Friday, September 22, 2006

Remember the old zaniness of Mad Magazine's "Spy vs. Spy"? The Republicans have revived it as "Morons vs. Morons"


With regard to this great "compromise" reached by warring Republicans on military tribunals, how do I know it sucks?

I don't have to read a New York Times editorial, although as it happens there's a good one ("A Bad Bargain" [note: the editorial is appended in a comment]). I know it sucks because, well, look at the people who agreed to it. Not least the Bush administration. I hope at this late date I don't have to rehash the thousand layers of illusion, delusion and garden-variety authoritariansm at play in the administration's "thinking" in this area. Surely by now it's enough to say that if they're for this "compromise," it has to suck.

Sure, it's fun to watch Republicans squabble, but it's useful to remember the overwhelming likelihood that they're all wrong. Look at the immigration mess, for example.

In today's paper Julia Preston reports ("Pickers Are Few, and Grower Blame Congress"):

LAKEPORT, Calif.--The pear growers here in Lake County waited decades for a crop of shapely fruit like the one that adorned their orchards last month.

"I felt like I went to heaven," said Nick Ivicevich, recalling the perfection of his most abundant crop in 45 years of tending trees.

Now harvest time has passed and tons of pears have ripened to mush on their branches, while the ground of Mr. Ivicevich's orchard reeks with rotting fruit. He and other growers in Lake County, about 90 miles north of San Francisco, could not find enough pickers.

Stepped-up border enforcement kept many illegal Mexican migrant workers out of California this year, farmers and labor contractors said, putting new strains on the state's shrinking seasonal farm labor force.

Labor shortages have also been reported by apple growers in Washington and upstate New York. Growers have gone from frustrated to furious with Congress, which has all but given up on passing legislation this year to create an agricultural guest-worker program.

Last week, 300 growers representing every major agricultural state rallied on the front lawn of the Capitol carrying baskets of fruit to express their ire.

This year's shortages are compounding a flight from the fields by Mexican workers already in the United States. As it has become harder to get into this country, many illegal immigrants have been reluctant to return to Mexico in the off-season. Remaining here year-round, they have gravitated toward more stable jobs.

"When you're having to pay housing costs, it's very difficult to survive and wait for the next agricultural season to come around," said Jack King, head of national affairs for the California Farm Bureau Federation.

Now I don't know what the solution to the pear-picking problem is. I know it's not just: "Well, just let 'em hire all the cheap illegal labor they can." However, I do know that the chances aren't good of an intelligent solution coming from packs of squabbling morons. On the one hand you've got the moron faction that salivates at the thought of endless supplies of sub-minimum-wage labor, and on the other hand you've got the drooling-xenophobe morons who just know that it's them damn furriners that's ruinin' the country--that and them lib'rals and homos.

Shall we add a dollop of irony? As the NYT editorial reports, even what little ground the administration may have conceded to Senators Warner, McCain and Graham will probably disappear once the House weighs in, thanks to the administration's loyal point man there, Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter--the Man from E.A.R.M.A.R.K. As DWT readers know, ol' Dunc should be spending his time sweating over the fusilage of corruption charges he should be facing. Instead, he's going to be the man who helps the hoodlums and psychos of the Bush administration turn military justice into an arm of the campaign of terrorism that is making this country the world's most hated.

Who knows, maybe ol Dunc can find a way to make torture pay, the way he's made everything else that passes through his committee pay--for him.


At 7:51 AM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Here is the text of the NYT editorial:

September 22, 2006

A Bad Bargain

Here is a way to measure how seriously President Bush was willing to compromise on the military tribunals bill: Less than an hour after an agreement was announced yesterday with three leading Republican senators, the White House was already laying a path to wiggle out of its one real concession.

About the only thing that Senators John Warner, John McCain and Lindsey Graham had to show for their defiance was Mr. Bush's agreement to drop his insistence on allowing prosecutors of suspected terrorists to introduce classified evidence kept secret from the defendant. The White House agreed to abide by the rules of courts-martial, which bar secret evidence. (Although the administration's supporters continually claim this means giving classified information to terrorists, the rules actually provide for reviewing, editing and summarizing classified material. Evidence that cannot be safely declassified cannot be introduced.)

This is a critical point. As Senator Graham keeps noting, the United States would never stand for any other country's convicting an American citizen with undisclosed, secret evidence. So it seemed like a significant concession--until Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser, briefed reporters yesterday evening. He said that while the White House wants to honor this deal, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Duncan Hunter, still wants to permit secret evidence and should certainly have his say. To accept this spin requires believing that Mr. Hunter, who railroaded Mr. Bush's original bill through his committee, is going to take any action not blessed by the White House.

On other issues, the three rebel senators achieved only modest improvements on the White House's original positions. They wanted to bar evidence obtained through coercion. Now, they have agreed to allow it if a judge finds it reliable (which coerced evidence hardly can be) and relevant to guilt or innocence. The way coercion is measured in the bill, even those protections would not apply to the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

The deal does next to nothing to stop the president from reinterpreting the Geneva Conventions. While the White House agreed to a list of "grave breaches" of the conventions that could be prosecuted as war crimes, it stipulated that the president could decide on his own what actions might be a lesser breach of the Geneva Conventions and what interrogation techniques he considered permissible. It's not clear how much the public will ultimately learn about those decisions. They will be contained in an executive order that is supposed to be made public, but Mr. Hadley reiterated that specific interrogation techniques will remain secret.

Even before the compromises began to emerge, the overall bill prepared by the three senators had fatal flaws. It allows the president to declare any foreigner, anywhere, an "illegal enemy combatant" using a dangerously broad definition, and detain him without any trial. It not only fails to deal with the fact that many of the Guantánamo detainees are not terrorists and will never be charged, but it also chokes off any judicial review.

The Democrats have largely stood silent and allowed the trio of Republicans to do the lifting. It's time for them to either try to fix this bill or delay it until after the election. The American people expect their leaders to clean up this mess without endangering U.S. troops, eviscerating American standards of justice, or further harming the nation's severely damaged reputation.

At 8:52 AM, Blogger Daniel DiRito said...

I've got to hand it to the Democrats. The strategy of allowing the Republicans to "thrash out" their differences on the treatment and prosecution of detainees has played out exactly as planned...for the Republicans. Don't let anyone convince you that you can go to the well too often...that is if you are a Republican and your opponent is a fully inept Democratic Party.

Amidst a trend of favorable polling data and a firestorm of speeches by the President to refocus the voting public on their fear of terrorism, the Democrats stood in the background for the past two weeks and watched what the GOP will call the difficult work of creating legislation that preserves our commitment to civil liberties while at the same time providing our determined President with the essential tools needed to pursue those who seek to kill us all.

OK, perhaps I'm being too harsh. There is a possibility that in the past two weeks the Democrats were able to devise their sixth iteration of a campaign slogan and strategy to roll out with less than 50 days to the election. Perhaps they could call it "Fifty States, Fifty Days...But Never Fifty Percent"! It's catchy, it's succinct, and it may well be accurate come November 8th. Arrgghh!

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