Nel's New Day

February 11, 2015

GOP Alienates Latino Voters, Fails to Govern

The House passed the Senate version of the Keystone pipeline bill today, meaning that the measure now goes to the president, hopefully for his veto. With all except three GOP members voting in favor of the bill, it would have passed without the 29 Democrats, but it’s hard for me to accept that the representative for my district in Oregon was one of these 29 Democrats. His vote was predictable, however, because he had already voted in favor of the earlier bill and published an op-ed piece in Portland’s The Oregonian explaining his reason for the votes. He begins by explaining his need to write the piece because of the “ ‘fan’ mail” that he recently received from “very liberal groups chastising me from voting in a bipartisan manner in Congress.”

As an author of some of that “fan” mail, I want to tell him that I don’t mind his being bipartisan; I mind his voting for a measure with the sole purpose of benefiting one company by moving Canadian tar sands oil across the United States so that the wealthy will become wealthier. I mind his endangering the land and water of the states between Canada and Texas so that he can “work with Republicans.”

Fortunately Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) voted against the House bill that connects the elimination of President Obama’s immigration reform actions to the funding of the Department of Homeland Security. In a snit last year following years of inaction, the House decided that it would force a vote for this funding before February 28, 2015 after passing the other funding last December for almost a year.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has decided to get tough because the Senate hasn’t taken action on his DHS appropriations bill that tucks anti-immigrant proposals into a funding bill. The amendments subjecting all undocumented immigrants to more enforcement scrutiny will receive separate votes, but conservatives backing the amendments threaten to vote against the funding if their provisions don’t pass. The proposals would:

  • Eliminate funding for President Obama’s executive action to allow some illegal immigrants to stay in the country and obtain work permits.
  • Stop the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA), which lifts deportation for some illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children.
  • Prioritize deportation for illegal immigrants convicted of sexual abuse and domestic violence.
  • Promote the hiring of U.S. citizens above those who are in the country illegally.
  • Express the sense of Congress the administration should “stop putting the interest of immigrants who worked within the legal framework to come to the US behind those who came here illegally” by not granting deferred action or work permits to undocumented immigrants.

Other parts of the amendments would stop Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from prioritizing the deportation of criminals over undocumented immigrants who haven’t committed serious crimes and ignore a person’s ties to the United States over citizens.

During a news conference, Boehner demanded, “Now why don’t you go ask the Senate Democrats when they’re gonna get off their ass and do something other than to vote no!” This from the man who refused to allow immigration reform to go to the House for almost two years after the Senate passed its immigration reform. Four times he repeated, “The House did its job.” Boehner had no problem with the GOP in the Senate causing gridlock for the past four years by doing nothing but voting no.

For years, conservatives have complained because the Democrats did nothing with their “majority” in the Senate. Now Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell admits that the House bill is “clearly stuck in the Senate” and Republican control in the Senate has resulted in another impasse. The Senate can’t pass the House bill, and Boehner says that the House won’t shift from its position.

An increasing number of Republicans in the House are refusing to vote for extremist positions or indicate opposition to these. Rep. Jeff Dunham (R-CA) said the language of the amendments, authored by right-wing Marcia Blackburn (R-TN), is an “overreach,” and another House GOP member called it “mean-spirited.” Other GOP members of Congress, however, are indifferent to any problems that they cause. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) said that not meeting the deadline is “not the end of the world.”

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson disagrees with Diaz-Balart about the seriousness of not funding the agency:

“Right now, the Department of Homeland Security is operating on a continuing resolution, which means that we are allowed to spend money until February 27th – at the same rate we spent money last year. That means that as long as we are on a C.R., we cannot engage in new starts, new spending, new initiatives, new grants to state and local law enforcement to fund homeland security missions. We can’t put in place the independent panel that recommended changes to the secret service has suggested we do. We can’t do a lot of things for border security. Our counterterrorism efforts are limited.”

With all their waffling about the Homeland Security funding, Congress has only six “working” days to pass the appropriation before February 27 because they go on recess during the last week of the month. If they fail to fund the Department of Home Security, only the Citizenship and Immigration Services would still be able to pay its employees because it is funded through fees and not Congressional appropriations.

Less than one month into the 114th Congress, Republicans have not only failed to show that they can govern responsibly and cooperatively but also managed to offend Hispanic voters which they lost two to one in the last presidential election. Meanwhile terrorists are cheering on the GOP in their blocking funding to keep the United States safe.

October 31, 2014

It’s Halloween! Be Afraid of the GOP

Filed under: Elections — trp2011 @ 8:21 PM
Tags: , , , , , ,

With four days until the 2014 election results start to trickle in, the polls are up and down. A week ago, carpet-bagger Scott Brown and former Massachusetts GOP senator, was even with New Hampshire’s Democratic incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. Now he’s down by 8 points. The robotic creature for the New York Times, assigned with determine winners, reported that its conclusions were 3 percent accurate. The GOP is chortling—at least publicly–that it’s taking over the senate. This is what we can expect if Republicans have a majority by January 1, 2015:

Agenda control through the budget process: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “We’re going to pass spending bills, and they’re going to have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy.” It will be a return to 2011 when Congress threatened to not raise the debt limit to pay for what they had already spent as well as 13 months ago when the GOP shut down the government 13 months ago in an attempt to get their own way and cost the economy at least $24 billion.

More tax cuts for the wealthy and further spending cuts for middle- and working-class families: Although the senate needs 60 votes to break a filibuster, congressional budget resolutions can squeak through with an ordinary majority of 51 votes and cannot be filibustered. Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) 2015 budget bill sent to the senate gives those making over $1 million another $200,000 in tax cuts while cutting nondefense spending by $4.8 trillion. Almost 70 percent of that money takes from programs helping low-income and middle-class families—Medicaid, Pell Grants for college, etc. The GOP also wants to reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. Right now, the reality is an average U.S. corporate tax rate at 27 percent with small businesses paying a disproportionately large percentage because of loopholes and subsidies for the big companies. GOP leaders claim that they will close these loopholes, but they can’t afford to do this because they’ll lose campaign funding. GOP austerity cost the economy 2.4 million jobs from December 2010 to October 2013.

Obstruction of well-qualified judicial nominees, leaving vacancies on federal courts: The record shows continued filibustering of the president’s judicial nominees. Only 16 judicial nominees were filibustered during George W. Bush’s eight years compared to the 77 nominees from President Obama filibustered in a six and a half years. There would have been more than 77 if the senate had not changed its rules to require a simple majority vote for reasonable debate times for these nominees. A GOP senate means the return of the filibuster for judicial confirmations. Currently federal courts have 63 vacancies and 32 judicial nominees.

Another vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act: The GOP has promised that the first vote would be to repeal the ACA if they control the senate. The vote would take place at a time that the uninsured rate is at a record low: 7.3 million enrolled and paying premiums through the marketplaces; 8 million with health coverage through Medicaid; and 5 million signed up for ACA-compliant plans outside the marketplace. And that’s with almost half the states refusing to participate in the ACA. Insurers also cannot deny coverage with a pre-existing condition or put lifetime and annual coverage limits on their care. They have to spend at least of the premiums on health care and cover young people up to the age of 26 on their parents’ policies.

Greater rollback of women’s health needs: McConnell says he will push for narrower exemptions on abortions after 20 weeks than the Supreme Court has allowed. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) has a bill to allow businesses the ability to refuse contraceptive coverage for their employees. Before the ACA required equal insurance charges for both genders, women were charged up to 150 percent more than men for the same coverage. Over 48 million women receive preventive care without deductibles or co-payments and saved $483 million on just birth control pills, $269 per woman, because of ACA.

Use of the Congressional Review Act to weaken environmental rules, jeopardizing public health: Congress can pass a joint resolution stopping a major rule submitted to the legislative branch. The senate can accomplish this in 60 days without any possibility of a filibuster. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) said that he will challenge every EPA rule under the current administration, including the proposal to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants by up to 30 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. The rule would curb dangerous pollution, save money on energy bills, and improve public health by avoiding 6,600 premature deaths and 150,000 asthma attacks in children every year. Full implementation would save $93 billion in 2030. For every dollar, people will see $7 in benefits.

Expansion of carrying concealed and loaded guns: The NRA wants the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act, allowing people to get gun permits in states that have the weakest gun safety laws and carry them all over the United States. This is a race to the bottom as states with the weakest standards set national standards for these permits. People like George Zimmerman, who killed a teenage boy and has a history of violence including assaulting a police officer and domestic violence, would have permission to carry his gun everywhere instead of in only those states with weaker gun safety laws. Local law enforcement would have no recourse. This legislation failed by only two votes in 2009 and was included in the compromise measure developed by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA). Fortunately, it was three votes short of breaking the filibuster because it could have passed with 57 votes.

Legislation removing any LGBT rights: At this time, 33 states recognize marriage equality with another three that may soon marry same-sex couples after courts release rulings. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has announced that he will be “introducing a constitutional amendment to prevent the federal government or the courts from attacking or striking down state marriage laws.” Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, reiterated the party’s support for a constitutional amendment that would unmarry loving and committed same-sex couples. The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act currently pending in Congress would, if passed, allow for government-sanctioned discrimination against the LGBT community and gut existing workplace protections for the now thousands of legally married same-sex couples employed by the federal government or its contractors. For example, this Act would permit federal workers to ignore paperwork from same-sex couples for processing tax returns, approving visa applications, or reviewing Social Security applications and allow a federally funded homeless shelter or substance abuse treatment program to turn away LGBT people.

Legislation to deport DREAMers: Children who were brought to the United States and who meet strict criteria may currently stay in the U.S. and work legally. A senate bipartisan bill that passed 68 to 32 would have made this administrative rule into law as part of immigration reform for most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants, but the House refused to consider the bill. A GOP senate would most likely reverse its former position on immigration reform. Cruz said he would “use any and all means necessary” to prevent the administration from allowing undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to stay in the place they know as home.

More cuts to programs and rules that increase college access, affordability, and readiness:  Ryan’s budget cuts Pell Grants by $90 billion, makes monthly student loan payments higher, and eliminates $107 billion from early education and K-12 education programs over the next decade. A GOP senate would most likely block regulations on for-profit colleges with a history of predatory practices that saddle students with higher rates of debt and low-quality degrees and charge 3.5 times as much as public institutions for the same degree.

On the other hand, the GOP may suffer if it wins the senate. The Tea Party will put more leverage on the GOP establishment to toe the far-right line. Their unwillingness to compromise and move to the right will cause them to lose more voters in 2016, including those for the president. Repealing health care, rejecting minorities, and taking more rights from women will lose the party a huge constituency.

The GOP may win some seats this year because they keep minorities and low-income people from voting, but these people will have the next two years to get the necessary ID. In addition, the courts may overturn the discrimination of the new voter suppression laws. Judicial rulings during the past few weeks to keep these laws have cited only an excuse that they can’t be changed this close to the election. During the next year, there will be many lawsuits from people denied their constitutional right to vote in next week’s election.

April 5, 2014

April Commemorates the President’s 2 Million Deportees

April is the month that President Obama will deport the two-millionth immigrant since the beginning of  his first term—the largest number of any president. It is also the month that the House—again—refuses to address any undocumented immigrant legislation despite the bill sent them from the Senate.

Protesters rallied across the nation today in Not1More demonstrations in an effort to stop the country from separating families through deportation. Immigration activists are also holding Fast for Families at the National Mall on April 7-9 to culminate the past month of action with over 1200 women fasting through 70 events in 35 states, Washington, D.C., and Mexico City.

Women and children compose three-fourths of all immigrants, but only 25 percent of work visas are provided to women. Easily renewed H-1B visas for “highly skilled” workers, mostly given to men, are stepping stones to permanent status. Women are left with “dependent” visas for spouses, H-4, which prohibits them from working.

Stanford Law School’s Vivek Wadhwa testified to the House Judiciary Committee that Saudi Arabian women have more rights than wives of H-1B visa workers. These “dependent” women have no recourse against their husbands’ abuses. In the reauthorization of the Violence against Women Act, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) and other GOP leaders blocked protections for immigrant women as they now oppose immigration reform.

In their efforts to arrest immigrants, hundreds of black-garbed men from the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) descended on a meat packing plant in Postville (IA). The 2008 raid was the largest raid in any workplace and the only one that fabricated a charge of identity theft to deport the immigrant workers.

In her soon-to-be-published book Shattered Dreams, Virginia Gibbs documented the mental health impact of the raid on women and children through personal interviews with 35 mothers. She wrote:

“[T]he raid left … left families broken apart, mothers unable to earn a living for their children and forced to wear highly visible electronic ‘bracelets’, concern for families back home who depended on the immigrants for food and medicine–all this shattered the women and children’s self-esteem and hope.”

All the men among the 400 workers were tried within 48 hours, threatened with two to three years in prison waiting for a trial if they didn’t plead guilty to a 165-day prison term. Forty women were left in Postville to care for their children. They could not find work or leave the state or work; all of them had electronic trackers.

According to Gibbs, the women left their native countries, mostly either Guatemala or Mexico, to work in the United States because of extreme poverty, their children’s malnutrition, violence against women with impunity, and violence in the country. Genocide during a 30-year civil war in Guatemala was a large factor. Only 2 percent of the 10,000 rapes in Guatemala in one year were brought to trial. Because of the drug trade, Mexico has seen 48,000 deaths in the past five years. In addition, women working in factories are disappearing at an alarming rate and discovered mutilated, raped, and dead.

Undocumented workers, especially women, are helpless in the face of employer abuses—sexual harassment, underpayment, unsanitary and unsafe conditions, lack of training, etc. Workers are demeaned, shouted at, and constantly fearful of deportation, which would put their children back into a life of malnutrition and danger. At 14, children work in slaughter houses, run heavy equipment, and have contact with dangerous chemicals. No one has safety equipment unless inspectors alert employers to coming into the plant, and workers are charged for this equipment for the short time that these items are used.

The raid caused children to become openly angry, either acting out and pushing others, or silent and introverted. They suffered from separation anxiety because mothers were ashamed to tell children the fathers had gone to jail. Even good students refused to return to school because that’s where they were during the raid, but they avoided being home because their fathers were gone. They also evidenced worry, extreme fear, confusion, guilt, and shame. Many children not directly involved in the raid experienced many of these behavior patterns because of what had happened to their friends.

Mothers suffered from depression, nightmares, insomnia, fatigue, fear, and physical problems—symptoms of PTSD. They felt completely out of control and helpless. As one woman said, “It was like the end of the world.”

The lack of immigration reform exists across the culture of the United States. In its Spring 2014 issue with a focus on “Feminist Response to Pop Culture,” Bitch magazine has two articles about the part that undocumented people play in music and media portrayals: “Riffs of Passage” and “Out of the Frame.”

One reason for the large number of deportations is the Congressional Bed Mandate, the so-called “requirement” that 34,000 undocumented immigrants be detained every night at a cost of $5 million every day. That totals $2 billion a year, $10 billion since President Obama took office. The money goes directly to either the private prison industrial complex or cities and counties that house immigrants.  Contracts for private prisons force taxpayers to pay whether prison beds are empty or full. The advantage to prison companies is that inhumane treatment for undocumented immigrants in prison doesn’t produce an outcry.

The number of detentions has grown from 70,000 in 1996 to 400,000 in 2012 because of “mandatory detention,” initiated in 2007. With no hearing, the sick, the elderly, pregnant women, asylum seekers, torture survivors, victims of human trafficking—even green card holders and legal residents of the United States—are detained because ICE cannot release immigrants and judges cannot review individual cases. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 prevents ICE from deciding which detainees are eligible for alternative forms of supervision. Congress also refuses to give discretion to federal judges to assign detention on a case-by-case basis.

While detention costs $164 per day, community-based supervision programs can cost as little as $12 for the same time. Yet the agency’s budget for alternatives is less than $100 million as compared to the $2 billion detention budget. Last June, the Senate expanded the use of alternative methods, but the House rejected it.

In reality, the law requires that 34,000 beds be maintained for undocumented immigrants, but it does not require that these beds be filled. In early March, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson explained this at a House hearing. House GOP members refused to believe him. Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) said, “You shall fill 34,000 beds.”

A National Immigration Council report found that “between 2009 and 2011, over half of all immigrant detainees had no criminal records. Of those with any criminal history, nearly 20 percent were merely for traffic offenses.” ICE mostly deported immigrants who posed “a threat to no one.” Only one in five deportees qualified for a “Level 1″ priority, a category that once encompassed crimes like murder and federal drug trafficking, but now has broadened out to include “theft, filing a false tax return, and failing to appear in court.” Other immigrants were deported for much less.

President Obama’s budget for next year proposed a reduction in this area with fewer beds, but Congressional members won’t deny their constituents such a profit-making deal. Thus both Democrats and Republicans want to retain the “bed mandate.” Congress will reduce funding for food, lodging, education, and other basic needs but not for prison and defense budgets.

prisons

Treatment of immigrants is unjust, inhumane, and costly. It actually promotes crime because women are afraid to report sexual assaults and abuse whether in their home, on the streets, and at their jobs. It is time for reform.

February 12, 2014

Social, Political Issues

It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Sometimes a short quote tells the whole story. Following are some quotes from around the country during the past few weeks on politics, racism, and just plain stupidity.

Gretchen Carlson on the Fox network about the retail chain CVS no longer selling tobacco products: “Is it OK legally … to restrict tobacco availability in a private store like this. For people who smoke, you know, they have a right to buy cigarettes. It’s not illegal.” [For Carlson’s edification, abortion is also legal, but some states have closed down every clinic that provides the surgical procedure.]

Gary James, former candidate for Enid (OK) city council, about his refusal to serve blacks, gays, the disabled and “welfare people” in his restaurant: “Well if you work, you own a business, pay your taxes, you’re more than welcome here. If you’re on welfare, stay home and spend my money there. I don’t deal with these people walking down the street with no jobs on welfare…. I’ve been in business 44 years, I think I can spot a freak or a f*ggot. I really don’t want gays around. Any man that would compromise his own body would compromise anything.”

Michele M.’s response to James: “Gary James refuses to serve wheelchair bound persons, black people, Hispanics, mixed race couples, gay people, people who wear hats, people who ask for Budweiser, liberals, men with longish hair, people wearing clothes he doesn’t approve of, people with facial piercings, on and on. If you pass first inspection, don’t think you’ve got it made. If he doesn’t approve of an overheard conversation, if he decides you’re effeminate, if your politics don’t agree with his, if you don’t like the way you cheer for the wrong team, etc, etc., Mr. James will charge you more.”

[Followup: Internet social media is now listing Gary James’ restaurant as a gay bar.]

Fox network’s Bill O’Reilly: “[In black precincts, there is] “chaos in the streets, in the schools and in the homes.”

Kirk Cameron (former Growing Pains star) about the 33 couples married at the award ceremony: “How did you like the Grammy’s [sic] all out assault on the traditional family last night?”

Bryan Fischer (American Family Association) on the same subject: “Heads up: Grammy telecast to feature sodomy-based wedding ceremonies.”

Todd Starnes (Fox network) continuing: “I’ve never seen such a display of intolerance, bigotry and hatred. #Grammys #antichristian.”

John Pisciotta (head of Pro-Life Waco): “The Girl Scouts were once a truly amazing organization, but it has been taken over by ideologues of the left, and regular folks just will not stand for it.” [Is that why a man in Temecula, CA pulled a gun on a Girl Scout selling cookies?]

Ryan Zinke (Republican State Senator running for the U.S. House in Montana) who called Hillary Clinton the “Antichrist”: “We need to focus on the real enemy.” [He also claimed that Newt Gingrich is “senior advisor” to his campaign, but Gingrich denied this.]

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to single mothers who receive government assistance: “Maybe we have to say ‘enough’s enough, you shouldn’t be having kids after a certain amount.’”

Illinois Catholic bishop Thomas Paprocki: Gay couples need to be severely “disciplined” for participating in the “redefinition of marriage.”

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) regarding House reason for no action on immigration reform: “Here’s the issue that all Republicans agree on: We don’t trust the president to enforce the law.” [It’s also a talking point that many other GOP members, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) use.]

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) after Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) suggested that the law start in 2017 after President Obama leaves office: We don’t know who’s going to be president in 2017.” [A reason for never passing any legislation.]

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at a GOP Governors Association fundraiser in Chicago: “You want income equality? That is mediocrity. Everybody can have an equal, mediocre salary.”

Mike Huckabee, about free birth control for women: “And if the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control, because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it.” [In 2005, Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee signed a law mandating Arkansas insurance plans provide contraception coverage, including church-affiliated organizations such as hospitals and universities.]

Rep. Michele Bachmann, who doesn’t know that there is no longer any “Soviet Union”: “It appears that Belarus, which is a nation friendly with the Soviet Union, may have a subcontracting contract to build a part of Obamacare.”

Bachmann on immigration reform: “It isn’t the conservative Republican immigration policy that immigrants don’t like, it’s our stance on fiscal conservatism, the Constitution, patriotism, the fact that we believe in limited government and personal responsibility.”

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) about unemployment benefits: “It is immoral.” 

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong on why his company will no longer match employee 401(k) plans: “We had two AOL-ers that had distressed babies that were born that we paid a million dollars each to make sure those babies were OK in general.” [What? No reinsurance plans for large claims of over AOL’s 5,000 employees? Valleywag posted a visual to show the relationship between Armstrong’s salary and “distressed babies.”]  

distressed babies

Rep. Patrick J. Tiberi (R-OH) about House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) to accomplish anything: “Right now, Jesus himself couldn’t be the speaker and get 218 Republicans behind something, so I think Speaker Boehner is trying his best to come up with a plan that can get close to that.”

Chad Brown (former Polk County Republican Party of Iowa Co-Chair): “My opinion is the ‘Duck Dynasty Wing’ of the Republican Party has taken over the GOP, and they’re not about to retreat in their war on science and common sense.”

The most amazing one on Sunday:

Conservative columnist David Brooks on Meet the Press about the need for immigration reform: “It’s not who runs the Republican Party. Do the leaders who want to have a long term future, a presidential national future, as a multi-racial party, do they run the party or does [Michael Needham of Heritage Foundation] run the party. The truth is Mike runs the party.”

President Obama also managed a few memorable quotes during a ten-minute interview with Bill O’Reilly on the Fox network immediately before the Super Bowl. It is a tradition that the current president sits down for a brief interview with the network that projects the annual game.

When O’Reilly asked about the many times that former IRS Doug Schulman had been to the White House: “That’s not what happened. Folks have again had multiple hearings on this. These kinds of things keep on surfacing in part because you and your TV station will promote them.”

When O’Reilly claimed that people thought that the president avoided calling Benghazi a “terror attack”: “They believe it because folks like you are telling them that.”

The night after the Super Bowl, the Fox network played more of the interview. O’Reilly asked, “Do you think I’m unfair to you?”

The president responded, “Absolutely. Of course you are, Bill. But I like you anyway.”

When O’Reilly pressed the president on how he had been “unfair” in the interview, President Obama said, “I think regardless of whether it’s fair or not, it has made Fox News very successful… What are you going to do when I’m gone?”

O’Reilly thinks that the interview will go down in “journalistic history.”

The quote of the week that no one will hear on the Fox network: “Given the military’s preparations on September 11, 2012, majority members have not yet discerned any response alternatives that could have likely changed the outcome of the Benghazi attack.” That’s the conclusion of a report from the GOP House Armed Forces Committee about the four deaths at the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Libya.  

October 23, 2013

Prison Keeps Beds Full with Immigrants

On the same day that the GOP shut down the federal government, I heard a horrifying statistic. Under law, taxpayers must pay to keep 34,000 people in jail, at a cost of about $120 each per day, even as the number of immigrants caught coming illegally into the U.S. has fallen by more than half since the beginning of the most current recession. That’s almost $4 million per day—every day. I knew that the Arizona governor had made a deal with a private prison company to fill the prisons in the state with undocumented immigrants, but I had no idea that it was also a federal mandate.

Since 2009, when then-Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) added this mandate to the Homeland Security Department’s annual spending bill, federal immigration officials have operated under a statutory quota on how many people to hold behind bars. The law requires only that 34,000 beds must be available for these immigrants regardless of the number or them or the crimes that they commit. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency translates this requirement, however, as keeping “a yearly average daily population of approximately 34,000 individuals,” former ICE Director John Morton told a congressional panel last March.

As the editors of Bloomberg wrote:

“Some detained noncitizens are violent criminals who need to be locked up. Others are mothers or fathers who have committed traffic violations. Their forced separation from families and jobs undermines both social cohesion and the economy — at taxpayer expense. Undocumented immigrants tracked in alternative (nondetention) programs appeared for administrative hearings more than 90 percent of the time, according to Julie Myers Wood, a former assistant secretary of Homeland Security in the George W. Bush administration. They complied with final orders 84 percent of the time. Yet ICE detains more than 400,000 immigrants in more than 250 jails and other facilities at an annual cost of $2 billion.”

The editorial goes on to give reasons for this inordinate expenditure. Punishment for undocumented immigrants is very popular with conservatives, and private-prison lobbies keep these detention centers open. Also a 2013 National Immigration Forum report pointed out that local officials have also “treated the increase in bed mandates as a source of revenue for counties and a job creator for their region.”

The White House 2014 budget requested $120 million less for immigration detention beds that House GOP members want, which didn’t make the GOP happy. The GOP also voted down an amendment from Democrat Reps. Ted Deutch (FL) and Bill Foster (IL) to strike the detention mandate from the Homeland Security appropriation bill. Alternatives to detention such as ankle bracelets, curfews, and home visits cost taxpayers much less, but those wouldn’t give GOP governments as much money. Although 41 percent of detainees are Level 1, the lowest-risk group, Congress forces taxpayers to pay for keeping these people in prison.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), the Homeland Security Committee chairman, told ICE officials in February that they were “in clear violation of statute” when the detainee population fell to 30,773 after the sequester caused them to release 2,200 to save money. During a hearing, Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) complained to Morton about getting too few inmates to fill his district’s detention beds.

The GOP is big on privatization, and prisons are at the top of their list. Government jailers Corrections Corp. (CXW) and Geo, two publically-traded companies that actively lobby Congress, have doubled in value in the past three years. Corrections Corp. has spent more than $13 million on lobbyists since 2005, among them past appropriations-committee employees, and Geo has spent more than $2.8 million during that time.

These privately-run prisons suffer from staffing shortages, rapid employee turnover, and cost-cutting that results in dangerous conditions for inmates. At the same time these same prisons waste taxpayers’ money. For example, assaults in one Ohio prison almost tripled after Corrections Corp. took over. A riot at a Natchez (MS) immigrant facility, also run by the same private company, left a guard dead and 20 people injured last year.

Yet state governments keep supporting these private prison companies. California Gov. Jerry Brown committed $1.14 billion over three years for thousands of prison cells, and Geo got a $8.5 million annual contract to hold up to 400 immigrants in Alexandria (LA).

Last year, U.S. District Court Judge Terry Hatter forced immigration judges to grant bond hearings for California inmates detained for more than six months. After 400 such hearings beginning in November, about two-thirds were released on bail. ICE employees had been told to increase arrests and deportations because the numbers were too low. The person responsible for these emails, former ICE administrator David Venturella, is now a high official with Geo, a leading private prison corporation.

The House, with its fixation on shutting down the government, has ignored the plight of immigrants despite a bill passed by the Senate. One of that bill’s provisions would give ICE and judges greater discretion to release detainees of no risk to the community. A benefit of this bill would be an average of 14,000 new jobs in each congressional district over the next decade, with no district having fewer than 7,000. That’s approximately 6 million new jobs. This analysis came from the center-right American Action Network (AAN).

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Senate’s bill would reduce deficits by $197 billion over 10 years. Although building more miles on the fence between the U.S. and Mexico, doubling the number of border agents, and other border security measures would cost $262 billion, people given legal status and newly admitted temporary workers would increase revenue by $459 billion by paying taxes.

Much of the opposition to immigration reform comes from racism, as Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has frequently demonstrated. In August King spoke at a Tea Party-sponsored “Stop Amnesty” rally and claimed that the United States needs to keep people from coming north into the country because the population gets more violent as one moves further south in Latin America. He asserted that people from a “violent civilization” would create a more violent environment for individuals living in a “less-violent civilization.” Fortunately, the rally was not well attended.

king rally nobody there

A few undocumented immigrants are allowed to stay in the United States, thanks to a loophole that members of Congress can file a “private bill” that will keep people in the country. Congressional members who have voted against the DREAM Act and opposed any other immigration reform have used this loophole so that some of their constituents or friends can stay.

The mandate for imprisoning all undocumented immigrants, even those who have not committed any crimes, promotes the occurrence of domestic abuse and rapes because women cannot report these crimes against them. Thus in criminalizing immigration, the GOP causes far more crimes that won’t be prosecuted.

The GOP, claiming to be the party of “family values,” also breaks up families because parents are deported, but the children born in the United States are left in this country. When 11-year-old Josie Molina, a U.S. citizen, asked Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) for help in a town hall meeting, he told her that her undocumented father would and should be deported. The Tea Party audience loudly cheered.

Since the shutdown, President Obama has declared immigration reform as one of his three priorities for this year. He plans to make a statement tomorrow at 10:35 am, urging members of Congress to finish work to provide a citizenship pathway for millions of people in the U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) plans to take up immigration reform in a piecemeal approach typical of the GOP.

Congressional leaders such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) are using the shutdown as an excuse to not work on immigration reform. Both claimed that they wouldn’t be able to make a “good faith effort” to negotiate with the president because of his refusal to negotiate during the shutdown. Rubio also asserted that the president is “trying to destroy” the Republican Party. Conservatives are also worried that House leaders might meet with Senate negotiators.

GOP members of Congress dragging their feet on immigration reform will find themselves opposed by a coalition of evangelical Christians called the Evangelical Immigration Table. They plan a two-day event on October 28-29 to lobby lawmakers and hold a news conference. The GOP has already alienated women, minorities, poor, and LGBT people; they can’t afford to lose the evangelicals too.

August 19, 2013

GOP Alienates Everyone except White Males

http://maddowblog.msnbc.com/_news/2013/08/16/20053005-rnc-unanimously-approves-2016-debate-resolution?lite  Transparency is not the Republican National Committee’s strong suit, so it’s no surprise that much of last weekend’s Summer Meeting in Boston was closed to the public and press. Yet a few things slipped out, especially when Chair Reince Priebus wanted the publicity.

The main buzz was the unanimous approval of a resolution barring NBC News and CNN from hosting the 2016 GOP presidential primary debates after the news that the two networks may air Hillary Clinton documentaries. Fox isn’t included in the boycott because it reportedly bailed on participating in the production of these films. The resolution states that the RNC would not “partner with (CNN or NBC) in the 2016 presidential primary debates nor sanction any primary debates they sponsor.” The ban extends to NBC and CNN’s Spanish-language channels, Telmundo and CNN Espanol.

Another report indicates that the RNC will force networks to reject journalists for debate moderators and replace them with right-wing media personalities like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Such a decision would be in direct conflict with the RNC’s “Growth and Opportunity Project” report issued last March: “The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself. We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue.”

