Fast Food Workers Can Be Fired For No Reason

 

The New York City Council is considering “just cause” legislation to enshrine fairness and dignity for fast food workers. It could become a model for other cities and industries.

Nadra Nittle, Food and Farm Labor          April 24, 2019

Taco Bell employees at the Barksdale Base Exchange in Louisiana. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joanna M. Kresge.)

 

Francis Gomez vividly remembers the day she was fired from her cashier job at a Taco Bell in Queens, New York. Just before last Christmas, she showed up for her shift when a manager told her, “Don’t clock in; you’re terminated.” The firing stunned Gomez, 27, who had worked on and off for the fast food chain since 2014.

Francis Gomez. (Photo courtesy of SEIU 32BJ)

Francis Gomez. (Photo courtesy of 32BJ SEIU)

“I was completely surprised. I was accused of disrespecting a customer, but there was no customer complaint,” she said. “When I asked for a letter, I was basically told, ‘You’re already terminated, so it doesn’t matter.’”

Taco Bell hasn’t responded to Civil Eats’ request for comment about its firing practices, but stories like Gomez’s are one of the reasons New York City Council members Brad Lander and Adrienne Adams have introduced “just cause” legislation to give fast food workers more job protection. The bill prohibits fast food companies from firing workers or significantly reducing their hours without a stated reason and would give employees the chance to correct their behavior before termination. With this legislation, New York City could lead the nation in offering job security for fast food workers.

Tsedeye Gebreselassie, president of Fast Food Justice, an organization that fights for workplace improvements for fast food employees, said that staff have been fired for infractions as trivial as not smiling enough. But more often than not, she said, they’re deprived of real reasons for their terminations, making New York City’s just cause bill a potential game changer for workers.

“The legislation the New York City Council is considering the first of its kind in the country for the fast food industry, but it could become a model for other cities and industries that want to enshrine fairness and dignity for workers and ensure they are only fired when there’s a reason that warrants it,” she told Civil Eats.

Princess Wright (center), a worker at a Brooklyn McDonald’s, speaks on Feb. 13, 2019, next to New York City Council Member Adrienne Adams, who sponsored one of the two “Just Cause” bills.Princess Wright (center), a worker at a Brooklyn McDonald’s, speaks on Feb. 13, 2019, next to New York City Council Member Adrienne Adams, who sponsored one of the two “Just Cause” bills. (Photo courtesy of 32BJ SEIU)

As the national Fight for $15 campaign highlights the need for living wages for fast food staff, New York City’s just cause legislation stresses the importance of keeping some of the labor market’s most vulnerable workers employed. While more job protection certainly benefits workers, supporters of just cause legislation say it could also help the fast food industry save money by stabilizing its workforce.

Fast Food Industry’s ‘Disposable Culture’

By some estimates, the fast food industry has a 150 percent turnover rate. Each year, most chains lose their entire staffs, plus half of the replacements hired. The frequency with which fast food companies fire and hire workers usually comes at the expense of employees such as Gomez, who have little recourse when they’re terminated, labor advocates say. While nearly all Americans who don’t have union jobs are considered “at-will employees”—meaning they may be fired at any time for any reason—companies typically use progressive discipline for employees rather than terminate them without warning. Fast food workers tend to have the opposite experience.

“For far too long, fast food workers have been the victims of unfair reduction of hours or arbitrary termination,” New York City Councilwoman Adrienne Adams said in a statement to Civil Eats. “By enacting just cause legislation, the city could require that fast food chains demonstrate a legitimate reason for terminating a worker or reducing their hours.”

A recent report entitled, “Fired On a Whim: The Precarious Existence of NYC Fast-Food Workers,” found that 58 percent of 237 fast food employees have had their hours severely cut, and 65 percent have been fired without a reason. The National Employment Law Project (NELP), the Center for Popular Democracy32BJ SEIU, and Fast Food Justice collaborated on the analysis.

Paul Sonn, NELP’s state policy program director, said the New York bill would require fast food chains to implement basic fair practices before cutting employees’ hours or terminating them. The restaurants would have to clearly outline job expectations and give workers warnings, chances to improve their behavior, and notice of possible termination. In extreme cases, such as workplace violence, companies would not have to use these practices before firing an employee.

The “disposable culture” of the fast food world has made such guidelines necessary, Sonn said.

“This is an industry that has sort of latched onto a high turnover/low-wage business model,” Sonn argued. “They generally pay as little as they’re legally permitted to pay, and they don’t invest in workers. In some cases, having a high turnover model is a way to avoid workers from starting to organize and assert their rights. There’s also a very high turnover rate among the managers. There’s a lot of instability, and some of the basic good HR practices seem to be shockingly uncommon in a lot of the fast food industry.”

Gig Economy Poses Threats to All Workers, Especially Single Mothers

Stephanie Seguino, a University of Vermont economics professor, said that the legislation will lead fast food chains to reflect on their business practices, particularly the arbitrary dismissal of employees. She places the fast food workforce in the context of the Great Recession, which led to a process called labor market flexibilization, more colloquially known as the gig economy. The 2008 recession and the decline of labor unions means that workers in various fields have fewer protections than they once did, and companies in a number of industries are increasingly firing and hiring people at will, or using third-party contractors to hire workers, to avoid giving employees benefits.

“It shifts the burden of economic insecurity to the worker, and that’s the problem,” Seguino said. “We’re seeing workers involuntarily placed in part-time work or working for temp agencies on a contingency basis. This is a growing trend, and it’s particularly damaging to people with families.”

Seguino says that single mothers are especially at risk in industries such as fast food, where missing a shift or being late for one can result in job termination. These women bear most of the responsibility for childcare and, therefore, have few options other than to miss work if their children fall ill or a daycare crisis occurs. Having to pick up and drop off children at school also increases the odds that mothers will be late and possibly fired, Seguino said.

fast food workers serving a customerTerminating workers has dire consequences for fast-food workers. According to the “Fired on a Whim” report, 62 percent of respondents who lost a fast food job or had their hours cut experienced food insecurity, housing instability, and the inability to pay for childcare. Some were evicted or forced to move or quit school.

Gomez, who still has not found full-time work, said that she has struggled financially since losing her Taco Bell job in December. Joblessness during the holiday season is particularly challenging, not only because it makes paying for Christmas gifts tough, she said, but also because it’s too late to apply for the seasonal work already underway. Gomez has depended on her wife to support over the past five months and has used some of the financial aid from her college education to cover expenses.

“Right now, I’m a full-time college student,” she said. “I do odd jobs here and there. It’s hard to pay rent and bills even now.”

More Job Security Could Help the Fast Food Industry

While it’s clear that job security benefits workers, it also offers advantages to the fast food industry. According to the National Restaurant Industry, turnover costs restaurants an average of $150,000 per year. That number is likely higher for fast food restaurants, which have more than double the turnover of the overall restaurant average of 61 percent annually.

“Turnover absolutely costs tons of money,” said Rachel Deutsch, supervising attorney for worker justice at the Center for Popular Democracy. “The recruiting process, the hiring process, training new people, it’s far more productive to keep workers who have been on the job because they’re more invested.”

Seguino agreed, pointing out how in the early days of the auto industry, carmakers such as Ford underpaid their workers, resulting in a high annual turnover rate. Ford eventually realized how much it cost to replace its workers and raised its pay to reduce turnover.

“Firms don’t realize that some of their practices may be undermining their bottom line,” she said. “Job security is a win-win for businesses and workers.”

As labor advocates support New York City’s just cause bill, Gomez said that she encounters far too many people who don’t consider the job “real work.” But Gomez has a very different take on her former position.

“We’re the backbone of this city,” she said. “When everyone goes to lunch, they don’t understand that the workers have sometimes been there since 5 or 6 in the morning or that the late-night workers are there until 2 a.m. cleaning up. There are workers who raise their children off these paychecks. It’s not fair, it’s not humane to fire someone without a proper reason, to know you can get fired at any moment. We’re doing a lot more than you think.”

The New York City Council will likely vote on the bill during the summer, and advocates hope that if it passes, it will have a domino effect nationwide.

“In New York City, we must stand up and address these injustices in an effort to protect workers in this industry,” Councilwoman Adams said. “Just cause legislation is a necessary step to bring accountability to fast food giants and security to their employees.”

Canada is Warming at Twice the Rate of the Globe

the real news network

Canada is Warming at Twice the Rate of the Globe, Says New Report

April 20, 2019
Greenpeace Canada analyst hopes study serves as a wake-up call for Trudeau government, but says “You can’t wake up a man who’s only pretending to be asleep” on climate change
Story Transcript

 

SPEAKER: It’s the 21st century. We know climate change is real. We know that one of the challenges we have is that pollution has been free, but we need to put a price on it.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: This is Dimitri Lascaris reporting for The Real News Network from Montreal, Canada. Earlier this week, officials from Environment and Climate Change Canada, a department of the Canadian federal government, presented the results of a study on warming in Canada. Their study concluded that Canada is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world and that northern Canada is warming even more quickly, nearly three times the global rate. The officials also reported that three of the past five years have been the warmest on record in this country. Their study is the first of its kind. Entitled Canada’s Changing Climate Report, the study has been in the works for years and is the first of a series aimed at informing policy decisions and increasing public awareness and understanding of Canada’s changing climate. Now here to discuss this new study with us is Keith Stewart. Keith is a Senior Energy Strategist with Greenpeace Canada and part-time instructor at the University of Toronto. He has a Ph.D. in Political Science from York University and has worked as a climate policy researcher and advocate for 19 years. He joins us today from Toronto. Thanks for coming back on The Real News, Keith.

KEITH STEWART: Thanks for having me.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: So Keith, even with all of the warming that has occurred in this country since the beginning of the fossil fuels era, we Canadians continue to live in what is one of the world’s relatively colder climates. Why should Canadians be concerned about this report? How is the warming of the atmosphere and of the oceans affecting their lives in practical terms and what practical effects should Canadians anticipate as Canada continues to warm?

