Nel's New Day

June 30, 2017

Federal Commission Wants All the Voting Registration Data

Filed under: Voting — trp2011 @ 10:25 PM
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Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has been furious since his election last November that he missed getting the majority of popular votes by at least three million. He spent the first few months claiming voter fraud by undocumented immigrants, but white supremacist may have given him a solution for punishing people who disagreed with him. On May 11, DDT signed one of his executive orders, examining both voter fraud and suppression. Toward that end, he appointed Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to be vice-chair of DDT’s commission who stated that the commission’s sole objective is to support DDT’s lie that voter fraud was involved in the 2016 election.

DDT has claimed that the commission would be bipartisan, but among Democrats are a West Virginia county clerk and a former Arkansas state legislator who doesn’t know why he was chosen. Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap and New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner hope to look into Russia’s interference in the election, but that was not part of the commission’s charge.  Nor is the growing number of voter suppression laws across the nation since the Supreme Court gutting of the 1965 Voting Rights Act in 2013.

Kobach has an illustrious history in voter suppression throughout the nation.In 2010, the Kansan started providing states with bills to prevent a nonproblem when he  provided Arizona with its language for demanding citizenship papers, citizenship proof to register to vote, and strict photo ID requirements for voting. The Arizona “show your papers”  law failed in the Supreme Court, but Arizona can still require citizenship proof for state elections. People have to register twice—once for federal candidates and the other for state/local elections.

In 2011, Kobach introduced the Kansas law requiring residents to give proof of citizenship to be registered as a voter. Lawsuits against the law are still in court because the federal National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) requires only “the minimum amount of information necessary” to verify citizenship. Last April the court demanded documents to prove Kobach’s claims that enough citizens are registering to force higher standards from NVRA.  The ACLU claims that these show that he lobbied DDT to change the law, indicating that he knew his process was inconsistent with current federal law. Last week, a federal judge fined him $1,000 for making “patently misleading representations” about these documents.

In 2015, Kobach, he created a system suspending tens of thousands of eligible voters from the rolls but claimed that “nobody’s being disenfranchised.” He is the only secretary of state in the country with the power to prosecute people for committing voter fraud. Kobach’s office also compared voter rolls to temporary driver’s licenses for non-citizens and commissioned outside firms to poll non-citizens about voting habits using these driver’s licenses. He also asked the Department of Homeland Security to compare a list of suspected non-citizen voters against a list of naturalized citizens.

In Kansas, Kobach used a database called Crosscheck to look for voters registered in two states and plans a similar process with the data that he collects from the 50 states. It supposedly matches voters’ names and dates of birth to flag people who are double registered. Unfortunately experts have found that it finds 200 false positives for every one legitimate result. Kobach could find almost 1 million false positives. Other states have dropped the program because it flagged one in six Latinos, one in seven Asian Americans, and one in nine African Americans as potential double registrants in the states examined.

This week, Kobach sent letters to all 50 secretaries of state requiring “publicly-available voter roll data” including ten types of sensitive information within two weeks. One of these is the last four digits of the registrants’ Social Security number. There was no indication of how Kobach or the commission chair, Vice President Mike Pence, plans to use the information—or keep it secure. Kobach may be on the way to setting up a national system like the one he developed in Kansas.

The majority response to Kobach’s letter was “no.” He can’t even get Social Security numbers from Kansas because state law prevents it. Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, a commission member, said that she would provide only voters’ names and their congressional district assignments. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in a statement that he will “not provide sensitive voter information to a commission that has already inaccurately passed judgment that millions of Californians voted illegally.” Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill said that she would be “withholding protected data.” She added:

“In the same spirit of transparency, we will request that the commission share any memos, meeting minutes or additional information as state officials have not been told precisely what the commission is looking for. This lack of openness is all the more concerning, considering that the vice chair of the commission, Kris Kobach, has a lengthy record of illegally disenfranchising eligible voters in Kansas.”

Mississippi’s Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann hadn’t gotten the letter when he formulated his response:

“As all of you may remember, I fought in federal court to protect Mississippi voters’ rights for their privacy and won. In the event I were to receive correspondence from the commission requesting (what the other state received) … My reply would be: They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great state to launch from.”

In Missouri, however, the secretary of state said that he will cooperate. Jay Ashcroft is the son of former U.S. AG John Ashcroft, Kobach’s mentor at the Justice Department.

In some states, the secretaries of state are not responsible for voter information. For example, the two largest counties in Arizona, not the state, maintain their information.

The letter had also suggested that the data be sent to an insecure email address unprotected by even basic encryption technology, a faulty method for the goal of improving the security and integrity of federal election systems. The federal Privacy Act of 1974 prohibits the federal government from keeping records of voters’ party affiliation except in rare circumstances. The law was enacted after Watergate and concerns about Richard Nixon collecting personal information on U.S. voters. Still, Kobach hopes that the Justice Department will get the information for him if states would send him the data.

In the original letter, Kobach wrote that “any documents that are submitted to the full Commission will also be made available to the public.” Later he reversed his position and said that it would be stored on a secure server. Voter data is useful for identity theft. Almost 200 million records for U.S. voters compiled for DDT’s 2016 campaign was available for 12 days until a techie pointed out the problem.  The Center for Democracy and Technology compared the data availability to a leak of toxic waste. Releasing the data to Kobach would mean having faith in him to keep the material secure.

The accusation of widespread voter fraud is fraudulent; the GOP uses it to eliminate votes from women, minorities, and the poor. The type that voter suppression laws intend to control is tremendously rare; they are only a burden to a largely non-existent problem. An examination of DDT’s claims about undocumented immigrants voting in mass during the 2016 presidential election has proved false. A federal judge ruled that some of Kobach’s proposed ID requirements constituted a “mass denial of a fundamental constitutional right.”

Candidates around the United States are already beginning to incorporate opposition against Kobach’s plan. Kobach is a candidate for Kansas governor in 2018. A question in Kansas is whether Republicans value their privacy.

Imagine if the Democrats tried to collect all the voter data!

August 30, 2016

Trump’s Campaign Manager Decries Lack of ‘Substance’

“We want substance!” That’s the cry from Donald lovers and Hillary haters. During an interview with Rachel Maddow, Trump campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, voiced the complaint that “no substance [is] being discussed” in the 2016 race.

Yesterday Hillary Clinton provided substance—and the media ignored her. She presented a mental health package to help improve the condition of the 20 percent of people in the United States who suffer from mental illness and initiate a White House conference about the subject during her first year as president. Her plan integrates mental health services into health-care system and includes a national suicide prevention initiative, higher payments for Medicaid providers, emphasis on treatment over jail for low-level criminal offenders with mental health issues, and new housing and job opportunities. She also promised increased investment in brain and behavioral science research as well as enforcing existing laws that mandate mental health coverage be an essential benefit in health insurance plans. This agenda overlaps with her plan to address drug and alcohol addiction and addresses the problems of military veterans who experience PTSD and depression.

Plans like this sound boring to anyone except policy wonks like Clinton. Anti-Hillary people would rather have the media throw them red meat so that they are comfortable with hating Clinton. Much as Trump’s campaign manager calls for a discussion of “substance,” her candidate doesn’t want anything except innuendo and false assertions.

Yesterday, Conway’s candidate blamed Clinton for Anthony Weiner sexts because the former congressman and onetime mayoral candidate is married to Clinton’s senior adviser Huma Abedin who is leaving her husband after the most recent sexts. Trump wrote:

“I only worry for the country in that Hillary Clinton was careless and negligent in allowing Weiner to have such close proximity [sic] to highly classified information. Who knows what he learned and who he told? It’s just another example of Hillary Clinton’s bad judgment. It is possible that our country and its security have been greatly compromised by this.”

Throwing out this criticism is bad judgment from a man who left his first wife for another woman and then left her for a Central European model who posed nude and may have violated immigration law. After his first divorce, his own mother said, “What kind of son have I created?” He also seeks advice from Roger Ailes, recently fired from his position as chair and CEO of Fox network because of sexual harassment for dozens of women. Trump’s pick for campaign CEO is Steve Bannon, who was charged with physically assaulting his ex-wife. Weiner hasn’t been charged with any criminal acts, but Trump wants him listed as a sex offender. And Trump has no proof for his assertions; he just wants to rile up his audience.

While ignoring Clinton’s health plan, Trump waded into the issue of the San Francisco 49ers quarterback who didn’t stand for the national anthem and said that the football player should leave the United States. Colin Kaepernick said that he was protesting the nation’s racial inequality when he sat during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The NFL league does not require players to stand during the national anthem. It’s a matter of free speech, just the Supreme Court says about donating unlimited sums of money to candidates.

Conservatives who want limited ownership of firearms claim that killings could be solved by addressing mental health issues, but no Republican, including Donald Trump, has responded to Clinton’s new plan. If Conway’s candidate tries to address “substance,” he’ll be farther down in the polls that he is now.

Trump Watch: Pastor Mark Burns, a black supporter of Donald Trump, has used his freedom of speech to attack Clinton by tweeting a vile cartoon of the Democratic presidential candidate in black face. [I included the cartoon because it’s the only way to see how horrible it is.] blackfaceTrump’s surrogate and advisor, a proponent of the “prosperity gospel” that champions money and celebrates great wealth for people, called his intentions in the tweet “honorable.”  Burns’ benediction at the GOP convention has been called the most partisan convention prayer in modern history. He called Democrats as “the enemy” and asked for God to “defeat” Clinton and her party. Trump’s favorability with blacks is zero: 97 percent of blacks view Trump unfavorably and the remaining three percent is undecided.

The Washington Post has made public much of the raw reporting used in the development of Trump Revealed, its new biography of the GOP presidential nominee. The archive contains 398 documents–interview transcripts, court filings, financial reports, immigration records, etc.

Dr. Harold Bornstein may come to regret the five minutes that he spent typing up his letter with the glowing description of Trump’s fine health. After GOP members started putting out fake videos and other reports falsely purporting that Clinton’s health is bad, journalists started digging into the Bornstein’s background. The interview with him was damning enough, especially when he said, in an egregious violation of medical ethics, “I know her physician and I know some of her health history which is really not so good.”

Additional information shows that Bornstein paid $86,250 in 2002 to the husband of a former patient to settle a wrongful death case alleging that Bornstein had contributed to the woman’s addition and resulting death by overmedicating her with unnecessary prescriptions. This case was one of three lawsuits since 1992, with another one alleging improper administration of  powerful drugs leading to the patient’s death.

In one of the complaints, Kenneth Levin alleged Bornstein “was negligent, careless, and unskilled in failing to properly diagnose the plaintiff” and in treating his wife, Janet Levin. It also alleges that Bornstein was negligent “in failing to make a referral to a mental health professional; in wrongfully prescribing tuinal, morphine, and valium, particularly in light of the history of drinking; in improperly and negligently seeing the patient without providing treatment; and in overmedicating the decedent.” Kenneth Levin has died since the lawsuit was filed and settled through a payment.

Malpractice suits aren’t uncommon among medical professionals, but Bornstein’s response to the letter of clean health he wrote for Trump has raised questions. For example, he said of the letter,“In a rush, I think some of those words didn’t come out exactly the way they were meant.” About the language, Bornstein said, “I think I picked up [Trump’s] kind of language and then just interpreted it to my own.” Arthur Caplan, founding director of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center, pointed out that “a gastroenterologist should not be offering an assessment of Trump’s overall health.” Caplan also said:

“You don’t do an assessment in a few minutes, and you don’t do it without having the person in front of you. You don’t write a letter without examining the patient.”

In another part of collateral damage in the Clinton health situation, Fox fired Dr. Drew Pinsky after he made a diagnosis of Hillary Clinton on his program although he had not seen her or her doctor.

Another Trump discovery is that his modeling agency, Trump Model Management, hired underage foreign models in the early 2000s without proper documentation. Interviews have shown low wages, horrible living conditions, and fear of being deported because they didn’t have work visas. For example, “the agency charged as much as $1,600 a month for a bunk in a six-person room in New York’s East Village in 2004.” As many as 11 girls, ages 14 and 15, and women would live in this room.

Models said that agency reps coached them in how to pass immigration:

“When you’re stuck at immigration, say that you’re coming as a tourist. If they go through your luggage and they find your portfolio, tell them that you’re going there to look for an agent.”

The girls and women were also told to send their portfolios ahead so that they didn’t get caught with them. More successful models received H-1B work visas; others not offered visas were sent home. Last March, Trump said he would “end forever the use of H-1B as a cheap labor program,” adding he will require companies to hire American workers before opening the pool to visa holders.

Trump gained part of his popularity by claiming that undocumented immigrants–like the ones his agency imported–are “taking our jobs” and “taking our money.” He promised to deport all of them and build a wall on the Mexico border–although he shipped these models into the country through New York airports. Tomorrow, Trump is presenting his latest immigration position in a speech to be given in Arizona.

Two people discussing Clinton and Trump on a local public radio station yesterday highlighted the differences between their approaches toward candidate selection. A woman claiming to be highly educated said that, based on her feelings, she wouldn’t even trust Clinton to walk her dog. A respondent, who described himself as a Goldwater Republican, said that he wouldn’t trust Trump with his bank account. His viewpoint was based on fact whereas the woman had been absorbing the “feelings” from the media. The man wanted discussion based on substance—important issues such as nuclear weapons and Russian involvement in U.S. elections. But the Hillary haters just want to keep on hating, and the media feeds them what they want.

November 21, 2014

President Infuriates GOP with Immigration Executive Order

Last night, mainstream television stations refused to run President Obama’s speech, but the message still came across loud and clear: the president is moving forward on immigration reform because the GOP House won’t take action. In the first minute of the speech, he announced that about 4.4 million undocumented immigrants—parents, children, and others who have lived at least five years in the country—will not be forced out of their homes.

Undocumented parents of U.S. citizen and legal permanent children can legally stay in the country and work if they pass a background check. His 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy will be expanded by removing the top age limit of 31 and applying to all those who came to the U.S. before January 1, 2010. Relief from the deferred action will be three years, an increase from the two-year DACA program. Executive orders are temporary, made on a case-by-case basis, can be revoked, and do not put immigrants on a path toward citizenship. They are required to pay taxes but won’t be eligible for most government benefits including the Affordable Care Act subsidies.

