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Recall Arizona… From The 19th Century

The dictionary definition of insanity should be changed to spell A-R-I-Z-O-N-A and its state capitol building should be designated as a home for the criminally insane. But lest we kid ourselves, this Arizona insanity has now spread nationwide. Let’s take a tour of the [police] state.

On the educational front, Tucson Unified School Superintendent, John Pedicone, has managed to militarize school board meetings. He has done this because several weeks ago, the high school group UNIDOS, tired of having their Mexican American Studies program targeted for elimination, chained themselves to the school board members chairs, prompting the board to cancel its meeting. For this, the students and others have received death threats. At the subsequent May 3rd meeting, officially, some 100 police officers were deployed to the TUSD headquarters. However, on top of TUSD security guards, including those staffing metal detectors, along with bomb squad officers, helicopters, plus riot squad officers deployed inside and around the building and neighborhood, it is likely that the officers totaled closer to 200.

At this meeting, seven people were arrested for the criminal act of attempting to speak to the board. One elderly and disabled professor, Lupe Castillo, 69, was arrested by some 20 helmeted and shielded officers for attempting to read ”A Letter from the Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King Jr. The other arrestees were [secretly] sent to two jails before they were booked and released. In the action inside, dozens of riot squad police physically threw other people out the building, including elders, this while hundreds of MAS supporters outside stood their ground. Then later, the violence, caught on videotape, started behind the building. Police officers in full riot gear began throwing young students, parents and other community members around like rag dolls. Officially, the officers did a great job, commended by the chief of police.

All this is the calm before the storm, precipitated by a 2010 law (HB 2281), purportedly inspired by Martin Luther King Jr, that has declared the teaching of Ethnic Studies illegal. This week, an audit ordered by the state schools superintendent, John Huppenthal, who ran on the campaign to “eliminate La Raza” (the Mexican people) – is scheduled to be released, with expected pre-ordained findings that will declare Tucson’s highly successful MAS program to be out of compliance.

That’s from the sane part of the state. Now, from the insane sector:

This past week, the governor signed SB 1404, a law that attempts to wall the state from the rest of society. Not satisfied with the federal walls that line the U.S./Mexico border, Arizona will soon be embarking upon creating its own wall along the Arizona/Sonora border, financed through online donations and built by prison labor. Being that imprisoning migrants is a growing multi-billion dollar industry, look for the state to employ incarcerated migrants to attempt to build it.

Beyond the state’s 2010 (SB 1070) racial profiling law, this year, state legislators attempted to pass nearly two dozen even more stringent laws, including one that would overturn birthright citizenship as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.  Legislators also attempted to pass two other laws that can only be construed as attempts to secede from humanity; SB 1443 and SCR 1010 were attempts to exempt the state from federal and international laws, respectively.

Most of this legislation is designed to incarcerate migrants and to enrich the private prison industry. The mastermind of most of this legislation is state senate president, Russell Pearce, who in addition to facing a recall, is also embroiled in the Fiesta Bowl “gift” scandal that threatens to bring down he and many of his associates.

And then there’s Maricopa County’s unindicted Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who continues to thumb his nose at the feds with his ongoing racially motivated mass dragnet raids. Recent investigations have found that in eight years, his department has misspent close to $100 million, and that his top commanders targeted “enemies,” confirming he is the most corrupt Sheriff in America. Federal investigations into his activities continue.

Outside of the state, the governor of Georgia recently signed HB 87, joining Arizona, Utah and Indiana in implementing anti-immigrant racial profiling laws. Twenty other states are pursuing a similar return to the 19th century. The good news is that Utah’s HB 497 anti-immigrant law, was recently blocked by a Utah judge, and the DREAM ACT has again been introduced in Congress.

Given recent dramatic events on the international front, it is generally thought that the president can now restore sanity and actually bring about actual immigration reform. Regarding Ethnic Studies, not sure he can do anything about those intent on “eliminating La Raza.”

By: Roberto Rodriguez, Professor, University of Arizona; CommonDreams.org, May 17, 2011

May 18, 2011 Posted by | Arizona, Bigotry, Class Warfare, Conservatives, Democracy, Equal Rights, GOP, Governors, Ideology, Immigrants, Immigration, Lawmakers, Politics, Racism, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Insurance Companies: Guarding Health Is Not Their Business, But It Is Ours

If for one moment anyone has the notion that for-profit health insurance companies are in the business of guarding the health (or wealth) of policyholders, that notion ought to be quickly dismissed in favor of the truth.  For-profit health insurance giants guard profits.

I arrived outside the WellPoint annual shareholders meeting in a hotel in Indianapolis yesterday to be greeted by more guards (and some armed) than I have seen surrounding President Obama at times.  Apparently just the prospect of having some of the legal shareholders question the business practices and ethics of the WellPoint board and CEO Angela Braly was very scary for the company and its elite leaders.

