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“Pity The Poor Immigrant”: How Jeb Bush Prevented Deportation Of An Illegal Alien And Terrorist

Between today and the first Republican primary of 2016, Jeb Bush surely will tell America exactly how government should cope with undocumented workers and their families. The former Florida governor, whose wife was born in Mexico, prompted headlines this week when his new book, Immigration Wars, seemed to abandon his earlier support for a “path to citizenship” in immigration reform and to adopt a much harder line — which he promptly dropped as well.

Unsurprisingly, Bush’s opinions on immigration are confused and confusing, not to mention ill-informed, which probably makes him a perfect leader for his party. He favored a path to citizenship for the undocumented when most Republicans opposed it; then his book warned that such a provision would encourage a renewed wave of illegal immigration; and now, as Republicans complain that he is out of step with their effort to court Latino voters, he is squirming away from his own book’s argument.

But no matter which direction Bush ultimately takes in the immigration debate, he can cite at least one Latino immigrant whose deportation he strived successfully to prevent, almost a quarter-century ago, when his father was president. The only drawback to this heartwarming humanitarian story is that the man whose cause Bush advocated was a bloodthirsty terrorist who was almost certainly responsible for the brutal murder of scores of innocent victims

In 1989, the Justice Department was seeking to deport one Orlando Bosch, a Cuban exile and anti-Castro militant who was then imprisoned for entering the United States illegally. Leaders of the Cuban-American community were agitating for Bosch’s release, although US law enforcement and intelligence authorities held Bosch culpable in many acts of brazen terror. Along with his suspected (and sometimes confessed) responsibility for various bombings and attacks on civilian and diplomatic targets, Bosch was believed to have overseen the sabotage of a Cuban airliner. The resulting explosion killed all 76 civilians aboard, including all the young members of Cuba’s Olympic fencing team, several passengers from other countries, and a pregnant mother. Corrupt Venezuelan prosecutors had failed to convict Bosch of this crime, but he publicly sought to justify the airliner bombing, almost to boast of it, when he wasn’t proffering unpersuasive denials. (He was also strongly suspected of running the conspiracy that blew up a car in Washington, D.C. in 1976 — an incident that killed Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier and his assistant, American citizen Ronni Moffitt, in perhaps the most infamous assassination carried out by foreigners on American soil.)

Miami’s Cuban leaders considered Bosch their greatest hero and turned to Jeb Bush, then a budding businessman seeking real estate deals in South Florida, to prevent his deportation.

The Bush Justice Department wanted to deport Bosch because, according to the FBI, he had “repeatedly expressed and demonstrated a willingness to cause indiscriminate injury and death.” Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, a Bush appointee, denounced Bosch as “an unrepentant terrorist.” None of this deterred Jeb Bush from lobbying against Bosch’s deportation – and in the end, from persuading his father to pardon Bosch, which meant he could live freely and comfortably in Miami until his death in 2011 at the age of 85.

Eight years later, with the help of the same wealthy Cuban-Americans who had implored him to help Bosch, Jeb Bush had become a wealthy man and newly elected governor of Florida.

Now Bush has adopted a hard line against those who have disobeyed America’s immigration statutes. But his outrage over the flouting of those laws seems extremely selective: For the ordinary worker with impoverished family, no mercy; for the demented terrorist with powerful friends, no effort spared.


By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, March 7, 2013

March 8, 2013 Posted by | Immigration Reform | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Changing The Culture”: All Women Deserve The Right To Live Free From Fear

President Obama signed the Violence Against Women Act into law on Thursday.

“All women deserve the right to live free from fear,” the president told those in attendance. “That’s what today is about.”

In 2011, VAWA lapsed for the first time since 1994, when House Republicans balked at enhanced protections for undocumented immigrants, Native Americans and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Studies have shown that the law — written by then-senator Joe Biden — dramatically reduced domestic violence by as much as 67 percent (PDF).

The law previously had been expanded and renewed twice with broad bipartisan support.

“This is your day. This is the day of the advocates, the day of the survivors. This is your victory,” Obama said. “This victory shows that when the American people make their voices heard, Washington listens.”

The bipartisan Senate bill that included the expanded protections was not even put up for a vote in the House last year. A GOP “civil war” that led to Speaker Boehner breaking the Hastert Rule — which requires a majority of the House majority to support any bill that gets a vote — was required before the bill was finally passed 288-138 earlier in February.

House Republicans also voted on their own version of the law without the new provisions, which failed to win majority support.

The law is so popular that Republican congressman Tim Walberg (R-MI) recently claimed he voted for the law even though he only supported the failed Republican version.

“One of the great legacies of this law is it didn’t just change the rules, it changed our culture. It empowered people to start speaking out,” Obama said.

Despite the continued effectiveness of the law — violence against women is down 64 percent just in the last decade – 1 in 5 women will be raped during their lifetime, the president noted.

“There are still too many women in this country who live in fear of violence,” Biden said in his introduction of President Obama.

Not only does the law improve the criminal justice system’s response to crimes against women, it authorizes about $659 million a year over five years to fund grants for transitional housing, legal assistance, law enforcement training and hotlines.

It also reauthorizes the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, adding stalking to the list of crimes that make immigrants eligible for protection, along with authorizing programs that help college campuses deal with sexual violence.

The president dedicated the victory to the victims of domestic violence.


By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, March 7, 2013

March 8, 2013 Posted by | Domestic Violence, Violence | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s Time To Tax Financial Transactions”: Here At Last Is An Idea Whose Time Has Come

On Friday at midnight, the sequester kicked in, triggering $85 billion in deep, dumb budget cuts that sent “nonessential personnel”— such as air traffic controllers — packing.

Not to worry, though: Wall Street’s day was pretty much like any other. Billions of dollars in profits were made off of trillions of dollars in financial transactions. And the vast majority of those transactions were conducted tax-free.

Moral of the story: What else is new?

Crash the economy? Free pass. Prevent planes from crashing? Pink slip.

We don’t need a team of policymakers to tell us this isn’t good policy, or that it needs changing. But on Thursday, we heard policymakers propose exactly that: a change.

Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), along with Rep. Pete DeFazio (D-Ore.), unveiled a bill that would place a light tax on all financial transactions — three pennies on every $100 traded.

The good news is that it’s a tax so small it could be mistaken for a rounding error. It’s so small, Wall Street could easily afford it and the average E-Trade investor would barely notice it. If this were a tax on coffee, it would cost you $1 for every 800 cups you bought at Starbucks.

But there’s even better news. This insignificant tax raises a significant amount of revenue — $352 billion over the next 10 years, or enough to refund about one-third of what the sequester will slash from the federal budget. It’s also enough to put many air traffic controllers back to work, Head Start teachers back in preschools, and crucial government programs back in business.

As the saying goes, “Nothing can resist an idea whose time has come.”

And after years of Wall Street excess, and at a moment when new revenues are badly needed, the time has surely come for a financial transaction tax .

Indeed, support for such a tax has never been stronger — or broader. Many on the progressive left have long favored it . Now, though, another group of bleeding-heart liberals, otherwise known as the American people, is on board. When it comes to cutting the deficit, 6 in 10 Americans prefer taxing the financial industry to cutting social spending.

But this idea doesn’t just have the masses on its side; it has the elites, and even some Republican elites. Once championed by the granddaddy of liberal economics, John Maynard Keynes, the banner of a financial transactions tax has been picked up by conservative economists including Sheila Bair, George W. Bush’s appointee to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

After all, the tax isn’t just a good revenue raiser. It’s smart regulatory reform.

The high-frequency traders that now dominate our markets would be hardest-hit by the tax. A top economist recently concluded that their lightning speed, algorithm-driven trading drains profits from traditional investors. And analysts fear that such mass trading strategies could lead to disaster if markets behave unexpectedly.

The new tax would discourage these kinds of trades, which would be a good thing.

Europe, at least, seems to agree. Eleven nations, led by the conservative German government, are on track to start collecting the tax by January 2014. Expected revenues: $50 billion per year.

Of course, we’re talking about a tax on Wall Street.

It’s no wonder that, over the past few weeks, K Street appears to have upped the financial sector’s retainer. Their lobbying effort against the tax — here and in Europe — is in full swing.

Even the Obama administration has been convinced to come out against the tax in the United States. And they’re pressuring Europeans to water down their version by insulating American banks. What’s the logic driving this opposition?

Some have argued that, historically, these taxes have been ineffective because of widespread evasion. But they’re cherry-picking a few badly designed examples, such as Sweden’s lemon of a tax from nearly 30 years ago. This is like saying cars don’t work because you bought a Datsun in the ’70s.

