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The Dept. of Just Us: Cease and Desist!

Volunteer lawyers wait at the international arrival area for travelers detained at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago on Friday, March 10, 2017. (AP Photo / Charles Rex Arbogast).

The Department of Justice is now insisting that lawyers helping immigrants shut down, and stop offering their services, because helping people, well, that’s a bad thing to do. This all hangs on a technicality, but one which is being exploited by the DOJ to remove legal help which is already scant on the ground for immigration matters. Immigrants do not have the right to legal representation here, which means that legal teams reaching out and offering help are doing it on their own time and dime. This is a devastating attack, yet another one which undermines one of those supposedly great pillars of America. It’s also outright white nationalism.

While the country has been fixated on President Trump’s firings, leaks and outbursts involving the Department of Justice, that agency has itself been stealthily attacking our democracy by telling good lawyers to stop representing people. Four weeks ago, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP)—a respected nonprofit in Seattle that represents immigrants in deportation proceedings—received a “cease and desist” letter from the DOJ threatening disciplinary action. The letter demanded that NWIRP drop representation of its clients and close down its asylum advisory program. The reason: a technicality, perversely applied. NWIRP is accused of breaking a rule that was put in place to protect people from lawyers or “notarios” who take their money and then drop their case.

Last week, NWIRP filed a lawsuit to defend itself against the DoJ’s order. What’s at stake extends far beyond NWIRP and the 5,000 people it serves every year. The outcome of this legal battle will profoundly impact access to legal representation for the tens of thousands of immigrants who apply for asylum in the United States every year and the hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants whose cases are currently in front of an immigration judge.

Before I explain more, let’s step back for the context: You have no right to counsel in immigration proceedings. If you are not a citizen—or if the government merely alleges you aren’t—you can be taken from your home, jailed, and permanently deported without ever seeing a lawyer. This is perfectly legal. It happened to more than a million people under the Obama administration, which vastly expanded the machinery of deportation. (If you want this to be an “Obama was good, Trump is bad” story, sorry to disappoint.)

[…]

When lawyers rushed to airports this winter to protect our friends, our neighbors, and our Constitution, people cheered. The Trump administration took offense, and now those lawyers are in their cross hairs. The president is taking a sledgehammer to the pillars of our government: the FBI, the Justice Department, the federal courts. America, we are under attack.

The full story is here.

Sheriff David Clarke Gets His Trump Appointment.

Sheriff David Clarke Jr. CREDIT: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin.

I’m sure that Dave Clarke is just giddy over being appointed to homeland security. For the rest of us, it’s a walking, talking, nightmare. No one could possibly be less qualified than Clarke, whose hatred knows no bounds. Many times over, this man should have been tried for his crimes, and if there was any justice, he’d be sitting in a prison cell for the rest of his life.  He’s in the midst of a prison deaths scandal right now, but apparently, that doesn’t matter, anymore than his previous crimes. This is just the tip of the Clarke iceberg:

Clarke has called the Black Lives Matter movement “black slime” that “needs to be eradicated from the American society and the American culture,” “garbage” and a “subversive movement” that seeks to overthrow the government, and said that the movement is driven by “an ideology of victimhood with a list of grievances that do not exist.” He has dismissed concerns about police brutality by saying that “black criminal abuse, black criminal brutality” is “the real brutality going on in the United States.” The real problem in “the American ghetto,” he has said, is “modern liberalism.”

Clarke said that Michael Brown, the black teenager shot by police in Ferguson, Missouri, was a “co-conspirator in his own demise” because he “chose thug life.” After Sandra Bland, a black woman who had been thrown to the ground during a traffic stop, died in police custody, Clarke went on Fox News to chastise her. He said that he would have used even more force against a group of black teenagers who were thrown to the ground by police outside a public swimming pool in Ohio, telling people who saw a racial component in the action to “shut up already.”

Clarke has been colorful in his condemnation of President Obama and Hillary Clinton for sympathizing with the Black Lives Matter movement, calling them “straight-up cop haters.” He called Obama a “heartless, soulless bastard” for speaking up about “goons” killed by police and said that the Obama administration’s attempts to address racial disparities in policing were a plot to “emasculate the police” in order to impose dictatorial control.” He accused the president of worsening racial divides in the country by pitting “whites against blacks” and “Hispanics against Americans.”

The sheriff is also happy to throw red meat to his conservative audience on a number of other topics. After the Supreme Court struck down state marriage equality bans, Clarke called for a “revolution” to “get this country back,” complete with “pitchforks and torches,” urging his audience to launch a standoff against the federal government the next time a bakery or the like is fined for refusing business to a same-sex couple.

When Trump caused a national uproar when he attacked a judge because of his Mexican-American heritage, Clarke took to his radio show to defend the candidate.

Clarke first became a conservative hero when, in 2013, he aired radio ads in his county urging citizens not to rely on calling 911 but instead to learn to protect themselves against crime. Speaking at the National Rifle Association’s convention last year, he proposed adding a semi-automatic rifle to the Great Seal of the United States. Appearing on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ radio program, Clarke warned that a renewal of the federal assault weapons ban would lead to gun confiscations that would spark “the second coming of the American Revolution, the likes of which would make the first revolution pale by comparison.”

While Clarke has no patience for African Americans who have deadly run-ins with the police, he has repeatedly associated himself with anti-government militia groups who have staged armed standoffs with federal government agents or who threaten to defy federal law. Earlier this year, when a group of armed activists took over a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon, Clarke backed their cause, saying that the country had reached a “pitchforks and torches moment” that couldn’t be solved by an election.

In 2013, after he aired his ads discouraging citizens from relying on 911, Clarke accepted the “ Constitutional Sheriff of the Year” award from the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, an anti-government group that promotes the idea that county sheriffs are the highest law enforcement officers in the country and thus have the power to defy federal laws that they believe are unconstitutional. In his acceptance speech , Clarke declared that “government” was the “common enemy” of the “patriots” in the room. In a radio interview that year, he said that “on an everyday basis, to me, federal government is a bigger threat” than terrorism.

Just this year, Clarke spoke at a fundraising event for the New York chapter of the Oath Keepers, an anti-government group aligned with the Constitutional Sheriffs that urges law enforcement officers and military personnel to defy laws they believe are unconstitutional and encourages its members to form militias ready to defy an out-of-control federal government. At that event, Clarke called Black Lives Matter a “hate group” and vowed to do “everything I can” to get Trump elected president.

Via RWW, click on over for the full story.

Also see: Why Sheriff Clarke will be a disaster in his new job, according to his predecessor: ‘Just plain awful’.

“It did not meet our core values,” (Updated.)

CREDIT: Twitter.

Cops brazenly gun down 15 year old Jordan Edwards, and now that their lies have been exposed, we get “it did not meet our core values.” How about you arrest and charge the murderous piece of shit cop who decided a 15 year old just had to die? The fact that you haven’t says plenty to me about your so called “core values”.

Think Progress has the full story. My mood is definitely not better.

UPDATE: The murderer has been fired, but not charged, and not arrested. Full story here.

NC: Judge Smacks Republicans, Hard.

North Carolina Judge Douglas McCullough. Image courtesy of Loiacono Literary Agency.

North Carolina rethuglicans are once again trying to use dirty tricks in an attempt to nullify Gov. Cooper’s authority. One republican judge refused to play along, and went for an ethical play of his own, which certainly paints the rest of the rethugs in a very ugly light indeed.

In a dramatic response to a power-grab by Republicans in the North Carolina legislature, a Republican judge resigned today to circumvent efforts to strip power from the Democratic governor.

The Charlotte Observer reports that following today’s surprise resignation by Republican Judge J. Douglas McCullough, Democrat John Arrowood was sworn in.

[…]

North Carolina has a mandatory retirement age for judges. To prevent the Democratic Party governor from appointing replacements for Court of Appeals judges nearing forced retirement, the Republican Legislature passed a bill to shrink the size of the court from 15 to 12 judges — thereby denying the Democrat of three scheduled appointments.

The legislation was vetoed on Friday, but a successful veto override was expected later tonight.

However, before the legislature could vote to override Governor Cooper’s veto of House Bill 239, Judge McCullough resigned 36 days prior to his forced retirement. This allowed the appointment of Judge Arrowood at 9:45 a.m. this morning.

“I did not want my legacy to be the elimination of a seat and the impairment of a court that I have served on,” Judge McCullough explained.

Newly sworn-in Judge John Arrowood is the first openly gay member of the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

A standing ovation for Judge McCullough, a man of integrity and ethics. You deserve a resounding thank you from all over, and if they were capable of it, the rest of the republicans should be damned ashamed of themselves. If all republicans were like you, Sir, I would not have a problem with them.

Via Raw Story.

4/20: Art and Weed, Weed, Weed.

It’s 4/20, if you have it, smoke it, and get your art on. There’s a lot to explore in the world of art and weed. We start with an exhibit at the Chesterfield Gallery in New York, with their show, Lit!

David Colton, ‘Untitled 2.’ Images courtesy of the Chesterfield Gallery.

You can see and read more here.

Sergio Garcia.

Dallas-based artist Sergio Garcia’s anatomical sculptures also point out the absurdity of weed being illegal.

Illustration by Lia Kantrowitz.

Where the hell does “Roll It, Lick It, Smoke It” actually come from?

Nico Mazza.

These Pussy Pipes Remind Us “We Have Been Smoking Out Of Dicks”.

Also see:

Zooted Illustrations Depict Everyday People Smoking Weed at Home.

Miniature Weed Worlds Blend Tiny Toys and Stoner Humor.

Traditional Chinese Paintings of Cannabis Aim to Change Perceptions About the Medicinal Plant.

Weed-Friendly Art Classes Invite People to ‘Puff, Pass & Paint’.

“PeopleIRollOn” Gives Celebrities the Best Weed Beards on Instagram.

Happy 4/20 everyone!

Copwatch Premieres At Tribeca Film Festival.

Copwatch Documentary still.

Copwatch will be premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, April 23rd to April 28th, if you can grab a ticket and watch!

Copwatch is the true story of We Copwatch, an organization whose mission is to film police activity as a non-violent form of protest and deterrent to police brutality. Around the country, a network of regular people take up cameras to bear witness to police actions and hold law enforcement to accountability. Director Camilla Hall profiles several We Copwatch members, including a young California dad who’s found direction in this activism, and Ramsey Orta, the man who filmed Eric Garner’s fatal Staten Island arrest in the devastating video that has galvanized protestors and activists nationwide. And yet Orta is the only person involved in these incidents who has seen the inside of a jail cell. In her powerful directorial debut, Hall crafts an intriguing and incredibly timely profile of citizen-journalist-activists who are seeking to disrupt the ever-present challenge of police violence.

—Opal Bennett

If you’re unaware of We Copwatch, please become aware, and if you haven’t supported We Copwatch, please consider doing so now. You can get a snazzy T-shirt or hoodie!

Trying to Kill Planned Parenthood.

In this Sept. 9, 2015, file photo, Planned Parenthood supporters rally for women’s access to reproductive health care on “National Pink Out Day’’ at Los Angeles City Hall. CREDIT: AP Photo/Nick Ut, File.

Yesterday, the Tiny Tyrant made a move to allow states to punish Planned Parenthood, and people at large, by allowing them to withhold federal funds. This is going to do a great deal of harm, especially in the more regressive states, of which there are too many. This is a direct hit on Title X, which is a devastating blow to healthcare, which the rethugs are all happy about, as they couldn’t come out and just repeal. As usual, poorer people and women will be suffering the most under this new move.

President Donald Trump signed a bill into law on Thursday that would allow states to withhold federal money for family planning services, such as birth control, from Planned Parenthood clinics and other women’s health centers.

The bill is a repeal of an Obama-era regulation that said states couldn’t withhold Title X funding, which covers family planning and preventative care, from organizations just because those organizations also provide abortion care. This bill would roll back that protection, emboldening states to try to restrict such funding.

The Senate passed the bill 51–50 in March, with Vice President Pence casting the tie breaking vote.

Four million people with low incomes rely on Title X for preventative health care. Roughly 1.5 million receive their Title X care at Planned Parenthood.

In practice, what this bill does is open the door for states to restrict these people from choosing certain health care providers — which may be, in many cases, the only health care provider nearby, the one they trust, or the only one that they can afford.

While the bill does not defund Planned Parenthood directly, it is part of a wider GOP attack on the women’s health provider — and will likely encourage further efforts to cut federal funding off from Planned Parenthood.

It is already legally prohibited to use federal funds for abortion care, thanks to the Hyde Amendment. Currently, Planned Parenthood gets federal funding through programs like Title X and Medicaid, which cover STD testing, cancer screenings, birth control access, and other health needs for people who wouldn’t be able to afford them.

In reality, federally defunding Planned Parenthood — as the GOP proposed to do in their failed health care bill  — actually means preventing people who rely on it from accessing health care. And while anti-Planned Parenthood politicians argue that people can go elsewhere, for many low-income and rural women and men, Planned Parenthood clinics are their only option.

Think Progress has the full story.

New York: Tuition Free 4 Year College!

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says in New York we have rejected the politics of division.

New York will be the first state in the country to cover four-year college tuition for residents after the program was included in the budget package approved Sunday night.

The state’s Excelsior Scholarship program will be rolled out in tiers over the next three years, starting with full coverage of four-year college tuition this fall for students whose families make less than $100,000.

The income cap will increase to $110,000 in 2018 and $125,000 in 2019.

“With this budget, New York has the nation’s first accessible college program. It’s a different model,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo Saturday in a statement. “Today, college is what high school was—it should always be an option even if you can’t afford it.”

This is amazing and wonderful news. NYS has become a great model in these dark times, and it would be fantastic to see other states pick up this model as well, as our current regime would never do anything so positive and *gasp* socialist.

Via NBC and NY Daily News.

Homicidal Cop, Good. Whistleblower, Bad.

NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo holds Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold. CREDIT: YouTube/New York Daily News.

NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo holds Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold. CREDIT: YouTube/New York Daily News.

A short while back, I posted about the history of the cop who murdered Eric Garner. It was an ugly history, one which was ignored in keeping Daniel Pantaleo employed. That employment continues, but the  person who disclosed that hidden history? No, they are no longer employed.

The release of previously secret disciplinary records of the NYPD officer that killed Eric Garner is stirring controversy in New York City, reinvigorating a heated debate among activists and city officials over transparency and police accountability.

On Tuesday, ThinkProgress published the disciplinary records of Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer who used a prohibited chokehold against Garner in 2014. The records — which were previously hidden from the public — originated from the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), the independent city agency that fields complaints about officer misconduct. They were leaked to ThinkProgress from an anonymous source who was discovered by the agency and forced to resign.

The news also forced the CCRB to formally confirm that the documents are real.

The CCRB’s actions triggered indignation from Cynthia Conti-Cook, a lawyer at the Legal Aid Society’s Special Litigation Unit. The group is currently involved in lawsuits to obtain disciplinary records from both the CCRB and the NYPD.

“When there is more political will to fire a whistleblower than an officer who killed an unarmed man, it sends a message about the Mayor’s capacity to act quickly and therefore simultaneously sends a message about his lack of political will to hold police like Pantaleo…accountable for misconduct,” she said, referring to the fact that Pantaleo remains employed by the NYPD, and received a raise last year.

I could not possibly agree more. This is shocking behaviour. Well, it should be shocking. I’m afraid we have all become much too inured, and given the increasingly open shite supremacist feeling in uStates, there tends to be little more than an ennui laden shrug over such heinous actions.

Civil rights groups and several city officials were also outraged by the content of the documents, which showed that Pantaleo had 7 complaints and 4 substantiated allegations years before his encounter with Garner—far more than the overwhelming majority of his fellow NYPD officers, according to CCRB data. The revelations also raised questions about whether Pantaleo was properly disciplined, as the documents showed that the NYPD repeatedly enacted lesser penalties than those recommended by the CCRB.

Gwen Carr, Garner’s mother, said that earlier review of the records could have saved her son’s life.

“Someone should have taken a look at his record a long time ago,” Carr told the New York Daily News. “If they had done that maybe my son would still be alive.”

That’s assuming that anyone looking at Pantaleo’s record would have actually done something about it, which is more than questionable. Cop shops all over the country simply don’t have a problem with bigoted, homicidal cops, nor do they seem to be overly concerned about dead brown people. It seems the only time they do care is if they end up in the public spotlight, and even then, the result is rarely justice.

Think Progress has the full story.

Bannon’s Hit Shit List.

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast.

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast.

According to multiple Trump administration officials speaking to The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity to talk freely, the president is angry that his first big legislative push is crumbling before his eyes—and his chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon is advising him to take names and keep a hit list of Republicans who worked for Trumpcare’s defeat.

“[Bannon] has told the president to keep a shit list on this,” one official told The Daily Beast. “He wants a running tally of [the Republicans] who want to sink this…Not sure if I’d call it an ‘enemies list,’ per se, but I wouldn’t want to be on it.”

One aide described it as a proposed “hit list” for Republicans not sufficiently loyal. Courses of action stemming from any related tally is yet to be determined, but the idea and message is that “we’ll remember you.”

Two senior Trump administration officials with direct knowledge of the process told The Daily Beast that Bannon and Trump have taken a “you’re either with us or against us” approach at this point, and that Bannon wants the tally of “against” versus “with us” mounted in his so-called West Wing “war room.”

“Burn the boats,” Bannon (in his typical, pugnacious style) advised Trump, according to one official involved. Burning one’s boats is a reference to when military commanders in hostile territories order his or her troops to destroy their own ships, so that they have to win or die trying.

Sources also said that others including Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget and co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus, endorsed the idea of the running list, and that Trump agreed with the idea.

The Daily Beast has the full story.

The Fuck You Fuck You Fuck You Care Plan. UPDATED.

The Message to Women Everywhere.

The Message to Women Everywhere.

As most everyone now knows, the bill was withdrawn before a vote. Yes, be happy. That said, go ahead and read all the following, and remember. Remember just what they wanted to do, and still want to do. We cannot afford to forget.

 
This post brought to you with a leaden heart sinking in a simultaneous sea of fury and despair. It’s going to be a roundup, because I just can’t. I can’t.

Trump budget boss: If you want insurance to cover maternity care, lobby your state legislature. Trumpcare: Giving you the freedom to purchase health insurance that covers nothing.

On Thursday, President Trump and the House Freedom Caucus tentatively worked out a deal: Trump would agree to remove mandatory coverage of “essential services” from his health care bill in order to win the far-right caucus’ support for it.

Essential services include maternity and newborn care, pediatric care, emergency services, substance abuse treatment, and prescription drug coverage. Under the Affordable Care Act, every health insurance plan sold in the US must cover them.

White House says maternity care won’t be more expensive for women —if they’re on a family plan: A story of male priorities on women’s health care, in two acts.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters on Thursday that women wouldn’t have to worry about paying more for maternity care under Trumpcare, as long as they’re on a family plan.

The exchange came as a reporter pressed Spicer on reports that the GOP is considering repealing Obamacare’s 10 essential health benefits mandate — a requirement that all insurance plans cover services such as hospitalizations, prescriptions, preventative care, and pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care.

Spicer called the furor over these benefits a “philosophical discussion,” and argued that repealing them was a way to bring premiums down.

The White House may have skirted federal law to try and save its failing health care bill: Several official Twitter accounts lobbied Congress in support of the AHCA bill.

On Thursday morning, as the Trump administration frantically tried to save its deeply unpopular Affordable Care Act replacement bill, White House social media director Dan Scavino Jr. tweeted out a message to Trump’s dwindling pool of supporters urging them to call their congressperson in support of the American Health Care Act.

Hours later, similarly worded tweets were sent from the official @POTUS account and Donald Trump’s personal account.

But as some people were quick to note, directly lobbying Congress in support of (or opposition to) a bill using federal dollars—including White House staff who earn federal salaries—is strictly forbidden under 18 U.S.C. § 1913.

The Trump White House seems confused about how pregnancy works: Let me teach you about the birds and the bees.

The House is expected to vote Friday on a bill that, if a faction of the most conservative House Republicans gets its way, will eliminate the requirement that insurance plans cover certain essential health benefits. These benefits include maternity care, a fact that the Trump White House views as an opportunity to pit men against women.

It’s a common joke among the Affordable Care Act’s opponents. Why should a man pay for women’s health care? Hilarious!

At least with respect to maternity care, however, there’s a very simple answer to this question. Because of the unusual nature of pregnancy, either everyone must pay for pregnancy coverage, or no one will have pregnancy coverage.

The reason why is a problem known as “adverse selection.”

In last ditch effort for votes, Trump says goal of Trumpcare is to end Planned Parenthood: Trump quite literally plays politics with women’s health.

A photo of the House Freedom Caucus and Mike Pence went viral on Thursday, and for good reason — it showed that in a discussion over the future of women’s health insurance plans, the only people in the room were white men.

In a bid to get the far-right Freedom Caucus on board, President Trump and GOP leadership (again, all men) offered to repeal Obamacare’s Essential Health Benefits provision, which mandates that health insurers offer coverage for basic care like hospitalizations, prescriptions, and notably for women, pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care.

According to reports, however, the Freedom Caucus still doesn’t think the bill goes far enough. And on Friday, Trump took to Twitter to levy one more threat at its members, dangling women’s health coverage in front of them as bait:


The irony is that the Freedom Caucus, which is very pro-life and against Planned Parenthood, allows P.P. to continue if they stop this plan!

There’s many ways in which Trumpcare would disproportionately affect women. It would price abortion care out of reach for many women, even some on employee-sponsored plans. It would roll back Medicaid and charge seniors more for health insurance, hurting two populations that are predominately female. With the new revisions, it will roll back maternity coverage.

And, as Trump alludes to, it would federally defund Planned Parenthood —which in practice, actually means preventing low-income and rural women and men who depend on Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings, STD testing, and birth control consultations. In 105 counties, Planned Parenthood is the only birth control clinic. Annually, 2.5 million women and men seek care at Planned Parenthood clinics.

Trump knows this.

Do the Scandals Matter? Not to Trumpholes.

170322_scandals-1

Click for full size.

A poll done by Morning Consult and Politico shows that the constant quake of scandals simply don’t matter much to Trumpholes. If anything, it solidifies their faithfulness to the Tiny Tyrant. That’s a prime marker of how fascism operates, and it emphasises, starkly, just how much The Resistance and all manner of activism simply cannot stop, or slow down at all.

The full story is here.

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