Where Left Meets Right – KABOOM!

Immigration Raids Hurting Farmers

Growers say crackdown in causing workers to flee; now they want reform
By Moira Herbst
Business Week
Updated: 11:37 a.m. PT Oct 26, 2007

Maureen Torrey, an 11th-generation farmer in the rural town of Elba, N.Y., has been losing sleep. Just as rows of cabbage and winter squash stand ready for harvest on her 11,000 acre farm, she can’t find enough workers to bring in the crops. She needs about 350 workers and is 70 short of that number. “I wake up at 3:30 in the morning and my mind doesn’t shut off,” she says.

The problem, she says, is fear. Torrey Farms, a 14-crop vegetable farm located an hour east of Buffalo, has been raided twice since last October, when she says immigration officials kicked in the doors of workers’ housing and apprehended 34. In August, officials arrested seven workers and 14 more fled the area. Amid continued talk of a federal crackdown on undocumented immigrants, she’s afraid still more of her workforce will flee to less hostile terrain. With a population of about 9,000, the town of Elba, “Onion Capital of the World” to locals, may not have the manpower to replace them.

“With all the raids, people get scared and leave, and I don’t blame them,” says Torrey. She says now rumors are running rampant that another sweep is planned for Nov. 15. “It’s terrible. This is the worst I’ve seen.”

A climate of fear is spreading among undocumented immigrant workers, causing turmoil in industries dependent on their labor. In August the Homeland Security Dept. announced that employers would be required to terminate workers who fail to produce valid Social Security numbers. Implementation of the new rule is delayed pending the outcome of a lawsuit brought against the government by the umbrella labor union group, the AFL-CIO.

But while the new rule has yet to take effect, its impact is already being felt by farmers like Torrey. An estimated three-quarters of agricultural workers in the U.S. are undocumented, and growers are starting to feel the paralyzing effects of losing their workforce. They say that unless the government implements workable reforms, the future of the U.S. as a food-producing nation is in jeopardy.

Import workers, or import food
Agriculture does not play the role it once did in the U.S. economy, of course. Though the amount of farmland used has remained fairly steady over the past century, changes to the structure of farms and improvements in productivity have cut the number of people involved dramatically. In 1900, for example, 41% of the U.S. population was employed in agriculture, while that number now stands at less than 2%. Farmers hire workers for about 3 million agricultural jobs each year, but only one-quarter of that workforce is legally authorized. Agriculture also makes up a lower share of the U.S. gross domestic product than ever, accounting for less than 1%.

Still, farm advocates say that immigrant workers are allowing U.S. farmers to compete in a fierce global marketplace, and that losing the workforce means losing domestic sources of food. “The choice is simple: Do we want to import workers or import food?” says Craig Regelbrugge, co-chair of the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform.

U.S. consumers may see little or no effect from the crackdown, but farmers like Torrey certainly will. Losing farm labor in the U.S. is likely to result in a shift of market share to foreign producers from domestic ones, rather than much change in food prices. “Farmers all over the world are salivating at the prospect that we won’t be able to produce here,” says James Holt, an agricultural labor economist. “They are more than happy to produce for us.”

The chief issue in lost U.S. production, say Holt and others, is security. “What’s at stake here is not prices, but food safety,” he says. Torrey and other farmers agree. “We need to wake up to the realities of food safety and security issues,” says Torrey. “A country not in control of its food supply is a weak nation.”

While some employers of immigrants fear the limelight, the 55-year-old Torrey is unabashedly vocal in her opposition to the government’s proposed crackdown. She set up the Web site, which allows farmers to sign a petition and make donations in support of the AgJobs bill (S. 1645/ H.R. 3142). She also testified before Congress on the issue. The bill, currently being debated in Congress, would streamline the H-2A farm worker visa program and also allow workers a path to permanent resident status.

“Every day I’m picking what crops my crew should tend to because I don’t have enough workers for all of them,” says Torrey. “We need Congress to act before the end of the year; farmers are in a crisis.”

