Saturday, June 30, 2012

GOP Hokum

On Wednesday, that notoriously left-wing rag and keystone of the liberal media, Fortune magazine, ran an article by Katherine Eban about the ATF's Fast and Furious scandal.     Following a six-month investigation in which she reviewed "2,000 pages of confidential ATF documents and interviewed 39 people, including seven law-enforcement agents with direct knowledge of the case,"  Eban observed 

Quite simply, there's a fundamental misconception at the heart of the Fast and Furious scandal. Nobody disputes that suspected straw purchasers under surveillance by the ATF repeatedly bought guns that eventually fell into criminal hands. Issa and others charge that the ATF intentionally allowed guns to walk as an operational tactic. But five law-enforcement agents directly involved in Fast and Furious tell Fortune that the ATF had no such tactic. They insist they never purposefully allowed guns to be illegally trafficked. Just the opposite: They say they seized weapons whenever they could but were hamstrung by prosecutors and weak laws, which stymied them at every turn.

Critics of the witchhunt investigation by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee of Eric Holder, which has led to House approval of a contempt citation against the Attorney General, might recognize the presence of 853 federally licensed firearms dealers in the Phoenix area, which is replete with billboards advertising volume discounts for multiple purchases.    They might be aware that under Arizona law, there is no waiting period and no permit required, and that the purchaser merely must be at least 18 years of age and submit to a background check.    Further, he or she may resell the weapons and

It was nearly impossible in Arizona to bring a case against a straw purchaser. The federal prosecutors there did not consider the purchase of a huge volume of guns, or their handoff to a third party,  sufficient evidence to seize them. A buyer who certified that the guns were for himself, then handed them off minutes later, hadn't necessarily lied and was free to change his mind. Even if a suspect bought 10 guns that were recovered days later at a Mexican crime scene, this didn't mean the initial purchase had been illegal. To these prosecutors, the pattern proved little. Instead, agents needed to link specific evidence of intent to commit a crime to each gun they wanted to seize.

None of the ATF agents doubted that the Fast and Furious guns were being purchased to commit crimes in Mexico. But that was nearly impossible to prove to prosecutors' satisfaction. And agents could not seize guns or arrest suspects after being directed not to do so by a prosecutor. (Agents can be sued if they seize a weapon against prosecutors' advice. In this case, the agents had a particularly strong obligation to follow the prosecutors' direction given that Fast and Furious had received a special designation under the Justice Department's Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. That designation meant more resources for the case, but it also provided that prosecutors take the lead role.)

Some leading Republicans have alleged that the gun-walking operation (itself a misleading description) allegedly conducted by Phoenix Group VII was hatched by the Administration to create an argument for federal gun control.      The NRA announced that it would put the Holder contempt vote on its annual scorecard, a move which evidently persuaded quite a few U.S. Representatives, recipients of NRA campaign money, to vote against the Attorney General.

Even a National Review contributor, however, recognizes "there is no direct evidence that anyone involved in the creation of Fast and Furious intended to increase gun crime in Mexico (even though) some Fast and Furious critics have (been) concocting a conspiracy theory: specifically that the Obama administration allowed the guns to go to Mexico deliberately in order to increase gun crime there so it could cite that crime as a reason for more gun control here."    He cited chairman Issa as fueling the theory.

In a May 3, 2012 memo updating committee members on the status of the investigation, chairman Issa wrote

The lead federal prosecutor for Fast and Furious was Assistant U.S. Attorney Emory Hurley, who played an integral role in the day-to-day, tactical management of the case.

Many ATF agents working on Operation Fast and Furious came to believe that some of the most basic law enforcement techniques used to interdict weapons required the explicit approval of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and specifically from Hurley.  On numerous occasions, Hurley and other federal prosecutors withheld this approval, to the mounting frustration of ATF agents.

Because the transfer of firearms in Arizona is legal and it is nearly impossible to bring a case against a straw purchaser, Hurley had suggested a wiretapping operation.     When ATF was notified that a known metamphetamine user had bought three WASR-10 rifles, a wiretap was requested to track the suspicious straw purchase.   But

in Phoenix, days turned into weeks, and Group VII's wiretap application languished with prosecutors in Arizona and Washington, D.C.

No one has yet explained this delay. Voth
(head of Phoenix Group VII)  thinks prosecutor Hurley's inexperience in wiretapping cases may have slowed the process. Several other agents speculate that Arizona's gun culture may have led to indifference. Hurley is an avid gun enthusiast, according to two law-enforcement sources who worked with him. One of those sources says he saw Hurley behind the counter at a gun show, helping a friend who is a weapons dealer.

Two of the three weapons were recovered in December, 2010 at the scene of the murder of border agent Brian Terry.     Eleven months earlier, Voth's group could have closed the operation if it had arrested the 20 suspects who apparently had purchased 650 firearms.   But

This was not the view of federal prosecutors. In a meeting on Jan. 5, 2010, Emory Hurley, the assistant U.S. Attorney in Phoenix overseeing the Fast and Furious case, told the agents they lacked probable cause for arrests, according to ATF records. Hurley's judgment reflected accepted policy at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona. "[P]urchasing multiple long guns in Arizona is lawful," Patrick Cunningham, the U.S. Attorney's then–criminal chief in Arizona would later write. "Transferring them to another is lawful and even sale or barter of the guns to another is lawful unless the United States can prove by clear and convincing evidence that the firearm is intended to be used to commit a crime." (Arizona federal prosecutors referred requests for comment to the Justice Department, which declined to make officials available. Hurley noted in an e-mail, "I am not able to comment on what I understand to be an ongoing investigation/prosecution. I am precluded by federal regulation, DOJ policy, the rules of professional conduct, and court order from talking with you about this matter." Cunningham's attorney also declined to comment.)

It was nearly impossible in Arizona to bring a case against a straw purchaser. The federal prosecutors there did not consider the purchase of a huge volume of guns, or their handoff to a third party,  sufficient evidence to seize them. A buyer who certified that the guns were for himself, then handed them off minutes later, hadn't necessarily lied and was free to change his mind. Even if a suspect bought 10 guns that were recovered days later at a Mexican crime scene, this didn't mean the initial purchase had been illegal. To these prosecutors, the pattern proved little. Instead, agents needed to link specific evidence of intent to commit a crime to each gun they wanted to seize.

Neither Emory Holder, nor the President, Assistant Attorney General (Criminal Division) Lanny Breuer, or the Attorney General in an Administration which has been loathe to expend any political capital to advocate gun control is responsible for the death of a border agent in January, 2010.      Nor is the wealthiest member of Congress, Darrell Issa, responsible for anything beyond hatching a conspiracy theory in order to sow fear and, unable to destroy a President, bring down an Attorney General.   However, the winner in all of this is the California congressman, who appears to have an extensive criminal arrest record and is a faithful supporter of the pro-crime National Rifle Association.    Eban concludes

But the public bludgeoning of the ATF has had the opposite effect. From 2010, when Congress began investigating, to 2011, gun seizures by Group VII and the ATF's three other groups in Phoenix dropped by more than 90%.

Eric Holder hasn't resigned, as chairman Issa would like.   But the other part of his agenda seems to have been accomplished.

Share |

Friday, June 29, 2012

Short Run Gain, Long Run Danger

He did it again.    Barack Obama comes up a winner.

First, the President offered up Social Security and Medicare as part of the Grand Bargain he tried to negotiate with John Boehner.   Ultimately, Obama and his party were saved from eventual electoral disaster by the decision of the GOP to continue negotiating.

Then the President, seeking to stimulate the economy by the only means- reducing taxes- the Gas and Oil Party would accept, convinced Congress to extend the cut in the employee portion of the payroll tax.     For now, the Social Security trust fund would be replenished by contributions from the general treasury, a transfer of funds which would be ended by a Repub administration.   But as a member of the Social Security Board of Trustees noted,  “When you start funding Social Security that way, you basically destroy any notion that people really paid for their Social Security benefits.     Once we destroy that, we’re going to destroy a lot of the political protections that Social Security has long enjoyed.”   Further, when the program is funded that way, the argument that Social Security (which had paid its own way) contributes to the federal deficit gains credibility.

And now the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and its mandate has survived by five to four its ordeal in the United States Supreme Court.    Had the mandate, the wheel around which the spokes of the Affordable Care Act revolve, gone down to defeat, the far-right would have crowed about how Barack Obama and the Democratic Party are destroying the Constitution.

Health care reform lives another day.    But the mandate, Chief Justice Roberts assures us, is not a constitutional expression of the Commerce Clause but of the Taxing Clause.    On his New York Times blog, James B. Stewart reasoned

In this regard, it is like the federal tax on cigarettes. Congress does not want Americans to smoke, so it imposes a tax on those who do. But it is not so high as to make it financially prohibitive for people to smoke; it is not, say, $1,000 a pack. That would be deemed a penalty or fine. Where that line should be drawn in future legislation — between “tax” and “penalty” — is likely to be the subject of intense argument and continuing litigation.

Oh, come now. Congress does not impose a tax on smokers.   No state, to my knowledge, imposes a tax on individuals who smoke.    There is an excise tax on tobacco- or on cigarettes, or on cigars.     The federal government does not determine who smokes and place a surcharge on the income an individual reports on his/her 1040.     And the penalty placed on individuals who opt out of purchasing health care coverage is a penalty or punishment- not a tax, though Roberts maintained that it is a tax by virtue of being so small. As Paul Krugman has put it in a different context, "you could also call an onion a rose. But a non-rose by the same name does not smell as sweet."    Better: you can call an onion a rose, but it's still an onion.

Finding the mandate constitutional (the right conclusion) under the taxing clause strains credulity.    On the Times op-ed page, Richard A. Epstein observes

As a matter of constitutional text, legal history and logic, the power to regulate commerce and the power to tax should not be separated. It is not good for the court or the country that the chief justice’s position in such an important case is confused at its core.

Consider first the constitutional text. Chief Justice Roberts refers to Congress’s power to “lay and collect Taxes.” But it’s worth recalling the surrounding language, which notes that Congress has the power to “lay and collect Taxes” only in order “to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.”

Robert's contention that direct regulation is beyond the scope of the Commerce Clause, Stewart argues

is likely to have far-reaching consequences, and the decision may prove a Pyrrhic victory for liberal supporters of Congress’s expansive power. Some Libertarians, while disappointed that the law was not struck down, were celebrating the stake the court drove into the heart of the commerce clause...

If nothing else, Chief Justice Roberts has probably opened the floodgates to new litigation. With a commerce clause victory in hand, newly emboldened libertarians are shifting their sights to Congress’s broad taxing and spending powers. “It’s the next dragon we have to slay,” Professor Eastman told me.

Ezra Klein suspects Roberts, who votes "with the conservatives on every major legal question before the Court," cleverly rejected the Commerce Clause as basis for the mandate in his drive to impose

limits on federal power. And by securing his own reputation for impartiality, he made his own advocacy in those areas much more effective. If, in the future, Roberts leads the court in cases that more radically constrain the federal government’s power to regulate interstate commerce, today’s decision will help insulate him from criticism. And he did it while rendering a decision that Democrats are applauding.

And few are applauding more than Barack Obama.    Coming up victorious, he no longer looks weak, vulnerable to being pushed around by Congress or the Supreme Court, an asset with impressionable Independents.  In the long run, though, a major price will be paid because Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 was ruled inapplicable to the health care market.    Offering to cut earned benefits (vilified by the President and others as "entitlements"), reducing the tax which supports Social Security, and drawing a false analogy between the federal budget and a family budget will take a cumulative toll.    

Hooray!  For now, Mitt Romney is the loser.     For the future, it may be the cause of progressive government, which Barack Obama has been chipping away at for over three years.

Share |

The Medicaid Component

Nancy Pelosi appears confident, as the decades-old cliche has it, that God's in his heaven. all's right with the world.   Suzy Khimm of Ezra Klein's Wonkblog reports 

The Supreme Court ruling still leaves Republicans with an opportunity to blow a major hole in the law: individual states can choose to opt out of the Medicaid expansion in 2014 without losing federal funding. That could leave some low-income Americans caught in a “no man’s land,” as my colleague Sarah explains. But Nancy Pelosi doesn’t believe it’s going to be a problem. “I don’t think governors will turn that down. People have the need, the urgency is there,” the House Democratic Leader told reporters on a press call Thursday afternoon.

Pelosi argued that it will be extremely difficult for conservative states to opt out once their residents see how other states are benefitting from the Medicaid expansion. “Once this bill is rolling and people experience benefits of it, it’s very hard for a state to say [no],” she said. States will also receive full federal funding for the first three years of the expansion before they have to take up more the expense, which Pelosi described as a major incentive to get them to participate.

At SCOTUSblog, Kevin Russell breaks down in detail the vote among the nine Supreme Court Justices on expansion of Medicaid in the Affordable Care Act.    That can make your head spin, but he also summarizes the Court's decision on provision, explaining

The Court’s decision on the constitutionality of the Medicaid expansion is divided and complicated.  The bottom line is that: (1) Congress acted constitutionally in offering states funds to expand coverage to millions of new individuals; (2) So states can agree to expand coverage in exchange for those new funds; (3) If the state accepts the expansion funds, it must obey by the new rules and expand coverage; (4) but a state can refuse to participate in the expansion without losingall of its Medicaid funds; instead the state will have the option of continue the its current, unexpanded plan as is.

Pelosi may be on to something, confident "once this bill is rolling and people experience benefits of it, it's very hard for a state to say" 'no.'     Pro Publica notes the federal government would cover nearly 93 percent of the costs of the Medicaid expansion from 2014-22 in order to cover non-elderly individuals with incomes up to 133 percent of the poverty line, or about $30,700 for a family of four. .    The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has argued that the additional cost to the states would be only 2.8% greater than what they would have spent on Medicaid during that period were there no health reform.   Further, state and local governments would have greater savings because of lower health-care costs for uninsured individuals.

But she's probably wrong.     Consider, for instance, the case of New Jersey, one of the 24 states which did not join the suit against the mandate.       In his first year as Governor, Chris Christie cut $7.5 million in funding for women's health care programs.    When the Democratic-controlled legislature restored the funds,  the legislation was vetoed by Christie, even though the state's taxpayers would have had to put up only $1 for every $9 kicked in by Washington.   (The veto was not overridden.)     So in a relatively liberal state, women's health programs, which would have required little sacrifice by its taxpayers, was slashed- and the governor remains fairly popular.  

This lesson, and similar ones throughout the country, are not likely to be overlooked by Repub governors and state legislatures who recognize that expansion of Medicaid would help prove that government works.   And that is anathema to the Gas and Oil Party.

Share |

Thursday, June 28, 2012

This Time, It's Race Warfare

There are reasons to question the change in policy President Obama announced in his recent press conference on individuals who have immigrated illegally to the U.S.A. as a child.  Leave it to Rush Limbaugh, however, to disregard legitimate concerns about the new approach and instead to misrepresent the President's remarks and attempt to divide Americans by ethnicity.    On Wednesday, he fielded a call from "Omar" in California, who identified himself as having immigrated legally from Mexico with his parents when he was three years old.     Limbaugh, in part, commented

Obama paints a picture of every Hispanic as a lawbreaker.  It would offend me.  Well, hell, it already does.  Because to me they're Americans.  The whole thing is irritating, this identity politics, this assumption that people can't take care of themselves, that they don't want to take care of themselves, and that they, because of skin color or the way their names are pronounced or whatever, there's automatic bigotry or discrimination.

You might wonder about Rush's charge that Obama "paints a picture of every Hispanic as a lawbreaker" and assumes "people can't take care of themselves, that they don't want to take care of themselves."      It seems diametrically at odds with the President's challenge that his listener

Put yourself in their shoes.  Imagine you’ve done everything right your entire life -- studied hard, worked hard, maybe even graduated at the top of your class -- only to suddenly face the threat of deportation to a country that you know nothing about, with a language that you may not even speak...

And I believe that it’s the right thing to do because I’ve been with groups of young people who work so hard and speak with so much heart about what’s best in America, even though I knew some of them must have lived under the fear of deportation.  I know some have come forward, at great risks to themselves and their futures, in hopes it would spur the rest of us to live up to our own most cherished values.  And I’ve seen the stories of Americans in schools and churches and communities across the country who stood up for them and rallied behind them, and pushed us to give them a better path and freedom from fear --because we are a better nation than one that expels innocent young kids.

Limbaugh's purpose, however, is to foment ethnic discord, to do his part to further the GOP's push to divide one class of Americans from another.   He complains about "this whole thing is irritating, this identity politics."      Perhaps a reasoned case might be made about "identity politics" were it made by someone who is not so fond as he is about invoking it himself. Identity politics is Rush's bread and butter, a cause central to his radio broadcasts. Consider that on the same day he charged Barack Obama with promoting the concept, Limbaugh addressed the decision by several conservative Democrats to stay at home rather than attend the Democratic convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.   He charged

The Democrats are being told stay away from this convention, which means stay away from Obama.  This convention's all about Obama.  And these Democrats running for reelection are told to stay away from the biggest party the Democrats throw once every four years.  Now, it's always left to me to point out the hard-hitting to-the-bone realities.  Have you noticed that all nine Democrats who have announced publicly that they are boycotting the Obama convention, they have announced it publicly, they have allowed their pictures to be posted along with their announcement that they are boycotting or not attending? Have you noticed that they are all -- dot-dot-dot -- white?  Caucasians...

Now we have Steve Israel, who runs the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee, who's in charge of getting Democrats elected in the House, now we have Steve Israel using code language to suggest that more whites stay away.  "If they want to win an election, they need to be in their districts," Israel said.  Segregated from the Obama convention, segregated from Charlotte, North Carolina, where there are no unions.

If you missed Representative Israel's "code language," you aren't alone, probably just not fixated on race.     Limbaugh is fairly crudely suggesting- without actually blurting it out- that a Democratic congressman is targeting a black President by telling white members of the party to boycott the convention which will renominate him.       "Have you noticed," he asks, "that all nine Democrats who have announced publicly that they are boycotting the Obama convention.... are white?"

Well, no, it wasn't the first thing that came to the mind of most people, or probably to even most of Rush's listeners, who likely aren't as bigoted as Limbaugh hopes they are.    The Democrats avoiding the convention are doing so not for racial reasons, obviously, but because they believe it would undercut their chances of winning races in competitive, or even Republican, districts or states.    And they aren't acknowledging that they are downplaying the significance of missing the Charlotte gathering, hardly boasting of "boycotting" the event.  
"A boycott," a blogger on (in another context) noted, "is only effective if organized on a large scale."     Here, the politicians are choosing on an individual basis to stay away and for their own particular reasons.   Though those reasons are generally electorally-related, the individuals are relatively unconcerned with what the others are doing.

Chalk this one up to fomenting racial bigotry, a tactic Rush Limbaugh approaches with almost as much relish as he does class warfare.

Share |

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Crushing Government (#1)

The news from the Veterans Administration is alarming. has found

More than 37,100 veterans are waiting an average of 263 days for the Houston VA Regional Office to process their claims for disability benefits, according to data obtained by the Houston Chronicle.

Despite an influx of funding and staff at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the backlog of claims in Houston has more than doubled since this time four years ago, when the VA reported 17,537 pending claims.

The Houston regional office is one of only two VA facilities in Texas that process veterans' disability claims. The other is in Waco, where the problem is even worse: More than 51,000 veterans face an average wait of 352 days...

VA spokeswoman Jessica Jacobsen said the department has completed a record number of disability claims — more than 1 million nationwide — in each of the past two years by adding employees, technology and training. But the volume of incoming claims has grown at an even faster pace, from 888,000 in 2008 to 1.3 million last year.

Jacobsen attributed the record backlog to a number of factors, including a poor economy, an aging veteran population and increased demand after many years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The VA also has had to allocate significant resources to processing hundreds of thousands of new claims filed by Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange, she said.

Despite these challenges, Jacobsen said the VA is on target to eliminate the backlog by 2015.

Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America says President Obama needs to step up "and deliver for our veterans."     What, though, is Mitt Romney's answer?     He told us on June 8 when, responding to Obama's (not entirely inaccurate) gaffe "the private sector is doing fine," he crowed

he wants another stimulus, he wants to hire more government workers. He says we need more fireman, more policeman, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It's time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.

But he wouldn't cut services for veterans, would he?    Only if he could.    On March 20, Romney asserted "I'm very supportive of the (chairman of the House Budget Committee Paul) Ryan budget plan. It's a bold and exciting effort on his part and on the part of the Republicans and it's very much consistent with what I put out earlier."

In order even to approach his deficit estimates while increasing the defense budget, Ryan would have to eliminate virtually all non-discretionary domestic spending.      Arguing that health care subsidies and income supports for poor people would outstrip Medicare cuts, Ezra Klein explained

The biggest category of cuts is “everything else,” which shrinks to implausibly low levels, and Ryan, to my knowledge, has never detailed, even in broad strokes, how he gets it that low. But since he’s opposed to further defense cuts — he in fact raises spending on defense in the next 10 years — it seems inevitable that the non-defense side of “everything else” would have to shrink considerably, and that means cutting quite a bit from income supports and veterans’ benefits and infrastructure. 

Take an overburdened Veterans Administration.      Then, as candidate Romney prescribes, subtract government workers, cut taxes further for the wealthy, and increase spending for defense. The result for disabled veterans is not a pleasant one.

Share |

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Truth, Inadvertently

There is good news on the effort to preserve the right to vote.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, in 2012 "34 states considered voter ID legislation.   This year, legislation was introduced in 32 states.   That includes new voter ID proposals in 14 states, proposals to strengthen existing voter ID laws in ten states, and bills in ten state to amend existing laws, many of them new voter ID laws passed in 2011."  

Fortunately, most of those efforts have failed, including in New Hampshire.   There, Democratic Governor John Lynch has vetoed a bill which would have required a driver's license to vote in this November's elections.   In subsequent elections, a driver's license, miilitary ID, a state-issued (non-driver's license) ID, or an affidavit would have sufficed.      "The use of this inappropriate affidavit," Lynch noted,  "will cause confusion, slow the voting process and may result in the inability of eligible voters to cast their vote."

That is the point, he probably realizes, with voter suppression initiatives everywhere.    Fortunately, we have confirmation (or at least evidence) in a gaffe committed by a Pennsylvania legislator, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai.   In a speech at a GOP State Committee meeting last weekend, Turzai gloated (video, below)

We are focused on making sure that we meet our obligations that we’ve talked about for years.    Pro-Second Amendment? The Castle Doctrine, it’s done. First pro-life legislation – abortion facility regulations – in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.

Turzai's admission should- should- make it a little more difficult for the mainstream media to continue covering the issue as if the Gas and Oil Party is attempting to depress the vote out of good intentions.   It has been convenient to ignore the obvious, not only in voting policy but in education policy- or as Will Bunch asks "Next? How about admitting that vouchers are a plot to destroy public education?"

Share |

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Show Must Go On

The playgrounds of America are littered with guys who thought they'd be the next Michael Jordan or Kobe (Beef) Bryant, or who think they will be the next LeBron James, Kevin Durant, or Derrick Rose.    This is not about them.

Nor is it about Title IX, enacted into law 40 years ago last Saturday, celebrated by Philadelphia Inquirer sports columnist Mike Jensen, who enthusiastically notes "Under the threat of legal action, high schools and colleges have been forced to acknowledge that sports aren't just for men and the most jockish women. Girls' teams fill to capacity, same as the boys'."

More significantly, Jensen learned

While some men's college sports have been dropped as colleges scramble to make budgets, Fromson said, one study indicated that between 1988 and 2011 more men's sports have been added than dropped, with a "net gain of 1,000 men."

As the chart immediately below indicates, college tuition and fees rose 83 percent from 1997 to 2007. In 2011, tuition at the average four-year public university rose 8.3%, which was more than double the inflation rate of 3.6% between July 2010 and July 2011.     Virtually every state has cut its support for higher education.     And sports programs for both men and women spring up everywhere.

An obsession with athletics is only one of the many factors contributing to the spiraling cost of higher education.    But higher costs and the shattered dreams of many young Americans- especially urban blacks who have trusted their extraordinary athletic ability rather than scholastic potential- are not the only effects of the holy grail of sports.   In a piece appearing in Newsweek/The Daily Beast,  Buss Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights, argued that there is a lot of blame to go around for the blind eye turned toward the sexually perverted, criminal acts perpetrated by former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.     He turned first toward  the press conference featuring Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly, then described the impact of a culture infesting PSU (picture below  from The Daily Beast, though a part of another post).    While not the focus of the essay, the culture infecting Penn State University plagues colleges throughout the land.   Bissinger:

Kelly should have referred to the culpability of Penn State. She should have used the moment, with millions watching, to say what happens when an institution, presumably dedicated to teaching students moral responsibility, doesn’t do anything except ignore and obfuscate when the signs are everywhere that a sexual predator is lurking with impunity, so brazen he often uses the Penn State football locker room as his torture chamber. Yes, it was Jerry Sandusky who committed the crimes. Yes, he acted alone. But any Penn State alum who hasn’t figured out that he was aided and abetted by their alma mater is only furthering the disgrace.

Kelly should have spoken with substance and anger and indignation Friday night. As a public servant, she should be helping to break Penn State of the football culture that ruled the school and made its own rules. In doing so, she would help break the football culture that rules too many schools.

But you could feel the shift Friday night, the itchy feet of the media moving on to the next sensation now that Jerry Sandusky is on his way out, all but forgotten come September, when the Nittany Lions play their home opener against Ohio University and 106,572 fans, after a minute of silence to the great god of JoePa, rise in a raucous roar as the boys take the field.

Are you ready for some football?

Always in America.


Share |

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Right To Bare Arms

What makes our country great?   Is it...

the constitution our forefathers wrote?   our unified belief in the American dream?   our melting pot heritage that proves our differences are really our strength?

Practically no one could disagree with any of those (as long as the great American mosaic is defined as "melting pot").       Obviously, Denny's (video below) agrees.       But according to the restaurant chain which offers Americans everywhere the worst food anywhere, there is something additional which makes our country great:      "our right to bear arms."

Conflating gun ownership, the Constitution, the American dream, and the (mythical) melting pot with its menu, Denny's deserves an A in public relations... and an F in grammar.   The Second Amendment, as composed by comma-friendly James Madison, reads

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

"The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed" is an independent clause.      "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State" is an absolute phrase, which may be defined as "a group of words that modifies an independent clause as a whole."     After submitting an amicus brief in favor of the gun law ultimately struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller,  Dennis Baron explained

... if the framers had wanted to secure an individual right to gun ownership, they would have written, “Private possession of arms being necessary to individual freedom” or even, simply, “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” without any conditioning absolute at all. It is worth pointing out, too, that the Second Amendment is the only one with a conditioning causal phrase, a fact which suggests that the absolute is important, not just decorative.

Baron notes the a grammarian who in 1985 gave as an example of an absolute phrase "Being a farmer, he is suspicious of all governmental interference. [‘Since he is a farmer, . . .’ ]"   The right to keep and bear arms (which arguably refers to a collective, rather than individual,  right) was based on a well regulated militia- no longer in effect- being necessary to the security of a free state.   In the Federalist Papers, Madison contrasted the militia with that of a standing army, with the former

amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops.

If Denny's is looking for a right that makes our country great (or would make it greater), it might consider the right to adequate health care, individuals communicating with each other without government surveillance, clean air and water, or reproductive freedom.   But that, of course, would be political.

Share |

Friday, June 22, 2012

Not To Be Believed, Anyway

Yesterday, according to The New York Times reported

Mr. Romney made his most extensive remarks on immigration since President Obama announced last week that he would use executive authority to allow many young people who are in the country illegally to avoid deportation. Mr. Romney reiterated his support for giving legal status to illegal immigrants who serve in the military, and said he would “staple a green card” to the diplomas of immigrants who receive advanced degrees.

But most of the media coverage of Mitt Romney's speech Thursday before the annual conference of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials justifiably emphasized the candidate's pliability on issues.     Romney

did not repeat the language he used during the primary season about encouraging illegal immigrants to “self-deport,” and he did not address Arizona’s controversial law, now before the Supreme Court, that requires law enforcement officers there to demand proof of immigration status when they suspect someone might be in the United States illegally. But he remained vague about whether he would leave in place the temporary measures taken by Mr. Obama to allow young people to remain in the United States.

Imagine my shock that the presumptive GOP nominee, who has yet not figured out whether he supports the Lilly Ledbetter Act, has taken a pass on yet another issue.     This should not have been unexpected.    On Sunday, CBS' Bob Schieffer asked Romney six (6) times whether he would repeal the order from DHS.    The clearest Romney got- on the fifth attempt- was "Well, it 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 stat- setting is going to be."     Shorter Romney:    I won't tell you what my policy will be before the unknown legislation I propose is enacted.

But... would it have mattered what Mitt Romney would have told a group of Hispanic officials?  Author and investigative reporter Wayne Barrett, formerly of The Village Voice but now a contributor at Newsweek/The Daily Beast, described the effort of journalist R.B. Scott, who has written a biography of the former governor, to "recount the "numerous trips Romney has taken to the mountaintop to square his positions on social issues like abortion and gay rights with the church hierarchy."      Barrett learned

In 1993, Romney went to Salt Lake with a Mormon pollster and poll results showing that he couldn’t win in Massachusetts without moderating his positions on those sorts of issues. “They realized it would serve no purpose to quibble—the greater good was to get him elected and give him a shot at realizing the victory his father booted 40 years earlier,” Scott writes. “Did they see him as a future presidential candidate? Did he? Do the statues of Angel Moroni atop every Mormon temple always face east?”

In other words, Scott is contending that the church in effect licensed Romney’s better-than-Kennedy promises on gay rights, as well as his pink flyers at the Gay Pride Parade in 2002 that beckoned: “All citizens deserve equal rights, regardless of their sexual preference.”

Once he was elected, Barrett explained, the Governor did an about-face

telling South Carolina Republicans in 2005, “Some [gays and lesbians] are actually having children born to them.” He derided Massachusetts as “San Francisco east,” and this year claimed he prevented it from becoming “the Las Vegas of gay marriages."

He even eliminated the Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth, a panel that funded programs for gay teens and was founded by his Republican predecessor.

Romney might have explained his reversal as a response to changed circumstances or to acquiring additional understanding of the issue since the campaign.    But, no, the guy who would assault a classmate in high school and impersonate an authority figure (a police officer) in college, would take a different tack.    Scott quotes the authors of The Real Romney, who note

On gay rights in particular, it is not that his positions have changed, Romney suggested, but that his audience has.  "Now someone will say 'Yes, but look at what you wrote in 1994 to the Log Cabin Club,'" he said.   "Well, okay, let's look at that in the context of who it's being written to."

"The Real Romney," it seems, is an "in your face" kind of guy- except, of course, when he needs the votes, or at least to avoid the active hostility, of some interest group or another.     What Mitt Romney says on the campaign trail should not be taken as a preview of how he would govern as President of the United States.    He will respond to whatever group, presumably right-wing Republicans and the corporate executives they pal around with, puts the greatest pressure on him.     Think of it as ideological flexibility.

Share |

Thursday, June 21, 2012

So Much MoreThan Racism

I understand or, in the phrase popularized by supporters of Anita Hill, "get it."    If I were black, I'd be particularly sensitive to racism, or borderline racism, or rhetoric or behavior that appears possibly to be race-based.

So maybe I should give a pass to Marc Lamont Hill, who was asked (video below) by Joy Behar, substituting this week for Current TV host Elliot Spitzer, "but do you think the guy in the Rose Garden was being racist?"  

Hill responded

I don't necessarily think he knew that he's racist... instead, he just doesn't think this President is worthy of dignity and respect in a way that the other 43 presidents were. The problem when I point to him as racist or the guy who says 'you lie' as racist, they say 'oh, you're being too sensitive, you're playing the race card.   And again, that'w why this woman is so important because she shows what that sentiment looks like when it's fully developed and mature.

Seated next to Hill, comedian and talk-show host Sam Seder had been asked by Behar "Do you think that this is part of the continuum of these sorts of attacks against President Obama- the rude remarks in the Rose Garden the other day, the 'you lie,' is this part of a trend against this President?   Seder, who is white, answered

It's called racism.   I mean that's the trend.   You have a black president, and there's a lot of racists, and when they start getting angry about him, they don't talk about his policy, they talk about his race.

They were considering several recent episodes.     (Behar, incidentally, was up to the challenge, telling Seder "I just want to clear up your thinking.")    Among them was the remark by Arizona talk radio host Barbara Espinoza, who twice said of President Obama "I call him a monkey." (She then was rebuked by the conservative host appearing with her.)   Last week, Daily Caller reporter Neil Munro interrupted President Obama's press conference on immigration, as far as can be deciphered, five times in an attempt to get out a loaded question.    Finally, it appears, he "asked" "What about American workers who are unemployed while you employ foreigners?"

Munro's question/comment was borderline nativist, given the reference to "foreigners."    "Illegal immigrants"or "children of illegal immigrants" would have been more clearly accurate. There was, however, no reference, direct or indirect, to Barack Obama's race, ethnicity, background, or anything of that sort.   Nothing.

Repub Representative Joe Wilson (certainly not this Joe Wilson) of South Carolina, you will recall, shouted rudely shouted "you lie!" during the President's 2010 State of the Union address in response to a claim (coincidentally pertaining to benefits for illegal immigrants) made by Obama on behalf of health care reform.    "You lie" and nothing else- no reference to Kenya, Islam, the n-word.    Nothing.

For Michael Arcenaux of The Grio, it was the outhouse despicably displayed outside of the annual conference of the Montana Republican Party, held in Billings.     Arcenaux remarked

I don’t think a stupid story like this will ruin Romney. However, this public display of prejudice is just one of several instances that have hit the news cycle in mere weeks. There is also that big-mouth birther, Donald Trump, who recycled yesteryear’s conspiracy theory — which I’m sure alienated voters long tired of such an asinine critique of the president. Likewise, the reported proposalcalling on Chicago billionaire Joe Ricketts to spend $10 million on a negative ad campaign aimed at Obama centered on Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

But race and racism and, as Arrcenaux puts it, generally "talking disrespectfully about his wife, cabinet members, and fellow Democratic leaders"  are but one small- and relatively insignificant- part of the Republican story of the past three-and-a-half years.  

