So not only has the debt not increased more under Obama than all other Presidents combined, it has increased less under Obama than our last president, George W. Bush. Under President Bush, who inherited a $236 billion budget surplus from President Clinton, the deficit increased by $4.9 trillion.
Assad Grants Amnesty To Anti-Regime Protesters |
Reuters reports that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued a general amnesty to “all members of political movements, including the Muslim Brotherhood” in an apparent attempt to address the grievances of pro-democracy demonstrators. An opposition organizer called Assad’s move “too late.”
Libertarian-leaning Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) made headlines last week for single-handedly obstructing the renewal of the Patriot Act, calling the law an unconstitutional infringement on civil liberties. His demand to insert a series of amendments to weaken the law nearly allowed it to lapse and put the country at “risk,” but Paul said it was worth it to prevent the government from continuing to “blatantly ignor[e] the Constitution.” But when Paul went on Fox News host Sean Hannity’s radio show Friday to discuss his opposition to the national security law, he suggested implementing a far more serious infringement on civil liberties. While discussing profiling at airports, Paul called for the criminalization of speech:
PAUL: I’m not for profiling people on the color of their skin, or on their religion, but I would take into account where they’ve been traveling and perhaps, you might have to indirectly take into account whether or not they’ve been going to radical political speeches by religious leaders. It wouldn’t be that they are Islamic. But if someone is attending speeches from someone who is promoting the violent overthrow of our government, that’s really an offense that we should be going after — they should be deported or put in prison.
Paul’s suggestion that people be imprisoned or deported for merely attending a political speech would be a fairly egregious violation on the First Amendment, not to mention due process. What if someone attended a radical speech as a curious bystander? Should they too be thrown in prison? And who defines what is considered so “radical” that it is worth imprisonment?
But Paul’s suggestion is especially appalling coming from someone who fashions himself as a staunch defender of civil liberties. Since coming to Congress, Paul has received praise from libertarians and liberals alike for supposedly being consistent on the issue, and he often speaks of civil liberties in speeches and TV appearances.
However, aside from his admirable stance on the Patriot Act, Paul’s record shows he’s hardly the paragon of civil liberties he claims to be, but rather is “indistinguishable from the rest of the GOP on national security issues,” noted The American Prospect’s Adam Serwer last year. He’s said he will “always fight” to keep GITMO open; has said “[f]oreign terrorists do not deserve the protections of our Constitution;” and has never taken a strong public stance against torture, staying silent most recently after the killing of Osama bin Laden.
“I believe that America can successfully protect itself against potential terrorists without sacrificing civil liberties,” his website says. Apparently speech is not a civil liberty.
Barefoot and Progressive’s Joe Sonka notes that by Paul’s own logic, he should be put in jail, as he himself has flirted with rhetoric about violently overthrowing the government.
All of the talk about a national foreclosure freeze . . . all they’re trying to do is appeal to people’s emotions. You see, the United States federal government, folks, has no jurisdiction over bankruptcy law. States do!
So, if some states decide that they want to investigate some of these phony or incomplete foreclosures, it’s up to the states. This is not even under the jurisdiction of the federal government! But it sounds good. It really sounds good, though.
Once again, Cain really should try reading our founding document before he lectures others about it. According to Article I of the Constitution, “[t]he Congress shall have power . . . [t]o establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States.” So the Constitution actually says the exact opposite of what Cain claims it says, because Congress power to make “uniform” bankruptcy laws prevents the states from creating their own rules for bankruptcy.
Or, to put it another way, claiming that helping foreclosure victims is unconstitutional may “sound good” to Cain’s right-wing supporters, but it has no basis whatsoever in the actual Constitution.
House Rejects Debt Ceiling Increase |
The House of Representatives tonight, as expected, rejected an increase in the debt ceiling by a vote of 318-97, with every Republican and 82 Democrats voting nay. House Republicans explicitly said that the vote was designed to fail, leading many Democrats to oppose the measure. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said before the vote that if the bill is “simply a political charade in which the overwhelmingly majority or all Republicans are going to vote no, I’m going to advise my members that they should not subject themselves to the demagoguery that would surely follow.”
Given the pace with which the Chinese economy has been growing, it should come as no surprise that Chinese workers are now seeing substantial wage increases while the multinationals who’ve learned to love cheap Chinese labor are fretting about its demise.
It also serves to highlight the fact that the PRC has ample reasons of self-interest to give in to American demands and stop undervaluing its currency. The idea of using currency manipulation to give your producers a cost advantage can work, but as a strategy, it has a natural time limit. Artificially low Chinese currency has created artificially high demand for Chinese-made goods which has created artificially high demand for Chinese manufacturing labor which is creating pressure for wages and eroding China’s cost advantage. At the end of the day, they wind up in the same place they would have been with a floating currency — higher wages and reduced cost advantage—but a boatload of extra geopolitical animosity.
My Administration has also taken steps to eliminate discrimination against LGBT Americans in Federal housing programs and to give LGBT Americans the right to visit their loved ones in the hospital. We have made clear through executive branch nondiscrimination policies that discrimination on the basis of gender identity in the Federal workplace will not be tolerated. I have continued to nominate and appoint highly qualified, openly LGBT individuals to executive branch and judicial positions. Because we recognize that LGBT rights are human rights, my Administration stands with advocates of equality around the world in leading the fight against pernicious laws targeting LGBT persons and malicious attempts to exclude LGBT organizations from full participation in the international system. We led a global campaign to ensure “sexual orientation” was included in the United Nations resolution on extrajudicial execution — the only United Nations resolution that specifically mentions LGBT people — to send the unequivocal message that no matter where it occurs, state-sanctioned killing of gays and lesbians is indefensible. No one should be harmed because of who they are or who they love, and my Administration has mobilized unprecedented public commitments from countries around the world to join in the fight against hate and homophobia.
Rhode Island Civil Unions Bill Could Face Full Senate Vote Next Week |
Rhode Island’s Senate Judiciary Committee will review the civil unions bill on Thursday, paving the way for a full Senate vote as early as next week the Boston Globe reports. Two weeks ago, the House approved the measure, which “would grant same sex couples in a civil union all of the state rights given to married couples under Rhode Island law.” Since Rhode Island already recognizes out-of-state marriages between same-sex couples, some LGBT advocates see the “compromise” as a step back in the push for full marriage equality.
Last week, House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL) announced that he will initiate legislation within the next two weeks that would put part of Amtrak on the auctioning block for private investors to claim. The motivation behind this proposal is to save taxpayers money by getting Amtrak’s red ink off of the government’s books. Mica’s idea is hardly new, and details about the effects of privatization can be found in a 1998 Federal Railroad Administration report (pdf) that was produced at the request of a previous Republican Congress. The report’s conclusions reveal something important that is rarely acknowledged about plans such as Mica’s: They do not so much call for Amtrak privatization as they do for Amtrak elimination.
Amtrak’s fundamental mission is to “operate a national rail passenger transportation system which ties together existing and emergent regional rail passenger service and other intermodal passenger service,” according to the 1971 Rail Passenger Service Act. The rationale behind this objective is that intercity rail transit offers profound social benefits to the American public. It reduces air pollution and carbon emissions; relieves highway congestion; and potentially cuts down on suburban dwellers’ work commutes, thus increasing the amount of time they can spend engaged in more worthwhile activities such as exercising or enjoying the company of their families.
Yet Mica’s plan effectively would eliminate the national system of rail transit that presently exists. His plan involves soliciting bids from private companies to purchase Amtrak’s infrastructure in the Northeast corridor and operate intercity passenger rail service within the region. As for the rest of the country, one of two things would happen. If operations were put up to bid as in the Northeast, then the private companies who assumed control likely would cut back on schedule and destination choices in an attempt to turn a profit. In other areas, rail might cease entirely due to a lack of bidders. For travelers, particularly those moving across multiple regions, this would result in “inconsistent reservation services, uncoordinated service times, and unnecessary gaps in service,” according to the FRA report. Alternatively, the government could maintain control of passenger rail operations outside the Northeast corridor. That would require the continuation of federal rail subsidies, which is exactly what Republicans are trying to avoid.
Of course, Mica has not been bold enough to talk about what would happen to transit in the rest of the country, saying merely, “I believe that we have great potential in the Northeast corridor.” But if Mica wants to invest in improved service on the profitable Northeast Corridor by cutting subsidies to the rest of the system, there are simpler and more transparent ways to achieve that than selling it.