Posts Tagged ‘law’

Conscientious Consequence

18 May 2010

Dear J-

The ineptly named Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (aka Arizona Senate Bill 1070) has yet to take effect — that’s slated for 28 July 2010 — but of course it’s caused some pretty significant ripples throughout California. San Diego doesn’t have an official policy against the law, but certain groups have passed measures condemning it, and as a result, several Arizonans have already written letters threatening to take their tourism dollars elsewhere. And yes, San Diego needs all the tourism business it can get, though there’s always been an undercurrent of resentment even before this; I’ve seen various bumper stickers asking the Zonies to leave their daughters and wives when they go home.

Read the text of Article 8, paragraphs E and J; E states

A law enforcement officer, without a warrant, may arrest a person if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States.

while J states that

This section shall be implemented in a manner consistent with federal laws regulating immigration, protecting the civil rights of all persons and respecting the privileges and immunities of United States citizens.

Supporters of the law like to point out that people aren’t going to be stopped just for their appearance, but E seems pretty clear to me: you need to prove probable cause, which is a fairly fuzzy phrase rife with potential for abuse and misunderstanding. Can you be arrested for appearance? Despite the provisions of J, I would venture yes, unless the test of probable cause is enforced consistently and with prior precedent.

This is a slippery slope, as I’ve noted before. I can’t honestly believe that in 21st century America it’s legal to stop someone based on probable cause and demand proof of residency: not just guilty until proven innocent, but we might as well slap some embroidered patches on undesirables and snap off salutes. Arizona doesn’t have the greatest record here (who remembers Gov. Mecham’s opposition to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day?), and it’s tempting to write off the state as a haven for the small-minded, but I’m reminded to hate the sin, not the sinner; bad decisions don’t make bad people unless we let them. The law is likely to be implemented — popular support in Arizona being what it is — yet conscience is stronger than you might credit.



Bailing Water

29 September 2008

Dear J-

So with the failure of the bailout plan to pass the House, both Democrats and Republicans stand united to do what politicians do best:  sling mud and point fingers.  And sure, you can point to any number of party lines on this one, but the most interesting statstic is that something like 85% of the representatives up for re-election in the fall election voted against it.  This speaks volumes to how deeply unpopular the plan is amongst the citizens; despite the tweaks and careful propaganda campaign, this plan had corporate welfare written between the lines.

I’ve read all kinds of newsprint spilled on such topics as how we’re supposed to feel — outraged, but willing to sacrifice for the sake of the national economy — and explaining the details of the plan (“See, it’s not like Congress is writing a check to Wall Street, because Congress is writing the check to the Treasury to give to Wall Street”).  So what was the straw on the camel’s back this time?  What happened that made taxpayers stage what amounts to a revolt?  Has the smug equation of the American Way with profit at any cost finally shaken out?

I used to read with some amusement the letters to car magazine editors; one evergreen topic was complaining about tests of cars that most folks couldn’t afford; the main reason given was one of aspiration and practicality (a car magazine that tests only Corollas would be … well, it would be Consumer Reports now, and even they’re starting to test prestige-mobiles).  It’s the same thing with CEO pay scales; the idea was that if they didn’t get the pay, they’d go someplace that would pay them what their inflated egos were worth; those bonuses, executive perks, and stock options were not only their just reward, it motivated the rest of us to work harder, flush with the idea of climbing that ladder.

But it broke down; with no mechanism in place to tie performance to pay, CEO scales went out of balance.  Didn’t do a good job?  Sorry, here’s the door — and a fat check.  Did a good job?  Here’s a fat check.  We’ve unleashed a race of incompetent, irresponsible (the buck stops somewhere else), inbred (let’s hire their CEO, he just got on the market!) executives who inhabit a closed ecosystem — no one gets in, they just keep playing musical chairs until everyone’s tired.  And yes, unfortunately, the failure of businesses doesn’t just affect only the executives.  But after having structured our businesses to venerate and insulate the wrong end of the pyramid (hint, not the pointy part), how else can we keep teaching the lesson?  How else do we shout our message?


Company Politics

1 August 2008

Dear J-

I have Agriprocessors on my mind today; they’ve been in the news recently as the owners of the largest kosher meatpacking plant in the country, and most recently as the site of one of the largest immigration raids in US history.  It’s not the conditions, which apparently are little advanced over those seen in The Jungle, or the pending deportation of those folks nabbed in the raid — those are interesting facts, but not the focal point for me.

Both the employer and employee are at fault, after all, and yet one escapes punishment through the grace of excuses (“They had forged papers!”) and legal representation.  Driving home slowly today (traffic was slow for a good twenty-thirty miles, possibly due to the Del Mar horse track being in operation with its customary late-start Fridays), I tuned in to hear the traffic reports, which are given most frequently and reliably on the most rabidly right-wing of stations, AM 600, with your afternoon drive-time host Roger Hedgecock.

Today’s whipping boy for Roger was a Coast Guard officer, who had the temerity to succor rather than excoriate a boat full of illegal immigrants discovered off the coast of San Diego.  Roger pointed out that the operative word in Coast Guard is “guard,” and by noting that they’d broken the very law by attempting to enter the country illegally, and therefore could have no reasonable expectation of aid.  It sounds rather excuse-y to me again:  by dehumanizing any group you make it easier to hate.  If this is the richest country in the world; if we cannot enforce the laws equally for rich corporations and poor individuals; if we cannot share our wealth, then who switched my government when I wasn’t looking?