Political MoJo

Immigration Bill Endangered by Guest Worker Change

| Thu Jun. 7, 2007 1:04 PM EDT

Just after midnight this morning, the Senate passed an amendment to the immigration bill that would sunset the guest worker program after five years. Though the sponsors of the bill had been successful in deflecting a number of amendments, some intended to drastically reshape the bill, others intended to kill it outright, they weren't able to stop a bipartisan coalition of senators from adding the sunset to the bill. Dems don't like the guest worker program because it creates an underclass of laborers with few rights that drag down wages for low-income American workers; anti-immigration Republicans don't like it because it gives more immigrants a legal place in the country. Pro-business Republicans love the thing for obvious reasons, and composed the bulk of the amendment's opposition.

Senators are discussing this amendment like it might strangle the bill, which means that the speculation that the guest worker program would be the most contentious part of the bill was correct.

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Dep't of Riveting Videos: Chris Dodd, Au Naturel

| Thu Jun. 7, 2007 12:22 PM EDT

This is either a biting commentary on the capacity of YouTube fetishism to overwhelm and ruin actual debate in American politics or the worst example of an out-of-touch campaign trying to glom onto a trend it doesn't understand. Either way, it's hilarious if you have a minute to spare.

Yeah, that's right. Just a man writing, eating, writing, drinking, and writing some more. We really need to reel in the viral video aspect of the 2008 campaign -- we're in danger of losing words altogether in favor of (barely) moving images. Spotted on The Plank.

The Man Who Would Be Surgeon General

| Wed Jun. 6, 2007 6:52 PM EDT

holsinger.gifNot only is Bush's choice for Surgeon General a homophobe; he's also an idiot. A 1991 paper by the nominee written for the Methodist Church, James W. Holsinger, makes about as infantile an argument against homosexuality as one could imagine. His argument boils down to "the thing speaks for itself!" (really, the exclamation point is original!). His point is that the food/waste system (which includes not just that locus of gay anxiety, the anus, but also, hello!, the mouth) is self-evidently distinct from the sexual/reproductive system—and therefore, self-evidently, the anus should not be used for sex, and doing so self-evidently causes health problems.

Holsinger tries to make his utterly childish argument sound smart by:

(a) quoting "the thing speaks for itself!" first in Latin;

(b) mentioning the cross-cultural acceptance of his argument: "[I]t is clear that even primitive cultures understand the nature of waste elimination, sexual intercourse, and the birth of children. Indeed our own children appear to "intuitively" understand these facts. I think we should note that these simple "scientific facts" are the same in any culture." (Ed. Note: The use of scare quotes and exclamation points is almost always evidence of a stupid, stupid argument.)

and (c) drawing, as a true sign of erudition, on fields other than the sophisticated medicine that is his focus—specifically, how nuts and bolts fit together just as, self-evidently, male and female genitalia do (though more than one woman would probably disagree with even that assessment): "the logical complementarity of the human sexes has been so recognized in our culture that it has entered our vocabulary in the form of naming various pipe fittings either the male fitting or the female fitting depending upon which one interlocks within the other."

There you have it: Holsinger is no rocket scientist. And he shouldn't be Surgeon General, either. He shows clear signs of not being able to separate his personal beliefs from medical fact. Not only that, but Holsinger eventually resigned from the Methodist Church's Committee to Study Homosexuality because he thought it was too liberal. He went on to found a church for ex-gays.

Gay rights groups are protesting the nomination, but Holsinger's supporters are claiming he would never let his religious beliefs interfere with his duties as Surgeon General. Self-evident, don't you think?

Would-Be Lifesavers Go Down in Crash

| Wed Jun. 6, 2007 4:59 PM EDT

There's a sad piece of news in today's New York Times. A plane crash over Lake Michigan killed an entire medical transplant team and two pilots yesterday. The precious organ—a lung—was also lost. Organ transplant is a high risk field of work, because doctors habitually rush from donors to recipients in small planes. You know, trying to save other people's lives. The would-be recipient of the lung had already been anesthetized and opened up, taxing his already seriously ill system.

Worth reading in full.

DeAnza Rape Case: State Attorney to Review DA's Decision

| Wed Jun. 6, 2007 4:00 PM EDT

deanza%20rape.jpg

Remember that case that got everyone so riled up a couple weeks back? Well, apparently the California State Attorney's office is heeding the public's protests. The office has decided to review District Attorney Dolores Carr's controversial decision not to prosecute the men who allegedly gang-raped a 17-year-old, intoxicated, girl at a house party at a DeAnza College baseball player's house back in March.

The DA said her office did not have enough evidence to confidently prosecute the case, despite three eyewitnesses. Women's groups, community activists, and the media quickly called foul. Carr gave her reasons in an editorial in the local paper, where she detailed why she believed there's not enough evidence to go forward.

Carr wrote that the intoxication of the alleged perpetrators, victim, and witnesses would make it difficult to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the victim did not give consent AND that her alleged attackers knew it. She saluted the courage of the eyewitnesses but said that they "only saw the last 30 to 60 seconds of a two-hour party," and their testimony was just part of a body of evidence rife with conflicting accounts.

Carr's editorial did not squelch the demand for a trial, however. The Santa Clara County sheriff's office is pursuing the case, perhaps especially now that the victim is speaking out (albeit, via representatives). The girl, who has since moved out of the area, says she deserves "her day in court."

Man Falls from Heaven; Pope Doesn't Notice

| Wed Jun. 6, 2007 3:28 PM EDT

Yesterday, as the Pope waved his way down a crowd-lined street in Vatican City, one enterprising young man decided to leap, belly-flop style, into the Popemobile. This is a must-see video: The Pope doesn't even notice as a gaggle of security officers wrestle the man to the ground right behind him.

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Pomp And Nonsense

| Wed Jun. 6, 2007 2:48 PM EDT

First there was the pregnant Alabama senior who was not allowed on stage to receive her diploma (though the father of her child was permitted to). Then there were the students in Michigan who painted over some gay-hating graffiti and were not allowed to attend their own graduation ceremony.

Now there are five Illinois students who were denied diplomas at their commencement ceremony because--wait for it--there were cheers when they walked across the stage. There are rules at the school that were designed to "restore graduation decorum."

It gets worse. School administrators wanted the five students to track down the cheering audience members. Like it is their job. Like they would obtain an accurate round-up. Like anyone cares.

The students and their parents met with school administators, who agreed to give diplomas to the students if they apologized, even anonymously. They did not.

An attorney for the students is sending a letter to school officials at Galesburg High School, asking the school to apologize and to grant the diplomas. There is the possibility of a court case.

Former Interim U.S. Atty. Inhales Helium Before Hearing, Shifts Blame to Colleague

| Wed Jun. 6, 2007 1:10 PM EDT

Former interim U.S. Attorney (U.S.A.) for the Western District of Missouri Bradley Schlozman appeared before the Senate yesterday to testify about the U.S. Attorney firings. Schlozman was folded into the prosecutor firings investigation last month when evidence surfaced that Todd Graves (the U.S.A. Schlozman replaced) was pushed out to make room for him. Eyes are on Schlozman not only because he was the first U.S.A. to be appointed by the Attorney General, without Senate approval, under the little-known provision slipped into the Reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act last spring (the provision has since been repealed), but because his actions are suspicious as well (let's just say he is not opposed to filing voter fraud cases).

Prior to the 2006 midterm elections, while he was still a U.S.A., Schlozman brought indictments against four ACORN workers. ACORN is a voter registration group that does registration drives in urban minority neighborhoods, many of which are Democratic, and has been the subject of numerous Republican allegations of voter fraud. Schlozman's decision to bring these indictments contradicts DOJ policy regarding election offenses, which clearly states that election fraud cases should not be brought prior to an election, as they may influence voters.

Yesterday, during the hearing, Schlozman did not admit wrongdoing, but instead, like many of his DOJ colleagues have done during this investigation, he quickly shifted the blame, claiming he got the green light to bring the indictments from Craig Donsanto, chief of the Public Integrity Sector (the DOJ department that oversees election crimes). TPMmuckraker points out that it would be a little fishy if Donsanto, who basically wrote the manual outlining the policy Schlozman allegedly defied, gave the go-ahead (although, I am not discounting this, considering the blatant disregard of DOJ policy by many DOJ officials, which has been revealed throughout this investigation). TPM also notes that there is evidence (a 2004 email from David Iglesias, one of two U.S.A.'s thought to have been fired for not filing enough voter fraud cases) that this action is not in line with Donsanto's past position on these cases.

So, either Donsanto is not immune to the rampant politicization of the department or Schlozman is lying through his teeth. At this point, either is plausible. I hate to be snarky, but did I mention the prosecutor sounded like he was inhaling helium moments before he took the stand?

One More Note on Immigration: "Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor?"

| Wed Jun. 6, 2007 10:15 AM EDT

I managed to write a massive post about the new immigration bill's point system for awarding visas yesterday while completely missing the point.

As I explained, the new point system gives a visa applicant credit for being highly-educated, English-proficient, and employable in medicine, science, and engineering. It dings people who are poor, unskilled, and struggling with English. The point I missed is this:

Whatever happened to "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door"?

For centuries, hasn't the American dream been a poor man's dream? An immigrant with nothing except an undying work ethic has always been able to come to America to make something of him or herself. That's the story, anyway -- the one as a child I was taught to take pride in during civics classes, at the Ellis Island museum, and at my father's knee. I was told that every generation of immigrants coming to this country, dating back to when it was European immigrants like the Irish and the Italians, have come with nothing. In fact they've come precisely because they had nothing -- this is the country where you go from nothing to something.

Not anymore. We have prerequisites now. We'll have to change the inscription on the Statue of Liberty. I propose, "Give me your educated, your credentialed, your cubicle jockeys yearning to cash checks, the fluent doctors abandoning your teeming shores. Send these, the smart, the trained, to me: I lift my lamp beside the door of privilege."

New York Times May Have Been First Doubters of JFK Plot

| Wed Jun. 6, 2007 9:57 AM EDT

I blogged yesterday about Time magazine's commendable skepticism about the alleged terror plot targeting JFK airport in New York City. Today, a quick update. Turns out the New York Times was skeptical from the beginning, at least a day before Time. Even though the NYT played their story about the plot big on their website, they completely buried it in their print version. Readers complained, and today the NYT's national editor responded:

"In the years since 9/11, there have been quite a few interrupted terrorist plots. It now seems possible to exercise some judgment about their gravity. Not all plots are the same. In this case, law enforcement officials said that J.F.K. was never in immediate danger. The plotters had yet to lay out plans. They had no financing. Nor did they have any explosives. It is with all that in mind, that the editors in charge this weekend did not put this story on the front page."

Hear, hear! Next time a government official spews hyperbole, claiming with scant evidence that "one of the most chilling plots imaginable" almost "resulted in unfathomable damage, deaths and destruction," I hope the rest of the media and American citizens across the country exercise as much judgement as the New York Times.

Update: I love this attitude from NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but Josh is right, he'll never survive in the GOP thinking this way: "There are lots of threats to you in the world. There's the threat of a heart attack for genetic reasons. You can't sit there and worry about everything. Get a life. You have a much greater danger of being hit by lightning than being struck by a terrorist."