1. Scalia’s Greatest Hits
"I don't assess the nation's mood, I assess my own, and I'm feeling good."
"On controversial issues on stuff like homosexual rights, abortion, we [citizens] debate with each other and persuade each other and vote on it — either our representatives or through a constitutional amendment in the states. Whether it's good or bad idea is not what I'm talking about, that's not my job ... I apply the limitations upon democracy that the American people have adopted."
On why he became a lawyer: "I had an Uncle Vince — most Italians have an Uncle Vince — who was a lawyer. And he seemed to have a good life so I thought I'd give it a shot. And it turns out it was what I loved. Don't do it if you don't love it, it's not the most exciting profession unless you love the process, you love words."
"A journalistic purpose could be someone with a Xerox machine in a basement."
"What is a 'moderate' interpretation of the text? Halfway between what it really means and what you'd like it to mean?"
"As long as judges tinker with the Constitution to 'do what the people want,' instead of what the document actually commands, politicians who pick and confirm new federal judges will naturally want only those who agree with them politically."
“There are — there are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to — to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having slower-track school where they do well…. They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re – that they’re being pushed ahead in — in classes that are too — too fast for them….”
“State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers’ validation of laws based on moral choices,” Scalia wrote, citing a previous court decision upholding an anti-sodomy law. “Every single one of these laws is called into question by today’s decision; the Court makes no effort to cabin the scope of its decision to exclude them.”
[T]he States enacted numerous laws restricting the immigration of certain classes of aliens, including convicted criminals, indigents, persons with contagious diseases, and (in Southern States) freed blacks.
In 1868, when the 39th Congress was debating and ultimately proposing the 14th Amendment, I don't think anybody would have thought that equal protection applied to sex discrimination, or certainly not to sexual orientation. So does that mean that we've gone off in error by applying the 14th Amendment to both?
Yes, yes. Sorry, to tell you that. ... But, you know, if indeed the current society has come to different views, that's fine. You do not need the Constitution to reflect the wishes of the current society. Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn't.
...the tradition of having government funded military schools for men is as well rooted in the traditions of this country as the tradition of sending only men into military combat. The people may decide to change the one tradition, like the other, through democratic processes; but the assertion that either tradition has been unconstitutional through the centuries is not law, but politics smuggled into law.
“this Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is ‘actually’ innocent.”
2. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) delivered yesterday with the wife of CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling a petition for his pardon to the White House. The petition has now gathered over 150,000 signatures. Sterling, a former C.I.A. operative and the latest victim in the Obama administration’s war on whistleblowers, was convicted in January 2015 of divulging classified information to New York Times journalist James Risen.
Jeffrey Sterling was convicted under the Espionage Act for merely communicating with New York Times journalist James Risen. He’s now serving a 3.5-year prison sentence in a federal correctional facility in Colorado.
Before delivering the petition to the White House, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) co-sponsored a press conference at the National Press Club for Jeffrey’s wife Holly. She thanked the over 150,000 people who signed the petition to pardon her husband.
Speaking on behalf of RSF was US Director Delphine Halgand: “as an organization that defends freedom of information, we are extremely concerned by the precedent set in the United States’ government’s case against Jeffrey Sterling. How is it possible that proving the mere existence of contact between a former CIA operative and a journalist is sufficient to convict someone of espionage?”
Other speakers included prominent activist, author and professor Dr. Cornel West, former CIA analyst and whistleblower John Kiriakou, lawyer and whistleblower Jesselyn Radack, and Senior Director of Strategy for Free Press Tim Karr.
Kiriakou, who served time in prison for leaking information on the CIA’s torture program, said Jeffrey “did exactly what he was supposed to do when he encountered a program of waste, fraud, abuse, or illegality.” The point of Jeffrey’s harsh 3.5 year sentence was “to utterly ruin him…to demonize him…and frighten any other would-be whistleblowers,” said Kiriakou.
During Jeffrey’s trial, the Department of Justice was unable to present any direct evidence proving that he divulged classified information to Risen. They relied on circumstantial evidence — emails and telephone conversations — to try to make a case to a jury who would likely favor his conviction.
Because Jeffrey utilized proper channels and informed the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence of his concern for the safety of the American people, he is considered a whistleblower.
Last December RSF, RootsAction andExposeFacts led a coalition of organizations in support of a petition for his pardon on change.org and on RootsAction.org The Bill of Rights Defense Committee / Defending Dissent Foundation, Center for Media and Democracy, Freedom of the Press Foundation,The Nation magazine and Restore the Fourth are also supporting the petition. The White House acknowledged receipt of the 150,000 signatures yesterday.
To support Holly Sterling’s request to pardon her husband, sign the petition at change.org/pardonforjeffrey or at http://rootsaction.org/take-action/1056-tell-the-president-to-pardon-cia-whistleblower-jeffrey-sterling. Use #pardonforjeffrey on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to help spread the message.
3. Investigation concluded Now the Attack of the Bar
When the Justice Department ended its investigation into Thomas Tamm in 2011, the Justice Department whistleblower who revealed warrantless wiretapping said it was a relief that a “long ordeal” was now over. But it turns out the “ordeal” has entered a new chapter. He now faces ethics violations for blowing the whistle on illegal surveillance.
The District of Columbia Bar, a body with the power to discipline lawyers who violate ethical standards and rules of professional conduct, initiated disciplinary proceedings for Tamm for revealing “secrets” or “confidences” of his “client” to New York Times reporter Eric Lichtblau.
It charged him with failing to refer information in his possession that “persons within the Department of Justice were violating their legal obligations” to the Attorney General.
The alleged ethics violations specifically stem from Tamm’s work in the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review in the Justice Department. It notes one of his duties was to apply to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for “warrants to conduct electronic surveillance in national security matters.” This information was “secret,” and Tamm was required to have a “special security clearance” to make applications.
When Tamm learned some of the surveillance applications were given special treatment, signed only by the Attorney General, and made only to the chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, he became concerned. He learned this was part of something referred to as “The Program.” He asked about “The Program” and was informed it was “probably illegal.”
Even though Tamm “believed that an agency of the Department of Justice was involved in illegal conduct, he did not refer the matter to a higher authority within the department,” the complaint alleges.
Instead, the complaint says Tamm contacted a newspaper reporter in 2004 and told him he knew conduct he believed to be illegal was taking place. Tamm disclosed secret information that should have remained confidential.
The complaint was filed on December 29, 2015, and the District of Columbia Court of Appeals has the “ultimate authority for disciplining members” of the D.C. Bar. Tamm could be disbarred, suspended, censured, reprimanded, or face other sanctions. He has been a member of the D.C. Bar since 1978, and after nearly four decades as an attorney, his livelihood is under direct attack.
Through the act of bringing these ethics violations against Tamm, the D.C. Bar is sending a message to all of its members in government that it is far more ethical to keep evidence of illegal government activities confidential than it is to expose it to the public so officials may be held accountable for their misconduct.
The “client” in this case is the government employees involved in drafting applications for warrantless surveillance, who Tamm represented. Do disciplinary counsel with the D.C. Bar believe he should face punishment because he implicated those employees when he revealed corruption?
The D.C. Bar would have everyone believe that Tamm did not go through proper channels because he did not formally complain to any higher authority in the Justice Department. Yet, Tamm recognized those at the top were implicated in the criminal activity that was ongoing. He also went to someone working in Congress with his concerns, which is completely legitimate.
“I decided to go reach out to somebody who I knew on the Hill I had worked on a death penalty case with,” Tamm told PBS FRONTLINE. “I knew she would have a top-secret security clearance.”
Tamm asked her to talk to someone on an intelligence committee and find out if Congress knew what was being done. She did not respond to him for months and later she said she could not tell him anything. She warned him that “whistleblowers frequently don’t end up very well.” This led Tamm to conclude “The Program” was not being vetted by layers of lawyers. Only a small circle of people knew about this, and he needed to go to the press.
To further demonstrate how obscene it is that the D.C. Bar would launch disciplinary proceedings against Tamm, this is how Tamm defended the ethical choice he made to protect the United States Constitution by revealing details of “The Program” to a reporter.
Well, the oath that I took was to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States against enemies foreign and domestic. And, you know, it’s my belief that we are a stronger country because of our Constitution and because of our democratic institutions, like the courts and the Congress, as well as the presidency. And I honestly thought I had an ethical obligation to talk to somebody about what I thought was an illegal abuse of executive authority. In fact, when I was working at the Department of Justice in OIPR, my boss said that if you don’t want to sign one of these affidavits, if you’re afraid to put your name on these affidavits, then he would sign his name. And that just sent up a red flag. I said I would look at these documents and say, what is in here that might be suspicious? And there wasn’t anything. And so, I really thought it was my duty.
Tamm heard chatter about how a sitting attorney general might be indicted. “It was pretty clear to me, at least, that I didn’t want to keep participating in whatever was going on,” Tamm concluded.
When the Justice Department abandoned its investigation into him in 2011, Tamm was certain the investigation into him collapsed because he had revealed something against the law. He also had not provided any documents to a journalist. He had revealed no sources. He had broken no law.
On top of that, when will D.C. Bar disciplinary counsel bring proceedings against lawyers in the Justice Department who engaged in illegal actions Tamm helped to expose? Or are they entitled to retroactive immunity for the felonious acts they were involved in committing?
It is astounding to think the D.C. Bar would be more overzealous than President Barack Obama’s administration in its pursuit of Tamm. Obama has led a government that has been more aggressive against whistleblowers and government officials accused of unauthorized disclosures than any previous president in U.S. history. Yet, it is a body that is supposed to support attorneys, which has set its sights on a whistleblower who dared to defend the ethics of the Constitution, and may end up making a quite positive contribution to the war on whistleblowers in this country.
4. An exhaustive study shows privatization is more expensive, despite the right-wing’s insistence to the contrary
The most affordable water systems in the U.S. are publicly owned and operated by the government, an exhaustive study reveals. At the same time, for-profit private water companies charge 58 percent more than publicly owned ones.
Food & Water Watch, a non-governmental consumer rights organization based in D.C., comprehensively surveyed the 500 largest community water systems in the U.S., in what it says is “the largest U.S. water rate survey of its kind.”
The report, titled “The State of Public Water in the United States,” reveals that the average public water utility in the U.S. charged $316.20 for 60,000 gallons a year, while the average private, for-profit water company charged $500.96 for the same.
In states like New York and Illinois, the disparity is even greater, with privatized water systems charging twice as much as public, not-for-profit ones.
Pennsylvania for-profit systems charge a whopping 84 percent more than public systems — $323 more per year, on average. New Jersey private systems charge 79 percent more — $230 more per year.
“From emergency management in Michigan to failed privatization experiments across the country, corporate influence has failed U.S. water systems,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, in a statement regarding the study.
“Many of our community water systems are over 100 years old, and in desperate need of repair,” Hauter continued. “Rather than running water systems like businesses, or worse, handing them over to corporations, we need increased federal investment in municipal water. With this federal funding, we can help avoid future infrastructure-related catastrophes.”
For-profit companies own approximately 10 percent of U.S. community water systems. Most of these are small, however; 90 percent serve fewer than 3,300 people.
The vast majority of Americans, 87 percent, presently receive their water from a publicly owned, not-for-profit provider. And this number is growing.
Food & Water Watch also reviewed eight years of data from the Federal Safe Drinking Water Information System. It found that, between 2007 and 2014, the number of Americans who received water from a public system increased from 83 to 87 percent, while the number of private systems decreased by 7 percent.
The cheapest 142 of the 500 largest community water systems in the U.S. are public and/or non-profit. The cheapest private, for-profit water system comes in an inauspicious 143rd place.
The company American Water alone provides 15 of the 36 most expensive water systems. Of these 36 most expensive systems, 20 are privatized. Other prominent companies include Aqua America and United Water.
Phoenix, Arizona has the least expensive water service in the country, with an average annual bill of just $84.24. The average annual bill in Clovis, California is $100.80, $104.74 in Hempstead, New York, and $116.48 in Miami-Dade, Florida. All are public, not-for-profit systems.
There are a few outliers. Flint, Michigan is among them.
Flint charges an enormous $864.32 annually, making it the most expensive mismanaged water system in the country. Trailing close behind, the most expensive private systems, provided in five different parts of Pennsylvania by the companies American Water and Aqua America, charge between $782.38 and $792.84
In 2014, an unelected emergency manager appointed by the right-wing government switched Flint’s water supply from Detroit to the Flint River, in order to cut costs. This quickly corroded pipes, causing toxic waste-levels of lead poisoning and a deadly outbreak of the disease legionella.
Libertarians and right-wing pundits called for Flint to privatize its water in response to the crisis. Free-market capitalist publication Reason insisted privatization would be the solution to all of Flint’s problems. Hard-line right-wing billionaire David Koch sits on the board of the Reason Foundation. In her new book “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right,” New Yorker investigative journalist Jane Mayer documents how the Kochs bankroll the American right-wing and push a pro-privatization, pro-corporate agenda that both the Republican Party and much of the Democratic Party have largely embraced.
Supporters of privatization insist that reducing government regulation and letting corporations operate how they like reduces costs and increases efficiency. This study shows that this is not true, despite the frequent insistence to the contrary by neoliberal economists.
Privatization frequently moves the burden of cost onto external agents — particularly the commons, the environment and taxpayers — failing to factor in what are referred to in economics as externalities. Moreover, privatization often makes services unavailable to very poor people, or to people who live in rural or inaccessible areas.
“Government utilities have a responsibility to promote and protect public health and safety, and are generally more responsive to community needs,” Hauter explained, commenting on the study.
“More and more cities and towns are seeing that water is more efficiently and affordably delivered when it is controlled by a not-for-profit entity,” the Food & Water Watch executive director added. “Without shareholders expecting profits, public systems are less likely to cut corners on service, and excess funds are invested back into systems, not sent out of communities as dividend checks.”
Despite the clear benefits of public ownership, nevertheless, the report notes that politicians have underfunded water services for many years.
Federal funding for water utility improvement projects has decreased over the decades. Accounting for inflation, federal support for water utilities dropped 74 percent from 1977 to 2014.
Funding peaked in 1977, at just 63 percent of what was needed. In 2006, funding decreased to a record low of a mere 7 percent.
In the past few years, federal funding for water utility improvement projects has remained low. In 2010, it rose to 12 percent of what was needed, before dropping to 9 percent in 2014.
President Obama’s proposed budget cuts funding to the State Revolving Funds for water infrastructure by another 11 percent, Food & Water Watch noted.
“The proposed budget falls far short of what communities need,” the consumer rights group says.
5. Nobody asked the workers- Anybody not been outsourced?
Janine Jackson: The Boston Globe’s decision to contract out its subscriber delivery service to a new company that said they could do it cheaper was the kind of business call made every day. And media usually treat such events as just that: business news, for the business page. But those decisions have human impacts, too, sometimes huge ones. It’s just that the lives they change, generally speaking, aren’t the ones that make the paper.
Something different happened at the Globe, though, at least for a little while. Our next guest tells the story in an article for TomDispatch called “All The News That’s Fit to Print.” Aviva Chomsky is professor of history and coordinator of Latin American studies at Salem State University in Massachusetts. She’s author of the book Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal, and also They Take Our Jobs! and 20 Other Myths About Immigration. She joins us now by phone from Massachusetts. Welcome to CounterSpin, Aviva Chomsky.
Aviva Chomsky: Thanks. Thanks for having me on the show.
JJ: The story you tell in the article is emblematic of a number of things, so let’s just start in. TheBoston Globe changes their delivery contractor, and what happens?
AC: In a way, not to be too historical, but I think we have to start before they changed delivery carriers, with how newspapers are delivered at all in today’s United States. Because I think a lot of people still have in mind that newspapers are delivered by 12-year-olds on their bicycles, and that’s not how it is at all anymore. Newspaper delivery has become big business, and it’s done through an elaborate system of subcontracting. And the people who deliver the newspapers are adults, they do it by car, and their routes are far longer and more complex than what the kids in the neighborhoods used to do.
So newspaper delivery is a job that’s done through subcontracting. It’s a 365-day-a-year job, it has to be done in the middle of the night from about 2 a.m. until 6 a.m., no matter what the weather, what the conditions. And it’s a job that’s extremely poorly paid; that is, you have to have your own car, your own insurance, you have to drive hundreds of miles a week.
But you’re not considered an employee, you’re considered an independent contractor. And therefore the employer, which is the subcontractor who is contracted by the newspaper, doesn’t have any of the responsibilities that an employer has. They don’t have to pay you minimum wage, they don’t have to give you unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation, Social Security. They get out of all their responsibilities as an employer.
6. Kissinger? Kissinger who?
from Fair (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting)
Last week, presidential challenger Bernie Sandersattacked his rival Hillary Clinton live on US television for taking advice from Nixon-era Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, whom he accused of paving the way for genocide with his bombing of Cambodia.
You know who wasn’t impressed? US television.
According to a search of the Nexis news database, there were exactly two references to Kissinger following the debate on the major broadcast networks.CBS‘s Gayle King (Early Show, 2/12/16) reported that “Sanders questioned why Clinton would praise former secretary of State Henry Kissinger,” and then played an excerpt from the exchange:
SANDERS: Henry Kissinger was one of the most destructive secretaries of state. Count me in as somebody who will not be listening to Henry Kissinger.
CLINTON: I know journalists have asked who you do listen to on foreign policy and we have yet to know who that is.
SANDERS: Well, it ain’t Henry Kissinger, that’s for sure.
CLINTON: That’s fine. That’s fine.
On NBC‘s Today show, Andrea Mitchell (2/12/16) played an even shorter excerpt (beginning with “journalists have asked you…”) as an illustration of how the candidates “hammered each other…on foreign policy.”
That was it. The three network evening newscasts, with a typical combined nightly viewership of 24 million, didn’t mention Kissinger. Nor did any of the Sunday morning talkshows. Even PBS NewsHour, whose Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff moderated the debate, never discussed the Kissinger exchange.
Twenty-four-hour cable news did a little better, with CNN Newsroom(2/12/16) replaying the entire exchange, including Sanders’ explanation of why he objected to Clinton citing Kissinger as a mentor:
Kissinger’s actions in Cambodia, when the United States bombed that country, overthrew Prince Sihanouk, created the instability for Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge to come in, who then butchered some 3 million innocent people, one of the worst genocides in the history of the world.
This was aired in the context of former California Democratic Party chair Bill Press saying that “the weirdest part, I think, of the whole debate…was Hillary wrapping herself in the arms of Henry Kissinger as a role model,” since “90 percent of Democrats are going to say who is Henry Kissinger and the other 10 percent are going to say they hate him.”
After which longtime Clinton family adviser Paul Begala lectured: “A president actually has to get advice from all kinds of people.”
On CNN‘s Legal View (2/12/16), author/activist Jonathan Tasini—who ran unsuccessfully for New York’s Democratic senatorial nomination against Hillary Clinton in 2006, and incidentally wrote a study of labor coverage for FAIR in 1990—seems to have been the only commentator on national TV who took a moral stand against taking advice from Kissinger:
I don’t think we would have imagined that in a Democratic debate someone would say that Henry Kissinger’s an adviser…. A war criminal. Someone who should have been indicted, should have been impeached, should have been in prison.
Tasini was interrupted by Democratic funder Robert Zimmerman—”And what’s your point, Jonathan? What’s your point?”–who went on to give what seemed to be the Clinton campaign’s line of the day: “Hillary Clinton, to her credit, takes input from a number of different people.”
That was also the line taken by retired Gen. Mark Hertling, a CNN military commentator (New Day, 2/12/16):
You draw strength from a lot of different political and strategy theorists. That’s what you have to do as a politician and potential president. You have to find a lot of different things to look at from the standpoint of theory and policies.
Mostly, though, CNN seemed amused that Sanders would bring up Clinton’s connection to perhaps the Republican Party’s most famous foreign policy theorist: “Bernie Sanders may have won the 1976 part of the debate bringing up Henry Kissinger,” host John Berman quipped on CNN‘s Early Show(2/12/16). “Not resonating with millennials,” co-host Christine Romans chided.
Mockery was the order of the day on the right-wing Fox News Channel: “Of all the attacks Bernie Sanders could have launched against Hillary Clinton, this one truly came out of left field,” correspondent James Rosen began a segment on Fox‘s Special Report (2/12/16). Rosen told viewers that “Sanders advanced familiar left-wing criticisms of Kissinger’s role in the bombing of Cambodia, blaming him for the genocide that took place there years later.” (Actually, the mass killing in Cambodia began less than two years after Congress put a stop to the Nixon/Kissinger bombing campaign in 1973.)
Rosen said that “the explosion in Kissinger searches on Google suggested many of today’s voters didn’t even recognize the name.” Some might say it indicated a strong interest in learning more about Kissinger, an interest that media outlets could satisfy by providing information on his record and philosophy. Instead, Rosen offered Fox News host Jeanine Pirro definitively telling viewers that they are not, in fact, interested in Kissinger: “Does anyone care about Henry Kissinger now? I mean, do the people today care about that? No.”
A Wall Street Journal profile (2/23/12) of de la Renta noted:
Over Christmas the Kissingers were among the close group who gathered in Punta Cana, including Barbara Walters, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Charlie Rose. “We have two house rules,” says Oscar, laughing. “There can be no conversation of any substance and nothing nice about anyone.”
Henry Kissinger (photo: Marvin Joseph/Washington Post)
Washington Post photo of Henry Kissinger illustrating a book review (9/4/14) by Hillary Clinton that praised his vision of a “just and liberal order” (photo: Marvin Joseph/Washington Post)
Nor is the relationship purely social.
As Clinton wrote in a glowing Washington Post review (9/4/14) of Kissinger’s book World Order:
Kissinger is a friend, and I relied on his counsel when I served as secretary of State. He checked in with me regularly, sharing astute observations about foreign leaders and sending me written reports on his travels.
This collaboration, to hear Clinton tell it, was not based on a felt need to “get advice from all kinds of people,” as Begala would have it, but on shared ideology:
His analysis, despite some differences over specific policies, largely fits with the broad strategy behind the Obama administration’s effort over the past six years to build a global architecture of security and cooperation for the 21st century.
7. Florida Fracking Update
- Bills Update
- HB 191: Regulation of Oil and Gas Resources - by Reps. Ray Rodrigues and Pigman. HB 191 was passed by a vote of 73-45 on Wed Jan 27, and will remain as-is as SB 318 approaches its next committee and possibly the Senate floor. Eight Republicans (Adkins, Beshears, Latvala, Miller, Raschein, Steube, Trumbull, Van Zant) voted against the bill along with all the Democrats (day-of, Representative Plasencia switched his vote to No a week later). For bill information, look here. Be sure to thank our Nos for voting with us!
- SB 318: SB 318: Regulation of Oil and Gas Resources by Sen. Richter. SB 318 was passed through the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government with 4 yeas and 2 neas on Mon Jan 25. SB 318 was NOT yet scheduled for a hearing in its final committee of reference, Appropriations, on 2/18, though it may be scheduled as late as 2/23 for the 2/25 Appropriations meeting. We are preparing as though it will be scheduled for next week’s hearing. For bill information, look here. For current bill text, look here.
- SB 166: SB 166: Oil and Natural Gas Production or Recovery - by Sens. Soto and Bullard, would ban fracking. Bill has not been heard in the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee, and at this point it is very unlikely that it will be heard. For bill information, look here.
- HB 19: Well Stimulation Treatments by Rep. Jenne would ban fracking. Referred to Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee, Energy & Utilities Subcommittee, Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee, and State Affairs Committee. Bill has not been heard and at this point is very unlikely it will be heard. For more information, look here
- Resolutions/ordinances Achieved this Week:
- Wakulla Co. BOCC passed an ordinance 5-0 to ban fracking in their area on Feb 16.
- Volusia Co. BOCC passed an ordinance to ban fracking it their area on Feb 18.
- Total resolutions/ordinances as of 2/18/16 is: 79. For full list of city and county resolutions and ordinances here.
- Upcoming Votes on Resolutions/Ordinances 1.
- None that we know of.
- In-district Legislative Visits:
- None that we know of.
- In-District Legislative Visits
- Lois Kershner and Kathy Spaulding of the Temple Terrace Garden Club, activist Wendy Nowlen, and Area Captain Michelle Allen of Food and Water Watch delivered 42 handwritten letters, 200 petition signatures, and letter from the Temple Terrace Garden Club signed by 39 of its members, to Senator Lee’s on Tuesday Feb 16th. For more information, contact Michelle Allen at email@example.com.
- Coalition Activist Michelle Gale met with Sen. Garcia’s aide. For more information, contact Michelle Gale at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Upcoming In-district Legislative Visits:
- None that we know of.
- Other Area Updates!
- On Feb 10, the Volusia County Soil and Water Conservation District banned fracking in Volusia County via a Conservation Program. They will be working with the Volusia BOCC to get a ban at the BOCC level as well.
- In anticipation of the possible scheduling and vote on SB 318 on Thurs Feb 18, Coalition members and anti-fracking activists completed 1) a successful call-In to Senators Garcia, Latvala, Lee, Ring and Simmons and 2) successful Interfaith actions Feb 17 in Brevard and Alachua Co.
- Full Coalition call took place at 2:00 PM on Feb 17. Topics covered included the status of bills, tactics inside Tallahassee (packet delivery, amendment strategy, DEP testimony, and commissioner letters) as well as in-district meetings and the on the ground events (Film Screenings, Letter-writing (Brian); and Call-ins, and further brainstorming).
- Sayfie Adds: a small group of people got together and sponsored a few Sayfie press releases, which were and are being posted on http://www.sayfiereview.com/ The first one posted was a link to this research: http://www.peer.org/news/news-releases/illegal-profits-from-polluting-florida-go-untouched.html
- “The Suwannee County BOCC approved three identical fracking opposition letters to Governor Scott, Pro-fracking Bill Sponsors Senator Richter (SB 318) and House Representative Rodrigues (HB 191) tonight,” writes Debra Johnson on the Spectrabusters blog. For entire post, visit link here.
- Media Hits and Op-Eds:
- Fracking could become a disaster here in Florida, Sun Sentinel, Feb 17. Link here.
- Fracking not worth the environmental risks, Orlando Sentinel, Feb 17. Link here.
- Lee commissioners oppose state ‘fracking’ bill, Naples Daily News, Feb 17. Link here.
- Sen. Nelson: Fair Districts will change legislature, Tallahassee Democrat, Feb 17. Link here.
- Intro to Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking 101), Forward Florida, Feb 17. Link here.
- Letter: Fight for parks, against Fracking. The Ledger, Feb 17. Link here.
- Bay County Commissioners ban fracking in the county, News Channel 7, Feb 16. Link here.
- City opposes fracking, votes to create new City Council workshop public comment period, Palm Coast Observer, Feb 16. Link here.
- Time is running out to stop fracking, Tallahassee Democrat, Feb 16. Link here.
- Bay County says hell no to fracking, Panama City News Herald, Link here.
- With Fracking, ride-hailling, state lawmakers challenge local control, Tampa Bay Tribune, Feb 16. Link here.
- Regulating Fracking Impossible Task, Citrus County Chronicle, Feb 15. Link here.
- Letter: Fracking goes against the will of the people, Tallahassee Democrat, Feb 14. Link here.
- No to fracking in Florida, Tampa Bay Tribute, Feb 14. Link here.
- Stop legislation prohibiting local governments from adopting fracking bans, Bradenton Herald, Feb 14. Link here.
- Is court-imposed redistricting already moderating Florida Senate, mypalmbeachpost, Feb 14. Link here.
- Murky prospects: Fracking will put Florida in communities in a class with Flint, Citrus County Chronicle, Feb 17. Link here.
- ALEC-Tainted Legislation Designed to Block Local Control Over Fracking Bans Stalled in Florida, DeSmog blog, Feb 12. Link here.
- DEP dismisses challenge to Seismic Testing, Tallahassee Democrat, Feb 13. Link here.
- Editorial: Florida lawmakers big-foot local government, Tampa Bay Times, Feb 12. Link here.