Many agriculture experts agree. On Oct. 4, farmers and economists testified in front of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Agriculture Committee to plead their case for reform. “The U.S. agricultural industry is in the midst of a labor crisis, the resolution of which will determine whether U.S. producers…are more than marginal participants in U.S. and global markets,” said Holt in his testimony in support of AgJobs.

While AgJobs is debated, some growers are advocating more employer-friendly regulations. The Bush administration is currently rewriting federal regulations, to accommodate employers’ needs, that forgo the promise of permanent residency for agricultural workers. The Homeland Security Dept., State Dept., and Labor Dept. are involved in that effort, which was announced alongside the call in August to crack down on workers with suspect Social Security numbers.

It is unclear how much progress Congress can make on immigration reform before it lets out for the year in mid-November. As farmers like Torrey are pushing for AgJobs, other employer groups disappointed by the failure of comprehensive immigration reform in June are stepping up efforts to pass narrower reforms. For example technology companies including IBM, Microsoft, Google, and Oracle, are pushing for more visas for skilled workers, while tourism and hotel groups advocate for more non-farm, unskilled visas.

Pay is not the problem
One question in the background of the debate is why employers do not raise wages to avoid legal problems and attract a native-born workforce. But unlike other industries that might attract more workers with greater pay — such as nursing and segments of the technology industry — it is not clear that raising wages for agricultural work would attract Americans to these jobs. Between 1990 and 2006, wages in agriculture have increased 54%, from an average of $6.12 per hour to $9.44 per hour (both figures are in 2006 dollars). Yet shortages remain common.

Employers and their advocates say that the fact that wages have increased so much and workers are still scarce is evidence that pay is not the problem. “This is not just about wages,” says Regelbrugge. “Who wants to get up 3 a.m. and milk the cows? It’s not a lifestyle many Americans opt for, especially when there are more comfortable alternatives.”

Others argue that raising wages would undoubtedly attract more workers. “Labor shortages are created by employers,” says Ana Avendano, director of the immigrant worker program for the AFL-CIO. “Employers say they can’t find workers, but look at the conditions they are offering. Some of them are atrocious.”

But Torrey says she offers good working conditions, and provides housing and a 401(k) plan for her workers. Workers start at $7.15 an hour, and the average wage on the farm is $10.95 to $11.95 per hour. “It doesn’t matter if I raise wages,” says Torrey. “We just don’t have the population base. There’s no one out there.”

COMMENT: So, send them back and make the farmers pay real wages to American workers or make some kind of accommodation to help the farmers?


October 28, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 2 Comments




Nov 27, 2007

They’re fueling up and performing their pre-launch checks folks. Perhaps no other candidate in recent history will provide more blood in the water for starving, attack sharks than Hillary Clinton. This sure-fire, already elected candidate will have to face a virtual world, onslaught of scrutiny like never seen before.

Does anyone not realize the potential power of conservative talk radio and the blogosphere in the looming election cycle? Do people honestly believe that even if the alleged, “Main Stream Media” does give Hillary a hall pass on hard coverage of controversial stories about her, that she will be able to survive the firestorm of criticism that is being coordinated and scheduled for release at “just the right moment” in the campaign.

What will be questioned? Well, just to mention a few…

The mystical appearance of those missing Whitewater papers in her White House quarters, Travelgate, the Norman Hsu campaign contributions, the release of the four month old Larry Craig story the same day as the Norman Hsu story broke, document shredding, the Lincoln bedroom rent-outs, Vincent Foster, cattle futures, her mysterious “locked & secret” college papers and the grand-daddy of them all, that when unleashed will demand headlines and calls for her demise, the “Hillary Uncensored” video, showing in picture and sound, outright deceit and lies from the candidate herself regarding illicit campaign contributions and her total involvement and knowledge of them. And, oh yeah, did I mention – Bill Clinton? Don’t want to leave him out.

