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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Tuesday, 28 March 2006
Some thoughts on spin and posturing...
Topic: Couldn't be so...

Some thoughts on spin and posturing...

Tuesday, March 28th, was a day of heavy rain in Los Angeles, blunting things. That's explained here, with photos - it's the dreaded Pineapple Express. There were fewer students in the street protesting the proposed changes in immigration law, not like the day before, and that was not just because of the lousy weather. The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) just locked down the middle schools and high schools (local story here) - if you got to school and into a classroom you weren't going anywhere. They held discussions of the proposed legislation. What fun is that? Some kids got out anyway, and marched in the streets, down in Carson and a few other places, and the Vincent Thomas Bridge was closed for a time. Then it really started pouring. So much for that.

The media coverage? The same problems with "the other" - and outrage with the interlopers, the law-breakers. Lou Dobbs was on his CNN crusade. And we all know who the bad guys are.

But then, see this -
Open letter to CNN and other mainstream US media outlets:

1. The vast majority of Hispanics/Latinos in the U.S. (75 percent of us) were born and raised here, including many of us who have roots here that predate the arrival of the pilgrims.

2. "Immigrant" is not synonymous with "Latino" and the media should stop pretending they mean the same thing.

3. The CNN analyst who said today "Keep in mind, Latino voters are LEGAL immigrants, not illegal immigrants" should be FIRED for sloppy thinking. MOST LATINOS ARE NOT IMMIGRANTS AT ALL, PINCHE CABRON.

4. Immigrants to contemporary USA come from EVERYWHERE. There are, for instance, 100,000 Nigerians in Houston, and tens of thousands of ILLEGAL Irish in Boston. If this debate is truly about immigration, as opposed to racist portrayals of Latinos, please curb your coverage to be more responsible.

5. Just because someone waves a Mexican or Colombian flag at a peaceful demonstration does not mean the demonstration is a "riot" or the people un-American. Lou Dobbs should get his panties out of a knot and realize it is no different than someone waving an Irish flag in Southie or an Italian flag in Queens. These flags are not waved as proof of national allegiance; they are waved in solidarity with a person's cultural heritage.

6. You can be a Mexican American and never have had an ancestor come over the US border; vast portions of the United States of today USED TO BE MEXICO or SPAIN. If you failed to learn this in high school, your teachers should be fired.

7. The vast majority of Hispanics/Latinos in the US speak English as a first language. The Pew Center for Hispanic research shows that by the third generation, all Latin American immigrant descendents - 100 percent of them - are English-first, English dominant. Zero percent speak Spanish as a first or primary language by the third generation.

8. The US has TWO international borders, not ONE. To date, not a single terrorist has gotten to the US through Mexico; to date, at least two suspected terrorists have arrived here through Canada. In fact, I would not be surprised if, while the media and xenophobes are focused on the Mexican border, terrorists figure out that it might be a good idea to walk over from Vancouver to Seattle for a latte.

9. Not all Hispanics/Latinos are Mexican or of Mexican origin in the U.S., and most people of Mexican extraction in the US were born in the UNITED STATES. ...
It goes one for a quite a bit more, but you get the idea. Just what are we arguing about?

The author, Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, ends with this -
Shut up about this non-issue and get back to BEING JOURNALISTS, covering the REAL issues, like the illegal war in Iraq and the lies that got us there; the record-setting trade deficit; Bush's bankrupting of America; NSA's illegal wiretapping of American citizens; the fact that our public schools are MORE segregated than they were before Brown vs. the Board of Education; the fact that we as a nation have now slipped to having only the 27th freest press in the world; the Plame leak and the consequences of it being that Americans are much less safe than we were before Cheney and his friends played "revenge"; the disappearance of the American middle class and unions; the sorry state of the FAA; the rapid devaluation of the American dollar on the world market thanks to idiot leaders; the dismantling of the endangered species act by our administration; the rapid and unprecedented rise of a white underclass (the fastest rise in poor whites in American history has occurred under Bush); the enormous and growing gap between rich and poor in America.
But the brown-skinned high-school kids in the streets! The five hundred thousand in the streets of Los Angeles the day before that, waving foreign flags! We'll have to speak Spanish and listen to banda music! The world is ending.

