April 22, 2018

Word: First Earth Day poster, 1970

No automatic alt text available. 

Trump regime has separated more than 700 immigrant children from their parents

NY Times -For months, members of Congress have been demanding answers about how many families are being separated as they are processed at stations along the southwest border, in part because the Trump administration has in the past said it was considering taking children from their parents as a way to deter migrants from coming here.

Officials have repeatedly declined to provide data on how many families have been separated, but suggested that the number was relatively low.

But new data reviewed by The New York Times shows that more than 700 children have been taken from adults claiming to be their parents since October, including more than 100 children under the age of 4.

65 percent of 18-29 year olds think abortion should be legal in all or most cases

Democratic campaign workers join union

NPR - The newly formed Campaign Workers Guild claims to have helped organize at least a dozen Democratic campaigns and one political consulting firm. "It's been far too long that workers in this industry have been exploited. And now we're finally standing together to put an end to that," said Ihaab Syed, the union's secretary.

Bernie forces seeking end to Democratic super delegates

Buzzfeed -A top Bernie Sanders official is asking Democratic leaders, including Hillary Clinton, to sign a draft letter recommitting to vastly shrinking or effectively eliminating the party’s controversial “superdelegates” system — and ultimately changing the presidential nominating process.

The effort to make Democratic primaries more fair — a process that has spanned two years, two committees, and dozens of arcane rules about how to make changes to the rules — is nearing its long-awaited end. Next month, the party’s Rules & Bylaws Committee convenes to begin drafting the final language that DNC members will or will not approve in a vote this summer.

At stake is the future of “superdelegates,” the 700 or so party leaders entitled to cast votes as “unpledged delegates” for the candidate of their choosing.

Sexual abuse starts early

NY Times -Research shows that 43 percent of middle school students experience sexual harassment from their peers. And a third of teenagers report experiencing relationship abuse. Rates may be even higher in kids with disabilities and those who identify as L.G.B.T.Q.

April 21, 2018

Bernard College students vote for Palestinian rights

Electronic Intifada - In a major victory for the Palestinian rights movement on US college campuses, students at Barnard College in New York City voted nearly two-thirds in favor of a referendum supporting divestment from companies profiting from Israel’s human rights violations.

Barnard, a partner of Columbia University, is a prestigious women’s college with a large Jewish student population.

More than 64 percent of voters approved the referendum \.

Police lobbying for anti-protest legislation

In These Times -  Minneapolis police union president Lt. Bob Kroll told In These Times that he lobbied Minnesota lawmakers to advance a statewide law clamping down on protests—legislation that civil liberties advocates say targets Black Lives Matter.

The pending bill, HF 390/SF 676, would significantly increase fees and jail time for protesters who block highways, a common civil disobedience tactic, including at protests against police killings. According to the ACLU of Minnesota, the proposed legislation “chills dissent” and constitutes an “attempt to silence Black Lives Matter movement.”
Kroll has faced numerous accusations of racism for, among other comments, likening protests against police killings to “the local version of Benghazi” in 2015 and calling Black Lives Matter a “terrorist organization” in 2016.

Minneapolis police aren’t alone: According to research conducted for In These Times in partnership with Ear to the Ground, law enforcement in at least eight states—Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Washington and Wyoming—lobbied on behalf of anti-protest bills in 2017 and 2018. The bills ran the gamut from punishing face coverings at protests to increasing penalties for “economic disruption” and highway blockage to criminalizing civil protests that interfere with “critical infrastructure” like oil pipelines.

Emboldened by the Trump administration, at least 31 states have considered 62 pieces of anti-protest legislation since November 2016, with at least seven enacted and 31 still pending.

Flotsam & Jetsam: When television took over politics

Sam Smith - It's been my long held thesis that few things have altered American politics more than the arrival of television's popularity as a source of news and opinion.  As noted here before, for example, it had a profound effect on political corruption. Prior to television, corruption was a feudal arrangement i.e. politicians were permitted corruption but it was assumed that they paid back to the people in services. With television advertising, service to the voter took a distant back seat to image as seen on TV supported by huge sums of advertising money largely unrelated to the average citizen.

Even more serious was the arrival of cable news domination. Both CNN and Fox began during the Reagan administration, a fair time to designate as the start of America's modern decline. And MSNBC began in  1996, in the midst of the Clinton years - a time that marked by the decline of the Democratic Party.

But it all really began with the first presidential debate on television - between Richard Nixon and John F, Kennedy in 1960.  Kennedy's performance clearly gave him the edge on TV, but at least one survey indicated that Nixon had proved more popular on radio.

These thoughts come back to mind because I recently discovered a poem I wrote in October 1960 that showed I was already worried about what television was doing to politics:

I'll Take My Candidate Without Cream or Sugar, Thank You

Pollster, spare that candidate. 
Give him a chance to run. 
Free from all percentage points, 
Safe from statistics' gun. 

