B12 Solipsism

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Archive for the ‘government’ Category

Our government in action, for good, and mostly for worse

What’s the Matter With Trumpland?

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No One Will Know How Things Are Between Us
No One Will Know How Things Are Between Us

Paul Krugman writes:

Many of the states that have refused to expand Medicaid, even though the federal government would foot the great bulk of the bill — and would create jobs in the process — are also among America’s poorest.

Or consider how some states, like Kansas and Oklahoma — both of which were relatively affluent in the 1970s, but have now fallen far behind — have gone in for radical tax cuts, and ended up savaging their education systems. External forces have put them in a hole, but they’re digging it deeper.

And when it comes to national politics, let’s face it: Trumpland is in effect voting for its own impoverishment. New Deal programs and public investment played a significant role in the great postwar convergence; conservative efforts to downsize government will hurt people all across America, but it will disproportionately hurt the very regions that put the G.O.P. in power.

(click here to continue reading Opinion | What’s the Matter With Trumpland? – The New York Times.)

Not a brand new phenomena, but relatively new. I call it the Fox News effect: the conservative red states who have been bamboozled to reflexively refuse the exact government help that would assist them in their lives because their spiritual/cultural leaders yelling at them on the tee-vee have convinced them that tax cuts and a smaller government is panacea, plus it will “trigger the liberals”. Yeah, those liberals, always trying to help, what’s wrong with them?

So Kansas1 and Oklahoma have cut taxes so much that teachers are having to strike for living wages. In my ideal world, teachers would be paid as much as least as much as investment bankers. Teachers should at least get a living wage, preferably more so that the “best and brightest” choose the teaching profession. Good teachers are important to our civil society, essential even, why should they get sub-poverty wages just so the Koch Brothers can pay slightly less in taxes?

South River Public School
South River Public School

The Guardian reports:

While Oklahoma has the country’s lowest tax on oil and natural gas production, teachers’ salaries remain stubbornly low, at 49th in the nation. According to data provided by the National Education Association (NEA), teachers make $45,276, nearly $13,077 below the nationwide average of $58,353 and well below the nationwide high of New York at $79,152.

“Over a decade of neglect by the legislature has given our students broken chairs in classrooms, outdated textbooks that are duct-taped together, four-day school weeks, classes that have exploded in size and teachers who have been forced to donate plasma, work multiple jobs and go to food pantries to provide for their families,” said the Oklahoma Education Association in a statement. “We are saying enough. No more empty promises. The governor and legislature need to act now to fix this.”

It’s a feeling shared by teachers in places like Arizona, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and other states, who are all also considering action.

The strikes are unique in that they are not being called for by the leadership of the unions, but often through direct appeals of rank-and-file members using social media and their own personal networks to organize across entire states and now the country.

(click here to continue reading Wave of teachers’ wildcat strikes spreads to Oklahoma and Kentucky | US news | The Guardian.)

Not to mention the whole conservative pushback to the Affordable Care Act:

A new wave of teacher strikes has highlighted a growing problem for all US workers – growing health costs which have become a “hungry tapeworm” on Americans’ wages.

In the most expensive health system in the world and the only industrialized nation without universal healthcare, more than 177 million Americans get health insurance through an employer. But insurance is rarely free.

“They’ve shifted the healthcare costs and the pension costs on to employees, so employees are making less and they’re spending less,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, which represents 1.7 million members. “It’s a double whammy.”

Conservative legislatures’ push to shift health and pension costs on to individual teachers means in some states, teachers take home less pay than they did five years ago.

(click here to continue reading ‘Double whammy’: teachers strike as healthcare costs cut into earnings | US news | The Guardian.)

I hope these teachers get their raises, and that they vote in 2018 for Democrats.

Footnotes:
  1. which we’ve discussed before []

Written by Seth Anderson

April 3rd, 2018 at 9:59 am

Posted in government,politics

Tagged with , , ,

Calling Car Pollution Standards ‘Too High,’ E.P.A. Sets Up Fight With California

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Jammed Up
Jammed Up

The NYT reports:

The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday took steps to challenge California’s decades-old right to set its own air pollution rules, setting up a showdown between the federal government and a state that has emerged as a bulwark against the Trump administration’s policies.

The E.P.A. statement was part of the agency’s widely expected decision to reconsider, and most likely roll back, Obama-era rules requiring automakers to hit ambitious emissions and mileage standards by 2025. The statement, though, was notable for the forcefulness of its language suggesting that the Trump administration would take on California’s authority to set its own rules.

A rollback of the rules, which are designed to cut back on emissions of greenhouse gases, would reverse one of the single biggest steps any government has taken to tackle climate change. California has said it will stick with the tougher, Obama-era regulations, a decision that could effectively split the United States into two auto markets: one requiring cars to be more efficient and less polluting than the other.

California has long possessed the unique authority under the 1970 Clean Air Act to write its own air pollution rules. Traditionally, a dozen other states follow California’s air pollution rules and together they represent one-third of the nation’s auto market. That puts California in an extraordinary position to stage a regulatory revolt, with much of the country’s car market in tow.

State officials indicated they would fight the Trump administration. “This is a politically motivated effort to weaken clean vehicle standards,” said Mary Nichols, California’s top air pollution regulator. California, she said, “will vigorously defend the existing clean vehicle standards.”

(click here to continue reading Calling Car Pollution Standards ‘Too High,’ E.P.A. Sets Up Fight With California – The New York Times.)

Scott Pruitt is a demon, and a meddler. Lower auto efficiency standards harms those of us who breathe, and actually harms automobile manufacturers as well, especially those that have already invested in the R&D necessary to reduce emissions and increase mileage, or those who plan on selling their cars to other nations. The only entities that these new proposed rules will help are the corporations that sell fuel1

Despicable behavior by someone who is despicable.

Take A Long Last Look  Kodachrome
Take A Long Last Look – Kodachrome

Automotive companies are not necessarily idiots, as better engineered cars are what the majority of consumers want:

 There have been some signs of discord within the auto industry over the Trump administration’s plans.