No, it isn't, at least not over this. People are in the streets because what is a an administrative issue was approached as a national crisis, the party in power needing a wedge issue for the upcoming election ("Look, BROWN PEOPLE, everywhere!") advancing legislation to "get them." They've been busting their butts trying top get a better life here, violating the administrative laws, and perhaps wonder why this and why now? What changed since last summer, since five years ago?

And the racial nastiness is rather ugly. Marching in the streets is what you would expect.

There's no doubt a sensible way out of this, but not this year. It's an election year. The ruling party, with other matters not going that well, needs someone to be the bad guy. Osama got away. The war is a mess. There's a need for a new focus, to show you're doing something, a new for new, fresh devils. The brown folk who clean the restrooms will do. They're not happy about that, nor are the people who kind of look like them.

Hey, sometimes enough is enough.

But some things are changing. The president is cleaning house, making the White House vastly more efficient and responsive. Not.

The media tried to play up the big change at the White House as the rains poured down out here in Hollywood. A big story! The Chief of Staff since the president took office was suddenly gone. It wasn't to be, as the hype fizzled.

A typical headline was Bush Replaces Card With Another Longtime Loyalist, with the opening words, "Republicans gave a collective shrug to President Bush's decision Tuesday to replace chief of staff Andrew Card with budget director Josh Bolten, another longtime loyalist..."

It was a non-story. Nothing will change (a good analysis here) - all that talk about bringing in a fresh views was for naught. Bolten had been second in command to Card, and has been working for the president since 1999, so this is like a pit stop in a long race. You change the tires, top off the tank, but you go out and then drive around in circles as fast as you can with no fixed destination as such, just trying to finish ahead of everyone else. The press covered the pit stop. Fine. But if Republicans gave a "collective shrug" to the whole business, then you know the item is up there with which tie the president wore Tuesday with the dark blue suit. Yawn.

What's the real news? The New York Times kind of did mention this - Shiite politicians in Iraq saying that our ambassador to Iraq had a message for them - George W. Bush wants Iraq's prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, to go away, and it's their job to dump the guy.

The reaction? "How can they do this? An ambassador telling a sovereign country what to do is unacceptable."

They don't know George. They may have voting control of whatever government they ever get around to forming, but this Ibrahim al-Jaafari is a pain - big mouth, too angry, a loose cannon, and he sometimes says bad things about us. And he's stirring up trouble by not reining in the militias on the Shiite side. If they know what's good for them, they'll have to deep six him. We didn't toss out Saddam Hussein for this sort of crap.

Of course the claim may not be true at all, just posturing having to do with internal power struggles there. We deny our ambassador ever said such a thing, but if it is just posturing it is odd that they seem to have some sense that they can use the common view of our president's personality as a tool in whatever local maneuvering is going on. He has this reputation now - he does things the way he sees them and gets what he wants, no matter what the rules.

That we promote democracy and when people vote "the wrong way," as in the recent Palestinian elections brining Hamas to power, we do our best to undermine what "the people" have chosen is kind of helpful. So why not this ploy? It sounds just likely enough to be useful. Or maybe it's true. No one will ever really know.

Heck, all politicians do all sorts so maneuvering. It happens over here too, as the same day we see an interesting move from presidential hopeful John McCain, the senator from Arizona, who, the last time he ran for the nomination had that bus with "Straight Talk Express" on the side. They call him a maverick, because, they say, he always speaks his mind. And he has opposed his party on any number of issues.

And it's been rough. Way back when, after he won the presidential primary in New Hampshire, Bush's man Karl Rove destroyed him in the South Carolina primary with all those rumors about his love child with a crack-addict black prostitute and rumors that all his years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam had rendered him effectively insane and barely functional. That worked. It was over for McCain. And he was pissed, but just last year was hugging Bush on stage. Huh?

And now? He once called the evangelical Christian Republican leader Jerry Falwell an "agent of intolerance" for all the sort of things Falwell had been saying - Muhammad, the prophet is Islam, is a "terrorist" - "If you're not a born-again Christian, you're a failure as a human being" - Blacks, Hispanics, and women are "God-ordained minorities who do indeed deserve minority status" - "Most of the feminists need a man to tell them what time of day it is and to lead them home" - if the Antichrist did exists and were alive today "of course he'll be Jewish" (Links to the Falwell statements can be found here.)

McCain was not having any of this, as in this - "Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left, or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right."

That was 2000. Now he supports the mandatory teaching of Intelligent Design in public schools and has just accepted an invitation to be a graduation speaker at Liberty University, Jerry Falwell's university for budding Christian "theocons," as it were. The story is here, where Falwell says that he and McCain have worked out their differences. There's still "a lot of fence mending to do" but Falwell says McCain is coming around.

Right. You do what you do. There's posturing. There's image.

But as E. J. Dionne in the Post suggests here - "Once lost, a maverick's image is hard to earn back."

Well, one has to be very careful.

But then there are those who aren't careful. The same rainy day here in Los Angeles the Supreme Court heard oral arguments Hamdan v. Rumsfeld with its big issues.

The Associated Press account is here, opening with this -
A lawyer for Osama bin Laden's former driver urged the Supreme Court today to curb President Bush's use of wartime powers to prosecute terror suspects held at a U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Attorney Neal Katyal, who represents Salim Ahmed Hamdan, told justices the military commissions established by the Pentagon on Bush's orders are flawed because they violate basic military justice protections.

"This is a military commission that is literally unburdened by the laws, Constitution and treaties of the United States," Katyal said.

Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito, the newest member of the court, pressed Katyal to explain why a defendant before a military commission should be given something that defendants in civilian criminal trials normally don't get - the chance to challenge the case before a verdict is reached.

"If this were like a (civilian) criminal proceeding, we wouldn't be here," Katyal said.

Scalia's presence on the bench signaled his rejection of a request to recuse himself that was filed Monday by five retired generals who support Hamdan's arguments. In a letter to the court, the generals asked Scalia to withdraw from participating in the case because of remarks he made in a recent speech in Switzerland about "enemy combatants." Speaking at the University of Freiberg in Switzerland on March 8, Scalia said foreigners waging war against the United States have no rights under the Constitution...
Yep, Antonin Scalia had a position. He pretty much said how he'd vote long before the trail. No bullshit from Fat Tony. But to be fair he did recuse himself from the cases about the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, after all his speeches where he said the idea that the government was formed by the consent of the people was wrong-headed, as clearly our form of government was ordained by God, and that was a fact no one could dispute - that was just the way it obviously was. Here his has a son in the military. It's personal.

There's a narrative of what happened in session here from an expert in constitutional law, Dahlia Lithwick. The government's arguments got more and more absurd as the session when on. The justices got more and more angry in their probing, just amazed at the flaws in basic logic. The government's attorney was finally explaining that, yes, what he was saying made no logical sense, if you used logic, "but this was war." Antonin Scalia didn't say that very much. Maybe he was bored. So far it looks like the government will lose this one.

But still, at least with Scalia, you don't get any of this posturing or image stuff, as in this -
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia startled reporters in Boston just minutes after attending a mass, by making a hand gesture some consider obscene.

A Boston Herald reporter asked the 70-year-old conservative Roman Catholic if he faces much questioning over impartiality when it comes to issues separating church and state.

"You know what I say to those people?" Scalia replied, making the gesture and explaining "That's Sicilian."

The 20-year veteran of the high court was caught making the gesture by a photographer with The Pilot, the Archdiocese of Boston's newspaper.

"Don't publish that," Scalia told the photographer, the Herald said.

He was attending a special mass for lawyers and politicians at Cathedral of the Holy Cross, and afterward was the keynote speaker at the Catholic Lawyers' Guild luncheon.
Ah, refreshing. You know where he stands. He's with God, and if you don't like it, he flips you off. Maybe he shouldn't be judge, what with the ideas he has about how this is really a theocracy of sorts, and with making up his mind before he hears a big case and refusing to recuse himself, but he is brilliant and glib, and you know what you're dealing with. It's endearing in a sort of "Sopranos" way - appalling yet compelling.

And judges can be blunt, not just this one. At the same time the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator Arlen Specter, held hearings on the NSA spying business, asking the five FISA judges about oversight. All five said, yep, oversight has to be there, and the president was on shaky ground, and his claim of "inherent authority" to ignore the law was pure crap, although they said it more nicely than that. Well, one of them, Judge Allan Kornblum, was less kind with this - "I am very wary of inherent authority. It sounds very much like King George."

