Posts Tagged ‘DREAM Act’

Brabenec Survey Is a Karlapalooza

Friday, April 17th, 2015

By Michael Kaufman

If you live in the 98th Assembly District you have no doubt recently received a couple of pieces of “Dear Neighbor” mail from our new representative in the State Legislature, Karl (Karlapalooza) Brabenec. In these pieces, professionally produced and printed in non-union shops, he says he wants to make sure our “needs are being represented” and that he believes “having an open dialogue is critical.” Apparently his idea of an “open dialogue” is a survey with questions that are meant to seem important, but are actually meaningless, irrelevant, or loaded, e.g., written in such a way as to elicit a particular response.

We are asked, for example, to reply Yes or No to “Do you believe the DEC should have selected Orange County as lead agency in Kiryas Joel’s annexation proposal?” Karlapalooza knows that the decision made by the state Department of Environmental Conservation is enormously unpopular outside the borders of KJ itself. The DEC designated the Satmar Hasidic village of KJ to lead an environmental review of its own proposal to annex 507 acres from the Town of Monroe. It just doesn’t seem right. So, you may ask, what about Orange County?

Anyone who has followed the activities of the dysfunctional Republican-led county legislature over the past eight years or so can only shudder at the thought. Think of all the money that would be doled out to cronies, oops, I mean consultants, over an extended period before a decision is reached….and immediately challenged by a lawsuit that will cost taxpayers even more to fight. No, Orange County is not the answer either. The DEC made the right call because KJ will give it its best shot and if its case is factually refuted by scientific evidence the annexation will likely not be permitted.  But that is not the answer Karlapalooza seeks, or the one he will get from most respondents.

Whew, it’s a good thing there are some easy ones. We can say how we “feel” about the governor’s performance on a scale from 1 (Strongly Approve) to 5 (Strongly Disapprove). We can do likewise for the State Legislature. But is there really anyone who strongly approves of either? What is the point of asking us when you already know the answer?

A multiple choice question asks us to choose among various options for state government “to help create jobs.” The choices are meager: tax credits for small family businesses, eliminating tax credits to generate revenue, across-the-board tax cuts, or “stay the course.” (What, no “all of the above” or “none of the above?”)

Well, we do get a “both of the above” in a question worded specifically to elicit that response: “What is the best way to improve our area’s schools?” The choices include “Restore the governor’s 2010 education aid cut;” Eliminate costly unfunded mandates;” the aforementioned “Both of the above;” and “Increase costly competitive grants that schools must apply for.” Is it just me or do you think Karlapalooza wants us to go with “Both of the above?”

Frankly I’m getting a little tired of the buzzwords “unfunded mandates.” They are used to justify cuts in hard-won benefits negotiated in good faith between public employees and government agencies. They are especially used pejoratively to attack teachers whenever a local school budget that requires an increase in property taxes comes up for a vote. Here is the Oxford dictionary definition of mandate: “An official order or commission to do something.” It doesn’t say how to do it. Maybe all it will take is closing a few loopholes that give tax breaks to large corporations. Funding need not come from individual homeowners already overtaxed. But that wasn’t one of the choices.

By the time we reach the end of the survey, Karl has stopped all pretension of impartiality. “Do you think NYS should pass the DREAM Act,” he asks, adding “a law that allows for illegal immigrants to receive state aid for tuition costs?” At least he didn’t say “illegal aliens.” No one put it better than Elie Wiesel, who knows a thing or two about how it feels to be treated otherwise: “No human being is illegal.”

Also near the end is “Do you support REPEALING the NY SAFE Act?” And just in case we may be inclined to answer in the negative, he adds parenthetically, “One of the most restrictive gun laws in the country.” And I haven’t even gotten to the question about Common Core, which is the one that got my nose out of joint in the first place! The choices are silly and presume a depth of knowledge of the subject that few possess. The “open dialogue” ends with four lines left blank for “other specific suggestions.” I have one: Dear Neighbor: Stop wasting money on self-serving mailings designed to create the illusion that you care what I think.

Michael can be reached at

Mitt Romney, Human Question Mark

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

By Emily Theroux

Ever get the feeling that Mitt Romney qualifies everything he says to death?

He’s careful never to: a) utter a simple declarative sentence; b) directly answer a direct question; c) take a definitive stand on any controversial subject; d) reveal that he lacks any sincere or strongly held beliefs; or, e) reveal that, au contraire (as Missionary Mitt might have said, waiting out the Vietnam War in Gay Paree), he actually has any sincere or strongly held beliefs. If Multiple Choice Mitt, as one wag called him, continues to hide behind temporizing, query-dodging, and verbal gymnastics, pretty soon, nothing he says will make sense to anyone who still cares to listen.

The candidate’s question circumvention, it appears, may already have reached critical mass. Mitt is currently “trying to walk a line” (translation from Republican: ducking the question) by camouflaging his reaction to President Obama’s new deportation policy for undocumented immigrants.

A Bloomberg poll released three days after Obama’s announcement revealed that Americans enthusiastically support the plan by a margin of more than 2 to 1. Mitt, however, blindsided by the president’s stroke of sheer political genius, has been caught dumbstruck with his pants bunched around his ankles – a posture that could make walking and evading pundits at the same time a harrowing experience.

Bewildered by this unexpected challenge, Mitt found himself faced with another of those risky sit-down interviews with a non-Fox journalist. His interrogator, CBS veteran Bob Schieffer, asked Romney five times whether he would rescind Obama’s grant of deferred action – which is not an executive order, a form of “back-door amnesty,” or a path to permanent legal status, as some news outlets have mistakenly reported. Instead, this presidential directive (lauded by the reform advocacy group America’s Voice as “the biggest news on immigration in 25 years”) offers a reprieve from the threat of deportation to some 800,000 “DREAMers” – those undocumented immigrants age 30 or under who were brought here as children.

Mitt Romney’s ‘great allergy to specifics and details’
Facing Bob Schieffer’s simple question, Mitt meandered, stuttered, and blundered through a series of obfuscations that clearly didn’t meet Schieffer’s standards for an answer. Mitt suggested they “step back and look at the issue,” then segued into a nonsequitur about Obama’s alleged failure to do anything about immigration reform earlier in his term. (This charge, one of Mitt’s stock campaign lies, ignores the fact that Senate Republicans shot down the DREAM Act during the 2010 lame duck session of Congress by once again abusing the filibuster during a procedural vote.)

Still stalling Schieffer, Romney digressed about the military and then nonsensically claimed that any perceived need for him to reply to Schieffer’s question “would be overtaken by events, if you will, by virtue of my putting in place a long-term solution with – with legislation which creates law that relates to these individuals, such that they know what their – their status … is going to be.”

After Romney’s disastrous “Face the Nation” interview, Rich Lowry of the National Review observed that the candidate exhibits a “great allergy to specifics and details.” The reason he’s so vague, Lowry speculated, is that Romney believed he lost his 1994 Senate race against Teddy Kennedy because he was “too specific” when speaking to the press. Hence, his manic swing to the opposite pole: extreme equivocation.

Mitt thought he had plenty of time to wait for Sen. Marco Rubio to come up with a bright idea that would exculpate him from his “severely conservative” position on immigration during the primaries: that undocumented immigrants should simply “self-deport.” Mitt figured the current Congress wouldn’t pass any version of the DREAM Act, whether it bore Rubio’s imprimatur or not. If they did, he reasoned, he could simply veto it; he boasted about that frequently on the campaign trail.

Mittens hides out between a rock and a hard place
As things stand now, Mitt can choose to court Latino voters by admitting that he’ll probably leave Obama’s policy in place while searching for a “long-term solution” (a phrase he repeated five times in a press statement intended to convey that – as with every other policy position about which he’s been interviewed – he didn’t plan to reveal any details until after the election). If he concedes that he won’t rescind Obama’s directive “on Day One,” he’ll antagonize the GOP’s most xenophobic supporters.

Since Rubio confessed that his “DREAM Act Lite” proposal was dead in the water once Obama enacted virtually the same plan, Mitt’s only alternative is to keep stonewalling reporters and insisting, as he did when the GOP “war against women” became an issue, that his message for Latino voters would be focused “intently” on economic issues. If he takes that route, he may alienate Latino voters even further than he already did by pandering to anti-immigrant bigotry during the primaries.

To make matters worse, Mitt’s own caucus has leapt into the fray, with Mitch McConnell and three other senators exhorting him to man up and explain in detail, at an upcoming conference of Latino officials, what he’s planning to do about immigration. In the House, John Boehner and company have joined their radical base to denounce Obama’s plan as “executive overreach.”

Boehner shed crocodile tears for Obama’s “victims” while speculating about the constitutionality of the president’s proposal. Adding insult to stupefying hypocrisy, Boehner (who practically invented gridlock) huffed, “The president’s actions make it much more difficult for us to work in a bipartisan way to get to a permanent solution.” (You want bipartisan, Mr. “Compromise – I reject the word” Boehner? Step outside, and I’ll show you bipartisan!)

Young Latinos who lobbied for DREAM Act elated, worried
Whether Obama’s immigration plan is challenged in court or emerges as a viable policy, many young DREAMers who hope to be spared from deportation are jubilant. Others, however, remain apprehensive about declaring their identity to the government. Although the Obama administration has tried previously to deter Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from deporting so many young, productive immigrants and asked the agency to focus instead on apprehending undocumented criminals, ICE isn’t bound by law to halt deportations simply because the administration asks them to. Instead of being handled by ICE, however, this new, more affirmative process will be implemented by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that handles benefits, not enforcement.

If Mitt ever gets around to formulating a response to the plaintive queries of DREAMers, they may find his dissembling approach offers far too little, way too late. No one will be paying attention any longer, whether he runs his malicious ads in Spanish, Klingon, or Farsi.

The lesson Mitt may glean from this humiliating episode is written in plain English: When you stop taking questions in public life, you learn the hard way that people soon stop waiting for your answers.