Think Progress

Subscribe to Think Progress feed Think Progress
Updated: 6 hours 19 min ago

Trump defends Ivanka’s private email usage by saying ‘Hillary Clinton’ 5 times in 40 seconds

6 hours 23 min ago

President Donald Trump defended his oldest daughter Ivanka Trump’s usage of her personal email for government business by basically telling reporters “but her emails” on Tuesday.

Outside of the White House on Tuesday, Trump said “Ivanka did some emails” before mentioning former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton five times in a span of roughly 40 seconds.

The president claimed the usage of private email by Clinton, his Democratic opponent in an election that ended over two years ago, was “the real story” after being asked about his daughter’s email practices, which were apparently similar to to the then-Republican nominee’s constant criticisms of the former First Lady.

Despite the president’s claims, the FBI concluded that Clinton didn’t lie about her emails and her personal server wasn’t compromised. An Inspector General investigation also found that former FBI director James Comey violated Justice Department policy, “damaging the law enforcement agencies’ image of impartiality,” during the investigation of Clinton’s supposed email scandal that dominated coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign.

Trump said he looked at the reports regarding his daughter’s illegal email usage “just very briefly.” In what is sure to be a coincidence, the topic was also covered very briefly by Fox News, which made Clinton’s emails the focus of the 2016 race.

Mediaite noticed Ivanka’s emails only received 25 seconds of mention on Tuesday’s edition of Fox & Friends, Trump’s favorite morning “news” source, with almost all of that time devoted to reading a statement from her lawyer.

In addition to Trump’s daughter, private email accounts have also been used by White House adviser and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, former White House adviser Stephen Bannon, White House adviser Stephen Miller, former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt, and former White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn.


Categories: SCCDP Allies

Trump’s energy agency nominee backs fossil fuels in battle with renewables and green groups

8 hours 34 min ago

President Donald Trump’s nominee to fill a vacant seat on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) told a conference in February that the fossil fuel industry needs to be better at explaining to the American public that “fossil fuels are not something dirty.”

In a speech at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation’s (TPPF) Policy Orientation for Texas lawmakers, FERC nominee Bernard McNamee emphasized that fossil fuels are not a form energy from which the nation should move away.

The video of McNamee’s speech, first reported by Utility Dive, is raising eyebrows because FERC oversees bulk power markets and regulates interstate electricity transmission — and has taken a fuel-neutral approach to its regulation of competitive power markets. The video of McNamee’s speech was allegedly removed from TPPF’s website after he was nominated in early October to serve on FERC.

Many clean energy supporters also have become concerned that the commission has been favoring pipelines over cleaner energy infrastructure. And environmentalists fear McNamee, if approved to the position, would help push Trump’s efforts to bail out coal.

The fossil fuel industry and its supporters need to help policymakers and the public understand that fossil fuels are “key not only to our prosperity” but “to a clean environment,” the video shows McNamee saying at the February conference. At the time, he was working as head of the TPPF’s Center for Tenth Amendment Action and its Life:Powered project, a pro-fossil fuel program.

McNamee’s description of the impact of fossil fuels on the environment stands in stark contrast to the views of scientists who have overwhelmingly concluded that burning coal, natural gas, and oil have significantly contributed to increased carbon dioxide levels over the past 60 years.

The extraction and burning of coal, oil, and natural gas also creates huge levels of pollution that causes irreversible damage to the environment and harms human health.

McNamee’s comments at the February conference, however, in no way resembled what he told lawmakers last week at his Senate confirmation hearing. The FERC nominee, for example, did not mention his bias in favor of burning fossil fuels.

Furthermore, when asked whether his advocacy work for fossil fuels at the TPPF and his support for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) coal and nuclear support plan would unduly influence his work if he is confirmed to the commission, McNamee said: “I can honestly say that I will be in an independent arbiter.”

Senator insists Trump energy agency nominee would be like placing ‘fox inside chicken coop’

In early 2018, McNamee left his job as deputy general counsel for energy policy at DOE to join TPPF. But after only four months at the right-wing think tank, McNamee was back at DOE, serving as executive director of the department’s Office of Policy. McNamee now works under Mark Menezes, the undersecretary of energy who serves as a point person for Trump’s push to bail out coal and nuclear power plants.

At the TPPF Policy Orientation event in February, McNamee was extremely critical of renewable energy.

“Renewables, when they come on and off, it screws up the whole physics of the [electric] grid,” McNamee said. “When people want to talk about science, they ought to talk about the physics of the grid and know about what real science is and that is, how do you keep the lights on? And it’s with fossil fuels and nuclear.”

In 2013, Ron Binz, a former Colorado utilities regulator who President Barack Obama nominated to serve as a FERC commissioner, was strongly opposed by Republicans for what they perceived as a preference for renewable energy resources and an anti-coal bias.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) did not back Binz’s nomination. Binz told Politico at the time that he didn’t intentionally mislead Murkowski about the extent of his support for renewable energy, as she charged during his confirmation hearing.

I wonder what Ron Binz thinks of this video? https://t.co/48ymwnyQ5T

— Ari Peskoe (@AriPeskoe) November 20, 2018

At his FERC confirmation hearing on November 15, McNamee did not tell the senators about his strong support for fossil fuels or his opposition to renewable energy resources.

But during his time as deputy general counsel at DOE, for example, he signed the cover letter to the controversial grid resiliency plan, ordered by Trump and sent by DOE to FERC on September 29, 2017.

Also during his February speech McNamee touted his support for the administration’s efforts to undermine the Clean Power Plan, a landmark proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing electric generating stations. Last month, the Trump EPA proposed the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) to replace the Clean Power Plan — but the ACE rule would be far more lax. Starting in 2030, replacing the Clean Power Plan with the ACE rule could result in up to 1,400 more premature deaths and up to 120,000 more asthma attacks every year, according to the EPA’s own analysis.

As he explained in his February speech, McNamee said he was pleased to work with Trump and Energy Secretary Perry to see the Obama EPA’s Clean Power Plan “be put to death.”

McNamee also emphasized that a book, “Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy,” written by Kathleen Hartnett White — his former colleague at TPPF — served as a foundation for the TPPF’s pro-fossil fuel work.

In February, after increased scrutiny on her history of fringe anti-science beliefs, the White House withdrew Hartnett White’s nomination to lead its Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). Hartnett White has argued on multiple occasions that increased carbon emissions in the atmosphere are beneficial to humans.

‘A small victory for sanity in a lunatic world’: Trump’s extreme environmental nominee is out

McNamee, in his TPPF presentation, also accused environmental groups of attempting to return the “administrative tyranny that they’ve been pushing for so long” since Trump took office.

“The green movement is always talking about more government control because it’s the constant battle between liberty and tyranny,” he said. “It’s about people who want to say I know what’s better for you.”

As an alternative to the work of environmental groups, McNamee lauded the TPPF’s litigation team for fighting to weaken the Endangered Species Act and eliminate the Clean Power Plan.


Categories: SCCDP Allies

Trump issues bewildering new statement on Jamal Khashoggi killing, Saudi Arabia

8 hours 36 min ago

President Trump on Tuesday issued a bizarre statement on the killing of Washington Post columnist and Saudi Arabian political dissident Jamal Khashoggi, who was assassinated after entering his country’s consulate in Istanbul in October, suggesting he would take no further punitive actions against the Saudi government over Khashoggi’s death.

Trump, who has waffled publicly on the issue, declining to place blame directly on the Saudi Arabian government for the killing, expressed similar sentiments Tuesday, claiming Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) — accused of ordering the hit on Khashoggi — may or may not have been involved.

“The crime against Jamal Khashoggi was a terrible one, and one that our country does not condone,” Trump said in a statement, which was marked with several exclamation points. “Indeed, we have taken strong action against those already known to have participated in the murder. … We have already sanctioned 17 Saudis known to have been involved in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, and the disposal of his body.”

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) indeed leveled sanctions on 17 Saudi Arabian individuals involved in Khashoggi’s killing and dismemberment on consulate grounds, including Consul General Mohammed Alotaibi, who oversaw the operation, and Saud al-Qahtani, a former senior aide to MBS. However the administration has steered clear of implicating MBS himself in the crime, despite the CIA’s own assessment that the crown prince directly ordered the assassination, and evidence that supports that conclusion.

In his statement Tuesday, Trump appeared to downplay that assessment, citing the Saudi government’s own claims that Khashoggi was an “enemy of the state.”

“Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an ‘enemy of the state’ and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that — this is an unacceptable and horrible crime,” he said. “King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”

Trump then claimed the world “may never know all of the facts” surrounding Khashoggi’s murder, adding, “In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

The rest of Trump’s statement was a mixture of accusations against Iran for drawing Saudi Arabia into a brutal war — and even more devastating humanitarian crisis — in Yemen, and overly gracious language thanking the Saudis for purchasing hundreds of billions in American-made military equipment and investing in the United States.

“After the United States, Saudi Arabia is the largest oil producing nation in the world,” he said. “They have worked closely with us and have been very responsive to my requests to keeping oil prices at reasonable levels — so important for the world. As President of the United States I intend to ensure that, in a very dangerous world, America is pursuing its national interests and vigorously contesting countries that wish to do us harm. Very simply it is called America First!”

On Sunday, the president acknowledged there is an audio recording of Khashoggi’s murder, but he said he didn’t want to listen to it.

Trump has previously excused his administration’s tepid response to Khashoggi’s killing by pointing to Saudi Arabia’s supposed $450 billion investment in the United States.

In October, the president told a group of reporters he would not consider cancelling the Saudis’ $110 billion military equipment purchase because he did not want to jeopardize the two countries’ economic partnership. “Saudi Arabia has been a great ally of ours. That’s why this is so sad,” he said.

Several outlets have since noted those figures are largely misleading, with U.S. Naval War College professor Jonathan Caverley telling Politifact last month, “The $110 billion is not even remotely solid. The State Department only counts $14.5 billion in implemented’ sales from this deal.”

Others have similarly suggested the $450 billion figure was mostly made up.

The president, by contrast, has benefited personally from his friendly relationship with Saudi Arabia. The Washington Post noted Saudi officials spent hundreds of thousands at Trump’s namesake hotel in Washington, D.C. in 2017 alone, and in July 2015, Trump himself admitted on the campaign trail that his businesses had received millions from the country over the years.

“They buy all sorts of my stuff,” he said. “All kinds of toys from Trump. They pay me millions and hundreds of millions.”


Categories: SCCDP Allies

Portland finally memorialized the victim of worst white supremacist murder in city’s modern history

9 hours 3 min ago

PORTLAND, OREGON — Thirty years ago this month, a trio of white supremacists wearing jackboots and olive-tinted military jackets murdered an Ethiopian refugee named Mulugeta Seraw in Portland. The killing rocked a complacent city, shattering a town that billed itself as a left-leaning utopia.

