Bill Keller confronts the Fourth Reich!

MONDAY, JULY 2, 2012

As we just finished saying: Constantly, you have a choice. You get to decide which it is:

Your major “journalists” are highly inept. Or they just aren’t super-honest.

On a case by case basis, we can’t tell you which it is. But this is the way Bill Keller begins his column in today's New York Times, a famous American newspaper:
KELLER (7/2/12): Show Me Your Papers

The Arizona law requiring police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally—a statute tentatively blessed last week by the Supreme Court—is an invitation to abuse. It is all too likely to be used, as the court itself seemed to fear, to intimidate and demean people with the wrong accent or skin tone, thus delivering a get-out-the-humiliated-Hispanic-vote bonus to President Obama. The less likely alternative is that it will be applied more like the random T.S.A. searches at airports, thus infuriating Arizonans across the board.

While we wait for this to play out, let’s turn our attention to another aspect of the so-called “show me your papers” law: Show me WHAT papers? What documents are you supposed to have always on hand to convince police that you are legit?
In his headline, Keller offers the Nazi allusion which makes these journalists think they’re good people, or which at least lets them pretend. From there, he turns to an obvious misstatement—and to an unanswered question.

Is it true? Is it true that SB 1070 “requires police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally?” In fact, SB 1070 forbids such conduct—though it, like any law, could be abused, of course. In fact, there are two major problems with Keller’s account. But for now, we’ll simply note that “reasonable suspicion,” which the law requires, is not the same thing as “suspecting,” a fact Keller surely knows.

(The New York Times has assiduously avoided use of the term “reasonable suspicion” in its discussions of this law. In the last two years, it has been remarkable to see the way our smartest newspaper has avoided use of that legal term, substituting an inaccurate but pleasing account of what the term is supposed to mean.)

Keller starts with a misstatement. He then turns to a very good question—a question he never quite answers. WHAT sort of “papers” must people show, Keller asks, briefly going all-caps.

That is a very good question. He largely skips the answer.

What sorts of “papers” must people show? Especially given the Nazi allusion, that is a very good question. Remember, before people can be asked for any “papers” at all, they have to be (legally) stopped by the police on some other matter—and the police must develop “reasonable suspicion” that they’re in the country illegally. (Under terms of the law, it isn’t enough to “suspect” such a thing, a fact Keller surely knows.)

Since we’re throwing our Nazi allusions around, thereby asserting that we’re the good people, shouldn’t we answer that basic question? What sorts of “papers” must people produce under terms of this Nazi-like law?

In fact, the “papers” required aren’t really “papers” at all:

A citizen must show a driver’s license or a state ID, the same thing any citizen shows when stopped on a traffic issue. Under explicit terms of the law, such “papers” are dispositive. A foreign citizen must show his green card (or similar ID), which he is already required to carry under federal law.

All parts of this law can be abused, of course, and other laws routinely are. As one example, various laws are being abused right there in New York City under Mayor Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk program. Keller has never written a word about this home-grown conduct, which is occurring right under his nose as he gazes with growing concern off toward the southwest. (Using Nexis, we searched on “Keller AND frisk.” Yes, that search term works.)

According to Nexis, Keller has never said boo in the Times about stop-and-frisk. But he drags out Nazi allusions for things that might happen in vile Arizona, and he never quite explains what “papers” the jack-booted thugs will demand.

Is SB 1070 a good idea? That is a matter of judgment. Frankly, it’s hard to evaluate the provision of this law the Supreme Court upheld, so determined is the “press corps” to avoid basic reporting.

We’re speaking here about something different. We’re discussing the failure to report and explain the simplest facts about the law, and the (highly selective) use of highly inflammatory slogans.

Sorry, dumb-asp! SB 1070 does not “require police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally.” It doesn’t even permit such conduct.

Surely, Keller knows this fact. But how good it feels to aim Nazi allusions at very bad people from a different region, even as the jack-booted thugs conduct their sweeps up here!

This is the way your “press corps” works. By the way:

Because Keller is aiming his jibes at the other tribe, your lizard brain will constantly tell you that you should cheer his conduct. We think your lizard is wrong.


  1. Like you I was surprised that Keller ignored the NY stop-and-frisk abuses in his column. I was also interested to see that he seems willing to enlist "employers" as gatekeepers of a national ID system. If he believes private businesses would be less likely than police to abuse that position he didn't explain why in the column.

  2. One thing about the so-called "show me your papers" provision of the Arizona law that never seems to get mentioned in the current "liberal" commentary on it is that it was supported UNANIMOUSLY by the SC. That is, since the obvious is never obvious, every last LIBERAL judge on the SC agreed that it passed Constitutional muster.

    One would think that this would inhibit Nazi comparisons.

    One would be wrong.

    1. The court didn't support the "papers please" section it just allowed it to go into effect. The implementation can (and will) be challenged.

    2. As I explained in the very next sentence, the SC UNANIMOUSLY agreed that it passed Constitutional muster.

      I repeat: if they agreed to this UNANIMOUSLY, how plausible is it that the provision, as it stands, might be Nazi-like?

      And how many other laws might there be which could be "implemented" so that those implementations are unconstitutional? Haven't all kinds of laws been subject to Constitutional challenges in a given "implementation"?

    3. Dear highly_adequate,
      You don't know what you're talking about.

    4. Highly inadequate, please read the ruling. The Court said a state can require law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of people who can be reasonably suspected of being in the country illegally, but at the same time, it strongly warned that it CANNOT be used to racially or ethnically profile a particular segment of the population.

      In other words, you had better be checking more than brown people with Hispanic names.

    5. Various Anonymi:

      Don't waste your time with thoroughly_inadequate.

      He sees, he blusters, he informs you that if you don't take his point you're of subpar intelligence and then he goes home to contemplate his superior intelligence, after advising you that he doesn't have time to inform you of his superior intelligence.

      It probably worked, in third grade.

    6. Good Lord, the Stupidity.

      Look, yes, of course there are ways in which the law might be implemented that would violate the Constitution.

      But, still again, I repeat, the SC, and each and every LIBERAL Justice on the SC, said that the so-called "show your papers" provision -- the very provision that was supposedly Nazi-like, according to so-called liberal critics -- passed Constitutional muster (so that, in particular, nothing in the Bill of Rights -- the portion of the Constitution that most expressly addresses due process and human rights issues -- is violated by this law.) How many times do I have to repeat this before it gets through your dense skull(s)?

      Yes, there may have been warnings about how the provision MIGHT be implemented -- BUT THOSE ARE PURELY HYPOTHETICAL FROM THE STANDPOINT OF THIS RULING. Nothing in this ruling implies in ANY way that such violations of Constitutional protections are, in fact, occurring.

      It is remarkable, of course, to see how so-called liberal critics of even small intelligence (which excludes the critics on this thread) have had to remove their usual punches here, because they know they won't connect, in how they criticize this decision. What punch have they had to remove? The one in which they wail about and rail against the horrible right wing SC. They know on some level that the liberal justices on the SC have made fools of them, and their previous rantings on the law.

      Of course, the general high hysteria of liberal critics on these matters goes completely unabated. It's all about TEH RACISM!!! -- because that's what it's always about, evidence be damned.

    7. Just to add a further point, which, again, should be obvious, but never seems to be, the SC, and each and every SC Justice clearly did NOT find the law to be INHERENTLY discriminatory -- it did not find that it INHERENTLY involved racial profiling.

      And yet wasn't that EXACTLY the grounds on which the law was vilified by liberal critics? Wasn't that EXACTLY why Arizona should be designated a pariah state, and be subjected to a boycott, according to those critics?

      And, yet, as I must again repeat, the SC UNANIMOUSLY ruled that the law, as it was written, was NOT inherently discriminatory (because, otherwise, it would indeed be unconstitutional).

      These critics should feel like fools. But of course somehow it's everybody else who must be fools, by their lights.

    8. You came in right on cue, highly_[in]adequate:

      "Good Lord, the Stupidity"!

      [of disagreeing with highly_[in]adequate]

      And they talk sneering liberals!

      I guess it *did* work in the third grade....

    9. anonymous,

      Did I ever say anything to imply that I, personally, didn't believe in human stupidity?

      Of course not.

      Your inability to recognize this fact would be an example. You are in general a splendid existence proof.

      You can't read. You never understand. You only misconstrue. You conclude by fallacy. Logic is alien to you, and evidence irrelevant.

      If Stupid means anything, it's gotta mean that.

  3. It's hilarious that you are always going off about overblown rhetoric with overblown rhetoric.

  4. SB1070, as written, bars state or local officials or agencies from restricting enforcement of federal immigration laws.
    This provision allows citizens to sue the officials or agencies they think are not vigorously enforcing the law.

    The Department of Homeland Security doesn't want to charge illegal aliens that are first offenders without a criminal record, and not threats to national security, because the courts are already so backlogged with more serious cases.
    It can take five years for those simple border crossing cases to come before a judge.

    If local police decide to follow DHS guidelines they could be sued. And there are plenty of yahoos in Arizona ready to do just that.

    This puts local police between a rock and a hard place, sued if you do and sued if you don't.

    At least Pinal County residents don't have to worry about Sheriff Paul Babeu. He may get sued for racial profiling, but not for failing to vigorously enforce immigration laws.

    1. Gravy, read the opinion.

      The Supreme Court specifically ruled that states cannot compel the federal government to enforce immigration, or any other, federal laws. In other words, Sheriff Paul, Sheriff Joe, or any other Arizona tin badge can find every DREAM Act kid Obama said would not be deported, and the feds still don't have to deport them.

      In addition, the Court ruled that people cannot be detained for an "unreasonable" amount of time to determine their residency status.

      Case law pretty much will define "unreasonable" as any length of time that creates a hardship for the person being detained. It could be a couple of hours that costs a guy a job, or an overnight stay in the county jail that costs them time with family.

    2. I said nothing about Arizona compelling the federal government to enforce immigration laws to the fullest.

      My point was, if the local police DON'T detain a minor immigration offender because their jails are already full, (and they are) and they know the Feds won't take him off their hands, Arizona citizens can sue the cops.

      Arizona has changed the length of incarceration of misdemeanor illegal aliens to 20 days maximum.

      As you say, each case can be challenged in court, so the law will eventually be sorted out, but that could take years.

      As far as lawsuits go, Attorney Michael Manning and some of his clients have become wealthy just from suing The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.
      Other lawyers want to hop onto this gravy train as well.

    3. MCSO has been sued 50 times as much as the New York, Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago jail systems combined. Federal and local complaints include racial profiling, failure to investigate hundreds of child abuse cases, and suspicious deaths of inmates.

      If there's a gravy train, Joe Arpaio is making the gravy.

      Search "Maricopa County jail controversies" if you feel like taking a very long time to educate yourself.

  5. Funny, isn't it how political correctness prevents us liberals from stating the obvious, out of some absurd concern for the feelings of people like highly inadequate.

    So let's get down to it, shall we:

    1) these laws, including the ones which got thrown out by the court, have nothing to do with stopping illegal immigration, for the simple reason that the threat of deportation or police harassment isn't going to stop an illegal border crossings, if the choice is between watching your kids starve in Mexico and finding work in the U.S. which will feed them.

    2) if the white anglos which craft these laws really wanted to end illegal immigration, they could do so overnight. How? By ceasing to employ illegal aliens to clean their toilets, cut their grass and build their McMansions, and by persuading their employers, the Chamber of Commerce and the rest of the "business community" which funds their political careers, do so the same. What does it mean that they clearly are not willing to take this step? Maybe that they're not really interested in ending illegal immigration?

    3) these xenophobic laws have one purpose and one purpose only: to stoke white nativist rage on the one hand, and pretend to address it on the other. Without that rage, the ignorant white honkies who vote Republican against their own interests may not come out in sufficient numbers come November, even with a darkie currently in the White House.

    Does that answer all your questions? Is this the kind of truth Somerby would rather not hear?

    1. When SB 1070 first came to light, I believed that Arizonans, who interacted with Latinos daily, hired Latinos and worked next to Latinos, trusted Latinos to take care of their homes, their children, their elderly, and prepare and serve their food, would reject this race-baiting law out of hand.
      I was wrong, of course.

      What was a stupid law, and essentially a conservative wedge issue, actually backfired on Russell Pierce when he was recalled.

      He is the first. The list is long.

  6. "A foreign citizen must show his green card (or similar ID), which he is already required to carry under federal law. "

    Is this true, Bob? Must show it to whom?

  7. Your major “journalists” are highly inept. Or they just aren’t super-honest.

    To digress. When you have media that is owned it is required to conform both to editorial policy and to avoid alienating advertisers. Right there you would have significant flaws compromising impartial reporting. It gets worse.

  8. what a fantastic find - can't wait to see what you two come up with!

  9. I was wrong, Yulia, waiting for me, to me tomorrow whereabouts mentor farewell, waiting for me, waiting for me.

  10. who interacted with Latinos daily, hired Latinos and worked