mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Why Everyone Hates Congress”: Republicans Are Still Incapable Of Governing

If you want a demonstration on why it’s so easy for regular folks to despise politicians, look no further than the shenanigans that went on in the U.S. House of Representatives, yesterday. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), who is openly gay, has been attaching a LGBT rights amendment to Republican bills. He’s able to do this because Speaker Ryan has decided to allow for a much more open amendments process than his predecessors, but that comes with a cost. The cost is that the opposition finds it much easier to mess with you by offering amendments that drive wedges into your caucus.

Gay rights is one of those wedge issues. First, Rep. Maloney attached his amendment to a military construction bill. It provided “that nothing in the underlying spending bill can undermine President Obama’s executive order barring discrimination by government contractors based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

When it became clear that the amendment would pass, the House leadership held the vote open until they could whip enough votes to defeat it, 212-213. That was last week.

On Wednesday night, Rep. Maloney attached the amendment to an energy spending bill and it passed 223-195, with 43 Republicans and all the Democrats supporting it.

Isn’t it amazing that the same body of 435 representatives could have such a different opinion of an amendment depending on whether it was attached to a military construction bill or an energy bill?

In truth, those 43 Republicans don’t object to the amendment. They didn’t want to go on the record opposing it the first time.

But, fine, they eventually exercised their independent judgment and passed it, right?

What happened then?

The victory was short-lived, however, as the amendment proved to be a poison pill that led scores of Republicans to oppose the underlying energy bill, which suffered a crushing 112-305 defeat on the floor Thursday. One hundred and thirty Republicans voted against the package, while just six Democrats supported it.

The Republicans voted against gay rights before they voted for them before they voted against them again?

Of course, they blamed the Democrats for not supporting the energy bill, but the energy bill wasn’t crafted to win Democratic support. What actually happened is that gay-hating Republicans who supported the energy appropriations decided to vote against them once the funds became attached to an anti-discrimination provision.

This is, of course, Speaker Ryan’s fault because he decided to let the Democrats offer these types of amendments to bills they have no intention of supporting. And that allows the Democrats to have a good old time exposing the Republicans’ divisions and horrible record on gay rights.

It’s another demonstration that the GOP is not capable of acting as a cohesive governing coalition. They cannot fund the government. And they couldn’t fund it even before they opened the door for the Democrats to shiv them at every opportunity.

The average citizen doesn’t understand all the procedural and strategic maneuvering here. All they see is a bunch of politicians who shift their votes with no regard for principle, who are more interested in embarrassing each other than in getting things done, and who simply cannot preform even the most basic elements of their jobs.

I’m not making a moral equivalency argument here. The Democrats are right on the merits and, given a majority, would have no problems figuring out how to fund the government. But that’s difficult to see. What’s easy to see is why everyone now seems to hate Congress.

 

By: Martin Longman, Web Editor, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 27, 2016

May 29, 2016 Posted by | Congress, Governing, House Republicans | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Distraction From The Issue Of Equal Rights”: The Long History Of The Conservative Fixation With Bathrooms

As LGBT Americans continue their fight for equality, the subject of bathrooms has taken center stage. You might remember how they were used in the argument against Houston’s Equal Right’s Ordinance.

On Tuesday, Houston voters rejected the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) in a low-turnout election where only slightly more than a quarter of the city’s voters actually cast a ballot. Those that did turn out got to decide the fate of a broad civil rights ordinance that targeted a wide range of discrimination, from race to religion to military status to sexual orientation and gender identity.

If you paid any attention to the campaign against this law, however, you probably knew it by another name — the “bathroom ordinance.”

Anti-LGBT groups fought HERO by claiming that it would enable “any man at any time” to “enter a women’s bathroom simply by claiming to be a woman that day.” Ads featured pedophiles locking themselves in bathroom stalls with young girls. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) summarized his case against HERO in five words — “No men in women’s bathrooms.”

More recently the conservative reaction to granting equal rights to transgender people has taken the form of laws like the one recently passed in North Carolina which requires everyone to use the bathroom correlating to the gender on their birth certificate. As one North Carolina Republican legislator put it – their intent was “to restore common sense bathroom and shower management policy.”

Over our history, the subject of bathrooms has often been the “go-to” argument for conservatives who fought against civil rights. During the Jim Crow days, Southerners went to elaborate lengths to provide separate bathrooms for white and “colored” people – even installing them in their own homes for The Help.

I’m old enough to remember the days when the Equal Rights Amendment was under discussion. Conservatives dubbed that one the “Common Toilet Law.” All of the ways that amendment would have granted equal rights to women were reduced to a fear of unisex bathrooms.

I suppose it would be possible for some social psychologist to explain the underlying issues that lead to this conservative fixation on bathrooms. It simply strikes me as a very unhealthy phenomenon. But more importantly, it is a huge distraction from the issue at hand…equal rights.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 26, 2016

April 28, 2016 Posted by | Civil Rights, Conservatives, LGBT, North Carolina Bathroom Bill | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Sanders Polls Well With Independents”: But He Might Lose His Appeal If He Were The Democratic Nominee

Anyone who stares at polls for a good while probably knows that Bernie Sanders is significantly more popular with both independents than Republicans than is Hillary Clinton. Indeed, this is probably at the heart of Sanders’ fairly regular advantage over HRC in general election trial heats.

There are two common interpretations of Sanders’ regularly higher ratings among non-Democrats. The first, popular among Clinton supporters, is that he simply isn’t well-known enough to draw the ire of conservatives and moderates. The second, which you hear some Bernie fans articulate, is that he represents a subterranean majority of voters that transcends party labels. The first take undermines Sanders’ electability claims; the latter reinforces it.

But there’s a third interpretation that should arise every time one hears Sanders described as an “independent running for the Democratic nomination” or even as a “democratic socialist.” What he’s not being described as is a Democrat.

At The Upshot this weekend, political scientist Lynn Vavreck reminded us that pure, simple partisanship is largely what is driving the anger in American politics at the moment:

That Democrats and Republicans have different views on issues — even issues about race and rights — is not surprising. But recent work by Stanford University’s Shanto Iyengar and his co-authors shows something else has been brewing in the electorate: a growing hostility toward members of the opposite party. This enmity, they argue, percolates into opinions about everyday life.

Partisans, for example, are now more concerned that their son or daughter might marry someone of the opposite party (compared with Britain today and the United States in 1960). They also found that partisans are surprisingly willing to discriminate against people who are not members of their political party.

We’ve entered an age of party-ism.

So being less marked with the sign of the Democratic beast, it’s unsurprising that Sanders is less despised by those who dislike that party (Republicans) or both parties (true independents).

Would that survive a Democratic national convention in which Sanders (assuming he somehow wins the nomination) is kissing every Democratic icon in sight? And is then embraced in the final emotional moments of the convention by Hillary and Bill Clinton and Barack Obama?

I don’t think so. Whatever vehicle Sanders rides into Philadelphia, he would ride out of Philadelphia on a donkey. That could lose him some points among non-Democrats.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, April 4, 2016

April 5, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, General Election 2016, Hillary Clinton, Independents | , , , , | 1 Comment

“A New American Ethos”: In America These Days, You Can Never Be Punished Enough

We will call her Jane Doe.

We really have no choice, given that that’s the only identification found in the court document. Jane is 57, a Jamaica-born permanent U.S. resident living in New York City. She is a licensed nurse and a mother. She is also a convicted felon.

In 2000, Jane, trying to raise two young daughters on $15,000 a year and an $80 weekly child-support check, was recruited by her then-boyfriend for an insurance scam. They staged a car accident and tried to collect on a claim.

It didn’t work. Jane was convicted on fraud charges and sentenced to 15 months in prison. She was released in 2004.

That’s when her ordeal began.

Her debt to society paid, Jane set out looking for work. She was rehired by a former employer and worked there two years. Then the state Office of Professional Discipline suspended her license for two years for professional misconduct — not because she had done anything wrong, but because of the old conviction.

In the years since, Jane has found barricades on every avenue of gainful employment. Job interviews and even job offers mysteriously evaporate when employers learn about her record. She tried to get a business license to start her own company, only to be rejected twice because of it.

Last year, Jane tried to have her record expunged. Judge John Gleeson denied the request a few days ago, explaining that Jane doesn’t meet the legal standard. But Gleeson — the same judge who sent her to prison — then did something extraordinary. He appended to his 32-page opinion a “federal certificate of rehabilitation.”

Understand: There is no such thing. The official-looking document carries no legal force. It’s just something Gleeson had made for Jane so she can show prospective employers that a federal judge considers her rehabilitated. He says a woman who was convicted once, a long time ago, of a nonviolent crime from which she saw no profit and for which she has served her time, ought not be punished for it the rest of her life.

“I had no intention,” wrote Gleeson, “to sentence her to the unending hardship she has endured in the job market.”

If you consider this a heartwarming story, you miss the point.

Yes, Gleeson did a good and generous thing. One hopes it has the desired effect. But it is unconscionable that Jane Doe’s situation ever reached this extreme.

The shift of American penal philosophy from rehabilitation to punishment has had many disastrous effects: prison overcrowding, mass disenfranchisement, fatherless homes. But the most self-defeating effect is embodied in denying ex-felons employment once they’ve served their time. If you deny them the ability to do lawful work, what obvious option is left?

Granted, there are sometimes good reasons to deny a given ex-felon a given job; no daycare should hire a newly released child molester, for example. But what Jane Doe is facing is rooted less in common sense caution than in a new American ethos where punishment never ends.

That should be anathema to a nation of second chances. Lawmakers must enact reforms that curb the power of employers to discriminate against former felons — or that incentivize their hiring. Questions about criminal records should not be allowed on job applications; a person should have the chance to make a good impression at the job interview without being automatically ruled out for doing some stupid thing a long time ago.

Jane Doe was lucky to have Gleeson on her side, but she shouldn’t have needed him. She did something stupid, yes, but she was duly punished for it.

Except that in America these days, you can never be punished enough.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, March 21, 2016

March 22, 2016 Posted by | Convicted Felons, Criminal Justice System, Non-Violent Crimes | , , , , , | 3 Comments

“The Same Wrongheaded Justifications”: Republicans Introduce A Bill To Monitor Refugees Who Settle In New York

Last week, Republican New York state senator Terrence Murphy introduced a bill that would make it legal to register and monitor refugees entering the state. The move was opposed by refugee advocacy groups, who called the proposed legislation “heinous” and said that it only stigmatized refugees further.

The bill, S6253-2015, has been a long time in the making and is cosponsored by a variety of Republican and independent senators. In a post on the New York Senate’s website last December, Murphy wrote, “The provisions of the bill allow New York to create its own mechanism to properly vet and monitor individuals seeking asylum within the state’s borders while continuing necessary humanitarian efforts.” His bill was a criticism of the federal government’s current screening process, which was characterized as having insufficient screening measures, despite the Obama administration’s step-by-step breakdown of how Syrian refugees are granted asylum in the U.S.

Murphy’s bill calls for the homeland security and emergency agencies to make plans with refugee agencies to monitor refugees for either a year or until they are given permanent residency by American immigration authorities. The bill proposed “requiring refugee resettlement agencies to submit quarterly reports to the bureau of refugee and immigrant assistance and requiring such agencies to monitor refugees for a certain period of time.” This is in addition to the two years of background checks performed by the federal government before refugees can even set foot in the country.

But exploring the bill reveals the same wrongheaded justifications used by other Republican governors and politicians who have vowed to keep Syrian refugees out of the country since the Paris attacks in November. The attackers were almost entirely European citizens who slipped back into Europe undetected. Of those who made it into the country posing as refugees, they took advantage of the European Union’s mismanaged handling of the refugee crisis. That in itself is a huge difference between the attacks in Paris and the likelihood of a Paris-style attack in the U.S.: it’s simply not as geographically close to hotbeds of extremism.

Furthermore, if terrorists were dressing up as refugees and entering the U.S. to commit attacks, it would’ve happened already. This country has accepted 2 million refugees since 1990 and yet not a single terrorist attack has been attributed to any of them. Anti-immigrant groups, on the other hand, have carried out numerous terrorist attacks over the same period. The same applies in Europe, which took in over a million refugees last year and has suffered a single attack which involved refugees, though the vast majority of conspirators in Paris were European.

The New York Immigration Coalition responded critically to the proposed legislation. “In places like Rochester and Buffalo where larger refugee populations have been settled, we have seen these communities help grow the economies of these localities,” read the group’s statement. “The ‘special registration’ called upon by this bill does not “protect” anyone, but puts up more red tape and ostracizes refugees.”

The New York bill is not the only one under consideration by state legislatures. In South Carolina, a similar bill is being proposed, along with civil liabilities for sponsors of refugees from Syria, Sudan and Iran who end up committing a terrorist act. “If it is not illegal, it is at least un-American,” said Ibrahim Hooper, communications director at Council on American-Islamic Relations, to the AP. That law may face a legal challenge, though, because it discriminates against people of a specific national origin.

Meanwhile, New York’s own refugee registration law is being reviewed by the Senate Finance Committee, where if approved, it will go to the state legislature for a vote. State Democrats, whose leaders have already pledged support for Syrian refugees entering the state, are most likely to oppose it.

 

By: Saif Alnuweiri, The National Memo, March 21, 2016

March 22, 2016 Posted by | Immigrants, Syrian Refugees, Terrorists | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: