Wednesday, March 31, 2010
If you missed it yesterday, Heritage Foundation's president Ed Feulner's pushback on President Obama — who gave the conservative think tank credit for developing the idea of an individual mandate — makes for some interesting reading. There's some degree of political rhetoric ("It is a sign of desperation that he, his handlers and the media echo chamber are reverting to the campaign practice of selling the President and his policies as centrist, middle of the road and aisle-crossing.") and some spin — Feulner frets about the "over 16,000 new IRS agents" to be hired, a claim that FactCheck.org has convincingly debunked. But here's the meat:
[T]he President knows full well—or he ought to learn before he speaks—that the exchanges we and most others support are very different from those in his package. True exchanges are simply a market mechanism to enable families to choose their health insurance. President Obama's exchanges, by contrast, are a vehicle to introduce sweeping regulation and federal standardization on health insurance.
Moreover, we completely disagree that President Obama's law improves the purchasing power of individuals in the insurance market. On the contrary, it will create a staggeringly complex and costly insurance system that will drive up premiums for Americans.
This sort of pushback may prove less effective than the straightforward arguments against the mandate.
EL PASO, TX — Ciudad Juarez, Mexico has seen a lot of blood in recent years, more than 6,000 people have been killed since late 2007 as a result of the war between two powerful drug cartels fighting to control the city and its border.
Since March 2008, Ciudad Juarez has been militarized by the Mexican Army. Mexican President Felipe Calderon along with the governor of Chihuahua ordered a deployment of 7,000 troops to help end the violence. But the military presence has done little to stop it.
DRUGS, DRUGS, AND MORE DRUGS
According to Louie Gilot, a former reporter for El Paso Times, the goal of the cartels is to win the Juarez Plaza and gain control over drug trafficking in the El Paso-Juarez ports of entry. Drugs are smuggled in semis, cars, pick up trucks, etc. Only about 3 percent of the drug shipments are caught by border patrol, the other 93 percent make it to the US drug markets.
"They send the decoys first," says Gilot, "then while they spend 3 hours taking apart that car, the other drug shipments go right through."
Elvia Hernandez is with the LULAC chapter of El Paso, Texas. She blames the violence in Juarez to the demand for drugs in the US.
"Something has to happen. And whose fault is it? The United States because of supply and demand! We have the demand for the drugs here, well that's not not gonna step them," Hernandez said.
sleazy corporatism: public officials serve private interests while in office then rewarded by those same interests once they leave
In a political culture drowning in hidden conflicts of interests, exploitation of political office for profit, and a rapidly eroding wall separating the public and private spheres, Michael McConnell stands out as the perfect embodiment of all those afflictions. Few people have blurred the line between public office and private profit more egregiously and shamelessly than he. McConnell's behavior is the classic never-ending "revolving door" syndrome: public officials serve private interests while in office and are then lavishly rewarded by those same interests once they leave. He went from being head of the National Security Agency under Bush 41 and Clinton directly to Booz Allen, one of the nation's largest private intelligence contractors, then became Bush's Director of National Intelligence (DNI), then went back to Booz Allen, where he is now Executive Vice President.
But that's the least of what makes McConnell such a perfect symbol for the legalized corruption that dominates Washington. Tellingly, his overarching project while at Booz Allen and in public office was exactly the same: the outsourcing of America's intelligence and surveillance functions (including domestic surveillance) to private corporations, where those activities are even more shielded than normal from all accountability and oversight and where they generate massive profit at the public expense. Prior to becoming Bush's DNI, McConnell, while at Booz Allen, was chairman of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, the primary business association of NSA and CIA contractors devoted to expanding the privatization of government intelligence functions.
Then, as Bush's DNI, McConnell dramatically expanded the extent to which intelligence functions were outsourced to the same private industry that he long represented. Worse, he became the leading spokesman for demanding full immunity for lawbreaking telecoms for their participation in Bush's illegal NSA programs -- in other words, he exploited "national security" claims and his position as DNI to win the dismissal of lawsuits against the very lawbreaking industry he represented as INSA Chairman, including, almost certainly, Booz Allen itself. Having exploited his position as DNI to lavishly reward and protect the private intelligence industry, he then returns to its loving arms to receive from them lavish personal rewards of his own.
It's vital to understand how this really works: it isn't that people like Mike McConnell move from public office to the private sector and back again. That implies more separation than really exists. At this point, it's more accurate to view the U.S. Government and these huge industry interests as one gigantic, amalgamated, inseparable entity -- with a public division and a private one. When someone like McConnell goes from a top private sector position to a top government post in the same field, it's more like an intra-corporate re-assignment than it is changing employers. When McConnell serves as DNI, he's simply in one division of this entity and when he's at Booz Allen, he's in another, but it's all serving the same entity (it's exactly how insurance giant Wellpoint dispatched one of its Vice Presidents to Max Baucus' office so that she could write the health care plan that the Congress eventually enacted).
In every way that matters, the separation between government and corporations is nonexistent, especially (though not only) when it comes to the National Security and Surveillance State. Indeed, so extreme is this overlap that even McConnell, when he was nominated to be Bush's DNI, told The New York Times that his ten years of working "outside the government," for Booz Allen, would not impede his ability to run the nation's intelligence functions. That's because his Booz Allen work was indistinguishable from working for the Government, and therefore -- as he put it -- being at Booz Allen "has allowed me to stay focused on national security and intelligence communities as a strategist and as a consultant. Therefore, in many respects, I never left."
As the NSA scandal revealed, private telecom giants and other corporations now occupy the central role in carrying out the government's domestic surveillance and intelligence activities -- almost always in the dark, beyond the reach of oversight or the law. As Tim Shorrock explained in his definitive 2007 Salon piece on the relationship between McConnell, Booz Allen, and the intelligence community, in which (to no avail) he urged Senate Democrats to examine these relationships before confirming McConnell as Bush's DNI:
[Booz Allen's] website states that the Booz Allen team "employs more than 10,000 TS/SCI cleared personnel." TS/SCI stands for top secret-sensitive compartmentalized intelligence, the highest possible security ratings. This would make Booz Allen one of the largest employers of cleared personnel in the United States.
Among those on Booz Allen's payroll are former CIA Director and neoconservative extremist James Woolsey, George Tenet's former Chief of Staff Joan Dempsey, and Keith Hall, the former director of the National Reconnaissance Office, the super-secret organization that oversees the nation's spy satellites. As Shorrock wrote: "Under McConnell's watch, Booz Allen has been deeply involved in some of the most controversial counterterrorism programs the Bush administration has run, including the infamous Total Information Awareness data-mining scheme" and "is almost certainly participating in the agency's warrantless surveillance of the telephone calls and e-mails of American citizens." For more details on the sprawling and overlapping relationships between McConnell, Booz Allen, the INSA, the Government and the private intelligence community, see Shorrock's interview with Democracy Now and his 2008 interview with me.