Those who have anointed her President had better take a second look. Her own party is creating a feeding frenzy over decency and honesty (as they should) regarding the republican sleaze exposure of the last few years. As the democrats are demanding that republicans be scrutinized and held accountable on the basis of morality and honesty, will their current front-runner be held to the same standard by themselves? The Democratic Party has unwittingly created the yardstick that might well be the downfall of their very own candidate.

No worry though. As the Democrats bury their heads in the sand while fawning over the prospect of re-gaining the White House, those of the opposite persuasion will unleash their media genies in a blitzkrieg of technological shock and awe.

If Hillary survives the onslaught, and we as a nation accept her as our leader, yet another sleaze-filled administration will occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It’s time for every decent democrat out there to wake up and realize that the strongest candidate might not be the “right” candidate. Do the right thing and field a moral, decent person as the Democratic Party’s candidate. They just might win.

October 27, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Patriot Act – Safe or Scary?

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COMMENT: What do you think about the Patriot Act? Are you willing to allow the government to do a”little checking up” in the hopes of protecting America or should we leaves things as they are and not cross-over to an intrusionist style process of investigation?

October 24, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 5 Comments


CIA Censors My Book: Personal Payback or Protecting National Security?

What a whirlwind! After a short and fitful night’s sleep, I started the book tour with the Today show, quickly followed by radio interviews for NPR’s Fresh Air and All Things Considered, and then The Times of London for openers. I really enjoyed the longer format allowed by the radio interviews rather than trying to cram everything I want and need to say into a 10 second sound bite for TV. My story is, in some ways, a complicated one with many different aspects and seems to lend itself best to longer, thoughtful answers. I have just finished blogging on FireDogLake, the web site that covered the Libby trial live. I learn something every day from the vast blogging community which has followed this case so closely. And I have to say, after the onslaught of attacks over the last 4 years, being among friends in the blogosphere feels good. It was pretty lonely out there sometimes. This evening, I’ll be on Larry King Live, along with Joe (via a feed from Santa Fe. Hey, someone has to stay home and watch the kids). I enjoy doing events with my husband which thus far have been only private fundraisers because we have lived through the same story but have very different perspectives and reactions to all that has happened.


Most of the questions have been as I expected: Why did I join the CIA? What did it feel like when I saw my name in Novak’s column the first time? Didn’t I expect some terrible consequence to befall me when Joe published his 1,500 word op ed piece in The New York Times? What about the charges of nepotism that have been alleged against me? All of these I have tried to answer as fully and honestly as I could, keeping in mind, of course, my legal constraints. What hasn’t been discussed in any depth yet is the full story of how the CIA fought to censor large portions of my book by maintaining that I can not acknowledge my Agency affiliation prior to January 2002, although so much about my career is already in the public domain. I believe that this decision by the Agency has nothing to do with protecting national security, and everything to do with further punitive action against me and a way to demean or diminish me and my responsibilities at the CIA. For those who wish to know more about the ongoing court battle with CIA over this issue of how long I may say I served my country and accompanying censorship issues, please visit a website set up by my lawyers for that purpose: It is a very user-friendly site with all the information necessary to have a better understanding of the First Amendment fight behind this book. I’ll hope you’ll take the time to look at the site because this legal battle helps to illuminate a larger pattern of extra-Constitutional behavior by this administration.

I just learned the other day that my scheduled Tuesday appearance on the Charlie Rose show has been canceled. The show’s producer said it was because Charlie Rose wanted to prepare for an appearance next week by CIA Director General Michael Hayden. How ironic is that? I could have told Mr. Rose a few things about General Hayden, but I’m sure he’ll do a fine job with his interview questions without me.

COMMENT: Payback or Justified?

October 23, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 4 Comments

Obama’s Family Secret

Don’t Look Now Barack, But Dick Cheney Is Your Smarter Cousin…


COMMENT: Who would you rather see Barack share his jeans genes with, Dick Cheney or Barney Fife? Why would you choose who you do?

