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Saturday, July 12, 2014

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) said it will no longer partner with or raise funds for the United Negro College Fund after the group accepted $25 million from the conservative powerhouse Koch brothers and the college fund's president appeared at a Koch event. AFSCME President Lee Saunders said the actions of the college fund's president "are not only deeply hostile to the rights and dignity of public employees, but also a profound betrayal of the ideals of the civil rights movement." read more

Friday, July 11, 2014

The GOP-led House of Representatives embraced a former stimulus measure Friday, voting to make it and another related tax cut permanent, adding $287 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years. The largest part of the cut, worth more than $263 billion, is making permanent so-called bonus depreciation, which allows businesses to write off the cost of capital investments and improvements much more quickly. Democrats also argued that the GOP was being hypocritical for another reason: In the tax reform plan that Republicans floated earlier this year, they ended the practice of bonus depreciation and some related tax cuts. read more

A former Republican member of Congress is ready to join the fight for sentencing reform and rolling back harsh mandatory minimums for drug crimes. Former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.), 72, is now a free man after a federal judge ended his supervised release early following seven years in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons on corruption charges. "Unfortunately, some of my Democrat colleagues were right and I was wrong on some issues as far as criminal justice," Cunningham said, specifically regretting votes for mandatory minimums for drug crimes that take discretion away from federal judges and give federal prosecutors a tremendous amount of leverage over defendants. read more

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Danny Vinik, New Republic: Republicans are very clear about what they want President Barack Obama to do with the undocumented children pouring into the United States across the Mexican border: Deport them. That isn't a newfound GOP position. It's also their de facto policy toward all undocumented immigrants in the country. But a mass deportation program would cost magnitudes. Are Republicans willing to fund it? After running the numbers for 2010, the Center for American Progress estimated the cost for deporting 10.8 million undocumented immigrants in America would be $200 billion over five years. DHS would also need $17 billion each year thereafter for continued enforcement. Adjusting for inflation brings the five-year cost of a mass deportations program to $239 billion, before factoring in the money for sustained enforcement to ensure a new wave of undocumented immigrants does not enter the United States. read more

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

House Republicans are planning to spend as much as $3.3 million for this year's operations of the special committee they created in May to investigate the September 2012 Benghazi attacks, a bigger budget than the House Veterans Affairs and Ethics committees were given this year. By comparison, the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs -- which has a roster of 25 lawmakers and about 27 staff members -- spent $2.5 million in 2013 and has a $3 million budget for 2014. The Ethics Committee budget for 2014 was more than $3 million, with a staff of about 25 serving 10 lawmakers. read more


Saunders called the Kochs "the single most prominent funders of efforts to prevent African Americans from voting" and said Lomax's appearance at their function was "a betrayal of everything the UNCF stands for."

Lomax said the fund never had a litmus test for donors.

"While I am saddened by AFSCME's decision, it will not distract us from our mission of helping thousands of African American students achieve their dream of a college degree and the economic benefits that come with it," Lomax said.

AFSCME gave between $50,000 and $60,000 annually to the UNCF for its AFSCME/UNCF Union Scholar Program, which has served 94 students since 2003. The program will continue, the union said, just no longer in partnership with the UNCF.

Ok, this is difficult.... I come not to bury the Koch Brothers but to praise them. This falls within the same territory of Donald Sterling donating money to the LA-branch of the NAACP but so far without some overt public quid-pro-quo providing the Koch's street cred for their largess.

I understand and support both organizations in their respective quests, but I would have to be privy to the behind-the-scenes conversations between the UNCF and the Kochs before I would criticize their generosity in this case. The effects of $25 million dollars going toward HBC's (historically black colleges) and the students they matriculate is far more important and beneficial to young black adults seeking to improve their lives than would be a rejection of this gift on simply principle alone.

Bottom line, accepting money from the Koch's in situations like this is analogous to getting a refund or rebate of the millions, if not billions, their companies make from sales within the American black community of the ubiquitous products they manufacture and sell under the Georgia Pacific label and many other universally-found brands common in most households and particularly in the dollar stores.

However, I do expect the UNCF hierarchy to be the mosquito in the tent in their opportunities to educate and hopefully evolve some of the Koch's political positions that harm the very people this money will go toward helping. Only time will tell.

"We have taken out of the judge's hands the ability to be merciful in some reasons or to do the right thing," Cunningham said. "I've heard case after case where the judges have said, 'I wish I could help you, but my hands are tied.' I want to untie the hands of our judges."

"I saw kids in there who are 19 to 30. They go into prison, they maybe got caught with cocaine or rock or something like that, and they give them 10 years minimum. What do they do when they get out?" Cunningham said. "There's a lot of very nice guys that got caught up.... There was a kid in there that just turned 21, he was in a national forest and they were having a paintball fight," Cunningham said. "They gave him a year and a day, made him a felon and 20 years old. Now things like that are just wrong."

Cunningham said he's done a "180 turn" on criminal justice, and wishes he could take back many of the votes he made back when he was a member of Congress.... My Democrat colleagues would support the lawyers. We'd support the prosecutors," he said. "I think I'd vote more with my Democrat colleagues today."

The headline is hyperbolic on purpose, but it does state a provable truth: High-flying politicians and wealthy people who run afoul of the justice system that spend time behind bars find an awful lot wrong with the system that has nothing to do with their own responsibilities as criminals. Chuck Colson has made a post-prison career trying to help the plight of those locked up and has made many positive contributions on correcting rightable wrongs.

Justice doesn't only mean removing public threats from society. It should mean that the punishments fit the crimes and that our prosecutors only seek to incarcerate those truly deserving it. In the best of all possible worlds, it would also mean a real concerted effort to right the many wrongs already perpetrated against innocent or overcharged victims of this unjust system.

While Republicans have been adamant about finding ways to pay for other things, from unemployment insurance to the money the federal government needs for its highway funds, they appeared to have no problem with simply tacking the enormous cost of the tax cuts onto the deficit.

"Yesterday, the Ways and Means Committee was working on a markup of legislation for another short-term extension of the highway trust fund -- you know, the transportation infrastructure investment we desperately need in this country," said Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.). "We were scratching and clawing to try to find an additional $10 billion over the next 10 months to try to keep some of these projects moving forward, and yet here today, we have another permanent change to the tax code at a cost of $287 billion over the next 10 years and not a nickel of it paid for."

Kind also noted that his committee has passed 14 permanent tax cut bills "so far at a cost of close to $900 billion." With Friday's full house vote, about two-thirds of the committee's cuts have passed.

I'm almost positive the Tea Partiers will be along quickly to mount a national repudiation of these heinous Republicans adding over a quarter trillion to the deficit without any offsets to pay for it.

Lord knows that extending unemployment benefits is such a horrible waste of money and causes productive citizens to become moochers; but why aren't some of our freeloading businesses and corporations ever viewed the same way when even after tax cuts they refuse to invest within America and even park their record profits offshore away from domestic taxation?

With a post like this, I don't know how you can, with a straight face, cast yourself as anything other than a fierce partisan.

I can keep a totally straight face because I'm speaking the truth about what I see TODAY in our politics, not what traditionally has been thought or said about it.

The Democrats have the larger tent and they always have had it because they're the only party trying to serve EVERY master simultaneously. This is NOT something I see as a feature, it's just a reality. Money talks (1st Amendment, right) so of course the Democrats have to go where the money is just like the GOP. The difference being the Democrats (as a whole) don't completely throw the workers and poor under the bus as does the entirety of GOP economic policy -- which only exists to demonize consumers and worker-taxpayers as impediments to the real economic growth of banksters and capitalists (much of it non-productive, under-regulated speculation), while making it easier to park record profits offshore away from domestic taxation at the same time our infrastructure continues to decay from neglect and overuse and the GOP denies long-term unemployed benefits that they contributed toward back when they had gainful employment before the financial sector's casino losses almost sunk the world's economy.

I don't know how anyone can look at today's GOP and even compare it to Reagan's time and not see the stark difference, radicalization, and total abdication of any sense of governing for the betterment of our entire community but for the extreme agenda of it's enraged and outrageous base.

That's a steaming load.

No it isn't, it's simply the truth. Where and when has Obama forced through policies favored by the most radical sectors from the left? Isn't one of the left's principle criticisms of Obama his penchant for starting with a compromised position when engaging the GOP in trying to get legislation and policy past their obstinance? Which party tries to adopt proven economic principles that would build up the recession/inequality-riddled economy from the bottom-up and which party (even after 30+ years) continues to champion further renewed efforts at supply-side remedies which have never worked and in fact have exacerbated said inequality and working class stagnation issues?

Is there any sentient being alive that didn't watch Mitt Romney run away from his own signature policy because Obama had co-opted it as a template for what became the ACA and is largely doing what it was expected to do without any substantive help from the those now calling this Heritage Foundation spawn "communist"? In my mind, part of Mitt's discomfort and awkwardness as a candidate stemmed from the fact he isn't a natural lunatic who disbelieves science and facts -- just because the Democrats believe them -- and the GOP base demands total fealty to their own twisted reality of who and what the other side is and wants to do.

Don't take this for what it isn't: politically and socially there is much, much more expected from Obama than he has been able to deliver. But being pulled by the radicalization of his most vocal wing has never been one of them, nor does anyone dismiss facts just because they don't fit the party narrative. The GOP cannot sneeze without the permission of it's most radical voices because those voices are almost all that is ever heard from that side of the aisle. Prior to 2010, the Democrats were constrained by the Blue Dogs, to the chagrin of many liberals. There are simply no moderates to counter anything on the right anymore and some of the most conservative politicians are forced to throw red meat in order to keep from getting primaried by the even more radical.

Yesterday, the Obama administration went a step further, requesting $3.7 billion in emergency funding to deal with the problem. As the Washington Post reported, the resources are needed to build detention centers, add immigration judges, and beef up border security, all while expediting deportations that will hopefully discourage an additional influx.

Republicans apparently don't like this, either.

T]he proposal was quickly met with broad skepticism among Republican lawmakers, who were doubtful that the package would be approved quickly -- if at all.

But GOP leaders, who have called on Obama to take stronger action, said they were reluctant to give the administration a "blank check" without ­more-detailed plans to ensure that the money would help stem the crisis at the border.... Asked if he thought lawmakers would approve the proposal, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said, "No, given the mood here in Washington, I don't have confidence it will happen."

Republicans want a response to the problem, but apparently, if the White House has a new plan, the GOP isn't inclined to approve it. The Republican reaction to the proposal, as of this morning, is "almost universally negative."

All of which leads to a straightforward question: do Republicans want a solution to the crisis or do they want to complain about the crisis? They can't have both.

I post this not as an indictment of the GOP and all anti-undocumented immigrant proponents; I post this to begin a more constructive dialog as to what this nation's realistic answers to an unyielding problem are actually constrained by.

If $3.7 billion is too much, then how about $240+ billion over 5 years and an additional $250 billion a year in negative GDP? This isn't a Republican or Democratic problem, it is an American problem and the economics may lead us to far less draconian measures than those flippantly tossed about without regard to their cost both in dollars and human lives.

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