The centennial of the MBTA

2018 is the hundredth year anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act:

The 1918 law was enacted after several species of common birds became extinct; the Audubon Society and other organizations named 2018 the year of the bird in honor of the MBTA’s centennial.

And this is how the Trump administration celebrates it:

In an opinion issued Wednesday to federal wildlife police who enforce the rule, the Interior Department said “the take [killing] of birds resulting from an activity is not prohibited by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act when the underlying purpose of that activity is not to take birds.” For example, the guidance said, a person who destroys a structure such as a barn knowing that it is full of baby owls in nests is not liable for killing them. “All that is relevant is that the landowner undertook an action that did not have the killing of barn owls as its purpose,” the opinion said.

So an oil company can leave an oil waste pit uncovered and not be punished even if it kills thousands of birds per year. I guess this better be the year of the bird, because if the Trump administration has anything to say about it there won’t be nearly as many birds in the future.

Trump’s America

In this story by Propublica and the Philadelphia Inquirer you can see how Trump’s anti-immigration policies work. Here’s one great example:

Peralta is short and stout, with a shy, ready smile for whomever crosses his path.

That morning, it was two federal agents named Joe Vankos and Chad Noel. They were on a mission to capture a 29-year-old convicted cocaine dealer from Mexico.

Instead, they stumbled across and arrested Peralta. Though regional ICE agents had picked up bystanders in the past, they were not supposed to. But in a new era where every undocumented immigrant is a potential target, Peralta was one of the first “collaterals” to be taken into custody.  And one of the most defenseless.

It should have been immediately apparent that Peralta, who has difficulty speaking, had serious cognitive disabilities. A neuropsychologist who later examined him wrote in an assessment for the court that Peralta cannot read, write, or identify colors and that he is not competent to give informed consent “or to understand any but the simplest instructions, requests or commands.”

Yet ICE maintained in its arrest report that Peralta not only willfully engaged with Vankos but confessed his undocumented status, stated he was 46, and claimed he had a child in Florida.

Peralta, however, is childless and does not know his age, his pro bono lawyer, Craig Shagin, said. He was abandoned as a youth in rural Pennsylvania and has for decades made ends meet as an apple picker, pumpkin harvester, and construction worker in the Gettysburg area.

And the article notes:

  • Took advantage of state and local officials’ willingness to conduct their own informal immigration investigations, call ICE and detain immigrants for hours until federal agents arrived — despite the questionable legality of these practices.
  • Occasionally stepped over the legal line themselves, according to interviews, sworn affidavits, and court filings, by trespassing, conducting warrantless searches, engaging in racial profiling, fabricating evidence, and even soliciting a bribe.

I’m assuming that all those people who respond to these stories with retorts like ‘what part of illegal don’t you understand’ think these officials should all be in jail. Because otherwise they would just be Xenophobes, which is certainly not true. Right?

The Second Amendment causes illegal immigration

This is an interesting proposition for conservatives:

It’s estimated that some two hundred thousand American guns are smuggled across the southern border each year. The region that’s been hit the hardest is Central America, where gun laws are relatively strict yet homicide rates are among the highest on earth. Gang wars, massive state corruption, and murderous criminal syndicates are to blame for the violence, but American firepower facilitates it. “Unlike other forms of contraband, American weapons don’t just pass through Central America but engulf it in storms of violence,” Mark Ungar, a political-science professor at Brooklyn College and an expert in the region’s gun violence, told me. This violence, in turn, has fuelled a refugee crisis. Since 2014, more than a hundred and fifty thousand unaccompanied immigrant children from countries in the region have fled to the U.S. seeking some form of asylum.

If you don’t like people from Central America trying to get into the US, you need to cut down on gun sales. US guns are the cause of much of the violence:

Seventy per cent of guns recovered by authorities in Mexico, for instance, were originally sold in the U.S.—most of them in Texas, California, and Arizona, according to a Government Accountability Office report. Forty-nine per cent of weapons recovered in El Salvador came from the U.S., compared to forty-six per cent in Honduras and twenty-nine per cent in Guatemala.

So, gangs in Central America make money by selling drugs to the US and then use the money to buy guns in the US. It sounds like the US is directly at fault and needs to take responsibility. I’m sure Republicans will be all over that–haha, sorry I made a funny.

More political correctness

For some reason, career employees in the federal government don’t much like President Trump:

Trump’s frequent attacks on the “deep state” have engendered deep distrust between career and political employees, pushing many long-time civil servants toward the exits and raising the possibility of a government-wide brain drain.

And while some workers, such as Border Patrol agents, are feeling newly empowered under Trump, morale at other agencies is so low that some employees said they were suffering from increased anxiety and depression that has complicated their personal relationships and even led to heavier drinking.

Several career employees said they were keeping their heads down and ignoring possible avenues for promotions because they have little interest in being subjected to the political infighting that has taken hold in many agencies.

And it all comes back to classic political correctness:

“From their point of view, they didn’t want to be surprised by finding out that we were looking at subject ‘X,’” he said. “When I pushed back and said we can’t do that, we don’t know what we’ll be publishing three years from now because we haven’t done the science yet, they’d say, ‘Well what are you hiding?’”

Last year, a team at the National Archives and Records Administration was told by senior NARA officials that it couldn’t put on a program that would have examined the historic context of immigration to the United States because it might attract “unwanted attention” to the Trump administration and put the agency’s funding in jeopardy, according to a NARA employee. “This was a year after we were able to host Black Panthers and a founder of Black Lives Matter,” the employee said. A NARA spokesperson did not comment.

Trump is anti-immigrant

The Republican party has long argued that it isn’t against immigrants just illegal immigrants. No one told President Trump (bold added):

Current rules penalize immigrants who receive cash welfare payments, considering them a ‘‘public charge.’’ But the proposed changes from the Department of Homeland Security would widen the government’s definition of benefits to include the widely used Earned Income Tax Credit as well as health insurance subsidies and other ‘‘non-cash public benefits.’’

Immigrants and their families facing a short-term crisis could potentially have to forgo help to avoid jeopardizing their US residency status. The proposal would also require more immigrants to post cash bonds if they have a higher probability of needing or accepting public benefits. The minimum bond amount would be $10,000, according to the DHS proposal, but the amount could be set higher if an applicant is deemed at greater risk of neediness.

DHS officials say the proposal is not finalized. But the overhaul is part of the Trump administration’s broader effort to curb legal immigration to the United States, and groups favoring a more restrictive approach have long insisted that immigrants are a drag on federal budgets and a siphon on American prosperity.

The March for our Lives

Hundreds of thousands of students and others marched and rallied today for sensible gun control. I went to the one in Boston, where there were at least 50 thousand:

Thousands marched in many cities around the country and the world. The estimates are as high as 800,000 in DC, 150,000 in NY, 30000 in Atlanta, 20000 in Parkland Florida, 15000 in Houston, 6000 in Kansas City, and on and on.

President Trump was, of course, not in DC but golfing. Maybe that’s because the estimated crowd size was bigger than at his inauguration.

Trump displayed his usual cowardice:

Trump, for one, was nowhere within earshot of the march and student speeches, having spent Saturday at his golf club in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Scores of people had lined his motorcade’s usual path, which has been well-traveled by the president as he shuttles between his Mar-a-Lago estate and the Trump International Golf Club during weekend visits. They held signs excoriating the NRA and supporting an assault weapons ban.

But returning to Mar-a-Lago from the golf club on Saturday afternoon, Trump’s motorcade took a longer route than usual, crossing a different bridge into Palm Beach and then driving down Ocean Boulevard. There were striking views of the blue water and palatial estates, but no protesters could be spotted.

You can show your support for gun control by going to the March for Our Lives website.

Trump’s other Katrina

Not long ago, I posted about how badly things are going in Puerto Rico. It seems the Trump administration didn’t do much better in Houston in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey:

Nearly half a billion gallons of industrial wastewater mixed with storm water surged out of just one chemical plant in Baytown, east of Houston on the upper shores of Galveston Bay.

Benzene, vinyl chloride, butadiene and other known human carcinogens were among the dozens of tons of industrial toxins released into surrounding neighborhoods and waterways following Harvey’s torrential rains.

In all, reporters catalogued more than 100 Harvey-related toxic releases — on land, in water and in the air. Most were never publicized, and in the case of two of the biggest ones, the extent or potential toxicity of the releases was initially understated.

and in some ways, the response was worse than after Katrina:

The amount of post-Harvey government testing contrasts sharply with what happened after two other major Gulf Coast hurricanes. After Hurricane Ike hit Texas in 2008, state regulators collected 85 sediment samples to measure the contamination; more than a dozen violations were identified and cleanups were carried out, according to a state review.

In Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters ravaged New Orleans in 2005, the EPA and Louisiana officials examined about 1,800 soil samples over 10 months, EPA records showed.

“Now the response is completely different,” said Scott Frickel, an environmental sociologist formerly at Tulane University in New Orleans.

Frickel, now at Brown University, called the Harvey response “unconscionable” given Houston’s exponentially larger industrial footprint.

The state of Texas didn’t want to be trumped (sorry) by the federal government lack of action, so:

As Harvey bore down on Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott’s administration decreed that storm-related pollution would be forgiven as “acts of God.” Days later, he suspended many environmental regulations.

What, you think the state of Texas cares about its citizens?

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: