THE RIGHT TO SAY NO

In the wake of Walker’s Wednesday maneuver, National Review‘s Daniel Foster mourned the extent to which Americans still (or maybe more so now) recognize union rights as democratic rights, or as any kind of right at all:

To hear all the talk of the “rights” — even “civil rights”(!) — that have been stripped from public sector workers in this bill by the “far right wing” is to see Stockholm Syndrome on a massive scale…The fact is that no individual human being lost a single right in Wisconsin tonight.

The right that Scott Walker and company are desperate to deny is this: the right of a worker to sit across the table from her boss as an equal, with the security of solidarity and the leverage of collective action, and say “No.” It’s the right to say safety rules are too weak or healthcare is too expensive and to exercise voice with strength rather than to exit in hopes of finding a charitable boss somewhere else. And with it goes the right – also attacked by Walker – to act together to move your boss.

There are no workers that conservatives believe should exercise these rights -unless, maybe, they’re in a history book. Either the job you do is too important to be subject to your needs (like TSA screeners), or the business you work for is too small (like a store), or your company is too generous already (like Starbucks), or you’re not really a worker (like domestic workers), or your job requires too much independent thinking (like graduate teachers), or your job should be done by a teenager and you should go to college (like fast food), or – like public workers in Wisconsin – you don’t need an organized voice on the job because you get to vote on who runs the government.

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MCCARTHY’S TORTURED LOGIC

Andy McCarthy (you may remember him as the guy that thinks Bill Ayers is Obama’s ghost writer) doesn’t seem to see much distinction between criticizing the American government and being an enemy of America:

CCR has pushed for the indictment of Bush administration officials for war crimes and bragged that its recruitment of lawyers effectively shut down interrogations, depriving the United States of vital wartime intelligence. What more does CCR need to do to prove that, as between the United States and the Islamists, CCR is with the Islamists?

Well, in 2006, [Daskal] campaigned for the UN Human Rights Committee to condemn the United States for its waging of the “so called ‘war on terrorism,'” for what she portrayed as our serial violations of international law obligations, for our “cloak of federalism” (which she described as the means by which the U.S. defies international governance at the state and local level); for our purported infliction of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment on Muslim detainees at Gitmo and on all prisoners held in U.S. “supermax” prisons, etc…most people would find Daskal’s role at DOJ frightening.

In other words, US Government = America, and Critics of US Government (or of torture) = Enemies of the State. Besides the obvious weakness and shameful history of that kind of argument, it’s a pretty awkward one for someone to make in the process of attacking US Government appointees in the Justice Department.

If US Government = America, Critics of US Government actions = America’s Enemies, what happens when people who’ve criticized the US Government become…part of the US Government. What punishment will Andy McCarthy mete out for enemies of the state like Andy McCarthy?

Fortunately for McCarthy and company, this paradox is avoided if you don’t accept that Barack Obama is legitimately the President of the United States.

I BET HE WANTS TO MASSACRE THE ANTI-ZIONIST JEWS TOO

Over at the Corner, Mark Steyn links the story of one (yes, one) protester yelling “slaughter the Jews” at Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister and smirks

But don’t worry. I’m sure it’s only “anti-Zionist.”

Besides humor (failed), what is Steyn’s point here? Maybe the “slaughter” guy can’t distinguish between the country Israel and the Jewish people. I can. Most Jews can, including the ones who live in Israel. Can Mark Steyn? (More in this vein here)

Meanwhile, Steyn’s corner colleague John Derbyshire (the Marty Peretz of the National Review is defending Tom Tancredo’s call for literacy tests at the polls. But don’t worry. I’m sure it’s only “literacy supremacism.”

CHOOSING THEIR WORDS

Over at the National Review, Ramesh Ponnuru is defending anti-choice folks against criticism for highlighting Tim Tebow’s mom’s choice not to have an abortion while pushing to take that choice away from her. I’ll grant that it’s not contradictory for someone to both want abortion to be made illegal and to like it when women who legally could have abortion choose not to. But it’s intentionally misleading for a movement seeking a ban on abortion to appeal to the electorate’s good feelings about choice by invoking individuals’ choices as an argument for prohibition. It’s especially cynical given that it’s the pro-choice movement that stands up for women threatened coercive abortion or sterilization by the government or their employer. I wrote more about this (in an exchange with my brother, who’s sadly hopped off the blog wagon) here and here.

As for Tim and Pam Tebow, apparently they share Focus on the Family’s belief that it should be illegal for women like Pam whose doctors advise them to terminate their pregnancy to choose to follow their doctors’ advice. So why won’t their ad say that? Why not say:

“I’m Tim Tebow, football great. I’ve been blessed with so much in life. I know my life itself is a blessing. Doctors in the Phillipines recommended my Mom abort me because of serious complications in pregnancy. Good thing abortion was illegal in the Phillipines. It should be illegal here in America too.”

I think Focus on the Family isn’t running an ad like that because they know the median American has discomfort about abortion but doesn’t want to see it banned. But what does Ramesh Ponnuru think is the explanation?

TASTELESS, GODLESS, ETC.

Amidst heaping scorn on the American people for neither being persuaded by right-wing prescriptions for keeping us safe nor willing to follow them on faith, Jim Geraghty chooses a strange example

Think about it – the Taliban tried to assassinate Cheney yesterday. Could you imagine if that had occurred in 2002? The snarky too-bad-they-missed comments on Huffington Post would be considered too tasteless for public comment.

Funny thing is, they are considered too tasteless for public comment. That’s why our right-wing friends trolling about for examples of lefties wishing death on Dick were stuck settling for anonymous comments on the HuffingtonPost.

Truth is, wishing death on Dick Cheney isn’t the kind of thing you can do and still be praised by people running for president. Not all Republicans are so lucky – just ask John Paul Stevens.

BLAST FROM THE PAST

Who knew that this site was one of the top Google hits for Paul Eastlund? Answer: Paul Eastlund knows.

Two and a half years ago (I know, weird – back when I was nineteen and I had my whole life ahead of me) I posted here about a troublingly unfunny counter-counter-counter-protest celebrated by the Cornell Review and linked approvingly by Jonah Goldberg. Basically, the protesters said we were violating people’s rights at Guantanamo, the counter-protesters said they deserved it, the counter-counter-protesters said the counter-protesters were racist, and the counter-counter-counter-protester stuck it to the counter-counter-protesters by saying racist things. Ironically. I made an attempt to lay the tableu out slightly more comprehensibly here.

At the time, Jonah Goldberg approvingly quoted a dispatch from Cornell Review Editor Paul Eastlund:

Nick is an uber-conservative who we’d never met before, but who hung out with us pretty much all day, and he is one of the coolest guys I’ve ever met…Occasionally he shouted things like “Support the Middle East Glass-Making Program” and “They don’t deserve 3 meals a day, they deserve a bullet to the head.” At one point, a few hecklers decided to pretend they were with us, and shouted “All Muslims are terrorists!” and “Kill all Muslims!” Before we could insist that we weren’t saying anything of the sort, Nick responded by shouting “All Muslims are terrorists!” and “Kill all Muslims!” They were dumbfounded. It was pretty hilarious.

Now flash forward two and a half years. We lost an election. We won a community benefits agreement. Paul Simon, twenty years later than Art Garfunkel, fell prey to a sense of personal contentment that’s robbed his music of its pathos. My bright college years have come to an end, and now I go to synagogue and get excitedly referred to as part of the “Under 40” crowd. And now, as I sit hunched over my laptop trying to figure out when Aaron Sorkin’s new show airs on the West Coast, I find an e-mail sent from far away harking back to long ago. From Paul Eastlund. He asked me to pass the following along (emphasis all mine):

I’ve clearly come across as the sort of person I would despise, so let me try to clarify.

First of all, your post is dead-on: the story, as quoted, is quite indefensible. A handful of staffers and I threw the page describing the counter-protest, containing that anecdote, together in a bit of a hurry. At some point later, I reread it, noticed that anecdote, and reworded it, although the page has been long since deleted. Anyway, it has been too long since the protest for me to remember anything with exactitude, but here’s my explanation of the ‘joke’ that you brought up.

We were irked by a display that dramatized injustice to seemingly innocent prisoners at Guantanamo (the actors portraying prisoners were well-groomed, mild-mannered academics who spoke perfect English and had no idea why they had been imprisoned) and implied quite directly that they should be released. We countered with signs that cited favorable facts and quotes about prisoner conditions in Guantanamo, as well as having one of us dress up in a TNT vest and hold up a sign saying “Death to America! Death to the Great Satan! Do you really want me going free?” Plenty of people reacted positively — not necessarily agreeing with us, but taking the time to debate us civilly — but some insisted that our display was racist. This irked us because the other Review leadership and I had, amidst some opposition, specifically worked to avoid giving the impression that we were advocating intolerance toward any religion or ethnicity. After having received that sort of complaint for the first day, we had deliberately cast non-Arabs in the “terrorist” role to further distance our message from any sword of religion- or ethnicity-based prejudiced.

Regardless, we continued to hear accusations. Nick’s response was along the lines of: “No, if we were going to single out Islam, it would be more like this” — and then he proceeded to demonstrate, briefly. The point was to contrast our display with the sentiments they were accusing us of espousing.

Anyway, that’s how the story was supposed to have come across. I realize that, in the version you quoted, it didn’t, and I apologize for that. I have to agree with you that it’s a bit of an alarming oddity that, written as it was, it was palatable to Jonah Goldberg and the many well-wishers who wrote to us before it got changed online.

I just wanted to send you this note clarifying, and apologizing for, how it was written before. I’ve always tried to steer clear of the uglier, race-baiting side of conservatism — in fact, I was so unpalatably “socially liberal” during my stint at the Cornell Review that a chunk of the staff mutinied and broke off to form the more conservative Cornell American, which focused almost exclusively on issues of race and homosexuality — and I was alarmed to find myself and the Review indicted on your site for precisely the sort of sentiment I spent much of my career in Cornell politics opposing, and that the Cornell Review in general no longer embodies.

Like you, my first thought upon reading this e-mail was: Someone reads this site who I’m not related to? And my second was: Is it possible that I’m related to Paul Eastlund.

Even with Paul’s account, the whole episode remains less than savory. And while they may not all have been “well-groomed, mild-mannered academics who spoke perfect English” there were indeed plenty of people at Camp X-Ray with “no idea why they had been imprisoned.” But that said, I appreciate Paul’s gracious e-mail and I’m glad to see him rebuke the account celebrated on The Corner. I hope he’s shared his e-mail as well with Jonah Goldberg, who to my knowledge has said nothing in the intervening couple years to suggest that he sees responding to an accusation of racism by yelling “Kill all Muslims!” as anything other than hilarious.

BEYOND BUSH AND TANCREDO

Catching up on the immigration debate that broke out amongst some of my co-bloggers over at Campus Progress while I was out of the country, I think it exemplifies an unfortunate trend in the contemporary debate: conflating the questions of how immigration should be regulated and of what rights immigrants should have in this country. Every issue has some pundit out there convinced that there are not two sides but three or seven or nineteen, but the immigration question is actually one where there are three camps – counting not the number of potentially coherent ideologies out there but the number of discrete large-scale positions people are visibly lobbying for – which can’t be placed along along a single spectrum without losing a good deal of meaning.

The position which has gotten the most colorful press coverage recently is the one advocated by Tom Tancredo (R-CA) and the Minutemen vigilantes who’ve taken it on themselves the patrol the border and chase down people who look to them like immigrants. Tancredo wants to cut immigration to this country (drastically) by building a wall and wants to curtail the rights of immigrants here (drastically) by denying their children birthright citizenship. It’s a position which resonates with a significant swath of the Republican base, as well as some traditionally Democratic-voting folks. It’s the position of the National Review. Shamefully, it used to be (roughly) the official position of the AFL-CIO (arguably that position would have fit better in a fourth quadrant – fewer immigrants but more rights for them – which I’ll leave out here because it lacks many advocates).

The position which has unfortunately been the primary alternative portrayed in the media is the cluster of policy proposals represented by George W. Bush: more legal immigration but fewer rights for immigrants. That would be the consequence of the crypto-bracero program he offered two years ago, under which undocumented immigrants are invited to come out of the shadows and into the trust of their employers, who can sponsor them for as long as they see fit but are given no reason not to have them deported if they do something the boss doesn’t like. This is the position of the Wall Street Journal and the Cato foundation and the business elites they’re looking out for.

There’s a progressive position in this debate, but it isn’t either of these. It’s the position for which immigrants, advocates, and allies rode from around the country to Flushing Meadows Park for two years ago: open our country to more legal immigration and protect the rights of everyone who lives here. It’s the position of the national labor movement, the NAACP, and the National Council of La Raza, and it’s the one reflected in the principles of the New American Opportunity Campaign: offer a path to citizenship, reunite families, protect civil liberties, and safeguard the right to organize and bargain collectively for everyone who lives and works here. That’s the goal towards which the legislation offered by senators Kennedy and McCain is a crucial step.

Conservatives reap the benefits from any debate which pits low-income workers against each other based on race or gender or citizenship – even when such a debate makes cracks in their electoral coalition in the short term. Building a progressive movement in this country depends on bringing together working people across such divisions to confront shared challenges and opponents with common cause. It’s a task which ostensibly progressive organizations too often have failed – to their own detriment. A two-tiered workforce is bad for workers, and it’s bad for America. But the right answer to that challenge, on the immigration question as on the race question and the gender question, is to welcome new workers and ensure that they have the same rights as old ones, so that they can organize and bargain together to raise their standard of living. Pushing marginalized workers out of the workforce was the wrong position then, and it’s the wrong one now. It consigns more men and women to die crossing the border, and it endangers our security by perpetuating a system in which millions of people needlessly live outside of the law. And it denies the historical promise and dynamism of this country.