We’ll Leave a Light On

The numbers evidently originate with the Press Trust of India, whose report was linked on the Drudge Report and picked up by Fox News host Glenn Beck. The news agency also wrongly said that the White House had blocked off the entire Taj Mahal Palace hotel for Obama's visit and that the U.S. was stationing 34 warships—roughly 10 percent of the naval fleet--off the coast of Mumbai for security reasons. Yahoo News

The one thing about the wing-nuts is that they are consistent. If they find a game plan that works they continue to use it no matter what. Remember how they sold the Iraq War by quoting unnamed sources who would then quote other unnamed sources until they created this circular argument based on no facts. Well it appears they are back to their old tricks again only this time it is concerning the President’s trip to India. Let’s be clear this isn’t about spending or belt-tightening. This is about whether this President deserves to travel as past Presidents have done while representing American interests around the world.

Here is what is troubling to me about this canard and all of the other “concerns” about this first family’s trips no matter where they are to, there is this underlying current that they somehow do not deserve to travel as other Presidents and first families have traveled in the past. This President and this first family are being asked to travel in coach while no one has ever questioned the travel arrangements of any of our other chief executives. The question then becomes why now? I don’t recall anyone questioning how much it cost to create W’s infamous “Mission Accomplished” landing and potential political ad funded by the American taxpayers. It is as if for some reason the current President is not worthy of all of the trappings of the office of the Presidency of the US.

The crazy part is this. When he was first elected the wing-nuts attacked the first family because they were going to “ghettoize” the White House with bar-b-ques and drunken parties on the front lawn and now they are attacking him for keeping the prestige of the office when he travels. Here is the thing this isn’t about the recession or the amount spent on this trip. This is about whether this President deserves the privileges given to other Presidents? For some reason this President doesn’t measure up to past Presidents and therefore doesn’t deserve to travel as all other Presidents have traveled. America has always prided itself on providing every President what he has needed while conducting business in the name of America. Our national prestige is now being sacrificed for what particular purpose?

Despite continued denials from the wing-nuts their goal from day one has been to delegitimize this President and to subtly and not so subtly attack him personally. This isn’t about the health-care reforms, or the financial reforms, or even the stimulus. This is about President Obama’s personal character and not just his but his family as well. Would we allow the children and First Ladies of previous white Presidents to be treated with such disrespect? The troubling fact is that regardless of our personal feelings about the officeholder we as a nation have always respected the office, but today that concept that we were taught as children is now being undermined. If we as Americans regardless of our political leanings continue to allow this constant chipping away and undermining of our institutions it won’t be long before we are faced with all-out anarchy.

With confidence and trust in our institutions at an all-time low there are those who would further undermine our system for the sake of short-term political gain. The time has come for all Americans to stand up and put an end to this practice of attacking the President not because they disagree with his policies but that they disagree with his legitimacy to be the President. After the results of the last election I am not so sure that we as a nation are prepared to repudiate these unsavory tactics and to elevate our political discourse back to policy issues. The last election has shown us that fear and obstructionism are still running rampant and are still working to motivate a proportion of the electorate.

President Obama just like any other President deserves to be treated with the same respect as all previous Presidents. He does not deserve to be housed at Motel 6 and fly commercial just because he is black. This is the type of hypocrisy that continues to undermine our standing in the world and especially towards non-white and non-Christian populations. One of these days we are going to learn that there are far more non-whites in the world than whites and if we continue to treat this President as if this is the Jim Crow south we will do so at our own peril.

Not only is it a bad precedence for the world it is a bad precedence for our own democracy. If we continue to weaken our institutions then no one should be surprised if they collapse. If government and our institutions do not function then what shall they be replaced with? Corporations? God help us if that is our alternative. The funny thing is that most of those who are attempting to undermine this President’s legitimacy are the same ones who claim to support “Constitutional Government”. I guess they missed the part about the office of the President and its place in our history.

Like Bachmann, several right-leaning pundits -- including Michelle Malkin and Fox News personalities like Eric Bolling and Sean Hannity -- have run with the $200 million per day number, touting it as proof that wasteful spending is alive and well. - AOL News

The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy - Charles de Montesquieu

The Disputed Truth

Progressive bloggers and advocates set the stage for immigration reform in 2010

From the Restore Fairness blog.

"Not the usual suspects-" This is how Nico Pitney, National Editor for the Huffington Post and moderator on a panel discussion about the prospect of immigration reform, introduced his fellow panelists. Organized by the Center for American Progress, Netroots Nation, and America's Voice, the panel featured some of the leading voices for comprehensive and just immigration reform, including Markos Zúñiga, founder and editor of Daily Kos, Andrea Nill, immigration blogger for Think Progress, and María Elena Durazo from the AFL-CIO.

