Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Vol. 1, Issue 5: Immigration

Click here for a pretty version (PDF) of this newsletter.


Immigration Built this Nation



The massive protests around the country in response to HR 4437 are bringing attention to a population that is often ignored by the mainstream media and public officials. Due to the lack of voting power and subsequent disregard for the immigrant population, misconceptions abound. Immigrants are often viewed as leeching off our public welfare and health systems; however, undocumented immigrants still pay taxes. For many jobs, undocumented immigrants will make up Social Security numbers and contribute to a system from which they will never gain anything. According to the New York Times, these Social Security contributions average about $50 billion per year. Immigrants also fill low-paying jobs that are vital to support our economy, which is why the claim that they are leeching is not only unfair, but also completely ignorant.

In any case, HR 4437 is a dire obstacle for far more people than just immigrants. Championed by Representative Sensenbrenner (R-WI), in its original form, it would make all illegal immigrants felons. It also would punish anyone who in any way aided an immigrant or helped them stay in the U.S. This bill, a “compassionate” effort from the party of family values, would hurt teachers, doctors, employers and many other good Samaritans. Even more outrageous than the bill itself is the fact that our Congressman, Representative Tim Johnson, supported it. Not only do immigrants make up an integral part of the Champaign-Urbana community, but many undocumented students would suffer as a result of this legislation. Although concerned groups such as La Colectiva have been actively trying to gain his attention and support, Rep. Johnson has refused to even set up a meeting about his policy stance.

Hopefully, the pro-business stance George W. Bush has taken on the issue will divide congressional Republicans enough to prevent this bill from becoming law. However, it is still obvious that the White House is not on the side of immigrants. In January of this year, a Halliburton subsidiary was awarded a $385 million contract to build immigrant detention centers (www.halliburton.com). These centers would be reserved for an emergency influx in immigration. They call to mind the Japanese internment camps of the 1940s and are a very dangerous step for the country as well as another example of the Bush administration placing profits before people.

Students should be particularly worried about this bill because it will change the composition of their campus by removing many undocumented students and shutting out many more hoping to attend. Obviously, these students had no say in their immigration, and it is especially shameful to punish them and separate their families, which is exactly what this bill would do. It is one thing for the Orange and Blue Observer to thoughtlessly “out” undocumented immigrants, but for a credible public figure to act in this way is despicable.

While jailing immigrants or killing them as they attempt to cross the border may seem like terrific and humane ways to deal with immigration problems, there are better options. Senators Ed Kennedy (D-MA) and John McCain (R-AZ) have proposed a bill most commonly known as Comprehensive Immigration Reform. The legislation proposes a path to citizenship. It ensures that immigrants with background checks have access to work permits, travel documents and educational opportunities. Furthermore, it would establish a worker visa program protecting the wages and working conditions of not just immigrants, but all workers.

Finally, it would provide English lessons for immigrants, prepare them for civic participation, and allow them job opportunities. In the House, Illinois’ very own Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) have sponsored a similar bill. Unlike Sensenbrenner’s legislation, these bills would reunite families and focus on enforceable, realistic immigration laws. Immigration built the United States and it is the job of our government to promote responsible legislation that reflects our history.


Politics, Scapegoating, and Racism



There are many methods of politicking, one of which is the tried and true art of providing a scapegoat to trick voters into supporting legislation by distracting them from reality. Such tactics often hide a more complex problem that cannot be solved by legislation alone. With the Dixiecrats dead, the current Republican Party has brilliantly monopolized racist scapegoating, from the Arab population to blacks and now Latinos. In order to perpetuate the self-serving economic myth of “trickle-down” economics and policies that reward big corporate donors at the expense of their constituents, Republicans rely on racist exaggerations and xenophobia to lure working-class white Americans into actually voting against their own economic interests.

But what are the facts? It was not until NAFTA became law in 1994 that we began to see a massive influx of Latinos seeking work in the United States, and that is because they have been left with no choice; NAFTA has destroyed the agrarian economy of their home countries. We’re importing cheap, subsidized food, which makes food cheaper but reduces the work available for farmers and their workers.

And if you think immigrants are the reason why you aren’t getting a fair share of the pie, according to USA Today, the median 2005 pay among the chief executives running most of the nation’s 100 largest companies soared 25% to $17.9 million, dwarfing the 3.1% average gain by typical American workers. But your NASCAR dad isn’t going to know that. He’s more likely to know what Rush Limbaugh or Howard Stern told him. Ultimately, immigration reform is not about race—we’re all immigrants or descendants of them—or political party, but the ongoing manipulation by those who take advantage of people who are too busy working to inform themselves about why their overtime pay is being cut and their children’s schools shut down.

Leading the surge of recent xenophobia in the Republican Party is U.S. Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado. The New Republic quotes him: “If you want some attention in this town, take on the president [of] your own party. All of a sudden when I did it, I was on Fox [constantly]. They must have looked at the weekly schedule and said, ‘A minute here, three minutes there, let’s get Tancredo. He’ll say something outrageous.’” He breaks into a wide smile. “And I try!”

So just what are these outrageous claims Tancredo is eager to advocate publicly? He believes that threatening to destroy Mecca in retaliation for future terrorist attacks is a deterrent. I beg to differ – it’s the typical squawk of a chicken-hawk. Without moderate Muslims, we will never bring Al-Qaeda to justice, thus prolonging the danger to our country and to our soldiers. Every Muslim who hears Tom Tancredo’s blather is going to think we’re no better than those who retaliate with terror. He even admits to saying these things to get on television, and that’s great and all, but I thought the people of Colorado elected a teacher to represent them – not an egomaniac.

Theatrical careers aside, Tancredo’s brand of rhetoric distracts the American public from the real issues they are facing and heightens racial tensions in the country. Not only is blaming minorities for the country’s problems morally repugnant, but it is also a terrific cover-up. Who holds the power in the United States to fix problems -- the most marginalized populations or the federal government? The failures of this administration have been covered time and time again – it has turned the Unites States against itself and against the rest of the world. The anti-Muslim sentiment spewed by so many politicians and pundits clouded the American public’s thinking and allowed the administration to pursue a war based on faulty intelligence.

The Republican Party is once again trying to infuse the immigration dialogue with racism as a distraction from the polarization of wealth in the country. Americans must look beyond scapegoats to the core of the problem: the current administration and Congress are working for business interests, not the interests of the American people.


Conservative Humor Corner!



From a radio interview with Rep. Tom Tancredo (mp3):
Tancredo: ...you know, you could take out their holy sites.
Interviewer: You’re talking about bombing Mecca?
Tancredo: Yeah.
Certainly that was a momentary lapse of reason? Uh...
“But should we take any option or target off the table, regardless of the circumstances? Absolutely not, particularly if the mere discussion of an option or target may dissuade a fundamentalist Muslim extremist from strapping on a bomb-filled backpack.”


If you want to help usher in a fair system of immigration, join Generation Democracy for America! We’re working to fix some of the problems in Washington on a local level, and we’re having fun in the process! We meet every other Sunday, and our next meeting will be next semester. For more info, visit www.dfalink.com/uiuc


THE LIBERAL MEDIA STAFF:
Writers: Tarah Williams, Edmund Gray
Copy Editor: Jon Monteith
Designer: Chris Perardi

Monday, April 10, 2006

Vol. 1, Issue 4: Health Care

Click here for a pretty version (PDF) of this newsletter.


Health in America



A couple of years ago, I was living in the dorms and feeling ill with a cough. I had gone to McKinley to find out what was plaguing me. The doctor told me it was probably nothing. The cough persisted for several months. On one particularly unfortunate evening, I was standing at a copier in one of the libraries, coughing and copying. One of my teachers – a doctoral candidate – approached me. We talked for a moment, and I griped about the illness. He said, “Yeah, McKinley may be a shame – but it’s the best health care you’ll ever have.”

I’m older now and about to graduate. I’m a little scared to find how right he may have been. Health care in this country may be the best in the world – but only if your last name is Hilton. For the rest of us, we have to wrestle with a system – if we can call it that – which is more expensive than that of most advanced nations, for results. The patch- work that is U.S. health care is so expensive in part because every stop your dollar takes on the road to your doctor leaves a piece of the pie for Big Pharma, insurance lobbyists, and bureaucratic waste.

What, then, is this inefficient system we work with today? In its simplest form, there are health care providers – doctors, hospitals, etc. – and there are entities that cover the cost – insurance companies, the government, and YOU. As of now, Medicare covers the elderly population’s health care. Of the non- elderly, 62% have their insurance provided by their employer. Some 15% are on Medicaid (a government insurance program for low-income Americans), and nearly 18% have no insurance at all.

The reason this patchwork system has been able to survive up until now is that most people – and certainly most wealthy people – have employment-based insurance, so people haven’t complained too much. Unfortunately, between the 2000 and 2004, although the population increased by nearly 12 million, the number of people covered by employment-based insurance went DOWN by 3.6 million. That number continues to decline, and the increasing lack of coverage is quickly leading to the collapse of the U.S. health care system.

Clearly, there is a need for drastic change in the way the cost of health care is handled in the U.S. Looking outside of this country, we see a variety of efficient systems providing high-quality health care to their citizens for far lower costs than in the U.S. For example, while the UK, France, and Canada all have higher life expectancies than the U.S., the citizens of those countries also pay less for their health care. Each of those three countries spends between $2000 and $3000 per capita on health care, while the U.S. spends over $5000. We spend vastly more than other countries while having little to show for it in terms of quality healthcare services. We actually have fewer doctors per capita than many other countries that spend substantially less!

The difference is that those countries have some sort of universal health care system which keeps everything efficient and eliminates multiple layers of bureaucracy. The systems they each use have differences – Canada’s government provides the insurance coverage while leaving the health care providers private, while the UK government manages the insurance coverage as well as the providers. They each have their advantages and disadvantages, and they also each have a miniature version here in the U.S. already. For example, Medicare is very much like Canada’s single-payer system, whereas the Veterans Administration’s health care operates its own hospitals, clinics, etc. – similar to the system in the UK. It just so happens that the VA, by most objective measures, is considered to be the best health care system in the country.

Clearly, our system needs change, and there are plenty of great options out there that we could adopt. It is up to us to demand from our representatives in Congress a solution to this health care crisis. If they refuse to deal with this important issue, it’s time to give someone else a chance.


Congressional Candidate Dr. Gill Speaks out on Medicare Part D



This legislation was written by and for the Pharmaceutical Drug Industry. I have spoken against this bill since the day after it passed the U.S. House. The most glaring indication that this bill was a sham forced upon our senior citizens is this: the bill specifically forbids Uncle Sam from negotiating on the price of drugs. The federal government, with the purchasing power of 40,000,000 Medicare recipients, has to simply accept whatever price the pharmaceutical companies dictate – amazing!

The legislation has several other fundamental problems: it’s extremely confusing for all concerned, it contains a giant “donut hole” with a lack of coverage after the first $2100 in prescriptions each year (a figure many seniors will reach within 4 or 5 months), and the true cost of the bill was kept hidden from lawmakers until after they voted for it. Additionally, this bill permits insurers to change their formularies at any time, starting April 1 of this year. This will leave many Medicare beneficiaries with the sudden loss of coverage for their needed prescriptions. Being an E.R. doctor, I’m all too aware of the very negative impact this will have on many of our senior citizens.

Each elected representative who pushed this awful legislation through our Congress, including Tim Johnson, must be held accountable. I encourage every senior citizen in Illinois’ 15th District, and all those who care about our senior citizens, to support me with their vote in November 2006.
-Dr. David Gill is running for the 15th Congressional District in Illinois.
For more information, please visit Gill2006.com


Conservative Humor Corner!



After debunking all of known medical science by declaring Terry Schiavo was in fact not brain dead via a few seconds of videotape from the Senate floor*, Republican Leader Bill Frist unveiled his new government health plan**. Senator Frist will use his nigh miraculous diagnostic abilities to assess, with startling speed, any and all medical conditions suffered by Americans unencumbered by health insurance. A VHS tape, a video podcast, a picture off of a camera phone, Bill Frist will be able to cure what ails you, yes you, on first sight***.
*This is true
**This is a joke
***There are a few (50+) forms to fill out, of course


If you want to help cure America’s ailing health system, join Generation Democracy for America! We’re working to fix some of the problems in Washington on a local level, and we’re having fun in the process! We meet every other Sunday, and our next meeting is April 23rd at 6:00 p.m. in 207 Gregory Hall. For more info, visit www.dfalink.com/uiuc


THE LIBERAL MEDIA STAFF:
Writers: Emily Johns, Francisco Melli-Huber, Jon Ozaksut
Guest Columnist: Dr. David Gill
Copy Editor: Jon Monteith
Designer: Chris Perardi

Friday, March 10, 2006

Vol. 1, Issue 3: Abortion

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Pro-Life or Pro-Choice?



You may have heard that South Dakota recently passed a law making abortions illegal in that state. The bill’s sponsors decided to launch this legislation to coincide with the recent confirmations of Samuel Alito and John Roberts significantly swung the Court to the right. The sponsors hope that the new law will be challenged in the local and regional courts, reach the Supreme Court, and reverse the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

This, of course, has brought up the longstanding pro-life vs. pro-choice debate once again. But what do those terms really mean anymore? Politicians who call themselves “pro-life” always like to claim that they are protecting the sanctity of life, and allege that people who identify themselves as “pro-choice” are potential murderers.

Consider South Dakota State Senator Gene Abdallah, a “pro-life” Republican. He voted for House Bill 1215, which bans all abortions except in the case when the woman’s life is in danger. So far, so good, right? He also voted against a bill that would repeal the death penalty and commute certain death sentences to life imprisonment. How can someone claim to be “pro-life,” while at the same time supporting state-sanctioned executions? It seems that for many politicians in this country, “pro-life” ends once the baby leaves the womb.

Does being “pro-choice” mean that a politician enjoys performing abortions, and would have one himself if the opportunity struck? Take David Gill, for example. He’s an emergency room doctor and a Democrat running for Congress in our district (IL-15), and he’s “pro-choice.” Gill recognizes that the loss of a fetus, whether through an abortion or a miscarriage, is very often a tragedy and difficult for the people involved. But instead of simply outlawing abortion, he would rather take proactive steps to reduce the number of abortions by eliminating the reasons that women turn to that option. For example, increasing access to contraception and sex education would reduce unwanted pregnancies, while providing health care and other assistance to low-income families would eliminate many of the financial burdens that come with raising children. On the other hand, there are politicians like Senator Harry Reid, who is a “pro-life” Democrat. He, too, is personally opposed to abortion, but believes that the best way to deal with abortion is to simply make it unnecessary, not illegal.

How is it that two politicians, one “pro-choice” and the other “pro-life,” have such similar positions on the issue of abortion? Haven’t we been led to believe that being “pro-life” is diametrically opposed to being “pro-choice?” The fact of the matter is, those terms don’t really mean anything; they simply are words used to further divide America.



Rapists’ Reproductive Rights Act of 2006



The state assembly and senate of South Dakota recently passed HB 1215, which bans all abortions except when the woman’s life is in danger. This week, Republican Governor Mike Rounds signed the bill into law. The new law is so extreme that it does not allow for exceptions in the case of rape, incest or the woman’s health.

Imagine this scenario. You are a 14-year old girl, and you’ve just been raped, a horrible and traumatizing experience, to be sure. Most reasonable people would say that you have every right to choose not to carry your rapist’s baby to term. Not so, says the Rapists’ Reproductive Rights Act! Under South Dakota’s harsh new law, women will be forced to carry their rapists’ babies through to term against their will.

The politicians who supported this bill like to say that they are simply trying to protect the “unborn.” They claim that abortion is equivalent to murder. But how could the state possibly know that “murder” occurred in the first place? They would have to set up a regular monitoring program for all women of child-rearing age, who would have to take a monthly pregnancy test administered by the state government. Those found to have been pregnant one month and not pregnant the next will have to be investigated for possible murder – but even then, what if it was a miscarrige, and not an abortion at all?

Outlawing abortions will not stop the practice. Having an abortion is an emotionally traumatic decision, despite what the "pro-life" crowd might have you believe. If a woman has made up her mind and there are no safe medical procedures to turn to, she will resort to less sanitary measures. In the 1890s, when abortions were banned in New York, over 20,000 women died every year from so-called “back-alley abortions.”

While politicians will claim that they are saving babies’ lives, the true reason they want to criminalize abortion is to control women. They are disgusted with sexuality and sexual independence of women, and they believe that such things should be punished. What is really at stake here is not the protection of life – our own President takes every opportunity to proclaim how pro-life he is, yet signed more execution sentences as a governor than any other in this country, waited days before sending aid to Hurricane Katrina victims, and started a war that has killed over 2,400 American soldiers, not to mention tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians. Instead, politicians are trying to legislate their morality and their religious beliefs on the rest of the country, and that has to stop.



Conservative Humor Corner!



Worried about dying young and running out of time to make insane pronouncements like "Would you join with me and many others in crying out to our Lord to change the Court? ... One justice is 83 years old, another has cancer, and another has a heart condition." Then try Pat Robertson's amazing miracle Age-Defying Antioxidants, Age-Defying Shakes, and his 100% effective, not at all a scam Age-Defying Protein Pancakes!




If you want to help protect women's rights and stop politicians from legislating their morality, join Generation Democracy for America! We're working to fix some of the problems in Washington on a local level, and we're having fun in the process! We meet every other Sunday, and our next meeting is April 2nd at 6:00 p.m. in 207 Gregory Hall.
For more info, visit www.dfalink.com/uiuc


Writers: Bobby Jackson, Francisco Melli-Huber
Editors: Eric Chima, Jeff Ginger
Page Layout: Chris Perardi

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Vol. 1, Issue 2: Wiretapping and privacy rights

Click here for a pretty version (PDF) of this newsletter.


"When the President does it,
that means it's not illegal!"



Remember that line? That was President Richard Nixon, declaring himself (and other presidents) to be above the law and the United States Constitution. Recently, our current president has decided that he does not need court approval for domestic wiretaps. His claim is that in order to defend the nation, we must give him the power to do whatever he wants. Is George W. Bush following in Nixon’s footsteps?

Wiretapping in itself is legal, and we would hope that the Commander-in-Chief is doing what he can to protect the nation. However, when he circumvents both the legal procedures established for doing so and the U.S. Constitution (source: Fourth Amendment) in the name of “defending freedom,” America and its forefathers have a problem.

In 1978, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, more commonly known as FISA. This law established very clearly that there are only two legal ways to conduct electronic surveillance on Americans: 1) through the normal criminal code (Title III); 2) through the FISA court. President Bush has authorized the National Security Agency to perform electronic surveillance (in the form of wiretapping) on Americans without using either of the above two legal procedures.

Some may argue that we’re living in a different world today -- that 9/11 changed everything. We would like to direct those people to a series of documents from 1976 implicating a number of today’s political actors – including Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld – for attempting to surpass all judicial review before installing wiretaps. Then-CIA director George H.W. Bush commented that any refusal of a warrant – ever – “seriously affects the capabilities of the intelligence community.”

FISA provides a president with the authority to perform electronic surveillance for a period of 72 hours before being required to obtain a warrant. This statute is intended to provide the flexibility and promptness required for time-sensitive intelligence operations. Not only that, but since FISA was created in 1978, only five warrants (out of 18,766) were rejected. If there is virtually no difficulty in getting a warrant -- and the government doesn’t even need one to begin wiretapping -- why, then, does President Bush insist on flouting what oversights do exist?


The Fourth Amendment


The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

-U.S. Constitution





Privacy: Right?



Almost every student on this campus knows a little something about privacy. From the dorm rooms to the frat houses, everybody at one point or another has desired privacy. We all are at our most comfortable when we know we’re not being watched (which, it should be noted, is very different from not knowing we’re being watched). Unfortunately, privacy from the federal government – something that we all take for granted – is apparently something we can’t take for granted anymore.

Is privacy a right? Do we, as freedom-loving American citizens, have an inherent protection from men in black looking over our shoulders? The current administration and its allies don’t think so. They believe that for the sake of our security, they should be able to monitor our phone calls, emails, and library records.

It is worth acknowledging that keeping our intelligence up to par when our strongest military enemy is a non-state entity is difficult; since Al Qaeda and similar organizations have no particular national allegiance, we cannot easily track them. However, to define privacy as anything other than a right sets a dangerous precedent with regards to American liberty. The precedents in place regarding the War on Terror allow the government to treat any citizen it regards as an enemy like an enemy combatant. This means that if the government should consider you an enemy, you no longer are welcome to the rights granted to every American citizen -- only to those rights granted to enemy soldiers under the Geneva Convention. For all of us, this isn’t a problem. We’re just regular citizens, regular people, and so long as we say and do nothing considered dangerous to the nation, there should be no reason to be considered a threat. However, in recent years, the government has defined “threat” and “enemy combatant” in an increasingly nebulous fashion. If they may define such terms however they like, we have much to fear, because a government without checks placed upon its power will constantly hold the potential for totalitarianism. This is not to say that this government would necessarily do such a thing – few would argue that point. However, we ought not to give our government the privilege to suspend our rights easily. This is especially so when you consider that the FBI has been complaining about the fruitless results of the warrantless wiretapping that has already occurred.

This isn’t about trust, however. This is about rights. Where does government belong? If we don’t argue for a right to privacy, we argue that the government belongs everywhere – in our computers and in our phone lines. As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Those who give up a little liberty for a little security deserve neither.”


Conservative Humor Corner!


"If this were a dictatorship,
it'd be a heck of a lot easier...
...so long as I was the dictator."
-George W Bush, December 18, 2000



If you think protecting privacy rights is important, join Generation Democracy for America. We're working to fix some of the problems in Washington on a local level, and we're having fun in the process! We meet every other Sunday, and our next meeting is March 12th at 6:00 p.m. in 207 Gregory Hall.

Staff Writers: Bobby Jackson, Francisco Melli-Huber, Jon Ozaksut
Copy Editor: Jon Monteith
Design Editor: Chris Perardi