In the USA...United Surveillance America
Obama, deporter-in-chief: the shame of immigration policy, one family at a time
More than 2m immigrants kicked out. The vast majority of cases from minor crimes. All this for parents who want to see their American kids grow up?
theguardian.com, Wednesday 9 April 2014 17.33 BST
Francisco Vega was just 15 years old when he got convicted for possession of a controlled substance, a minor crime – and one that has haunted this Mexican-born immigrant's life ever since. The juvenile drug conviction was subsequently vacated, but not before costing Francisco the chance to become a permanent, legal American resident through marriage. This all-too-common incident ultimately led to his being deported in 2008. He made it back to the US, only to face deportation again five years later. Now he's languishing in a cell in a privately run immigrant detention center in Tacoma, Washington, where his wife tells me he is not faring well: "We are not allowed contact visits, but I can see through the glass window that he is wasting away."
If the Vegas lose their second battle and Francisco is permanently removed from this country – if they lose a husband and a father of four American-born children, one of whom served in the US Air Force – it will be just another casualty of the backward immigration enforcement policies pursued by the Obama administration that are ripping families apart.
Indeed, Francisco Vega and many other locked-up or deported would-be Americans like him are just the sort of immigrants President Obama claims he wants to protect. And as the Guardian notes today, in the first of a three-part reported series, "the journey from south to north, a migration which changed the face of the US, is being reversed".
American immigrant deportations have now crossed the 2m mark since Obama took office in 2008, the year Francisco was arrested and kicked out of his home. That's more deportations than under any other administration in this country's history, and we're not even half way into the president's second term. Obama has been mostly unapologetic about the massive increase in deportations on his watch – blaming an intransigent congress and Bush-era policies, but after orchestrated nationwide protests, he finally softened his stance a few weeks ago. But he softened it softly, asking his new Homeland Security secretary in a closed-door meeting "to see how it can conduct enforcement more humanely".
Now comes the real pressure on a president who has complained about Congress failing to move on immigration reform but has overseen a mass exodus fuelling a billion-dollar, for-profit detention industry – and destroying millions of lives. Now it's looking like all those arrests were for next-to-nothing. Once again, Obama can't force Congress to act, but it is very much within his power to undo some of the policies adopted and exacerbated by his administration.
Earlier this week, a New York Times investigation revealed that over two-thirds of the deportation cases under Obama involved people who, like Francisco Vega, had committed a minor crime – or no crime at all. As the Times hammered home, and as the White House tried to defend, these statistics seriously undermine Obama's assertion during an election debate in October 2012 that the government should be focusing its deportation efforts on "criminals" or "gang bangers" – not going "after folks who are here just because they're trying to figure out how to feed their families".
To know why so many immigrants – the immigrants who are not gang bangers – get caught up in deportation proceedings more than ever, you need to know five letters: S-Comm. The so-called Secure Communities Program began under the Bush administration – a month before Obama's election – as a pilot program in just 14 jurisdictions, with the stated purpose of finding and deporting violent criminals, by giving US police and sheriff's departments the authority to enforce immigration law.
By 2011, the Obama administration had expanded S-Comm to 1,595 jurisdictions nationwide. Enter mass deportation. Out went thousands of immigrants – most of whom, we now know, did not exactly fall into the "hardened criminal" category.
An analysis of the S-Comm program by the Warren Institute at UC Berkeley (pdf) also found – surprise, surprise – disturbing evidence of racial profiling and routine violations of immigrant due process rights.
Even before S-Comm became America's deportation machine, due process was something of a luxury for immigrants. The Vega family learned this the hardest way. The family had just started their own business, buying and selling cattle at their home in Oregon, when a local sheriff came by their house one day. He checked on some bovine paperwork, all of which turned out to be in order. But when the sheriff checked Vega's ID against the federal government's immigration database and found a deportation order, he told the Vegas he would have to put Francisco under arrest. This is how his wife, Berenice, described to me what happened next:
I got down on my hands and knees and cried and begged the sheriff not to take him but he said he had no choice. He allowed my husband to get out of the car and I was able to give him a kiss and a hug before he was taken to the jail. I got to see him just once more in the jail. Three days later, he was gone.
Francisco got sent back to Mexico, but like many immigrants whose children are American citizens, he soon made his way back to the US to see his kids – even though "illegal reentry" is a federal offense that carries an average sentence of 14 months in prison. According to data analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, prosecutions for this offense have increased by 76% since Obama took office.
The Obama solution for taking it easy on "folks who are here just because they're trying to figure out how to feed their families", apparently, has become a combination of deportation proceedings without due process – followed by harsh punishment for trying to watch your kids grow up.
vega family immigrant air force Berenice and Francisco Vega with their US Air Force veteran daughter
Francisco was never prosecuted for illegal reentry because, his immigration attorney told me, there were "some real due process concerns with his underlying deportation order". Since his return, the Vegas have been trying to resolve the family trauma, but his case got complicated again last year when he was arrested for attending a rooster fight.
Eight months later, Francisco remains in detention. His lawyer says he's confident the Vegas won't face another deportation. But after two decades of struggle, a father's fight to get legalized is very real: Berenice tells me their youngest son's high-school grades have dropped dramatically since his father was detained again. She is exhausted from the burden of having to take over as sole breadwinner, and she says her husband is becoming increasingly withdrawn as he awaits his fate in a lonely prison cell.
The Vegas are not alone. According to that report at Berkeley, more than 88,000 families have been impacted by S-Comm. The Obama administration's ramped-up enforcement efforts have led to more than 5,000 American-born children of deported immigrant parents being placed in foster care.
The emotional and financial drain on these families is huge, of course, but the American taxpayer is paying the price, too, in a very literal way. In 2006, Congress mandated that a minimum of 34,000 federal detention beds must be occupied each day. The House of Representatives, usually loathe to spend a penny on any services that would assist the poor or needy, allocated over $2bn to the Department of Homeland Security in 2014 (slightly more than DHS requested) to cover the rising cost of detention.
The lion's share of these taxpayer dollars will end up, of course, in the hands of private prison companies like the GEO Group and the Corrections Corporation of America, which operate more than half of all immigrant detention centers – and continue to profit handsomely from all this unnecessary suffering.
Unless the president and his administration officials are serial liars, they cannot possibly be satisfied with the impact of their enforcement policies on the immigrant communities they profess to admire. It's disgraceful that it has taken over five years for Obama to even acknowledge that some softening of these policies might be in order. But now that he has, there are concrete steps the White House can take to stop any further damage.
Obama could begin by dismantling S-Comm – or at least revising the program to ensure that it achieves its original goal of finding and deporting hardened criminals, not just anyone who gets caught with a broken tail light.
He could remove the profit motive from our detention policies.
He could defer all deportations of non-criminal aliens, just as he did for the so called "Dreamer" population, until immigration reform actually passes and they have their chance to become legal.
Or Barack Obama can do absolutely nothing and run the risk of being remembered in history as the "Deporter-in-Chief" – the president who failed the Latino community that supported both his election efforts, while leaving our broken immigration system in worse shape than he found it.
White House defends soaring number of deportations for minor crimes
Immigration rights activists say administration has stepped up deportations to appease Republican opponents of reform
Dan Roberts in Washington
theguardian.com, Monday 7 April 2014 21.23 BST
The White House has defended a four-fold increase in the deportation of undocumented immigrants for minor crimes such as driving offences, insisting it is simply complying with “administration priorities” by removing foreign law-breakers from the country.
Campaigners leaped on the new data, obtained under Freedom of Information Act requests by the New York Times, as evidence the Obama administration has stepped up deportations to convince Republicans it can be trusted to enact wider immigration reform.
But with congressional reform efforts stalled, activists are now planning to target their protests against the administration instead, saying it has made matters worse by trying to appease Republican opponents.
“The irony is that this was tactic that Obama and his administration used to show they were tough on immigration and enforcement but somewhere along the line they seem to have lost track of the very reason why they moved so aggressively,” Kica Matos, director of immigrant rights at the Center for Community Change, told the Guardian.
“They focused only on enforcement and did not devote anywhere near the same amount of energy to advancing comprehensive immigration reform legislation as they did to, say, healthcare reform.”
The New York Times investigation found two-thirds of the nearly two million deportation cases it studied involved people who had committed minor infractions or had no criminal record.
The number of cases relating to people whose most serious offence was a traffic violation has quadrupled, rising from 43,000 over the last five years of George W Bush's presidency to 193,000 since Obama took office.
The White House insisted on Monday that its Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division was mostly complying with guidelines requiring laws to be broken before undocumented immigrants are deported.
“Ninety-eight percent of ICE's total removals last year met one more of the agency's civil immigration enforcement priorities,” said spokesman Jay Carney. “Other than convicted criminals, priorities include those apprehended while attempting to unlawfully enter the United States, illegal re-entry, and fugitives from immigration court.
