It's time to get behind Byron Dorgan...

Dorgan (D - North Dakota) is the Senator who introduced legislation, S. 260, to shut down a tax loophole that rewards U.S. companies that move U.S. manufacturing  jobs overseas. The legislation would close the loophole that allows U.S. multinational companies to defer paying income taxes on profits they make from the U.S. sale of the products manufactured in foreign factories, until those profits are returned to the United States, if ever.  Manufacturers who remain in the United States receive no similar subsidy.

While passage of this law has obvious benefits for the U.S., it has been something Dorgan has been trying to get through for ten years.

    "You may not believe it, but when a U.S. company closes down a U.S. manufacturing plant fires its American workers and moves those good-paying jobs to China or other locations abroad, U.S. tax law actually rewards those companies with a large tax break called deferral. The tax code allows these firms to defer paying any U.S. income taxes on the earnings from those new foreign-manufactured products until those profits are returned, if ever, to this country. If a company making the same product decides to stay in this country, it is required to pay immediate U.S. taxes on the profits it earns here."

- Senator Byron Dorgan

Examples of products that used to be manufactured in America but now are being made in China or Mexico or other countries? How .about Nabisco Fig Newtons, which are now made by 50¢ per hour workers in Mexico. Or Huffy Bicycles, formerly made in Ohio, now made in China by 33¢ per hour workers. Or Etch-a-Sketch. Or La-Z-Boy furniture. Or Fruit of the Loom underwear. The list goes on and on.

And we support the outsourcing of products in two ways. When we go to Wal-Mart or K-Mart (companies that demand our products at the lowest prices) and purchase them we give tacit support to the throwing away of American jobs. But that isn't the only way we support major corporations who screw Americans out of their jobs...we give them tax breaks for doing it! These are called "Deferrals" and they are totally legal.

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Legislative progress in Indian Country

Here’s a legislative update on three big bills working their way through Congress with major ramifications for American Indians*. One has passed, one is making progress, and one is stalled.

You may remember a post I made in May highlighting the fact that 1 in 3 Indian women will be raped at some point in their lives thanks to a Supreme Court ruling that stripped tribal governments of criminal jurisdiction over whites on Indian lands. Well, both houses of Congress have passed Senator Byron Dorgan’s Tribal Law and Order Act, with the House moving this month. The new law won’t solve the criminal jurisdiction issues, but at least it will beef up tribal resources. From the newspaper Indian Country Today:

In both chambers, it was attached to the Indian Arts and Crafts bill [HR 725], which strengthens the ability to prosecute those who unlawfully sell purported Indian goods.

Under the bill, tribal courts will be allowed to impose sentences of up to three years, but their authority is affected in some ways, like being required to follow U.S. court system procedures. Also, tribes prosecuting individuals for crimes that could land them in jail for more than a year must provide defendants with the same right to a lawyer that they would have in state or federal court…

The bill will also provide tribal police greater access to criminal history databases such as the National Crime Information Center, and will require tribal and federal officers serving Indian country to receive specialized training to interview victims of sexual assault and collect crime scene evidence.

Further, it requires Indian Health Service facilities to implement consistent sexual assault protocols, and requires federal officials to provide documents and testimony gained in the course of their federal duties to aid in prosecutions before tribal courts.

I’m pleased that this bill passed so overwhelmingly, and a bit surprised. Tribal power is a touchy subject with so many mistakenly thinking that it’s about race rather than history and federalism. To see this kind of bill pass with such bipartisan support at a time when obstructionism is the name of the game is really affirming. It’s a shame that we still have to wait for an Oliphant fix – ie, a bill that would allow tribes, like states, to prosecute all criminals on their own land rather than waiting for the never-arriving feds – but for what it does, this is a good bill. I have written my Congressman, Walt Minnick (D-ID), to express my appreciation for his aye vote on this bill.

Another bill, this one making its way through Congress, would ensure that tribal lands are allowed to grow after a 2009 Supreme Court decision basically said certain tribes could only let their land shrink. It is referred to as a “Carcieri fix” because the decision misinterpreted Congressional intent. From another Indian Country Today article:

A legislative Carcieri fix has been successfully inserted into the current House Interior appropriations bill with a similar Senate action expected to be attempted soon...

Tribal officials said a proactive measure is needed to remedy a February 2009 Supreme Court decision, which found that tribes recognized by the federal government after 1934 cannot have lands put into trust for them by the Department of the Interior.

Most tribes, even if not directly affected by the decision, are deeply concerned about the usurping of tribal sovereignty and self-determination.

The article goes on to point out that critics are trying to defeat the bill by linking it to Indian gaming, even though the bill has nothing whatsoever to do with gaming. As is often the case with federal Indian law defeatists, it seems they don't understand the complexities of the issues involved.

Finally, perhaps the weightiest of all these bills is going nowhere for now. You might have heard of Cobell v. Salazar, a case old enough that it was originally called Cobell v. Bennett. This is the prominent lawsuit that charges the Department of Interior with mismanaging countless billions in Indian royalties and trust funds. The latest development is that a legal settlement for over $3 billion has stalled in the Senate. The ICT write-up blames the failure on Democratic in-fighting and Republican partisanship.

The delay may or may not be a good thing. On the one hand, Ms. Cobell supports the settlement, but on the other hand, some tribal advocates claim it needs work, specifically more protections for individuals. I myself don’t know enough about the bill’s contents to pick sides, but I will say that while I usually take the pragmatic side of things, the legal group National Congress of American Indians is siding with the detractors and I do respect the NCAI.

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Idaho Debates Justice in “Lawless” Indian Country

This post is from Wednesday, but as it recieved less time on the front page than normal and is a rarely covered but incredibly important topic, I'm giving it a weekend bump on a slow Sunday. -N

1 in 3 American Indian women will be raped at some point in their lifetime, twice the national average. In Idaho, if state lawmakers don't pass a bill before them now, the problem will get worse before it gets better.

In 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe that sovereign Indian nations do not have criminal jurisdiction over non-Natives traveling or even living in Indian Country. For a variety of nonsensical and unprecedented legal reasons, Tribal police and courts only have authority over other Indians. This is akin to telling the Montana State Police that the law doesn’t apply to Minnesota residents passing through on I-90.

Except for a few “Public Law 280” states, state and local authorities also lack jurisdiction on Indian reservations, per the Constitution’s commerce clause and a number of Court precedents. That means jurisdiction falls to the feds, who don’t do their job. As Chickasaw Tribal Police Chief Jason O’Neal told NPR in 2007, “’Many of the criminals know Indian lands are almost a lawless community, where they can do whatever they want.’…  A 2003 report from the Justice Department found that U.S. attorneys take fewer cases from the BIA than from almost any other federal-law enforcement agency.”

The real world result? 1 in 3 American Indian women will be raped at some point in their life, compared to 1 in 6 women nationally. 41% of those women report being raped by a stranger rather than an acquaintance, compared to 16.7% nationally. As Chief O’Neal points out, these strangers are not from within the Indian communities, so we can’t point to reservation issues as the problem - 80% of attacks against Indians are from non-Natives. Overall, the violent crime rate in Indian country is twice the national average. (All numbers are from various Justice Department reports.)

Last month, it looked like things were going to get worse for American Indians in northern Idaho before they got better, but thankfully the state is taking the right steps. To make up for the lack of federal activity, tribes can make deals with local or state law enforcement agencies to cross-deputize tribal  officers and give them the necessary jurisdiction. Last month, however, Benewah County Sheriff Bob Kirts, whose county includes the southern half of the Coeur d’Alene Tribal Reservation, refused to re-instate a cross-deputization agreement with tribal police. If that wasn’t bad enough, he also said he would no longer respond to tribal calls for help, leaving the southern half of the Reservation completely lawless. Of the 10,000 people on the reservation, over 8,000 are non-Natives now free to break the law.

The proposed solution now before the legislature and more below the jump.

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Weekly Pulse: Dodd and Dorgan to Retire

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger

Two Democratic senators unexpectedly announced their resignations on Tuesday. Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Chris Dodd (D-CT) announced that they would not seek reelection when their terms expire in 2010. Hopefully, health care reform will already have passed by then, but the departure of these senators will have implications for health care policy.

