In The Guardian, Gary Younge laments anew the missed opportunities of Barack Obama’s presidency. “If there was a plot, he’s lost it. If there was a point, few can remember it. If he had a big idea, he shrank it. If there’s a moral compass powerful enough to guide such contradictions to more consistent waters, it is in urgent need of being reset.”
Sigh. If anything, this was all true of the first term too. As John Maynard Keynes said of another ostensibly progressive president a century ago, “[t]he disillusion was so complete that some of those who had trusted most hardly dared speak of it.”
The indispensable Charles Pierce checks in on immigration reform in the Senate, and underlines anew one of the fundamental truths of our current politics. To wit:
“In 2010, the American people elected what is possibly the worst national legislature in the history of the Republic. They also elected some of the worst state legislatures in the history of the Republic, too, which thereupon enacted redistricting and gerrymandering schemes guaranteeing that subsequent national legislatures elected wouldn’t be much better. In 2010, the country committed itself to decades of gridlock, mediocrity, and a perpetual state of hysterical paralysis in the national government. It would be nice if this were pointed out with somewhat more regularity.”
Update: Some telling stats by way of Dangerous Meta: “The much-criticized 112th Congress — from 2011 to 2012 — was the least productive and least popular Congress on record, according to the available statistics…only 15 legislative items have become law under the current Congress. That’s fewer than the 23 items that became law at this same point in the 112th Congress, which passed a historically low number of bills that were signed into law.”
As the AJC’s Jay Bookman puts it, “it might almost be funny if it wasn’t so sad.” In Georgia, indulging in xenophobia has backfired mightily for Nathan Deal, the state’s Republican governor, who is now desperately trying to get probationers to fill the agricultural labor gap his draconian anti-immigrant bill has created.
“The pain this is causing is real. People are going to lose their crops, and in some cases their farms. The small-town businesses that supply those farms with goods and services are going to suffer as well. For economically embattled rural Georgia, this could be a major blow.” And sadly, when it comes to deep, self-inflicted, and totally unnecessary economic wounds wrought by Republican idiocy, the Peach State here is just the canary in the coalmine.
Come Senators, Congressmen, please heed the call: In a decent companion piece to James Fallows’ foray on the subject earlier this year, The New Yorker‘s George Packer tries to figure out what the hell is wrong with the Senate. And one of the best answers is buried in the middle of the piece: “Nothing dominates the life of a senator more than raising money. Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat, said, ‘Of any free time you have, I would say fifty per cent, maybe even more,” is spent on fund-raising.’“
The other big and much-needed solution: Filibuster reform. But with a handful of Democratic Senators already balking at the idea, that’ll be a tough climb this coming January, and no mistake. Nonetheless, it is very much a fight worth having. “[O]ver the past few decades the reflex has grown in the Senate that, all things considered, it’s better to avoid than to take on big issues. This is the kind of thing that drives Michael Bennet nutty: here you’ve arrived in the United States Senate and you can’t do fuck-all about the destruction of the planet.“
In Foreign Policy, photojournalist Dulce Pinzon shares her photo collection of Mexican migrant workers dressed as superheroes. (Officially here.) “The principal objective of this series is to pay homage to these brave and determined men and women that somehow manage, without the help of any supernatural power, to withstand extreme conditions of labor in order to help their families and communities survive and prosper.”
In honor of Cinco de Mayo and in protest of Arizona’s straight-up ignorant new ethnic profiling law, the Phoenix Suns will don their “Los Suns” jerseys tonight. “Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is on board, and the team even tried to get their ‘Los Spurs’ jerseys, though it was too late to do so. When asked for approval to wear the jerseys, the NBA “was all for it,” said Suns general manager Steve Kerr.“
“This is Machete, with a special Cinco de Mayo message…TO ARIZONA.” If the Arizona GOP won’t heed the carrot of the Suns’ inclusive orange unis, perhaps they’ll fear the sharpened stick of a ticked-off Danny Trejo, in the new holiday trailer for Robert Rodriguez’s full-length version of Machete, also with Jeff Fahey, Michelle Rodriguez, Robert DeNiro, Lindsey Lohan, Jessica Alba, Don Johnson, Cheech Marin, and Steven Seagall. I know I was just badmouthing this project in my review of The Losers, but I have to concede, it still makes for a pretty fun trailer. (Extra points for DeNiro channeling his inner JD Hayworth therein.)
In related news, two more Republicans enter the 2008 fray: former Wisconsin Governor and HHS head Tommy Thompson and Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo. Well, it’s good news for alliteration. And, moreover, Tancredo is going to hammer the immigration issue like there’s no tomorrow, which will mean a lot of uncomfortable shuffling by the main contenders during the GOP primary debates, so as not to turn off swing voters everywhere. But I’ll bet dollars to donuts neither of these fellows gets anywhere close to the nomination.
Another GOP scandal? Oh, why not. This time, the culprit is California Republican longshot Tam Nguyen, who apparently was the mastermind behind 14,000 letters sent to scare immigrants from the polls. “Written in Spanish, the letters advise recently registered voters that it is a crime for those in the country illegally to vote in a federal election, which is true. They also say, falsely, that immigrants may not vote and could be jailed or deported for doing so, that the federal government has a new computer system to verify voter names, and that anti-immigration organizations can access the records.” Nguyen has said he’ll stay in the race against Democratic congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, even though his own party is disavowing him.
Something in their eyes is makin’ such a fool of he…In a “decision [that] was widely seen as a slap both at the Senate and the president,” the House GOP punt on the proposed immigration reform bill, likely until after the 2006 elections. “House Republicans have long frowned upon the president’s approach, passing instead a bill that would tighten border controls, clamp down on employers who hire undocumented workers and declare illegal immigrants and those who assist them to be felons. Their position solidified this month after a California special election to replace jailed former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R). Republican candidate Brian Bilbray won the seat, beating back a tough Democratic challenge by running hard against the president’s approach.“
“What we have here has become a symbol for the right wing in American politics, a fence between America and Mexico.” Following up on Dubya’s speech Monday night (which, to be honest, I totally missed — late night at the library), the Senate wrangles over immigration reform, voting, as per conservatives’ wish list, “to build 370 miles of triple-layered fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border and to block access to a new guest-worker program by lawbreaking illegal immigrants, even those guilty of misdemeanors or ignoring a deportation order.”
I’m a bit late on this one: In an ugly confluence of several of this administration’s shady dealings, CheneyCo.’s KBR/Halliburton — its attempts at continued war profiteering faltering — recently won a $385 million contract to build immigrant detention centers for the Dept. of Homeland Security. “The contract, which is effective immediately, provides for establishing temporary detention and processing capabilities to augment existing ICE Detention and Removal Operations (DRO) Program facilities in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs.” Um, new programs? (By way of Supercres.)
TIME Magazine unveils Josh Bolten’s new five-point plan for righting the Dubya presidency: 1) Act tough on immigration with “guns and badges”; 2) Humor Wall Street with extensions on capital gains and dividend tax cuts; 3) “brag more”; 4) Talk tough at Iran; and 5) play nice with the press. So, wait, we’re going to war with Iran just so Bolten can squeeze six more months out of lame duck Dubya? Brilliant.
The Senate reaches a compromise on immigration reform that splits the middle between the Frist-Tancredo hardliners and the Kennedy-McCain moderates. “Under the agreement, the Senate would allow undocumented workers a path to lawful employment and citizenship if they could prove — through work stubs, utility bills or other documents — that they have been in the country for five years. To attain citizenship, those immigrants would have to pay a $2,000 penalty, back taxes, learn English, undergo a criminal background check and remain working for 11 years.” But critics argue that the five-year distinction is a hard one to determine or enforce, and has been since it was first put into law in 1986. Update: Things fall apart.
“There is no issue outside of civil rights that brings out the kind of emotions we have seen.” After a weekend of significant grass-roots protest further suggests the political perils of immigration reform for both parties, the Senate Judiciary Committee votes 12-6 to support a bill by Senators Kennedy and McCain that promotes the more moderate Dubya-backed vision of reform, such as a guest-worker program, over that of the hardline GOP border-security crowd such as Frist and Tancredo. “A confrontation between the Senate and House Republicans now appears inevitable.“
“‘The short-term politics of this are pretty clear. The long-term politics are pretty clear. And they’re both at odds,’ said Mike Buttry, a spokesman for Sen. Chuck Hagel.” With Republican unity already shattered by Dubaigate, the contentious question of immigration reform threatens to divide Dubya and the GOP anew, as 2008 hopefuls Frist and Tancredo attempt to outflank Dubya on the right on the issue of border security, while McCain tries to shore up his standing with the Bushies. “For Republican presidential candidates, immigration offers up a difficult choice: Appeal to conservatives eager to clamp down on illegal immigration who could buoy your position in the primaries, or take a moderate stand to win independents and the growing Latino vote, which could be vital to winning the general election.”
“At the same time, prosecutions for the kinds of racial and gender discrimination crimes traditionally handled by the division have declined 40 percent over the past five years, according to department statistics. Dozens of lawyers find themselves handling appeals of deportation orders and other immigration matters instead of civil rights cases.” The Post traces the demise and demoralization of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division under Attorneys General Ashcroft and Gonzales.
Second verse, same as the first…New Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez outlined Justice Department priorities in his first policy speech yesterday, and it looks to be more of the same: extending the Patriot Act, strengthening anti-obscenity laws, deporting immigrants, and fixing the “broken system” whereby Senate Dems fulfill their constitutional obligations and vote up or down on Dubya’s freak-show judicial nominees. So, as we all feared, it’s Ashcroft all over again. But will Gonzalez at least undrape the Justice Department statuary?
Also on the history tip, I found this while preparing for my sections this morning on John Higham’s Strangers in the Land and nativism in the 1920′s: Red Scare: An Image Database…plenty of anti-foreign, anti-radical, and anti-union cartoons from the end of World War I. And, along the same lines, here’s an intriguing collection of WWI propaganda posters, such as this anti-German poster to the right. Very helpful in class, particularly as they will augur our reading of John Dower’s War Without Mercy later in the term.