Friday, April 30, 2010

RIP, Nan Cheney.

Here's one Cheney I never worried about...and who will be missed greatly.

RIP, Nan Cheney.

She was a fierce advocate for many progressive causes in the Madison area as well as the nation. She marched with Martin Luther King, Jr., in Alabama and helped found the Social Justice Center in Madison.

Read the link above for more on this wonderful woman.

Duncan Hunter: deport American children

A Republican from California wants to deport American citizens. Not just that -- in most cases, these specific citizens are children who were born in the country.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) says that the children of undocumented immigrants who are born in the U.S. should be deported along with their parents and stripped of their citizenry rights.

"It takes more than walking across the border to become an American citizen," Hunter told a recent TEA Party crowd. "It's within our souls."

The U.S. Constitution, through the 14th Amendment, grants citizen rights to "[all] persons born or naturalized in the United States." It couldn't be any clearer than that: if you're born here, you are given citizen rights.

While the deportation of parents would ultimately mean the children would most likely leave with them as well (unless they stayed with another relative or family friend who was legally in the country), the rights of these children shouldn't be infringed upon simply because people like Hunter have a beef with their parents. Hunter wants to strip these young Americans their rights, essentially saying that fist-generation Americans aren't welcome to be a part of our nation, even if they were born here, and that they aren't as "American" as others here are (read: white people).

But Hunter isn't the only Republican supporting such a measure: to date, ninety Republican House members are cosponsoring a measure that would require deportation of children of immigrants, even if they were born here.

This isn't right; and it's definitely not American. Those who were born here should continue to receive "the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States." Whether that means that they go home with their deported parents, perhaps one day returning to the U.S., or stay in the country with other legal family members, is up to the family itself to decide. But the child's right to be a citizen of the United States should not be infringed upon simply because his or her parents were immigrants, and because people like Hunter are flat-out racists (would we be having this conversation about a European family in the same scenario? Unlikely).

Our ancestors were once in that boat -- many of them, literally so -- and would not want their children, who were born in this country, to be treated this way. We shouldn't treat the children of any immigrants, born in the United States, as second-class citizens or as illegal immigrants.

If you're born here, you're a citizen. If you can't deal with that, take your bigotry elsewhere.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thanks, Blogging Blue!

Special thanks to Zach Wisniewski over at Blogging Blue for adding Political Heat to their site's blogroll. It's sorta a big deal for Heat to get this kind of recognition, so I'd just like to extend my deepest gratitude for the "props" you've given me. Thanks again!

Now that I've thoroughly embarrassed myself (through the giddy excitement of being listed on a blogroll), on with the show!

Van Hollen emails show he's working for the GOP, not the people

Last month, Wisconsin Democratic leaders denied J.B. Van Hollen his request to join other states across the country that were planning on suing the federal government over the legality of the new health care law that passed. I wrote on the subject at the time, stating, "Van Hollen’s quest to unravel the health reform a great act of political theater in an election year."

I stand by that statement. But it turns out, I was more right than even I knew.

One Wisconsin Now, a non-profit group run by Scot Ross, recently obtained documents through a Freedom of Information Act request that shows Van Hollen's office consulted with a GOP-based campaign group, the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), on how best to go forward with the lawsuit in Wisconsin.

State law requires that, in order to pursue such a lawsuit, the Attorney General must be asked formally by the Governor or by either house of the legislature. Van Hollen failed to receive a request, and thus the matter has essentially been shelved for now.

But looking back at who Van Hollen was working with is puzzling. Instead of seeking counsel with the brightest legal minds available to him, Van Hollen sought the advice of a campaign committee. It's clear from that fact alone that Van Hollen's motivations weren't to protect the interests of the people of Wisconsin, but rather his own political ambitions.

That alone should cause some to worry about the competency of our elected Attorney General. But then something else came to light.

Last summer, Van Hollen received a campaign contribution of $10,000 for his re-election, set to occur November 2 of this year. In terms of election dollars for a statewide office in a non-election year, that's a pretty big sum of cash, not to be looked over by any means. The contributor of that donation? None other than the RSLC.

The question that should be coming to everyone's minds here is this: was Van Hollen agreeing to work on a lawsuit because he wanted more campaign contributions? It certainly looks that way; many other attorneys general, too, received contributions from the RSLC just before they began work on their lawsuits against the federal government.

It could be all coincidental. It could be that the RSLC is just making sure that the Republicans in several key state races are being well-funded, and are donating to their campaigns to ensure they get re-elected. That wouldn't be too bad a thing, and we shouldn't be critical on that note alone.

The problem lies elsewhere: it's that these attorneys general, Van Hollen included, are seeking the advice and counsel, not from lawyers and legal theorists, but rather the RSLC itself. It's a political group giving advice to elected officials on matters that are meant to benefit the people but instead cater to a specific political party.

Wisconsin deserves an attorney general who will work for the people, not the party he owes favors to. Van Hollen has proven time and time again that he is not the man for the job.

Remember this when election time comes around: J.B. Van Hollen is working for the GOP, not the people of Wisconsin.

Monday, April 26, 2010

AZ immigration law simply racist

The new immigration law passed by the Arizona State Legislature and signed by the state's governor last week is nothing short of legalized racism.

The law requires police officers who have suspicions about a person they believe might be an undocumented immigrant to question that person, and to request that they turn over documentation proving their legal status. Failure to do so can result in jail time.

The officer's suspicion can be based on anything -- it doesn't have to be justified.

The law allows for blatant racial profiling, and will undoubtedly target the Hispanic population within the state of Arizona. Those who appear to be undocumented immigrants -- and in the officers' eyes, that could include anyone with "brown" skin -- will be required to prove their residency in the U.S. is legit.

This will include people who reside here legally as well as persons who were, in fact, born here to begin with.

It isn't just a law of inconvenience. The law can affect a person's life in drastic ways -- including whether or not they are able to perform their own job without interference from law personnel.

Just last week within the state, a Hispanic truck driver was pulled over and told he had to provide his birth certificate before he would be let go by the police. He had already provided various other forms of identification, including reciting his social security number and providing his commercial driver's license, before being told that only his birth certificate would do.

The driver was born in the United States.

What's worse is that this incident occurred before the bill in Arizona had even become law. Which means that more incidents like this are bound to happen more often.

I'm not trying to say that all officers are racists, or that Arizonan officers are all going to target minorities who appear to be "illegal immigrants" in their eyes. On the record, I would like to say that I have great respect for police personnel and those that serve to protect our communities.

The problem with this law, however, is that it ALLOWS Arizonan officers the CHOICE to be racist -- without recourse or penalty of any kind. Their actions can be justified simply by saying they had "suspicions." I trust that most officers will do what's right, and won't bother most Hispanics they come across while on duty. But there will be some racist cops, just as there are racist bankers or racist politicians, who will abuse their power and harass those they believe to be "illegals."

More needs to occur before any arrest can be made, for immigrants and citizens alike who may be affected by this law. The burden of proof must remain on the side of the police officer, and we should not treat minorities who appear to be immigrants (who may, in fact, be law abiding citizens) as "guilty until proven innocent." "Suspicion" alone isn't enough; there must be probable cause to arrest a person, as provided for within the Fourth Amendment of our Constitution.


I have a hard time believing this law isn't meant to target a certain demographic. Deterring against illegal immigration is one thing; but this law will reach far beyond those who are trying to enter illegally, affecting those who are here legally and even those who were born here, who are true-blooded Americans. Passing a law like this doesn't just say, "We want undocumented immigrants out;" it also says, "We don't care how many lives we need to affect and perhaps ruin in order to prevent immigration, so long as those lives aren't white people's."

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Barack Obama: repudiator president?

The history of American presidents is monumental, with each administration offering several stories that many find fascinating. Yet, for all the presidents our nation has seen, only a few are what historians consider "transitional."

We know these presidents by their names that we recognize from textbooks we were forced to memorize in our earlier years, but also for the great command they took to the office of the president. These names we do not forget easily: Thomas Jefferson; Andrew Jackson; Abraham Lincoln; Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt; and even Ronald Reagan. These men are considered our nation's greatest leaders, and are followed by historians for what they've done with the office in their hands. What's less studied, however, is how these men came to power and why we consider them to be transitional in the first place.

There is two parts to this equation, and the first is an obvious answer: these presidents simply transformed our country in drastic ways, bringing forth new ideas and ideologies that lasted for years after they left office. What's often overlooked, however, is that these leaders didn't just pop out of nowhere; they generally followed other presidents that historians typically considered great failures, where public opinion had soured and a new idea was welcomed as a repudiation of the previous president's ideas (which were themselves once a repudiation of another "failed" president).

These "repudiators" set the tone for the presidents after them, until the people saw in their ideologies a flaw or a reason to amend the ideas and beliefs of what the government's role ought to be. Lincoln, for example, was a repudiation of the idea of states' rights above the federal government's, a belief in a solid union where the federal government's laws trumped those of the lower governments'. Teddy Roosevelt was a repudiation of allowing trusts and other free-market practices to go forth without regard for the plight of America's working class. And, if Franklin Roosevelt's repudiation symbolized Americans' desires for help from the government, for permission of that government to become more involved in the lives of its citizens, then Ronald Reagan's repudiation symbolized a belief that Americans shouldn't come to depend upon that welfare state, that abuse and waste in the system should end and the government should back out of its role as a provider to the people.

But now we have a president today who is a clear repudiation to what Reagan stood for. Barack Obama has changed the health care system drastically, allowing for more Americans to receive assistance than ever before. Yet, he has done so in a way that isn't definitionally socialist (despite what many on the right have to say), that focuses reforms on cutting wasteful spending, increasing taxes modestly on the wealthy, and requiring that, if Americans are to receive assistance from the government, they should expect to pay for part of it themselves as well. The program, after all, utilizes private companies, subsidizing the costs for working Americans in a private system.

Obama and Democrats also spent large sums of money hoping to invigorate the economy, a tactic that most economists agree has been largely successful. Again, we see a large government expenditure being used in order to create positive outcomes in the free market.

His latest push, the "re-regulation" of Wall Street and big banks, follows that pattern: his goal is to ensure another economic meltdown doesn't occur. Obama will do this through stricter regulations than what was proposed under the Reagan regime of presidents over the past thirty years.

The conclusion that we can draw from this is that the Obama presidency is a direct repudiation of Reaganomics, the idea that allowing unrestricted big business to carry out its goals without oversight would trickle the benefits down to the working class. In reality, what we've seen is very little evidence of this working out. If anything, what we've seen is if things do go good, the wealthy usually hang onto their profits as much as possible, and any positive outcome for the working class is minimal, if any (perhaps a meager gain in their 401K).

But when things go wrong, its the middle and working classes that feel the burden, who are expected to take the brunt of the negative outcomes, because, hey, that's capitalism, baby.

The voters rejected that framework in 2008 when they selected Obama over John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate who offered the same vision of Reagan and George W. Bush. The voters willingly selected a president whose clear plans called for a drastic expansion of government involvement in assisting their lives.

The Obama presidency (and likely the presidencies that follow) will be symbolic of a change in how we want our economy to run. The people will not accept a return to Reaganomics, but instead will endorse a regulated economy, emphasizing the positive aspects of capitalism while trying to restrict or minimize the negative practices that got us into the mess we're in today.

His is a presidency that will seek to return the market to its glory days, but not at the expense of working Americans. The two do not have to be mutually exclusive, as some in the GOP might posit.

Obama is clearly a repudiator president,one whose name will someday join those of others in the textbooks of children across the country.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What if TEA Party really WAS a "black" movement?

I read a brilliant blog today, and though I can't find the original source of it, it has been published on various blogs around the net.

In it, author Tim Wise posits an interesting conundrum: what would the nation's reaction be if the TEA Party Protesters actually were predominantly black?
Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters —the black protesters — spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protester — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that’s what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose.
The imagery created by Wise's words shows just how hypocritical these TEA Party Protesters would probably be if such an event were to happen. Yes, there are a few African-American TEA Partiers, but their numbers are few at these rallies. A rally of thousands of African-Americans would cause hysteria among many of those who purport to be defenders of liberty.

And yet, in Wise's scenario, they wouldn't be doing anything different than the TEA Partiers. In fact, comparatively speaking, the Civil Rights marches of the 1960s, most of them peaceful demonstrations, brought about much harsher attitudes towards the movement than any of these TEA Party protests, which include speakers who openly advocate secession or revolution, who openly blame gays, blacks, Hispanics, feminists, and other minority-movements for the problems this country faces with no real evidence to back it up.

Wise ends his essay perfectly, summing up what's really wrong with the TEA Party movement today:
To ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings.

And this, my friends, is what white privilege is all about. The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be, if they tried to get away with half the shit we do, on a daily basis.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

National Day of Prayer ruled unconstitutional

A federal judge in Wisconsin has declared that the National Day of Prayer is an unconstitutional practice.

In a lawsuit brought about by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, a Madison-based organization that seeks to preserve a true separation of church and state, Judge Barbara Crabb stated that the National Day of Prayer, held annually since 1952, was an unconstitutional exercise of presidential power.

"It goes beyond mere acknowledgment of religion because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function," Crabb wrote in her opinion. "The government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience."

Crabb did not say that prayer itself was improper, but rather that the promotion of prayer by the president undermined the people's rights to determine for themselves whether or not prayer was good for the nation in their minds.

Is the proclamation unconstitutional? The First Amendment reads that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Americans are certainly welcome to pray if they want, but the government has no right to establish laws on religion. And while the First Amendment doesn't prohibit the free exercise of religion, its intent was to prevent a state religion from taking power.

The colonists had seen firsthand, after all, how that power could wield influence over a leader, specifically King George III, who exercised this power as head of the Church of England. Indeed, Thomas Jefferson advocated a "wall" to separate church and state.

So why is it important to ensure that these two forces -- state and religion -- stay separate? A democratic state that believes itself to be working on God's behalf is dangerous, and will undoubtedly conduct business in order to appease the supposed interests of the Lord. In doing so, a state that endorses religion will interfere with the rights and privileges of the people who don't adhere to that belief, or the rights and privileges of those who don't adhere to any belief.

On the other side of the coin, religion is unsafe as well. A democratic state that endorses religious beliefs will shape those beliefs based out of majority opinion, which would mean that these beliefs would be amendable according to that opinion. But if God is infallible, how can we change His rules every time a new party comes into power? Such a system would do a disservice to religious institutions, discrediting the validity of God's word if it's amendable by public opinion.

The ruling made by Judge Crabb is just: the president shouldn't be making proclamations of religious days of prayer, even if it's a non-specific prayer. A day of reflection, where prayer can be encouraged by outside non-governmental institutions, is more appropriate because it allows non-believers to be included as well.

The president is certainly welcome to pray on his own -- heck, he can even encourage others to pray alongside with him. But creating a national day of prayer, using his office in order to encourage that prayer rather than encouraging it as an ordinary citizen would, is a breach of his powers. It endorses an idea that not every American may subscribe to, an idea based upon a belief that is intended to be religious in nature. Such a concept serves no purpose, either to the people or to the faith.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

America: now, just "mostly free"

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, in releasing its annual rankings of freedom around the world, has recently lowered the United States of America's ranking from "free" to "mostly free."

The reason? The bank bailouts and the recent passage of health insurance reform have caused our economic freedom, in Heritage's mind, to become diminished.

The Heritage Foundation has a definite conservative bias, and it doesn't try to hide it. While their rankings of freedom have, in the past, been fairly accurate readings of how the countries of the world behave, the new rankings just released are a clear push to advance their political agenda through fear and manipulation.

Why rank America as "mostly free" based upon the health bill passed? Heritage ranked several other countries as being more "free" than us despite those countries having more "socialist-like" health care programs. For instance, Canada was ranked seventh freest in the world, just above the United States. But Canada's health care system and economy were derided several times in the past year as examples of what our nation could become if we passed reform!

So which is it? Should we become more like Canada in order to become more "free?" Or is it because we're shifting towards Canadian-like "socialist" programs that we're losing our freedom?

Will conservatives start flocking to Canada now because it's much freer? Or perhaps they'll fly to Hong Kong, which received the top honors as the freest place on Earth. I won't be holding my breath waiting for an answer.