December 8, 2016

Some new pages for the Trump era

Our Trump page
Paul Ryan   

Questions about Sessions' civil rights cases

In a new report at, senior editor Adam Serwer investigates a 2009 claim made by Senator Jeff Sessionsand repeated recently by Trump transition spokespeoplethat he championed school desegregation when he was a U.S. attorney in the 1980s, filing “20 or 30 civil-rights cases to desegregate schools and political organizations.” The investigation by The Atlantic failed to find evidence that Sessions filed any new school desegregation lawsuits.

Serwer interviewed attorneys who worked on three of the four cases the Trump transition team used to support Sessions’s civil-rights record; all three said they did not recall Sessions playing a major role in any of the cases. And in interviews, those attorneys and former Justice Department officials and civil-right experts suggested it’s far more likely Sessions’s name appeared on any such cases out of standard practice to list the sitting U.S. attorney at the time. In fact, Serwer reports that it would be unusual for any desegregation case to be filed by a U.S. attorney rather than the civil rights division.
Serwer reports that searches of legal databases found no evidence that any new school-desegregation lawsuits were filed in Alabama’s Southern District by Sessions between 1981, when he became U.S. attorney in Alabama, and 1995, when he became Alabama attorney general, though it is possible that the records exist but are not in those databases. The Atlantic could find no reference to the claim in the transcripts of his 1986 confirmation hearing.
The Trump transition team offered The Atlantic a list of Sessions’s “top civil rights enforcement cases.” That list included 10 filings in four separate cases, three of them voting rights cases, and one in the ongoing Davis school desegregation case in 1986. But as Serwer reports, the record raises more questions than it answers. For example:
  • The list states that Sessions "brought the first anti voter suppression lawsuit in the history of the Department of Justice," in the 1983 case U.S. v. Conecuh County, when "Sessions sued white Conecuh County election officials, including the Chair of the local Republican Party." Sessions is indeed listed on the filing. But John Tanner, a former Bush-era Justice Department appointee and main attorney on that case, said that while he discussed the case with Sessions, who seemed "interested" and "supportive," most of the work was done out of the civil rights division.
  • Sessions is also listed on filings in the U.S. v. Dallas County Commission voting rights case, because it took place in his district. But Gerald Hebert, who was the lead civil rights division attorney on that case, said Sessions had little to do with the case itself. The case was a challenge to the county's at-large method of electing members to the county board of education, contending that it violated black voters' rights.

Trump chooses major critic of minimum wage increase as labor secretary

Washington Examiner- President-elect Donald Trump will reportedly tap Andy Puzder, chief executive of the company that owns the Hardee's and Carl's Jr. franchises, to be the next secretary of labor.

Puzder, a proponent of free-market economics, was one of Trump's staunchest advocates in the business community during the election.

Trump has not officially announced Puzder's nomination, but the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg have reported based on anonymous sources that it will be announced as early as Thursday. The fast-food magnate has long rumored to be the top candidate for the Cabinet post.

Puzder abandoned a career in law to take charge of CKE Restaurants, the parent company of Hardee's and Carl's Jr., in 1997 and is often credited with saving the then-faltering company.

Puzder has been a major critic of higher minimum wage laws, the administration's efforts to make franchise companies legally responsible for their franchisees, and the president's signature domestic achievement, Obamacare.

Meanwhile. . .

For the third day in a row, air pollution blanketed Paris, which authorities called the worst bout for at least 10 years. The city imposed driving restrictions and made public transit free.

The story of ranked choice voting 

Ben Carson doesn't tell the truth either

SF Gate - Pulitzer Prize-winning website Politifact examined 28 public statements from neurosurgeon/former Presidential candidate/future Sec. of HUD Ben Carson and found that none of them are 100 percent true.

Occasionally touching upon "mostly true", Carson's claims generally garner a Politifact ranking of "mostly false" to "pants on fire."

For example, Carson quoted Communist dictator Joseph Stalin as saying, "If you want to bring America down, you have to undermine three things: our spiritual life, our patriotism and our morality."

There is no evidence of Stalin ever saying anything like that — ever.

In defense of his lack of political experience, Carson took to Facebook to claim, "Every signer of the Declaration of Independence had no (federal*) elected office experience."

[*Carson edited his original post to add "federal" in the hopes that it might make his claim more accurate.]

Actually, 28 of the 56 signers had elected office experience. And none of them could have had federal experience because there was no federal government before the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Beginning January 20, 2017, Ben Carson will be the United States' Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Last month, a Carson representative told Reuters that the doctor wouldn't be joining President-elect Trump's administration due to his lack of government experience.

Politifact has yet to update their website with that Carson untruth.

John Kelly still believes in failed drug war

Jonn Kelly is Trump's Homeland Securty nominee

Reason - "Kelly is a big-time drug war zealot," says Michael Collins, deputy director of the Drug Policy Alliance's national affairs office. "He is true believer in the drug war, and it's incredibly worrying that he could now head up Homeland Security."

The Department of Homeland Security includes Customs and Border Protection, the Coast Guard, and the Transportation Security Administration, all of which play a direct or indirect role in the war on drugs. Kelly, a former Marine Corps general with an unrealistic notion of what can be accomplished by ships, aircraft, and men in uniform, is well-qualified to oversee these doomed antidrug activities, which apply military logic to a project that has nothing to do with foreign aggression or national defense.

As head of the Miami-based U.S. Southern Command for three years, Kelly witnessed the failure of drug interdiction and concluded that more interdiction was the answer. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee in March 2014, he complained that budget cuts had forced him to dial back drug interdiction in the Caribbean. "Because of asset shortfalls, we're unable to get after 74 percent of suspected maritime drug smuggling," Kelly said. "I simply sit and watch it go by." Later that day he told reporters, "Without assets, certain things will happen. Much larger amounts of drugs will flow up from Latin America."

Kelly apparently thinks interdiction reduces the total amount of drugs reaching the United States. But that is not how interdiction works, to the extent that it works at all. Given all the places where drugs can be produced and all the ways they can be transported to people who want them, the most that drug warriors can hope to accomplish is to impose costs on traffickers that are high enough to raise retail prices, thereby discouraging consumption.

Trump names anti-enviromentalist to head EPA

Business insider - Donald Trump has picked Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during his administration.

The Sierra Club, at 124 years old, is one of the most venerable environmental groups in the US. The group released a statement calling Pruitt unfit to serve as EPA Administrator, and comparing the choice to "putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires."

Pruitt, 48, has served as Attorney General for Oklahoma since 2011. In that time he's stood out among state-level politicians for his sharp opposition to EPA regulations — a position cited as a badge of honor on his official biography on his office's website.

He is part of a lawsuit designed to tear up the EPA's Clean Power Plan, a signature Obama administration effort to combat greenhouse gas emissions.

He's also part of a state administration that has taken a favorable stance toward fossil fuel extractors. During his five-year tenure as Oklahoma attorney general, a method of oil extraction that involves pumping saltwater into the ground became much more common in the state. The result was a sharp increase in earthquakes.

Before his term as State Attorney General, he served eight years in the Oklahoma State Senate, where, according to his official biography, he focused on "fiscal responsibility, religious freedom and pro-life issues."

Eco Watch = Pruitt, who was elected as Oklahoma's top legal officer in November 2010, states on his own LinkedIn page that he "has led the charge with repeated notices and subsequent lawsuits against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for their leadership's activist agenda and refusal to follow the law."

Although the president-elect will not be able to completely cancel Obama's historic carbon emissions standards for power plants, having a legally experienced EPA head can help "substantially weaken, delay or slowly dismantle them," the New York Times reported.

Pruitt was among a handful of other attorneys general that began planning as early as 2014 a coordinated legal effort to fight the Obama Administration's climate rules. That effort has resulted in a 28-state lawsuit against the Clean Power Plan. The case is now pending in federal court, but likely to advance to the Supreme Court, the New York Times said.

Trump's latest appointee falls in line with his other cabinet picks who deny the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is causing climate change. Pruitt once wrote an editorial questioning "the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind."

The Heartland Institute, a nonprofit that questions the reality and import of climate change, celebrated Trump's EPA appointment. H. Sterling Burnett, research fellow at The Heartland Institute, said in response, "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!"

Keith Gaby, the senior communications director of the Environmental Defense Fund, noted that since 2002, Pruitt has "received more than $314,996 from fossil fuel industries." In 2014, Pruitt was infamously caught sending letters to President Obama and federal agency heads asserting that the EPA was overestimating the air pollution from drilling for natural gas in Oklahoma. Turns out, the letter was by lawyers for one of state's largest oil and gas companies, Devon Energy.

Harold G. Hamm, the chief executive of Continental Energy, was also co-chairman of Pruitt's 2013 re-election campaign.

"By appointing Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Trump is putting America at risk," Greenpeace spokesperson Travis Nichols said. "Pruitt is a pure product of the oil and gas industry, installed in successive government posts to sell out his constituents at every turn. He will push this country far behind the rest of the world in the race for 21st century clean energy. With Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA, the people and the environment will be in the hands of a man who cares about neither."

December 7, 2016

Great thoughts of Paul Ryan

House Paul Ryan on 60 Minutes said that the veracity of Trump’s tweets doesn’t matter. All that matters is he won. “It doesn’t matter to me. He won the election,”



Allies of Clinton talking with advocates of anti-Trump electoral college move

Politico - Advocates of the long-shot bid to turn the Electoral College against Donald Trump have been in contact with close allies of Hillary Clinton, according to multiple sources familiar with the discussions, but the Clinton camp — and Clinton herself — have declined to weigh in on the merits of the plan.

Clinton's team and the Democratic National Committee have steadfastly refused to endorse the efforts spearheaded by a group of electors in Colorado and Washington state. But, as with the ongoing recounts initiated by Green Party nominee Jill Stein, the Clinton team has not categorically rejected them, leaving the collection of mainly Democratic electors to push forward with no explicit public support from the failed Democratic nominee or any other prominent party leaders.

Trump reportedly promises anti-gay action

Independent, UK - Donald Trump has reportedly given “assurances” that he will take action to undermine laws that are seen as protecting the rights of gay people in the US.

A Republican Congressman, Steve Russell, says he has been led to understand the new administration will back his drive to allow federal contractors “religious freedom”.

Critics say allowing federal contractors religious freedom means they can discriminate against LGBT people on the basis of at-times arbitrary religious beliefs, and still receive public money.

In 2014, President Barack Obama issued an executive order that banned LGBT discrimination by federal contractors across the board.

Mr Trump could simply act to scrap Mr Obama’s order, Mr Russell suggested. “The vagueness was created by the executive branch, so the executive branch [under Trump] could un-create the vagueness,” he said. “You reverse it by clarifying a bad executive order with a good one.”

Jazz break