As far as the Democratic majority in the Senate is concerned, the two resignations probably cancel each other out. As a relatively conservative 30-year incumbent, Dorgan was thought to be the only Democrat who could win a seat in conservative North Dakota. Dodd, on the other hand, is deeply unpopular for his role in the financial crisis, but hails from a deep blue state, so it should be easy to replace him with another Democrat. In fact, as Eric Kleefeld reports for Talking Points Memo, Dodd’s resignation improves the Democrats’ chances of holding that seat.

As Jodi Jacobson explains in RH Reality Check, losing Dorgan would be a setback for reproductive rights. While Dorgan has a mixed record on choice, “Given his state, Dorgan’s voting record is pretty progressive on at least some issues otherwise driven completely by ideology,” Jacobson writes.

Dodd is reliably pro-choice, but the pro-choice credentials of the candidate favored to take his place, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, are even more distinguished.

Last year, Blumenthal sued the Bush administration over so-called “conscience clauses” for the Department of Health and Human Services which would have given employees more latitude to refuse to provide medical care that they disapproved of on religious grounds. (The Obama administration later reversed the rule.) In 1995, Blumenthal and the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against two anti-abortion protesters under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. “Our goal was to defuse a volatile situation before it escalated into a bloodbath, such as the fatal shootings in Brookline, Massachusetts,” Blumenthal explained at the time. Blumenthal and DOJ prevailed in court in 1997.

In other health care news, an unnamed Senate aide told the Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire blog that the Democrats are planning to streamline the passage of the health care reform bill by skipping the conference committee. Normally, the House and Senate versions of a bill are combined in conference. This time, Democrats may skip that step by hammering out a deal that is acceptable to the Senate, having the House pass that bill, and then having the Senate pass the same legislation. That way, Democrats can circumvent some procedural hurdles in the Senate.

According to Kevin Drum of Mother Jones, skipping conference has become routine for big Democratic bills. These days, thanks to stricter rules about what can be added in conference, the House and the Senate are more likely to reconcile big bills through the aforementioned “ping pong” process.

John Nichols of The Nation argues that skipping conference will leave progressives out in the cold. Until now, a lot of progressive energy has been focused on strengthening certain provisions of the Senate bill in conference. If the Democrats decide to skip conference, that means that all the power will be in the hands of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and a handful of their closest allies.

Finally, Monica Potts of TAPPED discusses a new study that purports to show that the so-called “g-spot” doesn’t exist. Headlines are proclaiming that the g-spot is a myth. The results of the study have been misinterpreted in the general rush to proclaim that science has proven women wrong about their bodies. What the study really showed is that genes have little to do with whether a woman thinks she has one.

These results suggest that the g-spot isn’t a unique organ encoded in our genetic plan, like a spleen or a kidney, but that there’s no doubt that the front wall of the vagina exists, nor that some women report orgasms from stimulating that area. What other anatomical questions are investigated with surveys? Do you have a pancreas? Chances are you’ve never directly observed your pancreas. Whether you say “yes” depends whether you’ve read that humans have them.

Whether women agreed that they had g-spots had more to do with their age. Younger women, raised in an era where women’s magazines assert that g-spots are a standard part of female anatomy, were more likely to believe they had them. What this study was really measuring was a general belief in the existence of g-spots, which has no genetic component. Belief in the pancreas has no genetic component either, but it doesn’t follow that these organs are mythical.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Byron Dorgan to Retire from the Senate

There's no way of spinning this as good news for the Democrats:

Sen. Byron Dorgan, a 18-year veteran Democrat, dropped a late-day bombshell, announcing he will retire when his term ends this year. Dorgan's announcement represents an opportunity for Republicans: North Dakota is a Republican-leaning state, where President Obama got just 45% of the vote last year.

While it's true Barack Obama earned a higher share of the vote in North Dakota than any Democratic presidential nominee in more than 30 years (fully 9 percentage points better than John Kerry's showing in the state) and that the state's congressional delegation is entirely Democratic at present, it's hard to see the Democrats holding on to this seat without Byron Dorgan as their nominee. It's possible that Democrat Earl Pomeroy, who has been elected nine times statewide as Congressman, most recently with 62 percent of the vote (and even with 52 percent of the vote in the GOP-friendly 2002 midterms), could win -- but really only if the state's Republican Governor John Hoeven doesn't run. Tough news for the Senate Democrats (though, it's still worth noting, not news that means they're likely to lose control of the Senate).


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