Saturday, May 20, 2006


Three Quick Takes

Well, two quickies and a slightly longer one...

1) I completely agree with
Matthew Yglesias's point on the absurdity of the "but you have no civil liberties if you are dead" line of thinking:
The United States was able to face down such threats as the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany without indefinite detentions, widespread use of torture as an interrogative technique, or all-pervasive surveillance. But a smallish group of terrorists who can't even surface publicly abroad for fear they'll be swiftly killed by the mightiest military on earth? Time to break out the document shredder and do away with that pesky constitution.
In fact, I like that so much, I said almost exactly the same thing two years ago:

If the answer to every legitimate congressional inquiry concerning presidential powers is that "we are at war" and that legislative questions concerning executive behavior are inappropriate, it becomes impossible for Congress to fulfill its constitutional mandate as a co-equal branch of government. At what point do the American people ask the obvious: What sort of war is this and exactly how long should a president have virtually indeterminate powers to wage it?

Yes, it is true that past presidents have taken on extraordinary wartime powers: In the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus; in World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt approved the internment of Japanese citizens. But, in both cases, there existed a defined foe. With each, there was a sense of what victory meant and over whom that victory would be won. The Union would defeat the Confederacy; America and her allies would defeat the Axis powers. Even in the cold war, the ideology of communism had a clear home in the Soviet Union. Those conflicts would end with the defined enemy surrendering, being defeated, or the motivating ideology collapsing. However long it took, the American people knew there would be some sort of definite conclusion.

But, in President Bush's vision, the terrorist enemy remains amorphous. After September 11, Osama bin Laden was wanted "dead or alive." Then, as the Iraq war developed, Saddam Hussein became the ace of spades in the terrorist card deck. Now, Abu Musab Al Zarqawi is the new face of evil. The war, we are told, will not end with any one of these men's capture or death. It will continue until...until ...until when, exactly? Thus, the comparisons many make to previous U.S. conflicts are hardly applicable.

Neither are the comparisons to decisions of previous commanders-in-chief who put aside civil liberties. For the 40 years of the cold war, the United States held off a Soviet enemy that had the power to destroy the country several times over--yet civil liberties were never curtailed to the extent they are now. In the current struggle, which some call World War IV, Americans are being asked to sacrifice liberties in the face of an enemy that has less ability to damage us than the Soviets did. This is not to minimize the threat of Islamist fundamentalism, but it is essential to put the capabilities of the enemy in perspective.

2) Building any fences up north? Considering that we know terrorists have used the Canadian border to enter the U.S. for nefarious purposes -- and only suspect they've used the Mexican border -- exactly which one is in greater need of a physical barrier?

Delphic Alan announces he end of the good times? Frequent reader ERA notes forebodingly, "Well, considering the economic labor supply needed to fuel the Housing Boom has just been eliminated, it's a no-brainer to say that the Boom is over. I guess Alan just makes it official. The massive cost-of-living hike Congress is passing with so-called "immigration reform" will be the legacy of this Congress and GW Bush will probably never live it down. Bill Clinton was never this stupid."

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Friday, May 19, 2006


Jokes That Write Themselves

Here's the headline: "Bush opposes English as national language: Gonzales."

Go to town.

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Yo, You My N***as

I'm surprised that this hasn't been a greater point of contention in court cases before in this era of "hate crimes."

Both the prosecutors and defense attorneys in the case of last summer's Howard Beach beating are assessing jurors feelings toward the use of the word "nigger" (or its popular variants such as "nigga" or "niggaz") and whether the word is, in and of itself, evidence of racial bigotry.

The lawyers are testing the views of jurors to this concept, saying that the cultural meaning of the N-word has
changed over time:

Potential jurors for the trial of a 19-year-old charged in a bias attack in Howard Beach last summer have been asked some unusual questions during jury selection: Do they listen to rap music? Are they familiar with hip-hop culture? Yesterday, the prosecution and defense asked them how they feel about a certain longstanding epithet denigrating black people.

The epithet — or "the N-word," as the lawyer representing the defendant, Nicholas Minucci, repeatedly described it in court — may well be the crux of this racially charged and high-profile case.....

If Mr. Minucci is convicted in the attack, but the jury decides it was not motivated by racial hatred, then he will face a lower sentence.

