Tag Archives: Georgia

Subverting Democracy by Corrupting Truth

States Not Expanding Medicaid

Source: WhiteHouse.gov

“None of my friends can afford Obamacare, either,” Meghan said indignantly, “it should be repealed.”

We were in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Meghan is a mid-to-late-thirties single mother who is balancing raising her child, her relationship and job while still working on her degree.

She was telling us about the hospital where she works. Like so many rural hospitals across the South, her hospital has a significant number of uninsured patients coming through the emergency room for treatment. Federal law (EMTALA) requires all hospitals with an emergency department that receive Medicare to screen, treat, stabilize or transfer anyone requesting treatment regardless of ability to pay.

Meghan told us that her hospital had to cut back staff, which backed up her ER waiting room even more. She told us that the hospital could not afford to treat really sick uninsured patients and mostly their doctors patched up the uninsured sick the best they could, gave the patients some medicine and sent them on their way with a prescription knowing the prescriptions were unaffordable and the patients would be back. Meghan blamed Obamacare for all of it.

That is when I chimed in and told her that things at her hospital were going to get worse. The Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka: Obamacare) is complicated and when passed, assumed every state would expand Medicaid. With almost everyone having insurance, there would be fewer uninsured at the ER and hospital costs would go down. With lower costs, federal Medicare reimbursements are being reduced each year.

That’s when Meghan said that Obamacare was too expensive and should be repealed. And that is when I told her that she had been lied to. That for people earning up to 138% of the poverty level, Obamacare was should have been free and is in free in 28 states. But that her state government decided that the fate of 340,000 South Carolinians was to bankrupt, go to the ER or die.

I wasn’t sure which one of us was going to scream or cry first. Meghan seemed bewildered and said, “It isn’t Obama’s fault that I don’t have health insurance, but it is the states? The state did this? None of my friends know that. All we hear is that it has to be repealed. This is terrible. Why would they do that to us?”

Then I told her about the money. The more than $15.8 billion that her state would have gotten from Washington that was to pay for 100% of Medicaid expansion. Money they will never get. Money that would have created many tens of thousands of good permanent jobs, saved countless bankruptcies, saved lives and made lives better. Money that South Carolina taxpayers are sending to other states.

It gets even worse as the states have to make up the difference for indigent care and the decrease in Medicare reimbursements – money needed to keep hospitals like Meghan’s open. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute put that number at $167.8 billion for all the states not expanding Medicaid from 2013-2022 – for instance, Georgia will lose $1.2 billion in Medicare reimbursements in 2016– more than twice the cost of expanding Medicaid. Stupid and mean.

Despite this, there is good news even in the states which haven’t expanded Medicaid. The online marketplace makes it easier to enroll and determine eligibility. South Carolina, for example, had about 300,000 people who already qualified, but had never enrolled in Medicaid. Using HealthCare.gov, South Carolina has already added over 150,000 of them.

In fairness, there is a cost to the states to accept the expanded Medicaid money. States must provide basic benefits and offer it to all of their citizens below the poverty level, not just women with children. According to the Urban Institute and McClatchyDC.com, South Carolina’s 10-year cost to expand would have been about $1.2 billion – a lot of money, but not much to get $15.8 billion in return. For Georgia to get $33.7 billion, would cost $2.5 billion over 10-years (which could be funded by the governor’s discretionary budget) – one other note on Georgia – five rural hospitals closed since 2012 and more and six more are at risk (USA Today). Here’s a chart for other states.

Suggested reading: What Is the Result of States Not Expanding Medicaid?

Note: this story also published at LikeTheDew.com

Meet the real Georgia killers

georgia board of pardonsMeet the five people responsible for the death of Troy Davis – the Georgia Board of Pardons. We don’t know how they voted. It is possible that one or two of these people is innocent. As a group, however, they conspired and announced their death sentence. Troy Davis will be killed on Wednesday, September 21, 2011 at 7:00PM.

(Update: Troy Davis was executed by the State of Georgia and pronounced dead at 11:08PM. Witnesses reported that his last words from gurney with the needle already in were addressed to the victim’s family and his prison guards, “I’d like to address the MacPhail family. Let you know, despite the situation you are in, I’m not the one who personally killed your son, your father, your brother. I am innocent. The incident that happened that night is not my fault. I did not have a gun. All I can ask … is that you look deeper into this case so that you really can finally see the truth. I ask my family and friends to continue to fight this fight. For those about to take my life, God have mercy on your souls. And may God bless your souls.”)

Troy Davis was convicted in 1989 for the murder of Savannah of off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail. No physical evidence linking Davis to the murder was presented at the trial. No gun was ever found. Seven of the nine witnesses in his trial have since recanted their testimony – several later testified they had been coerced by the police and the prosecution. An eighth witness, Redd Coles, has admitted that he was the killer.

“Calls for Davis to be spared execution have been made by numerous dignitaries, including former President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI, former FBI Director William Sessions, former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman Fletcher and Larry Thompson, the former deputy U.S. attorney general. Davis’ advocates, including Amnesty International and the NAACP, have used social media to rally worldwide support. Last week, Davis’ supporters presented the parole board with the names of more than 663,000 people asking that Davis be granted clemency.” – AJC.com

The Troy Davis case has been problematic since the beginning and is a poster child of what can go wrong, even in modern day Georgia, when political pressure to convict in a police shooting meets a poor black defendant. (Wikipedia has a quick overview.)

“This has been an extraordinary legal saga since the murder in 1989, and two years ago the United States Supreme Court did something it almost never does – instructed a District Court in Georgia to take another look at the case, hold a hearing,” Toobin said.
A Savannah judge did just that, Toobin said, and issued a 170-page opinion saying that, despite the recanted testimony, “there is no substantial doubt cast on the verdict as far as this judge could tell.”  – CNN News Blogs

The argument of whether the death penalty is just or effective aside, no one should be sentenced to death when there are such questions of guilt. Commuting the sentence to life in prison would hardly have been much of a compromise for society. The members of the Georgia Board of Pardons, all appointed by Sonny Perdue, may have done their political duties, but should never sleep well again. This is not justice.

The following is from the Georgia Board of Pardons web site:

Chairman James E. Donald

Chairman James E. Donald (click here for his facebook page) began his term as Chairman of the State Board of Pardons and Paroles July 1, 2010.  Chairman Donald was elected to the position by the Board Members in June.

Chairman Donald is the former Commissioner of the Department of Corrections, and was the driving force behind groundbreaking transformations in one of the State’s largest departments. As Commissioner, Mr. Donald oversaw the fifth largest prison system in the nation, some 200,000 felons in prison or on probation, 15,000 employees, of whom 10,000 are sworn peace officers, and an annual budget of more than $1.2 billion.

Mr. Donald’s commitment to Governor Perdue’s vision of a safer, healthier, better educated and best-managed Georgia has resulted in several revolutionary initiatives. Under his leadership, relocation of the Corrections Headquarters and its Training Academy to Tift Campus in Forsyth, Georgia began. This decision will save Georgia taxpayers $4 million annually. Additionally, his decisions to realign and reduce staff positions in the central office, combine many facilities and probation support functions, and transform medical support practices are estimated to have saved taxpayers over $16 million.

Also, Mr. Donald opened and began operating seven new 200-bed Pre-Release Centers, 10 new Faith and Character-based dormitories, six new “non-resident” Day Reporting Centers, and added over 2,000 new beds for transition centers or work release programs.

Prior to his appointment as the Commissioner of Corrections in 2004, Mr. Donald retired as a Major General of the United States Army Forces Command. He earned the Bronze Star for his bold leadership as a Task Force Commander with the 101st Airborne “Screaming Eagles” during Gulf War I. He also served as Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army Pacific, Assistant Division Commander to the 25th Infantry Division, and Director of Operations/J3 U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii.

Mr. Donald is a native of Jackson, Mississippi, and graduated from the University of Mississippi with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and History. He earned his Master of Public Administration from the University of Missouri. He is an avid supporter of his church and community activities, and serves as a member of several government and civic boards.

Vice Chairman Albert Murray

Vice Chairman Albert Murray was appointed to the Board on May 15, 2010, by Governor Sonny Perdue.  He was elected by the Board to the position of Vice Chairman in June and began serving in that role on July 1, 2010.

Mr. Murray began his service to troubled youth in his native state of Tennessee, including being appointed to assistant commissioner of juvenile services for the state of Tennessee. His successful career in Tennessee resulted in his appointment as the first commissioner of the newly created Kansas Juvenile Justice Authority in 1996. During 2003, Mr. Murray served as Deputy Commissioner of Programs for the Alabama Department of Corrections.

Mr. Murray was sworn in as Commissioner of the Department of Juvenile Justice on January 23, 2004. He ended his tenure May 14, 2010, as the longest serving juvenile justice commissioner in Georgia’s history. Included in his many accomplishments as Commissioner of DJJ, is a SACS accredited school program, new and strengthened community programs, a newly created victims advocacy component and expanded training opportunities for staff. A major accomplishment as commissioner of the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice was the completion of all requirements for the release of the agency’s memorandum of agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice on May 5, 2009, ending eleven years of federal oversight.

Mr. Murray has a wife, Connie, and two adult daughters, Andrea and Camille.

Member Terry Barnard

Member and former State Representative Terry E. Barnard served nearly 16 years in the Georgia House of Representatives prior to being appointed to the State Board of Pardons and Parole. During his 8-term tenure, the Coastal Georgia Lawmaker faithfully served the state as a member of several key House Committees to include Appropriations, Natural Resources, Agriculture, Children and Youth, Rules and State Institutions and Property, where he served as the distinguished Chairman for 6 years.

Mr. Barnard joins the State Board of Pardons and Parole with a vast intuitional knowledge of the Georgia Department of Corrections from a legislative perspective. Passionate and persuasive, since 1994, Rep. Barnard shepherded every bill introduced into the Georgia Legislature that had any impact on the Department of Corrections.

In 1995-1996 Mr. Barnard guided through the Georgia House, the frame work for the State Sex Offenders Registry and Sexual Predators Review Board. Today with just a click of a mouse interested parties may see if a convicted sex offender is living in a neighborhood of interest.

Mr. Barnard is a native of Tattnall County having been born in Reidsville in 1957; he and his wife Susan make their home at Shellman Bluff on the Georgia Coast. He is a graduate of Atlantic Community College and has a strong background in business. He has owned and operated several businesses, among those a Real Estate Brokerage. With over 18 years of experience in the financial industry, he served as Vice President and Manager of First Citizens Bank of Reidsville, and as a regional marketing director for Green Tree Acceptance, a national mortgage lender.

He is involved in a local Baptist Church and takes part in many community events and activities.

Member Robert E. Keller

Member Robert E. Keller from Clayton County was appointed to the Board by Governor Sonny Perdue on January 3, 2007.

Mr. Keller served as executive counsel of the  Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia. He is the former chairman of that organization.   Before joining the Prosecuting Attorneys Council, he served as both assistant district attorney and district attorney of Clayton County. He also maintained a private practice from 1974-1977. Keller served as a member of the Georgia Board of Public Safety, the Board of Trustees of the Georgia Judicial Retirement System, the Georgia Code Revision Plan Committee and the Commission to Assess Crime Laboratory Needs into the 21st Century. He served as vice-chair of the Governor’s Commission on Certainty in Sentencing. Keller earned a bachelor’s degree from Birmingham Southern College and a law degree from Emory Law School. Mr. Keller brings a wealth of knowledge and understanding of the criminal justice system, and his reputation and credibility among the judiciary and prosecutors is highly admired.

Member L. Gale Buckner

Member L. Gale Buckner was appointed to the Board on January 1, 2005 by Governor Sonny Perdue. Ms. Buckner received her Bachelors  Degree from Georgia State University, and her Graduate Degree from Brenau University.

Ms. Buckner brings a broad base of experience to the Board. She started her career as a communications officer at the Chatsworth Police Department, rising to the level of Sergeant and was honored as Officer of the Year. She began her service with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in 1981 as an undercover operative, and specialized in corruption and white-collar crime cases, earning the Director’s Award for Outstanding Investigations in 1984. While at GBI, she also served as Director of Personnel facilitating the modernization of human resource projects, and as Director of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs coordinating legislative activities both with the Georgia General Assembly and with the U.S. Congress. She is a graduate of the 169th session of the FBI National Academy.

In 2000, Ms. Buckner was appointed Executive Director of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, Office of the Governor. Under her leadership, the agency administered $100 million annually in federal grant monies for Georgia’s criminal justice community, received three national awards for its State Analysis Center, and also served as Georgia’s Crime Victims Compensation Board which provides offender-generated dollars to the innocent victims of violent crime. Ms. Buckner coordinated criminal justice policy initiatives regarding offender reentry, victims services, and other public safety projects during her tenure.

During her distinguished career, Ms. Buckner has served as a member of many law enforcement associations and advisory boards including the National Criminal Justice Association, the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange, the International Association of Women Police, the National Center for Women and Policing, the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, the Georgia Child Fatality Review Panel, and the Georgia DARE Advisory Board. She is also a member of the Parole Association of Georgia, the Peace Officers Association of Georgia, and state and national Chiefs of Police Associations.

She is the recipient of the 2002 Distinguished Alumni Award from Georgia State University, and the 2001 Secretary of State Outstanding Leadership as a Georgia Woman in Public Safety Award. Ms. Buckner has worked in many arenas of the criminal justice system, and has a unique vantage which will enhance the implementation of the mission and vision of the Board.

Winning the Unpopular Vote

We the Republicans © Dana S. Rothstein #133535On face value, it might seem stupid to run for office on issues sure to piss off the majority of people. Take, for instance, the Republican party (please). They are, of course, against Democrats who make up 34-45% of the US population, depending on the day and who’s counting. The percentage of each party varies by state or district, but generally, about 15% of the voters decide who will win and who will lose.

Some might argue, a campaign of inclusion (suggested search term: democracy) would be the best way to reach that 15% swing vote. So how do the Republicans expect to win elections when they are also in lockstep against:

  • People on Medicare (at least, 15% of US population)
  • People on Medicaid (at least, 12.6% of US population)
  • People who are unemployed (at least, 9.1% of US population, unless you also include those of us who have given up or work multiple jobs, etc.)
  • People who believe abortion should be legal (at least, 56% of US population)
  • People who believe and are concerned about global climate change (at least, 71% of US population)
  • People without health insurance (at least, 14.3% of US population – under 65, not eligible for Medicaid)
  • Immigrants (at least, 13% of US population, most all of us if you go back a few generations)
  • Blacks (at least, 12.6% of US population)
  • Union members (at least, 12.1% of US population)
  • Government workers (at least, 4% of US population)
  • LGBT (at least, 3.8% of US population)
  • Muslims (at least, .6% of US population)
  • Agnostic and athiests (at least, .9% of US population)
  • Plus, all those little groups, including elites, people who believe in science, are against guns, war, monopolies, corporate funding of campaigns, listen to NPR, don’t watch Fox, etc.

You shouldn’t just add these numbers up. People are members of more than one group. Groups don’t vote as a block. And people are more likely these days to vote against a candidate or even a single issue than for one. But with only 15% in play, it still doesn’t seem to pass a logic test that this Republican strategy can be successful.

It might surprise you, but according to Gallop,

“The most balanced political states in 2008 were Texas (+2% Democratic), South Dakota (+1% Democratic), Mississippi (+1% Democratic), North Dakota (+1% Democratic), South Carolina (even), Arizona (even), Alabama (+1% Republican), and Kansas (+2% Republican).”

Each of these states voted for McCain in the 2008 Presidential election. Each with a Republican governor, Republican upper and lower house majority, with a solidly Republican US house delegation, and at least one Republican Senator (only South Dakota, North Dakota and Mississippi had a Democrat Senator).

How is that possible in these “balanced” states? Assuming vote counting was accurate, the only answer can be that it is about who votes, and more importantly these days, who doesn’t vote.

Let’s start with voter suppression 101:

  • Make it hard to vote. Limit early voting to a few inconvenient locations away from poor areas with limited hours, few machines and rumors of long lines. Force people to take time off from work, give up their hourly pay and put their jobs at risk. Works particularly well for people who are struggling.
  • Require a valid photo ID. This works well for those who are older and may not have a drivers license or be able to afford to apply and pay for an alternative. It is also effective to keep away the homeless or those whose identification doesn’t reflect an accurate address because of eviction, foreclosure or change of status.
  • Purge the voter rolls. This is very popular, effective and there a lot of variations to the scheme. Mismatch names or social security numbers and make people prove they aren’t who some computer thinks they might be (suggested search terms: Georgia purge voters). Or prove they are citizen. Or make them wait in long lines to vote on a provisional ballot that may not be counted.
  • Create long lines. Easy to do. Just send few voting booths to the polling place you want to suppress and more to the polling place you wish to help. Also very effective to provide few people or broken machines. Long enough lines, and people will go home (suggested search term: Ohio long lines polls).
  • Caging lists. Republicans send out registered mail to the address of a voter in a district they wish to suppress. If returned, they contest the ballot. Expected to be particularly effective with the foreclosure crisis.
  • Robo calls. Hire your telemarketer to call registered voters who you don’t wish to vote and tell them their polling place has changed. Or they’ll be arrested (suggested search term: Virginia robo calls vote).
  • Contest new registration. A favorite of Republicans during the last few cycles. Republicans have attempted to force verifications of mail in forms. They have even offered rewards to find bogus registration by community groups and have threatened prosecutions.
  • Make absentee ballots as confusing as possible. Seems obvious. Put the right information in the wrong place and your vote doesn’t count.
  • Prison disenfranchisement. 5.3 million mentally competent and able adult Americans (we are the only democracy in the world that does it) are not allowed to vote because they have been either incarcerated, on parole or on probation. Click here for a state list.
  • Pray for rain, sleet, snow, dark of night. Surely, the Republicans will do this. Time will tell if it will be effective.

In 2008, more than 130 million people voted – the highest percentage in a generation. The surge of voters were mostly among black, Hispanic and young voters. Without that higher turnout, McCain would have won. The Republicans are counting on making your life so miserable this time around that you stay at home.

Mother Nature Rules Reality

Mother Nature Protecting the Earth (licensed from Dreamstime)This has been a tough week for politicians and the faith-based stupid. The most admired leaders of both parties in a long-running suicide pact with our most trusted sources of news and their corporate masters had convinced most of the electorate that nuclear energy is safe and clean. Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Kyshtym and a dozen or so other accidents long ignored, Mother Nature weighed in on that this week, and in a few seconds of shaking, not counting the aftershocks, did in NE Japan what it typically takes an entire Godzilla movie to achieve – this time, it was real. This time, we were all shaken. This time, even Republicans can’t spin the reality of the danger back into a lie. Nuclear energy is not safe and it never was clean.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO) Fukushima* Daiichi power plant is 40 years old and was scheduled to shut down in February until an enlightened Japanese government in a collusion of greed determined the plants would be safe for another 10 years. These Japanese plants use the same American/General Electric system that is used by 23 reactors in the US, including some in Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina – plants of a similar age, scheduled to be retired, but re-certified safe by our enlightened corporate-owned leaders.

Mother Nature routinely demonstrates man’s stupidity for ignoring reality by revealing the consequences of hubris. Decades of development and destruction of wetlands on the Mississippi caused the widespread destruction of New Orleans after Katrina. It was less than a year ago, with the echo of our President saying deep water drilling was safe, when we saw that it wasn’t and never will be in the Gulf of Mexico. Corporations that use hydraulic fracturing (frac’ing) to get cheaper natural gas, do so with the knowledge that it contaminates and depletes our groundwater. Industries that routinely use toxic chemicals do so knowing their waste might kill the locals, but their courts will prevent their liability. We prevent forest fires that cause massive fires. We dam rivers and cause droughts. We burn fossil fuels and change our climate – the top 11 hottest years on record have been in the last 13 years. We’ve scattered depleted uranium waste in our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. We let Appalachia coal power plants mass coal slurry causing one of the worst environmental disasters in history. We remove mountain tops for cheap coal and then leave them for future generations. We defunded the superfund and now toxic sites just sit ticking… waiting for Mother Nature to get pissed off again.

Many corporations, left on their own, consider human death and the destruction of the environment collateral damage of profit. All politicians, however, consider truth collateral damage of election.

* Not pronounced, “Fuk You Shima.”

Joining the 50 million

Our health insurance was canceled last month. We have joined the ranks of the uninsured. Collateral damage in health care reform and the race to parse the regulations, drive trucks of cash through the loopholes and squeeze every dollar out of every soul still breathing.

Payments were current. We had not made a claim that exceeded our deductible in a couple of years. Nothing had changed. And we weren’t even told until three weeks after it had happened. There’s no appeal. No reason required. No COBRA. It is just gone. And it was done on purpose.

Our business had used  Business Advantage, a PEO (Professional Employer Organization), to act as our “virtual employer” to provide Blue Cross group health care insurance. Technically, we worked for an LLC owned by Business Advantage for this purpose. According to Wayne Surman, National Sales Manager of Business Advantage*, “We decided to close that company because rates had gone up.” Business Advantage voluntarily shut down Near Northside, LLC because they didn’t think they were making enough money, which immediately canceled our policy and whomever else was in the plan. While failing to apologize for not telling us that we were going to be totally screwed, he did say we were welcome to “apply” for new coverage – coverage, subject to acceptance, with a new LLC and at new rates.

Responsible: Left to Right: Stanley R. Joseph, Wayne Surman and Jason C. Joseph of Business Advantage.

Were we just chumps? Hard to know so far. It seems pretty straight up for a business to fold a company and ruin the lives of anonymous customers when, in the owners’ judgment, it makes good business sense. The people behind Business Advantage, Stan and Jason Joseph, are well connected, and as far as I can tell, well thought of. Perhaps, they didn’t realize they were making a life and death decision in the lives of others? Perhaps, they needed the money more than we need health insurance? Perhaps, it had gotten to be too much trouble. All understandable these days. And it makes me hope there is a hell.

The CBO expects this to happen to 3 million others while waiting for health care reform to be fully implemented in 2014. Robert Woods Johnson research puts that number much higher. People who are employed. People who want coverage. People who won’t have it. People, like me.

While we will apply, no company is expected to take us on an individual policy because of preexisting conditions. Blue Cross has offered us a take or leave it conversion policy – take it and our rates will go up by $2,586.26 a month, plus, of course, a required payment for the month we had just lost and will never be able to use, a higher deductible and the expectation that rates will rise even higher.

A certificate of insurance was included with our cancellation notice. A certificate of insurance offers some federally required exceptions to preexisting condition exclusions if a policyholder is not without insurance for 62 days and is able to get back in an employee sponsored plan. It does not, however, give you squat protection for individual coverage. The 62-day clock on insurability had already ticked down to 42 days when we found out we needed it. We will apply, but acceptance and affordability is a serious concern. As is trust that it won’t happen again in a few months. Or next year. Or the year after.

By now, you must be asking yourself, “what about the health care reform bill, I remember reading on LikeTheDew.com that within 90-days of its passage, uninsured individuals who have a preexisting condition will have access to a state or federal high risk insurance pool?

There will be no Georgia pool. Georgia goobernatorial candidate and Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine has written US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebellus saying of the fully funded federal program, “I cannot commit the state of Georgia to … a scheme which I believe the Supreme Court will hold to be unconstitutional, leads to the further expansion of the federal government, undermines the financial security of our nation, and potentially commits the state of Georgia to future financial obligations.” (Source: AJC) Georgia joined 17 other states refusing to participate (including almost all Southern states).

The federal high risk pool will be funded beginning July 1st. Details of the process and eligibility are still being developed, but the law requires that individuals be uninsured for six months – perhaps, this will save us next fall. The cost benefit is extraordinary: it is capped at $11,900 a year including all out of pocket costs. Easily $25,000 less than a private plan.

We could take the chance and bet we’d be healthy for six months to wait for the federal program, but what if we were wrong? Or, we could bet that we could pay the huge price increase even if we had nothing left to use it — which is what they want: pay as much as you can possibly afford and be too broke to ever use it.

In complete candor, the medical history questions on the forms make me apoplectic – the fear of the costs rob my sleep –  the fear of an insurance need limited by a preexisting condition is cruel, but in America, hardly unusual.

________________

* Feel free to contact Wayne Surman, Business Advantage Program Employee Leasing, 11175 Cicero Drive, Suite 100, Alpharetta, GA 30022, Office: 678.242.5277,  Fax: 678.242.5241, Cell: 678.480.5200, email: [email protected] or [email protected] – Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/wayne-surman/13/478/a14 or Stanley R. Joseph, President & CEO of Business Advantage, Inc. – Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/stan-joseph/5/73b/954, Jason C. Joseph – Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/jason-joseph/0/915/100, Co-Founder and Executive Vice President. The Josephs are also involved in  X1 Capital Partners, LLC, Hibernian Pacific Holdings, LLC and Fog City Blue Entertainment, LLC who do business at the same address as Business Advantage, Inc., but, of course, those businesses could close at any time without warning.

Themmigration Reform

A reasonable suspect

The only thing to fear is them themselves.
It is going around. There are at least ten other states, Utah, Georgia, Colorado, Maryland, Ohio, North Carolina, Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Nebraska among them, considering anti-immigration laws in the same spirit as the one passed by Arizona (ThinkProgress.org). Arizona’s new law requires law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws “where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States.” So, what would make you reasonably suspect someone? Language? Accent? Skin color? Hair type? Height? Weight? Surname? Intelligence? Car type? Living conditions? No driver’s license? Proximity to the border with Mexico? All of the above? Yes, that would be profiling. Constitutional? No telling from this court.

Los Angeles May Day rally in support of reform and rights - Lucas Jackson / Reuters

The Arizona law requires that those without documentation prove they are in the US legally (show me your papers), and are also to be charged with criminal trespass, confined and fined, at least, $500. The federal government does reimburse states and municipalities for confinement, so this may be nothing more than a way to turn a profit to Arizona for running prisons – sorta like parts of Texas does, but that’s another story.

In fairness, it should be pointed out that this law is not just about racism, xenophobia, fear, blame, census-forced redistricting and political penis measuring. It is also about funding civic services including schools, public safety, indigent medical care, unfair job competition – and, the despised, but desperately needed, deficit-financed by our children, federal funding. What it is not about, is solving any long-term problem or cause, civil decency or human rights.

What Goes Around Comes Around.
How soon we forget. Much of the west has a pretty short and convenient memory. Issues about who belongs where and who owns what is a pretty new idea. Arizona, and all the lands from Florida to California, has a much longer history being part of colonial Mexico/New Spain, than the United States – about 300 years. When we started migrating into Florida and out west about 160 years ago, we didn’t much care that we were the immigrants without documentation. On second thought, perhaps, Arizonians do remember.

In 1803, we bought the Louisiana Territories, which stretched to the north to the Dakotas and west to much of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and half of Colorado. By 1810, the illegals from the US outnumbered the Spanish in Florida and West Florida (southeastern Louisiana, southern Mississippi and southern Alabama) was annexed by that famously, over-reaching president, constitution-writing, James Madison. During the next decade, it became clear that the indigenous people who had lived in these territories for 20,000 years, were bad for business, so we began a century of genocide. Among the early annihilations were the Seminoles by an army commanded by Andrew Jackson, which launched his political career with this campaign in 1818. A year later, Jackson formally took control of Florida from the Spanish in an agreement to renounce all claims to Texas, but he didn’t mean it.

160 years ago, we were the illegal immigrants

By 1835, Jackson was dead set on getting all the land west to California. More accurately, he wanted California and didn’t much care about the rest. By that time, the US immigrants to East Texas outnumbered the Mexicans and declared their independence. Mexico, on the other hand, considered all of Texas still part of Mexico. The Texans, fearing they didn’t have enough guns, were bailed out by a free-spending Congress who forgave their debts and made them a state so they would qualify for all kinds of federal programs,  including fort building and war making. This really pissed off Mexico, so we got out our checkbook and offered a deal too good to refuse to buy most everything we wanted. The deal was turned down, so we picked a fight (there was no UN in 1846), won, and took what is now the western half of Texas, part of Colorado and all of New Mexico, Arizona, California, Utah, and Nevada. Which led, of course, to the civil war, but that, again, is another story.

My version of this history should indicate my bias that these Arizona children of principally European immigrants have an awfully lot in common with the Central and South American and Caribbean children of principally European immigrants.

Why is it that this issue has not been dealt with in Congress?
I dare say that immigration reform is the least popular initiative in America today. Everyone hates the problem and the remedy. There may never be 60 votes in the Senate to solve immigration issues.

Some of the issues:

    We have 108 miles of fence along our 1,969 mile southern border so far - should be finished in 2040

  • Secure our southern border. It is an almost ridiculous ambition to erect and guard the 1,969 miles we share, and yet, if we have laws, shouldn’t we enforce them? The current estimate for 700 miles of fence is $49 billion and would be expected to last just 25 years. Five years into it, we’ve gotten 106 miles finished (in those areas, immigrants must tunnel, use ladders or go around it) – at that rate, we will finish the fence in 2040, but then it will be worn out and need to be replaced. To date, we have also spent $1.1 billion on a seven mile virtual fence (high tech radars, cameras and motion detectors) that doesn’t work and are planning to build another 53 miles of it. The Obama administration has recently frozen funding until the private contractor can make it work or lobbyists can convince our government that it shouldn’t have to.
  • Path to citizenship. Their presence here breaks our laws which makes them ineligible to apply for citizenship. Should they return to their native country and apply, the application requires they affirm that they have not broken the laws of the US, which, of course, is the catch 22. They could lie, but our background checks are thorough and they would be caught. Any path to citizenship would require the ”A“ word – amnesty. Those supporting it have long included a call for a fine and penalty which wouldn’t be amnesty, but amnesty is what it would be called on Fox.
  • Sheer numbers. Depending on who is guessing, it is generally believed there are 10-20 million people living in the US illegally. Arizona entire population is 6.5 million, but, of course, those unlawfully present, don’t have two senators.
  • Family values. US-born children have rights to citizenship. Were their parents to be deported, do we split up the families?
  • Human rights. Among other issues, they have limited rights and protections in our courts and almost none in our immigration courts; are not allowed to vote; risk confiscation of property; are not legally allowed to work and if they do, are often are forced to work below minimum wage and without workplace safety standards; cannot legally obtain health insurance or a bank account; and are often victims of crime or preyed upon by nefarious business (for instance: check cashing companies) wishing to capitalize on their plight. Millions of them have lived here for decades, own property, operate businesses, attend church, obey laws and are frightened of detainment or deportation at all times. Tens of millions of people are living in a shadow economy without human rights and at odds with the ideals of American democracy.
  • Cost to provide services. Their children attend schools and sometimes require special language consideration; they use our hospitals, often as indigents; using fraudulent identification, many take advantage of food stamps and other government programs; government must pay for indirect services such as police and fire protection, roads, water, sewer, prisons, etc.
  • Armed services. They serve legally in our armed forces, but their status does not change upon their return.
  • Taxes and Social Security. Many pay only local sales taxes. Income taxes and social security can only be paid if they are using fraudulent identification.
  • Drugs and worse. Border crossings are all mixed up with drugs, violent crime, rape, forced labor, forced prostitution and the like.
  • Language. Many are concerned that undocumented workers don’t speak “American” and are afraid they’ll be called a name and not be properly insulted.
  • Jobs. US unemployment is around 10% and it is assumed it would be lower if workers here illegally would stop competing for jobs. Business on the other hand, needs these workers for specialized jobs, such as computer programming or picking Vidalia onions.
  • Employer enforcement. The Chambers of Commerce, who spend more than the national GOP or the national Dems on campaigns, don’t want businesses to get into the business of determining who’s here illegally.
  • The Central and South American and Caribbean standard of living. Until it improves, the faucet of aliens crossing our southern border won’t stop.
  • Blame. It isn’t healthy, but it is human nature.
  • Voting. Those gaining citizenship generally vote democrat.

How to solve it:

Incrementalism. Themmigration reform is complicated. The right says that thousand+ page bills are too complicated to be read, understood, spin, parse or pass. They are right. Short of some strategic major Senate scandals requiring resignation, illness or flip-flop, no omnibus bill is going to get to the floor. The right called for incremental bills on health care, finance and energy, why not take their bluff? Introduce a series of simple and separate bills addressing each of the issues. Bring a couple of important bills for vote. Something like:

  • Fully fund the fence even though it will never work, pay for more border patrols and the National Guard (as soon as they get home from Afghanistan), but require taxes on the the top 1% to pay for it.
  • Everyone here illegally, but with no felony criminal record, can pay an application fee that would go to the states, get a green card good for six-months and it comes with a method to pay social security and taxes. At the end of the time, they must either go home or apply for citizenship to get it renewed. During the time they here as documented workers, they would be required to do part-time community service.
  • Assuming no felony criminal record, parents, grandparents and siblings of children born in the US of illegal aliens, could get in the middle of the line for citizenship without fear of being deported or separated from their families in return for a paying an application fee and a one time $10,000 fine which could be financed, the proceeds of which, would go to the states, and four years of part-time community service.
  • Those here illegally under the age of 24, after serving in the US Armed Forces, would be in the front of the line for citizenship with no penalty or other requirement.
  • Everyone else here illegally, assuming no felony criminal record, can get in line for citizenship without fear of being deported or separated from their families in return for a paying an application fee and a one time $10,000 fine which could be financed, the proceeds of which, would go to the states, and eight years of part-time community service.
  • Business would have the responsibility of examining and reporting employee applicant status and be subject to a big fine for failure to do so – states would be responsible for ensuring compliance and collecting the fines.
  • Create a favored status for investment in Central and South American and Caribbean with all kinds of incentives the world might deem unfair, to raise their standard of living and give some of these people a chance to live in their own land and survive. Include in some extra incentives for Mexico to create a safety net for their people.

Simple and separate bills that get introduced, debated and voted on. Get them to the floor for an up, or down vote. The toughest wouldn’t pass. Some would, and that’d be a start.

The levels of irony should not be lost.

There’s never been a fence. If you have ever been in the Southwest, one thing seems clear: there is a lot of it and most all of it looks the same. Those lines we draw on the maps, mean a lot to those who draw them and profit from them, but seem pretty meaningless if you are just staring out on the prairie. It is little wonder that a person whose family is starving, doesn’t start walking north to the land of their fore-parents and a land where the majority of people are like them: hardworking, family-oriented, and children of immigrants in a new world.

“Civil disobedience” is a term coined by Henry David Thoreau in 1848 in an essay about his decision not to pay a poll tax to fund a war with Mexico and catching fugitive slaves. Civil disobedience. Isn’t an unenforceable, inexplicable and unjust law what all of the “us-versus-them” immigration debate is really about?

“Civil disobedience is the active refusal to obey certain laws, demands, and commands of a government, or of an occupying international power, using no form of violence. It is one of the primary methods of nonviolent resistance. In its most nonviolent form … it could be said that it is compassion in the form of respectful disagreement. …Civil disobedience is one of the many ways people have rebelled against unfair laws. It has been used in many well-documented nonviolent resistance movements in India… in Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution and in East Germany to oust their communist dictatorships… in South Africa in the fight against apartheid, in the American Civil Rights Movement, in the Singing Revolution to bring independence to the Baltic countries from the Soviet Union, and recently in the 2004 Orange Revolution and 2005 Rose Revolution, among other various movements worldwide.” – Wikipedia

Suggested Reading:

Vicarious Activism

John Lewis Arrest at Darfur Protest
“It is important to send a message not only to the people in
this country and our own government, but to the people
of the world that the genocide in Darfur must end,” Lewis
said outside a DC Metropolitan Police Department precinct
after his arrest. “What is going on there are crimes against
humanity.” (quote from the Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Hundreds of thousands in Darfur have been killed and millions displaced by the Sudanese government since 2003. It is a deteriorating humanitarian crisis on an unimaginable scale. We had to act. That is why on April 27th, joining with millions of others from Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, California and Massachusetts, I vicariously demonstrated in front  of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, was arrested by the US Secret Service and taken to jail. We can only hope that our government and the United Nations will take notice and let us act to stop the continuing tragedy.

This is not the first time that I have vicariously championed important issues. I am fortunate to live in Georgia’s Fifth District and am represented by the Honorable John Lewis. A true hero many, many times over. A champion of civil rights, the poor and the suffering.

Were it not for John’s courage, beliefsvotes and activitism, or if I lived elsewhere in the South, I might have vicariously supported the tea baggers; voted for the Iraq war; tried to deny women their rights; promoted discrimination; voted to reform welfare by ending it as almost everyone knows it; sought mass arrest of immigrants; denied people their right to vote; taken bribes disguised as campaign contributions; protected corporations at the expense of their employees, customers and taxpayers; favored dirty industries and oil over clean and green; denied science and commonsense; and sewn seeds of fear and hate by championing intervention against a host of other imaginary problems. Or maybe, I would vicariously just have had my head in the sand. So thank you, John. Again.

And, yes, I do believe that vicarious activism is an oxymoron.

Members of Congress, Darfur Activists Protest at Sudanese Embassy

Save Darfur Activists Arrested
This morning (April 27, 2009), Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA), John Lewis (D-GA), Donna
Edwards (D-MD), Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) and activists Save Darfur Coalition
President Jerry Fowler, Enough Project co-founder John Prendergast and Rabbi David Saperstein,
director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism were arrested for civil disobedience outside
of the Sudanese Embassy while protesting the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

Suggest Reading:

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