By Jed Lewison
Center for Investigative Reporting
As can be expected with a new administration in Washington, there has been a stream of reports, studies, and recommendations on how to fix the nation's broken immigration system penned by think-tanks, NGOs, advocacy groups and the like since President Obama took office in January.
Among the latest, most sweeping studies, out July 8, is a task force report by the Council on Foreign Relations.
Co-chaired by Jeb Bush, a former Republican governor of Florida and George W. Bush's brother, and Thomas McLarty, President Bill Clinton's first White House chief of staff, the bipartisan task force gathers former politicians, bureaucrats and law-enforcement types with human-rights advocates, academics, and attorneys to exhort President Obama that immigration reform must be a "first-tier" priority to ensure national security and maintain America's advantage in the world.
With a struggling economy, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and health-care reform already at the top of the list, some government insiders don't expect much movement this year on immigration reform, but it could happen next year. Rahm Emanuel, Obama's chief of staff, recently said as much before a White House meeting on immigration with lawmakers last month.
By way of introduction, the task force states what many already know: The current immigration system is a mess. But it goes on to highlight that immigration policy is no longer just a domestic issue; it has wide-ranging foreign policy implications as well. The U.S., the report points out, leads the world with about 25 percent of all immigrants.
The task force thinks that the "basic logic" that the 2006 and 2007 bills set forth to overhaul the immigration system was sound, and the logic is that reform needs to be another "grand bargain" that deals with three issues. Those are:
1. Fix the legal immigration system to make it more efficient and appropriately responsive to labor needs and competitiveness.
2. To restore integrity in the system, enforcement must discourage employers and employees from using undocumented workers.
3. Find and implement a "humane and orderly way" for many of the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. to "earn" the right to live here legally....(Remainder.)
Good As You
The National Organization For Marriage's Robert George, a professional voice for discrimination:
"...it is not really about benefits. It is about sex. The idea that is antithetical to those who are seeking to redefine marriage is that there is something uniquely good and morally upright about the chaste sexual union of husband and wife—something that is absent in sodomitical acts and in other forms sexual behavior that have been traditionally—and in my view correctly—regarded as intrinsically non-marital and, as such, immoral."Good As You's Jeremy Hooper, a legally married gay man who wants the same for anyone who chooses it (and full federal recognition for his own union):
You know who is really obsessed with gay sex? SOCIAL CONSERVATIVES. And I don't say that in the cliché way in which gay activists sometimes like to claim that their opposition is secretly gay. I personally don't give a rat's rimjob what you or any social conservative does is bed, Mr. George. But what I do care about is your intense focus on my natural desires, and your implication that I somehow live my life in a way that seeks your pre-coital approval!The National Organization For Marriage's Robert George:
For gay activists, civil marriage is, above all else, about promised freedoms that are currently denied to far too many. It's about equality. It's about fairness among the citizenry. It's about rights and what is right (as opposed to what's far-right). It may be convenient and comforting to tell yourself that people like myself are sitting around hoping that someday Ethel Blumpkins will bless my bedroom from her pew. But the reality is that for the vast, vast, VAST majority of LGBT advocates, the goal is for that same churchgoer to KEEP HER VIEWS ON MORALITY OUT OF MY HOUSEHOLD, AND ESPECIALLY OUT OF OUR SHARED CIVIL GOVERNMENT!"
"[Gay activists] use their cultural power to enforce assumptions instead of advancing arguments or engaging the counterarguments made by defenders of the conjugal conception of marriage as the union of husband and wife."Good As You's Jeremy Hooper:
"Yea, Mr. "protect marriage" / "sanctity of marriage" / "preserve traditional marriage" / "marriage threatens children"? It's the gays who are relying on assumptions rather than putting out new ideas/ challenging their opposition's pre-existing one? Interesting.The National Organization For Marriage's Robert George:
Guess that's why your side is notorious for relying on talking points, constantly refuses to acknowledge your opposition when you are called out on flawed data, refuses to separate CIVIL marriage equality (what gays are actually seeking) from religious ceremony, and generally writes off any progressive notion on marriage equality as being born out of "liberal extremism." It's because you all are just SO into "advancing arguments," huh Mr. G?"
"Campaigns of intimidation succeed only if the victims of such campaigns permit themselves to be intimidated. They fizzle when people refuse to alter their behavior out of fear. As anyone who has ever confronted a school-yard bully knows, bullies are cowards. When their victims stand up to them, they fold like accordions. My advice to supporters of marriage who are targets of intimidation is this: make clear to the bullies that if they seek to intimidate you, your response will be to ratchet up your support of marriage by, for example, increasing your financial contributions to the pro-marriage cause, devoting more time to making phone calls to family members, friends, and members of your religious community, and doing other grassroots work on behalf of marriage. That is what I have personally done. Just as the campaign of intimidation will fail if we refuse to be intimidated, it will backfire if we decide to make it backfire by redoubling our pro-marriage efforts in the face of it."Good As You's Jeremy Hooper:
"Right, Mr. G: Intimidatory campaigns do only succeed if the victims allow themselves to be threatened. That is exactly why I stand up -- boldly, proudly, and unabashedly -- to your militant anti-gay agenda. I will tell you in print, on video, on phone, in your face in the privacy of either of our homes (we do live close by), or via frcikin' smoke signal that you will not -- WILL NOT! -- ever take away what is owed to me by virtue of my tax-paying American citizenship. Because you will not bully me into accepting your unfortunate view that I am unfit for this world.The National Organization For Marriage's Robert George:
Oh, and seeing your claims and raising them: I will gladly put my love and my marriage up against your any day of the week. Then once you see my benign, peaceful household, I dare you to say that my domesticated bliss (tonight we're having veggie dogs!) is intimidating anyone!
To me your organization is actually worse than the schoolyard bully, Mr. George, because at least that archetypical character tends to realize that his or her lunch money-pilfering is self-serving and mean. NOM will steal the gay kids' pizza and then blame their digestive systems for wanting to eat in the first place!!!"
"In the words of a prominent politician who says that though he supports civil unions he opposes same-sex “marriage”: Yes, we can!"Good As You's Jeremy Hooper:
"In the words of a gay man who supports his president despite of his still-evolving marriage stance: 'Stop creating a nasty, hostile climate in which LGBT human beings are painted as sick, perverse, and immoral, and then maybe our president will be able to act on the principle that we know is within him without having to fear the indefatigable pushes for unreasonable political retribution that we all know as lying within you!'"*Read all of Mr. George's words: Robert P. George on the Struggle Over Marriage [Public Discourse]
At about 3:15 P.M. yesterday, the government's 100th day in office, political correspondents' beepers went off. In an unprecedented move, the Prime Minister's Bureau was inviting the correspondents to a press conference at the Knesset that was slated to begin in 15 minutes. This was the start of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's panicked, disproportionate response to the criticism senior Kadima politicians had leveled at him three hours earlier.
Kadima MKs had attacked Netanyahu at a press conference under the banner "100 days, zero gains. It's the same old Bibi." Later, Kadima supporters handed out stickers with anti-Netanyahu slogans in the Knesset cafeteria.
Netanyahu, who - unusually - was in the cafeteria on Wednesday, got one of the stickers from his political adviser, Shalom Shlomo, and summoned ministers Yisrael Katz, Gideon Sa'ar and Gilad Erdan to a meeting. "I want to call a press conference," Netanyahu said. His colleagues tried to dissuade him, but he insisted.
However, instead of appearing at the press conference himself, he stayed in his office and sent his advisers.
An atmosphere of permanent crisis has surrounded Netanyahu's bureau ever since he took office, so it was no surprise that the press conference also had an air of panic. The five advisers - National Security Adviser Uzi Arad, cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser, director general of the Prime Minister's Office Eyal Gabai, political adviser Ron Dermer and Nir Hefetz, who heads the public relations desk - arrived at the meeting without a prearranged, uniform message. Over and over, they cut each other off.
Hauser tried to convince the press that Netanyahu's zigzagging on the issue of value-added tax was a deliberate ploy coordinated with the other coalition parties. Arad once again lambasted U.S. President Barack Obama's refusal to honor understandings reached with his predecessor, George W. Bush, on the issue of the settlements, but argued that coordination with Washington on Iran had actually improved. Dermer emphasized Netanyahu's speech at Bar-Ilan University, which he said won international plaudits. And Hefetz denied that there was any panic in Netanyahu's bureau, attributing the friction there to "work-related pressure."...(Remainder.)
Stars and Stripes
WASHINGTON — It is the Facebook for the fascist set, and the typical online profiles of its members reveal expected tastes.
Favorite book: “Mein Kampf”
Favorite movie: the Nazi propaganda film “Triumph of the Will”
Interests: “white women”
Dislikes: “anyone who opposes the master race”
But there’s one other thing that dozens of members of newsaxon.org, a white supremacist social networking website, have in common: They proudly identify themselves as active-duty members of the U.S. armed forces.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, the Montgomery, Ala.-based watchdog group that tracks extremist hate groups, has compiled a book containing the online user profiles of at least 40 newsaxon.org users who say they are serving in the military, in apparent violation of Pentagon regulations prohibiting racist extremism in the ranks.
On Friday, the SPLC will present its findings to key members of Congress who chair the House and Senate committees overseeing the armed forces and urge them to pressure the Pentagon to crack down.
Added Mark Potok, editor of the Intelligence Report, a magazine produced at the law center: “The Pentagon really has shrugged this off and refused to look at this in any serious way.”...(Remainder.)
By Joe Conason
July 10, 2009 | Disaster is often followed by recrimination, a bitter aspect of human nature that can be observed among the Republicans as the Sarah Palin fiasco continues to unfold. The Alaska governor's surprise resignation, amid negative press coverage in Vanity Fair and elsewhere, suddenly revived dormant feuding among campaign operatives and conservative media figures -- notably between Steve Schmidt, the former campaign manager, and Bill Kristol, the Weekly Standard editor and Fox News commentator.
In ordinary circumstances, all their bitchy backbiting, spinning and fabricating would be of little interest except as comic entertainment for political junkies. Who first called Palin a "diva"? Who insinuated that she might suffer from postpartum depression? Who searched computer files to find out which staffer was leaking these bilious tidbits to the press? And who cares now, eight months later, except for these losers?
Plainly there is no reason why anyone should care, except for one small nagging concern. It is worth remembering that these are the same people who chose Palin, a manifestly unqualified and incompetent politician unable to string together a series of coherent sentences, as the potential presidential successor to a 72-year-old cancer survivor. So it would be refreshing and salubrious to see the perpetrators of that contemptuous and cynical tactic held accountable for endangering the country....(Remainder.)
By Mark Hosenball and Michael Isikoff
CIA Director Leon Panetta has ordered an internal inquiry into the agency's handling of a contentious and still highly classified intelligence program that has caused a heated dispute between the CIA and Democrats on the House intelligence committee. The move by Panetta appears to be an implicit acknowledgment by the agency that it should have disclosed information about the post-9/11 secret program to Congress much earlier than it did.
The internal CIA probe was described by an official with first-hand knowledge as a review by a senior agency officer--rather than a formal investigation by the inspector general's office. The senior officer is not connected with the National Clandestine Service, the CIA branch whose actions are under scrutiny, according to the official who is familiar with the inquiry.
CIA and congressional officials have refused to describe the nature of the covert program, but insisted it is not connected to the CIA's use of controversial "enhanced" interrogation techniques. But the program's existence erupted into a major political dispute Wednesday night when seven Democrats on the House intelligence committee released a letter charging that the agency had "concealed significant actions" and "misled" members of Congress by failing to inform the oversight committees about the program until last month. The Democrats demanded that Panetta "publicly correct" his statement of May 15 declaring that "it is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress."
Paul Gimigliano, a CIA spokesman, said Panetta has nothing to correct: "Director Panetta took the initiative to raise the issue with the Hill. He did so promptly and clearly, as the oversight committees themselves recognize. He stands by his statement that it is neither the policy nor the practice of the CIA to mislead Congress. He believes, as his actions show, in the importance of a candid dialogue with Congress."...(Remainder.)