Many countries have implemented such taxes effectively. The United Kingdom, for example, manages to raise more than $5 billion per year on a 0.5 percent tax on stock trades alone.

Another common argument is that the tax will be passed on to mom-and-pop investors. The just-introduced U.S. legislation addresses these concerns by providing tax credits for contributions to typical middle-class investment accounts, including 401(k)s. Investment funds would still be taxed on their trades, but this could encourage longer-term productive investment instead of the short-term speculation that adds little to no value to the real economy.

If the Obama administration is serious about fair taxation and a smart approach to the deficit, it should change its position. Rather than trying to derail Europe’s efforts, it should cooperate with Europe to ensure that the tax there is effectively enforced. And the administration should build support in Congress, including among Republicans.

Yes, we’ve all heard House Speaker John Boehner’s line that the debate over revenue raising is over. We also remember former President George H.W. Bush’s line, “Read my lips, no new taxes,” and how quickly his lips starting saying something else.

For tea partyers, wouldn’t a tax on Wall Street, the beneficiaries of the bailout they so reviled, be less objectionable than most other revenue options?

Sequestration is a septic wound, self-inflicted by lawmakers who can’t agree on anything. Here, at last, we have a smart idea with widespread support — Americans and Europeans, populists and economists, progressives and conservatives.

After Friday’s dumb budget cuts, a little smart policymaking would be nice for a change.


By: Katrina vanden Heuvel, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 5, 2013

March 8, 2013 Posted by | Financial Institutions, Wall Street | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The B-Word”: Paul Ryan And The GOP Think Voters Are Dumb

Do House Republicans think voters are stupid? Why yes, yes they do, judging by the latest messaging the GOP is preparing to roll out in its big budget push. In the Republican view, simple voters find notions like “balance” confusing when it comes to issues of taxes, spending cuts, and the budget.

Politico has an article up raising the curtain on the Republican PR effort around the budget plan Rep. Paul Ryan will unveil next week. About halfway through, it contains this nugget on the Republican messaging strategy

“Democrats’ calls for a ‘balanced approach’ are clearly poll-tested, but it’s because people associate the word ‘balanced’ with a balanced budget — exactly the opposite of what Democrats’ budgets actually do,” the aide said. “Look for Republicans to go on offense on Democrats’ ‘balanced’ rhetoric by pointing out that there is nothing ‘balanced’ about Senate Democrats or the president’s budgets — in fact, they never balance at all.”

In short “balanced,” in the view emanating from Paul Ryan world, is some sort of magical word which simple voters are easily confused by. They hear “balanced” and—apparently incapable of absorbing the words around it in a given thought—just assume it means “balanced budget.” Now I get the concept of the low information voter—people who pay only passing attention to politics and so have details and often entire facts wrong—but this is an assumption of a low intelligence voter. You voters are too stupid to realize it, the messaging goes, but you really agree with us. You just need to understand that you’re easily confused by concepts like “balance.”

While we’re here let’s quickly reality-test the assertion, just for kicks. What do polls say about a balanced approach? Do voters really prefer Obama’s balanced way of dealing with deficits, and if so is it because they’re ensorcelled by the b-word, or do they get the substance? Conveniently, recently checked out the assertion that most voters agree with Obama’s approach. Their conclusion: “Obama said of a balanced approach to deficit reduction that ‘the majority of the American people agree with me and this approach, including, by the way, a majority of Republicans.’ … The majority of the polls we found support the president. We rate the president’s statement Mostly True.”

They didn’t check whether simpleton voters were just entranced by the “b-word,” but they did cite poll after poll after poll where the word wasn’t used but rather the concept—dealing with the budget deficit with a mix of spending cuts and tax increases—was explained, and majorities of voters favored it over a spending-cut-only approach. This is in line with the preponderance of polls which also show that most voters favor notions like compromise generally.

In short, “balance” polls well on the substance so Republicans are trying to neutralize the concept as a talking point by—in a Orwellian bit of redefinition—muddying the meaning of the word.

The rest of the Politico article does provide some insight into Ryan World. The budget won’t cut much more than last year’s, it says, even though it balances the federal books twice as fast as the last version (Ezra Klein explained why yesterday). And, reporters Jake Sherman and David Nather write, Ryan aides are unafraid of a backlash against the plan:

Politically, House Republicans think it carries next to no risk: Conservative truth-telling, they say, is in vogue. Two years after Ryan’s decision to transform Medicare into a voucher-like system, the party’s presidential ticket won seniors by 17 percentage points and House Republicans are still comfortably in the majority, even if Mitt Romney did lose the presidency with Ryan as his running mate.

What’s a presidential level thumping between friends? Especially when voters are such nimwits. What’s striking is what a hoary talking point this is. Has there been any point in the last, say, four years when House Republicans would have said that “conservative truth-telling” wasn’t in vogue? (And the notion of “conservative truth-telling” is especially funny when it comes to Paul Ryan and his budgets.)

A line much later in the Politico piece nicely sums things up: “All of this doesn’t mask a larger problem for Republicans: Their budget messaging stinks.”


By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, March 7, 2013

March 8, 2013 Posted by | Budget, GOP | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Devolution”: Let’s Adopt These Planks From GOP’s National Platform

From Rick Perry to Rick Santorum, many Republican sparklies say they reject the science of evolution, favoring instead the “science” of the Bible, including some of its interpreters who claim the Earth is not 4.5 billion years old, but has been around only about 6,000 years. Georgia Rep. Paul Broun (who ironically serves on the House Science Committee) even calls evolution “lies straight from the pit of hell.”

But while they dis Charles Darwin and the evidence of evolutionary progression, the GOP as a whole seems firmly committed to “devolution” as its own operating principle. Webster’s Dictionary explains that to devolve is to “degenerate through a gradual change” — synonyms include to crumble, decline, regress, sink … worsen.

The party’s leaders are presently in an intramural tussle over how they should cope with last year’s electoral drubbing they took from women, Latinos and young voters. Tea Party Republicans argue for going deeper into the right-wing weeds by promoting a new McCarthyism focused on the bugaboo of a United Nations takeover of America. Others insist the party simply has a packaging problem, so they’re seeking softer ways to say “kill Medicare” and studying how to say “cut taxes for the rich” in Spanish.

But now here’s some unexpected news!

It comes from what purports to be an official document of the National Republican Party. And — wow! — the policy positions it contains show that top thinkers and strategists really are serious about coming to their senses and rejecting the plutocratic extremism and far-right wackiness that has stained their recent presidential, congressional and gubernatorial campaigns.

Right at the top, this 18-page manifesto proclaims that, “Our government was created by the people for all the people, and it must serve no less a purpose.” ALL the people!

Forget last year’s ridiculous pontifications by Mitt Romney and others dividing America into virtuous “creators” (like themselves and their billionaire backers) and worthless “moochers” (like you and me) — this document abounds with commitments to the common good. “America does not prosper,” it proudly proclaims on page three, “unless all Americans prosper.” Shazam — that’s downright democratic!

And then there’s this: “Government must have a heart as well as a head.” And this: We must conserve and safeguard “our natural resources for the greatest good of all, now and in the future.” And this: “The purpose of the Republican Party is to (build) a dynamic prosperity in which every citizen fairly shares.”

And how’s this for a complete turnaround: “Labor is the United States. The men and women, who with their minds, their hearts and hands, create the wealth that is shared in this country — they are America.” Holy Koch brothers, share the wealth?

Yes, and how about this: “The protection of the right of workers to organize into unions and to bargain collectively is the firm and permanent policy of the (Republican Party).” Eat your heart out Scott Walker, Rick Snyder, John Kasich and you other labor-bashing GOP governors!

The document also offers unequivocal support for (of all things) the United Nations, as well as for the U.S. Postal Service and such progressive-minded policies as equal rights for women, expanding our national parks, “vigorous enforcement of anti-trust laws” and raising the minimum wage. New enlightenment in the Grand Old Party. Hallelujah!

Can all this be true? Yes — except it’s not new. This document is the Republican Party platform … of 1956. Fifty-seven years ago, under the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower, Republicans not only said sensible things like that, they put them in their national party platform as pledges to the American people. How far they’ve devolved, huh?

Of course, the last thing Republican leaders want is advice from someone like me, but I’m happy to give it anyway, free of charge. Here it is: If you ever hope to evolve politically, ponder going back to the future. You’re welcome.


By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, March 6, 2013

March 8, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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