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4/28/2014 4:23:27 PM
How the Democrats Can Avoid Going Down This November
4/27/2014 2:32:22 PM

Boehner's immigration problem

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Speaker John Boehner has become increasingly isolated on immigration reform.

He wants to pass a bill, but can't get his House Republican Conference to get behind the effort.


The Ohio Republican recently told a group of GOP donors that he his “hell-bent” on getting legislation passed this year, according to The Wall Street Journal. He went further this past week when he declared that he is ready to act and complained that many of his GOP colleagues don’t want to follow.

“I think we should but the appetite, the appetite amongst my colleagues for doing this is not real good,” Boehner told constituents in Madison Township. “Here’s the attitude, ‘Ohhh, don’t make me do this. Ohhh, this is too hard.’” The comments, which were videotaped, went viral. Conservatives on and off Capitol Hill quickly expressed their displeasure. 

Boehner has shifted from the message he delivered in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 6 when he blamed President Obama for the stalemate on immigration reform.

“There’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws,” Boehner told reporters. “And it’s going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes.”

While centrist Republicans have backed Boehner and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), an influential voice within the House GOP Conference, is also pushing for action, conservative lawmakers remain highly skeptical. 

Boehner's mocking comments about the doubters within his conference further hurt his cause. They could also cost him votes if — as he claims he will — run for Speaker again after the elections.

The main problem, according to Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, is that Boehner has failed to reach out to conservative lawmakers one-on-one. 

"The problem is you have to win over the more conservative members. Many of them want to do something but the leadership is not talking to them. Boehner is not having one-on-one conversations and explaining why this is the right thing to do," said Aguilar, who has been meeting with lawmakers and their staffs on immigration reform for months.

Aguilar acknowledged that Boehner has reached out to Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), an outspoken conservative voice on immigration, but said that is not enough.

“They can’t expect to just use Labrador to get to all the conservative members,” he said. “I think that they should be talking to Steve Scalise [R-La.], they should be talking to Jim Jordan [R-Ohio], I think they should be talking more proactively to Trey Gowdy [R-S.C.]. They should be talking to Jason Chaffetz [R-Utah].” 

Lynn Tramonte, the deputy director of America’s Voice, a liberal member of the pro-immigration reform coalition, agreed that Boehner needs to do more to convince his colleagues to move legislation. 

“He’s talked a lot about it but there hasn’t been any action,” she said. “They probably want to keep talking about it to avoid being blamed for blocking it.”

A spokesman for Boehner said his boss has had meetings with many rank-and-file colleagues and found that distrust of Obama is the biggest obstacle.

"The Speaker has had countless one-on-one conversations with members all across the spectrum in our conference. No one doubts his commitment or seriousness on this issue,” said Michael Steel, Boehner’s aide. “The reason we can't make progress — in a common-sense, step-by-step fashion — is that the American people, and members of the House, simply lack faith that the president will enforce the law as written."

Tamar Jacoby, president of ImmigrationWorks USA, a pro-immigration reform group allied with the business community, said Boehner has emerged as the biggest booster in the House GOP leadership for moving legislation. She said the enthusiasm of other leaders is less obvious. 

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), for example, is unenthusiastic about moving forward before the GOP conference is ready.

“Just judging by the public comments, right now Boehner is the No. 1 who wants to get it done,” Jacoby said. “It’s always hard to read exactly where Mr. Cantor is, but he’s the author of a version of the Dream Act so it’s not like he’s against immigration reform. 

Cantor has worked on legislation since last year that would grant legal status to illegal immigrants who were brought to the country at a young age. But Cantor has no plans to unveil the legislation, tentatively entitled the Kids Act, anytime soon.

The Virginia Republian was not receptive when Obama called him in mid-April to prod House Republicans to take up immigration reform. He issued a searing statement after the conversation slamming Obama for reaching out to him after delivering what he called a “partisan statement” that indicated “no desire to work together.”

“I don’t know where he stands on: Do it now or do it later,” Jacoby said when asked about Cantor’s timeline for moving immigration legislation to the floor. 

A memo on the spring’s legislative agenda that Cantor released to the media Friday made no mention of immigration reform. It instead highlighted declining median household income, the need to replace ObamaCare with “patient-focused” reforms, legislation to modernize federal charter schools programs, and a resolution holding Lois Lerner, a former IRS official, in contempt of Congress.

Some Republicans have been vocal in their support of Boehner’s desire to pass immigration reform legislation as soon as possible.

“John definitely wants to do it,” said Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.). “I understand the arguments against it but I want him to know that when he does go forward, I’ll be on his side on it.”

King sent a letter to Boehner Wednesday urging him to pass legislation that would grant legal status to people living in the country illegally. 

“I believe that a confluence of events makes it possible at this time to craft legislation which would (a) establish strong and real border controls and enforcement and (b) provide undocumented immigrants with the mechanism to pursue legal status and, ultimately, obtain citizenship,” he wrote.

But many Republicans think moving divisive immigration reform legislation a few months before Election Day could provoke a backlash among conservative activists that could hurt them in primary races or the general election.

“It’s not just Boehner versus everyone. On both sides you have these strong feelings. Some people are saying this isn’t the year but other people saying we really got to get to this,” said Jacoby.

“That debate just hasn’t been resolved,” she added.

