Tag Archives: executive order

Trump orders construction of border wall and punishment for sanctuary cities

President Donald Trump on Jan. 25 ordered construction of a U.S.-Mexican border “wall” and punishment for cities shielding illegal immigrants while mulling restoring a CIA secret detention program.

Also, a draft executive order seen by Reuters that Trump is expected to sign in the coming days would block the entry of refugees from war-torn Syria and suspend the entry of any immigrants from Muslim-majority Middle Eastern and African countries Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Yemen while permanent rules are studied.

Trump’s executive orders on Wednesday signaled a tough action toward the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, whom he already has threatened to deport.

In a move critics called a slight to the integrity of American democracy, Trump also said he would seek a “major investigation” into what he believes was voter fraud in the November election, despite overwhelming consensus among state officials, election experts and politicians that it is rare in the United States.

“We are going to restore the rule of law in the United States,” Trump told an audience that included relatives of people killed by illegal immigrants at the Department of Homeland Security after signing two executive orders.

The directives ordered the construction of a multibillion-dollar “wall” along the roughly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border, moved to strip federal funding from sanctuary states and cities that harbor illegal immigrants and expanded the force of U.S. anti-immigration agents.

His plans prompted an outcry from immigrant advocates and Democratic lawmakers who said Trump was jeopardizing the rights and freedoms of millions of people while treating Mexico as an enemy, not an ally, and soiling America’s historic reputation as a welcoming place for immigrants of all stripes.

“The border wall is about political theater at the expense of civil liberties,” said Christian Ramirez, director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition immigrant advocacy group.

“It is not national security policy. Border communities are among the safest in the nation, and patrolling them with tens of thousands of heavily armed, poorly trained, unaccountable agents puts lives at risks. This will turn these communities into de facto military zones,” Ramirez said.

The White House said the wall would stem the flow of drugs, crime and illegal immigration into the United States.

The immigration crackdown has sparked fear among  “dreamers,” whose parents brought them to the United States illegally and who received deportation relief and work permits from President Barack Obama’s administration.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said “dreamers” should not be worried. “We’re focused on physical security of the border, we’re focused on those who are coming to do us harm from terrorist states and things like that,” he told MSNBC.

TENSION WITH MEXICO

Trump’s actions could further test relations with Mexico.

Trump’s policies, including his demand that the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada be renegotiated or scrapped, have put Mexico’s government on the defensive. Trump and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto are due to meet next week.

Pena Nieto said he “regrets and disapproves” of the push by Trump to build a new wall along the border.

Officials in cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Denver, Washington, San Francisco and Seattle offer some forms of protection to illegal immigrants. Billions of dollars in federal aid to those cities, often governed by Democrats, could be at risk under Trump’s move.

Trump said construction on the wall would start within months, with planning starting immediately and he said Mexico would pay back to the United States “100 percent” of the costs. Mexican officials repeatedly said that is not going to happen.

The cost, nature and extent of the wall remain unclear. Trump last year put the cost at “probably $8 billion,” although other estimates are higher, and he said the wall would span 1,000 miles because of the terrain of the border.

END OF ‘CATCH AND RELEASE’

Trump’s directives would end the practice known by critics as “catch and release” in which authorities apprehend illegal immigrants on U.S. territory but do not immediately detain or deport them.

The directives also include hiring 5,000 more U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents.

They also create more detention space along the southern border to make it easier to detain and deport people.

Reporting by Julia Edwards Ainsley; Additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg, Roberta Rampton, Jonathan Landay, Mark Hosenball, Doina Chiacu, Andy Sullivan, Mohammad Zargham, Eric Beech and Susan Heavey; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney.

RESISTANCE: Scientists go rogue on Twitter in defiance of Trump

Employees from more than a dozen U.S. government agencies have established a network of unofficial “rogue” Twitter feeds in defiance of what they see as attempts by President Donald Trump to muzzle federal climate change research and other science.

Seizing on Trump’s favorite mode of discourse, scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA and other bureaus have privately launched Twitter accounts — borrowing names and logos of their agencies — to protest restrictions they view as censorship and provide unfettered platforms for information the new administration has curtailed.

“Can’t wait for President Trump to call us FAKE NEWS,” one anonymous National Park Service employee posted on the newly opened Twitter account @AltNatParkService.

“You can take our official twitter, but you’ll never take our free time!”

The @RogueNASA account displayed an introductory disclaimer describing it as “The unofficial ‘Resistance’ team of NASA. Not an official NASA account.”

It beckoned readers to follow its feed “for science and climate news and facts. REAL NEWS, REAL FACTS.”

The swift proliferation of such tweets by government rank-and-file followed internal directives several agencies involved in environmental issues have received since Trump’s inauguration requiring them to curb their dissemination of information to the public.

Last week, Interior Department staff were told to stop posting on Twitter after an employee re-tweeted posts about relatively low attendance at Trump’s swearing-in, and about how material on climate change and civil rights had disappeared from the official White House website.

Employees at the EPA and the departments of Interior, Agriculture and Health and Human Services have since confirmed seeing notices from the new administration either instructing them to remove web pages or limit how they communicate to the public, including through social media.

The restrictions have reinforced concerns that Trump, a climate change skeptic, is out to squelch federally backed research showing that emissions from fossil fuel combustion and other human activities are contributing to global warming.

The resistance movement gained steam on Tuesday when a series of climate change-related tweets were posted to the official Twitter account of Badlands National Park in South Dakota, administered under the Interior Department, but were soon deleted.

A Park Service official later said those tweets came from a former employee no longer authorized to use the official account and that the agency was being encouraged to use Twitter to post public safety and park information only, and to avoid national policy issues.

Within hours, unofficial “resistance” or “rogue” Twitter accounts began sprouting up, emblazoned with the government logos of the agencies where they worked, the list growing to at least 14 such sites by Wednesday afternoon.

An account dubbed @ungaggedEPA invited followers to visit its feeds of “ungagged news, links, tips and conversation that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is unable to tell you,” adding that it was “Not directly affiliated with @EPA.”

U.S. environmental employees were soon joined by similar “alternative” Twitter accounts originating from various science and health agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Weather Service.

Many of their messages carried Twitter hashtags #resist or #resistance.

An unofficial Badlands National Park account called @BadHombreNPS also emerged (a reference to one of Trump’s more memorable campaign remarks about Mexican immigrants) to post material that had been scrubbed from the official site earlier.

Because the Twitter feeds were set up and posted to anonymously as private accounts, they are beyond the control of the government.

(By Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Trump advancing Keystone XL, Dakota Access pipelines by executive order

President Donald Trump is expected to use his executive powers to advance the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.

TransCanada, the foreign company behind the Keystone XL project, will attempt to use eminent domain to sue U.S. landowners and seize private property in order to pipe this fuel across the United States for export.

After Barack Obama rejected the pipeline in 2015, TransCanada sued the U.S. under the North American Free Trade Agreement for $15 billion. Despite his previous remarks concerning NAFTA, Trump did not address the company and its lawsuit before backing the KXL project.

Following months of national opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Department of the Army ordered an environmental review of the project in December 2016.

The pipeline was originally proposed to cross the Missouri River just above Bismarck, North Dakota, but after complaints, it was rerouted to cross the river along sacred Tribal grounds, less than a mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation..

Trump had invested in Energy Transfer, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline. His spokespeople have claimed he has since divested, but no proof of this has been presented.

Reaction to the news of the executive orders from 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben: More people sent comments against Dakota Access and Keystone XL to the government than any project in history. The world’s climate scientists and its Nobel laureates explained over and over why it was unwise and immoral. In one of his first actions as president, Donald Trump ignores all that in his eagerness to serve the oil industry. It’s a dark day for reason, but we will continue the fight.

“This is not a done deal. The last time around, TransCanada was so confident they literally mowed the strip where they planned to build the pipeline, before people power stopped them. People will mobilize again.”

And more reaction from the progressive community:

350.org executive director May Boeve said: “Trump clearly doesn’t know what he’s doing. Indigenous peoples, landowners, and climate activists did everything in our power to stop Keystone XL and Dakota Access, and we’ll do it again. These orders will only reignite the widespread grassroots opposition to these pipelines and other dirty energy projects. Trump is about to meet the fossil fuel resistance head on.”

Greenpeace Executive Director Annie Leonard said: “A powerful alliance of Indigenous communities, ranchers, farmers and climate activists stopped the Keystone and the Dakota Access pipelines the first time around, and the same alliances will come together to stop them again if Trump tries to raise them from the dead. Instead of pushing bogus claims about the potential of pipelines to create jobs, Trump should focus his efforts on the clean energy sector where America’s future lives. Trump’s energy plan is more of the same — full of giveaways to his fossil fuel cronies at a time when renewable energy is surging ahead.