Prosecutors hope to prove the attack was motivated by such a bias. The defense, meanwhile, is expected to suggest that a young man growing up in a mixed neighborhood in New York City uses "the N word" as a matter of course and that the word no longer carries the racially charged overtones it has historically.

Mr. Minucci's friends and family have said that the word is uttered today more in collegiality than hatred, and that its proliferation in rap music and everyday conversation among young people of various races and ethnicities has changed its meaning and impact.

At one point yesterday, Mr. Minucci's lawyer, Albert Gaudelli, surveyed 11 potential jurors, four of whom were black. He turned to a black man from Queens Village and asked him what he thought about "the N word," explaining that "the N word is going to be an issue in this case, and its use."

The man responded, "It depends on who's saying it and how it's being used."

Mr. Gaudelli said, "At one time, it had only one meaning, as a pejorative term, but today it means many things, or can mean many things." He motioned toward the prosecutors and said of the case, "They have to prove that it is bias."

He told the jury pool, "The word in and of itself dose not establish bias. Does everyone agree with that?" This elicited a murmur of faint agreement.

However, for all the assertions that the word has become harmless, neither Mr. Gaudelli nor anyone else in the courtroom actually uttered it.

So, here we are 15 years after N.W.A. had a number one album called, uh, efil4zaggiN (that would be Niggaz4life backwards), and, finally the legal community is waking up to the fact that what was once a so-called "fighting word" -- something that could be easily identified as intrinsically offensive has become far more subjective.

No kidding.

Besides rap, check out an average episode of The Boondocks.

No one has ever doubted the power of black culture to influence broader social conventions. One can hear young whites, Asians, Latinos and many other various ethnicities within those groups often refer to someone as "my ni**a." Once that genie is out of the bottle, it becomes impossible to put it back in.

And maybe that's fine. Maybe it shouldn't be put back in. Maybe, it is a good thing that society has begun to move on. (Though obviously not fast enough -- given the absurd amount of space devoted in the Blogworld over Tony Snow's use of a certain phrase during his first televised press briefing.)

However, lawmakers should start to realize that it is much harder to assess exactly what is a "hate crime." One can't just use language to assume that language automatically determines what is someone's state of mind in a given incident. Indeed, another racial incident is an almost mirror image of the Howard Beach situation, with
a white NYU student being chased by black and Latino youths into traffic in Harlem. Here, the cops declined to charge the gang with a hate crime -- even though one was heard to say, "Get the white boy!"

Perhaps even in New York people are beginning to understand that actions should always speak louder than words.

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Thursday, May 18, 2006


Hate To Go Out On A Limb Here...

But McCartney looks set to lose an arm and a leg on his divorce from Heather Mills.

Given that estimates suggest he may lose as much as a quarter of his fortune in the proceedings, McCartney may find that all he REALLY needs is a good divorce lawyer!

Hope he's not stumped finding one.

On a mildly serious note, it's interesting that he didn't want to sign a pre-nup because it wasn't "romantic." Didn't it ever occur to him that, at his age -- and with four grown children -- the pre-nup isn't about him: It's about keeping his estate stable for the children he raised with Linda McCartney?

Romance doesn't factor into it, mate!

UPDATE: Janet -- one of my dearest friends, longest-suffering pun-victim and HUGEST Fab Four fan -- sends the following:

"Here are some other good ones floating around the Beatles boards:

She’s Leaving Home
Got to Get You Out of My Life
I Buried Paul (After she gets his money)
Heather’s Grabby Road"

I really like "Got to Get You Out of My Life"! However, I think I would have gone with "I Buried Paul (Under an Avalanche of Depositions)"

UPDATE II: The New York Post's cartoonist Sean Delonas weighs in.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Bush, Immigration & The "C"-Word

In my immediate reaction to the president's Monday immigration speech, I mused that Bush was "adopting the Bill Clinton post-'94 triangulation method: He wants to be seen as the 'third way.'"

Well, apparently I wasn't the only person who saw the specter of BC in the current POTUS' rhetorical moves. My pal
Rich Lowry at National Review had a similar, yet ultimately even harsher, reaction:

President Bush has a bold new approach to immigration enforcement: He wants to police the Mexican border with symbolism.

That's the point of his proposal to send the National Guard to our border with Mexico. This represents Bush's final, desperate descent into Clintonian sleight of hand. He wants to distract enough of his supporters with the razzle-dazzle of "National Guard to the Border!" headlines that they won't notice he is pushing through Congress a proposal that essentially legalizes all the population influx from Latin America that has occurred in the past 10 years and any that might occur in the future.
Rich then takes the C-word shiv that he has just thrust in the president's back and twists it in a brutally effective way to make a point that could sound President Bush's permanent estrangement from conservatives:

That a president from the country's law-and-order party has been so blase about both when it comes to immigration presents an obvious opening to the opposition. Shrewder Democrats are picking up on it. A new report from the centrist Democratic group Third Way notes that from 2001 to 2004, border apprehensions declined 31 percent from the last four years of the Clinton administration, and apprehensions within the country dropped 36 percent. There were only 46 convictions for violations of laws against hiring illegals in all of 2004.

Bush's heart just isn't in enforcement. Perhaps it's a tribute to his sincerity that he is so bad at faking it. With his sympathy for the struggle of desperate people coming here for work, his "compassionate conservatism" doesn't stop at the Rio Grande. And it is reinforced by his chamber-of-commerce conservatism that wants to welcome the world's huddled masses as long as they will work without complaint on hot roofs for cheap wages.
Got that? George W. Bush -- worse than Clinton when it comes to border security!

Given that the despised-by-conservatives Senate legislation is essentially an expansion of the version initially crafted by John McCain and Ted Kennedy, do the facts cited by Rich give a Hillary Clinton an opening in a possible match-up with McCain?

Way too soon to say.

But consider: The leading conservative magazine's editor -- who wrote a book listing the various negative
legacies (many of them security-related) of the Clinton administration -- says that the Republican in the White House is worse on border enforcement than his hated predecessor!

Well, that just about says it all, doesn't it?

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Um, This Is a Friend, Right?

Okay, so here's the set-up. On Tuesday, while hosting close GWOT ally Australian Prime Minister John Howard, President Bush said the following:

Somebody said, you and John Howard appear to be so close, don't you have any differences? And I said, yes, he doesn't have any hair.
Look, ours is a world in which sometimes people tell you something and they don't mean it. In order to work together to make difficult decisions -- decisions of war and peace, decisions of security, decisions of trade -- you've got have somebody you talk to that tells you straight up what's on their mind. You know, politics sometimes produces people that will tell you one thing and don't mean it. It's really hard to be making rational decisions if somebody you're talking to just doesn't level with you.

And that's what I like about John Howard. He may not be the prettiest person on the block -- (laughter) -- but when he tells you something you can take it to the bank. He is a reliable partner. And we don't agree on 100 percent, of course. But the interesting thing, talking to John Howard, is that you can trust the man. And that's what is a necessary ingredient to be working together for
the common good.
I enjoy good teasing and gentle (and not so gentle) mockery as much as the next guy, but isn't there something a little unseemly about the Leader of the Free World acting like he's in a college locker room, ribbing the geeky towel boy after the game? I mean -- making fun of the guy's lack of hair? "He may not be the prettiest person on the block..."?

Yes, he followed that up with some seemingly heartfelt words about Howard's loyalty, but still... this is some pretty weird frat-boy diplomacy.

Or am I making too much of what should be seen as good-natured fun between friendly heads of state?

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Simply Beyond The Pale

Still more Da Vinci Code controversy.

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Ne Sprechen Sie 'Geistverker'

As in many big speeches, what was NOT in President Bush's address on immigration may have been well more important than what was. A cursory look reveals no less than six uses of the word "temporary", as in "temporary worker."

Second, to secure our border we must create a temporary worker program.

...I support a temporary worker program that would create a legal path for foreign workers to enter our country in an orderly way, for a limited period of time....

Every worker who applies for the program would be required to pass criminal background checks. And temporary workers must return to their home country at the conclusion of their stay.
A temporary worker program would meet the needs of our economy, and it would give honest immigrants a way to provide for their families while respecting the law.
A temporary worker program would reduce the appeal of human smugglers and make it less likely that people would risk their lives to cross the border.

...And, above all, a temporary worker program would add to our security by making certain we know who is in our country and why they are here.

Conversely, there is not one use of the word "guest," as in, "guest worker" -- which had been the Bush administration's preferred phrase in describing their plan to allow immigrants to work in the United States for still-to-be-determined finite periods of time.

But it completely disappeared in this major unveiling to the nation.

It's not difficult to see why. The word guest is rather nice -- and carries the sense of a social contract of sorts. A guest is an individual you invite into your home. That person might, at some point, overstay his or her welcome. But there is a feeling of respect and shared responsibility.

On the other hand, "temporary" conveys exactly that. It is decidedly finite -- with a hint of a business or economic arrangement connected to it.

Even before the high-tech fence starts getting built on the border with Mexico, Bush has erected a rhetorical wall between the United States and Mexico that didn't exist before. Illegal immigrants coming into the country are not "guests" coming into the U.S.'s "party" and overstaying their welcome. They are individuals who will be matched up with willing employers on a temporary basis.

The traditional historical ties with Mexico are no longer to be emphasized. Instead, the relationship is built on economics -- in essence, the same way that that NAFTA and CAFTA have been negotiated.

This is a rather significant rhetorical shift. Ever since Bush was governor of Texas, he has discussed Mexico and the United States as "neighbors" (you know -- folks you feel comfortable with to knock on their door to borrow flour, a lawnmower, employees). To his credit, Bush never took the anti-immigration tactic adopted by then-California Governor Pete Wilson a decade ago. That's a major reason why Bush has had better-than-average-GOP poll numbers from Hispanics.

However, in the new vocabulary of immigration, Mexico and the U.S. are part of a broader economic partnership in which workers on one side will have to recognize the new reality -- as will the American corporations and homeowners who wish to hire them.

This shift signifies a realization that he is no longer
driving this car:
President Bush once saw the immigration issue as an opportunity to expand the Republican Party by attracting more Hispanic voters with a message of tolerance and inclusion. His nationally televised speech last night was an admission that the issue has now become a problem that, if not managed carefully, could quickly become a historic liability for his party.

The immigration debate that reopened in the Senate yesterday offers Republicans an unpalatable political trade-off. Disappointing conservative, anti-illegal-immigration forces could demoralize a crucial constituency and depress turnout in the November elections at a time when every vote appears important to the GOP. Energizing only those conservatives risks destroying the president's long-sought goal of building a durable Republican majority by normalizing his party's relations with the rapidly growing Latino community.
Rather than pushing the issue -- which, to his credit, he started to do in the earliest days of his administration -- he has now been forced to react to it. He is squeezed by the border-control security folks on his right and the "guest-worker/full amnesty" people to his left (which, to be honest, is pretty close to where he was at the beginning). The "middle course" that he has adopted is Bush's stylistic move to get closer to his own base.

How ironic: In moving to his right, Bush is actually adopting the Bill Clinton post-'94 triangulation method: He wants to be seen as the "third way." Will it work? Tough to say. It made sense for Clinton to distance himself from his left and try to co-opt the policies of the right (i.e. welfare reform and balanced budgets). Bush, in contrast, is distancing himself from his own inclinations in order to co-opt the harder-edged rhetoric of his own right.

It's a much tougher dance -- and a conceivably much harder sell.

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Monday, May 15, 2006


Gone Daddy McGon

So this is the blog of one of my Comment regulars: Politics and Pigskins is the name.

Ed McGonigal is the proprietor, or EdMcGon as he is known in the small white boxes.

The most interesting thing to say about Ed is that he is an Oakland Raider fan living in Georgia.

That's just one of those random facts that makes you automatically say, "Only in America"! (Um, well, come to think of it, an Oakland Raider fan in the REPUBLIC of Georgia would be pretty weird too...)

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Sure, Add Me To This Bandwagon

Of course, it could/can/will beGore in '08.

His SNL opener was VERY funny (as was the later, "Weekend Update" cameo, for that matter). It was as if the writers were inspired by having a real politician on that they felt they could pull out all the stops in crafting a really amusing satirical presidential "address."

Darrell Hammond should be nervous. Sorry, bud, but Al Gore actually does a better Al Gore impression than the esteemed Mr. Hammond! And, of course, this appearance invites more comparisons to a certain
someone else's humorous appearance in the midst of a political comeback after losing a controversial election eight years before.

Oh, by the way, you sort-of-read-it-here-first, the "don't-call-it-a-comeback/Gore's-been-here-for-years"

UPDATE: Gore video can now be seen here (until NBC's lawyers manage to pull it).

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Shouldn't Someone Tell Hillary...

...that work is a "four-letter word."

I mean, you know, literally -- in the same way that "is" is a two-letter word!

Thank heaven she only tried to nationalize the country's health-care system.

God knows what could have happened had she gone after education!

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