Is your head spinning with memos, porn stars, playboy models, who represents who, defamation/libel/collusion/criminal cases, and slime-ball twitter wars? Then it is that time of the week where I try to help refocus you on real accomplishments as well as creative and inspiring actions and remind you of what the progressive movement is working towards. While I admit the drama is griping and fascinating, we have little control over the outcome (other then the call to take to the streets if the dreaded firing happens and to demand Congress protect the investigation). On the other hand, activists, activist funded organizations, judges, and progressive elected officials, put into office by activists voters, accomplish a whole lot of good every day. The highlights since my 4 day break in the Vermont April snowfall are;
- #StandUpforImmigrants The Supreme Court ruled an immigrant’s conviction on two burglary charges did not constitute a violent crime as the law was too vague as to the definition of a violent crime, and therefore he could not be deported for such a conviction; Justice Neil Gorsuch was the deciding vote WTF?.
- #Vote New Jersey joined 11 other states with automatic voter registration when recently elected democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed the bill into law. See what kind of crazy stuff happens when you elect democrats to govern your state.
- #RespecttheLaw A federal appeals court upheld a nationwide injunction blocking the administration from withholding federal grant money to jurisdictions that refuse to allow federal immigration access to detention facilities and provide 48 hours notice before they release an undocumented immigrant wanted by ICE.
- #TransRights A U.S. District Judge upheld the injunction stopping the ban on transgender members in the military and found that transgender people are a protected class of people because they have been subjected to systemic oppression and attempts to exclude them from the military will be looked at with “strict scrutiny.”
🧕🏻STANDING UP FOR IMMIGRANTS Albuquerque (N.M.) City Council passed a law barring federal immigration officials without a warrant from going into city-operated areas and prohibits city workers from taking information on people’s immigration status. The Colorado Supreme Court upheld a decision that requires the El Paso County Sheriff to release people who are wanted for possible deportation by federal authorities but have paid bond in a case brought by the ACLU. Award winning poet, high school student, and asylum seeker from Maine, Allan Monga, will be allowed to compete in a National Endowment for the Arts national poetry contest after a judge ruled he was eligible, overruling the NEA declaring him ineligible due to his immigration status. Alejandra Pablos, an immigrant rights activist, was released on bond after supporters raised the money needed. The New Jersey legislature passed a bill to extend in-state college financial aid to undocumented students and the Gov. indicated he supports the bill. Looking for even more justice, the Southern Poverty Law Center sued private prison company CoreCare Inc, which houses individuals detained by ICE, for forcing detainees to work for a $1 a day to clean, cook, and maintain the detention center and threatening those who refuse with solitary confinement and the loss of access to basic necessities.
⚖️ECONOMIC JUSTICE means that a pharmacy in West Virginia will pay a $550,000 settlement to resolve a lawsuit brought by the state accusing it of negligence in dispensing nearly 10 million doses of painkillers in 11 years to a county of fewer than 25,000 people; T-Mobile will pay $40 million to settle a complaint with the FCC for failing to fix problems with calls to rural consumers and for providing misleading information about the fix; and Wells Fargo was fined $1 billion by two federal regulators for abuses tied to its mortgage/auto lending businesses.
TEACHERS ARE STILL ROCKING THE STATE HOUSES AND DEMANDING A LIVING WAGE. Hundreds of Colorado teachers forced school closings as they staged a protest at the state Capitol, and in their districts, to demand changes in school funding, higher teacher pay, and a stronger retirement fund. Teachers at about 1,000 Arizona schools held “walk-ins” to demand higher salaries and more school funding as part of the #RedforEd campaign, organized by Arizona Educators United, and Arizona educators and school employees voted in support of a walkout for next week. The Georgia Board of Regents voted not to increase tuition for this year at all public colleges and universities. The New Jersey legislature passed a paid Sick Leave Act requiring businesses to provide paid sick leave, and the governor pledged to sign it. Iowa enacted a law prohibiting school lunch shaming of children who don’t have money to pay for lunches.
5,000 Graduate students working as teaching and research assistants at Harvard University voted to form a union. Not only did grad students organize, but so did JetBlue Flight Attendants, the staff at the New Republic, and nurses at Albany Medical Center (NY). And making sure a union is worth something in New York should the Supreme Court decide in a pending case to weaken them nationally, he signed a law to protects union membership.
A few interesting things out of Kentucky, that bastion of liberal activism, Morehouse State University rescinded its decision to take away unused sick days when calculating pension benefits for retiring staff and froze tuition for next year, and the Attorney General Andy filed a lawsuit against an opioid pharmaceutical maker for contributing to an illicit drug market in the product.
👨🏿⚖️SEEKING CRIMINAL JUSTICE Philadelphia Bail Watch launched their program to organize and train members of the public to monitor municipal bail hearings as another took to help advocates fighting to end cash bail. Following up on last week’s legislation I reported on, the criminal justice reform bills in Massachusetts were signed by the governor and the Albuquerque mayor signed the marijuana decriminalization law.
🌎SAVING THE ENVIRONMENT WITHOUT THE HELP OF THE EPA Scientists have created an enzyme capable of “eating” plastic that could improve on current plastic recycling. Long Beach City Council (CA) voted to ban styrofoam package for food and a number of other products sold in the city. New oil, gas and mineral exploration and development will be prohibited in the San Gabriel Mountain National Monument under a new management plan for the largest wilderness area in Los Angeles County. The New Jersey Gov. signed a bill prohibiting oil and natural gas drilling in state waters, as well as preventing infrastructure like pipelines that could support drilling in more distant federal waters. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled Exxon Mobil must provide the state’s attorney general with records pertaining to their investigation into Exxon’s violation of state consumer protection laws based on Exxon’s knowledge of fossil fuels role in climate change. The Hill has made it easier for activists to contact the head of EPA by publishing all four email addresses that he uses, use ‘em before we lose ‘em folks. ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS BRING EVEN MORE LAWSUITS The city of Boulder, Boulder County and San Miguel County sued ExxonMobil and Suncor for their “reckless actions and damages” in helping cause global climate change. Looks like Exxon will have a lot of explaining to do, if this goes the way of Massachusetts. Farmworker Justice and Earthjustice sued the EPA claiming they are withholding records on meetings and communications about a decision to scrap rules protecting farm workers from harmful pesticides. A group of young Florida residents, represented by Our Children’s Trust, sued Florida to demand the state begin working on a court-ordered, science-based Climate Recovery Plan.
🌲OTHER COUNTRIES HELPING TO CARE FOR THE PLANET New Zealand announced they will ban all new offshore drilling and gas exploration off its coast and will not renew current permits when they expire. Britain went for a record 55 hours without its any of its power plants producing electricity by burning coal.If you want to try to convince the EPA to do its job of protecting the environment. The International Maritime Organization agreed to limit greenhouse gas emissions from global shipping.
👩#MeToo Maryland passed a number of women’s rights bulls, including free and adequate menstrual hygiene products and pregnancy care and new sexual harassment policies for the legislature. The U.S. Senate moved into the 19th century when they decided to allow newborns on the floor during votes thanks to Senator Duckworth; Someday soon they will reach the current century.
🗽BECAUSE MONUMENTS AND NAMES MATTER to those that see them, New York City removed a statue of Doctor J. Marion Sims, because while he may be considered the father of modern gynecology, he also performed exams on enslaved women without anesthesia. Raleigh (NC) installed the monument “Oberlin Rising” to commemorate one of the first African-American communities in the city.
🕬 GUN CONTROL AND GUN REFORM STILL FULL STEAM AHEAD Anti-gun reform groups organized rallies at state capitals throughout the country drawing miniscule crowds as compared to the hundreds of thousands that showed up for the March for Our Lives rallies. Students at hundreds of schools from coast to coast walked out to demand gun reform in their third protest since the Parkland shooting. Moms Demand Action stopped the passing of bad gun laws in Louisiana and Kentucky. And big shout out to teens, who are now grounded for life, for getting arrested outside Ryan’s Office to bring attention to gun control. Not only did Dick’s stop selling assault rifles, but they chose to destroy their unsold rifles instead of returning them to the manufacturer. Best of all, inventor and seller of Bump stocks, Slide Fire, announced they are going to stop selling them, they are facing a ton of lawsuits. Leon County passed an ordinance to close the gun show loophole for background checks.
📜FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND INFORMATION NOT FREEDOM TO ATTACK Two parents of children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting sued Alex Jones and InfoWars alleging defamation for peddling conspiracy theories that the shooting was a hoax, which led to death threats to them. A New Jersey State Judge ruled a consultant’s report that guided Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey in creating an insurance plan that excluded half the hospitals in the state will be part of the public record.
🏳️🌈LGBTQ PROGRESS Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft told Congress that the Coast Guard will continue to allow transgender members to serve unless legislation explicitly banning them is passed. Florida Justice Technology Center and Southern Legal Counsel launched a website designed to make the name and gender marker change process much easier for transgender Floridians. Sina Weibo, frequently referred to as China’s Twitter, reversed a decision to censor gay content. The Portuguese Parliament passed a bill allowing transgender people to “self-identify” their gender on their birth certificate or driver’s license and I’m hoping the president does the right thing and signs it. The High Court of Justice in Trinidad and Tobago ruled the country’s laws criminalizing same-sex intimacy between consenting adults are unconstitutional.
🤰🏽WOMEN’S RIGHT TO CHOOSE held firm thanks to two two federal courts. A federal appeals court judge ruled unconstitutional an Indiana law prohibiting abortions due to a fetus’s race, sex or diagnosis of disability and requiring identities of abortion providers be made public, funerals be held for fetal remains, and women undergo an ultrasound 18 hours prior to an abortion. A federal appeals court upheld a permanent injunction of an Ohio law that revokes funding from abortion providers for unrelated federally funded healthcare programs. In the first of multiple lawsuits challenging Health and Human Services cuts/terminations to Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program grants to recipients that didn’t provide only abstinence-only programs, a federal judge ruled that the administration’s actions were unlawful.
🕫🗳️VOTING MOBILIZATION AND VOTING RIGHTS A federal judge ordered Pennsylvania State Sen. Joseph Scarnati, (R) to personally pay the League of Women Voters’ $29,000 in attorney fees after finding the senator’s attempt to have a gerrymandering challenge litigated in federal court to be frivolous and without merit. A federal judge found Kansas Sec. of State Kris Kobach in contempt of court for failing to comply with multiple court orders regarding voter registration, information, and training, in a case challenging a state law on proof of citizenship. New York Governor announced that he will sidestep the legislatures failure to act on felon voting rights by considering granting conditional pardons to all current and future felons on parole so they are eligible to vote. Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court approved the use of ranked-choice voting starting with the state’s primary elections in June. The League of Women Voters sued Missouri for failing to comply with the National Voter Registration Act by failing to allow residents the opportunity to register and update their information during various license/identification card transactions. A groups of voters in sued New York’s governor for failing to call a special election for the seat left vacant when Congresswoman Louise Slaughter died. PA activists took to the state house to demand fair districts.
💓STOPPING THE SPREAD OF HATE Starbucks announced it will close its 8,000 company-owned stores in the U.S. for one afternoon to provide training to 175,000 employees on racial bias, following the arrest of two black men waiting for a friend at a Starbucks after the store manager called the police. Counter-protestors far outnumbered the handful of white supremacists once again, this time at a rally that took place in Georgia. Facebook banned white nationalist Richard Spencer’s page, along with two other pages he controlled. If you want an update on the current state of the white supremacist groups the Washington Post has a good story…. AND THE RACIST RESIGNED At a standing room only city council meeting filled with angry residents in Goshen (IN) council member Ed Ahlersmeyer (R) resigned after outrage from his reading a racist, white supremacy linked essay at a public meeting.
👩🎓BREAKING BARRIERS For the first time we have the following; the Madison City Council (WI) electing two African-American members to serve as president and vice president, the Los Angeles Fire Department Firefighter of the Year award went to a woman, Utah Valley University naming a woman president, a woman will compete in the Red Bull Air Race, the most advanced aerial challenge the world, NBC hiring a woman to be an in-booth analyst at the NHL Stanley Cup playoff games, the Pensacola City Council appointing a female fire chief, an African-American woman elected Student Assembly president at Dartmouth, Cook County Democrats selecting a woman and an African American to lead the largest Democratic party in the Midwest, a woman and the first person of color will be the second unit director for a Star Wars movie, and Black Panther will be the first movie officially screened in Saudi Arabia in 35 years, Neil Gorsuch hired the first citizen of a Native American tribe to clerk for a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Tammy Jo Shults showed the world that women can be bad-ass pilots.
🙂FOR YOUR INFORMATION I will only briefly some up the Russia collusion /Stormy/Cohen/ethics/raid/criminal investigations stories because you have seen them all over the front page of the news and it is a tangent to the good work we are doing. Stormy counter sued for defamation, Cohen dropped his suit against Buzzfeed and was forced to name Hannity as his client, Mueller is still mulling, Comey is on a book tour saying mean things about the liar-in-chief after his book and memos were released, the raging twittler-in-chief has now finally found a lawyer to work for him, his racist pet pit-bull Rudy Giuliani, Kushner was subpoenaed about lying in construction permit applications by a federal jury, a top Republican National Committee fundraiser resigned from his position after it was reported that Cohen helped arrange a $1.6 million payment to a Playboy model who he got pregnant. Did I leave anything out? Oh that’s right, taking a page out of Watergate, the Democratic National Committee filed a multi million-dollar lawsuit against the Russian government, the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks alleging a far-reaching conspiracy to disrupt the 2016 campaign and tilt the election to Donald Trump.
🧟ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST Jon Lerner, a national security aide to Mike Pence stepped down only two days after being named to the job (that’s an astonishing one Scaramucci in White House time. The Hill reported that four senior aides have stepped down or resigned since Bolton took office on as national security adviser. Two Congressman resigned after previously announcing they would not run for re-election.