He said 82% of those removed from the interior of the US were previously convicted of a criminal offence and 72% were convicted of more serious crimes involving violence or property theft.
However Carney acknowledged that the one of the challenges of such guidelines is that anyone caught attempting to re-enter after being removed is automatically guilty of a felony, a more serious class of crime.
Ninety-three percent of all ICE's non-criminal removals were recent border crossers, repeated immigration violators or fugitives from immigration court, he said.
Campaigners argue that such rules rip hundreds of thousands of American families apart, since many undocumented immigrants have been settled in the US for decades and have family dependents who are left devastated by something as minor as running a red light.
“They are trying to find a way to mitigate the horror of what Obama has done over the last eight years,” said Matos, who accused the White House of “playing a public relations game”.
“You can bet your bottom dollar that we are well on the way to escalating [our protest campaign],” she added. “Last year we included civil disobedience. The biggest difference this year is that our protests are targeted more and more at the Obama administration.”
Two weeks ago, the White House announced a review of deportation practices by Homeland Security director Jeh Johnson and has asked campaigners to hold off from public criticism and give it 90 more days to try to convince Republicans in the House of Representatives of the need for wider immigration reform.
'It was like a horror movie' – the undocumented Latinos living in fear
About 2m undocumented migrants have been deported under Obama – and a backward trek has begun. In the first of a three-part series, Rory Carroll reports from Forks, Washington
Rory Carroll in Forks, Washington
theguardian.com, Wednesday 9 April 2014 17.13 BST
The rainforests around Forks, a small town in Washington state, have long attracted hunters and fishermen, but beginning in 2008, this lush, remote landscape acquired a new breed of pursuer and prey.
That year, Border Patrol agents started targeting undocumented Latinos who lived in the town and worked in the woods, collecting mushrooms and salal, a shrub used by florists.
The agents set up roadblocks, tailed vehicles and trekked through the forests, sometimes disguising themselves as hunters, in a tense – and, eventually, lethal – game of cat-and-mouse.
Not all the Latinos living in Forks at the time were undocumented, but dread still gripped much of the community, which represented about a third of Forks' population of 3,500. To avoid “la migra”, they kept watch for patrols, shopped at night and minimised contact with schools, police or anything official.
On May 14 2011, a Forest Service officer stopped Benjamin Roldan Salinas and his partner, Crisanta Ramos, in their truck after a day collecting salal. They showed their permit. But minutes later, to their horror, a Border Patrol vehicle arrived. Ostensibly the agents had come to help translate, but according to activists, it was a familiar case of the Border Patrol using local enforcement agencies as extra sets of eyes and ears.
The couple bolted into the woods. One agent ran down Ramos and handcuffed her. Salinas vanished into the Sol Duc river. Every day for three weeks, neighbours and friends searched for him. On June 5, they found his body, snagged on an object in the river.
“He died in the water. My husband died in the water,” said Ramos last week, cradling the youngest of her three children and sobbing as she recalled the day. “He ran because he knew what would happen.”
If he’d been caught, Roldan Salinas would have been detained with hundreds of other undocumented Latinos, before being sent to Mexico to become one of the estimated 2m people deported under Barack Obama.
That 2m milestone, which activist groups say was hit in recent weeks, is a figure that far outstrips what was done under previous administrations, and it has stoked anger in the Latino community and earned Obama the sobriquet “deporter-in-chief”. Last year alone, 369,000 undocumented migrants were deported, a ninefold increase from 20 years ago.
The president, who's been hurt by criticism he's received on the issue, has ordered deportation to be “more humanely” enforced. But without executive action or legislative immigration reform, mass banishments will continue.
This article is the first in a three-part series showing how the journey from south to north, a migration which changed the face of the US, is being reversed. A trajectory, which once seemed as inexorable as gravity, is now moving in the opposite direction, from north to south. The backward trek begins in the rainy mists of Washington state, passes through detention centres and deportation transports, and ends in the baked concrete of Tijuana.
The flow does not discriminate between people who crossed the border only recently and those who came over decades ago, raised families here and consider themselves American.
Forks, a depressed logging town near the tip of the Olympic peninsula, is an unlikely magnet for Hispanics. A four-hour car and ferry ride from Seattle, bounded on the west by the Pacific, it tends to be cold and wet. Logging's decline made property cheap, however, and in the 1990s, Mexicans and Guatemalans began moving here to work in the woods. A skilled salal picker can earn about $90 daily.
detention Forks, Washington, has a population of about 3,500. Photograph: Felix Clay
“They're good workers. Do the work white people aren't willing to do anymore,” said Hop Dhooghe, 75, who sells salal and other forest products. “If you didn't have Latinos here your grocery store wouldn't have an apple in it.” He has joined an organization called the Forks Human Rights Group to oppose deportations.
Estanislao Matias, a 24-year-old from Guatemala, paid smugglers $3,500 that he’d borrowed – an enormous sum for him – to join siblings here in 2009. “In our imagination we think of the marvels awaiting us,” he said. “That's why we risk everything to come. Then I saw how hard it was, that I'd be working in rain and hail.”
Worse, he encountered a sense of siege. “It was like a horror movie. People peeking out of windows, afraid to go out.”
Matias was 3,000 miles from Guatemala and 1,300 miles from the Mexican border, his desert crossing already a memory, but he was 60 miles from a border crossing from Canada, putting him within the Border Patrol's 100-mile jurisdiction into the US interior – and an unprecedented crackdown.
Back in 1994, the nationwide force had 4,000 agents. To deter the influx from Mexico it increased to 8,500 by 2001. After 9/11 it was folded into US Customs and Border Protection, a part of the Department of Homeland Security. The number of agents in green, who have distinct uniforms and roles from other CBP colleagues, expanded to 23,000, one of the biggest federal forces.
A Senate bill last year proposed expanding it further, to 40,000.
With this surge, huge resources were directed to the sleepy northern border, and the Border Patrol’s green uniformed agents were sent into rural communities across Montana, Minnesota, North Dakota and New York, where they had seldom been seen before. A guard post with four agents in Port Angeles, which covers Washington state’s Olympic peninsula, morphed into a new, 19,000 sq ft facility with more than 40 agents.
Apart from the cost, there was just one problem with the addition of all these new agents: they had, according to one of them, “nothing to do.”
"During our work shifts, other agents and I always talked about how coming to work was like the black hole, swallowing us up slowly with no purpose, no mission," Christian Sanchez, a Border Patrol officer who was stationed at Port Angeles from 2009 to 2012, told a forum in Washington, DC.
Agents spent so much time driving around the peninsula that they nicknamed it the “Baja 500”, after the car race, he said.
Bored and frustrated, and under pressure to meet job performance metrics measured in numbers of arrests, they targeted undocumented Latinos in Forks, stopping them on the highway, following them home, following them in forests, grocery stores, the town hall.
“There were Border Patrol vehicles everywhere, following each other around like little herds,” said the mayor, Bryon Monohon. “They had no clear idea what they were supposed to do and were just pulling people off the street. It was creepy.”
A study by the Forks Human Rights Group – which is comprised of local Latinos, activists and social service providers – and students at the Ronald Peterson Law Clinic at Seattle University School of Law documented intimidation and harassment in hundreds of encounters.
“These include maintaining a threatening presence in the community, conspicuously following and watching people, bullying, damaging personal property, driving aggressively, harassing, and retaliating against advocates and family members,” the report said.
Almost every Latino left in Forks has a story. “When you see them coming up behind you it's like the devil is following you,” said Matias, the Guatemalan. One pre-dawn morning, he recalled, two Border Patrol vehicles suddenly appeared and sandwiched him and others as they drove to work. He fled on foot. “It was so dark and icy I couldn't see anything, I was running into trees. I got away but afterwards I was trembling and crying.”
Roldan Salinas, who drowned, left Ramos, now 30, to bring up three young children alone. “I feel so alone. Benjamin was a good man and a good father.”
The children are US citizens, and after the tragedy Ramos was granted provisional permission to stay. But she feels haunted. Six days a week she is out working from 7am to 7pm, without her partner to help carry backbreaking loads. “I tell the children to study hard so they won't suffer like I have suffered.”
The outcry over Roldan Salinas's death – it made news in Mexico - appeared to chasten the Border Patrol. Intimidation and arrests have dwindled over the past year, said activists. The agency settled a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project by agreeing, among other things, to enhance training in fourth amendment protections and to stop doubling up as translators for Forest Service stops.
It was a victory, said Doug Honig, spokesman for the ACLU's Seattle office, but a local one, and Border Patrol overreach stretched around the US. “Most Americans are shocked when they learn that Border Patrol assertion of authority extends to 100 miles from the border.”
Customs and Border Protection’s main office in Washington DC did not respond to requests for comment.
Forks is not celebrating. “The mood remains edgy,” said Lesley Hoare, an activist with the Forks Human Rights Group. About half of the Latino community has fled south, beyond the Border Patrol’s reach, draining money and vibrancy from agriculture, trailer parks, schools and stores.
“It's hurt my business. Most of my workers are gone,” lamented Dhooghe, who now fills just 100 boxes of salal daily, down from 500.
Apart from Ramos, a widow, the biggest losers are the dozens of families who had members – typically male, adult breadwinners – deported, often with no notification to family, said Monohon, the mayor, who also teaches at the local high school. “We had kids in school saying: ‘Daddy didn't come home last night.’”
Sofia Garcia Morelos, 33, is among those left to raise a child alone. The Border Patrol nabbed her partner while they picked mushrooms in 2011. “I cried and cried when they took him.” The blow was emotional and financial. His income gone, she parsed her own meagre takings to help him in a detention centre in Tacoma, south of Seattle, and then in Tijuana, Mexico, where he ended up marooned. They have since quarelled over the phone. Neither she nor their son have documents to visit him. They don't expect to see him again. “He can't get back.”
Jim DeMint Puts on a Clinic in GOP Stupidity With Claim the Constitution Freed Slaves
By: Jason Easley
Wednesday, April, 9th, 2014, 2:24 pm
Heritage Foundation leader Jim DeMint put on a clinic in Republican stupidity by getting the Constitution and Declaration of Independence confused, and offering a warped theory of how the slaves were freed.
DeMint: This progressive, the whole idea of being progressive is to progress away from those ideas that made this country great. What we’re trying to conserve as conservative are those things that work. They work today, they work for young people, they work for minorities and we can change this country and change its course very quickly if we just remember what works.
Newcombe: What if somebody, let’s say you’re talking with a liberal person and they were to turn around and say, ‘that Founding Fathers thing worked out really well, look at that Civil War we had eighty years later.’
DeMint: Well the reason that the slaves were eventually freed was the Constitution, it was like the conscience of the American people. Unfortunately, there were some court decisions like Dred Scott and others that defined some people as property, but the Constitution kept calling us back to ‘all men are created equal and we have inalienable rights’ in the minds of God. But a lot of the move to free the slaves came from the people, it did not come from the federal government. It came from a growing movement among the people, particularly people of faith, that this was wrong. People like Wilberforce who persisted for years because of his faith and because of his love for people. So no liberal is going to win a debate that big government freed the slaves. In fact, it was Abraham Lincoln, the very first Republican, who took this on as a cause and a lot of it was based on a love in his heart that comes from God.
There were a lot of inaccuracies in Jim DeMint’s remarks. First, he confused the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The Constitution doesn’t use the phrase all men are created equal. The Constitution did not free the slaves. The Emancipation Proclamation was an executive action that was taken by President Lincoln. The 13th Amendment was initiated at the federal level and fourthly, as Right Wing Watch pointed out, William Wilberforce died three decades before the Civil War.
With the level of ignorance that he demonstrated, it is hard to believe that Jim DeMint was once a United States Senator. It is no surprise that Republicans are as uninformed as they are with people like Jim DeMint leading conservative “think tanks.”
DeMint’s whole argument against the federal government and liberalism was undercut by his own mind numbing stupidity. This was more Glenn Beck style rewriting of history to fit the right wing view of what America ought to be.
Jim DeMint’s comments are proof that some Republicans have no idea what they are talking about, and should never be allowed anywhere near a position of power within the government.
Republican Economic Policies Lead America Into to A State of Disrepair
Wednesday, April, 9th, 2014, 9:19 am
Every citizen in every country on Earth likes to believe their nation is the best on the planet, and Americans too ignorant to comprehend they live in a veritable fascist banana republic are no different. It is likely that in no region of the country is belief that America is exceptional more prevalent than in the Southern region of the United States, but as study after report after reams of data continue demonstrating, the South is the most third world-like poverty-ridden area of the nation due to Republican leadership championing low wages, lack of access to healthcare, poor educational opportunities, and dependence on god and guns to pacify third world Southerners. However, the rest of the country can hardly be congratulating themselves for living in a “different” America, because the nation as a whole is rapidly sinking into disrepair and second-rate status. That is the conclusion of new findings by the Global Competitiveness Report with the release of their Social Progress Index (SPI) that shows not only is America not number one, it is lagging behind fourteen other developed nations due to fascist Republican economic policies favoring the rich and corporations.
