Archive for reform

Letting Ex-Felons Vote -- A Racial Thing

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voting booth

What is the purpose of sending those convicted of crimes to jail? Is it punishment? Yes. Is it rehabilitation? Yes. So it's two mints in one as the Certs commercial goes.

And are most felons guilty of violent crimes? Actually, no. Most are incarcerated for non-violent (yet still serious) felonious crimes like embezzlement, tax fraud, mail fraud, auto theft, racketeering, drug possession charges, burglary, counterfeiting, possession of restricted pornographic material, spying, and various drug-related offenses.

Wikipedia:

7.9% of sentenced prisoners in federal prisons on September 30, 2009 were in for violent crimes.

Nearly three quarters of new admissions to state prison were convicted of nonviolent crimes. Perhaps the single greatest force behind the growth of the prison population has been the national "war on drugs." The number of incarcerated drug offenders has increased twelvefold since 1980. In 2000, 22 percent of those in federal and state prisons were convicted on drug charges.

Then why, if so many of these felonies are non-violent, is it that when you become an ex-felon, all of your rights aren't returned to you? According the the ALCU, ten states severely restrict voting from ex-felons (seven require long waiting periods, applying for reinstatement and review; three others - Iowa, Florida and Kentucky - ban it lifetime for these ex-felon offenders -- most of whom are non-violent). I can understand restrictions on getting a gun, but on your vote?

So far in the 40 states that allow for ex-felons to vote there haven't been any issues at the polls. So why not make voter reinstatement upon completion of incarceration national?

We non-felons take voting for granted. But it's majorly important. Look at the crazy people that are getting elected these days. Their choices and legislation affect all of us. Yet if you're an ex-felon, chances are you are obstructed from casting a vote.

With the racial make-up of our prisons today, that appears to be a punishment that affects minorities disproportionately. And the Justice Department, led by AG Eric Holder, wants to fix that. And surprisingly he's meeting resistance on both sides of the political spectrum. Many Republicans are against it because they see the reality that minorities are the overwhelming majority of  the prison population. Minorities, for good reason, tend to vote Democratic. If you unleash hundreds of thousands of potential voters after they do their time, GOP'ers will have a tougher go of it holding their political offices. So the Republican reasoning is understandable: keep minorities away from the vote. It's wrong, but you can see their reasoning: self-preservation.

But for those Democrats on the fence, this is purely a heinous act of villainy. Why should non-violent convicted felons be subjected to lifetime sentences after they're released? It flies in the face of just punishment -- that fitting the crime. C'mon Democrats, you know better. You stand for social justice. Now promote it. Make "inclusion" more than just a catch word.

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Education for Prisoners Is A Breaking Bad Thing For New York GOP

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Prisoners Education

Breaking Bad

Yikes. With all the people in our prisons, it seems a shame that we don't try to educate them so when they're released, they have a fighting chance to  make it in the world and not slip into recidivism. Isn't that a good thing? We pay millions, if not billions a year in the States to house, feed and restrain prisoners. Should we make it more likely that we'll be safe when they are released?

Let's ask NY Republican Congressman, Jim Tedesco:

via HuffPo:

"This is definitely ‘Breaking Bad’ by potentially turning a bunch of Jesse Pinkmans into Walter Whites -– all on the taxpayer’s dime,” Tedisco said. “Soon we will be the only state where honesty and hard work are trumped by being a bad criminal. Only in New York. When can New Yorkers wake up from this nightmare?”

I think the Congressman's been spending too much time watching TV. Maybe a little more time reading pending bills and acting upon them for the best interest of his constituents might be in order.

Sadly Tedesco isn't alone in this. He has other Republican allies:

Tedisco's opposition resonated with several other lawmakers, including Sen. Greg Ball (R-Patterson).

"In a world of finite resources, where we are struggling to find funding for education for our kids, the last thing New York state should be funding is college tuition for convicts," Ball said in a statement.

It seems doing nothing to protect the public when inmates are returned to society is the Republican stance. Hell with education. Let's just give the inmates nothing constructive to do, dim all hopes for a future when they get out and let them discuss how they can become Walter Whites and Jesse Pinkmans because they won't be studying math, English, history, science, law or anything else constructive. The purpose of prison is supposed to include rehabilitation, noy just provide a shelter and free food. Let's get something for our money.

Inmates were once eligible for college tuition assistance, but the program was halted by former Republican Gov. George Pataki. That's now hopefully going to be reversed with the program the Republicans hate but the current Democratic Governor, Mario Cuomo is pushing.

According to Cuomo, the initiative would actually bring down inmate costs. He pointed to state data showing New York already spending $60,000 on every individual inmate and $3.6 billion in total costs to operate prisons annually.

"However, it costs approximately $5,000 per year to provide one year of college education for one inmate," Cuomo said Sunday. "Current studies have shown that by earning college degrees, inmates are far less likely to return to prison."

Here's wishing him luck -- which translates to more safety and productivity for our society. When will Republicans ever learn?

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Elizabeth Warren Unleashed - Her Roar Backs Down 'Third Way' Think Tank

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lions roar

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has been constantly on the attack over Wall Street gaming us, playing the public for fools on an uneven playing field. Plainly put, they refuse to pay their fair share. Recently that's brought out some ringing criticism from the Third Way, a centrist Democratic think tank. Democrats for years have been known for in-squabbling. Lately it's been a Republican trait, but the exclusivity and even civility seems to be waning. Democrats are picking on each other. That's what's cost them in the past, and may hurt them again in the 2014 elections.

Responding to Senator Warren's call to increase, not trim Social Security benefits...

BUZZFEED:

Third Way’s Jon Cowan and Jim Kessler wrote Monday that “nothing would be more disastrous for Democrats” than to embrace the economic populism of Warren and New York Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio. Warren responded Wednesday with a letter to several major financial institutions, asking them to disclose donations to think tanks — seen as a thinly veiled reference to the op-ed.

That hit a nerve, for sure. Senator Warren's attacks continued on their tactics. HUFFPO: 

The Massachusetts Democrat said that Wall Street's push to cut Social Security is part of a broader agenda. "It's part of the larger issue about a rigged playing field. They don't wanna pay more, they don't wanna pay a fair share. I believe everybody should pay a fair share," she said. "That's how we make sure people can retire with dignity. That's not what Wall Street wants to do."

Third Way's spokesman responded by saying that under Warren's plan, Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase's CEO, would be entitled to a higher Social Security payout.

"Oh please. I'm out there working for Jamie Dimon the same way Dick Cheney is out there trying to save the environment," Warren said.

Senator Warren, you tell 'em. Third Way is a think tank. Make them pay when they don't think. Seems that when you dish it back at them, Democratic ears prick up. And you're retort has even cracked through the Third Way think tank's leaders. They don't even agree with themselves, evidently.

Rep. Joe Crowley, a New York Democrat who is an honorary co-chair of Third Way, told BuzzFeed that he did not agree with Third Way on all issues, especially on Social Security, but he would “continue to work with them.”

It's nice to know someone has our backs. Now keep on 'em. Don't let up. We need you and your progressive thinking. Seniors are, as you say, for the most part separated from poverty by Social Security. They can't afford any cutbacks. Not if they want to live out their lives with a modicum of dignity. The seniors who helped build this country deserve that at the very least.

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So Corporations Are People, My Friends. Visiting Day In Prison Is Sunday

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corporations are people

Back in the 2012 Presidential campaign, Mitt Romney made a bit of a splash when he said, "Corporations are people, my friend."

He of course was jeered as we think of corporations as entities, with people working under that business umbrella. But what if Romney was right? What if corporations are people?

If they break the law, shouldn't they go to jail?

If you're a people/person you would. So why not corporations? The Hill:

Earlier this month, JPMorgan Chase tentatively reached a deal with the Justice Department to pay $13 billion to settle charges it misled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac about mortgage quality leading up to the financial crisis. And Bloomberg reported that the Federal Housing Finance Agency is eyeing at least a $6 billion penalty for Bank of America for similar claims.

Okay, so the JPMorgan Chase corporation admitted wrongdoing -- breaking the law -- and they are going to pay a fine. But the crime was committed by people, not a building, and with it carries a jail sentence. So who's going to serve? Jamie Dimon? He's the CEO. He knew what was going on.

jamie dimon

Nope. No jail time for Jamie. Just a fine. And we, the public are paying it  for him.

Reform advocates argue that if the government truly wants to discourage bad behavior in the financial sector, it is not enough to rack up billion-dollar fines against big banks. The government needs to go after individual executives and hold them personally responsible.

Consider this, if the banks are forced to accept responsibility, than instead of us paying the fines with increased fees, their law-breaking executives will be doing time. The guilty will be penalized, not us. No more passing the buck, so to speak.

Fortunately, there is a voice who is speaking up for us. And her voice is that of the MGM lion that roars. It's Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent a letter to financial regulators Wednesday where she not too subtly chided them for what she saw as lacking enforcement.

She noted in her letter that the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) had managed to secure over 100 criminal convictions between 2009 and 2012 and place 51 defendants in prison.

She also noted the agency did it with a fraction of the enforcement staff and budget the other regulators enjoyed. Warren clearly wanted to know why more convictions had not been pursued and achieved (by the DOJ), and asked for enforcement statistics from the agencies.

So SIGTARP could do what the DOJ couldn't. And this is very important to deter further frauds and money manipulations. We can't stand by and keep bailing out the banks who knowingly gamble with our money, take exorbitant salaries and bonuses (win or lose) and then stick us with the bill, either in a federal bailout or raised banking fees.

If they can't run themselves, let them fail. And jail the gamblers who broke the law. Other banks and financial institutions will rise up. Money isn't going away. All that will disappear will be the frauds and phonies who have stiffed us over the years. We don't need a BofA nor a JPMorgan/Chase. We can get by with local banks that can get the same fed rate as the big ones.

Doing so might also make getting a loan a lot easier when Mr. Donnelly or Mrs. Heath at the local bank, who knows you by name, is making the decision on whether or not you meet federal requirements for a loan. And those managers will appreciate your patronage -- maybe even do more business with you. That means profits and they'll go more locally or regionally.

Federal guidelines are needed and Senator Warren and her allies are working on that with the new Glass-Steagall bill.

Remember, local banks? We used to have them. And local banks mean local money. Let's break up the huge corporations that Romney claimed are really people. Let's send those people where they belong -- packing. And you don't need to take too many things, Mr./Mrs. Banker. They give you uniforms and three meals a day where you belong.

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I Love My Debt Collector

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debtors prison

Times are tough, the economy has sputtered thanks to the sequester and the government shutdown. Many of us live on hopes and dreams of a better day. And try as we do, those days seem separated from arriving by trying to stretch the few dollars we have to make them go as far as they can.

This isn't exactly rob Peter to pay Paul, but it's a shell game, for sure. We make minimum payments here, delay a payment there -- even though the check we write this month won't really lower what we owe. We're just buying time while the banks get rich -- or richer.

No matter how good we think we are at this ploy, sometimes circumstances arise and some payment just can't get made -- especially if you and your loved ones want to be fed. And minimum wage jobs don't cover everything, not with a family.

Then the inevitable happens. The call. That call. It's the bill collector. They're not going to take you off to debtor's prison, basically because they don't exist anymore in the States, but it's painful  none-the-less.

These are never pleasant calls, and the people who are making minimum wage placing the collection reminders can't be blamed. It's their job and probably the only one they can get. Despite efforts to be patient while hearing the same excuses everyone uses, they really have one goal in mind -- to get you to pay your bills. And it's not as if we don't want to. It's that in some cases we just can't.

What's the solution? There is one. Think of it as a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down approach.

CFS2. Never heard of them? Well, they're a new kind of debt collector. They've got new approach and it's working both for the creditors and for the debtors. Their success rate is more than twice that of comparable companies. Instead of railing at you for not paying a bill, they help you find a way to  pay it. Then when those assets come in, they reap even more rewards.

If it sounds complicated, it's not. It's just an original way to deal with an age old problem. Check it out. It's so amazing that CBS did a spot on it for the evening news. This is not a commercial or endorsement from me. That's why I'm not giving your a homepage website link. It's just a wonderful, uplifting story you should see.

Oh, and here's a bit about the man who came up with this.  Bill Bartmann is his name. He left a dirt-poor family at age 14 to join the carnival; became an alcoholic gang member by age 17; later paralyzed by falling down stairs drunk; being told that he’ll never walk again, yet proving the doctors wrong, later walked out of the hospital unassisted.

This is a guy who "saw it all" and took life's lessons, turning his lemons into our lemonade.

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Obama To Big Business, Be Scared. Be Very Scared This Time

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scared

Washington is fighting. Nothing too new there. Call it almost business as usual. Republicans and Democrats not seeing eye-to-eye. No big deal.

But this time it's gone a bit farther, and for the first time in 17 years we have a shutdown. But that's not too earth-shattering. It's happened before and will probably happen again. What's the concern?

The concern is that Big Business relies on the GOP to protect them. To fight all regulations and allow them to run wild in the streets. In return the Republicans are given money for their campaigns. It's a vicious cycle and one that costs the middle class both fair representation and money.

What has changed and the president made it clear in his Thursday meeting with titans of big business in a private White House meeting, is in the recent past, there was a spokesperson for the GOP, someone who represented their unified party.

That no longer exists -- it's like trying to negotiate with a foreign government in the middle of a civil war. Who really represents the country -- or in this case, the party?

We know who it isn't. It's not John Boehner. It also isn't Mitch McConnell who wasn't even allowed to speak after the closed door session with the leaders of both houses in the Oval Office.

On appearances, there's Senator (Rafael Cruz) running the House of Representatives, and a small faction of the House majority party. At the same time he's being shunned in his own chamber, the Senate. His objective appears to be destruction of the United States. Total anarchy. It's the asylum being run by the insane inmates and there's no one to negotiate with. Certainly nobody sane.

Under this uncertainty, Big Business can't thrive. So they're switching beds. They're leaving the comfort of their money stuffed Republican mattresses and coming over to sleep with the Democrats. It's an uneasy alliance at best, but until the Repubs can get their House in order, the certainty, and the will of the people, is being represented by Obama and the Democrats.

Here's how PBO put it to CNBC's John Harwood. It's the same dire warning "O" gave big business. The first day of the government shutdown, the market dropped. The second, a day after meeting with the president, the market's crashing big time. So fear has gripped Wall Street. It should ripple and reach the Republicans soon -- or they won't have two nickels to rub together come next election. It seems this assessment is enough to leave more than the president "exasperated."

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I'm Confused About the GOP

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Brand names

The Republicans, like all brands, stand for something. Rolls Royce - Quality cars. Tiffany - Diamond and silver jewelry. Chanel- Womanly elegance.

So what signal are the Republicans sending?

Bush confused

Right now, according to Wikipedia's list of US state legislatures, 27 are controlled by Republicans, 17 are controlled by Democrats, 5 are split controled and Nebraska alone declares itself officially non-partisan.

In many of the states that the Republicans control, they've passed or are in the midst of passing anti abortion laws and regulations, (many of which are constitutionally questionable). At the same time, these states say they say they are pro-life. But it's these same states that lead the nation in capital punishment. They kill more prisoners than in Democratic run states. Texas prides itself on the number of prisoners it's put to death. Methinks that hardly pro-life. Here's a breakdown of capital punishment executions since 2010:

South 1095
Midwest 157
West 82
Northeast 4

The GOP majority says they are for protecting women's rights, but they force women into invasive medical procedures whether a licensed, practicing physician says it's needed or not. And that cost is passed directly onto the women, not their insurance company. That's not protecting women's rights, it's directly violating and burdening them. Why not have that cost forced onto the man who got these women pregnant in the first place. Oh, wait, that would be burdening men and the GOP can't have that. After all, if a women becomes preggers, it's got to be her fault.

Republicans have always stood for smaller government. Less regulation. But seemingly since they've taken office there are more restrictions on personal rights and limitations passed in Republican lead state houses than in Democratic ones. It's now harder to vote. There's more restrictions on free speech -- hell, women can't even bring tampons to public hearings in Texas for fear of what? One of them might explode? Just don't touch those republican guns.

no tampons

The republican legislatures say they're for job creation. But they take away the protections that are afforded union members. They declare their states as "right to work states" but then remove unions and rescind pensions and totally refuse to increase minimum wages. Abolishing child labor laws are next in their sights.

Security and education are the targets of huge cuts in Republican led states. So by those actions, a sensible person could only draw one conclusion --  the dumbing down of their states is a systematic plan to retain control. And if things get out of hand, the smaller police units will mean you can contract out for private patrols and security companies under their thumb and directives. They'll have more ability to systematically pick on minorities and those who don't believe in their GOP thinking. How far down the road will Marshall Law be for these Republican led states?

So, what is the GOP brand?  If you go by their actions, it can only be:

Hypocracy

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