The President Disappoints Again

In the wake of the historic ruling by Judge Vaughan Walker that found the California gay marriage ban unconstitutional because it denies gays and lesbians the due process of law and fails to meet the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, President Barack Obama, a self-professed constitutional scholar, has via David Alexrod, his senior political advisor, reiterated his opposition to gay marriage. What's even more bizarre, and frankly, offensive is that the President in the very next breath claims that he supports "equality" for gay and lesbian couples.

He does not. Unless you support gay marriage, you do not support full equality for LGBT couples. You cannot continue to attempt to straddle both sides of the gay marriage fence. It's a shameful act of political cowardice. 

From The Hill:

President Obama remains opposed to same-sex marriage despite a federal judge's decision to strike down a ban on such marriages, a top White House adviser said Thursday.

Senior adviser David Axelrod said the president supports "equality" for gay and lesbian couples, but did not address directly Obama's position on Wednesday's court ruling, which struck down as unconstitutional California's Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage in the state.

"The president does oppose same-sex marriage, but he supports equality for gay and lesbian couples, and benefits and other issues, and that has been effectuated in federal agencies under his control," Axelrod said on MSNBC.

A line in the sand has been drawn. Either you are on board the equality express or you are just another derailment to overcome and toss aside. Fight for us and we fight with you; equivocate and we look elsewhere or stay home in 2012.

It is horrifying that the Administration is offering what is tantamount to a "separate but equal" treatment for gays and lesbians. It is not just unbecoming of the President to do so but it is a moral affront.

John Aravosis has posted an open letter calling on the President to support full marriage equality. It reads:

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to ask you to come out in support of full marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples.

In 1996, you were in favor of legalizing same–sex marriage. By 2008, your public position had changed.

“Separate but equal” is wrong. It’s time for you to do the right thing, and come out again for full equality for LGBT Americans.

We are on the march towards full equality. Please join us.

It bears reminding that on this issue, Barack Obama is perhaps the only person in the country who has gone in reverse. During his first run for elective office, Barack Obama told Outlines, a local Chicago paper since merged with the Windy City Times, that he favored "legalizing same-sex marriages would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages."

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Weekly Diaspora: Obama to Congress: It’s Time to Support Immigration Reform

by Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger

This morning, President Barack Obama condemned the ”failure by those of us in Washington to fix a broken immigration system” and called on Congress to support reform this year.

“This administration will not just kick the can down the road,” Obama said. He also described comprehensive immigration reform as “held hostage to political posturing.” The UpTake, Mother Jones and The Colorado Independent provided live coverage of Obama’s statements.

The White House is no doubt concerned about the electoral consequences. Latino voters are waiting to see if Democrats address the issue. Obama also met with policy groups and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus at the White House on Monday and Tuesday to discuss moving forward on immigration reform.


The possibility for comprehensive immigration reform this year is still unlikely, thanks to inaction by federal lawmakers. Not only have elected officials been preoccupied with other pressing issues, such as health care reform and Supreme Court hearings, they also fear political backlash from voters if they support immigration reform during a recession.

On the bumpy road to immigration reform, Congress has clearly fallen asleep at the wheel. Lawmakers may still support reform focused on young immigrants and farm workers this year, even if it doesn’t involve creating a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country.

As Daisy Hernandez reports at ColorLines, “Obama acknowledged the political realities in Congress and talked with the group about smaller bits of immigration legislation, including a bill to permit undocumented young people to attend college,” according to attendees of the brainstorming sessions.

Hernandez explains that “Republicans are painfully aware, of course, that immigration might be this year’s election football.” During the lead up to the election this November, the Senate failed to come to a compromise or even sponsor an actual bill. The House of Representatives has sponsored a reform proposal, but won’t vote on it until the Senate takes action. It’s a sticky Catch-22.

No more Arizonas

Despite Congressional fumbling, the need for immigration reform certainly won’t go away any time soon. Latino voters are growing in influence every day in the Untied States. As Gabriel Arana reports for The American Prospect, “the anti-immigrant push has served to unify and mobilize Hispanic voters, leading them to rethink their ties to Republicans and demanding action from Democrats on immigration.”

Just last March, an estimated half a million reform supporters marched on the National Mall in Washington DC. Shortly after that, on May 1, tens of thousands marched in cities all over the country, with reform proponents participating in civil disobedience in the nation’s capital and Arizona.

Arana also notes that Latinos have had “historically had lower levels of political participation than other minority groups” in the political process, and now they are taking the reform cause to “the streets, to their representatives, and in the pages of Latino papers—on an issue that affects them directly.”