To be fair to ignorant Americans whose egos are offended by another report showing their beloved ‘real America’ is real pathetic, the nation does hold the top spot in several categories near and dear to religious conservatives’ fascist hearts. America is number one for spending more on its military, has the most citizens incarcerated, and has the highest rate of gun related deaths among developed countries because it also has the highest rate of gun ownership and law enforcement officers. America is also at the top of the list of countries with the highest number of citizens believing in demons, angels, and creation, and leads every developed country in despising science, facts, education, and intelligence. In fact America, as a religiously fanatic nation, is approaching parity with the Islamic Republic of Iran and the religious right is working diligently with Republicans to transform America into an oppressive fascist theocracy to rival the Supreme Council in Iran, but that kind of talk will soon get one in serious trouble as forbidden speech in Christian America. As of last year, as the richest nation in the history of the world America vied for the top spot in child poverty trailing Romania for the number one distinction by a mere percentage point, but as Republicans continue cutting safety nets and child assistance programs they will soon be capable of officially celebrating America being number one in hungry children.
Some Americans do not need to be reminded that America is at the tail end of a three decade slide into a second-rate country and it is likely they also know the past thirty years of Republican economic policies are responsible for this country being rated as number 16 among the world’s developed countries. They are also aware that Republicans have made sure that 95% of all economic gains have been funneled directly to the richest 1% percent over the course of the last decade taking the nation back nearly one-hundred years in terms of wealth inequality, and created a tax code to starve the government of revenues to invest in public infrastructure. In fact, author Chris Hedges accurately explained in “World As It Is” that “Our anemic democracy will be replaced with a robust national police state. The elite will withdraw into heavily guarded gated communities where they will have access to security, goods, and services that cannot be afforded by the rest of us. Tens of millions of people, brutally controlled, will live in perpetual poverty.” Republicans are driving the nation to that certain eventuality and “real Americans” are cheering them on and keeping them in office because nothing says real America in 2014 like perpetual poverty.
Instead of rating a nation according to its GDP (America is number 2), the SPI measures data such as suicides, ecosystem sustainability, property rights, access to healthcare and education, gender equality, attitudes toward immigrants and minorities, nutrition, infrastructure and more measures related to social decency. The Harvard professor who developed the Global Competitiveness Report and the SPI, Michael E. Porter, examined social and environmental indicators that “matter to real people” to measure “the livability of each country.” He said, “We all need clean water. We all want to feel safe and live without fear. People everywhere want to get an education and improve their lives,” but it is those things Republicans’ thirty year economic policies have made more difficult, if not impossible, to realize with their devotion to the rich and corporations and blatant hostility to 99% of the population.
Some of the unsurprising rankings proving America has been in a downward spiral as a nation anyone other than racist, religious, and poverty-loving Southern conservatives believe is “exceptional” are; 70th in health, 69th in ecosystem sustainability, 39th in basic education, 34th in access to water and sanitation, and 31st in personal safety. Even in the ranking of happiness, America is a pathetic number 17 behind Mexico that is nowhere near America as far as wealth, but then again all the wealth in America is highly concentrated in the top 0.1% and only getting worse. Even though America is the technological leader in the world, the executive director of the SPI remarked, “It’s astonishing that for a country that has Silicon Valley, lack of access to information is a red flag” in referring to America’s 23rd ranking in Internet access that is only one of the SPI areas of shame President Obama has addressed only to be rebuffed by Republicans more concerned with procuring wealth for the rich and corporations.
In fact, every area that second-rate America lags behind the rest of the developed world President Obama has fought ferociously to improve whether it is healthcare, better wages, education funding, personal safety, and a cleaner environment. And the President has not fought for those areas to raise America’s ranking as a nation in some report, but to better the lives of all Americans; something that is anathema to Republicans more concerned with dragging the entire nation down to third world status they successfully imposed on the Southern United States to enrich their funding mechanism. It is noteworthy that the top nations in the world rankings all have universal healthcare, spend much, much more on education, have universal union representation, better working conditions, mandatory 4-week paid vacations, the highest quality roads and infrastructure, much higher minimum wages, longer life spans, much lower infant mortality rates, fewer incarcerations, fewer guns, and much less religious oppression than America and the people are happier by leaps and bounds regardless of higher tax rates.
