How Shell Greenwashed its Image as Internal Documents Warned of Fossil Fuels' Contribution to Climate Change
Shell knew about the relationship between burning fossil fuels and climate change as early as the 1980s. So what did the company decide to do about it? Stop burning fossil fuels?
No. It changed its advertising strategy.
A tranche of documents uncovered last week by Jelmer Mommers of De Correspondent published on Climate Files, a project of the Climate Investigations Center, revealed that Shell knew about the danger its products posed to the climate decades ago. The company has continued to double-down on fossil fuel investment since the turn of the century despite this knowledge.
But in the wake of a bribery scandal in Nigeria that resulted in two dozen employees being fired, the company was concerned enough about its dirty image to work out a new PR strategy.Tags: #ShellKnewRoyal Dutch Shell
Eurocontrol warns airlines of possible missile strikes into Syria --Air-to-ground and/or cruise missile threat-agency -- Exercise caution over eastern Mediterranean in next 72 hrs --Regulators told airlines to avoid Syrian airspace | 11 April 2018 | Pan-European air traffic control agency Eurocontrol on Tuesday warned airlines to exercise caution in the eastern Mediterranean due to the possible launch of air strikes into Syria in next 72 hours. Eurocontrol said that air-to-ground and/or cruise missiles could be used within that period and there was a possibility of intermittent disruption of radio navigation equipment. U.S. President Donald Trump and Western allies are discussing possible military action [against Syria].
Duma defense chief says Russia may respond with military force to US strike on Syria | 10 April 2018 | The head of the Duma defense committee and former commander of Russian airborne troops has said Moscow would take all measures, including military ones, in response to a possible US strike on government forces in Syria. "The double standard policy has overstepped all possible boundaries. At this point, the [pro-Putin parliamentary majority] United Russia party must responsibly state that we are going to take all political and diplomatic measures, and also military measures if such need arises," Vladimir Shamanov said on Tuesday before the State Duma plenary session. "Not a single unlawful action will be left without response," he added.
US Navy destroyer is now off Syrian coast with 60 Tomahawk missiles | 10 April 2018 | A U.S. Navy destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, is now situated off the coast of Syria with 60 Tomahawk cruise missiles on board, CNN Turk has reported. The news comes just one day after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he won't "rule out anything right now" when it comes to launching airstrikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in response to the suspected chemical weapons attacks on civilians over the weekend. A Navy source confirmed to the Washington Examiner that the guided-missile destroyer completed a port call in Cyprus and "got underway in the eastern Mediterranean within range of Syria Monday." The Pentagon said the move was planned in advance.
As if endangered species didn't have enough to worry about, they're about to have a vocal opponent of animals and conservation overseeing their protection in the White House. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has named Susan Combs to serve as the acting assistant secretary of fish, wildlife and parks.
To fully understand why Combs is such a terrible pick, take a look at her history as a comptroller in Texas. In that role, she routinely went up against the US Fish and Wildlife Service when they tried to enforce portions of the Endangered Species Act in her state. She also successfully fought to keep the golden-cheeked warbler and the dune sagebrush lizard from being included on the endangered list.
Combs made it her business to protect the oil industry and other corporations from the supposed drag of having to make adjustments to preserve vulnerable species. She opposed pretty much every creature considered for endangered designation on economic grounds.
Perhaps most infamously, Combs once labeled animals included on the official endangered list as "incoming Scud missiles." How her mind managed to decide that animals in need of conservation efforts are equivalent to deadly weapons is completely perplexing.
You're kidding yourself if you think this nomination is some kind of accident. It's both deliberate and telling for Zinke to put a known opponent of the Endangered Species Act in charge of wildlife policy.
Granted, Combs cannot dismantle the Endangered Species Act -- that kind of thing would require legislation by Congress. However, from this secretary position, should we have the discretion to enforce the rules, thereby allowing companies to flout the rules without repercussions. Furthermore, the policies she would promote are almost certainly not going to benefit the wildlife she's charged with protecting.
Interestingly, this role is not the first for which the Trump administration has nominated Combs. Last summer, she was named the assistant secretary for policy, management and budget for the Interior Department, but the Senate has yet to confirm her for a number of reasons, not the least of which was vehement opposition from conservation organizations.
Evidently, when a women hates endangered species that much, you just have to make sure she gets a job somewhere in your administration!
The Interior Department says it is still hoping to have her fill the original role, but it wants her to take on this other job in the meantime. Although this second position also requires Senate confirmation, due to technical rules, she can serve it in an acting capacity until Senate puts it in a vote, meaning to prevent her from wreaking havoc in this job she's unsuited for, the Senate will have to not just vote no, but do so quickly.Take Action
Let's make sure that happens. The Senate obviously has some reservations about Combs in the first place, so let's encourage them to reject her nomination via this Care2 petition. Animals in this country deserve better than to have a longstanding opponent of the Endangered Species Act put in control of their welfare.
Republicans look set this week to fill the vacancy on President Trump's embattled National Labor Relations Board.
The Senate on Tuesday voted 50-47 to limit debate on John Ring, the nominee to fill the seat previously held by former NLRB chair Phil Miscimarra.
Ring is currently a partner with Morgan Lewis & Bockius, a union-busting management side law firm, based in Philadelphia. Some of his recent major clients include Amazon, Marriott, Xerox, and Google, according to financial disclosures.
Miscimarra stepped down in December, after quickly ushering through a series of rulings, with Republicans set to temporarily lose their Board majority upon his retirement.
One of those decisions -- a reversal of an Obama-era expansion of corporate liability for franchise practices -- was lambasted in February by the NLRB Inspector General.
The comptroller found that Republican Board member Bill Emanuel should have recused himself, citing a major conflict of interest. Emanuel's former law firm, Littler Mendelson, had argued against the Obama administration’s ruling on joint employment.
