Nov28

Voter ID Laws Challenged For Putting Black Vote At Risk

Al Sharpton.jpgCalifornia is one of just 20 states left that have no voter ID law, but with November fast approaching, many are worried that Voter ID Laws spearheaded by Republicans will affect the voting polls on Election Day.

According to Politico, at least five million voters could be affected by an unprecedented flurry of new legislation to change or restrict voting rights. Those who support these new laws argue that they are intended to prevent voter fraud and ensure the integrity of the vote. Those opposed believe they are trying to change the voting process in such a way as to favor a Republican candidate for president. Those like the Rev. Al Sharpton.

“Isn’t it funny that Republicans want voter ID in November, but they don’t want voter ID at their own primaries? The only voter fraud that we can find is the statement is that there is widespread voter fraud,” Sharpton charged. “The fraud is to use nonexistent widespread voter fraud to try and suppress and stop people from voting.”

Those like Sharpton believe the cost to address such infrequent infractions is too high with many eligible voters, predominantly minorities, college students, and the elderly among those who would be disproportionately affected and in some cases, even disenfranchised as a result of the passage of new voter ID laws. “You get to the election of Barack Obama and now we need a different ID? You are not trying to stop voter ID fraud, you are identifying who you want to vote and we are not going to allow you to do it,” Sharpton states.

It was in 2003 that the first voter ID laws were passed and by 2011, 30 U.S. states required some form of photo or non-photo identification, though the identification required to submit a ballot varies by each state.
Some such as Democratic strategist Krystal Ball suggest that those who are voter ID law proponents underestimate the affect it will have on the election.

“If you look at which states have really pushed these efforts—and it goes way beyond just a government ID—they're attacking this process at every stage from voter registration to when you can vote…to then actually being able to vote on election day.  “But if you look at the states that have really pushed these efforts, they are states that have had large growths in minority populations. Places like Florida and Georgia and Texas have been on the front lines, and when you look at the fact that 25% of voting age African-American voters do have the government ID that they are requiring, it becomes quite clear that this is an effort at voter suppression and a cynical Machiavellian political tactic.”

Attorney General Eric Holder adds, "Many of those without IDs would have to travel great distances to get them – and some would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to obtain them. I don't know what will happen as this case moves forward, but I can assure you that the Justice Department's efforts to uphold and enforce voting rights will remain aggressive.”

Nov28

Supreme Court Hands Huge Victory to Obama’s Affordable Care Act

President ObamaPresident Obama is breathing a huge sigh of relief thanks to the Supreme Court's ruling on his signature healthcare legislation. The 5-4 decision, thought by many to be this court's most consequential decision to date, is a huge win for the White House, both on the campaign trail and for the impact the sweeping health care law will have on all Americans for years to come.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court's liberal justices, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor as the swing vote in the controversial ruling, while Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.

"The highest court in the land has now spoken," Obama said of what many have said will be his defining legislative accom- plishment. "Whatever the politics, today's decision was a victory for people all over this country, whose lives will be more secure because of this law, and the Supreme Court's decision to uphold it." Yet, while the president may have been vindicated on the constitutionality of the law, the battle is hardly over, particularly as the justices decided the only way the mandate forcing Americans to purchase health insurance could be upheld is as a tax, which Obama and Democrats argued it wasn't.

In his majority opinion, Justice Roberts wrote, "It is reasonable to construe what Congress has done as increasing taxes on those who have a certain amount of income, but choose to go without health insurance. Such legislation is within Congress's power to tax."

Simply put, starting 2014, all Americans will have to carry health insurance or pay a fine, with estimates that 70- 75% of the "tax" falls on those who earn less than $200,000 per year. The penalties for those choosing to forgo health insurance are as follows: 2014: Fami-

lies––$285 or 1% of household income; Individuals––$95; 2015: Families––$975 or 2% of household income; Individuals ––$325; 2016: Families––$2,085 or 2.5% of household income; Individual adults––$695.

Some critics believe the mandate will give carte blanche to the IRS to hold up your refund or come after you to pay a fine in the event you aren't covered.

Employers will face fines if they don't offer healthcare coverage to their workers, though one 2011 study found that up to 30% of employers would drop employee health plans after 2014 as the $2,000-per- worker penalty was cheaper than an aver- age healthcare policy.

In stark contrast, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who hailed the decision as a great victory, said that 360,000 small businesses used tax credits to purchase health insurance for 2 million workers.