Aside from the general dangers of vesting government power in private corporations -- this type of corporatism (control of government by corporations) was the hallmark of many of the worst tyrannies of the last century -- all of this is big business beyond what can be described. The attacks of 9/11 exploded the already-huge and secret intelligence budget. Shorrock estimates that "about 50 percent of this spending goes directly to private companies" and "spending on intelligence since 2002 is much higher than the total of $33 billion the Bush administration paid to Bechtel, Halliburton and other large corporations for reconstruction projects in Iraq."rest at http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/03/29/mcconnell/index.html
health care reform was pro-health insurance industry plan not “progressive” or “centrist but idea put forward by Heritage foundation
Now that President Obama and the rest of the Democratic leadership no longer need to hide from their base that the new health care law is in fact a pro-health insurance industry Republican plan as part of a push to enact the law, they are opening admitting the plans true originals. This bill is a not a "progressive" or "centrist" piece of legislation but a Republican idea put forward by the Heritage foundation and is almost identical to the reform advocated by the health insurance lobby.
In his first interview since signing the new bill into law Obama acknowledges that the bill is basically Romneycare and clearly based of a decades old proposal from the Heritage Foundation as an alternative to Bill Clinton's health care plan. Last week, Nancy Pelosi basically made the same acknowledgment.
There are no significant differences between the new health care law and the one proudly signed into law by Mitt Romney. The very poor were put on Medicaid. People with employer provide insurance kept it and employers faced a small penalty for not offering insurance. Those without either Medicaid or employer provide insurance are force to buy mildly regulated private health insurance. There is a new purchasing pool marketplace, called the connector, (basically the new state-based exchanges) for people to buy private insurance and there is some subsidies meant to help people afford it.
Heritage Foundation plan from the '90s
The new health care law championed by Obama is strikingly similar to the Republican alternative to Clinton's health care plan put forward by Sen. John Chafee (R-RI), and has basically the same structure as the Heritage Foundation plan from the same time. Does this description of it in Reason sound familiar?
In a nutshell, Heritage proposes that consumers be able to choose from among a host of health-care options ranging from traditional insurers to health maintenance organizations (HMOs). Using refundable tax credits that decrease as income grows, Heritage would empower families to choose plans on the basis of coverage, service, and price. As part of the "healthcare social contract" thus formed, Butler says, heads of households would be required by law to buy basic health-care coverage "to protect society from citizens who would try to exploit the good nature of ordinary Americans" by free-riding on the system.
The tax deduction for employer-provided health insurance would be phased out, in favor of the family-based tax credit. Families could still choose to join group plans. But by helping people buy insurance directly, rather than relying on employers to provide it, Heritage would solve the "portability" problem, in which employees are trapped in undesirable jobs because they're afraid of losing health coverage.
Butler and health-care analyst Edmund Haislmaier introduced the key elements of the Heritage plan in a 1989 book, A National Health System for America. In 1992, Heritage began to tout the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) as a model for how a national consumer-choice system in health insurance might function. Robert Moffit, deputy director of domestic policy studies at Heritage and a former manager of FEHBP, became one of the foundation's key spokesmen on the issue.
Heritage's embrace of FEHBP–a regulated and flawed government program, according to some critics–nevertheless provided a great "hook" that may well have enhanced the foundation's overall sales pitch on health-care reform. As voter disaffection with elected leaders soared, Heritage could say, "What is available for Congress and its employees should be made available to every American family." This message resonated with the public.
An individual mandate forcing people to buy private insurance on an exchange with a sliding scale of tax credits and the program is paid for by phasing out the tax deduction for employer-provided insurance. Sound familiar?
Most disturbing, though, is how closely this new law mirrors the health care reform proposal put forward by the health insurance lobby, AHIP, in December of 2008. (PDF, short, but well worth a read)
AHIP's plan to expand coverage had several key components:
- Provide Medicaid to all those under 100% FPL.
- Provide tax credits for those up to 400% FPL to buy private insurance
- Force everyone to buy private health insurance with an individual mandate
- Some new regulations like ending guaranteed issue
- Have state agencies one stop place to buy insurance for small employers and individuals (state-based exchanges)
- "Allowing benefit packages to vary based on actuarial equivalence"
Not surprisingly, the health insurance companies are very supportive of the idea of forcing people to be their customers and having the federal government pick up the tab. Massive government subsidies and a forced, captive customer base for the only major industry exempt from federal anti-trust laws sounds like a winning combination for the health insurance industry no matter how you slice it. Also, AHIP does not really seem interested in covering poor people who are more likely to have chronic health problems.
While there are a few difference between the new health care law from President Obama and AHIP's reform plan, they are minor compared to the overwhelming similarities. If AHIP did not get everything they wanted, they sure got pretty close to it.
Time to stop pretending
This new law at its heart is a pro-private health insurance, pro-big business Republican bill. It is not liberal or progressive, and it would be hard to justify even calling the law "centrist" because it lacks very popular elements like a public option and drug re-importation–reforms wanted by the broad "center" of the country.
It is nearly identical to previous Republican bills and laws. It is strikingly similar to a plan from the Heritage Foundation. It almost exactly follows the same proposal put forward over a year ago by the health insurance industry itself. After it passed, the drug companies spent big on ads thanking Democrats for passing this massive giveaway to their industry.
The law is a completely wasteful and poorly designed piece of corporate welfare. It is nothing for progressives to be proud of. If you want to argue that we should have supported it because the rampant corruption in our Congress and the fact that a huge number of senators are wholly owned by the health care industry means that this wasteful, pro-corporate bill was the only way to get some help to some people in need, I can at least accept the honesty of that argument. But let's all stop pretending this was some great victory over the health care industry and for progressive policy.
Brad Jacobson has filed the first in a series of exclusives at RAW STORY concerning GOP operative and Bush-appointed FEC commissioner Caroline Hunter. [Disclosure: Jacobson has blogged at The BRAD BLOG in the past.] Here's the lede for his first excellent investigative report yesterday:
Legal experts say Hunter's submission of such statements under oath is a serious ethical and professional breach which could warrant a bar review and potential disbarment. At the time, Hunter was serving as deputy counsel to the Republican National Committee.
rest at http://www.bradblog.com/?p=7776
Current rules regulating toxins in consumer products are weak and do not require companies to release much safety data
The zinc helped with adhesion and was probably safe so long as people used moderate amounts of cream. Indeed, the human body needs small amounts of zinc to function. But some people ended up using much larger amounts, and they began to develop the kind of nerve damage associated with excess zinc.
Johnny Howell of Winston-Salem, N.C., who was using a tube of Poligrip a week, had to quit his job as a car mechanic and now needs a walker to get around his house. He is 53 years old. Rodney Urbanek, another Poligrip customer, began using a walker in 2007, at age 63. He died a year later, apparently a result of a copper deficiency from "zinc overload," according to his autopsy.
Now, the science here still is not completely clear. One researcher I interviewed said he wanted to see more evidence before being confident that Poligrip was the problem. Other researchers said they thought the causal chain was clear. Poligrip has a lot of zinc. Too much zinc causes copper deficiency. A lack of copper causes nerve damage.
Either way, the evidence has become strong enough that last month GlaxoSmithKline — which also makes Tums, Nicorette and the country's top-selling asthma drug — stopped making the version of Poligrip with zinc, after having previously resisted just such a move. In Japan, responding to regulators' concerns, the company has also recalled from stores any remaining zinc-infused cream.
All of which makes you wonder: did it have to come this?
Every society needs to make a choice about how to prioritize consumer safety. If you try too hard to avoid problems, you can end up stifling daily life. Outlawing gasoline, for instance, would doubtless reduce pollution and respiratory disease, but no one is suggesting such a step. Europe, with its hostility to genetically modified foods, arguably errs on the side of being too cautious about chemicals and other such substances.
But the United States clearly seems to be on the other side of the line. We are not taking toxic risks seriously enough.
rest at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/31/business/economy/31leonhardt.html
Black homeowners are roughly 50 percent less likely than whites to receive help under the largest of the administration's anti-foreclosure programs, according to a new survey of qualified families.
The findings have raised questions on Capitol Hill about the fairness of the program, led housing advocates to reiterate calls for a more aggressive foreclosure prevention initiative, and put the White House on the defensive just as it steps up its multi-pronged strategy to stabilize the troubled housing market.
pharmaceutical company paid private investigators to gather personal information about high-ranking FDA officials
For more than two months in late 2008, private investigators working for a drug company gathered information on a high-ranking official at the Food and Drug Administration – unearthing details about her husband, two daughters, and in-laws, and re-tracing her steps on a business trip she took to Thailand.
The drug company, Amphastar Pharmaceuticals Inc., paid more than $100,000 to Kroll, the New York-based private investigative firm, to uncover the information about Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, who overees the agency's new-drug approvals.
At stake for Amphastar, a generic drug maker, was whether the FDA would allow it to bring to market a version of a prescription drug for blood clots, and gain access to a market worth more than $3 billion.
On behalf of the drug company Kroll also investigated a second FDA official – Moheb Nasr, director of the FDA's Office of New Drug Quality Assessment, creating a file on him that included his birth date, the price he paid for his home, and details of his education and professional background.
rest at http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0310/35212.html
Where have we heard this before? "I couldn't support the bill in its current form. I am absolutely not throwing in the towel. I have no plans to support the current legislation. I hope we'll get back to the negotiating table."
Let's just get back to the negotiating table and spend more time talking about maybe eventually passing a financial reform bill, the kinder, gentler way of Republican obstructionism as practiced by Olympia Snowe for months, and months, and months in health insurance reform. It could have been different, as last week Corker broke ranks with his party, saying that Republicans had made "a very large strategic mistake" in not working in the Banking Committee toward a bipartisan deal. He's now back in line after straying.
Last week Mr. Corker, of Tennessee, said he expected a bill would pass, infuriating Republicans and many bank executives who thought he was making it easier for Democrats to push the bill through.
No Republican has yet signaled support for the bill and Mr. Corker's latest comments could reflect a new GOP resolve to oppose it unless changes are made.
For his part, Banking Committee chair Chris Dodd says he's still open to a bipartisan deal, and the White House open, but not particularly optimistic:
Obama's speech explaining his decision to open up offshore drilling, which is now underway, strongly emphasizes that the move is only a small component of a larger strategy that will, in the long run, transition our economy to energy independence.
It remains to be seen whether this argument — which amounts to a request that people trust that Obama will achieve his larger goals in the long run — will satisfy environmentalists. From the prepared remarks:
The bottom line is this: given our energy needs, in order to sustain economic growth, produce jobs, and keep our businesses competitive, we're going to need to harness traditional sources of fuel even as we ramp up production of new sources of renewable, homegrown energy.
There will be those who strongly disagree with this decision, including those who say we should not open any new areas to drilling. But what I want to emphasize is that this announcement is part of a broader strategy that will move us from an economy that runs on fossil fuels and foreign oil to one that relies more on homegrown fuels and clean energy. And the only way this transition will succeed is if it strengthens our economy in the short term and long term. To fail to recognize this reality would be a mistake.
ISLAMORADA, Fla. — The postcard Florida experience: sun, fun and plenty of local seafood. It was the latter that brought Gary and Vicki Haller from Kansas to Wahoo's here last week, with its waterfront views, toucan colors and promise of fresh food "from our docks."
"We live in cow country," Mr. Haller said. "Here we eat fish."
But the fish in his "belly buster" sandwich actually traveled farther than he did. It was Pangasius, a freshwater catfish from Vietnam. The grouper and tuna were also imports, according to Wahoo's managers. And the "local" label on the menu? It still applied, they insisted, because their distributor was down the road.
Florida, from sea to plate, just is not the seafood buffet it once was. Reeling from a record, fish-killing cold snap and tougher federal limits on what can be caught, commercial fishermen and charter-boat captains are struggling. Distributors and restaurants are relying more and more on imported seafood — some of it clearly labeled, a lot of it not.
Federal fisheries managers say that a law reauthorized by Congress in 2006 now requires them to take more aggressive action against overfishing. They cut back the legal catch for some kinds of snapper last year, and 11 species of grouper are now off limits from January through April on the Atlantic coast. It is the longest ban on record for grouper and the first to include both commercial and recreational fleets.
In a state that bills itself as "the fishing capital of the world" — with a commercial industry worth $5.2 billion and a recreational one worth $4.4 billion — thousands of anglers are angry.
"For a fisherman that works 12 months a year, you've just taken a third of his livelihood," said Tom Hill, whose family has owned Key Largo Fisheries since 1972. "You've also taken away the ability of someone who comes here to enjoy a local piece of fish."
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — President Obama signed legislation on Tuesday to expand college access for millions of young Americans by revamping the federal student loan program in what he called "one of the most significant investments in higher education since the G.I. Bill."
Mr. Obama went to a community college where the wife of his vice president teaches to draw attention to the student loan overhaul attached to the final piece of health care legislation that passed last week. In signing the bill, Mr. Obama put the final touches on his health care program but used the occasion to highlight the education provisions.
"That's two major victories in one week," he told students and guests at the Alexandria campus of Northern Virginia Community College, where Jill Biden teaches English. While he praised the health care overhaul, the president said, "what's gotten overlooked amid all the hoopla, all the drama of last week, is what's happened with education."
The new law will eliminate fees paid to private banks to act as intermediaries in providing loans to college students and use much of the nearly $68 billion in savings over 11 years to expand Pell grants and make it easier for students to repay outstanding loans after graduating. The law also invests $2 billion in community colleges over the next four years to provide education and career training programs to workers eligible for trade adjustment aid after dislocation in their industries.
The law will increase Pell grants along with inflation in the next few years, which should raise the maximum grant to $5,975 from $5,550 by 2017, according to the White House, and it will also provide 820,000 more grants by 2020.
rest at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/31/us/politics/31obama.html?th&emc=th
Richard Doerflinger,Man Who Almost Killed Health Care Reform powerful Catholic lobbyist who had Rep. Bart Stupak’s ear
If the weekend before the passage of health care reform resembled a nail-biting thriller, its high-speed car chase was the last-minute scramble among Democrats to reach a deal on abortion. It wasn't until six hours before the vote that Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) announced that an agreement had been reached with the White House, ensuring that his block of anti-abortion Democrats would be the decisive votes for the health care bill. Yet even on that tense final day, he found time to speak with a man named Richard Doerflinger. That was no coincidence.
Doerflinger has a lengthy title—he's the associate director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. But he's better understood simply as the point man on abortion issues for the most powerful institution in the US Catholic Church. Most people have never heard of him. However, Doerflinger helped write the Stupak amendment in the House bill that placed tight restrictions on insurance coverage of abortion. He amplified spurious charges that the Senate bill would use government money to fund abortions. Doerflinger fought to the bitter end for the Stupak amendment to be included in the final legislation—even after Stupak himself had abandoned the fight. By refusing to compromise on what was, in the end, a minor difference between the House and Senate bills, Doerflinger—the man behind the curtain of the abortion imbroglio—very nearly killed health care reform.
Unlike virtually all of its competitors, JPMorgan Chase steeled itself early for the collapse of the subprime market and emerged from the rubble of the global financial meltdown with both its balance sheet and reputation intact. But the storied firm stands alone among its Wall Street rivals in another area, too. JPMorgan backstops one of the most destructive mining practices in the world: mountaintop removal coal mining. And it continues to do so even as other major banks have cut ties to this practice.
"Chase is the single largest remaining player in this game," says Scott Edwards, advocacy director for the Waterkeeper Alliance, an environmental advocacy group comprised of lawyers, scientists, and activists, among others. "They just absolutely refuse to take responsibility for their role in this absolutely devastating industry."
Mountaintop removal (MTR) mining, focused in Appalachian states like West Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky, involves deforesting huge swaths of land and blasting the summits off of mountains to expose the black veins of coal underneath. The waste and rubble from the demolition is then dumped into nearby rivers and streams, burying local water sources in toxic byproducts, choking off tributaries that feed into larger rivers, and wiping out plants and wildlife, according to numerous scientific studies. Despite the mining industry's claims, there are no successful ways to mitigate the effects of MTR, according to Margaret Palmer of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. The effects on the nearby environment, she says, are long lasting and often irreversible.
Former White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove was heckled and branded a 'war criminal' at a book signing in Beverly Hills, California, Monday night.
Rove, who served as senior advisor and deputy chief of staff to former President George W. Bush, was at the Saban Theater to discuss his new book, "Courage and Consequences: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight," to an audience of about 100 people who paid up to $40 to hear him.
But the audience members were unable to get their copies of the book signed after Rove was shouted down and forced to leave the stage, reported CNN affiliate KCAL-TV.
The event was heated from the onset as several anti-war protesters interrupted Rove's talk to accuse him and his administration of lying to Americans about the threat Iraq posed to the United States - and thus, taking the country into war.
Rove called one heckler a "lunatic." He told another to "get the heck out here."
rest at http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2010/03/30/karl-rove-heckled-called-war-criminal-at-book-event/
@barackobama 's - Islam Siddiqui -Monsanto in the White House Garden: One Recess Appointment That's Toxic
Curled up on the couch with The New York Times this past Sunday, I could almost hear the superhero theme song emanating from the White House. Or maybe it was "Macho Man"? This front page piece trumpeted the president's "muscular show," which "suggests a newly emboldened president who is unafraid to provoke a confrontation."
The president, frustrated by months of Republican obstructionism on dozens of his nominees, used executive powers to install 15 of them to work temporarily without Senate confirmation until the end of 2011.
The predictable blowback from the GOP got a fair share of eye-rolls from those who remember recent administrations' usage of the recess appointment and who recognize what Salon.com termed the "underreported fact that huge amounts of the federal government remain dramatically understaffed."
Obama was quick to make the point that "most of the men and women whose appointments I am announcing today were approved by Senate committees months ago, yet still await a vote of the Senate."
Oh, you mean like Dawn Johnsen, Mr. President? You know, the Office of Legal Counsel nominee who won approval from the Judiciary Committee recently, after months of being held up by Republicans who hypocritically criticized her tenure with a pro-choice group while at the same time condemning her condemnation of the previous administration's clearly skewed judicial logic? (Because obviously, good lawyering for groups that the Pope doesn't like is way worse than bad lawyering for the Bush Administration's torture lobby.)
Nope; OLC will have to wait a little longer. Johnsen was not among the 15 Obama chose to install, which The New York Times speculated was evidence the president "did not want to go too far in inflaming partisan passions."
Unfortunately, the president was more than willing to inflame the passions of the progressive and foodie communities, and perhaps even his own wife. One of the 15 installed was Islam Siddiqui, who just left his post as vice president of science and regulatory affairs for CropLife America, the lobby group representing pesticide and biotech crop producers and distributors.
As far as PR goes, CropLife's basic goal is to replace the term "pesticide" with "crop protection" and "genetically-modified crops" with "science." CropLife's clients include Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta and DuPont.