Using the context of Rep. Luis Gutierrez's progressive CIR ASAP immigration reform bill introduced in mid December, the recent election of Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts (and the obvious question of how this will affect the progressive agenda including immigration reform), President Obama's campaign promise to address immigration reform with his election, a lively discussion ensued on what makes the present time ripe for the passage of immigration reform legislation. Unlike the harsh and divisive debates of failed reform in 2007, the overall outlook amongst the panelists was positive, as they approached the topic from the point of view of electoral vote politics, the economy, and the labor movement.

Using Rep. Gutierrez's bill as a solid base, Andrea Nill began by clarifying the fundamentals of Comprehensive Immigration Reform which would include,

An earned path to legalization for undocumented immigrants, including registering with the government, a background check, paying taxes, and ensuring their integration into society.

Creating flexible channels for the future legal flow of immigration which could adjust itself to the ebb and flow of the economy.

Smart enforcement policies including moving resources away from spending money trying to detain and deport immigrants and "chasing busboys and nannies through the desert" into addressing problems such as drug and human trafficking at the border.

Markos Zuniga made the distinction between the political climate around immigration in 2007 and now by talking about today's polls that show 66% of voters (an equal percentage of Democrats and Republicans) support reform making it a truly bipartisan issue. With Latino groups reaching a plurality in 2050 and Asian and other minority communities growing rapidly, the co-relation between electoral votes and reform is clear. For many Republicans, falling back onto nativist rhetoric and hate-mongering like in 2007, could mean a significant loss in votes from Latino and other immigrant communities."President Bush won 40% of the immigrant vote in 2004, John McCain only got 28% in 2008, so the long term health of republican party is in jeopardy if they can't appeal to immigration groups."

Andrea Nill added that while there are three groups largely responsible for the nativist rhetoric - FAIR, NumbersUSA and the Center for Immigration Studies, there is also division between the anti-immigration movement, including within the Republican party between moderates willing to engage with immigration reform, and hardliners such as  Rep. Joe Wilson and Rep. Brian Bilbray and other members of the House Immigration Reform Caucas.

Speaking on behalf of  the labor movement, Maria Durazo said there is high expectations from the administration and Congress to deliver on its promise of reform."These are people who harvests our crops, build our buildings and work in our restaurant...they do services for us but then when we need to respond to their need to bring them out of the shadows we call them names - law breakers, illegals...we want to make sure any immigration legislation has protections for workers, both native born and undocumented immigrants who will come out of the shadows - because we will all lose if we don't work together."

In terms of Sen. Scott Brown's recent victory, the panelists felt that it has little effect since immigration reform has and always will be a bipartisan issue. But on a larger scale, the election felt emblematic of the waning of Democrat popularity due to their lack of engagement with many issues, including immigration, and while voters are looking for the 'hope' and 'change' that they were promised, immigration reform is an opportunity for both Democrats and Republicans to work together towards a viable solution.

But there is also an economic argument for reform. According to a recent Center for American progress report, immigration reform will be crucial for the economy, with mass deportation causing a loss of $2.6 trillion as opposed to a growth of approximately $1.5 trillion over a ten-year period if reform passes. And since the economy, like healthcare,  is a foremost priority of the Obama administration, this is an opportunity to address both issues simultaneously.

The panelists were unanimous on the fact that the present situation is highly favorable towards immigration reform and highlighted the expanse, width and strength of the present coalitions, which today include faith-based groups, LGBT groups, ethnic groups, immigrant rights advocates and immigrant communities in general.

Looking ahead, while Rep. Gutierrez's progressive immigration bill which has 90 co-sponsors would serve as the progressive conscience, everyone is waiting for the bill that Sen. Charles Schumer is working on with Sen. Lindsey Graham is introducing for debate in the Senate. It will then move to the House where it will be written by Rep. Zoe Lofgren.

The penultimate point of the discussion centered around ensuring that the mainstream media begin to report on the issue and mobilize around reform. Maria Elena pointed out the importance of providing people with honest information about the implications of enforcement actions such as raids and detention to families and the economy. Markos Zuniga pointed out that Latino and Asian communities are virtually invisible to the mainstream media, thus removing one side of the immigration story. Stressing the importance of building a pro-immigration story into the media narrative, the speakers highlighted the essential role of online journalism, blogging and networking in building knowledge and momentum for the movement.

Historic opportunity to re-examine the Patriot Act

On December 31, 2009, three provisions of the Patriot Act expired, creating a perfect opportunity for Congress to examine the Act and its infringement on the rights of U.S. citizens. However the House and Senate rejected an alternative proposal called the JUSTICE Act that would bring in more checks and balances and add long overdue civil liberties protections and instead renewed the expiring provisions for 60 days. Time is running out and so on February 3, 2010, a broad coalition of allies are going to D.C. and they would like you to join them in flooding the halls of Congress in protest of the Act.

Amid the climate of fear and uncertainty that followed the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, President George Bush signed into law the Patriot Act, expanding the government’s authority to secretly search private records and monitor communications, often without any evidence of wrongdoing. Many believe that the legislation threatened privacy, intellectual freedom, and sanctioned racial profiling. And more than seven years after its implementation, many more believe there is little evidence to demonstrate that the Patriot Act has made America more secure from terrorists.

The provisions that are set to expire relate to roving wiretaps that allow authorities to monitor an individual instead of a particular phone number, a business record provision that allows investigators to seize “any tangible things” deemed relevant to a terrorism investigation, and the “lone wolf” provision that allows authorities to monitor terrorism suspects not connected to any specific foreign terrorist group or foreign government. But there is hope that this moment can be used as an opportunity to amend other parts of the Act. According to the ACLU this must include,

National Security Letters (NSLs): NSLs are secret demand letters issued without judicial review to compel internet service providers, libraries, banks, and credit reporting companies to turn over sensitive information about their customers and patrons.

Material Support Statute: This provision criminalizes providing "material support" to terrorists, regardless of whether they actually or intentionally further terrorist goals or organizations. Intended as a mechanism to starve terrorist organizations of resources, it has actually undermined legitimate humanitarian efforts such as asylum claims and charitable contributions.

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act of 2008: Originally passed to allow the government to collect foreign intelligence information, Congress changed the law to permit the government to conduct warrantless and suspicion-less dragnet collection of U.S. residents' international telephone calls and e-mails in the fight against terrorism.

Even with it cloaked in secrecy, government reports reflect a rapidly increasing level of surveillance and Department of Justice Inspector General reports have revealed misuse of NSL and other aspects of the Act. Moreover, several federal courts have found parts of the Patriot Act unconstitutional.

Add your voice to the demand that Congress uphold the Constitution and protect the rights of its citizens.

Photo courtesy of www.reformthepatriotact.org

Not Too Late for Congress to Censure Bush

A friend of mine on the Hill tells me that there are discussions going on at the staff level -- both members' staff and committee staffers -- to pass a motion of censure against George W. Bush.

Never in 230 years of the Republic has a president more richly deserved impeachment than George W. Bush. Yet, nothing in the official record indicates that.

There is a genuine and compelling need for an indelible statement on the record that unconstitutional and extra-constitutional antics by the Executive branch -- or any other part of the government -- are unacceptable in our democracy.

Congress must ensure that this Administration's attempts to establish an "imperial presidency" do not become precedent for future administrations.

A Motion of Censure would make that minimal necessary statement. A censure motion would require a debate on the Bush Administration's justifications and its management of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, on its treatment of detainees, including the use of `rendition' and ignoring standards of human rights long practiced in the civilized world, and on its authorization for illegal wiretapping.

It is possible, in view of overwhelming public opinion, that some Republicans might even support a censure resolution. But if they wish to go on the record in support of Bush, by all means, lets get them on the record.

Sadly, our Democratic Congress blinked when they had the opportunity to impeach Bush but I am glad to hear they are at least considering the idea of a Motion to Censure.

It is important that the record reflects what a majority of Americans have long known -- George W. Bush ran a shameful, criminal administration that made a mockery of our Constitution and the fundamental principles of American government.

There's more...

Hear David Frum on Left, Right and Center

On Friday, May 16th, the popular public radio program/podcast Left, Right and Center, features David Frum, the man who gave us two of the three-word phrase, "axis of evil." He sits in as a substitute "right" (usually it's Tony Blankley) on the program. Regular panelists Arianna Huffington, Robert Scheer and Matt Miller bat back and forth with David about their thoughts on the prospect of gay marriage as an election issue, whether Obama is an appeaser (David says we should change the word to "assuager"), whether Israel at 60 is a stronger nation, whether the Republicans are having a nervous breakdown (David says they need to focus all their energy and money on Congressional elections), and why Republicans want Hillary to run...

You can listen live online at 7 pm Pacific time at www.KCRW.com, or listen anytime on-demand. Sign up for the free podcast, and please join our intelligent audience for this lively but very civil and substantive program.

There's more...

Diaries

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