2013 - %3, January

Limbaugh: Cubans Work Hard, Unlike Mexicans

| Thu Jan. 31, 2013 10:37 AM PST

As if seeking to illustrate the GOP's ongoing problem with alienating large groups of people, on Wednesday Rush Limbaugh purported to explain why this generation of Latino immigrants differs from previous ones: They're lazy. Here's a transcript:

[T]he way the Republicans are looking at it is that they think that Hispanic immigrants are made-to-order conservatives. For some reason, culturally, they think that they're invested in hard work. And using the Cuban exile model, they're exactly right. But the Hispanic demographic, if you will, or population, has shifted. And the Cuban exile model is no longer the dominant model. The Mexican immigrant model is. And that -- they arrive with an entirely different view of America. And I'm sorry if this is offensive, but it's true.

This isn't the first time that Limbaugh has offered the thesis that people from Cuba work hard while people from Mexico are lazy. He put a slight twist on it last November, explaining that "[Cubans are] just not quite dark—as dark, and they're oriented toward work." So according to Limbaugh, Cubans are less brown then Mexicans, and less lazy, and because of this "Cubans are not all that popular" among other Latinos. When the Department of Homeland Security decided not to deport some undocumented immigrants brought to the US as kids, however, Limbaugh complained that Obama was "flooding the job market" with "illegals." In short, something must be done to stop these lazy Mexicans from taking American jobs. (Left unmentioned by Limbaugh was the substantial difference between Cubans and Mexicans that is actually relevant to the discussion about immigration: Cubans can seek American citizenship simply by setting foot on American soil. Unauthorized immigrants from other nations cannot.)

Limbaugh's contradictory view that undocumented immigrants are lazy but will also outcompete American workers for jobs is relatively widespread on the right. "Take away the Spanish surname and Latino voters look a great deal like many other Democratic constituencies," National Review explained in an editorial opposing immigration reform published Wednesday. "Low-income households headed by single mothers and dependent upon some form of welfare are not looking for an excuse to join forces with Paul Ryan and Pat Toomey." The editorial goes on to complain about the lack of effective measures to prevent undocumented immigrants from working.

What we're seeing here is a product of ideological tribalism run amok. Some conservatives have persuaded themselves that being a conservative is a prerequisite for human virtues like diligence. Since only conservatives know what hard work is, if you are not conservative you do not work hard. Because Cuban-Americans typically vote Republican, they must understand hard work and responsibility. Since Mexican-Americans, like most other Latino subgroups, vote Democratic, they are lazy by definition. Given these sorts of blanket generalizations, it's easy to see how the right-wing prophecy that legalizing undocumented immigrants will simply lead to more Democratic voters could become self-fulfilling.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

The Human Cost of Refusing to Expand Medicaid

| Thu Jan. 31, 2013 9:01 AM PST

HHS has announced an exemption to Obamacare's individual mandate:

As the Obama administration took new steps Wednesday to implement the healthcare law's individual mandate, it clarified an exemption for people whose governors don't take part in the expanded Medicaid program....Notably, HHS clarified that the mandate doesn't apply to people who are eligible for Medicaid but live in states that don't take part in the law's Medicaid expansion.

Right. If you're so poor that you qualify for Medicaid, but your state's Republican governor refuses to allow you to have Medicaid coverage, the federal government won't demand that you pay for private coverage instead. This is mere common sense, since such people don't have the money in the first place. Ed Kilgore puts this in human terms:

By my rough back-of-the-envelope calculation from Kaiser Family Foundation numbers, there are about 4 million of such unlucky duckies in the 10 states that are pretty clearly not going to participate in the Medicaid expansion, a number that could jump to well over 5 million if Rick Scott manages to keep Florida out as well....So what do they care about the injustice of this coverage hole? Not a thing, clearly.

Nope, not a thing.

Mississippi Bill Would Ban Manimals, Mermen, and Minotaurs

| Thu Jan. 31, 2013 8:38 AM PST

Not in Mississippi.

What do you do after you've made abortion de facto illegal in your state by shutting down (almost) all of the clinics? Well, if you're the Mississippi legislature, you resurrect one of the forgotten moments of the George W. Bush presidency—attempt to push through a law criminalizing the creation of "human-animal hybrids."

Human-aniwha? Here's what the bill says:

 

 

More broadly, the bill basically parrots the failed 2011 Personhood amendment, which sought to redefine human life as beginning at fertilization. The Jackson Clarion-Ledger's Brian Eason helpfully clarifies that "the way the bill is written, it would not outlaw freak accidents in which, say, you were bitten by a radioactive spider and later developed spider-like qualities."

Before the 2012 South Carolina primary, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum told pro-lifers that he was unequivocally opposed to the idea of human-jellyfish (hellyfish) hybrids.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for January 31, 2013

Thu Jan. 31, 2013 8:28 AM PST

Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Marines aboard Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., battle a fire during a live-fire training exercise, Jan. 17. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cameron Payne.

Good News for People Who Like Guns and Vacation Homes

| Thu Jan. 31, 2013 8:19 AM PST

Second Amendment alert: New York is preventing Americans with second, third, and fourth homes in the state from obtaining pistol and revolver licenses—and a federal appeals court opinion issued Tuesday suggested this might violate the Constitution.

The case involves a man named Alfred G. Osterweil who owns a vacation home in Summit, NY, and who was denied a handgun permit in the state because his formal residence is in Louisiana. A local judge said this was okay because New York law only allows licenses for full-time residents, and argued that this did not violate the Second Amendment because it's more like a regulation than an outright ban. (An outright ban would be unconstitutional.) He held that it is in the state's interest to "monitor… its hand gun licensees to ensure their continuing fitness for the use of deadly weapons," the opinion said. If Osterweil is out of state for much of the year, the argument goes, New York can't keep tabs on whether he is a law-abiding citizen or a mass murderer.

On Hagel Day, We Recall His Half-Courageous Stand on the Iraq War

| Thu Jan. 31, 2013 7:48 AM PST

On Thursday morning, Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama's choice to replace Leon Panetta as defense secretary, appears on Capitol Hill for his confirmation hearing before the Senate armed services committee. Though neo-cons and some Rs have moaned about Hagel and tried to mount a campaign against him—he's just not warmongerish enough for them—it remains to be seen whether the Senate Republicans will truly go nuclear against a former colleague who also is a Vietnam veteran. The optics, as they say in Washington, would not be good for the GOP, if it tried to destroy this nomination, given its quasi-bipartisan nature and Hagel's past military service. It's hard to envision the Republicans scoring political points by crucifying Hagel. But with the ever-frustrated and often-crotchety John McCain an influential player on the GOP side, you never know what might happen.

Meanwhile, with Hagel's past and present policy views being probed, it's a good time to repost an item I put up when Hagel was first appointed that examines what he did—and didn't do—when President George W. Bush was trying to march the country to war in Iraq. Here it is:

In October 2002, when Congress was fiercely debating a measure that would allow President George W. Bush to invade Iraq, Hagel noted several reasons why this was a bad idea and presciently predicted all that could go wrong. Yet he still voted for the measure, mostly out of party loyalty (which GOPers now accuse him of no longer possessing). When Hagel was contemplating a presidential run in 2008, I examined his 2002 stance in a TomPaine.com column. I've pasted it below.

Of all the senators eyeing the White House in 2008, this Nebraskan [Hagel] was the only one to express deep reservations about the resolution—while still voting for it. "America—including the Congress—and the world, must speak with one voice about Iraqi disarmament, as it must continue to do so in the war on terrorism," Hagel said in explaining his vote. But he was prescient: "If disarmament in Iraq requires the use of force, we need to consider carefully the implications and consequences of our actions. The future of Iraq after Saddam Hussein is also an open question. Some of my colleagues and some American analysts now speak authoritatively of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds in Iraq, and how Iraq can be a test case for democracy in the Arab world. How many of us really know and understand much about Iraq, the country, the history, the people, the role in the Arab world? I approach the issue of post-Saddam Iraq and the future of democracy and stability in the Middle East with more caution, realism and a bit more humility." He added, "Imposing democracy through force in Iraq is a roll of the dice. A democratic effort cannot be maintained without building durable Iraqi political institutions and developing a regional and international commitment to Iraq's reconstruction. No small task."

