Monday, June 30, 2014

Last Call For Executive, Now With Action

President Obama, after finally being informed by Orange Julius that there will be no immigration vote in the House in 2014 because Republicans hate his guts and want him to die or something, has decided that it's time for some good old fashioned executive orders.

A clearly angry President Obama announced Monday that he plans to move forward with administrative action by the end of the summer on steps he can take without Congress, but within his existing authorities, to “fix as much of our broken immigration system as we can” because of Republican inaction on an immigration overhaul.

The announcement comes a week after Speaker John Boehner and Obama spoke before the PGA golf event where Boehner told him the House will not take a vote on immigration reform this year.

Remember, Boehner not doing his job is Obama's fault.  Because everything is Obama's fault.

“Today I’m beginning a new effort to fix as much of the immigration system as I can on my own without Congress,” he said, later adding that “it’s very rare that you get labor, business, evangelicals, law enforcement all agreeing on what needs to be done.”

The most important expected policy shift is “administrative relief,” which activists have been calling for for all of 2014, a plan that would reset enforcement priorities and lessen record deportations. The president previously directed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) chief Jeh Johnson to look at its policies to make sure they are “humane.”

So, looks like border policy and immigration and detention policy will get a major rewrite.  House Republicans will snivel and choose to not vote on the bill and it will die, just like Republicans killed immigration reform seven years ago under a Republican President.

So nothing will get done.  Remember which side is choosing to do nothing.


The final two rulings of this Supreme Court term were 5-4 decisions written by Justice Samuel Alito, and they're just as terrible as you'd expect.  First, in Harris v. Quinn,  the decision came down that public unions cannot force non-union members in a union shop to pay dues.

In a 5-4 decision by Justice Samuel Alito, the Supreme Court dealt a serious blow to public sector unions on Monday, although the opinion fell short of the claim made by the anti-union litigation shop that argued that case, which sought to undermine the finances of all public sector unions. The plaintiffs in this case, and their anti-union attorneys, argued that non-union members cannot be required to reimburse unions that bargain on their behalf for the costs it incurred during that bargaining. Without those reimbursements, the financial viability of the unions is in jeopardy. 
Alito’s opinion in Harris v. Quinn recognizes a category of “partial public employees” who cannot be required to contribute funds to the collective bargaining that they benefit from. This case involved Medicaid home health workers who are paid by the state but who work directly for individual patients. Nevertheless, the case hints that the Court will deal additional blows to public sector unions in the future. Alito labels a seminal Supreme Court opinion allowing unions to collect reimbursements from nonmembers “questionable on several grounds.”

That case is 1977's Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which upheld that public employees could unionize.  Alito dropped several hints in his decision that an open challenge to that ruling would find fertile ground (or at least five votes to sink it.)

Alito then went on to blow a hole in 120+ years of established legal precedent involving the religious rights of corporate entities in the Hobby Lobby case.

If you’re one of the estimated 14,000 individuals who work at Hobby Lobby or Conestoga Wood — the companies who represented the two plaintiffs in the case — then you’re most immediately affected by Monday’s decision. Your employers no longer have to cover several types of birth control that they’re opposed to. 
Both companies object to covering emergency contraception, which they falsely claim is a type of abortion despite all scientific evidence to the contrary. Hobby Lobby’s owners also take issue with two forms of intrauterine devices (IUDs), long lasting forms of birth control inserted in the uterus, for the same unscientific reason. So the workers employed by those businesses won’t be able to use their insurance coverage for those types of birth control anymore. They’ll presumably be able to continue using their health plans for other methods, like hormonal birth control pills, that their bosses don’t have a problem with.

But even if you don’t work at Hobby Lobby or Conestoga Wood, there’s a chance that your birth control coverage may be put into question. More than 70 other companies also sued for the right to stop following Obamacare’s contraceptive provision. According to the National Women’s Law Center, 48 of those cases are still pending. Now that the Court has sided with Hobby Lobby, it will be much easier for some of those companies to win their suits and opt out of covering certain types of contraception.

And now that this decision has opened the door to "closely-held" corporations having the same religious freedoms as the family that owns them,, and being able to subject their employees to those beliefs, a whole lot more douchebaggery is coming down the pike.

In her epic dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted that the Senate blocked an amendment to the Affordable Care Act that would have given Hobby Lobby the religious exemption they later sued for.  In other words, this is a perfect example of real judicial overreach, and litigating from the bench.

But that's how SCOTUS works these days, slowly rolling back laws passed by Democrats.

The Darkest Of Waters

Remember our old Iraq War military contractor friend Blackwater (now the cryptic "Xe") and founder Erik Prince?  Turns out this awful bunch of mercenaries weren't just immoral, they liked to push our government around too with death threats against anyone investigating them.  TPM's Josh Marshall recounts the NY Times investigation:

Over the course of the last decade, Blackwater became a notorious symbol of military contracting run amok, with price-gouging, reckless behavior and your occasional atrocity. So it's hard to imagine anything coming out that would genuinely shock anyone. Until this.

According to documents reviewed by The New York Times, State Department investigator had already begun probing Blackwater a short time before the infamous Nisour Square shooting in 2007. But the probe broke down when Blackwater's top guy in Iraq threatened to kill the lead investigator, suggesting, not improbably, that amid the anarchy of Iraq it could be easily covered up as just another moment of sectarian violence or a terrorist attack.
Nice guys, huh.  Would be a shame if anything happened to your State Department investigation team, right?

Just weeks before Blackwater guards fatally shot 17 civilians at Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007, the State Department began investigating the security contractor’s operations in Iraq. But the inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater’s top manager there issued a threat: “that he could kill” the government’s chief investigator and “no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,” according to department reports. 
American Embassy officials in Baghdad sided with Blackwater rather than the State Department investigators as a dispute over the probe escalated in August 2007, the previously undisclosed documents show. The officials told the investigators that they had disrupted the embassy’s relationship with the security contractor and ordered them to leave the country, according to the reports.

Nobody was going to mess with these guys, and they probably got away with all kids of truly horrific if not criminal acts for years in Iraq.  And the American people paid them billions to do it.   Who in the Bush administration would ever question Blackwater about a dead US civilian sent to a war zone to poke around where they shouldn't be?

It's not like anything happens to these guys even if people do ask questions.


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