out of a Dickens novel. I guess we should just go back to sending poor people to the workhouse. It's an especially chilling sentiment to express in the middle of an economic downturn, when millions of Americans are out of work and millions more are struggling to make ends meet despite working one or more jobs.

Hopefully it is not necessary to state in 2013 that an uncoordinated patchwork of assistance from "charities and religious bodies" is not substitute for governmental aid to the needy. Most civilized societies these days recognize that, if nothing else, governments have an obligation to prevent their citizens form going hungry.

I want to thank Mr. Thomas to have the honesty to state the Republicans' philosophy in its purest form, with no sugar coating or hypocrisy. He has the guts to say in public what Romney only confided to his high-rolling donors, before retracting the statement and then repeating it after the election: that anyone going through hard times who accepts government assistance in any form is a no-good loafer -- a "taker." At least now we know where they stand. This explains the Republican Congressional delegation's embrace of the sequester -- after all, it only cuts government services to "takers" who don't deserve these services in the first place.

Please, sir, may I have another bowl of soup?


Stu 2 years, 3 months ago on POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: Local congressmen unhappy about sequester

So Congressman Woodall is unhappy about the sequester. Why do I get the feeling that this is a case of crocodile tears? If he really cared about the impact of these spending cuts on this constituents, why didn't he raise a finger to stop them?

The idea that these cuts will "re-energize" the economy is ludicrous. Cutting spending in the midst of a recession is economic malpractice, and is close to clinical insanity. Only someone who is completely blinded by right-wing anti-government ideology could fail to see this. The other alternative is that Congressman Woodall actually wants to economy to fail so that he can blame it on President Obama. Either way, it doesn't paint a very pretty picture.

Representative Woodall is certainly entitled to his extreme anti-government viewpoint. But why make a career in government if you believe it is the root of all evil? And why serve in Congress in the first place if you have no interest in constructive policymaking and no appetite for actually grappling with complex policy issues? If all Congressman Woodall is interested in doing is obstructing governmental action and pontificating, he belongs in a right-wing think tank, not in Congress.

However, because Representative Woodall is in Congress, his abstract, Ivory Tower ideology, which led to the sequester spending cuts, will now have concrete, painful consequences for many of his constituents. He has moved from symbolism and posturing to destructive policy. Perhaps he realizes this and is becoming nervous, which would explain why he is trying to backpeddle. I encourage all Representative Woodall's constituents to monitor the impact that the sequester has in Gwinnett closely and to hold Representative Woodall accountable.


Stu 2 years, 3 months ago on Sequestering could lead to increase in crime, sheriff says

Dude, please, let's get a grip. The folks who are being released from detention should never have been there in the first place. Their "crimes" consist of minor traffic violations like broken tail lights, and, in many cases, not even that -- just being pulled over at a checkpoint and not having a license. What a colossal waste of taxpayers' money, not to mention a gross violation of civil liberties. The last time I checked, America was supposed to be the land of freedom, not a police state.

Should we really be waking up at night in a cold sweat because our Hispanic neighbors won't be so terrorized that they are afraid to drive to church or to the market? To me, that would be a good thing! Forcing a whole population to live in a state of constant fear is neither human nor good public policy. In any case, it's about time we freed up our police to focus on serious crimes.

It's pretty chilling to hear our Sheriff take credit for having scared Hispanics into leaving Gwinnett. Those are our neighbors he's talking about! And they are also the entrepreneurs of tomorrow, who will now take their talents somewhere else. I personally don't think that ethnic cleansing is something to be proud of.

The whole crackdown on immigrants is a scam. It is a draconian solution in search of a problem. The only beneficiary is the private prison industry. The losers are the rest of us -- not only our Hispanic brothers and sisters, who are seeing their families systematically separated and destroyed, but all Gwinnett residents, as we see our tax dollars squandered, our economy damaged, and our liberties and humanity diminished by this wasteful, cruel, ill-conceived policy.


Stu 2 years, 3 months ago on Obama formally orders 'deeply destructive' cuts, blames Congress

If we're really serious about improving the economy and saving taxpayers' money, we should start by firing the do-nothing GOP Congress, including our delegation from Georgia. They apparently believe that government has no legitimate function between deporting and executing people, and they clearly have no appetite for the actual work of government, especially when it involves actually researching and thinking about complex policy issues. They would rather posture and mouth platitudes. I suggest that they find new jobs on the evangelical circuit, which would be a much better fit for them. This would allow them to lecture women about morality without getting their party in trouble, and without taxpayers having to foot the bill. The Tea Party and the rest of the GOP Congressional representatives are certainly entitled to their extreme anti-government ideology, but why make a career in government if you are convinced that it is the root of all evil?

It's also important to recognize that the vulnerable Americans who are going to be hurt by the sequestration cuts to social programs are victims of former President George W. Bush's failed policies. President Bush didn't have the honesty or guts to raise taxes to pay for his war of choice in Iraq. Instead, he ran up the deficit, and no one in the GOP showed the slightest concern. It's interesting that the GOP only discovered their deep concern about the president when a Democrat was elected president -- this despite the fact that any economist would tell you that an economic recession is the worst possible time to decide to start addressing a deficit. Just as with Iraq, the GOP has taken its eye off the ball -- it is focusing on debt reduction when it should be focusing on job creation and economic recovery.