The RNC tried unsuccessfully to conceal its racist approach toward immigration reform from the most conservative members by highlighting charter members of the new GOP “Rising Stars” program—two women, a Latina state lawmaker, and an African-American state lawmaker. Priebus also said, “Using the word ‘self-deportation’–it’s a horrific comment to make. I don’t think it has anything to do with our party. When someone makes those comments, obviously, it’s racist.”

The GOP platform, however, advocates the policy in its opposition to “any forms of amnesty” for “illegal immigrants,” instead endorsing “humane procedures to encourage illegal aliens to return home voluntarily.”

A top speaker—behind closed doors—was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie who supposedly urged GOP members to work toward winning elections rather than squabbling over ideology. “We are not a debating society,” Christie told the RNC luncheon. “We are a political operation that needs to win.” He has claimed that it’s too early to start running for the presidential election of 2016 while he positions himself for candidacy.

The squabble continued when Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), another presidential wannabe, responded through advisor Doug Stafford who said: “So if I translate Gov. Christie correctly, we shouldn’t be the party of ideas. We shouldn’t care what we stand for or even if we stand for anything. We reject that idea. Content-free so-called ‘pragmatism’ is the problem, not the solution.”

When Priebus announced the RNC’s “Growth and Opportunity Project” report, he called it a “wake-up call” to court minorities and women. After the RNC meeting, a Politico op-ed piece listed the groups that the GOP has insisted on alienating since the last election and release of the report on how to not alienate these groups: Hispanics, through the House approach toward immigration reform; African-Americans, by responding offensively toward George Zimmerman’s exoneration for killing teenage Trayvon Martin; gays, with its opposition to rights for LGBT people in marriage and employment; and swing voters, by the GOP demonstrating that they are totally incapable of governing most recently with its threat of shutting down the country if they don’t get their own way.

The GOP shows that minorities don’t belong in the GOP “tent”:

  • Voted to deport DREAMers, a bill that would resume deportations for children brought to the United States without the knowledge that it was done illegally.
  • Suppressed minority votes by enacting laws deliberately designed to stop poor people and minorities from their constitutional right to vote.
  • Used dismissive and racist language including the statement from Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) if people don’t want to be part of “the American race” that they should leave the country.
  • Reacted with insensitivity regarding the Martin killing with such comments as “get over it” [Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD)], blame on President Obama for Zimmerman even standing trial [Rep. Steve King (R-IA)], and refusal to believe that “there is any particular evidence” of black voters being prevented from voting [Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)].
  • Tried to prove opposition of immigration reform using Jason Richwine’s report for Heritage Foundation that he based on his racist Ph.D. dissertation linking race and IQ.

The rabidly anti-LGBT agenda including spending millions of dollars to keep same-sex married couples from receiving federal benefits, preventing anti-discrimination laws in housing and jobs, working to reinstate anti-sodomy laws for only LGBT people, and trying to roll back the repeal of the military policy, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” that permitted service members to openly serve for almost two years.

Politico omitted a large constituency that the GOP continues to alienate—women. The GOP:

  • Fought insuring voters in 40 House votes to stop Obamacare and state laws to refuse federal Medicaid funding, action which inordinately affects women.
  • Opposed the Violence against Women Act, legislation that was first signed into law in 1994 and then twice reauthorized twice that faced great GOP resistance this past spring because it was “expanded to include other different groups,” according to Rep. Martha Blackburn (R-TN). “Different groups” were LGBT, Native American, and immigrant.
  • Defunded Planned Parenthood through federal bills and state laws, causing women to lose access to contraception, cancer screenings, and basic preventive care.
  • Passed anti-abortion legislation through hundreds of outrageous, unconstitutional laws that stop women from having any abortions, no matter what the reason. The House passed Rep. Trent Franks’ (R-AZ) abortion ban after 20 weeks, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has introduced similar legislation.
  • Insulted women legislators, for example when Texas Attorney General (and gubernatorial candidate) Greg Abbott (R) thanked a supporter on Twitter after he referred to state Sen. Wendy Davis as “Retard Barbie.”
  • Refused to recognize serious issues of sexual assault in the military through such offensive blame on pornography [Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)] and “the hormone level created by nature” [Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)].
  • Opposed free contraception through federal attempts to allow anyone to circumvent Obamacare on any flimsy “religious” reason.
  • Attacked working mothers by stating that the American education system  is “so mediocre” because of women who work outside the home [Gov. Phil Bryant (R-MS)].
  • Cut support for women and children in federal budget by eliminating foodstamps and a $758 million cut in WIC, a federal assistance program for low-income pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and infants and children under the age of five.
  • Fought equal pay for women in both states repealing equal pay and the House which rejected the Fair Pay Act.

 

After eliminating minority, female, and LGBT voters, the GOP is left with white men. At the rate that younger people are turning progressive, it’s actually left with older white men—and not all of those are conservative. By 2025, just 12 years from now, the largest age group in America will be those under 40 years of age. An interactive chart on this website shows the changes over the decades.

July 11, 2013

Perry an Example of Conservatives

What’s worse than cutting the amount of food stamp funding from the farm bill? Eliminating them entirely. And that’s what the GOP House members did this afternoon in a 216-208 vote—no Democrats for the bill and 12 Republicans voting against it. The farm will has always been a total package: subsidies and benefits to farmers and nutritional programs such as SNAP to the poor, but House GOP leaders hope that separating them will entirely get rid of this help for hungry people.

Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) pointed out that the bad policy ignored the bipartisan policy of the House Agriculture Committee. The farm bill that the House passed is for five years, but the food stamps would be on an annual basis if it could even pass, which is most unlikely. The biggest cuts to food stamps in history came in 1996 when then Speaker Newt Gingrich proposed turning the program over to the states, but the bill had to provide food stamps for it to pass the Senate. The law authorized SNAP for only two years.

Republicans are perfectly happy spending the bulk of taxes to make military toys that don’t work and to go into other countries to kill people while denying food the poor—primarily women, children, and elders. Stuart Varney, who hosts a Fox “business show,” rants against providing help to people while ignoring the fact that many of them are hard-working employees at places like Walmart with salaries below the poverty level.

Texas is a fine example of poverty, both physical and intellectual, in this country. The state has known only the devastation of George W. Bush and Rick Perry as its leaders for almost two decades. Last Monday, Perry announced that he will not run for another term, and instead finish by  “working to create more jobs, opportunity and innovation.” He may be considering another run for president so that he can destroy a much larger area of the world.

Only 18 percent of Texas Republicans support him in this, and a survey showed him coming in sixth with 7 percent. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) had 27 percent support. Republican strategist Ford McConnell said that Perry was pretty much gone after the famous “oops” episode when the governor failed to remember the third government agency (EPA) that he wanted to eliminate even after his co-debaters tried to help him. I also remember the time in Vermont when he had a goofy smile on his face while cuddling a small bottle of maple syrup. Another “oops” moment was when he couldn’t remember how many justices sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Perry’s legacy in the state of Texas shows how he would rule the nation if such a disastrous event were to occur:

Self-identified “pro-life” Perry presided over more than 260 executions—thus far—more than any other governor in history. After vetoing a bill banning executions of mentally disabled people, he executed a Mexican national who had been denied his right from the Mexican consulate and at least one man who was probably innocent.

Perry supported the state in its immunity for corporations and obsessive deregulations that resulted in the disaster of the fertilizer plant explosion in West.

Perry lambasted the government’s so-called socialist policies and swore he would gut FEMA while he begged the president for federal assistance after the fertilizer plant’s explosion.

Perry decried the 2009 federal recovery package, recommending that the state reject the money for the sake of independence, but balanced the state’s budget with billions of dollars from federal stimulus funding.

Perry called climate change a “contrived phony mess and a scam to make money.”

Perry, after the horrific drought and heat in 2011, tried to solve the problem by betting Texas residents to “pray for rain.”

