March 16, 2015 archive
Mar 16 2015
Mar 16 2015
I have 3 articles for you on this Monday morning!
First, an interesting coalition:
But getting from general agreement to action requires a concerted effort to change minds and change policy. That’s why we recently helped launch the Coalition for Public Safety, an unprecedented national bipartisan coalition of funders and advocacy partners that will work for smart, fair and just criminal justice reform.
The coalition will work at the local, state and federal level to fix the flawed policies that have conspired to create this problem. The coalition plans a multimillion-dollar campaign in connection with emerging proposals to reduce prison populations, overhaul sentencing, reduce recidivism and address critical structural flaws in our system.
Mar 16 2015
This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.
Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
March 16 is the 75th day of the year (76th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 290 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1802, The United States Military Academy, the first military school in the United States, is founded by Congress for the purpose of educating and training young men in the theory and practice of military science.
The Continental Army first occupied West Point, New York, on 27 January 1778, making it the longest continually occupied post in the United States of America. Between 1778 and 1780, Polish engineer and military hero Tadeusz Kosciuszko oversaw the construction of the garrison defenses. The Great Hudson River Chain and high ground above the narrow “S” curve in the river enabled the Continental Army to prevent British Royal Navy ships from sailing upriver and dividing the Colonies. As commander of the fortifications at West Point, however, Benedict Arnold committed his infamous act of treason, attempting to sell the fort to the British. After Arnold betrayed the patriot cause, the Army changed the name of the fortifications at West Point, New York, to Fort Clinton. With the peace after the American Revolutionary War left various ordnance and military stores deposited at West Point.
“Cadets” underwent training in artillery and engineering studies at the garrison since 1794. Congress formally authorized the establishment and funding of the United States Military Academy on 16 March 1802,. The academy graduated Joseph Gardner Swift, its first official graduate, in October 1802; he later returned as Superintendent from 1812 to 1814. In its tumultuous early years, the academy featured few standards for admission or length of study. Cadets ranged in age from 10 years to 37 years and attended between 6 months to 6 years. The impending War of 1812 caused the United States Congress to authorize a more formal system of education at the academy and increased the size of the Corps of Cadets to 250.
In 1817, Colonel Sylvanus Thayer became the Superintendent and established the curriculum still in use to this day. Thayer instilled strict disciplinary standards, set a standard course of academic study, and emphasized honorable conduct. Known as the “Father of the Military Academy”, he is honored with a monument on campus for the profound impact he left upon the academy’s history. Founded to be a school of engineering, for the first half of the 19th century, USMA produced graduates who gained recognition for engineering the bulk of the nation’s initial railway lines, bridges, harbors and roads. The academy was the only engineering school in the country until the founding of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1824. It was so successful in its engineering curriculum that it significantly influenced every American engineering school founded prior to the Civil War.
The Mexican-American War brought the academy to prominence as graduates proved themselves in battle for the first time. Future Civil War commanders Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee first distinguished themselves in battle in Mexico. In all, 452 of 523 graduates who served in the war received battlefield promotions or awards for bravery. The school experienced a rapid modernization during the 1850s, often romanticized by the graduates who led both sides of the Civil War as the “end of the Old West Point era”. New barracks brought better heat and gas lighting, while new ordnance and tactics training incorporated new rifle and musket technology and accommodated transportation advances created by the steam engine. With the outbreak of the Civil War, West Point graduates filled the general officer ranks of the rapidly expanding Union and Confederate armies. Two hundred ninety-four graduates served as general officers for the Union, and one hundred fifty-one served as general officers for the Confederacy. Of all living graduates at the time of the war, 105 (10%) were killed, and another 151 (15%) were wounded. Nearly every general officer of note from either army during the Civil War was a graduate of West Point and a West Point graduate commanded the forces of one or both sides in every one of the 60 major battles of the war.
Mar 16 2015
With the Republicans now in charge of the Senate, the filibuster games continue with the shoe on the other foot. Although I have to say, the Democrats have used it to stop the more egregious legislation that the Republicans have tried to pass. By attaching controversial riders to popular bills, such as their fight with the White House over immigration getting attached to the funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security, the GOP leadership didn’t expect the tactic to backfire in the press and public opinion. The Republicans may have gerrymandered themselves into being in charge but that doesn’t mean they have the capacity to lead or public support.
The Senate GOP current hostages are the victims of human trafficking and Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch. A popular bipartisan bill to aid victims of human trafficking has been held up by the Democrats in the Senate when they discovered that the Republicans had surreptitiously added an anti-choice amendment that would restrict funding for abortions.
The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015, which would establish a fund to raise money for victims from the fees charged to traffickers, wasn’t supposed to be controversial. It has supporters on both sides of the aisle and easily passed the House earlier this year. Both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) have urged members of their parties to support the legislation.
But this week, top Democrats learned that the bill includes language modeled after the Hyde Amendment, which restricts public funding for abortion procedures. The new fund created for trafficking victims would be subject to the same restrictions that currently prevent the public Medicaid program from using federal dollars to finance abortion coverage. [..]
Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Reid’s office, said the proposed language in the trafficking bill would actually go beyond Hyde’s current scope by including fees and fines, instead of just taxpayer funds. He believes that “could lead to a dramatic expansion of abortion restrictions in future years.” [..]
Reproductive rights groups have also harshly criticized the abortion provision in the bill, accusing Republicans of playing politics with the vulnerable victims of human trafficking. They point out that victims often need access to abortion services because they have been subject to sexual violence, so a fund designed to help them shouldn’t cut off resources related to abortion.
Needless to say, the Democrat’s filibuster of a second bill, with unpopular provisions, in as many months is not sitting well with Senate Majority Leader Mitch “The Human Hybrid Turtle” McConnell who went on CNN’s “State of the Union” and told host Dana Bash that the consideration of Loretta Lynch would not happen until the trafficking bill passed.
McConnell told Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Lynch’s nomination will remain in a holding pattern until Democrats allow the trafficking bill to move forward.
“This will have an impact on the timing of considering the new attorney general. Now, I had hoped to turn to her next week, but if we can’t finish the trafficking bill, she will be put off again,” he said.
He argued it was a non-controversial bill that came out of the Judiciary Committee unanimously. He noted the language Democrats are objecting to was part of the legislation from the beginning of its consideration.
“They all voted for the very same language in a bill in December,” he said. “This is boilerplate language that has been in the law for almost 40 years that they all voted for three months ago in another bill.”
Sen. McConnell’s claim that the Democrats knew about the anti-abortion provision and knowingly voted for it is [disputed by the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee :
“These provisions, my caucus did not know about,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters Tuesday. “The bill will not come off this floor as long as that [abortion] language is in it.”
Even Democrats on the Judiciary Committee said they had no idea the abortion provision was in the bill. Some suggested they had been misled.
“There was a representation that the controversial provision was not included in this bill. It turns out that it was,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a Judiciary Committee member. “I don’t know how that happened or who was the author of it.”
“A list was sent to certain members saying, ‘Here are the changes from last year.’ This provision was not listed among them,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), also a Judiciary Committee member.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the committee’s ranking member, chastised his GOP colleagues for using “debates about some of the most vulnerable among us to advance their own political agenda.”
Needles to say the Democrats, so far, aren’t caving to this latest GOP blackmail:
Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the third-ranking member of the Democratic leadership, slammed McConnell for further delaying Lynch.
“For months and months, Republicans have failed to move forward with her nomination using any excuse they can, except for any credible objection to her nomination itself. It’s time for Republicans to stop dragging their feet on Loretta Lynch,” he said in a statement Sunday morning.
Adam Jentleson, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) spokesman, accused McConnell of backtracking on his pledge to schedule Lynch for a vote.
The GOP hates Attorney General Eric Holder, who has already said his goodbyes, but they have held up Ms. Lynch’s nomination for 128 days, longer than any other Attorney General nominee. This might not be so bad since Ms. Lynch may not be the best choice to replace Mr. Holder considering her dubious ties to Wall Street and the banks. Her slap on the wrist agreement without criminal charges in the HSBC money laundering case would be a good reason to reject her. Now, the question is will the Democrats sacrifice her to protect the right to an abortion for victims of human trafficking. Stay tuned to see who blinks first.