“In one of the most disturbing developments of recent years, some groups opposing immigration reform, such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), and NumbersUSA, have inflamed the immigration debate by invoking the dehumanizing, racist stereotypes and bigotry of hate groups.”
According to the Washington Post, hate crimes against Latinos have been going up for four consecutive years, jumping from 426 to 595 incidents in the last year alone with a 40 percent overall increase between 2003 and 2007.
Right now, the committed partners of gay employees in the federal government are excluded from receiving benefits afforded to spouses. This evening, the White House said that Obama will be making an announcement on this subject tomorrow, and media reports are saying he will extend benefits to same-sex partners of some of these employees. From the White House daily schedule:
In the evening, the President will deliver brief remarks and sign a Presidential Memorandum regarding federal benefits and non-discrimination in the Oval Office.
Kerry Eleved reports that the signing is scheduled for 5:45 p.m. Last month, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) pulled a provision from the Foreign Relations Authorization Act that would have given such benefits to foreign service officers, because the Obama administration had reportedly assured him that it would be moving forward on the issue. Last month, ThinkProgress spoke with Amb. Michael Guest, who said that his partner was excluded from receiving services such as medical treatment and effectiveness training while abroad.
There is no evidence in the record before us that any member of the excluded community has engaged in inappropriate conduct in the presence of the children or that the children would be adversely affected by exposure to any member of that community. The prohibition against contact with any gay or lesbian person acquainted with Husband assumes, without evidentiary support, that the children will suffer harm from any such contact. Such an arbitrary classification based on sexual orientation flies in the face of our public policy that encourages divorced parents to participate in the raising of their children…and constitutes an abuse of discretion.
Georgia law permits a family court judge to prohibit a non-custodial parent from exposing their child to an individual who could have an “adverse effect on the best interests of the children,” but only if there is actual evidence suggesting such an adverse effect. Yesterday’s decision reaffirms the simple truth that there is no evidence that children are harmed in any way whatsoever by interacting with gay men and lesbians.
Today, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) appeared on CNBC to discuss President Obama’s financial regulatory package, which is being rolled out tomorrow. While he was broadly supportive of the proposed reforms, Grassley has evidently come to the conclusion that there is no problem with financial institutions being “too big to fail,” because the current crisis was caused by banks simply going broke:
Listen, the banks got into trouble not because they were too big but because, simply, they were broke.
Yes, banks going broke was part of the problem. But small banks go broke all the time without threatening the entire financial system and requiring billions in federal bailout money. This year alone, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has closed down 37 different banks.
But other institutions — think Citigroup — were so big, complex, interconnected, and tied up in non-traditional banking instruments that they couldn’t go bust without taking a sizeable portion of the financial world down with them. And that was the real problem. For instance, AIG, which isn’t even a bank, sold so many credit default swaps — and thus had so much outstanding debt that it couldn’t cover — that its failure could have pulled down a host of other institutions.
As part of its regulatory reform package, the Obama administration is asking for a resolution authority “to allow the unwinding of troubled non-bank financial institutions.” And while the plan will reportedly include higher liquidity and capital requirements for larger banks, I wish there was a bit more emphasis on the approach to banks advocated by Paul Volcker, chairman of the Economic Recovery Advisory Board: “Keep them small, so that any failure won’t have systematic importance.”
The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza reports that Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), a member of GOP leadership and a potential candidate for president in 2012, will hold a press conference later today in which he will acknowledge having an extramarital affair “with a campaign staffer who was married to an employee in Ensign’s Senate office.” Ensign flew back to Las Vegas to make the public announcement.
Since his election to the Senate in 2000, Ensign has been a leading conservative voice who demanded the resignation of former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig in September 2007. Ensign called Craig a “disgrace” after he was arrested in June 2007 in an airport men’s restroom on disorderly conduct charges. But when Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) acknowledged having an affair, Ensign didn’t call on him to resign.
Ensign has also been an ardent opponent of gay marriage. In Feb. 2004, Ensign announced his support for an amendment to the Constitution that would have defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Ensign said the amendment, which ultimately failed, was necessary to protect “the institution of marriage“:
“Sadly, the effort to redefine marriage against the wishes of a majority of the people is, with help from activist judges, succeeding,” Ensign said. “In order to defend the institution of marriage, uphold the rights of individual states, and maintain the will of the people, I believe we are compelled to amend our country’s constitution.”
“The effort to pass a constitutional amendment reaffirming marriage as being between a man and a woman only is being undertaken strictly as a defense of marriage against the attempt to redefine it and, in the process, weaken it,” Ensign said. “Marriage is an extremely important institution in this country and protecting it is, in my mind, worth the extraordinary step of amending our constitution.”
In 1998, while running for Nevada’s Senate seat against Harry Reid, Ensign called on President Clinton to resign in light of his admitted affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky:
“I came to that conclusion recently, and frankly it’s because of what he put his whole Cabinet through and what he has put the country through,” Ensign said Thursday, becoming the first member of the Nevada delegation to call for Clinton to quit. “He has no credibility left.”
How much “credibility” does Ensign have left?
More quotes from Ensign:
“I believe that marriage should be defined as that between one man and one woman. You want to do what is ideal for children and all of the studies show that the ideal for children is to be in a household with a father and a mother.” [4/19/09]
“Mr. President, I rise today to speak on a topic that is very important. That is the preservation of the most important structure in our society.” [7/13/04]
“There’s too many people that paint with a broad brush that we’re all corrupt, we’re all amoral. … And having these kinds of things happen, whether it’s a Republican or Democratic senator — we certainly have had plenty of Democratic scandals in the past — we need people who are in office who will hold themselves to a little higher standard.” [10/18/07]
This morning in a speech on the Senate floor, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) argued that the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) preliminary estimate of the HELP Committee’s health care legislation “should be a wake up call for all of us to scrap the current bill and start over and start over in a true bipartisan fashion“:
The Congressional Budget Office released a letter that stated that the Kennedy bill, the bill now pending for mark-up tomorrow, beginning tomorrow in committee would insure only one-third, only one third of the 47 million Americans who are currently uninsured for the cost of a trillion dollars….I strongly believe that we have to start over and act in a truly bipartisan fashion to address the issue.
Indeed, McCain is following the lead of Reps. John Boehner (R-OH), Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) in pretending that the organization’s estimates — which found that 15 million Americans would lose their employer-sponsored coverage and only 16 million uninsured Americans would obtain coverage — considered the whole of the legislation.
But as CBO chief Douglas Elmendorf pointed out in his letter to HELP Chairman Ted Kennedy, since the draft legislation did not include language on the extent of the employer’s responsibility or expansion of Medicaid, “those figures are not likely to represent the impact that more comprehensive proposals…would have both on the federal budget and on the extent of insurance coverage.”
“The bottom line is that we should expect the real bill to have a somewhat higher cost number but a much higher number of people getting health coverage,” Matt Yglesias writes. “Consequently the cost per person will be much lower and the legislation will look much more reasonable.” Moreover, as a new report by Ken Jacobs and Jacob Hacker explains, an employer mandate to build on the existing coverage would “reduce the incentive for firms to drop coverage” and enable most Americans to keep their existing employer-sponsored health care plans:
The employer contribution level will need to be high enough to reduce the incentive for firms to drop coverage, while also taking into account firms’ abilities to absorb the higher costs. If a sliding scale is used, payroll cost is a better measure of firms’ ability to pay than the number of employees. Sliding scales should be designed in such a way to minimize cliffs by size of firm.
In his rather bizarre floor speech, McCain called for greater bipartisanship in crafting health care reform legislation but then demanded to see the administration’s bill and re-introduced his campaign health care proposal, which, despite being rejected by all of the major stakeholders, McCain promised would be enacted “within weeks.”
Having shipped hundreds of electric vehicle charging stations, and with repeat orders now coming in from Europe, Coulomb Technologies, a privately-held Silicon Valley company, expects to be profitable by the 2010 introduction of the Chevy Volt, according to its chief executive, Richard Lowenthal.
(Mr. Lowenthal appears in the video above, explaining the company’s ChargePoint Network.)
“Our plan was to sell a thousand stations, but we will probably double that,” he told Green Inc. last week after the company secured its third Bay Area order this year. “Our company is structured to be profitable based on early adopters.”
This afternoon, the Wonk Room’s Matt Duss appeared on MSNBC to discuss the ongoing Iranian protests over last week’s disputed presidential elections. He praised President Obama for taking the U.S. “out of this equation” and thus refusing to give the hardliners in Iran an “excuse” to crack down further on the protesters:
DUSS: I think the lesson to be learned is the United States’ ability to intervene and change these outcomes is rather limited. As Americans, we like to believe that our ability to move, to promote democracy and to move events in the world at our will is a lot bigger than it actually is. … Right now President Obama’s treatment of the demonstrations going on in Iran is pretty near perfect. He has taken the United States to the extent possible out of this equation, he, the United States, and our role in the Middle East is not — he’s not going to give that to the hard liners as an excuse for an even greater crackdown.
Montazeri issued a statement today strongly supporting political and religious pluralism, and cautioning both the regime and the demonstrators against violence:
The distinction of a powerful government — Islamic or non-Islamic — is its ability to heed both similar and opposing views and, with religious compassion, which is a prerequisite of government, allow all the strata of society, whatever their political beliefs, to participate in the running of the country, instead of totally alienating them and constantly increasing their [the dissidents] number. Since this government is known as a religious government, I fear that the conduct and actions of the officials may ultimately harm the religion and undermine the people’s beliefs. [...]
I urge all the people, in particular the youth, to pursue the realization of their rights with patience and grace, to maintain calm and security in the country by virtue of sagacity and intelligence, and to refrain from aggression or any action that may harm their image and legitimate demand, and which would give an excuse to those of unfit character, who infiltrate the crowds, to create turmoil and disorder, and set people’s homes and belongings on fire, in a bid to generate an atmosphere of fear and insecurity. [...]
I advise all the officials, as well as the military and security forces, to uphold their religion and not sell their souls; they must understand that the term “officials are excused [because they are only doing their duty]” would not be accepted by the Almighty God on the Day of Judgement. They must regard the protesting youth as their own children, and refrain from violent and cruel actions. They must learn from the mistakes of the predecessors and understand that, eventually, those who oppress the people will receive their just comeuppance. In this day and age, one cannot hide the truth from the people through censorship, closures and restrictions of communication means.
In conclusion, I beseech the Almighty God to grant success to all those who serve Islam and the Muslims, and honor and glory to the dear Iranian nation.
Unlike allegations of vote fraud from American congressmen and former presidential candidates, this is the sort of statement, a respected clerical authority making an appeal for justice, tolerance, and non-violence on the basis of Islam, that could has the potential to really change the outcome on the ground. Hopefully more clerics will join with him.