“We all saw the incredible strength and courage of the water protectors at Standing Rock, and the people around the world who stood with them in solidarity. We’ll stand with them again if Trump tries to bring the Dakota Access Pipeline, or any other fossil fuel infrastructure project, back to life.”

Oil Change International campaigns director David Turnbull said: “Both the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines will never be completed, no matter what President Trump and his oil-soaked cabinet try to do. Trump’s first days in office saw massive opposition, marking the beginning of four years of resistance to his dangerous policies. We stopped Keystone XL and Dakota Access before and we’ll do it again. These are fights Trump and his bullies won’t win.”

CREDO Deputy Political Director Josh Nelson said: “President Trump is showing that he’s in the pocket of big corporations and foreign oil interests. Approving these dirty oil pipelines would poison American air and water, supercharge climate change and trample Native American rights. Fierce grassroots activism has stopped these pipelines over and over again.”

Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said: “Donald Trump has been in office for four days and he’s already proving to be the dangerous threat to our climate we feared he would be. But, these pipelines are far from being in the clear. The millions of Americans and hundreds of Tribes that stood up to block them in the first place will not be silenced, and will continue fighting these dirty and dangerous projects.

“Trump claims he’s a good businessman, yet he’s encouraging dirty, dangerous tar sands development when clean energy is growing faster, producing more jobs, and has a real future. Trump claims he cares about the American people, but he’s allowing oil companies to steal and threaten their land by constructing dirty and dangerous pipelines through it. Trump claims he wants to protect people’s clean air and water, but he’s permitting a tar sand superhighway that will endanger both and hasten the climate crisis.

“The Keystone pipeline was rejected because it was not in the country’s interest, and the environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline was ordered because of the threats it poses to the Standing Rock Sioux. Nothing has changed. These pipelines were a bad idea then and they’re a bad idea now.

“Simply put, Donald Trump is who we thought he is: a person who will sell off Americans’ property and Tribal rights, clean air, and safe water to corporate polluters.”

Indigenous Environmental Network executive director Tom BK Goldtooth said: “The Indigenous Environmental Network is extremely alarmed with President Donald Trump’s announcement of the two Executive Orders setting the stage for approving the dirty energy pipeline projects of the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other Sioux Tribes, as sovereign Native nations, were never consulted by Trump or his Administration on this decision that further violates the treaty rights of the Lakota, Nakota, Dakota people. Trump is portraying his true self by joining forces with the darkness of the Black Snake pipelines crossing across the culturally and environmentally rich landscape of the prairie lands of America.

“These actions by President Trump are insane and extreme, and nothing short of attacks on our ancestral homelands as Indigenous peoples. The actions by the president today demonstrate that this Administration is more than willing to violate federal law that is meant to protect Indigenous rights, human rights, the environment and the overall safety of communities for the benefit of the fossil fuel industry.”

WiGWag: The one about the Bernie Sanders doll

Bernie baby: A Washington state woman made national headlines in June when she showed up at the state’s Democratic convention with a life-sized crocheted Bernie Sanders doll — or at least the top half of the presidential candidate. Well, it turns out making DIY Bernie Sanders crafts is a thing. Crocheted Sanders dolls populate Etsy, as do Sanders paper dolls, clay figurines, action figures and a bouncy Bernie for the dashboard. We also came across a Donald Trump voodoo doll and a Hillary Clinton prayer candle.

Six years missing: U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson’s campaign commercials have a glaring omission: They don’t mention he’s served in the Senate since 2011. Critics say that’s because he (a) has nothing to show for it and (b) doesn’t want voters examining his record. Of course, in this election cycle, it’s probably wise for an incumbent to try positioning himself as an outsider. What’s dumb is thinking he can get away with it.

Bumped over  ‘best butt’: At least one manager is out on his can at Scotty’s Brewhouse in Southport, Indiana. He was fired over an “unsanctioned and unapproved” staff awards contest that recognized one employee with a “best butt” prize. The winner was asked to turn around for co-workers who wanted snapshots of the appreciated derriere. Other employees were recognized for being the “best bartender” and “best server.”

Summer Loon: The wife of Maine Gov. Paul LePage is working a summer waitressing job. Her husband, considered the nation’s looniest governor as well as its lowest paid, told a town hall meeting his wife needed the job to supplement his $70,000 salary. But maybe she just wanted time away from him. Among other stunts, LePage has threatened to veto his own bills, compared the IRS to the Holocaust and told the NAACP to “kiss my ass” after its leaders complained about his refusal to attend a Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast.

Off the money: Iowa GOP Rep. Steve King has filed legislation to block the U.S. Treasury Department’s plan to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. He says it would be “racist” and “sexist” to replace white slave-owner Andrew Jackson’s image with that of the African-American woman who risked her life conducting slaves to freedom.

Too good to be true?: A phony story about President Barack Obama signing executive orders restricting gun sales and gun ownership resurfaced and went viral on Facebook and Twitter in the days after the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando. Liberals cheered as they shared the false news report that the president was putting a 30-day moratorium on gun sales and conservatives raged as they shared the bogus bulletin that the president was limiting Americans to just three guns each.

Incompatible software: Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook, who is gay, hosted a fundraiser for Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who is not only openly anti-LGBT and an advocate of regressive economic policies, but also a backer of racist Donald Trump. The June 28 event followed Apple’s corporate decision to pull funding and tech support from the Republican National Convention. Facebook, Google and Microsoft have said they will provide some support to the convention.

Feeling the love?: Franklin Graham, the son of the Rev. Billy Graham, held a prayer gathering at the Wisconsin Capitol in mid-June. About 4,000 people attended the event, part of Graham’s Decision America tour to motivate Christians to get involved in politics. At the Madison gathering, the minister led a prayer for the victims of the massacre at the Pulse nightclub. Later, he told the press he loves gays but homosexuality is a sin and LGBT people must repent.

Not a girl’s best friend: On the BBC’s The Graham Norton Show, Charlie Sheen told a story about being given diamond cufflinks by Donald Trump a few years ago — right off the Donald’s own wrist and engraved with his name. A few months later Sheen took the “diamonds” to an appraiser who said, “In their finest moment this is cheap pewter and bad zirconias.” Sheen shouldn’t take it personally. The New York Post reported that Donald Trump has been giving fake diamond jewelry as gifts for years.

He who lives  by the sword …: The owner of a gun shop in Amelia, Ohio, died of a gunshot wound to the neck. He was struck by a bullet from an accidentally discharged weapon during a concealed-carry seminar sponsored by his store.

Immigrants in limbo as high court weighs Obama action

In the port city of Baltimore, where Europeans once streamed into America after crossing the Atlantic by ship, a 47-year-old immigrant named Rhonda is in a desperate position. She said she wants to provide for her teenage daughter but cannot get a work permit because she is in the United States illegally.

“I’d like, as a parent, to provide for my daughter’s needs. Homelessness and moving around has been rough,” said Rhonda, a native of Trinidad and Tobago who has lived in the United States since 2001 and spoke on condition that her last name not be used to protect her daughter.

In Houston, Daniel Castillo Garcia said he is apprehensive about his toddler son’s future because the 19-year-old Mexican native is in deportation proceedings.

“I’m very worried for my son because I need to provide for him,” said Garcia, who has lived in the United States since being brought into the country by his mother as a child in 2007.

For these two and many others like them, perhaps their only realistic hope is that the U.S. Supreme Court revives President Barack Obama’s 2014 executive action on immigration, which was thrown out by a lower court.

That plan was designed to let roughly 4 million people — those who have lived illegally in the United States at least since 2010, do not have a criminal record and have children who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents — get into a program that shields them from deportation and supplies work permits.

Rhonda’s 16-year-old daughter and Garcia’s 2-year-old son are citizens by virtue of being born in the United States.

The court hears the case on Monday and is due to rule by the end of June.

Rhonda said she cannot get a work permit because she overstayed her original 10-year visa. She and her daughter are staying in temporary housing provided by her church because she has no income. For a year, she was separated from her daughter, who plays the violin and hopes to attend college, because they could find nowhere to live together.

‘VERY ANXIOUS’

Rhonda, who said her Christian faith keeps her positive, believes work authorization would make the difference because employers increasingly demand such documentation.

“That’s why I’m in such hardship. I’m very anxious for something to happen,” she said.

In Baltimore’s heavily Latino Fell’s Point neighborhood, South Broadway is lined with store fronts advertising services in Spanish, ranging from tax preparation to cellphone providers. Catholic Charities runs an immigrant resource center offering legal advice as well as education and health services.

Its managing attorney, Adonia Simpson, said about half the roughly 600 people she counsels annually have no option beyond Obama’s program, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, if they want to legalize their status and get work permits.

Initial enthusiasm about Obama’s plan waned when a federal judge put it on hold in February 2015, just before it was due to begin. All Simpson can do for now is ask clients to gather documentation to be ready to apply.

“The community is getting very discouraged,” Simpson said.

In Maryland alone, about 56,000 people could be eligible for the DAPA program, according to the Migration Policy Institute think tank.

Obama’s plan was challenged by Texas and 25 other states, including Wisconsin, that argued he exceeded his authority in bypassing Congress to take the actions.

“The president has violated the Constitution, and we are trying to prevent the president from implementing executive action that we believe is lawless,” Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said.

The Supreme Court is hearing the case at a time when immigration has become a hot issue in the U.S. presidential campaign, with top Republican contenders calling for all illegal immigrants to be deported.

In Houston, Garcia has pinned his hopes on the court reinstating Obama’s program.

“DAPA will help me get that freedom and help me to keep going and have a good future for myself and my son,” Garcia said in an interview translated from Spanish by his attorney.

A general view of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Carlos Barria
A general view of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Supreme Court will review Obama’s executive order on immigration

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed today to review President Barack Obama’s December 2014 executive order granting up to 5 million undocumented residents the right to work legally in the United States, including 34,000 in Wisconsin.

The justices said they’ll consider the constitutionality of Obama’s plan, which lower courts blocked from taking effect after 26 Republican governors, including Scott Walker, filed suit against it. The court’s announcement comes amid a presidential campaign in which anti-immigrant fervor has galvanized the Republican Party.

AP reported the case will be argued in April and decided by late June, a month before the major political parties hold their nominating conventions.

Immigration reform groups were buoyed by the high court’s announcement, despite its 5–4 conservative majority. Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of the Milwaukee-based immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera, said she’s expecting a favorable decision because the president’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans program stands on strong constitutional ground.

“What (Obama’s) doing is not changing the law, but making a choice about priorities in terms of how we should use our immigration resources,” explained Neumann-Ortiz. “(The president’s) providing protection from deportation for five millions people. It’s not a permanent solution. That can only come from Congress. But it gives people three-year renewable visas, valid social security numbers and access to drivers’ licenses.”

Democratic officials also praised the court’s action. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said that “law-abiding men and women continue to live in constant fear of being separated from their children. These families must be allowed to step out of the shadows and fully contribute to the country that they love and call home.”

At the center of the litigation is Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans program. It would allow people who have been in the United States more than five years and who have children who are in the country legally to “come out of the shadows and get right with the law.”

Obama’s Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. contends that blocking Obama’s plans forces millions of people “to continue to work off the books, without the option of lawful employment to provide for their families.”

So far, the federal courts have blocked the administration from issuing work permits and allowing immigrants to receive some federal benefits. But Neumann-Ortiz said the legal jurisdictions that have been involved so far are untra-conservative and biased.

The case originated in the Western District of Texas and lost its second appeal at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

If the Supreme Court does side with the administration, that would leave only about seven months in Obama’s presidency to implement his plans. “We are confident that the policies will be upheld as lawful,” White House spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine told AP after the court’s action today.

Initially, the Obama administration said Texas and the other states that filed to block the immigration action didn’t have the right to challenge the plan in federal court. The lower courts decided, however, that Texas does have the standing to sue because at least 500,000 people living in the state would qualify for work permits and become eligible for driver licenses, the cost of which are subsidized by the state. “Texas would incur millions of dollars in costs,” the state said in its brief to the Supreme Court.

Texas asked the Supreme Court not to hear the case, but Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he was pleased the justices will examine the president’s constitutional power to intercede without congressional approval.

The future of the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally has been much discussed by Republican and Democratic presidential candidates. Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton has pledged to go further than Obama to protect large groups of immigrants from deportation.

Republican candidate Donald Trump has proposed deporting all people who are living in the U.S. illegally, an idea embraced by some GOP candidates and dismissed by others.

Obama said he was spurred to act on his own by Congress’ failure to pass comprehensive immigration legislation. An earlier program that is not being challenged, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, shields immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. Under that program, more than 720,000 young immigrants have been granted permission to live and work legally in the United States.

The White House also has shifted its enforcement actions to focus on criminals, those who pose a threat to national security or public safety, and recent border-crossers.

The change means that people who are here illegally but who are not otherwise violating the law are less likely to face deportation.

About 235,000 people were deported in the federal fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

That was the smallest number since 2006 and a 42 percent drop since a record high of more than 409,000 in 2012.

Still, the administration drew criticism from Democrats and immigration advocates for raids this month that resulted in the arrest of more than 120 immigrants from Central America who came to the country illegally since 2014. Those recent arrivals are not among immigrants who would benefit from Obama’s plan.

Bipartisan support exists for overturning Citizens United. The time for bold action is now.

Much too much is made of red voters and blue voters and red states and blue states, as if they make up two separate Americas (they do not) and their differences are forever irreconcilable (they are not). But for the moment anyway, there is no denying that partisan divisions have intensified in recent years and that America is more politically polarized than at any time in the last two decades.

Against this backdrop, it can be a challenge to find values and attitudes that unite Americans of every political persuasion. But people of every imaginable stripe stand on common ground when it comes to the broadly shared exasperation with money’s dominion over democracy. Four out of five Republicans agree with four out of five Democrats and a supermajority of independents that the U.S. Supreme Court messed up bad when it ruled in 2010 that unlimited political spending is a constitutional right. Five years after the decision, it is as unpopular than ever. In fact, rather than slowly fading from memory the court’s decision in the Citizens United case is becoming the symbol of how the economy and the government have been rigged in favor of a privileged few at the expense of everyone else.

It’s helpful to remember that Supreme Court rulings come and Supreme Court rulings go. Our nation’s highest court once ruled that people could be property. It took not only a presidential proclamation but a bloody civil war and amendments to the Constitution to relegate that shameful decision to its rightful place in the trash bin of history. Today’s Supreme Court blesses oligarchy with the similarly warped logic that property can be entitled to the constitutional rights of a person. In time Citizens United will be tossed in the dumpster too.

Undoing the harm this ruling has done already and continues to do should not need to involve warfare but could very well require a constitutional amendment if the Supreme Court in the fairly near future does not come to its senses and overturn Citizens United before a 28th amendment is ratified. How this all plays out and how promptly this inevitable outcome is brought about largely depends on legal creativity bordering on hubris.

It’s been written that Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation declaring 3 million slaves free was “based on a highly contentious, thin-ice reading of the presidential war powers.” Ample evidence suggests Lincoln knowingly and dramatically exceeded his legal and constitutional authority, and the nation is so very fortunate that he did.

American democracy needs a modern-day equivalent of the Emancipation Proclamation. Whether in the form of an executive order, or an act of Congress, or measures enacted by states or local communities, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United must be defied. The constitutional right of unlimited political spending invented by the court in its Citizens United decision must be exposed for what it truly is – the legalization of bribery.

Elected representatives of the people anywhere and everywhere should knowingly and dramatically exceed what the Supreme Court says is the limit of their legal authority and declare our government free from its current state of indentured servitude to billionaires and corporations. Whenever justices dictate injustice, legal ingenuity is required. Executive orders should be issued and laws should be passed declaring that giving more than $200 to anyone holding or pursuing public office or any group helping to elect a politician is a bribe and therefore a felony.

In throwing down this gauntlet, the Supreme Court’s warped logic in Citizens United is countered with this alternative reasoning: If you wish to demonstrate your support for politicians, their parties or surrogates, giving $200 is demonstration enough. Giving $200 or less does not distinguish you much from your many fellow citizens who are likewise giving small amounts or the much larger number who give nothing at all. But go past the $200 threshold and that puts you in the top one-quarter of 1% of the population. That makes you stand out, separates you from the crowd, and makes it start looking like you might want more than just the honor of participating in a democracy.

Lincoln-style hubris is needed because we are beyond the point where campaign financing can be reformed. It can’t be reformed because we no longer have campaign finance in America. We have legal bribery and there’s no reforming bribery. It has to be outlawed.

All laws and respect for the rule of law in general are demeaned and ultimately undermined when any law ceases to be rooted in reality. The reality is that Americans – Republicans, Democrats and independents alike – see big political donations for what they are, namely bribes. The law of this land needs to reflect that reality. Instead, the Supreme Court has imposed a fictitious alternate reality on us, ordering us to think of property as part of “we, the people” and see massive sums of money spent on elections as “free speech.” Just as a past court ordered all Americans, including President Lincoln, to accept that people could be regarded as property.