Siddiqui managed to pass through his hearing with the Senate Finance Committee back in December, despite his being a lobbyist for some of the most feared and reviled companies in the world. But as the Center for Biological Diversity (one of more than 100 organizations that actively opposed his nomination) points out, it's not just the word "lobby" that tarnishes Siddiqui's image (emphasis mine):
As undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Siddiqui oversaw the development of the first national organic labeling standards, which allowed sewage sludge-fertilized, genetically modified, and irradiated food to be labeled as organic before public outcry forced more stringent standards. Siddiqui has derided the European Union's ban on hormone-treated beef and has vowed to pressure the European Union to accept more genetically modified crops.
CropLife America, formerly known as the National Agricultural Chemicals Association, lobbies to weaken the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act, claiming that pesticides are not pollutants because of their intended beneficial effect and that pesticides positively impact endangered species. The group has lobbied to allow pesticides to be tested on children and to allow the continued use of persistent organic pollutants and ozone-depleting chemicals.
Testing pesticides on children? Really? I wonder what Michelle would have to say about that one. Maybe she already knows. After all, she's been a direct victim of CropLife's lobbying efforts.
When the first lady was planning the White House produce garden, CropLife sent her a letter asking her to use her spotlight to lobby for pesticides, bio-engineered plants and other elements of "conventional farming" (emphasis mine):
Much of the food considered not wholesome or tasty is the result of how it is stored or prepared rather than how it is grown. Fresh foods grown conventionally are wholesome and flavorful yet more economical...
As you go about planning and planting the White House garden, we respectfully encourage you to recognize the role conventional agriculture plays in the U.S. in feeding the ever-increasing population, contributing to the U.S. economy, and providing a safe and economical food supply.
The letter goes on to offer CropLife's educational services, presumably so industry can brainwash out all that the D.C.-area kids learned from working in the White House garden. There's nothing more dangerous to these people than kids who know how to feed themselves properly.
But her husband's unfortunate decision effects much more than Michelle Obama's garden. The Center for Biological Diversity's mention of CropLife's involvement in European markets was not just a scary aside.
As the chief agricultural negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Siddiqui will be in charge of agricultural negotiations in free trade agreements as well as the World Trade Organization Development Agenda. No doubt Siddiqui's extensive knowledge of the pesticide and GMO industry will help the office deal with "agricultural regulatory issues" such as biotechnology and cloning. And if there were any doubt of continued subsidies for Big Ag in the annual Farm Bill, he'll be there to manage that one, too.
In other words, Siddiqui's adherence to the unsustainable policies of corporate "food" will have broad implications both here and around the world. As this open letter to the Senate in opposition to Siddiqui's confirmation points out:
We believe Siddiqui's nomination severely weakens the Obama Administration's credibility in promoting healthier and more sustainable local food systems here at home. His appointment would also send a harmful signal to the world that the United States plans to continue down the worn but now obsolete path of chemical and energy-intensive industrial agriculture while promoting toxic pesticides, inappropriate seed biotechnologies and unfair trade agreements on nations that neither want nor can afford them.
And I thought Monsanto had it good in the Bush Administration. But it turns out that Big Ag is never lonely, no matter who's in control.
Not only has Obama already installed Roger Beachy, a former Monsanto big wig, in charge of policy at the USDA, but CropLife is an equal opportunity corrupter that is hedging its bets in the coming election. In fact, 66 percent of the campaign funds they've donated in this election season so far went to Democrats, an increase of about 10 percent over 2008.
Furthermore, Siddiqui gave the maximum individual donation to Barack Obama's presidential campaign in 2008, though not until it was kind of obvious who was going to win. Not that things would be any different if he hadn't, though. CropLife President Jay Vroom gave the maximum amount to Republican presidential candidate John McCain around that same time in the campaign.
The more things change, the more the stay the same. After all, everyone has to eat, right?
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is proposing to open vast expanses of water along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling, much of it for the first time, officials said Tuesday.
Times Topic: Offshore Drilling and Exploration
The proposal — a compromise that will please oil companies and domestic drilling advocates but anger some residents of affected states and many environmental organizations — would end a longstanding moratorium on oil exploration along the East Coast from the northern tip of Delaware to the central coast of Florida, covering 167 million acres of ocean.
Under the plan, the coastline from New Jersey northward would remain closed to all oil and gas activity. So would the Pacific Coast, from Mexico to the Canadian border.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Written by Amanda Marcotte for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.
It was a seemingly small story, one of those reproductive rights-related stories that crops up in the news, attracts some amount of attention, and then fades away as other stories crowd it out. But I want to look a little more closely at this story about a Seattle mother who is furious that her 15-year-old daughter got a legal abortion with the school health center's help without telling her mother. To be completely clear, this was 100 percent within the law. Washington state understands that parental notification laws are an assault on the well-being of teenagers and so far has no such laws. The school health center is run not by the school but by the public health department, and students who go to the health center — including this girl — have permission to receive care due to permission slips signed by their parents.
Abortion is a safe, legal medical procedure, and there is no reason for school health centers not to refer patients to providers if those patients want it. That's the simple fact of the matter, but unfortunately, that's not where this story ends. What this story has revealed is that a number of pernicious anti-choice myths have taken hold in our society, and these myths are confusing people's ability to see the plain truth of this story. Here's some of the anti-choice myths touched on by the coverage of this story in both the conservative and mainstream news, and the reality behind these myths.
Myth #1: Abortion isn't healthcare. Conservative bloggers and the mother in question trotted out this myth, saying that giving the health center permission to offer medical services should implicitly mean not abortion. The implication of this is that abortion is not a medical service, a myth that was also trotted out by supporters of the Stupak amendment to the healthcare reform bill, who tried to argue that abortion can't be considered real healthcare. But this myth doesn't reflect the basic reality of abortion, which fits all medical and cultural criteria for health care, if you look at without the burden of anti-woman ideology. Healthcare professionals offer it, others refer it, and it's simply one out of many medical responses to pregnancies that are both healthy and not healthy. It's also on a continuum from pregnancy prevention services, which are generally regarded by non-misogynists as healthcare. Strictly speaking, aborting or preventing pregnancy is regarded as safer by medical professionals than continuing to term, which is very stressful on the body, particularly for teenagers whose bodies may not be done growing and developing.
Read the rest of the article at RHRealityCheck.org.
Article printed from SpeakEasy: http://blogs.alternet.org/speakeasy
Stewart on Sarah Palin's "Reload" comment: "She's an inspiring leader! Sarah Palin has a dream!"
"…and in that dream you have a gun."
<table style='font:11px arial; color:#333; background-color:#f5f5f5' cellpadding='0' cellspacing='0' width='360' height='353'><tbody><tr style='background-color:#e5e5e5' valign='middle'><td style='padding:2px 1px 0px 5px;'><a target='_blank' style='color:#333; text-decoration:none; font-weight:bold;' href='http://www.thedailyshow.com'>The Daily Show With Jon Stewart</a></td><td style='padding:2px 5px 0px 5px; text-align:right; font-weight:bold;'>Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c</td></tr><tr style='height:14px;' valign='middle'><td style='padding:2px 1px 0px 5px;' colspan='2'<a target='_blank' style='color:#333; text-decoration:none; font-weight:bold;' href='http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-march-29-2010/health-care-slime-machine'>Health Care Slime Machine<a></td></tr><tr style='height:14px; background-color:#353535' valign='middle'><td colspan='2' style='padding:2px 5px 0px 5px; width:360px; overflow:hidden; text-align:right'><a target='_blank' style='color:#96deff; text-decoration:none; font-weight:bold;' href='http://www.thedailyshow.com/'>www.thedailyshow.com</a></td></tr><tr valign='middle'><td style='padding:0px;' colspan='2'><embed style='display:block' src='http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:cms:item:comedycentral.com:267844' width='360' height='301' type='application/x-shockwave-flash' wmode='window' allowFullscreen='true' flashvars='autoPlay=false' allowscriptaccess='always' allownetworking='all' bgcolor='#000000'></embed></td></tr><tr style='height:18px;' valign='middle'><td style='padding:0px;' colspan='2'><table style='margin:0px; text-align:center' cellpadding='0' cellspacing='0' width='100%' height='100%'><tr valign='middle'><td style='padding:3px; width:33%;'><a target='_blank' style='font:10px arial; color:#333; text-decoration:none;' href='http://www.thedailyshow.com/full-episodes'>Daily Show Full Episodes</a></td><td style='padding:3px; width:33%;'><a target='_blank' style='font:10px arial; color:#333; text-decoration:none;' href='http://www.indecisionforever.com'>Political Humor</a></td><td style='padding:3px; width:33%;'><a target='_blank' style='font:10px arial; color:#333; text-decoration:none;' href='http://www.thedailyshow.com/videos/tag/health'>Health Care Reform</a></td></tr></table></td></tr></tbody></table>
Posted By martharosenberg
Cruelty vivid enough to inspire a Nightline investigation and appear on CNN and ABC's World News would seem to warrant district attorney charges. www.mercyforanimals.org/dairy
But two months after a January television broadcast of calves' and heifers' tails cut off and horns burned with no painkiller and hours-old calves dragged away from their mothers, no charges have been filed against Willet Dairy in Cayuga County, NY by the district attorney's office.
The same footage of employees beating and kicking animals and digging their fingers into eye sockets that convinced Denver cheese maker Leprino Foods Co. to drop Willet as a milk supplier and Manhattan Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal to introduce anti tail-docking legislation — is "not necessarily illegal" says a statement from the Cayuga County District Attorney on YNN News 10.
Leprino clients include Domino's, Papa John's and Pizza Hut.
Tail docking is illegal in California, New Jersey, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and other European countries.
The decision to bring criminal charges says the District Attorney's office hinges on an investigation by a local animal group which is authorized to make animal cruelty arrests — the Finger Lakes Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) of Central New York — but in December, the group had neither received or viewed evidence from Mercy For Animals (MFA), Nightline's source for the video, according to email correspondence.
Moreover, during a December visit to the Cayuga County DA office, Assistant District Attorney Diane Adsit remarked of the Willet case, "Who cares," and threw her hands in the air according to Daniel Hauff, Director of MFA Investigations. She added that she had "human" cases to work with.
The 5,000 to 7,000 animal Willet Dairy, located in Locke, is New York's largest dairy. The undercover video, which appeared on Nightline, CNN, World News and YouTube, was shot by an unidentified humane investigator hired as a maintenance worker last year. Footage depicts cows with open sores and prolapses, downers so weak they can move only their eyes and an employee attacking a cow with a wrench.
The employee, later identified as Phil Niles, brags to the investigator of "stomping" animals, braining a bull with a 2 by 4 and cracking animals' skulls with wrenches while they are "in a headlock." Niles is believed to have worked at Willet for 19 years and was suspended after the Nightline video.
Celebrity animal expert Temple Grandin of Colorado State University agreed with the Niles' termination upon viewing his deeds on video." One thing I've learned over the many years working with animals is that there are certain people that enjoy hurting animals," she told ABC.
But others have leaped to Willet's defense.
Tail docking "protects animals and farmers on large dairy farms," says Cayuga County District Attorney in an issued statement.
"It could put your eye out" if you're working behind an animal that switches its tail agreed farmer Nancy Robbins on the YNN News 10 Web site.
(Experts say that trimming the hairs on the animal's tail will protect humans and that tail docking is unnecessary.)
Nor is it in the interest of a farmer to mistreat an animal say Willet defenders.
"A cow is going to make milk according to her comfort. Now if that cow is uncomfortable having her tail docked, for several days, they're going to lose that milk production from the cow," says Robbins.
Jessica Ziehm of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets agrees with the Plantation Defense — Cows are farmers' "livelihood and they do all they can to make their cows comfortable, happy and healthy," she says in the Post-Standard — and takes it a step further.
Farmers, "provide special bedding, in the summer they have misters and fans to keep them cool, they put in special floors to prevent slipping, they have regular pedicures, they are checked routinely by vets, they have nutritionists who formulate special diets." Right.
Chris Gallen of the National Milk Producers Federation is similarly off message, not even understanding the case against Willet.
ABC's "thesis was that the U.S. has inferior milk quality," he says about the Nightline segment in an article in the ag weekly, Feedstuffs which shows a photo of the grazing cows in pasture that Willet does not have.
"We were able to convince them that milk quality is not an issue here in the U.S," he concludes. Case settled.
While Cayuga County officials drag their heels in prosecuting the Willet case and the dairy industry rolls out a we-can-police-ourselves initiative called the National Dairy FARM (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) program, two unanswered questions loom.
If Willet, as a dairy farm, is an exception with bad employees, why was it not discovered before? Why is it not prosecuted now?
If Willet is not an exception and the footage that made America cringe two months ago is everyday dairy farm practice, why are there not laws against it?
Article printed from SpeakEasy: http://blogs.alternet.org/speakeasy
Posted By Adele Stan
In a USA Today/Gallup poll, 52 percent of those surveyed say they want a public option in health-care coverage. But you'll be forgiven for missing that salient fact in the newspaper's front-page article, which appears under the headline, "Health care law too costly, most say." In fact, the public-option response isn't even addressed in the article, but appears in one of those graphs for which the self-described "nation's newspaper" is famous.
Here's how the story, by Susan Page, opens:
Nearly two-thirds of Americans say the health care overhaul signed into law last week costs too much and expands the government's role in health care too far, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, underscoring an uphill selling job ahead for President Obama and congressional Democrats.
Indeed, 64 percent say that the new law will "cost the government too much," and 65 percent say that it "will expand government's role in health care too much." But without taking into account the response on the public option, those statements should hardly be taken at face value, as they are in the article.
If 64 percent say the new health-care set-up "will cost the government too much" — assuming this conclusion is drawn from the cost of subsidies for those who can't afford the premiums charged through the new insurance exchanges by insurance corporations — and 52 percent say they want a public option, it sounds to me like 52 percent think a public option would have been a better deal for the taxpayer.
Even if I'm reading too much into my back-of-the-envelope cost-benefit analysis here, at the very least the poll suggests that more than half the American public would like to have seen a more progressive health-care reform scheme.
But you'll never guess that from reading the USA Today story on its own poll. Instead the piece reads as a gloom-and-doom scenario for Democrats in the mid-term elections, and focuses on an uptick in President Obama's disapproval rating, up to 50 percent, according to the poll. (His approval rating came in at 47 percent.)
Article printed from SpeakEasy: http://blogs.alternet.org/speakeasy
Back in 1982, in the anti-government and anti-establishment afterglow of Watergate and Vietnam, Sly Stallone of Rocky fame directed and starred in a small, mid-budget movie called 'First Blood.' In it a highly trained Green Beret named Rambo, cast aside and abandoned by the government he fought for, becomes entangled with a small town sheriff in a pissing match that results in a whole town being devastated by Rambo whose advanced training, conditioning and survival skills overwhelm the 'weekend warriors' of the local National Guard. If you ever stumble across it on cable, take the time to watch it. One of the most memorable lines is when the sheriff admonishes the head of the Guard charged with tracking Rambo, telling him he'll have to stay out in the woods all night to find him, to which the Guard commander responds …"Aw come on Sheriff, I have to be back at the pharmacy tomorrow!"
Well, this weekend the Federal Government and the FBI took down what looks like the mirror image of that story, a so-called militia group in Michigan that was planning to spark a civil insurrection that would, in their warped imagination, serve as a catalyst for the downfall of the U.S. government. Apparently, this group has been in 'rigerous' training for many months in the woods of Michigan, honing their mental, physical and military skills so they would be prepared to take on not only local law enforcement, whom they were planning to kill and use as props for sparking their grand insurrection, but also to take on the Michigan National Guard, the Army, the Marines, and other U.S. military like the Green Beret and the Navy Seals, arms of the U.S. military that are sworn to uphold the Constitution and to protect the U.S. Government.
Now, as a screenplay or fantasy, the plan that these angry patriots laid out sounds compelling, and in their minds it appears that they really felt that they were going to successfully pull it off and forever change the course of our Republic. But for the rest of the rational world, one need only take a look at the leaders and shakers of this militia movement to know better…(CONTINUES HERE)
Some friendless whack-job living in the apartment above his parents garage threatens House Minority Whip Eric Cantor in a rambling anti-Semitic Youtube video, and rightly gets his crazy ass arrested. Normally such an arrest would be a good thing, but one wonders why he wasn't arrested much earlier. After all the guy had posted over two thousand similar videos threatening most of the known universe. Including, but not limited to, virtually every Republican and Democratic politician in existence (including the President). What's wrong with the Fed's? They should have raided his folks garage immediately after he threatened the life of that adorable pig from the movie Babe…
Yet despite the plethora of video threats, somehow he is arrested only after a video of him threatening Cantor is discovered. Or shall we say – unearthed, most likely by Cantor's own staff. Cantor lost whatever remaining credibility he had when he claimed a random shooting was directed at his office. Although I am speculating here, I believe it's clear that he directed his staff to find something – anything to pin an extremist label on liberals. However, from even a cursory viewing of video posted by this deeply disturbed individual, it is painfully obvious that he is neither liberal nor conservative. He is quite simply a fucking nut-job with a god complex crying out for attention…
This incident, like the faux shooting story, is just another transparent attempt by Cantor to create false equivalence between the left and the current actions of the wingnut base of the Republican party. I'm sorry but it is no longer 1969, who are the Left's armed lunatic fringe? Please point out which Leftist group threatens politicians and plots to overthrow the federal government? Friends of the Earth? PETA? Code Pink? Despite what you hear in the media, such a fringe is virtually non-existent. The year is 2010, and in 2010 it is the Right that uses threats of violence, intimidation, and vandalism to achieve their political goals…
So here is the question of the day. Who is more likely to act on their threats? The obviously insane Norman Leboon, or the Hutaree militia whack-jobs?
French President Sarkozy: “Welcome to the Club of States Who Don’t Turn Their Back on the Sick and the Poor.”
Yesterday, as a part of a two-day trip to the United States, French President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke to students and faculty at Columbia University. At one point in the speech, the French President lauded the United States for passing a health care bill that extends coverage to millions of uninsured, welcoming our nation to "the club of states who don't turn their back on the sick and poor":
"Welcome to the club of states who don't turn their back on the sick and the poor," Sarkozy said, referring to the US health care overhaul signed by President Barack Obama last week.
From the European perspective, he said, "when we look at the American debate on reforming health care, it's difficult to believe". [...]
Then to hearty applause, he added: "If you come to France and something happens to you, you won't be asked for your credit card before you're rushed to the hospital."
Sarkozy also explained during his speech that it was "astonishing" to the French that a "violent debate" erupted in America over the notion that "the poorest of Americans should not be left out in the streets without a cent to look after them." Sarkozy is a member of the conservative UMP party in France and is considered to be well right-of-center in the European country. His reaction to the health bill stands in stark contrast to leading conservatives in the United States, who claimed that it would damage the country more than 9/11 and constitute a great assault on freedom.
Article printed from SpeakEasy: http://blogs.alternet.org/speakeasy
Posted By stevem
Republican Senate candidates are being instructed Tuesday to promote the party's health care policy proposals as they continue to push the "repeal and replace" theme following passage of the President Obama's health care reform legislation.
Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who oversees Senate Republican campaign efforts, outlines the key health care talking points in a new memo….
The Republicans want to use the phrase "repeal and replace" to help nationalize the midterm elections. So when are Democrats going to start doing some nationalizing of their own, by asking how many Republicans also want to "repeal and replace" Social Security and Medicare?
George W. Bush tried to privatize Social Security. Representative Paul Ryan, reputedly the GOP's big brain on budget matters, wants to "convert Social Security into primarily a network of individual investment accounts [and] convert Medicare into a voucher system, capping the value of each voucher at well below the rate of medical inflation," in the words of Jonathan Chait. And now two leaders of the tea party movement — a movement Republicans have praised to the skies — have just told Larry King they'd love to abolish Social Security:
Dana Loesch, a tea party organizer from Missouri, and another tea party organizer, Wayne Allyn Root, joined King for the discussion…. King noted that programs like Social Security are mandatory and asked if the tea parties would like to "do away with" that program as well. Both tea party organizers enthusiastically said "yes, absolutely" and added that a compromise would be at least privatizing the system:
KING: Would anyone turn away Social Security now? Would you do away with it?
LOESCH: I would, yes.
KING: You would?
LOESCH: Yes, absolutely.
KING: Would do you away with it, Wayne?
ROOT: I'd certainly like to….
There's your attack ad, Democrats: "Call Congressman So-and-so and ask him if he agrees with these leaders of the tea party movement that Social Security should be abolished."
How hard is that, Democrats? And if Congressman So-and-so stammers the usual defense of Social Security, make sure the teabaggers know he or she is just another dirty socialist.
Article printed from SpeakEasy: http://blogs.alternet.org/speakeasy
Monday, March 29, 2010
REST AT http://m.washingtontimes.com/weblogs/watercooler/2010/mar/26/lib-talk-radio-calls-deaths-limbaugh-beck-and-orei/
Houston Tracy, a Crowley, Tex., boy born with a congenital heart defect, received a life saving operation. But as he turned 10 days old, Blue Cross denied coverage for the surgery, calling the transposition of Houston's great arteries a pre-existing condition. (KTVT)
Health Care Provider Tells Texas Family Baby's Artery Problem is a Pre-Existing Condition; Won't Pay for Surgery
(CBS) For newborn Houston Tracy, the historic health care overhaul came too late.
Houston, born March 15 at a Texas hospital, suffers from a defect in his arteries. When his parents, Doug and Kim, applied to have his corrective surgery covered under their insurance, they were denied, with their carrier claiming Houston had a pre-existing condition, reports CBS station KTVT.
The Tracys are fighting the decision by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas.
"They kept saying it's preexisting, it's preexisting, but I don't know how it can be preexisting on a baby that was just born," Doug Tracy said. "If it's mandated that everyone have health insurance, than how can one be denied?"
Legislation passed this week by Congress and signed by President Obama that would end the practice of denying coverage to patients with pre-existing conditions does not go into effect until September.
The congenital heart defect causes the two major vessels that carry blood away from the heart to become switched.
"He was born with what's called transposition of the great arteries," Doug Tracy said. "It's heart wrenching; I hated it."
The Tracy's are both small business owners and do not carry health insurance for themselves. They do carry insurance on their two other children and tried to get insurance for Houston, but they found out Wednesday his coverage was denied.
The health care provider declined to comment specifically on the Tracys' case, and released this statement to KTVT:
"We will work closely with our customers to keep them informed of any changes that may result from the new law. We will continue to review the bill's requirements on our business and their respective time frames to ensure full compliance."
The Forth Worth Star-Telegram received this explanation from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas:
Our policy is that if a family has existing coverage with us, a baby can be added to the contract within 31 days without the need for underwriting to assess the baby's eligibility."
The condition Houston has is rarely detected before birth.
"My whole pregnancy was simple, it was easy, no complications, doctor visits were great," Houston's mother, Kim Tracy, said. "Perfect sonograms, great little pictures and then, he wasn't perfect."
Houston had life-saving surgery at Cook's Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth shortly after being born.
"He's doing really good," his mother said with a smile. "he's a little tough guy."
Attempting To Strip Gays Of Hate Crimes Protections, Oklahoma Removes Protections For Race/Religion Instead
In October, President Obama signed The Matthew Shepard Act, expanding the reach of the 1969 hate crimes law to "authorize the Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute certain bias-motivated crimes based on the victim's actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability." Previously, the law only allowed for the federal prosecution of anyone who "willingly injures, intimidates or interferes with another person, or attempts to do so, by force because of the other person's race, color, religion or national origin."
State lawmakers in Oklahoma argued that the Shepard Act would trample on the free speech rights of religious leaders "who preached out against the lifestyle of the victim who was attacked." On March 10, the Oklahoma state Senate thought it was passing a bill prohibiting "local and state law enforcement agencies from sharing information about hate crimes with federal authorities if the state of Oklahoma did not recognize the crime as a hate crime by its own statutes." Oklahoma state law does not recognize "sexual orientation or gender identity" as a special class and fails to provide gay and lesbians with hate crimes protections.
But in trying to strip gays and lesbians of protection, the Oklahoma State Senate inadvertently cited the wrong section of the U.S. code. The bill stripped rights under Title 18 U.S. Code Section 245, but protections for sexual orientation and gender identity is actually under Section 249. From the bill:
Section 24A.12. Except as otherwise provided by state or local law, the Attorney General of the State of Oklahoma and agency attorneys authorized by law, the office of the district attorney of any county of the state, and the office of the municipal attorney of any municipality may keep its litigation files and investigatory reports confidential, except they shall keep their litigation files and investigatory reports confidential upon request of any federal agency when such request is made for the purpose of an attempt to investigate or prosecute an individual or individuals pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section 245, except for those records of any individuals convicted pursuant to Section 850 of Title 21 of the Oklahoma Statutes.
Section 245 of the Code refers to race and religious protections. Therefore, Oklahoma actually passed a statute allowing state law enforcement officials to keep information about crimes motivated by race or religion out of the hands of federal authorities.
"The bill in its current form doesn't take away rights from gays and lesbians," Oklahoma State Senate Minority Leader Andrew Rice explained. "It takes away rights for religion and race." Rice said the error occurred during the creation of the bill. "This is most likely a legislative error or at least a typo," he said. "Gay and lesbian citizens should be upset because someone tried to take their rights away, but minority groups should be concerned that their rights have already been voted to be taken away by the Senate." "People who consider themselves Jewish, black, even Christians should be outraged," he added. The bill will likely be modified before it is voted on in the House.
Cross-posted on The Wonk Room.