Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Damn Straight

Federal judge, Vaughn R. Walker, ruled that Bush's warrant-less wiretapping was illegal. Out of courtesy- or something- to the former administration, Obama's administration has made efforts to brush the policy under the rug. No such luck. The official opinion stated that the program violated a 1978 statute requiring court approval (aka a warrant) for all domestic surveillance. Under this policy, the National Security Agency kept tabs on international emails and phone calls despite the myriad American laws that deem such actions unlawful and the fact that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act requires a warrant. Both the Bush and Obama administrations claimed that allowing lawsuits dealing with the program to continue would expose secrets. (Seriously? Since when did it become kosher to take advise from Nixon? NIXON?) The President, even during times of war, is not above the Constitution. Obeying the law is not optional. The current administration has taken steps to reduce the use of the "state secret" line. Now, senior officials must formally approve any assertion before it can be used in court. Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler stated that this ensures the defense will be used only when "absolutely necessary to protect national security." Yeah, sure. Even I doubt that.

Fun fact: The New York Times exposed the NSA program. Maybe that's why they took the Pentagon Papers approach.

Sorry! I know everyone is sooo eager to do their gov homework...

Social Welfare Article-
Green Jobs:

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Best Part of Health Care Reform

The Indian Health Care Improvement Act was permanently reauthorized as part of national health care reform! The IHCIA, the cornerstone legislation for Native American health care, has been sitting in Congress for nearly twenty years. In that twenty years, the disparity between the health care available to Native populations and that available to the general population became unconscionable. Though funding was annually appropriated to IHS, it was less than half of what the agency needed and ran out half way into the year. Because of this severe lack of funding, Native Americans were faced with not only structural barriers to health care, but also substandard care that resulted in more severe disease symptoms, later presentation of illnesses, delayed treatment and diagnosis, less effective treatments, and higher death rates. Many IHS facilities did not even have the means to meet community members medical needs and many Native Americans were denied services at all. Furthermore, according to the United States Commission for Civil Rights, "Underfunding violates the basic tenets of the trust relationship between the government and Native peoples and perpetuates a civil rights crisis in Indian Country."

The IHCIA will not only eliminate health care gap and provide the funding necessary to bring the quality of Native American health up to a level parity with that of the general US population, it also allocates billions of dollars for new facilities, domestic violence programs, and preventative treatment programs.
Basically, this is absolutely wonderful and the best thing a president has done for Natives since... well, since IHS was created in the first place.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Blah. They don't even understand the historical context of their name.

The Tea Party. It was a shining moment in American history. And now it has been totally tainted by a bunch of politically ignorant meanie-faces. The real tea party was in protest of taxation without representation. Do these people not vote? If they vote, they're represented. This is how the system works. They lost. And that's unfortunate for them. But they can't seriously claim that the government is violating their rights and ignoring their opinions. They didn't have the majority. And yes, minority rights are a vital part of any democratic system. But it is the majority that makes the decisions. And if the majority wants to stay the majority, it is necessary to listen to the minority. But it's even more important to do what is best for the greatest number of people. America voted for health care reform. America voted for liberal fiscal policy. America voted for Obama. He was not born in Kenya. He is not out to destroy America. He is OUR president. If these people are so madly in love with the country, they need to demonstrate at least a little respect for it. And sure, by all means, voice your unfounded, unwarranted opinions. Your government will protect you.
I'm not pissed that there is dissent. I think a healthy and lively opposition is vital to a health and lively democracy. I'm really just pissed that they're so wrongly exploiting an historical event. They should call it the Shay's Rebellion Party or the Whiskey Rebellion Party. Those were also angry groups of people who didn't really know anything about the government or politics. They just demanded that the government do stupid crap like print bundles of paper money or somehow cut taxes while simultaneously reducing the deficit.
And now there's even a Tea Party Express that is following Sarah Palin to Washington. That's another thing. What intelligent group of people would pick Sarah Palin to be their leader? Seriously. She resigned from executive office! She writes her speeches on her hand! More importantly, all of her talking points fit on one hand.
Arg. I am so moving to France.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Israel Sucks

Yes, the Holocaust was an awful, unprecedentedly tragic human crisis. Yes, its victims deserved retribution. But what about the Palestinians? Historically, the United States has stood behind Israel as they've expanded their borders and made homeless hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. Obama seems to want to change that.
Israeli officials have been pushing for a new Jewish housing project- the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood- in East Jerusalem. The area where construction is planned is already occupied, but according to Israeli law many of the homes have been constructed illegally. For Palestinians, obtaining a building permit is nearly impossible and many ignore the regulations in order to provide their families with a place to live. This means that, technically, (even though most Palestinian families own the land on which their house is built) Israel can force them out of their homes to make way for Jewish settlements. It's basically a really, really terrible form of imminent domain.
After Israel's Prime Minister announced the plan, Obama immediately denounced it and has since been pressing Netanyahu to repeal it. A recent meeting between Obama and Netanyahu ended in an impasse, but both sides pledged to continue talks later. But Israel doesn't appear to be serious about ending the dispute; they began construction this week on another East Jerusalem project.
Hopefully, Obama's support for the Palestinians will be more than empty rhetoric.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Social Security

According to the Congressional Budget Office, this year, Social Security will pay out more in benefits than it receives in taxes. This tipping point was not anticipated until 2016, but is apparently another impact of the recession. As unemployment rises, people are being forced to apply for social security sooner than they had planned. Furthermore, fewer jobs means fewer paychecks to tax. Alan Greenspan, who saved the program the last time it was in this sort of situation, said that the most important thing to do is to cut benefits. With unemployment still hovering around 10%, a solution will need to be found quickly or the administration risks a fast depletion of the social security trust fund. In my opinion, finding a solution really isn't that tricky. Raise taxes- mostly on large corporations; it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to raise taxes on individual and small businesses during a recession. But more importantly, expand and increase funding to temporary government jobs programs that help people get back on their feet and provide on-the-job training that they can take back to the private sector.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Student Loans

As heard in Obama's state of the union address, the White House is pushing Congress to introduce a bill that would end the subsidizing of private loan companies for student loans and expand a program that allows students to borrow from the government through their colleges and universities. The current system pads the pockets of private lending companies, but creates extra cost and complication for students.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the government could save $80 billion over the next ten years by moving to a direct loan system.