United States

Read Ronald Reagan’s executive order on immigration the GOP won’t talk about

President Ronald Reagan | AFP Photo/Mike Sargent

Raw Story

The following statement was made by then-President Ronald Reagan on July 30, 1981:

Our nation is a nation of immigrants. More than any other country, our strength comes from our own immigrant heritage and our capacity to welcome those from other lands. No free and prosperous nation can by itself accommodate all those who seek a better life or flee persecution. We must share this responsibility with other countries.

The bipartisan select commission which reported this spring concluded that the Cuban influx to Florida made the United States sharply aware of the need for more effective immigration policies and the need for legislation to support those policies.

For these reasons, I asked the Attorney General last March to chair a Task Force on Immigration and Refugee Policy. We discussed the matter when President Lopez Portillo visited me last month, and we have carefully considered the views of our Mexican friends. In addition, the Attorney General has consulted with those concerned in Congress and in affected States and localities and with interested members of the public.

The Attorney General is undertaking administrative actions and submitting to Congress, on behalf of the administration, a legislative package, based on eight principles. These principles are designed to preserve our tradition of accepting foreigners to our shores, but to accept them in a controlled and orderly fashion:

  • We shall continue America’s tradition as a land that welcomes peoples from other countries. We shall also, with other countries, continue to share in the responsibility of welcoming and resettling those who flee oppression.
  • At the same time, we must ensure adequate legal authority to establish control over immigration: to enable us, when sudden influxes of foreigners occur, to decide to whom we grant the status of refugee or asylee; to improve our border control; to expedite (consistent with fair procedures and our Constitution) return of those coming here illegally; to strengthen enforcement of our fair labor standards and laws; and to penalize those who would knowingly encourage violation of our laws. The steps we take to further these objectives, however, must also be consistent with our values of individual privacy and freedom.
  • We have a special relationship with our closest neighbors, Canada and Mexico. Our immigration policy should reflect this relationship.
  • We must also recognize that both the United States and Mexico have historically benefited from Mexicans obtaining employment in the United States. A number of our States have special labor needs, and we should take these into account.
  • Illegal immigrants in considerable numbers have become productive members of our society and are a basic part of our work force. Those who have established equities in the United States should be recognized and accorded legal status. At the same time, in so doing, we must not encourage illegal immigration.
  • We shall strive to distribute fairly, among the various localities of this country, the impacts of our national immigration and refugee policy, and we shall improve the capability of those agencies of the Federal Government which deal with these matters.
  • We shall seek new ways to integrate refugees into our society without nurturing their dependence on welfare.
  • Finally, we recognize that immigration and refugee problems require international solutions. We will seek greater international cooperation in the resettlement of refugees and, in the Caribbean Basin, international cooperation to assist accelerated economic development to reduce motivations for illegal immigration.

Immigration and refugee policy is an important part of our past and fundamental to our national interest. With the help of the Congress and the American people, we will work towards a new and realistic immigration policy, a policy that will be fair to our own citizens while it opens the door of opportunity for those who seek a new life in America.

H/t: D.B.

 

Fox News Quietly Corrects Congressman’s Mistake On Ebola Response

Chaffetz Ebola

CREDIT: SCREENSHOT

Think Progress

The GOP’s persistent and oftentimes conflicting criticism of the administration’s handling of the Ebola crisis within the United States jumped the shark on Wednesday, after a prominent Republican congressman questioned why President Obama hasn’t yet named a medical doctor to manage the situation whom the party has vociferously opposed.

After the first case of Ebola was diagnosed in Dallas, Texas in September, Republicans abandoned their longstanding opposition to government czars and called on the administration to appoint an “Ebola czar” to coordinate and message the government’s response to the deadly virus.

Obama resisted such calls for weeks, insisting, primarily through White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, that “clear lines of authority” already exist within the government’s effort. But the administration ultimately named Ron Klain, a former chief-of-staff to Vice President Joe Biden, to act as the point person on the issue.

Republicans immediately pounced. They accused Obama of nominating a “hack,” claimed that Klain had no “medical experience,” and would only “add to the bureaucratic inefficiencies that have plagued Ebola response efforts thus far.”

Others still insisted that the president shouldn’t have appointed a czar at all, because he simply needed to lead. “This is a public health crisis, and the answer isn’t another White House political operative. The answer is a commander in chief who stands up and leads, banning flights from Ebola-afflicted nations and acting decisively to secure our southern border,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced.

On Wednesday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) appeared on Fox News to complain that Klain had not yet agreed to testify before Congress, firing another criticism at the White House. “Why not have the surgeon general head this up?” Chaffetz said, adding, “at least you have someone who has a medical background who has been confirmed by the United States Senate, that’s where we should be actually I think going.”

But Obama can’t appoint the Surgeon General to lead the Ebola response because his nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy, is being opposed by the National Rifle Association and Republicans senators (as well as a few Democrats) for supporting the expansion of background checks during gun purchases. In February, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) officiallyplaced a hold on the nomination.

Chaffetz seemed unaware of this wrinkle during his Fox interview, and his office would not return repeated requests for comment. Confusing matters even further, a FoxNews.com article summarizing the Chaffetz interview appears to have changed his wording to correct the error. It reports that the Congressman called on Obama to nominate the “acting-United States surgeon general,” a claim he never made. In fact, that individual, Boris D. Lushniak, serves in a place-holder position that does not receive Senate confirmation. Lushniak, who is filling in because Murthy has been blocked, has not taken an active role in the Ebola response.

Still, the mistake — and the political back-and-forth over Obama’s response — underlines the GOP strategy of criticizing every aspect of Obama’s response in an effort to capitalize on the public health story ahead of the midterm elections.

10 things you need to know today: October 11, 2014

Health care workers carry the body of a person suspected to have died from the Ebola virus, in West Africa.

Health care workers carry the body of a person suspected to have died from the Ebola virus, in West Africa. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)

The Week

Ebola death toll passes 4,000, Kmart announces data security breach, and more

1. WHO: Ebola death toll passes 4,000 people
The World Health Organization raised the number of people who have died from the Ebola virus outbreak to at least 4,033 on Friday. Eight people have died of Ebola in Nigeria, one in the United States, and the rest have all died of Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. The United Nation’s special envoy for Ebola warned the U.N. General Assembly on Friday that the number of those infected is likely doubling every month. “It will be impossible to get this disease quickly under control,” unless the international community provides a much larger response, David Nabarro said. [The Associated Press]

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2. Kmart stores become latest victims of data breach
Sears Holdings Corp., which owns Kmart, announced on Friday that an undisclosed number of customer credit and debit cards used at some Kmart retailers may have been vulnerable to a malicious software attack that began in early September. It was discovered by Kmart’s IT team on Thursday, but Kmart was quick to note that no personal information, such as debit PIN card numbers, email addresses, or social security numbers appeared to have been compromised. The company is offering shoppers who have used their debit or credit cards at a Kmart over the past month free credit monitoring. [Fortune, The Wall Street Journal]

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3. Study: Black males 21 times more likely to be shot by police
A ProPublica analysis of federal data released on Friday shows that young black males face a 21 times greater risk of being shot by police than their white peers. Of 1,217 deadly police shootings between 2010 and 2012, 31.17 black males aged 15 to 19 were killed per million, versus just 1.47 white males per million. A co-director of the Violence Research Group said the data is “certainly relevant,” but further study requires a larger sample. Still, “no question, there are all kinds of racial disparities across our criminal justice system,” Colin Loftin said. “This is one example.” [ProPublica]

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4. Sayreville football players charged with sexual assault of teammates
Less than a week after Sayreville High School, in New Jersey, canceled the remainder of its football season following allegations of “serious bullying and harassment” of players, seven members of the team were charged in connection to the locker room hazing incidents. The charges range from aggravated sexual assault to hazing for engaging in an act of sexual penetration on one victim. No coaches or other school officials have been charged. [NJ Advance Media]

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5. Dallas Ebola patient’s temperature hit 103 degrees at first ER visit
Medical records obtained by The Associated Press show that Thomas Eric Duncan’s temperature rose to 103 degrees on his first visit to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. Duncan, who became the first person to die from the Ebola virus in the United States earlier this week, was sent home following his initial checkup. The hospital has since backtracked on several points concerning Duncan’s treatment and the timing therein. [The Associated Press]

