Austria, Slipping Down the Slippery Rightward Slope

NY Times starts this way:

VIENNA — As befits the city of Sigmund Freud, Vienna has two faces — one sweet, one sinister.

Behind the schnitzel and strudel, Mozart and the opera, lurks the legacy of the Nazis who forced Jews to clean sidewalks with toothbrushes. In 1988, to much controversy, Vienna placed Alfred Hrdlicka’s “Memorial Against War and Fascism,” featuring a sculpture of a Jewish mancleaning the street, right behind the State Opera, lest Austria again forget.

Now, to the astonishment of many and the alarm of some, the burning question in Vienna’s elegant cafes is, Which face will prevail in the city’s bellwether elections on Oct. 11?

Roughly one in four of Austria’s 8.7 million residents lives in Vienna. For almost the last century — aside from the Nazi years, 1938-45 — the left has ruled “Red Vienna,” long prized for its pioneering public housing and welfare, and its cultural ferment.

But against the backdrop of Europe’s refugee drama, the far-right Freedom Party is threatening the Social Democrats’ hold in what may portend a more general rise in populist, anti-immigrant sentiment across the Continent.

The Telegraph from the UK shouts louder

Austria’s Right-wing populist party makes huge gains fuelled by migrant crisis fears

Austrian Freedom Party doubles its share of the vote in state of Upper Austria as Vienna expects nearly three times the number of asylum applications received last year

A Right-wing populist party in Austria has made huge gains in regional elections over growing concerns about Europe’s migrant crisis.

The Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) won 30.4 per cent of the vote in the state of Upper Austria, the country’s industrial heartland, a striking improvement on its performance in the state’s last election in 2009 when it took half as many votes with 15.3 per cent.

This isn’t to say all Austrians are implicated in this surge of anti-immigrant feeling.  Many, many greeted refugees at train stations and in the streets.  It does mean, as in the United States, that divisions are no longer ignored; fear is rising.  And if that’s the tide that will lift all boats, we’d better be thinking about better drainage and stronger barriers.

Refugees: America’s Responsibility

Excellent Op-Ed by Steve Hilton:

While we can argue forever about the causes of conflict in the Middle East, it is impossible to ignore the impact of American foreign policy on what’s happening in Europe. It was shocking to see an “expert” from the Council on Foreign Relations quoted on Saturday saying that the situation is “largely Europe’s responsibility.” How, exactly? The Iraq invasion (which could reasonably be described as “largely America’s responsibility”) unleashed a period of instability and competition in the region that is collapsing states and fueling sectarian conflict.

There are plenty of comments to his post, several asking what responsibility Russia and Iran have, particularly in Syria.  As usual in human affairs the choices vary from bad to worse.

It’s crazy that, as Nicholas Kristoff points out, that “…the World Food Program was just forced to cut 229,000 refugees in Jordan off food rations because it ran out of money…” There’s an example of losing a dollar to save a dime…

One think I have not heard anything of is what kind of organizing might be encouraged among the refugees — while still in the camps, and when disbursed around Europe.  It’s an enormous cohort of educated and talented people which, if they are like most refugees, will retain strong feelings for the lands of their birth for decades.  What might emerge if their social capital can be encouraged to grow and find a way to slow and halt the on-going disasters, then to stabilize and re-build what they have lost?

More Stupid Anti-Immigrant Tricks

Somedays, news stories about stupidity is enough to make us laugh, like the two young thieves running from the police who jumped over a fence, into the grounds of San Quentin Prison, or another whose ski-mask disguise had his name on the forehead.  Other stories make us want to scream.

Joshua Davies writes an opinion piece in the NY Times about four young New Mexicans he wrote a book about which is soon to come out as a movie, both titled “Spare Parts.”  Four kids from the wrong side of the tracks won a national competition by building an underwater robot.  After the win, other teams sent their members to high prestige colleges.  The New Mexico four, it turns out, were not citizens, brought to the US illegally from Mexico as infants.  They wound up in assembly line or kitchen jobs.

As Davies writes, it is these kind of young people the Obama immigration plan has aimed to properly patriate to the United States — and which the GOP led congress is trying to torpedo.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program created by President Obama’s executive order that shields some undocumented students and young adults from deportation, didn’t go into effect until 2012. Had it been in place when the Carl Hayden students were in high school, allowing them to legally work, their lives might have turned out very differently. They have surmounted enormous odds, but none were able to professionally pursue their passion for robotics. It is a startling rebuke to the American dream.

House Republicans seem to view this as a fitting outcome. This week, John A. Boehner, the speaker of the House, introduced legislation that would roll back the president’s order.

NY Times

If you haven’t had your weekly scream quota, read the story.  Heartbreaking. And stupid.

Dream Scholarships

In these months of ugliness as native born American adults scream at and pound the sides of buses filed with terrified children, only just feeling a little secure after weeks of running from gang violence and hunger, it is great to read about someone with compassion doing something.

Donald Graham, recently relieved of his duties at the Washington Post after its purchase by Jeff Bezos of Amazon, has created a scholarship fund for DREAMer immigrants.

[entered the United States before age 16; have lived continuously in the country for at least five years; have not been convicted of a felony, a “significant” misdemeanor, or three other misdemeanors; and are currently in school, graduated from high school, earned a GED, or served in the military. Immigrants who meet these criteria are commonly referred to as “DREAMers” because they comprise most (though not all) of the individuals who meet the general requirements of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.]

It’s called The Dream . US Scholarship

What a fine thing … these kids, who already live in the US and want to stay, and learn and contribute, will feel that much more bound to the bounty and goodness of those who reach out hands to help instead of balled into fists

Act. Fast.

Eliseo Medina who cut his organizing teeth with Cesar Chavez’  United Farmworkers is undertaking a Gandhian like fast, in the manner of his early teacher.

Saying he will fast until his body gives out, Mr. Medina has lost 16 pounds; his face, sprouting a sparse beard, looks sunken and gray. But he perks up when he talks about the millions of immigrants — including many members of his organization, the Service Employees International Union, and a few of his own relatives — who are living in the country without legal papers.

Eliseo Medina on 11th day of fast for immigration reform.

Eliseo Medina on 11th day of fast for immigration reform.

“Whatever little sacrifice I am making doesn’t compare with the sacrifice these immigrants made when they came to this country for a better life and find themselves living in the shadows and being exploited,” Mr. Medina said, in cadences echoing Mr. Chavez. He wears a brown sweatshirt with the slogan “Act. Fast.” and spends his days in a padded lawn chair, quelling hunger by praying, napping, plotting political strategy and receiving a parade of visitors — including Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Friday morning.

…on Friday, now 67 years old, in a white tent just below the Capitol on the National Mall in the 11th day of a water-only fast he hopes will “touch the heart” of the House speaker, John A. Boehner of Ohio, and make him act on immigration.

NY Times

Along with Medina several others are fasting:

Lisa Sharon Harper, director of mobilizing for the Christian social justice group Sojourners says,

“I don’t fast out of worry, I fast out of hope.”

Along with Harper and Medina, there are three other main fasters: Dae Joong Yoon of the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium, Cristian Avila of Mi Familia Vota and Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

Huffington Post

Of course Speaker Boehner has not yet revealed the presence of a heart:

When Medina asked whether Boehner could meet that day, he was met with a no.

“What about tomorrow?” he said. “Next week?”

Brittany Bramell, Boehner’s spokeswoman, said she wasn’t able to give an answer.

She simply told him: “I can take your concerns and pass them along.”


You can join the fasters at  — perhaps you will be the tipping point to a show of Boehner’s heart.

Going After the Anti Immigrants

“Last week, the Service Employees International Union spent $200,000 on a week-long, Spanish-language radio campaign in 10 congressional districts held by Republicans that have relatively large Latino populations (listen to the ads here). It was the latest in a multi-million dollar campaign supporting immigration reform.

Eliseo Medina, the SEIU’s secretary-treasurer, says the response to the ads from both constituents and lawmakers “makes us feel pretty good they’re going to be on the right side of this issue.” Medina points to two congressmen in California—Jeff Denham, whose district is 40 percent Latino, and David Valadao, whose parents immigrated from Portugal’s Azores Islands in 1969—as two Republicans he thinks were particularly responsive to the ads. Valadao already supports a path to citizenship, his office says, but most of his colleagues will be harder sells: His district is 72 percent Latino, which among Republicans is second only to that of Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Congress’s first Cuban American.

Last month, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee rolled out Spanish-language radio ads targeting House members who voted for an amendment authored by anti-immigrant hardliner Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) to deport undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children. They went after several of the same lawmakers as the SEIU, including Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.), one of just 15 House Republicans representing a district that voted for Obama in 2012. “He’s been ‘Heck no,'” Medina says. “He’s going to be ‘Heck yes.'”

And finally!  Go after these guys…

Jenni Rivera, Gone

Count me as among the tens of thousands who didn’t know about Jenni Rivera until she died. My heart-throbs of Mexican music were a generation or so, ago [Flor Silvestre, Lola Beltran.]  But reading about her in a NY Times editorial, after her death in an airplane accident, made me notice.  I’ll be dialing up her tunes on my grooveshark account.

…she was a superstar in the border-straddling world of Mexican regional music, an immigrant’s daughter from a musical dynasty who sold millions of albums, became a TV celebrity and led a personal life straight out of a telenovela. ..

…on May 29, 2010, when tens of thousands of protesters converged on Phoenix to denounce Arizona’s radical new immigration law. Other big musicians stayed away, or just signed the petition. Ms. Rivera showed up. She walked five miles in scorching heat, and ended up dehydrated, with a migraine. When a worried organizer texted her — “are u still marching?” — she replied: “Of course. … I’m a gangster chick.” She went on to play a full concert and gave a speech, spread widely on YouTube, for immigrant rights and justice for the community she sprang from and never left.

Immigrant Hatred: Greece

Immigrant hating is often the first card played when the right-wing comes to sit at the table, so Greece isn’t particularly different from other countries around the globe.  What is amazing is that Greeks have been the immigrants par-excellence, all over the Mediterranean and Asia-Minor for centuries; tens of centuries.  Greek colonies around the Black Sea, Greeks along the Turquoise Coast in (now) Turkey; Greeks in Antioch the fabulous Egyptian city.  I’m sure there were incidents when locals didn’t welcome them, beat them or burned their shops, but thrive they did, grew and prospered, raised their children who spoke the local languages and yet remained Greeks.  How nice it would be were History a better teacher.

ATHENS — A week after an extremist right-wing party gained an electoral foothold in Greece’s Parliament earlier this summer, 50 of its members riding motorbikes and armed with heavy wooden poles roared through Nikaia, a gritty suburb west of here, to telegraph their new power.

As townspeople watched, several of them said in interviews, the men careened around the main square, some brandishing shields emblazoned with swastikalike symbols, and delivered an ultimatum to immigrants whose businesses have catered to Nikaia’s Greeks for nearly a decade.

“They said: ‘You’re the cause of Greece’s problems. You have seven days to close or we’ll burn your shop — and we’ll burn you,’ ” said Mohammed Irfan, a legal Pakistani immigrant who owns a hair salon and two other stores.

NY Times

and for more on the appearance of Greek Fascists, see Spyros Marchetos in the Guardian

Fascists did not suddenly multiply in Greece. Rather, extreme right ideas and values gradually permeated public consciousness, and became mainstream in the last 20 years. Then the troika (of the European commission, European Central Bank and the IMF) imposed measures of violent pauperisation, and even created widespread perceptions of decay and victimisation, and feelings of national persecution and humiliation. All these, as the US historian Robert Paxton argues in his magisterial Anatomy of Fascism, help fascism rise. Finally, when the crisis stole the clientelist appeal of the ruling parties, many of their voters turned towards those who professed openly what traditional politicians only implied

Al Jazzera has an extensive collection of pieces Greece and the New Dawn fascism

Immigrants: Give Us Your Poor

Immigration has always been.  From Ionian Greeks being pushed out of the mainland and colonizing the western shores of Anatolia about 1,000 BCE to impoverished Africans desperately moving north into Europe today.  I don’t know about the tribes who had to accommodate the Greeks but surely in most places and most times the resentment of those who immigrated earlier towards those who arrive later, is a constant.  We’ve seen a whole lot of such resentment in the United States, by children of immigrants themselves, towards the most recent “other.”

In fact, I recently “fired” a client where I do computer work, after I could no longer take a senior employee’s rants about the evils of immigrants.  And it turns out, all of his “facts” are false.  From an article in the NY Times:

… in the regions where immigrants have settled in the past two decades, crime has gone down, cities have grown, poor urban neighborhoods have been rebuilt, and small towns that were once on life support are springing back.

Scholars can’t say for sure that immigration caused these positive developments, but we know enough to debunk the notion that immigrants worsen social ills.

For example, in rural counties that experienced an influx of immigrants in the 1980s and ’90s, crime rates dropped by more than they did in rural counties that did not see high immigrant growth.



Despite what many know, that immigrants are overwhelmingly a benefit to the communities they are part of,  deportation has picked up speed under this so-called left-wing president.  And with it the human hurt.  The NY Times has done  a very fine article about the increasing rate of south-bound border crossing, sweeping along with it American kids.

In all, 1.4 million Mexicans — including about 300,000 children born in the United States — moved to Mexico between 2005 and 2010, according to Mexican census figures. That is roughly double the rate of southbound migration from 1995 to 2000, and new government data published this month suggest that the flow is not diminishing. The result is an entire generation of children who blur the line between Mexican and American.

And finally, speaking of immigrants, here is Nate Silver’s intelligent take on whether President Obama’s suspension of deportations for some n0n-citizen aliens will have an effect on the upcoming election.