Read more: http://thehill.com/homenews/house/204444-boehner-walks-tightrope-on-immigration#ixzz3065Nlx55 
Follow us: @thehill on Twitter | TheHill on Facebook

4/27/2014 12:56:14 PM

Cliven Bundy and racial concern trolling: Why the rancher’s bigoted rant means more doom for the GOP

Conservatives know their days of winning via white resentment are numbered. Here's why their backup plan is doomed



Cliven Bundy and racial concern trolling: Why the rancher's bigoted rant means more doom for the GOPNewt Gingrich, Cliven Bundy, Paul Ryan (Credit: Reuters/Tami Chappell/Jim Urquhart/AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

When renegade rancher Cliven Bundy was revealed this week to be very much a racist, most Republicans tried to separate themselves from the man with the kind of speediness and immediacy we don’t often associate with the conservative movement. (Remember, these are the same people who still carp about Benghazi and think every presidential election will be a repeat of 1980.) It was easy to see why: With references to porches, picking cotton and slavery, Bundy’s speech was like a greatest hits compilation of racial taboos. And if any group knows which words you can and cannot say in polite conversation today when talking about black people, it’s the Obama-era GOP. It’s a lesson they’ve learned the hard way.

But for all the earnestness of their attacks on Bundy — Sean Hannity alone called his former favorite rancher’s ideas “beyond repugnant,” “beyond despicable” and “beyond ignorant” — what many conservatives failed to notice is that, at their essence, Bundy’s comments were well within the conservative mainstream. Not the stuff about black people sitting on porches or needing to learn how to pick cotton, but rather the critique of the welfare state as somehow being responsible for the destruction of the African-American family. As others have noted, this line of analysis was just recently endorsed by Paul Ryan, the de facto intellectual leader of the GOP. So Bundy’s only real sin was, as Slate’s Jamelle Bouie correctly wrote, not being “sophisticated enough to couch his nonsense in soundbites and euphemism.”


Perhaps even more uncomfortably for conservatives, it’s not only that Bundy’s vision of the social consequences of redistribution so closely mirrors theirs, it’s also that his way of framing his critique is the same as theirs, too. In his initial remarks as well as those he’s offered since in his own defense, Bundy has tried to engender sympathy by arguing that all he was trying to do is express his deep concern for the plight of black families in the U.S. today. It’s not that he doesn’t think they deserve “his” money, it’s that he worries government assistance will ultimately be detrimental to black people, that it will sap them of their ambition and force them to rely on others for survival. Bundy is worried that the safety net will, as Paul Ryan once put it, “turn … into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency.”

I call this move — the adoption of a stance of disingenuous or exaggerated concern for people of color — “racial concern trolling.” And while it’s always been an element of conservatism’s rhetorical repertoire, with the advent of the country’s first black president and the related shift in national politics away from questions of foreign policy and toward arguments over redistribution, it’s become increasingly prevalent in the political discourse. Yet as dishonest a tactic as this usually is, I think it actually offers reason for supporters of the redistributive state to be optimistic about the future of racial politics in America.

Before getting into all that, however, let’s define our terms — specifically, “concern troll.” The term originally was used only in particularly argumentative online circles (chat rooms, message boards, etc.) but it eventually permeated the wider culture at large.According to Wikipedia, a concern troll is “a false flag pseudonym created by a user whose actual point of view is opposed to the one that the user claims to hold,” which is pretty much how it’s used in politics, though not exactly the same. For example, while it’s true that concern trolling in political debate involves adopting a point of view opposite from the one you really hold, an act of political concern trolling doesn’t require the creation of a false identity. 

The paradigmatic act of concern trolling in politics would go something like this: You’re someone who opposes raising taxes on the wealthy and who supports reducing funding for Social Security. (Let’s call you, oh, I don’t know, how about Third Way?) You notice that Democrats who feel the opposite way, who want to raise taxes and increase funding for Social Security, are winning elections. You worry that this may lead the Democratic Party as a whole to endorse the policies you oppose. So you write an editorial criticizing this approach, but instead of making an argument on the merits, you instead claim that those who disagree with you are courting electoral defeat. You imply that your opposition isn’t about ends but means, even though the truth is anything but.

The dynamics of racial concern trolling are exactly the same. Its proponents, like Paul Ryan or Newt Gingrich or Rand Paul, say their opposition to redistributive programs that disproportionately benefit African-Americans comes from their internal reservoir of affection for black people and their observations that these programs hurt more than they help. But the truth is that their feelings for blacks, however genuine, are not the motivating factor. If you proved, decisively, that they’re wrong, that redistribution often helps the less advantaged have a better chance at making a decent life for themselves, the racial concern trolls wouldn’t suddenly abandon their opposition to economic liberalism. On the contrary, they’d go back to “first principles” and argue that it’s inherently unjust to take money from one person and give it to the other — becausethat’s what they really care about, that’s what’s actually driving their beliefs.

If we return to Cliven Bundy, we see a perfect example of racial concern trolling (albeit one that was done with far less deftness and tact than is usually the case). In trying to defend his remark about black people (maybe) being better off as slaves, Bundy arguedthat what he was trying to say is that maybe black people were better off when they all lived in the South “where they had some chickens and the gardens, and they had something to do.” It’s not that he subscribes to the same fundamentally white supremacist ideology of the many militia members and “sovereign citizens” who have rallied to his cause; it’s the chickens, you see. The chickens!

So why should believers in redistribution react to racial concern trolling with optimism? Because, at its heart, racial concern trolling is a tacit admission that the underlying values, the ones that I believe are the racial concern troll’s true inspiration — economic libertarianism, white populism and a belief in a natural social hierarchy — are no longer viable in our pseudo-democracy. Instead of arguing from a platform of values and principles, neither of which can ever be disproven or negated with empiricism or facts, racial concern trolls are reduced to making a technocratic argument. And it’s a rather specious one, at that.

More important, politics is fundamentally about identity, emotion, tribe; these are the powerful psychological and sociological influences that make us bother to stand in line and cast our vote, even when we know it’s just one of countless millions; or send a candidate a check, even when we know we could use that money to buy something diverting or useful instead. Ronald Reagan’s railing against a “strapping young buck” using food stamps to purchase T-bone steaks — that’s the kind of thing that made people mad, that got them fired up. The emotional and motivational power of a Paul Ryan spreadsheet based on fiscal projections for decades into the future is, by comparison, some very weak tea indeed.

All the same, the post-Bundy world heralded by the uptick of concern trolling is not here yet. And it may be decades before it truly arrives. In the meantime, however, people who believe in redistribution and social justice can adopt a strategy that’s served millions of Internet users well for many, many years: Don’t feed the trolls. Call out racial concern trolling for the chicanery it is, then enjoy the view as the Cliven Bundys of this world fade further and further away.

4/23/2014 2:50:25 PM
Hillary should thank Barack Obama for beating her in 2008
4/22/2014 9:56:14 PM
There is a hidden time Bomb in Senate Rules that will go off if a Justice Retires

"There’s A Hidden Timebomb In The Senate Rules That Will Go Off If A Supreme Court Justice Retires"



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Obama and SCOTUS


As Jonathan Chait notes, only five Republican senators voted to confirm Justice Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, and three of those senators — Judd Gregg, Richard Lugar and Olympia Snowe — are no longer in the Senate. If Republicans take the Senate this November, there is a very real possibility that no one President Obama nominates to a Supreme Court vacancy, no matter what their record or qualifications, could be confirmed to the Court.

We made a similar point in 2012, when Tea Party candidate Richard Mourdock defeated Lugar in a Republican Senate primary after he attacked Lugar for his support of Kagan and Justice Sonia Sotomayor. As we wrote then, “[i]n light of this incident, it is unlikely that any of the few remaining Republicans who backed an Obama Supreme Court appointee will be willing to risk their careers by doing the same again.”

Indeed, under the Senate’s current rules, Republicans could block a Supreme Court appointment right now, if they chose to, even though Democrats effectively control 55 percent of the Senate. Last November, when Senate Democrats voted to invoke the so-called “nuclear option” and end the GOP’s ability to require a supermajority to vote to confirm most nominees, they left in place the 60 supermajority requirement for Supreme Court confirmations. As a result, unless at least five Republicans oppose a GOP filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee, the current rules allow the GOP to keep that nominee from being confirmed.

Of course, if the vacancy were to arise right now, when Democrats control a solid majority of the Senate’s seats, it would be a simple matter to invoke the “nuclear option” again — a procedure that allows the Senate’s rules to be changed by a simple majority vote. But that assumes that a majority of the Senate is willing to support such a rules change.

Although Republicans have not, to say the least, been particularly cooperative when it comes to confirming President Obama’s judges, the truth is that there are some GOP senators who have been less obstructionist than others. Earlier this month, for example, Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) voted with Democrats on Michelle Friedland’s nomination to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Friedland, by virtue of the fact that she once clerked on the Supreme Court and that she is a relatively young 41 years-old, is a plausible Supreme Court nominee in a Democratic administration.

The nightmare scenario for Democrats under the current Senate rules arises if Republicans take over the Senate but Collins and Murkowski break with their party to support President Obama’s future Supreme Court nominee. This November, Democrats must defend their gains from the 2008 wave election year where they won seats in states like Alaska and Arkansas where Democrats typically do not fare particularly well. It is easy to imagine Republicans emerging with a slight majority — maybe 51 seats — once all the votes are counted.

Under that scenario, an Obama nominee is still likely to be supported by all 49 of the remaining members of the Democratic caucus, and that nominee could be supported by a handful of Republicans as well. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that any Republican would vote at that particular moment to change the Senate’s rules in order to allow a Supreme Court nominee to clear the Senate by a simple majority vote. To do so would likely be political suicide.

The Senate Democrats’ decision to cut Supreme Court nominees out of the nuclear option last November, in other words, could prove deadly for any nomination President Obama sends to the Senate. If Republicans take the Senate this November, we may need to get used to seeing an empty seat on the Supreme Court for a very long time.

4/22/2014 7:23:07 PM

Report: Admin Mulls Limiting Deportations for Immigrants Without Criminal Records

The Obama administration is reportedly considering limiting the deportations of undocumented immigrants who do not have criminal records. Recent figures show two-thirds of those deported under President Obama had committed minor infractions, such as traffic violations, or had no criminal record at all. The Associated Press reports the change is being considered as part of a Department of Homeland Security review launched amidst rising criticism of Obama’s record two million deportations.


4/22/2014 7:10:56 PM

Breakups are rough — regrets, pain and bitter memories. As Republicans in the House block immigration reform time after time, American Latinos get the message: It's over, don't call me. Have a good life.

Incapable of producing even one GOP vote in favor of the Democrats' last-ditch gamble at forcing an open vote of the House, the message to Latinos is crystalline. Whatever goodwill the clutch of pro-immigration reform House Republicans won in the last year since the Senate passed its bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill has now evaporated.


What remains are the weekly flip-flops by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the yelps of "amnesty" coming from a seemingly frightened Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the tiny fig leaf provided by Rep. Bob Goodlatte's (R-Va.) seven bills he's been talking about for a year and the shameful action to deport all Dreamers through the recently unanimous vote of the House Republican caucus's fantasy bill, the Enforce Act.

Some 15 months after former Gov. Mitt Romney's (R-Mass.) "self-deportation" turkey handed the Latino vote (not to mention the Asian-American electorate) to the Democrats, Republicans are still incapable of effectively dealing with an issue that commands big majorities of Americans – including Republicans.

Great analyses have been written by Greg SargentCharlie Cook, and Juan Williams, among others, about the "paranoia" inherent in the Republican Party's refusal put forward a coherent immigration reform policy. Setting the political calculus aside, most Republicans on Capitol Hill seem to have no clue about what immigration reform actually represents to Latino voters.

As I've written previously, immigration reform is not a policy debate for Hispanics. It stands as a proxy for societal respect – even though most Latinos are either American-born, naturalized citizens or have a green card and will not benefit from any reform. While it's not fair to judge the GOP based on people like Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and his anti-immigrant logorrhea, he and other anti-immigrant Republicans have become the effective spokespeople of the GOP on this issue.

Whatever good intentions may exist in the GOP House to move forward with a bill, the lack of any action by Boehner (not to mention right-wing extremists' wholesale rejection of a reasonable compromise) is now officially the Republican position.

This is what Latinos think.

On my radio show every day, and on social media 24/7, I am part of a conversation where responsibility for both the failure of comprehensive reform, and the acrid discourse surrounding it, is laid at the feet of Republicans exclusively.

New to American politics, organic groups of American Latinos have formed online with the express purpose of increasing Latino turnout in November and dealing the GOP a blow. No longer tied to the traditional activist organizations, still espousing 1960s tactics and attitudes, these new groups are savvy Facebookers and Tweeters that can spread a political message across the country with the click of the mouse – reaching tens of thousands of people in an instant, hundreds of thousands per day.

This political battle is now personal. Just like the Tea Party fervor of 2010, driven by a single-minded focus to oppose President Obama, these online Latino groups share a similar obsession with throwing Republicans out of office.

One such group, organized primarily through the hashtag #TNTweeters, has attracted thousands of active social media "warriors" that engage in a robust political debate – principally calling for a GOP defeat in November.

Will this new kind of political activists succeed in altering the electoral math in the midterms? No one can say, of course. Latinos have historically sat out non-presidential elections. But history is not always prologue. The level of frustration, even anger, now focused on the GOP, combined with the frictionless power of social media, represents a fundamentally new political dynamic in American politics.

Come this November 4, Republicans may just wake up to the ugly reality that breaking up with American Latinos over immigration was an easily avoidable and ultimately very costly divorce.

TEXAS NEEDS A MEDICAID ESPANSION, MORAL MONDAY getting ready to travel to Texas and help
4/14/2014 3:01:14 PM

Blow: Medicaid expansion is just good business for Texas


You know the world is topsy-turvy when the Dallas Citizens Council comes out on the liberal side of a debate.

For that matter, you know these are strange days when the Citizens Council comes out publicly for anything at all. Though not the semi-secret cabal it once was, the high-powered organization still prefers to work behind the scenes.

But there, for everyone to see, was the recent guest column in this newspaper written by Citizens Council president Alice Murray. And of all things, it called for the expansion of Medicaid in Texas.

And in the current state of Texas politics, that’s akin to subletting the Alamo.

Now, I’m sure the venerable Citizens Council would prefer that its position be categorized as something other than liberal. A common-sense position, say. Or as enlightened conservatism.

And, yes, it strikes me as both of those things.

But Texas being Texas, and Dallas being Dallas, Murray’s guest column made clear how the Citizens Council sees the controversial Medicaid expansion. And that’s as good for bidness.

“An expansion of Medicaid is beneficial for business and a positive for our state’s future,” the column concluded. “We are hopeful other business groups will join us in a united front to tackle this issue.”

Hey, whatever works. I might have started with the humane and moral arguments first.

But if good-for-business gets the job done, so be it.

I talked to Murray last week about reaction to the column. “There has been a lot, which is what we hoped for,” she said. “We really want to spark a discussion about this.”

So was it a controversial topic within the ranks of the Citizens Council? “A little bit,” she said with a laugh that suggested more than a little bit.

But she said the issue was thoroughly studied and debated. Some members were specifically assigned to mount as strong a case against Medicaid expansion as possible.

In the end, it was an easy decision.

“It was a large majority that was in favor of the position we took,” she said.

And if it was mostly a business decision at the start, some of the mail Murray has been receiving certainly puts flesh and blood to the issue.

“I received one impassioned letter from a married mother of two. Without Medicaid expansion, she has no way to get insured. And now she has progressive multiple sclerosis. Oh, it’s such a sad story,” she said.

There is indeed a cruel twist to the current situation. The Affordable Care Act created insurance marketplaces and subsidized premiums for low-income Americans — but only for those above the poverty level.

Poorer families were supposed to be covered by this expansion of Medicaid. But when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could opt out of the expansion, of course Texas did.

In Gov. Rick Perry’s Texas, it’s more important to try to make Obamacare fail than to extend health care coverage to an extra 1.5 million Texans through Medicaid.

So now we have this gap. The poorest of the poor qualify for health care assistance.

And those above the poverty level can get insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces. But those earning just enough money to be at the poverty level are left out in the cold — people like the woman with MS who wrote to Murray.

Yes, there is a compelling case to be made for expanding Medicaid simply as the humane thing to do.

But if dollars make more sense to you, then the Dallas Citizens Council wants you to think about the difference that an extra $10 billion to $15 billion in federal funds could make for the state.