That's not nice. But it's not posturing or image building. Just colorful.

Well, everyone has their views, and sometimes they just say them, and let the chips fall where they may.

Last week in these pages here, the views are strong, as in that survey about religion or lack of it, which might be now called the Justice Antonin Scalia Was Right Poll -
American's increasing acceptance of religious diversity doesn't extend to those who don't believe in a god, according to a national survey by researchers in the University of Minnesota's department of sociology.

From a telephone sampling of more than 2,000 households, university researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in "sharing their vision of American society." Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.

Even though atheists are few in number, not formally organized and relatively hard to publicly identify, they are seen as a threat to the American way of life by a large portion of the American public. "Atheists, who account for about 3 percent of the U.S. population, offer a glaring exception to the rule of increasing social tolerance over the last 30 years," says Penny Edgell, associate sociology professor and the study's lead researcher.

Edgell also argues that today's atheists play the role that Catholics, Jews and communists have played in the past-they offer a symbolic moral boundary to membership in American society. "It seems most Americans believe that diversity is fine, as long as every one shares a common 'core' of values that make them trustworthy-and in America, that 'core' has historically been religious," says Edgell. Many of the study's respondents associated atheism with an array of moral indiscretions ranging from criminal behavior to rampant materialism and cultural elitism.
Yep. Bad people, except Andrew Sullivan, the conservative, catholic, gay, and ex-British commentator, who has been writing about such matters for some time now, got this letter from one of his readers -
I write this with a certain weariness, but nevertheless it is important. I can't help but read your blog because as an articulate gay, Catholic conservative you are inevitably conflicted and therefore rarely have uninteresting things to say!

In more hubristic moments I sometimes think of myself as something of a mirror image of you: I am an entirely monogamous heterosexual man (I have only ever had sex with one person in my life - my wife of 14 years). We have two thriving children. Put simply, my family is the almost perfectly nauseating embodiment of what the Dobsons of this world dream about, but with one caveat: none of us have the slightest interest in the idea of God in any of his incarnations.

I don't like the word "atheist" because it implies the absence of a God and this is not the way we live our lives. We live joyful, peaceful, happy, fulfilling lives - we take nothing for granted, but we have never experienced spiritual hunger or thirst, or whatever metaphor you want to use and yes, we have been through very difficult times, but the idea of a God has always been either meaningless or counter productive in our struggles through life.

I have the greatest respect for your sexuality, your religion, and your conservatism and would never presume for a second that somehow my sexual disposition and the choices I have made in my life represent anything more my sexual disposition or the choices I have made. This is America, and I am happy to be evangelized by any one who makes the effort, but the sooner the haters ... who want to legislate my sexual disposition, my morality, my family values, my absence of religion, and my ethical choices - get lives for themselves and leave the good people of this country alone, the happier we will all be.
Yep, posturing is a pain, and religious posturing is the worst kind. It leads to odd legislation. Let people be.

Sullivan finds a quote from John Adams - "Government has no Right to hurt a hair on the head of an Atheist for his Opinions. Let him have a care of his Practices." - and Sullivan adds this - "People have this strange idea that Americans are much more secular today than they once were. In fact, the kind of religious fundamentalism we see today, while always part of the American fabric, has rarely been as dominant. The faith of the founders' was a drier, more Enlightened type; and it's fair to wonder whether some of them were believers at all in the modern sense of the term. That's why a defense of secularism is by no means un-American. It is the essence of what made the United States such a radical experiment in its time: the separation of government from God. Just don't tell that to the theocons."

Ah well, they have their motives. (And now they have John McCain, and he, in turn, has his own motives.)

From last weekend's collection of quotes: "Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is." - Mohandas K. Gandhi

In any event, the I'm-right-and-you're-wrong-and-there's-no-compromise national conversation rumbles on. Religion, immigration, the president is a bully and a fool, the president is noble and not corrupted by all that effete book learning, we're winning the war, we're not - and all the rest - spins along. Everyone's got an angle.

Even here.

Posted by Alan at 22:45 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 28 March 2006 22:50 PST home

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