Stop acting stupid

Following in the footsteps of his brother, father, and Ronald Reagan (see video below), former Florida Governor Jeb Bush spoke out again in favor of comprehensive immigration reform and the need for the the Republican Party to change its policy and its rhetoric on immigration. How do they anti-immigration zealots respond? Here’s John Hill of Stand With Arizona:

At a forum on immigration, Bush said Republicans aren’t going to close the gap with Hispanic voters until they “stop acting stupid” by being too “tough” on “immigrants” (the usual code for illegal aliens).

The emphasis is Hill’s, but I’d like to focus on the end of that sentence. “Immigrants” isn’t “code” for anything. It includes legal immigrants — who are themselves victimized by an overreaction to illegal immigration.

Fortunately, as I write this, the Republican National Convention has just aired a video reaching out to Hispanic voters, and Mitt Romney’s son is now speaking Spanish. He’s not the first at the convention to do so. In fact, many of the speakers at the RNC are themselves of Hispanic heritage or otherwise children of immigrants:

Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, spoke about how his father had come to America from Italy at age 7 and worked as a coal miner until he was 72. Ted Cruz, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Texas, spoke of how his father fled Cuba in 1957 with $100 sewn into his underwear and, after arriving in America, worked washing dishes for 50 cents an hour. Nikki Haley, the Republican governor of South Carolina, spoke of her experience as the daughter of immigrants from India. Her parents started a small business out of the living room of their home. Ann Romney, the wife of the presidential candidate, spoke of her father who came to America from Wales at age 15. Mia Love, the Republican mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, is the daughter of parents who came here from Haiti with just $10. The keynote speaker, the governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, spoke of his “Irish father” and “Sicilian mother,” though he did not specify whether they were immigrants.

Language like Hill’s demeans them all. Instead, we should speak as Reagan — and the Bushes — have about immigrants, whether they are documented or not.

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Posted by on August 30, 2012 in Politics, Uncategorized


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Did Scott Brown obstruct DADT repeal?

As part of Think Progress’ “Better Know An Anti-LGBT Senate Candidate” series, Josh Israel examines Scott Brown’s record. I’m happy to see members of the Republican Party — especially alleged moderates and libertarians — taken to task on such vital issues, but one piece of Israel’s analysis doesn’t tell the whole story.

Buried in the middle of a long list of nine bad votes or statements, Israel concedes that Brown supported repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (cue Joe Biden). But careful readers who’ve made it this far are about to be misled.

Israel correctly notes that earlier in 2010, Brown opposed DADT repeal but by December had changed his mind. So far so good.

But, he announced he would not support even an up-or-down vote on the measure in the Senate until after Congress agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

That’s not quite what happened. Brown, along with a united Republican caucus in the Senate during the “lame duck” session in December 2010, informed Senate Majority Leader Reid that they would filibuster “any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers.”  Not only were the Bush tax cuts (and not just “for the wealthy”) set to expire, the federal government was going to run out of money on December 21. From the GOP letter:

With little time left in this Congressional session, legislative scheduling should be focused on these critical priorities. While there are other items that might ultimately be worthy of the Senate’s attention, we cannot agree to prioritize any matters above the critical issues of funding the government and preventing a job-killing tax hike.

Coming off the Tea Party victories in the November elections, the Republicans made the credible case that the Pelosi-Reid Congress had lost its mandate, especially to pass the omnibus spending bill Reid wanted. While Reid could — and did — call a lame duck session to try to enact progressive legislation, he had lost substantial leverage.

Agree or disagree with the Republicans’ positions on tax rates or the budget, they saw an opportunity to hold Reid’s feet to the fire. And it worked. Kind of.*

You see, Scott Brown actually broke the GOP pledge to filibuster everything — and he broke that pledge to support the DADT repeal. That’s right — he did precisely the opposite of what Israel is arguing.

Even after he got his way on tax cuts, Brown joined a filibuster of the first attempt at repeal before ultimately backing the final version.

Israel should follow his own links. As Israel’s link to Crooks & Liars shows, the “first attempt” to repeal DADT came on December 9, as part of a larger defense bill. Despite what Israel says, Brown had not yet had “his way on tax cuts.” A deal may have already been reached outside of Congress, but Harry Reid had not set a vote on the tax cut extension until December 15.  Reid had simply decided to schedule a vote he knew he was going to lose (which both sides do all the time, to arm groups like Think Progress with recorded votes).

If you think I’m just nitpicking here, a deal on the tax cut extension still left the OTHER half of the filibuster threat on the table: The Republicans also wanted to see a continuing resolution to fund the government. The CR finally passed on December 21.

But here’s the thing. Something happened in between December 15 and December 21, a time when the GOP filibuster threat still technically existed.  While it appeared a deal on a CR had been struck, nothing was official, and it wasn’t immediately clear if the Republicans would stick to the filibuster pledge until a vote actually occurred.

On December 18, the Senate invoked cloture on the standalone DADT repeal bill.  And Scott Brown and four other Republicans voted with the Democrats (two more conservative Senators, John Ensign and Richard Burr, upheld the filibuster pledge but voted to repeal DADT on the final vote).

That’s hardly a case of “obstruction” by Brown. Reid and the Republicans were engaged in a game of chicken on tax cuts and the CR, and DADT repeal got caught up in it (which is actually what Harry Reid wanted to happen). But at the end of the day, Scott Brown did the right thing.

*While the GOP got both its tax cut extension and a short-term CR. But Harry Reid also managed to pass many significant pieces of legislation, including DADT repeal. As Lindsey Graham put it, “When it’s all going to be said and done, Harry Reid has eaten our lunch.”

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Posted by on August 29, 2012 in Politics


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I hate, hate, hate this list

At The Atlantic, Jen Poll compiled a list of readers’ submissions of “bad” words, whatever that’s supposed to mean.  The grammar-obsessives and, well, just plain oddballs made some expected and unexpected (at least to me) choices.

Apparently (yes, people, I use arguably unnecessary adjectives. Get over it.), both moist and damp are hated.

Poll links to a New Yorker post arguing that slacks and trousers have “overstayed their welcome.”  Interestingly, one (at least I hope only one) Atlantic reader submitted pants. I guess that leaves us with longer shorts or leg shirts to describe leg coverings?

Another Atlantic reader complains about use of “best” as a valediction, especially in email:

I got backlash about best as an email signoff (I use it) because, I was told, “1. It’s false. That really isn’t your best…the best you can do is an email? 2. It’s like the faux stand-in for sincerely, like you think you’re giving me a better word than what your third grade teacher taught you, but really, all you’ve given me is best. 3. You would never say best in person.”

Would you ever say sincerely in person either? Also, the first point is completely off-base. As a farewell in a letter, best is short for “all the best” or “best wishes.”

The worst submission, however, is webinar. The justification? “One of those awful ‘new media’ words, like weblog and bloggerati.” How dare we have concise, specific words to describe new or updated things or concepts. I’m reminded of Thomas Jefferson’s letter to Joseph Milligan:

Indeed, the horrors of Neologism, which startle the purist, have given no alarm to the translator. Where brevity, perspicuity, and even euphony can be promoted by the introduction of a new word, it is an improvement to the language. It is thus the English language has been brought to what it is; one-half of it having been innovations, made at different times, from the Greek, Latin, French, and other languages. And is it the worse for these? Had the preposterous idea of fixing the language been adopted by our Saxon ancestors, of Pierce Plowman, of Chaucer, of Spenser, the progress of ideas must have stopped with that of the language. On the contrary, nothing is more evident than that as we advance in the knowledge of new things, and of new combinations of old ones, we must have new words to express them. Were Van Helmont, Stane, Scheele, to rise from the dead at this time, they would scarcely understand one word of their own science.. Would it have been better, then, to have abandoned the science of Chemistry, rather than admit innovations in its terms? What a wonderful accession of copiousness and force has the French language attained, by the innovations of the last thirty years! And what do we not owe to Shakespeare for the enrichment of the language, by his free and magical creation of words? In giving a loose to Neologism, indeed, uncouth words will sometimes be offered; but the public will judge them, and receive or reject, as sense or sound shall suggest, and authors will be approved or condemned according to the use they make of this license, as they now are from their use of the present vocabulary.

Language does not exist on its own, but as it is used by real human beings engaged in communication.

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Posted by on August 11, 2012 in Language


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A journalist-involved story

Guest-blogging at The Agitator, Maggie McNeill juxtaposes headlines to two blog posts about the same incident.

The Los Angeles Times reports “Angry Anaheim Crowd Threw Bottles at Police, Set Fires on Streets,” while according to Reason, “Anaheim Cops Shoot Rubber Bullets, Unleash Dog on Crowd Protesting Police Shooting”

Each headline paints a picture, and many readers will see nothing more, especially those of the former (stories about law enforcement abuse are common — and popular — at Reason). As McNeill writes, “One would scarcely know they were talking about the same thing.” But the first headline isn’t simply one-sided. It’s a prelude to a truly sloppy piece of journalism. Let’s do a close reading of what follows.

Anaheim police were investigating a violent melee Saturday night between police officers and an angry crowd.

Notice the disconnect between the headline and first paragraph. Passive readers will only see the angry crowd.

Authorities said the crowd threw bottles and set fires at an intersection, and police used non-lethal force to disperse them.

The first half of this sentence is noticeably more specific than the second half. “Non-lethal force” comes in many shapes and sizes.

It was unclear why the officers first approached the men, but [Sgt. Bob Dunn of the Anaheim Police Department] Dunn said they gave chase and one of the officers followed one of the men to the front of an apartment complex in the 700 block of North Anna Drive where the officer-involved shooting occurred.

It was unclear? Did the reporter ask a follow-up question? Did the police refuse to comment? Write that. Moreover, a journalist should refrain from using the phrase “officer-involved shooting” unless it’s a direct quotation. At best, it’s a euphemism. What was the officer’s involvement? The officer SHOT someone. If someone else shot a cop, would either the police or the press refer to an “officer-involved shooting”?

Maybe this is standard for the LAT. I hear there was a controversial comedian-involved joke about rape recently.

The man who was shot has not been identified and was pronounced dead at 7 p.m., authorities said.

I love the passive voice, don’t you?

One harrowing moment was when a police dog somehow got free from an officer’s car and went at several people. Dunn said it was unclear if anyone had been bitten or injured.

Did the dog open the door himself? Is this a deleted scene from Turner and Hooch?

“The officer was quickly able to get the dog back into the vehicle,” Dunn said.

Is there an opposing point of view here, or are we just going to quote Sgt. Dunn over and over again? Nine paragraphs deep.

Residents said they are demanding answers from the Anaheim police chief about the shooting.

“We were all waiting for him to come and talk to the community and give us an explanation. Why kill this man?” resident Yesenia Rojas told the Orange County Register, which also reported that some in the crowd said they were hurt by an escaped police dog.

The Orange County Register conducted some actual journalism. Seriously, click that link. The difference is night and day.

I emailed the LAT reporter but have not received a reporter-involved reply.

Update: The real story gets worse.

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Posted by on July 23, 2012 in Journalism, Justice


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