That means that Republicans in Florida—a state which has a Latino population of approximately 20 percent, according to the US Census—will likely face big hurdles in their attempt pass an Arizona-like law targeting undocumented immigrants and racially profiling Latinos. New America Media has been reporting on the Florida proposal, which, like Arizona, could lead to a major international backlash.

According to their coverage, the plan would “make remaining illegally in Florida a criminal offense,” would “include severe penalties for employers who hire undocumented workers,” and it would “allow police to ask suspects for proof of legal residency.”

‘Take Our Jobs’

On a lighter note, migrant workers have started a campaign to educate the public about the arduous work immigrants do on farms and in the fields—work that would be too tough for most Americans.

As Bonnie Azab Powell at Grist reports, the United Farm Workers, “tired of being vilified as stealing jobs from unemployed American citizens” have come up with a new campaign to put everyone to work.

“The union has created a website where you can sign yourself up for fieldwork,” Powell writes. “Experienced field hands will train legal residents and hook them up with the many seasonal harvest openings in California, Florida, and elsewhere.”

But the work won’t be easy, or just. As the article notes, “federal overtime provisions don’t apply to farmworkers, nor do minimum-wage laws.”

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: Obama Deploys Troops to Border Amid Rising Civil Disobedience

by Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger

President Barack Obama announced on Tuesday that he would be deploying 1,200 National Guard troops to the Mexican border to beef up security along the Río Bravo. This surprise move has garnered criticism from immigrant rights supporters, who argue that it will dehumanize and endanger immigrant and Latino communities.

Julianne Hing at RaceWire offers more details on the plan, reporting that an extra $500 million has also been allocated to law enforcement along the border.

“Obama is reportedly asking for these troop increases in anticipation of Republicans’ demands on a war spending bill this week,” Hing writes. “But Obama’s already outpaced his predecessors in spending on border security and military presence at the border.”

With the militarization of the border there is a heightened sense of danger not only for immigrants, but also for residents. It’s happened before. Esequiel Hernández, a US citizen and high school student, was wrongfully killed by Marines 13 years ago, near the border in Texas after increased militarization.

The deportation race

Even more disheartening, John Morton, Assistant Secretary for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, boasted that deportations of undocumented immigrants had already increased by 40 percent this year alone, and were sure to surpass last year’s total of 400,000, according to Suzy Khimm at Mother Jones.

“At the same time, a breakdown of the deportation numbers makes it clear that it’s not just criminal immigrants that federal immigration officials are targeting,” Khimm  writes. “There’s been a small decrease in the number of non-criminal immigrants who’ve been deported, but they still make up a large majority of deportations.”

A storm of civil disobedience

In response to inaction on immigration reform and the increased enforcement, a civil disobedience campaign to pressure ICE and the White House to stop deportations continues. At the Real News Network, Jesse Freeston documents the growing civil disobedience relating to immigration reform, which at the beginning of the month included a 35 protesters sitting down “ in front of the White House fence, where they were eventually arrested. This included [Democratic] Congressman Luis Gutiérrez of Chicago, who has been heavily critical of the president’s inaction on these issues.”

Immigrant rights advocates in New York City demonstrated outside of Federal Plaza this week, with more than 35 people peacefully arrested. These demonstrations follow arrests in Washington DC, Seattle and Arizona for similar actions.

AlterNet notes that those arrested in New York included state assembly member Adriano Espaillat, City Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito, and dozens of other reform allies with unions, churches and community groups.

Consequences looming large

Make no mistake—there are political consequences for states like Arizona, where ultra right-wing politicians have passed a new laws targeting undocumented immigrants. As Steve Benen writes in the Washington Monthly, Latinos voters in Colorado and Arizona are quickly moving  to support Democratic candidates.

Benen reports that a new “NBC/MSNBC/Telemundo poll shows a similar trend at the national level, where ‘Latinos, once a semi-swing group of voters, now have swung overwhelmingly for President Obama and the Democratic Party, and younger Hispanics are moving to the Democrats in even greater numbers.’”

‘Skin heads and Nazis’

On a different front, former Colorado Congressman and anti-immigrant polemic Tom Tancredo is apparently too radical for many anti-immigrant groups. Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC), a national right-wing group that has linked Latinos and immigrants to rapists and murders on its website, parted ways with the ex-lawmaker.

ALIPAC has pulled out of June 5 anti-immigration rally in Phoenix, citing Tancredo’s supposed connections to white power groups, according to John Tomasic at The Colorado Independent.

Tomasic writes that “[ALIPAC director] William Gheen, who has battled accusations of racist associations in the past, explained that he had raised concerns with Tancredo about event organizer Dan Smeriglio, an activist with long unabashed ties to ’skin heads and Nazis,’ as Gheen put it.”

Great power, many responsibilities

In light of increased enforcement, The Uptake has video of Obama explaining his position on immigration reform. “Government has a responsibility to secure the border and enforce laws,” Obama said. “Washington has an obligation to set clear, common-sense rules, including rules that no longer punish and divide families that are doing the right thing and following the law.”

But Yes! Magazine columnist Kety Esquivel cites different responsibilities. “If history has taught us anything, it is that once human rights are eroded—once we allow ourselves to overlook the humanity of certain groups of people—we have stepped onto a slippery slope,” she writes. “If no one stands up to the injustice, the erosion of human rights continues.”

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.



The President at Hampton University

After assailing the President yesterday in a post for not talking enough about the duties and responsibilities of citizenship given the increasingly lackadaisical attitude too many Americans have towards civic involvement coupled with the open hostility that the right has towards government, the President today delivered a commencement address at Hampton University in which he addressed such concerns.

Like his address at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor a week ago, this is Obama at his finest. It's more the pity that few seem to be paying attention because the Michigan address was perhaps Obama's best speech yet which is saying something since the one thing Obama excels at is giving great speeches. But no one seems to care. Cut through all the noise of the Tea Party, pull back the insidious hate therein as well and much of their core philosophy is a "leave us alone" mantra. It's the exaltation of Grover Norquist's most misbegotten creed. It's a worldview that in essence cries out "leave me alone so I can sin." It underpins everything on the right from their aversion to taxation to their contempt for a proper regulatory environment. Theirs is a view that puts the narrow interests of a few over the general good. They call it freedom couching it in terms of individualism but it is really a feudal tyranny reborn. It empowers the strong at the expense of the weak and in such a society, democracy is marked for extinction. And it is not hyperbole to suggest that we in the United States are on that path. We are well on the way to becoming a less egalitarian society and unequal societies are inherently undemocratic.

It is perhaps the saddest of commentary that so far the only news agency covering this address is Agence France-Presse. And if you want to see the ignorant delusional right's take on this try Pajamas Media which typically for the ignorant right takes a pebble of truth and turns it into a boulder of lies.

The Hampton address, as prepared for delivery, is below the fold. It's well worth the read.

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Charlie Rangel Gets a Primary Opponent

New York Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, whose father was the previous incumbent, announced today that he will challenge embattled Congressman Charlie Rangel in the Democratic primary this Fall. Congressman Rangel, the former Chair of the powerful House Ways & Mean Committee, represents the New York Fifteenth Congressional District that includes Harlem.

More from the New York Times:

Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV announced on Monday that he would challenge Representative Charles B. Rangel in this fall’s Democratic primary, setting the stage for a deeply personal battle between two of Harlem’s biggest political names and oldest foes.

Mr. Powell’s entry into the race suggests that Mr. Rangel’s political troubles are reshaping the campaign for his seat, which was once considered untouchable. So far, he faces two declared opponents, and a growing list of would-be candidates who are exploring the race.

Mr. Powell, 47, acknowledged that the ethics probes swirling around Mr. Rangel, including an investigation into corporate-sponsored trips he went on, and the congressman’s decision to give up the chairmanship of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, had emboldened him to run.

“The fact that he is no longer chairman is significant,” Mr. Powell said. “If he were still chairman, I might not be running.”

Mr. Powell on Monday speculated that Mr. Rangel would seek re-election and then resign, in order to control the appointment of his successor, a situation that aides to Mr. Rangel immediately dismissed.

Mr. Powell, whose father lost his congressional seat to a young Mr. Rangel three decades ago, tried unsuccessfully to oust Mr. Rangel from the seat in 1994, losing by a wide margin.

Mr. Powell said he has raised about $65,000 for his campaign, far less than the roughly $500,000 Mr. Rangel has. But Mr. Rangel’s legal bills have eaten into his campaign budget, and show no signs of abetting.

During a press conference on Monday in Harlem, Mr. Powell said that avenging his father’s defeat is something “I have gotten out my system” and that he was running against Mr. Rangel this time because it was “time to turn the page” on his tenure in Congress.

Yesterday, the New York Daily News caught up with Congressman Rangel and asked him about the speculation that he may face a primary challenge. Here is that interview:


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