The other claims about President Obama generally are pushed aside, less explosive and less sexy.      The mainstream media lumps them together as "policy" differences and fails to expose them as even further removed from reality than the claim that Barack Obama was born outside of the U.S.A.

Yes, more ridiculous.     Charges that the President is a socialist or trying to destroy the country, as periodically claimed by GOP pundits, deserve far more scrutiny and criticism than they receive.      Another claim- rooted as so much of this is in conservative philosophy of victimology- was highlighted Wednesday by Rachel Maddow, who (video way below) explained

But here is the story. In March 2010, which is a little over a year after President Obama took office, right, Congress passed health reform. There were months of not knowing if it was really going to happen, right down to the very last few days, it`s still not sure if it was definitely going to happen.

But finally, it was the third week in March of 2010 when it was clear that Congress had finally figured out how to pass health reform. And on the Friday morning of that third week in March, when it became clear it was going to pass, a militia guy in Alabama freaked out about health reform on his blog and he demanded conservatives opposed to health reform should take to violence, to stop Congress from what it was doing.

He wrote on his blog, and I quote, `If you wish to send a message that Pelosi and her party cannot fail to hear, break their windows. Break them now. Break them and run to break again. Break them under cover of night.

Break them in broad daylight, break them and await arrest in willful, principled civil disobedience. Break them with rocks, with sling shots, break them with baseball bats, but break them.

The time has come to take your life, your liberty and that of your children and grandchildren into your own two hands and act. It`s after all, more humane than shooting them in self defense.

And if we do a proper job, if we break the windows of hundreds, thousands of Democrat party headquarters across the country, we might just wake up enough of them to make defending ourselves at the muzzle of a rifle unnecessary. Break their windows. Break them now."

That was Friday morning, March 19th, 2010. Sometime later on in that day, indeed, a large brick was thrown through a window at Democratic Congresswoman Louise Slaughter`s district office in Niagara Falls, New York. The window had to be -- as you can see there -- had to be boarded up completely.

That same night, Friday night or possibly early Saturday morning, another brick was thrown through a window at the Sedgwick County Democratic Party office in Wichita, Kansas. That brick was reported to have anti- Obama and anti-health care reform messages written on it.

Then, a day later, oh, look, there`s more. On Saturday night or maybe early Sunday, another brick shattered glass doors at the Democratic Party headquarters in Rochester, New York. I think we have a picture of the brick, right?

Shortly after the health reform vote took place on Sunday, another one, this time a fist-sized rock reportedly thrown through the front window of the Hamilton County Democratic Party in Pleasant Ridge, Ohio.

Then at 2:40 in the morning, so late Sunday night/early Monday morning, a few hours after the health reform bill, the front door and glass panels were smashed out at Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords` office in Tucson, Arizona.

That was all March 2010, right when health reform was passing. Of course, as an aside, Gabrielle Giffords within a year went on to barely survive an assassination attempt in her home district in Arizona. After she resigned to work on her recovery earlier this year, her former staffer Ron Barber was actually sworn in just this week in the House to replace her.

But in terms of the timing here, today, of course, is possibly also the eve of the Supreme Court decision on health reform. Decision on whether or not the conservative majority on the Supreme Court is going to find health reform somehow unconstitutional. That ruling had been expected as early as this Monday, this past Monday this week. The next possible date on which they might issue the ruling is tomorrow morning. So, it might happen tomorrow.

The thing about that timeframe there between health reform passing and now this expected ruling from the Supreme Court, since health reform was passed, all right, now that we`re possibly on the eve of the Supreme Court ruling on its future, whatever happened to the "break their windows" militia guy?

Despite some noises that he might be pursued by law enforcement, since he was very proud and unapologetic about having tried to incite that violence around the country, the "break their windows" militia/blogger guy told "The Washington Post" that he had not been questioned by any law enforcement agencies after the rash of Democratic attacks -- attacks on Democratic offices he called for.

He called for them, he claimed credit for them. After it was done actually, he continued to threaten more.


MIKE VANDERBOEGH: There are rifles being cleaned right now. Do you folks understand that?

HOST: Being what? Claimed from where?
VANDERBOEGH: There are rifles being taken out of the closet and cleaned.

Being the break their windows, cleaning our rifles, incitement to violence guy from the health reform fight, did bring this blogger guy some measure of fame on the fringe. He kept threatening civil war and armed sedition on right wing talk radio. He was booked as a speaker at an open carry rally -- an openly carry your firearms rally that was timed to coincide with the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. That was classy timing.

But since then, this blogger guy, the break your windows guy, incidentally his name is Mike Vanderboegh, since then he has moved on to a new thing. He has moved on to promulgating a new conspiracy theory about President Obama taking away your guns.

And so it has come to pass that your uncle who watches FOX News all day is worked up about something today. And so it has come to pass that in the span of 27 months since he told everyone to go break everyone`s windows in Democratic Party headquarters since health reform passed, in the stage of 27 months, the "break their windows", militia/blogger guy has now become the man who has led Republicans in the United States Congress to vote the attorney general of the United States in contempt of Congress today. It`s him.

This armed resistance, break their windows, break them now guy, is where the whole Fast and Furious thing came from. If you don`t know anything about the Fast and Furious thing, you are forgiven. But if you have heard about it from your uncle or because you happen to be visiting tonight from FOX -- hello, I hope you will forgive me while I explain that Fast and Furious refers to a law enforcement strategy that started during the George W. Bush administration. It was a program to let some sketchy gun sales go through in the hopes that following those guns after they were sold could lead the ATF to Mexican drug kingpins that they could arrest.

Now, whatever you think of that style of law enforcement program and that George W. Bush administration starting it and the Obama administration continuing it, to this militia blogger guy, to the "break their windows, break them now" guy, this got re-imagined as a conspiracy to eliminate the Second Amendment, to take away your guns by selling them to people on the border.

If it doesn`t sound like it makes sense, it`s because it doesn`t make sense. To the fevered mind of a full time conspiracy theorist who sees himself oz part of an armed American resistance movement, that is what he made up. And, boy, has he gone places with it.

This is the way he would explain it on his blog. He called it the Gun Walker Program. Obama`s gun walker was a deliberate conspiracy versus the Second Amendment.

The gun confiscationists had danced in the blood of every mass shooting and gotten nowhere to their chagrin and frustration. What was needed was a game changer, something that fit the meme of "we`ve got to tighten up on gun owners, gun stores, and gun shows because they`re feeding the slaughter.

Mexico was perfect. If there weren`t enough semiautomatic assault rifles in Mexico, the ATF could fix that. And the murders could flo0ow, justifying the policy change of cracking down on assault rifles, gun shows and the like."

This is crazy, right? I mean, the theory here is the Obama administration sold too many guns in order to create gun violence, in order to cause revulsion in the American people about the horrible thing those guns are doing in order to make people feel more positive about gun control, so then they could get away with taking everyone`s guns away secretly, some day, after they stop selling the extra guns to get there. They`re being super lax in gun control as a conspiracy in order to be super tough on gun control.

What? Yes, what? This is a theory. This is a theory cooked up by the break their windows guy. And this is the Republicans Fast and Furious thing that led to today`s political news.

This guy, Vanderboegh, became the FOX News Channel authority on the subject of the Fast and Furious investigation. Here he is being interviewed on FOX News about Fast and Furious. Look at him identifying himself as an online journalist.

Remember, this is the break their windows, break them now guy. Mr. Vanderboegh expounded his conspiracy theory on FOX News. He said it directly to Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama. He said it to Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

These guys apparently listened to it, and believed it, and Republicans in Congress have been running with it.


SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: My suspicion is that they don`t like the Second Amendment the way it is, and they want to do everything they can to hurt guns and restrict guns, and so, they could have been building a case for that, but I can`t prove that.
REP. TIM WALBERG (R), MICHIGAN: Frankly, I believe it was set up to deal with Second Amendment liberties of law-abiding citizens and pushing into a perception that it was the problem of the Second Amendment as opposed to law enforcement.
REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: Very clearly, they made a crisis and they`re using this crisis to somehow take away or limit people`s Second Amendment rights.


MADDOW: To somehow -- somehow being the key term there, right?

The idea is by selling guns, the Obama administration is going to block people from selling guns, right? It`s obvious.

Take the blinders off, America. They`re being super lax on gun control for gun control.

See, if you were a person who watched FOX News all day, it is possible you have been marinating in this conspiracy theory for long enough now that this seems feasible. And so, therefore, today`s vote to hold the attorney general under contempt over this scandal is somehow understandable to you.

Maddow is loyal (except as compared to Matthews, Schultz, O'Donnell, and a bunch of MSNBC contributors) to the President, and therefore won't explain to you further why the charge that Obama is coming after your guns is bizarre.    At the memorial service for the victims of the shooting outside the Safeway supermarket in Tucson, Arizona, President Obama made one reference to gun control- and that not even about gun control but about (so as not to offend gun rights activists) "gun safety."     And that, fellow liberals, he contrasted with "talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds."    ( He was applauded, at the time and afterward, for his appallingly cowardly speech.)  Fewer people would have been killed had Gerald Lee Loughner not used a weapon with a high-capacity magazine covered by the assault weapons ban Congress later allowed to lapse.   But Obama, the guy who wants to take away everyone's firearms, has had this to say about gun "safety" since the memorial:  

So criticize, ridicule, and hurl charges of racism at some of President Obama's more hate-filled critics.      But if a white, female Democratic President had been elected in 2008, sexism would have abounded among conservative Republicans.   If it were a white male, he probably would have been condemned by some as anti-white, anti-black, or effeminate.   And the more absurd charges still would have had to do with policy, as they have been with this president, notwithstanding our reluctance to acknowledge it.

Share |

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Don't Ask About That

John Dickerson of Slate notes

Mitt Romney is coy about his running mate. He’ll only speak about the topic in the broadest terms. His staff won’t talk about it at all. To be fair, they don’t know much about the subject. It’s something very personal to Romney.

I am talking about his religion.

In a speech at the Bush Presidential Library in December, 2007 to address concerns among GOP voters about his religion, presidential candidate Romney remarked

There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church's distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution. No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith. For if he becomes President he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths. 

Similarly, when asked last year by CNN's Piers Morgan about homosexuality, Romney remarked "I'm not a spokesman for my church. And one thing I'm not going to do in running for president is become a spokesman for my church or apply a religious test that is simply forbidden by the constitution, I'm not going there. If you want to learn about my church, talk to my church."

When John F. Kennedy appeared before the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in October, 1960, he asserted "Whatever issue may come before me as president — on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject," he would base his views solely on what he believed to be in the best interests of the nation.

Romney sees things differently.   After he delivered a commencement address in May at Liberty University, the college founded by the late Reverend Jerry Falwell, the New York Times reported he "made the case that he is bound theologically and politically to the same belief and value system as Christian conservatives, though he never explicitly mentioned his Mormon faith."     As can be seen in the transcript, Romney hit all the Christian sweet spots with references to:  the "purpose driven life," popularized by right-wing minister Rick Warren; "to God, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever," drawing on Hebrews 13:8; "the grace of God,"; the modern Christian figures C.S. Lewis and Chuck Colson; and "heroic souls like (John Wesley), (William) Wilberforce, (Dietrich) Bonhoeffer, John Paul the Second, and Billy Graham" (what, no Presbyterians?).

While the candidate does not address his religion or even his spiritual faith when he's questioned by a member of the media, he's not above sending a dog whistle to partisans, whether at a famous evangelical educational institution or telling supporters in Ohio “As I’m sure you do, I happen to believe that the Constitution was not just brilliant, but probably inspired. I believe the same thing about the Declaration of Independence.”  

Barack Obama never has made the extraordinary suggestion that the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are divinely inspired, which puts those two doctrines peculiar to one nation on a par with the Bible.    Yet, his faith was addressed by the Gas and Oil Party and the mainstream media in the context of his pastor, a scary figure to many Americans.

But there are additional reasons journalists should not be so intimidated as to sidestep the religious belief of a presumptive presidential nominee, particularly one who suggests to supporters that it plays a role in approach to secular matters.    As Taylor Marsh observes

It would be great if no politician had to do the faith walk, but since no atheist is allowed near a national ticket it’s pretty clear that there is a litmus test for candidates, so knowing something about what informs them matters.

Dickerson summarizes

But there’s more to Romney’s religion than the theological side. As Joanna Brooks, who writes frequently on Mormonism, argues so persuasively, “It is important for readers to know that Romney developed his leadership style in a non-democratic, patriarchal, hierarchical church culture where he rarely encountered open challenge.” Romney has been a leader in several different arenas: in government, in business, in helping organize the Olympic Games, and in his church. The campaign asks us to examine and approve of three of those four areas—and then walls off discussion of Romney’s religious leadership.

Share |

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

It's What Economists Call Externalities

It isn't really this difficult, is it?    Evidently, sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't.   It's hard to follow the infographic below from Reason magazine- but that's probably the point.    (For a larger, more readable chart, click here.)  It's What Economists Call Externalities

The ironically-named libertarian Reason, existing in an Ayn Rand world of fantasy, entitled its convoluted chart, first published in October, 2008, "what part of legal immigration don't you understand?' as a response to opponents of illegal immigration.   One supportive blog in December 2010 accompanied  the chart with the comment "a common refrain from those who think that the answer to fixing our broken immigration system is deporting 12 million people.    There is no effort to understand the complexity, the unfairness, or the harsh realities of how our immigration system works."

On whose part is there "no effort to understand... how our immigration system works?"    It would not take a decade or so to become a U.S. citizen if there were sufficient bureaucratic personnel- public employees- involved in the process.     Now young people who arrived in the U.S.A. illegally but did so as children, have earned a high school degree (or G.E.D.) or served in the military, and have no criminal record will join an overburdened immigration system.   Perhaps the number of individuals working to process requests from these individuals and those caught in the backlog will be increased by a president who is running for re-election and sensitive to GOP charges that his nefarious goal is to expand the size of government.    Or perhaps not.  

Salon's Alex Pareene, enormously sympathetic to immigrants both legal and illegal, writes 

making sure the system fails these kids is a great way to dissuade their parents from crossing that border. (Bonus stat: Fifteen percent of children in immigrant families have no health insurance! And a million “illegal” children are ineligible for coverage from a public plan or from receiving coverage through the health care law’s exchanges. That’ll teach those scofflaw children.)

But under the directive of the DHS, the 'illegal children'
still will be" ineligible for coverage from a public plan or from receiving coverage through the health care law's exchanges." The President himself emphasized the minimalist nature of the change, labeling it merely a "temporary, stopgap measure."      It is not "not a path to citizenship" but denies the full benefits of membership in the American community upon "talented, driven, patriotic young people" whom, he assured them, have "done everything right your entire life, studied hard, worked hard, maybe even graduated at the top of your class."

It is not surprising, then, that a kindler, gentler means of expanding the nation's supply of workers has evoked sympathy from Haley Barbour, Alberto Gonzalez, Marco Rubio, and William Kristol, Republicans otherwise unknown for their deep affection for ethnic minorities.Pareene notes

Which is not to say America doesn’t happily accept your cheap, unregulated labor! It’s actually pretty win-win for the “pro-business” crowd because they have a huge pool of manual laborers with virtually no legal protections at all, and that pool has no right to organize — and no opportunity to win the right to organize for voting for people to represent their interests in the legislatures!
The Obama administration’s plan is actually perfect for conservatives because it grants people the right to work but not to enjoy many of the other various benefits of citizenship, like “voting for Democrats.”
The Administration's new approach may prove relatively insignificant, especially in the unlikely event a Repub presidential nominee is elected in November and chooses to discard it. Or it may prove crucial in eventually leading to a path to citizenship.   Beware, however, of the possibility that neither will apply, creating a class of residents which does not ever quite attain status as Americans.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Pound On It

It is one of those things everyone know which just isn't so.

It is a conceit of the mainstream media that candidates who occupy the middle-of-the-road usually win general elections.    On any one issue, capture moderates and the left or moderates and the right, thus winning while the politicians who pander exclusively to the left or to the right are left in the dust.

The reality, however, is far different.     Sadly, (usually) Republicans who have taken a firm, far-right position against abortion rights or for gun rights frequently have defeated Democrats who have taken a more moderate position.    At times, (usually) Democrats who have stood steadfast for tolerance of gay rights (as long as it did not include support for marriage, which it rarely has) or the rights of ethnic minorities have beaten Republicans more conflicted- and moderate- on either or both of those issues.

With some exceptions, candidates who have positioned themselves as clearly conservative or liberal on an issue have benefited from the usually, though not always, accurate perception that they are comfortable with their position and probably with themselves.    Generally, they come off to the electorate as self-assured and strong.

Being suspicious of a more expansive approach to immigration (which advanced a step on Friday) I'm tempted to argue the President should drop, or at least soft-pedal, comprehensive immigration reform during the campaign.

But that would be foolish.   President Obama announced that the Secretary of Homeland Security had adopted what could be considered a kind of Dream Act Lite, but no one would think so simply by listening to, or watching, his statement    He declared, in an effective nod to the literary technique of anaphora

This is not amnesty. This is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It’s not a permanent fix. This is a temporary, stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people. It is the — it is the right thing to do.

Mr. Obama, who obviously has supported a path to citizenship for years, argued unashamedly and appeared to have had no second thoughts about the new approach to young people who entered the country illegally.

Not so Mitt Romney who, reacting to Obama's statement, equivocated.    He told reporters

I believe the status of young people who come here through no fault their own is an important matter to be considered and should be solved on a long-term basis so they know what their future would be in this country.    I think the action of the president today makes it more difficult to reach that long-term solution because an executive order is of course, a short-term matter and can be reversed by subsequent presidents.

No one wins an election in America by criticizing an opponent's position while being unable to articulate why he's opposed to it.    Knocking a policy because it is only short-term and can be reversed by a future president is not very persuasive, especially when that "subsequent president" might be that very candidate, who refuses to commit himself on the substance of the policy.    As NBC's Chuck Todd observed today, "when you're attacking the process, it means you're losing the policy argument."

It didn't get any better for the Mittster when he appeared on CBS' Face the Nation Sunday, when this exchange took place:  

Schieffer: Would you repeal this?

Romney: Well, it would be overtaken by events if you will, by virtue of my putting in place a long-term solution, with legislation which creates law that relates to these individuals such that they know what their setting is going to be, not just for the term of a President but on a permanent basis.

Schieffer: I won't keep on about this but just to make sure I understand, would you leave this in place while you worked out a long term solution or would you just repeal it?

Romney: We'll look at that setting as we reach that, but my anticipation is I'd come into office and say we need to get this done, on a long-term basis, not this kind of stop-gap measure. What the President did, he should have worked on this years ago, if he felt seriously about this he should have taken action when he had a Democrat House and Senate, but he didn't. He saves these sort of things until four and a half months before the general election.

Schieffer: Well why do you think he did that?

Romney: I think the timing is pretty clear, if he really wanted to make a solution that dealt with these kids or with illegal immigration in America, than this is something he would have taken up in his first 3 and a half years, not in his last few months.

Schieffer: So he did it for politics.

Romney: Well, that's certainly a big part of the equation.

What on earth does Mitt Romney believe about (illegal immigration)?   Does anyone really know?   Speculation (which will occur here at a later date) doesn't count.    Romney appears not to know what he believes about the issue or is trying to hide it.    Either way, it smacks of a lack of genuineness, which won't play well with the electorate.

Romney is no more at ease discussing immigration than he is at addressing most cultural issues.     Following the former governor's speech last month before the Latino Coalition at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,  Ramiro Morganes of the Coalition for Democracy commented  "Romney needs to work on the Dream Act. He didn't say anything about it.       Someone needs to think about the Dream Act."

He has been running for the presidency for over six years and Romney (according to a deeply interested party) still hasn't thought about the Development, Relief, and Education for Undocumented Minors Act Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act.   The suspicion arises that Romney, an intelligent man, doesn't want to talk about immigration, that perhaps it makes him as uncomfortable as long-haired, blond, effeminate young men once did.    If it does, immigration is an issue candidate Obama should return to.   Again and again.

Share |

One of Our Own, Or So He Says

So do your thing ,Charles! Stephen A. Smith on Fox News on Wednesday night commented I got to tell you something. As much as people may ha...