 Mr. Pruitt had been expected to publicly announce the effort on Tuesday at a Chevrolet dealership in suburban Virginia. But those plans were complicated by an angry pushback from some Chevy dealerships who were reluctant to see the brand associated with the announcement, according to two Chevy dealers who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing their relationship with General Motors. Late on Monday, the Virginia dealership, Pohanka Chevrolet in Chantilly, said the E.P.A. event it had planned to host had been canceled.

“They don’t want the E.P.A. to highlight Chevy,” said Adam Lee, chairman of Lee Auto Malls, which runs Nissan, Honda and Chrysler dealerships in Maine, and who said he was familiar with dealers’ thinking. “They don’t want to be the bad guys.”

“Trump has been saying these standards are crushing the auto industry. But we’ve had record years for the past four or five years, in terms of sales and profit,” he said. “It almost makes you think he doesn’t have the facts.”

 (click here to continue reading Calling Car Pollution Standards ‘Too High,’ E.P.A. Sets Up Fight With California – The New York Times.)

The Orange Dotard not having the facts. Hmm, who would have suspected…

Footnotes:
  1. Koch Bros, Exxon Mobile, et all []

Written by Seth Anderson

April 2nd, 2018 at 7:22 pm

Spending measure could disrupt Trump’s plans to cut agencies

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Dreaming Has A Low
Dreaming Has A Low

The Washington Post reports:

Trump probably would have been even more upset [with signing a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending plan] had he read the provision that could sharply curtail his plan to reorganize the government.

Section 740 of the 2,232-page document (PDF) makes it clear, as Bloomberg Law previously reported, that Congress, not Trump, is in charge. “None of the funds made available in this or any other appropriations Act may be used to increase, eliminate, or reduce funding for a program, project, or activity as proposed in the President’s budget request for a fiscal year” unless Congress approves, according to the omnibus legislation.

That could make it more difficult for Trump to impose the cuts he wants. His March 2017 “Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch” seeks “to eliminate unnecessary agencies, components of agencies, and agency programs.” Among other cuts, his proposed budget for this fiscal year called for the elimination of 19 small agencies, from the African Development Fund to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Members of Congress, including Republicans, are not eager to be Trump’s hatchet men. The omnibus spending plan provides a clear declaration that he cannot act alone. It is Congress that creates and eliminates.

(click here to continue reading Spending measure could disrupt Trump’s plans to cut agencies – The Washington Post.)

That’s pretty funny. No wonder the Democrats were happy with this omnibus spending bill, and that right wing performance art bloviators like Ann Coulter were so dismayed

No Need To Panic
No Need To Panic

The Defense Department got more money than it needs, but on the other hand, many Democratic priorities were strengthened. Some like the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities got even more money than requested1

Sarah Binder writes:

 

 

One of the reasons GOP leaders were keen to rush the bill to a vote is that they didn’t want their partisan base to notice that it both funds innumerable Democratic priorities and blocks the Trump administration from doing such things as expanding detention of immigrants, defunding sanctuary cities, and ending federal funding for the arts, to name a few. The Trump White House and many conservatives wanted deep cuts to domestic programs. Party leaders ignored that. The more quickly the two chambers vote, the less time potential opponents have to unearth details that could outrage the GOP base, who might pressure their representatives to vote against the deal.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Three things we learned from the omnibus spending bill – The Washington Post.)

Trump is so lazy that I don’t see this process changing much in the future, even if a resurgent Democratic Party takes over the House and Senate in November, 2018. Trump isn’t going to waste his precious Executive Time reading 2,232 page documents and fighting about what it contained therein, he will only react if Trump TV spoon feeds him any of it. Let’s be honest, neither are we2, but I’d like to think if we were in the White House we’d at least make the attempt to understand a bill before signing it.

Footnotes:
  1. by a small amount, but still… []
  2. though I did download it, and skim it []

Written by Seth Anderson

March 31st, 2018 at 9:42 am

Posted in government

Tagged with , ,

At Least 12 States to Sue Trump Administration Over Census Citizenship Question

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No Borders No Nations
No Borders No Nations

At Least Twelve States to Sue Trump Administration Over Census Citizenship Question:

At least 12 states signaled Tuesday that they would sue to block the Trump administration from adding a question about citizenship to the 2020 census, arguing that the change would cause fewer Americans to be counted and violate the Constitution.

The New York State attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, said he was leading a multistate lawsuit to stop the move, and officials in Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Washington said they would join the effort. The State of California filed a separate lawsuit late Monday night.

“The census is supposed to count everyone,” said Attorney General Maura Healey of Massachusetts. “This is a blatant and illegal attempt by the Trump administration to undermine that goal, which will result in an undercount of the population and threaten federal funding for our state and cities.”

(Via FiveThirtyEight)

I hope the 12 states prevail, or again America’s national policy will skew towards the reactionary.

Written by Seth Anderson

March 27th, 2018 at 7:28 pm

Posted in government

Tagged with

Hurricane Harvey’s Toxic Impact Deeper Than Public Told

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No Chemicals
No Chemicals…

Surprising nobody, the EPA and Texas governor are sweeping any discussion of toxicity under the concrete. 

A toxic onslaught from the nation’s petrochemical hub was largely overshadowed by the record-shattering deluge of Hurricane Harvey as residents and first responders struggled to save lives and property.

More than a half-year after floodwaters swamped America’s fourth-largest city, the extent of this environmental assault is beginning to surface, while questions about the long-term consequences for human health remain unanswered.

County, state and federal records pieced together by The Associated Press and The Houston Chronicle reveal a far more widespread toxic impact than authorities publicly reported after the storm slammed into the Texas coast in late August and then stalled over the Houston area.

Some 500 chemical plants, 10 refineries and more than 6,670 miles of intertwined oil, gas and chemical pipelines line the nation’s largest energy corridor.

Nearly half a billion gallons of industrial wastewater mixed with storm water surged out of just one chemical plant in Baytown, east of Houston on the upper shores of Galveston Bay.

