The Progress Report

20 Things You Need to Know About the Tragic Killing of Trayvon Martin

On February 26, 2012, a 17-year-old African-American named Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in Sanford, Florida. The shooter was George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old man. Zimmerman admits killing Martin, but claims he was acting in self-defense. Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, passed in 2005, allows people to use deadly force if they believe they’re in imminent danger. Three weeks after Martin’s death, no arrests have been made and Zimmerman remains free.

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Swift Response to Times Square Plot Shows We Can Handle Terror Suspects Without Unconstutional Maneuvers

At approximately 6:30 p.m. on May 1, a Muslim street vendor in New York City's Times Square alerted a police officer to white smoke collecting inside an idling Nissan Pathfinder. By 7 p.m., the bomb squad had arrived, and the area was cordoned off. A mere 53 hours later authorities apprehended a suspect, Faisal Shahzad, aboard an Emirates Airlines jet bound for Dubai, just as it was about to pull away from the gate at New York's John F. Kennedy airport. Shahzad, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen last year, "is from a military family in Pakistan, where he spent five months before returning in February to his home" in Shelton, CT. According to law enforcement sources, Shahzad admitted to "training in explosives in the past year with Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan" in Pakistan's North Waziristan region and said he had been driven to terrorism by the recent killings of Taliban leaders in Pakistan. 

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Immigration Agents Are Going Rogue

by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Zaid Jilani, Andrea Nill, and Alex Seitz-Wald.

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Right-Wing Hate Machine Launches Vicious Campaign of Racist and Sexist Attacks on Sotomayor

This piece was written by by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Ali Frick, Ryan Powers, and Brad Johnson.

The radical right wing has launched a vicious campaign of racist and sexist attacks against Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama's selection to replace the retiring Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court. Sotomayor's "compelling life story" involves a brilliant legal career after being raised in a South Bronx public housing project by parents who moved from Puerto Rico. Sotomayor graduated from Princeton University summa cum laude, edited the Yale Law Journal, then served as a "fearless and effective" New York City prosecutor and corporate lawyer before being appointed to the bench by President George H. W. Bush in 1992. "Since joining the Second Circuit in 1998, Sotomayor has authored over 150 opinions," only three of which have been overturned by the Supreme Court's conservative majority. During her time as an appeals judge, "her influence has grown significantly." Public reaction to the nomination of the first Latina and third woman to the nation's highest court is "decidedly more positive than negative." Former Bush adviser Mark McKinnon remarked, "If Republicans make a big deal of opposing Sotomayor, we will be hurling ourselves off a cliff." However, "the same right-wing extremists who drove the country into the ground," Salon's Glenn Greenwald writes, "continue to attack Sonia Sotomayor with blatant and ugly stereotypes." Right-wing pundit Pat Buchanan called Sotomayor an "affirmative action candidate," and Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes claimed she "has benefited from affirmative action over the years tremendously." As hate-radio extremist Glenn Beck described the nomination: "Hey, Hispanic chick lady! You're empathetic ... you're in!"

'Wise Latina Woman'

"[L]ess than 24 hours after President Obama's nomination of Sotomayor," right-wing hate merchants seized on a 2001 speech about her Latina heritage and the courts, calling her "a racist" and a "bigot." In a 2001 speech before the Berkeley La Raza Law Journal's annual symposium, Sotomayor argued that judges' gender and race can influence their decisions on gender and race discrimination cases, saying she "would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

However, she cautioned she owes the parties who appear before her "constant and complete vigilance in checking [her] assumptions, presumptions and perspectives." Pulling out the "wise Latina woman" phrase, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich attacked Sotomayor on his Twitter feed as a "Latina woman racist." "Obama is the greatest living example of a reverse racist," hate-radio host Rush Limbaugh complained, "and now he's appointed one...to the U.S. Supreme Court." Former Republican House member and anti-immigration extremist Tom Tancredo agreed that Sotomayor "appears to be a racist" and called La Raza the "Latino KKK without the hoods or the nooses."

Curt Levey, executive director of Committee for Justice, "a conservative legal group active in judicial nominations," said that "I wonder whether she knows the difference" between being a Puerto Rican advocate -- Sotomayor served on the board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund in the 1980s -- and being a judge. Some of the racist attacks on Sotomayor are simply absurd. Mark Krikorian of the right-wing Center for Immigration Studies blogged on the National Review's Corner about his outrage over people "[d]eferring" to Sotomayor over the "unnatural pronunciation" of her own name.

