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“GOP Lawmakers Take Aim At Constitutional Principle”: Ending Birthright Citizenship Has Been Added To The Far-Right’s To-Do List

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution doesn’t leave much in the way of wiggle room: the rights of American citizenship are given to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.” It’s a principle generally known as “birthright citizenship,” and after its enactment following the Civil War, the Supreme Court has protected the tenet many times.

But as Republican politics moved sharply to the right, and anti-immigration sentiments within the GOP became more extreme, the party’s “constitutional conservatives” decided the principle, championed by Republicans nearly 150 years ago, needs to go. Shortly after the “Tea Party” gains in 2010, ending birthright citizenship was added to the far-right’s to-do list.

And yesterday, as Dana Milbank explained, a congressional panel actually considered a plan to scrap the existing constitutional provision.

A House Judiciary subcommittee took up the question Wednesday afternoon, prompted by legislation sponsored by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and 22 other lawmakers that, after nearly 150 years, would end automatic citizenship.

The 14th Amendment, King told the panel, “did not contemplate that anyone who would sneak into the United States and have a baby would have automatic citizenship conferred on them.” Added King, “I’d suggest it’s our job here in this Congress to decide who will be citizens, not someone in a foreign country that can sneak into the United States and have a baby and then go home with the birth certificate.”

It’s no small task to undo a principle, enshrined in the Constitution and upheld by the Supreme Court, that defines the United States as a nation of immigrants. It’s particularly audacious that House Republicans would undo a century and a half of precedent without amending the Constitution but merely by passing a law to reinterpret the 14th Amendment’s wording in a way that will stop the scourge of “anchor babies” and “birth tourism.”

That’s no small detail. In the American system of government, if federal lawmakers want to alter constitutional law, they have to actually amend the Constitution. But King and his cohorts have a different idea: they intend to simply pass a regular ol’ law voiding the unambiguous language of the 14th Amendment.

Remember, these are the same folks who are convinced President Obama is a radical who ignores constitutional principles he doesn’t like.

To bolster his case, House Republicans invited a few “experts” to tell lawmakers why the plan to end birthright citizenship is a great idea – one of whom has a deeply troubled history on issues related to race.

But to dismiss the entire debate as a pet project of a clownish congressman would be a mistake. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), for example, is also sponsoring a bill to end birthright citizenship, calling it a constitutional “loophole” he hopes to fill.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) hasn’t signed on to King’s bill, but he considers the constitutional principle an open question. “The question of whether our forefathers meant for birthright citizenship in all circumstances to be the law of the land is far from settled,” Goodlatte said at the hearing. “In any event, we must still determine if it is the right policy for America today.”

Even at the national level, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a GOP presidential candidate, recently sat down with a right-wing conspiracy-theory website, WorldNetDaily, where he voiced opposition to birthright citizenship.

WND: Do you still want to end birthright citizenship?

PAUL: Yeah, I think if you have a broken system like we have now, you can’t let just people –  you know, I’ve always agreed with Milton Freedman who said you can’t have open borders and a welfare state. You can’t become a magnet for the world and let everybody come in here, have children, and then they all become citizens. So I still do agree with that.

In 2011, Vitter introduced a measure to undo birthright citizenship, and the proposal picked up four Senate Republican co-sponsors. Rand Paul was one of the four.

It’s a bad sign when the debate shifts from whether or not to pass comprehensive immigration reform to whether or not Congress wants to nullify part of the 14th Amendment.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 30, 2015

May 1, 2015 Posted by | 14th Amendment, Citizenship, U. S. Constitution | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Bernie Sanders’ Presidential Run Really Matters. Here’s Why”: The More Attention He gets, The More Attention Economic Inequality Gets

Vermont senator Bernie Sanders is officially running for president, meaning that there will be at least two contestants in the Democratic race (after what’s been going on in the city where he was mayor for eight years, Martin O’Malley may be reconsidering). I am obligated by law to point out that Sanders’ chances of beating Hillary Clinton are slight, but the question many have already raised is what effect his candidacy will have on Clinton. Will it pull her to the left? Give her room to run to the right? Force her into missteps? It might do any of those things, or none of them.

But Sanders could actually cause more headaches for the Republicans running for president — if he succeeds on focusing the campaign on his area of interest.

To understand why, you first have to know that Sanders’ candidacy will be almost entirely about economic issues. Advocacy for the interests of what we might call the non-wealthy has always been at the top of Sanders’ agenda and at the heart of his political identity. That’s the reason he’s finally running now, at the tail end of a long career: the national debate has moved in his direction, with issues like wage stagnation and inequality now being brought up even by some conservatives.