The Inspector General also said Miscimarra improperly used the underlying case, Hy-Brand, to overturn the Obama-era standard set in Browning-Ferris.
"[T]here is no material discussion of the Hy-Brand matter in the part of the decision that overrules Browning-Ferris," said IG David Berry.
The report caused the Board to vacate Hy-Brand, in a move that has led to finger-pointing and recriminations among Republicans.
During his confirmation hearing, Ring said that the December vote put a "cloud over the NLRB." Last week, in a legal motion, however, NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb urged the Board to reconsider its reversal of Hy-Brand.
In recent weeks, Robb has also moved quickly to seek judicial approval of a settlement, in a case involving McDonald's workers, based on Browning-Ferris.
Hundreds of workers for the fast food giant say they were harassed and punished for joining the Fight For 15 movement to increase the federal minimum wage. Their lawyers are asking for the settlement to be thrown out. Last week, an administrative law judge heard arguments in litigation over the deal.
Teachers are holding massive walkouts in Oklahoma and threatening to do so in Kentucky, right on the heels of a similar labor protest movement in West Virginia. Educators are fed up in many red states. Republicans, unsurprisingly, oppose this surge of worker activism and have landed on a familiar strategy and talking point: Pitting striking teachers against their students.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos speaks at the National Parent-Teacher Association's 2018 Legislative Conference March 13, 2018, in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo: Win McNamee / Getty Images)
Teachers are holding massive walkouts in Oklahoma and threatening to do so in Kentucky, right on the heels of a similar labor protest movement in West Virginia. Educators are fed up in many red states that slashed taxes and budgets following the Great Recession and failed to raise new revenues in response to the economic recovery. Republicans, unsurprisingly, oppose this surge of worker activism and have landed on a familiar strategy and talking point: Pitting striking teachers against their students.
"I think about the kids," Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told the Dallas Morning News when asked about the Oklahoma walkout. "I think we need to stay focused on what's right for kids. And I hope that adults would keep adult disagreements and disputes in a separate place, and serve the students that are there to be served."
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican, tried a similar tactic, suggesting that real teachers "want to teach their children" and that the teachers union was somehow opposed to that goal.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, another Republican, has characterized the teachers as greedy and childish, saying their behavior is like that of "a teenager wanting a better car."
"That's a very classic talking point," said Jon Shelton, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and the author of "Teacher Strike! Public Education and the Making of a New American Political Order." "That's wrong, of course. Teachers by and large go into it because it's a calling. They do this because they care about kids and want what's best for them."
"Kids don't benefit from teachers who are overworked and tired because they have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet," said Joseph Slater, a professor at University of Toledo College of Law who specializes in labor law. "Nor do kids benefit from good teachers leaving their school district, their state or the teaching profession altogether because of poor wages, hours and conditions."
Right off the bat, it should be noted that teacher strikes do not meaningfully impact student performance. Harris Zwerling of the Pennsylvania State Education Association researched the impact of teacher strikes in the state and found no "statistical relationship between the incidence of teacher strikes and their duration and district level student performance."
Accusing the teachers of neglecting the students is a particularly hard sell when it comes to the Oklahoma walkouts. The state has already offered the teachers a $6,000-a-year raise, and while that falls short of the $10,000 the teachers are asking for, it's likely that teachers would settle at that price if all they wanted was fatter paychecks. But the Oklahoma protests have continued into their second week because the teachers want more -- for their students. Specifically, teachers are demanding $200 million to restore education funding that's been cut.
David DuVall, executive director of the Oklahoma Education Association, explained to the Oklahoman that "class size limits, librarians, those kinds of things, still exist in law, but there is a moratorium on those being required because of a lack of funding."
"But with additional funding, that moratorium would come off and we can restore those vital positions to our schools," he added.
Despite efforts from Republican politicians to confuse the issue, the Oklahoma teachers have made clear that these protests are meant to benefit students as much as teachers. Textbooks are battered and falling apart, and are often decades old. Teachers claim they haven't been able to turn on lights in hallways and have been forced to keep classroom thermostats at 57 degrees, forcing kids to wear coats to school.
In some districts, class time has been cut back to four days a week to save money. DeVos claims to want kids back in school, but seems completely uninterested in this particular problem, which could be solved by increasing education budgets.
It's no surprise that so much of what teachers are demanding is for the students, Shelton explained. "The reality is the conditions under which teachers teach are the same under which students learn," he said. "Teacher unionization has, by far, been a net benefit to schools in this country."
For decades, teacher organizing has led to increases in education spending, smaller classroom sizes and less teacher turnover. In 2011, Wisconsin passed Act 10, a law designed to undermine the collective bargaining rights of teachers. Subsequent research from David Madland and Alex Rowell of the Center for American Progress demonstrated that the change in law led to an immediate decline in teacher quality in the state, as more teachers quit their jobs and the pool of teachers became much less experienced overall.
Gender likely plays a major role in how undervalued public school teachers are. The latest statistics show that 76 percent of teachers are women, and when women "do things collectively to get a better deal for themselves, they're seen as acting selfishly," Shelton argued, noting that the gender of the strikers likely contributes to their "infantilization" by politicians.
"If police officers or firefighters were asking for something similar, there's no way they would be called spoiled teenagers," he added.
Evidence for this comes from Wisconsin, where police and fire departments -- male-dominated agencies -- were exempted from Act 10 restrictions on collective bargaining rights, while public employees in more female-dominated sectors, especially teachers, were not. In Ohio, legislators pushed a law that would have curtailed labor organizing rights for all government workers, including police and firefighters, and that effort eventually failed. The contrast between these Midwestern states suggests that male-dominated professions are seen as untouchable while women are expected to get by on less.
"Teachers are the ones who are constantly asked to sacrifice," Shelton noted. And as the evidence makes clear, when teachers are forced to sacrifice, the quality of children's education suffers as well.With your support, Truthout can continue exposing inequality, analyzing policy and reporting on the struggle for a better world. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation.
Activists display signs during the #March4BlackGirls on October 17, 2015, in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo: Sarah-Ji)
On April 11, the eve of the one-month anniversary of the police shooting of Decynthia Clements in Chicago, activists are coming together to mourn her death and call for justice in her name. Shot by police as she stepped out of her burning car, Decynthia was yet another victim of our collective failure to respond to people in distress in ways that don't involve armed police.
Activists display signs during the #March4BlackGirls on October 17, 2015, in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo: Sarah-Ji)The following article could only be published thanks to support from our readers. To fund more stories like it, make a donation to Truthout by clicking here!
A young unarmed Black man is shot in his grandmother's backyard by police who assume he is armed and up to no good. This is the story of police violence we are most familiar with, and around which we build our analysis of police violence. This is the story that drives protesters into the streets and galvanizes movements.
A 34-year-old Black mother is shot as she steps out of a burning car by police who are supposedly there to help her. This scenario -- the recent police killing of Decynthia Clements -- is also part of the story of police violence, and is also emblematic of broader patterns. But, chances are, you haven't heard about it. Like many instances of police violence against Black women, it remains invisible because it doesn't fit into the "standard" narrative. Yet this, too, is a story that should spark collective outrage and inform our demands for justice.The Death of Decynthia Clements
Police first came into contact with Decynthia Clements in the suburbs of Chicago when they found her parked on a dead-end street. She was committing no crime and posed a danger to no one. When the police approached, she drove away. The officers decided not to pursue her -- nor did they really have any reason to, although they claim she ran a stop sign. They later found her car parked on the shoulder of Interstate 90. Somehow, she had lost two tires in the intervening time, and her car showed signs of damage.Over fifty-seven percent of killings of Black women occur when they are unarmed.
When officers first approached her by the side of the highway, it was clear that Decynthia was in distress. They claim they saw a butcher knife and a screwdriver in the car -- both common household items, both read as weapons in the hands of a Black woman in crisis. One officer said he saw a white powder on her hand, and assumed it was crack cocaine -- as opposed to, say, talcum powder or any number of other substances that might look similar, automatically reading a Black woman as a drug user. The officers retreated and began to negotiate with Decynthia about getting out of the car. During this time, they accessed a report that she had told a therapist that she had been suicidal and experienced hallucinations.
But instead of calling for experienced medical professionals, officers continued to respond to a Black woman who had committed no crime and posed no danger to anyone (other than perhaps herself) with orders to get out of her car, and threats of arrest -- again, it is not clear for what. After she moved her car forward a few feet a few times, officers eventually blocked her in with two police vehicles.
After about an hour, Decynthia told police she would get out of her car after she smoked a cigarette. Video footage released by the department shows officers discussing what to do when she did -- including using rubber bullets or a TASER if necessary. And then, as she stepped out, gagging from the smoke of a fire that had broken out inside the vehicle, before she had taken more than a step or two, the lead officer on the scene shot her in the head within seconds, killing her, reading her hasty exit from a burning car as a deadly threat.A Broader Pattern of Police Shooting Black Women in Distress
Decynthia -- like Saheed Vassell, who was killed by Brooklyn police last week, and like up to half of people killed by police -- was (or was perceived to be) in a mental health crisis at the time she was shot. She became one of the many Black women whom police officers were called to assist but ended up killing instead: Deborah Danner, Kiwi Herring, Charleena Lyles, Aura Rosser, Tanisha Anderson, Michelle Cusseaux, Eleanor Bumpurs.... The list is long and painful.
All are victims of our collective failure to imagine, invest in and insist on responses to people in distress that don't involve armed police officers.More often than any other demographic, Black women are falsely perceived as a threat that must be met with deadly force by police officers.
Decynthia also fell prey to perceptions of Black women as inherently threatening. According to a recent study, 57.2 percent of killings of Black women occur when they are unarmed, making Black women "the only race-gender group to have a majority of its members unarmed when killed." Researchers concluded that their "results imply that black women are racialized in ways ... that put them at a greater relative risk of [fatal police encounters] when unarmed."
In other words, more often than any other demographic, Black women are falsely perceived as a threat that must be met with deadly force by police officers.
This explains how an officer (who knew the right thing to do was to use non-lethal force if necessary) instead instantly shot with intent to kill a Black woman who was stumbling out of a burning car. The police shot Decynthia as she was advancing in the only direction possible when opening a car door -- toward the back of the car, away from the smoke, where the officers who were calling for her to come out were standing. Deeply entrenched notions of Black women as "deranged," animalistic and deadly -- developed to justify their brutal treatment during slavery and beyond -- likely drove the officers' perceptions of threat. Such perceptions have proven fatal for countless Black women like Decynthia, including Kayla Moore, Bettie Jones, Margaret Mitchell and LaTanya Haggerty. Again, the list is long and heartbreaking.
"It was like murder," Charles Clements, Decynthia's father said after watching the video of her killing. "Somebody coming at you is one thing, but she fell out that car and they start shooting her, that's terrible, just awful. The car was burning, obviously she was gasping for air, and when she managed to get the door open, she just fell to the ground and then the shots started going."Mourning and Demanding Justice
Activists stand near signs at the #SayHerName Finsbury Park Vigil on June 21, 2017, in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo: Sarah-Ji)
Holly Clements, Decynthia's sister-in-law, describes her as "a good mom" who reached out to everybody and had "numerous nieces and nephews that she always picked up and did things with," adding, "it's just a really sad moment for the family that we've lost somebody who has such a big heart."
