Archive for the ‘Senate’ Tag
Allow me to start off this post by rehashing a little thing called the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assmeble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
That bolded part right there is commonly referred to as the “Establishment Clause,” and is the basis for the concept of the separation of Church and State. That means that the U.S. Government—or any state or local government, for that matter—cannot declare an official national religion, nor can they discriminate against any religion or any individual or group because of their religious beliefs.
Pretty simple concept. It’s something that (I thought) we all learned in the first grade. I mean, one of the first things we are taught about Thanksgiving is that the Pilgrims embarked on their flight from the Old World to flee the religious persecution at the hands of the British monarchy (or at least that ‘s the way I remember it being taught). The Pilgrims had their own religious beliefs, and they wanted the freedom to practice their beliefs in peace and without being thrown into jail for being different.
It’s long been a source of pride; something that distinguishes the United States from most of the rest of the world. And the United States is the pioneer of religious tolerance and acceptance. Ok, so we may not have always been perfect in that regard. The Jews haven’t always exactly been welcomed by all in this country with open arms. Prior to the election of John F. Kennedy to the presidency, being Catholic was considered a hinderence to national office.
But our courts have always held that the right of individual expression, religious or otherwise, is absolute. Santeria may not exactly be an accepted “mainstream” religion, but people are free to practice Santeria as they so choose.
But now comes the Tea Party, whose leaders incredibly don’t seem to believe that there is any such concept of “separation of Church and State” in our Constitution at all. These are people who claim to be Constitutional experts, who want to “return our country back to the Constitutional concepts that the founders intended.” Except that they don’t even remotely understand even the most basic of concepts laid out in the Constitution of the United States of America.
Take Nevada Senate candidate, and Tea Party hero, Sharron Angle:
The Constitution “does not” guarantee the freedom of religion, does not provide for the separation of Church and State. Got it? So Sharron Angle knows what thousands of Constitutional scholars and every Supreme Court Justice in the history of this country apparently does not: That there is no establishment clause, and those “darn liberals” are just wrong, and that Christianity should be declared the official and only accepted religion in this country. None else need apply.
And then there’s the brilliance of Christine O’Donnell, the whackjob Delaware Senate candidate who………aw, hell, I’ll just let you see for yourself. Here’s Rachel Maddow brilliantly laying it out for us:
The best part of that whole piece is that SHE ACTUALLY THINKS SHE WON THAT ARGUMENT!!! The debate with Chris Coons was held at Widener University Law School in front of law students. You can hear the audience gasp and then laugh. Watch as Ms. O’Donnell smiles and laughs with the audience, thinking that they’re with her. She thinks she scored major points.
Newsflash, Christine: THEY’RE LAUGHING AT YOU, NOT WITH YOU!!!
This is the problem with the Tea Party. They claim to be Constitutional experts; that they LOVE the Constitution, and yet repeatedly demonstrate that they have little to no understanding of what is actually IN the Constitution and what it means.
They love the Constitution so much, they want to change it. Do away with the parts they simply don’t like. They want to get rid of the 14th Amendment, the 17th Amendment. They have a twisted view of the 10th Amendment. They believe that the Second Amendment means that everyone should be allowed to own a bazooka, or stockpile any amount of machine guns, and that they should be preparing for war against their own government (and sadly, I’m not exaggerating here).
These people are really dangerous. They clearly don’t understand the world in which we live, but they want to set policy on how we live and interact in that world. They’re anti-government conspiracy nuts who see the bogeyman around every corner. Their tin foil hats are picking up all kinds of signals the CIA, NSA, FBI, and lord knows what other government agencies are using to spy on each one of them individually. They’re terrified of Big Brother, yet what they want to do, in effect, is ensure that Big Brother, in many ways, has even MORE control over our lives.
They don’t understand that with individual freedom comes certain responsibility.
Be afraid, all right. Be afraid of what will happen if these wingnuts actually manage to win positions of authority in this country.
Last night California got its first—and only—scheduled chance to see its 2010 Senatorial candidates square off in a debate. Incumbent Barbara Boxer, seeking a fourth term as the Junior Senator from California, met her Republican opponent and harsh critic, millionaire Carly Fiorina at St. Mary’s College in Moraga. It was our first, and likely our last, opportunity to compare the two candidates’ positions on the issues that will matter most to Californians now, in these deeply turbulent economic times, and well into the future.
The race for the coveted Senate seat was hardly settled, but one thing was clear: There is precious little agreement between the two candidates. It was also clear that one candidate was polished and prepared to tackle the issues, while the other was long on rhetoric and short on solutions to our state’s and nation’s problems. The debate certainly demonstrated that the candidates have sharply divergent ideas on how to improve California’s plight.
Fiorina opened the debate by immediately blaming Boxer for our national debt and the state’s unemployment figures, which are disturbingly high. However, throughout the night, Fiorina failed to delineate just exactly what she would do, what she would support other than more tax cuts for the wealthy, that would improve the California economy and bring more jobs to the state. She vilified Boxer for not supporting tax cuts for small businesses, when in fact, as Boxer pointed out, that’s exactly what she supported, and what was included in the stimulus bill that she supported.
Fiorina, Boxer said, opposed the bills in the Senate that would provide tax breaks for small businesses. And she opposed the jobs bill that saved the jobs of the 16,500 teachers in California who, because of severe budget cuts, had received their “pink slips” in the mail. “She called the bill to save teachers’ jobs ‘disgraceful,’” criticized Boxer.
While Fiorina touted tax break after tax break after tax break, Boxer countered that she had stopped tax breaks for companies that shipped jobs overseas, and supported giving tax breaks to small businesses who hire new employees, specifically pointing to the HIRE (Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment) Act, which Fiornia opposed. The HIRE Act includes tax incentives and credits, social security exemptions, and other incentives to encourage businesses to hire more workers.
The most contentious issue of the night was Fiorina’s record while serving as the CEO of Hewlett Packard. Fiorina was angered that “a great American company like HP” was being dragged into this debate, and criticized Boxer for using it as a “political football.” The trouble is that Fiorina’s entire campaign platform and the credentials she brandishes as her qualifications for office are based solely on her record at HP. The fact that as CEO, Fiorina shipped 30,000 HP jobs overseas became one of the key points of the evening.
The debate format called for pre-recorded questions submitted from the general public to be used. One such questioner was a retired Hewlett Packard employee who worked at the company during Fiorina’s tenure. He questioned Fiorina on her record of sending jobs to China, and wanted to know what her plans were to bring jobs back to California.
Fiorina’s responded saying “Any job can go anywhere.” And she’s right. But that doesn’t mean that businesses should be so eager to send those jobs elsewhere.
California, Fiorina says, is seeing increased unemployment because we are “destroying jobs.” Her solutions included taking the example of China, Texas, and Brazil, who all offer business tax credits. She called for a two year payroll tax holiday for businesses who hire new employees.
She lamented that the United States currently ranks 17th in the world in innovation, and supports providing incentives for research and development. She did not, however, provide any details on what kinds of incentives she would like to see, other than tax cuts.
Boxer expressed her support for tax breaks for small businesses, but prefers a more targeted approach: The idea is to close tax loopholes and make sure that those incentives are indeed going to companies that are working to create jobs at home and are putting those tax breaks to use locally, and to provide tax relief for specific performance. The stimulus bills she supported in the Senate do just that, she says.
On the issue of gay marriage, it was pointed out that gay couples are denied 1000 federal rights that are afforded to traditional married couples. Fiorina was asked if gay couples should receive the same rights: “Marriage is between a man and a woman.”
Boxer: “The only way to get equal rights is through marriage equality.”
On Prop 8, Fiorina was critical of the recent court decision against it. “The voters were clear on Prop 8,” she said, lamenting that the decision of the voters was “overturned by a single judge.” Boxer asserted that the courts are often called upon to decide the constitutionality of voter enacted decisions, and this case is no different.
Immigration reform, said Boxer, is an economic issue, pointing to a USC study that determined that many of our economic woes are tied to our lack of a comprehensive immigration policy. Fiorina, said Boxer, calls comprehensive immigration reform “a distraction.” And while she opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants, Fiorina says she does support the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship to young people who attend college or serve in the military.
On abortion, Boxer may have struck the most lethal blow of the debate, pointing out that if Fiorina’s views prevailed, suddenly many women and doctors would be considered criminals. She also criticized the hypocrisy of the Republican stance, pointing to the mantra of keeping government out of our personal lives, yet their stand on abortion necessarily requires the restriction of personal choice.
The choice in November, in my mind, comes down to a rather simple choice: An anti-government candidate who supports fewer regulations for businesses and prefers that we do nothing to combat global warming (“California acting alone will have no effect”), whose platform is centered around big corporations and billionaires, or a candidate who seeks responsible business practices, seeks to promote California as a leader in clean energy technology, and whose platform is based more on people rather than corporate interests.
Watch the entire debate here.
Let’s get something straight: The singular policy of locking down our borders will NOT solve our immigration problems. Nor will the lone act of granting “amnesty” to the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the country solve all of our problems. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying, ignorant, or both.
Immigration reform is a complex issue. But there are too many people who think it’s a one-size-fits-all problem with a one-size-fits-all solution. The “NO IMMIGRATION, EVER, AT ALL!” crowd seems to have their panties in a wad because more sensible people comprehend that the current system is broken in complete shambles and needs to be fixed. But what I’d really like to know—and what I haven’t seen from these folks—is just how exactly their “NO IMMIGRATION, EVER, AT ALL!” proposals will make our situation any better? How, exactly, will it fix the problem? And just how do they propose to round-up the 10.8 million people the Department of Homeland Security estimates are in this country illegally and deport them?
The inconvenient truth is that we can’t. But let’s not let a little thing like reality get in the way of your fear-mongering rhetoric. No amount of border security is going to entirely eliminate the flow of illegal immigrants through Mexico into this country. Rather, it’s likely to have the effect of making it worse and more violent by forcing them even further underground and mandating their dependence on human traffickers and the drug and gun runners who place little value on human life. Indentured servitude will become the rule rather than the exception, making the conditions these people will have to endure even more horrid. But they’ll do it. They’ll still come. And the streets will become even bloodier because of it.
Let’s also be clear that the “amnesty only” approach won’t work, either. The immigration bill signed by Ronald Reagan in 1986 didn’t have its intended effect for a number of reasons: Fraud in the application process was not adequately ferreted out, and often completely ignored; the heavy sanctions against employers who knowingly hired illegals were never properly enforced; we lacked the technology to prevent and detect forged documents and to efficiently and effectively enforce border security; the agricultural worker program never functioned the way it was supposed to….and the list goes on.
The 1986 legislation also did nothing to fix the legal immigration process: The system is still horribly backlogged and inefficient, resulting in decades long waiting lists in some cases. More than 10 years! On what planet is that reasonable?
There’s a proposal currently working its way through the U.S. Senate that aims to take up all aspects of immigration reform. Recently, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), along with Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) released the framework for immigration reform that they will be working to present sometime in the near future. (It should also be noted that Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) played a significant role in crafting this framework, but withdrew his official support because of his objections to the timing of the legislation.) This proposed framework seeks to fix our immigration crisis by:
- Securing our borders through increased manpower and the use of modern technological resources, such as ground sensors that detect border crossings in more rural areas and send messages to Border Patrol agents stationed nearby. It also calls for the use of unmanned aerial surveillance drones similar to the Predator drones used by the military to patrol more isolated border areas. These resources were not available 20 years ago, and will make the job of securing the borders easier.
- Better equipping the agents and agencies tasked with enforcement, including more and better vehicles, computers, and communications equipment. It demands a more cooperative and integrated effort among the Border Patrol, ICE, DEA, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to better track and hunt down the drug and gun runners and human traffickers.
- Reforming the current legal immigration system to make it more streamlined and efficient. The current system is horribly backlogged and inefficient, and has resulted in many cases in a decades long wait in order to legally come to this country.
- Providing an avenue for those currently in the country illegally to obtain “Lawful Prospective Immigrant” status. In order to qualify for LPI status, individuals will be required to register with Homeland Security, undergo extensive background and security checks, supply basic biometric information (i.e. fingerprints, just like at the DMV), and pay fines and taxes. Those who do not qualify for LPI status will be deported.
- After eight years, those who have been granted LPI status can then apply for “Lawful Permanent Resident” status by meeting certain criteria: Basic citizenship skills, English language skills, having maintained continuous residence in the U.S., updated security and criminal history checks, and they must register for the Selective Service.
- Creating a temporary worker program so that seasonal workers can return home once the seasonal work is done. Many of the migrant workers currently here don’t leave because they can’t; they won’t be able to return to the U.S. for the next round of seasonal work if they do.
- Stepping up enforcement on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
But perhaps the most important thing the proposal does—with regards to workers, at least—is to provide biometric Social Security cards that can be electronically scanned and contain basic identification information, including fingerprint info, that positively identifies the card holder. These cards will be issued to permanent and temporary workers alike, and allow authorities to keep track of who’s here, who’s here that’s not supposed to be here, and ensure that they pay taxes just like every U.S. citizen. This will also make it easy for employers to quickly and accurately determine if a prospective hire is legally allowed to work in the U.S., and will prevent employers from undercutting wages by going directly for the undocumented workers. The advanced technologies to be used in these cards make them virtually impossible to forge.
Look, the current system doesn’t work. At all. And the right-wing “Enforcement, enforcement, enforcement!” approach is only going to make things worse. It’s a lot like the “Drill, baby, drill!” mantra. Lasering in on one approach won’t do anything to address the root causes of illegal immigration any more than drilling for more oil reduces our dependence on oil. An all-of-the-above approach strives to eliminate the need for people to cross our borders and stay here illegally, while simultaneously helping to weed out the bad seeds. It also allows American businesses access to a vital workforce.
It’s impossible and impractical to identify, round-up, and deport nearly 11 million people. It just can’t happen. It’s even dumber to make that the cornerstone of any (anti) immigration policy. No, the proposed framework isn’t perfect. Guess what? It’s a proposal with stated, achievable goals. There’s a lot of work yet to be done to fine tune it and fill in the details. It’s a pretty good start, though, and it addresses our immigration debacle in a way that actually makes sense.
We’ll never be able to solve our most complex problems until we learn to walk and chew gum at the same time. But it certainly doesn’t help when one faction continuously insists that we’re too simple-minded and not capable of doing so.
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell talking about the border security and immigration reform: