April 05, 2012, 06:03 pm
By John Logan, professor and director, Labor and Employment Studies,San Francisco State University
Over the past year, the GOP has seldom remained silent on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). GOP leaders castigated the board for daring to enforce the law in a dispute involving Boeing, subpoenaed board documents, forced the General Counsel to testify at a hostile hearing, and wrongly accused him of breaking the law.
Hill Republicans have lent their voice, and their lawsuits, to efforts to block the new NLRB rules streamlining certification elections and requiring employers to post notices explaining federal labor rights. And as a result of this politically motivated witch-hunt, they have come up with nothing except exaggerated rhetoric and extreme anti-union bills.
But now, after the Inspector General of the NLRB has uncovered a serious scandal that may have threatened the core functions of the agency, what do we hear from the GOP? Deafening silence. Indeed, the Republican-controlled House Education and Workforce Committee did not even release the report documenting the misconduct of Republican member Terence Flynn.
In her recent op-ed, “Congress should get serious about immigration detention facilities,” Annie Sovcik gets one point right: there’s room for improvement in our nation’s detention system. But the Obama Administration and Human Rights First prescribe the wrong remedies.
The United States prides itself on treating people with the utmost respect and dignity. But the Obama Administration’s new detention manual goes above and beyond commonsense to accommodate illegal and criminal immigrants in federal custody. And the administration left out crucial stakeholders in the drafting process of its new manual: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention officers, advocates for immigration law enforcement, and advocates for American taxpayers who will ultimately have to pay for the new standards.
The administration wasted no time in putting their new standards into practice. Immediately following the release of the new detention manual, ICE opened up a new, state-of-the-art detention facility in Karnes City, Texas. The new detention facility was built with specifications set by ICE, which involved limited public scrutiny and no congressional oversight.
We live in a world driven by instant knowledge and information. Gone are the days of having to travel far and wide to see a loved one; you can Skype with them on your iPhone. Instead of trekking across the country for a business meeting, you can video-conference. No more waiting for the 5 o’clock newscast to hear the stories of the day because the news is available 24 hours. Technology has made it possible for information to be at our fingertips anytime and anyplace with few exceptions, notably the Supreme Court. This week the Supreme Court is hearing six hours of oral arguments on the constitutionality of the president’s healthcare law. The Supreme Court will make public same-day audio recordings of the arguments, but that does not go far enough.
The Supreme Court is the most powerful court in the world. The nine individuals who don the black robe rule on the most important constitutional matters. They decide on the law of the land, and their decisions affect every single American. However, very few citizens will ever have the chance to actually watch the court in action because seating in the courtroom is limited.
This week, the High Court is in the middle of oral arguments on the president’s healthcare law. Only a select few are able to watch as the court allows very limited seating for the general public. The American people deserve an all access pass to watch this historic case that will impact the entire nation. Public interest in this case is high, and it is important that people trust the final outcome. Being limited to the court creates an illusion of secrecy. Allowing citizens to see the government in action is necessary at a time when public trust of the federal government is at an all-time low.
It’s official. America’s insatiable thirst for reality television has made its way into the halls of the U.S. Congress.
If a few of my colleagues have their way, the U.S. Supreme Court chambers could become the latest reality TV mess. As three straight days of oral arguments about the constitutionality of the Affordable Care law start Monday at the U.S. Supreme Court, chants by those who want cameras in the courtroom have grown louder.
On Dec. 6, 2011, Rep. Gerry Connolly introduced H.R. 3572: the Cameras in the Courtroom Act of 2011, which would alter a long-standing rule and permit television coverage of all open sessions of the U.S. Supreme Court unless the justices determine television coverage would violate a litigant’s due process rights.
Supporters of the bill argue that television coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court proceedings will provide the American public with greater transparency and access to the Court. In contrast, opponents contend the rule should stay in place in the interest of maintaining the integrity and decorum that should be afforded to the highest court in the land.
This week, when the Supreme Court hears an historic six hours of oral arguments about the constitutionality of the health insurance reform law, only a few dozen citizens at a time will be allowed into the chamber to watch and listen.
The Court’s decisions on the Affordable Care Act will decide whether the people’s elected representatives have the authority to regulate the nation’s health insurance market to make health care more affordable, to hold insurers accountable and to rein in runaway and unsustainable medical costs -- issues with profound pocketbook and personal health implications for every American family, and for the wellbeing of the nation.
Yet citizens will have to “earn” their right to see their highest court in action by standing in line, outside, overnight. To so stringently limit access to such an important public proceeding makes no sense, especially in an age of such abundant and extraordinary communications tools.
March 12, 2012, 03:13 pm
By Richard W. Painter, former chief White House ethics lawyer and Michael J. Gerhardt, former special counsel to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
President Barack Obama has finally made a national issue of what has long been a national crisis in our federal court system by calling for meaningful nominations reform in his State of the Union address.
His proposal, immediately endorsed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, calls for all judicial and public service nominees to receive an up-or-down confirmation vote within 90 days, setting a deadline that would prevent the months and years-long delays in confirming sorely needed judges to our courts. George W. Bush made a similar proposal during his Presidency. It was right then, and it is right now.
Of course, this reform would not just impact the courts – Senate obstruction of executive branch nominees has left many essential government positions unfilled. But the impact that this partisan obstruction has had on the functioning of our government’s third branch is an issue that has long been overlooked. Nothing less than immediate and significant reform is needed to curb the growing vacancy crisis on our courts, and to end distortions of the characters and records of well-qualified, well-meaning judicial nominees.
There is one thing on which Republicans and Democrats, not to mention a majority of the public, agree when it comes to the health insurance reform law: This month’s Supreme Court hearings on the constitutionality of that landmark legislation ought to be televised so the public can hear the oral arguments on a case that will affect the lives of every American.
Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in both the House and Senate to allow television cameras in the Supreme Court to broadcast all open sessions. Sadly, Congress and the Court itself are poised to miss this historic opportunity.
January 11, 2012, 04:35 pm
By Michele Waslin, senior policy analyst, Immigration Policy Center
"Obama's Immigration Policy: Borrowing from Peter to Pay Paul"
by S.R. Sobhani about the Obama administration’s latest announcement on immigration policy is long on rhetoric and short on facts. The author falls right in line with the "this is backdoor amnesty" charge without bothering to see that the latest administration proposal is a proposed regulatory change -- not an executive order -- that only applies to a small group of persons who already have a green card waiting for them. These are precisely the immigrants who have been waiting in line and now face a bureaucratic challenge to obtaining the physical green cards.
Nor is the proposed rule an example of the president bypassing Congress to further his agenda. The executive branch executes the laws that Congress makes through rules and regulations. Administrations often change those rules and regulations in order to correct inconsistencies or to make implementation of the laws more rational. The proposed rule change falls precisely within the scope of what administrations do.
Seeking to capitalize on the Supreme Court’s recent recognition of an individual Second Amendment right, pro-gun advocates have thrown their support behind the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011, which forces states to recognize other states’ concealed-carry permits as valid. However, this Act, which recently passed in the House of Representatives, seeks to accomplish too much, too soon, and will ultimately result in the very kind of federal overreaching that pro-gun groups have opposed for decades.
December 02, 2011, 04:38 pm
By Lori Wallach and Todd Tucker, director and research director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch
“His name was Colin; here are his papers,” said the waitress presenting a bound prospectus to two diners who possess a limitless interest in the origin, diet and even friendship circle of the chicken they are about to order. The scene comes from Portlandia, the sketch comedy that skewers the bobo lifestyle.
Most of us aren’t quite so inquisitive about our food. But in an era of mass food-borne illness outbreaks, we do need retailers to provide basic information about our foods’ origins, and regulators to ensure the accuracy of these claims.
The country-of-origin labels we now rely on come from a 2008 law that ensures we know in which countries our meat was born, raised and slaughtered. The policy resulted from decades of consumer campaigning in response to slaughterhouses’ practices of routinely combining dozens of animals from diverse countries into the same hamburger patty, without having to even document the cattle’s origin.