At the very least, I would expect the anti-government GOP ideologues in the House to step up and volunteer to take pay cuts as a sign that they are willing to share in the sacrifices that other Americans will have to make because of their shortsighted policies. However, given that they are all happy to accept their state-of-the-art Congressional health insurance despite their tirades against "takers" and Obamacare, I'm not holding my breath.


Stu 2 years, 4 months ago on Gwinnett sheriff posts statement supporting gun rights

Here we go again. This is the kind of statement that makes Gwinnett a national laughingstock. Let me get this straight. The solution to gun violence is . . . even more guns? Didn't someone once say that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over, and expect a different result? Folks, if the key to public safety and happiness was an ample supply of guns, Americans would be living in Nirvana. We have among the weakest gun laws and the most guns per capita of any country in the world. Somehow, though, we don't seem to be very safe.

When even a minor shooting happens in Canada or the UK, it's huge news for months. When a mass shooting happens in the U.S., it's quickly forgotten or eclipsed by an even worse shooting. It takes the massacre of kindergarten students to catch our attention and give us pause.

I hate to break it to you, but if you are planning to use guns to stave off a government tyranny, you're out of luck. That might have worked 200 years ago, but even if you're armed to the teeth with assault weapons, you won't hold out long against bombers and tanks. Not only that, the successful movements to overthrow dictatorships recently have been nonviolent. Look at what happened in Egypt and Tunisia. Or look at what happened right here in Georgia in recent memory. A group of brave African American and white freedom fighters took on one of the most brutal tyrannies in history -- JIm Crow -- and won. And they did so nonviolently. The guns were all on the other side.

Another fallacy is that only criminals use guns to commit crimes, and that law-abiding citizens only use guns to defend themselves against strangers who have invaded their homes. In the real world, many gun-related homicides are committed by law-abiding citizens against spouses or friends in a moment of rage, madness, or intoxication. If a gun hadn't been handy, the homicide wouldn't have happened. Not to mention that guns are the method of choice for men who commit suicide. In fact, having a gun in the home probably makes us less safe, not more so. We could test whether this was true if the NRA hadn't successful suppressed scientific studies on this topic so that they can spout their junk science unchallenged. Makes you wonder what they're so afraid of, if the facts are really on their side.

I hate to break it to you, but if our good sheriff's vision comes true, Gwinnett won't look like a 1950s sitcom rerun where we're all happily armed and magically safe. It will look like Somalia -- a no-holds-barred free-for-all where the guys with the biggest guns win. That's not democracy -- it's anarchy. And it's not much of a future to look forward to.


Stu 2 years, 5 months ago on Obama sets January deadline for gun proposals

OK, enough of this nonsense. The solution to gun violence isn't more guns! Only the gun manufacturers and the NRA profits from that approach.

Let me get this straight. The NRA's much vaunted "reasonable concession" to the gun violence crisis is to have taxpayers pay to place armed guards in kindergardens to protect us from the mess that they have created. Thanks a lot, guys.

We saw how well this approach worked during the recent incident at the Empire State building. Trained policeman shot a slew of innocent bystanders before they finally managed to down the shooter. And, despite all the guns in circulation, no one ever seems to be able to cite an instance where a mass shooting was thwarted in this way.

The Connecticut shooting also debunks the NRA's old chestnut that "if guns are criminalized, only criminals will have guns." The fallacy here is that there is a clear-cut, stable, readily apparent distinction between law-abiding citizens and crooks. The mom of the Connecticut shooter was a NRA poster child: she obtained her weapons legally and taught her son how to use them safely. She never expected him to turn her guns on herself and her students. But that's the way it is in real life: law-abiding citizens can turn violent in a moment of anger, intoxication, or madness. If they have a gun at hand, the results can be deadly.

As for the NRA's claim that "guns don't kill people, people do," they are right. But guns sure make it a heck of a lot easier for whackos to kill a lot of people a lost faster. I would rather take my chances against a nutcase with a knife than a nutcase with an assault rifle any day of the week.

Finally, I wish the gun worshippers would stop whining about their precious rights for long enough to spare a thought for the rest of us. What about our right to be free from constant fear? I don't like guns, and I don't want them in my home. I don't think it's reasonable for the NRA to create a society where we have to live in fear if we venture out in public without being armed to the teeth. I find it unacceptable that we can't send our kids to the mall or the movies or their classrooms without being afraid that they will be gunned down. A civilized society doesn't allow that to happen. In other words, you don't have the right to stick your gun culture down my throat.

Gun worship is idolatry. It is elevating firearms over human life. And by letting it continue, we are guaranteeing that the massacres will continue, with each one worse than the last. Have we really sunk so low that we consider this acceptable? Do we really love guns more than our children?

And ask yourself this: if the NRA really have the facts on their side, why did they have to get their lackeys in Congress to ban the CDC from tracking statistics on gun violence -- the only topic that CDC is prohibited by law from studying? What are they so afraid of?