Hagel was disappointed in the discourse within the Senate: "We should spend more time debating the cost and extent of this commitment, the risks we may face in military engagement with Iraq, the implications of the precedent of United States military action for regime change and the likely character and challenges of a post-Saddam Iraq. We have heard precious little from the President, his team, as well as from this Congress, with a few notable exceptions, about these most difficult and critical questions." And he cautioned humility: "I share the hope of a better world without Saddam Hussein, but we do not really know if our intervention in Iraq will lead to democracy in either Iraq or elsewhere in the Arab world." Bottom line: Hagel feared the resolution would lead to a war that would go badly but didn't have the guts to say no to the leader of his party.

Hagel took a thoughtful approach to the question of the invasion. His worries were dead-on. Yet he had the wiggle room to vote for the measure because there remained a possibility—albeit slight—that Bush would not use this authority and the conflict with Saddam Hussein would be resolved without US military intervention. In considering the invasion and its implications, Hagel had the right take; he just couldn't bring himself to vote accordingly.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Freedom Now vs. Freedom in the Past

| Thu Jan. 31, 2013 7:02 AM PST

This is apropos of nothing in particular, but I happened to be thinking about the question of whether we're more or less free than we used to be, say, 50 years ago or so. The usual answer, of course, is that government at all levels now intrudes into every facet of daily life, which makes us less free. And yet, speaking for myself, I very rarely find myself prohibited from doing something I want to do. In practice, I'm pretty damn free.

So which is it? Less free, more free, or no real difference? First, I want to make a few stipulations:

  • If you're black, or gay, or disabled, or female, you're a helluva lot freer than you were 50 years ago. Let's acknowledge that and put civil rights to the side for now.
  • I think it's unquestionably more onerous to start up and run a business than in the past. We can argue about whether that's good or bad, but again, let's put that to the side. I want to focus on personal freedom.
  • I'm not interested in whether 2013 is "better" than 1963. Obviously we're freer to send text messages and ship packages overnight in 2013 because, you know, that stuff was impossible 50 years ago.

So the focus here is on regulatory freedom, things the government makes harder or easier on individuals. Here are some examples to give you an idea of what I'm thinking about:

Ways in which you were less free 50 years ago:

  • Most shops were closed on Sunday, thanks to blue laws.
  • You stood a good chance of being drafted into the military.
  • X-rated movies were illegal, and movies in general were more heavily censored.
  • Travel to foreign countries was more onerous (getting visas and other travel documents was a huge pain).
  • It was harder to procure birth control, and abortion was illegal.
  • Owning gold was illegal.
  • Casino gambling was banned nearly everywhere.
  • It was harder to buy and smoke marijuana.
  • You could not bank across state lines or get more than 5¼ percent interest on your savings.

Ways in which you are less free today:

  • There are lots of places where you can't smoke a cigarette.
  • Boarding an airplane is more hassle, and just generally, there are more security-related restrictions on our daily lives.
  • You can't dump hazardous crap anywhere you want.
  • The permitting process for building on your property is generally harder. (If you live on the coast in California, it's way harder.)
  • Buying a gun requires a background check and, sometimes, a waiting period.
  • You have to wear a seat belt when you drive.
  • Your taxes are higher.
  • It's harder to buy raw milk.
  • As of next January, you will be required to buy health insurance.

I hope this gives the flavor of what I'm looking for: legal and regulatory hurdles that affect us in our daily lives. What else have you got along these lines?

Butterflies Booking It North as Climate Warms

| Thu Jan. 31, 2013 4:21 AM PST
Giant swallowtail, normally a butterfly of the southern US, now increasingly appearing in the northeast: Thomas Bresson via Wikimedia Commons
 

Butterflies from the southern US that used to be rare in the northeast are now appearing there on a regular basis. The trend correlates to a warming climate report the authors of a paper in Nature Climate Change.

Subtropical and warm-climate butterflies—including the giant swallowtail (photo above) and the zabulon skipper (photo below)—showed the sharpest population shift to the north. As recently as the late 1980s these species were rare or absent in Massachusetts.

At the same time southern butterflies are moving north, more than 75 percent of northern species—with a range centered north of Boston—are rapidly declining in Massachusetts now. Disappearing fastest are the species that overwinter as eggs or larvae. Which suggests that changes in the winter climate (like more drought or less snow cover) may be harming nonadult butterflies.

Southern species like the zabulon skipper are replacing northern species in Massachusetts: Kenneth Dwain Harrelson via Wikimedia Commons

"For most butterfly species, climate change seems to be a stronger change-agent than habitat loss," lead author Greg Breed tells the Harvard Gazette. "Protecting habitat remains a key management strategy, and that may help some butterfly species. However for many others habitat protection will not mitigate the impacts of warming."

Breed points to the frosted elfin (photo above), a species that receives formal habitat protection from Massachusetts, and has increased 1,000 percent there since 1992. Meanwhile common summer butterflies that have no protection in Massachusetts (atlantis and aphrodite fritillaries) have declined by nearly 90 percent. From the paper:

Conservation agencies should not use our results to infer that all southern species are safe nor that all northern species are doomed to extinction. However, understanding mechanisms of population decline could improve management practices and limit potentially costly efforts that will have little influence on species conservation.

 

The frosted elfin is one of the most rapidly increasing butterfly species in Massachusetts with an estimated 1,000 percent increase since 1992: Geoff Gallice via Wikimedia Commons

What's extra cool about this research is that the data come from citizen scientists at the Massachusetts Butterfly Club. Over the last 19 years members have logged butterfly species and numbers on some 20,000 expeditions through Massachusetts. Their records fill a crucial gap in the scientific record.

Butterflies are turning out to be the canaries in the coal mine of climate warming:

  • This study in Biology Letters found that Australia's common brown butterfly emerged from their pupae on average 1.6 days earlier each decade between 1941 and 2005, when average air temperature increased by 0.14°C per decade.
  • Butterflies and other species living in the mountains suffer from the "escalator effect"... i.e., when there's no higher "latitude" for them to shift to beyond the summit.
  • MoJo's Kiera Butler wrote here about the Karner blue butterfly and the problem of what to do when conditions force them northward but they can't make it past urban roadblocks.
  • I reported here about populations of Apollo butterflies in the Rocky Mountains so fragmented by the escalator effect that they could be wiped out by one particularly bad weather event.
  • Check out this Google Scholar search page for just how many papers are being published on butterflies feeling the heat.

The Nature Climate Change paper:

  • Greg A. Breed, Sharon Stichter & Elizabeth E. Crone. Climate-driven changes in northeastern US butterfly communities. Nature Climate Change (2013). DOI:10.1038/nclimate1663

Will Your Waiter Give You the Flu?

| Thu Jan. 31, 2013 4:06 AM PST

Fifteen minutes before Victoria Bruton's lunch shift at a busy Philadelphia dining joint, she began to feel dizzy and hot. "I had gone to my boss and asked if I could leave because I wasn't feeling well," Bruton, now 41, remembers of her first case of what she assumed to be the flu. "They asked that I finish the shift. And frankly, I couldn't afford not to." The sole source of income for her two daughters, Bruton powered through the shiftand spent the next two days confined to a sickbed. 

Like most of the country, Philadelphia doesn't require restaurants to pay sick leave for its food handlers, though longtime food workers like Bruton, advocacy organizations, and lawmakers are currently fighting for a law to do so in Pennsylvania. Councilmen in Portland, Oregon, are also debating a similar initiative. But these two proposals are the exception rather than the norm: According to a study from the Food Chain Workers Alliance, 79 percent of food workers in the United States don't have paid sick leave or don't know if they do. And it's not just flu that sick servers can spread—a study out this week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that the food industry's labor practices may be contributing to some of the nation's most common foodborne illness outbreaks, and even more than previously thought.

Ken Cuccinelli's Messy Relationship With Mental Health

| Thu Jan. 31, 2013 4:01 AM PST
Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli.

Pressed at Saturday's National Review Institute Summit on how best to fight back against President Obama's gun control campaign, Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli didn't blink. While he was quick to criticize the President's approach, there was "an awful lot we can do to make Virginia Techs and Sandy Hooks less likely." Then Cuccinelli—who recently declared his candidacy for governorpivoted to mental health. "I'm as frugal a participant in government as you can find," Cuccinelli said. "But I believe government has a role in helping people who through no fault of their own" suffer from mental illness.

So what did Cuccinelli, who described himself in his remarks (and on his gubernatorial campaign website) as a leader on mental health isssues, think of President Obama's own post-Newtown proposals to improve mental health treatment? "I haven't seen them," he told me after the panel. (They're here.)

That's surprising, given his stated commitment to the issue. It's also a bummer, because—as with many of his conservative colleagues, including the NRA's Wayne LaPierre—Cuccinelli's warnings about gun-grabbing mask the fact that he broadly shares Obama's priorities on a key aspect of the gun-control package.