PEOPLE FOR BLOG

Double Talk Express: McCain and Fair Pay

At a town hall meeting last week, John McCain appeared to pledge in earnest to fight discrimination and, if necessary, take offenders to court:

But it was McCain who sided with corporate lobbyists earlier this year and opposed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Why, you might ask? He claimed “it would lead to more lawsuits.”

Later, at a different town hall meeting, he told a 14-year-old girl that the Fair Pay Act wouldn’t help anyone but “trial lawyers and others in that profession.”

What’s worse, McCain has helped confirm hundreds of right-wing federal judges to the very courts that he claims he would use to fight discrimination. The problem is, those judges – including Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito – have consistently whittled away at Americans’ protections against discrimination. And they’ve made it increasingly difficult for those Americans’ who do suffer discrimination to win just compensation.

The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, for instance, was created to undo the damage done by the Supreme Court in the Ledbetter ruling, which made it easier for companies to get away with pay discrimination. McCain not only endorsed the ruling, but he has vowed to nominate more judges like the ruling’s author – Justice Samuel Alito.

If McCain wanted to try some real straight talk for a change, he’d simply tell the women of America that under a McCain administration, they’d be on their own.

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Activists Rally in Rochester to Say "Sarah Palin Doesn't Speak For Me"

Rochester Rally

Photo: Ira Srole

Vicki Ryder, a rock-star People For the American Way supporter in Rochester, New York, rallied 300 women this weekend to say "Sarah Palin Doesn't Speak For Me."

A Rochester news crew got some footage of the rally, including this explanation from Vicki of why Palin's views aren't in line with many women's:

We don't like the idea that she doesn't support the Constitution. We think that the vice president of the United States, who's a heartbeat away from the presidency, should support the Constitution. [Palin] believes in banning books; she believes in imposing religion in the public schools, there are a lot of things we find totally objectionable.

Vicki was modest, saying the organizing was easy since so many in her community “cherish true democracy and are horrified by the thought of what a McCain-Palin administration would do to further erode our fast-disappearing rights.”

“All I did was send out an invitation to some women I know, and the word spread quickly,” Vicki said, adding, “it was not a ‘rally’ in the traditional sense — no speeches, no electioneering — just women getting together to make their voices heard.”

Well, Vicki, your voices were heard … loud and clear. Thanks for the inspiration!

Watch the news footage of the rally here and see a larger version of the photo above — featuring the protestors and their signs — here.


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Don't Mourn, Organize!

If you're following the election news as closely as I am, you're probably finding a lot of reasons to holler at your TV. How about Todd Palin refusing a subpoena from the legislative committee investigating "Troopergate" in Alaska, and Sarah Palin ducking requests to testify with claims of "executive privilege" (sound familiar?) — haven't we had enough of executive branch officials insisting they're above the law? Or maybe for you it's the sight of the "get government out of the way" Republicans suddenly claiming that they're the ones to bring more effective government oversight to Wall Street. So much for free-market fundamentalism! Or maybe it's the implication by the McCain-Palin campaign with their "Country First" signs that anyone who does not support their ticket is not patriotic!

Another thing that is making me furious is that people may be kept from casting their vote. Our affiliate People For the American Way Foundation has been documenting and mobilizing opposition to voter suppression efforts around the country — but conservative officials keep finding new ways to try to keep some voters away from the polls. In Michigan — a key presidential battleground state — the Republican Party is training people to challenge voters at the polls, and is even planning to try to deny voters the chance to cast a ballot if their home has gone into foreclosure. It's disgusting, but it's only part of a much bigger picture -- we're seeing official efforts in other key states like Virginia, Ohio and Florida to find reasons to knock people off the voting rolls.

Whatever is driving you to distraction this week, keep in mind labor organizer Joe Hill's famous admonition: "Don't mourn, organize!"

There's a huge amount of exciting organizing People For and other progressive groups are doing right now — and a lot of ways for you to get involved in these last few weeks before the election.

First and foremost you should VOTE and take at least five friends to the polls with you. If your state lets you vote early, do it. But don't stop there. Here are three other things you can do to keep the White House and Supreme Court out of the hands of the radical Religious Right:

  1. Get your ringside seats on October 2 when "Amtrak Joe" debates "Mooseburger Sarah"... Host a People For vice presidential debate watch party with your friends. We have been documenting Sarah Palin's record of extremism, and we're going to keep it up — we'll help you host a great party and send people off with new ammunition for their conversations with friends and family. Sign up at http://site.pfaw.org/parties.

  2. Volunteer some of your time to a progressive campaign during the next six weeks. Campaigns need help with voter identification and turnout, and in a close election year, this kind of ground work is vitally important -- and it's a fun way to get to know others in your community who share your political passions. Soon we will have a complete list of the candidates who are endorsed by the People For the American Way Voters Alliance. Click here to affirm your membership with People For in one simple step so we can share those endorsements with you.

  3. Be on the front lines to protect voting rights and democracy. We can help you find a way to volunteer in key states on or before Election Day. Sign up here!  

Let's make sure that on November 5, we're tired but elated!

P.S.  Are you doing something new this election year that you've never done before? Do you have a creative idea for energizing people to take action? Let me know and we'll share some of your stories. You could inspire someone else to take the next step — and you could help turn the tide! E-mail me at Kathryn@pfaw.org.

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More on the Human Toll

Earlier this week, People For the American Way Foundation released its Human Toll report with eye-opening stories of American men, women and children whose cases have come before judges nominated by George W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate. It puts a human face on the dangers posed by the political ideology of Bush judges. They are not alone in coming to this conclusion.  Check out this op ed in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. And check out as well this piece in the Legal Times on the recent Brookings Institution study indicating that under a McCain presidency, Republicans could increase their current 15 percent majority on federal courts of appeals by another 18 percent.  Thanks to my colleague Glenn Sugameli at Earthjustice for bringing these items to my attention.

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Bad Medicine

Legal terms are often so dry that it's hard to get excited about them.  After all, who could possibly be affected by something as abstract as "preemption?"

From the Times:

In the spring of 2000, suffering from a migraine, Ms. Levine visited a clinic near here for a treatment she had received many times: Demerol for the pain and Wyeth’s drug Phenergan for nausea.

“Nothing wrong with either drug,” Ms. Levine said. “They’re both safe when given the right way.”

But if Phenergan is exposed to arterial blood, it causes swift and irreversible gangrene.

You can imagine how this story ends.  Diane Levine, a musician, lost her arm because of improperly administered medication (which didn't give appropriate warning on the lable), and now the pharmacutical company insists that she's not allowed to sue under state law.

Now the case is coming to the Supreme Court, which hasn't been a particularly good friend to people like Ms. Levine these last few years.

This is a perfect example of the up-is-down, black-is-white argument that the right has been making (and winning) in courts: that the FDA should protect pharmacutical companies, not individual Americans, when something goes horribly wrong.

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One in 10 Hispanics Questioned about Immigration Status

Via ThinkProgress, news of a recent Pew Hispanic Center study that found one in 10 Hispanics are stopped by authorities who question them about their immigration status. Forty percent of the Hispanics surveyed say they worry "a lot" about deportation and "an additional 17% say they worry some that they themselves, a family member or a close friend may be deported."

Among other types of racial profiling the survey reported:

  One-in-seven (15%) say that they have had trouble in the past year finding or keeping a job because they are Latino. One-in-ten (10%) report the same about finding or keeping housing.

As one ThinkProgress commenter put it: "Living While Hispanic. It's the new Driving While Black."

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Washington Post Reports Problems on Election Day Imminent

From today’s Washington Post:

Faced with a surge in voter registrations leading up to Nov. 4, election officials across the country are bracing for long lines, equipment failures and confusion over polling procedures that could cost thousands the chance to cast a ballot.

The crush of voters will strain a system already in the midst of transformation, with jurisdictions introducing new machines and rules to avoid the catastrophe of the deadlocked 2000 election and the lingering controversy over the 2004 outcome. Even within the past few months, cities and counties have revamped their processes: Nine million voters, including many in the battleground states of Ohio, Florida and Colorado, will use equipment that has changed since March.

But the widespread changes meant to reassure the public have also increased the potential for trouble.

We’re pleased to see that the media’s taking seriously the concerns of the voting rights community about the problems that are plaguing the electoral system.  We’ve already seen increased pressure on our overburdened electoral system with the heightened voter turnout during the 2008 primary season – registration processing, machine failures, voter ID requirements, and poll worker training to name a few problems that were documented in the report “Will Problems in Early Primaries Affect the Buckeye State?

People For has developed helpful toolkits for voters where they can find important information like the voter registration deadline, dates for early voting, and the deadline for requesting an absentee ballot.  They’ve also explain what constitutes the proper ID you’ll need at polling precincts on Election Day.  

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The Human Toll

Today, People For the American Way Foundation* put out a report titled The Human Toll: How Individual Americans Have Fared at the Hands of Bush Judges.  It’s essentially a review of the stories of individual Americans who have found themselves in front of judges put on the bench by George W. Bush.  In many cases, the result isn’t pretty.

With that in mind, let me point out an important fact: John McCain has supported every single one of George Bush’s judicial nominees.

So, for that matter, have most of the incumbent GOP Senators up for reelection this year.  John Sununu (NH), Elizabeth Dole (NC), Ted Stevens (AK), Gordon Smith (OR), Norm Coleman (MN), James Inhofe (OK), and John Cornyn (TX) are probably the ones in the closest races.

You might want to keep that in mind while you read the report.  It’s a pretty interesting read, if I do say so myself.

* - (Which is affiliated with People For the American Way in ways too complicated to get into here.)

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"Macaca" Does Minority Outreach

Considering that George Allen's electoral hopes essentially crashed at the moment he called one of his rival's volunteers "macaca" during a campaign event in Virginia back in 2006, how does the Virginia Republican Party think this is a good idea:  

Northern Virginia Republicans, realizing they need to improve their appeal among the region's large ethnic population, will stage a "unity" rally Saturday that they say will draw 1,000 people.

Organizers said the annual rally, which has grown in recent years, is particularly significant this year because ethnic minorities represent an increasingly powerful voting bloc that will help decide which presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama or Sen. John McCain, wins the state Nov. 4.

...

[Jim Hyland, chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Committee] said he expects as many as 1,000 supporters to turn out for the event at Edison High School, where former senator George Allen and Reps. Tom Davis and Frank R. Wolf are expected to speak. Former Virginia governor James S. Gilmore III is planning to attend, as is a widely known surrogate from McCain's campaign, organizers said.

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Holding Goodling Accountable

It seems that at least someone is attempting to hold Monica Goodlling accountable for her law-breaking - from the Richmond Times Dispatch:

A request for a disciplinary investigation of a former U.S. Justice Department official who improperly screened job candidates has been filed with the Virginia State Bar.

Monica Goodling resigned as the department's liaison to the White House last year. A Justice Department investigation recently concluded that she violated civil-service law and department policy by considering political affiliations in hiring decisions.

Lawyer William R. Wilder, who drafted the complaint signed by a dozen other lawyers, said yesterday he was concerned about Goodling's conduct and that she has apparently not been charged with a crime or disciplined elsewhere.

The Sept. 8 letter to the state bar alleges that Goodling violated at least two rules of professional conduct and asks that the state bar start a disciplinary investigation.
 

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Fair Pay Issue Growing in Campaign ‘08

As you may have seen, the Obama campaign is running ads focusing on McCain’s opposition to fair pay for women.  I think it’s safe to say that everyone around here is glad to see Obama talking about the issue and eager to see McCain’s response.

But looking at the conversation, it’s important to remember that we aren’t moving forward on this issue.  Thanks to the Supreme Court, we’re actually moving backwards.  It was, after all, the very bad decision to take away Lilly Ledbetter’s fair pay that brought pay discrimination to the fore.  And regardless of whether or not we manage to pass the Fair Pay Act, more bad Supreme Court Justices could make the situation much, much worse.

Our friends at the National Organization of Women have put together a great fact sheet on Equal Pay which is fascinating and disturbing at the same time.  (Via Dana Goldstien at TAPPED)

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Supreme at Home, But Increasingly Ignored Abroad?

The New York Times reports a declining reliance around the world on what American justices have to say.

And I thought we couldn’t slip any further in the eyes of the world.

Of particular note:

The new [more sophisticated constitutional courts around the world] are, moreover, generally more liberal than the Rehnquist and Roberts courts and for that reason more inclined to cite one another.

Read the full article here.

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GOP Gearing Up for a Comprehensive Voter Challenge Campaign

Well, I guess some people sit around and think, hey this group of people just lost their homes, why don’t we take their vote too? Civil right groups nationwide are up in arms about a reported Michigan GOP scheme to challenge voters on Election Day using the list of foreclosed homes as the basis for the challenge.

In addition to being a mean-spirited attempt to deny persons in extremely vulnerable states access to the polls, it is also an insufficient ground to challenge a voter’s eligibility!

According to former voting rights litigator J. Gerald Hebert, foreclosure notices may not, in and of themselves, be grounds for election challenges because “people often remain in their homes after foreclosure begins and sometimes are able to negotiate and refinance.”

Thus, implementing such a policy would likely have the effect of disenfranchising large swaths of voters, who would be and are eligible to vote. Additionally, most foreclosures in Michigan were on sub-prime loans, which went at a disproportionally high rate to African Americans at a rate of over 60%. Hmm, let’s look at all the pieces: African American Voters + Suppresion Tactics = same plan, different year.

While it still astonishes me to hear about the wanton depths some people will go to keep “certain” people away from the polls, it’s definitely not the first time we’ve seen deceptive and suppressive tactics used on people of color.

Perhaps most astonishing is the Party’s insistence upon ensuring that election procedures are followed. It is difficult to imagine the challenging of poor people and minorities who are struggling to fight their foreclosures as being evidence that our electoral process is running smoothly!

Foreclosures across the country have reached an all time high, with nearly 1.25 million homes in foreclosure, and it would be not be unlikely to expect challenges of this sort in other states with high foreclosure rates, such as Ohio, Florida, Nevada and Arizona (surprise, surprise — competitive election states!) While deceptive practices and voter intimidation and suppression tactics such as this have been common in federal elections, it is long past time to put an end to this.

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Talk About Judging a Book By Its Cover

More information came out this weekend about Sarah Palin's attempts to ban books while mayor of Wasilla, AK.

From a story in Sunday's New York Times:

Witnesses and contemporary news accounts say Ms. Palin asked the librarian about removing books from the shelves. The McCain-Palin presidential campaign says Ms. Palin never advocated censorship.

But in 1995, Ms. Palin, then a city councilwoman, told colleagues that she had noticed the book "Daddy's Roommate" on the shelves and that it did not belong there, according to Ms. Chase and Mr. Stein. Ms. Chase read the book, which helps children understand homosexuality, and said it was inoffensive; she suggested that Ms. Palin read it.

"Sarah said she didn't need to read that stuff," Ms. Chase said. "It was disturbing that someone would be willing to remove a book from the library and she didn't even read it."

"I'm still proud of Sarah," she added, "but she scares the bejeebers out of me."

As Palin didn't even take the time to read "Daddy's Roommate" — which, as a 32-page children's book, would probably have taken her about five minutes to get through — she didn't know anything about the book beyond its title and cover. So presumably what she found "offensive" was the book's acknowledgement that homosexuality exists.

As for the book's content? Here's a description of "Daddy's Roommate" from Publisher's Weekly:

The story's narrator begins with his parents' divorce, and continues, "Now there's somebody new at Daddy's house."

The new arrival is male; Frank and Daddy are seen pursuing their daily routine (eating, shaving, sleeping — even fighting), and on weekends the three interact easily on their various outings.

"Mommy says Frank and Daddy are gay" — this new concept is explained to the child as "just one more kind of love."

Yeah, it sounds super-offensive to me.

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Have They No Shame?

In an election in which so much is at stake, and so many crucial differences between the presidential tickets, our national conversation keeps getting stuck — and not by accident. It dawned on me this week that race and gender are the elephant (and donkey) in the room — they’re more often exploited in subtle and cynical ways than discussed honestly. You need only witness the side show about "lipstick" that Republicans are using to keep the campaign away from issues that affect Americans and our shared future.

The fake outrage about Obama’s "lipstick-on-a-pig" comment, combined with the suddenly discovered concerns about sexism from the anti-feminist right, have demonstrated once again how big a role gender plays in our politics. The same goes for race. I was listening to voters in York, Pennsylvania talking about race and politics on NPR, and was struck by hearing a couple of people suggest that the press has given Obama a free pass because he’s black. These ideas don’t come out of nowhere — they’re planted and spread via talk radio, the blogosphere and the entire right-wing media echo chamber. It’s the same poisonous and divisive race politics that drove Nixon’s "Southern strategy" and the Right’s Reagan-era mobilization of white working-class Americans with the idea of "special privileges for minorities."

Meanwhile, the Michigan Republican Party is taking voter suppression tactics honed by the GOP in recent years to a new low — recruiting volunteers to target the eligibility of African American voters whose homes are in foreclosure. These voter challenging schemes — like the voter identification requirements pushed by Republican legislators across the country — are designed to keep minority (and presumably likely Democratic) voters away from the polls. Have they no decency?

Given our recent political history, of course, it would be crazy to count on elemental decency from the strategists who are engineering voter suppression, spreading lies about Barack Obama and making charges they know to be false — and then complaining that the "liberal media" who amplify those bogus charges are somehow conspiring against them. George Orwell couldn’t keep up with this crew.

That’s where we — and you — come in. I’m not going to let the same people who opposed every advance made by the feminist movement get away with crying "sexism" any time someone examines Sarah Palin’s actual record. (Especially the ones who are wearing buttons like "The Hottest VP from the Coolest State.") We’re shining a spotlight on the utter hypocrisy of Religious Right leaders who have been trashing Sen. Obama’s faith for months but now say it’s off limits to examine Sarah Palin’s views on church-state separation.

And most importantly we are going to work hard to focus Americans attention on what is actually at stake in this election — the nation’s ability to survive four more years of Bush’s disastrous policies — or the ability of our constitutional freedoms to survive 40 years of a Supreme Court dominated by the kind of justices John McCain has promised Religious Right leaders to nominate for our highest court.

A McCain-Palin White House would put the Religious Right in the nation’s drivers’ seat in ways that would make the Bush administration look tame.

One last note — thanks to everyone who sent in pictures to go along with our “Sarah Palin doesn’t speak for me” sign-on letter. You can view a slideshow of some of the photos now here. If you want to send in your own, e-mail it to blogaction@pfaw.org. (And if you haven’t signed on to the letter yet, you can do so here.

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