Benzene, vinyl chloride, butadiene and other known human carcinogens were among the dozens of tons of industrial toxins released into surrounding neighborhoods and waterways following Harvey’s torrential rains.

In all, reporters catalogued more than 100 Harvey-related toxic releases — on land, in water and in the air. Most were never publicized, and in the case of two of the biggest ones, the extent or potential toxicity of the releases was initially understated.

Only a handful of the industrial spills have been investigated by federal regulators, reporters found.

(click here to continue reading Hurricane Harvey’s Toxic Impact Deeper Than Public Told – The New York Times.)

Disturbing, and portent of massive human misery to come, especially if the GOP controls the environmental inspectors. Profits over people, always, is the Republican agenda.

Written by Seth Anderson

March 22nd, 2018 at 9:54 am

Posted in environment,government

Tagged with , ,

Cook County Voters Give Firm Yes on Legalizing Recreational Marijuana

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Non binding referendum still progress
Non binding referendum, still, progress

Legalize Marijuana Cook County
Legalize Marijuana: Cook County

Cook County’s 2018 primary ballot contained a non-binding referendum to legalize marijuana statewide. Of course, as you’d expect, it passed. By a greater than 2 to 1 margin.

Cook County voters on Tuesday voted in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana use in Illinois, according to unofficial results.

County commissioners voted unanimously last December to put the question on the primary ballot. The state Senate earlier this month passed a measure to put the question on ballots for statewide voters in November, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The full question on primary election ballots read as follows: “Shall the State of Illinois legalize the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products for recreational use by adults 21 and older subject to state regulation, taxation and local ordinance?”

Supporters of legalization point to the increased tax revenue that has come with legalization, taxation and regulation in other states. Opponents often have concerns about social costs and the fact that marijuana use would remain illegal under federal law.

Recreational marijuana is currently legal in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Nevada, Oregon, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont and California. All but Vermont passed the laws in binding ballot questions between 2012 and 2016.

(click here to continue reading Cook County Voters Give Firm Answer on Legalizing Recreational Marijuana – NBC Chicago.)

Somehow CO, WA, AK, NV, OR, MA, ME, VT, and CA don’t seem like they are turning into chaotic, failed states. In fact, these states are all doing pretty well all things considered.

JB Pritzker Wants to legalize and tax marijuana
JB Pritzker Wants to legalize and tax marijuana

Oh, and the winner of the Democratic primary for Governor of Illinois, JB Pritzker, sent flyers announcing his position last week. Interesting. The current witless doofus occupying the governor’s mansion, Bruce Rauner, is very tepid, at best, in support for cannabis reform: he didn’t want medical marijuana either.

Tina Sfondeles wrote, back in December, 2017:

Gov. Bruce Rauner is taking a blunt stance, telling a Downstate TV station that it would be a “mistake” to legalize marijuana in Illinois.

The Republican governor has, in the past, said he wants more studies on the “ramifications” in states that have legalized the drug. On Wednesday, he took it further.

“I do not support legalizing marijuana. I think that’s a mistake. You know there’s a massive, human experiment going on in Colorado, and California, other places. We should see how that’s impacted lives and addiction and hurt young people before we make any decision about it here,” Rauner said in an interview on WSIL in Marion. “I do not support legalizing marijuana.”

In April, the governor called recreational marijuana “a very, very difficult subject.” He said he wouldn’t support legalizing marijuana unless there’s a study of the “ramifications” in states that have legalized the drug.

(click here to continue reading Gov. Rauner not high on legalizing marijuana: ‘That’s a mistake’ | Chicago Sun-Times.)

Written by Seth Anderson

March 21st, 2018 at 7:37 am

Gina Haspel Should Be In Prison Not Head of CIA

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War Is Still a Racket
War Is Still a Racket

Torture is stain on our country. Not only does it rarely produce actionable intelligence, it is just morally and ethically wrong. The Senate should not confirm Gina Haspel to be Director of the CIA because she should be in prison instead.

John Kiriakou, a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, writes:

Described in the media as a “seasoned intelligence veteran,” Haspel has been at the CIA for 33 years, both at headquarters and in senior positions overseas. Now the deputy director, she has tried hard to stay out of the public eye. Mike Pompeo, the outgoing CIA director and secretary of state designee, has lauded her “uncanny ability to get things done and inspire those around her.”

I’m sure that’s true for some. But many of the rest of us who knew and worked with Haspel at the CIA called her “Bloody Gina.”

The CIA will not let me repeat her résumé or the widely reported specifics of how her work fit into the agency’s torture program, calling such details “currently and properly classified.” But I can say that Haspel was a protege of and chief of staff for Jose Rodriguez, the CIA’s notorious former deputy director for operations and former director of the Counterterrorism Center. And that Rodriguez eventually assigned Haspel to order the destruction of videotaped evidence of the torture of Abu Zubaida. The Justice Department investigated, but no one was ever charged in connection with the incident.

CIA officers and psychologists under contract to the agency began torturing Abu Zubaida on Aug. 1, 2002. The techniques were supposed to be incremental, starting with an open-palmed slap to the belly or the face. But the operatives where he was held decided to start with the toughest method. They waterboarded Abu Zubaida 83 times. They later subjected him to sleep deprivation; they kept him locked in a large dog cage for weeks at a time; they locked him in a coffin-size box and, knowing that he had an irrational fear of insects, put bugs in it with him.

Rodriguez would later tell reporters that the torture worked and that Abu Zubaida provided actionable intelligence that disrupted attacks and saved American lives. We know, thanks to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture and the personal testimony of FBI interrogator Ali Soufan, that this was false.

The meaning of Haspel’s nomination won’t be lost on our enemies, either. The torture program and similar abuses at military-run prisons in Iraq were among the greatest recruitment tools that al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and other bad actors ever had, according to legal experts, U.S. lawmakers and even the militantsthemselves. It energized them and gave them something to rally against. It sowed an even deeper hatred of the United States among militant groups. It swelled their ranks. It was no coincidence that the Islamic State paraded its prisoners in front of cameras wearing orange jumpsuits (like those worn by Guantanamo Bay detainees) before beheading them. Haspel and the others at the CIA who engineered and oversaw the torture program are at least partially responsible for that, because they showed the world how the United States sometimes treats captives. 

Do we Americans want to remain a nation that tortures people, like North Korea, China and Iran? Are we proud of the era when we snatched people from one country and sent them to another to be interrogated in secret prisons? Do we want to be the country that cynically preaches human rights and then violates those same rights when we think nobody is looking?

(click here to continue reading I went to prison for disclosing the CIA’s torture. Gina Haspel helped cover it up. – The Washington Post.)

Round Hole
Round Hole

I will be paying attention to who votes to confirm Bloody Gina, I’m looking at you specifically Senator Feinstein…

 

 

Asked by a reporter about her opposition to an earlier promotion that Haspel was up for in 2013, Feinstein replied, “Well, I have spent some time with her, we’ve had dinner together, we have talked … everything I know is, is that she has been a good deputy director of the CIA….I think hopefully the entire organization learned something from the so-called enhanced interrogation program. I think it’s something that can’t be forgotten. And I certainly can never forget it. And I won’t let any director forget it,” the senator added, revealing she shared a “long personal talk” with Haspel about the program.

 

Pressed to say whether she’s “a no” on Haspel’s nomination, Feinstein appeared to be undecided. “No, right now I’m late for my hearings,” she said.

 

Feinstein is facing a surprisingly robust primary challenge from Democratic state Sen. Kevin de Leόn, which already seems to have nudged her leftward as she competes for the nomination. It’s very unlikely Feinstein will actually lose, but frustration with her perceivably establishment politics is clearly mounting among California’s progressive voter base. Last month, not only did the longtime senator fail to secure the state party’s endorsement at its annual convention, but de Leόn beat her by a margin of 17 percent of delegates.

 

If Feinstein believes Haspel is the right woman for the job, a “yes” vote could really upset Golden State progressives already dissatisfied with her job performance. On Tuesday afternoon, de Leόn seized on Feinstein’s early reaction to Haspel. “It is very concerning Senator Feinstein is ‘open to supporting’ CIA nominee Haspel, who ran a ‘black site’ prison that waterboarded and beat prisoners,” he tweeted. “Believes she has been a ‘good’ deputy CIA Director.”

 

Regardless of her own interests, Feinstein may plausibly determine Haspel is unfit for the position. But the senator’s ambiguity on Tuesday signals some measure of respect for the nominee, indicating the decision won’t come easily no matter what.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Gina Haspel’s CIA nomination could torture Dianne Feinstein.)

Written by Seth Anderson

March 18th, 2018 at 9:53 am

HUD emails show push to find workaround for $5,000 legal limit on Ben Carson’s office furnishings

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Sphinx  Schoenhofen Pyramid Mausoleum
Sphinx – Schoenhofen Pyramid Mausoleum. 

In a normal presidential administration, Ben Carson would have resigned over this. But then in a normal administration, Dr. Carson would never even been nominated for the position in the first place. What exactly were his qualifications? Besides once being poor, and living in an apartment, there doesn’t seem to be much overlap with Carson’s “skills” of Egyptian pyramid sleuthing and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The emails also reveal that Carson’s dissatisfaction with the options readily and cheaply available to him in HUD’s basement took up months of time from the agency tasked with finding housing solutions for the last fortunate, frustrating some employees who viewed the legal $5,000 spending cap as the end of the line.

“He only gets 5k for new stuff,” then-HUD chief administrative officer Helen Foster wrote to fellow employee Kevin Cooke on March 3, 2017, at 2:38 p.m. “He chose to use it on window treatments.” Foster eventually claimed she was demoted over her unwillingness to exceed the $5,000 limit.

Acquiring new furniture for Carson’s office was a priority from day one — and before. On his first official day as secretary, Carson expressed displeasure with the chairs in his office.

“The secretary’s office called and said he doesn’t like his chairs,” reads an email from HUD director of facilities management services Mike Schimmenti to Foster and HUD administrator Laura McClure, in an email headed “secretary’s furniture request” on March 3, 2017 — the same day he was confirmed.

Before that, on Feb. 13 at 5:43 p.m., Foster emailed HUD finance officer Sarah Lyberg, saying she had been repeatedly asked to find more money for Carson’s office.

(click here to continue reading HUD emails show push to find workaround for $5,000 legal limit on Ben Carson’s office furnishings – CBS News.)

Small potatoes compared to Emolument Man, and the Dimpled Slumlord Princeling, but corruption and evasion of law is still unacceptable, or should be. Ben Carson is lucky that there are so so so many scandals in the Trump mal-administration that his office furniture snafu is mostly ignored.

Sit Like An Egyptian
Sit Like An Egyptian

And there are actually worse things Carson’s HUD is doing:

 

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is changing the mission statement of his agency, removing promises of inclusive and discrimination-free communities.

 

In a March 5 memo addressed to HUD political staff, Amy Thompson, the department’s assistant secretary for public affairs, explained that the statement is being updated “in an effort to align HUD’s mission with the Secretary’s priorities and that of the Administration.”

 

 

(click here to continue reading Ben Carson Removes Anti-Discrimination Language From HUD Mission Statement | HuffPost.)

or

 

In an interview released Wednesday, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said that a “certain mindset” contributes to people living in poverty, pointing to habits and a “state of mind” that children take from their parents at a young age.

 

“I think poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind. You take somebody that has the right mindset, you can take everything from them and put them on the street, and I guarantee in a little while they’ll be right back up there,” he said during an interview on SiriusXM Radio with Armstrong Williams, a longtime friend.

 

“And you take somebody with the wrong mindset, you can give them everything in the world, they’ll work their way right back down to the bottom,” Carson said.

The Trump administration’s 2018 budget blueprint, unveiled Tuesday, would cut more than $6 billion from HUD’s budget. The cuts would end popular grants that facilitate first-time home ownership and revitalize economically distressed communities, including the Community Development Block Grant. The budget would also cut billions of dollars in funding for public housing support, gutting dollars used to fund big-ticket repairs at public housing developments around the country.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Ben Carson calls poverty ‘a state of mind’ during interview – The Washington Post.)

Reebie Building  Stand Like an Egyptian
Reebie Building – Stand Like an Egyptian

or 

 

Ben Carson appeared to liken slaves to immigrants who choose to come to the United States while addressing employees at the Department of Housing and Urban Development Monday.

 

Carson, who was confirmed to lead the department earlier this month, heralded the work ethic of immigrants before implying slaves who came to the United States worked harder than others. “There were other immigrants who came in the bottom of slave ships, who worked even longer, even harder, for less, but they too had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great grandsons, great granddaughters might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land,” said Carson, who is black. “And do you know of all the nations in the world, this one, the United States of America, is the only one big enough and great enough to allow all those people to realize their dream. And this is our opportunity to enhance that dream,” he added.

“Ben Carson is also the guy who once compared Obamacare to slavery,” tweeted Keith Boykin, a CNN political contributor. “I’m starting to think he may not understand the word ‘slavery.'”

This is not the first time Carson has likened something to slavery.

In 2013, Carson said that Obamacare — the Obama administration’s landmark healthcare law — was the worst thing “since slavery.”

“You know Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” Carson said at the Values Voter Summit in Washington. “And it is in a way, it is slavery in a way, because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about health care. It was about control.”

Carson also compared abortion to slavery in an interview with NBC during his 2016 presidential run.

“During slavery — and I know that’s one of those words you’re not supposed to say, but I’m saying it — during slavery, a lot of the slave owners thought that they had the right to do whatever they wanted to the slave,” Carson said in October 2015. “What if the abolitionists had said, ‘I don’t believe in slavery, I think it’s wrong, but you guys do whatever you want to do?”

 

 

(click here to continue reading Carson: ‘There were other immigrants who came in the bottom of slave ships’ – CNNPolitics.)

Hieroglyph
Hieroglyph

or

 

Ben Carson does not like the creature comforts, at least not for low-income Americans reliant on the government for a helping hand.

 

As he toured facilities for the poor in Ohio last week, Mr. Carson, the neurosurgeon-turned-housing secretary, joked that a relatively well-appointed apartment complex for veterans lacked “only pool tables.” He inquired at one stop whether animals were allowed. At yet another, he nodded, plainly happy, as officials explained how they had stacked dozens of bunk beds inside a homeless shelter and purposefully did not provide televisions.

 

Compassion, Mr. Carson explained in an interview, means not giving people “a comfortable setting that would make somebody want to say: ‘I’ll just stay here. They will take care of me.’”

 

When Mr. Carson assumed the helm of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, he had no government experience, no political experience beyond a failed bid for the Republican presidential nomination and no burning desire to run a major federal bureaucracy. But his views on poverty alleviation were tough-minded and well-known

 

 

(click here to continue reading Don’t Make Housing for the Poor Too Cozy, Carson Warns – The New York Times.)

Another faux Christian, in other words. If the evasion of statutory law to purchase over-the-top office furniture that cost more than many folks annual salary is the thing that brings Carson down, so be it, but there is plenty to choose from.

Written by Seth Anderson

March 15th, 2018 at 9:55 am

Posted in government,politics

Tagged with , ,

Betsy DeVos is a demon – School choice gutted Detroit’s public schools

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Erected by the Board of Education 1892
Erected by the Board of Education 1892.

From Vice before the demon DeVos was (barely) confirmed to be Trump’s Education minister:

The gutting of Detroit’s public schools is the result of an experiment started 23 years ago, when education reformers including Betsy DeVos, now Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Education Department, got Michigan to bet big on charters and school choice. The Obama administration has promoted competition, but DeVos looks set to take free-market education policy to new heights. She has made clear her goal is to use charters to eventually get public dollars to private and religious schools, but the consequences of her school choice policy in Detroit leave gaping questions about how she will also care for America’s public schools.

In Detroit, choice has come largely at the expense of the traditional public school district and schools like Oakman. As students joined new charters, public school enrollment and funding fell. Unregulated competition pushed these schools into near-unrecoverable insolvency and allowed dubious for-profit charter operators to prosper without establishing a track record of better outcomes for students. A 2014 analysis showed 17 percent of Detroit charter school students were rated proficient in math, versus 13 percent of traditional public school students. Last year less than 1 percent of the city’s schools got an A or B+ rating from Excellent Schools Detroit, a local reform group that provides school information to families. Nearly 70 percent earned a D+ or lower, and 40 percent of those bottom-performers were charters. Earlier this year, seven Detroit students sued the state of Michigan for failing to provide basic access to literacy — two of the kids were enrolled in local charter schools.

(click here to continue reading School choice gutted Detroit’s public schools. The rest of the country is next. – VICE News.)

Charter schools performing even worse than gutted public schools, yet still being promoted is like Supply Side Economics still being promoted despite a single success story.

Washington Elementary School
Washington Elementary School

Relevant because Ms. DeVos spluttered and muttered her way through an interview aired on 60 Minutes March 11th, 2018:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos appeared on CBS’s “60 Minutes” Sunday night and stumbled in answering questions that journalist Lesley Stahl asked during a pointed interview.

Stahl repeatedly challenged the education secretary, at one point suggesting that DeVos should visit underperforming public schools to learn about their problems. DeVos responded, “Maybe I should.” The secretary also said she is “not so sure exactly” how she became, as Stahl described her, “the most hated” member of President Trump’s Cabinet but believes that she is “misunderstood.”

DeVos, who rarely gives interviews to journalists, is a longtime school choice advocate who once said that traditional public education is “a dead end,” and she has made clear that her top priority as the nation’s education chief is expanding alternatives to traditional public schools. She is  a champion of using public funds for private and religious school education, and critics say she is determined to privatize public education. DeVos has denied that.

DeVos, a billionaire who has spent millions of dollars on school efforts in her home state of Michigan, has been perhaps the most controversial of Trump’s Cabinet members. She became the first Cabinet nominee in history to need a tie-breaking vote from the vice president to be confirmed by the Senate. Her January 2017 confirmation hearing before the Senate education panel was marked by her inability to answer basic questions about education.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, more than a year after becoming education secretary, DeVos again had trouble answering questions and seemed to contradict herself.

 

(click here to continue reading Education Secretary Betsy DeVos stumbles during pointed ‘60 Minutes’ interview – The Washington Post.)

Why go To Night School
Why go To Night School?

and as Philip Bump reports:

 

“In places where there is a lot of choice that’s been introduced,” DeVos told CBS’s Lesley Stahl, “Florida, for example, studies show that when there’s a large number of students that opt to go to a different school or different schools, the traditional public schools actually, the results get better as well.”

 This is DeVos’s core case. Introducing charter schools forces public schools into the sort of competition you see in the free market, forcing the public institutions to improve. It’s a market-based proposal for solving the endemic problem of low-performing schools. Florida, DeVos argues, is an example of where it works.

 But Stahl was prepared for this.

 “Have the public schools in Michigan gotten better?” Stahl asked. Michigan is a key litmus test because it’s the place where DeVos’s pre-government advocacy was centered. DeVos stumbled over a response.

 “Your argument that if you take funds away that the schools will get better is not working in Michigan,” Stahl said. “Where you had a huge impact and influence over the direction of the school system here.” She later added, “The public schools here are doing worse than they did.”

A 2009 study from the RAND corporation found “little evidence that the presence of charter schools affects the achievement scores of students in nearby traditional public schools either positively or negatively.” A number of studies since have found similarly murky results.

We can look at this another way. Using data from the Education Department, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and the National Assessment of Educational Progress, we looked at how charter school enrollment and educational achievement looked in nearly 30 states between 2005 and 2015.

The educational achievement data indicated the percentage of students in fourth or eighth grade who’d attained basic proficiency in math and reading. We compared the change in those four percentages with the national change from 2005 to 2015. Then, we cross-referenced those changes with the increase in charter school student enrollment as a percentage of public school enrollment. (In other words, if there were 10 charter and 20 public school students in 2005 and 15 charter and 25 public in 2015, the percent change was from 50 percent to 60 percent — an increase of 10 percentage points.)

Overall, the correlation was small, meaning that you couldn’t predict an increase in achievement in math and reading proficiency based on the increase in charter school enrollment. The strongest link was in eighth-grade reading scores

 

 

(click here to continue reading Why it was so easy for ’60 Minutes’ to rebut Betsy DeVos’s charter-school arguments – The Washington Post.)

She is just another Trumpian demon, intent upon dismantling the America we know so that Trump can become dictator-for-life. 

Written by Seth Anderson

March 12th, 2018 at 10:10 am

Posted in government,politics

Tagged with ,

Can U.S. States Hang on to Net Neutrality?

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Untitled Abstraction 7391
Untitled Abstraction 7391… 

Geoff Duncan of TidBITS wrote a fascinating, depressing article about Net Neutrality:

As anticipated, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted late last year to scrap net neutrality regulations that required ISPs and telecommunications companies to treat all traffic equally (see “FCC to End Net Neutrality,” 28 November 2017), However, the battle for net neutrality is still raging in the United States, with many individual states both suing the federal government over the new regulatory framework and moving ahead with their own state-specific net neutrality legislation. Washington State — home to high-tech giants like Amazon and Microsoft — is the first out the door with new net neutrality laws.

Do these strategies stand a chance? Don’t federal regulations pre-empt state authority? Or are these lawsuits and state regulations essentially stall tactics, hoping to muddy the waters long enough for a possible shift in the balance of Congress or perhaps even a new presidential administration?

(click here to continue reading Can U.S. States Hang on to Net Neutrality? – TidBITS.)

Written by Seth Anderson

March 9th, 2018 at 6:45 pm

Democrats to unveil $1 trillion infrastructure plan, seek reversal of GOP tax cuts to finance it

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Jammed Up

Speaking of the Democrats alleged “lack of an agenda1, here’s one item that sounds good to me…

As the White House struggles to finance an ambitious infrastructure plan, Senate Democrats are proposing one alternative — albeit one unlikely to pass muster with President Trump: rolling back the recently passed Republican tax overhaul.

The proposal unveiled by Democratic leaders Wednesday would plow just over $1 trillion into a wide range of infrastructure needs, including $140 billion for roads and bridges, $115 billion for water and sewer infrastructure and $50 billion to rebuild schools.

The spending would be offset by clawing back two-thirds of the revenue lost in the Republican tax bill by reinstating a top income tax rate of 39.6 percent, restoring the individual alternative minimum tax, reversing cuts to the estate tax, and raising the corporate income tax from 21 percent to 25 percent.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in an interview Tuesday that the plan sets up a stark contrast for voters ahead of the midterm elections.

“We believe overwhelmingly the American people will prefer building infrastructure and creating close to 15 million middle-class jobs than giving tax breaks for the wealthy,” he said.

(click here to continue reading Democrats to unveil $1 trillion infrastructure plan, seek reversal of GOP tax cuts to finance it – The Washington Post.)

We’ve long lamented about the lack of infrastructure investment in America. Whatever happened to our can-do attitude that built railroads where there were none, built the Hoover Dam, built the interstates, yadda yadda. The Koch Brothers and their minions would rather have the tax cuts, but the rest of us would rather have bridges that didn’t fall down and water supplies that don’t have lead.

Footnotes:
  1. which is an obviously false statement []

Written by Seth Anderson

March 8th, 2018 at 2:14 pm

Devin Nunes says Stephen Colbert’s skit about him is a danger to the country

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Five U S Senators Are Space Aliens
Five U.S. Senators Are Space Aliens. 

Devin Nunes is a threat to American democracy. I suppose he’s so busy polishing Trump’s turds, that Nunes hasn’t had a chance to read the 1st Amendment yet.

One of the nation’s exercises in democracy can be found on late-night TV. Hosts crack sharply critical jokes about the country’s politicians without fear of retribution from said politicians.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) sees that exercise very differently. He told Fox News Channel that a skit Stephen Colbert did mocking Nunes’s memo alleging FBI bias in the Russia investigation is a danger to the country.

“Devin Nunes is a REDACTED,” says a memo Colbert circulated on Capitol Hill, asking Democratic and Republican members of Congress to fill in the blank.

“I think this is the danger we have in this country,” Nunes told host Neil Cavuto on Saturday in response. “This is an example of it.”

To defend his point that Colbert’s jokes are dangerous, Nunes spun off a conspiracy theory filled with factual inaccuracies that Hollywood and Democrats are working together to make fun of him because they have failed in the public sphere to debunk him.

“The left controls the universities in this country, Hollywood and the mainstream media,” Nunes told Cavuto, “so conservatives in this country are under attack, and I think this is great example of it.”

Nunes falsely told Cavuto that his memo provides “clear proof” that the Democratic Party colluded with Russians. (Fact check: There is an independent investigation looking into potential Trump-Russia collusion, not into Democrats and Russia.)

Nunes also claimed that the FBI opened an investigation into the Trump campaign specifically to spy on it. (Fact check: The FBI got a warrant from a secret court to spy on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page after Page had left the campaign, and there’s no evidence that the FBI spied on the Trump campaign itself. )

(click here to continue reading Nunes echoes Trump’s authoritarian view on press, says Stephen Colbert’s skit about him is a ‘danger’ to the country – The Washington Post.)

Perhaps we should send Nunes some postcards with the following statement written on it:

 

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

 

 

(click here to continue reading First Amendment to the United States Constitution – Wikipedia.)

Watch the video yourself, and decide. I’d say Colbert wins this round…

Written by Seth Anderson

March 6th, 2018 at 11:23 am

Trade wars: Tariffs on bourbon, Harleys and blue jeans

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Col Sanders Day 1995
Col Sanders Day 1995

This does make me a bit nervous about the economic near-future of the US. We can hope that Trump chickens out again, letting one of his lackeys claim that Trump never meant to impose tariffs, but I’m not sanguine this Trump-train won’t keep steaming until we reach 1930s-era economics. After all, the rise of totalitarian governments soon followed in those times, perhaps Trump1 has a plan for emulation.

President Donald Trump declared Friday that “trade wars are good, and easy to win.”

But European Union officials are already planning retaliatory actions, targeting products from politically sensitive Republican-run states, including the imposition of tariffs on Harley-Davidsons made in Speaker Paul Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin; duties on bourbon made in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home state of Kentucky; and duties on orange juice from Florida, a critical swing state.

“We will put tariffs on Harley-Davidson, on bourbon and on blue jeans — Levis,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told German television. Commissioners from the EU’s 28 member countries plan to discuss the countermeasures on Wednesday.

Across the globe, Trump’s plan to impose a 25 percent duty on steel and a 10 percent duty on aluminum imports would alienate dozens of countries in Europe, North America and Asia, many of them longtime allies and trading partners, who could turn the tables by targeting key U.S. sectors such as agriculture and aircraft, based in states that elected him and fellow Republicans.

(click here to continue reading Trade wars: Tariffs on bourbon, Harleys and blue jeans – POLITICO.)

We can also take heart that perhaps the long-term effect of Trump nuking the world economy will drive historically GOP friendly corporations away from the Republican Party, sectors like agribusiness, automotive, manufacturing and the like.

Polishing
Polishing

Also amused at these targeted tariffs, that’s fairly clever, make the states that vote in these Republican monsters pay an economic price for their negligence and enabling behavior. 

Orange You Glad This Isn t A Banana
Orange You Glad This Isn’t A Banana?

Anyway, Hawley and Smoot, authors of the Smoot-Hawley tariff bill, don’t have many bridges or post offices named after them…

 

Willis Hawley and Reed Smoot have haunted Congress since the 1930s when they were the architects of the Smoot-Hawley tariff bill, among the most decried pieces of legislation in US history and a bill blamed by some for not only for triggering the Great Depression but also contributing to the start of the second world war.

 

Pilloried even in their own time, their bloodied names have been brought out like Jacob Marley’s ghost every time America has taken a protectionist turn on trade policy. And America has certainly taken a protectionist turn.

Hawley, an Oregon congressman and a professor of history and economics, became a stock figure in the textbooks of his successors thanks to his partnership with the lean, patrician figure of Senator Reed Smoot, a Mormon apostle known as the “sugar senator” for his protectionist stance towards Utah’s sugar beet industry.

Before he was shackled to Hawley for eternity Smoot was more famous for his Mormonism and his abhorrence of bawdy books, a disgust that inspired the immortal headline “Smoot Smites Smut” after he attacked the importation of Lady’s Chatterley’s Lover, Robert Burns’ more risqué poems and similar texts as “worse than opium … I would rather have a child of mine use opium than read these books.”

But it was imports of another kind that secured Smoot and Hawley’s place in infamy.

The US economy was doing well in the 1920s as the consumer society was being born to the sound of jazz. The Tariff Act began life largely as a politically motivated response to appease the agricultural lobby that had fallen behind as American workers, and money, consolidated in the cities.

 …

Hawley started the bill but with Smoot behind him it metastasized as lobby groups shoehorned their products into the bill, eventually proposing higher tariffs on more than 20,000 imported goods.

Siren voices warned of dire consequences. Henry Ford reportedly told Hoover the bill was “an economic stupidity”.

Critics of the tariffs were being aided and abetted by “internationalists” willing to “betray American interests”, said Smoot. Reports claiming the bill would harm the US economy were decried as fake news. Republican Frank Crowther, dismissed press criticism as “demagoguery and untruth, scandalous untruth”.

In October 1929 as the Senate debated the tariff bill the stock market crashed. When the bill finally made it to Hoover’s desk in June 1930 it had morphed from his original “limited” plan to the “highest rates ever known”, according to a New York Times editorial.

The extent to which Smoot and Hawley were to blame for the coming Great Depression is still a matter of debate. “Ask a thousand economists and you will get a thousand and five answers,” said Charles Geisst, professor of economics at Manhattan College and author of Wall Street: A History.

