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Welcome to America's 10 Worst Immigration Detention Centers (Map)

| Fri Nov. 16, 2012 4:49 PM EST

Polk County Detention Facility, in eastern Texas

Rotten food, limited access to sunlight, and even arbitrary solitary confinement: For undocumented immigrants in US Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, detention could mean all that and more.

According to the Detention Watch Network, a national coalition pushing for changes in immigration detention, ICE holds more than 400,000 immigrants in 33,400 jail beds across the United States. On Thursday, DWN released a report highlighting what it calls the nation's 10 worst immigration detention centers and calling for their immediate closure. Among the abuses at these jails and prisons—most run by county prison systems, but some by private firms like Corrections Corporation of America—the report claims: 

At all ten of the facilities, people reported waiting weeks or months for medical care; inadequate, and in some cases a total absence, of any outdoor recreation time or access to sunlight or fresh air; minimal and inedible food; the use of solitary confinement as punishment; and the extreme remoteness of many of the facilities from any urban area which makes access to legal services nearly impossible.

This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has seen Frontline's excellent "Lost in Detention," which focused on the fallout from Obama's deportation-heavy first term. Still, the 2009 death of 39-year-old Roberto Medina Martínez at Georgia's Stewart Detention Center—one of the facilities called out by DWN—is a graphic reminder of what can happen when more and more immigrants are rounded up for deportation and sent to overwhelmed and inadequate facilities, where they're often treated like prisoners even though they're not serving criminal sentences. (Rather, they're undergoing administrative immigration proceedings that usually result in deportation.)

Immigration reform may be a post-election topic du jour—with everyone from President Obama to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio pledging to push legislation posthaste—but hardly anyone is talking about fixing our broken detention system. As Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) said in a Thursday press call, "Taxpayers shouldn't be asked to continue to support this waste of money and resources."

Click on our map below to learn more about each of DWN's worst offenders:

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GOP Repudiation of Romney on "Gifts"? Don't Be Fooled

| Fri Nov. 16, 2012 4:17 PM EST
Gov. Jindal speaks at a November 3 rally for then-presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney initially called his remarks on the 47 percent video unearthed by my colleague David Corn "inartfully stated." But since his defeat, he's returned to a political theory that divides the United States into makers and takers, arguing that President Barack Obama only succeeded by providing young people, women, and minorities with exhorbitant "gifts" to buy their support, in the form of things like health care coverage and help with student loan debt. (Jon Stewart piled on with some gifts of his own devising.)

"What the president's campaign did was focus on certain members of his base coalition, give them extraordinary financial gifts from the government, and then work very aggressively to turn them out to vote, and that strategy worked," Romney said on a post-election conference call with donors.

A better example of an unearned "gift" is being born the son of a wealthy, famous politician.

My colleague Kevin Drum has already addressed why Romney's remarks are ridiculous—political parties reward their constituencies, and Romney would have pursued goodies for GOP backers had he been elected. Financial institutions would have been very happy with a Romney administration that repealed Dodd-Frank, military contractors would have been delighted with Romney's plan to raise military spending to astronomical levels, and Romney's wealthy donors would have been delighted with his tax cuts for high earners. These are all "extraordinary financial gifts," and unlike student loans or health care coverage, they do nothing to help ensure that being born into a family of modest financial means doesn't prevent a person from succeeding. Help with student loan debt doesn't mean you didn't have to work hard to get good grades. A better example of an unearned "gift" is being born the son of a wealthy, famous politician so that you'll never have to worry about student loan debt. 

The more interesting phenomenon, however, is the oppobrium from Romney's fellow Republicans. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who likely has his own presidential ambitions, called Romney's remarks "absolutely wrong," and said "We have got to stop dividing American voters." Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker backed up Jindal, saying that the GOP is the party that "helps people find a pathway to live the American Dream." Conservative writer JP Freire, echoing a theory that Romney's conservatism didn't sell in part because it was not genuine, wrote "I think Romney's saying what he thinks a conservative would say."

Jamelle Bouie: "If there's a problem with Romney's statement, it was the language, not the sentiment."

My former American Prospect colleague Jamelle Bouie, writing at the Washington Post, has a different theory, namely that Republicans are rejecting Romney's remarks because they're politically harmful—not because they see them as incorrect. "If there's a problem with Romney's statement, it was the language, not the sentiment." 

I think Bouie has it right. If Romney is saying "what he thinks a conservative would say," it's probably because there are so many conservatives saying it. Rush Limbaugh, whose influence on conservatism dwarfs Romney's, explained the 2012 election results by saying "People are not going to vote against Santa Claus, especially if the alternative is being your own Santa Claus." The sentiment was repeated on Fox News incessantly, with on-air personalities like Eric Bolling saying "people voted to continue to get free stuff," and Bill O'Reilly saying Romney was "right on the money." This notion is deeply flattering to conservatives who would like to imagine themselves as rugged individualists, and those who disagree with them politically as lazy moochers.

As with the 47 percent tape, several conservative intellectuals have rejected Romney's statements and explained why they were incorrect. In both cases, however, Romney's problem was not diverging from conservatism so much as expressing it in ugly and unappealing terms. The Republican reaction from party leaders like Jindal is not a rejection of the worldview underlying Romney's remarks, which is extremely popular in right-wing media. It's an expression of political opportunism from politicians who want to leave their footprints on Romney's back as they chase their own ambitions. If it were anything else, you'd see Jindal telling Rush Limbaugh or Fox News, not Romney, to shut up.

But you aren't.  

Jon Stewart on Romney's 47 Percent Comments: "Unfairly Caricatured By His Own Words"

| Fri Nov. 16, 2012 3:14 PM EST

On Thursday night's episode of the Daily Show, Jon Stewart laid into Mitt Romney for the former Massachusetts governor's recent comments blaming his defeat on "gifts" with which President Obama bribed his voting base.

Stewart replayed a clip of Mother Jones' now-famous "47 percent" video in which Romney says almost half the country sees themselves as victims entitled to government handouts, and expressed shock that Romney would reiterate those sentiments, even after having walked them back. "You can imagine my surprise when this man, so unfairly caricatured—by his own words—as an out of touch plutocrat who sees the lower classes as government leeches, yesterday blamed his campaign loss on said leeches."

"As it turned out," Stewart said, "much to Mitt Romney's disappointment," the president ended up getting votes from some non-47 percenters, too. "Barack Obama was somehow also able to pick up four more percent of real America."

Franklin Graham: God May Have to Cause "A Complete Economic Collapse" to Save Nation From Obama

| Fri Nov. 16, 2012 2:52 PM EST

Some conservatives are having a tough time with President Barack Obama's reelection. Take social conservative leader Franklin Graham. In an interview with Newsmax.com, the Rev. Graham, a prominent evangelist and son of top-dog evangelist Billy Graham, maintained that Obama's victory will put the country further along a "path of destruction." And he suggested it would take a "complete economic collapse" to place the United States on a better course and return it to godliness.

Graham equated the Obama years with a national rejection of God. "In the last four years, we have begun to turn our backs on God," he said. "We have taken God out of our education system. We have taken him out of government. You have lawyers that sue you every time you mention the name of Jesus Christ in any kind of a public forum." Oddly, Graham ignored the fact that he and other shepherds of the Christian right have griped about such matters for much longer than four years. It didn't start with Obama.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for November 16, 2012

Fri Nov. 16, 2012 12:56 PM EST

Soldiers of the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division’s unload baggage from a CH-47 Chinook upon arrival in Afghanistan Nov. 12, 2012. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kimberly Hackbarth.

Business Leaders to Washington: Tax The Rich!

| Thu Nov. 15, 2012 10:23 PM EST

Not to be outdone by the pack of millionaires who swept through the nation's capital this week demanding higher taxes on the rich, two groups of business leaders are asking lawmakers for the same—because they didn't build that.

The American Sustainable Business Council and Business for Shared Prosperity, which represent hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs, investors, and managers—people John Boehner had claimed would be hurt by higher individual tax rates—made their case to Congress in a letter. They are urging Congress to let the Bush tax cuts expire on incomes exceeding $250,000 and to "put that money toward programs that help the economy and business."

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Corn on MSNBC: Romney Still Thinks Obama Supporters Are Moochers

Thu Nov. 15, 2012 7:48 PM EST

If you had any lingering doubts about whether Romney believes what he said in the 47% video, cast them aside. In a post-election call to his donors, Romney says Obama won because he promised "big gifts" to his supporters, such as healthcare and the Dream Act. So basically, in the words of Kevin Drum, Obama won by doing things people liked.

DC bureau chief David Corn, who unearthed the 47% video, talks to MSNBC's Al Sharpton about Romney's sour grapes.

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter.

Timeline: How the Benghazi Controversy Unfolded

| Thu Nov. 15, 2012 7:00 PM EST
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Andrews Air Force Base on September 14 during the return of the remains of four Americans killed in Benghazi three days earlier.

Today, the House and Senate intelligence committees are starting hearings on the September 11 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens. At the heart of the issue is the allegation, embraced by conservative pundits and echoed by Republicans including Mitt Romney, that Obama adminstration has covered up what they knew about the true nature of the assault and when they knew it.

Here's a blow-by-blow look at how the events and statements under scrutiny unfolded. Kevin Drum has more on why the Benghazi controversy has been overblown. And for a more extensive, detailed timeline, visit FactCheck.org.

September 11

  • A protest breaks out at the US embassy in Cairo in response to Innocence of Muslims, an anti-Muslim film advertised on YouTube that was created by a real estate developer in California. The film's trailer was first posted in July.
  • The US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, is attacked by "unidentified Libyan extremists," who kill US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other American officials.
  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issues a statement acknowledging the death of one State Department official during Benghazi attack. The statement references the anti-Muslim video, condemning "any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others," but stops short of blaming it for the attack.

September 12

  • Clinton confirms that four US officials were killed in the Benghazi attack.
  • During a morning speech at the Rose Garden, President Obama condemns the attack, saying, "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation." He also echoes Clinton's acknowledgment of the anti-Muslim video, saying, "We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others."
  • Obama is asked during a 60 Minutes interview whether terrorists were behind the attack and replies that "it's too early to know exactly how this came about." Reporters later ask White House press secretary Jay Carney if the attack had been preplanned. Carney replies, "It's too early for us to make that judgment."
  • The BBC talks to Ahmad Jibril, Libya's deputy ambassador to London, who says that the militant group Ansar al-Sharia launched the Benghazi attack.
  • Citing anonymous government officials, Reuters reports that the attack may have been preplanned and Ansar al-Sharia may be to blame.

September 13

  • At a State Department function, Libyan Ambassador to the United States Ali Suleiman Aujali speaks to Clinton, apologizing for "this terrorist attack which took place against the American consulate in Libya." Clinton again condemns the anti-Muslim video but does not refer to the attack as an act of terror. (Clinton later meets with Moroccan Foreign Minister Saad-Eddine al-Othmani, saying much the same thing.)
  • During a Colorado stump speech, Obama says, "To all those who would do us harm, no act of terror will go unpunished."
  • Citing anonymous State Department officials, CNN reports that the Benghazi attack was a "clearly planned military-type attack" and not related to the anti-Muslim video.

September 14

  • At an Andrews Air Force Base ceremony honoring the officials killed in Benghazi, Clinton quotes from a letter that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas sent her, in which she says he praised Stevens and called the attack "an act of ugly terror."
  • At a White House press briefing, Carney says the CNN report that the US government has evidence the attack was preplanned "is false."
  • Roll Call reports that during a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta leaves committee members with the impression that the attack was a premeditated act of terror.

September 15

  • In his weekly address, Obama mentions the Benghazi attack. He does not refer to it as an act of terror, but mentions "every angry mob" that had reacted to the anti-Muslim video.

September 16

  • Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, speaking to Bob Schieffer on CBS's Face the Nation, suggests that the attack began "spontaneously" in reaction to the Cairo embassy protest that was "sparked by this hateful video."
  • Libya President Mohamed Magariaf, also speaking to Schieffer, says the attack "was planned by foreigners…who entered the country a few months ago." He later tells NPR that Rice's suggestion that the protest began spontaneously "is completely unfounded and preposterous."

September 17

September 18

  • Obama tells David Letterman that extremists used the anti-Muslim video "as an excuse" for several attacks including the one in Benghazi.
  • Carney tells reporters that the video "precipitated some of the unrest in Benghazi and elsewhere." Later, Clinton says she was told that "we had no actionable intelligence that an attack…was planned or imminent."

September 19

  • National Counterterrorism Center Director Matt Olsen, speaking to a Senate subcommittee, says that the American officials in Benghazi "were killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our embassy" but that there was "no specific evidence of significant advanced planning." Olsen is the first administration official on record using the phrase "terrorist attack."
  • Nuland tells reporters that she stands by Olsen's words, but Carney balks, just repeating that "we do not yet have indication that [the attack] was preplanned or premeditated."

September 20

  • Carney refers to the Benghazi incident as a "terrorist attack" for the first time. Asked about Carney's remarks on the stump, Obama says only that extremists had taken advantage of "natural protests" that arose from the anti-Muslim video.

September 21

September 24

  • Asked on The View if the Benghazi incident was a terrorist attack, Obama replies, "We're still doing an investigation." At a UN address the next day, Obama condemns the anti-Muslim video but doesn't refer to a terrorist attack.

September 27

  • Panetta tells reporters that Benghazi "was a terrorist attack" and that it "took a while to really get some of the feedback from what exactly happened at that location."
  • Carney tells reporters, "The president's position [is] that this was a terrorist attack."

October 9

October 10

  • Asked about discrepancies in the various responses to the attack, Carney replies, "Again, from the beginning, we have provided information based on the facts that we knew as they became available."

October 15

October 16

October 24

October 26

  • A conspiracy theory begins to circulate that General Carter Ham, the head of the US command in Africa, was "relieved of his command" after refusing orders to stand down as he attempted to dispatch a rescue unit to the Benghazi consulate.

November 9

November 14

  • Republicans John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who both sit on the Senate Armed Services Committee, announce that they would oppose a nomination of Susan Rice to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. Graham justifies his position, saying that "either [Rice] didn't know the truth about Benghazi—so she shouldn't have been on TV—or she was spinning it."

November 15

  • The House and Senate Intelligence Committees begin holding hearings on the Benghazi attack. Petraeus, scheduled to testify on November 16, says his resignation had nothing to do with Benghazi.

This article has been revised.

Target, Walmart, and Other Big-Box Stores Abolish Thanksgiving

| Thu Nov. 15, 2012 5:25 PM EST

People who work in America's big-box stores don't have much to be thankful for, so maybe it's for the best that many of them can no longer celebrate Thanksgiving.

At Walmart, Target, and numerous other large retailers, Black Friday has become Black Thursday—a day that's much darker because it puts corporate profits ahead of, well, pretty much everything else that our country is supposed to care about.

This sad trend began last year at (where else?) Walmart, which announced that it would begin offering Black Friday specials at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving night. Not to be outdone this year, Target announced a 9 p.m. Thanksgiving opening. But Walmart responded by pushing up the start of this year's Black Thursday to 8 p.m.

You don't have to be a marketing expert to see where our labor standards are going: retro. Like pre-1621 retro.

Thanksgiving is "one of the three days us retail workers get off a year: a day most of us spend with family we only get to see on that day," says Renee C, the author of a widely circulated petition to get Target to say no to "Thanksgiving Creep."

Target spokesperson Molly Snyder defended the company's decision to open on the holiday. "Target's opening time was carefully evaluated with our guests, team, and the business in mind," she told me in an email. "Thanksgiving weekend is one of the busiest of the year, and we appreciete our Target team's flexibility on this weekend and throughout the holiday season."

Of course, many big-box workers have no choice to but to be flexible. The compliant get rewarded with more hours; the rigid quickly get downgraded to part-timers, union leaders say. Take the example of Greg Fletcher, a member of the overnight crew at a Walmart in East LA. On the night before Thanksgiving he will work a 12-hour shift, from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. His wife, who also works at the store, must be there from 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving day until midnight. "For families like the Fletchers, there really won't be a Thanksgiving this year," said Dawn Le, a spokeswoman for Making Change at Walmart, a campaign working to unionize this and other Walmart stores. Yet Greg feels like he can't say no. Normally, Walmart only gives him about 30 hours of work a week.

The thankless jobs aren't just at Target and Walmart: Sears, Toys R Us, Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, and Kmart all will stay open on Thanksgiving too.

Broadly speaking, Thanksgiving Creep represents another example of "speedup"—or employers demanding more from their workers without offering them much of anything in return. In a sluggish economy, this is how they gin up profits.

"Just because there are millions of unemployed people does not mean that people who do have jobs should be denied a holiday off to spend with their families," said a poster on Reddit who drew attention to Thanksgiving Creep yesterday. "It may sound naive, but I think treating each other well is a much better ethos for our society than 'suck it up and be miserable.'"

Republicans Just Lost a Class War—and They'll Lose Again if the Tea Party Gets Its Way

| Thu Nov. 15, 2012 5:10 PM EST
Tea Party economics help Fox News more than the Republican Party.

Here's something both liberals and conservatives can agree on: Obama just paved his way to a second term by focusing on taxing the rich and portraying his rival as a heartless businessman more interested in preserving tax cuts than helping ordinary working families. This was the same strategy many of Romney's primary rivals utilized, but Obama's arguments resonated with the general public more than the GOP base.

As Jonathan Chait notes:

Obama ignored vast swaths of his agenda, barely mentioning climate change or education reform, but by God did he hammer home the fact that his winning would bring higher taxes on the rich. He raised it so relentlessly that at times it seemed out of proportion even to me, and I wrote a book on the topic. But polls consistently showed the public was on his side.

The old adage is as true as ever: It's the economy, stupid. And Republicans have not been so out of touch with the American electorate on economic issues since the disastrous Goldwater campaign. Paul Ryan's economic agenda may have made him the darling of Fox News pundits and the Tea Party, but a solid majority of Americans saw it as class warfare directed squarely at the poor, elderly, and the middle class.