Perry called evolution “just a theory that’s out there.”

Perry’s latest debacle is that his vigorous fight for the bill to close clinics in favor of ambulatory surgical centers would greatly profit his sister. In 2011 he pushed for and signed “emergency legislation” requiring women to have unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds before they were permitted to have legal abortions. Texas is also the place where two women were subjected to cavity searches—without a change in plastic gloves—after they were picked up for speeding.

Perry led Texas into becoming the nation’s worst polluter, leading the nation in carbon dioxide emissions and providing the home to half of the worst mercury-emitting power plants. His solution to avoid complying with an EPA ruling when he was in violation of the Clean Air Act was a lawsuit against the federal government. The governor also called the 2010 BP oil spill an “act of God” and then call for more oil drilling.

Perry tried to opt the state out of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, claiming that these programs are “Ponzi schemes” and unconstitutional. These programs actually bring billions of dollars into Texas.

Perry worked to continue legal discrimination against LBGT people. A staunch defender of the state’s unconstitutional anti-sodomy law, he blasted the Supreme Court after they overturned the law in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003. Calling the justices “nine oligarchs in robes,” he evidently remembers the number of SCOTUS judges ten years ago. During his presidential campaign in 2012, his anti-gay ad against open service by gays and lesbians in the military accused President Obama of holding a “war on religion.” His speech last Monday boasted the state’s defense of “the sanctity of marriage” through writing discrimination into the state’s constitution.

Perry supported nullification of federal laws and threatened the secession of Texas from the United States.

Perry refuses to let the federal government provide healthcare for low-income residents in the state. More than 25 percent of Texans, 6,234,900 and growing, lack health care coverage. Then he has the gall to claim that Texas has the “best health care in the country.”

Perry vetoed bipartisan Equal Pay legislation after a GOP-controlled legislature passed the bill. He stated that he didn’t want regulations regarding women before he pushed through the highly restrictive restrictions against women.

Perry wants to repeal the 16th and 17th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution to eliminate federal income tax and to stop people from electing federal senators. In his book Fed Up!, he wrote that both were passed only “a fit of populist rage.”

Perry is an example of the wacko, narcissistic Republicans, many of whom are in Congress. Like Perry, they are obsessed with opposing the president, keeping health care from a large number of people in the United States, and creating a government based on fundamentalist Christianity which includes the submission of women to men.

Now they’re readying the fight to take the debt ceiling hostage, demanding big budget cuts from President Obama and other Democrats. Reps. Paul Ryan (R-WI), authors of the draconian budget, and John Boehner (R-OH) are meeting with other conservatives such as Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) who bragged about their talks.

One of their goals is privatizing Medicare; another is drastically cutting spending in  the SNAP food stamp program and block-grant Medicaid while incorporating the chained CPI which would artificially revise the cost of living to disadvantage those on Social Security and Medicare. Another GOP plan raises the eligibility age for Social Security.

Conservatives continue to stall because these plans won’t pass the Senate. While they appear to give options to the White House, they plan rigid positions. As usual, Ryan is the key to debt-ceiling strategy walks. His major problem is that the deficit is falling faster than at any time since World War II which takes away their bargaining power.

The GOP is alienating everyone except white men, mostly older ones. Conservatives refuse to move forward on immigration reform unless all undocumented immigrants are criminalized. Conservatives refuse to do anything about voting rights, hoping that keeping minorities and poor people from the polls will put Republicans into control. Conservatives refuse to pass a reasonable interest rate for student loans, despite the fact that the current rate nets $51 billion for the U.S. Conservatives refuse to help poor people who lack food, shelter, and health care. Conservatives refuse to pass legislation that would improve the economy while they try to control women through taking away their reproductive rights.

Those actions—or inactions—leave them with a base of fewer than 30 percent of the people in the country. Having gerrymandered districts in the majority of states to control state legislators and the U.S. House, the GOP is convinced that it can continue with its lack of responsibility. The election in less than 16 months will show whether they are right.

July 1, 2013

Conservatives Want Big Government, Control

A week ago yesterday, David Gregory tried to criminalize the journalist who reported on Edward Snowden’s leaks about the unconstitutional NSA surveillance. Yesterday, he seemed a different person—for some of the time. Gregory pushed against Rep. Tim Huelskamp’s (R-KS) false belief that there are studies showing that the traditional marriage of male and female is better for children. Several times, Gregory tried to explain that these studies show that having two parents is better for children although Huelskamp was unable to accept information that disagreed with what his personal belief. 

Yet the panel contained the worst of the narrow bigots who refuse to follow any scientific belief in humanity or nature, the head of the Heritage Foundation Jim DeMint and the religious leader Ralph Reed. They added nothing to the discussion about the SCOTUS decisions overturning DOMA and turning Prop 8 back to a district court ruling in California. All the two of them could do was to repeat the far-right belief that traditional marriage should be decided by the state, as if giving same-sex couples federal benefits had anything to do with states’ rights. 

The statements from DeMint and Reed about mandated transvaginal ultrasounds were equally weak. DeMint claimed that these ultrasounds give women an opportunity and that they are lucky because they are free. Rachel Maddow disabused him of both ideas, telling him—and the audience—than a mandated action is not an “opportunity” and that these ultrasounds are not free. After that, Reed claimed that 70 percent of the people in the country want abortions after 20 weeks—a bold-faced lie. DeMint also tried to justify SCOTUS overturning the Voting Rights Act.

A strong feel of sexism, however, came with Gregory’s treatment of Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis who stopped the stringent anti-abortion bill last week through a filibuster of almost 12 hours. First, of Gregory’s six questions to her, two of them dealt with her choice of wearing pink sneakers. Davis had to stand for the entire time, not even leaning against any object.

The second oddity was that Meet the Press, we’ll assume Gregory’s choice, ran personal information about Davis beside the video of her that included her being a single mother at the age of 19 and attending a community college. It is the first time I’ve seen this on the program, and there was nothing about Huelskamp growing up on a farm or adopting four children, information about as pertinent to his appearance as that about Davis.

The third peculiarity was the disparity between questions for Davis and Huelskamp. For the latter, Gregory talked about the new bill the representative introduced to pass a constitutional amendment declaring marriage as only between one man and one woman. With Davis, Gregory asked why she would try to block another anti-abortion bill when she had little or no chance of success in doing this. Actually, she has a better chance of blocking this than Huelskamp has of getting a 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution blocking marriage equality, yet Gregory didn’t ask Huelskamp about that. 

Davis had an excellent response to Gregory’s question of why she would pursue an issue if it was most likely that she would fail: “I don’t thinks it’s ever acceptable to concede the argument on incredibly important issues like this.” It was almost as if Gregory was trying to convince Davis to just quit. 

A group that did just quit, at least for ten days, is Congress. Today is when seven million college students can thank the Republicans in Congress for the doubling of new student loan interest rates while the lawmakers headed home for a leisurely recess. When the rates go from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, students will pay over 10 percent more over 10 years. Last Thursday, Senate Democrats asked for a temporary one-year delay to keep the loan rates at 3.4 percent, but the GOP refused.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) said, “Why would we want to … just kick the can down the road another year?” Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Senate education panel, said lawmakers would consider a retroactive fix on July 10.  With the current rates, the U.S. government is forecast to make a record $51 billion profit from the federal student loan program this year. Angus King (I-Maine) described this sum as “billions of dollars off the backs of our students.”

Democratic senators proposed closing tax loopholes for oil companies, wealthy pensioners, and multinational corporations, raising $8.6 billion over ten years. The GOP didn’t seem to mind restricting wealthy heirs from sheltering inherited 401(K) accounts from being taxed, but the U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposed increasing taxes on the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund and restrictions on multinational companies’ deducting interest payments to foreign subsidiaries from U.S. taxes. The Chamber’s $136 million in 2012 lobbying expenditure make them the highest spender. In addition, the Chamber spent almost $36 million in election campaigning for conservative causes and candidates. 

A year ago, Mitt Romney supported the president’s proposal for a temporary extension of lower rates, and the GOP senators backed off. 

The House Republicans want to tie student loan rates to the 10-year Treasury note and add 2.5 percent with the added revenue paying down the deficit. The cap would be 10.5 percent, but there would be no fixed rate.  This is the plan from the people who say that they want to protect the children.

Student debt in the United States currently totals more than $1 trillion, and one in five households has student debts. College costs have increased 7.45 percent per year from 1978 to 2011, exceeding both inflation and family income growth. At the same time, the bottom 90 percent of people in the country have not increased their salaries. People who have paid off their student loan debt are 36 percent more likely to own homes than those who haven’t. 

As most of us know, the immigration bill will also have great trouble in the House. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) is one of the far-right lawmakers who’s trying to cover his negative votes that might lose Hispanic votes. His concern is that some undocumented people in the country might not want to become citizens, and he thinks that the immigration reform bill would force citizenship on those who don’t want it.

Gowdy likes his own Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement (SAFE) Act that the House Judiciary Committee passed on Thursday. If this became law, all undocumented immigrant would be designated as criminals, and states could enforce their own more restrictive immigration laws.

The conservatives weren’t able to protect the Bank of America in San Diego because a jury acquitted Jeff Olson of all 13 counts. Olson is not particularly a household name maybe because he doesn’t seem to be a criminal. Yet the bank pushed for prosecution after Olson used water-soluble chalk to protest the bank’s powers in front of three different buildings. One of the messages was “Shame on Bank of America.”  

Another activist was charged with the crime of using chalk to write on the sidewalk in Pennsylvania this last week. According to the police citation, A.J. Marin “Governor Corbett has health insurance, we should too.” The state pays for Corbett’s health care, and he opposes Medicaid expansion in the state for 700,000 poor and uninsured residents. Federal funding pays all the bills for the first three years.

chalking1-300x225

Abortion isn’t the only reason that the state is looking into women’s vaginas. In Clayton County (GA), 37-year-old Nakia Grimes discovered that her birth certificate incorrectly labeled her as a male because of a new rule requiring her to have a copy of her birth certificate.

An employee told the mother that, to prove she is a biological woman, she’d have to get Pap exam, have a doctor write a note verifying that she is a woman, and have it notarized. Grimes angrily reported the situation to a local media outlet who contacted Vital Records Services. State records officials looked up the birth certificate of Grimes’ son, Zion, and made the change.

June 27, 2013

Senate Moves, House Sits, Texas Goes Backward

The Senate actually did something, which happens occasionally. This afternoon it passed its immigration reform bill with a vote of 68-32. Not that this is necessarily a good thing because of the emphasis on border security and the requirement that all employers used the error-ridden E-Verify to check up on any applicants. Of the 32 GOP senators who opposed the bill, two were presidential wannabes, Ted Cruz (TX) and Rand Paul (KY). No GOP Senate leader voted in favor of the bill.

At least the Senate did something.

On the House side, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said that they would create their own immigration bill. Thus far they’ve made no move toward it. They also haven’t done anything about the doubling of interest on student loans this Monday or overcome the sequester that’s biting into the economic recovery. Their only actions have been to re-overturn Obamacare and pass another anti-abortion bill, neither of which the Senate will support.

The House is also avoiding climate change. In describing his agenda for this , President Obama said, “We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society.” Majority House Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) switched the subject to jobs, complaining about the president is “harming innovation [in a] direct assault on jobs.” No answer from the House about how to provide more jobs.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is hiding from the IRS debacle. The GOP has continually whined about the IRS targeting Tea Party groups. Yet Issa asked that the IRS limit its information to these audits, requesting investigators to “narrowly focus on tea party organizations,” according to spokesman for Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George.  Progressive groups got the same treatment as conservative Tea Party groups. The liberal group Catholics United, for instance, waited seven years before receiving tax exempt status, far longer than any tea party group had to wait.

There is a question about whether Issa was the instigator in concealing information from the public about the “inappropriate criteria” used to single out tea party groups–so-called “Be On the Look Out” (BOLO) memos–that also singled out progressive and “Occupy” groups.

George, a George W. Bush appointee, may be at fault. When asked last month if any progressive groups were targeted, he said that the IRS had not. Since then, he’s changed his mind. Also one of the main author’s of George’s report was relieved of his previous position as head of the special investigations unit at the Government Accountability Office because he wrote an incomplete report and was accused by a colleague of “pursuing overly sensationalist stories.”

After Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel appeared at the House Ways and Means Committee today, all the Democrats on the committee sent a letter to House Republicans demanding that they call the author of the audit report to return and testify under oath to explain why the report failed to tell the House that progressive groups were also targeted.

Issa has abandoned the IRS scandal that he created and gone back to investigating Benghazi.

Yesterday’s ruling that struck down DOMA has energized at least one member of Congress. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) claims that he and other lawmakers will revive the Federal Marriage Amendment. “A narrow radical majority of the court has, in my opinion, substituted their personal views for the constitutional decisions of the American voters and their elected representatives,” Huelskamp said. It’s almost a case of “the pot calling the kettle black” except the obstructionist GOP “narrow radical majority” isn’t really the majority—just the vocal.

One faint gleam of hope appeared after SCOTUS erased the Voting Rights Act  two days ago. Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI), instrumental in the 2006 VRA, is urging his colleagues to restore the provisions to protect voters. GOP Reps. Steve Chabot (OH) and Sean Duffy (WI) have declared support for a renewed VRA. After the Democratic caucus met to discuss the possibility of a new Section 4 to VRA, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that she likes naming it the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

One of the 13 original Freedom Riders in the early 1960s, Rep. Lewis (D-GA) was beaten by angry mobs, arrested, and sent to jail—several times. In response to the egregious SCOTUS decision giving all states the right to discriminate in any way that the GOP leaders wish, Lewis said:

“These men that voted to strip the Voting Rights Act of its power, they never stood in unmovable lines. They never had to pass a so-called literacy test. It took us almost 100 years to get where we are today. So will it take another 100 years to fix it, to change it?”

At the same time that state GOP legislators are working day and night to alienate women through their anti-abortion bills, the Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus is kicking off an initiative tomorrow that he says is “designed to advance the role of women within our party.” He will be joined by a few female lawmakers—perhaps because he could find only a few female GOP lawmakers.

Called Women on the Right Unite, the project was announced the same day that a Texas GOP lawmaker described state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) and her allies as terrorists. Davis’ act of terror was to filibuster an evil anti-abortion bill during a special legislative session. The GOP lawmakers failed to get the bill passed before the deadline so they lied about when the vote was completed.

The GOP refuses to change its policies of similar legislation in other states and at the federal level. Republicans won’t stop mandating unnecessary medical procedures not recommended by women’s physicians, making idiotic comments about rape, and opposing pay equity. The party wants women to buy into their antediluvian view of the differences between the genders. While the GOP talks about uniting women behind their view, they will also continue to drive more and more women into poverty. That, however, won’t be part of the discussion.

According to the press release, tomorrow’s news conference will follow a strategy session at RNC headquarters, where committees and elected officials will discuss “how to better engage and support Republican women.” I’m guessing that there are several hundreds of women in Texas who could contribute to this discussion.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry also took on Davis in his halting speech at the National Right to Life Conference when he described her as a teenage mother and the daughter of a single woman. “It’s just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters,” Perry said.

As governor, Perry executed his 262nd person, a 52-year-old woman, yesterday.  On the same day he signed into law the new gerrymandered map redistricting the state so that minorities can be disenfranchised.

Three cheers for Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) after Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto accused her of declaring a “war on men” and trying “to criminalize male sexuality.” McCaskill’s sin, according to Taranto, was to put a hold on Lt. Gen. Susan Helms for vice commander of the Air Force Space Command because Helms had reduced the conviction of aggravated sexual assault to an indecent act without having watched the trial. Taranto blamed the assaulted women for drinking and then getting into a car with a man; the columnist claimed that she “acted recklessly.”

