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Archive for May 26th, 2008

Quote of the Day

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 26th, 2008 4:40 am by HL

Quote of the Day
“I think a lot of the superdelegates will make a decision quite, announced quite rapidly, after the final primary on June 3… I have not yet announced publicly, but I think at that point it will be time for her to give it up.”

— Jimmy Carter, in an interview with Sky News.

The Immigration Raids: Harbinger Of A Police State?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 26th, 2008 4:39 am by HL

The Immigration Raids: Harbinger Of A Police State?
It’s telling that last week’s mass immigration raid in Iowa, during which immigrant workers were rounded up and treated like cattle, was heralded by the whupping of federal helicopters hovering over the town and its meat-processing plant.

It’s telling that last week’s mass immigration raid in Iowa, during which immigrant workers were rounded up and treated like cattle, was heralded by the whupping of federal helicopters hovering over the town and its meat-processing plant.

One of its warning signs was that the feds showed up a week before and blackened out the windows of the Cattle Congress facility to prepare it for holding large numbers of detainees.

As one of the locals put it:

“What’s that all about? You know, what does that sound like? That’s just creepy, just things that seem really unAmerican, that seem on the down low,” Howard says. “No one should be treated this way. These aren’t drug runners. They’re not terrorists.” Howard calls the raid “political maneuvering” to show people the Bush Administration is doing something on illegal immigration.

As Joshua Holland at AlterNet suggests, the feds’ behavior throughout, while “professional” enough, has raised the specter of law enforcement that is all about keeping workers in a state of fear, and leaving the employers who are manipulating them completely unscathed.

According to the Associated Press, an attorney who interviewed some of those swept up in the raid said that the company itself “obtained false identification for immigrant workers.” But in the overwhelming majority of these raids — 98 percent, according to the Washington Post — the only people to pay any penalty are poor people trying to earn a substandard wage working in America’s growing unregulated economy. Meanwhile, ICE charged many of the detained with “identity theft” for those faked papers, effectively giving immigration hard-liners what Congress hasn’t granted them through the legislative process: serious criminal charges for what have always been misdemeanor immigration violations at most.

Most of all, it’s clear that the plant’s owners were in the business of seriously exploiting the illegal status of their workers — abusing them, underpaying them, exposing them to hazardous working conditions — and the raids actually had the effect of covering that up:

In this case, as in many others like it, many of the workers appear to have been seriously exploited. The AP reported that the plant’s management “improperly withheld money from employees’ paychecks for ‘immigration fees,’ didn’t allow workers to use the restroom during 10-hour shifts, physically abused workers and didn’t compensate them for overtime work.”

According to MSNBC, workers at the plant were routinely started at $5 per hour for their first three or four months on the job and then raised to $6, still well below Iowa’s minimum wage of $7.25. Iowa Labor Commissioner David Neil confirmed to the Des Moines Register that Agriprocessors was being investigated by the state on suspicion of wage violations, paying people off the books and hiring underage workers. A copy of the federal warrant obtained by the Register described an incident in which “a supervisor covered the eyes of an employee with duct tape and struck him with a meat hook.”

It’s unclear what the raids’ impact will be on the ongoing investigations into the company’s workplace violations. With hundreds of workers — and potential witnesses — carted away, Jill Cashen, a spokesperson for the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), asked: “how can justice ever be served on these exploitation issues?” Agriprocessor’s management must have been pleased with the timing of the raid. Not only did it put at least a crimp in the ongoing investigations of serious allegations of abuse by the company, it also derailed an effort by UFCW to organize the plants’ workers and give them a shot at bargaining with management for better working conditions.

According to the Boston Herald, the fine folks at Agriprocessors in fact were helping illegal immigrants with their illegal paperwork:

A federal informant who worked at Agriprocessors told officials about workers who appeared to be undocumented having trouble getting paid. … Other workers admitted to gaining employment using fraudulent documents. One worker claimed that he got a job without having any documents. When he received his first paycheck, the warrant application says, “it had another unknown person’s name on it. This check was then taken to another portion of the plant where it was cashed.”

This strongly suggests that company officials were systematically helping undocumented people work at the plant.

While the arrested workers, particularly those who used fake IDs (which is nearly all of them) are looking forward to prison time and then deportation, the plant’s politically connected owners and managers are evidently facing no charges at all. But for ordinary folks in Postville, it isn’t just illegal immigrants who are feeling the weight of this kind of law enforcement — it has terrorized legal immigrants and longtime residents alike. And maybe that’s the point:

Still, the impression among many non-Latinos in Postville is that the federal government targeted the wrong people for the wrong reasons. Any discussion of the subject often begins with the phrase, “The law is the law, but …”

“We got raped and we got plundered and we got pillaged Monday. Everybody in this town ought to be angry,” business owner Lyle Opheim said.

chools Superintendent David Strudthoff said the raid has been enormously disruptive for local children. When the helicopters appeared and word spread of what was happening, some students started crying in their classrooms. A third of the elementary school’s 387 pupils were missing the day after, and about half of them were among the 400 women and children who sought sanctuary at St. Bridget’s.

Most have now returned to school, but 10 or so have already left permanently, and with the end of the school year looming, dozens of children whose parents face deportation are set to return to their native countries, including those who are U.S. citizens by virtue of being born here.

“These people have been here 15 years and they’re entwined in our families and in our community,” Mr. Strudthoff said. “When 10 per cent of the population is imprisoned, it brings a community to its knees.”

And there have been questions as well about how the detainees have been given their due process:

The hearings drew renewed criticism from advocates who contend that the federal government was rushing the immigrants through mass hearings. The setup suggests “that the government is more interested in getting people deported without hearings than in achieving justice,” said Ben Stone, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa.

A local nun probably voiced the outrage best:

“I am also a United States citizen who grew up believing that this is a democratic country in which the dignity of all people is respected and their rights protected,” she said Tuesday at a news conference here, surrounded by members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

“This is not the country I experienced this past week.”

Thill, several times choking up with emotion, told of the shock and distress of immigrants who gathered at St. Bridget’s Catholic Church the day of the raid.

“Hundreds of families were torn apart by this raid,” she said.

The mother in one family was released, while her husband was still detained, said Thill. Her children are upset and frightened. The mother has no income and cannot work or provide for her children, she said.

“The humanitarian impact of this raid is obvious to anyone in Postville,” Thill said. “The economic impact will soon be evident.”

Indeed. But this is what happens when we do what the right-wingers want us to do, to “enforce the laws that are on the books.” The problem is that, as we’ve explained previously, these laws are so misbegotten and unworkable in the first place that travesties like this — installing a virtual police state in small-town America, terrorizing and suppressing workers in a way that lets employers exploit them without consequence — are inevitable.

And then, perhaps, we should contemplate what happens when these scenes are repeated in town after town, city after city, plant after plant.

Can Obama Win Without Clinton Democrats?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 26th, 2008 4:38 am by HL

Can Obama Win Without Clinton Democrats?

In the latest attempt to rationalize marginalizing Hillary Clinton and her supporters, Ezra Klein, seconded by Duncan Black, writes:

The electorate, its composition and universe of possible winning coalitions, is quite different now [than in 1980]. Many, many Democratic pundits and strategists connect their party’s decline to Reagan’s win, so a tremendous amount of mental energy is expended theorizing how they can take back what he wrested from them, and which candidates can win back “the Reagan Democrats.” But the battle isn’t to reconstruct the coalition that was dominant in the 1980s. It’s to envision and form the majority that will endure for the next ten years.

I think this is a deflection. We need not look back to 1980. We need only look at the Democratic primary contest of this year. [More . . .]

There is now a great divide in the Democratic Party – there is an Obama Wing and Clinton Wing – divided equally in votes in the contests. Despite claims to the contrary by the Obama News Network (NBC) and Obama blogs, the split is almost precisely even. This has been the closest nomination race ever. And in key swing states, it can be strongly argued that the Clinton Wing is significantly larger. The question the Democratic Party and its likely nominee must ask is this – do you want to win without Clinton Democrats and do you think you CAN win without Clinton Democrats?

Me, I do not want to take any unneccessary risks regarding winning the Presidency in November. It seems there is a whole class of pundits, Democrats and Obama supporters who really really despise the Clinton sooo much that they are willing to risk the Presidency to drive the Clintons out of the Party.

Oh they will couch their arguments in terms of baggage and Bill Clinton (as if the only two term Democratic President of the last 50 years would somehow be a problem for a Democratic campaign, it is mind boggling). But what they want is the Clinton Wing of the Democratic Party gone – dead and buried.

They despise the Clintons so much, they seem willing to risk the Presidency to destroy them. I find this attitude simply irresponsible. Just as I despise those Clinton supporters who say they won’t vote for Obama, I equally despise those Obama supporters who would rather destroy the Clintons than win the Presidency.

I repeat for the umpteenth time, Obama would be nuts to divide the Party by not offering the Vice Presidency to Hillary Clinton. In a year where only Democratic division could possibly deny us the White House, it would take a stupendous act of political immaturity to even contemplate taking such a step.

By Big Tent Democrat, speaking for me only

Comments closed

I Would Like To Subscribe To Your Newsletter

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 26th, 2008 4:36 am by HL

I Would Like To Subscribe To Your Newsletter
Blogging requires that you develop a thick skin pretty quickly, but after doing this for years there’s still one thing which can occasionally set me off and I think it’s true for many other bloggers too. It’s the broad genre of “what you should write about on your blog” though it also includes “issues you should care about,” and “opinions you should have.” This is combined with a weird notion that if only something appears on this blog that the world will change, or something. I’m never quite sure.

And there are the people who think that this blog should be a data dump of everything I think about everything. As is the case in real life, some thoughts and opinions I just keep to myself, though usually not because I fear angering George Soros.

What the bacon-scented drunken lout said.

Galbraith perhaps said it a bit shorter:

The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.

“They Used Pat for Public Consumption, Just Like Jessica Lynch”: An Interview with Mary Tillman

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 26th, 2008 4:35 am by HL

“They Used Pat for Public Consumption, Just Like Jessica Lynch”: An Interview with Mary Tillman
The official cover-up of football star-turned-soldier Pat Tillman’s death by “friendly fire” has led his family on a four-year mission for justice.

The Courage of Rachel Corrie
The journals of protester Rachel Corrie, killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Palestine, reveal her untimely death all the more tragic.

Hillary’s Corrosive Conservatism

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 26th, 2008 4:34 am by HL

Hillary’s Corrosive Conservatism
Hat Tip to Lauren S.In the video above, which, no doubt, many have seen already, Liz Trotta, a conservative white woman commentator, was asked to comment on Hillary Clinton’s suggestion that the word “assassination” is relevant in the 2008 presidential campaign. Trotta responds, “and now we have what … uh…some are reading as a suggestion that somebody knock off Osama … [after being prompted by the FNC anchor]….well both if we could [laughing]”Hillary Clinton’s frequent
—- link

video details and more
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The Long View

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 26th, 2008 4:33 am by HL

The Long View
If you haven’t already had read it, let me recommend George Packer’s piece in The New Yorker on the “fall” of conservatism. He weaves together a thousand threads of the story in a way any magazine writer knows is terribly…

McCain Campaign Lies About The Polls

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 26th, 2008 4:32 am by HL

McCain Campaign Lies About The Polls

The NY Times today quotes a McCain campaign adviser defending the campaign’s performance because even though “the Republican Party brand is very, very badly damaged, … Senator McCain is running even or ahead of Senator Obama in most national polls.”

That is a false statement, which the Times did not correct.

I recently penned an op-ed for last Friday’s Omaha World-Herald about why the attacks on Obama have failed to derail his path to the nomination, and failed to deny him a clear lead against Sen. John McCain (Full op-ed below).

I led with the observation, “He beats Sen. John McCain in seven of eight major polls taken this month, with margins mostly between 5 and 7 points, and the most recent survey showing a 10-point lead.”

That assertion was based on leads reported in the following polls taken in May:

CBS/NY Times: Obama, 11 points
USA Today/Gallup: McCain, 1 point
Ipsos: Obama, 4 points
LA Times/Bloomberg: Obama, 6 points
NPR: Obama, 5 points
Quinnipiac: Obama, 7 points
ABC/Washington Post: Obama, 7 points
Reuters/Zogby (including Ralph Nader & Bob Barr): Obama, 10 points

A few polls have been released since I wrote my oped:

GW-Battleground poll: Obama, 2 points
Investor’s Business Daily: Obama, 11 points
Newsweek: Tie

These May polls do not show that “Senator McCain is running even or ahead of Senator Obama in most national polls.” They show that the vast majority of national polls show Obama ahead.

I didn’t include tracking polls in that roundup, because tracking polls — which poll people every day, and replace an older day’s numbers with a new day’s results — are designed to gauge momentum shifts, not give solid snapshots of where the public stands. (Note how USA Today/Gallup poll results can be different than the Gallup tracking poll.) But for your background, as of this writing, McCain is up in both Gallup and Rasmussen tracking polls by insignificant leads, 1 and 2 points respectively.

I also did not include polls from partisan operations, but for your background, Democracy Corps — a Democratic firm led in part by Clinton supporter James Carville — has Obama up by an insignificant 2 points this month. (Also, Rasmussen is led by a politically conservative pollster.)

But including those polls only adds a few showing effectively tied races. They still do not show McCain “running even or ahead … in most national polls,” as the McCain campaign falsely claimed.

While Obama’s current lead is not a predictor of the final outcome, it is notable that he holds this lead after facing a barrage of attacks during the past two months. I explored what that means for our politics in my Omaha World-Herald oped below:

After last Tuesday’s primaries, Sen. Barack Obama earned the majority of delegates awarded through electoral contests, tightening his claim to the Democratic presidential nomination. Despite some late losses and rough media coverage during the past two months, Obama begins the general election campaign with a clear lead. He beats Sen. John McCain in seven of eight major polls taken this month, with margins mostly between 5 and 7 points, and the most recent survey showing a 10-point lead.

Early polls don’t predict final winners, as shown by Gov. Michael Dukakis’ 16-point lead over then-V.P. George H.W. Bush in May 1988. But at that point, Dukakis had not yet suffered the attack blitz questioning his patriotism, challenging his fitness to be commander-in-chief and exploiting racial divisions. Obama’s current lead follows a Democratic primary where he already absorbed the types of blows he would expect to get from Republicans in the fall.

What does that say about the attacks, and about the state of our politics?

Much has been made about Obama’s former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright and how it hampered his ability to win over some white voters. Yet the impact appears limited nationally. Only 27% of Americans, in a May ABC/Washington Post poll, said Obama did “too little” to distance himself from Wright’s remarks. And a May CBS/New York Times poll finds 60% of registered voters approved of Obama’s handling of the Wright situation.

But the limited impact on public opinion may have less to do with Obama’s actions than with voter priorities. With more than 80% of the nation believing we’re on the “wrong track,” many voters are demanding a focus on issues and tuning out these manufactured, phony outrages.

An April NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found less concern with Wright than with McCain’s position on issues being “closely aligned with the Bush agenda.” ABC was deluged with complaints after airing a presidential debate top-heavy with guilt-by-association attacks. And on May 5, CNN anchor John Roberts announced before an interview with Obama, “No questions about Reverend Wright. Our viewers want us to move on.” People are telling the media: stick to real issues.

But Obama has also faced attacks on issues, most notably regarding gas prices. After McCain and Sen. Hillary Clinton proposed a summer “holiday” from the federal gas tax, Obama countered with advertisements offering a more detailed discussion. He explained how the temporary suspension would at best cover one-half of a tank of gas for the season, without addressing the root causes of the growing energy crisis. Instead, Obama proposed raising fuel-efficiency standards on cars and developing alternative fuels, so we can use less oil.

Like many Washington pundits, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough declared tax cuts to be “Politics 101” and warned Obama: “If that’s your best outreach to working-class voters, stay home tomorrow because it’s going to get ugly in North Carolina and Indiana.” It didn’t. Obama won North Carolina handily and battled back to a thin loss in Indiana. Soon after, the ABC/Washington Post poll asked voters whom they trusted more to handle gas prices. Obama crushed McCain by 20 points.

A Saturday exchange Obama had with an undecided Republican voter crystallizes the current American mood. Campaigning at an Oregon hospital, Obama was approached by Ron Spooner a technician “torn” between Obama and McCain. He was trying to assess Obama’s trustworthiness, weighing his dislike of Rev. Wright with his belief that Obama’s gas tax stance was “honest.” After Obama repeated his rejection of Wright’s statements, Spooner encouraged Obama to continue doing “things like the gas tax” — signaling that more sincere discussion of policy was how to get his vote.

Will Republicans recognize the public’s desire for a serious debate? They were given fair warning this month. Voters handed two House seats in conservative districts to Democrats, after Republicans released coarse ads depicting Obama as a radical left-wing boogeyman.

The message from voters should be clear: failing to address issues affecting us is disrespecting us.

Sadly, President Bush’s crass attack launched on foreign soil, falsely characterizing Obama’s support for direct diplomacy with Iran as “appeasement,” indicates that message isn’t being heeded.

If you want to save Republicans from themselves, or if you simply want a civilized campaign, speak up. Tell national news outlets that if they want your business, then provide probing coverage of the issues, instead of reflexively broadcasting the latest manufactured outrages. When political reporters emphasize substance, candidates will comply out of necessity, and we’ll finally have a campaign worthy of our democracy.

Iran hails ‘strategic’ Syria ties: IRNA

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 26th, 2008 4:31 am by HL

Iran hails ‘strategic’ Syria ties: IRNA
Iran connection could be problem in Syria’s peace process with Israel.

Rove refuses to deny contacting DOJ about Siegelman prosecution
Rove refuses to deny contacting DOJ about Siegelman prosecution

Rove Issues Non-Denial Of Role In Seigelman Case: ?I Read About It In The Newspaper?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 26th, 2008 4:30 am by HL

Rove Issues Non-Denial Of Role In Seigelman Case: ?I Read About It In The Newspaper?
Last week, the House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed former White House aide Karl Rove to determine his knowledge and role in the decision to prosecute former Democratic governor of Alabama Don Siegelman. ABC’s This Week host George Stephanopolous asked Rove if he was directly or indirectly involved in Siegelman’s prosecution. Having trouble coming up with a […]

Last week, the House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed former White House aide Karl Rove to determine his knowledge and role in the decision to prosecute former Democratic governor of Alabama Don Siegelman.

ABC’s This Week host George Stephanopolous asked Rove if he was directly or indirectly involved in Siegelman’s prosecution. Having trouble coming up with a coherent explanation, Rove simply offered this legalistic non-denial denial. “I learned about Don Siegelman’s prosecution by reading about it in the newspaper,” Rove said.

When Stephanopolous continued to press Rove about his involvement in the case, Rove stuttered and stammered, then responded by again saying he learned about it in the newspaper. Stephanopolous astutely noted, “That’s not a denial”:

STEPHANOPOLOUS: But to be clear, you did not contact the Justice Department about this case?

ROVE: I read about — I’m going to simply say what I’ve said before which is, I found out about Don Siegelman’s investigation and indictment by reading about it in the newspaper.

STEPHANOPOLOUS: But that’s not a denial.

ROVE: Uh. I’ve — I’ve — I’ve — uh — you know, I read about it. I heard about it, read about it, learned about it for the first time by reading about it in the newspaper.

Watch it:

Trying to defend himself, Rove said “everyone who was supposedly on that telephone call” — which points to Rove’s involvement in the case — says it “never took place.” But when Stephanopolous pointed out that there is a cell phone record of the call, Rove had nowhere to go.

Unfortunately for Rove, dealing with the House Judiciary Committee isn’t going to be as easy as ducking questions on a Sunday talk show. As committee chairman Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) said recently, “We’re closing in on Rove. Someone’s got to kick his ass.”