BETTER PAPERS, PLEASE: Also cable!

TUESDAY, JUNE 26, 2012

We are a primitive people: Intellectually, we are a primitive people.

Just consider the chaos which reigned on cable TV last night. This chaos concerned the Supreme Court’s decision on the Arizona immigration law.

This famous state law, SB-1070, has been center stage in the national discourse for more than two years. Four provisions of that state law were under review by the Court.

Four is not a large number. And yet, when three provisions were struck down and one provision was upheld, chaos reigned in the land of cable. (This morning’s newspapers aren’t much clearer.) All night long, multimillionaire TV stars struggled to explain what had happened. The greatest joke of them all came into play, the joke called “Goldberg’s Law:”

The man with one watch always knows the time. The man with two watches is never quite sure.

If you watched two cable shows last night, you may have been thrown into high confusion. In some cases, you may have been thrown into high confusion if you watched just one cable show, so eager were some of the hosts to recite conflicting narratives.

But one basic point was clear: Given two years to examine this law, the folk who play journalists on TV had a very hard time explaining what had happened. We are a primitive people.

If you watched The One True Liberal Channel, your evening began in a lachrymose way. As soon as his program began, Chris Matthews played tape of Harry Reid on the floor of the senate.

Reid described the part of the law the court did not strike down:
MATTHEWS (6/25/12): Gentlemen, I want you to look at this bit now. It’s a quote from Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader. He had strong words about the provision the court left standing today. Let's listen to the leader.

REID (videotape): I just say to you, Mr. President, and to anyone within the sound of my voice, someone with my skin color or yours, I don’t think you’re going to be carrying your immigration papers with you every place you go. But if you’re in Arizona and you speak with a little bit of an accent or your skin color’s brown, you better have your papers with you. That’s unfortunate.
For us pseudo-liberals, that felt very good. But what in the world was Reid talking about? Most people in Arizona (or in Reid’s own state of Nevada) can’t “carry their immigration papers with them every place they go.” Being American citizens, they don’t have “immigration papers.”

That’s true for citizens with Reid’s “skin color” and for those whose “skin color’s brown.” That’s true for the person to whom Reid was speaking, the senate’s presiding officer. (We don’t know who that was.)

On its face, Reid’s lachrymose statement doesn’t parse real well. But it drives a favorite narrative, the “papers please” narrative in which our tribe has taken so much delight. The rules controlling use of this narrative are known by all:

You must never use Hitler allusions. Unless you’re discussing SB-1070, in which you must utter phrases from Hollywood Nazi movies.

What exactly did Reid mean in making that lachrymose statement? Because newspapers have done a very poor job explaining the workings of SB-1070, we would guess that very few people could work their way through his statement. Under terms of SB-1070, what sorts of “papers” must citizens carry? How about non-citizens who are in the country legally? Under terms of SB-1070, what sorts of “papers” must they carry? And is there any normal sense in which you’d refer to those “papers” as papers?

We think we know how to answer those questions. But we can’t say we’re entirely sure.

You see, our major news orgs are very bad at explaining things. They’re even bad at explaining topics which have been center stage for two solid years. And in the midst of all the confusion, people like Reid issue murky statements designed to spread loathing and fear.

Back to what we learned on cable last night:

At 8 PM, Big Ed came on. Within the first few minutes of his show, he seemed to make contradictory assessments of the day’s events. Governor Brewer’s law had been left for dead. And the Nazis were in control:
SCHULTZ (6/25/12): Right-wingers can no longer hide behind states’ rights when it comes to creating radical immigration laws. A ruling from the highest court in the land proves states can only go so far. The Supreme Court ruled 5-3 in favor of striking down most of the provisions in Arizona’s controversial immigration law, Senate Bill 1070...But the ruling also keeps intact the most controversial part of the law, the “papers please” provision, allowing law enforcement to check the immigration status of people they detain.

[...]

Republican Governor Jan Brewer jumped into face-saving mode late this afternoon. The law she champions basically got smoked by the Supreme Court. She put on a happy face today… I mean, Jan Brewer is the Baghdad Bob of right-wing immigration laws. I mean, she says the court upheld the heart of Senate Bill 1070, but it only upheld the right for the law enforcement to ask for documentation. Brewer is proud of one key achievement, the ability to racially profile suspected undocumented immigrants.

