Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation: More mandatory minimums, this time for immigrants

Yet another immigration-related bill comes from Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican from California. In January, Mr. Issa filed H.R. 45 to “impose mandatory sentencing ranges with respect to aliens who reenter the United States after having been removed …”

Didn’t we learn from the (failed) Drug War that mandatory minimums do not deter lawbreakers and only take power from judges?

Mr. Issa’s bill mandates a year in jail for an illegal immigrant with a clean record who re-enters the U.S. illegally. Currently, the law only provides a maximum penalty of 2 years in jail. The bill would also impose much higher mandatory minimums on immigrants who commit crimes in the U.S.

The parallels to the failed mandatory minimum policies for drug offenses are not unnoticed by criminal justice activists. The Families Against Mandatory Minimums looked up some recent statistics on immigration offenses and found that of the 73,277 people sentenced in 2009, over 90 percent were for illegally entering the U.S. and/or helping others across. Most had no prior criminal record.

FAMM also found that judges already gave most offenders close to maximum sentences. Is there really a need for mandatory minimums?

Rating: 3 teabags

Click here to learn about the rating system. For archives of the Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation, click here.

Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation

Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation: The ‘Anchor Baby’ bill

Many legislators came to power in November campaigning on money-related issues: inflated budgets, taxes and the country’s economy. But many politicians also ran on various wedge issues – those hot button topics that force voters on one of two sides. After Arizona leaders passed a law giving police the power to stop drivers and check their immigration status, our neighbors to the south once again became a wedge issue.

So it comes as no surprise that politicians on both sides of the aisle are sponsoring immigration-related bills. Unfortunately, when dealing with an issue as complex as immigration, most politicians only offer simple, politically-expedient and divisive legislation.

The worst of the bills comes from Rep. Steve King. This Iowa Republican — who even scares other Republicans with his inflammatory language — is sponsoring the Birthright Citizenship Act, also known around talk radio circles as the “Anchor Baby Act.” This piece of legislation basically seeks to overturn the 14th amendment, which allows for U.S. citizenship to anyone born on American soil. H.R. 140 already has four other politicians signing on. In addition, many states are planning similar proposals.

Putting the immigration debate aside, this bill is a waste of time for three reasons:

1) If simply being born in the U.S. does not qualify us for citizenship, then a birth certificate is proved useless. How much money, time and hassle will it take for the country to move away from using birth certificates? And how long will that take?

2) The U.S. Supreme Court has already upheld birthright citizenship. Check out the United States v. Wong Kim Ark. Why file a bill that will be ruled unconstitutional? Because it’s the easy way to gain political points. If Rep. King would have filed a Constutitional amendment, we all know it wouldn’t pass.

3) It would have a negligible effect on the numbers of undocumented immigrants. Having babies is not the reason folks come to the United States. Employment is/has/will continue to be the No. 1 reason people cross our borders illegally. Even mothers who come to the U.S. pregnant so their children can become U.S. citizens only do so because they can get work and a better life. Which means, even if this passed, there would still be pregnant mothers crossing the borders. But instead of their children becoming U.S. citizens, the kids will just add to the statistics of illegal immigrants.

Rating: 5 teabags

Click here to learn about the rating system. For archives of the Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation, click here.

Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation

Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation: Should we give 1 percent GDP to other countries?

Throughout the years, there have been numerous studies that show Americans are a charitable people, both at home and abroad. I would even say that philanthropy is a quality that defines our nation.

But Rep. Barbara Lee’s H. Con Res. 11 takes our coutnry’s philanthropic spirit and puts it on a track to become law. Somehow that doesn’t seem right.

H. Con. Res. 11 would declare that the “United States should provide, on an annual basis, an amount equal to at least 1 percent of United States gross domestic product (GDP) for nonmilitary foreign assistance programs.”

Rep. Lee makes some good points for the bill:

Whereas poverty, lack of opportunity, and environmental degradation are recognized as significant contributors to socioeconomic and political instability, as well as to the exacerbation of disease pandemics and other global health threats;

Whereas elevating the United States standing in the world represents a critical and essential element of any strategy to improve national and global security by mitigating the root causes of conflict and multinational terrorism, strengthening diplomatic and economic relationships, preventing global climate change, curbing weapons proliferation, and fostering peace and cooperation between all nations;

Right now, the bill is more of a statement and would not require Congress to appropriate such money. But it sets a precedent, so I’ve added it to the list.

Rating: 1 teabag

Click here to learn about the rating system. For archives of the Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation, click here.

Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation

Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation: Now is not the time for a health care Constitutional amendment

While we’re on the subject of politicians with bad timing seeking to change the Constitution, let’s move our focus to another U.S. House member: Jesse Jackson Jr. He wants to add a health care provision to the Constitution.

From the bill:

``Section 1. All persons shall enjoy the right to health care of
equal high quality.
    ``Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce and implement
this article by appropriate legislation.''.

Don’t get me wrong: Mr. Jackson’s Constitutional amendment — along with several others he’s filed this session — seems to be in good faith. Yet, this doesn’t seem to be the best year for such an amendment.

Democrats will have to fight hard to even keep the latest health care law on the books as Republicans file bill after bill to reduce its effectiveness, including their absurdly partisan bill: Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act. So, perhaps instead of grandstanding, Mr. Jackson should be spending time looking into doable initiatives this session.

Rating: 2 tea bags

Click here to learn about the rating system. For archives of the Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation, click here.

Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation

Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation: U.S. Rep Serrano files ‘President for life’ bill

United States Representative Jose Serrano sure has some bad timing.

Earlier this month, as citizens in other countries protested their corrupt, leaders-for-life , Serrano introduced a bill to repeal the 22nd amendment to the United States Constitution — the one that limits the office terms of presidents.

Even if there was ever a time citizens of the United States would consider eliminating term limits for the President of the United States, this era of fierce bipartisanship would not be that time.

To even file such an undemocratic bill shows that Mr. Serrano, a Democrat from New York’s 16th district (think: Bronx Zoo), is truly out of touch with America. Of course, a man with a mustache like that is definitely a risk-taker.

But before you start accusing Mr. Serrano of wanting Barack Obama — that non-citizen Muslim from Kenya — to become “President for Life,” consider this: Serrano has filed this bill seven times in the last 14 years — including four times during the G.W. Bush years.

Now, that’s ridiculous.

Rating: 4 tea bags

Click here to learn about the rating system. For archives of the Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation, click here.

Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation

Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation: Lawmakers foreclose on Sesame Street

Why is Elmo drowning his sorrows in booze?

It might be H.R. 68. This bill, filed by Rep. Doug Lamborn, targets the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a 44-year-old not-for-profit corporation that funds various TV and radio programs (including Sesame Street).  Long the bane of ardent conservatives who view the CPB as a liberal mouthpiece for the government, Republicans swept into office after the mid-term elections have their sights set on ending federal funding for this organization.

It’s nothing new. Conservatives have tried for decades to gut funding from the CPB. In the 60s, Mr. Rogers even got involved defending the non-profit when President Nixon wanted to cut its budget by 50 percent.

But this latest attack on the CPB does more than just eliminate federal funding while the country recovers from the recession; it seeks to forever remove the option for funding the CPB. This could have disasterous effects on some PBS and NPR stations around the country.

(The House has already passed a budget eliminating funding)

Rep. Lamborn, a Republican from Colorado, filed a similar bill last year that never made it out of committee. But he has much more support this session with the Republican majority in the House of Representatives.

In this session’s fierce budget fight between Tea Party-backed Republicans and President Obama, there is bound to be some casualties. But should educational programming one of them? Especially in this of age of dubious children’s programming – an issue these same Tea Party-backed Republicans have brought up before – pulling the plug on the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is not a smart move.

Rating: 4 teabags

Click here to learn about the rating system. For archives of the Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation, click here.

Alex and Chickpea Do Korea

3 things I wish I knew about the EPIK orientation for future English teachers in South Korea

1. I wish I would’ve known that I could arrive at Incheon Airport anytime between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.

In the weeks leading up to our departure from recession-soaked Florida to South Korea, Chickpea and I were frantically contacting our recruiter and trolling forums trying to figure out what time we should arrive at Incheon Airport so our EPIK handlers could pick us up and take us to our orientation location. This was an important piece of information, because the flights from Florida landed in South Korea at wildly different times. Unfortunately, our recruiter was less than forthcoming, because the agency wanted us to wait until the last moment to buy our tickets in case there was some change in orientation dates or visa requirements. But in order to get the best possible price for our flight, we needed to know before the week prior to leaving.

See the problem?

We eventually just bought a ticket that put us in Korea at 7 p.m. We ended up waiting two more hours for the next EPIK orientation bus to arrive (and that wasn’t even the last one of the night). If I would’ve known this two weeks earlier, I could’ve shaved at least $200 from my ticket.

2. I wish I would’ve known how many times I’d have to lug my suitcase up and down several flights of stairs.

Before you pack those extra few teaching books or 10 pounds of American candy for your students (true story!), consider this: In the first 10 days after arriving in Korea will you have to lug your suitcases around at least eight times and usually up or down several floors. In reality, you probably can’t avoid this fact but make sure you have durable luggage (with wheels) that can handle your death grip as you alternately drag and throw your suitcase down seven flights of stairs (true story!).

3. I wish I would’ve known how packed the schedule was at orientation and slept better before my flight.

My fellow EPIK teachers may disagree with this, but Chickpea and I found the EPIK orientation truly exhausting. The schedule is packed from breakfast at 8 a.m. to a Korean language class that ends 12 hours later with little time in between to just relax. Even the hour-long meal times drained my energy; meeting new faces and holding conversations can be taxing after the fifth day straight. Add to this the dinners and various performances that can run until 10 p.m. And that’s not even taking into account the energy needed to acclimate to the food and just fully realize “Wow, I’m really half-way across the world.”

Don’t get me wrong: the EPIK orientation is a rewarding experience, and a good introduction to the fast-paced reality of Korea, but get your rest. You’ll need it.

Smack dozens of teachers into dorms, lecture at them for 10 days straight while feeding them quasi-Korean food and then smoosh them against a wall and some desks and tell them to pose while saying "Kimchi!" and this is the photo that you'll get.
Alex and Chickpea Do Korea

Alex and Chickpea Do Korea: Bangkok in Pictures

A pictorial look at our recent trip to Bangkok, one of the most dynamic cities we’ve ever visited. Of course, the photos do not do this dynamic city justice. With pictures, you can’t smell all the sweet, spicy street food emanating from dozens of street stalls or taste the richness of a thai ice coffee with coconut milk. You can’t feel how it is to ride in that glorified go-cart called a “tuk-tuk” — wind in your hair, eyes level to the bumpers of oncoming traffic. And you definitely can’t experience the feeling of exploring this paradoxical city, which blends thousand-year-old temples with the most modern skycrapers and shopping malls, intense spirituality with the sin of Soi Cowboy.

But hopefully it gives you some idea.

Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation, The Unemployed Life

Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation: Unemployed? Florida lawmakers want you to work for free

Picture this scenario:

Your longtime job of 10 years laid you off. You were making an honest $40,000. Suddenly, you’re thrown into the same lot as thousands of other Floridians — unemployed with no job prospects. Hesitant, you apply for unemployment benefits. A few weeks later, you receive a check for $275. You look for work, online and off, unsuccessfully. After two months, belts tighten more. Your meager savings is almost depleted. The bills are piling up. You stop driving around filling out random applications, trying to save the gas for actual interviews or referrals.

Then, one morning while drinking day-old coffee, you read in the local newspaper that the Florida Legislature has mandated that you find an organization and work for them. For free. No money for gas or child care.

Call it volunteering.

That’s the latest unemployment-related bill — that does nothing to fix unemployment, by the way — from state Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, a Naples Republican.  She’s the sponsor of HB 509, which is currently in the Economic Development & Tourism Subcommittee.

Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation

Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation is back for 2011!

It’s been two years since the last Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation, but I’m happy to announce the Guide is back to track the most absurd bills in the 2011 legislative cycle.

It’s the perfect year, too.

Both locally and nationally, U.S. citizens are seeing some of the most reactionary law-making in years. The political atmosphere is decidedly partisan … and sometimes just plain mean. There are hundreds of new politicians looking to make a name for themselves with opportunistic legislation. And with record numbers of laid-off reporters and bankrupt media companies, it’s an impossible task to track the hundreds (thousands?) of bills coming up for a vote.

That’s where the Guide comes in.

But this year, I’m doing something different: I will focus mostly on federal legislation as oppose to only focusing on Florida’s fair share of foolish ideas.

If you remember from the past two installments of the Guide, I’ve used some kind of graphic to rate the idiocy of featured bills from 1 to 5. In 2008, I used “Bumper Nutz,” those wildly-colored genitals that rednecks like to put on the back of their trucks. In 2009, in honor of Florida Rep. Darryl Rouson’s “bong tax,” I rated ridiculous legislation with 1-5 bong hits, with “5 bong hits” being the most stoned bills coming out of the Florida Legislature.

This year, with the Tea Party movement changing the face of politics in Florida and nationally, I thought the rating system should reflect this new (bizarre) phenomenon of U.S. politics.

So I’m using teabags. I will rate bills by 1 to 5 teabags, with five teabags representing the worst concoction of a law – reactionary, wasteful, and of course, ridiculous.

For a complete list of all previous posts, click here.

(Photos of teabags courtesy of Andrew Coulter Enright / Flickr under Creative Commons licensing)