Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Biggest reason some Right Wing groups Oppose Kagan nomination?

by Cody Lyon

Now that Alabama Senate Republican Jeff Sessions has won a weeklong delay on any final vote to confirm Soliciter General Elena Kagan as a supreme court justice, a right leaning, tea party affiliated organization called Judicial Action Group or Jag, also based in Session's home state, is reportedly buying up commercial time for a new video ad aimed at swaying three important senate votes to 'no on Kagan.'

It was just over a year ago in June 2009 that Sessions, the Judiciary Committee's Ranking member vigorously questioned the record of then Supreme court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, focusing attention on Sotomayor's affiliation with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. After Sessions raised those concerns, another right leaning organization called "Judicial Watch" released a report on Sotomayor's record it said shows PRLDEF supports a “radical legal agenda. That campaign failed and Sotomayor went on to see confirmation.

The more recent video campaign is specific, aimed at two Democrats, Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, as well as Republican Senator Lindsay Grahm of South Carolina. Each video has basically the same script, however, each is tailored to either one of the the three Senators, for example, viewers are urged to call and tell Senator Ben Nelosn to vote no on Elena Kagan.

The "Judical Action Group" video features an urgent toned voice claiming Kagan, as professor and Dean at Harvard Law School, 'advocated judicial activism and favors foreign law over our constitution." The ad also says Kagan "welcomed law firms representing terrorists" and "banned our military recruiters" from the school's campus. Kagan also "welcomed law firms representing terrorists' and "took $20 million in Saudi Money to establish a center for Islamic Studies and Sharia Law." The video, set against still photos of Kagan and hightlighted text of the charges leveled in the video, does not offer any sort of context or tracable sources as to where the charges extend from.

On July 12, JAG issued a press release saying it was launching a “Nelson & Kagan” ad campaign by co-hosting a
press conference that day in Omaha, NE. The group confirmed the effort is meant "to put pressure on Sen. Nelson to vote “No” on Kagan." JAG said it was co-hosting that event with Jennifer Hulsey of Tea Party Express, Doug Kagan of Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom, and Benjamin Smith (former Navy seal) of Move America Forward. They say similar Pressers and TV ad buys will occur Tues in Little Rock, AR and Thurs in Columbia, SC.

Judicial Action Group is a 501(c)4 non-profit corporation with offices in Washington, D.C. and Birmingham, Alabama. Founded in 2006, the 501(c)4 status (unlike a tax-deductible 501(c)3 status) allows JAG to engage in unlimited lobbying, 'maximizing its influence.' The group is part of a larger coalition of right leaning groups including the web umbrella, Freedom Federation.' That particular coalition of activists calls itself "a federation of multiracial, multiethnic and multigenerational faith-based and policy organizations and leaders committed to plan, strategize, and mobilize to advance shared core values to preserve freedom and promote justice" Featured along with Judicial Action Group on the Freedom Federation website, several other widely known Right Wing groups including better known groups like Family Research Council, American Family Association, Eagle Forum and The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

Leading JAG is president Phillip Jauregu,a partner at Birmingham law firm Jauregu & Lindsey who Jauregu's biography says represents various clients ranging from small business, to corporate entities, to individuals, such as former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. Judge Roy Moore, a hero in right wing circles gained national attention when as Chief Justice, he placed a washing machine sized replica of the biblical ten commandments in the lobby of the Alabama Supreme Court. When challenged and eventually court ordered to remove the replica, hordes of fundamentalist Christian groups from around the nation descended onto the capital Montgomery to pray, protest and hold vigils.

Moore was eventually ordered out of office and Jauregui led the legal team that eventually lost an appeal that resulted in the removal of then Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore from office, over his refusal to remove the granite replica.

Jauregui's JAG says it believes that the present state of the culture war created the need for a Special Forces unit that single-mindedly devotes itself to one mission: "defeating judicial activism." On its website, JAG says it serves this vital niche.

But, some saw Jauregui client Roy Moore as an activist judge. In a November 2003 Court of the Judiciary hearing, Alabama's Assistant Attorney General said Moore's defiance, left unchecked, "undercuts the entire workings of the judicial system. He said what message does that send to the public, to other litigants? The message it sends is: If you don't like a court order, you don't have to follow it."

Recently, Moore made a run in the 2010 Republican primary for Governor. Winning just 19% of state votes, he placed fourth.

The 40 year old Jauregu also served as Assistant Legal Advisor to Alabama Governor Fob James, the Alabama governor who gained attention by opposing the teaching of evolution in the state's public schools. James' son, Tim James recently also recently made a run for Governor in the same race as Moore. He gained national attention of his own through television ads decryiny multi-linguil drivers license exams. James, like Moore, lost in the election, placing third in the primary.

As the Sotomayor nomination came closer to vote, in June 2009, JAG's Jauregu as President of JAG, joined a large group of conservative activists who wrote and signed a letter to Republican Senators urging that they fillibuster then nominee Sotomayer. But, many in that same group of activists had signed a similar letter a few years earlier during the Bush Administration "opposing" the use of filibusters during Supreme Court nominations.

That said, more recently, Jauregu's JAG has made the opposition of Kagan as a supreme court justice a priority. JAG's website points visitors to research and analysis by Alliance Defense Fund, American United For Life, Family Research Council and the Aiken ScotusBlog.

Perhaps more telling, an article detailing Jauregui and apparently the worry of many Right Leaning groups titled 'Do Ask, Do Tell - Whether Kagan's Public Policies are Improperly Dictated by Her Private Affairs.'

Here, Jauregui worries that "Kagan’s decision to bar military recruiters from Harvard was either a horrible legal decision, or a use of her office to impose her personal views on the military."

Then, Jauregui writes "if media reports that Kagan is a lesbian are true, then her decision to bar military recruiters from Harvard has every appearance of growing from her personal preferences and practices. Obama says that he wants justices who have empathy and know what it is like to be gay. Well, it is relevant for Americans to know whether such a preoccupation of knowing how it feels to be gay, led Elena Kagan to ignore the law and ban the heterosexual military from Harvard because it conflicted with her own personal feelings and practices."

No word as to whether or not, Jauregui wondered if he thought Judge Roy Moore's defiance over a large replica of the Ten Commandments in the state Supreme Court building might indicate that the the former chief justice intended to impose "his" personal views on the state's highest court.

Meanwhile, the video targeting the votes of the three Senators makes no mention of Kagan's rumored sexuality

Friday, July 02, 2010

Dysfunction Junction and Unemployment Insurance

Dysfunctional Washington and Unemployment Insurance
July 2, 2010, 4:03PM

by Cody Lyon

During a conversation with ABC News this past Thursday, Politico.com's Chris Frates told Ron Claiborne that the inability of Congress to pass an extension of unemployment benefits was in part a "battle of approach."

He's referring to the differing approaches by which Democrats and Republicans would fund a $33 billion dollar extension of the expanded safety net for long term unemployed Americans. Democrats are looking to fund the program with emergency funds that would add to the stimulus while Republicans say part or all of the program must be paid for by taking money from the stimulus program. b Long term unemployed include those people unemployed for six months or longer. While many on both sides claim to want to extend the program, the reality is, millions of the long term unemployed are getting cut off from an economic life line over the next few weeks, thanks to the inability of a partisan congress to reach a solution.

To some Americans, this latest `real life' impact roadblock, is yet another reason to view the legislative branch as an increasingly pungent cauldron of dysfunction beholden to the next election and not the good of the people the elected officials were called to serve.

Washington reads like the ugly and mean spirited setting of a novel about corruption. It is a government where hypocrisy laden Republicans are bent on stopping any legislation that's touched by Democrats. Meanwhile, whiny Democrats eager to point the finger at Republicans, have apparently come to relish this role that would be better on the playground. That's where one usually finds the annoying tattle tale child who constantly points out the flaws of the other kids. It seems that the truly sincere defenders of the down trodden are absent. In a nutshell, neither party seems to want to rise above the fray and exhibit the qualities of true leadership on this topic.

By not moving forward with a simple extension of unemployment benefits for millions of unemployed Americans, Republican and Democrat Senators can march up and down main street's across the nation on "Independence Day" and self righteously proclaim they may support an extension, while Republicans claim the 'opposing' party is fiscally irresponsible, or in Democrats case,claim Republicans are increasingly a party that's home to a philosophy based in cold blood. Meanwhile, among many of the parade viewer's will be friend's and neighbors that are impacted by this latest lack of movement. It is a stalemate that will send them even further into the abyss of what's fast turning into a ruthless recession, an economy that the economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman worries may be the beginnings of the `Third Depression."


Pure and simple, during the economic challenges of the past, unemployment insurance extensions were pretty much routine. The National Employment Law Project reported that since the 1950s Congress has not allowed extended jobless aid to expire when the national unemployment rate is above 7.2 percent. In 1973, extended benefits remained in place until unemployment sank to 5 percent.

On Friday, July 2, the Labor Department released a report saying that there was a June drop in unemployment from 9.5% to 9.7%. That number sends the statistic to its lowest point since July, one year earlier.

But as a chilling analysis piece by the Wall Street Journal notes, that decline wasn't due to improvement in the labor market. Instead, jobless Americans simply dropped out of the labor force in droves.

Friday's labor report shows that sectors like manufacturing grew payrolls by just 9,000. That was a much smaller jump than the average of 25,400 jobs over the past five months.

Note, Democrats have resisted calls to take cash from the `stimulus' to fund unemployment checks because they say the stimulus is creating so many jobs. But, contained in the report, numbers showing that the United States construction industry shed yet another, 22,000 jobs this past June. The hope was that when the stimulus package first emerged, America might see tangible WPA like investment in its failing infrastructure that would increase construction hiring by the thousands. There was also hope the investment might produce significant spikes in green technology, innovation and manufacturing, whereby workers might be re-trained for jobs of the future, and more importantly, we'd be weaned away from our dependence on fossil fuels. Some thought, these hard times presented the country with an opportunity to pause, soul search and plant the necessary seeds that would lead us to a new landscape where evidence of new rapid rail systems, windmill energy and bio technological hubs were soon to be the norm of the future. Perhaps the jobs picture would be even bleaker were it not for this attempt at treading water, but that's another story

Meanwhile, Republicans have jumped on the rampant fear of a politically motivated austerity band-wagon. And, as many have pointed out, this latest policy shift by the GOP reeks of corrupt hypocrisy. Remember, it was the Bill Clinton administration that produced a deficit surplus of almost $300 billion according to FactCheck.org. But, these are some of the same people who endorsed huge tax cuts for wealthy Americans, relaxed rules on Wall Street and wars we never could have never afforded in the first place. Any semblance of surplus all got quickly erased by President George W. Bush. So, some might see this latest Republican roadblock as just a bit disingenuous In fact, when President Barack Obama came to office, just as the economic meltdown was getting into full swing, he inherited a federal deficit of $1.2 trillion the day he was sworn in.

And all this political showmanship has culminated during what's become the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression. It is a confusing patchwork of American pain that impacts some areas worse than others. But, rest assured, this latest move by Congress is wrecking lives and sending thousands if not millions into despair. How the Senate could simply up and leave the capital for a week long vacation without passing an life line extension to Americans that are facing one of the toughest job markets ever, is outrageous. If either side had truly believed putting food on the table of the unemployed was a moral issue they would have seen to it that is passed. Considering there is one job out there for every five Americans looking, if they truly cared,they would have given and taken, it's called a compromise, and the long term unemployed might have joined those parades on main street this July 4, and cheered the Senators as fine examples of a working Democracy surviving during a time of economic crisis.