"Because of today's decision," Waters stated, "American families will rest assured they will not lose their insurance when they need it most!"

Those not covered by employers will pick from a list of plans provided by a web-based exchange set up by their state.

The law is projected to bring coverage to about 30 million uninsured, so that more than 9 in 10 eligible Americans will be covered, but many of its provisions have been seen as deeply flawed. Not only do many believe that it will dramatically increase the deficit, but healthcare costs are expected to rise and there's a great deal of question regarding the law's power on the states to enact the legislation.

Twenty-six states have already chal- lenged the Medicaid provision (which turns over to states an increasing share of the bill in 2017). Ironically enough, the Supreme Court's ruling sides with them, concluding that the Medicaid expansion violates the Constitution by threatening states with the loss of their existing Medicaid funding if they decline to comply with the expansion, thus effectively opening the door to future challenges.

All in all, the legislation raises the stakes in the upcoming presidential election.

Killing the bill— which is opposed in some measure by more than 60% of vot- ers— is expected to be a rallying cry for the Republicans who believe the legisla- tion to be a polarizing factor in November as Romney is positioned as the GOP's biggest chance for repeal.

"This is now a time for the American people to make a choice," Romney said. "You can choose whether you want to have a larger and larger government, more and more intrusive in your life, separating you and your doctor, whether you're comfortable with more deficits, higher debt that we pass on to the coming generations, whether you're willing to have the government put in place a plan that potentially causes you to lose the insurance that you like, or whether instead you want to return to a time when the American people will have their own choice in health care, where consumers will be able to make their choices as to what kind of

Nov28

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Gets Contempt

Eric HolderOn June 28th, Congress voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for failing to turn over documents the Committee requested regarding Operation Fast and Furious - an operation that was monitoring the traf- ficking of arms into Mexico.

Holder is the first U.S. Attorney General charged with contempt. Contempt actions were issued against Henry Kissinger in 1975, Interior Secretary James Watt in 1982 and Attorney General Janet Reno in 1998, but compromises were reached before these actions ever reached a full House vote. Karl Rove and Harriet Myers were held in contempt in 2008, but neither action was ever resolved. In 1983, an EPA offi- cial Rita Lavelle became the only executive branch official who was held in contempt, prosecuted and convicted of lying to Congress. Some like Al Sharpton believe that the issue is a racially charged one.

"The highest officer of law and order in this nation has been ridiculed, scape- 6 goated and handled as some sort of criminal throughout this 'investigation.' Turning over thousands of documents and overextending himself, Attorney General Holder was spoken to and mistreated as if he were a child, and reminded that despite his esteemed position, he can and would be profiled. Attorney General Holder was in essence 'stopped & frisked' without probable cause, and after he cooperated, he was made an example of."
Others, however, such as Mychal Massie, Project 21 Chairman, strongly disagrees: "In America, criminal investi- gations are not based on status, wealth, position, or color. We are a nation of laws and no one is above them regardless of what Obama and Holder believe and regardless of Sharpton's claims that it is wrong for a black man who holds elected office to comply with a Congressional investigation. Neither Holder's color nor his position permit him to decide what papers he will turn over and/or in what way he will cooperate with a criminal investigation into his department."

The contempt vote
Operation Fast and Furious—based in Phoenix and implemented in 2009 by the the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives— was set up to follow weapons purchased by Mexican drug cartels. The plan was to sell guns to presumed criminals, allow those same guns to "walk" across the border so they could be tracked when used in crimes and ultimately lead to the arrests of highlevel Mexican drug cartels. But the agency lost track of more than 1,000 firearms that where subsequently carried across the border, two of which turned up at the scene of the 2010 killing of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.
Since the operation went awry, the House Oversight Committee has sought documents that reveal how the Justice Department handled the failed sting oper- ation, going so far as to issue subpoenas demanding them. During the Committee's year-and-a-half-long investigation into Operation Fast and Furious, the Department of Justice, which Holder heads, had turned over 7,600 documents about the conduct of the operation.

Concerned that releasing more docu- ments might adversely affect ongoing operations, Holder had been accused of

First Ladies High Tea
November will mark the 20th Anniversary of our Annual First Ladies High Tea, honoring the contributions of female leaders and women of faith to the Los Angeles community. For more information, visit www.firstladieshightea.com
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