'Sort of a Schoolmarm'

Right-wing extremists have also launched vicious attacks on her intelligence, temperament, and demeanor.  Karl Rove, President Bush's "political brain," has led the sexist slurs, claiming that Sotomayor is "not necessarily" smart and has acted "like sort of a schoolmarm" on the Second Circuit. "I'm not really certain how intellectually strong she would be," he opined on Fox News. In the Wall Street Journal, Rove argued she is one of those judges selected "for their readiness to discard the rule of law whenever emotion moves them."

Citing anonymous attacks promoted by the New Republic, Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes said that Sotomayor was "not the smartest." The New York Times writes that "to detractors, Judge Sotomayor's sharp-tongued and occasionally combative manner -- some lawyers have described her as 'difficult' and 'nasty' -- raises questions about her judicial temperament and willingness to listen." But a fellow Second Circuit judge, Guido Calabresi, "kept track of the questions posed by Judge Sotomayor and other members of the 12-member court" and found that her "behavior was identical." "Some lawyers just don't like to be questioned by a woman," Judge Calabresi added. "It was sexist, plain and simple."

Republican Senators Step Back

Although Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) said that Sotomayor may be subject to the "undue influence" of her race and gender, Republican senators have attempted to distance themselves from the hatred. Even Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), who announced he would vote against Sotomayor's nomination, said, "I think that we should be judging people not on race and gender, or background or ethnicity or a very compelling story."

Some members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will conduct hearings on Sotomayor's nomination this summer, have directly denounced the worst invective. Responding to the attacks on Sotomayor calling her "racist," Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) told NPR's "All Things Considered," "I think it's terrible. This is not the kind of tone that any of us want to set when it comes to performing our constitutional responsibilities of advice and consent." 

"I don't agree with" the "racist" smear, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said recently. "If there are no otherwise disqualifying matters here it appears to me she will probably be confirmed," Hatch told CNN Radio yesterday.

Top 5 Myths About Closing Guantanamo

On his second day in office, President Obama took a bold step away from the Bush administration and signed an executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp within one year while suspending all military tribunals for six months. Obama said that the United States was sending the world a message that the "struggle against violence and terrorism" would be fought "in a manner that is consistent with our values and our ideals." Each day that Guantanamo remains open is another day that U.S. troops are put in further unnecessary danger. One U.S. military officer wrote in the Washington Post that he "learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo." Obama has taken the first crucial step in shutting down this stain on America's reputation. As the Center for American Progress has outlined, the next steps -- including arranging for trials in federal or military courts, finding homes for detainees who can't return to their native countries, transferring detainees who will stand trial into the United States, and establishing a lawful military detention regime for the small number of remaining detainees -- won't be easy, but they're not impossible. Nevertheless, conservatives are coming up with a number of inaccurate -- and often outright ludicrous -- excuses for why Guantanamo needs to remain open. The Progress Report debunks some of the most ill-informed myths.

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Obama Unveils Plan to Kick-Start Economy

Today, President-elect Obama is moving forward with what he has billed as his top priority: an economic stimulus package called the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan." He is scheduled to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and possibly the Republican leaders in both chambers. In his weekend radio address, Obama said that his goal is to put together a plan that "not only creates jobs in the short-term but spurs economic growth and competitiveness in the long-term." The package will focus on providing assistance to low- and middle-income Americans, strengthening the nation's infrastructure, and investing in states that are struggling with falling revenues, with the goal of creating or preserving at least 3 million jobs over the next two years. Underscoring the urgency of addressing the nation's faltering economy, Pelosi has said that her goal is to pass a bill that is ready to be signed by Obama once he takes office on Jan. 20. However, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has cast doubt on such an expedited timeline, and many conservatives are already indicating that they plan to block this progress. Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs conceded that the stimulus package is "unlikely" to be ready by the inauguration.

MIDDLE-CLASS ASSISTANCE:

Nations Go Head-to-Head at Climate Conference in Poznan

This piece was written by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Ali Frick, and Ryan Powers.

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Conservatives Wage War on the Employee Free Choice Act

Half of all workers would join a union if they could. But as director of the Center for American Progress Action Fund's American Worker Project David Madland writes, "Existing laws make joining a union a Herculean task that few are able to undertake." Indeed, just 8 percent of workers in private industry are union members today, down from just over 30 percent after World War II. The decline in union membership paralleled with a decline in real wages, retirement benefits, and quality of health care. To ensure that workers who wish to organize are able to do so, the House passed the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) in March 2007 with bipartisan support. In the Senate, however, a group of 48 conservatives successfully blocked the measure with a filibuster threat three months later. As the next Congress approaches, conservatives have renewed their campaign against the EFCA. Across the nation, right-wing pundits and politicians are using hyperbolic language to mischaracterize the legislation and paint the EFCA's supporters as anti-worker and anti-business.



AN ASSAULT ON THE WORK FORCE:

The Three Biggest Myths the Bush Administration Wants You to Believe About Offshore Drilling

This story was written by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, Ali Frick, Benjamin Armbruster, and Brad Johnson.

Yesterday, citing the "squeeze of rising prices at the pump," President Bush rescinded the presidential moratorium on offshore drilling.

The moratorium on lease sales in the Outer Continental Shelf was established in 1990 by his father, George H.W. Bush, in response to the devastating Exxon Valdez oil spill and extended by President Clinton.

Bush's action pressures Congress to follow him in "capitulation to the oil companies" by lifting their moratorium, which must be renewed annually. In response, Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) said at a press conference that Bush "is invoking the specter of another WMD: wells of mass deception."

At the Huffington Post, activist Martin Bosworth wrote, "Americans are smarter than we are often given credit for, and many of us do realize that destroying precious environmental resources and wildlife reserves to allow more domestic drilling is a psychological panacea -- a placebo to make us feel like 'something is being done.'"

However, polls show increasing support for expanded offshore drilling. Conservatives are preying on Americans' concern overskyrocketing gas prices by propagating false myths that drilling for oil off our coasts will allow us to "pay less" at the pump, that it's "environmentally safe," and that drilling is already underway by communist China.

Because "only real beneficiaries will be the oil companies that are trying to lock up every last acre of public land," their political allies must resort to selling falsehoods.


MYTH #1 -- 'DRILL HERE, DRILL NOW, PAY LESS'

Newt Gingrich's 527 organization, American Solutions, is promoting a "Drill Here. Drill Now. Pay Less" campaign, collecting over one million signatures on its petition to Congress to act immediately to lower gasoline prices" by authorizing the exploration of proven energy reserves" off our coasts.

American Solutions is funded by right-wing Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who wants Americans to place another bad bet on oil drilling. As the Energy Information Administration (EIA) has explained, "access to the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030."

But because United States demand for oil far outstrips production -- we consume 25 percent of the world's supply but have two percent of the proven reserves -- further exploitation of domestic resources will not have a long-term impact either. After 2030, the EIA found, "any impact on average wellhead prices is expected to be insignificant."

There are numerous ways to immediately affect prices, from use of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to improved oversight of the oil markets. Over the long term, we must fight global warming and break our addiction to oil through modern technology like plug-in hybrids and smart growth planning.

MYTH #2 -- CHINA ON OUR COASTS

Conservatives from Rudy Giuliani to Dick Cheney have repeatedly claimed that the United States needs to start drilling for off-shore oil because China is taking "American oil" off the coast of Cuba, just "60 miles off the coast of Florida."

Cheney exhorted, "Even the communistshave figured out that a good answer to high prices is more supply." That same day, Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) wrote that Castro was allowing drilling "45 miles from the Florida keys."

Rep. George Radanovich (R-CA) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) have also raised the specter of Chinese drilling just off U.S. shores. However, this modern invocation of the Red Scare the claim is completely false.

As Cheney was forced to acknowledge, "no Chinese firm is drilling" off Cuba's coast. Talking Points Memo has recorded the large number of conservatives hyping the false story.The Washington Post's Ben Pershing said the China/Cuba oil drilling claim is the "myth that keeps on giving," calling it "just too juicy not to repeat."

MYTH #3 -- 'NOT A DROP WAS SPILLED'

Offshore drilling advocates know that the specter of oil-slicked beaches would doom their campaign, so they are desperate to wish its environmental impact away.

Yesterday, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) claimed "not a drop of oil was spilled during Katrina or Rita." This myth has been told again and again by the likes ofGov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA), Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, Mike Huckabee, George Will, and Bill O'Reilly.

There were, in fact, major onshore and offshore spills due to the hurricanes. According to the official Minerals Management Service report, the hurricanes caused 124 offshore spills for a total of 743,700 gallons, six spilling 42,000 gallons or more.

The largest of these spills dropped 152,250 gallons, well over the 100,000 gallon threshhold considered a "major spill." In addition, the hurricanes caused disastrous spills onshore throughout southeast Louisiana and the rest of the Gulf Coast as tanks, pipelines, refineries and other industrial facilities were destroyed, for a total of 595 different oil spills.

The nine million gallons reported spilled were comparable with the Exxon Valdez's 10.8 million gallons, but unlike the Exxon Valdez, they were distributed throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, and other Gulf Coast states, many in residential areas.

Will the Senate Move Us Toward Legislation To Cap Global Warming Emissions?

This piece was written by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, Ali Frick, Benjamin Armbruster, and Brad Johnson.

Today, the Senate begins an historic floor debate on legislation that calls for mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, Sen. Barbara Boxer's (D-CA) version of the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act (S. 3036). This is the first time the Senate will engage in full debate on legislation to cap global warming pollution and create a multi-billion-dollar market of tradeable pollution permits.

Lieberman-Warner would limit emissions from coal-fired power plants, oil refiners, and other major carbon polluters, reducing total U.S. emissions by 18 to 25 percent below current levels by 2020, and 62 to 66 percent lower by 2050. Such legislation would mark an important first step in the transition away from a fossil-fuel economy.

Although the bill is "by no means perfect," as Daniel J. Weiss, Center for American Progress Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy, argues, "the Climate Security Act is the most comprehensive and potentially effective global warming bill ever before the U.S. Senate." Not surprisingly, this fundamental restructuring is encountering stiff opposition from industry polluters. As former British prime minister Tony Blair wrote, this week's debate represents "a hugely important signal of intent on behalf of U.S. legislators."

Key Issues

Three core principles by which to judge climate legislation are whether it is scientifically sound, whether it makes polluters pay, and whether it ensures social equity. Lieberman-Warner takes major steps in the right direction with its mandatory reductions framework, assistance for low-income households, and many provisions to spur new jobs, renewable technology, and energy efficiency. Yet it falls short in a key aspect: auctioning revenues.

A Center for American Progress report released today explains the clear benefits of auctioning 100 percent of the greenhouse gas emission permits, as reflected in a bill introduced by Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) last week. In contrast, Lieberman-Warner directs hundreds of billions of dollars of "transitional assistance" to polluters and allows 30 percent of the allowance market to be "offsets" instead of direct reductions.

A new call to action signed by 1,700 top climate scientists and economists calls for significantly deeper greenhouse emissions reductions than the bill would achieve. Last year, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) determined that industrialized nations like the United States, whose prosperity is built on a century of unlimited greenhouse pollution, need to reduce emissions by at least 36 percent from current levels by 2020 and at least 85 percent by 2050 to have an even shot at avoiding climate catastrophe.

Polluter Allegiance

Even after recent lobbyist purges, Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) campaign is still run by corporate lobbyists who represent foreign and domestic oil interests -- such as top adviser Charlie Black. McCain's corporate tax cut would save just the 20 largest energy and utility companies around $3 billion a year,in addition to the $4 billion tax break for America's five largest oil companies. His voting record shows consistent opposition to renewable technologies and support for big oil.

McCain has stated his opposition to the Climate Security Act -- authored bytwo of his closest allies, Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and John Warner (R-VA) -- because it doesn't offer enough aid to the nuclear industry. CAP Senior Fellow Joseph Romm explains in a new Center for American Progress Action Fundreport, "Since nuclear power is a mature electricity generation technology with a large market share and is the beneficiary of some $100 billion in direct and indirect subsidies since 1948, it neither requires nor deserves significant subsidies in any future climate law." In fact, "Many other technologies can deliver more low-carbon power at far less cost."

The Mantle of Leadership

All three remaining candidates for president -- Sens. McCain, Hillary Clinton (D-NY), and Barack Obama (D-IL) -- believe that climate change is an issue of primal urgency. But their role in the upcoming Senate debate is unclear. Despite arguing on the stump that he "will not shirk the mantle of leadership that the United States bears" on global warming,McCain "will miss the entire proceedings because he will be campaigning all week."

In 2003 and 2005, climate legislation sponsored by McCain was voted down by the Senate under terms that limited debate. "[I]t seems if he can't be the star, he won't bother with so much as a walk-on part," Gristmill's Kate Sheppard wrote. While McCain has criticized Lieberman-Warner for insufficient nuclear subsidies, Clinton and Obama unveiled plans months ago that call for stronger emissions reductions and a broad, society-wide approach to global warming that goes far beyond capping emissions to reform the transportation and electricity infrastructure, prioritize energy efficiency, transform the housing industry, and create millions of new high-paying jobs.

However, neither Democratic candidate has committed to participating in today's debate or votes, as the final primaries in the contested campaign take place tomorrow.
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