Some of the shareholders have in recent years put forward a resolution supporting WellPoint’s return to its non-profit roots.  After last year’s meeting, the resolution earned 9.6 percent or 30,000,000 shareholder votes.  The current leadership doesn’t like that nor do they like the efforts of the shareholders who keep challenging them.

One shareholder asked Ms. Braly  at yesterday’s tightly controlled and guarded meeting, as a sort of speakers’ “shot clock” counted down her speaking time, “Tell me, Ms. Braly, could you please explain what you do that warrants a salary ($13.5 million annually) that is more than 375 public school teachers in Indiana earn?”  Braly’s answer was a classic.  No shot-clock running for the CEO as she explained that the board sets her compensation and it has to be competitive with the other comparable giants in the insurance industry.  It is a breathtaking demonstration of greed and hubris.

I wondered how we have allowed this country to amble onward to the point where 1,275 Americans who carry health insurance go bankrupt every single day (if the courts stayed open seven days a week) while an insurance company CEO like Angela Braly pockets $140,000 for her day’s salary.  Every day.

That’s quite a lot of money that doesn’t go to healthcare.  That’s quite a lot of money for one person to earn in one day.  That may be why such scary guards are needed outside WellPoint shareholder meetings – they wouldn’t want CEO Braly to have to mix it up with any of the policyholders or others who might question too directly what value the for-profit health insurance industry adds to the U.S. healthcare system.  I also wondered how much money those guards cost.  And the shot clocks to keep pesky questions to a minimum?  And how about the pro-Angela and pro-profit softball questions planted in the room?

WellPoint, like the other major insurance giants, can claim the best profits ever this year.  Times are good at the top.  Things are not so good for millions of Americans who want for decent healthcare within a system that provides a progressively financed, single standard of high quality care.  Medicare for all would be nice.  The American Health Security Act of 2011, S915/HR1200 as offered by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, and Rep. Jim McDermott, D-WA, provides a model for moving forward.  Public financing (yes, a single payer system) coupled with public and private delivery (not a single provider).  No insurance giants paying huge board compensations and CEO salaries.  No armed guards protecting the profit.

Outside the City Market in Indianapolis, in the rain and with no need for guards, the advocates of healthcare sanity gathered – and I was thrilled to be among the Hoosiers for a Commonsense Health Plan.  We affirmed our commitment to the work ahead and to one another.  We sang.  We are shareholders in a society that values more than profit – we value behaving justly and humanely, and we’d like a healthcare system that reflects that.

Forgive my repetition of the theme, but health insurance is not healthcare.  Health insurance is a financial product.  Health insurance is a financial product sold to protect health and wealth which may well do neither. Health insurance is a defective financial product for millions of people who made what we felt were responsible decisions about protecting ourselves and our families from financial or health disaster with health insurance products that have loopholes and flaws big enough to leave thousands dead every year and hundreds of thousands bankrupt.

I will never have the salary or earnings of insurance CEOs like WellPoint’s Angela Braly.  That’s OK by me because I’ll also, I hope, never need guards to keep those I have harmed and those I would harm from questioning me about why.  But, my life and the lives of my loved ones, my neighbors and my friends are surely as valuable in terms of access to healthcare in America in 2011.  The day will come.

By: Donna Smith, CommonDreams.org, May 18, 2011

May 18, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Consumers, Health Care, Health Reform, Ideology, Insurance Companies, Politics, Public Health, Republicans, Single Payer, Under Insured, Uninsured, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tens Of Thousands Rally In Wisconsin To Declare: “This Fight Is NOT Over!”

Protest fatigue? Not in Wisconsin.

Three months after Governor Scott Walker proposed to strip state, county and municipal employees and public-school teachers of their collective bargaining rights, the governor’s agenda remains stymied. Legal challenges,moves to recall Republican legislators who have sided with the governor and the fear on the part of legislative leaders of mass protests have prevented implementation.

That fear is well-founded.

The Wisconsin protests have inspired similar demonstrations in states across the country, including state Capitol confrontations in Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio and, most recently, California and New York.

Yet, the energy in Wisconsin remains unmistakable, and unrelenting.

Three months to the day after the first large demonstration against Walker’s proposal, tens of thousands of Wisconsinites returned to the great square around the state Capitol and to town and village squares across the state to declare: “This Fight is NOT Over!”

“We’ve stopped Governor Walker’s plan to take away workers rights for three months — but he is not done. He has expanded his attack to seniors, college students, local schools and more. And he is still intent on ending collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin,” went the message from the Wisconsin unions and their allies — along with the “This Fight is NOT Over!” battlecry.

Saturday’s mass rally in Madison and other demonstrations came at a time when the Republican-controlled state legislature is weighing Walker’s budget proposal, which seeks to cut more than $1.5 billion from education and local services, while restructuring state government to take power away from elected school boards and local governments.

The fight inside the Capitol over the budget, and the rest of Walker’s economic, social and political  agenda will be intense in coming weeks. Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt warns that Walker and allies are rushing “to ram through their right wing priorities on corporate deregulation, school privatization and voter suppression before recall elections.”

The union leader was referring to special elections, which are expected as soon as July, that will determine the control of the state Senate.

Six Republican state senators face the threat of recall elections that could remove them, while three Democratic senators are similarly threatened.

The political intensity of the moment has kept the state on high alert, as Saturday’s demonstrations illustrated.

Organizers of the Madison demonstration — the We Are Wisconsin and Wisconsin Wave coalitions — estimated that Saturday’s rally drew between 15,000 and 20,000 Wisconsinites. Smaller rallies and events were held over the weekend across the state.

The crowd in Madison extended far beyond the base of public employees and teachers to include farmers, small business owners and students.

The demonstration in Madison took place on the same day as University of Wisconsin graduation ceremonies. A number of new graduates, wearing their caps and gowns, made their way to the Capitol after collecting their degrees.

One young woman stood outside the Capitol with a large sign that read: “UW Graduate — Thanks to Wisconsin Public School Teachers!”

By: John Nichols, Washington Correspondent for The Nation: Editor, Capital Times, Madison, WI.

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May 18, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Collective Bargaining, Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, GOP, Gov Scott Walker, Governors, Ideology, Labor, Lawmakers, Politics, Public Employees, Republicans, Right Wing, Seniors, State Legislatures, States, Union Busting, Unions, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Dangers Of Repealing Birthright Citizenship

People born on American soil are guaranteed automatic citizenship by a provision found in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This provision, often referred to as “birthright citizenship,” has recently come under intense attack by conservative politicians. Conservative lawmakers in state legislatures throughout the country have introduced bills aimed at blocking children born in the state to undocumented immigrants—as well as professional workers and other noncitizens with long-term visas—from claiming a right to citizenship. House Judiciary Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX) has declared his intention to hold hearings on the subject.

Opportunistic politics helps explain the reasoning behind this attack on the citizenship clause of the Constitution. A broken national immigration system coupled with a slow economic recovery characterized by sluggish job growth creates an opening for certain politicians to create short-term electoral gains by demonizing immigrants. Nonetheless, numerous conservative scholars and politicians such as Linda Chavez and James Ho voice grave concerns about the political and policy ramifications of this trend.

A CAP report released this month from CAP Senior Fellow Sam Fulwood III and Director for Immigration Policy Marshall Fitz explains the cascading effect of unforeseen, unintended, and unwanted consequences a retreat on birthright citizenship would set in motion, among them:

  • “Big Brother” in every hospital delivery room, a profoundly costly and intrusive process of checking and verifying documents for every baby born in the United States
  • A new underclass of less-than-citizens who are marginalized from society and detract from our future economic competitiveness
  • Women burdened with childbearing decisions depending on citizenship parentage, endangering the newly born and their mothers in our country
  • An America that is suddenly and deeply anti-immigrant—contrary to our historical heritage and core national values and undermining our cherished democratic system, built by and for immigrants

Nevertheless, the matter is not dead in the eyes of some politicians. On January 25, 2011, Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and David Vitter (R-LA) introduced legislation to amend the Constitution and restrict citizenship to those newborns who can prove that one of their parents is a U.S. citizen, a legal immigrant, or an active member of the Armed Forces at the moment of the child’s birth.

The Center for American Progress and the American Constitution Society jointly hosted an event earlier this month featuring leading civil rights thinkers who discussed what our nation would look like should the birthright citizenship provision in the 14th Amendment be repealed, as well as its effect on all Americans.

“It’s important to look at the arguments that people are making to repeal the 14th Amendment,” said Fulwood at the event. “It goes to the core of what it means to be an American.”

Margaret Stock, a professor at the University of Alaska, noted that “The 14th Amendment [was the] crowning achievement of the Republican Party after the civil war. … it’s appalling Republicans have proposed this amendment.”

As President Barack Obama said in his speech in El Paso on May 10:

It doesn’t matter where you come from; it doesn’t matter what you look like; it doesn’t matter what faith you worship. What matters is that you believe in the ideals on which we were founded; that you believe that all of us are created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. All of us deserve our freedoms and our pursuit of happiness. In embracing America, you can become American. That is what makes this country great. That enriches all of us.

Amending the 14th Amendment to end birthright citizenship would create a very different America, one characterized by dual classes of residents born here—citizens and less-than-citizens.

By: Philippe Nassif, Center for American Progress, May 17, 2011

May 18, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Constitution, Democracy, Elections, Equal Rights, Freedom, GOP, Human Rights, Ideologues, Ideology, Immigrants, Immigration, Lawmakers, Politics, Populism, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Women | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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