Three Things for Friday

Here are three observations for you to consider: 

1. I’m not a regular follower of the almost Vaticanesque intrigue that regularly plagues the Buffalo school system, and happily remind Buffalo boosters regularly that the schools’ mismanagement and disarray is a massive impediment to people choosing to live within city limits. The Buffalo News’ Mary Pasciak does a fantastic job chronicling the school board’s goings on. If Carl Paladino is right about the allegations he makes in an Article 78 action he filed this week (to force a municipal entity to act lawfully), then he should be commended for being the only one willing to take on that battle.  The school board should act transparently, with lawful public input. 

2. The term “illegal immigrant” was first coined by Palestine’s British masters in 1939 to describe Jews fleeing Nazi genocide. It is a term recommended by not only the AP stylebook, but also by Orwellian Republican language guru Frank Luntz. Latino businessman Charles Garcia argues here that the term is a slur that serves only to dehumanize and denigrate people who are really just economic refugees. Most deportable immigrants have that status because they’ve overstayed valid entry visas –  not because they crossed a river in the middle of the night. I’m guilty of using “illegal alien”, and will stop using the phrase, because if Elie Wiesel says it’s improper, I’ll go along with that. Here’s some additional information you’re probably not aware of, coming from the recent Supreme Court majority decision arising out of the Arizona immigration law. 

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and three other justices, stated: “As a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain present in the United States.” The court also ruled that it was not a crime to seek or engage in unauthorized employment.

As Kennedy explained, removal of an unauthorized migrant is a civil matter where even if the person is out of status, federal officials have wide discretion to determine whether deportation makes sense. For example, if an unauthorized person is trying to support his family by working or has “children born in the United States, long ties to the community, or a record of distinguished military service,” officials may let him stay. Also, if individuals or their families might be politically persecuted or harmed upon return to their country of origin, they may also remain in the United States.

Perhaps our rhetoric on this issue is a bit overwrought and needs to be re-examined. 

3. The only person more gratingly annoying than Billy Fuccillo is his blonde sidekick, Abby Sommers. These two have been polluting my television for weeks now, and are even featured in a lengthy occasional infomercial. It’s all screaming and sexual innuendo from the two least appealing people on the face of the planet. They don’t appear to be in any sort of relationship other than a commercial one, but from their carrying on, you’d think they were married. 


  • Thanks for #2 Alan. You’d be depressed to know how many people really hate “illegals” and the term is just wrong. Humans seeking a better life for themselves must not be denigrated as just some kind of criminal. Thanks for quoting Kennedy’s reasoning there.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think you’ll see many right wing or union folks toning it down any time soon.

  • “The court also ruled that it was not a crime to seek or engage in unauthorized employment.”

    That’s just as Orwellian as any Luntz propaganda.

    We have a real language and rhetoric problem in this country – it may not be new but I feel like its getting worse. Not only does neither side agree on the facts, they disagree on the basic terms of things for which there should be standard nomenclature for simple purposes of clear communication. I assume the writer used the word “unauthorized” in the above quote because “illegal” would simply sound too bizarre. Note similar recent twisiting on penalty/tax. This goes beyond any alien/immigrant/worker framing. Language matters, and the parsing is out of control.

    • It’s a legal distinction that has genuine meaning and import.

      Something can be illegal, in that it is not permitted, but not necessarily a crime. An employer can be fined civilly for hiring an undocumented worker, but he can’t go to jail for it or otherwise be criminally prosecuted for it. Same goes for the worker. 

      For instance, sometimes people are accused of breaking the law (e.g., consumer protection laws), and they’re sued in civil court by the Attorney General’s office – they’re not prosecuted by the DA’s office. 

      By contrast, what Luntz does is deliberately recommend language that will sell a particular POV. He’s just a straight propagandist. 

      • I would submit that the popular definition of “crime” is doing something illegal. No one besides lawyers understands legalese (thus the term), which is a fine thing in the law’s internal logic, but bad for public discourse. Is more legal parsing entering the public sphere? Or are journalists/public figures worse at explaining it? Or are propaganda-ists better at exploiting it? Whatever it is, I’m a smart guy who pays attention, and I can’t sort through it all either.

        • Another related thought – Science (big S) has realized for a while it needs great explainers. Cosmology and quantum mechanics are really hard and less than intuitive, so it puts a premium on finding people to explain Higgs Bosons to the masses (at the moment, its Michio Kaku on the medias). The law doesn’t seem to feel the same way. Maybe its because their continued business relies on keeping the average person in the dark. Maybe its because all lawyers are dicks (jab jab). But the law is hard, or at least confounding and precise, and it could use some explainers besides TV dramas and Nina Totenberg. 

  • I’m waiting for your approved, bowdlerized adjective to describe something that is against the law, or a person whose very presence in this place at this time is a violation of the law.

    And please–not “undocumented”.

  • “and happily remind Buffalo boosters regularly that the schools’
    mismanagement and disarray is a massive impediment to people choosing to
    live within city limits.”

    Speaking of words and their importance, how could you be happy about pointing out that the BPS system, when taken as one whole, singular system, utterly fails in its obligation to education poor minority children?  This makes no sense to me.  If the BPS is really as messed up as you claim it is, that should be a cause of serious concern – perhaps even a call to action, regardless of where you live.  I do not understand how this could be such a source of smug enjoyment at the plight of those who are unlucky enough to be born trapped inside the imaginary box we call the “city public schools.”  If suburban schools are so much better, shouldn’t some sense of common humanity dictate that these children of no means should at least have the opportunity to experience the same quality education as the children whose parents located them in, for instance, Clarence?

    If the BPS system is truly such a gongshow, shouldn’t the proper reaction from intelligent people be outrage (as opposed to amusement)?  Just because you don’t live there doesn’t mean you should be able to completely ignore your own complicity in the system.  I don’t live in Buffalo – I don’t even live in Erie County – but I’m not amused by the disgusting failure of the majority of its schools.  I’m not even an educator – just a person who likes to read and ask questions (traits, it seems, that are infrequently taught anyhwere).  But my position is that my own failure to act in opposition to an unjust system of education makes me complicit in its failures.  Do you disagree?

  • I should add that I completely agree with your ultimate conclusion on this issue – if the Board violated state law, then the Board should be challenged via any and all available writs.

  • Alan…#3: The Buffalo Beast, some time ago, placed Fuccillo on their list of the 25 Most Loathsome Buffaloians.

    Good to see Billy is…ahem…still living up to that designation.

  • I wish Paladino luck. The truth is, if you pay close attention to the Open Meetings Law, especially since it was revised to include making board content available to the public pre-meeting, almost no board anywhere totally complies.  For example, how often do we see an agenda list an “executive session”? Technically, an executive session should only be listed when something unexpected comes up. I like the law. but its way too easy to make any public body look bad.

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