Decynthia Clements's family -- including her 19-year-old son in college -- are now left to grieve their mother, daughter, sister and cousin, and to await the outcome of investigations by the Illinois State Police, the Cook County State's Attorney's Office and the Elgin Police Department, which employs Lt. Christian Jansen, the officer who shot Decynthia, and who is now on paid administrative leave.Black women's deaths at the hands of police require us to look at how we value Black women's lives -- both when they are alive and not receiving the care and help they need, as well as after they have been killed by police.
Some commentators are trying to justify Jansen's actions, and mainstream news coverage leads with his commendations and dismisses the prior record of complaints against him regarding racial discrimination and the use of excessive force. While these elements of Decynthia's story are familiar, they have not been the subject of much national discussion -- despite daily protests led by Decynthia's family and community outside the Elgin police department until the department released video footage of the events leading to her death.
Now that the footage has been made public, Decynthia's family and attorneys say they will wait for the outcome of the investigations and legal process. Members of the Elgin community have called for the creation of a civilian oversight agency to investigate cases like Decynthia's, citing distrust of the investigation being conducted by the Illinois State Police.
"People are going to see for themselves," Decynthia's brother Chevelle says. "Now this is not just an angry family demanding justice, but this will be a community as a whole that will see exactly what happened, what shouldn't have happened."An Uphill Legal Battle
The Supreme Court's recent decision in Hughes v. Kisela does not bode well for the possibilities for justice in Decynthia's case. Seven justices -- with the exception of Sonia Sotomayor, who penned a scathing dissent, joined by Ruth Bader Ginsberg -- essentially endorsed a Tucson, Arizona, officer's 2010 shooting of a woman who was standing in her own yard holding a kitchen knife while speaking to her roommate, who stood six feet away. Hiding behind the ever-expanding doctrine of "qualified immunity" -- which essentially says that even if an officer violated someone's constitutional rights, they can't be held liable for it if the right wasn't clearly established at the time -- the majority found that the officer could not reasonably have known that shooting the woman under these circumstances would violate her constitutional rights.
Nor does a recent court decision dismissing the case brought by the family of Kayla Moore, a Black trans woman and beloved aunt, sister and daughter. Moore suffocated to death after police who were called to her home to assist her in the midst of a mental health crisis instead tackled her face-down against a futon and piled on top of her. As her sister Maria Moore -- a fierce advocate for justice for Kayla and for improved responses to people in mental health crisis -- described in a recent radio interview, "instead of trained mental health professionals, she got police.... Trans people are already seen as nonconforming, already seen as a troublemaker.... They came at Kayla like she had killed someone.... What was Kayla's crime?" The court hearing the family's case nevertheless dismissed claims of excessive force and dismissed claims that the Berkeley Police Department is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act for failing to reasonably accommodate the needs of people in mental health crises. The family plans to appeal the decision, and Moore declares, "It's not over. We are going to take this where it needs to go, and that's the Supreme Court."
The more complex circumstances of many Black women's deaths at the hands of police -- during an eviction, when opening the door to let police into a home to assist a neighbor, during a domestic violence call, following a call about transphobic and homophobic neighbors, or following a call for help from a friend or family member seeking support for a loved one -- require us to step back and examine how they came into contact with the officers who killed them in the first place, and how things might have gone differently had they received the support they deserved instead of a police response. They require us to look at how we value Black women's lives -- both when they are alive and not receiving the care and help they need, as well as after they have been killed by police.
Their stories, which might be complicated and take more than Twitter's character limit to tell, bring into sharp relief the reality that there is no safety for Black women, whether they are sitting in their own cars or standing in their own backyards. There is no safety in police responses to calls for assistance for people in crisis, and no justice in the courts for Black women.
As Maria Moore put it, "If you want something as simple as mental health services or just help, you're bringing in militarized police. And their thing is not about helping you, it's about controlling you.... They don't want to hear you, they just want to silence you."
We owe it to the memories of Decynthia Clements, Kayla Moore and so many more Black women to tell their stories of police violence and to protest the injustices done to them and their families. It is our duty to demand accountability for the officers who killed them, to challenge the dehumanizing narratives about Black women that drove the killings, and to demand responses to people in mental health crisis that involve care and compassion, not policing and punishment.
Decynthia Clements. Let's say her name and make sure her story, too, shapes the solutions we seek to the plague of police violence against Black lives.
Note: Members of the Chicago community will come together on Wednesday, April 11, the eve of the one-month anniversary of Decynthia Clements's death, for a vigil at 6 pm at the north side of the DuSable Bridge (400 N. Michigan) to mourn her death, uplift her memory and demand justice in her name.
As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified to lawmakers Tuesday about the massive privacy scandal enveloping the platform, Facebook has also been slapped with a new lawsuit by fair housing groups who accuse Facebook of allowing employers and housing brokers to discriminate in their targeted advertising. The lawsuit says some of Facebook's advertisers do not show job and housing listings to African Americans and women. For more, we speak with Neema Singh Guliani, legislative counsel for surveillance and privacy at the American Civil Liberties Union.
Please check back later for full transcript.
"Facebook Doesn't Sell Your Data. It Sells You": Zeynep Tufekci on How the Company's Profit Really Works
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced off with lawmakers in a marathon 5-hour hearing Tuesday about how the voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica harvested the data of more than 87 million Facebook users, without their permission, in efforts to sway voters to support President Donald Trump. We speak with Zeynep Tufekci, associate professor of information and library science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is also a faculty associate at the Harvard Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. Her book is titled "Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest."
Please check back later for full transcript.
US political history is replete with needle-off-the-record moments when everything just stops with a screech. The firing of Archibald Cox, the testimony of John Dean, Joe Welch asking Joe McCarthy if, at long last, he had any sense of decency … those moments come, and every moment after is changed forever. This was one of those moments.
Michael Cohen, personal lawyer for Donald Trump, walks through the lobby at Trump Tower, January 12, 2017, in New York City. (Photo: Drew Angerer / Getty Images)With everything going on in the White House, the media must maintain relentless pressure on the Trump administration. Can you support Truthout in this endeavor? Click here to donate.
Donald Trump's personal lawyer needs a lawyer. That lawyer will also need a lawyer, who in turn will also need a lawyer. If this keeps up, a friend noted, we'll have to change "MAGA" to "My Attorney Got Arrested."
Michael D. Cohen, Trump's long-time consigliere and Man Who Knows All Secrets had his world turned inside out like a laundered sock on Monday morning when the FBI basically raided every place he's ever spent more than five minutes. Cohen's home, office and hotel all got the no-knock treatment courtesy of the office of the United States attorney for the southern district of New York, operating off a tip from special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigative team.
Saying "no" was not an option. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger asking for Cohen's clothes, boots and motorcycle, they took everything. According to the Washington Post on Tuesday, the searches are part of a "federal investigation for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations." A goodly slice of the records seized pertain to adult film star Stormy Daniels and the 2016 payment Cohen made to her in order to buy her silence about an alleged sexual dalliance with Trump. Attorney-client communications between Cohen and Trump himself were also seized.
Possible collusion with Russia, election interference, obstruction of justice … so of course it's all going to come down to Stormy. This boulder started rolling down the mountain for real a few days ago on Air Force One when Trump finally broke his silence on the Daniels matter and threw Cohen under the bus with the speed of a startled cheetah. I know nothing, said Trump. Ask the lawyer.
Cohen was left holding the bag on the $130,000 hush payment to Daniels, a fact that could make those charges of wire fraud, bank fraud and campaign finance violations all too real. Even Cohen's admission that he paid Daniels himself without Trump's knowledge, and Trump's professed ignorance of the transaction, carries legal peril for Cohen: Acting on behalf of your client in legal matters without the client's knowledge and consent is grounds for disbarment in the state of New York.If this keeps up, we'll have to change "MAGA" to "My Attorney Got Arrested."
Merriam-Webster defines "Schadenfreude" as "Enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others." When word got out that Cohen's inner sanctums had been de-doored by the FBI, the schaden met the freude in the rye and danced the night away. Why? Michael Cohen has moved through the world like a mouthy wheat thresher, "fixing" and intimidating people who make trouble for Trump. He has few friends, and fewer admirers. Today, he has empty filing cabinets in his office and a ball of ice in his gut to show for his years spent as a wanna-be menace on behalf of the pretend-billionaire set. From Manhattan to DC on Monday, many people smiled into their martinis and waited for the latest update.
This is going to become about more than Stormy Daniels, and Trump knows it. His panic on Monday was palpable, and justly so. Michael Cohen is in deep trouble, and Donald is right there with him. Cohen knows where all the bodies are buried, having buried many of them himself. As Rick Wilson points out in The Daily Beast, Cohen "realizes how deep this hole can become if he doesn't roll over. He doesn't have the resources to defend himself, and Trump isn't exactly known for paying his bills in the first place. Cohen is scared, and he's not alone."
What do you call a leader without followers? Just a guy taking a walk.
One jagged nugget of irony to be found in all this is the fact that the warrants came from the offices of New York's southern district US attorney, now headed by a Trump appointee named Geoffrey Berman. As far as Trump is concerned, the rain started falling last year when his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, recused himself from the Russia probe. It will give Trump no joy to learn that Berman has also recused himself from the matter now consuming Michael Cohen, and that the warrants were approved by one of Berman's underlings.
The tastiest bit of bitter history here is the office itself. Before Berman, the southern district US attorney was a world-class investigator and prosecutor named Preet Bharara. Among his many cases, Bharara was sniffing heavily around shady real estate dealings between Trump and some Russian oligarchs, many of whom have since played starring roles in Mueller's ongoing investigation.
Very early in his presidency, Trump fired or demanded resignations from every serving US attorney in the country, including Bharara. All of Bharara's cases, including those involving Trump and the Russians, came to a screeching halt. This was no accident: A Trump lawyer named Marc Kasowitz bragged about convincing Trump to fire Bharara because, as Kasowitz reportedly told Trump, "This guy is going to get you."
It appears the southern district isn't quite finished with "The Donald" just yet. Trump could complain to the boss, but the boss has recused himself. Lather, rinse, repeat.
At last, then, comes the simple astonishment of it all. Obtaining a valid search warrant for an attorney's office is incredibly difficult given the strictures of the attorney-client privilege. Obtaining a search warrant for the offices, home and hotel of the personal attorney to the president of the United States is just slightly less difficult than dropping a warrant on God.
According to the US Attorneys' Manual, obtaining these warrants required investigators to first try and acquire the evidence through other means like a subpoena. The US Attorney or a deputy had to approve the warrants. Approval from the criminal division of the Department of Justice was required, which means Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein also had to approve them. Firewalls and a "privilege team" had to be deployed to protect from infringement of the attorney-client privilege. Finally, the whole thing had to be signed off on by a US District Court judge.
They got it all. Damned if they didn't. Even Richard Nixon's lawyers didn't see their offices and homes raided. In an administration without precedent, this was yet another Whole New Thing.
US political history is replete with needle-off-the-record moments when everything just stops with a screech. The firing of Archibald Cox, the testimony of John Dean, Joe Welch asking Joe McCarthy if, at long last, he had any sense of decency … those moments come, and every moment after is marked forever. This was one of those moments.
There is a certain eerie symmetry to the fact that Cohen was served with these warrants on the anniversary of the surrender at the Appomattox courthouse. If this were a Game of Thrones episode, it would be time to retreat to Maegor's Holdfast with the Tears of Lys and a goblet of good wine. The Main Enemy has splintered the gate, and unfriendly footfalls can be heard on the stairs.