Make-up men, leave them alone
Stop your foolish fixin' 
Just look at the mess you made
Painting Mr. Nix'n

Television men you goofed,
You made the veep too hot. 
You brought poor Dick cruel age 
With a misdirected spot. 

Ghostwriters, I do not care
How you'd run the States.
Just let me hear the voices of
Unhaunted candidates 

But Dick and John are hidden
A glance is all I see. 
With too damn many people
Between those two and me.

Another story on this topic 

Police kill a higher percentage of blacks

Police killings by race. 

Who's benefiting from Trump's tax scam

Alternet - According to new analysis by the Associated Press, six big Wall Street banks made an additional $3.59 billion dollars so far this year thanks to the tax law.

Arizona teachers vote to strike

Popular Resistance -Teachers in the southwestern US state of Arizona have overwhelmingly voted to strike to demand improved wages for educators and support staff, and restore more than $1 billion in school funding cuts over the last decade. At a press conference Thursday night, officials from the Arizona Education Association announced that 78 percent of the 57,000 educators who cast ballots over the last three days voted for strike action.

April 20, 2018

Trump names anti-scientist to run NASA

The Maven -President Donald Trump has appointed Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to lead NASA, America's preeminent scientific agency, tasked with exploring outer space and the Earth's atmosphere.

There are a couple of issues with this appointment:

1) Mr. Bridenstine wants to strip “expansion of human knowledge” about space & Earth from NASA objectives according to the American Institute of Physics. Bridenstine proposes that NASA amend its institutional objectives, which would include eliminating current objectives for the “expansion of human knowledge of the Earth and of phenomena in the atmosphere and space” and the conduct of studies on “the utilization of aeronautical and space activities for peaceful and scientific purposes.”

2) Mr. Bridenstine is a pro-supernatural, anti-science, evangelical bigot who is against the reproductive rights women according to New Civil Rights Movement: "Bridenstine is everything you'd expect of a Republican Congressman from Oklahoma. He's anti-gay, opposes same-sex marriage, opposes ObamaCare, opposes a woman's right to choose, denies climate change is real and even opposes supporting alternative energy, he "pals around" with far right wing extremists like Family Research Council's Tony Perkins, wants fetuses to have the same civil rights as people who have been born, wants a federal law banning same-sex marriage and thinks states should have the right to ban it."

3) While Mr. Bridenstine doesn't care much for science or education, he does care a lot about what people are doing behind closed doors. He is radically bigoted against the LGBT community and believes fetuses should have the same rights as people who've been born. The Oklahoma Congressman, unsurprisingly, is against comprehensive sex education in favor of abstinence only. He is against a woman's right to choose.

4) On top of all of this, Mr. Bridenstine is an extreme climate denier, who is even anti-renewable energy. The role of NASA chief is to be a non-partisan expert in science, the Congressman from Oklahoma fails overwhelmingly at this.

Monsanto-Bayer merger not healthy for earth

Friends of the Earth - Glyphosate -- a.k.a. Monsanto’s Roundup -- is the most-used pesticide in history. Usage jumped from only 11 million pounds in 1987 to nearly 300 million pounds today.

Monsanto is making huge profits off this highly toxic chemical. And now, Monsanto is trying to increase its power over our food system by merging with Bayer -- one of the largest producers of bee-killing neonicotinoids.

93% of farmers surveyed think this mega-merger is a bad idea. Over 1 million Americans have called on the Justice Department to stop it. But despite widespread opposition to the merger, the European Union approved it. And the Department of Justice recently followed suit.

Grants for commuity courts

Center for Court Innovation - Community courts seek to improve neighborhood safety and engage residents in solving local problems. Researchers have documented that community courts help to reduce recidivism and the use of jail while improving public trust in justice. Since the launch of the first community court in Midtown, Manhattan, the model has expanded to new jurisdictions, new settings (including libraries), and new populations (including veterans).

Some cities have also sought to "go to scale" with community justice, applying community court principles and practices broadly across an entire jurisdiction.

In partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Center for Court Innovation is excited to announce the 2018 Community Court Grant Program. Assistance is available in three categories: (1) funding and technical assistance to create or enhance a community court; (2) funding and technical assistance for an impact evaluation of an established community court; and (3) recognition of, and technical assistance to, community courts that wish to serve as mentors to the field.

The solicitation announcement and application instructions are available here. Proposals are due on Wednesday, May 30, 2018.

Democrats need some new potential presidential candidates

Sam Smith - The three top rated presidential candidates among Democrats have one common problem. They'd have a hard time winning. Two - Biden and Sanders - are in their seventies and Elizabeth Warren is a wonderful member of the Senate but is more like a fine teacher than someone who would swing votes in a presidential election.

Any of the three would be immensely better than the current president, but what the Demcrats don't seem to realize is that change this time is not only going to be political  but generational. To win the Democrats have to excite younger Americans.

One name I've been tossing out has been Rep. Joe Kennedy III - not because he is necessarily the right choice but he is an example of what the Democrats should be looking for. The Democrats - who seem to have forgotten about issues other than being justifiably mad at Republicans - only have a short time to discover some appealing issues and candidates. Playing the old game is not likely to work.

Fedeal appeals court slaps Trump scheme against sanctuary cities

Mother Jones -A federal appeals court  upheld a lower court’s decision to issue a national injunction against the Trump administration’s efforts to deny federal funding to sanctuary cities.

The three-judge panel sided with the city of Chicago, which sued the Trump administration last year after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the DOJ would deny certain publicly safety grants to law enforcement agencies in cities that limited their cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement . The city’s lawyers had argued that Sessions exceeded his authority when he placed conditions on the grants beyond what Congress had outlined when it set up the programs. The judges agreed, ruling to uphold the injunction while Chicago’s lawsuit winds its way through the federal courts.

“The Attorney General in this case used the sword of federal funding to conscript state and local authorities to aid in federal civil immigration enforcement,” Judge Ilana Rovner on behalf of the court. “But the power of the purse rests with Congress[.]”

Trump floated idea of jailing journalists who reported leaks

Huffington Post - President Donald Trump floated the idea of jailing journalists to stop leaks from the White House, former FBI Director James Comey wrote in a memo last year in which he recalled an encounter with the president.

“The president then wrapped up our conversation by returning to the issue of finding leakers,” Comey wrote in the document, dated Feb. 14, 2017. “I said something about the value of putting a head on a pike as a message. He replied by saying it may involve putting reporters in jail.”

?‘They spend a couple days in jail, make a new friend, and they are ready to talk,’” Comey recounted the president saying. “I laughed as I walked to the door Reince Priebus had opened.”

Marijuana legalization is not a new idea

Chuck Schumer's support of marijuana legalization comes nearly fifty years after the federal government began its disastrous war on drugs. At the time, the Progressive Review was the DC Gazette, an underground newspaper serving the capital. In January 1970 we ran a story on the topic that shows how much the war on pot was also a battle against reality. 

Erbin Crowell, DC Gazette, January 1970 - Nobody can prove that the Father of our Country was a pot-head, but old George's diary shows evidence that he was well aware that only the flowering female cannabis sativa had uses other than rope— the male and female marijuana plants were meticulously separated at Mt. Vernon.

Now, a couple of centuries later, near Washington's old homestead, the appointed overseers of the Congressional plantation carved out some of George's vast land holdings are publicly examining the medical, psychological, social and legal aspects of marijuana. The hardy plant seems to have yielded not only miles of hemp rope and volumes of literature on its other properties, it is now eliciting opinion from everyone — from City Council Chairman Gilbert Hahn and the Surgeon General of the United States to Joseph Alsop and Petey Greene's grandmother.

The Public Safety Committee of the City Council held two days of hearings this month to hear scientific and public testimony about marijuana.  Most what it heard:  marijuana scientifically, is a mild conscious altering drug; it is not addictive, nor does  it lead to the use of addicting drugs; it has been known and used and studied for literally thousands of years, and no physiological damage whatsoever has been discovered; instances of adverse mental effects resulting from its use are extremely rare.

Most significant to the Council's hearing — and to a good number of kids who are in prison on pot convictions — was the fact, reiterated by Surgeon General Jesse L. Steinfeld, that "in the case of marijuana, legal penalties were originally assigned with total disregard for medical and scientific evidence of the properties of the drug or its effects. " 

"I know of no clearer instance in which the punishment for infraction of the law is more harmful than the crime, " Steinfeld concluded. That touches on the ostensible reason the Council is so concerned, but Catfish Turner probably got closer to the reality of the matter when he noted that no one in the white establishment was concerned when the use of pot was limited to Mexican Americans, ghetto blacks and a few musicians. "It's only when it gets into your suburbia and your white middle class colleges that you begin to get at all concerned, " Turner said.

And Petey Greene, who testified alongside Turner agreed: "See, you people are just conning (What? Councilman Daugherty asked. ) Faking, man, just faking. You're showing all this concern not for the community but just because some congressmen's kids got busted. "

Marijuana smoking is now so widespread among the white middle and upper classes, said Greene, that "probably some of you up there got a little nickel (5-dollar) bag you go back to when this is over." The government has never worried about lying to the ghetto, but now, Catfish said, it is realizing that it "has got to stop telling these youngsters all these lies because they know you're lying and you know they do. "

Greene "testified" on behalf of his grandmother, whose opinions on marijuana are based on practical experience. She once told her grandson to quit: "Petey, you gotta stop smoking those reefers, because they make you too hungry, and I can't buy all that extra food. " Later, on comparing its effects with those of alcohol, "She said she'd rather me smoke reefers and just sit and smile at people than drink that old wine and come in throwing chairs around. "

While [Republican] Council Chairman Hahn admitted that the Council has no power to make the use and possession of marijuana legal, "it may have the power by regulation to create an alternate lighter penalty for the use and possession of marijuana ." And more important, Hahn told reporters afterwards, the hearings provided an opportunity both to hear from and , educate the public.

