Word on the street is that Senate Majority Leader Reid would like to bring S. 1410, the Smarter Sentencing Act, up for a vote this year. S. 1410 would cut federal drug-related mandatory sentences in half, give federal judges more flexibility in sentencing drug offenders, and make the Fair Sentencing Act's new mandatory sentences for crack cocaine-related offenses retroactive. The whole mandatory minimum sentencing push was like a collective fever dream for Americans -- if we just make sentences absurdly heavy, we'll win the war on drugs! -- but it was a nightmare for small-time drug offenders, and folks across the ideological spectrum have begun to see what Justice Kennedy saw many years ago, when he declared that mercy was, in fact, a valuable quality for a civilized society to possess. S. 1410 doesn't do everything you might like it to do -- it doesn't actually repeal any mandatory minimums, and adds new ones for sexual abuse and domestic violence, which victims' rights groups in both areas have opposed -- but the bill does represent progress. Families Against Mandatory Minimums provides more information here, and you can use the tools in the upper left-hand corner of this page to call your Senator, or use FAMM's email tool.
Meanwhile, you may know that the Federal Housing Financing Agency has blocked home mortgage modification for Fannie Mae- and Freddie Mac-backed mortgages for many years, largely because its old "acting" director, Ed DeMarco, appeared ideologically predisposed against using government power on behalf of government's owners, the American people. He actually said that mortgage modification -- a tool folks can use to write down the principal on their second home, by the way -- represented a "moral hazard," though banksters crashing an entire economy by issuing bad mortgages and then lying about them was, apparently, not a moral hazard. Anyway, Mr. DeMarco's been out of his job for almost five months, and his successor, ex-U.S. Rep. Mel Watt of North Carolina, still hasn't allowed homeowners to negotiate their mortgage down to market value, stay in their homes, and provide a stable source of tax revenue to localities, among other benefits. I thought this was a priority of the Obama Administration -- but then again, so were net neutrality and GMO-labeling. All together now: it doesn't matter what they want; it matters what we want. Color of Change helps you tell FHFA Director Watt to allow mortgage writedowns for needy families.
Speaking of food labeling, Dave Molidor has provided a petition via change.org that helps you tell USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to mandate that food-processing corporations label meats made from animals fed with antibiotics. Yes, good Americans, we have opened another front on our battle against antibiotic abuse, and though I doubt Mr. Vilsack cares very much what anyone other than his corporate cronies think -- this, after witnessing his approval of the "Roundup-Ready" Frankenseed, his opposition to genetically-modified food labeling, and his attempts to injure organic labeling standards, among other sins -- we still might as well fight the good fight, and force him to come up with some flatugasm about why he won't do it. Now with four out of five antibiotics in America going to nominally-healthy feed animals trapped in factory farms, you might protest that it's not likely that folks will be able to find antibiotic-free meat. Except that we already do -- and once we can get the meat clearly-labeled, food producers will find it more desirable to earn the label, thus earning more customers, thus earning more money. At least, that's how the free market's supposed to work, right?