For years, Seraw’s death was largely overlooked. In the age of Portlandia, as Portland transitioned into the cultural epicenter of Obama-era progressivism, the killing faded. And as Portland became the whitest major city in the country, the city moved past Seraw’s legacy, preferring to focus on the crunchy cultural tics rather than its horrid racial histories.

No more, though. As hate crimes spike, as President Donald Trump whips up his white nationalist base, and as proto-fascist groups like Patriot Prayer and Proud Boys continue to incite violence in Portland, the city has finally decided to memorialize the victim of one of the most horrific hate crimes the Pacific Northwest has ever seen.

Thread: 30 years ago today, Mulugeta Seraw was attacked and murdered by racist skinheads in southeast Portland. He was an Ethiopian immigrant and a student at Portland Community College. He had a son in Ethiopia. He had a life that we know almost nothing about. pic.twitter.com/7aGxlDSjKI

— Portland Assembly (@pdxassembly) November 13, 2018

Skinhead City

Seraw initially moved to Portland from Ethiopia in 1980, arriving on a student visa. While living and working with his uncle, he enrolled in classes at Portland Community College. Seraw was, by all accounts, a supportive and caring person who was grateful for the opportunity to continue his education in the U.S.

Seraw also arrived in a Portland that was a world apart from what the city, over the past decade, has since become. Urban blight devoured swaths of Portland’s East Side; streets now lined with curio stands and coffee shops, playing host to vice presidents looking for their gourmet ice cream fix, were disheveled, run-down.

One group that thrived in that past Portland, though, was the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who wanted to return to the state’s racist roots, to help Portland become the Ku Klux Klan hotbed it once was. Before Portlandia, there was “Skinhead City.” Before hipsters, there was hatred and racism blanketing the city in a way that’s been largely forgotten, largely ignored.

We will always remember Mulugeta Seraw, and others who were victims of hate violence. 30 years after his murder, have we made Oregon a safe place for all?
Get your ticket here: https://t.co/AyTiWLYTNJ #RememberLearnChange #RememberMulugeta pic.twitter.com/uXFuya3uMc

— Urban League of PDX (@ULPDX) November 11, 2018

Portland’s white supremacist gangs, in a scene reprised up and down the West Coast, mingled with the city’s burgeoning metal scene. One of the most popular local metal-heads was named Ken Mieske, a man who called himself “Ken Death” on the stage.

Only 23 years old in 1988, Mieske was a bundle of charisma; he could put on a different face for multiple audiences and light up in front of a camera. He even caught the eye of Portland’s best-known director, Gus Van Sant. Then a novice, before blossoming as the director of Good Will Hunting, Van Sant followed Mieske for a three-minute short. Ken Death Gets Out of Jail trailed Mieske’s release from prison after serving time on a burglary charge. “He’s a great actor,” Van Sant later said.

After Van Sant wrapped the project, though, Mieske fell further into the white supremacist rabbit-hole metastasizing throughout Portland. He linked up with a pair of skinheads slouching through the city. One, Steve Strasser, was a “street kid,” according to the Willamette Week, and “one of the earliest recruits to the Portland skinhead movement.” Another, Kyle Brewster, had just been named the homecoming king at Portland’s Grant High School.

Their backgrounds varied, but they united in a belief tying them together, and to Mieske: that Portland, as it had decades before, belonged to whites. And on a cold night in November 1988, they took their first, fatal step to making that dream a reality.

Mulugeta’s memory

The night of Seraw’s death began with, of all things, a parking dispute. Seraw and his friends were reportedly returning home, to their apartment in Southeast Portland. Around the same time, according to later testimony, Mieske, Strasser, and Brewster, already drunk, were heading out for the night with their girlfriends.

Full house for @UrbanLeaguePDX conference commemorating 30-year anniversary of Mulugeta Seraw's murder by white supremacists on the streets of Portland. @rblazak gives attendees a brief history of Oregon's roots as a white supremacist Utopia. pic.twitter.com/T8komNHefB

— sarah iannarone (@sarahforpdx) November 13, 2018

As Randy Blazak, a sociology professor at Portland State University, later told the Portland Mercury, the three men had recently begun scuffling with non-white visitors in nearby Laurelhurst Park. The trio, who had joined a skinhead group called “East Side White Pride,” had “been out in Laurelhurst Park provoking fights with Latinos earlier that fall,” Blazak said.

That night, though, they saw a chance for something else. It was the middle of the night, and it was dark. The ideal time, Blazak told the Mercury, to “put their new strategy into action.”

In its 1988 write-up of Seraw’s murder, The Oregonian interviewed Tilahule Antneh, who was in the car with Seraw and Wondwosen Tesfaye. With their Oldsmobile “parked in the middle of the narrow side street,” The Oregonian reported, the white supremacists pulled up directly next to them. According to Antneh, the trio of skinheads never said a single thing. “The women inside the car were shouting. They were saying, ‘Let’s kill him. Kick him,'” Antneh said. “[The men] never said anything. They just jumped us.”

The skinheads didn’t initially grab Seraw. But Seraw tried to intervene, grappling with Brewster. Mieske came from behind, lifting his baseball bat, bringing it down over Seraw’s head, and then doing it again as Seraw fell to the ground. Brewster and Strasser slammed their steel-toed boots into the limp Seraw.

The fight, Antneh later said, couldn’t have lasted any more than two minutes. That was all it took, though, for the skinheads to claim their first fatality.

Seraw was only 28 years old.

Mulugeta Seraw, a man destined to change society has an everlasting legacy. After 30 years, his murder is still significant in the reformation of our community. How can we incorporate these lessons of unity in our lives and society? Today we incorporate! #RemeberMulugeta pic.twitter.com/dB8ORA9T0S

— Urban League of PDX (@ULPDX) November 13, 2018

Living legacy

For years, the primary legacy of Seraw’s murder hasn’t been the memory of the man himself, but the precedent the ensuing trial set for white supremacist murders to come.

Civil rights groups, among them the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), set their sights not just on the three skinheads involved in beating Seraw to death but also the man they believed pushed the three men to murder Seraw: Tom Metzger.

Thank you @tedwheeler for joining @ULPDX and more than 200 community members today to celebrate the life of #MulugetaSeraw#StandUpAgainstHate@Portland_State @NULpolicy @SEUplift pic.twitter.com/tmLd37kFKx

— Nkenge (@TrueNkenge) November 14, 2018

An unrepentant racist, Metzger steered a group called the White Aryan Resistance (WAR). He was, as one of the SPLC lawyers involved would later say, the “Pied Piper of the skinheads,” one who saw white supremacists like Brewster and Mieske and Strasser as “foot soldiers of the race war.”

Metzger, living in Southern California, was nowhere near Seraw’s murder. But thanks to a letter uncovered in one of the murderers’ apartments, written by Metzger’s son to the “East Side White Pride” — as well as the fact that the trio of skinheads had been handing out flyers for Metzger’s Aryan Youth Movement — prosecutors managed to thread a direct line from the killing to Metzger and his organization.

And a jury supported the argument. In a significant ruling, the court awarded Seraw’s family some $12.5 million. When Metzger couldn’t pay, the SPLC took Metzger’s house. Like that, the “Pied Piper” of America’s skinheads was homeless. And Metzger’s white supremacist group, as KATU wrote, was “effectively bankrupt[ed].”

For their role in the killing, Mieske received a life sentence, while Brewster and Strasser got 10 years and 6 years, respectively. Mieske died in prison in 2011, while Brewster bounced in and out of prison in the years since. Strasser’s whereabouts, meanwhile, are unknown, according to the Willamette Week.

A new sign

That ruling, alongside a tightened hate crimes bill, effectively closed the book on Seraw’s legacy in the decades that followed. Portland, meanwhile, transitioned into the land of craft brews and indie rock, whitening along the way. (As a billboard that went up this month in the middle of Portland reads, “Yes, there are black people in Portland.”)

put this billboard right in the middle of my city and i couldn’t be more proud. this is for all my friends incarcerated and affected by gentrification. pic.twitter.com/pRw1oPChz4

— Aminé (@heyamine) November 16, 2018

In the middle of 2017 — as Trump reignited demons buried and ignored; as America’s post-racial dreams disintegrated amidst a resurgent white nationalism — a man named Jeremy Christian began hurling racist slurs at a pair of young Muslim women on Portland’s lightrail. When two men, Ricky Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, tried to intervene, Christian, who described himself as a “patriot,” stabbed them both to death.

Once more, the city’s image of itself imploded. Portland’s early history as a bastion for those hoping to escape diversity elsewhere roared back, confronting a new generation and a country suddenly teetering on a precipice of racist violence. And suddenly, for the first time in decades, Seraw’s name returned to the news with regularity.

A mew mural honors the victims of Portland's 2017 stabbing attack, featuring quotes from Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Ricky Best. CREDIT: CASEY MICHEL

This time, though, the city and civil society activists wanted to make sure Seraw’s name wouldn’t fade. As a massive mural went up to honor the victim of Christian’s attack, the city worked with anti-racist activists and Seraw’s family to organize a number of gatherings and events that would cement Seraw’s legacy, at least in Portland.

Following efforts from the mayor’s office and the Urban League of Portland, a series of events this month are seeking to establish Seraw’s legacy for decades to come. The Urban League of Portland helped organize a conference to commemorate Seraw, offering lessons on “anti-hate violence tools and resources.” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced a congressional resolution discussing Seraw’s legacy, and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D) entered a statement into the congressional record, describing Seraw as someone who “did not lose his life in vain.”

Perhaps most importantly, the city decided to memorialize Seraw with a series of signs where he lived, and where he died. With one side in English and one side in Amharic, the signs featuring a photo of a smiling Seraw. (Someone also placed an antifa sticker just beneath one of the new sign-toppers, reading, “When you punch a Nazi, the whole world punches with you.”)

Mulugeta Seraw's name now sits atop the signs near where he lived, and where he died. CREDIT: CASEY MICHEL

“I saw a lot of diverse people [at the unveiling], people celebrating him, but also trying to look at what’s going on right now, at this hatred that’s still existing,” Yonas Kassie, the head of Portland’s Ethiopian and Eritrean Cultural and Resource Center, told ThinkProgress.

In addition, the city declared that, henceforth, every November 13 would be known in Portland as “Mulugeta Seraw Day.” Seraw’s death was a “horrific hate crime,” Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office said, ending the life of a “kind, hard-working man” who was “in pursuit of the American dream.”

It was only right that Portland honored the man, and that the city, despite its monochrome makeup, continues to affirm that “immigrants” and “refugee[s]” and “people of color are a part of the services and programming, decision-making, and place-making in the City of Portland.”