Lincoln defied that court. He was said to be on thin ice legally when he did. The ground held beneath his feet.

In defense of democracy in our time, we need to be willing to stand on what we’re told is thin ice. Two hundred dollars is plenty. Anything more is a bribe.

Mike McCabe is founder and president of Blue Jean Nation and former executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. He’s also the author of Blue Jeans in High Places: The Coming Makeover of American Politics.

To learn more about Blue Jean Nation, click here.


Obama observes Labor Day, denounces GOP for ‘constant attack on working Americans’

President Barack Obama, at a Labor Day observance, denounced Republicans for a “constant attack on working Americans.”

The president said he was using his executive power to force federal contractors to give paid sick leave to their employees.

His statement was met with resounding applause at a major union rally and breakfast in Boston on Labor Day.

The president said Republicans who claim the mantle of middle-class protectors are talking big, but they “have to walk the walk.”

Obama said opponents of his economic policies “won’t let facts or evidence get in their way.”

“You just wait, you look up at the sky and prosperity will come raining down on us from the top of whatever high-rise in New York City,” he said sarcastically. “But that’s not how the economy works.” He added that the GOP’s mindset has been “wrecking the economy for a long, long time.”

Under the executive order, employees working on federal contracts gain the right to a minimum of one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours they work. Stretched out over 12 months, that’s up to seven days per year. The order will allow employees to use the leave to care for sick relatives as well, and will affect contracts starting in 2017 — just as Obama leaves office.

But the White House wouldn’t specify the cost to federal contractors to implement the executive order. The Labor Department said any costs would be offset by savings that contractors would see as a result of lower attrition rates and increased worker loyalty, but produced nothing to back that up.

Obama was flanked by prominent Democrats such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren and a giant banner reading “Workers and Community” in red, white and blue. Labor leaders Randi Weingarten and Mary Kay Henry joined Obama for the flight on Air Force One. In the corridors of the hotel hosting the breakfast, boxes of campaign signs could be spotted bearing the name of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who opposes the trade deals.

Obama chose Labor Day to announce the executive order as he works to enact what workplace policies he can before his presidency ends despite resistance in Congress to laws he’s proposed. The push has reverberated on the 2016 campaign trail, with Democrats seeking a distinction with Republicans on who’s most supportive of the middle class.

The president didn’t mention any of the 2016 candidates by name, but invoked a number of their policies to challenge claims that they care about workers. In a reference to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, he remarked incredulously that one GOP candidate had “said busting unions prepared him to fight ISIL,” an acronym for the Islamic State group.

Obama chose Massachusetts as the backdrop for his Labor Day message because voters in the state approved a similar paid leave policy state-wide. The law took effect July 1 and is expected to affect 900,000 workers who previously received no paid leave, the White House said.

Roughly 44 million American private sector workers don’t get paid sick leave, the administration said. The White House said it couldn’t estimate how many federal contractors don’t offer paid leave.

Promoting opportunity for all Americans in Pride Month

Pride Month gives us an opportunity to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans have had on our nation. Here at the U.S. Department of Labor, it’s also a chance for us to recommit to our efforts to ensure equal rights for LGBT workers, and to celebrate the great work we’ve done on this front.

We have a responsibility to make sure that every worker has the same opportunity to pursue and realize their dreams, and we take that responsibility very seriously. And not just because it’s the right thing to do, which it is.  It’s also the smart thing to do. Diverse and inclusive workplaces are productive workplaces. Our economy works best when we field a full team, so we can’t afford to leave any talent on the bench.

At DOL, our agencies are doing great work to advance the rights of LGBT workers. We’ve worked to implement the president’s Executive Order on LGBT Workplace Discrimination, which prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. We’ve taken steps to make sure that all families receive the benefits and protections of our programs and services. We’ve made clear that job training and other workforce programs in the nation’s workforce development system may not discriminate against someone because of gender identity, gender expression or sex-stereotyping. We’ve worked to make workplaces more inclusive for transgender workers.

And we’ve done so much more. In fact, you can read about all of the work we’ve done to protect and empower LGBT workers in a new report: http://1.usa.gov/1FPeKGy.   

We’re proud of our accomplishments on behalf of LGBT workers and job seekers and their families. Of course, for all our progress, there remains more work to do.  As we celebrate pride month, we also celebrate our continued commitment to building on our accomplishments going forward so that every person in our nation can realize their highest and best dreams, no matter who they are or whom they love. 

After legislature shelves anti-gay bill, Bobby Jindal seeks to enact provisions

Louisiana lawmakers on May 19 shelved a divisive religious objections bill pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal that has thrust the state into the national debate about where religious freedoms end and the rights of same-sex couples begin.

But the Republican governor, who is courting Christian conservatives for a likely presidential bid, quickly fought back against the defeat, seeking to enact the bill’s provisions without legislative support.

“Bobby Jindal showed today why he’s consistently named one of the nation’s least-popular governors: by ignoring his constituents, members of his own party, and business leaders who correctly understand that legislation that endorses discrimination is wrong and should be rejected,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC vice president. “Gov. Jindal made it clear that he’s so desperate to advance his longshot presidential campaign that he’ll say or do almost anything, including enable discrimination in the name of religion.”

Both Republicans and Democrats on a House legal committee voted 10-2 for a procedural move designed to kill the proposal, ending weeks of controversy about the bill and handing Jindal a significant defeat for his legislative agenda.

Hours after the bill was rejected, Jindal issued an executive order aimed at doing the same thing as the bill, only on a smaller scale limited to the executive branch.

“What we are seeing today in America is an all-out assault on religious liberty,” said Jindal, who called the executive order the “next best thing” to signing the bill.

The order would be effective several months beyond his administration’s end unless Louisiana’s next governor rescinds it, Jindal said.

Stephen Perry, a vocal critic of the bill who heads up the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, dismissed Jindal’s order as “largely a political statement” that “will have very little practical impact.”

Perry, a former chief of staff to one of the state’s previous Republican governors, said case law and even the state constitution limit the governor’s ability to rule by fiat.

“No Executive Order of a governor may create substantive law, even in an emergency situation,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Rep. Mike Johnson, the lawmaker who sponsored the proposal, said he would push for another hearing this legislative session.

“We don’t throw in the towel. We always stand for freedom,” said the Bossier City Republican. “We’re entering a new era in America where changing ideas about the institution of marriage conflict with the old ideas about religious freedom.”

Louisiana’s constitution bans same-sex marriage, and there are no statewide discrimination protections for gays and lesbians. But Johnson proposed the bill because he predicts a U.S. Supreme Court ruling expected in June will strike down gay marriage bans across the country.

As written, the proposed law would prohibit the state from denying individuals, businesses and nonprofits any licenses, benefits, jobs or tax deductions because of action taken “in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction” about marriage.

Like in Indiana and Arkansas, where backlash prompted changes to similar laws, the proposal faced formidable opposition from LGBT supporters and big business. Critics said the bill would sanction discrimination against LGBT couples – though Johnson disagrees.

What the measure would do is bar the state from taking some punitive actions against a person who refused to serve someone based on a belief about same-sex marriage.

That, in effect, would allow discrimination, critics say.

Perry, the head New Orleans tourism official, called the bill “radioactive” and said it would make Louisiana “complicit in officially state-sanctioned bigotry.” Any bid to host a Super Bowl, Final Four or college football championship in New Orleans would be doomed if the measure were approved, he said.

“We’re attempting to … carve out the ability to discriminate, the ability to be bigoted,” Perry said.

Proponents of the bill have cited wedding photographers, planners and bakers as examples of people who should have legal protection if they object to serving same-sex couples.

“It would effectively prevent you from getting the death penalty as a business owner if you stood by your traditional belief in marriage,” Johnson said. “I think that’s a belief that worthy of protection.”

But in the committee hearing Johnson acknowledged that the bill would also bar the state from firing or revoking the license of an emergency room surgeon who refused to operate on someone in a same-sex marriage, or a teacher who refuses to meet with a student’s gay or lesbian parents.

“At any other time in history, the average person could live an entire life without having to publicly articulate a view on lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender politics,” said Gene Mills, president of the conservative Louisiana Family Forum and a supporter of the bill. “Now we are being asked to choose sides in the culture war.”

The Louisiana Democratic Party accused Jindal of being determined to “wreck” the state’s tourism industry and called the executive order a “stunt.”

“Louisiana taxpayers and businesses are once again being forced to foot the bill for Jindal’s vanity,” said Stephen Handwerk, the party’s executive director, said in a statement.