Thursday, March 07, 2013

Handshakes, assholes, and idiots

By Frank Moraes

The Associated Press yesterday: "Senate Republicans block Caitlin Halligan, Nominee to DC Appeals Court for Second Time." She got enough votes, of course. It is just de rigueur that Republicans filibuster her.

So what was wrong with her? I know: we don't expect there to have been anything wrong with her other than that a Democratic president nominated her. The truth is that if you asked the Senators who filibustered why they were against her, they would not know. They were just told by their leadership that Halligan was one of them there lib'rals, and so it was a no go.

The official reason for the filibuster was simply that halligan was "too liberal." And what made her such a liberal firebrand?

Citing her work on lawsuits against gun manufacturers and on behalf of illegal immigrants, Republicans said Halligan is too liberal to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The National Rifle Association opposed her nomination.

This is the usual reason that Republicans are against judges. It has nothing to do with abortion or "judicial activism" (which is what conservative jurists do better today than liberals have ever). It all comes down to corporate profits. If the lobbying organization of gun manufacturers (that is: the NRA) is against her, well, we can't have that. We can't have someone on the court who might protect the rights of individuals; that might lead to democracy!

It all makes me think back to the second Reid-McConnell handshake deal. Is Reid happy? Is the deal all that he had hoped for? Is he pleased that Boehner can make political hay out of the fact that he, Harry Reid, wasn't able to pass a Sequester deal because of another de rigueur filibuster? I really want to know! Because I know the day is coming when Reid will admit, "These two young, fine senators said it was time to change the rules of the Senate, and we didn't." I think we should just put it on an infinite loop. 


Eventually, the Republicans will control the Senate and they will reform if not eliminate the filibuster. Democrats will run around claiming foul. But the new Senate Majority Leader will say something like this, "I thought Harry Reid was an idiot when he didn't kill the filibuster." And all the Democrats will sit in private a fume. "Next time, we won't trust these assholes!" But of course, they will. They're Democrats.

Old joke that seems appropriate: "When Democratic Party strategists order tanks, they always ask for a model with 5 speeds: 4 in reverse and 1 that goes forward in case they are attacked from behind." 


Greg Sargent notes that one of the reforms that Merkley and Udall wanted was a requirement that those filibustering get 41 votes to continue rather than requiring the majority to get 60 votes to break it. Today, the Republicans would not have been able to sustain the filibuster, because they only got 41 votes due to Reid's procedural vote; they would only have received 40 otherwise, and Halligan would have gotten her vote. Of course, as Jonathan Bernstein notes, one of the four absent Republicans may have come in if the rules had changed. But that's part of the point: filibustering doesn't inconvenience the minority in the least. If none of the Republicans had voted, they still would have gotten to keep their filibuster, because non-votes just mean "Filibuster!"

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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  • The NRA is injecting itself more and more into nominations, and the fact that her nomination is getting held up is evidence of the hideous power that the NRA has.

    Halligan had the audacity when she was NY Solicitor General to argue that gun manufacturers could be sued when one of their products was used in an act of violence. That is an entirely reasonable proposition, but not in the crazy world of the NRA.

    By Blogger Jeff S., J.D., at 5:13 PM  

  • I have to disagree with that proposition. On what legal basis would you assign responsibility to manufacturers of guns and only guns? Why not every product by the same justification? How many manufacturers of anything else could be sued because of the gross negligence, illegal ownership or illegal misuse of their products?

    If the only possible use for firearms were felony homicide, it might be a reasonable proposal, but that's not a true or honest or reasonable statement or even above ridicule, even if it's often and passionately repeated.

    Since a huge proportion of guns used in crimes are obtained illegally and all are by definition used illegally, I see no legal basis and no precedent whatever for such suits. I suspect the courts would unanimously agree.

    Were it to become precedent, become possible to sue a steel mill for selling the steel that made the gun the burglar stole to shoot a victim would you extend liability that far? Why not?
    Really this idea reductios itself stright to absurdum faster than a speeding bullet and without my help

    Really, no car manufacturer would risk selling a car, lest someone use it to exceed the speed limit, no one could build a toaster lest someone take it in the shower and Ginsu would have to flee the country by night.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 11:42 AM  

  • And another thing, if we want to promote effective and enforceable and constitutional gun control -- and we do -- I think it's time to lighten up on the dependency of bogeymen. This has always been a country that loves guns and the NRA would have a handful of members if that were not so. America will accept limitations on firepower, but does not want to be disarmed and that's very obvious to most people outside of academia and Urban California.

    Yes, they're fear mongers, hyperbolists and often just plain damn liars, but they get away with it because America loves guns; loves to hunt, shoot skeet with them and collect them; put food on the table with them. America likes to be able to defend themselves against violent men and by selling fear and panic, the NRA prompts them to buy guns, but by making it all about the NRA we delude ourselves. We can write as many letters or more to congress as they can, donate as much money. We can educate, persuade, convince but what do we do?

    We rattle about bans we know can't work, we make up phoney descriptions to scare and delude people. We lie about "weapons of war on the streets" We delude ourselves that we can make 200 million guns disappear, that we can disarm the gangsters and killers by fiat. We say things that aren't true, we play up the danger, we promote and exaggerate fear and we bully the hell out of heretics that don't mimic the orthodoxy -- we act like the NRA.

    I'm wearing out the Nietzsche quote about fighting monsters and the Hemingway one about how being against bad doesn't make you good and I'm getting frustrated with people I would support if they'd work on undoing the cerebro-rectal inversion and aversion to fact and pragmatism that seems to typify us when the subject of firearms comes up.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 12:02 PM  

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