America was a world leader until the 1980s when Republicans and their man-god Reagan convinced a monumentally ignorant population that government was Satan’s tool and handing the nation’s wealth to the uber-rich was the path to prosperity and the golden key to heaven’s gates. Despite a rapid thirty year descent into second rate status due to GOP economic policies, Republicans are still selling government as an affront to real Americans’ god almighty, and resistance to handing everything to the rich and corporations as greedy, ungodly, and biblically un-American. One wonders what it will take for Americans to come to the realization that the entire nation under thirty years of Republican economics is soon going to join the South and become the world’s richest third world nation. Shame has not worked; because after learning America’s infrastructure is worse (25th) than every developed and many developing nations, child poverty is second in the world, America is cruel and inhumane to its poor, and wealth inequality is at 1920s levels, one more report showing America is second rate will not move Americans to action. It can really only mean the residents of the richest nation in the world are second rate if this country’s pathetic conditions are acceptable and what conservative ‘real Americans’ love to call exceptional because their Republican champions created this pathetic and rapidly declining fascist banana republic.
Mitch McConnell Accuses Obama of Pushing Women Into Poverty While Blocking Paycheck Fairness
By: Jason Easley
Wednesday, April, 9th, 2014, 1:14 pm
On the Senate floor, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) tried to justify blocking paycheck fairness women by accusing President Obama of pushing millions of women into poverty.
Before every single Republican along with Independent Angus King voted to to block the Paycheck Fairness Act, McConnell said:
The Obama Economy has had a devastating impact on the people we represent. It’s hurt millions in the Middle Class, and people from every region of the country and almost every walk of life. And when you consider this week’s debate in the Senate, a few statistics jump out in particular.
Under this President’s watch, more than 3.7 million American women have fallen into poverty. The average American woman now makes about $730 less than when the President took office. And if she’s a college graduate, she’s actually seen her income shrink by about double that amount.
In other words, when it comes to American women overall, what we’ve seen over the past five and half years is less income and more poverty. That’s the story Senate Democrats don’t want to talk about.
McConnell suggested that women don’t deserve equal pay for equal work because…..Obama. His argument makes no sense. The rest of his remarks on the Senate floor were dedicated to lying about the ACA.
Lead Democratic sponsor of the bill Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) vowed that Democrats will continue this fight, “I want everyone to know, everyone in the Senate and everyone in the United States of America, although we lost the vote. We’re going to continue the battle.”
The two political parties are each defining themselves with this issue. Democrats are projecting the image of a party that will fight for equality and fairness for all. Republicans, whether they like it or not, are defining themselves as the party of wealthy, men, and inequitable status quo.
The Obama administration has been fighting against pay discrimination from the moment that this president took office. The president has taken numerous steps to encourage equality in healthcare and in the workplace.
Everything that Obama has tried to do has been met with Republican opposition. It is ridiculous for Mitch McConnell to try to sell himself as a champion of equal pay and economic opportunity when he has spent decades denying women equality.
Mitch McConnell is facing the potential end of his Senate career at the hands of Democratic challenger Alison Lundgren Grimes, and his strategy for political survival is to try convince women that President Obama is their real enemy.
At the end of the day, McConnell’s anti-Obama rhetoric can’t hide the fact that Republicans don’t want women to be given the equal pay that they earn.
The Republican Titanic is sinking, and it looks like Captain Mitch is going down with the ship.
Evil Issa Holding Lois Lerner Contempt Vote Thursday
By karoli April 9, 2014 4:00 am
Because there's never a bad time to stoke the fires of resentment and anger, Darrell Issa is holding a vote to hold Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress.
Evil Issa Holding Lois Lerner Contempt Vote Thursday
Late last week, House Republicans pulled a Chris Christie and released their own report on the so-called "IRS scandal." Among their predictable conclusions: Of course the IRS picked on conservatives over liberals because the IRS is a liberal tool.
Issa is staging this for the benefit of the base, because he knows the one thing he does not want is for Lois Lerner to testify. Having boxed her in a corner, he's now using her choice to exercise her constitutional rights as reason to hold a kangaroo court vote. If she were to testify, she'd blow his entire case out of the water, so it's far better to render her silent and slapped.
The last person to do something like this was McCarthy, during the HUAC hearings. Huffington Post:
But there seems to a serious hitch in the drive to punish Lerner. According the records retrieved by the Congressional Research Service, no American has been successfully prosecuted for invoking their Fifth Amendment rights before Congress.
Congress brought contempt cases 11 times from 1951 to 1968, according the the CRS. Only two of those cases that involved documents -- not personal testimony -- were upheld by the courts.
Most of the cases involved the House Un-American Activities Committee and its communist witch-hunts in the 1950s. But one that is particularly instructive involves a Buffalo, N.Y., woman named Diantha Hoag, who was fired from her factory job after Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-Wis.) and his Senate Committee on Government Operations accused her of being a communist and she pleaded the Fifth.
That won't stop Issa. We live in times where precedent means nothing, where the end is far more desirable than the means, and where holding a government official in contempt for refusing to incriminate herself is just another day at the office.
This all feeds into the Republican/Fox News/Wall Street Journal/talk radio/blog “scandal machine.” For example, the Wall Street Journal today has this “story” today, “GOP Report on IRS: Only Tea Party Groups Received ‘Systematic Scrutiny’.” The party issues a “report” and the conservative media machine blasts the “findings” around the wingnutosphere, and the “outrage” ensues.
Well, yes. They even have groups coordinating those messages. They know they can't win on ideas, so they're busy grinding the outrage machine for November. This is just one cog in the larger machine.
Adviser to Texas GOP’s Greg Abbott: No ‘evidence’ that women are ‘significant thinkers’
By David Edwards
Wednesday, April 9, 2014 15:34 EDT
An adviser to Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate for Texas governor, said this week that he had found no “evidence” to prove that any woman had been a “significant original thinker in any of the world’s great philosophical traditions.”
In audio obtained by the Burnt Orange Report, American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray can be heard explaining to an audience at the University of Texas that his views on women had not changed since a 2005 paper, in which he asserted that one or “maybe” two women had played significant roles in the field of philosophy.
When a woman at the event on Tuesday asked Murray if he still believed what he wrote, Murray quipped, “Who do you have in mind?”
Murray argued that in “certain traditions” like literature, women had been at the “peak of accomplishment.” But he said that he could only recall one important female philosopher, “and she was not a significant thinker in the estimation of historians of philosophy.”
“So, yeah, I still stick with that,” he insisted. “Until somebody gives me evidence to the contrary, I’ll stick with that statement.”
Murray, who Abbott cited in his education plan, argued that equal pay laws would actually hurt women by discouraging companies from hiring them, and that pay discrimination was a “myth” in the first place.
The AEI scholar declared that the gender wage gap cited by liberals “all but disappears” when “education, marital status and occupations are considered.”
According to Murray, the statistics were flawed because “many women prefer to stay home with their children,” or choose jobs “such as sociology, liberal arts or psychology, that pay less in the labor market.”
Mike Huckabee: Men Like to Hunt Together While Women Like To Go To the Restroom Together
By: Sarah Jones
Wednesday, April, 9th, 2014, 9:47 am
Republicans just can’t help themselves from revealing their true beliefs and thus making fools of themselves in public. So it was that last night Republican Governor Mike Huckabee spoke at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition fundraiser in Waukee and announced that while men like to fish and hunt together, women like to use the restroom together.
This quote came courtesy of Kathie Obradovich, a political columnist at The Des Moines Register, covering Iowa state politics and the Iowa caucuses:
.@GovMikeHuckabee says men like to go hunt/fish with other men. “Women like to go to the restroom with other women.” #iapolitics #iacaucus
— Kathie Obradovich (@KObradovich) April 9, 2014
We also got the IRS is a criminal enterprise as honey for the paranoid:
.@GovMikeHuckabee refers to the IRS as a “criminal enterprise.” #iapolitics #iacaucus
— Kathie Obradovich (@KObradovich) April 9, 2014
And just as a reminder, Huckabee can’t win a national election because when he isn’t putting women in the restroom together while the men do real things like hunting and fishing, he’s hung up on misreading the Bible and pretending it’s not homophobic to steal rights from certain citizens based on their private lives:
.@GovMikeHuckabee says he’s not homophobic but one-man/one-woman marriage is being “on the right side of the Bible.” #iapolitics #iacaucus
— Kathie Obradovich (@KObradovich) April 9, 2014
Rumor has it that men also use the restroom, and still manage to do other things, but apparently the same can’t be said of women. Women do not enjoy hunting or fishing, quilting or crafting, writing or painting, or going to political rallies to stand up for their rights so that men like Huckabee don’t get to decide what they can do with their lives…
Huckabee might make noise again but he will never win a national election like this. For that matter, no Republican candidate will with talk like this.