Moscow Suicide Bombing Tragic, Raises Brows

An unfortunate suicide bombing, now being referred to as a terrorist attack, occurred early today in Moscow, Russia.  Russia is known for its large mob population, imparticular Moscow, but terrorism and suicide attacks have been relatively dormant over the years.  This comes to a surprise to many of the Russian people and American people alike.

Here is a brief statement from The New York Times

Female suicide bombers set off huge explosions in two subway stations in central Moscow during the Monday morning rush hour, Russian officials said, killing more than three dozen people and raising fears that the Muslim insurgency in southern Russia was once again being brought to the country’s heart.

These attacks are awful and unfortunate, but also raises some eyebrows.  Obviously an attack like this is horrific and surprising, but rarely do you see an attack like this carried out by female insurgents.  Generally, the terrorist attacks Americans associate with are enacted by males.  I have said several times that we cannot label any one group as more prone to carry out such attacks as these, and this is why.  

These tumultuous times for Russia need to be met with warm cooperation from the United States. Prime Minister, and likely to be President Elect again in 2012, Vladimir Putin had this to say

Mr. Putin vowed that "the terrorists will be destroyed."

Violence is never the answer, nor should it be.  The United States and Russia have had some rocky roads in the past, but union must be restored in the faces of domestic dangers such as these.  Although this insurgency was prompted by domestic concerns with Chechnyan issues, the matter of terrorism transcends this.  Hopefully we can work together to stop these things from happening again.


Coming up to March 21st, raids undermine White House talk of immigration reform

From the Restore Fairness blog.

With less than a week to go, advocates across the country are gearing up to “March for America,” the massive mobilization for immigration reform where 100,000 supporters are expected to descend on the nation’s capital on March 21st. In anticipation of the march, members of the National Day Labor Organizing Network (NDLON) have set off from different parts of the country to Washington D.C., with the aim of building support amongst local communities on the way and calling attention to the desperate need for reform of immigration laws that tear families apart and repress the immigrant community.

The Puente Movement, and their “Human Rights Caravan” of day laborers, advocates and community members left Phoenix on March 6th for a three-week, awareness-raising journey through Arizona that will culminate in Washington D.C. on March 21st. As part of their efforts, they have been organizing events in small towns and big cities to highlight the civil and human rights crisis in Arizona and other places where large communities are impacted by increased enforcement policies. On March 13th, the caravan was joined by Rep. Luis Gutierrez in Houston for a large rally that called for immigration reform. On the East Coast, several day laborers from New York and New Jersey began a 300-mile “Walk for Human Dignity” on Saturday, March 13th. Inspired by the courageous “Trail of Dreams” walkers, they will be stopping at various day labor corners, churches and worker centers on their way to Washington D.C.

So is all this buzz around the “march” reaching Washington D.C.? When President Obama announced three meetings on the issue of immigration reform last Thursday (March 11th), it seemed like the message that immigrant rights advocates across the country were sending out was finally hitting home. After the President had a “feisty” meeting with representatives from immigrant rights groups on Thursday morning, Sen. Schumer and Sen. Graham presented their legislative plans for the bill on comprehensive immigration reform in the Oval office. The Senators requested the President for his support in ensuring bipartisan support for the bill, and while the President committed his “unwavering support” to reforming immigration laws, he gave no concrete plan of action or time-line for moving forward. However, as summed up in a New York Times editorial about the meetings that President Obama had with immigrant rights advocates, with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and with Sen. Charles Schumer and Sen. Lindsey Graham, “What we’d rather know is when the bill is coming, what it will look like and what he is going to do to get it passed. Enough with the talk.”

In a statement released by the White House after the meetings-

Today I met with Senators Schumer and Graham and was pleased to learn of their progress in forging a proposal to fix our broken immigration system. I look forward to reviewing their promising framework, and every American should applaud their efforts to reach across party lines…I also heard from a diverse group of grassroots leaders from around the country about the growing coalition that is working to build momentum for this critical issue. I am optimistic that their efforts will contribute to a favorable climate for moving forward. I told both the Senators and the community leaders that my commitment to comprehensive immigration reform is unwavering, and that I will continue to be their partner in this important effort.

As indicated by White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, it seems that while immigration remains an important issue for President Obama, it is not a priority in this election year, thereby making the concrete action that the Obama administration had promised within the first year of office, seem like a distant dream. It is clear that the meetings were a result of the mounting pressure for action on immigration reform from the grassroots and community level. In spite of the build-up towards the nation-wide mobilization on March 21st, the outcome of the meetings, beyond a reiteration of the promise of support, remains unclear.

As if to highlight just how pressing the need for reform of the broken immigration system is, while Obama was meeting with advocates who were frustrated with increased enforcement and deportations under the Obama administration and anxious to enlist his support for moving reform forward, a series of raids in Maryland led to the arrest and detention of 29 workers. Not far from D.C. on Thursday morning, Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducted simultaneous raids in Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties at two restaurants, several residences and an office. On Friday, advocates from the immigrant rights organization Casa de Maryland were back outside the White House, but rather than meeting with the President, they had gathered to protest the raids and splitting of families as a result of enforcement policies. Gustavo Torres, Executive Director of Casa de Maryland denounced the raids-

Everyday, tens of thousands of hardworking immigrants in Maryland leave their families to go to work, and tonight twenty-nine of our brothers are detained as their families are left to grieve…This is not an acceptable way to treat members of our community who work hard every day to make Maryland strong for us all.

In the face of the push for the nation-wide push for reform, the efforts of mobilization towards the March for America, and the Presidential meetings, it is not difficult to wonder about the timing of the ICE raids in Maryland. Either way, the continuation of such unjust and inhumane enforcement policies is unacceptable. We can only hope that the final push for support over the next week bears fruit and the impact of the march in Washington D.C. is felt by everyone.

A New York Times op-ed states that the “March for America” could be the “game changer” in the equation, so come to Washington D.C. and make it count! Like we said before, this is your march, so see you at the National Mall in Washington D.C.!

Photo courtesy of

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Want to know what's wrong with the War on Drugs?

From the Restore Fairness blog.

It’s the first time that 1 in every 100 adult Americans is in prison, proof of an exploding prison system that states can ill afford and a movement away from rehabilitation programs. Even more disturbing are the racial disparities within the prison system. More than 60% of people in prison are racial and ethnic minorities which means 1 in every 36 Hispanic adults and 1 in every 15 black adults are in prison. How did this all happen? A change in laws and policies over the past decade have convicted more offenders, including non violent offenders, and put them away for increasingly lengthy sentences. For many, it is a system that is not providing the same returns in public safety in relation to this growth, and a rapid movement to change unfair laws has seen growing progress.

The 1980’s saw the “War on Drugs” launched in a big way. It was also the time for many federal policies that disadvantaged communities of color. One example: sentences for crack cocaine offenses (the kind found in poor Black communities) that were treated a 100 times more severely than powder cocaine offenses (the kind that dominates White communities).

Reform advocates say no other single federal policy is more responsible for gross racial disparities in the federal criminal justice system than the crack/powder sentencing disparity. Even though two-thirds of crack cocaine users are white, more than 80 percent of those convicted in federal court for crack cocaine offenses are African American.

The differences in sentencing were based on a myth that crack cocaine was more dangerous than powder cocaine and that it was instantly addictive and caused violent behavior, all of which has been disproved. What it’s actually led to is a costly system that focuses on low-level offenders and users instead of dealers and suppliers, imprisoning addicts that could benefit from rehabilitation programs. One analysis by Senator Richard Durbin, a Democrat of Illinois, estimates that an increased focus on community programs and an end to the sentencing disparity could lead to a savings of half-a-billion dollars in prison costs.

With mounting pressure on Congress to do away with legislation that has devastated communities, we are at an opportune moment to instill justice back into the system. While The House Judiciary Committee has already passed a bill that ends the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine, the Senate Judiciary Committee will likely vote on a bill soon. Some Senators want to reduce the sentencing disparity instead of eliminating it but this watered-down compromise will do little to restore fairness. Let the Senators hear your voice.

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Bizarro World: The New Left is now the Tea Party

Because of this assumption, members of the Tea Party right, like the members of the New Left, spend a lot of time worrying about being co-opted. They worry that the corrupt forces of the establishment are perpetually trying to infiltrate the purity of their ranks. – David Brooks New York Times Columnist

First of all I want to apologize to all of those people from the peace movement, civil rights movement, and the other groups from the sixties who fought and died for long denied social change in America for this article from David Brooks. Obviously while so many Americans were actually trying to grapple with a social system that they felt no longer represented who they were Mr. Brooks was too young to know what was going on. I have a real hard time taking anyone seriously who writes about a period of history that they did not actually participate in. To me most post-history is either conjecture or an attempt at a mulligan for those who are promoting their own agendas.

At no time has this fact become more true as it is now during the current period in our history when we are about to be bombarded by the “memoirs” of the disgraced Bush officials and their apologists. The three poster children for this period of selective amnesia ought to be Cheney, Rove, and now Brooks. If this column weren’t so dangerous it would almost be laughable. The reason that this column is dangerous is that it attempts to give legitimacy to the tea-partiers as neo-hippies taking on “the man” and “the system”. Nothing could be further from the truth. The tea-partiers began as astro-turf bankrolled by the defeat health-care lobbyist and no amount of cover from the right will legitimize them.

What Mr. Brooks fails to realize is that there are profound differences between what the tea-partiers are protesting and the protests of the “new left”. Has he forgotten that there was actually a war going on in Southeast Asia that was taking the lives, dreams, and family members of hundreds of thousands of Americans? Has also forgotten that blacks were living under the crushing oppression of Jim Crow while their civil rights were being denied in all areas of America? Has he forgotten that many blacks were still being lynched, sent to prison, and beaten for trying to express the rights that he and his friends take for granted? His attempts to equate the tea-partiers exploits to those of people who were willing to risk life, limb, and future for a true cause is not just disingenuous, it’s an insult to the memory of all of the slain civil rights workers and anti-war protesters.

To be fair many people may actually believe that President Obama is a foreign-born citizen and is not legitimately President. There also may be those who truly believe that he is leading the country towards socialism through a government take-over of healthcare. There may be those who truly believe that the federal budget was balanced prior to his taking office, that the country was at full-employment, and our economy was flying right along until President Obama’s coup took over in January of 2009. The truth is that we know that the “paranoia” of the sixties radicals was well founded by the release of so many FBI documents and internal government memos. To compare their legitimate fears to those of a bunch of folks many of whom who have some form of government healthcare today who believe that healthcare reform is a government plot to create death panels is unconscionable.

Actually, I am quite pleased that the Republicans are trying to recruit the tea-party folks it will give them a taste of what Democrats go through daily when you have a big tent. When you allow every voice to be heard you are liable to hear some things you weren’t expecting and for a party where everything is scripted right up to the candidates voting record for the next 10 years this could be a little disheartening. I agree the tea-partiers are radical and theatrical but to compare corporate mouthpiece Dick Armey to Saul Alinsky who spent his life trying to improve the lives of those less-fortunate is a stretch even for Brooks.

"Negroes were being lynched regularly in the South as the first stirrings of black opposition began to be felt, and many of the white civil rights organizers and labor agitators who had started to work with them were tarred, feathered, castrated -- or killed. Most Southern politicians were members of the Ku Klux Klan and had no compunction about boasting of it” – Saul Alinsky

For David Brooks to try and give credence to the “straw” and “boogie” men of the tea-partiers as being similar to the new left is criminal. Mr. Brooks, I don’t know where you got your research of the sixties and seventies but you might leave that history to those who were actually there. Another small difference between the two that continually gets ignored by the mainstream media is during the protests of the new left all races were represented because the issues being addressed affected all the people in the country. Where is the “melting pot” with the tea-party movement? If the issues they are protesting actually affected us all like the injustices of racism or the destruction of a senseless war where are the rest of the folks? Are minorities not concerned with losing their freedoms in a communist takeover?

One of the most important things in life is what Judge Learned Hand described as 'that ever-gnawing inner doubt as to whether you're right.' If you don't have that, if you think you've got an inside track to absolute truth, you become doctrinaire, humorless and intellectually constipated. The greatest crimes in history have been perpetrated by such religious and political and racial fanatics, from the persecutions of the Inquisition on down to Communist purges and Nazi genocide. – Saul Alinsky

Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers

The New York Times takes offense:

The president appeared to have mischaracterized the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn restrictions on corporate-paid political commercials by suggesting that the decision invited political advertisements by foreign companies, too.


Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., a member of the majority in that decision, broke with the justices’ usual decorum to openly dissent. He shook his head no and mouthed the words “not true.”

The majority opinion in the case, Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission, specifically disavowed a verdict on the question of foreign companies’ political spending.

“We need not reach the question of whether the government has a compelling interest in preventing foreign individuals or associations from influencing our nation’s political process,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote. The court held that the First Amendment protected the right of American corporations to spend money on independent political commercials for or against candidates. Some analysts or observers have warned that the principle could open the door to foreign corporations as well.

President Obama called for new legislation to prohibit foreign companies from taking advantage of the ruling to spend money to influence American elections. But he is too late; Congress passed the Foreign Agents Registration Act in 1996, which prohibits independent political commercials by foreign nationals or foreign companies.

You can watch the exchange here:

While The Times' David D. Kirkpatrick, who wrote this brief, believes that he's doing a fact-check here, that he really caught President Obama, he didn't. Last week's Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case does exactly what the President says it does. To say otherwise is to mince words to the point of removing them of meaning.

It is true that the Supreme Court claimed not to be addressing the question of whether foreign money would be allowed in American elections. Yet at the same time, the Court opened up the door to unlimited corporate spending in American elections in a way that would almost undoubtedly lead to a flow of foreign capital into our politics.

Publicly traded corporations based in this country have foreign shareholders just as they have American ones. It is hard to envision a feasible rule going forward -- whether one devised by Congress or one envisioned by this Court -- that could create a genuine firewall to ensure that money originating from foreign shareholders would not seep into American elections. This is true not only for natural persons (actual people) who are citizens of other countries but also for foreign corporations and even sovereign wealth funds owned by foreign governments that own shares of nominally American corporations allowed under Citizens United to spend freely in American elections. Unless the Court were to rule that no American corporation with any foreign ownership was subject to the new rule in Citizens United -- a holding that would remove from the scope of Citizens United virtually any and all publicly traded corporations (presumably all of which have at least a single foreign shareholder) -- it is unclear exactly how Congress or state legislatures would be able to stem the flow of foreign capital into American elections. A subsequent decision that limits are permitted on entirely foreign-owned subsidiaries incorporated in the United States would not go nearly far enough.

So in the fact-check of The Times' fact-check, I give the paper a thumbs down, and firmly believe that the President was correct in stating that foreign money -- including money stemming from foreign corporations -- appear to have been permitted at least to some extent under the recent Supreme Court opinion.

[UPDATE by Jonathan]: And just to add, if you watch the video, it's pretty clear that Justice Alito begins taking offense not at mention of foreign corporations, as The Times asserts, but rather when the President spoke about the decision's strengthening of the position of special interests.


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