The proclamation announcing that every Nov. 13 will be "Mulugeta Seraw Day" in Portland.

Thirty years on, and thanks to efforts that came to fruition this month, Seraw’s name and legacy will live on in perpetuity in Portland. A city shaken by his murder and now at the epicenter of proto-fascist, racially motivated violence revived by the president and his followers has pledged to remember a man whose life ended at the hands of the men who once made Portland “Skinhead City.”

Seraw may no longer be here, but those in the city who still want to make Portland the safe haven Seraw thought it could be are one step closer to making sure his name will never fade.

“There are a lot of other people like Mulugeta, who stood for good causes, and Mulugeta represents all of those people,” Kassie told ThinkProgress. “That’s how I see it. He represents those people. There are a lot of people we don’t know, who fought for the right cause and died. And he’s a symbol for all of them.”


Categories: SCCDP Allies

The desperation of Central American asylum-seekers place them in a world beyond politics

9 hours 10 min ago

MEXICO CITY — Two days before I arrived in Mexico’s capital city last week, the outdoor temperature suddenly plunged and the skies poured a chilling rain. Typically, with the wet season in this part of the country having passed, these climes produce dry, warm days that are welcoming to tourists and visitors.

Not so for the 3,000 to 4,000 Central American migrants who had already arrived and been brought to a soccer stadium by municipal officials and human rights aide workers, who greeted them with temporary shelter, warm meals, medical care and — most welcome of all — a change of clean clothing.

Despite the outpouring of kindness from strangers, the harsh weather provided its own cruel metaphor for the unexpected hardships that stood between the caravan of migrants and their prayed-for asylum in the United States.

Rita Robles, the Mexico City liaison for policy and advocacy at the Fray Matias Human Rights Center, told ThinkProgress that the rain nearly ruined her and fellow aide workers’ plans to assist the migrants.  “We weren’t prepared for the bad weather,” Robles said in Spanish, translated through an interpreter. “There was a lot of rain. Many clothes and medicines were water-logged and so we couldn’t use.”

At a soccer stadium in Mexico City, Central American migrants hope for an end to their journey

Indeed, accommodating the migrants’ passage through Mexico is an organizational and logistical challenge, dwarfed only by the rigors of the journey itself. Inside Mexico City’s Magdalena Mixhuca Sports City, a sprawling complex of soccer pitches and athletic fields, aide workers set up make-shift tents to care for the migrants.

One of the largest tents, a sort of kitchen and cafeteria, was originally set up as a place for volunteers to bring packaged foods to hand out to hungry migrants. That idea was discarded after aide workers associated with CAFEMN, a religious organization that assists migrant women, children and refugees from Central and South America who pass through Mexico, saw and rejected the dining setup. Nuns from the Congregation of the Sisters Josefinas took over, preparing all the meals to feed the migrants in the stadium.

There are stations where doctors administer antibiotics and vaccinations, and others where sanitary products are made available to women. Still more tents contain showers and toilets. There are even places for people to obtain psychological counseling to deal with the grief, anxiety, and fears that accompanies rootless people who have left all they’ve known.

But in all honestly, there’s little to nothing anyone can do to properly prepare the migrants for what lies ahead. Like the unpredictable weather, there’s no way to accurately forecast how their individual fates will ultimately play out, as thousands of people move en masse toward the United States.

Federal judge blocks Trump administration asylum ban as confusion at the border continues

Already, there have been enough twists and turns, mingled with political deceit and threats, in this sad human drama to fill a Kafkaesque novel.

Indeed, as the first wave of migrants entered Tijuana, Mexico, the final stop before reaching the Mexico-U.S. border, angry protests greeted their arrival, giving rise to concerns about their welfare while they traveled through Mexico. Protesters echoed President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and Tijuana Mayor Manuel Gastelum decried the migrants’ arrival as an “avalanche” that the city couldn’t handle.

Oscar Chacon, co-founder and executive director of Alianza Americas, an umbrella group of immigrant-led and immigrant-supporting organizations based in the U.S., said in an interview that many people in Mexico’s northern towns and states resent migrants from the south out of fear that they will be left marooned on Mexico’s side of the border, where they will be in competition with these border towns’ already extremely poor population with what few jobs are available. For that reason, local leaders often sound remarkably like Trump in their mean-spirited assessment of Central and South American migrants.

“Some of the people who live along the border have come to believe that the migrants aren’t people, but are like vermin,” he said. “But some of those views stem from the fact that U.S. government officials are putting enormous pressure on local leaders to limit the migration. The pressure from this administration is really serious.”

But the migrants still come and their futures are still uncertain.

The migrants’ individual stories speak to a flight from oppression, violence, or deprivation, without a full appreciation for the stateside political debates that surrounding their trek. Similarly, Americans gripped by sensational news reports, know faintly more than Trump’s lies that became a mainstay in our election year media coverage. 

For example, there is no single, gigantic caravan of dangerous people coming to invade across the U.S. border, nor are there Middle-eastern terrorist hiding in their ranks, nor people paid by wealthy activists to endure the hardships of foot travel, as Trump repeatedly claimed in the run-up to midterm elections. 

Rather, the caravan is a series of independent groups, some as small as a couple dozen people or as large as 1,000 people, that have agreed to come make the trip across Mexico as a group. They assemble in their native countries, organized often though social media, and travel in large groups for mutual aid and safety. 

Felix, Anna and Kevin met each other along their separate flight from El Salvador and agreed to look after each other as they traveled toward the U.S. border.

I spoke with three young El Salvadoran migrants (let’s call them Kevin, Felix and Anna), who met each other along the way and agreed to look after one another as they each fled the violent gang activity that pervaded their lives back home.

“I didn’t want to do that,” Felix said through an interpreter. “If I’d stayed they might have killed me.”

In the most recent, and potentially hopeful turn of events, a U.S. federal judge in San Francisco temporarily blocked the Trump administration’s asylum ban for a month. The administration, in a naked attempt to politicize the migrants to scare U.S. voters in the recent midterm elections, announced the anti-immigrant policy, declaring it would prevent any immigrant who crossed the border between ports of entry from applying for asylum.

But U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar ruled that the policy “irreconcilably conflicts with” the Immigration and Nationality Act, a U.S. law which holds that anyone in the United States is eligible to apply for asylum, regardless of whether they entered the country “illegally.”

“Whatever the scope of the President’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” Tigar wrote in his decision.

Asked if they knew that President Trump opposed their coming to the U.S., Anna said she had heard something about it but didn’t really understand why anyone in the U.S. would object to her coming to work and improve her life. “That’s just mean and cruel,” she said in Spanish.

Andrea Villaseñor, project director for the Jesuit Refugee Service Mexico, which works with migrants as they pass through Mexico City, said in an interview with Think Progress that people from Central and South America aren’t thinking politically when as they flee oppression in their home countries.

“They don’t know what awaits them in Mexico, far less that what might happen if they get to the United States,” Villaseñor said. “Their hope is greater than their understanding. But that’s a sign of their desperation.”


Categories: SCCDP Allies

The legal challenge to the acting attorney general’s appointment is a trap

9 hours 12 min ago

On Monday, Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI), filed a lawsuit alleging that Donald Trump’s appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit is fairly likely to prevail — or, at least, a lawsuit of this sort is fairly likely to win five votes on the Supreme Court. It also potentially presents a grave danger to the next Democratic presidency and to the future viability of the entire Executive Branch. Moreover, if the three senators win their case, it is far from clear what they win in the long run.

Even if Whitaker cannot serve as acting attorney general, Trump could still potentially install Whitaker as a recess appointee. And even if that fails, there is no shortage of hard right attorneys Trump could lawfully place in charge of the Justice Department.

In a little over two years, however, America could very well have a Democratic president who needs to fill her new administration over the objections of a Republican Senate. In that fairly likely future, Blumenthal v. Whitaker could potentially give Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) everything he needs to sabotage that Democratic administration right out the gate.

The legal case against Whitaker

Blumenthal and his two colleagues rely on two interconnected arguments — one rooted in the text of the Constitution and another rooted in its structure — to attack Whitaker’s appointment.

The textual argument is strong and stands a good chance of prevailing in the Supreme Court. The Constitution provides that the president

shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States…but the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments.

The Constitution, in other words, distinguishes between “inferior officers” who can be appointed without Senate approval, and what are known as “principal officers,” who must be confirmed by the Senate.

In Edmond v. United States, the Supreme Court explained that an inferior officer is someone whose “work is directed and supervised at some level by others who were appointed by Presidential nomination with the advice and consent of the Senate.” The attorney general, in other words, is a principal officer because the head of the Department of Justice answers directly to the president, rather than to another presidential appointee. And the Constitution requires anyone serving as a principal officer to be confirmed by the Senate.

Ordinarily, this isn’t a big deal. There are other Senate-confirmed attorneys working in the Justice Department, including Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and any one of these officials may constitutionally act as attorney general. Whitaker, however, last served as fired Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions’ chief of staff, and that is not a Senate-confirmed job. So Trump’s decision to place Whitaker in his former boss’ chair appears to violate the Constitution.

The Blumenthal plaintiffs augment this textual argument with a structural one. “Giving the President the ‘sole disposition of offices,'” the plaintiffs’ lawyers write, quoting Alexander Hamilton, “would result in a Cabinet ‘governed much more by his private inclinations and interests’ than by the public good, and could result in the appointment of Officers who had ‘no other merit than that of…possessing the necessary insignificance and pliancy to render them the obsequious instruments of his pleasure.’”

The new acting attorney general wrote an op-ed slamming Robert Mueller

The framers, according to Hamilton, viewed the requirement that principal officers be confirmed as “’an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the President, which ‘would tend greatly to prevent the appointment of unfit characters from State prejudice, from family connection, [and] from personal attachment.’”

The problem with this structural argument, however, is that it is not true that the Constitution establishes a government where the president would never be able to appoint a principal officer without first seeking Senate approval. Under the Constitution “the President shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session.”

So even if the Constitution does not permit Trump to appoint Whitaker in the particular way that this particular appointment happened, it clearly permits a situation where a unconfirmed official serves as a principal officer in a temporary capacity.

Much ado about very little

This recess appointments power may permit Trump to install Whitaker in an entirely lawful way — although it is likely that a coalition of Democrats and relatively moderate Republicans would block that move.

In NLRB v. Noel Canning, the Supreme Court held that the Senate could effectively strip the president of his recess appointments power by holding “pro forma” sessions — fake sessions where a single Senator gavels the Senate into session then immediately closes that session — every three days. The current Senate has held these sessions under Trump, in part thanks to relatively moderate Republicans like Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

When the Democratic House is seated in January, moreover, that will likely shut down Trump’s ability to make recess appointments altogether. The Constitution provides that “neither House, during the session of Congress, shall, without the consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days,” and Noel Canning establishes that a three-day adjournment is not long enough to trigger the president’s recess appointments power.

But even without the recess power, Trump shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a hardline conservative within the Justice Department who is both Senate-confirmed and likely to do Trump’s bidding on the Mueller investigation — Solicitor General Noel Francisco is an obvious candidate.

So, while the Blumenthal litigation may be able to lock Whitaker out of power, it won’t stop Trump from installing an acting attorney general who will run the Department of Justice as a hotbed for conservative ideology — and potentially for Republican partisanship.

Yet, while the best case scenario for Blumenthal and his colleagues is a court order replacing Whitaker with a Senate-confirmed-ideologue-to-be-determined-later, the future implications of the Blumenthal case could be profound.

After Noel Canning, the Senate can effectively shut down the president’s recess appointment’s power. That means that, in the very likely event that there is a Democratic president and a Republican Senate in 2021, that president can forget about making recess appointments.

Blumenthal, however, could prevent the next president from filling cabinet-level jobs with acting appointments as well (there is an 1898 Supreme Court case suggesting that presidents can make acting appointments “for a limited time and under special and temporary conditions,” but that case dealt with an inferior officer). In the world contemplated by Blumenthal, cabinet secretaries likely can only be filled by a Senate-confirmed officer.

Why Senate Democrats Had To Invoke The ‘Nuclear Option’

Which brings us back to Mitch McConnell. McConnell views legislative norms as quaint little antiquities to be tossed out the moment they interfere with his political goals. As Senate Republican Leader, he made unprecedented use of the filibuster, and even tried to shut down entire agencies to spite unions and thwart banking regulation.

Under the world contemplated by the Blumenthal plaintiffs, McConnell could potentially shut down the entire Executive Branch by refusing to confirm anyone to any Senate-confirmed position. In such a world, the next president would have no one (except for maybe holdovers from the Trump administration) to run her cabinet departments. And many of those departments cannot perform essential functions without a leader in place.

Matthew Whitaker is a crank

Just in case there’s any doubt, the three plaintiffs in Blumenthal have good reason to want Whitaker out of the attorney general’s chair. Whitaker’s beliefs are a hodgepodge of discredited ideas offered up by the losers in many of the most important moral inflection points in American history.

Also, Whitaker appears to be such a mediocre lawyer that he doesn’t understand that some of his ideas contradict each other.

This 2014 interview of Trump’s acting attorney general is beyond belief

In 2013, Whitaker claimed that the state of Iowa can “nullify Obamacare.It can’t. Whitaker opposes Marbury v. Madison, the seminal 1803 Supreme Court decision holding that federal courts can strike down unconstitutional federal laws. Yet, in the very same 2014 interview where Whitaker criticized Marbury, he also attacked the Supreme Court for not declaring the New Deal unconstitutional.

It should be obvious that one cannot simultaneously believe that courts lack the power to declare laws unconstitutional, and also that the Supreme Court should have declared certain laws unconstitutional. Yet Whitaker claims to hold both of these beliefs, somehow.

Whitaker also sat on the board of a company that was shut down by the Federal Trade Commission due to allegations that it scammed customers. When one former customer threatened to file a complaint against this company, Whitaker responded with a threat of his own, claiming that such a complaint “could result in ‘serious civil and criminal consequences.'”

Indeed, Whitaker’s primary qualification for to lead the Justice Department appears to be that he’s criticized Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential criminal activity by Trump’s campaign.

Blumenthal may prevent Whitaker from acting as attorney general. But the most likely short-term effect of Blumenthal will be to replace this fairly incompetent crank with a much smarter and more capable ideologue. And the longer-term effect could very well be a choke hold on the next Democratic president.


Categories: SCCDP Allies

Kansas commissioner resigns following ‘master race’ comment

9 hours 17 min ago

A week after claiming to be part of a “master race,” a county commissioner in Kansas has announced his resignation.

Louis Klemp tendered his resignation on Tuesday morning, shortly after telling Triveece Penelton, a black woman, that he wasn’t “picking on [her] because we’re part of the master race. You have a gap in your teeth. We are part of the master race, don’t you forget that.” The comment came during a county commissioners meeting near Kansas City, in a discussion about a new development project.

“It is with great sorrow that I am submitting this letter to the community that I love and have been a part of for more than 80 years,” Klemp wrote. “In order to maintain a focus and prioritize the needs of the county I have made a decision to resign.”

However, Klemp has continued to claim that his comments weren’t racist or “racially motivated,” but were instead something said in jest. “My attempts at identifying a similarity (space between our teeth) with a presenter were well-meaning but misinterpreted by some and definitely not racially motivated,” he wrote. 

Klemp’s resignation came amidst rolling criticism about his comments, including from Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer (R). “Racial and discriminative language have no place in our society, and most especially when spoken by someone holding a public office,” Colyer said in a statement. “The inappropriate remarks made by Leavenworth County Commissioner Louis Klemp are unacceptable and do not reflect the values of the county which he represents. As such, I call on him to step down as County Commissioner.”

As it is, Klemp’s “master race” comment — echoing decades of claims that whites are superior to others — follows a series of other questionable comments he’s made since last year. For instance, Klemp described Confederate general and well-known traitor Robert E. Lee as a “wonderful part of history.”

He also questioned why Martin Luther King, Jr., has a federal holiday, but why George Washington is relegated to sharing Presidents’ Day. “It bothers me that if we’re going to have Martin Luther King Day, why don’t we have a George Washington [Day]?” Klemp said. “I think George was a pretty important guy.”


Categories: SCCDP Allies

Camp Fire devastation worse than California’s 10 other most destructive wildfires combined

9 hours 21 min ago

California’s devastating Camp Fire is the state’s deadliest wildfire ever, and now it has surpassed another record: destroying more buildings than any other wildfire the state has suffered.

In fact, the Camp Fire has destroyed almost as many structures as the subsequent 10 worst fires in the state’s history combined.

According to data from the state’s forest and fire protection agency, CalFire, and compiled by meteorologist Steve Bowen of Aon, the total number of structures destroyed by the previous 10 worst fires is 20,483. The Camp Fire, meanwhile, is responsible for wiping out 15,850 structures — nearly three times more than the second most destructive fire, last year’s Tubbs Fire.

#CampFire has now destroyed 15,840 structures (including 11,990 homes). To put into perspective, the rest of the Top 10 most destructive California wildfires totals 20,483.

Ten of the Top 20 most destructive CA fires have occurred since 2010. #WoolseyFire is now #8, FYI. pic.twitter.com/QUu3MrTGwQ

— Steve Bowen (@SteveBowenWx) November 19, 2018

And as the chart of the most destructive fires shows, half of them have occurred since 2010.

As scientists have explained, climate change is making wildfires more intense. Fueled by hot temperatures, dry conditions, and strong seasonal winds — all things that are increasingly impacted by climate change — the Camp Fire exploded on November 8. Still raging, the fire is only expected to be fully contained by the end of the month.

It has now claimed the lives of at least 79 people, and just under a 1,000 people are still unaccounted for.

‘Unprecedented’: 3 late-season wildfires are raging in California

Together with another ongoing wildfire in Southern California, the Woolsey Fire, at least 150,000 people have been displaced. Thousands have sought refuge with families, in hotels, evacuation centers, and even makeshift tent cities, including in one Walmart parking lot.

Local officials have warned that the devastating Camp Fire could cause a wave of refugee migration similar to what was seen in the 1930s Dust Bowl era.

The town of Paradise in Butte County was effectively wiped out due to the Camp Fire; more than 52,000 people were forced to evacuate. And for those who may be lucky enough to not have had their home burned to the ground, it’s unclear when they’ll be able to return.

Ed Mayer, the executive director of Butte County’s housing agency, was asked if the area was facing a humanitarian crisis, the Sacramento Bee reported. “Big picture, we have 6,000, possibly 7,000 households who have been displaced and who realistically don’t stand a chance of finding housing again in Butte County,” he responded. “I don’t even know if these households can be absorbed in California.”

Meanwhile, for those forced to set up camp, or who are in other temporary shelters and evacuation centers, health risks abound.

Norovirus, for instance, has broken out in at least three evacuation facilities. Officials have had to contain some people in isolation tents in an effort to stop it spreading.

In addition, sleeping outside means people are breathing hazardous air every single day. Air quality in San Francisco, for example, is so bad that at times it’s been the equivalent of smoking 10 cigarettes a day.

Some relief from the fire and smoke is expected to come with the rain forecast for this week. But as the rainstorm looms, fears are now turning to those left homeless, who will undoubtedly be drenched. In response, officials are working to help people in refuge camps find alternate shelter to escape the elements.


Categories: SCCDP Allies

Here’s the ‘great climate’ Trump is steering us toward, according to scientists

9 hours 55 min ago

A new study finds that we are headed towards a near future that will look like something out of a Hollywood disaster movie.

In the coming decades, the world face wildfires, superstorms, heat waves, floods, droughts, and city-destroying sea level rise occurring all at once. Some major coastal areas would be subjected to as many as six simultaneous climate catastrophes the study warns.

As the 23 authors of the new Nature study — entitled “Broad threat to humanity from cumulative climate hazards intensified by greenhouse gas emissions” — explain, such a future is inevitable on our current path of the unrestricted carbon pollution.

But, if we act aggressively to keep total global warming below 2°C (3.6°F), then the number of areas facing simultaneous disasters will be sharply lower.

Tragically, United States has a climate science denier for President who is doing everything in his power to undermine domestic and global climate action — and who thinks “raking” is the answer to the devastating wildfires California suffers every year. Fires that are becoming worse due to climate change.

When President Donald Trump was asked on Sunday if seeing all the devastation from the wildfires changed his opinion on climate change, he said, “No, no…. I want great climate. We’re going to have that.”

In reality, Trump is doing the opposite. He is working toward destroying our climate, as this new study’s release this week made clear — it was based on a review of over 3,000 scientific peer-reviewed scientific papers.

The authors warn that on our current emissions path, New York could be facing four major climate hazards a year by century’s end — at the same time Los Angeles and Sydney would be facing three a year, Mexico City four, and the east coast of Brazil five.

In such a nightmare scenario, the richer nations of the world probably won’t be offering much help to the poorer ones, since they will be busy dealing with their own disasters.

We are already seeing glimmers of this grim future. “The collision of cumulative climate hazards is not something on the horizon, it is already here,” explained lead author Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii. “California is currently experiencing ferocious wildfires and one of the longest droughts, plus extreme heatwaves this past summer.”

In 2017, we saw the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, followed by that of Irma, followed by that of Maria. “It’s just one after another,” Trump said last September.

Shocking chart shows how badly Trump botched the effort to restore Puerto Rico’s power

Even three hurricanes proved too much for Trump, as his administration completely botched the effort to restore Puerto Rico’s power after Maria.

These were then swiftly followed this year by Hurricane Florence, which turned parts of North Carolina into islands due to the flooding, and Hurricane Michael, with winds at landfall like a giant tornado.

What kind of legacy will we be leaving the nation and the world, where every year has the colliding climate catastrophes of 2017 and 2018 combined — and not just in this country but in many, many others?


Categories: SCCDP Allies

New York City transit system is on life support

10 hours 48 min ago

New York City’s beleaguered transit system may be about to get a lot worse.

Last week, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) warned that it would be forced to drastically cut service to deal with a looming budget crisis — with a significant fare increase also on the cards. Commuters, sick of endless delays and overcrowding have turned elsewhere, apparently resulting in fewer of them using public transit, decreasing MTA’s revenue and affecting service even more.

According to MTA officials, expected revenue for the next five years has dropped by nearly half a billion dollars since July.

On Tuesday, Benjamin Kabak, a transit expert who runs the website Second Avenue Sagas, told the Guardian the move was akin to a “death spiral.”

“The subway service and the bus service has become unreliable enough for people to stop using it,” Kabak said. “If people aren’t using it, there’s less money, and they have to keep raising fares without delivering better service.”

It has been estimated that a total renovation of New York’s decrepit subway system could cost upwards of $100 billion and potentially result in a rash of changes, including shutting trains down between midnight and 5 a.m.

The need for renovation was further highlighted after Amazon announced part of its new headquarters would be located in Queens, which would bring an estimated influx of 25,000 new workers, further straining the subway system.

Officials, however, insist the city can cope. “This is obviously part of the reason — a large reason I would suggest — why Amazon was attracted to Long Island City,” Andy Byford, head of the New York City subway told reporters earlier in November. “It already has a rich transport-transit offer.”

In order to lure Amazon to New York City, the state and local governments are offering the company nearly $3 billion in grants, tax breaks and tax credits. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) insist that the city will recoup the money.

A couple Amazon employees bought condos in Long Island City *before* the company disclosed that would be its new HQ, and lawyers say that’s legal. https://t.co/tgetCIB1af pic.twitter.com/278Mbv1tSh

— Deepa Seetharaman (@dseetharaman) November 20, 2018

“The extreme conservatives and the socialists both now vehemently oppose ‘incentives’ for Amazon, which is one of the most profitable companies in the country,” Cuomo wrote in an op-ed Monday. “We give Amazon nothing and their revenues give us approximately $900 million annually.”

Cuomo’s “extreme conservatives and the socialists” claim is misleading. Both sides of the political spectrum have questioned why New York invested billions of dollars to lure in Amazon, but have done nothing for the more immediately pressing problem of the aging subway system. The New York Post has also noted that property taxes collected from Amazon for the city’s “Infrastructure Fund” won’t be retrieved until 11 years into the 15-year lease, further angering city residents.

Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has been a vehement critic of the deal. “Amazon is a billion-dollar company,” she tweeted earlier in November. “The idea that it will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks at a time when our subway is crumbling and our communities need MORE investment, not less, is extremely concerning to residents here.”

In a bizarre moment last Tuesday, Fox New’s Tucker Carlson actually voiced approval of Cortez’s stance. “Hate to admit it, but Ocasio-Cortez has a very good point here,” Carlson said. “That’s the only time I’ve ever agreed with Ocasio-Cortez.”


Categories: SCCDP Allies

Massachusetts finally sees first legal pot sales, two years after voter referendum

11 hours 45 min ago

It took two years, but Massachusetts marijuana dispensaries finally opened for business on Tuesday.

Well, two of them anyway. The state’s languid, twisting journey from voter approval in 2016 to a ceremonial first over-the-counter sale in Northampton on Tuesday morning has been an object lesson in foot-dragging from skeptics and maladroit problem-solving from regulators.

The first legally-sold package of pot went to the ironically named David Narkewicz, Northampton’s mayor of six years. Narkewicz said he plans to display the cannabis in his office rather than smoke it. The two shops in Northampton and Leicester are the first legal recreational U.S. dispensaries east of the Mississippi River.

Voters overwhelmingly approved the creation of a regulated marketplace for recreational pot in the Bay State in 2016. But the ballot initiative’s mandate that legislators hammer out the final details of the new legal regime for growing, sharing, and selling marijuana there spawned lengthy delays.

While tussles over the details of a legalization regime are to be expected, some lawmakers were eager to derail the voter-backed change entirely, and the process snagged repeatedly as a result.

Critics invited discredited pot legalization skeptics to give old-timey reefer madness presentations to the legislature. The regulatory body lawmakers eventually created as a vehicle to which they punt unresolved disputes stalled matters further. The doubters never got fully on board with their constituents, with Gov. Charlie Baker (D) bemoaning his duties at the signing event for compromise legislation more than a year ago.

I worry terribly about what the consequences over time will be,” Baker said at the July 2017 signing.

One consequence over time will be an injection of hundreds of millions of new tax dollars from the industry — though the combined force of the regulatory body’s stodginess and local communities’ interactions with potential retail license holders will throttle the green boom for some time to come.

Cannabis taxes are projected to total $62 million for the fiscal year just begun, and leap north of $150 million for the 2020 fiscal year. The state will probably miss those early figures — other legalization states have seen similar initial hiccups on revenue, before their markets kicked on and process wrinkles got smoothed — but it could be just as likely to overshoot them as underachieve. The state’s projections from this summer were based on the belief that only about 10 percent of Massachusetts adults use pot, but the state business journal reported at the time that one survey indicated use rates might be more like 20 percent.

For now, though, Massachusetts seems more likely to replicate Washington’s experience. Few dispensaries and huge initial demand is a recipe for empty shelves and insufficient supply.

A boom delayed is not a boom denied, however. Other legalization states have seen their sales come a good two and three years after initial store openings, as regulators and law enforcement grow in confidence that they’re adequately tracking the product and preventing it from slipping into underage hands or across state lines.

Whenever the Massachusetts market begins to sniff toward its multi-billion-dollar annual sales potential, however, the spoils of that green rush will fall into a small number of very wealthy hands. Although the rosiest projections forecast some 20,000 new jobs connected to the industry in Massachusetts, the structure of the legal cannabis industry has already realigned on terms set by the investor class’s capital rather than the blue-collar utopianism that long attended legalization campaigns across the country.

Financiers have thoroughly and rapidly captured the nascent pot industry nationwide. Strict licensing regimes have made it extremely expensive to even seek a license, let alone launch a grow, extraction, or retail business in a legalization state. Would-be license-holders almost inevitably seek out start-up capital from well-heeled investor groups, trading huge shares of their long-term profitability for the opportunity to get in the game early. Massachusetts is home to one of the clearest demonstrations of the finance community’s extractive business model toward cannabis, the hundred-acre grow campus being built on former Sam Adams brewery land in the middle of the state. The venture capitalists behind that project model their business on the shopping mall industry, leasing cultivation, lab testing, and extraction facility space to state license holders without ever touching the product themselves.

Largest legal pot farm may mark end of cannabis industry’s “Wild West” phase

Legalization advocates have traditionally emphasized an individualist utopian micro-agrarianism in their pitch for ending pot prohibition. The massive pent-up demand for the drug and its various extracts could theoretically create an equal-opportunity marketplace full of mom-and-pop outfits that could launch families onto upwardly mobile generational wealth-building trajectories of the sort capitalism has always used to justify itself to the poor. Capitalist potential has always been presented alongside the more pragmatic and emotionally potent arguments about legalization’s potential to reduce mass incarceration and racist criminal justice outcomes.

But this fantastical world of home grows, bootstrapping entrepreneurs, and drug war victims recast as upwardly mobile small businessmen has already mostly evaporated. Capital rules the crop. People victimized by prejudicial tough-on-crime pot laws in the past are mostly prohibited from working in the industry, even just to push a broom for an hourly wage in a shop that’s netting tens of millions of dollars in profit for its distant investor-owners. The brave new world of share-alike kush commerce and smallholdings farm-family rejuvenation is stillborn, rudely replaced by what leading pot-capitalism tout Jay Czarkowski describes as just like “any other industry.”


Categories: SCCDP Allies

Majority of Republicans don’t think Mueller needs congressional protection

11 hours 51 min ago

Some 52 percent of Americans want Congress to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his ongoing Russia investigation, according to a new CBS poll released Tuesday. But among Republican respondents, that number is significantly lower.

Only 23 percent of Republicans polled said they thought Congress should act to protect Mueller, who is investigating collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, as well as possible obstruction by the president and his associates. By contrast, 75 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of Independents said the same.

The poll also asked if Trump should allow the investigation to continue. Seventy-two percent said yes, including 81 percent of Democrats, 76 percent of Independents, and a surprising 57 percent of Republicans.

The CBS poll, which also found Trump had a 39 percent approval rating, had a nationwide sample of 1,103 adults.

Those responses suggest that while Republicans believe Mueller should be allowed to continue his investigation, there is no threat to his work, despite Trump’s repeated comments about the probe being a partisan “witch-hunt.” Those who see no need to protect Mueller, however, may be relying on misplaced confidence.

Trump frequently refers to Mueller’s investigation as a sham, suggesting those working for the special counsel’s office are motivated by their hatred of him. Recently those threats have taken the form of more concrete administrative actions.

The day after the midterm elections, in which millions more people voted for a Democrat to represent them in Congress than a Republican, Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions following a year and a half of public castigation over Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Trump replaced him with Sessions’ former chief of staff Matthew Whitaker, who has called Mueller’s probe “a fishing expedition” and suggested ways in which the administration could undermine the investigation or shut it down completely.

Whitaker, as “acting” attorney general, now controls who is on Mueller’s team and whether he can make indictments.

Some in the GOP are less confident about Trump’s ambitions. In April, the Senate introduced the bipartisan Special Counsel Independence & Integrity Act, which would give Mueller 10 days to appeal any effort by Trump to dismiss the special counsel to a three-judge panel. It would also preserve all investigation documents during that period.

The bill combines Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC)’s bill and a bipartisan bill authored by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

Earlier this year, we passed S.2644, the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill would safeguard Robert Mueller’s investigation. Leader McConnell should bring the bill to the Senate floor as soon as possible

— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) November 7, 2018

Last week, outgoing Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) tried to bring the bill to the floor of the Senate for a vote but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blocked it, once again arguing that such legislation was unnecessary.

“There’s been no indication,” McConnell told reporters, “that Mueller investigation will not be allowed to finish and it should be allowed to finish. We know how the president feels about the Mueller investigation but he’s never said he wants to shut it down.”

McConnell says he won’t protect Mueller probe from Trump

In September, House Democrats tried to force a vote on similar legislation that would protect Mueller, but House Republicans, who still have a majority until the start of the next Congress in January, blocked it.

That same month, a CNN poll found that 50 percent of respondents approved of the way Mueller was conducting his investigation, which has yielded dozens of indictments and several guilty pleas from Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and members of his 2016 campaign.

The poll found that only 30 percent approved of Trump’s handling of the Russia investigation. Other polls have found similar margins of approval regarding how Mueller and Trump are handling the investigation.


Categories: SCCDP Allies

Man shoots and kills ex-fiancee, police officer, and pharmacy technician at hospital

11 hours 55 min ago

A man went on a shooting rampage at Mercy Hospital & Medical Center in Chicago on Monday afternoon — killing his ex-fiancee, as well as a police officer and a nearby pharmacy technician.

The gunman, Juan Lopez, and a woman who recently broke off an engagement with him, Dr. Tamara O’Neal, an emergency room doctor, argued in the parking lot, according to authorities. After a friend tried to intervene, Lopez “lifted up his shirt and displayed a handgun,” said Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson. The friend ran back into the hospital to get help, and the gunfire began shortly thereafter.

O’Neal was the first person he shot before he opened fire on a pharmacy technician, Dayna Less, and a police officer, Samuel Jimenez, who showed up on the scene even though the hospital was outside of his district. The gunman is also dead, but Chicago police did not immediately know how he died, according to Cox Media Group.

O’Neal ended her engagement with the suspect in September, Chicago police said.

Her colleague, Dr. John Purakal, tweeted, “I knew her, trained with her, saved lives with her and tonight, tried to save her life. Tonight, I broke down in front of my coworkers when we lost her, and tonight I held hands with her mother in prayer. Tonight, we lost a beautiful, resilient, passionate doc. Keep singing, TO.”

Another colleague, LaToya Woods-Coleman, told Tia Ewing, reporter at Fox32 News, “She was personable and was always willing to go that ‘extra’ mile for our patients.”

O’Neal was also an after school tutor and mentor to students in sixth through 12th grade.

A sizable share of mass shootings stem from some kind of intimate partner violence. A majority of mass shootings as defined by Everytown for Gun Safety — which is an incident where four or more people, not including the shooter, are killed with a gun — target the shooter’s current or former partner or a family member. When looking at incidents involving only four victims, the overwhelming majority are incidents with evidence of domestic violence. Most of these mass shootings happen in the home, but they also happen at work of school.

Research has shown that victims of intimate partner violence are five times more likely to be killed if their partner has access to a gun.

A 2012 paper on workplace homicides found that between 2003 and 2008, 648 women were killed on the job and that 33 percent of these murders were committed by someone of a personal relation, the majority of those relations being intimate partners. Over half of the workplace homicides committed by intimate partners happened in parking lots and public buildings. Although workplace injury fatalities and homicides in particular have fallen since the 1990s, workplace homicides among women were up 13 percent in 2010. Researchers called intimate partner violence “an important public health issue with serious consequences for the workplace.”

The death of O’Neal, a Black woman, is also part of a disturbing prevalence of intimate partner violence against Black women in the United States. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, more than four in ten Black women have suffered physical violence from an intimate partner, with lower rates for white women, Latinx women, and Asian/Pacific Islander women. Black women also have higher rates of experiencing psychological abuse, such as coercive control, and a particularly high risk of being killed by a man. Nine in 10 Black female murder victims knew the person who killed them.

Violence against and hatred of women is a common connection among mass shooters, even those who did not know their victims. Over and over again, reports on the identities and histories of mass shooters show that many of them have committed domestic violence, emotional abuse, and sexual harassment and violence, and have a hatred of women.


Categories: SCCDP Allies

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke blames ‘radical environmentalists’ for California wildfires

11 hours 56 min ago

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is standing by President Donald Trump’s claims that forest mismanagement is the source of California’s ongoing devastating wildfires, which have killed 82 people throughout the state as of Tuesday.

Zinke claimed that “radical environmentalists” have exacerbated forest issues in the state, allowing for the fires to take hold.

In an interview with the right-wing outlet Breitbart News Sunday, the Interior secretary recounted what he saw during a recent trip to northern California to survey wildfire damage.

“The pictures don’t do it justice. And I’ve fought in Iraq, I’ve fought in a number of places, this is the worst I’ve seen,” Zinke said, describing the scene as “like a flamethrower of embers” raining on unprepared residents.

But the interview quickly took a turn. Asked to speak to inspirational stories emerging from the tragedy, Zinke instead pivoted to what he believes to be the source of the fires: poor forest management.

“It’s not time for finger-pointing, we know the problem, it’s been years of neglect, and in many cases it’s been these radical environmentalists that want nature to take its course. We have dead and dying timber,” the official declared.

California wildfire now among the deadliest recent U.S. disasters

Those comments echo earlier remarks made by President Donald Trump. While visiting California on Saturday, Trump blamed the wildfires on poor forest management and argued that the state should mirror efforts by northern European countries.

“I was with the president of Finland… And they spent a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things, and they don’t have any problem,” Trump said at the time.

The president’s comments surprised his Finnish counterpart, Sauli Niinisto, who told the Ilta-Sanomat newspaper in Finland that he was confused by Trump’s interpretation of their conversation. But placing blame on forest mismanagement has emerged as a key talking point for the administration.

During his Sunday radio comments, Zinke did acknowledge “rising temperatures” and that “the fire season is longer” — two realities climate scientists say is directly linked to global warming.

Fueled by hot, dry, windy conditions that are becoming more common as climate change intensifies, the Camp Fire exploded last week.

But instead of drawing that connection, the secretary emphasized, once again, the state’s forests. “We need to actively manage our forests… we need to go back to prescribed burns late in the season,” Zinke argued, referencing Finland along with Germany.

The internet mocks Trump for saying ‘raking’ forest floors would prevent California wildfires

He also defended a tweet from Trump threatening to cut off funding to California over the state’s forest policies, calling him “exactly right” on the issue and arguing, again, that forest mismanagement is the underlying cause of California’s wildfires.

Amid a devastating and record-breaking fire season, the state has already exhausted its $442.8 million state fire agency budget, which it drained in August earlier this year.

Zinke’s comments come as the deadliest wildfire in California’s history continues to rage. The Camp Fire in the northern end of the state has killed 79 people, with 699 still missing as of Tuesday. Further south, the Woolsey Fire has killed three people, with the fire around 94 percent contained.

The Camp Fire, which is around 70 percent contained, has completely destroyed a few areas, including the town of Paradise, which was burned to the ground. Smoke from the fire has caused air quality to deteriorate so badly that schools have shuttered in the Bay Area, home to San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland.

Dangerous particulate matter that is less than 2.5 micrometers in size, or PM2.5, is so heavily concentrated in the area that human health is at risk. At present, air quality in San Francisco is currently so bad that a day in the city is the equivalent of smoking 10 cigarettes.

Schools close in California as air quality worsens and deadly wildfires continue to burn

Wildfires are a natural occurrence in the western United States, but overdevelopment in sensitive areas coupled with rising global temperatures has extended and exacerbated fire season. California officials have largely indicated they believe climate change is playing a major role in the fires, but both Trump and Zinke have downplayed that connection.

“I will lay this on the foot of those environmental radicals that have prevented us from managing the forests for years and you know what — this is on them,” Zinke said on Sunday, a claim he repeated a third time later in the interview.

In addition to questions about the wildfires, Zinke was also queried about his precarious position within the administration. The official is currently the subject of numerous ethics investigations and speculation has abounded that he could be set to depart his position.

Zinke addressed the vulnerability on Sunday to Breitbart. Calling rumors of his exit “laughable,” the official blasted allegations of wrongdoing as “outrageous” and said political opponents of the Trump administration have targeted his family.

“This is how angry the resistance movement is,” he said, before referencing his history in the Navy.

“I enjoy the fight,” he said. “I don’t mind getting shot at.”


Categories: SCCDP Allies

‘They don’t value the insurance’: Arkansas official on why thousands lost health care coverage

12 hours 7 min ago

As of November 1st, Arkansas booted more than 12,000 people off Medicaid for failing to report work hours online for three months — but don’t blame the policy, blame the people said one official.

Of the 69,000 Arkansas residents subjected to Medicaid work requirements, less than one percent (557) reported 80-hours of work or community engagement activities per month, as required by the new Arkansas policy implemented in June. Residents, who qualify for Medicaid because they earn up to 138 percent of the poverty level, are only able to report online and the website shuts down every day at 9 p.m.

While there’s plenty of expert analyses showing the process is too complicated and that barriers to internet access exist, the director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services Cindy Gillespie offered the PBS NewsHour an optimistic take, asserting that the confusion will ultimately resolve with time. Nevertheless, she insisted that some of the Arkansans affected are currently uninsured now because they don’t value insurance.

Reporter Catherine Rampell: How would you explain the fact that something like 80 or 90 percent of people who are required to report work hours are not reporting work hours? They’re too unmotivated?

Gillespie: Some are. Some are just not — they don’t value the insurance. They’re not using it. They don’t value it — would be part of it, I do hear from some people. For others, it might also be the case that they don’t know that they’re insured and don’t care to be insured if they received a notice.

Rampell: I would find it very surprising that people don’t want to be insured if it’s not costing them anything.

Gillespie: But it starts to cost them something if they then have to begin to engage in activities, report income that they don’t want to report, etc.

But a closer look at the state’s own data shows most people are likely unaware of the new policy: About 54,000 recipients are exempt without having to do anything; more than 960 are already meeting the requirement because food assistance requires them to; and more than 12,000 failed to report and are now without health coverage.

A simple Google search turns up multiple expert analyses on why people failed to meet the work requirement. A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis based on interviews with key stakeholders in August and September found that the state’s outreach campaign was a failure, as many people didn’t answer calls or return messages. Lack of computer literacy and internet access also created problems for ongoing reporting; Arkansas has one of the lowest levels of internet access country-wide. Health Affairs interviewed more than a dozen Medicaid beneficiaries, none of whom devalued insurance as Gillespie claimed. In fact, some had chronic diseases such as drug addiction, and thus dependent on Medicaid for their own survival.

In one particularly harrowing account, Little Rock resident Nannette Ruelle described to the Arkansas Times’ Benjamin Hardy how she lost her insurance in August and has had to ration medications for the past two-and-a-half months. Ruelle, who works about 25 to 35 hours a week at a local restaurant, carefully parcelling out a medication to treat “chronic neuropathic pain in her feet and ankles” so she can continue working, told Hardy that she failed to report her hours because the system was too difficult to navigate.

“What happened was that I got my information and I tried to fax it to them. The fax wouldn’t go through, so I tried calling them, and I never got an answer on the phone. I went up there and they were out of the office,” she told the Arkansas Times. “I just quit trying, because you can only try so many times before it’s like, ‘OK, you’re closing the door in my face.’ ”

State data shows more than 6,000 failed to meet the work rule for two consecutive months already. If they fail to report again in November, thousands can lose Medicaid benefits December 1st.


Categories: SCCDP Allies

Supreme Court asked to mandate segregation for transgender students

12 hours 41 min ago

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an anti-LGBTQ hate group, has yet another case it wants the Supreme Court to consider. This time, they’re hoping the justices will mandate that schools must segregate transgender students to single-use restrooms for the sake of other students’ “comfort.”

In its petition to the Court, ADF asks it to overturn a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit that upheld a trans-inclusive policy at Boyertown Area Senior High School in southeastern Pennsylvania. The Third Circuit recognized that it is important to transgender students’ well-being to be recognized according to their gender identity and that excluding them from facilities is detrimental to both their physical and mental health. While the students ADF represents may have been uncomfortable, they are not suffering comparable discrimination or violations of privacy simply for being expected to share facilities with their transgender classmates.

ADF’s newest petition attempts to downplay the legitimacy of transgender identities while softening the severity of their ask — without actually changing it. In fact, they frame their request for segregating trans students as an accommodation, rather than a form of discrimination:

Boyertown never tried a comprehensive policy of making single-user facilities available to and providing support for students experiencing gender dysphoria. This would appear to be a logical first step to at least try before granting opposite-sex students access to locker rooms and restrooms where teenage students are undressing.

This sneaky “logical first step” argument ignores the fact that schools across the country have attempted this form of segregation and the consequences for transgender students are well documented. ADF has represented the losing party in several of the other court challenges that resulted when these discriminatory policies were challenged.

Because the students ADF represents suffer “embarrassment and distress,” they attempt to paint a false parallel with what transgender students experience. “The court rejected the suggestion that the dignity of students who identify as transgender could be respected by giving them access to single-user facilities,” they write, pretending that those students don’t already have such access. Noting that the Third Circuit found segregating trans students to be a form of discrimination, ADF quips, “Apparently, forcing Petitioners to use single-user facilities is not.”

While ADF calls for a policy that would force transgender students to only use single-user facilities, Boyertown’s policy doesn’t force any student out of any facility. ADF’s clients simply opt not to share facilities with their transgender classmates. Despite ADF’s claims, they are not being forced to do anything.

Throughout the petition, ADF frames transgender students as merely having “beliefs about their gender,” repeatedly misgendering and misidentifying them. Despite the ample research and evidence the Third Circuit relied upon, ADF frames the appellate court as having merely “speculated” that forcing trans students to use facilities that don’t match their gender identity “may exacerbate mental-health issues.”

ADF also refers to several debunked myths about transgender people. For example, they falsely argue that it’s not necessary to affirm trans students because an overwhelming majority of them will grow up to not be transgender. This “desistance myth,” based on older studies that broadly categorized gender nonconforming kids as “transgender,” has been widely disputed by many scholars and therapists. Ample new research demonstrates that young people’s mental health greatly benefits from being affirmed according to their gender identity. Nevertheless, ADF implies that this will lead to some kind of bathroom fraud, such that “a student may be in opposite-sex facilities under a presumption of being transgender, only to be properly diagnosed later as non-dysphoric.”

Chosen names are vital to transgender youth, per study

At another point, ADF subtly argues that the inclusive policy could be detrimental to transgender students because of “possible social pressures.” In a footnote, they reference a recent junk science study attempting to legitimize a completely fabricated diagnosis called “rapid onset gender dysphoria.” The study only interviewed members of the very anti-trans parent groups that invented the diagnosis — which isn’t recognized by any credible medical organization. It purports that young people are being motivated to become transgender through some kind of “social contagion” and that their identities are not legitimate.

In another footnote, ADF blatantly argues that gender dysphoria should be treated by working with transgender people to reject their gender identities — complete with a comparison to anorexia. “Petitioners do not claim to not know the best treatment for gender dysphoria,” the petition feigns, before improperly citing a Swedish study ADF believes proves that transitioning is not healthy. The author of that study, Cecilia Dhejne, has repeatedly rebuked attempts to distort her findings in this way, as research — including Dhejne’s — widely shows that affirming transition is the best way to support transgender people’s well-being.

The Supreme Court is now being asked to consider five different cases related to LGBTQ rights this session. One case involves an Oregon bakery seeking to discriminate against same-sex couples, two cases address whether it’s legal to fire someone for their sexual orientation, and in another case, ADF is also representing a funeral home fighting for the right to fire people for being transgender. The Court has not yet announced whether it will take up any of them.


Categories: SCCDP Allies

Criminal indictment in Alabama proves enough to end EPA career of Trump appointee

13 hours 1 min ago

A regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), hired by scandal-plagued former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, has resigned after getting indicted earlier this month on violations of Alabama ethics laws.

The state ethics charges against Trey Glenn relate to his alleged efforts — prior to becoming head of the EPA’s Region 4 office — to stop a polluted neighborhood in North Birmingham, Alabama, from being listed on the EPA’s priorities list for contaminated sites.

By getting added to the priorities list, the site could have increased clean-up costs for Drummond Company, a politically influential Alabama-based coal company, which had been cited as partly responsible for the contamination.

After the EPA began investigating the neighborhood for potential listing on the national priorities list in 2013, Drummond — through its law firm Balch & Bingham — hired a company run by Glenn and business colleague Scott Phillips as consultants to assist in efforts to defeat the proposed listing of the Superfund site.

The Region 4 office oversees the EPA’s operations in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Alabama grand jury indicts Trump’s regional EPA administrator on ethics charges

On November 9, a Jefferson County, Alabama, grand jury indicted both Glenn and Phillips, a former Alabama Environmental Management Commission member, on the ethics charges.

The indictments center around previous work the two performed as consultants to stop the 35th Avenue site from being listed on the EPA’s Superfund National Priorities List (NPL), according to AL.com. Glenn previously served as the director of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.

Starting in 2013, the EPA was investigating the neighborhood for potential listing on the NPL to receive priority funding for Superfund cleanup of contaminated soil in poor residential neighborhoods largely populated by African Americans surrounded by numerous heavy industrial operations.

EPA Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson reportedly told agency employees in an internal email on Monday that Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler accepted Trey Glenn’s resignation on Sunday.

Glenn was booked at the Jefferson County Jail last Thursday in Birmingham and later released on a $30,000 bond.

Trey Glenn, administrator of the EPA's Region, 4 was booked at the Jefferson County Jail on November 15, 2018 in Birmingham, Alabama and later released on a $30,000 bond. SOURCE: Jefferson County Sheriff

Glenn submitted his letter of resignation dated Nov. 18 to Wheeler. According to AL.com, Glenn referred to the ethics charges as “unfounded charges levied against me that I must and will fight.”

“Stepping down now, I hope removes any distraction from you and all the great people who work at EPA as you carry out the Agency’s mission,” Glenn wrote to Wheeler in the resignation letter, which was provided to AL.com.

As part of the bribery scandal, Drummond Vice President David Roberson and Balch & Bingham attorney Joel Gilbert were previously convicted of bribery, money laundering, and other charges in relation to efforts to oppose the listing, which included paying a state lawmaker — former Alabama state Rep. Oliver Robinson (D) — to encourage people not to get their soil tested to see if it contained high levels of contaminants.

Upon Glenn’s resignation, the EPA named Mary Walker, the deputy chief for agency’s Region 4, as acting regional administrator. Walker has been second in command for EPA’s Southeast office since June. Prior to that, she was director of the region’s water protection division, E&E News reported Monday.

Walker has Wheeler’s “full confidence,” Jackson said in his email to EPA employees.


Categories: SCCDP Allies

Federal judge blocks Trump administration asylum ban as confusion at the border continues

13 hours 5 min ago

The latest legal defeat of the Trump administration’s immigration policies came late Monday night, when a federal judge in San Francisco temporarily blocked the administration’s asylum ban for a month. The policy, announced the week of the midterm elections, sought to prevent any immigrant who crossed the border between ports of entry from applying for asylum.

U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar ruled that the policy “irreconcilably conflicts with” the Immigration and Nationality Act, a U.S. law which dictates that anyone in the United States is eligible to apply asylum, regardless of whether they entered the country “illegally.”

Tigar also indicated that the policy goes against the “expressed intent” of Congress when the Immigration and Nationality Act was passed.

“Whatever the scope of the President’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” Tigar wrote in his decision.

Federal courts have previously struck down other draconian Trump administration immigration policies, including his infamous travel ban on individuals from majority-Muslim countries. This latest ruling further underscores how extreme and unprecedented the immigration policies put forth by the White House are.

Don’t let Trump’s sweeping immigration changes this week go under the radar

The asylum ban was proposed in response to a Central American migrant caravan making its way to the U.S. southern border. Many in the caravan fled dangerous and unlivable situations in their countries of origin, and a large number of them planned to apply for asylum once they reached the United States. Even though large portions of the caravan are scheduled to arrive at legal ports of entry, the administration still sought to punish them.

Roughly 5,800 U.S. troops were also deployed to the southern border in response to the migrant caravan — despite the fact that the group is still hundreds of miles away — in what was likely a maneuver to rally the Republican base before the midterm elections. Defense Secretary James Mattis even admitted last week that the overall longterm strategic goals at the border had not yet been determined.

Confusion at the border continued this week as conflicting reports suggested the administration either had no clear plan for those troops and planned to bring them home, or planned to reinforce their presence.

Politico reported Tuesday that the administration would remove all military personnel from the border by December 15, in time for the holidays. CNN meanwhile, reported President Trump would soon announce a plan to keep the military at the border in order to protect border patrol officials from allegedly violent caravan members.


Categories: SCCDP Allies

‘This is what the Republicans are saying’: Audience boos anti-Pelosi Democrat at town hall

14 hours 42 min ago

Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), the most outspoken Democratic opponent of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) bid to become Speaker of the House for the second time, held a town hall in his district on Monday.

The two-term congressman faced pointed questions in Amesbury, Massachusetts over his push to demote Pelosi, the leader of House Democrats since 2003, and compared her to conservative icon Margaret Thatcher at one point.

After Moulton claimed his movement was backed by the “majority” of both Democrats and Americans, the town hall attendees in the Bay State’s 6th congressional district erupted in disbelief.

WBZ at 11p — Congressman Seth Moulton holds Town Hall in Amesbury and his constituents want to talk to him about his battle with Nancy Pelosi. Rep Moulton, "The majority of Americans want this change. The majority of Democrats want this change". Audience, "No!!". pic.twitter.com/63b638P4T5

— WBZ | CBS Boston News (@wbz) November 20, 2018

The relentless questioning started early and focused on his opposition to the California congresswoman.

Rough crowd for Moulton tonight. Two of first 3 questions ripped his opposition to Pelosi. Lots muttered / shouted pushback from the audience. #mapoli pic.twitter.com/11MuuLhS4L

— Adam Reilly (@reillyadam) November 19, 2018

Many of the pro-Pelosi contingent say Moulton is essentially acting like a Tea Party Republican.

“This sounds like Newt Gingrich,” one said.

— Kevin Robillard (@Robillard) November 19, 2018

One woman stands up and says she feels attacked by this move because she is a woman and old. “Who fires someone who does something well?” #NBC10Boston

— Perry Russom NBC10 Boston (@PerryNBCBoston) November 19, 2018

Moulton later compared Pelosi to Thatcher, the former conservative prime minister of Britain.

OH MY GOD SETH MOULTON JUST COMPARED OUSTING NANCY PELOSI TO OUSTING MARGARET THATCHER pic.twitter.com/8T2lLRttTu

— Brett Banditelli (@banditelli) November 20, 2018

Democratic strategist Geoff Garin pointed out that the Massachusetts congressman’s historical analogy wasn’t actually historical.

Moulton's account of Thatcher's defeat is an historical fabrication. Thatcher did not lose on the floor of Parliament, she lost in her party conference. Pelosi will win an overwhelming majority in her party caucus. https://t.co/2AOX2F98DG

— Geoff Garin (@geoffgarin) November 20, 2018

Moulton also claimed the recent birth of his daughter had impacted his decision to oppose Pelosi. However, the Washington Post’s Matt Viser, who covered the Massachusetts lawmaker while with the Boston Globe, noted that seemed unlikely.

Having kids can definitely change your outlook on things. But Seth Moulton has been opposing Nancy Pelosi long before the birth of his daughter. https://t.co/SnldOngjNH

— Matt Viser (@mviser) November 20, 2018

The standing-room only event was filled with pro-Pelosi protesters, many of whom claimed to have been Moulton supporters, per HuffPost’s Kevin Robillard.

Many of the protesters were supporters of Moulton’s — the organizer said she had knocked on over 1,000 doors on his behalf — who are furious about his opposition to Pelosi.

“He feels women are disposable, he feels elderly people are disposable,” one protester said.

— Kevin Robillard (@Robillard) November 19, 2018

The town hall occurred hours after the release of the long-rumored letter of Democratic opposition to Pelosi, who has served in Congress since 1987, which was signed by Moulton and 15 House colleagues.

Hey Meet the Sweet Sixteen! The good folks who signed the anti-Pelosi letter. pic.twitter.com/jYiWk6gCdB

— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) November 20, 2018

After the rowdy event in Amesbury, the Massachusetts congressman claimed more Democrats support the effort, but “didn’t want to face contentious town halls.”

NEW: Moulton says the idea behind the letter to oust Pelosi has been talked about for the last few months. He says he did not write the letter. He said there are representatives in the dark who back the letter, but didn’t want to face contentious town halls. #NBC10Boston pic.twitter.com/V23qivkfbw

— Perry Russom NBC10 Boston (@PerryNBCBoston) November 20, 2018

Moulton has backed Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), one of the two House Democrats who hasn’t co-sponsored the Equality Act, which would offer “civil rights protections for sexual orientation and gender identity,” as the alternative Speaker option. However, Fudge didn’t sign the anti-Pelosi letter and apparently still isn’t sure if she wants the job.

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY), another Democrat who signed the letter of opposition to Pelosi’s leadership, has claimed the Democratic Party’s biggest House gains since Watergate, which could still reach 40 seat flips, were “not as successful as some hoped it would be.”

I asked Kathleen Rice – a leader of the Dem anti-Pelosi movement – if she’s concerned this fight will show their party in disarray. “It was not as successful as some hoped it would be, we didn’t pick up as many seats as we thought we were going to get,” she said of the midterms

— Manu Raju (@mkraju) November 16, 2018

Of the 11 incumbent Democrats who signed Monday’s letter, only Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) has voted with President Donald Trump less often than Pelosi.

A Mother Jones study recently ranked Pelosi one of the most progressive members of the House. She has been endorsed by MoveOn, Indivisible, and over 100 LGBTQ leaders and advocates.

Winning the role of House Speaker requires the support of the majority of the chamber’s 435 members. Though a few races remain too close to call, the Democratic majority is expected to number around 235, which means Pelosi could only afford to lose the support of 17 colleagues.

However, this is made more complicated by the fact that Republicans have indicated they could back Pelosi’s bid. Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) told The Hill “there are ongoing discussions about having a handful of Republicans supply Pelosi with votes for Speaker if she agrees to rules changes.” Trump has also endorsed Pelosi and hinted at GOP support in multiple tweets.

The California congresswoman remains the highest-ranking woman in the history of American government after serving as Speaker, which is second in the line of presidential succession after the vice president, from 2007 to 2011.

Before the midterms, Moulton, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who was elected to Congress in 2014 after upsetting nine-term Rep. John Tierney (D-MA) in the Democratic primary, reportedly expected a disappointing showing from his party due to Pelosi.

I've been talking to Seth Moulton off-and-on for more than a year about his dissatisfaction w/ leadership.

Going into 2018, he had a theory that Pelosi was backward-looking & would bungle a blue wave.

He was wrong. But he's trying to oust her anyway.https://t.co/zaekouAeTC pic.twitter.com/pMJe5QfmIx

— Tim Dickinson (@7im) November 16, 2018

 


Categories: SCCDP Allies

Video will show California man ‘tortured to death’ by lying cops, family says

Mon, 11/19/2018 - 11:33am

California police are lying about the beating and taser death of a 36-year-old black man in October, his sister wrote Sunday after being shown videos from the scene.

Chinedu Okobi’s death at police hands was portrayed as a tragic but unavoidable accident in the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office’s press release on October 3, the same day he was killed. Okobi “immediately assaulted” an officer who had tried to engage him out of concern for the man’s safety as he ran in and out of traffic, the police said then.

Though law enforcement’s initial official account of a critical incident tends to carry immense weight with the public, the invocation of assault on an officer should be a red flag for neutral observers trying to discern truth. Assault on a peace officer is among the most widely misused charges cops levy to punish so-called “contempt of cop” offenses — in essence the criminalization of back-talk or perceived disrespect.

Family members have now been shown videos capturing both the officers’ initial interaction with Okobi and the moments of his death.

“[W]e watched my little brother getting tortured to death in broad daylight while he begged ‘Someone, please help me!’ and cried out ‘What did I do?'” Ebele Okobi wrote.

One video recorded by a police vehicle dashboard camera suggests officers are lying about having approached him because he was behaving erratically or dangerously, she wrote. The dash cam captures Okobi “walking calmly down the sidewalk,” and records one deputy in the car saying “something like who is this guy, and then speed[ing] up to get alongside my brother,” she wrote.

“My brother was not walking in and out of traffic when the deputy noticed him. He was walking on the sidewalk, as people do,” she wrote. She says the dashboard camera shows no assault on a police officer at all, but rather that her brother responded verbally to the officer calling to him through the car window and then walked away.

The officer at that point “calls in a Code 3. A Code 3 means ‘Emergency, send back-up,” she wrote. “The deputy, within 2 minutes of having seen my brother, has dramatically escalated a situation that didn’t need to even be a situation and has then lied about being in danger and there being an emergency, which he knows will result in other deputies coming in hot.”

She goes on to describe in detail further video — either from the dash cam or a bystander’s cell phone, as the department does not require the use of body-worn cameras to record officer-civilian interactions — showing officers grabbing, beating, tasering, and eventually handcuffing her brother. His body is limp and unresponsive by the end, she says, and officers physically prop him up.

The officers never attempted CPR at the scene, Okobi wrote in the lengthy Facebook post.

The company that brought you Tasers is betting big on cheap police reform

Her brother is at least the third person to die this year alone after being tasered by police officers in San Mateo County. Wagstaffe’s team has not sought charges against any of the officers involved in the other taser deaths in his jurisdiction, according to local newspapers. They cleared officers of all wrongdoing in the most recent previous such incident, the August death of Ramzi Saad, earlier this month.

County D.A. Stephen Wagstaffe has refused to comment on the police statement or his own investigation into the death for weeks, saying that he will provide a full accounting of his findings no sooner than the week after Thanksgiving. Neither Wagstaffe nor the sheriff’s office responded to ThinkProgress’s requests for comment Monday in light of a lengthy, detailed statement from Ebele Okobi, the dead man’s sister.

Okobi’s post demands Wagstaffe give the public the same videos she’s now seen, citing a new state law requiring such videos be released within 45 days. The law contains exceptions to the time limit, including where officials believe releasing the video would hamper an investigation. It has now been 50 days since Okobi’s brother was killed, but Wagstaffe has said his investigative report would take 8 to 10 weeks.

The direct contradiction of police claims in public didn’t shake Wagstaffe’s resolve to keep his findings close for now. But it did prompt him to give room for the possibility that the department is not being truthful in claiming Okobi’s death followed defensive actions in response to an assault on an officer.

“Wagstaffe said neither he nor anyone from his office had ever said Okobi attacked a deputy and said any correction of the record in those statements would have to be done by the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office,” CNN reported Sunday.

Okobi’s death has found more traction with the press and public than the average killing of an unarmed black man by police in part because his sister is a senior employee at Facebook. She moved her own immediate family to the U.K. years ago, she told The Guardian in October, because she feared that raising black children in the United States would subject them to both psychological and physical harm from a society that fears black men.

“I don’t have the mental or emotional fortitude to raise a son in America,” she told the British paper. “I don’t have it.”

Her brother stood 6 feet and 3 inches tall and weighed 330 pounds, Wagstaffe said. Police officers — like everyone elsehave been shown in research studies to associate black people of any size with a greater tendency to violence. The physical stature of black men and women killed by police is often cited by authorities to defend the killing of unarmed African-Americans in suspicious circumstances.

The officers’ alleged failure to render any form of emergency assistance to the man they’d just beaten and electrocuted into a stupor is especially disturbing in Okobi’s account of the videos. Police routinely fail to render prompt first aid to civilians in duress even after they no longer pose any potential threat. In cases like Okobi’s, or the death of Eric Garner in New York four years ago, crucial minutes pass in which CPR could conceivably have made a difference to the outcome.

And by contrast, other cases where someone’s been shot and killed by officers have nonetheless seen other first responders attempt to staunch bleeding, deliver CPR, and otherwise cover the basics of lifesaving — even when it is clear such efforts are not going to revive an unresponsive person who’s suffered multiple gunshot wounds.


Categories: SCCDP Allies

Pages