Current military law allows Helms to substitute her personal judgment for that of a jury that she selected. As McCaskill wrote Taranto:

“What [Helms] did was not a crime. But it was an error, and a significant one. I’m hopeful that our work this year will remove the ability of a commander to substitute their judgment, and sometimes also their ingrained bias, for that of a jury who has heard the witnesses and made a determination of their credibility and the facts of the case.”

The entire letter is well-worth reading because it shows how well the people of Missouri are represented by this senator.

Another woman to watch is Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) when she takes down federal contractor, Braulio Castillo, who claimed his foot injury (possibly sprained ankle) at a military prep school gave him special status as a “service-disabled veteran-owned small business.” Some of you may remember that Duckworth lost both her legs in the Iraq War when her helicopter was shot down.

Castillo’s company, Strong Castle, won contracts with the IRS worth as much as $500 million. Duckworth’s disability rating is 20 percent; Castillo gets (at least until now) a 30-percent disability for his twisted ankle.

The tape is 8 minutes long, but it shows how well another Democratic woman serves the country.

June 24, 2013

SCOTUS Decisions, Immigration Reform Amendment, Texas Anti-Abortion Continue

Although the Supreme Court did not deliver its rulings about marriage equality and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 today, they did divulge other decisions. SCOTUS did deliver a non-ruling on affirmative action in Fisher v. University of Texas. In the question of whether a white student suffered racial discrimination at the University of Texas, SCOTUS rejected a lower court’s approval of the school’s affirmative action plan but said that it will have to evaluate it again.

The constitutionality of race in university admissions, however, survived with the ruling that race may be considered as a factor as long as the policy is “narrowly tailored.” If “‘a nonracial approach . . . could promote the substantial interest about as well and at tolerable administrative expense,’” then the university may not consider race.

When states have banned affirmative action, the number of minority has drastically dropped. Today’s ruling allows universities to continue implementing diversity plans, but it does not preclude these state bans. In its next term, SCOTUS will review a Michigan ban that the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down.

In his opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas compared any affirmative action to slavery. He has also said that he would vote to overturn the case next year upholding the University of Michigan Law School’s affirmative action policy. That means he doesn’t need to listen to arguments next year because he’s already made up his mind.

Courtesy seems to have disappeared in SCOTUS. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented to the racial discrimination ruling, asserting that the lower court ruling should have been upheld. She also read a dissent to the case (below) which makes racial and sexual discrimination easier by raising the level of proof to establish retaliation for complaining about discrimination.

Part of Ginsburg’s dissent was a “hypothetical” (meaning drawn from a real case) when a female worker on a road crew was subjected to humiliations by the “lead worker” and who now has no remedy because of the court ruling. According to Garrett Epps, Justice Samuel Alito pursed his lips, rolled his eyes to the ceiling, and shook his head “no.” There are no cameras to show the incident, but Epps reported that the audience made audible gasps.

SCOTUS gave sexual and racial harassment a boost up in the workplace through today’s 5-4 ruling in Vance v. Ball State University. Thanks to five Supreme Court justices, a “supervisor” is defined as having the power to make a “significant change in employment status, such as hiring, firing, failing to promote, reassignment with significantly different responsibilities, or a decision causing a significant change in benefits.”

The definition eliminates all the people who still maintain power over employers through reporting their actions to employers—excuse me “supervisors.” One of these “non-supervisors” is a senior truck driver who coerced a female subordinate into having unwanted sex with him. Justice Elena Kagan also described the secretary whose boss “subjects that secretary to living hell, complete hostile work environment on the basis of sex.” That person is not a “supervisor” because it’s the “Head of Secretarial Services” who would fire her.

In University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, the five conservative justices also allowed employers a greater right to retaliate against victims of discrimination who report that they have suffered discrimination.

The Senate is working hard to discriminate against immigrants through its reform bill. In a desperate attempt to pass the bill, the Senate passed a motion to debate an amendment by 67-27 with 15 GOP “yes” votes that would ostensibly make the bill more palatable to conservatives. It’s a Christmas gift to Halliburton, as  Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said, because of the requirement for another 700 miles of fencing. Another piece of the amendment was doubling the number of border patrol agents to 40,000—one for each 1,000 feet of the southern border of the United States. The party that wants less government and spending cuts now helps support a bill that would cost an additional $46 billion.

Most of the publicity for the amendment came from the border security, but Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) managed other offensive provisions. One prohibits undocumented workers from counting past wages toward Social Security eligibility, and another prevents the government from providing welfare to immigrants until they become citizens. The provisions also called for an additional five-year ban on federal health subsidies under Obamacare for unauthorized immigrants who get a green card and tried to ensure these immigrants pay back taxes and penalties on any wages they earned while in the country illegally.

There may be more news about what’s buried in the 1,200-page amendment before the vote on Thursday or Friday.

Meanwhile, Texas GOP members are using a special legislative session to push through more restrictive anti-abortion regulations. (What happened to their love for small government?!) The proposed law would criminalize abortions after 20 weeks and shut down health clinics, leaving no place in western Texas—a very large area—to obtain an abortion. Women would have to travel at least 600 miles to get an abortion for any reason.

In a peculiar quirk, the bill’s sponsor, Jody Laubenberg (R) refused to support an exemption for rape because—ready for this?—she thinks that the rape kit, used to collect forensic data on the rapist for a prosecution, causes abortions. She said, “In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out.” Laubenberg has displayed an even greater ignorance then Congressional legislators.

Someone needs to explain to Laubenberg that this is the procedures for use of the rape kit. A victim enters the hospital; staff collect bodily fluid, residue under the victim’s nails, and any relevant blood or hair samples for an investigation. Nobody gets “cleaned out.” States with abstinence-only sex education, such as Texas, have highly uneducated people, even elected legislators.

A survey found that 63 percent of registered voters don’t want any more anti-abortion laws, and 71 percent think that the legislature should worry about the economy and jobs instead of policing women’s reproductive rights. Almost three-fourths think that personal medical decisions about abortions should be made by a woman and her doctor, not by politicians. Also, 57 percent said that they don’t trust the governor or the legislature to make choices about women’s health care. Eighty percent think that anti-abortion should not be legislated in special session. And this opposition is from both parties and the independents.

The Texas Assembly passed the bill at 10:40 am today. Legislative rules require a 24-hour wait until the Senate can bring it up. The Texas legislature has until tomorrow night to get the bill passed.

This last weekend, dozens of people stood in line in Atlanta to buy exclusive LeBron James sneakers. When a man carrying a gun harassed them, a man in line pulled his gun and fatally shot him. The shooter then got back in line to wait for his sneakers. Some of the people thought that he wanted to rob them. A witness said about the dead man, “Sounds like he brought it on himself.”

Nobody said anything the man being dangerous, just that it was okay to kill him. Police have said they will not be charging the shooter because it was “self defense.” No need to wound him or feel any remorse—just kill him. This is the gun culture of the United States. 

Next Page »

the way of improvement leads home

reflections at the intersection of American history, religion, politics, and academic life

© blogfactory

Genuine news

Civil Rights Advocacy

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. -- Margaret Mead

AGR Daily News

Transformational News; What Works For Seven Future Generations Without Causing Harm?

JONATHAN TURLEY

Res ipsa loquitur - The thing itself speaks

Jennifer Hofmann

Inspiration for soul-divers, seekers, and activists.

Occupy Democrats

Progressive political commentary/book reviews for youth and adults

V e t P o l i t i c s

politics from a liberal veteran's perspective

Margaret and Helen

Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting...

Rainbow round table news

Official News Outlet for the Rainbow Round Table of the American Library Association

The Extinction Protocol

Geologic and Earthchange News events

Central Oregon Coast NOW

The Central Oregon Coast Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW)

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

Over the Rainbow Books

A Book List from Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: