Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Warrantless Blogtapping Program

Issue: The GOP Rapid Re-Education of John Hawkins

When it comes to Comprehensive Immigration Reform, tough-talking John Hawkins, owner of the conservative blog Right Wing News is essentially no different than the Republican squishes in the Senate whom he pretends to despise. In the end, I conclude that he's a regular GOP party hack. What makes it worse, though, is that he pretends not to be. But don't believe me, read the following roller-coaster chain of commentary and decide for yourself.

At 7:30AM, on Monday, June 25th, 2007, Hawkins was in a state of apparent frenzy over the first cloture vote in the Senate on the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill (S. 1639). This vote was scheduled for the following day, Tuesday, June 26th, 2007. Now let's remember that this particular cloture vote was simply to end debate on the motion to proceed to consideration of the measure. It was NOT a cloture vote on the measure itself. But, Hawkins apparently considered this cloture vote to be of paramount importance. This is what he wrote about it:

In my book, there is no such thing as a "good" senator who supports this bill. Every decent thing these guys have done in their whole career is garbage compared to a vote for cloture on this immigration bill -- and I mean a vote for cloture. If they vote for cloture and then turn around and vote against the bill, that means nothing. In fact, it's an insult, because it means that they think their constituents are too stupid to understand that the cloture vote is where this bill will be stopped -- if it's going to be stopped at all.

So, pick up that phone, write that email, send that fax and do it TODAY! Let these guys know that a vote for cloture is a vote against conservatism, against the Republican Party, and a vote against America -- and let them know how angry you'll be if they betray this country by voting for cloture.
Now, he couldn't have been any more forceful and clear. In fact, he made a point to distinguish between voting against the bill and voting for this particular cloture motion, and drew a line in the sand. And for emphasis, lest anyone be confused, he added: "and I mean a vote for cloture." He threw down the gauntlet and took off the gloves. This was serious business: if they vote for cloture, "their whole career is garbage."

So, what happened? On the next day, Tuesday, June 26, 2007, the cloture motion passed with a vote of 64 in favor and 35 againts. At 2:57PM on Tuesday, June 26, 2007, Hawkins posted an entry which he titled "Mexico 64 Vs. America 35." That's very telling in itself for a couple of reasons. First, it revealed that for Hawkins this really wasn't about legal vs. illegal immigration, but rather about Mexico vs. America. In other words, it wasn't simply a question of law enforcement and security (since not all illegal immigrants are Mexicans), but was also about preserving some kind of ethnic, linguistic, and cultural "purity." But that's a subject for another discussion. Second, and more relevant to what I'm trying to focus on now, is that the title of this blog entry also implied that those who voted for cloture, those among the 64, were essentially traitors to America and servants of Mexico. I mean, really, Hawkins created a clear dichotomy: if you weren't one of the 35 who voted against cloture, you weren't worthy of being considered a part of America. So, there's that. But Hawkins wasn't just content to end with the total tally. He went on in this posting to list the 64 traitors and the 35 patriots by name -- paying particular attention to the Republican Senators among the villainous 64. Now remember, Hawkins said just 31 hours previously that, by their vote for this particular cloture motion, "every decent thing these guys [the villainous 64] have done in their whole career is garbage compared to a vote for cloture on this immigration bill -- and I mean a vote for cloture." And remember he went even further and declared: "If they vote for cloture and then turn around and vote against the bill, that means nothing." There were 24 Republican Senators among the villainous, treasonous 64, one of whom was John Ensign (R-NV).

Of course, the next step the Senate took was to proceed to consider the measure, which allowed for debate and a slew of Amendments to the measure to be considered before moving along to the second cloture motion to end debate on the measure itself. This second cloture motion was schedule for Thursday morning, June 28, 2007. Hawkins had a series of posts leading up to this vote as well as some post-vote commentary. At 7:45AM on this Thursday morning, Hawkins put up a posting in which he discussed the upcoming cloture vote. In his third update on this post, he mentioned an email he received from Sen. John Ensign indicating that Ensign would vote against the second cloture motion. Now, because it was an update to an earlier posting, I do not have any idea at what specific moment before the cloture vote began when Hawkins received this communication; but it had to be within a few hours of the vote itself. In my book, that's cutting it pretty close. But listen to how Hawkins responded in this update:
Update #3: Yesterday, I wrote John Ensign's press secretary and complained that during his interview with me, he seemed to be indicating that he could not support the bill unless it had an exit visa in it, but yet, he voted for cloture on Tuesday, despite the fact it doesn't have that in the bill.

His press secretary wrote back that the first vote was to allow more debate, but he was also non-committal about what John Ensign would do today.

Well, just now, John Randall, the ePress Secretary for the RNSC just wrote me the following message,

"Sen. Ensign Will Vote No on today’s cloture vote."

Given how tight this thing is, having another definite "no" vote is very big -- especially since there are so many undecided senators. The more certain they become that this bill is going to fail, the less inclined they will be to climb out on a limb and vote for it.

All I can say is thank you, Senator Ensign! We're lucky to have this guy running the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

If you want to say thanks to him for standing up against amnesty when it counts, chipping in a few bucks to the NRSC would be a good way to do it
The emphasis in the above citation is mine. Now tell me if I'm missing something here, but in a period of less than 72 hours, Hawkins went from considering Ensign's entire career to have been "garbage" for taking the side of Mexico against the U.S. in the first cloture vote, and considering a switch from a "YES" vote to a "NO" vote to be an "insult," to gushing over how lucky the GOP is to have such a stand-up guy running the NRSC!!! And then Hawkins asks people to throw a few bucks at the NRSC as a gesture of thanks to Ensign!!! What gives? It's rather schizophrenic behavior if you ask me.

But that's not all. In his post-second-cloture-vote victory gloat, which was posted a short few hours later at 10:44AM, the 72 hour "re-education" of Hawkins was nearly complete. And it didn't even have to come through a forced "re-education" camp either! Here are some of the things Hawkins had to say in this post:
Keep in mind that John Ensign, the head of the RNSC, voted for cloture when it counted -- and he let people know his decision before the vote started. So, he didn't just go with the flow once he saw the bill was going to lose, like Sam Brownback and some of the others. Tossing a few bucks the NRSC's way as a thank-you wouldn't be the worst idea in the world.
PS #3: Some people are complaining that I am, as promised, tabling the Payback Project. Well, ya know, that's just what I said I'd do. Think carrot and stick.
[ASIDE: The "Payback Project" was a threat made by Hawkins to carry out an organized and extensive retaliation against GOP Senators who supported the bill. But Hawkins always softened his threat by saying that he'd do it "if the bill passed." Just more evidence of his squishiness, if you ask me.]

I'll stop right there and let you decide about John Hawkins and whether he is a squish and a party hack. But, I'll end by pointing that I'm not the only one who thinks this. Here is what one of Hawkins' regular conservative commenters, memomachine, in one of the last comments in the comment thread on Hawkins post-cloture-victory-gloat posting had to say about the "re-education" of Hawkins:

Frankly this is ridiculous. Now that Republican senators have shown to your face how much they consider you to be irrelevant, now you're going to table the payback project?

What? Nobody deserves payback? Nobody deserves punishment for disregarding the will of the American people for weeks? Nobody deserves payback for calling conservatives "bigots"?

That's nonsense.

Personally my opinion of John Hawkins has just dropped to zero. All he is capable of is waking up at times to act but then he goes right back to sleep with the admonishment to support Republicans.

Good luck with that. But I'm sure not going to continue wasting my time here. ...

Posted by memomachine
June 29, 2007 10:16 AM
Hawkins is painting his "re-education" as a gesture of "magnanimity." I don't think there's any doubt that he's being magnanimous to folks like Ensign. But for those who complained about Hawkins "mothballing" the Payback Project, I wonder how "magnanimous" this Hawkins statement to the stormtroopers sounds:
PS #3: Some people are complaining that I am, as promised, tabling the Payback Project. Well, ya know, that's just what I said I'd do. Think carrot and stick.
Well, ya know, so you did. So you did. Be careful, though, lest your stormtroopers begin to think that you're giving Ensign the carrot, but giving them the stick.

Update on The Huck Upchuck

Well, since I haven't heard back yet from John Hawkins of Right Wing News about why he banned me from commenting on his site, and since Hawkins is about to go on vacation, presumably meaning I shouldn't expect a reply any time soon, I have no choice but to bring what would have been my comments there to my own blogsite here. Hawkins can ban me from commenting on his blog, but thanks to the freedoms of our great country, he can't ban me from commenting on my blog. In fact, I will be making use of the liberties afforded me under the Constitution and augmented by the Patriot Act to conduct warrantless surveillance of Right Wing News. As of now, I will resurrect my blog and, in doing so, will establish a new category of commentary for my blog that will exclusively follow with a sharp-edged, fine-tooth, critical comb the goings-on of conservative blogs, and particularly of Right Wing News. As a nod to the Patriotic intent of this new category, I am dubbing it the "The Warrantless Blogtapping Program." I know it's cheesy, but, hey, what the hell? It's my blog, right?

I actually throw this down as a challenge to Hawkins. I want to encourage him to visit and to respond and to comment. He is welcome to do so. And I promise I won't ban him, no matter what he says!

Now, I have to say that I like Hawkins. I think he is intelligent and I think he writes extremely well. I think his arguments are tightly constructed and have a clear logic. I even think he is right-on about about some things. But this latest episode of banning me from commenting on his site has shown me that there is also a bit of a petty, vindictive, and vulnerable side to Hawkins. I must have pushed some button that cracked his tough-guy veneer and gotten under his skin. Unfortunately, it has exposed a part of Hawkins that is not all that flattering and admirable. And though I would have never thought it about him until recently, the fact that his reaction is simply to ignore me and not even respond to my honest inquiry as to the reasons for my banning leads me to think that he is also a bit cowardly. I mean, how hard would it have been for him to write me back and simply say: "I banned you because you are a jerk and a liar" or "I banned you because you hurt my feelings" or "I banned you just because I wanted to," etc. He could even have a really legitimate reason for banning me, which I might acknowledge and even agree with. But how can I know that unless he tells me? But ... all this is lagniappe. What I am ultimately left with is my own blog where I can engage his thoughts and ideas on my own terms. And that's what I intend to do.

I won't exclusively be reacting to Right Wing News on this blog. I will also engage other topics that suit my fancy. And I welcome any and all to a vigorous duel of ideas in the blog comments section. But I will manage this dueling according to the following rules:

(1) I will not tolerate any vulgar or obscene language on my blog. I will delete any comments that use such language.

(2) I will not tolerate threats of any kind to anyone who posts here. I will delete any comments that make such threats.

If I find the need arises to address some other aspect of the exchanges that take place in the blog comments section, I reserve the right to establish other rules accordingly.

Well, that's it for now. Check back for what I hope will be a more active and engaging blog; but know that, although my sincere intention is to resuscitate and reinvigorate my blog, sometimes intentions don't always translate into reality. So, take this blog at face value. If I post one hundred entries over the next three months, or one entry, so be it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Banned from Commenting on a Conservative Blog

Conservative blogger John Hawkins of Right Wing News has banned me from posting comments to any of his blog entries. I can log on under my userid "huckupchuck"; but I do not have access to the comments fields once I do so. And when I click on the preferences of my user account, I get a one-line, four-word message that says: "You have been banned." I have written to John Hawkins asking for an explanation, and I am waiting to hear back from him. If and when he does respond, I will update this entry.

Now, John Hawkins has the right to ban whomever he wants to ban; but there is absolutely nothing that I have posted as a comment on his blog that would constitute a bannable offense according to his own terms for posting comments. I truly have no idea why I have been banned. I can only possibly imagine three reasons. First, there is just some technical mistake or moderating oversight that can be easily rectified. I hope this is the case, but Hawkins generally runs a tight ship and I doubt a banning would happen randomly and without his knowledge. Second, being in Mexico, I have been using some public access computers. It is possible that I failed to log off one of these computers and that someone has posted some nasty comments under my name that would merit being banned. If that is the case, then I support the banning. But I have looked through all of the current threads and I can find no such misuse of my account. So I am inclined to rule that possibility out.

The third possible reason,and most worrisome to me, is that Hawkins has gotten fed up with my questions and my comments critical of some of the positions he has taken, particularly with regard to the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill currently being debated in the Senate. I can´t imagine Hawkins getting so exorcised by this such that he would ban my entire account. That seems unlike Hawkins, who has been generally very respectful and tolerant of differing opinions; but if that is the case and he wants to ban me for that reason, that´s fine, too. If true, however, it places his whole pretense to be open to criticism from other ideological perspectives in question, at least in my mind. I never would have thought that, but I can´t help but think so now. Maybe this is all a mistake and it can be resolved soon. But, perhaps, in his mind, Hawkins considers that my recent critical commentary makes me "a jerk" -- and so he might justify my banning accordingly. But I have been posting comments there for a long time, and the regular visitors to RWN know that I can be prickly and snarky sometimes, but no more so than many of my rivals there. They would know, too, that I am generally respectful and try to be as civil as possible in our debates, discussions, and arguments. In fact, nothing that I have ever said or written in a comment there even approaches the kinds of bashing that I sometimes receive from some regular people who post there, and who still have active permission to continue posting there.

Let me give an example. Here is the first of three comments I wrote, before being banned, in a recent discussion thread on the current Immigration Reform bill, which was up for a cloture vote in the Senate. I presume that this comment is one of the ones that was the "straw that broke the camel´s back," so to say:

Why are you so opposed to ending debate and having a straight up/down vote on this matter? Why doesn't it matter if a Senator votes to end debate and then votes against the bill? Why is it an insult to conservatives. Why are you so afraid of this?

Posted by huckupchuck
June 25, 2007 10:31 AM
I asked these questions in a comment in response to the original posting made by John Hawkins. The next comment I wrote in this thread said the following:
Posted by Don_cos June 25, 2007 11:02 AM
All well and good, but how is voting for cloture yet then voting against the measure not doing what you want. It ends debate and puts an end to the bill once and for all. It would seem to me that voting to keep debate open merely allows for the continued lingering of this measure and its periodic reemergence and consumption of the Senate's business. End debate, vote against it, and put it to rest once and for all.

Posted by huckupchuck
June 25, 2007 11:14 AM
The final comment I posted in this thread, which was a response to another one of my respected rival´s comments, said:
Why do your comments to me almost always have to end with some demeaning remark about my mental capacity or my intelligence? Please, be a decent human being and keep the ad hominem slights to a minimum, CavalierX.

Now, to the subject ... Let's remember that Hawkins is saying that even those who vote for cloture and then vote against the bill are traitors to the cause and their votes mean nothing. How can a vote for cloture and then a vote against the bill be construed as a vote in support of the bill? And what about conservative disdain for the filibuster and the notion that presidential initiatives and nominees that come up in the senate deserve and up or down vote?

Posted by huckupchuck
June 25, 2007 12:08 PM
Now, compare these comments with one directed at me by one of my other opponents, who wrote later in this very same thread:
If you don't want to get your nails broken or pumps scuffed, best for you to stay at or some such place "kinder, gentler" place, Huck. You'll find few "compassionate" {said in a drippingly sarcastic tone} conservatives here.

Posted by Cartman
June 25, 2007 9:00 PM
And yet Cartman continues to have posting privileges while I am banned. Not that Cartman´s harmless post should be a bannable offense (and I don't think it should), but comparatively speaking, I think his posting would constitute more of a bannable offense than any of the three comments I posted previously, especially under Hawkins' own rules for posting comments.

This is just one of the many examples of the experiences I have when posting comments on this blog. Fine. I expect to take some tough hits and even some personal ribbing on a conservative blog; but there is the question of parity in terms of what kinds of comments merit wholesale banning from the site, and what kinds get passes.

Again, perhaps this is just some unfortunate mistake or some kind of technical issue. And if it is, I will most certainly update this posting to reflect that.

But if it does end up that I was banned for the content of my comments, then I ask you to check the full range of them out for yourself, come to your own conclusions, and suggest to me any rational explanation that does not call into question the claim that this website, Right Wing News, is different than those which seem to ban commenters randomly for nothing more than expressing a critical, opposition opinion.

UPDATE: 28 June 2007, 2:53 CST: I still have not heard back directly from John Hawkins, but I gather from the number of referring pages to my blog coming from a particular discussion thread at RWN that the offending passages may have been my comments in the discussion thread on a posting by Hawkins that addressed the subject of his running liberal ads on his blog. I did cynically question whether Hawkins´ rationalization for running such ads was a principled one. Personally, I believed it to be unprincipled behavior and I said as much, explaining my reasoning. But, that's me. You might think otherwise; so, I encourage you to click the link above and decide for yourself if anything I said there would merit wholesale banning.