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WEEKLY WONK

Originally Published: 4/21/2018

Public Schools:  Public school teachers are striking all over the country. Why? What’s the problem? The New York Times asked this question and was given answers and was shown the conditions that a decade of budget cuts has wrought in their schools. 4,200 teachers responded to the call. Teachers are making as little as $43,000 a year for 20 years of experience. Many will retire at the poverty level. Despite the low salary levels, they spend as much as $1,500 a year out of their own pockets for classroom supplies. A teacher in Tempe, Arizona, one of the more liberal communities in Arizona, said: “The building smells old and dank. There are holes in the ceiling, skylights don’t work, the walls need to be painted. I still use a chalk board but - more important - my students need new desks and computers.” In Las Vegas, a teacher received 6 laptops to teach typing to a class of 42 students. Check out the picture. Great equipment, huh? He crowdfunded to get 10 Chromebooks “with all the keys on the keyboard.” Many teachers are working several jobs - even those with master’s degrees. The stories go on and on. What does it say about a culture that will send its children into buildings that are dangerous, have them spend the day reading from books that are out of date, are taught by teachers who are working other jobs to be able to pay their bills and buy the stuff they need for the classrooms? We have no value for our children or our future. We deserve what we get.

 

Raid on Cohen:  Apparently right after the raid on Michael Cohen’s office, home, and hotel room, U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood ordered Cohen and his attorneys “to hand over a list of Cohen’s law clients and proof of their relationship by 10 a.m. Monday” so she could decide whether the materials seized needed to be protected as attorney/client privilege. The list would become public record. (Politico) Monday morning, shortly before the deadline, Cohen’s attorneys filed a letter with the court saying that he wouldn’t provide the names of any clients that weren’t already publicly available. He said he had been engaged in “traditional legal tasks” with at least 3 clients in 2017 and 2018 and named Trump as one and Elliot Broidy, the GOP fundraiser for whom Cohen arranged a hush payment for a Playboy model he impregnated. (Wall Street Journal) He didn’t name the third. Then, Cohen’s attorney revealed that the mystery third client is Fox News commentator Sean Hannity. Hannity denied that he’d ever hired Cohen but said that he had “sought confidential legal advice from him. But he was claiming attorney/client privilege? Can’t have the privilege without the relationship. (Reuters) And we all know what type of thing Cohen excels in. Trump’s relationship with Hannity, which has long been questioned, is put in bas-relief by this information. They share the same attorney. Hannity has been called the president’s chief of staff and White House staff say “he basically has a desk in the place.” (Washington Post) Also, in a letter written Saturday, Trump asked Wood to allow him to review the documents that FBI agents seized from the office of Michael Cohen (TWW, Michael Cohen, 4/14/18) “before criminal investigators have a chance to see the material.” [Emphasis added.] Trump wants to be the one to go through all the documents and determine what anyone sees? I guess he really does believe he’s above the law. (Washington Post) Wood rejected this request. (NY Times)

 

James Comey:  His memos detailing his dealings with Trump have been released. They’re redacted, of course, but unredacted versions are being released to Congress. Wanna read them? Here ya go. And please stop praising Comey. This guy is no liberal icon. His midnight run (TWW, James Comey, 5/19/07) had nothing to do with doing the right thing. He was protecting John Ashcroft, his boss and friend. In addition to his role in the defeat of Hillary Clinton, he has “a long history of approving warrantless wiretapping and a slew of other ‘authoritarian abuses.’” He spent years trying to get Apple to undermine its security by putting in a backdoor for authorities. He worked to outlaw end-to-end encryption. He signed off on the illegal Bush torture program. (Common Dreams) He was the guy behind the prosecution of Jose Padilla - a U.S. citizen, arrested on U.S. soil, and planning a crime in the U.S. - but he treated him as an enemy combatant and placed him in a military prison. (ACLU) This guy has been a right-wing ideologue his entire career and he does 1 thing that people like and they put him on a pedestal. Knock him off.

 

Rudy Giuliani:  He’s back!! And he’s going to join Trump’s legal team. (NY Times)

 

Trump’s Re-election Committee:  So far it’s spent more than 20% of the $3.9 million it’s collected on attorneys fees. (Washington Post)

 

Britain:  Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, is calling for a war powers act that would stop Prime Minister Theresa May “from launching bombing raids without first consulting MPs.” He wants a “proper debate” in parliament before action is taken in Syria. Apparently he’s pretty upset that Parliament wasn’t consulted before May joined with Trump and Emmanuel Macron to strike Syria. He also wants a UN-led independent investigation of last week’s chemical attack. (Independent)

 

North Korea:  CIA Director Mike Pompeo met secretly with Kim Jong Un over the Easter weekend “as an envoy” for Trump. (Washington Post) Maybe it was job training for being Secretary of State. It appears that people who supported him for CIA Director will not support him for Secretary of State (Washington Post) so Trump is warning vulnerable red-state Dems that they will feel the “consequences” in November if they vote against him. (Roll Call) Maybe it made a difference though. Kim Jong-un announced that he had stopped nuclear and missile tests and would close a nuclear test site. However, he did not say he would dismantle his nuclear weapons or long-range missiles (NY Times) or release the 3 U.S. citizens he’s holding.

 

Russia:  Nikki Haley, our Ambassador to the UN, said on Sunday that we would be imposing new sanctions against Russia. (NY Daily News) The next day Trump threw her under the bus. “As officials in Moscow condemned the planned sanctions as overly punitive, Trump conferred with his national security advisers . . . and told them he was upset the sanctions were being officially rolled out because he was not yet comfortable executing them.” (Chicago Tribune)

 

Net Neutrality:  The states are fighting back against Federal Communications Commission chair Ajit Pai’s declaration that net neutrality is dead. (TWW, Net Neutrality, 2/24/18) So far Washington and Oregon have enacted net neutrality laws, and governors in at least 5 states - Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Montana, and Vermont - have signed executive orders upholding the principle. And California has introduced a bill that is the most comprehensive state measure yet. (LA Times

 

Colorado:  In 2013 the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) granted a permit to Mineral Resources for fracking a few hundred feet from Frontier Academy, a majority white charter school in Greeley. Parents complained and the project was abandoned. In 2016 the same company, now owned by Extraction Oil and Gas, was granted another permit, this time even closer to a school but this one is 82% Hispanic, black, or other minority. “Despite community opposition to the project . . . COGCC granted Extraction a permit near the school.” Now the Sierra Club, the Colorado NAACP, and environmental groups Weld Air and Water and Wall of Women have filed suit against COGCC. (Mother Jones)

 

Kansas:  Once again U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson has taken Kobach to task. (TWW, Kansas, 3/10/18) She found him in contempt of court for violating her order requiring him to inform certain people that they were eligible to cast a ballot “while a lawsuit challenging a state law” was going through the courts. She didn’t fine him but ordered him to pay court costs, including attorney fees, to the American Civil Liberties Union. (AP)

 

Kentucky:  Teachers walked out last week in a statewide protest. Governor Matt Bevin (R) said they exposed “hundreds of thousands” of children to sexual assault and drug use by walking out. (Washington Post) You can’t make this shit up.

 

New York:  Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) signed an executive order giving parolees the right to vote, “taking unilateral action after the Republican-led Senate rejected a similar proposal.” About 35,000 people are on parole in New York, with blacks and Hispanics accounting for about 71% of the population. (Washington Post)

 

New Tax Law:  The new tax law is working - for banks! They saved $3.6 billion last quarter. (AP) Does that mean they save $14.4 billion every year? Where do you suppose that money is going and how is it being used? I can guarantee you it isn’t funding schools or healthcare. John Oliver (You Tube) has a great take on the new tax cut, especially as it pertains to job creation. This is a good one.

 

Immigration:  The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5 to 4 ruling, found that part of a federal law “used to deport noncitizens who commit felonies” is unconstitutionally vague. Justice Elena Kagan wrote the majority opinion, saying that the Immigration and Nationality Act was so “fuzzy” over “what constitutes the kind of aggravated felony that requires an immigrant’s deportation that it violated the constitutional protection of due process.” She was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and - get this - Neil Gorsuch. (Washington Post) Lest you think that Gorsuch has gone soft, he’s always been a stickler for following laws as written, not by intent.

 

Green Cards:  Apparently Trump has changed a rule under the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status program, “which lets children under the age of 21 who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by one or both parents obtain a green card.” No one has heard anything about a new rule but in the last few weeks green cards have been denied to youngsters who clearly qualify. The NY Times refers to the “unannounced policy reversal” which states that applicants in New York who were over 18 but under 21 when they began the application process would no longer qualify.

 

Marriage:  It used to be that being married to a U.S. citizen was a guarantee of being granted legal residency. You just had to prove that the marriage was real and not an agreement to get someone into the U.S. But - not anymore. Immigrants living in the U.S. for years, maybe even decades, with old deportation orders that were never enforced, are now being deported. The NY Times has an interesting piece about this with a story about a man who was told his application had been approved. He was being granted legal residency. Then he was told that ICE was there to arrest him and he was deported.

 

Sanctuary Cities:  Another court weighed in on Trump’s attempts to punish sanctuary cities. (TWW, Sanctuary Cities, 4/14/18) A 3-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago ruled against Trump’s effort to withhold federal funds for law enforcement from sanctuary cities, “saying the term itself is an unfair attack on local authorities.” (Washington Post)

 

John Bolton:  Since he’s taken over as National Security Advisor, he’s been reshaping the National Security Council (NSC). In his first week he forced out 4 senior aides and “sources say more changes are expected in the coming weeks as Bolton forms his own team.” (The Hill)

 

Marijuana:  Remember, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Obama-era policy that eased off enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states that legalized it and gave federal prosecutors wide latitude to pursue criminal charges. (TWW, Marijuana, 1/6/18) But Senator Cory Gardner (R, CO) has gotten Trump to change the policy by blocking Senate confirmation of Justice Department nominations to force the change. Trump is now reported to “lift” the plans for a crackdown on marijuana. (Reuters) Most people are reacting “with caution.” (Reuters)

 

Scott Pruitt:  The $43,000 that Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) administrator spent on a soundproof phone booth (TWW, Scott Pruitt, 3/17/18) violated the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act which prohibits an agency from paying more than $5,000 to redecorate or furnish a presidential appointee’s office without approval. (Government Accountability Office) A group of 39 senators and 131 representatives signed a resolution calling for the “immediate resignation” of Pruitt. (EcoWatch)

 

Babies in the Senate:  The senate changed its rules this week to allow mothers to bring their infants onto the Senate floor. (Roll Call)

 

2016 Election:  The Democratic Party has filed suit alleging a conspiracy by Russian officials, the Trump campaign, and WikiLeaks to damage the Clinton campaign. (NY Times) I don’t know what they think this will do except maybe make public some of the machinations which are now not known. 

 

Romaine Lettuce:  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are warning people not to eat Romain lettuce in any form, chopped in salads or salad mixes, whole heads, or hearts - unless you’ve grown it yourself or know the source. An outbreak of E. coli was traced to Romaine lettuce grown in Yuma, Arizona. At first the CDC warning was limited to just a few areas but the outbreak has spread across the U.S., even to Alaska, so the CDC is telling people everywhere not to eat any. (Washington Post)

 

Great Barrier Reef:  The Great Barrier Reef suffered “a catastrophic die-off” from 2 back-to-back marine heat waves in 2016 and 2017. Many of the reef communities have been fundamentally changed. A new study published in the journal Nature “reveals just how vulnerable many coral species are to rising ocean temperatures and shows that these vital habitats will continue to be affected if global warming continues unabated.” (LA Times)

 

Amazon:  Taxpayers have generously subsidized Amazon’s warehouses across the country, with the promise that Amazon would create jobs. But, just like Walmart, Amazon pays its employees below-average wages, so little they have to use the SNAP program (food stamps). So those millions of dollars taxpayers have put out to subsidize Amazon were just the beginning. We’re still subsidizing Amazon. (The Intercept) And while to my knowledge no one has studied it, I’ll bet dimes to donuts that Amazon, just like Walmart, has a lot of employees on Medicaid. So you think those products are cheap?

 

ZTE:  The Commerce Department banned U.S. companies from selling components to ZTE Corp., a Chinese telecom equipment maker, for 7 years, “for violating the terms of a sanctions violation case.” (Reuters)

 

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