That’s the amount we will be giving up if the Texas Legislature doesn’t expand Medicaid for 2016 and 2017. Texas has already given up nearly $8 billion by rejecting Medicaid expansion for this year and next year.

Waco economist Ray Perryman has said “it is beyond question” that Texas should participate. And now the Dallas Citizens Council says so, too.

MORAL MONDAY is an exercise in Right to Assemble
4/14/2014 2:58:49 PM

The Wilsons: Moral Monday is exercise in right to assemble

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Posted: Saturday, April 12, 2014 5:00 pm

The Rev. William Barber, architect and leader of the Moral Monday phenomenon, has said at the rallies, “This is not a moment. It is a movement.” Over the past year we have attended Moral Monday rallies throughout the state, and that participation has given us an appreciation for his quote. The rallies have been energizing, instructive, heartwarming and at times just inspiring. We have realized we are part of a continuing “movement” that is persistently challenging our elected officials to act for the common good and not to surrender to ideology and special interests.

The motivating force behind our continued involvement is reflected in the North Carolina State Constitution, Article I, Section 2, that reads, “All political power is vested in and derived from the people; all government of right originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.” These words reflect the defining principle of a democratically governed state. Many people in our state are of the opinion that the ideal of a state governed “of, by, and for the people” is under serious assault by an ideologically obsessed General Assembly bent on moving the state toward a plutocracy instead of a government presided over by the people.

From 2011 through 2013, there were two very different streams of information that also motivated us. First, there were daily reports of the deluge of legislation being drafted and passed so quickly it was almost impossible to keep up with, study and comprehend. The majority of the legislation being proposed and ratified had nothing to do with the urgent need for a clear plan for economic recovery, and it had little to do with needs of or directives from the people. Among bills passed by the General Assembly, the following are of most concern to us:

-- Amending the state constitution to ban same-sex marriages and embedding discrimination of North Carolina citizens into the constitution.

-- Restricting women’s access to comprehensive health care.

-- Passing the most restrictive voter suppression legislation in the United States.

-- Underfunding public schools and teacher pay, removing the cap on charter schools, and redirecting public funds through vouchers to private schools.

-- Rejecting federal money for Medicaid expansion for over 500,000 individuals and families.

-- Rejecting federal unemployment benefits that denied 70,000 North Carolinians extended benefits.

-- Repealing public financing of judicial races and allowing unlimited private donations to judicial candidates.

Second, there was an equal flood of information about the efforts of national and state organizations with a clear agenda of moving state governments to the far right. As early as the summer of 2011, The Center for Media and Democracy and The Nation released news under the rubric “ALEC Exposed.” The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), we learned, is an organization composed of state legislators and representatives of numerous corporations that drafts model bills that are to be presented to state legislatures for passage. Voter ID laws, privatization of public schools, lower taxes on the wealthiest, repeal of the estate tax and business friendly environmental regulations are among the model bills generated by ALEC.

With this information our concerns were heightened since Thom Tillis, speaker of the state House of Representatives, was given the award “ALEC Legislator of the Year” in 2011, and he is now serving on the ALEC board of directors. How many of the regressive bills passed by the General Assembly have been influenced by ALEC? Were our elected officials representing the people or the interest of large corporations?

As we searched for vehicles to express our concern and outrage about the direction of our state, we realized that the Rev. Barber and the NC NAACP afforded an opportunity to exercise the right to assemble and express grievances toward elected officials in a peaceful, disciplined and informed manner. Our individual voices were amplified by participating in the chorus of thousands of distressed, infuriated citizens. Enlistment in the ranks of those who were willing to be arrested punctuated the seriousness of our concern and of our resolve to be heard.

Only a large movement of unified voices can even begin to challenge the obstinate ideologues in the General Assembly and compete with their wealthy right-wing benefactors pouring millions of dollars into the remaking of North Carolina. Being in a movement with like-minded egalitarians reinforces hope, encourages action, maintains self-discipline and provides a structure for creative dissent.

On May 19, the “movement” continues in Raleigh.

4/11/2014 12:03:48 AM

Do we all need a Moral Monday movement?

The burgeoning Moral Monday ‘fusion movement,’ with roots in North Carolina, has spread throughout the South, and states like Indiana may be next in line.

moral monday march

An estimated 80,000 to 100,000 people gathered outside the North Carolina State Capitol in Februaty for a Moral Monday march in Raleigh. Image from fireflyfans.net.

By Harry Targ | The Rag Blog | April 9, 2014

The emergence of Moral Mondays in the South

WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana — “Moral Monday” refers to a burgeoning mass movement that had its roots in efforts to defend voter rights in North Carolina. Thousands of activists have been mobilizing across the South over the last year inspired by Moral Mondays.

They are fighting back against draconian efforts to destroy the right of people to vote, workers’ and women’s rights, and for progressive policies in general. Paradoxically, many progressives in the South and elsewhere have not heard of this budding movement.

Moral Mondays began as the annual Historic Thousands on Jones Street People’s Assembly (HKonJ) in 2006 to promote progressive politics in North Carolina. Originally a coalition of 16 organizations, initiated by the state’s NAACP, it has grown to include 150 organizations today promoting a multi-issue agenda. In 2006, its task was to pressure the state’s Democratic politicians to expand voting rights and support progressive legislation on a variety of fronts.

With the election of a tea-party government in that state in 2012, the thrust of Moral Mondays shifted to challenging the draconian policies threatening to turn back gains made by people of color, workers, women, environmentalists and others. Public protests at the state house weekly in the spring of 2013 during the state legislative session led to over 1,000 arrests for civil disobedience and hundreds of thousands of hits on MM websites.

Similar movements have spread throughout the South (Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida) and in some states in the Midwest and Southwest (Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Missouri).

To kick off the spring 2014 protests, MM organizers called a rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, on February 8 which brought out at least 80,000 protestors. Rev. William Barber, a key organizer of the movement, has grounded this new movement in history, suggesting that the South is in the midst of the “third reconstruction.”

The first reconstruction, after the Civil War, consisted of Black and white workers struggling to create a democratic South (which would have impacted on the North as well). They elected legislators who wrote new state constitutions to create democratic institutions in that region for the first time. This first reconstruction was destroyed by white racism and the establishment of Jim Crow segregation.

The second reconstruction occurred between Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954 and President Nixon’s 1968 “Southern Strategy.” During this period formal segregation was overturned, Medicare and Medicaid were established, and Social Security was expanded. Blacks and whites benefited. Dr. King’s 1968 Poor People’s Campaign envisioned a defense and expansion of the second reconstruction.

Now we are in the midst of a third reconstruction, according to Barber. Political mobilizations today, like those of the first reconstruction, are based on what was called in the 1860s “fusion” politics; that is bringing all activists — Black, Brown, white, gay/straight, workers, environmentalists — together.

Fusion politics assumes that only a mass movement built on everyone’s issues can challenge the billionaire economic elites…

Fusion politics assumes that only a mass movement built on everyone’s issues can challenge the billionaire economic elites such as the Koch brothers and their Wall Street collaborators with masses of people (the 99 percent). Fusion politics, Rev. Barber says, requires an understanding of the fact that every issue is interconnected causally with every other issue. Therefore, democracy, civil rights, labor, women’s, gay/lesbian, and environmental movements must act together.

At the February action in Raleigh five general demands were articulated as guides for their spring activism. While economic, political, and historical forces vary from state to state the demands can serve as a model for action elsewhere as well. The North Carolina demands are:

  • Secure pro-labor, anti-poverty policies that insure economic sustainability;
  • Provide well-funded, quality public education for all;
  • Stand up for the health of every North Carolinian by promoting health care access and environmental justice across all the state’s communities;
  • Address the continuing inequalities in the criminal justice system and ensure equality under the law for every person, regardless of race, class, creed, documentation or sexual preference;
  • Protect and expand voting rights for people of color, women, immigrants, the elderly and students to safeguard fair democratic representation.

The MM demands and the situation in Indiana

As to labor rights, poverty, and economic sustainability, Indiana trends mirror the national decline in union membership to a 97 year low. Only 11.3 percent of the American workforce is in unions. Hoosier union membership was 9.3 percent in 2013, almost a 2 percent decline since 2011. Former Governor Mitch Daniels ended collective bargaining for state workers his first day in office in 2005 and signed a new Right-to-Work law at the end of his second term in 2012.

The war on workers paralleled the increases in poverty and the decline in economic well-being in Indiana.

The war on workers paralleled the increases in poverty and the decline in economic well-being in the state. Poverty rates in 2012 included 22 percent of children, 7 percent of seniors, and 15.1 percent of women, and included 41 percent of single-parent families. The total poverty rate in Indiana was 15.6 percent with 13.5 percent of Hoosiers living with food insecurity, and 7.15 percent in extreme poverty (living on less than $2 a day). Low income families totaled 32 percent of all families with 24 percent of workers in low wage jobs.

To quote the Indiana Institute for Working Families:

“…more than 1 in 5 children live in poverty and 47 percent are low-income (more than all neighbor states, including Kentucky); more than 1 million Hoosiers over the age of 18 are in poverty and 2.24 million are low-income; more than 70% of Hoosier jobs are in occupations that pay less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines — that’s less than $39,060 for the same family of three… we have a larger share of jobs in occupations that pay at or below poverty wages ($19,530 for a family of three) and jobs that pay at or below minimum wage than all neighbor states, including Kentucky; and wages have declined for lower- and middle-income Hoosiers over the past decade, while worker productivity has soared.” (Derek Thomas, “Cato Study Disingenuously Presents Molehills as Mountains,” Indiana Institute for Working Families, August 23, 2013).

As to education, 87 percent of Hoosier adults have a high school education and 23.4 percent have a college degree, while high school graduation rates stand at 77 percent (ranked 31 of 50 states) and 64 percent of college students have debt averaging $27, 886. Indiana led the way in establishing charter schools and vouchers for attendees while budgets for public education have been cut significantly.

Highlighting health care, Governor Pence has refused to allow Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act leaving over 400,000 economically marginalized Hoosiers without any form of health care. In a recent report prepared by the U.S. Census Bureau, Hoosiers were more likely to be without health insurance than Americans in general (The Vincennes Sun-Commercial, September 25, 2013).

Indiana is a state that fails miserably in terms of environmental justice.

Indiana is a state that fails miserably in terms of environmental justice. Denise Abdul-Rahman, Indiana NAACP Environmental Climate Justice chairperson, reported on two coal-fired power plants in the state that produce unacceptable amounts of sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions by federal government standards.

She reported on an NAACP study finding that 75 of 378 such plants nationally were graded a failure, affecting some 4 million people with low incomes. Fifty-three percent of those exposed to the excessive emissions are people of color. Abdul-Rahman also pointed out that the state NAACP will be investigating coal ash storage from other states in Indiana, sewage overflow into surface waters, and the progress of recovery of Superfund sites. (Rebecca Townsend, “Confronting Environmental Justice,” Nuvo, July 17, 2013).

An equitable criminal justice system and equality under the law have been on the national agenda for years. National data are replicated in each state. Evidence from 2003-2006 (Christopher Hartney and Linh Vuong, “Created Equal: Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the US Criminal Justice System,” National Council on Crime and Delinquency, 2009) suggests that African Americans experience over twice the arrest frequencies as whites and higher in particular categories of crimes such as drug possession and violent crimes.

People of color experience stiffer sentences, higher rates of incarceration, longer probation periods, and higher percentages of convicted criminals on death row. Rates of arrests, punishments, and incarcerations of Black youth exceed those of whites. Mother Jones investigated incarceration rates in the United States in 2010. The majority of the two million in jail are people of color. In Indiana, with an African American population representing 8 percent of the state’s total population, 42 percent of the prison population is Black.

Other forms of discrimination recently displayed in Indiana include laws prohibiting same sex marriage and efforts to add this existing prohibition to the Indiana constitution. In addition, state laws have been approved that are designed to shrink and eliminate women’s rights to control their own bodies, including defunding and over-regulating Planned Parenthood health care delivery everywhere in the state.

Finally, Indiana has been in the forefront in establishing voter suppression laws. The state established in 2005 one of the first laws mandating photo identification requirements for voter registration. ALEC model legislation has since spread all across the country, disenfranchising people of color, poorer voters, elderly citizens, and demographic groups more likely to vote for Democratic candidates for public office.

Indiana and a Moral Mondays movement

The threats to economic, social, and political justice in Indiana are not unique. Some states have even worse records on economic and health indicators. Some states penalize people of color even more than Indiana in terms of education, rights and privileges, and the construction of safety nets for the most needy.

But the record for meeting the needs of Hoosiers in a number of areas has been declining for at least a decade. And given the threat to democracy that is spreading all across the land, campaigns to fight back and to rebuild the dream for a better future must rise up in each and every state based on local contexts and coalitions of progressive political forces.

The essay opened with the question, “Does Indiana Need a Moral Mondays Movement?” The answer is clear. It does.

4/8/2014 7:06:31 PM

The Hightower Report

To start a movement, start moving!


Like that little choo-choo in the children's book, Moral Monday is the little movement that says, "I think I can" – and it just keeps chugging up the hill.

This progressive citizen's action coalition in North Carolina became a full-throttle citizen's uprising in the Tar Heel State early last year. Fueled by rising public outrage at the rampant right-wing extremism of the Republican-run state government, a few advocates for workers, civil rights, and other social justice issues went inside the state capitol on a Monday in April. Led by the Rev.William Barber II, head of the state NAACP, they literally put their bodies on the line in protest of the GOP's reckless crusade to turn North Carolina into a privatized utopia for unfettered corporate greed and Tea Party wackiness.

Several of the small group were arrested that day, and Republican leaders berated their protest as "Moron Monday." But the politicos aren't laughing now. The protesters keep coming and their numbers keep growing, for Moral Monday has struck a chord, and the protest has spread across the state. A rally in February drew more than 80,000 people, and public approval ratings for the governor and state as sembly have tanked.

The legislature is now out of session, but Moral Monday still has weekly meetings and is launching a 50-county organizing and voter-education campaign this summer. It's no longer a protest, but a burgeoning multi-issue, grassroots movement for progressive change. And it is literally on the move, branching out to other states – Moral Monday Georgia is going full steam this year, South Carolina has a Truthful Tuesday movement gaining momentum, and the movement is getting started in Alabama, Florida, New York, and Wisconsin.

Some of these states are mighty steep political hills for progressives to climb, but success begins with someone saying, "I think I can." To have a movement, you've gotta start moving!

More info at:  Austinchronicle.com

Chicago shuts down ice
4/8/2014 6:48:08 PM


Broadview, Illnois – Immigrant rights activists have formed a human chain to block an intersection near the Broadview Detention Center.  Crowds are chanting “Not one more,” and “Two Million Too Many” referring to the President’s record deportations and their demand that he act immediately to stop them.

One participant said, “If the President will not stop deportations, then we will.  You don’t deport people in order to legalize them.  The President’s strategy on immigration reform has gotten us two million deportations, but it hasn’t gotten us reform.  We need immediate action from the President and it needs to start with administrative relief.”  

Today’s actions are part of the national #Not1more Deportation campaign calling on President Obama to put a stop to deportations with more than 80 events occurring over the weekend nationwide.   By the middle of April, President Obama will have carried out 2 million deportations, more than any other president.

The group asserts that President Obama doesn’t have to wait for Congress to use his executive authority to stop the suffering. He could expand the deferred action program he created for immigrant youth and suspend deportations immediately.  Communities across the country are organizing events under the slogan “Two Million, Too Many” to demand that the President stop deportations.

Organizations participating in today’s action:  Undocumented Illinois. Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD), Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), Latino Policy Forum, National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities and National Day Laborer Organizing Network.  

More at: notonemoredeportation.com

Senate GOP plans after they take the Senate
4/4/2014 12:28:19 PM
This guys already making cheese and they don't even have the cow yet.

Senate GOP maps out its majority plan


Senate Republicans already have their agenda set should they take the majority this fall.

Seven months before the election, the GOP senators in line to become committee chairmen know what they would do with their gavels.


In interviews with The Hill, the senators promised to work closely with House Republicans to break the legislative gridlock that has defined Congress since 2011.