For the record, this is why so many of us were so strident in our belief that Donald Trump should never be allowed anywhere near the power of the presidency. The man is as crooked as a rhombus and has the temperament of a pit viper on a good day, and this is not a good day.
Trump is fit to be tied, frantic in his rage and fear, and as of this writing trembles on the verge of unleashing even more war upon the rubble in Syria … with John Bolton whispering in his ear all the while. No one in Washington is more eager than Bolton to take advantage of an unstable president's lust to punish. This could be a big moment for the new national security adviser.
This could be a big moment for us all. Donald Trump's lawyer's lawyer's lawyer's lawyer's lawyer better be ready for some late nights.
Efforts to privatize the public schools in Puerto Rico were already under way when Hurricane Maria provided just the impetus the neoliberal establishment was looking for. But educators there are fighting back -- with the support of their peers on the mainland. Ultimately, it's a fight for the future of the working class, say Liza Fournier and Mercedes Martinez, unionized teachers in Puerto Rico.
Teachers participate in a one-day strike against the government's privatization drive in public education, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on March 19, 2018. (Photo: Ricardo Arduengo / AFP / Getty Images)
Welcome to Interviews for Resistance. We're now more than a year into the Trump administration, and activists have scored some important victories in those months. Yet there is always more to be done, and for many people, the question of where to focus and how to help remains. In this series, we talk with organizers, agitators and educators not only about how to resist but also about how to build a better world. Today's interview is the 117th in the series. Click here for the most recent interview before this one.
Today we bring you a conversation with Liza Fournier and Mercedes Martinez, unionized teachers in Puerto Rico. They discuss how public education was imperiled even before Hurricane Maria, but was absolutely devastated after the storm, especially with the recent passage of a law to privatize schools on the island. They also discuss the importance of solidarity with other striking teachers on the US mainland.
Sarah Jaffe: Puerto Rico has been hit with two disasters. There was the debt crisis [with the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA)] and all of that, and then [Hurricane Maria]. Take us back to before the hurricane. What were the big issues that you were dealing with before the storm hit?
Mercedes Martinez: Prior to the hurricane, as you know, President Barack Obama and Congress approved the PROMESA law. People in Puerto Rico were already facing a lot of austerity measure attacks against their dignified life. We were exposed to proposals, such as pension cuts, school closures, thousands of layoffs, cancellation of public agencies. It is the disposal of all the public goods to the corporate sector, into the private sector, into the bankers, into that 1%. So, before the hurricane, our colonial situation allowed the government to approve this law and they wanted for the people of Puerto Rico to pay a $72 billion odious debt that was not created by the workers, and the workers are the ones that are being expected to sacrifice their working conditions, their lives, to pay these corporate moguls.
What were some of the things before the hurricane that you were struggling with in your union?
Liza Fournier: Well, before the hurricane, we even had schools that were shut down ... because it was all part of the system. They wanted to reduce the system. They want[ed] to cut money from schools before the hurricane, so we had ... how many schools were shut down before the hurricane?
Fournier: One-hundred-and-sixty-six schools last year. Before that, there were 120. Things were pretty bad before the hurricane; teachers struggling because they were moving teachers from one school to another in the middle of the semester. It was pretty much bad before, and it got worse after the hurricane.
I know in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, I have heard stories of teachers going back in and cleaning the schools up to get them open again and stuff like that. Can you tell us what that was like in that time?
Fournier: I work in a school. I am an active teacher. We went back a week after the hurricane. Schools were completely damaged by trees, trash, structures had fallen down. So, the teachers were the first ones who got [to] school. We were the ones with the machetes, cleaning the schools, taking out all the garbage, trying to get schools fixed as soon as possible to bring students back. But guess what? They didn't let us open the schools. My school was ready to be open like two weeks after the hurricane, but we opened in November. So, my students were two and a half months without going to school. Not because we weren't ready or it was our fault. It was because they didn't let us open. Mainly, the teachers and organizations and the community were the ones who really cleaned the schools to reopen.
Martinez: After the hurricane, teachers, as Liza said, were the ones that reconditioned the schools. A lot of women.... They were ready to receive their children. Every psychologist knows -- they will tell you, after a disaster like the one we had -- [after] a Category 5 hurricane, you need to come to some type of normalcy again, and the Department of Education was denying our children their right to an education.
It is very important that after the hurricane happened, even though the schools were ready, they denied the schools to open, but school communities that had no light, that had no water, that had no communication, organized themselves. There were multiple protests ... the Teachers Federation was in a lot of communities organizing the parents and requesting the secretary of education [Julia Beatrice Keleher] to open the schools.
When she denied that after the protests, we performed a civil disobedience activity in her office. Twenty-one of us got arrested for requesting her to open the schools.... After that, she still denied the schools to be opened, so we took her to court. When we started the court case, she had 300 schools -- that was in November -- that were still closed. For the first hearing, when the judge ordered her to tell us why the schools were still closed ... she had already opened 260 schools, leaving only 40 closed, so the protests, the civil disobedience, the pickets in front of her office, plus the court case stopped her from implementing the agenda that she had.
She said that she was going to shut down 200 schools during the hurricane and the community organization -- plus all the activities that I mentioned -- stopped her from doing that, from converting Puerto Rico into the New Orleans of the decade.
Fournier: The delay to open the schools is what provoked ... many students [to come] to the [United] States, because they were waiting to go back to school ... many students came to the States to study and find better conditions, because we had no electricity. I got electricity in January, and there are still a lot of people in Puerto Rico that don't have electricity or water.
They announced that they want to privatize the schools.
Martinez: They announced that they want to privatize it ... from day one. Now they just made it into a law. They approved the law March 29.... The teacher unions went to public hearings and we presented them with a lot of letters from different community organizations from the states that have charter schools, that have voucher programs -- telling the legislature, "Don't vote in favor of this bill, because this is what happened to us in the States." Hundreds of letters.
They did not listen. Obviously, this is an agenda -- it is to fill the pockets of the ones that have too much that want more. They just approved the bill into law. The same day they were voting on it, we -- the teachers' alliance ... and other organizations of teachers -- performed a one-day strike. Sixteen thousand teachers were absent from their schools. We organized that. We announced the strike on Wednesday and it started on Monday.
Now that they approved the law ... they have just announced last week the ... closures of 283 schools. We are having a general assembly on the 15th of April -- all of the organizations, the teachers unions' -- to propose an action plan which definitely will take us back to the streets until we get justice for the people of Puerto Rico and our children and our workers.
It has become almost a cliché now to talk about the "shock doctrine," the things that they came in wanting to do, [which] they then pushed through because of the hurricane. What is the response from parents, from students? How are they feeling?
Fournier: We have lots of parents that are supporting us. Since they know that schools are shutting down, they are calling the different unions ... they are calling us. It is because they want us to be in their assemblies, they want help from us to organize the communities because they want to fight back.
We are talking about schools that are really in the country, that children would have to wake up at 5:00 in the morning to get ready to go to school and sometimes come at 6:00 to school, and schools open at 8:00. So, we are talking about kids from six, seven, eight years [old] that would have maybe to travel an hour, 45 minutes to get to school. Parents are very supportive. They are ready to fight for their schools and the teachers are going to be standing right next to them because this is the work that we have to do together. We are grateful for that. We can hardly wait to go back home to start organizing the communities. We are going to fight back.
What has it been like here, connecting with some of the other teachers and their other struggles around the US?
Martinez: Well, when we come here, we know that is the same struggle that we are given in Puerto Rico -- not only in the States, but throughout the globe with teachers. Teachers in the entire continent are fighting against this capitalist agenda, this neoliberal agenda that wants to destroy not only public education, but all the public services in our country.
The attack is not only on education. They want to privatize schools, to implement those charters, they want to give the voucher programs, they want to shut down the schools, they want to fire public employees. We are talking about 100,000 employees that will be fired from different agencies. They want to destroy the University of Puerto Rico, which is a state university, by eliminating campuses. They want to increase the admission fee, they want to increase the cost per credit, per course. They want to cut the pensions from 10 percent to 25 percent [for] people that do not have enough to live. It is not only an attack on public education....
We have heard [of] the same attack against all public sectors; this is a generalized attack. I don't even think it is the "shock doctrine" anymore. It is the terror doctrine that they have implemented here in Puerto Rico.... Being here and talking to teachers and listening to the stories -- West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona. We have a great alliance with MORE from New York, and just listening to them, it just renews our energy and it lets us know that this is one struggle of the working class, and that we will have small victories until we triumph entirely. We are not hopeless. We have much hope to go back to our country and give the fight that we have to give.
What can people in the mainland US do to support you?
Fournier: Yesterday, we were talking about that in one of the workshops. All of the teachers were interested in helping Puerto Rico.... They can make videos, they can take pictures, send us messages. Maybe we will open another GoFundMe campaign if we go on strike. So, they can help by donating to the GoFundMe campaign. But it is very important ... yesterday, they made a video with teachers from 12 states saying, "We are here with Puerto Rico. We support you." We spread it out on Facebook and the teachers went, "Oh my god! I can't believe it! This is great. We feel that we are getting renewed with this." That is very important that we know that we are not alone in this. But it is very important for the teachers over there in Puerto Rico to know that we have support.
Martinez: And not only support for the teachers. We have been working with other comrades in other unions, we have been working with a sisterhood program where you adopt a school in Puerto Rico, but it is not a charity. It is a solidarity event. Then, they create pen pals between schools from different schools -- Puerto Rico and the States. So, kids can understand why we are fighting in Puerto Rico and ... know why the teachers and the children of the States are fighting the same fights. So, they get to know each other. They get to be in solidarity with each other and they get to know that what we are going through.... It is building relationships, it is not just a solidarity event. It is more than that. It is a lasting bond. It is a long-term relationship that we need to construct.
What else should people know about what is going on in Puerto Rico and what is going to be happening in the next few weeks and months?
Martinez: They should know that we are definitely going to our general assembly on the 15th of April. That we are going to vote for a strike. That we are going to propose a strike indefinitely for the time that we have to -- until they revoke this law and they guarantee that no charter schools will be implemented. That they stop the school closures. That we are going to take the case to court, but we don't rely on the court case for justice; it has proven to not benefit the workers in history.
We are giving the biggest fight of our lives and we are very energized. Being here with so many wonderful people, so many union members that are working, that are fighting, that are organizing -- the best gift I take with me is to know that people all around the globe are organizing and are giving the same struggles that we are giving. We are all in this together, and ultimately, it is not an individual situation of a country. It is a global situation about the working class. We are in it together and we take to our country renewed energies to fight for what is right and more than just defend public education, to fight for the world that we want to build -- a just world, an equitable world for the children of Puerto Rico.
Fournier: People need to know that Puerto Rico is still struggling with the hurricane that we had. That we still have a lot of places that don't have electricity, that still are reconstructing their houses. That is the main thing going on. That teachers are getting ready to strike pretty soon. We are going to organize and we are going to defend our public schools. That is the main thing. We are united together and we are going to do whatever it takes to defend our public schools and education for our kids.... It is not even a thing about teachers. It is about, as Mercedes said, our legacy for our future, what we want to leave for our children, for our kids. That is the main thing.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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The question in question is, "Are you a US citizen?" It might raise eyebrows coming from any White House, but coming from this one, the last-minute move raises tremendous concerns, that only begin with the likelihood that the question would depress response.
Karen Hobert Flynn is a long-time democracy reform activist and the president of Common Cause. She joins us now by phone from Washington, DC. Welcome to CounterSpin, Karen Hobert Flynn.
Karen Hobert Flynn: Thank you for having me.
What are the big concerns about adding a question about citizenship to the census?
You know, America's founders created the census, and wrote into the Constitution a requirement that their successors need to count all the nation's inhabitants every ten years. Because they understood that for a truly representative democracy, we must know how many of us there are in the country, and the states in which we live. So, inhabitants, not citizens, was the requirement.
So people are alarmed when they see -- for the first time since 1950 -- that this administration wants to put a citizenship question in the census, without any kind of testing. And in an atmosphere where we have seen this administration, with its anti-immigrant rhetoric and long list of anti-immigrant policies and proposals (many that have been struck down by judges), it's created a tidal wave of fear, and concern that any information they provide to the census (although it's supposed to be kept private) could be used to deport family members and neighbors.
Absolutely. You know, in another context, I might have started with a rhetorical, "What's the big deal?" But I think it's just so obvious, in this case, what the big deal potentially is. It's wholly appropriate, isn't it, to see this in the context of other moves by the administration. Why wouldn't respondents have concerns about confidentiality, when this administration has said explicitly, "We're looking to root out non-citizens"? But then, of course, going on from that…if you undercount, what happens?
There are many impacts that go to both the heart of our democratic system, and also how that data is used by communities. For instance, that information is used by communities to decide if they need a new fire station. It has an impact on schools, resources in a community to deal with assistance for veterans, hospitals, transportation. And so the impacts are large.
And then, when it comes to our democracy, democracy means everyone counts and has equal and fair representation. So it's important to ensure every person is counted accurately, so that they have fair political representation.
This data that they collect is used by states to draw district lines. And those district lines determine how many seats a state will have in the House of Representatives, and also the maps drawn for state legislative districts. We already see some real challenges, and the politicization of drawing maps that occurs every ten years, where incumbents like to select their voters, rather than the other way around. But this actually rigs the system before we even get to the part of redistricting. And so that's one of the biggest challenges.
And it's interesting, because the Census Bureau has really tried, for the last several decades, to remove that kind of politicization, and to work to make sure that they can get the best count they can. Back in 2010, the Census Bureau worked with community organizations to do outreach, to let people know that the information that they collect is kept private and that nothing bad will happen to them if they comply and answer the census data. This move, I think, is going to really undermine that.
It really trashes that trust that's been built up.
Well, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross presented it as just a dry, sober, statistical matter: It has something to do with protecting voters, you know, enforcing the Voting Rights Act. It's a little too Orwellian, almost, even to engage. But what I really wanted to say is, at the same time the Trump reelection campaign is fundraising off this possible change to the census, making it clear that it really does have something to do with what one of the former directors of the census, Kenneth Prewitt, said: "It's a step toward not counting the people you don't want to count."
That's right. Two things: One, this notion that the Voting Rights Act's enforcement is needed, using census data, has been debunked by Eric Holder, our former attorney general. He, as attorney general, and his predecessors, never needed to get a citizenship question on the census, because they could use the data derived from the existing census process for any voting rights litigation. And, actually, the Voting Rights Act, it was enacted in 1965 -- and the census hasn't included a citizenship question since 1950. So to suggest that now this administration is concerned about enforcement of the Voting Rights Act really is laughable.
Doesn't pass the sniff test. And then, to that point about "not counting the people you don't want" -- and this is coming from a former director of the Census. Six former directors of the Census have written this letter, saying this is a bad move, that it will dampen turnout, but then Prewitt goes on to say, no, we can actually see a strategy here, and it's an anti-democratic strategy.
That's right. There's going to be more litigation besides the 12 states. I saw the NAACP is suing. We know California has already sued. So I expect that there are going to be many court challenges. And I'm not sure what that's going to mean for the timing of this. You know, usually if there are new questions, this is brought up early in the process. It's thoroughly vetted; Congress is involved in that process. And this is a very last-minute addition, with no testing, and that's why it raises an even greater concern.
And that was going to be my final question, is what do you see happening? It sounds like a lot of lawsuits. Is there any way for folks to weigh in, or do we just kind of watch what happens?
I do think that it is important for citizens to let their elected officials know that a citizenship question is a bad decision for the census, for our communities and for America. And they should be urging their members of Congress to weigh in against this citizenship question. And I also think that we will also see more litigation around this matter, so I don't think this is going to be a settled matter anytime soon.
And I should have asked you if you had any thoughts on media. Frankly, what media I've seen in the last few days has been pretty explanatory, and critics have been represented, critics of this move. But are there angles of the issue you'd like to see journalists dig into, or explore more?
I do think, and I've seen some of this, but: push back on the White House assertion that this is pro forma, that these questions have been asked for years. There is a more detailed long form that goes to one in, I think, 38 people, that asks questions about citizenship, but for the bulk of the census, the people that participate in the census, they are not questioned. So to suggest that they're just doing something that's always been done -- that isn't true. So I think continuing push back, because we see the Trump administration has Fox News and others repeat what they say from the White House pressroom; it's important to continue to push back on those errors.
We've been speaking with Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause. You can follow their work online at CommonCause.org, and her article, "Ensure Everyone Is Counted," co-authored with former Census Bureau Director Vincent Barabba, is on US News and World Report's website, USNews.com.
Karen Hobert Flynn, thank you very much for joining us this week on CounterSpin.
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The post Minneapolis, MN: Banner Drop in Solidarity with J20 appeared first on It's Going Down.The following photo and short report was originally posted on Conflict MN.
A banner went up over a 494 walk bridge during rush hour traffic on April 10, 2018, in solidarity with the fifty-nine remaining J20 defendants.