Sunday, November 23, 2014
Momentous events in both England and the USA yesterday. Two reports below
British Labour Party's snooty elite hates patriotism, says editor of left-wing journal that triggered Labour leadership crisis
Attitudes reminiscent of the U.S. Democrats. In the recent Rochester by-election, both the Labour party and the Tories lost to a patriotic party. For an explanation of the uproar over Emily Thornberry’s offensive tweet of a "picture of a house bedecked in England flags", see Here.
Two weeks ago, JASON COWLEY, editor of Labour’s house journal the New Statesman, triggered Ed Miliband’s leadership crisis by describing him as an ‘old-style Hampstead socialist’ and ‘quasi-Marxist’. Here, he delivers a withering post-Rochester verdict . .
"When did Labour become the party of vested interests and snooty metropolitans? When did a modest terrace house, a white van and the flag of England become symbols of contempt for the Left?
Emily Thornberry, the Islington MP and lawyer, who, while campaigning in Rochester and Strood, sneeringly tweeted a picture of a house bedecked in England flags, has been forced to resign from the Labour front bench.
But her tweet and Ed Miliband’s panicked response to it epitomise why Labour is so desperately struggling to connect with voters and why Miliband has lost the confidence of many of his MPs.
Miliband leads a party that purports to speak for and aspires to represent, in his own awkward phrase, ‘everyday people’. But many in Labour have a problem with these very same ‘everyday people’, especially if they do not share their liberalism or metropolitan prejudices.
The snooty metropolitan Labourite doesn’t like these people’s patriotism. They don’t understand why they might be attracted to the populist rhetoric of Nigel Farage’s Ukip. They dismiss legitimate concerns about immigration and the fracturing of social cohesion as bigotry.
Nor does the snooty metropolitan elite seem to grasp that swathes of society do not work in the public sector and that two-thirds of private-sector workers do not even have pensions.
I’ve mocked Miliband for being a Hampstead socialist who does not understand lower-middle-class aspiration. Like Emily Thornberry, he lives in a grand house in North London. He studied politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford, the obligatory degree for our out-of-touch political class, and then, because he was considered ‘Labour aristocracy’ [His father was a prominent Marxist intellectual], went straight to work for Gordon Brown at the Treasury.
He had a brief sabbatical teaching at Harvard University. Then he was gifted a safe seat in Doncaster, fast-tracked into the Cabinet, after which he became leader of the party in his early 40s. Some struggle.
Miliband’s life experience is extraordinarily narrow. He has never worked in or run a business, and can scarcely bring himself to mention wealth-creation in his speeches. He has never lived or worked among the urban poor, as Clement Attlee, Labour’s greatest prime minister, did as a young man at Toynbee Hall in London’s East End.
Miliband is a member of what George Osborne privately calls ‘The Guild’ of career politicians. But, to adapt a saying of the great cricket writer C L R James, what do they know of politics who only politics know?
Emily Thornberry’s tweet could not have been more ill-timed or more symptomatic of a deeper malaise. If Labour were serious about wanting to win a mandate for the far-reaching political and economic reform it says the country needs, it would be aspiring to win back Rochester, which it held from 1997 to 2010. Instead, it stands on the sidelines and sneers, even as it is routed at the polls.
Draw a metaphorical line from the Wash estuary in Norfolk to the River Severn. South of the Severn-Wash line, excluding London, there are 197 seats, of which Labour holds ten. In the aspirational English south the party is hugely unpopular — and becoming more so.
Labour confronts a weak and divided Tory party. A more accomplished leader than Miliband would have seized this moment and found a way to address not only people’s anxieties but also their aspirations.
Miliband can seem a relentlessly gloomy politician, who is interested not in building a coalition of all the people but in appealing only to the bottom third of society. He speaks as if too many of us are victims whose lives can be redeemed only by state action. It’s old-style, top-down, the-man-in-Whitehall-knows-best Fabianism.
During the Scottish referendum campaign, I spent some time with Alex Salmond, now former leader of the Scottish National Party. In many ways, Salmond is a high-class huckster, spinning improbable yarns.
But he is also a brilliant popular communicator. He speaks about Scotland and its people with optimism and in a style and tone that resonate.
Now, the SNP has become the natural party of government and it is poised to storm Labour’s Scottish strongholds in next May’s election.
Back in the early days of his leadership, Miliband and his advisers liked to compare themselves with Margaret Thatcher. They admired her conviction and the way she transformed Britain by smashing an economic consensus. The Milibandites described their ambition as similarly ‘Thatcheresque’.
Yet Mrs Thatcher once said: ‘The Old Testament prophets did not say, “Brothers, I want a consensus.” They said, “This is my faith. This is what I passionately believe. If you believe it, too, then come with me.”’
The trouble for Ed Miliband is that he has told us what he believes, but, lethally for him and the Labour Party, fewer and fewer people believe him or want to come with him, as events in Rochester [by-election] showed.
Obama refuses to administer the law on immigration
President Obama announced a plan Thursday night to mainstream millions of illegal immigrants with an executive order allowing them to stay instead of facing deportation, bringing howls from Republicans who complained about so-called 'anchor babies' helping their illegal parents remain in the U.S.
The president calmly explained in a 16-minute speech – subtitled in Spanish – the parameters of what angry Republicans are calling a lawless 'amnesty.'
'We’re going to offer the following deal,' he said: 'If you’ve been in America for more than five years; if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents; if you register, pass a criminal background check, and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes – you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily, without fear of deportation.' 'You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law.'
'That’s what this deal is. Now let’s be clear about what it isn’t,' the president cautioned.
'This deal does not apply to anyone who has come to this country recently. It does not apply to anyone who might come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship, or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive – only Congress can do that.' 'All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you.'
Republicans pushed back immediately, with most of the energy coming from tea party conservatives.
'Tonight President Obama issued an oral royal decree that will be followed by a written regal decree, as any good monarch would do,' Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert jabbed in a statement.
'This unlawful, blatant executive action would legalize more than 5 million people here illegally. This president is single-handedly creating a constitutional crisis and hurting the citizens he took an oath to protect and defend.'
Utah Sen. Mike Lee, another tea party-linked lawmaker, called the president's speech 'a desperate attempt to remain relevant.'
It will take the federal government several months to prepare for receiving applications. By that time, Republicans will control both houses of Congress and may take action to reverse the policy.
'The president has decided to defy the American people, ignore the election results, and usurp the legislative process,' Lee said. 'This act demonstrates he respects neither election outcomes, nor the rule of law.'
But the president played on Americans' heartstrings in what sounded at times like one of his 2008 campaign speeches. The immigration debate, he said, is 'about who we are as a country, and who we want to be for future generations.'
'Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law?' he asked. 'Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility, and give their kids a better future?'
'Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms? Or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together?'
He also quoted the Old Testament – Exodus chapter 22, verse 21. 'Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger,' the president said, 'for we know the heart of a stranger – we were strangers once, too'
Obama's policy mainly targets parent of children who were born in the U.S. and are therefore citizens.
Millions of such children, derided as 'anchor babies' by commentators on the right, are already guaranteed a place in America – but their parents are not. Current law permits the U.S. to deport the parents.
That term, considered by some to be in the same class as racist epithets but not strictly taboo in America, was nonetheless being tossed around Capitol Hill on Thursday.
MailOnline spoke to two Republican aides who readily complained about parents of 'anchor babies' who will benefit from Obama's plan. 'They were anchor babies yesterday and they'll be anchor babies tomorrow,' said a staffer to a GOP congressman from a southern state.
'If we want to keep those families together there are two ways to do it. One is the Obama way and the other is to send the whole family back across the border and make them wait in line like everyone else.'
Another aide who serves as professional staff on one of the House of Representatives' standing committees, said that 'anchor babies are becoming an anchor around the neck of the U.S. economy.'
'What the president doesn't seem to get,' he said, 'is that Americans chose to reject his philosophy on Election Day, and part of that philosophy involves giving work authorizations to illegal immigrants so they can take jobs away from citizens.'
The Daily Caller calculated on Thursday that Obama's gambit will give legal status to more people than the number of jobs the White House has created since the president assumed office.
House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, blasted the president ahead of his speech for what he said was a blatant disregard for America's separation of powers.
'Instead of working together to fix our broken immigration system, the president says he’s acting on his own,' he said. 'That’s just not how our democracy works.' 'The president has said before that "he's not king" and he's "not an emperor," but he’s sure acting like one.'
Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution gives the legislative branch of government – Congress – authority to create laws covering immigration and naturalization.
South Carolina Congressman Jeff Duncan seconded Boehner. 'What the president has done is unprecedented, unconstitutional, and an affront to the American people,' Duncan said.
'In addition to poisoning the well and making it almost impossible to work together on other issues, the President’s actions have created a constitutional crisis that our Founding Fathers had hoped to avoid.'
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat who chairs an immigration task force with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, praised Obama on Thursday.
'President Obama is using his pen to help the country and we celebrate his courage,' he said. 'I am going sign up the families that are covered, keep fighting for the families that are not covered, and we are going to make the City of Chicago a model for the rest of the country.'
He insisted that Obama's unilateral actions should be codified into law, but held out little hope. 'We all must recognize that no executive action is a substitute for legislation, so the fundamental challenge of getting legislation through the Republican-controlled House remains the same,' Gutierrez said.
Labor unions, a key Democratic constituency, greeted the news with enthusiasm, in part because organized labor – outside of government – is at its low point in the postwar era.
'Recent border crossers,' the White House said, will become 'a priority for deportation.'
Another newly advantaged group are so-called 'DREAMers,' people who were brought to the United States as children.
Obama is protecting those 'who arrived in the US before turning 16 years old and before January 1, 2010, regardless of how old they are today,' the White House said.
The White House has tacitly acknowledged that Thursday's move is a temporary fix, while also demanding buy-in from Congress to make it permanent. 'To those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill,' Obama said.
That seems unlikely, however. And a hypothetical Republican president elected in 2016 could reverse his entire plan with the stroke of a different pen.
'We cannot let this stand,' said House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa. 'The president’s unilateral actions on immigration are a violation of his responsibilities and the trust the American people have placed in him,' said the California Republican.
'President Obama is playing a dangerous political game with lives and deepening the mistrust that the American people and Congress have in his ability to faithfully execute the law.'
Issa and other staunch conservatives have pledged to use their new and larger majorities in Congress to block Obama from implementing his orders.
The president has broad discretion to determine how to enforce certain laws, but lawmakers can use the power of the purse to forbid the government from spending money to implement those plans.
The Department of Homeland Security, for instance, has requested commercial bids for a project that would produce as many as 34 million 'green cards' and work permits. Producing those documents is an example of something whose execution requires budgetary permission.
Some in Congress favor a plan to use a Dec. 11 budget extension deadline as leverage, while others insist it's legally possible to employ a little-used process called 'recision' to remove line items from a budget that has already become law.
Obama will not sign any budget bill that defunds Thursday's order, a senior official told the D.C. newspaper Roll Call, and Republicans lack veto-proof majorities needed to cancel out his disapproval.
The White House relied Thursday on a complicated and controversial opinion that insists there's a link between deportation reprieves and border security.
By reclassifying millions as legal U.S. residents, the logic goes, the government will no longer be obligated to expend resources tracking them down, capturing them and deporting them.
That, the administration argues, will free up manpower and money to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border.
Complicating that picture is a flood of hundreds of thousands of unaccompanied minor children who have cascaded into the U.S. illegally from Central American countries since 2012 when Obama first announced that he would give a reprieve to DREAMers.
Activists pushing for new legal status for a mostly Hispanic population of 11 million people living in the shadows have been calling on Obama to protect a broad spectrum of illegal immigrants
'The President’s actions increase the chances that anyone attempting to cross the border illegally will be caught and sent back,' the White House claimed in a fact sheet sent to reporters in the hour before Obama's speech [And he's got a bridge to sell you]
'Continuing the surge of resources that effectively reduced the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border illegally this summer, the President’s actions will also centralize border security command-and-control to continue to crack down on illegal immigration.'
But some advocates warned immigrants not to get their hopes up yet – especially with lawmakers threatening to thwart Obama’s plan.
'What I am telling my families to do is be prepared for war. We’re going to see a legislative arm do whatever they can to stop the president,' said Jessica Dominguez, an immigration attorney in Southern California. 'I am not going to let my community be saddened again by words. We need action.'
In Sacramento County, California, however, Sheriff Scott Jones issued an impassioned plea to Obama in a video published Thursday.
He told stories of criminal aliens who went on crime sprees and people who killed after multiple deportations.
'I understand the integral role that the undocumented population plays in our national and state economies,' Jones said.
'The problem I have is I can’t tell which ones are good and which ones are evil, and neither can you. By their very definition they are undocumented.'
“This is not about racism – it is about an increasingly violent and uncertain world in which we are inadequately protected.'
He asked for a permanent solution instead of a temporary proposal.
'Mr. President, my request to you today can simply be stated: make immigration reform a priority,' Jones said.
'I do not care which reform you choose. Pathway to citizenship, guest work program, or any of the other innovative programs that currently exist.”
“But deferred action or amnesty is deferring this crisis. It is not reform, it’s simply giving up. It does nothing to make America or the undocumented population any safer.'
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Posted by JR at 1:36 AM