October 23, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 2 Comments

How Do You Fund a War, But Not the Casualties?

By Michael Isikoff and Jamie Reno | NEWSWEEK

Oct 29, 2007 Issue

The secretary of Veterans Affairs presides over the U.S. government’s second largest Cabinet department, after Defense. It is a politically sensitive job, especially of late, with new studies showing that the Bush administration has vastly underestimated the cost of providing health care to the more than 750,000 soldiers who have returned home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But three months ago, former secretary James Nicholson resigned abruptly after a difficult tenure to “get back into the business world”—and tension among vets is rising because the White House still hasn’t nominated a replacement. “I wish I could tell you what’s going on,” says David Gorman, executive director of Disabled American Veterans. “I think the administration thinks this is the least of their priorities.”

Some veterans advocates say the VA is in such disarray that the White House has been unable to find a top-notch candidate willing to take the job, much less go through a confirmation hearing. “Who wants to come in for 15 months and take over a department that has been left in shambles?” asks Paul Sullivan, a former VA official who now heads Veterans for Common Sense. White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore declined to comment on particular candidates, but says, “We are working hard to nominate a highly qualified individual.” She adds that the White House hopes to announce a nominee “soon.”

In response to criticism over the issue, President Bush unveiled new proposals last week to revamp the health-care and disability system for vets, partly by streamlining the bureaucracy. Days later, USA Today reported the results of a new internal VA study showing that the number of Iraq and Afghanistan vets diagnosed with post-traumatic-stress disorder is rising rapidly, from 29,041 a year ago to 48,559 this year. Few of these soldiers are even counted in the Pentagon’s official tally of 27,753 wounded in Iraq.ommercialNode,’bigbox’,false,”)

Yet a Pentagon task force recently concluded that the number of mental-health professionals available to vets is “woefully inadequate,” and the average wait time for disability claims is six months. Linda Bilmes, a policy analyst at Harvard who will testify before Congress this week, calculates that over the next decade, the disability costs for vets will be at least $60 billion—more than six times the administration’s official projections. The numbers coming out of government budget offices, she says, “are significantly underestimating the reality.” All this has angered some vets and their families. “I would love to have the president live my life for one week to see how difficult it is,” says Annette McLeod, wife of Army specialist Wendell McLeod, who is suffering from PTSD after serving in Iraq. “How do you fund a war but not fund the casualties?”

© Newsweek, Inc.

COMMENT: Should Bush be chastised for inaction or praised for correcting a long-range problem

October 23, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Origins of “Right Wing / Left Wing”

Dear Yahoo!:
How did the terms “left wing” and “right wing” come to describe being liberal and conservative?
Michael Gowen, Michigan
Dear Michael:
To answer this question, we turned to several handy sites that explore the origins of words. Regular readers of Ask Yahoo! might recognize these sites because we’ve consulted them for many etymological questions. Word Origins tells us the terms date back to pre-revolutionary France. In 1789, the French National Assembly was created as a parliamentary body to move control of issues, such as taxation, from the king to the citizenry. Inside the chamber where the National Assembly met, members of the Third Estate sat on the left side and members of the First Estate sat on the right. The Third Estate consisted of revolutionaries, while the First Estate were nobles. Thus, the left wing of the room was more liberal, and the right wing was more conservative. In the next few years, the revolutionaries would take over and countless noble heads would roll, but that’s another story.Word Detective corroborates the idea that “left wing” and “right wing” date to the seating arrangements of the 1789 French National Assembly. The Mavens’ Word of the Day also confirms the phrases’ origin.

Word Wizard agrees on the origins of the terms and adds that they have a secondary layer of meanings. “Right” can also mean “correct,” while the Latin term for “left” suggests “sinister” behavior. We suspect that those on the political right wing appreciate these connotations more than those on the left.

October 21, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 1 Comment