[...]

I want to start with the Arizona law and this ruling by the Supreme Court. It still says racial profiling is going to happen and it doesn’t do anything to curb that. Are you troubled by that?
“Right-wingers can no longer hide behind states’ rights when it comes to creating radical immigration laws,” Big Ed triumphantly said. And not only that! The ruling by the Court “says racial profiling is going to happen and it doesn’t do anything to curb that!”

Why was Big Eddie so unclear? You had to sympathize with the big lug! Last night, hosts on the One True Channel were in the grip of competing narratives, all of which they wanted to shout to the heavens:

They wanted to slam the Roberts court as being hopelessly politicized. But the Roberts court had just struck down three out of the four provisions.

They wanted to say the provision which wasn’t struck down reminds them of Hollywood Nazi films. But that provision had been upheld by a unanimous vote.

They wanted to say that Brewer was nuts for claiming success—a genuine Baghdad Bob. But they also wanted to say that her “racial profiling” stands.

We thought Big Eddie was hard to follow. But good lord! By the end of the evening on this channel, Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell were authoring these assertions:
MADDOW: The Supreme Court ruling on that case today, on Arizona's SB-1070 is described in the Beltway press like a mixed bag or a compromise ruling, both sides getting something. Despite spin to that effect from the right, that is not at all what this ruling was...This was not a mixed bag of a ruling. This was a ruling striking down the Arizona “papers please” law.

O’DONNELL: The provision that is on thin legal ice is not the so-called "show me your papers" provision...The most egregious of the provisions, the "show me your papers" provision was, indeed, struck down completely by the Supreme Court today.
Say what? And did Goldberg just check his third watch?

Four provisions were under review—and four is not a large number. But by the end of the evening, this channel’s hosts couldn’t even agree on which of the four provisions was the “papers please” clause!

At 8 PM, Big Eddie said the “papers please provision” had been left intact. At 9 PM, Maddow said the court had struck down “the papers please law.”

At 10 PM, Lawrence said the provision which was upheld wasn’t the “show me your papers provision.” That provision had been struck down, he loudly said.

So it goes when your “press corps” takes two years to study a topic—to study an extremely high-profile law in which only four parts were at issue.

We are a very primitive people. We know how to posture and pose and shout slogans. In our degraded current state, we know how to do little else.

Tomorrow: On Fox, “The Five” are confused. Also, this morning’s newspapers

31 comments:

  1. Reid seems to be upset that Americans will have to carry identification with them. He says that's racist!

    Yet, accordeing to a sign posted at my local medical clinic, a new federal regulation requires that all patients show a picture ID. Since this requirement is new, I assume it was instituted during the current admnisistration.

    Does that mean that Barack Obama is a racist? Of course not. I think it just means that the fuss over SB 1070 is contrived.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If the sign posted at your clinic is accurate (which I doubt by the way) then I think that the regulation at issue is outrageous and should be struck down.

      Is it not offensive to you that Arizona expects you to carry identification with you at all times?

      Do you not see how people who don't have or want ID's might be offended that because of the color of their skin they now have to carry to personal identification everywhere they go?

      Do you not see how people might feel offended and indignant about being hassled by law enforcement based on their perceived racial characteristics?

      Do you not see the potential for massive abuse by local law enforcement who now have the power to incarcerate anyone who doesn't have identification?

      What about people who cannot afford to obtain ID?

      What about homeless people?

      Or do you just not care because it doesn't affect you personally?

      Delete
    2. It's not just ID. It's proof of citizenship, particularly if you are brown-skinned and speak with an accent.

      An American-born such person can be detained by the Arizona cops until he produces his birth certificate.

      You ever try to get a certified copy of your birth certificate?

      Delete
    3. The law specifies that a driver license, among other forms of id, is acceptable.

      Section 2(b) of AZ law 1070 reads:

      A PERSON IS PRESUMED TO NOT BE AN ALIEN WHO IS UNLAWFULLY PRESENT IN THE UNITED STATES IF THE PERSON PROVIDES TO THE LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER OR AGENCY ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:

      1. A VALID ARIZONA DRIVER LICENSE.
      2. A VALID ARIZONA NONOPERATING IDENTIFICATION LICENSE.
      3. A VALID TRIBAL ENROLLMENT CARD OR OTHER FORM OF TRIBAL IDENTIFICATION.
      4. IF THE ENTITY REQUIRES PROOF OF LEGAL PRESENCE IN THE UNITED STATES BEFORE ISSUANCE, ANY VALID UNITED STATES FEDERAL, STATE OR LOCAL GOVERNMENT ISSUED IDENTIFICATION.


      http://senatebill1070.com/arizona-senate-bill-1070/full-text-of-arizona-senate-bill-1070/

      Delete
  2. Bob, why is diversity of opinion about a Supreme Court decision upon which the ink has yet to dry such a bad thing?

    You think we're really that stupid?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You should have read the whole post. There is not difference in opinion but rather a difference in statements about which portion of the law were struck down and which upheld. Whatever their opinions about the decision, highly paid commentators should know enough about the contents of the decision to know what was decided by the court.

      Delete
    2. I agree with the writer who calls this a difference in opinion. I also agree with the sentiment that Bob is playing us for stupid. Bob, if you understand what papers a person might need to produce if they are stopped for matching a suspect description (stop-and-frisk) let us know.

      Last week on Tuesday, June 19, 2012 there was a criticism of Rachel Maddow. I'd like to call attention to two quotes from it: "In all, he [Krugman] answered only three questions from Maddow—and her questions just weren’t all that sharp." and "We’ll return to this hour by the end of the week." The week ended without a return. Bob, I suggest you impose a moratorium on yourself. No more attacks on Maddow until you finish what you started--i.e. a detailed critique explaining why her questions of Krugman were not sharp.

      Delete
    3. What papers?

      Here is the answer:

      A PERSON IS PRESUMED TO NOT BE AN ALIEN WHO IS UNLAWFULLY PRESENT IN THE UNITED STATES IF THE PERSON PROVIDES TO THE LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER OR AGENCY ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:

      1. A VALID ARIZONA DRIVER LICENSE.
      2. A VALID ARIZONA NONOPERATING IDENTIFICATION LICENSE.
      3. A VALID TRIBAL ENROLLMENT CARD OR OTHER FORM OF TRIBAL IDENTIFICATION.
      4. IF THE ENTITY REQUIRES PROOF OF LEGAL PRESENCE IN THE UNITED STATES BEFORE ISSUANCE, ANY VALID UNITED STATES FEDERAL, STATE OR LOCAL GOVERNMENT ISSUED IDENTIFICATION.

      http://senatebill1070.com/arizona-senate-bill-1070/full-text-of-arizona-senate-bill-1070/

      Delete
    4. Thanks for the reference to the law. Now, if a person is in Arizona but is not a resident of Arizona and is not carrying tribal documentation, are there tough cases that fall under clause 4? Suppose you have only a drivers license from a state that does not require proof of legal presence in the United States?

      Delete
  3. New law enforcement guidelines for Arizona:
    It will take several months for law enforcement groups to train their officers. Visitors will be safe until then.

    After that, if you are dark-skinned, with brown hair and brown eyes, do not ride around in a 30 year-old GM vehicle with eight or ten others, do not wear cheap clothing, do not wear long pants, do not wear plaid long-sleeved shirts buttoned all the way to the neck, or tennis shoes or baseball caps, especially when it is above 110°F
    If you have poor command of English, let others do the talking.

    At all costs, avoid these locations:
    1. The parking lots of Walmart, Home Depot, Kmart, and all convenience stores.
    2. 24 hour restaurants that end in -berto’s.
    3. Ranch Market, Food City and dollar stores.
    4. Any used tire outlet.
    5. The lushly landscaped yards of Phoenix-area suburbs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Surely you can add some more racist stereotypes if you put your feeble mind to it.

      Delete
  4. "They wanted to say the provision which wasn’t struck down reminds them of Hollywood Nazi films. But that provision had been upheld by a unanimous vote."

    The court didn't uphold this provision it just allowed it to go into affect. The door for future challenges was left open.

    The coverage of this has been awful which is sad because as Bob notes the press has had months to get it figured out, not to mention they have access to excellent online sources like the SCOTUS blog.

    For a nice summary of this decision, read this:

    http://www.scotusblog.com/2012/06/s-b-1070-in-plain-english/

    ReplyDelete
  5. Meanwhile, back at the ranch.
    The Arizona Republic had extensive coverage of the SCOTUS decision, as it should.

    Both sides claimed victory.

    Wiser heads pointed out not much will be different except an occasional lawsuit if a legal resident is detained for any length of time.
    All this will cost Arizona taxpayers millions of dollars in legal fees and training expenses for the various law enforcement agencies.

    One issue that seemed to be forgotten was that law enforcement agencies could be sued if they did not detain probable "illegals" and notify Federal Immigration agencies.

    The Department of Homeland Security revoked the 287(g) program, which means police must contact ICE to determine if a suspect is here illegally.
    In other words, police can ask about immigration status, but can't do anything about it.

    An HS official said ICE will respond only if the illegal immigrant has committed other crimes, is a repeat immigration violator, or a recent border crosser.
    He added that there is a five year delay for run-of-the-mill violators to go to court, with appeals of up to three years.
    Since it can take up to eight years for a court to order deportation, ICE won't take action.

    One point no one has mentioned is that Arizona jails and prisons are overfilled already. There is simply no place to put more prisoners. Prisoners are farmed out of state at taxpayer expense, and Gov. Brewer wants more private prisons to be built in Arizona.

    The best part (to me, anyway) was the Steve Benson cartoon of Jan Brewer shouting, "The Supreme Court's ruling on SB 1070 is a victory!!"
    In the background are 2 smiling Latino Voters adding "...for Obama in November!"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Arizona Republic? Don't you know there is only one newspaper in America? If the NYT gets it wrong, we're all lost.

      Delete
  6. Ryan from Las VegasJune 26, 2012 at 1:51 PM

    At one point yesterday, the NYTimes had two stories right next to each other about the decision. One stated that the S Ct had upheld the "major part" of the bill - the other a story about how the bill creates only a "narrow opening" for state regulation of immigration. No wonder people are confused . . .
    Confusion and politics aside, it seems pretty clear to me that the decision dealt a big blow to Arizona. The decision basically says that regulating immigration is not the states' business. It strikes down three provisions that made it illegal to (a) not carry immigration papers, to (b) apply for a job as an illegal immigrant, and that (c) allowed the state police to arrest people for immigration violations.

    The only provision left is a requirement that the police check the immigration status of people they have already detained for other reasons. But this provision, by itself, doesn't do much of anything -- at most, it allows the police to collect information that they can then pass along to the feds. Because the other provisions were struck down, the local police can't do anything on their own.

    And even then, Supreme Court didn't the say that the law was OK -- just that it was wrong to bar the law without seeing how it would actually work in practice. The opinion impliesthat if the immigration investigation actually inconveniences anyone (ie, by prolonging their detention, or if it leads to racial profiling) then it could violate the constitution.

    This is a solid win for the federal government. Descriptions to the contrary are the work of conservatives who want to claim a "victory" over Obama, and liberals who like to complain about the Supreme Court.

    ReplyDelete
  7. A strange kind of upholding. It was my understanding, from where I forget, that the "papers please" was left alone because it had not been tested and therefore was not properly challenged in a way the court could address. It seems there was something said about the court being eager to revisit the issue again when some cases had arisen. Who wants to be the guinea pig?

    ReplyDelete
  8. "The One True Liberal Channel"


    Really, Bob? You sound just like those right wingers who refer to Obama as "The One."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's the problem with this report?

      All the factual confusion on the part of the highly-compensated clowns at MSNBC is mere trivia it would seem...

      But calling it, in ironic mockery, "The One True Liberal Channel" -- that gets your goat?

      The funny? It was probably *meant* to get your goat!

      Delete
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