Blacks in the Midwest Face Rampant Discrimination in Marijuana Arrests



The big picture

The American Civil Liberties Union yesterday released a scathing report detailing rampant racial discrimination evident in the enforcement of marijuana laws. Judging from the data, black and white Americans are experiencing the broader war on drugs in vastly disparate ways.

The ACLU reported that nationally, blacks who were arrested for marijuana possession were 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites were in 2010, even though the two groups used the drug at similar rates. This inequality had only intensified over the past decade, according to the data.


The data was drawn from police records across the nation – the most comprehensive review of marijuana arrests (by race and by county) ever conducted. Additionally, a great deal of the data was independently reviewed by researchers at Stanford University.

The lead author of the ACLU’s report, Ezekiel Edwards, stated, “We found that in virtually every county in the country, police have wasted taxpayer money enforcing marijuana laws in a racially biased manner.” According to the researchers, the increasing racial disparity in marijuana arrests were even more striking because of the uniformity – even across counties with small or large minority populations.


Making things worse…

Exacerbating circumstances, the public’s attitudes toward marijuana usage have only softened over the same span of time.


First of all – for the first time in four decades – a majority of Americans now favor legalizing the use of marijuana. In March the Pew Center conducted a national survey and found that 52% of Americans say that the use of marijuana should be made legal; 45% said that it should not.

Furthermore, eighteen states now permit medical usage (plus DC); thirteen of those eighteen states legalized the plant over the past ten years. In the past year alone, two states have gone so far as to decriminalized the plant altogether.


Marijuana arrests comprise a surprising portion of all arrests in the nation’s failed war on drugs; about half of all drug arrests in America during 2011 were on marijuana-related charges; the ratio was nearly the same in 2010.


The cost of the war on drugs has increased steadily over the past decade, as well. States spent an estimated $3.6 billion in 2010 enforcing marijuana possession laws alone – representing a 30% increase from ten years prior. Over the same span, arrests for most other types of crime decreased at a regular pace.


The data

Six different states had rates of disparity that were at least five times the rate for whites. These “worst of the worst” states were:

 Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa.

You might notice a pattern there – four of the six most discriminatory states were found in the Midwest. And the remaining two “worst-of-the-worst” bordered on the Midwest. Put another way, two-thirds of the most racially-discriminatory states in the nation (in terms of marijuana arrests only) are located in the American Midwest.


The rest of the data was not exactly redeeming for the region. There were fourteen other states where the rates were above the national average, but did not exceed a rate of five blacks arrested for every white. Five of those fourteen moderately-biased states were situated in the Midwest (only one bordering state earned the dishonorable status this round). This means that 35.7% of the 2nd tier violators were located in the Midwest.


Adding it up

Altogether, nine of the twenty states where the rates of discrimination were above the national average are in the region. Let me reframe that statement as well:

Very nearly half of the states (45%) that discriminated the most were Midwestern states. If you include the three bordering states of Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and New York, that rate rises to 60%.


Breaking it back down

Looking closer, we see that blacks in Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois were around eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana usage. Iowa had the highest rate in the nation, where 8.36 blacks were arrested for every white.

DC had the second highest rate in the nation, followed by Minnesota, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and then Kentucky and Pennsylvania. The Midwestern states in the 2nd tier of violators were Ohio, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas.



While this sobering report shines a light on a problem that plagues all fifty states, it would appear that the Midwest is a center of inequity in America. What we do with that knowledge remains to be seen.


Corey McLaughlin


You can find the full ACLU report here.


Thanks for stopping by and checking in. Be sure to catch the Midwest Report tomorrow morning for all matters Midwestern. And if you haven’t already, please be certain to follow Common Culture on Facebook for access to exclusive content and commentary throughout the day, every day.


Thinking Forward


Liberals and progressives must build a new coalition for the 21st century. We will need to be proactive and forward thinking, if we hope to drive from power a conservative coalition that has dominated American politics since the late 1970’s. We must build an alliance that not only counters but reverses the destruction wrought by conservatives since the Reagan revolution began.