But as far as Hillary Clinton is concerned, that’s just fine. Bernie Sanders isn’t going to pull her to the left, because she was already moving that way. She’s talking about issues like inequality and criminal justice reform in terms that she might not have used 10 or 20 years ago, and in some cases she’s actually taking positions that she wouldn’t have then. As Greg and I have argued, whether this evolution is sincere isn’t particularly relevant, because she’s reflecting the consensus within her party, and if she becomes president her actions will follow along. The reason she doesn’t have to be pulled to the left by Sanders, O’Malley, or anyone else is that the entire environment around these issues has changed. Talking about them in more liberal terms isn’t just good for her in the primaries, it’s good for her in the general election, too.

Nevertheless, Sanders’ presence will concentrate the debate even more on economic issues, because that’s most of what he’ll be stressing. Every bit of attention he gets will serve to keep the economic discussion at the forefront. And you know who isn’t so happy about that? The Republican candidates.

They’ll all have their economic plans, of course, and will be happy to tell you why they’re superior. But the current debate on the economy puts them at a disadvantage. They know that they’re at odds with the public on many economic issues, like the minimum wage, paid vacation time, or increasing taxes on the wealthy. Though they’ve begun to talk about inequality, it’s obvious that they haven’t quite figured out how to address the issue without running up against their traditional advocacy for things like cutting upper-income taxes and reducing regulations on corporations and Wall Street.

When Sanders says, “We need an economy that works for all of us and not just for a handful of billionaires,” few voters disagree. Republicans say they want that, too, but the fact that some specific billionaires like Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers are so eagerly bankrolling their campaigns makes it an awkward argument for them to make.

And Sanders will draw attention to the billionaires funding Republican campaigns: At his presser today, he was asked about donations to the Clinton Foundation, and he pushed back by asking: Where are the conflicts of interests when the Koch brothers are spending hundreds of millions to influence the outcome of the presidential race? In other words, Sanders won’t only attack Clinton on the money question; he’ll helpfully point out that GOP attacks on this are rather questionable, given their own funding sources.

The best outcome for Republicans is if the campaign revolves around other issues where they might find more support for their positions and they can more easily attack Hillary Clinton. The more attention Bernie Sanders gets, the more attention economic inequality gets, which is something Republicans would rather avoid.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, April 30, 2015

May 1, 2015 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Economic Inequality, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“It’s Hard For Me To Understand”: Experts; You Can’t Break Your Own Spine Like Freddie Gray

On Wednesday night, The Washington Post leaked an alleged report from the Baltimore Police Department, which claims that Freddie Gray, the 21-year-old who died a week after his spine was fractured while in police custody, “was intentionally trying to injure himself” in the back of a Baltimore Police van.

The report, whose author is unknown, cites a single source: an unnamed second man who was in the van with Gray for a short time, but could not see him.

But if Freddie Gray was trying to break his own spinal cord in the back of a van, according to experts in spinal trauma injuries, it might be the first self-inflicted injury of its kind.

“I have never seen it before. I’ve never seen somebody self-inflict a spinal cord injury in that way,” says Anand Veeravagu, a Stanford University Medical Center neurosurgeon who specializes in traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries.

“It’s hard for me to understand that, unless those terms (like ‘intentional’ and ‘injure himself’) are being used incorrectly. It’s hard for me to envision how a person could try to do that,” he says. “It would require them to basically hang themselves in a car where there isn’t anything to hang yourself with.”

Veeravagu says that there are only a few ways you can injure your spine in a similar way to the injuries that ultimately led to Gray’s death. One, he says, is by a sharp injury, which is a direct penetrating injury—either somebody with a knife “who knows what they’re doing, or something else that cuts through, like a gunshot wound.”

The other way, more pertinent to Gray’s case, is by trauma, where the bones are fractured and the ligaments are torn as a result of force or impact.

“It is very difficult to sever your spinal cord without a known fracture,” says Veeravagu. “Often, when patients come in with this kind of injury, you’ll find they’ve been either in a car accident or something similar to that kind of impact.”

There are times where Veeravagu, who is a former White House Fellow, has seen suicide or self-harm by means of a spinal cord injury, but it’s always by hanging, or by using an apparatus Gray couldn’t have on-hand.

“Unfortunately, sometimes people attempt suicide by hanging themselves. It’s one of the only ways I’ve seen where you can (commit suicide or intentional self-harm) by spinal fracture. They kick their chair out, they fall, they snap their neck. It results in immediate spinal cord injury,” he says. “But it’s very hard to see how somebody could attempt suicide by a spinal cord injury without the use of something else.”

But it’s even in those instances, he says, patients often don’t die of a spinal cord injury. And most who are taken to the hospital in time after suffering spinal cord injuries—self-inflicted or not—survive the trauma.

“Most spinal cord injuries are not fatal if patients are taken to the hospital,” Veeravagu says. “Most survive.”

Outlets covering The Washington Post’s leak have called the claims from the unnamed source “a twist” and a “new narrative (that) questions police brutality claim.” On Wednesday night, CNN’s broadcast ran a breaking news banner that read: “BREAKING NEWS: WASH. POST: GRAY TRIED TO HURT HIMSELF,” and the video remains on CNN’s Youtube page.

The Washington Post’s initial report does not reach out to any medical professionals to determine the feasibility of the leaked document’s claims.

The official police report of Gray’s arrest was scheduled to be released publically on Friday, but police delayed the release on Wednesday.

“I’m surprised they released that piece of information without a more detailed account,” says Veeravagu.

Another trauma surgeon, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the political nature of the case and because he is “surprised time and again by what I previously believed to be impossible,” thinks that it’s “highly unusual (if not impossible) to deliberately make yourself a quadriplegic while shackled in the back of a police van.”

There are, Veeravagu says, situations that would make Gray more prone to a fatal spinal injury, however—like if someone or something applied pressure to his spine as it snapped.

“Certain conditions make people more prone to spinal injury. If you were to apply leverage to the spine at certain points, it basically converts the spine to a long bone,” says Veeravagu.

Veeravagu also says it’s possible Gray’s spinal fracture could have occurred before entering the van—and that symptoms of his broken vertebrae could have been delayed until he was placed in the van.

“That is possible: It’s possible to have an injury to your spinal cord that gets worse over time and eventually progresses to complete paralysis,” he says. “Did he have an expanding blood clot in his spine? Did he have an exact fracture to his spine? Both are important to understand. If the family does an autopsy—finding that out, that’s ideal.”

 

By: Ben Collins, The Daily Beast, April 30, 2015

May 1, 2015 Posted by | Baltimore Police Dept, Freddie Gray, Police Brutality | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Texas Guv Surrenders To Conspiracy Nuts”: Pandering To Paranoid, Secessionist Fools

Texas’s governor moved this week to protect his state from an Obama-led military takeover.

Governor Greg Abbott, who decisively beat Wendy Davis in the 2014 to take Rick Perry’s job, announced on Tuesday that he’s going to sic the Texas Rangers on the U.S. military.

Not really. But it sure sounds that way.

What’s actually going on is U.S. troops are doing training exercises—called Jade Helm 15—in several states throughout the Southwest, including Texas.

The mission will involve Special Operations forces moving through the Southwest and training for covert missions. A declassified map posted online in March (whose legitimacy The Washington Post confirmed) identified several of those states as “hostile” and “leaning hostile.” That isn’t particularly unusual, as Dan Lamothe explained at The Washington Post, but it has a small number of Texans—including, apparently, the governor—totally freaking out and (arguably) overreacting.

Conspiracy theories about the training exercise have spread through cyberspace with all due speed, as such theories are wont to do.

And, naturally, Alex Jones, of conspiracy theory-touting Infowars fame, is involved.

The Drudge Report aggregated a number of stories about the exercises, directing readers to Infowars—including a March 24 story that said the trainings in Utah and Texas led observers “to fears that traditionally conservative areas may be a simulated target for future domestic operations.”

Yipes!

That story also said “military scholars” have started hypothesizing that such troops “would be used to target political groups such as the Tea Party.”

On March 26, Drudge linked to another InfoWars story suggesting the operations could be preparing for the implementation of martial law, which would certainly be big news indeed.

Those stories and others drew traffic and stoked fears.

On April 27, Raw Story reported that an Army spokesman appeared before a packed crowd at a Bastrop County Commission meeting in Texas to try to quell the citizens’ anxieties.

“The Army spokesman assured participants that the United Nations was not involved in the operations, but the crowd jeered when he told them he was not familiar with Agenda 21,” wrote Travis Gettys on the site.

That little meet ’n’ greet didn’t have its desired effect.

The next day, Abbott announced that he had directed Major General Gerald “Jake” Betty, commander of the Texas State Guard, to monitor Jade Helm 15.

In a letter to Betty, he said he made the move “[t]o address concerns of Texas citizens and to ensure that Texas communities remain safe.”

The Texas military has three branches, as its website details, including the Texas Army National Guard and the Texas Air National Guard, as well as the Texas State Guard. The governor, in this case, is its commander-in-chief.

And per The Houston Chronicle, it hasn’t completely ironed out all the specific details of how exactly it will monitor the U.S. Army.

Abbott’s decision to err on the side of Alex Jones has drawn a bit of joshing from the left.

“Abbott’s c would be comical if it wasn’t so costly and frightening,” said Glenn Smith, the director of the Progress Texas PAC. “Abbott has the state military confronting the U.S. military because some nutcases fear, what, armed U.S. takeover of Texas? Seriously? What next? Will Abbott call out the troops to protect us from alien abduction, abominable snowmen and Bigfoot, or should I say an invasion of Bigfeet?”