So the scientists were called in. (There were only a couple of cops guarding the Council chambers on that day and about five times that number the next morning when "the public" was to be heard.) Harvard's director of psychiatric research, Dr. Lester Grinspoon, called for immediate legalization under controls similar to those now on alcohol. Grinspoon recommended continued study, but said under questioning that there is already more than sufficient scientific knowledge to conclude that "no amount of research will ever find marijuana as dangerous as alcohol or tobacco." Much of the other scientific testimony said as much about the testifiers as it did about pot. The John Hopkins Drug Abuse Center, and the Pharmacology De- partments of Howard and George Washington attempted to convince the Council that "we know so little" and that what was needed was a great deal more re- search money, presumably to their own institutions. The testimony of representatives of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs was notable for its meekness. Although the narcs still refer to marijuana as a killer drug before high school audiences, still try to imply that pot inevitably and immediately leads to heroin, still pass out 1930 "s posters of marijuana as the Grim Reaper—they backed off under Council questioning.

The narc's Dr. Milton Joffe even allowed that although "legalizing simply for hedonistic purposes" was not warranted, "I'm not against pleasure…" And there were few surprises in the public testimony from about thirty individuals and organizations. Judge Charles Halleck recommended more realistic penalties, since present laws tend to cause the com- munity "to lose faith in the entire system of justice. " James H. Heller of the National Capital Area Civil Liberties Union called for legalization of pot. He said he saw no reason that it should be treated any different from alcohol. (He admitted to having tried grass once, "but it didn't have any effect. " "Maybe you just didn't know how to smoke it, " Councilwoman Polly Shackleton consoled him.) Rev.  John Bussey, President of the D. C. Baptist Ministers Conference, called marijuana evil and sinful and warned against the terrors of bending or reducing any penalties.  "This is not the time to let up," said Bussey.

 Dr. Seymour Albert, speaking for the D. C. Medical Society, promised to testify only on medical grounds but could cite no medical evidence for his opinion that pot was more harmful than alcohol, expressed worry that "marijuana is only used in a deliberative effort to escape reality, " said he had no opinion on legal matters but that marijuana should "be not legalized," and concluded that the penalties should be "left up to lawyers. "

Virginia Riley of the D. C.  Bar Association Mental Health Committee took the time to testify that the Bar Association had no opinion and no position on the matter.  Father Robert Judge, a dean at Georgetown University, estimated that as many as 85% of Georgetown freshmen have used marijuana at one time or another. He felt that continued use might indicate a tendency to "cop out, " but admitted that "often the continuing users are the better students. " He recommended that legal sanctions against pot "should be extremely minimized. " The D. C. Republican Central Committee asked for more study, expressed the hope that it could after a year or so "make a more mature judgement, " and under questioning hinted that penalties should be reduced. Dr.  Dan Fivel of the D. C. Democratic Central Committee submitted its resolution (passed 7 to 1) that all penalties be eliminated "for possession, use, and distribution of marijuana except insofar as may be required to control sale to minors and use by persons operating motor vehicles. " Hip blacks echoed Green and Turner that the Council exhibited its racist bias by ignoring the marijuana "problem" until it had spread outside the bounds of the ghetto. A couple of conservative Neg- roes asked for stricter enforcement of present laws…  A couple of ex-addicts who had smoked, shot and drunk virtually everything they could get their hands on testified to the mild nature of pot. One even told the Council that it was liquor—not marijuana—that led him to heroin. The Capitol Hill Action Group recommended legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana—the tax revenues would be significant to this tax-poor colony.  Terry Becker, a Quicksilver Times reporter, surprised everyone by calling for more stringent penalties and stricter enforcement. Becker wanted "everyone to turn on and everyone to get busted;" it would hasten the revolution, he said.

There were 100 to 125 spectators on each day of the hearings and WETA carried some of the proceedings so, as Chairman Hahn hoped, there was ample opportunity for "educating the public. " And Hahn made sure there was a full and accurate record. Noting that Surgeon General Steinfeld had referred to the famous Alice B. Toklas marijuana or hash brownies but claimed the recipe was not to be found in Alice's cookbook, Hahn opened the second day of hearings by setting the record straight. You will find the recipe on page 273 of Alice B. Toklas, announced Hahn, and having fulfilled his public responsibility, he ordered the proceedings to proceed. "Looks fine to me!"