Weekly Audit: Why Elizabeth Warren Should Head New Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Bumped from the diaries with timestamp updated and fold added.

This piece makes good arguments for putting Warren in charge of the CFPB, against Tim Geithner's wishes. I would encourage you to sign this petition from Bold Progressives after signing. Usually petitions don't amount to much (a handful of signatures on a well-known or popular issue? Please), but in this case, they've already got 160k names for an obscure topic. Now that's democracy in action. - Nathan

by Zach Carter, Media Consortium blogger

With the Wall Street reform bill finally cleared through Congress, activists and intellectuals are pushing hard to make sure that this bill isn’t the last word Congress utters about Big Finance. We need deeper and more robust reforms, but it’s also critical to ensure that the new bill is implemented as effectively as possible. Part of that means appointing officials with a proven record as robust reformers—people like Elizabeth Warren.

Too-big-to-fail lives on

What more do we need to keep Big Finance from ravaging the middle class? As Stacy Mitchell notes for Yes! Magazine, the bill Congress just signed off on doesn’t really address the core problems posed by our out-of-control banking system. Too-big-to-fail is alive and well, and lawmakers must push to break up the megabanks during the next legislative cycle or risk another economic calamity. Mitchell writes:

“Since the collapse, giant banks have only grown bigger and more powerful, and less responsive to the needs of the real economy. While the financial reform bill includes several worthwhile measures, it will not set the industry right or entail a fundamental alteration of its scale and structure.”

There are still some great reforms in the current round of legislation, among them the creation of a strong new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to write and enforce rules on mortgages, credit cards, overdraft fees and more. The first person to head this new regulatory body will be tremendously important to its future. They will set the tone for the bureau’s operations and establish a culture that will define it for years to come.

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Weekly Diaspora: Department of Justice Challenges Arizona’s SB 1070—What’s next?

by Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger

On Tuesday, the Department of Justice filed suit against the state of Arizona in an effort to overturn a stringent anti-immigration law passed in April. The move is a breath of fresh air for immigrant rights supporters. Democracy Now! and the Washington Independent have the story.

The suit will take on Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070, a law that requires local law enforcement to check an individual’s immigration status if there is “reasonable suspicion” that said individual is undocumented. The law has sparked national outrage and serious concerns that Latinos will be racially profiled by the police. Another provision of SB 1070 requires immigrants to carry papers denoting citizenship at all times while in the state.

Is SB 1070 unconstitutional?

At ColorLines, Daisy Hernandez reports that “the lawsuit, which was filed in a U.S. District Court in Phoenix, argues that it’s against the Constitution for a state to make its own immigration policy” because of “the legal doctrine of ‘preemption,’ which says that federal law trumps state statues.”

The key argument being that “the federal government already works with states to enforce federal immigration law,” so there’s no need for a law like SB 1070 to intervene, according to Hernandez.

A civil rights fiasco

Since April, the Arizona law has served as a rallying point for immigrant rights supporters, who refer to the bill as the “Juan Crow” law. The nickname references the Jim Crow laws that existed prior to the civil rights struggles of the 1960s.

Jessica Pieklo at Care2 notes that the DOJ suit “also contains a civil rights component and argues that the law would lead to law enforcement harassing U.S. citizens and lawful immigrants in efforts to hunt down undocumented workers.”

Citizens react

At New America Media, Valeria Fernández gauges immigrants’ and Arizona residents’ reactions to the suit.

“I really feel that the Justice Department will be on the winning side of history,” said Mary Rose Wilcox, a supervisor for District 5 in Maricopa County, AZ. “I think when justice needs to be served, you should never look at political costs.”

An undocumented immigrant named Griselda told Fernández that she “jumped for joy when she heard the news,” and “Thank God there’s another one in the fight.”

The immigration reform battle moves forward

Last week, President Barack Obama called for Congress to put politics aside and focus on immigration reform as quickly as possible. The speech and suit are fueling demand for comprehensive reform and it’s clear that the issue won’t be going away.

Yet despite the need for reform, there are roadblocks. As Paul Waldman writes for the American Prospect, “It’s true that there is little incentive for politicians to produce comprehensive reform. It’s guaranteed to displease much of the public, while there is a powerful incentive to play on people’s fears and resentments.”

However, there is hope in the organizing that’s being done by immigrant youth. Undocumented immigrant and student organizer Tania Unzueta said in an interview with In These Times that immigrants from across the country are risking deportation and incarceration to come “out of the shadows and into the spotlight.”