They are also vowing to step up oversight of the Obama administration dramatically and battle the president’s use of administrative power.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) has vowed that if elected majority leader, he would give Republican committee chairmen more power to legislate.  

If Republicans capture the majority, the incoming chairmen must be elected by the Republican members of each committee and ratified by a vote of the Senate GOP conference. Senate Republicans have almost always followed seniority, however.

These are the expected incoming chairmen in a GOP-controlled Senate and their priorities:


Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), Finance

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is senior to Hatch and could serve two more years as chairman of the Finance Committee, but he said he’s inclined to let Hatch take the gavel. Grassley stressed he hasn’t made a final decision, however.

Hatch, who is serving his last term, said tax reform and international trade would be two of his top priorities. But he claims he would not shy away from entitlement reform, including changes to Social Security.

“The Social Security disability fund goes bankrupt in 2016. That has to be fixed. … It will take some intelligent approaches to do it. It will take some commitment to fiscal sanity to do it, but I think we can do it,” he said.

Hatch warned that getting tax reform, international trade deals and entitlement reform would depend on President Obama showing leadership on those issues.

He said he would run the committee in the same bipartisan fashion established by former Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.).  


Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Judiciary

Right off the bat, Grassley wants to ratchet up the panel’s oversight of the Obama administration. He said Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has done a good job of holding hearings, but he would like to see the committee members send more letters to the administration to dig up information. 

“I don’t think there’s been enough activity that way,” he said.

Grassley’s investigative prowess helped uncover the Justice Department’s botched “Fast and Furious” gun-tracking operation, which was linked to the murder of a border patrol agent.


Sen. John 
McCain (Ariz.), Armed Services

McCain said he would use his power to investigate the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya: “If I were chairman, I would certainly go through a review of the whole situation.”

He would shift to a “policy-oriented” approach by getting more involved in authorizing legislation. McCain said a review of prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp is one possible area of review.

Overall, McCain expressed respect for the way Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) has run the committee and said he would try to build bipartisan consensus.

“It’s probably the most bipartisan committee in the Senate,” he said.


Sen. Thad 
Cochran (Miss.), Appropriations

Cochran is in line to retake the Appropriations gavel if he can survive a significant Tea Party-backed primary challenge. Cochran is not a fan of the existing ban on earmarks. On Wednesday, Cochran argued that senators never gave up their power to earmark funds.

“An entire appropriations bill is an earmark. Every section is an earmark. So I would try to help construct provisions of the appropriations bills that are fair and serve the public interest,” he said. “Earmarks have never gone away.”

Cochran said his priority would be to “fairly allocate the resources in the appropriations bill” and “be careful about how you use the taxpayer dollars to serve the public interest.”


Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), Banking

One of Shelby’s highest priorities is to reform the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to make it more accountable to Congress.

“What we ought to look at is the way the consumer agency under Dodd-Frank is funded. It’s funded through the Federal Reserve, not through the appropriations process. Huge, unaccountable agency,” he said.


Sen. Jeff 
Sessions (Ala.), Budget 

Sessions promises that he would pass a budget every year, unlike Senate Democrats, who have only passed two budget resolutions since Obama took office in January 2009.

Sessions says he would like to move a blueprint that balances the federal budget over 10 years. He acknowledges that won’t be an easy task.

“We’ll probably have to every single member of our conference support it, both our moderates and our conservatives.”

Sessions said he’d work closely with his Republican counterpart in the House.


Sen. Lisa Murkowski 
(Alaska), Energy and Natural 

Murkowski, who won her last race as a write-in candidate, laid out her policy agenda for the committee in “Energy 20/20,” a 121-page plan she introduced in February.

It calls on the United States to achieve independence from OPEC oil imports by 2020 and increase domestic and natural gas exports while partnering with Canada and Mexico to increase oil imports from those countries.

“I would have freshly baked cookies every single committee meeting to make sure people got there on time,” she quipped.


Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.), Environment and Public Works 

Inhofe has little doubt Republicans will be back in charge next year.

He said his “No. 1” goal is to “end the war on fossil fuels.”

“When Republicans are in the majority, not if,” Inhofe said, he will also “immediately attack the overregulation of the EPA.”

The Oklahoma senator has charged that global warming is a conspiracy and a hoax.


Sen. Lamar 
Alexander (Tenn.), Health, Education Labor and Pensions 

Alexander would move to deregulate higher education. He said applying for federal student aid has become an unwieldy process.

“I think we have covered up our colleges and universities and students with so many regulations that we’re wasting money that could be spent educating them,” he said.

He said he would make bipartisanship a priority.


Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), Foreign Relations 

Corker has emerged as one of the most pragmatic dealmakers in the Senate GOP conference. He has emphasized the importance of Congress speaking with “one voice” in response to Russian aggression toward Ukraine. He has criticized the Obama administration for not providing more support for moderate members of the Syrian opposition.


Sen. Ron 
Johnson (Wis.), Homeland 

Johnson is poised to vault from the third-ranking Republican on the committee to the chairmanship if Republicans win the upper chamber.

Johnson, who faces a reelection battle in 2016, has focused on reducing government spending since winning in 2010. He is expected to take up retiring Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-Okla.) mission of eliminating wasteful and duplicative government programs.


Read more: http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/202525-senate-gop-maps-out-its-majority-plan#ixzz2xv63LDZK 
Follow us: @thehill on Twitter | TheHill on Facebook
Picture of a lifetime
4/1/2014 4:51:20 PM
March surge turns ACA haters into APRIL FOOLS!!!

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