Monthly Archives: January 2010

What Obama Could Learn from Jimmy Kimmel

During the last two days, pop culture has witnessed two tours de force. One featuring Barack Obama taking on Republican House members in Baltimore, the other is Jimmy Kimmel taking on Jay Leno.

By the way, as much as Obama’s virtuoso performance deserves rave reviews, Jimmy Kimmel’s latest cut down of Jay Leno gets closer to the American zeitgeist.

Here’s the difference: Kimmel cut to the quick, his finger jiggling with a hot and funny political nerve. Obama reasoned and countered effectively but let his opponent walk away. What’s missing is the verbal conversation ender, the knock out.  What’s frustrating is that Obama deliberately wants the conversation to continue; he wants deliberative discourse in a very Habermasian way. But in the time it takes to teach his opponents the rules of deliberative discourse, his party might well lose the next election or two.

We know the set-up. For the last year, the GOP has taunted President Obama and given him barely a vote from stimulus to healthcare. People without health insurance quite literally are dying while HCR lingers in congress’ chambers. In the meantime, the GOP questions the legitimacy of Obama’s leadership, suggesting he wasn’t born proper in the USA– now compare that with questions of the legitimacy of the Bush presidency in 2000. Bush stole the 2000 election; Obama was born. get the difference?

Obama showed some pluck as he strategically and effectively– I think– boxed Republicans into working with him or being hi-jacked by Tea partiers.  It was a job well done, but was so subtle as to have been lost on many viewers whose support he was courting.

Switch to Kimmel who just slams Jay Leno over the frivolous late night wars. No comparison in gravity of situation. yes comparison in how it was handled. If Obama had only had a little more Kimmel in him, he would have registered a sharp warning to an equally infantile audience that he knows how to dance his finger on the nerve of the  GOP. Case in point: Obama could have and should have reminded Jason Chaffitz, a patronizing questioner of the president, for hissuccessful efforts to remove full body scanners from airports before the underwear bomber incident. Were it not for Chaffitz, the president should have said, people like the underwear bomber would not be able to board commercial aircraft.,

Kimmel would have done that mercilessly and with humor. Obama won the exchanges and the others too– he showed he was the smartest person in that Baltimore ballroom; but he almost invited infantile GOP behavior to continue. Kimmel’s warning to Leno was clear. I am going to eviscerate you. would have worked in that Baltimore ballroom, especially once the cameras started rolling.


ICE & Immigrant Detention Reform

As the Obama Administration enters its second year, and as comprehensive immigration reform struggles to remain a viable policy initiative for 2010, Assistant Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security and head of ICE, John Morton spoke recently at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington DC.

In his remarks, Morton emphasized his commitment to reform immigrant detention, which remains a laudable if overdue goal. The Administration has been advocating detention reform for most of 2009 (in August and October) and most of its initiatives remain unimplemented.  According to Morton, ICE detains about 32,000 immigrants on any given day. Immigrants are held in a vast network of over 300 most penal detention facilities (private, county, state and federal) around the country.

This is the nut of the problem: the federal government has lost control over an immigrant detention system that incarcerates a father of five whose visa expired along with a violent felon who happens to be an immigrant. Violent criminals sit alongside nonviolent offenders, and felons sit along side persons who merely violated civil (administrative) law provisions.

In violation of its own bail standards, ICE continues to detain immigrants whose record shows they are neither a flight risk nor a risk to their community. These immigrants should not be detained.

Thousands of detained immigrants should not be detained, and thousands more who are detained are being held under abusive conditions that imperil their safety and violate due process in conditions that are cruel and unusual.

A big part of the problem has to due with private prisons and the neo-liberal logic that informs detention practices even in public facilities. The logic encourages detention of immigrants for the purpose of keeping beds filled, even for immigrants who pose no risk. The logic condones secrecy and discourages public accountability.

According to John Morton, ICE endeavors to change this logic; it has plans to render a more transparent and accountable detention system; it plans greater oversight and monitoring of private detention practices and more vigilant review of contracts. But, and this is a big but, Morton suggests no concrete effort to terminate contracts with private facilities nor turn away from this underlying action opriented system of ideas that has rendered the system so unaccountable and secretive.

In other words, as extensive as John Morton’s plans for reforming immigration detention sound, they remain glued to a logic that is bound to socially reproduce these same shortcomings down the road.

Immigrants deserve better.

Support Tom Udall’s “Constitution Option”

This post is a quick follo-up from my post 2 days ago. Last evening Senator Tom Udall told Rachel Maddow that the Senate can indeed change the filibuster rule with 51 votes, and that this could occur at the start of the next legislative session.

Citing Article I. Sec V of the Constitution, Udall refers to this change as the “Constitution Option” (Udall\’s Constitution Option

I would like to urge members of the senate to go on record supporting the Udall option. Any  senator up for re-election this year who opposes it should be primaried.  It’s that important.

Could Senate kill Filibuster w/ 51 votes?

During the last couple days I have been talking socially with lawyers, policy analysts and scholars about the possibility of the Senate revising the filibuster 60vote rule with only 51 votes.

Here’s the theory. Please tell me what you think and help flesh this out? Facts appreciated please!

At the start of every new congress, the senate votes on its organization rule which deals with committee assignments and breakdown between dems and repubs., and other procedural business dictating how the new senate will conduct business.

Prior to its organizing rule, however, the senate can vote on other matters– And such votes cannot be filibustered.  What is this called?  The votes are enacted by a 51 vote majority, which means the senate can change the 60 vote filibuster rule with 51 votes.


Question: Is this real?

And, if this is real, should it not be publicized, trumpeted by Olbermann and Maddow.

Of course there is a political discussion to be had here about whether such a change in the filibuster rule really is in the democrats best interest. Of course, it doesn’t work for them politically once they lose their majority. Of course.

But still,

Assuming the desire to overcome the current impasse in the senate, shouldn’t we consider primarying any democrat who doesn’t sign on to this vote.

Citizens United increases challenge facing CIR

It seems pretty clear to me that the lone beneficiary of the Citizens United decision yesterday when it comes to CIR is the Chamber of Commerce and big business.

The biggest elephant in the immigration debate room was just injected with steroids. The CoC position is going to be hard for progressives to beat.

It would like to grow guest worker programs and social controls that socially reproduce a docile immigration labor force. On the plus side, it is likely to oppose the harshest draconian enforcement measures, and anything else that tends to mitigate the likelihood of a free flowing immigrant labor force.  The CoC favors a path to citizenship, if for no other reason than to prime the pump and relieve the social tension that surrounds having millions of undocumented workers and immigrant enforcers creating flak and bad press  around post industrial tourism industries around the country.

For people on the left, like me, who oppose an immigrant social control state, and favor immigrant and human rights, this decision makes our work that much more challenging.

Kucana v Holder: Just a Bit Less Court Stripping

This week the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Kucana v Holder. The Court unanimously recognized the right of judicial review in motion to reopen immigration removal decisions. (Justice Alito wrote a separate concurrence) The decision is a victory for immigrant rights, the rule of law and the principle of judicial review.

The decision is also a delusional win of sorts because the case revolved around a provision that was never written into statute. In short, the Court is really just saying the 7th circuit had no business reading discretionary powers that congress never intended.

And I dare say these aspects of the Court’s decision were incidental to the Roberts’ Court commitment to the principle of judicial restraint.  After a broad defense of the principle of judicial review, the opinion really emphasized the notion of judicial deference to congress.

The Court reversed the seventh circuit in part because even the administration wanted it to (almost a case w/o a controversy). In larger part, it reversed because  almost reactionary court stripping provision in the 1996 IIRIRA immigration law forgot to include motions to reopen removal decisions by the BIA. According to the Court, it could not read into Congress’ intent in the absence of specific wording in this IIRIRA provision. Thus, even though AG regulations  subsequently included motions to reopen, the Court refused to read these regulations into the statute.

Of concern is that the Court would likely have reached a different conclusion and permitted court stripping in motions to reopen removal decisions if only congress had included these words back in 1996.  Further, this decisions leaves open the question about the constitutionality of the enumerated court stripping provisions in IIRIRA as well as in AEDPA (1996) and in Real ID.  The larger outcome of jurisdiction stripping in many immigration cases remains on the books. And, immigrants possess no additional rights under the constitution after Kucana.

It is also regrettable that it was incidental to the Court that but for congress’ likely omission in 1996, Mr. Kucana, an Albanian refugee, might well have been returned to an uncertain fate in his homeland. Since the real issue had to do with the Court’s deference to the political branches/ congress, had the IIRIRA included motions to repon in its court stripping provision, Mr. Kucana likely would be back in Albania.

Although the correct decision was made in this case, the Court’s reluctance to include immigration as a constitutional issue keeps immigrants hostage to the whims of poorly scrutinized and often draconian immigration statutes, and an all too deferential court.

The Message from Massachusetts: Go Balloon Boy!

Does anybody realize yet that the state of Mass just elected balloon boy to the U.S. Senate to replace the Senate’s most effective legislator of the 20th century?

Yep. Scott Brown is the shiny tricket de jour that distracts folks from having to seriously deal with the worst recession of our lives, 2 wars, and on and on.

Last evening I saw the first 10 minutes of Scott Brown’s acceptance speech, and it sounded part American Idol and part Sarah Palin Tea Party. After telling his supporters how “available” his daughters were (aren’t we fathers supposed to protect their daughters instead of auctioning them off?), he wanted everyone to know how much he wants to show the president his truck and that he wants to play basketball with the commander in chief. Pretty serious guy, I’d say.

And democratic strongholds, which voted Obama by double digits, also voted for this fellow. What’s up?  Well, I think on one level Mass voters are sorry to see Simon Cowell leaving Idol after this season, and they carried this frustration into the voting booth.

I think they also registered a protest vote. they voted for Obama to create change and so far he hasn’t, and they are saying they are very impatient. Now on the one hand change takes time. 8 years of Bush put america into a pretty deep hole.  One year of Obama is simply not long enough to reach the surface let alone change the trajectory of future politics. fair enough. But there is something more serious going on.

Massachusetts voters are pretty serious about their politics. In my opinion, the vote was a protest against the timidity of the Obama Administration, which is quite evident in terms of several different issues, but is most visible w/ health care.

Thus far, the President has shown poor leadership and he has shown an unwillingness to fight for the progressive core that was responsible for his nomination and election. Say what you will about whether they should have stayed home but stay home they did.

Here’s what we progressives see. A president who was more interested in enticing olympia snow, ben nelson or joe lieberman over to the dem. side than he was interested in creating what could have been landmark legislation, getting close to universal coverage.

Obama never fought for the public option, and he appeared to many of us, to have never fought on hcr at all. Obama said he would roll up his sleaves once the house and senate voted out bills. He has yet to do so visibly.

If Dems are going to hold on the the House and Senate and if Obama is going to be a 2 term president, he needs to show some fight (more than just being able to laugh off a good punch).

The president needs to set a progressive vision and offer up a discourse that can compete with the tea-bagging right.  He needs to show democrats he will not abandon them just to bring joe lieberman or olympia snowe aboard.

Again. It is time to show 1) some fight and 2) some fight for progressive issues and progressive versions of social issue.

Voting for scott brown balloon boy was a protest vote. Had nothing to do with scott brown or the Tea-baggers or martha coakley for that matter. but it was a wake up call!!!