- Thumb up: Fracking proposal hits roadblock, TC Palm, Feb 11. Link here.
- Upcoming Educational Events and Actions:
- “From Pensacola to Paris and Back,” Feb 25th, Pensacola FL Join Earth Ethics, Inc. on Thursday, February 25th beginning at 11:30 a.m. at the downtown library located at 239 N Spring Street for a discussion of the UN Climate Change Conference. From Pensacola to Paris and back explores Earth Ethics Executive Director trip to Paris for the UN Climate Change Conference. With the agreement signed, what happens now? How do we move forward as a community and a nation? Learn what you can do to be part of this historic event. Please RSVP to email@example.com if you plan to attend.
- Calls to Action:
- While it’s impossible to say for certain, there’s a good chance that SB 318 will appear in committee next Thursday Feb 25. To ensure the Appropriation Committee members know where Florida’s communities stand, the Coalition has several tactical idea ideas (that were discussed on the Coalition call email):
- Letters from County Commissioners to the Appropriations Committee: If you have a relationship with a city or county commissioner who voted yes on an anti-fracking resolution or ordinance, and can make a call, we need help getting in touch with commissioners to ask them to put a letter to Sen. Lee and the Appropriations Committee on letterhead expressing opposition to 318. If you can help, please email Kim Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If you can help make phonecalls this weekend to constituents in key districts to get them to call or write their Senator, email Michelle Allen at email@example.com.
- If you have an expert who is either willing to come to Tallahassee next week to testify (keeping in mind there won’t be much time) OR is willing to write a short statement that can be read into the record, please contact them and get them in touch with Kim Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Feb 20-24: Florida's Groundswell Against Fracking: FLAF movie screenings in your city! Gather your community to learn the facts (not the "fracts") by attending an FLAF movie screening! Between Feb 20-22, coalition activists will host public movie screenings of Gasland, Groundswell Rising, and Fracking Stories, among others, to inform the public about the dangers of fracking. We expect to schedule many more screenings soon, but you can find the dates and times of currently scheduled public screenings near you on the facebook event. The three public screenings scheduled at the moment are:
- Orlando: Audubon Park Covenant Church, 3219 Chelsea St., 4:00 PM Saturday Feb 20. Will be watching Groundswell Rising: https://www.facebook.com/events/1535019550125429/
- Pensacola - Open Books Bookstore & Prison Book Project - 1040 N Guillemard St, Pensacola, Florida 32501. Saturday, 2/20, event starts at 6:30 p.m., Film at 7 p.m. Join us for Fracking Stories: https://www.facebook.com/events/153963818320388/
- Tallahassee: "Fracking Stories," UU Church of Tallahassee, 4 PM Sunday 2/21:https://www.facebook.com/events/181192958918798/
- Merritt Island: "Groundswell Rising," A-Live and Healthy Cafe, 4pm Sunday 2/21: https://www.facebook.com/events/1507575589551790/
- Cocoa: "Groundswell Rising" Port St. John Public Library, 2 PM Monday 2/22: https://www.facebook.com/events/1396419787324294/
- Palm Bay: "The Knowledge Exchange," 5151 Babcock St Babcock St NE, 7:00 PM. Monday Feb 22. Film choice Groundswell Rising: https://www.facebook.com/events/1533793616914702/
- Miami: "Groundswell Rising," Mind Warehouse, 111 NE 1st ST, 7th floor Miami, FL, 33132., Wednesday Feb 24: https://www.facebook.com/events/918683658239218/
This is the email list for the Floridians Against Fracking Coalition.
8. There wil be no Spying Worm in our Apple
A Message to Our Customers
The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.
This moment calls for public discussion, and we want our customers and people around the country to understand what is at stake.
The Need for Encryption
Smartphones, led by iPhone, have become an essential part of our lives. People use them to store an incredible amount of personal information, from our private conversations to our photos, our music, our notes, our calendars and contacts, our financial information and health data, even where we have been and where we are going.
All that information needs to be protected from hackers and criminals who want to access it, steal it, and use it without our knowledge or permission. Customers expect Apple and other technology companies to do everything in our power to protect their personal information, and at Apple we are deeply committed to safeguarding their data.
Compromising the security of our personal information can ultimately put our personal safety at risk. That is why encryption has become so important to all of us.
For many years, we have used encryption to protect our customers’ personal data because we believe it’s the only way to keep their information safe. We have even put that data out of our own reach, because we believe the contents of your iPhone are none of our business.
9. MISSISSIPPI GOES BIBLICAL MAN
Mississippi Dems Hope to Fix ‘All the Things Going Wrong’ by Making Bible State’s Official Book
Lawmakers threaten to close the gap between church in state with proposal to make the Bible a state book.
Christian lawmakers in Mississippi want to enshrine the Bible as the official state book, according to AL.com.
The bill to do so is being sponsored by two Democratic state representatives, Tom Miles and Michael Evans, who told AL.com the idea came from a constituent who believed it would encourage people to read the text of the Christian religion.
“Me and my constituents, we were talking about it and one of them made a comment that people ought to start reading the Bible,” Evans told AL.com, pointing out it wouldn’t force people to read the Bible.
The idea came about during a discussion about, “all the things going wrong in the world.”
Miles said he’s not trying to force his religious beliefs on Mississippi residents but believes the Bible promotes compassion.
A previous version of the bill died in committee, but the two lawmakers have brought it up again, according to the Friendly Atheist.
Christian lawmakers have made similar efforts in the past in Louisiana and Tennessee.
In 2014, Louisiana Republican Rep. Thomas Carmody tried to pass legislation making the Bible the official state book. He scrapped the proposal because he said it had become a “distraction” and he was being forced to explain that he was not trying to establish a state religion, according to NOLA.com.
Last year, a similar bill was killed by the Tennessee state senate, with key opposition coming from Republicans.
“We don’t need to put the Bible beside salamanders, tulip poplars and ‘Rocky Top’ in the Tennessee Blue Book to appreciate its importance to our state,” the state’s lieutenant governor, Ron Ramsey said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
9. UKRAINE, UKRAINE everybody do the NAZI
Western-backed governing regime in Ukraine facing collapse, snap election
By Pavel Polityuk and Natalia Zinets, Reuters, Feb. 16, 2016
KYIV–Ukraine’s biggest political party said on Tuesday it will rate the performance of Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk’s government as “unsatisfactory” in an imminent vote that could precipitate a collapse of the coalition government and snap elections.
Parliament could vote as early as Tuesday on a report that reviews the government’s performance in 2015 and its agenda for this year. The final time and day of the vote has not been confirmed.
If the government loses, lawmakers need 150 signatures in parliament to hold a no-confidence vote, which could lead to national elections if the coalition cannot agree on a new cabinet. Two legislators told Reuters they had already secured the signatures.
Yuriy Lutsenko, the parliamentary leader of President Petro Poroshenko’s party, said his party had “taken the decision to rate the cabinet ministers’ work as unsatisfactory”. Poroshenko heads Ukraine’s largest party [sic], and Yatseniuk the next largest. Both are in the ruling coalition.
Maksym Burbak, the parliamentary leader of Yatseniuk’s party, told lawmakers that the consequences of voting against the government would be felt “literally the next day – since this could trigger early elections and chaos.”
The government’s collapse would dismay Ukraine’s international backers, who have invested much cash and political capital supporting the Ukrainian government in its standoff with Moscow after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Ukraine’s failure to tackle corruption and implement reforms has already derailed a Western aid programme that keeps its war-ravaged economy afloat.
Last year, the International Monetary Fund gave Ukraine a $17.5 billion package to be spread over four years, but so far only $6.7 billion has been disbursed.
Ukraine has been waiting since October for the next tranche of aid, worth $1.7 billion, which has been held up by concerns over the slow pace of reform.
The economy minister quit at the start of February, complaining corrupt vested interests were meddling in his ministry’s work.
Ukraine’s hryvnia currency fell to a new 11-month low of below 27 to the dollar on Tuesday, central bank data showed, and has fallen 12.2 percent since the start of the year.
The government is struggling to haul Ukraine out of recession at the same time it is fighting a pro-Russian separatist insurgency [sic] in its industrial east.
Prime Minister Yatseniuk’s approval ratings have plunged to less than one per cent since taking office in 2014. He has no obvious successor, although the parliament speaker and the technocrat finance minister are considered contenders.
10. Ukraine’s president calls for prime minister’s resignation amid political crisis
By Lydia Tomkiw, International Business Times, Feb 16, 2016
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko has called for Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to resign and for a total cabinet reshuffle Tuesday amid a growing crisis following the resignation of several reform-minded politicians who accused the government of giving only lip service to fighting corruption.
Protesters gathered outside the parliament in Kiev to demand a crackdown on corruption and improved economic conditions ahead of a scheduled no-confidence vote, local media reported.
In a statement on the presidential website, Poroshenko also called for the resignation of Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, acknowledging that a government reboot was necessary to avoid early elections.
“To restore trust, therapy is too little; surgery is needed,” said Poroshenko’s statement, which paved the way for the formation of a technocratic government. He said political infighting in Ukraine served the interests of the country’s neighbor, Russia.
Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk are both part of the ruling coalition and have seen their approval ratings drop dramatically in recent months, with citizens unhappy over the pace of reforms. Members of parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, will need 226 votes Tuesday to dismiss Yatsenyuk and begin the process of selecting a new prime minister, AFP reported.
The vote comes at a difficult moment, with the International Monetary Fund putting its economic assistance on hold. Economy Minister Aivaras Abromavicius resigned earlier in the month and publicly accused top levels of the government of impeding needed economic reforms. Deputy Prosecutor General Vitaly Kasko resigned Monday with similar accusations and complaints, the Associated Press reported.
“My team and I have no wish to be a cover for open corruption or puppets under the control of those who want to establish control over state money in the style of the old authorities,” Abromavicius said at the time of his resignation, Reuters reported.
Relations between Ukraine and Russia are at their worst following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and the conflict in eastern Ukraine that has pitted Ukrainian government forces against Russian-backed rebels. The conflict has left more than 9,000 people dead, and fighting flared again Monday as the government reported three servicemen killed and seven others wounded.
Ukrainian deputy prosecutor quits over corruption as government teeters, Reuters, Feb 15, 2016
11. The Cop Who's Suing the Family of the Teen He Killed Is Why People Hate Cops
By Deborah Douglas, VICE / 16 February 16
It takes roughly the same amount of nerve that inspired Donald Trump to repeat the word "pussy" at a campaign rally for a Chicago police officer who shot and killed a college student he was called to save to sue that teenager's estate for $10 million.
But that's what's happening.
"The fact that [Quintonio] LeGrier's actions had forced Officer Rialmo to end LeGrier's life, and to accidentally take the innocent life of [neighbor] Bettie Jones, has caused and will continue to cause Officer Rialmo to suffer extreme emotional trauma," according to the claim, which was filed on Friday in Cook County Circuit Court.
Robert Rialmo's suit counters a wrongful death claim filed by LeGrier's father seeking more than $50,000, saying he was forced to go to a police station, where he was detained, while his son lay dying on the day after Christmas. The elder LeGrier's lawsuit also claims neither the officer nor anyone else was being threatened when Rialmo opened fire without warning.
Citing the danger of facing the 19-year-old African-American engineering student, whom he claims was waving a bat at him, Rialmo, who is white, says he is traumatized, suffering injuries of a "pecuniary nature." Jones, a 55-year-old neighbor, was also killed when the officer opened fire.
This suit comes in the wake of a season marked by weeks of protests that blocked retail traffic in downtown Chicago, a city still reeling from revelations of what was essentially a multi-institutional cover-up around the shooting death of another teen, Laquan McDonald. Chicago has lost a police superintendent and withstood calls for its mayor, Rahm Emanuel, to step down. Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, facing a March Democratic primary against two opponents, incredulously insists she did nothing wrong in the McDonald case.
This universal exercise in tone deafness to the racial and social differences between the lived experience of African-Americans and other marginalized groups is astonishing given the intense national conversation about these issues the past year and a half. One simple example is that, as of press time, Laquan McDonald's name doesn't show up in a search of the Cook County State's Attorney's website. That search box is as empty as the state's attorney's memory and sense of responsibility for a botched investigation and lack of transparency around that Chicago teen's death.
Lost in debates over whether black lives, in fact, matter, is the work that needs to be done is by those who regard themselves as faultless. A study released this month by the journal Psychological Science suggests as much: Much of society is wired to edit out the humanity of black children—which, make no mistake, LeGrier and McDonald were, even if they approached adulthood.
People are more likely to interpret a toy as a weapon after seeing a black face, according to the study, which showed participants images of both black and white children along with adults holding toys.
"It was the alarming rate at which young African-Americans—particularly young black males—are shot and killed by police in the US," that inspired the study, wrote University of Iowa Professor Andrew Todd, the lead author. "Although such incidents have multiple causes, one potential contributor is that young black males are stereotypically associated with violence and criminality."
Would that LeGrier were regarded as what he was: a troubled young man.
One can't help ask what Rialmo was thinking when he signed up to be a policeman, one of the more potentially injurious occupations out there. Would a log cutter be justified in suing if the sound and feel of a falling tree gave him anxiety? Does it make sense for a pilot afraid of landing a plane in the rain justify a lawsuit after being faced with an unexpected downpour? Rialmo wasn't even hurt! Meanwhile, in 2014, more than 4,000 American workers were killed on the job, including falls, electrocutions, and actually being hit by things. Law enforcement has one of the highest rates of injury, according to 2014 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nursing, meat processing, fire protection are some, but not all, jobs where American workers regularly face risks.
Rialmo, who very likely feels badly, apparently senses he is going to need a lot of money to get over the memory of the strong whiff of a swinging baseball bat fly by his head the morning he responded to that domestic disturbance call. (Never mind Rialmo is the only one alleging the teen, who suffered emotional problems, was actually wielding a bat when police arrived at the westside home.)
Meanwhile, in the original December 28 suit filed by LeGrier's father, Antonio, he says his son "never did anything that suggested that he was armed with a weapon immediately before he was shot." In a description reminiscent of the 2014 Cleveland police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, Antonio Legrier said after Quintonio was shot, "the police officer who shot [him] did not do anything to try to provide" his son medical care."
Presumably Rialmo's lawsuit represents an effort to negate the lawsuit filed by LeGrier's dad, who simply called police early that fateful morning to get his emotionally disturbed son some help. Indeed, Quintonio Legrier, a student at Northern Illinois University, had also called 911—three times—insisting his life had been threatened. Like his dad, he wanted help.
In the black community, galling behavior that embarrass you, your family, and your community is sometimes described as reflecting a lack of "home training," and Rialmo's suit is a prime example. His nervy claim is the embodiment of an ethos practiced by law enforcement and other public institutions that regard their role in minority communities as being an occupying force rather than a protective one.
LeGrier, McDonald, Ms. Bettie Jones, and the rest are evidence of a long ago social contract written in invisible ink that charges too high a blood price we can no longer afford to pay.
12. Hillary Clinton, With Little Notice, Vows to Embrace an Extremist Agenda on Israel
Former President Bill Clinton on Monday met in secret (no press allowed) with roughly 100 leaders of South Florida’s Jewish community, and, as the Times of Israel reports, “He vowed that, if elected, Hillary Clinton would make it one of her top priorities to strengthen the U.S.-Israel alliance.” He also “stressed the close bond that he and his wife have with the State of Israel.”
It may be tempting to dismiss this as standard, vapid Clintonian politicking: adeptly telling everyone what they want to hear and making them believe it. After all, is it even physically possible to “strengthen the U.S.-Israel alliance” beyond what it already entails: billions of dollars in American taxpayer money transferred every year, sophisticated weapons fed to Israel as it bombs its defenseless neighbors, blindly loyal diplomatic support and protection for everything it does?
But Bill Clinton’s vow of even greater support for Israel is completely consistent with what Hillary Clinton herself has been telling American Jewish audiences for months. In November, she published an op-ed in The Forward in which she vowed to strengthen relations not only with Israel, but also with its extremist prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
“I have stood with Israel my entire career,” she proclaimed. Indeed, “as secretary of state, [she] requested more assistance for Israel every year.” Moreover, she added, “I defended Israel from isolation and attacks at the United Nations and other international settings, including opposing the biased Goldstone report [which documented widespread Israeli war crimes in Gaza].”
Clinton media operatives such as Jonathan Alter have tried to undermine the Sanders campaign by claiming that only Sanders, but not Clinton, has committed the sin of criticizing Obama: “Hillary stopped criticizing Obama in 2008, when [Obama] was nominee; Sanders stopped in 2015, so he could run as Dem.” Aside from being creepy — it’s actually healthy to criticize a president and pathological to refuse to do so — this framework is also blatantly false. Clinton, in her book and in interviews, has often criticized Obama for being insufficiently hawkish: making clear that she wanted to be more militaristic than the Democratic president who has literally bombed seven predominantly Muslim countries (thus far).