More immigration

Since the immigration issue is the most interesting thing happening on the NY Times politics page, here’s another post about it. Seventeen states apparently think the President’s immigration plan is placing an unnecessary burden on their future budgets. The complaints by the states essentially say that since congress did not have a say in the plan so therefore it is illegitimate. President Obama has countered that his plan is being issued is authorized by existing statutes and that there is no legal basis to object their action.

Texas Governor Rick Perry and incoming governor of that state Greg Abbott argue that the immigration plan will encourage more illegal immigration into their state. They think that word will get out to Central and South America that if you can successfully cross the border into the United States, you will not face the threat of deportation anymore. The governor and governor-elect also make the case that they are already spending an enormous amount of money on border enforcement, and that will only go up if Obama’s plan goes forward.

Some legal scholars have also had some reservations about the plan. A prominent lawyer testifying for the House Judicial committee said that the President’s actions set a dangerous precedent that could lead to unilateral revision of many other areas of policy such as the tax code and criminal law. A group of lawyers that previously served as counsel to the immigration agency state that the president is well within his rights.


The budget

The house leadership is moving forward with spending deal to fund the government for the next year. Last year at this time, the house was not able to get a budget done on time, which caused the government to shutdown for a few weeks. The odd thing about this proposal is that even though John Boehner, the House Speaker, endorses the deal, many in his party will likely oppose it once it reaches the floor. The reason they are unhappy is because an on-time budget will allow President Obama to move ahead with his proposed immigration plan. The immigration plan is being implemented unilaterally through the executive branch, the source of the Republicans opposition. Instead of going through congress, Obama decided he was going to leave them out of the negotiations. Boehner will likely count on Democrats to pass the spending bill, since many Tea Party aligned Republicans are going to push for a government shutdown to try and thwart the Presidents plan.

The major sticking point is funding the Department of Homeland security, the agency that would carry out the bulk of the immigration proposal. Tea Party Republicans are using last ditch efforts to try and derail the spending bill, inserting language that states Homeland Security could not use the fund they receive from this spending bill to carry out the President’s plan. Senator Cruz of Texas disagrees with this approach and has instead suggested withholding the confirmation of executive branch nominations. Hopefully congress can find some common ground and pass the spending proposal so that we don’t have a repeat of the government shutdown of 2013.

Voter ID laws effects

Voter ID laws enacted by Republican led state houses may be one of the reasons turnout in the midterm elections at the beginning of this month was the lowest recorded in over 70 years. Democratic officials in Texas blame laws passed by their legislature for helping defeat an incumbent Democrat who lost by a little over 2,400 votes. The voter ID law passed disenfranchised around 600,000 voters in the state. The GAO even came out with a report that stated that voter ID laws had contributed to lower turnout of minority groups in the 2012 election. The laws often require citizens to provide documentation or identification that they simply do not have because of various reasons.

Tight victories throughout the country went in favor of the Republicans this election, and many people think voter ID laws played at least a factor in them. This is a trend I see continuing into the foreseeable future. Republicans will do everything in their power to lower turnout since their most reliable voters are not affected as much as democratic voters by voting restrictions. Many on the left in this country are saying that these laws are already having the effect of swaying elections in the Republicans favor. Most academics are unconvinced of the effects of voter ID laws and say they need more time and larger sample sizes in order to accurately determine if these laws did in fact suppress voters.

Climate deal between China and US

This article looks at the political aspects of a deal struck by the US and China to cut their carbon emissions. The issue of the climate is set to be a contentious issue in the 2016 elections. The plan is to cut the amount of emissions in the US by 28% of 2005 levels by 2025. Since the plan will take years to implement, the President has essentially put the burden of going through with the deal to his successor. The architect of the plan, John Podesta, is expected to leave the White House soon to become Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager.

Democrats argue that it is necessary to slow the flow of heat trapping emissions before it is too late. The Republican response to the deal is that it would hurt the economy and increase utility rates, among other things. They plan on running in 2016 on a platform similar to this. They are undeterred by poll results that show young people overwhelmingly supporting climate change action.

The polls done on this issue seem give democrats an edge for the presidential election. Among young people, Hispanics and unmarried women, all seem support candidates who promise climate change legislation. If Republicans want to win the White House in 2016, they will have to deal with this issue in a way that does not alienate electorally important groups of voters. They hope their message that climate policy will hurt the American economy will sway enough voters.

Republicans have criticized unilateral action by the US on climate policy in the past since it puts a burden on the American economy and does nothing to stop the biggest polluter, China. This climate change action includes concessions by China, nullifying the argument put forward by Republicans.

Providence in Providence

I came across an interesting article recently about the former mayor of Providence, Buddy Cianci. Cianci ran the city for over 21 years during 2 extended terms. His first was ended after a felony assault conviction rendered him ineligible to hold the office of mayor. After a brief hiatus as a radio host, he mounted a comeback and reentered politics, this time as an independent. He was able to recapture the position as mayor until a sting operation known as “Operating Plunder Dome” shed light on activities that had been going on in and around the capitol. He was accused of trying to “run city hall like a criminal enterprise”. This sting landed him in jail for 5 years starting in 2002. Despite his less than stellar resume, this very man is now running for Mayor of Providence again. Not only is he running again, he is ahead in the polls and out-fund raising his opponents with only a few weeks until election day. Three former prosecutors, now in various positions including US Senator, have held a news conference to warn the voters of Providence of the danger in reelecting Buddy Cianci. One of their main points is that his reputation as a corrupt politician would hinder the city’s ability to acquire federal grants.

Cianci’s reign during Providence’s so-called renaissance period of the 1990s has given him considerable clout among older voters in the city. Many supporters of Cianci remember what the city was like 20 years ago during this time. They remember fondly the positive trends of downtown restoration, reduced crime and budget surpluses. These were largely driven by an information technology boom however and should be seen in that light. Voters tend to forget some of the finer details of a politician’s rule and in this case are even willing to block the memories of this very person being convicted of 2 separate felonies while in office. The first one of assault did not necessarily betray the public trust like his second conviction in 2002 did. The conspiracy and racketeering charges stemming from that operation should serve as a reminder to voters of the former mayors character.

Voter ID laws

A state law in North Carolina recently worked its way through the federal appeals process and landed at the Supreme court. The law had several provisions including, barring same day registration and not counting votes that were cast in the wrong precinct. The appeals court that heard the case struck down these provisions, saying they “risked significantly reducing opportunities for black voters to exercise the franchise.” Although two supreme court justices shared this opinion, the other seven felt differently about the issue. The court ordered the pair of provisions to be reinstated as per the request of the state of North Carolina election officials, who cited burdensome nature of having to change their election practices only weeks before the election is set to take place. This argument is somewhat convincing when looked at with a hardcore states rights point of view. At the very least, the law was passed by legislators elected by a group of voters not affected by the limitations the law proposes. So some legitimacy does exist for this law, but the other side of the argument is that groups are having their constitutional rights taken away by this legislation. Constitutional rights should be guaranteed and not up for public debate.

The amount of voter identification laws going into effect in the last couple of years would lead you to believe we have a problem with vote fraud in this country. The truth is that voter fraud is incredibly rare. Even if voter fraud was happening, the chances that it would involve individual citizens exercising their right to vote more than once on election day seems unlikely. So what is the real motivation? The answer is that provisions in these laws are designed to disenfranchise the most vulnerable of voters. Poor and black voters, according a recent GAO report, are significantly more affected by this legislation than other groups. The motivation is clear as to why this kind of legislation is popping up all around the country. The groups most affected are reliable democratic votes and republican legislatures all around the country are now using a strategy of disenfranchisement to gain whatever edge they can in November.

Republicans.. Trying?

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus intends to give a speech on the future of the Republican party. In it, he is expected to outline a new image of ideas and action. This is in stark contrast to the Republican party as of late that the chairman is hoping change with this speech. Priebus admits that the average voter in America doesn’t have a great idea of what the Republican Party stands for – only what it opposes. For 6 years, Republicans at the national level have done everything they can to obstruct the legislative efforts of President Obama while offering nothing substantial in return. The actual plan of attack to be set forward by the GOP is to give talking points to their candidates and surrogates. This sudden public relations endeavor is no doubt happening because of the midterm elections in about a month. The talking points will focus on the half-hearted recent legislative efforts made by prominent republicans. Maybe this is a true turning point for the party. According to most predictions, they will retain the House and re-take the Senate. With a majority in both houses they have the ability to finally show America they can do more than just oppose and can actually legislate. This congress is on track to be the least productive in history and has the honor of being known as the ones who let the government shut down for a few weeks last year. Something dramatic needs to change in Washington if we ever want a legislature that actually gets things done.


The midterms are a time when many Americans zone out completely due to the lack of an executive being at stake. Despite the lack of enthusiasm of American voters as evidenced by the dramatic decline in turnout compared to presidential elections, midterms have a sizable impact on the government. First off, every single member of the house is voted on and a third of the senate is decided. This time around, the big story is whether or not the Republicans will retake the senate, which they have not held since the time of George W. Bush. A Republican win in the senate would be disastrous for President Obama. The blatant obstructionism by Senate Republicans for the past 6 years all happened without a majority.

The article I chose to blog about this week outlines what a Republican Senate would mean for President Obama’s agenda on things like climate change, court nominations and the Affordable Care act. Although it is clear that Obama would simply veto and measures taken by Senate Republicans to dismantle his progress on these issues, other avenues can and will be taken to get around this. The first issue is climate change. Obama has used executive actions mostly to help curb the emission of CO2 and other pollutants into the atmosphere. Mitch McConnell, poised to become the Senate majority if the Republicans retake the Senate, has said he would use the budget as the battleground for reversing policies made through executive action. He intends on basically inserting language into those bills that would undermine the presidents efforts on these issues. The only way to stop this would be to veto the entire budget, something that could have disastrous political effects since without a budget, the government would shut down like it did in 2013. Even though Democrats came out of that period relatively unlamented by the public for the fiasco, the circumstances of the potential shutdown would be far different than they were in 2013. The main difference is that a veto would be the only thing stopping a budget from passing this time and not a failure to pass both houses. This would put the blame squarely on President Obama.

The other issue Obama is facing with a Republican Senate is the lack of judicial nominations being approved. Court nominees are very important for a President’s legacy, as they are appointed for life. Also, many of the most important issues of the day are not decided at the Supreme Court, but at the various federal courts. This means that overall, federal courts matter much more than Supreme court nominations as far as a good amount of issues are concerned.


It was announced today that President Obama secured the support of several corporations operating in the United States to dramatically reduce their use of HFCs, a particularly harmful pollutant to the atmosphere. HFCs are mostly used for refrigeration and air conditioning, so beverage companies such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi were presumably courted heavily preceding the announcement. Through 2025, this effort is expected to have the same effect as taking 15 million cars off the road for 10 years. Unlike CO2, HFCs only affect the atmosphere for around 15 years until it disintegrates. So even though the warming potential of HFCs is around 10,000 times more than CO2, its long term impact on the planet is very low. Just for comparison, CO2 has the ability to stay in the atmosphere for thousands of years. 

The most interesting thing I found about this story is the fact that no legislation was passed or executive orders given. A voluntary agreement between private and public officials has produced a substantive agreement that will hopefully curb the onset of global warming. In my opinion, the only thing that can and will stop the relatively sudden oncoming of a much more unstable climate is the collective will of the global business community. Business leaders are starting to realize that climate change is not just bad for the planet, its bad for the economy. Some of the most populous areas in the world are under threat from sea level rise. Prominent commercial areas have the potential to literally become part of the ocean if dramatic steps are not taken to end the relentless flow of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.

The business elite tend to be rational people who don’t like the consensus they’re hearing from scientists all around the world. They see the reports from the UN saying that there is now a 95% certainty that humans are in fact the major cause of global warming and they fear for the future of their businesses. Developing markets all around the globe will not able to withstand the stress that the effects of climate change are scientists are convinced will happen. Floods and droughts haven’t been particularly good for business in the past and I don’t think they see that trend changing. In short, the business community is starting to see climate change not just as a nuisance, but as an existential threat. They’re future expansion into new markets is likely jeopardized if even moderate climate effects are felt. The agreement reached between some of the largest CFL polluters and the President is a move in the right direction and a precedent for future change.


President Obama announced tonight his plan to deal with the radical Islamic group ISIS. ISIS currently holds influence over a large area of Syria and Northern Iraq. The groups particularly barbaric style has shocked those in the West, and now a plan has been proposed by the President to deal with the threat. His plan outlines broader training of “moderate Syrian rebels” as well as targeted airstrikes in both Iraq and Syria. The rebel training will supposedly take place on bases in Saudi Arabia, a deal he struck with King Abdullah. He was also careful to clarify the role US combat troops will play in the coming weeks and months. During his speech, he made sure to say the mission troops will play in the conflict will not be combat oriented. This is no doubt something Obama will be sure to repeat again and again. His predecessor’s disastrous adventurism in the Middle East since 9/11 is still fresh in minds of many Americans. Even if troops are put on the ground in the places, I suspect their mission will be classified as something purposefully vague in order to avoid the ‘combat’ label. Saudi Arabia’s compliance with the plan strikes me as suspect since they are not usually eager to help the US on much of anything. I think this speaks to the threat ISIS poses to countries all throughout the Middle East. A group that had no international reputation even just a few months is now one of the biggest threats to American interests in the Middle East. This fact should remind us all that things can change quickly and that American leadership around the world is necessary for a world which rejects barbarism.