Originally Published: 3/31/2018
2020 Census: The Commerce Department has agreed to the Justice Department’s request (TWW, Census, 1/6/18) to include a citizenship status question on the 2020 census. (Roll Call) Who’s behind this? It sounded like Kris Kobach to me (TWW, Kansas, 3/10/18; Operation Crosscheck, 7/8/17) now that his voting commission has been dissolved. (TWW, Voting Commission, 1/6/18; 12/30/17) So I went snooping and, lo and behold, the Kansas City Star reported that Kobach is taking credit for it. He claims that he’s been talking to Trump about this since Trump’s earliest days in the White House. Of course, it’s all about eroding “the political power of immigrant-dense regions.” The census is being weaponized. (The Atlantic) California immediately sued, arguing that it violates the Constitution. And New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that he’ll lead a multi-state lawsuit “to preserve what he said was a fair and accurate Census.” (Washington Post) Then another 10 states signaled they would join with Schneiderman. (NY Times)
What This Means: The U.S. Census is a population census. Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution states that all “free persons” shall be counted. It’s meant to track the number of human beings actually living in the country, regardless of their immigration or citizenship status. So what does it accomplish to ask if there are people in the household who are not citizens? Just because they are not citizens doesn’t mean they are undocumented. They are here. They are counted. So why ask the question? The census data is used to (a) allocate money to the states, (b) determine the number of representatives from each state, and (c) determine the number of the state’s electoral votes. If the question freaks out immigrants - documented or undocumented - and if there are undocumented persons in their households, they will be afraid Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will be notified and they’ll be deported. So, they won’t fill out the questionnaire. States like California, New York, Texas, and Arizona will lose money, representatives, and electoral votes. And, of course, California and New York predominantly vote Democratic. So this represents another attempt to shift the national political power. AG Jeff Session claims that adding this question will help enforce the Voting Rights Act. (NY Times)
The Attack: Make no mistake. This is part and parcel of Trump’s war on immigrants. However, it’s also an attack on democratic representation. Operation Crosscheck (TWW, Operation Crosscheck, 7/8/17), Cambridge Analytica and its cousins (TWW, Data Mining, 3/24/18), state voter ID laws, voter suppression (TWW, Voter Suppression, 1/13/18; Suppression Efforts, 6/17/17), and gerrymandering (TWW, Gerrymandering, 10/29/16) aren’t enough for Republicans to win elections. So now they’re going after the electoral votes and reducing representation of the 90% in Congress. Hey, if you can’t win votes on the issues, steal them.
Emoluments Lawsuit: U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte in Maryland ruled that Washington D.C. and Maryland attorneys general have legal standing to sue Trump for allegedly violating “the Constitution’s ban on taking ‘emoluments,’ or payments, from individual states and foreign governments.” (Washington Post)
Violation of Recusal: GOP leaders requested Attorney General Jeff Sessions to appoint a second special counsel “to look into the FBI’s handling of its most high-profile probes.” For now, Sessions has refused. (Washington Post) In a letter to 3 congressional committee chairs, Session said an existing Justice Department inquiry into issues raised earlier by the lawmakers include an examination of the surveillance matter, so there is no need for a special counsel. What none of the major media sources reporting on this noted is that this is probably a brazen violation of Sessions’ pledge to recuse himself from all matters related to the 2016 campaign. (TWW, Attorney General, 3/4/17) No one called him out on his involvement in the firing of FBI Director James Comey (TWW, The Firing, 5/13/17) or FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe (TWW, FBI, 1/27/18; Andrew McCabe, 3/17/18). And now it appears there is an internal examination that he has requested.
Veterans Affairs: Trump fired David Shulkin as Veterans Affairs Secretary. According to Shulkin, Trump wants to privatize the VA and he was “standing in the way.” (NPR) Privatizing the VA has been a Republican wet dream for decades. Trump plans to replace Shulkin with Ronny Jackson, the obsequious White House physician who so disgustingly sucked up to Trump at the press conference on the results of Trump’s annual physical. (Washington Post) It’s interesting to note that Jackson has no record of ever running anything. (NY Times)
Presidential Personnel Office: The White House office tasked with placing qualified people in key positions across government, is itself having a problem. Most of the staffers are in their 20s with little, if any, professional experience other than working on Trump’s campaign. But, among its leaders are a college dropout with arrests for drunken driving and a lance corporal in the Marine Corps reserves with arrests for assault, disorderly conduct, fleeing an officer, and underage drinking. “PPO leaders hosted happy hours last year in their offices that included beer, wine, and snacks for dozens of PPO employees and White House liaisons who work in federal agencies.” (Washington Post)
John Bolton: Time for some fun. Stephen Colbert covered some of our new national security adviser’s background and attempted to fight rumors that Bolton is a “madman” by having him appear on his show. This is very good. (You Tube)
Russia: Trump ordered the expulsion of 60 Russians in response to Russia’s alleged poisoning of a former spy in Britain. It includes 12 people “identified as Russian intelligence officers who have been stationed at the United Nations in New York, and also closes the Russian consulate in Seattle.” (NY Times) Russia retaliated by expelling 60 U.S. diplomats and an unspecified number of envoys from other countries and closing the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg. (NY Times)
South Korea: Trump “scored” his first significant trade deal with South Korea. It opens South Korea’s market to American autos by lifting existing limits on manufacturers like Ford and General Motors, “extends tariffs for South Korean truck exports, and restricts, by nearly a third, the amount of steel that [South Korea] can export to the United States.” (NY Times)
California: Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle ruled that coffee companies must carry a cancer warning label on their products sold in the state. “Acrylamide is a known carcinogen that is produced naturally during the process of baking or frying some foods. It is produced in coffee beans when they are roasted, and is prevalent in brewed cups.” (Washington Post)
Kentucky: The state general assembly approved a ban on the most common type of second trimester abortion, dilation and evacuation. (Louisville Courier Journal) If you remember, a ban on this type of abortion has been blocked by federal and state courts so it’s likely that Kentucky just passed a bill to spend a lot of money defending the indefensible.
Massachusetts: West Roxbury District Court Judge Mary Ann Driscoll found all 13 defendants charged with protesting a pipeline in the West Roxbury neighborhood not guilty. The defendants were originally hit with criminal charges but prosecutors must have seen the writing on the wall and downgraded the charges to civil infractions. Defendants argued that their actions were a “legal necessity.” The judge agreed. (Independent)
New Jersey: In response to Trump’s push to open up most federal waters to offshore drilling (TWW, Drilling, 1/6/18), New Jersey state legislators unanimously passed a bill banning offshore oil and gas development in state waters and a bill that bans infrastructure in state waters that would support drilling in federal waters off the state’s coast. Governor Phil Murphy (D) said he’ll sign it. (Atlantic City Press)
March for Our Lives: Students and their supporters staged protests all over the country last weekend - and even in other countries. (Guardian) The main protest was in Washington, D.C. Of course, demonstrators were met with resistance by pro-NRA members, carrying messages like “Shoot Back.” (NY Times) But voter registration activists registered thousands of first-time voters. (Reuters) Well done!
Facebook: It’s been collecting call and text message data for years from your mobile phone if you (a) have an Android device and (b) have Facebook on the phone. (ARS Technica) Apparently Google attempted to fix the problem last October but no one is sure that they haven’t found another way around it. Of course, if you installed Facebook before last October, you’re still being surveilled. (The Verge)
Testilying: The NY Times did a remarkable piece on American police culture. It claims that police lie under oath in court so often that they’ve given the practice a name - Testilying. Apparently the term came into common usage about 25 years ago, but the issue of police perjury goes back a lot more than that.
Sexual Assault: A letter signed by all 22 women in the Senate was sent to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R, KY) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D, NY) “slamming” the Senate’s inaction on moving sexual assault legislation forward “despite successful efforts in the House of Representatives.” (Think Progress)
Texas Oil Patch: West Texas has 2 giant sinkholes “caused by intensive oil and gas operations.” Geophysicists at Southern Methodist University “have found rapid rates of ground movement at various locations across a 4,000-square-mile swath around the 2 sinkholes.” Their research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, found that fluid injections for hydrocarbon extraction “have negative impacts on the ground surface and infrastructures, including possible induced seismicity.” (EcoWatch) This is news?