To build a coalition, however, we first must agree on things like platforms and agendas, and the left is well known for its disorganization – after all, it was Will Rogers who said, “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.”

This deficiency is derived directly from a lack of forward vision.

You see, progressives and liberals tend to be motivated by empathy for others, and they focus their compassion on individuals in the here & now, not in the far-off future. We very often rally around individual causes with great passion, embracing empathy in the present day, but we are less certain about what the plan should be moving forward.

Our collective vision for the future is fuzzy, unformed, and – to be brutally honest – overly idealistic.

Since we don’t have a liberal consensus to draw from, no set agenda, nor cohesive platform, the performance of Democratic incumbents – including Pres. Obama – inevitably tends to disappoint everyone across the political spectrum, left AND right. With no cohesive vision, Democrats govern from crisis to crisis, for better or worse. This short-sightedness is most apparent when one considers that the Democratic agenda, on the one hand, rarely reaches beyond the most recent humanitarian crisis, or beyond the next election cycle on the other. Without a shared vision that reaches beyond empathy in the immediate, we will continue to play second fiddle to the party with an agenda to promote.

From the Reagan revolution forward, conservatism has been guided by a philosophy that places reason below faith, instinct, intuition, hunches, and suspicions. They place appeals to logos (logic) below appeals to ethos or pathos (morality or emotion) when accessing the effectiveness of arguments. We should be the polar opposite of them in this regard.

However, a liberal counter-movement must not be merely the opposite of theirs in philosophical terms; we must apply that philosophy in our deeds and words, as individuals and as a group.

For example:

  • We must not be mean and disdainful toward the dominant religion (Christianity), but we should promote religious tolerance instead – by practicing it, loudly.
  • We must not stand in knee-jerk opposition to big business, corporations, and commerce, but we should endorse ethical standards of conduct and moral measures of accountability for those tax-avoiding, Cayman Island-account using, outsourcing corporate bad guys – but we must celebrate the upstanding corporate “citizens” whose merits presently go unsung – there must be some incentive for big business to play nice, after all.
  • We must support military readiness overall, while sweeping the old Cold War’s Military-Industrial complex out of power.
  • We must understand the actual origins, ideology, and intentions of today’s GOP – and I don’t believe many people really do understand these things.

We need to sweep this particular conservative coalition out of power – most especially in the American Midwest. But to succeed, we must adopt an attitude that hinges on our solemn duty to be better people, better citizens, and better stewards of a nation that has only temporarily been entrusted to our hands.

We need to issue a call for progressive renewal that speaks to the heart through reason, one that resonates in churches and community halls alike. We need to come together, to coalesce around a shared vision and a shared agenda.

What do we do besides protect those who cannot protect themselves, though? What does it mean to be a liberal or a progressive American these days? I believe we must show the nation what it means to be better people ALTOGETHER.


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FACTCHECK – How Accurate Is the Claim, “Governor Mike Pence and the Indiana GOP are cutting back on free school lunches so they can give money to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’?”

FACTCHECK – How Accurate Is the Claim, ‘Governor Mike Pence and the Indiana GOP are cutting back on free school lunches so they can give money to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’? written by Corey McLaughlin for Common Culture, and published on 05/30/13.


Image Courtesy of: Stop the World the Teabaggers Want Off.

Have you seen this claim floating around Facebook yet? Have you wondered – like me – just how true the assertion actually is? If so, then please allow me to share my findings with you, and we can compare notes.

The meme I am fact-checking was posted on the Facebook page ‘Stop the World the Teabaggers Want Off.’ Similar claims have been made by numerous other sources, however.

What’s going on?


First, let us establish the facts.

On April 27, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed the state’s budget bill, which contained a provision to alter the method Indiana uses to tally low-income students in public schools; the figure is used to determine levels of poverty-based funding for school districts.

Rather than base their totals on the number of students enrolled in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) as in previous years, the legislature opted instead to tie the figure to the state’s textbook assistance program.

Critics allege this alteration will reduce the enrollment of eligible students who would receive benefits from the program, depriving them of nutrition during the school day.

Twelve days after the budget bill was passed, Governor Pence then approved legislation to provide a $100 million state loan to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in order to finance improvements to the venue.

After signing the statute, Pence indicated that the Speedway loan is an investment that “will further economic development in the motorsports industry while also protecting the interests of Hoosier taxpayers.”

Critics argue that the Speedway loan is akin to a preemptive – and a taxpayer-subsidized – bailout package, but in this instance the facts are abundantly clear.

The change in school-lunch standards, on the other hand, is a tad more involved.

Why are they switching standards?


The GOP felt it necessary to make this alteration in the school-lunch program as they suspect rampant fraud and abuse – which is not dissimilar to their fascination with alleged voter fraud, one might add. In the years since 2008’s Great Recession struck, the school-lunch program has seen a dramatic increase in student enrollment nationally; this rise was mirrored in the Midwest as well – including the Hoosier state.

Before the recession in 2005, about 29 percent of public school children in Indiana were receiving free lunches through the NSLP. By 2011, it was up to 40 percent. If you include those students receiving reduced-rate lunches, the total rises to 49%.

Forty-nine percent of Hoosier kids in public schools are enrolled in the NSLP – a federal program intended as a “national security” measure which would provide impoverished children with the nutrition needed to give them an equal shot at success, and in so doing, to improve upon the nation’s prospects as our future unfolds.

This upsurge in NSLP enrollment seems suspicious to the Indiana GOP, who point out that the rate of enrollment in the NSLP more than doubles the number of poverty-stricken children in the state by some estimates. Furthermore, they are concerned that the program presently invites abuse due to its perceived lack of oversight.

Why does this change up matter?


The switch from the NSLP methodology over to the textbook standard is significant because it gives the state more control to audit applicants and to scrutinize their eligibility, thus giving them more power to regulate the amounts of poverty-based funding that are granted to school districts in the state.

The NSLP is a federal program, and thus superior in authority to state government; states have no control over the process. By switching Indiana’s standard measure for impoverished students in public schools from enrollment in a federal program to participation in a state-level program, the legislature has now asserted control over a portion of the process. This switch in methods amounts to a minor power grab of sorts – but completely within their legal rights as far as I can tell.

During the 2011-12 school year, 5 billion meals were served nationally to 31 million students; because of the NSLP, 59% of those meals were free of charge, 9% were reduced in rate; 33% were paid in full by the student’s families.

During that same school year in Indiana, 40% of public school students were receiving free lunches, 9% were reduced in rate, and 51% were paid in full by the student’s families. The state’s rates of participation in the program are significantly lower than the national figures – and yet the Indiana GOP passed the legislation by arguing that many thousands of Hoosiers are probably guilty of fraud.

By the numbers: the NSLP


According to the Indiana Youth Institute, general poverty rates are estimated at 17% of the population, while the child poverty rate hovers at 23%. In 2012, Indiana had 1,041,602 students in public schools overall. Calculating to determine the number of public school students living in poverty, we see that twenty-three percent of 1,041,602 is 239,568 students; 239,568 public school students in Indiana live below the poverty line.

To be fair, proponents of the change in methods calculate child poverty rates differently than the Indiana Youth Institute, arriving at 17% instead; seventeen percent of 1,041,602 students is only 177,072 – a substantial difference of 62,496 students.

As noted above, 40% of all public school students in Indiana receive free lunches from the NSLP, and an additional 9% receive reduced-rates. This translates to 416,614 public students receiving free meals, and 93,774 more students receiving reduced-rates.

With the NSLP, Students are entitled to free lunches if their household’s income is below 130% of the annual income poverty level (currently, this amounts to $21,756 for a family of four); one hundred and thirty percent of $21,756 is $28,283. The NSLP also provides reduced-rate lunches to students whose household incomes are below 185% of the annual income poverty level. One-hundred and eighty-five percent of $21,756 is $ 40,249.

Moreover, Children who are members of households that receive food stamp benefits (SNAP) or cash assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant (TANF), as well as migrant, runaway, and homeless children all qualify for free meals. There are 379,000 students receiving SNAP funds in Indiana, and 65,252 total receiving TANF funds.

To review, students qualify for free lunches in the NSLP if:

a)    Their household earns less than $28,283 per year (for a family of four), or

b)   Their household receives SNAP or TANF benefits, or

c)    They are migrants, runaways, or homeless.

And under the NSLP students qualify for reduced lunches if:

a)    Their household earns less than $40,249 per year (for a family of four).


Adding it all up


At this point, it would serve us to note that 379,000 out of 1,041,602 is 36.9%; this means that nearly thirty-seven percent of all public school students in Indiana automatically qualify for NSLP benefits on account of their enrollment in the SNAP program.

Since 49% of all public school students in Indiana receive NSLP benefits altogether, if we subtract the 37% of them who are automatically eligible from their participation in the SNAP program, we only have a differential of 12% yet to be reckoned; twelve percent of 1,041,602 students is only 124,992. And even the low-ball GOP estimate of a 17% rate of child poverty in the state figures out to 177,072 students – 52,000 more than necessary to come up with the 49% rate of enrollment in NSLP that the Indiana legislature is so worked up about.

And there are a few other ways to qualify, as you will recall. By my estimates, there are about 1,500 homeless children in Indiana, and around 5,000 runaways still enrolled in school. And there are at least 2,000 migrant children in the state as well, although estimates are harder to make.

In summary:

a)    Between 177,000 and 239,000 students live below the poverty line, thus qualifying automatically for NSLP.

b)   Over 379,000 students qualify for NSLP via SNAP.

c)    Over 65,000 students qualify for NSLP via TANF.

d)   At least 1,500 students qualify for NSLP because they are homeless.

e)    At least 5,000 students qualify for NSLP because they are runaways.

f)     At least 2,000 students qualify for NSLP because they are migrants.

g)   These figures add up to at least 629,500 students out of 1,041,602 total; this amounts to over 60% of public school students.

h)   60% > 49%, Indiana GOP.


a)    Students qualify for free meals when their household makes less than 130% of the poverty rate ($28,000 per year).

b)   Students qualify for reduced-rate meals if their household brings in less than 185% ($40,000 per year).

c)    The median household income in Indiana is $46,438 (using 2011 numbers).

d)   Based on these figures, it seems likely that at least 40% of all public school students qualify for NSLP benefits of some sort based solely on their aggregate household income.

The Bottom Line


The meme in question made the claim that “Governor Mike Pence and the Indiana GOP are cutting back on free school lunches so they can give money to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.” Since there is no evidence of a this-for-that, quid pro quo exchange, the claim is absurd on its face. It cannot be interpreted as true in a literal sense of the word.

There is a deeper message hidden in the meme, however. Beneath the gloss, the creators of the meme want to demonstrate that the Indiana GOP values business revenues more than they do the health and well-being of our children.

In their defense, Hoosier Republicans counter that if fraud is not already rampant in the state, then at the very least the potential for widespread abuse is present, and should be remedied.

They argued that the number of enrolled students in the NSLP was excessive. They argued, in the wake of the Great Recession, that 49% enrollment was evidence of fraud in the system, simply because child poverty rates were much lower than enrollment rates.

Upon analysis, I can only conclude that their cries of fraud were just as untrue as the claim made that the Indiana GOP cut funding for school lunches specifically so that they may issue a business loan to the Speedway. There are numerous ways to account for the high enrollment in the state without resorting to accusations of wrong doing among your poorest constituents. But this wasn’t about correcting an existing problem, at its core. This maneuver was about who controls Indiana’s purse strings – will it be the state or federal government?

It would seem that, by switching the metric from the NSLP figures to the state’s textbook program’s numbers, the GOP was merely looking for a way to increase their leverage in determining how much additional money the state must grant schools to help educate the children who are most at risk. They want to distribute funds as they see fit, and have no problem cloaking their desire with projections of their own depravity upon the most downtrodden among us. And not just the downtrodden, mind you – they will be saving money by denying benefits to their children, while calling good people liars and cheats.

At the end of the day, the meme is preposterous – but no more preposterous than the justification Indiana’s GOP gave for the switch in standards in the first place.

Corey McLaughlin




Pence signs $100 million Speedway funding bill,” written for the Associated Press, and published on 05/10/13.

State won’t use free lunch program as poverty indicator: Funding to be based on state’s textbook program,” written by Maureen Hayden for CNHI, and published on 05/27/13.

Changes to meal program are food for thought,” written by Maureen Hayden for CNHI, and published on 05/28/13.

Federal School Nutrition Programs,” resource provided by the New America Foundation.

Public School Enrollment (Number) – 2012,” data provided by Indiana Youth Institute.

Children in poverty (Percent) – 2011,” data provided by National KIDS COUNT Program.

Spotlight on Indiana Poverty and Opportunity,” data provided by Spotlight on Poverty.

Child Population Under 18 by Age Group (Number) – 2011,” data provided by Indiana Youth Institute.


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Shock Jock DJ Expresses Desire to Kill Hillary Clinton, the Bushes, and Pres. Obama


By now, you have probably heard about the violent comments from wannabe shock jock Pete Santilli. This post will flesh out:

  1. Who he is,
  2. What his political views are,
  3. What he said exactly, and
  4. How he has responded to the public’s scathing critique.

Corey McLaughlin


Who is he?

According to website ‘Right Wing Watch,’ he is “an unhinged Internet ranter who exists somewhere to the crazier side of Alex Jones. Santilli’s broadcast…doesn’t even have Jones’ audience: he describes himself as ‘a radio talk show host ready to take my show to national syndication; that is, of course, if the FCC regulated AM/FM radio stations can handle my truth & honesty.’…

 On his show last week, Santilli went on a disgusting, violent rant in which he called for the entire Bush family and President Obama to be “tried, convicted and shot” for “treason” (and in George H.W. Bush’s case “involvement with his cronies in the John F. Kennedy assassination”) and for Hillary Clinton to be “tried, convicted and shot in the vagina.”


What are his political views?

Santilli’s website says:

“I am a recovering lifelong Reagan Republican who recently voted for Obama because I hoped for revolutionary change.  Now I am a full time a-political realist who is disgusted by left-right psychological warfare.  As I have researched deeper into our nation’s history, I now have so many questions about the JFK assassination, George H.W. Bush’s CIA ties to the assassination of JFK, the Reagan administration’s drug running; war mongering and as Charlotte Iserbyt personally witnessed, installation of communism through the Department of Education.  As I progressed in my research,  I discovered one of the pivotal points in our nation’s history was the Bush-era explosion of global mob and drug cartel control.  It is now widely known, yet conveniently unproven that George H.W. Bush’s legacy as a CIA C.E.O. laid the groundwork for the Clinton’s Dixie-Mafia drug cartel dynasty.  As I have observed and have been told, the Bush/Clinton drug cartels have been battling with the Obama Chicago mafia ever since…

I hate LBJ, Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Ron & Rand Paul and Obama —- especially the drug and gun trafficking cartels that they’ve all built to keep them in power.

Call me a “conspiracy realist”, but never call me a theorist until you have had the chance to learn what facts I have learned.  For instance (this may be too much for the un-awakened mind), look at the falling World Center Towers on 9-11, and ask yourself; how does falling steel and concrete turn to dust in mid air?  What I have learned is something that has forever changed me as it will you.  The World Trade Center towers were turned to dust in midair by a very powerful energy source.

Do I know what source caused it; absolutely not, but I know that there is indisputable evidence of the following:

We’ve all been under a PSY-OP (psychological warfare operation) since 9-11.

The towers were turned to dust in mid-air, 2 were hit by planes and 7 buildings disappeared with little debris remaining on the ground.

Free energy technology exists, but the oil & war industry cannot afford to tell us.”


What did he say exactly?

“I want to remind you that in Benghazi, Miss Hillary ‘the fricken’ biggest vagina on the face of the planet’ told troops to stand down and to not go in and interfere with the operation that they set up because they’re moving arms; Barack Obama is moving drugs through the CIA out of Afghanistan and Barack Obama needs to be tried, convicted, and shot for crimes against the United States of America. And if anybody has a problem with that, then you are an enemy of our state…

I want to shoot [Clinton] right in the vagina and I don’t want her to die right away; I want her to feel the pain and I want to look her in the eyes and I want to say ‘on behalf of all Americans that you’ve killed, on behalf of the Navy SEALS,’ … the families of Navy SEAL Team Six who were involved in the fake hunt down of this Obama bin Laden thing, that whole fake scenario – because these Navy SEALS know the truth, they killed them all – on behalf of all of those people, I’m supporting our troops by saying we need to try, convict, and shoot Hillary Clinton in the vagina.”

“Barack Obama needs to be tried, convicted, and shot for crimes against the United States of America, and if anybody has a problem with that, then you are an enemy of our state.”


How has he responded to the public’s outrage?

Fringe-Right, conservative website ‘Before It’s News’ reports:

“Pete Santilli believes, based on the preponderance of evidence that Hillary Clinton has committed treason against the United States, and she must be held accountable.  His words were passionate.  His choice of words have offended some. But most importantly, his words are being distorted by the Hillary Clinton propaganda machine so as to conceal the information which will be presented in this episode.

Although Pete will offer his sincerest apologies to those who have taken him out of context, and who were offended, he will also address the concerted effort by Hillary Clinton to stifle the evidence which has been mounting for 25+ years. Hillary Clinton is a criminal who should not be immune from prosecution.

Pete has literally been subjected to thousands of articles, emails, hundreds of death threats and hundreds of hate-filled telephone calls by people who have threatened to keep information away from the American people.   Pete and Team GMN will not be deterred by such a communist threat.”


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The Latest, Greatest Obama Scandal – UmbrellaGate

The Latest, Greatest Obama Scandal


President Obama is now under fire for not one, not two, not even three, but FOUR scandals. By now, you’re probably familiar with Benghazi and the IRS bullying, and perhaps you’ve heard about the Associate Press scandal, but that’s pretty boring fare beyond the Beltway.

In the Heartland, however, average Americans are incensed about UmbrellaGate. Perhaps you haven’t heard the details yet – word in the Midwest is that Obama is so lowdown and dirty that he makes MARINES hold his umbrella for him, out of sheer spite. Can you believe his audacity?!? 

<Hyperventilates into brown paper bag>

“So what really happened?,” you may ask. On Thursday, President Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan held a joint press conference in the Rose Garden. It began to rain during the press conference, but they weren’t quite finished, and so – rather than allow the visiting diplomat to stand in the rain – Obama signaled for umbrellas for the Prime Minister and himself. Because of the diplomatic significance of this international event, two Marines held the umbrellas over President Obama and the Prime Minister while they concluded their business.

You might also ask, “Why were the Marines present at a press conference in the first place?” That is a fair question, and one that the New York Daily’s Dan Friedman explains admirably in Thursday’s “When Marines Hold Umbrellas”:

There are usually four Marines detailed to the White House at any given time. They volunteer for what is considered the exclusive duty. Their main duty is to act as (mostly ceremonial) guards outside the West Wing lobby, where they open and close the door for White House officials.

They work in 30-minute shifts for as long as the president is working in the West Wing, finishing when he retires to his private quarters. They are familiar sight to people who visit the White House and visible to tourists outside the gates on the Pennsylvania Avenue. They aim to be solemn an unflinching. Colleagues lauded a Marine who didn’t react when a Christmas tree feel next to him in 2006 as example for successors.

The Marines work while the President is at work in the West Wing, and finish he retires to his private quarters. Attending events like Obama’s Rose Garden presser with Erdogan Thursday is another part of the Marines’ duties.

Neither the White House press office, nor a Marine Corp spokesman, Capt. Gregg Wolf, could immediately cite another example of Marine’s holding up umbrellas for a president and visiting dignitary. But Wolf said it is “extremely rare.”

Well, that all sounds pretty legitimate, but much of Middle America – especially our conservatives – requires more evidence before absolving any Chief Executive accused of misconduct. They just need to see it with their own eyes. Thankfully, there is a 31-second video clip available for viewing on YouTube.

<Breathes big sigh of relief>

This doesn’t seem like much of a scandal, does it? Enter the right-wing spin that dominates discourse in the Heartland, and it becomes – without any shred of doubt or disbelief – a debacle on the grandest scale, one that confirms the long-simmering suspicions of many that our president secretly harbors some diabolical desire to grind the white man and his culture beneath his Socialist, Commie, Kenyan, Black Power-loving boots.

<Groans, reaches for the Rolaids>

Because I have an intelligent audience, whom I can trust to apply the appropriate critical frame of reference befitting a liberal, please find below several photographs and memes revolving around the UmbrellaGate “incident,” presented without comment.

Thanks for reading, and please, do enjoy the irony. 🙂

Corey McLaughlin


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The Tea Party and Immigration Reform: What Positions Are They Taking?

The Tea Party and Immigration Reform: What Positions Are They Taking?


We are seeing the various Tea Party organizations voicing their views on immigration reform this week, so I thought it might be beneficial to provide a snapshot of their arguments at this point in the process. Below, please find five articles outlining the positions advocated by various Tea Party groups.


Corey McLaughlin

1)   Tea Party Patriots op-ed on May 1st:

“On Wednesday, Tea Party Patriots’ co-founder Jenny Beth Martin penned an op-ed on decrying the immigration bill as “Obamacare Redux…

 “This is not about amnesty,” she wrote. “It is not about illegals. It is about how government has gone off the rails. Just like Obamacare that was negotiated behind closed doors, any legislation cooked up in a secretive gang-like attitude among D.C. politicians is not the kind of system the forefathers had in mind.”

Source:Tea Party Leader Labels Immigration Bill ‘Obamacare Redux’,” written by Benjy Sarlin for Talking Points Memo and published on 05/02/13.

2)   Tea Party Unity conference call on May 2nd:

“Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies and a GOP witness at last month’s Senate hearings on immigration reform, laid out his strategy for stopping the reform bill on a Tea Party Unity conference call Thursday.”

Source:Krikorian Lays Out Strategy to ‘Kill’ Immigration Bill, Attacks ‘Big Religion’ SBC, ‘Jerk’ Graham, ‘Water Boy’ Rubio,” written by Miranda Blue for Right Wing Watch and published on 05/07/13.

3)   Heritage Foundation report on May 6th:

“Even though the 2012 presidential election put an end to Mitt Romney’s idea that 47 percent of Americans were moochers “who are dependent upon government,” the Heritage Foundation on Monday doubled down on that thinking, releasing a report that claimed that immigration reform could cost the country $6.3 trillion.”

Source:Heritage’s Fatally Flawed Study Doubles Down on Romney’s 47 Percent,” written by Marshall Fitz for Think Progress and published on 05/06/13.

4)   Tea Party Express, TheTeaParty.Net, Revive America, and Americans For Tax Reform’s on May 6th:

“Several conservative activists and tea party group leaders are meeting with Sen. Marco Rubio Tuesday afternoon to discuss immigration reform, including a list of what they support – and don’t.

Tea Party Express, TheTeaParty.Net and Revive America leaders as well as Americans For Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist are expected to be among the more than two dozen grassroots conservative leaders huddling with the Florida Republican. The groups in the meeting support immigration reform.

[The Heritage Foundation opposes immigration reform.] Other key conservative groups like Freedom Works and Club for Growth — two that supporters have tried to get to step up support for immigration reform — have maintained their silence on the issue.”

Source:Immigration’s new ally: Tea partiers,” written by Anna Palmer for Politico and published on 05/07/13.

5)   True the Vote on May 7th:

“True the Vote, a Tea Party group purporting to combat voter fraud, is now rallying against the Senate’s immigration bill. In a fundraising email to supporters, True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht warned that the bill presents a “golden opportunity” to allow “millions of newly legalized immigrants” to “undermine our electoral system.”

Source:Voter Suppression Group Fear Mongers Over Immigration Reform: It Will Allow ‘Millions’ To Vote,” written by Aviva Shen for Think Progress and published on 05/07/13.

Will Midwestern Senators Face Electoral Repercussions for Yesterday’s Failed Vote?


Will Midwestern Senators Face Electoral Repercussions for Yesterday’s Failed Vote?

The American electorate, who in polls demonstrated a 90% preference for enhanced background checks, will have their first opportunity to choose new representatives in next fall’s midterms elections. How likely are Midwestern progressives and moderates to make such changes, and when?

Time is on their Side

Voter sentiment regarding the Manchin-Toomey amendment can be expected to fade as time passes, therefore anger over the vote can be expected to yield its maximum influence in the 2014 midterm elections, and to decline in subsequent elections.

The problem is that most of our region’s senators – 17 out of 24 – still have four years or more to sit back and let their constituents forget about the whole thing, regardless of how they voted.

For Democrats, this isn’t much of a problem. Half of the Midwestern (and Democratic) senators who voted Yea won’t seek reelection again until 2018, so they have plenty of time yet.

Republicans, however, benefit equally from fading memories. The majority of the senators who voted Nay on the amendment – 10 out of 12 – will enjoy at least four years before they will face reelection. Disgruntled voters will have to wait for 2016 to see their best opportunity to effect change, when two-thirds of the senators who voted Nay on the amendment – 8 out of 12 – will seek reelection.

The 2014 Midterms

In the 2014 Midterms, the big question appears to be “Can the Democrats hold the line?” Five of the seven Midwestern Senate seats that will come up for reelection in 2014 are currently held by Democrats. At least one of those seats is in danger of flipping to Republican.

  • Only one Midwestern senator who voted Nay on the amendment will be up for reelection in 2014 – Pat Roberts (R-KS). Roberts is extremely likely to win reelection.
  • Two Midwestern senators who voted Yea will be seeking reelection in 2014 – Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Al Franken (D-MN). Both Durbin and Franken are expected to retain their seats.
  • Complicating the matter, four of the seven current senators have publicly stated that they will retire after this term – Mike Johanns (R-NE), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Carl Levin (D-MI), and Tim Johnson (D-SD). The Nebraska seat is likely to remain Republican. Iowa could be very competitive, depending upon the quality of the Republican nominee. Michigan leans Democratic, but could also be rather competitive. The South Dakota seat seems likely to flip to Republican.

The Senate seats of Roberts, Durbin, and Franken look safe for the incumbents, so in the Midwest the Democrats chances in 2014 are riding entirely on who wins the seats of three of the four retiring senators. Will the Democrats be able to hold Harkin’s seat in Iowa and Levin’s seat in Michigan, while successfully defending Johnson’s seat in South Dakota?

Bottom Line in 2014:

Best Case Scenario – Democrats hold the line, and the region’s Senate seats remain balanced, 12 – 12.

Most Likely Scenario – Republicans pick up a seat in South Dakota, and the region’s Senate representation leans GOP, 13 – 11.

My Advice – Midwestern Democrats should fight hard to hold the line in the Senate, but look to the House of Representatives for electoral gains.

The 2016 Election

In 2016, Midwestern voters will see nine of their 24 senators come up for reelection. All nine are Republicans. The 2016 election will be the Democrats best chance at shifting their Senate representation to a more moderate view.

  • Eight of these nine senators voted Nay on the amendment – Dan Coats (R-IN), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Roy Blunt (R-MO), John Hoeven (R-ND), Rob Portman (R-OH), John Thune (R-SD), and Ron Johnson (R-WI).
  • Only one of the senators who voted Yea will be seeking reelection – Mark Kirk (R-IL). 

Bottom Line in 2016: It is conceivable that Democrats could pick up several of the open seats in 2016. At least half of these Senate races should prove to be competitive, though it is far too soon to prognosticate.


If Midwestern Democrats are going to harness the voters’ outrage over yesterday’s failed Senate vote, they will need to be both patient and pragmatic. In the midterms, that energy is likely to affect the composition of the House of Representatives more than the actual Senate, where the vote took place. Still, if Democrats can play defense in the Senate while pursuing gains in the House in 2014, the party’s prospects in 2016 appear to be much brighter.

Corey McLaughlin

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