By Claire Suddath
People from Mississippi are fat. With an adult obesity rate of 33%, Mississippi has gobbled its way to the "chubbiest state" crown for the fifth year in a row, according to a new joint report by Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Alabama, West Virginia and Tennessee aren't far behind, with obesity rates over 30%. In fact, eight of the 10 fattest states are in the South. The region famous for its biscuits, barbecue and pecan pies has been struggling with its weight for years — but then again, so has the rest of the country. Wisconsin loves cheese, New Yorkers scarf pizza, and New Englanders have been known to enjoy a crab cake or two. So why is the South so portly?
For one thing, it's poor. Mississippi is not only the fattest state in the nation, but also the poorest, with 21% of its residents living below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Alabama and West Virginia, the second and third fattest states, are tied for fifth poorest. With a poverty rate of 14%, the South is easily the most impoverished region in the country. "When you're poor, you tend to eat more calorie-dense foods because they're cheaper than fruits and vegetables," explains Jeff Levi, executive director of Trust for America. Poor neighborhoods also have fewer grocery stores, even in the rural South. A 2004 study by the University of South Carolina found that most food-shopping options in rural areas fall into the convenience-store category because grocery stores are located too far away. But although poverty puts people at risk for obesity, it doesn't determine their fate. A number of impoverished states — including Montana, Texas and New Mexico — have relatively low levels of obesity. There must be something else. (See the top 10 food trends of 2008.)
Maybe it's the culture. Southerners definitely enjoy their fried chicken (not to mention fried steak, fried onions, fried green tomatoes, fried pickles and fried corn bread). Even when their food isn't fried, they like to smother it in gravy. But while nutritionists frequently blame Southerners' large guts on their regional food choices, the accusation is a little unfair. Just as Californians don't actually live on wheat grass and tofu, Southerners don't really sit around eating fried chicken every day. "I've not come across anything that says the diet in the Southeast is worse than the rest of the country," says David Bassett, co-director of the University of Tennessee's Obesity Research Center. "We're definitely in what I like to call the 'Stroke Belt,' " he says, referring to Southeastern states' high percentage of heart disease and hypertension, "but I think that has more to do with Southerners' lack of physical activity rather than the food."...(Remainder.)
By Media Matters
On the July 8 edition of Fox Business Network's Fox Business, host Stuart Varney asserted that "[a] new congressional report shows the real culprit in the housing bubble was the government. They concluded that the pressure put on the banks to lend to people who couldn't really afford mortgages -- well, that blew up the market." Varney and Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano identified the Community Reinvestment Act as the primary mechanism through which the government acted. Napolitano also pointed to the government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as a "second" instrument of government policy. In fact, the "congressional report" is a staff report released by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's minority. Moreover, as Media Matters for America documented, Varney and Napolitano's claims that the Community Reinvestment Act, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac played a central role in the housing crash are myths.
During the discussion, Napolitano said, "It was the government pushing the free market to do things it would not naturally do: to lend to people who ordinarily would not be able to -- at below-market rates, and then when the market rates went up to where they naturally would be, these folks couldn't afford to pay them back." After Varney asked if he was "talking about the Community Reinvestment Act," Napolitano replied, "The Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, a Carter-era law which was enforced by every president from Jimmy Carter to the present president." Additionally, a Cybercast News Service article about the minority staff report uncritically reported that "conservatives ... argue that the Community Reinvestment Act and other federal programs fed the housing bubble that burst in 2007 and led to the economic downfall in 2008."
But as Media Matters has noted, the suggestion that the financial crisis was caused by banks lending irresponsibly to comply with CRA is widely discredited. Indeed, actions taken by banks to expand lending to underserved communities, the focus of CRA, did not cause the financial crisis, according to Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, who stated in a November 25, 2008, letter: "Our own experience with CRA over more than 30 years and recent analysis of available data, including data on subprime loan performance, runs counter to the charge that CRA was at the root of, or otherwise contributed in any substantive way to, the current mortgage difficulties."...(Remainder.)