As Unzueta explains in the interview, “When you stop being afraid, there’s a whole world of possibilities in terms of how much risk you’re willing to take to fight for what you believe is just.”

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

Weekly Diaspora: White House Likely to Sue Over Arizona’s Racial Profiling Law

by Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger

Hope for a comprehensive immigration reform bill this year has fallen by the wayside, but the Obama administration is rallying for one last hurrah before mid-term elections in November. Late last week, the White House unofficially announced plans to sue the state of Arizona over the now notorious Senate Bill 1070, a state law passed this year to crackdown on undocumented immigrants.

SB 1070 allows Arizona police to check the immigration status of a person if there is a “reasonable suspicion” that they are undocumented, and forces immigrants to carry government papers proving their identify at all times.

Meanwhile, an estimated 15,000 progressives and 1,300 organizations are meeting in Detroit this week to discuss alternative solutions to our broken immigration system at the second U. S. Social Forum (USSF).

US v. Arizona?

As Jessica Pieklo reports at Care2, “After Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s nonchalant statement on Ecuadorian television last week that the Department of Justice planned to file suit challenging Arizona immigration law SB 1070, senior administration officials confirmed that such a suit would be forthcoming.”

“Expect a suit to come soon though as the controversial measure is set to take effect in July,” Pieklo writes. “That said, it is only one of many suits already challenging the measure in federal court.  Some of those cases have asked a federal judge to issue an injunction which would halt implementation of the measure while the legal issues get sorted out.”

At the Women’s Media Center, Gloria Steinem and Pramila Jayapal argue that “In the wake of Arizona’s SB 1070—the harsh anti-immigrant law that not only condones but promotes racial profiling that endangers entire groups of the innocent—all sides seem to agree that the Federal government has abdicated its responsibility to institute a fair and just immigration system….”

Eyes on Detroit

In the wake of discriminatory laws like the one in Arizona, many immigration reform activists have come to the USSF, taking place June 22-26, to make their voices heard.

“This is great because it just shows community unity,” Rocio Valerio, an activist with the Worker’s Center immigrant rights group, told GritTV. “Right now the strategy for immigrant voices is being driven by policy groups, and with the social forum we’re saying that decisions can’t be made without us.”

At New America Media, Anthony Advincula interviews Rev. Phil Reller, a coordinator for Phoenix-based Southwest Conference United Church of Christ who is attending the forum. “This is a perfect opportunity to educate people on what’s truly happening in our local communities, not just about the struggles of immigrants in Arizona, but also the momentum of hope among community leaders to repeal SB 1070,” Reller says.

ICE gets a face lift

While activists are trying to find answers in Detroit, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency in Washington D.C. is attempting to turn itself into a more attractive bureaucratic juggernaut. As AlterNet explains, “This week, [ICE] announced changes to its management structure, conceived as part of a strategy to ‘re-brand’ the agency to the public.”

The agency has even gone so far as to recruit help from Hollywood, although it’s uncertain where the assistance will be coming from or if ICE agents will be portrayed as the “good guys” in movies. But not even a public relations face lift can cover ICE’s sordid record of terrorizing and deporting undocumented immigrants at a record pace.

The National Radio Project has already reported on numerous abuses in ICE-run immigration prisons. The media outlet notes that the government’s “immigrant detention is the fastest-growing form of incarceration in the U.S., with more than 30-thousand detainees behind bars on any given day.”

Filming América

While immigration problems and discrimination against Latinos continues, Oliver Stone is releasing a new film titled “South of The Border” that traces the history of popular struggles in South America and how they affect the Western Hemisphere.

According to Free Speech TV, the movie, which is set to premiere at the USSF, features interviews from “several South American heads of state, including Evo Morales of Bolivia, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil and Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela.” Stone was also interviewed about the movie on Democracy Now!

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

 

 

Weekly Mulch: BP Oil Spill Stalls Climate Bill

By Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

“There’s a dead dolphin on this beach,” Mother Jones‘ Mac McClelland, wrote yesterday in Louisiana. It’s one snapshot of the harm visited on the Gulf Coast by the BP oil spill. Back in Washington, the Senate climate bill, which would put the country on a path to cleaner energy consumption, is on its last legs.

You’d think that after a seemingly unstoppable oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (official estimates are up to 50,000 barrels a day, as of yesterday) and the hottest spring on record (hello, climate change!), U.S. citizens and elected representatives would recognize that our country’s thirst for resources has consequences.

It’s not just that oil is spilling into the Gulf, even after BP hit on a fix. Besides the blow-out that has dominated headlines, another, more routine spill showed up near the Louisiana coast. The Deepwater Horizon spill is now the larger of two spills in the Gulf Coast, according to Care2. A week ago in Pennsylvania, a natural gas well owned by EOG Resources (formerly Enron) shot a geyser of chemical-laced water 75 feet into the air; and on Monday, in West Virginia, another natural gas well, this one owned by Chief Oil and Natural Gas, also exploded, as AlterNet reports.

Yet BP is still supplying the Pentagon with oil and gas, as Jeremy Scahill writes at The Nation. Senators are still supporting natural gas exploration and off-shore oil drilling. The White House has also abandoned any intention of pushing for strong legislation that would push for better, cleaner energy.

Lifestyle vs. lives

Americans aren’t willing to give up their lifestyle, so wild animals are giving up their lives. One casualty of the BP spill in the Gulf might be bluefin tuna. Their population is 20% of what it was 40 years ago, Inter Press Service reports. Although the effects of the oil spill won’t be entirely clear for a few years, scientists are worried.

“Biologically, bluefin are already unlucky,” IPS writes. “The fish – which can be as long as and faster than a sports car – only spawn once a year and only in certain locations.”

Schools of the tuna, IPS reports, are headed now towards the Gulf of Mexico.

“The spill has been going on during their peak spawning period in the only place the western population spawns, so in timing and location it’s probably the worst place you could have it and during the worst time,” Lee Crocket, director of federal fisheries policy at Pew Environment, told IPS.

All the creatures of the sea

It’s not just tuna that are at risk, either. Mother Jones’ Julia Whitty has been documenting the fate of birds, fish, and other sea creatures that come into contact with the oil in the Gulf. She visited Elmer’s Island, LA, and snapped a shot of one of the dead jelly fish that had washed up on the shore:

“There were dead Portuguese man o’war jellies—one of the few species that weather the travails of the dead zone that afflicts these waters each summer. The dead zone is an area around the outflow of the Mississippi River made hypoxic by too many nutrients flowing downstream, mostly from farms and ranches. If you’re a jellyfish, a dead zone is survivable. Apparently an oiled zone is not.”

BP’s shroud of secrecy

BP has been remarkably cagey with the public about what’s going on in the Gulf. In addition to keeping reporters away from soiled area, the company hasn’t shown much interest in understanding exactly how much oil it’s spilling into the ocean. Initial estimates of 1,000 barrels per day have blossomed into estimates, on the low end, of 25,000 barrels. On Democracy Now!, scientist Ira Leifer said that the company is being more forthcoming with information now than it was originally. But he’d like a fuller picture:

“What there really should be at these kind of sites is some acoustic methods, whether it’s sonar or passive listening devices, or other approaches that continuously are monitoring and waiting for something to happen and then would provide a nonstop, steady data stream, so we could actually learn from what happens….These things, they’re not steady states. They belch. They have large eruptions.”

What that means, Leifer said, is that it’s not necessarily accurate to talk about a definitive rate at which the oil is pouring out. In his words, “the flow today is not necessarily the flow tomorrow.” What’s more, the attempts to stop the spill can make it worse. One concern is that the rock surrounding the pipe could “give out,” Leifer says. In that scenario, the oil would not just come from the pipe but from many sites in the surrounding sea bed.

“This reservoir is massive, and it could easily flow that kind of oil for the next twenty or thirty years, if it was left to go unattended,” Leifer said. “So the amount of oil that could end up in the environment if measures are not successful is at what I would call unimaginable.”

Spin, BP, spin

Given that sort of doomsday scenario, it’s not surprising that BP has plans to promise as little as possible to the spill’s victims. As Justin Elliott reports at TPMMuckraker, the company’s plan for oil spills instructs its spokespeople not to promise anything.

BP’s June 2009 Gulf of Mexico Regional Oil Spill Response Plan reads: “No statement shall be made containing … Promises that property, ecology, or anything else will be restored to normal,” Elliott writes.

Solutions

How to move beyond these horror stories? This week, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) completely disowned the climate legislation he was working on before, and both Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum and The Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen bemoaned the climate bill’s fate.

Yesterday, the Senate narrowly defeated an amendment offered by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) that would have stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of its power to regulate carbon. Although the amendment failed, support from Democrats like Arkansas’ Blanche Lincoln signals that the support isn’t there for even unambitious climate legislation. And at this juncture, it seems like the U.S. has done more harm than good in the international arena.

Coping with Copenhagen

International leaders are at Bonn this week, trying to pick up the pieces from last November’s climate change negotiations in Copenhagen.

“Copenhagen was a pretty horrible conference,” conceded Yvo de Boer, the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), as IPS reports. “This year it’s about restoring trust.”

For the U.S., passing climate legislation would help.

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

 

 

Weekly Diaspora: Border Patrol Gone Wild

by Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger

A Border Patrol agent shot and killed a 14-year-old Mexican boy on June 7. At RaceWire, Julianne Hing reports that “Sergio Adrian Hernandez Huereca [was] on the Mexican side of the El Paso-Juarez border [and] was shot and killed by a Border Patrol officer, who was on the U.S. side.” The incident has been condemned by the Mexican government and sparked investigations by the Customs and Border Protection agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The exact details are still being investigated. The Border Patrol claims that the teen was throwing rocks at agents, but eye-witnesses on the Mexican side of the border say otherwise.

An eye-witness account

Democracy Now! quotes an eye-witness who says that Hernandez Huereca was clearly on Mexican soil, playing with other youths when an agent shot at the entire group and killed the 14-year-old Juarez resident as he was taking cover.

“Once the youngsters were on Mexican soil, an official—I don’t know if he was an immigration agent or a police officer—arrived on a bike, wearing a white shirt, a helmet and shorts,” the witness says. “He shot at the youngsters, at the whole group. Some ran in one direction, and others in another. This one teenage victim hid behind the wall. He looked out, and that’s when the teenager was shot.”

Twice in two weeks

The shooting was the second deadly Border Patrol-related incident in two weeks. On May 26, Anastacio Hernández-Rojas, 32, was allegedly beaten and hit with a stun gun by agents in California after he became combative. His death has been ruled a homicide by the San Diego County medical examiner’s office and an investigation is ongoing.

Going back to Racewire, Maria Jimenez, an organizer with the Houston-based immigrant rights group America Para Todos, says that such incidents have a tendency to be swept under the rug. According to Jimenez, in the 1990s, agents committed at least 33 unwarranted shootings in a single year.

“Some of them we don’t even know about, they just don’t reach the public,” Jimenez says. “They know about it, but we don’t.”

Border Patrol corruption

Border Patrol agents also face accusations of charging a steep price to allow undocumented people to cross into the United States.

At New American Media, Anthony Advincula writes about the perilous journey many immigrants take to cross the border. He interviews Guatemalan immigrant Danilo Gonzalez, who paid $7,500 to a human smuggling ring that could call in favors from the Border Patrol.

“When we reached the Mexican border, we were asked to get off and transferred to a different bus. All of us were together,” Gonzalez recalls. “The traffickers had good connections to U.S. authorities; they paid some Border Patrol officers. After many hours of traveling, we were finally transported to Arizona.”

Crime down along the border

The Obama administrations’ decision to send 1,200 National Guard troops to the border is exacerbating the situation. But the troops aren’t there because of immigration, according to White House officials. They’re supposed to keep a lid on drugs and other violent trafficking crimes along the Rio Bravo.

That argument doesn’t hold water, as violence in U.S. border cities—especially those with high immigrant populations—is actually down. At Care2, Jessica Pieklo reports that “Violent crime in Arizona, and other states that have a significant immigrant populations, has been consistently on the decline, especially recently.”

Pieklo explains that after a spike in 2006 and 2007, the number of violent crimes reported in Phoenix, Arizona, including murder, dropped 13 percent in 2009.

The decrease isn’t because of Arizona’s tough anti-immigration laws. Pieklo notes that “El Paso, Texas remains one of the safest cities in the country with only 12 murders last year, despite the fact that right across the border a drug war rages in Juarez, Mexico.”

ICE and BP

Moving along to what is likely to be the worst environmental disaster in United States history, the notorious BP oil spill has now become a cause for immigrant rights supporters who are appalled by reports that the federal government is using the crisis to detain immigrant clean-up workers.

GritTV spoke with Mallika Dutt, executive director of Breakthrough, about the crackdown. Dutt noted that “it is easier to crack down on immigrants (sending ICE to check up on workers cleaning up BP’s mess) than oil companies, and that activists around these issues need to work together as civil disobedience rises around the country.”

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

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