What is apparent is that the bill sparked international outrage and a backlash. Canada and Europe reacted with a wave of protectionist tariffs that deepened a global depression that presaged the rise of Hitler and the second world war. A myriad other factors contributed to the Depression, and to the second world war, but inarguably one consequence of Smoot-Hawley in the US was that never again would a sitting US president be so avowedly anti-trade. Until today.

 

(click here to continue reading Anyone, anyone? What happened when the US last introduced tariffs | US news | The Guardian.)

Dusty bottle of Old Kentucky Tavern
Dusty bottle of Old Kentucky Tavern

Footnotes:
  1. or someone wormtonguing Trump’s ear []

Written by Seth Anderson

March 3rd, 2018 at 2:20 pm

Posted in Business,government,politics

Tagged with ,

America’s Secret Ice Base in Greenland Won’t Stay Frozen Forever

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Don t Get Crazy
Don’t Get Crazy. 

Ok, here’s a pretty weird story. The US started, then abandoned a top-secret military base under the ice of Greenland, called Camp Century aka Project Iceworm. The original goal was to have thousands of miles of underground tunnels and rail, and 600 nuclear missiles ready to be deployed against Moscow if they ever attempted to hack our elections. Ok, not that last part. But the tunnels, and nuclear weapons, that was real. The US didn’t even bother to ask the Danish government if it was ok with them to have nuclear weapons stored here, but in the end it didn’t matter because the ice turned out to be too unstable and the project was cancelled.

The Pentagon did what it often has done, left behind all the waste and garbage, even though much of it is toxic. Fast forward a few decades, and factor in climate change, and we have a real problem as Sarah Laskow of Wired writes:

Under the thick ice of Greenland, a scant 800 miles from the North Pole, the U.S. military built a hidden base of ice tunnels, imagined as an extensive network of railway tracks, stretching over 2,500 miles, that would keep 600 nuclear missiles buried under the ice. Construction began in 1959, under cover of a scientific research project, and soon a small installation, powered by a nuclear reactor, nested in the ice sheet.

In the midst of the Cold War, Greenland seemed like a strategic point for the U.S. to stage weapons, ready to attack the U.S.S.R. The thick ice sheet, military planners imagined, would provide permanent protection for the base. But after the first tunnels were built, the military discovered that the ice sheet was not as stable as it needed to be: It moved and shifted, destabilizing the tunnels. Within a decade, Camp Century was abandoned.

By the time the base was abandoned in 1967, it had its own library and theater, an infirmary, kitchen and mess hall, a chapel, and two power plants (one nuclear, one run on diesel). When the base closed, key parts of the nuclear power plant were removed, but most of the base’s infrastructure was left behind—the buildings, the railways, the sewage, the diesel fuel, and the low-level radioactive waste. In the 2016 paper, which Colgan worked on as well, the researchers suggested that the radiological waste was less worrisome than the more extensive chemical waste, from diesel fuel and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) used to insulate fluids and paints.

Overall, the researchers estimated that 20,000 liters of chemical waste remain at the Camp Century site, along with 24 million liters of “biological waste associated with untreated sewage.” That’s just at Camp Century; the military closed down bases at three other sites in Greenland, too, and it’s unclear how much waste is left there. Over the next few decades, the researchers found, melt water from the ice sheets could mobilize these pollutants, exposing both the wildlife and humans living in Greenland.

(click here to continue reading America’s Secret Ice Base Won’t Stay Frozen Forever | WIRED.)

It s Symbolic Of Course
It’s Symbolic Of Course

Written by Seth Anderson

February 28th, 2018 at 11:01 am

Chicago to Trump Justice Department: Drop Dead

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Ministry of Justice
Ministry of Justice (London, U.K.)

The proper response would have been to send a flaming bag of poop along with returning the documents sent by Trump’s goons. The “My offer is this: nothing” response…

The city of Chicago has told federal officials it is complying with a request for documents related to the ongoing dispute over its “sanctuary city” status by sending the Chicago Police Department’s general orders and its immigrant welcoming ordinance, among other orders, brushing off what it calls “insinuations” of violating federal law.

The city’s letter to the federal government Friday was in response to a Department of Justice requests for records to Chicago, Cook County and other municipalities across the country that have not fallen in line with the new immigration policies of the administration of President Donald Trump.

The federal government had sought records showing local law enforcement agencies are sharing information with federal agents, and it threatened the loss of federal grants if they didn’t comply.

“The Department’s insinuations about Chicago’s compliance with federal law are especially puzzling given that it is the Department’s misguided policies against welcoming jurisdictions, like Chicago, that judges across the country repeatedly have found to violate the Constitution and federal law,” wrote Ed Siskel, corporation counsel in Chicago’s Department of Law.

(click here to continue reading Chicago fires back at feds’ request for ‘sanctuary city’ documents, questioning ‘integrity’ of Trump’s Justice Department – Chicago Tribune.)

zing! Love it…

Bird and Butterfly Sanctuary
Bird and Butterfly Sanctuary

and there’s more:

In a letter Friday on behalf of Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, Siskel suggested the Justice Department’s efforts weren’t transparent.

“Rather than being motivated by a sincere desire to reduce violent crime in Chicago and other cities, it is increasingly clear that the Department’s policies … are in fact a pretext for the Department’s true purpose: to demonize immigrants and penalize municipalities that refuse to fall in line with the Department’s unlawful demands,” he wrote.

Further, the city asked the federal government to respond to its own Freedom of Information request about what documents the government believes the law entitles it to receive regarding immigrant populations in local jurisdictions, saying the government’s requests have been unclear and “outright contradictory.”

Siskel’s letter also took issue with what he described as the federal government’s threat of “criminal action” against public officials who don’t comply with these requests.

“It should go without saying that, in a free democracy, the executive branch cannot threaten individuals with criminal charges for opposing the President’s policies,” Siskel wrote. “The Department’s threats against welcoming cities raises serious questions about the integrity of the Department’s decisions in this area.”

Written by Seth Anderson

February 24th, 2018 at 1:19 am