The 2016 primaries are nearly a year away, and yet it’s beginning to feel as if the campaign has already begun. As Pat J said yesterday, following Bette Davis, “fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!” At least we finally have something to be excited about.
Today big media has slowed down its attacks on Hillary in order to drool over newly announced candidate Marco Rubio.
Here’s the Washington Post’s adoring introduction to the new media darling, written by Mary Jordan.
You can see it in his bouncing leg, his restless energy, his rapid-fire answers. Marco Rubio wants things now, now, now.
He has just left the Senate floor, where he ripped President Obama’s Israel policy, and now, seated in his grand Capitol Hill office, he dives headlong into explaining why, at just 43, he is ready to run for president.
“I have never understood that ‘wait your turn,’ ” logic, the Florida Republican says. “The presidency is not like a bakery, where you take a number and wait for it to be called. You’re either compelled to run for it because you believe it’s the best place to serve your country” or you stay out of the race.
Never mind that his mentor, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, 62, is gearing up to run, too. Or that he has not even finished his first term as senator. Or that the GOP has a long tradition of picking older presidential nominees who have paid their dues.
Rubio is a man in a hurry, whose dizzying political ascent — he has never lost a race — is a testament to his quickness to spot openings and go for them. “If you told me seven or eight years ago I would be in the Senate, I wouldn’t believe it,” Rubio says. “Sometimes opportunities come up that you could never have anticipated.”
More Rubio love at the link. Be sure to have your barf bag close at hand.
Should Rubio actually get the GOP nod, voters will likely see a lot of this embarrassing video of the young “man in a hurry” giving the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address in 2013.
And here’s The New York Times’ glowing profile of the first term Senator, written by Ashley Parker and Jonathan Martin.
MIAMI — Senator Marco Rubio, the 43-year-old son of Cuban immigrants, on Monday declared that it was time for his generation to lead the country, portraying himself as the youthful future of a Republican Party that has struggled to connect with an increasingly diverse electorate.
Formally declaring his candidacy for president, Mr. Rubio entered a contest so far dominated by two aging American political dynasties — the Bushes and the Clintons — and warned Republicans and Democrats alike that it was time to start fresh.
“The time has come for our generation to lead the way towards a new American century,” he said.
“Before us now is the opportunity to author the greatest chapter yet in the amazing story of America,” Mr. Rubio told hundreds of supporters who crowded the lobby of the Freedom Tower, a historic building where many Cuban émigrés were processed on their arrival in the United States. “But we can’t do that by going back to the leaders and ideas of the past.”
Ironically, Rubio and his party actually do want to go back to the past–way back to the 19th Century. A Rubio presidency would mean rolling back women’s rights, LGBT rights, immigration reform, and handing Wall Street the keys to the White House. But never mind that. He’s a fresh face with surface charm.
It certainly sounds like Rubio has been studying then Senator Obama’s campaign for the presidency in 2008. But Rubio says he’s way more experienced than Obama was then.
Kasie Hunt writes at MSNBC:
MIAMI –Presidential candidate Marco Rubio says that he has more experience than President Barack Obama did when he won the White House in 2008, even though both launched presidential campaigns as first term senators.
“There are some significant differences between his biography and mine,” Rubio told msnbc in an interview early Tuesday morning before flying to Washington to attend a congressional hearing on Iran. “We both served in the state legislatures, he as a back-bencher in the minority, me as the Speaker of House in the third-largest state in the country.”
He pointed out he will have served six full years in the Senate if he’s elected in 2016; President Obama had served four years when he was elected in 2008.
Okay . . . . Not all that impressive though; and Obama was a hell of a lot more well known around the country in 2008 than Rubio is now. As Matthew Yglesias wrote at Vox yesterday, that’s really the problem with the entire GOP field–most normal Americans don’t know who they are. On the other hand it would be difficult to find an average vote who doesn’t know quite a bit about Hillary Clinton.
There were a few dissenting voices on Rubio at smaller media outlets. At The New Republic, Brian Beutler has a devastating piece on Rubio.
Senator Marco Rubio…was supposed to lead a GOP breakaway faction in support of comprehensive immigration reform, but was unable to persuade House Republicans to ignore the nativist right, and the whole thing blew up in his face. In regrouping, he’s determined that the key to restoring Republican viability in presidential elections is to woo middle class voters with fiscal policies that challenge conservative orthodoxy.
His new basic insight is correct. The GOP’s obsession with distributing resources up the income scale is the single biggest factor impeding it from reaching new constituencies, both because it reflects unpopular values and because it makes them unable to address emerging national needs that require spending money.
Well, we all know that isn’t going to become Republican policy, and Rubio has already demonstrated that he won’t stand up for policies the party leaders dislike.
If Rubio were both serious and talented enough to move his party away from its most inhibiting orthodoxy, in defiance of those donors, his candidacy would represent a watershed. His appeal to constituencies outside of the GOP base would be both sincere and persuasive.
But Rubio is not that politician. He is no likelier to succeed at persuading Republican supply-siders to reimagine their fiscal priorities than he was at persuading nativists to support a citizenship guarantee for unauthorized immigrants. In fact, nobody understands the obstacles facing Marco Rubio better than Marco Rubio. But rather than abandon his reformist pretensions, or advance them knowing he will ultimately lose, Rubio has chosen to claim the mantle of reform and surrender to the right simultaneously—to make promises to nontraditional voters he knows he can’t keep. My colleague Danny Vinik proposes that Rubio wants to “improve the lives of poor Americans” but he must “tailor [his] solutions to gain substantial support in the GOP, and those compromises would cause more harm to the poor.” I think this makes Rubio the most disingenuous candidate in the field.
More good insights at the link.
Here’s Jonathan Chait on Rubio:
The presidential election is still a year and a half away, but Rubio’s campaign has already gone through three distinct stages. In the immediate wake of their 2012 debacle, Republican elites glommed onto Rubio as the cure for their demographic disease. Days after the election, Republican Über-pundit Charles Krauthammerostentantiously laid his hands upon the young, telegenic senator as the party’s new avatar. “Marco Rubio. So hot right now,” tweeted John Boehner’s press secretary. By the end of 2013, Rubio had crashed and burned. A conservative revolt forced him to repudiate the immigration reform plan he had carefully built. He desperately glommed on to the anti-Obamacare shutdown, alienating party elites without winning over the activists. But now Rubio has rebuilt his campaign and is showing signs of life, by repositioning himself to the right and eliminating his vulnerabilities.
The first and most dramatic such move was Rubio’s renunciation of immigration reform. Having championed a bipartisan plan for comprehensive reform, Rubio now insists that border security must come first. Fervent restrictionists may not fully trust his sincerity, but Rubio’s maneuver follows almost exactly the same script of apostasy and penance than John McCain used in 2008 to neutralize the issue.
The bigger shift has come on economic policy. Last year, Rubio positioned himself as a “reform conservative” who aspired to aim tax cuts at middle-class families rather than the rich. Instead, when he unveiled the plan, it consisted of a massive, debt-financed tax cut that would give its greatest benefit to the rich, not just in absolute terms, but also as a percentage of their income. Even that plan proved to be too stingy for Republican plutocrats, so Rubio revised his plan to make it far friendlier to the rich. The newest version took his old plan and added complete elimination of all taxes on inherited estates, capital gains, and interest income. Grover Norquist, guardian of the party’s anti-tax absolutism, cooed his approval.
Rubio might be a bigger flip-flopper than Mitt Romney. But of course the corporate media fails to notice anything except the surface.
Fortunately for Rubio, much of the political media has covered his ideas as though they represent an important break from his party’s past. “Rubio appears to be hoping his plan will appeal to Republican voters concerned about rising economic inequality and tired of getting beaten up in the general election over plans that Democrats say would hand massive tax cuts to the rich at the expense of the middle class,” reports Politico.
This is not remotely accurate. Rubio’s original plan would have cut taxes by $2.4 trillion over a decade, making it quite similar to George W. Bush’s regressive, debt-financed tax-cut plan. It is true that Rubio would only cut the top tax rate to 35 percent, not as low as the fondest supply-side dreams would have it. But 35 percent would restore the Bush-era tax rate for the highest income earners. What’s more, Rubio’s elimination of the estate, interest, dividends, and capital gains taxes would go far beyond the Bush administration’s most plutocratic dreams. It is also true that Rubio plans to cut taxes for some middle-class families. But obviously that lost revenue has trade-offs, which he has failed to specify. The massive revenue hit would require very large cuts to existing programs. Given his party’s propensity to aim the bulk of its tax-cutting at the programs that direct their biggest benefits to Americans of modest incomes, there is no plausible way to imagine Rubio’s plan would do anything but engineer a massive upward redistribution of resources.
Read the rest at New York Magazine.
Here’s Chait on Hillary Clinton: Why Hillary Clinton Is Probably Going to Win the 2016 Election.
Unless the economy goes into a recession over the next year and a half, Hillary Clinton is probably going to win the presidential election. The United States has polarized into stable voting blocs, and the Democratic bloc is a bit larger and growing at a faster rate.
Of course, not everybody who follows politics professionally believes this. Many pundits feel the Democrats’ advantage in presidential elections has disappeared, or never existed. “The 2016 campaign is starting on level ground,” argues David Brooks, echoing a similar analysis by John Judis. But the evidence for this is quite slim, and a closer look suggests instead that something serious would have to change in order to prevent a Clinton victory. Here are the basic reasons why Clinton should be considered a presumptive favorite…
Check out Chait’s reasoning at the link.
So . . . What else is happening? Please posts your thoughts on this post and your links to recommended reads in the comment thread.
I don’t know about you, but I really missed JJ’s Friday Night Lite post last night, so I thought I’d start out Sky Dancing’s Saturday with some political cartoons. I hope you enjoy these — courtesy of Cagle Post.
A few more on Syria:
March on Washington 50th Anniversary:
Labor Day and Income Inequality
NFL Concussion Lawsuit
I hope everyone has a wonderful Labor Day weekend!! And if you’re not out on the beach or doing something else more exciting, please post links to the stories you’re following today in the comment thread.
The news broke last night, Michael Hastings was killed in a car crash.
BuzzFeed is saddened to report that Michael Hastings died in a car accident early this morning in Los Angeles. He was 33.
Ben Smith, BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief, said in a statement:
We are shocked and devastated by the news that Michael Hastings is gone. Michael was a great, fearless journalist with an incredible instinct for the story, and a gift for finding ways to make his readers care about anything he covered from wars to politicians. He wrote stories that would otherwise have gone unwritten, and without him there are great stories that will go untold. Michael was also a wonderful, generous colleague, a joy to work with and a lover of corgis — especially his Bobby Sneakers. Our thoughts are with Elise and and the rest of his family and we are going to miss him.
Michael Hastings, the fearless journalist whose reporting brought down the career of General Stanley McChrystal, has died in a car accident in Los Angeles, Rolling Stone has learned. He was 33.
Hastings’ unvarnished 2010 profile of McChrystal in the pages of Rolling Stone, “The Runaway General,” captured the then-supreme commander of the U.S.-led war effort in Afghanistan openly mocking his civilian commanders in the White House. The maelstrom sparked by its publication concluded with President Obama recalling McChrystal to Washington and the general resigning his post. “The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be met by – set by a commanding general,” Obama said, announcing McChrystal’s departure. “It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system.”
Hastings’ hallmark as reporter was his refusal to cozy up to power. While other embedded reporters were charmed by McChrystal’s bad-boy bravado and might have excused his insubordination as a joke, Hastings was determined to expose the recklessness of a man leading what Hastings believed to be a reckless war. “Runaway General” was a finalist for a National Magazine Award, won the 2010 Polk award for magazine reporting, and was the basis for Hastings’ book, The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan.
For Hastings, there was no romance to America’s misbegotten wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He had felt the horror of war first-hand: While covering the Iraq war for Newsweek in early 2007, his then-fianceé, an aide worker, was killed in a Baghdad car bombing. Hastings memorialized that relationship in his first book, I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story.
A contributing editor to Rolling Stone, Hastings leaves behind a remarkable legacy of reporting, including an exposé of America’s drone war, an exclusive interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at his hideout in the English countryside, an investigation into the Army’s illicit use of “psychological operations” to influence sitting Senators and a profile of Taliban captive Bowe Bergdahl, “America’s Last Prisoner of War.”
“Great reporters exude a certain kind of electricity,” says Rolling Stone managing editor Will Dana, “the sense that there are stories burning inside them, and that there’s no higher calling or greater way to live life than to be always relentlessly trying to find and tell those stories. I’m sad that I’ll never get to publish all the great stories that he was going to write, and sad that he won’t be stopping by my office for any more short visits which would stretch for two or three completely engrossing hours. He will be missed.”
Boston Boomer posted in the comments last night that there is speculation that perhaps this was a suicide?
More on this from the LA Times: Michael Hastings’ death remains under investigation
Authorities are continuing to sort out the details of an auto accident that apparently claimed the life of award-winning journalist Michael Hastings.
The death of the 33-year-old Hastings was announced by his employer, BuzzFeed, which said he died in a Los Angeles car accident.
But the Los Angeles county coroner’s office had yet to determine Tuesday night whether a body recovered from a fiery car crash was that of Hastings.
The body was badly charred and identified only as “John Doe 117,” law enforcement authorities told the Los Angeles Times.
Coroner’s officials were attempting to match dental records to help make a positive identification, according to authorities.
The crash occurred early Tuesday on Highland Avenue near Melrose Avenue.
Journalist Michael Hastings was living in Los Angeles and reporting on national security issues and the entertainment industry when he died early Tuesday in a car crash in the city, according to his employer.
The 33-year-old Hastings was writing for BuzzFeed and joined the organization’s Los Angeles bureau after it opened in October.
“Michael Hastings will bring his hard-hitting reporting on national security and politics to the BuzzFeed Los Angeles Bureau while contributing to entertainment coverage as a Correspondent at Large,” BuzzFeed said at the time.
BuzzFeed did not provide an address of the car crash, saying only that it occurred in Los Angeles early Tuesday.
There was only one fatal car crash reported in Los Angeles on Tuesday morning involving a vehicle that smashed into a tree and burst into flames in the 600 block of North Highland Avenue in Hancock Park, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.
Authorities with the LAPD and Los Angeles County coroner’s office told The Times Tuesday evening that they had not identified the victim in that crash because the body was burned beyond recognition.
One report says that Buzzfeed learned of Hastings death from a family member.
In other news:
Four US soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan, hours after the US announced direct talks with the Taliban.
The soldiers were killed by “indirect fire” from insurgents at Bagram air base, US officials said.
Bagram, near the Afghan capital Kabul, is the largest military base for US troops in Afghanistan.
A condition for the talks, due to begin on Thursday in Qatar, was for the Taliban to renounce violence.
In comments made before the news of the attack emerged, US President Barack Obama said the announcement of talks was an “important first step toward reconciliation”.
The talks are set to take place in Doha, Qatar, where the Taliban have just opened their first official overseas office.
US officials said prisoner exchanges would be one topic for discussion with the Taliban, but the first weeks would mainly be used to explore each other’s agendas.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said his government was also sending delegates to Qatar to talk to the Taliban.
Also on Tuesday, Nato handed over responsibility for security for the whole of the country to Afghan security forces.
International troops are to remain in Afghanistan until the end of 2014, providing military back-up when needed.
The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved the most restrictive ban on abortion considered by Congress in a decade, a largely symbolic vote that laid bare the deep ideological differences between Democrats and Republicans.
The measure, which would ban abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy based on the medically disputed theory that fetuses at that stage of development are capable of feeling pain, passed in a 228-to-196 vote that broke down mostly along party lines. Reflecting how little common ground the two parties share these days, just six Republicans voted against the bill; six Democrats voted for it.
“I’m not waging a war on anyone,” said Kristi Noem, Republican of South Dakota, offering a rejoinder to the Democratic assertion that Republicans have waged a war on women, a line of attack that harmed conservative candidates in 2012. “Regardless of your personal beliefs, I would hope that stopping atrocities against little babies is something we can all agree to put an end to.”
The bill has no chance in the Democrat-controlled Senate and was put forward by the House Republican leadership in response to demands from anti-abortion lawmakers.
It is a good thing it doesn’t have a chance in hell on making it past the Senate, but this is fucking ridiculous. Check this out: Maddow Tears Apart GOP Fringe Views, Fetal Masturbation Theory: They Keep Finding New Ways To Shock Us | Mediaite
Rachel Maddow opened her show tonight taking the Republican party to task again for their continuing insistence on fighting for stricter and stricter anti-abortion laws, culminating in the GOP-led House today passing a huge federal ban. Maddow found time to break down everything from reminding viewers about the Todd Akins of the party to her explicit shock at today’s newest claim that fetuses masturbate. Yes, that’s where this debate has gone to now.
Maddow then reminded viewers how the Republicans in Congress have a penchant of questionable decisions in appointing certain members of Congress to certain committees, including Jeff Duncan, Homeland Security Oversight Committee chair and apparent birther, Paul Broun, House science committee member and evolution denier, and Michael Burgess, vice chairman of the House Subcommittee on Health and believer in the idea that fetuses masturbate.
Maddow slammed Broun for trying to remove his name from the Republican anti-abortion bill due to alterations permitting exceptions in cases of rape and incest, but had nothing but shock for Burgess’ bizarre comments. She remarked that with all the anti-abortion rhetoric going around in the last few years, “I felt like I had lost the capacity to be surprised before I heard the fetal masturbation theory.”
Maddow said the GOP attempted to try and put out a more articulate voice by letting Marsha Blackburn push for the abortion bill. However, on MSNBC, Blackburn said that when women report rapes, it gives police people to track down and bring to justice. Maddow described this as “House Republicans effectively forcing you to use your uterus and access to it as a means of helping the police with their investigations.”
Maddow remarked that the GOP’s latest attempt to ban abortion is farther than they’ve ever gone before, even as House Speaker John Boehner insists that jobs are their number one concern.
That Mediate article calls this group of nutcases the GOP Fringe, but this is not the fringe, just take a look at that House vote up top…it ain’t fringe baby…that is the Grand Old Party for ya.
Also, last night John Oliver was kicking ass on the Daily Show, so if you have some time please watch this video clip: John Oliver Tears Into GOP Over Immigration Reform: A ‘Border Fence Built Out Of Ignorance And Spite’
John Oliver opened tonight’s Daily Show tearing into the Republican party for their stubbornness in holding back immigration reform from becoming law. Congress, which Oliver said is in a “nail-biting three-way tie for least popular branch of government,” is set to take up a bill, but there’s been a lot of resistance in the GOP, which Oliver described as a “1000-foot high border fence built out of ignorance and spite.”
Oliver first applauded Republicans for recognizing the most important reason they need to get immigration reform done: they need the Hispanic vote. Of course, the Democrats are acting just as pandering, with one senator making a floor speech in Spanish. Oliver mockingly suggested, “Perhaps you would like to wash down your Latino pandering with a margarita.”
Of course, the GOP may take more convincing, because as Oliver put it, they’ll resist immigration reform like “a frat boy with a condom.” He also mocked Jeb Bush saying immigrants are more fertile, telling him he shouldn’t make his argument “They’re baby machines who love to fuck!”
Oliver also slammed Republicans for their demand that immigrants need to learn English, and for an amendment that would require 90 percent border security. In other words, as Oliver said, “Bring nine friends with you and get in free!”
Then the second part of the segment included a bit with former WWE wrestler Mick Foley that knocked the redneck WWE immigration propaganda showdown on it’s ass. (I will post a link to the video clip when it gets posted online.)
Here is the link to the video clip:http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-june-18-2013/immigration—the-wwe
Tokyo Electric Power, the operator of the stricken nuclear power plant at Fukushima, said Wednesday that it had detected high levels of radioactive strontium in groundwater at the plant, raising concerns that its storage tanks are leaking contaminated water, possibly into the ocean. The operator said it had found strontium-90 at 30 times Japan’s safety limit in groundwater near its No. 2 reactor, which suffered a fuel meltdown in 2011. The company has struggled to store growing amounts of contaminated runoff at the plant, but had previously denied that the site’s groundwater was highly toxic. If ingested, strontium-90 can linger in bones, emitting radiation inside the body that can lead, in time, to cancer.
Honestly, does anyone really believe the reports TEPCO gives regarding the radioactive levels around Fukushima? /snark.
So that is all I can bring you this morning, it is enough to get you started. What are you reading about today?
I’m frequently heartened by the increasing acceptance of members of the GLBT community and recognition of their civil rights in this country even while I’m dismayed at the outright war on the rights of women and other minorities. Here’s a few interesting things to think about in terms of GLBT rights and recognizing committed relationships as equal in the eyes of the law. First up, a great interview from our great blog friend Joyce Arnold.
You’ve seen the “Gay Marriage Already Won” Time covers. The lesbian couple, or as I’ve heard it described, the “kissing wives” cover (the kissing engaged guys – Russell Hart and Eric LaBonté – were good, too, of course) are Kristen and Sarah Ellis-Henderson. Kristen and Sarah were married in New York in 2011, and have co-authored a memoir, Times Two, Two Women in Love and The Happy Family They Made (Simon & Schuster), released the same year. Kristen is a member of the band, Antigone Rising. All band members are women, out lesbians and in an interview this week, talked about both the band and their music, and their take on that “kissing wives” cover, and LGBT equality in general.
A quick introduction to Antigone Rising. Or perhaps you’re among the many who don’t need an introduction. Either way, follow the link for the complete bio. Short version: in 2005 the band is in “high profile” mode, opening for Rob Thomas, Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones. Three years later, changes at the label meant “bankability … yielded to unpredictability.” But with some regrouping, Kristen, founding member, bassist/songwriter; Cathy Henderson, Kristen’s sister, founding member, and lead guitarist; Dena Tauriello, drummer; and Nini Camps, singer/songwriter “coalesced, and the band was readier than ever for the second phase of their career.”
We’ll get to more about the band, their music – including an upcoming EP and a single, That Was the Whiskey, along with some really good stories in the second part of this article, coming tomorrow. First, the “kissing wives” story. I asked Kristen how that came about, that she and wife Sarah ended up on the cover of Time. She began by talking about the memoir the two wrote, Times Two.
Just when you think things are getting much better you hear a story straight out of those horrible old days that the crazy wicked Republican Party is trying to drag us all back into. A Missouri man was arrested at hospital for refusing to leave his very ill gay partner.
A gay man was arrested at a hospital in Missouri this week when he refused to leave the bedside of his partner, and now a restraining order is preventing him from any type of visitation.
Roger Gorley told WDAF that even though he has power of attorney to handle his partner’s affairs, a family member asked him to leave when he visited Research Medical Center in Kansas City on Tuesday.
Gorley said he refused to leave his partner Allen’s bedside, and that’s when security put him in handcuffs and escorted him from the building.
“I was not recognized as being the husband, I wasn’t recognized as being the partner,” Gorley explained.
He said the nurse refused to confirm that the couple shared power of attorney and made medical decision for each other.
“She didn’t even bother to look it up, to check in to it,” the Lee’s Summit resident recalled.
In a 2010 memorandum, President Barack Obama ordered hospitals that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding to allow visitation rights for gay and lesbian partners.
For its part, Research Medical Center insisted that it does not discriminate based on sexual orientation.
“We believe involving the family is an important part of the patient care process,” the hospital said in a statement. “And, the patient`s needs are always our first priority. When anyone becomes disruptive to providing the necessary patient care, we involve our security team to help calm the situation and to protect our patients and staff. If the situation continues to escalate, we have no choice but to request police assistance.”
We need legal protection of all of our rights. I hope a few members of SCOTUS will read this story and understand what exactly is at stake in their upcoming decisions on Prop 8 and DOMA.
While the rights of ethnic and racial minorities has always been in issue, there are some important things occurring right now that will determine who be allowed into this country and who will have the right to call themselves American in our future. There’s a very important discussion at Democracy Now! on this topic. We’ve always been a hodgepodge nation of immigrants. Will we continue to be welcoming to the tired, the weary, and the oppressed in our future?
As tens of thousands rallied on Capitol Hill for humane reform Wednesday, more details emerged on the bipartisan immigration plan being drafted in the Senate. The deal will reportedly require greatly increased surveillance and policing near the U.S.-Mexico border. According to The Wall Street Journal, U.S. immigration officials would have to certify complete monitoring of the southern U.S. border and a 90 percent success rate in blocking unlawful entry in certain areas. Only then could the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants apply for permanent residency. The process is expected to take at least 10 years. Juan González, Democracy Now! co-host and New York Daily News columnist, calls the looming congressional debate on immigration “a battle over what will America look like in the 21st century.”
AMY GOODMAN: Juan González, co-host on Democracy Now!and columnist with the New York Daily News on Wednesday wrote a piece called “With Much at Stake, Gang of Eight Senators’ Immigration Bill, Due to Be Unveiled Soon, Awaits Uphill Climb.” Juan, talk about what is happening here. You’ve been covering this very closely.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, I think the first thing that people have to understand is that what’s at stake here, what this battle—which is going to go on for all the spring and summer and probably into the fall, is really a battle over what will America look like in the 21st century, what will be the—who is legitimately in the country, and who will be legitimately allowed to come into the country over the next several decades.
And it’s not the first kind of battle of this kind. The ’86 immigration reform bill actually was not fully comprehensive. We had a huge battle in the ’60s, 1965; in the 1920s; and then even further back, in the 1880s with the Chinese Exclusion Act, which for 60 years then excluded any kind of immigration of Chinese and other folks from Asia into the country. So, this is one of the many battles we’ve had in American history over the issue of immigration.
And I think the key thing to understand about this proposal, the Gang of Eight proposal, that no one has yet seen a bill. Everyone is talking about the agreements that have been reached, but no one has actually seen the language of the law. And the devil is always in the details when it comes to legislation, so that what we have heard so far about the compromise proposal of the Gang of Eight—and remember, there will be a separate bill adopted in the House of Representatives, which will be undoubtedly far weaker than whatever the Gang of Eight come up with in the Senate, and those have to be then reconciled and then signed into law by the president. So this is the beginning of a long process.
And—but what we do know is that this—even this bill, the so-called—the compromise bill is going to be heavy on border security. It’s going to delay the process by which those who are undocumented in the country will be able to establish their legal status, and even citizenship, a minimum of 10 years. So in the first 10 years, there will be beefed-up border security, more requirements, more spending by the government, an already enormous sum—$17.9 billion was spent last year alone on border security in the United States. That will be increased. And the border has got to be 100 percent under surveillance, according to Congress, and there have to be triggers before anyone can then be moved onto permanent residency status—not citizenship—permanent residency status.
The mainstream media has a total fascination with the idea of legislation crafted by a bipartisan group. However, today’s congress is held hostage by right wing republicans and any negotiations or ideas of bipartisanship must recognize we’re dealing with terrorists. There are so many Republicans these days that get elected to government that hate our government that it’s hard for me to understand why we consider it fashionable to negotiate with people that would destroy the very things that we hold dear. These folks also hate nonchristians, racial minorities, LBTG people, and women that won’t obey their idea of womanly servitude. Nowhere is this more apparent than in southern states where state’s rights is nothing more than a rallying cry of neoconfederates in the guise of the cult of Ayn. Take Tennessee, Please!!
If you’re worried about where America is heading, look no further than Tennessee. Its lush mountains and verdant rolling countryside belie a mean-spirited public policy that only makes sense if you believe deeply in the anti-collectivist, anti-altruist philosophy of Ayn Rand. It’s what you get when you combine hatred for government with disgust for poor people.
Tennessee starves what little government it has, ranking dead last in per capita tax revenue. To fund its minimalist public sector, it makes sure that low-income residents pay as much as possible through heavily regressive sales taxes, which rank 10th highest among all states as a percent of total tax revenues. (For more detailed data see here.)
As you would expect, this translates into hard times for its public school systems, which rank 48th in school revenues per student and 45th in teacher salaries. The failure to invest in education also corresponds with poverty: the state has the 40th worst poverty rate (15%) and the 13th highest state percentage of poor children (26%).
Employment opportunities also are extremely poor for the poor. Only 25% have full-time jobs, 45% are employed part-time, and a whopping 30% have no jobs at all.
So what do you do with all those low-income folks who don’t have decent jobs? You put a good number of them in jail. In fact, only Louisiana, Georgia and New Mexico have higher jail incarceration rates.
From the perspective of Tennessee legislators, it’s all about providing the proper incentives to motivate the poor. For starters, you make sure that no one could possible live on welfare payments (TANF: Temporary Assistance to Needy Families). Although President Clinton’s welfare reform program curtailed how long a family can receive welfare (60 months) and dramatically increased the work requirements, Tennessee set the maximum family welfare payment at only $185 per month. (That’s how much a top hedge fund manager makes in under one second.) As a result, the Volunteer State ranks 49th in TANF, just above Mississippi ($170).
This is the vision of the future for those holding office under the guise of the Republican Party. These are the folks Obama wishes to appease. This are the folks that the east coast media wants to make nice with in the spirit of bipartansanship. Nowhere is the stink of appeasement bipartisanship more apparent than in the Obama budget document that sells out nearly every good, democratic principle of the last 100 years. The WSJ calls it reaching for middle ground. I call it going way past the middle ground to the fence that divides sanity from right wing hysteria and climbing the fence, going to the other side … and starting negotiations from there. Obama left the middle ground in the rear view mirror way way back with this budget.
Congressional Republican leaders mostly dismissed the package and described it as a nonstarter because of proposed tax increases. But other Republicans said it contained measures that could show promise.
While the nearly 2,500-page budget package is stuffed with different proposals, including higher taxes on cigarettes and spending on climate-change research, there are a handful of items the White House hopes could be the seeds of a broad deficit-reduction deal later this year.
These include slowing the growth of spending on programs such as Social Security by $130 billion over 10 years by using a different inflation measure for calculating annual cost-of-living increases, and making $370 billion in changes to Medicare through cuts to providers and raising certain fees and premiums. Many Democrats have long objected to cutting future benefits or spending on these programs, and adding them to the White House’s budget infuriated liberals and labor unions.
But the president offered no apologies. “I am willing to make tough choices that may not be popular within my own party, because there can be no sacred cows for either party,” Mr. Obama said Wednesday. At the same time, he said his offer to slow entitlement growth was conditioned on lawmakers agreeing to higher taxes, such as new limits on tax breaks claimed by wealthier Americans—something GOP leaders have recently said they won’t accept.
Since 2011, the White House and Congress have already agreed to roughly $2.5 trillion in deficit reductions over 10 years through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. Many Republicans say much more needs to be done, but White House officials say their new budget would bring the total deficit reduction to more than $4 trillion over 10 years.
The minute that you accept the fantasy that the federal budget deficit or debt is the big problem, you’ve already lost the battle for what is right and good in this country. History may associate this President’s name as the Neville Chamberlain of US economic policy. You should not look for middle ground with folks that look to the evils of the past for inspiration. Our country does soundly rejects the vision of becoming Tennessee or Mississippi or South Carolina in election after election. This includes the President’s re-election.
It’s not about the middle ground. It’s about the higher ground.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Good Morning Everyone!!
The media talking heads are going on and on about the supposed “bi-partisan agreement” on Immigration reform. I’m not really clear on what policies have been “agreed” on, but frankly, I’ll believe it when I see it. TPM reports: Gang Of 8’s Path To Citizenship Is Still A Rocky Road.
While reformers are excited that a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants is the centerpiece of the Senate’s new bipartisan immigration deal, it’s still unclear just how accessible that path will be for the undocumented population.
Without the proper components, experts warn the Senate plan could be the beginning of a long process to bringing illegal immigrants fully into American society, one that could take not years but decades.
So what does the process involve?
Under the plan, undocumented immigrants would receive a probationary status if they pass a criminal background check, pay a fine, and pay any back taxes owed to the government. After that, they’d have to wait to apply for permanent residency – a prerequisite to citizenship – until after a series of border security measures go into effect.
None of the new border measures, which will be overseen by a commission of southwestern state officials and community leaders, appear too difficult to implement at first glance (although there are concerns as to how much power conservative state politicians would wield in the process). The big question is what comes next when 11 million newly legal immigrants apply for a green card.
According to the framework, these applicants will then be required to “go to the back of the line of prospective immigrants.” But for many of them, a clear line doesn’t actually exist at the moment. Individuals can apply for green cards through a number of categories, mostly based on having family already in the country or on their employment status, which experts say are inadequate to the task of absorbing so many immigrants at once.
Greg Sargent says that the assumption that conservative Southern governors will control the process because they will be the ones to certify that the border is secure is “not true.”
I’ve now got clarification from Senate staff working on the bill, and it turns out that the enforcement commission’s judgments will only be advisory, and are entirely nonbinding. Congress’ actions will not be dictated by what this commission concludes; neither will actions taken by the Department of Homeland Security. The citizenship process will be triggered by other means (more on this soon).
This is central to the debate. If this commission had the power to dictate when the citizenship process begins, it could endanger the entire enterprise by giving people like Jan Brewer veto power. Second, this enforcement commission is being seen as a major concession Republicans won in exchange for agreeing to grant citizenship to the 11 million.
So what did Republicans get in this deal then?
The concessions Republicans got in this deal — in exchange for agreeing to citizenship for 11 million — include beefed up border security, a new program designed to help employers verify their employees’ status, tougher checks on immigrants overstaying visas, and the need for undocumented immigrants to go to the end of the immigration line.
Meanwhile, President Obama will roll out his own, supposedly “more liberal” immigration reform plan beginning today in a speech in Las Vegas.
The Obama administration has developed its own proposals for immigration reform that are more liberal than a separate bipartisan effort in the Senate, including a quicker path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, people with knowledge of the proposals said.
President Obama is expected to provide some details of the White House plans during a Tuesday appearance in Las Vegas, where he will call for broad changes to the nation’s immigration laws. The speech will kick off a public push by the administration in support of the broadest overhaul of immigration law in nearly three decades.
Obama plans to praise the proposals laid out Monday by an eight-member Senate working group, saying they reflect the core tenets of the administration’s immigration blueprint developed in 2011, a senior administration official said.
But the president’s remarks also are likely to emphasize differences that could foreshadow roadblocks to passage in Congress at a time when both parties say there is momentum for a comprehensive deal.
Naturally, the wingnuts in the House will provide roadblocks galore for whatever plan the Senate approves. Read all about it at Politico.
Politico reported yesterday on a possible collaboration between the Tea Party and Democrats in Kentucky to dump Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Big Democratic donors, local liberal activists and a left-leaning super PAC in Kentucky are telling tea partiers that they are poised to throw financial and organizational support behind a right-wing candidate should one try to defeat the powerful GOP leader in a 2014 primary fight.
The idea: Soften up McConnell and make him vulnerable in a general election in Kentucky, where Democrats still maintain a voter registration advantage. Or better yet, in their eyes: Watch Kentucky GOP primary voters nominate the 2014 version of Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock, weak candidates who may actually lose.
Interesting… Once again, I’ll believe it when I see it. Still, anything is possible. Plus McConnell is very unpopular in his home state according to the latest poll
With his re-election bid just a year away, those opposed to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell outnumber his supporters 2-1 among Kentucky voters, according to the latest Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll.
In the poll of 609 registered voters, 34 percent said they plan to vote against McConnell — while just 17 percent say they will vote to give him six more years. Forty-four percent said they will wait to see who is running against him before deciding, and 6 percent said they are not sure.
The poll, conducted by SurveyUSA, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points. It comes as groups on both McConnell’s right and left seek candidates to challenge him in the primary and general elections in 2014. McConnell, the most powerful Republican in the Senate as minority leader, is seeking his sixth term.
More information is coming out
about the over-the-top prosecution that probably contributed to the suicide of genius cyber-activist Aaron Swartz. Rolling Stone reports:
Swartz’s friends and family have said they believe he was driven to his death by a justice system that hounded him needlessly over an alleged crime with no real victims. “[He was] forced by the government to spend every fiber of his being on this damnable, senseless trial,” his partner Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman said at the memorial, “with no guarantee that he could exonerate himself at the end of it.”
Two zealous federal prosecutors handled Swartz’s case: U.S. district attorney Carmen Ortiz and assistant attorney Stephen Heymann. In the days after his death, writers, tech experts, and many of Swartz’s friends have called out Heymann and Ortiz for prosecutorial overreach. A White House petition demanding the removal of Ortiz garnered well over 25,000 signatures, reaching the level which guarantees an eventual response from the Obama administration.
Some of Swartz’s advocates believe the prosecution sought excessive punishment to set an example in the age of Wikileaks and Anonymous.
Declan McCullough writes at CNet that when Swartz’s case was being prosecuted by the Middlesex County DA’s office, there was no thought of sending Swartz to prison for what was essential a minor, victimless crime.
State prosecutors who investigated the late Aaron Swartz had planned to let him off with a stern warning, but federal prosecutor Carmen Ortiz took over and chose to make an example of the Internet activist, according to a report in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.
Middlesex County’s district attorney had planned no jail time, “with Swartz duly admonished and then returned to civil society to continue his pioneering electronic work in a less legally questionable manner,” the report (alternate link) said. “Tragedy intervened when Ortiz’s office took over the case to send ‘a message.'”
The report is likely to fuel an online campaign against Ortiz, who has been criticized for threatening the 26-year-old with decades in prison for allegedly downloading a large quantity of academic papers. An online petition asking President Obama to remove from office Ortiz — a politically ambitious prosecutor who was talked about as Massachusetts’ next governor as recently as last month.
Ortiz no longer has a political future, and other abuses of power by her office are now coming out. Read more at the link. I posted links to more damning information about Ortiz in a recent post.
The Massachusetts Lawyers’ Weekly post by Harvey Silverglate is behind a paywall, but it has been republished with permission at Media Nation.
The ill-considered prosecution leading to the suicide of computer prodigy Aaron Swartz is the most recent in a long line of abusive prosecutions coming out of the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston, representing a disastrous culture shift. It sadly reflects what’s happened to the federal criminal courts, not only in Massachusetts but across the country….
the palpable injustices flowing regularly out of the federal criminal courts have by and large escaped the critical scrutiny of the lawyers who are in the best position to say something. And judges tend not to recognize what to outsiders are serious flaws, because the system touts itself as the best and fairest in the world.
Since the mid-1980s, a proliferation of vague and overlapping federal criminal statutes has given federal prosecutors the ability to indict, and convict, virtually anyone unfortunate enough to come within their sights. And sentencing guidelines confer yet additional power on prosecutors, who have the discretion to pick and choose from statutes covering the same behavior.
This dangerous state of affairs has resulted in countless miscarriages of justice, many of which aren’t recognized as such until long after unfairly incarcerated defendants have served “boxcar-length” sentences.
Aaron Swartz was a victim of this system run amok. He was indicted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a notoriously broad statute enacted by Congress seemingly to criminalize any use of a computer to do something that could be deemed bad.
If you care about this issue, please go read the whole thing. Read Charles Pierce’s take on it here.
There have been some reports that Swartz had contacted Wikileaks’ Julian Assange and could possibly have been working with the organization, but it’s not clear what Swartz could have leaked to them. I can’t imagine Wikileaks being interested in distributing a bunch of academic journal articles that are already available to millions of people from numerous sources. Nevertheless, the Feds are so obsessed with Wikileaks and cyber-security generally that that could have led to their taking over Swartz’s case.
I have a number of other suggested reads that I’ll list link dump style.
Alex Pareene at Salon: 3 reasons to be skeptical that immigration reform will pass /
Irin Carmon at Salon: Is abortion about women?
USA Today: Iran says it launched a monkey into space (Video)
ABC News: Bigfoot: Is Mysterious Screech Sasquatch? (Hey, is Bigfoot really any weirder than the Tea Party Republicans? I don’t think so.)