KEITH STEWART: It’s kind of a standard joke that oh, in Canada it would be nice if it was a little warmer. The problem is the rate of change. We haven’t historically– well, in the geological record climate has changed a lot over time– but we’re trying to pack change that usually take 50,000 to 100,000 years into 50 years. Because we’re burning fossil fuels and sort of increasing the greenhouse effect trapping heat, which it then causes a whole bunch of other changes. You might think oh, a little bit warmer that would be nice, but you’re also changing rainfall patterns. You’re going to have drought in some places. You are going to have more wildfires, the kinds we’ve seen in B.C. and Alberta the last couple of years where people literally couldn’t breathe. Walking outside in Vancouver was like breathing eight packs, smoking eight pack of cigarettes. In urban areas, one of the warnings in the report is we’re going to see even more flooding. In particular, the kind of flash flooding which in one incident here in Toronto back in 2013, we saw $960 million worth of damage in a couple of hours. We saw street cars under water. People had to be rescued from the GO train by boat. These kinds of severe impacts– the heat waves, the droughts, the wildfires, the flooding– these cause enormous damage to our economy, they cause enormous damage to our health, and we’re only seeing the thin edge of the wedge here.

When you look at this report, a big part of the message in the report is: what the future looks like depends a lot on what actions we take today. In their low emissions scenario, if Canada warmed about one point seven degrees, it would warm by another two degrees, that’s bad because it would have a whole bunch of negative impacts. The negative impacts by far outweigh the positives. In the high emissions scenario, the one we’re actually on the path to right now, they’re talking about warming by six degrees in Canada, on average even more than the far north, by the end of the century. That would make agriculture basically impossible in large chunks of the prairies. They say oh, you can just move further north. Well a lot of places in this country you move further north, they don’t have soil to be able to support agriculture. Here in Ontario, we have this thing called the Canadian Shield. It’s all granite. You can’t grow crops there. And similarly, forests which are suited for one climate system, can’t move themselves north 50, 100, 200 kilometers in the space of 20 years.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: This study was released on April 1st, Keith, which also happened to be the date on which a federal carbon tax of $20 a ton took effect in provinces that lack provincial pricing plans, including the provinces of New Brunswick, Ontario Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. The carbon tax, as I’m sure you know, is the centerpiece of the Trudeau government’s strategy for fighting climate change. In your view, is this carbon tax adequate both from the perspective of the amount of the tax and the breadth of its application? And if not, what kind of a carbon tax do you think we need in this country given the urgency of the situation?

KEITH STEWART: I think one of the problems we have in this country right now is action on climate change has been narrowed to carbon tax, no carbon tax. And really we need a whole, vast suite of efforts not just carbon taxes but also massive investments in things like public transit, so people can get to where they need to go without having to drive a car. We need to invest in better sewage/stormwater systems so that we’re not having these floodings. We need to invest in rapidly transitioning to renewable energy. A carbon tax is a key part of that. Raising the price of fossil fuels makes them less attractive relative to cleaner forms of energy. It also brings in some cash that can be done to build things like great public transit systems or, put up windmills and solar panels. So in the U.S. we are talking about this as a Green New Deal, kind of built on the New Deal that Roosevelt, that the Americans brought in to fight the Great Depression. That’s the kind of change we need. This carbon tax is a component of that and I think it’s kind of like the lowest possible measure, $20 dollars a ton kicking in this year. That’s 4.4 cents per liter of gasoline. When you look at the price of oil, the price of gasoline goes up and down. That’s not a huge change. That on its own is by no means enough. They’re also talking about increasing it $10 a year. Greenpeace would support that. We also think the money should be invested back in renewables, but that’s got to be just one piece of a much bigger package.

The big problem we have right now is no one is treating the climate crisis really like a crisis. We treat it more as kind of a messaging problem; we do a few things it will go away. Or, on one side of the political spectrum with the conservatives at the provincial level and federally who are fighting against even the small carbon tax that’s being proposed, they’re proposing we do nothing. That somehow if we ignore the problem, it will go away. One of my friends was asking me, “do you think this new report that just came is a wakeup call?” And was like well, there’s an old proverb that says “you can’t wake up a man who’s only pretending to be asleep” and that’s the problem with a lot of the politicians in this country and around the world. They’re pretending to be asleep on this issue, hoping they can get out of office and it will be someone else’s problem down the road.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Now at the same time as the Trudeau government has raised alarms about the extent of warming in this country, federal and provincial governments continue to subsidize fossil fuels to the tune of about $3 billion a year. Also, as we’ve reported extensively on The Real News, the Trudeau government is spending billions of taxpayer dollars to buy its TransMountain tar sands pipeline. Keith, doesn’t this new study– I mean, what Justin Trudeau did on Monday was he held it up and said to the public and in particularly was addressing the conservatives and those who are opposed to the carbon tax, this shows that we have to impose a carbon tax. But doesn’t it also highlight the recklessness of the Trudeau government’s continued defense of the fossil fuels industry, its massive investments in the fossil fuels industry, this perpetuation of our dependence on fossil fuels?

KEITH STEWART: Absolutely. Subsidies in fossil fuels is basically like a negative carbon tax. You’re making them cheaper in order to get people to use more. Similarly, the federal government yesterday was denying that, in response, were denying that the purchasing the pipeline was a subsidy to fossil fuels. Well it is and I think the Trudeau government is trying to have it both ways. They say we’re going to do a carbon tax and we’re going to promote expansion of the oil industry. If you’re serious about climate change, that means getting off of fossil fuels as quickly as possible by mid-century, at the latest. Building a new tar sands pipeline that has to operate for 50 years to make the money back, makes no sense at this point if you’re seriously committed to achieving the Paris climate goals, to protecting the future of our economy, of our communities, of our ecosystems. So it’s not one step forward, one step back which is kind of what we’re seeing from the federal liberals. It’s got to be leaping forward and I think the big problem in Canada and also similarly in the U.S. and many other places is that entrenched power of the fossil fuel interests in Canada and particularly the oil lobby. In the US it’s also the coal lobby who are basically saying, don’t go too fast. Give us time to get our money out. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has launched an election campaign in Alberta saying, we want to double the rate of growth of oil production in Alberta and here’s all things you have to do to help us do that which is kill regulations, get rid of carbon pricing, build new pipelines. That’s basically asking people to vote for climate destruction.

And I think this is going to be a big issue in the federal election here in the fall as we have the conservatives who are saying do nothing about climate change and give more subsidies to the oil industry. You have the liberals who are saying let’s do stuff on climate change but not touch oil production. So they are doing a coal phase out, they’re doing a bunch of other measures. But basically, oil is sacrosanct and what we really need is a push for this kind of a Green New Deal which actually, we can make our lives better. We can create great green jobs right across the country. We can deal with all sorts of problems in this country by the kind of investments that are necessary, putting people to work, solving the climate crisis.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: We’ve been speaking to Keith Stewart of Greenpeace Canada about an important and alarming new study showing that the rate of warming in Canada is far above the global average. Thank you very much for joining us today, Keith.

KEITH STEWART: Thanks so much for having me on.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: And this is Dimitri Lascaris reporting for The Real News Network.

U.S. states most and least dependent on the gun industry

Yahoo – Finance

These are the U.S. states most and least dependent on the gun industry

Aarthi Swaminathan, Finance Writer       April 23, 2019

‘In America, we value our guns more than our children:’ Fmr. Secretary of Education on gun debate

Some U.S. states rely on America’s robust gun culture more than others.

Gun manufacturers like Smith & Wesson (AOBC) and Sturm, Ruger & Co. (RGR) saw sales boom under former President Barack Obama’s tenure, but firearms sales in the U.S. fell by 6.1% — the second year of decline.

And if the “Trump Slump” persists for gunmakers, Idaho will be the state hardest hit, according to a new report from WalletHub.

The study — which ranked all 50 states based on how the firearms industry contributed to the economic development of the state from jobs to sales, how prevalent guns were, and how far the state supported gun rights — found that Idaho was the state that was the most dependent on the gun industry.

(Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance)(Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

Alaska came in second place, followed by South Dakota, Wyoming, and Arkansas.

“Most states in the top ten have state law immunity to the gun industry, which means that the state provides immunity from bringing lawsuits against certain gun industry defendants,” WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez told Yahoo Finance. “They also have more lenient age restrictions to purchase and possess firearms. Senators from the top ten states voted to either loosen gun restrictions or against a measure adding restrictions.”

Gun-friendly Idaho

Idaho’s dependency stems from its reliance on the firearms industry: Idaho ranked only behind New Hampshire — home to industry giants like Sig Sauer and Sturm Ruger — in terms of the number of people per capita employed by the firearms industry.

In 2018, the firearms industry contributed to nearly $1.2 billion in economic activity to the state, with over 3,600 people employed in companies that “manufacture, distribute and sell firearms, ammunition, and hunting equipment,” a National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) report found.

The state also ranked in the top 5 in terms of gun-friendliness and the prevalence of guns.

Idaho began ramping efforts to attract the firearms industry in 2008 by touting its low wages, gun-friendly culture, and business climate, according to the Idaho Business Review. The plan has since paid off in less than a decade, as employment by the firearms industry grew 40% between 2012 and 2017.

An estimated 800 pro-gun activists turned out for a rally inside the Idaho Statehouse in Boise, Idaho, Saturday, January 19, 2013. (Chris Butler/Idaho Statesman/MCT via Getty Images)An estimated 800 pro-gun activists turned out for a rally inside the Idaho Statehouse in Boise, Idaho, Saturday, January 19, 2013. (Chris Butler/Idaho Statesman/MCT via Getty Images)

Overall, the NSSF also estimated that the firearms industry contributes to over $52 billion in economic activity to all 50 states, as gun manufacturers employed nearly 150,000 people, generated over $52 billion in economic activity, and its employees paid over $6.82 billion in taxes.

No guns in New Jersey

Gun-shy New Jersey ranked last on the list.

Rhode Island, New York, Massachusetts, and Delaware followed.

In March 2018, the National Rifle Association criticized New Jersey — which is known for its exceptionally tough gun laws — after it elected anti-gun advocate Governor Phil Murphy as launching a “historic assault on our Second Amendment rights.”

Speaking in November 2018, after the mass shooting in in Parkland, Florida, Murphy stated: “Mass murder is not the price that we have to pay for the Second Amendment.”

While the number of outstanding registered firearms are roughly the same between both states — 52,527 in Idaho versus 59,000 in New Jersey — the deliberate emphasis on gun control has been effective in keeping the firearms industry’s influence largely out of the state’s economy.

In this photo provided by the New Jersey Governor's Office, Gov. Phil Murphy, center, signs several gun safety bills at the Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex Atrium in Trenton, N.J., Wednesday, June 13 , 2018. The half-dozen new gun control laws tighten the state's already strict statutes. (Edwin J. Torres/New Jersey Governor's Office via AP)In this photo provided by the New Jersey Governor’s Office, Gov. Phil Murphy, center, signs several gun safety bills at the Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex Atrium in Trenton, N.J., Wednesday, June 13 , 2018. The half-dozen new gun control laws tighten the state’s already strict statutes. (Edwin J. Torres/New Jersey Governor’s Office via AP)

Nevertheless, the NSSF claimed that New Jersey did see a $560 million boost in economic activity because of the industry.

Overall, the bottom five overall had “some of the lowest numbers of firearms and ammunition dealers, importers and manufacturers per capita,” Gonzalez noted. “As a result, the total federal excise taxes paid by the firearms industry are also some of the lowest in the country.”

Another interesting takeaway from the study is that while Texas had the highest number of registered firearms at 637,612 in 2018, it was only ranked no. 22 on the list.

Aarthi is a writer for Yahoo Finance.

These are the U.S. states most and least dependent on the federal government

Yahoo – Finance

These are the U.S. states most and least dependent on the federal government

Adriana Belmonte, Associate Editor       April 16, 2019.
These are the U.S. states most and least dependent on the federal government.

States that voted Democrat in 2016 generally rely less on federal funding than Republican states, according to a study by WalletHub.

The analysis looked at the return on taxes paid to the federal government, the share of federal jobs, and federal funding as a share of state revenue.

Thirteen out of the top 15 states found to be most dependent on the federal government voted for President Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Ten out of the 15 least dependent states voted for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

New Mexico is the most dependent state on the federal government, according to WalletHub. (Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance)New Mexico is the most dependent state on the federal government, according to WalletHub. (Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

‘No ranking like this is ever going to be perfect’

“Obviously, no ranking like this is ever going to be perfect,” Stan Veuger, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute, told Yahoo Finance. “Some things you can definitely say, like where the states that have the highest per capita income or pay the most in taxes.”

But “it’s not really true across the board,” Veuger said. “Virginia is a blue state and obviously has a lot of federal contractors and a lot of federal money … It obviously relies heavily on what the federal government does.”

According to WalletHub’s analysis, Virginia receives the second-highest amount of federal contracts while ranking federal funding as a share of state revenue. And given that WalletHub weighted federal funding four times more than share of federal jobs, Virginia is one of the least-dependent states on the federal government.

‘Poor states receive more federal funding through Medicaid’

WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez explained that “federal funding as a percentage of state revenue was calculated as states’ intergovernmental revenue from the federal government divided by the states’ general revenue.”

Intergovernmental revenue includes funding for Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), child welfare services, and other low-income assistance programs. For TANF, Kentucky (3rd overall), Alaska (7th overall), and Delaware use the most federal dollars.

“Because the federal income tax is progressive,” Veuger said, “I think you can also generally say that poor states receive more federal funding through Medicaid, which is a huge part of states’ budgets.”

The electoral map after the 2016 election. Stripes indicate that the state flipped from 2012. (Source: The New York Times)

The electoral map after the 2016 election. Stripes indicate that the state flipped from 2012. (Source: The New York Times)

In the 2017 fiscal year, Montana, the eighth-most dependent state overall in WalletHub’s analysis, received the highest amount of federal dollars for Medicaid at 80%. It was followed closely by West Virginia (4th overall), Arkansas, Kentucky (3rd overall), New Mexico (1st overall), and Arizona (6th overall).

In terms of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, Massachusetts ranked first, followed by New York, Alaska, North Dakota, and Wyoming. On the other end of the spectrum, Mississippi is the lowest, followed by Arkansas, West Virginia, Idaho, and Alabama.

Veuger noted that “all the poor states are red. Mississippi and Louisiana get a lot of Medicaid money.”

The planet has until 2030 to stem catastrophic climate change

CNN is premiering a video.
How To Fix the Planet

April 22, 2019

According to United Nations experts, the planet has until 2030 to stem catastrophic climate change. CNN climate change correspondent Bill Weir joins Full Circle to discuss his travels all around the world looking at the causes of, and solutions to, climate change.

How to fix the planet

According to United Nations experts, the planet has until 2030 to stem catastrophic climate change. CNN climate change correspondent Bill Weir joins Full Circle to discuss his travels all around the world looking at the causes of, and solutions to, climate change.

Posted by CNN on Monday, April 22, 2019

Feedback loops will make climate change even worse

Yahoo News

David Knowles          April 22, 2019

Only laws will stop a ‘would-be tyrant’

The Raw Story

MSNBC’s Morning Joe admits he was wrong about democratic norms: Only laws will stop a ‘would-be tyrant’

By Travis Gettys       April 18, 2019

Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough (MSNBC)

 

The “Morning Joe” host laid out a list of norms Trump had violated and loopholes he had exploited to gather power and possibly even avoid prosecution, and he said the Constitution must be updated to keep that from happening again.

“There are people like myself that said, oh, the institutions will hold, the institutions are fine, the institutions have held thus far, but that’s because good men and women stood up at the right time, including Jeff Sessions when he recused himself,” Scarborough said. “The attorney general, (William) Barr, is now proving there are people that go in that are so craven for power that they actually will blow up constitutional norms.”

Scarborough said sweeping changes were needed to strengthen congressional checks on executive power.

“So whether you’re looking at the attorney general possibly being selected like the FBI director for 10 years, and I would say even by a supermajority of the United States Senate,” Scarborough said, “whether you’re talking about a new way to look at these security clearances, there has to be a new way to look at the security clearances.”

“We have to stop saying whatever the president says is declassified,” he continued, “because after attacking Hillary Clinton throughout an entire campaign for sending emails that might have been classified, he just blabs to the foreign minister of Russia, and just blabs. Every time he does something reckless and irresponsible that concerns the intelligence community, everybody goes, well, if the president says it’s not classified, then it’s not classified — wrong. That’s the wrong answer.”

“The president should be indicted, Democratic or Republican presidents,” Scarborough added. “You can’t shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and ride it out. You can’t be in a position where Donald Trump is, if he’s not re-elected, he might be sent to jail or indicted, but if he is re-elected, and he commits crimes to get re-elected he still can’t be indicted — wrong, and it’s wrong for the president of the United States to be a national security risk.”

Scarborough said the Constitution must be reviewed and updated to protect against unscrupulous presidents, lawmakers and other officials.

“We need a constitutional review by brilliant Republican and Democratic — conservative, liberal scholars — can look at it,” he said. “I appoint George Conway to run the whole thing. I’m dead serious, because he’s a conservative jurist, and Neal Ketyal. They get together and figure out what doesn’t work when you have somebody that is a would-be tyrant in the White House.”

It’s Time for Robert Mueller to Testify!

Esquire

William Barr Is a Complete Tool. It’s Time for Robert Mueller to Testify.

The parallels with Watergate abound.

By Charles P. Pierce       April 18, 2019

imageGETTY IMAGES

The day after five burglars in the employ of a presidential re-election campaign were caught in the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, a former cop named Tony Ulascewicz was called to a meeting on a park bench not far from the White House. Waiting for him were White House counsel John Dean and Herbert Kalmbach, the president’s personal lawyer. The two lawyers wanted Ulascewicz to be the courier—”bagman,” if you prefer, and I do—who would deliver tens of thousands of dollars worth of hush money, all in cash, to the families of the burglars.

Later, in an interview with NewsweekUlascewicz explained how such things worked in the days before the Internet and ATMs:

Dean wanted someone to distribute funds for humanitarian purposes to the burglars who were involved in this bungled affair. It wasn’t hush money at the time. I was given the first $75,000 in a room at the Statler Hilton hotel in Washington. Mr. Kalmbach brought it up in an attache case. I had nothing to put it in, but in hotel rooms they have laundry bags, so I put it in one of those. Kalmbach told me that the phone calls I made to him should not be traceable. I ended up making a lot of long-distance telephone calls by cash from pay phones. Carrying around that many quarters and dimes would kind of pull your pants down, so when I saw a busman’s money changer in a stationery store, I bought it to carry the change around.

Say what you will about the Nixon people, but they worked at their crimes. What we saw Thursday, when William Barr cemented his legacy as a hack in constitutional history, was one of the laziest attempts at a political cover-up you ever will see. Barr wasn’t even trying hard, and it showed, most graphically, when he explained what he believes the El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago’s motivation in this whole affair:

In assessing the President’s actions discussed in the report, it is important to bear in mind the context. President Trump faced an unprecedented situation. As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as President, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates. At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the President’s personal culpability.

US-POLITICS-INVESTIGATION-MUELLER-JUSTICE-REPORT

Barr approaches the podium, where he would proceed to hack it up. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/Getty Images

Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion. And as the Special Counsel’s report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the President was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks. Nonetheless, the White House fully cooperated with the Special Counsel’s investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely, and asserting no privilege claims. And at the same time, the President took no act that in fact deprived the Special Counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation. Apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the President had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation.

My god, what a complete tool this man is.

First of all, there was nothing “unprecedented” about the president*’s situation. Ask all the people who got ground up in Ken Starr’s endless pursuit of Bill Clinton. (Susan McDougal might have a little something to say.)

Second, Barr seriously argued that the president* couldn’t be expected to follow the law because he was frustrated and mad. If the president* obstructed justice, well, it was the media’s fault.

Third, Barr seriously argued that a president* fired the FBI director and forced out his previous attorney general, in both cases because, in the president*’s fevered mind, they insufficiently protected him.

And, last, this president* doesn’t “sincerely believe” anything. At least, not longer than five minutes at a time. This was living, breathing, writhing corruption, right there in front of god and the world. The only slight shard of integrity to be found was the fact that Robert Mueller wasn’t there.

President Trump Attends Roundtable Discussion On Economy And Tax Reform At Trucking Equipment Company In Minnesota
Trump was mad, so NO OBSTRUCTION! Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

 

On October 20, 1973, shortly before he would be fired, Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox called a press conference to explain why he would not be taking President Nixon up on the latter’s offer to have Senator John Stennis vet the White House tapes:

I read a headline in one of the newspapers this morning that said, ‘Cox Defiant.’ But I don’t feel defiant…”I’m not looking for a confrontation. I’ve worried a good deal through my life about problems of imposing too much strain upon our constitutional institutions, and I’m certainly not out to get the President of the United States. As you all know, there has been and is evidence—not proof, perhaps, in some instances, but clearly prima facie evidence—of serious wrongdoing on the part of high Government officials, wrongdoing involving an effort to cover up other wrongdoing. It appeared that the papers, documents and recordings of conversations in the White House, including the tapes, would be relevant to getting the truth about these incidents.

I’m referring not only to the Watergate incident itself, but to other things involving electronic surveillance, break ins at a doctor’s office and the like. Last night we were told that the court order would not be obeyed, that the papers, memoranda and documents of that kind would not be provided at all. And that, instead of the tapes, a summary of what they showed would be provided. I think it is my duty as the special prosecutor, as an officer of the court and as the representative of the grand jury, to bring to the court’s attention what seems to me to be noncompliance with the court’s order.

Robert Mueller no longer works for William Barr’s Department of Justice. It’s time for Mr. Mueller to defend his own work, in public. It’s time for that.

Here’s the most crucial paragraph from the Mueller report

The Raw Story

Here’s the most crucial paragraph from the Mueller report

Cody Fenwick, Alternet         April 18, 2019

Robert Mueller testifies before Congress (screengrab)

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report is a revealing and incisive document, explicating and detailing the extensive evidence uncovered in the investigation of a potential conspiracy between President Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian government as well as presidential attempts to obstruct justice.

And while many of these new details and the narrative they tie together are of incredible value, much of the outline of the behavior documented were already known. Trump and his campaign aides were interacting frequently with figures tied to the Russian government, gleefully accepted their help during the election, and tried — sometimes illegally and sometimes successfully — to cover it all up. As president, Trump engaged in a series of outrageous acts designed to stymie the probe, many of which could clearly be considered criminal obstruction of justice — but Mueller declined to make a prosecutorial judgment on this question.

Instead, he clearly thinks it is up to Congress to decide whether to hold Trump accountable. In arguably the most crucial paragraph of the report, the Mueller team sets forth why potential charges for Trump’s obstruction would be legitimate under the Constitution and fall to lawmakers, at least for now:

Under applicable Supreme Court precedent, the Constitution does not categorically and permanently immunize a President for obstructing justice through the use of his Article II powers. The separation-of-powers doctrine authorizes Congress to protect official proceedings, including those of courts and grand juries, from corrupt, obstructive acts regardless of their source. We also concluded that any inroad on presidential authority that would occur from prohibiting corrupt acts does not undermine the President’s ability to fulfill his constitutional mission. The term “corruptly” sets a demanding standard. It requires a concrete showing that a person acted with an intent to obtain an improper advantage for himself or someone else, inconsistent with official duty and the rights of others. A preclusion of “corrupt” official action does not diminish the President’s ability to exercise Article II powers. For example, the proper supervision of criminal law does not demand freedom for the President to act with a corrupt intention of shielding himself from criminal punishment, avoiding financial liability, or preventing personal embarrassment. To the contrary, a statute that prohibits official action undertaken for such corrupt purposes furthers, rather than hinders, the impartial and evenhanded administration of the law. It also aligns with the President’s constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws. Finally, we concluded that in the rare case in which a criminal investigation of the President’s conduct is justified, inquiries to determine whether the President acted for a corrupt motive should not impermissibly chili his performance of his constitutionally assigned duties. The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.

This paragraph is so important because it lays out why the obstruction portion of the report matters. Attorney General Bill Barr has dismissed the obstruction charges, saying that because Mueller didn’t make a determination about whether Trump committed a crime, it was up to him as the head of the Justice Department to make that call.

Mueller disagrees. He thinks it’s up to Congress — and the constitutional check to make sure “no person is above the law.”

Before he became attorney general, Barr drafted a 19-page memo arguing that a president couldn’t obstruct justice using his constitutional powers. That memo is, in all likelihood, the reason he got the job he has now. And before the report was released, Barr said that he disagrees with Mueller’s theory of obstruction of justice.

But that’s the reason Mueller was appointed. A special counsel is needed when the traditional operations of the Justice Department are not sufficient to ensure the credibility of its actions in a particularly sensitive matter. Mueller has the credibility — and the paragraph above shows why.

Bill Barr Is the Most Dangerous Man in America

Daily Beast

Bill Barr Is the Most Dangerous Man in America

The banality of the AG’s droning Hill testimony hides its evil purpose: to protect the president, not the rule of law.

Photo Illustration by Sarah Rogers/The Daily Beast/Getty

Every great authoritarian enterprise comes to its apotheosis more from the soulless, mechanical efficiency of armies of bureaucrats and police than from the rantings of whatever Great Leader or revolutionary firebrand mounts the podium. A four-hour, spittle-flecked speech in Berlin, Havana, Moscow, or Kigali is, in the end, less consequential than the memos and slide decks of competent people given over to the service of evil.

Bad governments don’t start as nihilist terror; they’re the work of people who look like your neighbors. They build anodyne policy directives to justify the acidic erosion of the rule of law. They put the tools of government and administration to darker and darker purposes while compartmentalizing inevitable excesses in the name of political expediency.

The gray, heavy-set man who sat before two congressional committees over the last two days embodies the triumph of the banality of Washington’s bureaucratic class, a droning Kabuki performer leading the House and Senate committees through several hours of monotone testimony intended to disguise the explosive consequences of his appointment as attorney general.
William Barr’s tone was calm, but his agenda was clear: His job is to protect Donald Trump, no matter the prerogatives of Congress or any consideration of the rule of law. Bill Barr is not the attorney general of the United States. He is the Roy Cohn whom The Donald has craved since become president; an attorney general who sees his duty as serving Trump.

 

Barr won the job by writing a memo before he knew a single fact contained in the Mueller report. Its tacit and overt promises were irresistible to Trump: As attorney general, Barr would protect this president from charges of obstruction. Barr knew then, and knows now, that he has an audience of one: Donald Trump. Like Barr’s job-application memo, every word of his testimony this week screamed out obedience to the president.

Unlike Watergate, Barr’s cover-up is happening in real time and on live television, as the chief law enforcer of the United States promised without a flicker of emotion that he will redact the Mueller report as he sees fit. He dared Congress to challenge his decision to hide relevant material from their eyes and those of the American people. He refused to provide a co-equal branch of government with information to which it is legally entitled. This is a partisan political decision that will ramify into a hundred bad outcomes.

“Unless Democrats get the entire report, Barr, Trump, and Fox will write the history of this sorry affair.”

Barr is the attorney general of the Trump regime, and protection of the maximum leader is his sole mission. He is a weapon, not a servant.

Barr knew what he was doing when he claimed Wednesday that the Trump campaign was “spied on.” He was teeing up the upcoming show trials of Trump’s “enemies” in the Department of Justice and the FBI that the president’s craziest supporters in Congress, and at his rallies, have been screaming for. Together with allies like Lindsey Graham, Barr needs to not only feed Trump’s revanchist agenda, but to throw up chaff to confuse the results of the Mueller report that may somehow see the light of day.

Barr is also openly weaponizing the Department of Justice to potentially sully the future public, private, and legal testimony of members of the DOJ, FBI, and intelligence community who have seen the damning data on Trump and his claque. The goal is to intimidate anyone who would investigate Trump’s vast portfolio of corruption and obstruction of justice, both before and after he took office. It goes far, far beyond the Russia probe; it is an investigation that by its nature aims to terrify all future witnesses and whistle-blowers into silence.

By acceding to Trump’s demands for political revenge and refusing to call out the language of witch hunts, crooked cops, angry Democrats, and treasonous enemies within, Barr sent a message to every member of the DOJ and intelligence community—even before reaching his own investigative conclusion—that they can either follow the Trump line, or potentially face persecution and prosecution.

As usual, anyone counting on the Democrats not to blow it this week was disappointed. Democrats failed to hold Barr to any meaningful account in the hearings this week, asking questions in an oblique, diffident manner that mirrored Barr’s cool affect. They whispered when they needed to shout. They threw underhand softballs when they should have brought the heat. They were lulled into a trance, still believing they can shame the shameless or trap Barr and Trump with some kind of bluff.

The fact the Democrats aren’t already in court to get the full, unredacted Mueller report is exactly the kind of behavior that happens in nations slipping from democracy to authoritarianism. They think this is procedural and political, not existential. There are no brakes, no white knight in DOJ to come to the rescue, and unless Democrats get the entire report in court, Barr, Trump, and Fox will write the history of this sorry affair.

Barr exudes just enough of the comforting style of the Washington insider to quiet the fears of many in the House and Senate. He comes across as pedestrian and legalistic, bordering on dull, but he’s the most dangerous man in America.