Other benefits focus on those illegally crossing the border since the beginning of the year, convicted criminals, suspected terrorists, and possible threats to national security. The president’s new executive order will broaden opportunities for highly skilled workers and change how visas are distributed. Parents of DACA recipients and agricultural workers are not included in this relief, but they may be eligible for reprieve from other factors. Any person granted deferred action can get work authorization by demonstrating “an economic necessity for employment” and can obtain Social Security numbers.

As expected, the Party of No has doubled down on its threats to block the president and avoid helping the people of the United States:

Shut down the government: That GOP suggestion included talk on last Sunday shows. Although Sen. John Thune (R-SD) had earlier acknowledged that this move “doesn’t solve the problem,” he hasn’t rejected the option.

Defund the immigration plan: Rescission is a parliamentary procedure that lets legislators pass a budget bill and then return to cut out whatever they don’t want. Citizenship and Immigration Services is funded through fees, however, not congressional appropriations, meaning that Congress can’t take this route.

Block confirmation of all nominees, including the U.S. Attorney General and judges: This threat isn’t new; the GOP senators have been doing it during the past two congresses. They will continue, however, because they’re hoping for a Republican president in two years to pack the courts and other federal seats.

Refuse to pass any immigration legislation through Congress: It’s not as if the GOP House has been willing to do pass any legislation anyway.

Impeach the president: Reps. Steve King (R-IA), Joe Barton (R-TX), and Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) have all suggested this action, useless because it requires a two-thirds vote in the senate. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) even wants to send the president to prison. He suggested the possibility that “the president’s conduct aids or abets, encourages, or entices foreigners to unlawfully cross into the United States of America” which carries “a five-year in-jail penalty.”

Sue the President: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), a presidential wannabe, called the executive action a “cynical ploy” to distract Republicans from other agenda items. Because the Republicans haven’t moved anything forward for years, this doesn’t set up an unusual situation. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has finally found a lawyer who took the case after rejection from two others. The current filing uses the Affordable Care Act as its basis but just asks for a ruling without any request for relief, injunction, or change.

The House may fail in suing the president for his executive order on immigration.   The Supreme Court decision in Arizona v. United States (2012) ruled “broad discretion” for the executive branch in immigration matters because removal is a civil, not criminal, matter. The law reads that undocumented people “may” be removed, not “must”; thus the executive branch “must decide whether it makes sense to pursue removal at all” on a case-by-case basis. Immigration law does require custody for those who have committed a serious crime or previously “engaged in a terrorist activity.”

One reason that Republicans want to block the immigration executive order is that the president’s actions will improve the economy. With about 5 million more people obtaining work permits, wages will be increased by an average of 8.5 percent and raise an additional $3 billion in payroll taxes for just the first year and $22.6 billion for the first five years. GDP will go up by 0.9 percent, about $210 billion, and the federal deficit will shrink by $25 billion through this growth. The senate bill would have had far greater economic benefits, but it was kept from a House vote.

Immigrants do not have a negative impact on earnings of native-born workers because the two groups usually have different skill sets and look for different kinds of jobs. As new immigrants move to the U.S., the number of jobs lost to offshoring actually decreases, keeping more jobs for native-born workers and greater demand for such services as transportation of these goods throughout the country. Getting immigrant labor for lower-skilled jobs moves native-born workers in those jobs up the job ladder, giving them higher-paid jobs. Immigrants also do not displace U.S. workers because many of them start their own businesses.

Republicans ignore the executive actions on immigration taken by 11 U.S. presidents, every president both Republican and Democrat since President Dwight Eisenhower. Reagan granted deportation relief to minor children of parents who benefited from a 1986 immigration reform, and George H.S. Bush gave the same relief to about 1.5 million “family members living with a legalizing immigrant [] who were in the U.S. before passage of the 1986 law.” As the president said in his speech:

“To those Members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill.”

President Obama’s actions are not an amnesty. Reagan was the president who strongly supported amnesty. In a presidential debate in 1984, he said, “I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here, even though sometime back they may have entered illegally.”

The farthest-right members of Congress rant about the president’s actions because they think the GOP now has a mandate to take over the country. They forgot that they completely ignored any “mandate” from the 2012 election when both the elected president and Senate were Democratic and the majority of votes for the House were Democratic although gerrymandering provided a majority of GOP representatives. GOP congressional members have proceeded during the past six years with its only goal–to stop any action from the president.

While the Republicans threaten the president, they also call on violent action from people across the country by trying to terrify them. For example, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has said, “You could see violence.” He seemed to give people the right for anarchy when he explained how people think:

“If the law doesn’t apply to the president and it’s not affirmatively acted upon us as a group, like you’re seeing in Ferguson, Missouri then why should it apply to me?'”

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a leader in the anti-immigrant movement, said during his Sunday radio program that it’s possible that a Hispanic majority in the U.S. could conduct an “ethnic cleansing.” In a game of “us versus them” played against imagined enemies, conservatives, like terrorists such as ISIL use this method to control people and keep them from being free.

As satirist Andy Borowitz wrote, the GOP immigration plan for the past 30 years is to “make America somewhere no one wants to live.” Immigrants have come to the United States to improve their standard of living. That hope is gradually disappearing through the GOP’s plans to decrease wages, eliminate health care, increase imprisonment, and expand the number of unwarranted deaths through unimpeded gun violence.

Older GOP legislators refuse to pay attention to historic and economic facts just as they reject science. Their only plan is the same one that they’ve used for the past six years to stop the president: do nothing.

April 27, 2013

What’s Missing from Main-Stream Media, April 2013

While the main-stream media concentrates on the Boston bombing, here are a few items that they missed or slighted:

Mark Sanford: The former governor from South Carolina running for representative who said that he was hiking the Appalachian trail for five days while he visited his mistress in Argentina and trespassed in his ex-wife’s home after he was ordered not to do so had arrived at a new low. After the trespass was made public, he ran a full-page ad in the Charleston Post & Currier with his personal cell phone number, asking people to call him “if you have further questions.” A Democratic-aligned super PAC, House Majority PAC, included the number in a fundraising email. In retribution, Sanford published an unredacted list of all his callers’ phone numbers.

The candidate has become increasingly peculiar in his actions. Although he’s running against Elizabeth Colbert Busch, he had a debate with a full-size cardboard poster of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in Charleston. The image brings back the memories of Clint Eastwood and an empty chair at the GOP convention last summer.

Sanford debates poster

Colorado Voting Bill Mailer: Images caused problems for other conservatives, this time a group connected to Colorado’s Secretary of of State. The House has passed a voting bill to improve the state’s laws. It would allow people to register on Election Day, automatically send mail ballots to all voters, and stop fraud through a real-time voter database. Republican county clerks and Secretary of State Scott Gessler oppose the bill. Using the address of Gessler’s former firm, the “Citizens for Free and Fair Elections” have sent out political mailers using a purchased image.

Colorado mailer light skin

There is a change in the image, however, from the original. The dark-skinned face of a woman in the original photo by Mark Wilson (Getty Images) to show long voting lines in Montgomery County (VA) were in 2012 has been digitally replaced in the mailer with the photo of another woman who is much lighter skinned.

Getty dark skinn

Fox Latino friendlyFox News: In an attempt to appear “Latino friendly,” Fox News used a positive photograph featuring a Latina to illustrate its article headlined “‘Illegal Immigrant’ Dropped from Associated Press Stylebook.” Including quotes from racial justice organization The Applied Research Center, which publishes Colorlines.org, the article discussed the controversy referred to the term “illegal immigrant” as “controversial.”

But that was in Fox News Latino; FoxNews.com highlighted the story on its front page with a different photo and headline. The headline was switched to “AP Rules: Don’t Call Him an… ‘ILLEGAL?'”

fox Latino unfriendly

Later the headline was changed to “What’s in a Name? AP under Criticism for Nixing ‘Illegal Immigrant,'” but the photo stayed—just a bit smaller.

Mark Zuckerberg: Worth $13.1 billion following his creation of Facebook, Zuckerberg has agreed with the importance of changing from dirty fossil fuels to clean renewable energy. Now his new political group, which bills itself as a bipartisan entity dedicated to passing immigration reform, is spending big bucks on ads advocating anti-environmental causes including drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and constructing the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. It’s all in the name of business.

John-Mica_2-e1366991056439Washington, D.C.: The best piece of authoritarian patriarchy came last week from Rep. John Mica (R-FL). The topic was Washington, D.C., always at the mercy of Congressional whim, and its budget autonomy. Recently the city voted in favor of this by 85 percent. Unless both chambers of Congress pass a disapproval resolution which would then have to be signed by the president, the over 600,000 people in this city can decide how they spend the money that they pay into the city’s coffers.

Mica, a committee member who oversees the city’s budget, laughed at the vote and said:

“Well, when my kids were young teenagers, they always wanted budget autonomy too. But we always, you know, you allow them to go their own way, and if they get out of line, according to the Constitution, the Congress has the right to step in…As long as they are minding their P’s and Q’s, so to say, I think the government can back off. But we must remain vigilant.”

Pedro Ribeiro, Mayor Vincent Gray’s spokesman, responded to Mica, “Last time I checked, children don’t have a $6 billion local budget.”

Before he made this comment, Mica admitted the city’s finance management has vastly improved since the dissolution of a Congressional control board. After they took control of the House in 2010, the GOP tried to force the progressive district to outlaw abortion, reduce contraception access, sell more guns, block union membership, cut public transportation funds, and pay for private schools.

