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Water Cooler – The President Does the Right Thing on Deportation Enforcement

6:00 pm in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

The FSM knows that the president does not always get it right, and often times it takes him way to long to do so, but he should get credit when he actually acts in a way that progressives can support. That is what he has done yesterday.

According to the Hill Newspaper:

Under the new rules announced Thursday, officials at the Department of Homeland Security will perform case-by-case reviews of those in line for deportation, weeding out violent criminals and other high-priority cases while closing the books on those considered no threat.

Since being unable to get the DREAM Act passed there has been a lot of pressure on the administration to use it’s executive power to change the enforcement policies of ICE. The so-called Secure Communities initiative was supposed to focus on the criminal element in the informal immigration community.

The theory was that people who were committing serious crimes in addition to their undocumented status should be the first ones that were found and deported to their country of origin. It is actually a decent idea, spending the limited amount of money we have for this kind of enforcement on actual criminals who don’t contribute to our society.

Of course the problem is that they are not as easy to find as say a undocumented immigrant without a license caught in a traffic stop. The Obama administration has been deporting more undocumented immigrants than the Bush administration every did, but they have not all been the hardened criminals like the Secure Communities program envisioned.

Changing the emphasis and closing the books on the cases of non-violent, non-criminal undocumented immigrants is the right thing to do. How can we tell? Because xenophobic Republicans are already howling to the moon about it, here is what the reprehensible Representative Peter King (R-NY) had to say about it:

“This new non-enforcement policy announced by the Obama Administration Thursday is a blatant attempt to grant amnesty to potentially millions of illegal aliens in this country.”

Rep. King is the same fellow who spends a bunch of committee time looking for radicalized Muslims. But he is an equal opportunity hater, if you are brown he is pretty sure that you are out to ruin the United States.

In this case though, he is going to be about as affective as box full of mewling kittens. This is completely within the powers of the Executive branch to use its prosecutorial discretion to decide which cases it wants to take to court, be it civil or deportation court, and which it will give a pass to.
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Water Cooler – Intelligence Committee Says “No, You Can’t Know How We Read the FISA Laws”

6:00 pm in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

Big Brother is watching you…

Big Brother is watching you… by OwenBlacke

There are a lot of troubling things going on in our nation and especially our government. So many in fact that it is hard to keep track of them all, and frankly, to be as upset as we should be about them. One particular area that has faded from the public attention is the amount of surveillance that is actually allowed under the FISA regime.

To make matters worse, it seems that some of the Senators on the Intelligence Committee are trying to bring out exactly how the Obama Administration is interpreting that law. As Senators Mark Udall and Ron Wyden have said:

“We remain very concerned that the U.S. government’s official interpretation of the Patriot Act is inconsistent with the public’s understanding of the law,


We believe that most members of the American public would be very surprised to learn how federal surveillance law is being interpreted in secret.”

To try to remedy this issue, the two Senators proposed some amendments to the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012. This is the document that covers the cost of our intelligence gathering (outside the DoD that is) . While it was designed to give Congress more control of the intelligence process, by requiring reporting and such, it also limits and controls what the intelligence agencies can and can not do.

Which is exactly why the two Senators wanted to use it to force a greater level of transparency from the Obama Administration and the Agencies. Unfortunately the amendment was defeated by a voice vote.
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A Win for Marriage Equality At ICE

5:44 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

gay marriage

gay marriage by Mellicious

The Federal Government is a sprawling thing. How else could it be? After all it is governing 305 million people and that can’t be done out of a small office behind the Kwiki Mart. Still there are times when the left hand knows what the right hand is doing that they work together instead of at cross purposes.

I am happy to point out one of these times today. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has decided that it will suspend the deportation proceedings for a Mr. Henry Velandia. What is the reason that Mr. Velandia is getting a reprieve from being deported? It is because he is married to Josh Vandiver.

That’s right, because these two men were married in Connecticut; ICE is closing the deportation case against Mr. Velandia. You see this comes out of the Obama Administration’s decision not to contest the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

When Attorney General Holder and President Obama decided that DOMA was unconstitutional it did not mean just that they would stop fighting the cases against it in court. It became the position of the Executive Branch that the actions of the government should reflect this new position.

This means, for now, that gay couples where one partner is an informal immigrant (as Mr. Velandia was, having overstayed a visa) who has not been involved in violent crime, and is married to a U.S. citizen will get the same kind of consideration that heterosexual couples in the same situation get.

This is a small story. It is really just about two men who won’t be separated because of immigration status. However the impact of this action could be huge indeed. The first aspect of it is obvious, if the federal government is starting to recognize marriages between people of the same sex for immigration purposes, that sends a huge signal to judges who are hearing the various challenges to marriage equality laws.

This is one of those “Put your money where your mouth is” moments. There are a lot of folks in the LGTB community who are rightly frustrated with a President and Administration that wants to claim the mantle of “fierce advocate” for equality but have moved very slowly and overly cautiously in this regard. Read the rest of this entry →

Wall St. Journal Columnist Bashes Food Stamp Program, Just for Fun

5:48 am in jerks by Bill Egnor

Food Stamps

Food Stamps by NCReedplayer

There is a concept in business that you should manage exceptions not manage to the exceptions. Basically it means that if you have a couple of minor problems with a process you should deal with the people making the problems rather than make a policy that is so restrictive that, while preventing this problem, encumbers everyone who is involved in the process so shackled that it reduces output, innovation and efficiency.

When it comes to public policy, Republicans can’t seem to grasp this idea. There is a good example of this in Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal. James Bovard is a “Pox on both your houses” libertarian who likes to point out problems without viable solutions.

Yesterday he took to his roost at the WSJ and cawed out a column about the abuses of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which used to be called Food Stamps. Mr. Bovard gives several examples of abuse and fraud in the program that currently helps 44 million Americans feed themselves.

He makes the argument that the Obama Administration’s decision not to spend a lot of time and money on fraud enforcement is a major problem. Or more correctly he just complains. Here is part of what he had to say:

The Obama administration is far more enthusiastic about boosting food-stamp enrollment than about preventing fraud. Thanks in part to vigorous federally funded campaigns by nonprofit groups, the government’s AmericaCorps service program, and other organizations urging people to accept government handouts, the number of food-stamp recipients has soared to 44 million from 26 million in 2007, and costs have more than doubled to $77 billion from $33 billion.

The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service now has only 40 inspectors to oversee almost 200,000 merchants that accept food stamps nationwide. The Government Accountability Office reported last summer that retailers who traffic illegally in food stamps by redeeming stamps for cash or alcohol or other prohibited items “are less likely to face criminal penalties or prosecution” than in earlier years.

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NLRB Takes Boeing To Court For Union Busting

5:27 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

Union Thug

Union Thug by LizaWasHere

In another example of disaster capitalism, the Boeing company decided in 2009, at the height of the devastating loss of jobs in this country, to build a new plant to produce the “Dreamliner” aircraft. That sounds like it should be good news, no? Well, according to the NLRB, it was a union-busting move.

Instead of building the plant in Washington State where most of the Boeing aircrafts have been built for decades, Boeing decided to locate its new plant in South Carolina. SC is a so-called “right to work” state with not much labor movement to speak of. Which allows Boeing to hire non-union employees to staff the plant.

The crux of this dispute:  Was Boeing’s decision just a case of the company building a plant where they are assured there will be less union activity, and thus less chance that strikes that would delay the production of the 787’s?  Or was it done to weaken the power of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the union representing 25,000 Boeing workers?

This lead to a dispute before the National Labor Relations Board, and now the Board is bringing suit against Boeing for unfair labor practices.

From McClatchy:

Catherine Fisk, a law professor at the University of California at Irvine, said the Boeing case is similar to a string of NLRB actions going back decades in which the labor agency charged companies with shifting jobs from union to non-organized workers.

“The heart of the NLRB case (against Boeing) is that opening the South Carolina plant was done for purposes of intimidating the Washington employees from striking again or from being unduly aggressive in their wage demands,” Fisk said

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Water Cooler – Things Getting Hotter In Syria

4:58 pm in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

The young man from Daraa

The young man from Daraa by Kodak Agfa, on Flickr

There are many things going on in the world today but one that seems particularly troubling and not really getting a lot of notice in the current cycle is the events in Syria. Things have been going from bad to worse in the Middle Eastern nation. Protests have been going on for two months now and even though the Assad government has tried removing emergency laws and brutal crack downs the protesters are not giving up.

However neither is the Assad dictatorship. They have sent out tanks and snipers to keep the protesters off the streets. There have been reports that ambulances are not being allowed to move in cities like Deraa and that government forces are going house to house searching out and arresting activists.

In the New York Times today a close associate of President Bashar al-Assad, Rami Makhlo said:

We will not go out, leave on our boat, go gambling, you know,” he said at his plush, wood-paneled headquarters in Damascus. “We will sit here. We call it a fight until the end.” He added later, “They should know when we suffer, we will not suffer alone.”

He went further to make explicate the idea that if the Assad regime collapses there any kind of stability in the region with Israel is at risk.

This ratcheting up of the rhetoric against the protests puts the Obama administration in a tough place. They are seeing the same kind of actions that led to a NATO intervention in the in Libya, up to and including the use of heavy weapons against civilian targets, primarily people calling for a change in regime because of a lack of basic services and opportunities outside of the ruling class.

In the Washington Post there is an article quoting an unnamed Administration official in saying that the President is getting closer and closer to saying that it is time for the Assad family to step down from power. In the Arab Spring uprisings having the United States say that it is time for a leader to go has been pretty much the breaking point for them.
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Obama Administration Planning To Restart Gitmo Tribunals

6:01 am in Terrorism by Bill Egnor

Wrong way, go back

Graphic courtesy of lazyevaluator via Flickr

File it under going down the wrong damned path, again. The New York Times is reporting that the Obama administration is preparing to lift the ban on new military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay. Shortly after he was inaugurated President Obama directed Defense Secretary Gates to order a freeze on new indictments for detainees at our national shame of a prison camp. The intent was two fold, one to review the incredibly slipshod cases against the men held there and to allow for the planning to begin closing the prison camp.

Nearly two years have gone by and while the review of cases has been done, we are no closer to closing the camp than when President Bush was in office. It is not completely the fault of the President that the camp has not closed. There has to be funding to move and house the detainees (they aren’t prisoners because they have not been convicted of anything) somewhere else and the Congress has shown just how lily-livered they are by consistently voting against funding to do exactly that.

Which is not to say that the Executive Branch is doing the right thing either. It seems that one of the first people to be charged, perhaps within weeks of ending the ban is one
Abu al-Rahim al Nashiri who is accused in planning the bombing of the U.S. Cole in 2000. If that name sounds vaguely familiar it is because Mr. Nashiri is the third known person to have been tortured by use of waterboarding by the United States government.

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BOE Chief Thinks Drilling Moratorium Can End “Significantly” Early

7:00 am in banality of evil, BP oil disaster, Business, Government by Bill Egnor

The new Director of Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (OEMRE) (sheesh!) Michael Bromwich said yesterday that the Obama Administration is looking at the possibility of ending the deep water drilling moratorium “significantly” earlier than the Nov. 30 expiration date. This is in response to the uproar from Gulf State lawmakers (most from the radicalized Republican Party) that it is killing jobs.

"Originally posted at"

From the Washington Post article:

In addition to addressing the controversial moratorium, which several oil industry officials and Gulf Coast lawmakers have criticized for delivering an economic blow to the region, Bromwich laid out his vision for creating an assertive federal agency that will police offshore drilling across the country. He noted he has asked the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to lend him prosecutors and agents, respectively, and he is hiring from the private sector to staff an investigations and review unit of eight to 10 people that will explore allegations of wrongdoing within the agency and the drilling industry.

"We have a caseload already and we’re working on it," he said. "We will conduct an aggressive investigation of oil and gas company and enforcement of regulations, which has not been a hallmark of this agency in the past."

Bromwich’s agency — the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement — is also drafting new recusal rules for its employees to ensure an arm’s length relationship between regulators and those they oversee, he said, adding there is both the perception and reality that "especially in the Gulf region, there’s a limited pool from which we can draw from" in terms of regulators. "That’s problematic, for a variety of reasons."

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No Accountability for Rendition in US, But Maybe in Canada

7:00 am in banality of evil, jerks, Torture by Bill Egnor

There is nothing about torture that is good or positive. The act itself is one of the most brutal and heinous that humans have ever committed. The affect on a society that condones torture is one of rising fear and brutality. The information (if it can be called that) gained under torture is so suspect as to be worthless. Perhaps the worst aspect is that torture, once accepted is used not only on enemies or bad people, but innocent victims as well.

On Monday the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal of one such innocent victim of torture, Mr. Maher Arar, a Syrian born Canadian citizen. In 2002 he was returning to Canada from a trip abroad. At a stop over at JFK Airport he was detained by the US Government and held in solitary confinement for two weeks without access to an attorney. Mr. Arar was then deported, not to his nation of citizenship, Canada but, to Syria and put in the hands of the Syrian intelligence services, who are well known for their torture activities.

"Originally posted at"

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Dropped Ball By State Department Aggravates Turkish Allies

1:30 pm in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

Foreign policy can be a minefield. Worse there is no choice but to tap-dance your way through it. Take the case of Turkey and Armenia. During the run up to World War I the Ottoman Empire (the predecessor of the modern Turkish state) killed somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.5 of their Armenian subjects. This, by any standard you would like to name is a genocide.

The current Turkish government, like all the previous ones, is not willing to call it that. They say it was not nearly the numbers; that there were many Turks killed as well; that even if the numbers are right it was never the policy of the government to do it. All these are pretty weak excuses, but they are what the Turkish government gives.

This leaves the United States is a bit of trick bag. Turkey is a an ally, during the Cold War their presence in NATO was a strong bulwark against the Soviet Union. On the other hand the United States has a moderately good record of at least calling genocide for what it is (when it comes to acting on that acknowledgment, we have a far worse record).

This makes recognition of the Armenian genocide a really touchy issue. We want to have some kind of credibility in the world when it comes to genocide, but sticking our thumb in the eye of a valued ally for acts committed nearly 100 years ago is not exactly the way to keep that ally well disposed towards us.

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