I Couldn’t Watch

I sat through three of the four “pre-Iraqi-election” Bush speeches. I should get a medal for that. I can’t take any more, though.

Commentary can be found here: Ezra Klein, AMERICAblog, and firedoglake.

Here’s a post by Amanda at Pandagon that’s not about the speech, but read it anyway.

Steve Gilliard has two speech posts, here and here. That second one is gonna really piss off the wankers.

Update update: Oliver Willis asks, “Can anyone tell me why he looked like he was directing airline traffic?” I didn’t watch, but other recent Bush TV appearances made me wonder if they’ve adjusted his meds.

Lilies of the Field

I’ve lost track of how many billions of dollars have been spent on Hurricane Katrina. But because the world is what it is, it’s a certainty that some people are getting rich. And some people aren’t.

Manuel Roig-Franzia wrote in today’s Washington Post

The come-on was irresistible: Hop in the truck. Go to New Orleans. Make a pile of cash.

Arturo jumped at it. Since that day when he left Houston, more than two months ago, he has slept on the floors of moldy houses, idled endlessly at day-laborer pickup stops and second-guessed himself nearly every minute. …

… Arturo, a dour Mexican from Michoacan who did not want to disclose his last name for fear of deportation, stands at the nexus of the post-Hurricane Katrina labor crisis in New Orleans. A city desperate for workers is filling with desperate workers who either cannot find jobs or whose conditions are so miserable, and whose salaries are so low, that they become discouraged and leave.

Why would this be true? There’s a bunch of money, there’s work that needs to be done, there’s a whole mess of people — legal workers — who are out of work and need paychecks. Why are these elements not coming together harmoniously?

Part of the equation, we are told, is that the illegals are willing to take jobs that the native-born are unwilling to do. But let’s look:

At a New Orleans town hall meeting in Atlanta, displaced black civil rights activist Carl Galmon complained: “They’re bringing in foreign workers from South America, Central America and Mexico, paying them $5 an hour sometimes for 80 hours a week. They are undercutting the American labor force in New Orleans.”…

…For those who find work, conditions can be abominable, with laborers such as Rico Barrios and his wife, Guadalupe Garcia, slashing through the cough-inducing mold on walls in flooded Lakeview with only thin masks to shield their lungs, even though she is pregnant. “It’s hard,” said Barrios, who is from Mexico City, his face glistening with sweat.

Call me crazy, but seems to me that if some contractor offered a living wage and safer working conditions — proper masks come to mind — and helped workers find housing, then I bet they’d get plenty of applications. These contractors are getting billions in federal contracts. It’s not like these are startup companies operating at a loss until they get products on the shelves. They’re being paid to provide a service.

Seems to me the law of supply and demand would push those paychecks up a little higher. Why would anybody in America be expected to ruin their health for $5 an hour?

Roig-Franzia interviewed a number of bureaucrats and contractors who called for a change in the law so that “guest workers” like Arturo could be brought into the country legally. But I keep thinking that if the goal is to bring New Orleans back to life — which may not be the goal the Bush Administration has in mind, but let’s pretend — wouldn’t it make sense to be sure some of those billions of federal dollars were used to pay decent wages to a whole lot of American citizens who need jobs? Who would then turn around and use their wages to buy groceries and shoes and toasters and thereby help retail businesses get back on their feet?

Whenever you hear some well-manicured white guy say “our people won’t take the hard jobs, so we have to bring in foreign workers,” what he’s really saying is that “our people” aren’t desperate enough to be exploited like slaves.

In fact, according to this article in last week’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a whole lot of native-born Americans are hard at work cleaning up after Katrina:

Drivers from across the country have come to cash in on the cleanup.

“We ain’t getting rich, but we’re working seven days a week,” said Tommy Whitley, who arrived from St. Augustine, Fla., three months ago. “They’re supposed to let us go home a couple of days before Christmas.” …

… A subculture of entrepreneurs has sprung up in response.

Hundreds of homemade signs advertising cleanup and “home gutting” services are nailed to power poles, bearing phone numbers like “1-888-AID-MOLD.”

Some of these workers are working for contractors. But one suspects a lot of enterprising Americans went into business for themselves because they wouldn’t take $5 an hour.

I know the big shots are always going to try to maximize their personal profits by getting labor as cheaply as they can. But I can’t believe we’re even talking about bringing in foreign workers to work for $5 an hour. This is insane.

They Hate Our Freedoms

Mouthpieces for the VRWC are warning darkly that challenges to the President’s powers will not be tolerated. They are calling for an investigation … of the New York Times. It is legal for the executive branch to secretly authorize spying on citizens, because the White House says so.

Bottom line: Righties hate our freedoms.

Today’s Self-Parody Award goes to the blog Let Freedom Ring, which proudly displays the blurb “The blog where pursuing liberty is everything.” You guessed it — the blogger declares that Bush has the power to wiretap without oversight, and the “leakers” at the New York Times need to be investigated.

I’m listening to the Usual Bobbleheads on ABC’s This Week, however, and even Cokie, Sam, George, and George et al. understand that Bush is engaging in a dangerous usurpation of power. They are assuming Bush meant well by it but is in the wrong nonetheless. When these boneheads get a clue, you know the Right is experiencing a massive talking point failure.

What’s more interesting to me is that the wiretap story has sucked all the air out of the Iraqi election story. We’ve not been reduced to absolute despotism, yet. So do your bit and write your representative and senators to let them know you believe the Constitution still applies.

Today the argument turns on whether the president acted legally or illegally. Bloggers across the spectrum are becoming “expert” in all manner of statutes they probably never heard of before yesterday. And some have resorted to, um, revising the statutes to be sure Dear Leader’s acts remain within legal bounds. Blogger Glenn Greenwald writes,

Defenders of the Bush Administration are resorting to outright distortions and deliberate falsehoods about the Foreign Intelligence Security Act (FISA) in order to argue that the Administration’s warrantless eavesdropping on U.S. citizens complies with the mandates of that statute. To do so, they are simply lying — and that term is used advisedly — about what FISA says by misquoting the statute in order to make it appear that the Administration’s clearly illegal behavior conforms to the statute.

This is a real case study in how total falsehoods are disseminated by a single right-wing blogger who is then linked to and approvingly cited by large, highly partisan bloggers, which then cause the outright falsehoods to be bestowed with credibility and take on the status of a conventionally accepted talking point in defense of the Administration.

A blogger named Al Maviva wrote a staggeringly dishonest post which he said was based upon what he called a “little legal research” concerning FISA. He then proceeded to deliberately mis-quote the statute in order to reach the patently false conclusion that “the President probably does have the power to order NSA to monitor suspects, without a warrant, in terrorism cases.”

This post was then cited and linked to, in some cases with approval, by several large conservative bloggers, and thereafter wormed its way up to the conservative motherload of Internet traffic, Instapundit, who approvingly linked to it. I have no doubt that — thanks to law professor Instapundit and these others Administration defenders — tens of thousands of people (at least) have now read this “legal analysis” defending the legality of the Administration’s conduct which is based on a glaringly unethical distortion of the language of FISA.

Wow, righties lied. That’s like, so, what they always do.

[Update: John Cole of Balloon Juice, who ran a correction to the Al Maviva link, says I called him a “liar.” Well, not specifically, but I can see why he might have taken offense. I apologize to John Cole. We have all been duped from time to time. I don’t apologize to Al Maviva, however. And this blog has long chronicled the pattern of misdirection and misinformation that typifies rightie “political discussion.”]

Greenwald, an attorney, continues to explain what the statute actually does say. Put simply, “the Administration engaged in surveillance in clear and deliberate violation of FISA.” See also Laura R.

The question is, why? From an editorial in today’s Washington Post:

Mr. Bush said yesterday said that the program helped address the problem of “terrorists inside the United States . . . communicating with terrorists abroad.” Intelligence officials, the Times reported, grew concerned that going to the FISA court was too cumbersome for the volume of cases cropping up all at once as major al Qaeda figures — and their computers and files — were captured. But FISA has a number of emergency procedures for exigent circumstances. If these were somehow inadequate, why did the administration not go to Congress and seek adjustments to the law, rather than contriving to defy it? And why in any event should the NSA — rather than the FBI, the intelligence component responsible for domestic matters — be doing whatever domestic surveillance needs be done?

The obvious answer is that the NSA surveillance served some political agenda. I strongly suspect (i.e., am damn sure) that if all the facts were known, we’d find out that some surveillance was conducted on Bush critics and political opponents, not enemies of the U.S.A.

A few quick points:

First, several rightie bloggers are comparing the New York Times “leak” of the FISA violations with the Bush Administration leak of Valerie Plame’s classified status. If the latter was wrong, so is the former, they say. But the morality of the acts depend on whose interests are served — the powerful, or the people? When the powerful use “leaks” to manipulate the news and mislead the people, that’s wrong. But when a newspaper uncovers illegal activity by the powerful, that’s why there is a First Amendment.

Second, no one is saying that the government should not conduct surveillance on possible terrorists. That’s not the issue. The issue is that Bush usurpsed a power that law and the Constitution do not give him.

Third, Democrats should use this episode to remind voters that conservatives don’t believe in a right to privacy.

See Doctor Who at Kos, Avedon, and Billmon for more.