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6. War on ISIS projected to add $40 billion per year to U.S. military spending
A new estimate from military analysts puts the annual cost of the United States’ war on ISIS at about $40 billion per year, a figure experts expect could rise if operations besides airstrikes are implemented. Those costs will be added to the Pentagon’s 2015 budget, which is $496 billion, plus an additional $58.6 billion “Overseas Contingency Operation” fund that pays for America’s other Middle East operations. [The Fiscal Times]

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7. Study finds cancer drugs could be more effective during sleep
A study published in the journal Nature Communications on Friday says some cancer drugs may be more effective while a person is sleeping. Researchers at the Weitzmann Institute found that mice treated with the anti-cancer drug lapatinib at night had “significantly smaller tumors,” than those treated with the drug during the day. Scientists speculated that lower nighttime hormone production contributed to the drug’s increased effectiveness. [Time]

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8. ‘Software bug’ incorrectly inflated Nielsen’s TV ratings
Nielsen Ratings blamed a “software bug” for more than seven months of inflated ratings for broadcast networks, the company said on Friday. Nielsen tracks the size and demographics of television audiences, and its reports can impact how much networks are able to charge advertisers for commercials. The company said an internal investigation had found that an error had affected the ratings of broadest and syndicated television shows since March, but that “98 to 99 percent” of the ratings were affected by less than .05 percent of a point. [Variety]

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9. Angelina Jolie receives honorary damehood from Queen of England
Actress Angelina Jolie has received an honorary damehood from Queen Elizabeth II for her humanitarian work seeking to end war-zone sexual violence. Jolie’s selection for the honor was announced in June, and she officially received the title during a private audience with the Queen on Friday. However, because Jolie is a U.S. citizen, protocol says she cannot be addressed as “Dame Angelina.” [BBC News]

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10. Katy Perry to perform at Super Bowl XLIX
Pop singer Katy Perry will perform during Super Bowl XLIX’s halftime show, sources confirmed on Thursday. Perry was reportedly on a shortlist that included Coldplay and Rihanna, and the news came following a “pay-to-play” controversy, in which the NFL reportedly wanted artists to pay for the honor of performing at the game. Perry addressed that idea earlier this week, saying she’s “not the kind of girl who would pay to play the Super Bowl.” [Billboard, Page Six]

The Excessive Political Power Of White Men In The United States, In One Chart

Mitch McConnell | CREDIT: AP PHOTOS/SUSAN WALSH

Just sayin’…

Think Progress

White men make up 31% of the population, yet they hold 65% of elected offices in the United States.

According to data released Wednesday by the Reflective Democracy Campaign, which built a database of over 42,000 elected officials, America’s leaders do not look very much like their constituents. Whites, men and white men dominate elected offices. Women and people of color are massively underrepresented.

misrepresentative_democracy-14

Elected politicians in the United States are overwhelmingly white (90%) and male (71%). While men of color make up 19% of the population, they account for only 7% of elected officials. Likewise, women of color are 19% of the population, but hold only 4% of elected offices. White women are proportionally slightly better off: they are 32% of Americans and 25% of elected officials.

The database also revealed that women are slightly more represented at the state and local level – they are a third of county-level office holders and a quarter of state legislators. The reverse is true for people of color who are more represented at the federal level than anywhere else, even though they still only represent 17 percent of federal officials.

The Reflective Democracy Campaign also released the findings of a poll of 800 likely voters, which found that the majority of those polled felt that women and people of color were underrepresented in elected office. What is more, overwhelming majorities of voters across all party identifications (Democrat, Independent, and Republican) supported policies that elect more women and people of color to Congress. The question is admittedly an abstract one and it remains to be seen, as more data from the project is released, what sort of specific policies the public will support.

While a pipeline to leadership and increasing voter turnout are vastly different issues, the connection between who votes and who we vote for remains. Gloria Totten, president of Progressive Majority, a PAC which recruits and trains progressives to run for office across the United States, noted “If you’re a person of color and you can’t even vote, are you going to run for office? There is some reality in the fact there is a ripple effect of regressive policy action in this country that plays into this data.”

Restrictive voting laws are one major culprit. ID requirements, laws that prevent felons from voting, proof of residency statutes, and conservative tactics such as barring same-day voter registration all disproportionately impact communities of color and the working poor who are less likely to own the stringent documentation required to enter the polls.

Less examined is the nature of polling places themselves. Limited hours, long lines, and inconvenient locations could prevent low-wage workers who lack workplace flexibility from taking time off to cast their vote. Currently, there is no federal legislation that protects workers who take needed time off to vote. This leaves women, people of color, and youth who are concentrated in low-income jobs that lack flexible scheduling without the protection they need to engage in civil life. Although some states, such as California, Georgia, and Illinois, laws provide several hours off work to vote, in 2012 more than 10 million voters waited in line for longer than half an hour to cast ballots. And for minimum-wage workers who are not paid for this time off, the lost income amounts to little more than a 21st century poll tax.

Of course, it is precisely this group of racially diverse, young, and working-class voters that are most discouraged from turning out to vote who are the most likely to support progressive candidates and initiatives.

Counterterrorism Experts: ISIS Not A Threat

no attribution

Liberaland

Intelligence agencies say ISIS poses no immediate threat to the United States.

Daniel Benjamin, who served as the State Department’s top counterterrorism adviser during Mr. Obama’s first term, said the public discussion about the ISIS threat has been a “farce,” with “members of the cabinet and top military officers all over the place describing the threat in lurid terms that are not justified.”

“It’s hard to imagine a better indication of the ability of elected officials and TV talking heads to spin the public into a panic, with claims that the nation is honeycombed with sleeper cells, that operatives are streaming across the border into Texas or that the group will soon be spraying Ebola virus on mass transit systems — all on the basis of no corroborated information,” said Mr. Benjamin, who is now a scholar at Dartmouth College…

“As formidable as ISIL is as a group, it is not invincible,” Matthew G. Olsen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said last week, using an alternate name for the group. “ISIL is not Al Qaeda pre-9/11” with cells operating in Europe, Southeast Asia and the United States. Mr. Olsen’s assessment stood in contrast to more pointed descriptions by other American officials like Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who has said that ISIS poses an “imminent threat to every interest we have.”…

In a speech Wednesday morning, Jeh C. Johnson, the Homeland Security secretary, said, “We know of no credible information that ISIL is planning to attack the homeland at present.”

 

10 things you need to know today: August 9, 2014

The United States is sending food and water to displaced Iraqis via airdrops.

The United States is sending food and water to displaced Iraqis via airdrops. (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

The Week

The U.S. continues its aid drops and airstrikes in Iraq, Reagan’s former press secretary’s death is ruled a homicide, and more

1. Obama addresses Iraq airstrikes as ISIS advances
President Barack Obama used his weekly Saturday address to describe the United States’ military airstrikes and humanitarian airdrops in Iraq. “The United States can’t just look away,” he said, when “countless innocent people are facing a massacre.” Obama authorized the use of airstrikes against ISIS targets on Thursday, and the U.S. has since sent two rounds aimed at stopping the militants’ march toward Erbil, Iraq’s Kurdish capital. The Sunni insurgents have continued their advance, though, forcing thousands of Iraqis to flee into the nearby mountains, reliant on aid drops for fresh water and food. [TheWeek.com, The Wall Street Journal]

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2. Former Reagan press secretary James Brady’s death ruled homicide
A medical examiner for the Northern District of Virginia on Friday ruled former press secretaryJames Brady’s Monday death a homicide. John Hinckley, Jr. shot President Ronald Reagan, along with three others including Brady, on March 30, 1981. He has since been treated at St. Elizabeth’s psychiatric hospital, after being found not guilty for the assassination attempt by reason of insanity. The shooting wounded Brady, who died on Monday at age 73, and left him partially paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. The medical examiner determined that those injuries led to Brady’s death, albeit 33 years later. [The Washington Post, NBC4 Washington]

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3. Afghanistan’s presidential candidates pledge to honor audit
Following a contentious runoff vote in June, Afghanistan’s rival presidential candidates finally agreed to honor — and speed along — an audit of more than eight million ballots on Friday. Former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and former finance minister Ashraf Ghani are vying for leader of a country which should have instated its new president last weekend, but arguments between the candidates’ camps and disruptions of the audit have pushed that timeline back. The United Nations, along with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, worked to broker the most recent agreement, which supersedes a previous truce that quickly stalled. [The Washington Post]

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4. Malaysia Airlines to be de-listed and taken private
Two high-profile disasters in less than five months, capped off by three straight years of losses for Malaysia Airlines prompted the Malaysian government to announce that the company will be de-listed and taken private on Friday. The move had been expected following the March 8 disappearance of Flight 370 and the July 17 shooting-down of Flight 17 over Ukraine. Khazanah Nasional, a state investment fund, proposed a $436 million buy-out of the airline’s shares. The company said it expects to completely “overhaul” the airline. This will include eliminating popular routes, trimming payroll, and installing new management. [Reuters]

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5. U.S. Ebola patient says he is ‘growing stronger every day’
Dr. Kent Brantly wrote in a statement released by international relief agency Samaritan’s Purse that he is “growing stronger every day,” as doctors at Emory University Hospital treat him for the deadly Ebola virus. Brantly contracted Ebola while working in Liberia as part of a post-residency program. He has been in the United States receiving treatment for a week. The World Health Organization declared the Ebola outbreak an international health emergency on Friday. More than 900 people in West Africa have died from the virus so far. [Time]

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6. State Attorneys General implore FDA to regulate e-cigarettes
A group of 29 state attorneys general sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration, requesting that e-cigarettes be regulated the same as traditional cigarettes. “E-cigarettes have all the addictive qualities of regular, combustible cigarettes,” New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said. “Each year, electronic cigarette companies spend millions of dollars advertising their product…glamorizing smoking in the same way combustible cigarettes did before these commercials were banned.” Courts have struck down previous attempts by the FDA to regulate e-cigs, which come in thousands of flavors and are sold everywhere from corner stores to the internet. [NPR]

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7. Facebook purchases cybersecurity firm
Facebook announced on Thursday that it has acquired cybersecurity firm PrivateCore, although terms of the deal were not released. The Palo, Alto-based startup uses “vCage technology” to protect servers from malware and other malicious hardware devices. “I’ve seen how much people care about the security of data they entrust to services like Facebook,” Joe Sullivan, Facebook’s chief security officer, wrote in a post announcing the acquisition. [Time]

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8. Congress adds $20 billion in extra projects to military budget
Congress added more than 300 glorified earmarks to the current defense spending bill, tacking on an additional $20 billion in costs for projects such as cancer research at historically black colleges and informing troops of the gym locations on military bases. The Pentagon did not request the additions, as the U.S. already spends more on war and defense than the next eight nations combined. American military spending totaled about $718 billion in 2013. [The Washington Times]

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9. Judge rules against NCAA in O’Bannon case
U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled on Friday in favor of Ed O’Bannon and 19 others in a lawsuit claiming the NCAA had violated antitrust law by not allowing athletes to be paid for their names, images, and likenesses. The decision is a victory for Football Bowl Subdivision and Division I men’s basketball players in the sense that they can now receive up to $5,000 a year in compensation for their role in the NCAA’s live television broadcasts. And, Wilken determined the NCAA’s arguments that it was not a monopoly and that payments to players were unreasonable based on the definition of amateurism did not hold — “that could haunt the NCAA in other litigation,” ESPN’s Lester Munson says. [The Associated Press, ESPN]

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10. Giant, newly discovered jellyfish species baffles scientists
Researchers caught a new species of jellyfish off Australia’s northwest coast in 2013, and nearly a year later, the find still has the scientists flummoxed. The Keesingia gigas is a type of Irukandji jellyfish, but unlike its tiny cousins, this jellyfish is about the length of a human arm. It carries fatal venom, which can cause pain, nausea, and even heart failure. What Keesingia gigas does not appear to have is tentacles, and that’s stumping Lisa-ann Gershwin. “Jellyfish always have tentacles…that’s how they catch their food,” the director of Australia’s Marine Stinger Advisory Services said. “I just don’t know what it is.” [The Guardian]

Robert Reich: Children fleeing to the U.S. are ‘refugees of the drug war we created’

Robert Reich speaks to Conan

Robert Reich speaks to Conan | Screenshot

At last somebody is telling the truth about this immigration crisis and other issues that the Right has venomously perpetuated…

The Raw Story

Robert Reich, President Bill Clinton’s former Secretary of Labor, recently put the so-called immigration crisis in perspective by reminding Americans that the women and children who were escaping to the U.S. were “refugees of the drug war we’ve created.”

“I’ve been watching media coverage of angry Americans at our southern border waiving signs and yelling slogans, insisting that the children – most of whom are refugees of the drug war we’ve created — ‘go home’ to the violence and death that war has created, and I wonder who these angry Americans are,” Reich wrote on Facebook over the weekend.

The former Labor Secretary explained in a July 14 post why the “United States is not a detached, innocent bystander” when it came to the refugee crisis.

For decades, U.S. governments supported unspeakably brutal regimes and poured billions into maintaining them ($5 billion in El Salvador alone). Implacable opposition to communism—often defined as virtually any reformer—gave these regimes a blank check. The result is a legacy of dealing with opponents through extreme violence and a culture of impunity. Judicial systems remain weak, corrupt, and often completely dysfunctional. After the cold war ended, the United States lost interest in these countries. What was left was destruction, tens of thousands dead, and massive population displacement. The percentage of people living below the poverty line is 54 percent for Guatemala, 36 percent for El Salvador,and 60 percent for Honduras. More recently gangs, organized crime, and drug cartels feeding the US market have become part of this unholy mix.

Reich said that he wasn’t “suggesting we allow in anyone who wants to come here, but these are desperate children.”

“Whatever happened to the generosity, decency, and big-heartedness of this country?” he wondered, quoting a poem by Emma Lazarus that is engraved into the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of our teeming shore. Send these, the homeless tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

In a follow-up post, Reich observed that the true division in America was not between Democrats and Republicans, it was “between the haters and the big-hearted.”

The haters direct their venom not just at child refugees seeking asylum from the drug war we created, but also at gays who want to marry, African-Americans who want to vote and exercise their other rights of citizenship, women who seek abortions, or even women in general, Latinos who want their children to be taught in Spanish, immigrants in general, Muslims, Jews, government “bureaucrats,” the poor and needy, anyone who dares suggest a required background check before buying guns, people they call “liberals” or “socialists” or “communists,” even the President of the United States.

He observed that “hate-mongers in the media” had also made the problem worse by encouraging the behavior.

“But the haters are not America,” Reich insisted. “They are a small and vocal minority. Most Americans are generous and welcoming, decent and kind-hearted. We are the silent majority, who have been silent too long.”

In the end, Reich said that it was wrong to “make children pay the price for the intolerable social destruction that Central American elites and militaries, as well as successive US governments, had a hand in creating.”

(h/t: Fusion)

Ex-Bush Official Blasts GOP: Bush Would Have Done The Same Thing

Liberaland

With the Afghanistan war winding down, the United States would be required to return prisoners to Afghanistan. We can’t hold them indefinitely.

“I don’t see how these particular Taliban officials could ever have been tried in the southern district of New York,” John Bellinger, who served as an adviser to President George W. Bush explained during an appearance on Fox News Tuesday. “They’re certainly some Al Qaeda detainees who committed actual terrorist acts against Americans who perhaps could have been tried in a federal court because they committed federal crimes, but these particular Taliban detainees I think could never have been tried in federal court.” Although some of the released prisoners posed a danger to the United States when they were captured in 2002, especially toward soldiers serving in Afghanistan, several of the detainees did not commit crimes against Americans…

Though Cheney told Fox News on Monday that he would not have agreed to the deal, Bellinger stressed that the Bush administration “returned something like 500 detainees from Guantanamo.” Statistics from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence show that only 6 percent (5 in total) of Guantanamo detainees released during the Obama administration have potentially engaged in militant activities. That compares with a rate of nearly 30 percent under the Bush administration.

“I’m not saying this is clearly an easy choice but frankly I think a Republican, a president of either party, Republican or Democratic confronted with this opportunity to get back Sgt. Bergdahl, who is apparently in failing health, would have taken this opportunity to do this,” he added. “I think we would have made the same decision in the Bush administration.”

Head Of Top Conservative Think Tank Makes Spectacularly Uninformed Statement About Slavery

General Ulysses S. Grant, a big government official who played no role in ending slavery, according to Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint

General Ulysses S. Grant, a big government official who played no role in ending slavery, according to Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint | CREDIT: AP PHOTO

Doh!

Think Progress

Jim DeMint, the former U.S. senator from South Carolina who now leads the conservative Heritage Foundation, went on a Christian radio show last week where he discussed the topic of slavery. He offered some rather unusual views on the subject of slavery while he was a guest on this show.

Well the reason that the slaves were eventually freed was the Constitution, it was like the conscience of the American people. Unfortunately there were some court decisions like Dred Scott and others that defined some people as property, but the Constitution kept calling us back to ‘all men are created equal and we have inalienable rights’ in the minds of God. But a lot of the move to free the slaves came from the people, it did not come from the federal government. It came from a growing movement among the people, particularly people of faith, that this was wrong. People like Wilberforce who persisted for years because of his faith and because of his love for people. So no liberal is going to win a debate that big government freed the slaves. In fact, it was Abraham Lincoln, the very first Republican, who took this on as a cause and a lot of it was based on a love in his heart that comes from God.

It’s difficult to know where to begin a list of the errors this brief passage. The phrase “all men are created equal and we have inalienable rights” does not appear in the Constitution, although a very similar phrase does appear in the Declaration of Independence. Indeed, the Constitution, at least as it stood before the Civil War, had very different things to say about the subject of human equality. It provided, for example, that “[n]o person held to service or labor in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.” The original Constitution also contained explicit language prohibiting Congress from banning the importation of new slaves until 1808.

Nevertheless, DeMint is technically correct that “the reason that the slaves were eventually freed was the Constitution.” That’s because the Thirteenth Amendment provides that “[n]either slavery nor involuntary servitude. . . shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” The Thirteenth Amendment did not, however, simply come into being because Abraham Lincoln had a “love in his heart that comes from God.” Rather, it happened because Lincoln led the nation in a massive big government program known as the “Civil War“.

During this war, the United States raised an army of over two million service members who clashed with a Confederate army of about half that size. Moreover, the war effort increased federal spending nearly 25 times. As the leader of a centralized government in Washington, DC, Lincoln also issued a document known as the “Emancipation Proclamation,” which ordered slaves in the Confederate states freed.

Notably, while the Thirteenth Amendment ended the legal practice of human chattel slavery, state laws such as the Black Codes and the Jim Crow laws were enacted in the South to maintain the inferior status of former slaves and their descendants. These laws were eventually eradicated by big government as well, primarily through legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

It’s also worth noting that the Confederate system of government differed from the Union’s system in that it placed far less power in a strong central government. While the United States Constitution, permits the federal government to “lay and collect taxes . . . and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States,” for example, the Confederate Constitution excluded the power to “provide for the general welfare.” Thus, the United States Constitution permits major national spending programs such as Medicare or Social Security, while these programs would have been unconstitutional in the Confederacy. Similarly, the Confederate Constitution includes a rigid limit on national infrastructure spending — forbidding its congress from “appropriat[ing] money for any internal improvement intended to facilitate commerce” — a limit that does not appear in the United States Constitution.

So Jim DeMint is correct that there was a belligerent during the American Civil War that rejected “big government.” He’s just wrong about which side that was.

The Year of the Great Redistribution

Robert Reich

The stock market closed out a record year at an all-time high [at the end of the year] giving stockholders in 2013 their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.

But the real news here, that went completely unreported, is that the 2013 bull market widened inequality because

(1) the richest 1 percent of Americans own 35 percent of the value of all shares of stock, and the richest 10 percent own over 80 percent,

(2) the corporate profits on which these gains were based came largely from keeping the wages of ordinary workers low,

(3) the capital gains and dividends these gains generated are taxed at a lower rate than most of the income of the middle class, and

(4) the biggest winners are the top executives and Wall Street traders whose year-end bonuses are tied to the stock market, and the hedge-fund and private-equity managers whose “carried interest” loophole allows them to cash in big-time. When will we stop measuring the health of the economy by the Dow Jones Industrial average? —

Uh, America, are we listening to this man?