Washington, D.C., with almost the same population as North Dakota, has no representation in the Senate. Their one delegate in the House cannot vote on the floor. Its economy is larger than those of 14 states, and its residents pay $1.6 billion a year in federal taxes, more per capita than any state. Washington, D.C. is a prime example of taxation without representation that people fought to overturn almost 250 years ago.

Bangladesh Factory:  The most disastrous event of last week was the crumbling of the Rana Plaza building, housing a major Bangladeshi garment factory. Over 350 people have died, hundreds more are injured, and as many as 900 are still missing. This tragedy, the third in five months, is even worse than the fire at the Tazreen Fashion Factory last November that killed 112 garment workers.

The second-largest exporter of garments in the world, this country relies on garments for 80 percent of its exports. Duty free access offered by Western countries and low wages turned Bangladesh’s garment exports into a $19 billion a year industry. Sixty percent of the clothes go to Europe, 23 percent to the United States takes 23 percent, and another 5 percent to Canada. Gap, Walmart, and other retailers of cheap clothing have fought any reforms that could stop such disasters.

Bank employees in the building escaped the danger after a crack developed in the building because they were told to stay home the next day, but garment workers were ordered to return.

Two years ago, labor groups tried to get the factories and buyers to sign onto a plan that would establish independent inspections to replace the infrequent and often corrupt government inspections. Unsafe facilities could be shut down as part of legally binding contract signed by suppliers, customers, and unions. Companies would provide up to $500,000 per year to pay for the inspections.  All the companies—including Walmart, Gap, and Swedish clothing giant H&M—turned it down.

Walmart’s representative said it was “not financially feasible … to make such investments. Gap, which owns the Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic chains, said the company refused because it did not want to be vulnerable to lawsuits and did not want to pay factories more money to help with safety upgrades. H&M wants factories and local government to take on the responsibility.

After last year’s Tazreen blaze, the labor group tried again to get the independent inspector plan adopted, but the factories and the big brands would not agree. Siddiqur Rahman, former vice president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, denied the factories are responsible for killing the plan and blamed the buyers.

Companies claim that they do private audits. Those don’t work, according to a lobbyist for garment workers, because of their confidentiality. If a company pulls its business after safety problems, it won’t tell competitors who will continue to place orders which keeps the unsafe factory open.  Thus we continue to buy cheap and be complicit in killing hundreds of garment workers, almost all of them women.

February 23, 2013

No Compromise for VAWA

For 18 years the Violence against Women Act (VAWA) was the law of the land, passing in the year that Newt Gingrich took over the House and renewed every six years even when the GOP had control of a Congressional chamber and the presidency. Then the Tea Party came to town, and everything changed.

VAWA provides vital protections against domestic violence and sexual assault, providing assistance to victims through funding clinics, shelters, hotlines, and services. Greatly improving the nation’s infrastructure of dealing with rape and abuse, VAWA has saved countless women’s lives and livelihoods. It established the National Domestic Violence Hotline; trained law enforcement officers, judges, and prosecutors to help victims; made stalking illegal; and updated laws throughout the United States to consider rape by a partner equal to rape by a stranger.

Since VAWA, partner violence and homicides fell: from 1993, the year before VAWA’s passage, until 2010, the overall rate of intimate partner violence in the United States declined by 64 percent. The number of women killed by partners dropped 43 percent.

vawa

Last April, the Senate passed another six–year extension to VAWA, but the House rejected it. This month the Senate passed VAWA, but the House opposes support for Native American, undocumented, and LGBT victims of DV and SA.

One sticking point with the GOP-controlled House, that has proposed a watered down version of VAWA, is the provision that would protect Native American women on tribal reservations. They ignore the statistics of sexual violence against Native American women. Three out of five are assaulted by their intimate partners, and 56 percent of these women have non-Indian husbands. Despite epidemic rates of domestic violence against Native women on reservations by non-Native men, local governments are not permitted to respond to crimes in their community if the perpetrator is not Native. Only federal prosecutors, often hundreds of miles away without local resources, are allowed to investigate and prosecute these crimes. On some Indian reservations, the homicide rate of Native women is ten times that of the national average.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is an example of the 22 senators–all men–who voted against VAWA, bigots who oppose protecting Indian women from non-Native men. He declared that VAWA was unconstitutional because white men would be deprived of their rights by facing a tribal court.  “On an Indian reservation, it’s going to be made up of Indians, right?” he said. “So the non-Indian doesn’t get a fair trial.”

“The jury is supposed to be a reflection of society,” Grassley wrongly claimed. According to the Sixth Amendment, juries are drawn from the “state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.” The U.S. Supreme Court decisions ruled that criminal defendants have a right to a jury “drawn from a fair cross section of the community” where the case is heard. Over 95 percent of Vermont is white, so the jury might be all white. On the other hand, the population of local communities on the Navajo Nation are largely Native American. Grassley’s statement indicates he thinks that Navajo jurors are less like to be impartial than whites.

Of these 22 senators, five senators are so anti-women that they voted against an amendment to ban human trafficking.  

Grassley has company in his anti-VAWA stance. Heritage Action, from the group headed by ultra-conservative Jim DeMint, and Freedomworks, one of the Tea Party groups,  are fighting VAWA’s reauthorization because it is “unprecedented, unnecessary and dangerous.” Claiming that VAWA is “bad for men,” the groups stated, “Under VAWA, men effectively lose their constitutional rights.” Because male victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking may also be covered, the only men who might suffer from VAWA are those who commit these violent crimes.

Sponsored by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), one of 17 GOP women who constitute 8.5 percent of Republicans in the House, the House bill removes rights from three specific groups of people:

Native American Victims: Tribal court sentencing on non-Native defendants would be limited to one year in addition to other options allowing defendants to evade justice in tribal courts. Non-Native American men who abuse Native American women on reservations could move their cases to a federal court if they feel their constitutional rights are not being upheld. The bill also eliminates the 2000 VAWA allowing tribes to issue and enforce civil protection orders against all persons, the only protection a tribal government can provide to victims of domestic violence from DV, stalking, and harassment.

LGBT Victims: The bill removes “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” from the list of underserved populations who face barriers to accessing victim services, thereby disqualifying LGBT victims from a related grant program; eliminates a requirement in the Senate bill that programs that receive funding under VAWA provide services regardless of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity; and excludes the LGBT community from the STOP program, the largest VAWA grant program, which gives funds to care providers who work with law enforcement officials to address domestic violence.

Undocumented Immigrants: Undocumented immigrants who are victims of domestic violence can be eligible for legal status only if federal or local officials certify that it would help investigate or prosecute criminal activity.

Last year, Grassley vote against the rights of these groups, saying that it was just the Democrats’ “election year politics.” He indicated that these provisions were included to make Republicans look bad in an election year. Instead of accepting the motivation to make the United States a better place to live, he follows the paranoid complaint from the National Review :

Democrats have nearly perfected the following exercise in cynical electioneering: 1) introduce legislation; 2) title it something that appeals to the vast majority of Americans who have no interest in learning what is actually in the bill, e.g., the “Violence Against Women Act”; 3) make sure it is sufficiently noxious to the GOP that few Republicans will support it; 4) vote, and await headlines such as “[GOP Lawmaker] Votes No On Violence Against Women Act”; 5) clip and use headline in 30-second campaign ad; and 6) repeat.”

Amanda Marcotte laid out the issue much better:

“There’s a long and ongoing history of rape and domestic violence being minimized and ignored by law enforcement and society at large. Domestic violence is frequently minimized as mere couple-squabbling. Rape is often written off as the victim’s hysterical reaction to bad sex or just desserts for a woman who broke one of the many unwritten sexist ‘rules’ about going out at night, being alone with a date, dressing a certain way, or drinking alcohol.

“VAWA addresses these realities, by strengthening law enforcement response and providing victim services that avoid victim-blaming or minimization, and is not, contrary to conservative hopes and dreams, an attempt to make up for women’s supposed physical or emotional inferiority.”

If the House version even gets out of committee, GOP members will whine about Democrats not compromising with them. Trying to find common ground by refusing rights to specific groups of people is like the agreement of 1787 that gave each slave in the South only three-fifths’ status of a white man in determining Congressional representation. Emory University President James Wagner declared this a good compromise. Denying people rights is never a good compromise.          

November 15, 2011

Arizona’s Brewer Touts Her Political Book

Every politician on the rise seems to come out with a book—except for George W. Bush who did it on the way down. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is the latest to travel the country with her immortal words printed in Scorpions for Breakfast: My Fight Against Special Interests, Liberal Media and Cynical Politicos to Secure America’s Border, a short 283 pages when one considers the length of the title. The book is published by the Murdoch arm of HarperCollins.

Although the governor of a smaller state, she started a wildfire against undocumented immigrants across the country, causing the states that followed her to suffer sagging economies—Alabama for example. Brewer’s ghost-written book comes with high points for revisionist history and politics.

The cover of the book starts Brewer’s history: she photoshops herself as Rosie the Riveter, an image developed during World War II as a symbol of putting people in this country to work and an image long associated with organized labor. Labor suffered, however, when Brewer became governor after President Obama appointed her predecessor, Janet Napolitano, as Secretary of Homeland Security.

The promo text, about the death of Arizona rancher Robert Krentz on the Arizona-Mexico border, is the next clinker. Brewer declares throughout the book that Krentz was killed by an illegal trespasser (Brewer-speak for undocumented immigrant). No one has ever been indicted for this murder, but Brewer’s lie proved useful in fomenting hatred for anyone who tried to cross the border fromMexico.

A former governor, Sarah Palin, provided the book’s foreword which praises Brewer for rising through the political ranks by “bringing people together–by building up, instead of tearing down.” When one considers the state of affairs in Arizona, that statement also goes into the list of revisionist history.

Brewer does briefly admit that the numbers of undocumented immigrants coming into the state has gone far down recently, due to recession, but that information wouldn’t have helped her pass SB1070, the incendiary law discriminating against Latinos. She skipped the facts about crime rates being the lowest since she moved from California to Arizona in 1970. “This is a media-created event,” one sheriff told the Arizona Republic a week after Brewer signed SB 1070. “I hear politicians on TV saying the border has gotten worse. Well, the fact of the matter is that the border has never been more secure.”

Nor did she write in her book about last spring’s extensive study from the Center for American Progress showing that “undocumented immigrants don’t simply ‘fill’ jobs; they create jobs. Through the work they perform, the money they spend, and the taxes they pay, undocumented immigrants sustain the jobs of many other workers in the U.S. economy, immigrants and native-born alike.” Were undocumented immigrants to “suddenly vanish” from SB 1070’s “attrition through enforcement,” the study estimated that Arizona’s economy would shrink by $48.8 billion–like that in Alabama.

It’s the quotations from the book, however, that show how conservatives think of their world and those around them. Sarah Mimms, writing in the National Journal, has pulled together some choice bits to save the rest of us the time and money to read the book. She describes her method as the “excerpt lottery,” in which page numbers are chosen based upon recent winning lottery numbers from various states.

“The best comparison I could think of was: This must be what it’s like to be waterboarded….  Advice, objections, encouragement, discouragement, fan letters and death threats were coming at me so fast I could barely breathe…. Manning the buckets were the national media, the unions, civil rights groups, business groups and political operatives all the way up to the president himself. Was it torture? I never did ask Dick Cheney, but I’ll tell you this: It was not an experience I want to repeat” — p.3 (NY’s “Midday New York Numbers,” 10/17).

“A strange cast of characters–everyone from the Reverend Al Sharpton to Hollywood actress Eva Longoria to former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka–was invited, but not one sitting governor and not one current member of Congress. I told the press that I considered it a ‘snub’ that I wasn’t invited. Not that I was so eager to return to the Obama White House and be lectured again–been there, done that” – p. 213 (MN’s “Daily 3,” 11/1).

“[The Secret Service confiscated] our cell phones and cameras. Too bad we weren’t illegal aliens, or we could have sued them” – p. 162 (MO”s “Midday Pick 3,” 11/2).

“This guy had clearly seen too many movies in which menacing Gestapo agents demanded to see a terrified refugee’s papers” – p. 147 (MO’s “Pick 3 Midday,” 10/23).

“Last July, illegal alien deaths were so high that the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office had to use a refrigerated truck to store some of the bodies” – p. 47 (VA’s “Pick 3,” 11/1)

“Chapter Four: Nazis in the Desert” – p. 129 (NY’s “Midday Numbers,” 9/5).

“That same week, I noticed, the president’s schedule included a fund-raising event in Pittsburgh, a reception for Major League Soccer, and a concert at the White House to honor Paul McCartney. I know he’s cute and all, I thought, but we’re in serious trouble here!” –  (N.J.’s “Pick 3 Midday,” 10/11).

“Amid all the chaos, a group of people I don’t even know started a Web site to defend me against all the obnoxious, hurtful accusations being recklessly thrown around. It was a tongue-in-cheek site in which people could post colorful descriptions of me. The actor and activist Chuck Norris alerted me to one of his favorites: Jan Brewer eats scorpions for breakfast.

“I guess it was meant to be flattering. I guess it was meant to portray me as tough. But even if you’re tough enough to start your day with a meal of deadly poisonous insects, it’s not something you particularly want to do. You don’t seek it out. You do it because there’s no other honorable option” – p. 11 (NY.’s “Evening Numbers,” 10/24).

Also her statement about multi-cultural studies in school: “Multiculturalism sounds like a nice, friendly word that means respect for others. In practice, however, it’s worked out very differently. Multiculturalism encourages its followers to put racial and ethnic identity above all … multiculturalism and open borders philosophy go hand in hand.”

Brewer also claims, “The majority of the illegal trespassers that are coming into the state of Arizona are under the direction and control of organized drug cartels and they are bringing drugs in.” She also refers to the “bodies in the desert either buried or just lying out there that have been beheaded,” something which medical examiners from six of Arizona’s counties, four of them bordering Mexico, say that they’ve never encountered an immigration-related crime.

So that’s what Jan Brewer is all about—believing that getting negative mail is as bad as waterboarding, sulking because she wasn’t chosen to attend the White House, and willing to lie for her personal benefit. I’ve skipped all the pieces about her saying that the $10 million given to Arizona for education will go to border security, her cavalier attitude toward dying people by removing them from the state health care, etc., etc. At least she has Sarah Palin for a friend; too bad she doesn’t use her as a model.

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