PRIVATE FUNDRAISER AT PRIVATE PRISON PROFITEER’S MANSION? SOUNDS ABOUT RIGHT: “Florida Governor Rick Scott really knows how to pick a fundraiser. Last month, he was scheduled to attend a $10,000-a-plate event at the home of a real estate developer who'd done prison time on tax charges. Hours after Mother Jones disclosed the event, Scott canceled it. Now, on July 21, Scott will headline a $10,000 per person fundraiser at the Boca Raton home of another deep pocketed donor who is the CEO of a private prison company that's profiting handsomely over the immigration crisis at the Mexican border. George Zoley is one of the founders of the GEO Group, the second-largest private prison company in the country. Among the 98 facilities the company owns or manages are several detention centers for undocumented immigrants run through contracts with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. One of those is a facility in Broward County, Florida, that's been the site of at least one hunger strike and protests over allegedly poor treatment of the 700 immigrants held there, most of whom have no serious criminal histories. In 2012, members of Congress demanded that ICE investigate the Broward facility after reports the center was holding people who should have been released and that it was not providing adequate medical care to the detainees. An investigation last year by Americans for Immigrant Justice also found credible reports of detainees suffering food poisoning from being served rotten food. The group noted instances of sexual assault among detainees and inadequate mental health care that may have contributed to at least three suicide attempts. Detainees also reported being forced to work for $1 a day and to pay $3 a minute for phone calls. The Geo Group, which rakes in $1.5 billion in annual revenue, earns $20 million annually just from the Florida center.” (via Mother Jones)
THE POWER OF CIVIL RIGHTS, AGAIN: “Southern black voters don’t usually play a decisive role in national elections. They were systematically disenfranchised for 100 years after the end of the Civil War. Since the days of Jim Crow, a fairly unified white Southern vote has often determined the outcome of elections. This November could be different. Nearly five decades after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, black voters in the South are poised to play a pivotal role in this year’s midterm elections. If Democrats win the South and hold the Senate, they will do so because of Southern black voters. The timing — 50 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act and 49 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act — is not entirely coincidental. The trends increasing the clout of black voters reflect a complete cycle of generational replacement in the post-Jim Crow era. White voters who came of age as loyal Democrats have largely died off, while the vast majority of black voters have been able to vote for their entire adult lives — and many have developed the habit of doing so. This year’s closest contests include North Carolina, Louisiana and Georgia. Black voters will most likely represent more than half of all Democratic voters in Louisiana and Georgia, and nearly half in North Carolina. Arkansas, another state with a large black population, is also among the competitive states. Southern black voters have already made their mark on this year’s midterm elections. Last month, Senator Thad Cochran defeated a Tea Party challenger with the help of a surge in black turnout in a Republican run-off in Mississippi. Black voters in the South have played an important role in a handful of federal elections since 1965, when the Voting Rights Act was passed. In 1976, Jimmy Carter won the presidency with the help of black voters in the Deep South. Democrats also won many competitive Senate seats in the South in 1998. Black voters have even played a decisive role in some states that will be crucial this November: They represented about half of Senator Mary Landrieu’s supporters in Louisiana 2002 and 2008; and in North Carolina in 2008, nearly half of President Obama’s supporters were black. But there has not been a year since Reconstruction when a party has depended so completely on black voters, in so many Southern states, in such a close national contest. President Carter, for instance, won by a comfortable margin in most of Dixie, with strong support among white voters. In 1998, Senate control was not at stake, and Mr. Obama’s 2008 victory in North Carolina was icing on the cake. If Democrats win this November, black voters will probably represent a larger share of the winning party’s supporters in important states than at any time since Reconstruction. Their influence is not just a product of the Senate map. It also reflects the collapse in Southern white support for Democrats, an increase in black turnout and the reversal of a century-long trend of black outmigration from the South.” (via New York Times)
BECAUSE WE’RE THAT RIDICULOUS OF A POPULATION THAT WE HAVE TO ORDER BUSINESSES – OR AT LEAST FEDERAL CONTRACTORS, BECAUSE CONGRESS – TO BE FAIR: “President Barack Obama plans to sign executive orders Monday prohibiting discrimination against gay and transgender workers in the federal government and its contracting agencies, without a new exemption that was requested by some religious organizations. Obama's action comes on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court's recent ruling in the Hobby Lobby case that allowed some religiously oriented businesses to opt out of the federal health care law's requirement that contraception coverage be provided to workers at no extra charge. Senior administration officials said Friday that ruling has no impact on non-discrimination policies in federal hiring and contracting. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the plans publicly. Since Obama announced last month that he would sign the orders, he's faced pressure from opposing flanks over the religious exemption and given no indication of where he would come down. Many religious leaders and conservative groups wanted him to exempt religious organizations from the order, while liberal clergy and gay advocacy groups adamantly opposed such an exemption. Until last month, Obama long resisted pressure to pursue an executive order for federal contractors in hopes that Congress would take more sweeping action banning anti-LGBT workplace discrimination nationwide. A bill to accomplish that goal — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — passed the Senate last year with some Republican support, but has not been taken up by the GOP-controlled House. The senior officials said Obama's action planned for Monday at the White House would amend two executive orders. The first, signed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965, prohibits federal contractors from discriminating based on race, religion, gender or nationality in hiring. Obama plans to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protections, and order the Labor Department to carry out the order. The officials said that means the change will probably take effect by early next year.” (via Associated Press)
SIX OF ONE, HALF-A-DOZEN (MILES) THE OTHER: “Here’s a really clever idea: Let’s run express passenger trains 16 times round-trip every day between downtown Miami and the Orlando airport. That’s right, the airport. Except the trains won’t go straight there, but will stop first in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, then head up the seaboard to Cocoa and hang a hard left 40 miles west across the middle of the state. Oh, and the trip will take at least three hours one way. Leaving aside the fact that you can inexpensively drive from downtown Miami to the Orlando airport in about the same time (or fly commercially in only 42 minutes), the project grandly known as All Aboard Florida raises other elementary questions. Like, “Why?” As it waddles down the tracks, this turkey enjoys the robust blessing of the Republican-led Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott, who said the following to a reporter last month: “It’s all funding that will be provided by somebody other than the state. It’s a private company.” Scott’s either clueless, or lying. All Aboard Florida is a future train-wreck for taxpayers. With the possible exception of the Hogwarts Express, passenger rail services almost always lose money and end up subsidized by government. All Aboard Florida already has applied for $1.6 billion in federal loans, and plans to rent space at a new terminal at the Orlando International Airport for which state lawmakers recently appropriated $213 million. That’s just the beginning. According to the Scripps/Tribune Capitol Bureau, the company also wants the state to pay $44 million to connect its lines with Tri-Rail, the daily commuter link serving South Florida. Only three short years ago, playing the tea party scrooge, Scott killed a proposed high-speed train project between Orlando and Tampa. In rejecting about $2 billion in federal funds, the governor asserted that Florida taxpayers would have ended up paying to operate the rail service once it was finished. He was right.” (via Miami Herald)
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