Attorney General Eric Holder this week called on states to do away with arcane laws that prohibit more than 6 million felons, most of whom are people of color, from voting in a speech at Georgetown University Law Center. "Those swept up in this system too often had their rights rescinded, their dignity diminished, and the full measure of their citizenship revoked for the rest of their lives," Holder said in the speech. "They could not vote."
Currently, four states disenfranchise for life those convicted of felonies, and seven states permanently disenfranchise those with at least some kind of criminal convictions. Only two states, Maine and Vermont, allow those convicted of crimes to vote without restrictions.
Holder characterized these state policies as the remnants of the racist Jim Crow system in the South in the aftermath of the Civil War, in which states enacted laws to control and oppress people of color oand to keep them from voting.
"It is important to remember that these laws disenfranchising people with criminal convictions have some of their roots in some of our country's most shameful past and serve to prevent communities of color from translating their numbers into a free and fair and accurate percentage of the voting population," said Myrna Pérez, deputy director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice. "It is an important recognition of the fact that goals of reintegration are not furthered by having people who cannot participate in our body politic."
According to a 2009 Brennan Center study, the restoration of voting right to felons would not only contribute to a more robust democracy and the advancement of civil rights, but also would aid law enforcement and ensure fair and accurate voter rolls by relieving the administrative problems that accompany disenfranchisement polices.
"The act of voting is pregnant with so many good virtues that it totally stands to reason that people who engage in those good virtues are going to be people who are more successful when they are reintegrated," Pérez said.
But the states don’t have to adhere to Holder’s calls for change because state law sets the rules by which people can vote, which has caused the Obama administration great consternation on other voting rights issues such as voter identification laws, which have been shown to prevent people of color and the poor from going to the polls. Holder, in August 2013, called for the elimination of mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.
Since Holder’s Tuesday speech, Republican leaders have indicated they are not willing to budge on their state policies, with Frank Collins, a spokesman for Florida Gov. Rick Scott, telling The New York Times that Holder’s speech "has no effect on Florida’s Constitution, which prescribes that individuals who commit felonies forfeit their right to vote."
And the idea that Holder’s speech is simply scratching at the surface of the issue to pay lip service to civil rights and mass incarceration without seriously addressing the problems certainly holds water for some. Bruce A. Dixon, managing editor of theBlack Agenda Report who also serves on the state committee for the Georgia Green Party, said the speech was another indicator of what he called the black political establishment’s complacency with issues of mass incarceration.
"Their concern with the issue is like drive-by deep. If they can get away with making a few pronouncements, and keeping people on the hook so that they’ll line up and vote for the Democrats again in the next year, than that’s all they’ll do," Dixon said. "They don’t really have any skin in the game in any important way . . . they’re not trying to shrink the numbers of people in prison."
Dixon pointed to the track record of political officials, like Holder, who he says have done little to rein in organizations like the National Association of Assistant US Attorneys, which has issued statements defending policies widely held to contribute to the mass incarceration of people of color.
"If Holder and his bosses really meant to do anything about mass incarceration they could make heads roll among these assistant US district attorneys, or they could engage in some public rhetoric against them to set the table for a national discussion of this stuff," Dixon said. "It’s really not just Eric Holder; it’s the entire black political class."
One sure route to enfranchise felons would be to pass the Democracy Restoration Act, cosponsored by Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) and Representative John Conyers (D-Mich.). The bill would restore the right to vote to American citizens who are released from prison or serving probation sentences, but the bill has languished since it was introduced in 2009.
Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is drafting a somewhat similar bill, the Civil Rights Voting Restoration Act, for restoration of voting rights for those convicted of nonviolent felonies. Rand opposes disenfranchisement law in Kentucky, which is among the states barring voting rights from felons for life.
Dixon argued for an amendment to the Constitution that would guarantee the right to vote to all. "Once you make the right to vote a Constitutional right, then that means no county court and no state government can make up laws that will impede it unless they fit federal guidelines. It also means that there will be uniform standards nationwide for how votes are counted and how elections are run."
Link to original article from Truthout
Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission
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We'll be back in September
Our special guest tonight is Rep. Jim McGovern. Rep. McGovern has long been a friend to working people, an advocate for Fair Trade, and a champion for economic equality. We'll talk about the future of trade agreements, and get his take on the current state of TPP and Fast Track leading into Congress' recess week and the next round of TPP talks. Join the Webinar at http://www.anymeeting.com/moveforjustice1
The world of international trade negotiators is an increasingly secret one, with even other agencies of national governments not fully aware of what is being offered by their negotiators in such deals. One current example is a pending "trade" deal called the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), which is being negotiated among 50 countries, including the United States, the EU, Australia, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Peru, South Korea, and Switzerland. This agreement is apparently supposed to be "classified" information – in other words, secret and unknown to the public that will be affected by it – for a full five years after it is enters into force or the negotiations are terminated!
Embattled WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange announced Wednesday from London the publication of a secret draft text of the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), a controversial global trade agreement said to make it easier for corporations to make profits and operate with impunity across borders.
You can win some impressive victories against corporate power on the local level. Boulder voters declared that corporations aren’t people and money isn’t speech. Cities across Colorado (and other states) have passed fracking bans and moratoriums.
Don't fast-track this deal
President Barack Obama was in Asia recently, desperately trying to broker support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership despite growing opposition at home and abroad. This secretly negotiated "free trade" agreement would encompass 40 percent of the global economy and change the face of trade for many years to come.
A rebellion is breaking out in the Democratic Party, but it’s not like the 1960s when the party was torn apart over the Vietnam War and civil rights for blacks. In those days, Democrats were united in support of the New Deal/Great Society approach to economics. Today, the situation is reversed. There isn’t any significant split over foreign policy or social issues. Now Democrats are divided over economics.
Many supporters of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, trade agreement are arguing that its fate rests on President Obama's bilateral talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan this week. If Japan and the United States can sort out market access issues for agriculture and automobiles, the wisdom goes, this huge deal — in effect, a North American Free Trade Agreementon steroids — can at last be concluded.
Critics of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—a massive trade agreement being negotiated by the United States, Canada, Japan, Singapore and other Pacific Rim countries—say that pro-trade business lobbyists have rolled out misleading polling data in an attempt to demonstrate public support for the deal that isn’t there.
WASHINGTON — Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Friday acknowledged that Congress will not grant President Obama fast-track trade promotion authority, which analysts say is critical to the president’s hopes to forge huge trade deals with Asia and Europe.
“The President said, if you like your health insurance, you can keep it,” says Curtis Ellis of the American Jobs Alliance, a small conservative group based in Virginia that opposes the outsourcing of U.S. jobs overseas. “Now essentially, with Obamatrade, he’s saying, if you like your job, you can keep it.”
WASHINGTON -- The fast track trade bill introduced in the Senate last week will go nowhere anytime soon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday.
No matter what your top issue is, we can all agree that decisions that affect all of us should not be made in secret without input from the public. The Camp-Baucus Fast Track bill would limit the ability of Congress to meaningfully debate and amend trade agreements.
If President Obama uses his State of the Union address to launch a major push for “fast-track” authority to bypass congressional input and oversight on a sweeping Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, he will need new allies to generate support around the country.
In his upcoming State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama is expected to prioritize what is emerging as his legacy issue: combatting America's growing wealth inequality. Expect him to promote policies to create new middle-class jobs, especially in manufacturing, and counter the erosion of wages now undermining workers economy-wide.
But in the speech, Obama is also expected to highlight several major trade initiatives, including his priority Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal, a massive pact with 11 Asian and Latin American nations that Obama hopes to sign quickly. The business lobby is at full tilt pushing Obama to use the SOTU to call on Congress to pass Fast Track trade authority for the TPP.
StopFastTrack.com highlights how secretive trade deal "threatens everything you care about: democracy, jobs, the environment, and the Internet."
With the launch of StopFastTrack.com, the organizations highlight how renewal of Fast Track legislation, also known as Trade Legislation Authority, would take away Congress' democratic power in deliberating and amending the TPP, which thus far has been negotiated behind closed doors, with the only information about it being provided through leaks.
Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairman Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said that increasing the power of unions is key to addressing income inequality in America.
No matter what line of work you’re in, you should be watching the debate over the emerging trade deal called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) very closely.
It’s going to impact the American economy as much as NAFTA, and whatever version gets approved is going to be with us for a very long time.
Please join our Twitter storm on Tuesday, January 14th at 9pm Eastern. You can use the PDA map to find out what TPP issues are of interest/concern to your Congress Member.
Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Representative Dave Camp (R-Mich.) have officially introduced fast-track trade authority legislation in Congress. Fast track is a process that bypasses Congress’ constitutional role in the treaty process. Fast track prohibits amendments to a trade treaty, limits Congress’ right to debate and requires an up-or-down vote (even though Senate Republicans have filibustered more than 400 other times since President Obama took office) within 90 days of the treaty coming before the Congress.
Hard work, smart planning and perseverance made 2013 a year of inspiring fair-trade activism. Vibrant grassroots activism and dogged D.C. advocacy resulted in a new level of public and congressional concern about the perils of Fast Track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
A billion-dollar showdown is looming in Central America this week as a Calgary-based mining company announced it will sue the country of Costa Rica, infuriating residents who say their sovereignty is being taken away.
Infinito Gold was hoping to operate an open-pit gold mine in the Crucitas region of Costa Rica’s north.
Negotiators fail to close deal amid revelations of internal discord over US corporate bullying. The Obama administration's pro-corporate Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agenda appears to have missed a deadline.
First global trade deal in 20 years to boost world commerce 'favours big business at the expense of developing countries' The World Trade Organisation has sealed its first global trade deal after almost 160 ministers who had gathered on the Indonesian island of Bali agreed to reforms to boost world commerce.
Developing countries including India win concessions but critics say World Trade Organisation is no forum for helping the poor. The first global trade deal since the creation of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) nearly two decades ago was condemned by anti-poverty groups on Friday as a boost for big business at the expense of developing nations.
A new caucus of supporters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement under negotiation was launched yesterday in the US Congress.
The Friends of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) caucus is headed by four co-chairman: Republican Reps. David Reichert of Washington and Charles Boustany of Louisiana, and Democratic Reps. Ron Kind of Wisconsin and Gregory Meeks of New York.
Outside Salt Lake City’s Grand America Hotel on Tuesday, the rains fell, the speakers rose, the marchers chanted.
Inside, top trade negotiators from the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations perhaps discussed imports and exports, profits and products, prices and patents. The exact topics aren’t known. The talks were closed.
We wrote yesterday that this deal, the Trans Pacific Partnership, already looked to be in trouble given both Congressional and foreign opposition. The Administration has conducted the talks with an unheard-of degree of secrecy, with Congressional staffers in most cases denied access to the text and even Congressmen themselves facing unheard-of obstacles (Alan Grayson reported that the US Trade Representative created an absurd six weeks of dubious delays in his case).
The New York Times reported serious worry in the U.S. Congress about the Trans Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP for short), a massive new free trade deal being pushed by the United States with the involvement of 11 other countries on both sides of the Pacific. About 170 Congresspersons have signed on to one or more of three letters which oppose fast track status forthe deal.
Today, 151 Democratic members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to President Obama laying out their concerns about the lack of consultation during the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations and their opposition to “fast tracking” the deal without any meaningful congressional input. House Democrats joined the growing chorus of some 194 members of Congress who have publicly expressed their frustrations with this massive trade agreement.
To hear lawmakers tell it, efforts to move trade legislation through the House Ways and Means Committee, while earnest and ongoing, have hit snags in the 113th Congress.
Several big pieces of legislation are slowly winding their way through the committee, including bills dealing with trade-promotion authority and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Ten score and thirteen years ago corporate forefathers began conquering wilderness, steam, gas, oil, electricity, transcontinental rails and airways communication, prospering by quenching America’s thirst for more, better, faster. Now we who built it, want more, faster, so thinking locally, we trade globally. Thus unlike you, we will always have money to eat.
President Barack Obama has demanding a ‘trade promotion authority’ from the United States Congress to fast-track the Pacific Rim treaty, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The fast-track authority plays a pivotal role in determining the extent to which the United States Congress can engage in a critical review of trade agreements.
How the Trans Pacific Partnership making its way through Washington seriously undermines citizens’ rights to participate in a free and open Internet. One month. That’s the time left before the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could become a finalized agreement.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership would create a virtually permanent corporate rule over the people. What if our national leaders told us that communities across America had to eliminate such local programs as Buy Local, Buy American, Buy Green, etc. to allow foreign corporations to have the right to make the sale on any products purchased with our tax dollars?
Protesters scaled the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on Monday and dropped banners calling for greater transparency and an end to "corporatocracy" over the ongoing and secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement currently in the works between the United States and several Pacific nations.
New warnings on TPP, free trade 'regime' fostering 'global emergency situation'
As secretive talks over the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)—the pending free trade agreement slammed as "NAFTA on steroids" and "a quiet coup for the investor class"—continue, new warnings highlight the corporate winners and global losers at stake.
President Obama has asked Congress to provide “Fast Track” authorization for consideration of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) a new “free trade” deal.
The negotiations for this new “free trade” agreement have been conducted in secret. Members of Congress as well as the public have no factual information about the contents of this deal.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed agreement between the U.S. and 12 nations that do business throughout the Pacific Rim. TPP and its European cousin the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (aka TAFTA), are "free trade" agreements that do much more than the term implies.
The US pharmaceutical industry has been shaping elements of the Obama administration’s secret Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement to favor their own profits. But the deal could also could cause the price of prescription drugs and some medical devices to soar on a global scale.
Pocan urges Congress not to give up its constitutional authority to oversee foreign trade agreements
Progressive Democrats in Congress are ramping up pressure on the Obama administration to release the text of Trans-Pacific Partnership, a secretive free trade agreement with 10 other nations, amid intensifying controversy over the administration's transparency record and its treatment of classified information.
CWA devised a simple plan for which they were uniquely suited: drag TPP out of the shadows and into the light - one city at a time - using a medium they understand intimately: Daily Newspapers!
Two CWA members - Dave Felice in Denver, CO and Madelyn Elder in Portland, OR have started the ball rolling. We just need to keep up the momentum leading up to a big day of petition deliveries.
Step 1 is to send an Op-Ed to your Daily Newspaper.
If you have a Twitter account you can help stop Fast Track on the TPP. Sign-in to your Twitter account and copy and paste the Tweets from our Twitter storm. Or you can copy your favorite Tweet and then click on the map and Tweet your legislator.
Twitter Storm Tweets for Tuesday, January 28th @ 9pm Eastern
Tweets for the special State of the Union Twitter Storm will be posted on January 28th at 8pm EST. Check back for the new Tweets.
Click here to quickly find your member of Congress by putting in your home address. This site also features a one-click link to the same information in Spanish
Then call and ask them to oppose Fast Track on the Trans Pacific Partnership.
Sample script is below.
“I'm a constituent, and I am strongly opposed to my representative giving away Congress’ constitutional authority to control our trade policy. We send people to Congress to stand up for us, not give away their power to stop more American job offshoring and protect us from dangerous imported food that doesn’t meet our safety standards. This latest so-called trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), would not only do that - but also ban Buy American and increase our medicine prices. That’s why it’s crucial that Congress not give away its authority to make sure every provision of TPP is in our interest before this massive deal can be signed. Good trade deals don’t need to be railroaded through Congress using Fast Track. I hope my representative will commit to opposing this outrageous legislation.”
Send an email directly to your Senators and Representatives courtesy of our partners at CWA. Enter your zip code and your members are automatically selected.
Please let us know your legislator's stance on Fast Track Authorization for the Trans Pacific Partnership as well as their stance on the TPP in General. Click here to report the response.
Congress only has one more week in session this year, the week of December 9. So far our pressure to stop the TPP has been working. Visit Flush the TPP for calling scripts and links to Members of the Ways and Means Committee.
Flush the TPP
The following documents are available from the Oppose TPP Downloads Folder
June 29th TPP Powerpoint
CWA TPP Jobs Report