Jason Stanford, a longtime Democratic Texas consultant and member of the Truman National Security Project, said Abbott’s move is great news for conspiracy-mongers everywhere.

“A lot of people think he’s more sensible than this, but he has yet to stop campaigning for a Republican primary that he won virtually unopposed,” he said. “Most Texans aren’t like this.”

That said, Abbott isn’t without defenders. Republican State Representative Jonathan Stickland defended the move enthusiastically and said Texans’ distrust of the Obama administration probably informed his decision. He said that the exercises have caused “justified concern.”

“I don’t want to instill panic,” he added. “I’ll tell you what’s scary is if we get to a place where it’s not normal to question our government or their motives. We should always be questioning government.”

And Matt Mackowiak, a Texas-based Republican consultant, said he would be surprised if Jade Helm 15 was a subversive plot to occupy Texas. But he added that he understands Texans’ concerns.

“It’s hard to know what’s true and what’s false,” he said. “Is every single conspiracy theory wrong? No. Most of them probably are.”

 

By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, April 30, 2015

May 1, 2015 Posted by | Conspiracy Theories, Greg Abbott, Texas, U. S. Military | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Deflecting From The Full Truth”: Prisoner Was Wrong; Freddie Gray Didn’t Kill Himself

Before the second prisoner was even in the police van, Freddie Gray asked the police for medical assistance.

So you have to wonder why on earth a man who had just asked for help would then try to hurt himself—as the second prisoner supposedly concluded after he was picked up at the next stop a few minutes later.

The opinion of the second prisoner is reportedly contained in a search-warrant application prepared by a police investigator and now leaked to The Washington Post.

Somebody leaked the sealed document for a reason, just as the police were preparing to turn over the results of their investigation to the Baltimore state’s attorney. There is nothing to stop the Baltimore Police Department from also publicly disclosing its major findings, as it largely did after its initial investigation soon after Gray’s death. The only significant detail the BPD added on Thursday while announcing its probe was complete was that private security video indicated the van had made an additional, previously unreported stop.

But what the police have already disclosed is enough to suggest why the second prisoner might have believed Gray was trying to hurt himself—and why he was almost certainly mistaken

After the stop where he asked for medical assistance and medical assistance was denied to him, Gray seems to have resumed signaling his need for help by the only means available—by banging on the inside of the van.

Gray may even have imagined that the police were heeding him when the van stopped again a few minutes later.

Imagine his desperation when he realized that the van had stopped only to pick up another prisoner. Gray’s resumed banging must have been all the more insistent, all the more frantic.

As reported by The Washington Post, the second prisoner came to the conclusion that Gray was trying to hurt himself without ever actually seeing him, the two of them having been separated by a metal partition.

The second prisoner could only have based his opinion on the sounds of Gray banging against the inside of the van.

And the banging must have been pretty frantic indeed for it to seem that Gray was trying to hurt himself.

More likely, what sounded to the prisoner like an effort to self-inflict injury was a renewed plea for assistance.

Gray had learned at the time of his arrest that the police seemed deaf to his cries of pain.

All Gray could do once he was locked inside the van was bang on the interior. And that banging prompted the police to make three prior stops.

At the first, the police found Gray to be “irate” and “combative.” They then placed him in leg irons.

Gray also could have simply been frantic, and he had kept banging loud enough for the police to stop a second time five minutes later, and call for a cop to check on him in the back.

The purpose of that banging seems to have been made clear when Gray asked for medical assistance.

The police response was apparently limited to lifting him off the floor of the van where he had apparently fallen and returning him to the bench.

The van then rode on with Gray continuing to signal his distress, along that way making a third stop for reason the BPD has not disclosed or simply not yet determined. He most likely thought that his banging was prompting a fourth stop when the van again pulled over, and that medical assistance might be near.

But all that happened was another prisoner was loaded aboard, unseen and unseeing behind the metal partition. Gray was now apparently so desperate in his banging for help that he led the other prisoner to believe he was trying to injure himself.

Just six blocks later, the van arrived at the police station. The banging ceased, but not because Gray believed that he was getting help. It stopped because he was unconscious.

Medical assistance finally came in the person of paramedics who transported him to a shock trauma hospital, where he later died.

Now it is up to the authorities to tell us what they know before leakers manage to deflect us from the full truth.

At least we already know enough to reach a conclusion: If it sounded like Gray sought to injure himself in that van, it was after he had been making those very same sounds to signal he needed help.

The banging that second prisoner heard was the banging of a man who was just six blocks away from being beyond all help.

 

By: Michael Daly, The Daily Beast, April 30, 2015

May 1, 2015 Posted by | Baltimore, Baltimore Police Dept, Police Brutality | , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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