Thursday, November 17, 2005

GOP meltdown

Having been pelted with the inalterable fact of monolithic GOP voting blocs (a fearful prospect even outside the fact that I generally disagree with the GOP on most things), as well as having heard many tales of Karl Rove's dream of eternal GOP dominance, it's good to watch them fall completely apart. There are a lot of sources for what's coming out of Congress today and you should check those out
No word yet on whether Ted Stevens will indeed resign now that his darkest nightmare has come true... Note, however, that Alaska still gets to keep the money. That's a $450 million buy out, so maybe Ted's taking a darkest before the dawn approach to things...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Definition of Chutzpah

So doesn't it take a lot of balls, I mean real chutzpah, for U.S. officials in Iraq to be pissed off at Iraqi officials for torturing detainees?
A joint statement by the American Embassy and the United States military command called the situation "totally unacceptable" and said American officials "agree with Iraq's leaders that mistreatment of detainees will not be tolerated."
I mean.... are you fucking serious? After all the revelations of Abu Ghraib, rendition, strange wandering international CIA flights, and secret Eastern European detention centers, we have the unmitigated gall and audacity to say shit to anyone about torture being unacceptable? Almost as unbelievable as Bush's reprehensibly partisan Veteran's Day speech.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Ray Nagin on race

When I heard Ray Nagin on NPR the other day, I was interested to hear what he had to say about the city's reconstruction efforts, the future of the population, and so on. When Michele Norris, the NPR reporter, asked him about the issue of Latino and Mexican immigrant workers, and especially about comments he had made about New Orleans not becoming "overrun with Mexican workers," I thought, "Uh oh. How long before some liberal commentator takes him to task over this?"

Well, someone may have beat him to it, but the first one I've seen has been Jason Zengerle on The Plank, The New Republic's new blog (registration may be required). He manages to demonstrate that the issue is almost impossible to talk about without getting in trouble, but not that Ray Nagin has any bias against Latino or Mexican workers in particular.

The simple fact is that, throughout the modern South, Latino immigrants are the go-to gophers for contractors looking for a cheap and pliable workforce. For a project like the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast, which consists of thousands of subprojects and may require relocation of human
resources, the attraction of using an inherently baseless labor force would probably be highly attractive to a contractor.

Local leaders like Nagin would be remiss not to try to push to secure at least some of these jobs for his own citizens, especially given the sad economic status of many of them prior to the onslaught of the storm. But to push for this, though, he does have to talk about the situation. And it's nearly impossible to discuss the situation without talking about Mexicans or Latinos in general. Of course, it's possible to go too far, demonizing immigrant laborers and blaming them for problems completely unrelated to their prescence, as Clay Risen discusses. But merely
mentioning them shouldn't be grounds for castigation, either. Otherwise the debate becomes pathetic shadow boxing between liberals striving desperately to find the appropriately inoffensive term for whatever victimized group they're trying to defend, spending more time covering their own backside from their supposed allies than from rabid conservatives and nativists whose talking points veer from outrage and invective to lies and fantastic prognostications of doom.

This debate is really similar to the issue that's riven the Sierra Club for a few years now. Basically, the Sierra Club is, of course, a quite liberal organization. And it's taken as read in liberal circles that Thou shalt not speak ill of people of color. That includes immigrants. There's a sizeable contingent of people who feel that it's difficult to talk about the environment, though, without talking about the population of the country. The official policy of the Sierra Club, passed in 1996 and re-affirmed in 1999, is that "The Sierra Club, its entities, and those speaking in its name will take no position on immigration levels or on policies governing immigration into the United States. The Club remains committed to environmental rights and protections for all within our borders, without discrimination based on immigration status."

It's quite possible, others would argue, that a commitment to environmental right and protections for all within our borders does not require discrimination based on immigration status (i.e. once you're here, you're here), but that in no way precludes discussions about what we should do about the levels of immigration allowed, how illegal or unregulated immigration should be dealt with, and so on. But when people tried to bring the issue back before the Sierra Club, there was no debate. Instead it was instant polarization, much to the delight of right-wing foes of the environmental movement.

Are there some people pushing this movement that are racists? Are there some within the anti-immigration (or at least immigration-suspicious) movement within the Sierra Club who are just agents provocateurs delighting in the strife and internal divisions caused by the debate? Sure. But of course progressives, environmentalists, leftists, and liberals only help these people by so eagerly and rabidly responding to the provocations.

I'm just saying cool out on Ray, is all.

There's apparently a listener response to Michele Norris's NPR piece here. I can't listen to this right now due to firewall issues, but I'll check it out later.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Harry Goes AGGRO!

Juicy bits from an interview with Harry Reid. Most interesting thing, I think:
"Nothing happens regarding intelligence gathering ... unless it's signed off on by the Vice President," [Reid] said... When I asked Reid whether he meant to state so flatly that Cheney was personally and directly stalling the Intelligence Committee's work, he didn't pause a beat. In fact he almost stood from his chair. "Yes. I say that without any qualification ... Circle it."

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Post-action analysis

TPM Cafe has an interesting analysis of what happened in the Senate today. If you buy this take (and I pretty much do; I thought pretty much the same thing when I first heard what was going on, esp. the bit about Gingrich), today was a rather momentous one:

I have a theory about Congress, which is that there is often a moment when the effective majority switches, when the minority takes control of the agenda well before an election. It happened in 1994 when Gingrich forced the Crime Bill back to conference. It happened in 1996 when Kennedy forced the Senate to take up the minimum wage increase. After those events, the majority never quite had control of the agenda again.

I think the same thing just happened today when Harry Reid took the Senate into closed session to force a discussion of the delayed Intelligence Committee report on misuse of intelligence.

Bill Frist's ability to run the institution now lies completely in ruins.
How sweet is that? I think Frist's ability to run the institution has been staggering for a while, starting at the very latest with the Terri Schiavo business, which may not have seemed absurd to all people but was rather ridiculous to at least a good portion of people who were otherwise sympathetic to Frist's reputed causes. Add on the insider trading, internal dissension from Republicans pissed over his inability to hammer home John Bolton and rally Senate Republicans around Harriet Miers, and he's been walking the road to lame duckness for a while. Well, he's just arrived.

This could really be a catalyst or the Democrats in 2006 if they play it correctly. I have to admit, I was pretty skeptical of Reid when he first became Minority Leader, but this was a pretty awesome stroke.

Game on

OK, I've argued this before, and TNR backs me up on it for this nomination. Hell, even Orrin Hatch thinks so.

Eh. For my part, I don't give a rat's ass. Yeah, I think the guy's pretty extreme. His dissent in Casey is pretty absurd, I think, although it's arguable (not particularly convincingly, I think, but arguable) that even that's not that extreme. To be fair, Alito didn't write and pass that law, just dissented (as Alito noted in his dissent, "Whether the legislature’s approach represents sound public policy is not a question for us to decide").

But OK, he's too conservative, too extreme, let's bomb him (figuratively speaking, of course), raze the forests and burn the villages, and he's out of there. Do you think that would then mean that a chastened Bush would nominate Laurence Tribe for SCOTUS? I don't think so.

The fact is that Democrats lost the election in 2004. You can argue about why (Republican dirty tricks! Democratic candidate too far to the left! Democratic candidate too far to the center!), but most of these things are just excuses. The Shrum-led Dems fucked up another election, trying a half-assed "we really do care about national security!" strategy combined with a scattered attempt to move the debate to domestic issues. The Rove Machine successfully played the same goddamned game it's been playing since the early '70s and the Democrats lost. And until they win elections, they ain't selecting the SCOTUS candidates. Which means, as long as Bush, Frist, and Hastert are running the country, they're going to pick Alitos, Scalias, and Thomases until the goddamned cows come home.

What's the "take-home message" here? Quit your whining, suck it up and get ready for 2006, because taking back first the Congress and then the White House is the only way to ensure that SCOTUS members are not right-wing roundhead bastards.