Raze and replace

Pittsburgh

It’s not like I’m even remotely surprised but this is the first I’ve heard of the U.S. Steel Edgar Thomson plant in Braddock and North Braddock being a problem.[1] The one I’ve been hearing about pretty much since I got here is the Clairton Coke Works, also a U.S. Steel plant.[2] I’ve said this before, but they’re both absolutely disgraceful plants that should be shut down, razed, and replaced with something that would actually benefit local residents.

Kristina Marusic, “Environmental injustice in Pittsburgh: Poor, minority neighborhoods see higher rates of deaths from air pollution,” Environmental Health News, June 12, 2020, https://www.ehn.org/environmental-injustice-pittsburgh-air-pollution-2646169635.html


Pandemic

I see the story of the Pennsylvania General Assembly passing a resolution to end the COVID-19 emergency declaration that would not even accomplish the ends its advocates claim[3] and I think of that restaurant in North Strabane, the one run by a Jewish family—none of whom are wearing masks—in which the father threatened to reopen for dine-in service while Washington County was still in yellow phase, a restaurant which I feel I can no longer ethically patronize.

Clearly this action was meant to appeal to that father and people like him. But to me, the one thing the legislature seems not to be debating is health or lives lost. As I’ve repeatedly noted, the capitalist god is claiming its human sacrifices.[4]

Nick Matoney, “‘We can’t do this for another 90 days’: Pa. General Assembly votes to end COVID-19 emergency declaration,” WTAE, June 10, 2020, https://www.wtae.com/article/we-cant-do-this-for-another-90-days-pa-general-assembly-votes-to-end-covid-19-emergency-declaration/32821325


  1. [1]Kristina Marusic, “Environmental injustice in Pittsburgh: Poor, minority neighborhoods see higher rates of deaths from air pollution,” Environmental Health News, June 12, 2020, https://www.ehn.org/environmental-injustice-pittsburgh-air-pollution-2646169635.html
  2. [2]Jessi Quinn Alperin, “Clairton, PA, wants to be clear: Residents demand accountability from U.S. Steel,” Environmental Health News, May 13, 2019,
    https://www.ehn.org/clairton-coke-works-air-pollution-2636784943.html; Ollie Gratzinger, “Allegheny County issues another fine to US Steel for air pollution violation,” Pittsburgh City Paper, January 17, 2020, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/allegheny-county-issues-another-fine-to-us-steel-for-air-pollution-violation/Content?oid=16576925; KDKA, “Allegheny Co. Health Department Joins Federal Suit Against U.S. Steel,” June 18, 2019, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2019/06/18/allegheny-county-health-department-suit-against-us-steel/; Hannah Lynn, “Report: Pittsburgh ranked 8th worst for air pollution among US cities,” Pittsburgh City Paper, April 22, 2020, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/report-pittsburgh-ranked-8th-worst-for-air-pollution-among-us-cities/Content?oid=17179037; Jamie Martines, “U.S. Steel facing a 2nd federal lawsuit tied to December fire at Clairton Plant,” TribLive, August 26, 2019, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/u-s-steel-facing-a-2nd-federal-lawsuit-tied-to-december-fire-at-clairton-plant/; Jamie Martines, “Settlement over bad air in Clairton calls for U.S. Steel to cough up $2 million,” TribLive, December 11, 2019, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/settlement-over-bad-air-in-clairton-calls-for-u-s-steel-to-cough-up-2-million/; Jamie Martines, “U.S. Steel to hold info sessions about Clairton, Braddock plant upgrades,” TribLive, January 27, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/u-s-steel-to-hold-info-sessions-about-clairton-braddock-plant-upgrades/; Jamie Martines, “U.S. Steel, Allegheny County finalize Clairton Coke Works emissions settlement,” TribLive, February 10, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/u-s-steel-and-allegheny-county-finalize-clairton-coke-works-emissions-settlement/; Andy Sheehan, “Air Quality In Mon Valley Once Again Hits Unhealthy Levels,” KDKA, February 24, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/02/24/mon-valley-air-quality-unhealthy-levels/; Teghan Simonton, “Health department: Air pollution in Mon Valley exceeded federal levels over Christmas,” TribLive, December 27, 2019, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/health-department-air-pollution-in-mon-valley-exceeded-federal-levels-over-christmas/; WTAE, “U.S. Steel, health department have deal to settle 2018 air pollution violations at Clairton Coke Works,” June 28, 2019, https://www.wtae.com/article/us-steel-reaches-agreement-with-health-department-to-resolve-enforcement-orders-at-clairton-coke-works/28221648; WTAE, “Allegheny Co. Health Department announces fines against U.S. Steel for violations at Clairton Coke Works,” May 28, 2020, https://www.wtae.com/article/allegheny-co-health-department-announces-fines-against-us-steel-for-violations-at-clairton-coke-works/32702736
  3. [3]Nick Matoney, “‘We can’t do this for another 90 days’: Pa. General Assembly votes to end COVID-19 emergency declaration,” WTAE, June 10, 2020, https://www.wtae.com/article/we-cant-do-this-for-another-90-days-pa-general-assembly-votes-to-end-covid-19-emergency-declaration/32821325
  4. [4]David Benfell, “The capitalist death cult,” Not Housebroken, March 27, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/03/27/the-capitalist-death-cult/; David Benfell, “An impatient capitalist god demands human sacrifice. Now,” Not Housebroken, April 17, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/15/an-impatient-capitalist-god-demands-human-sacrifice-now/

So many reasons for unrest

Pandemic

As a Guardian article notes, Donald Trump promised to revitalize the coal industry. Whatever efforts he made to that end, they were insufficient anyway. But the pandemic adds to workers’ woes in this region. Some will surely blame the lockdown, even as they lose the health insurance that would help to address COVID-19 related medical costs, that had already helped manage the medical costs they already bear.[1] Neither neoliberals nor environmentalists are addressing this and their failure to do so only reinforces my doubts that either neoliberals (the mainstream of the Democratic Party) or environmentalists really want be rid of Donald Trump.

Ian Lovett, Erin Ailworth, and Joe Barrett, “Minnesota Bolsters Law Enforcement as Protests Roil U.S. After George Floyd’s Death,” Wall Street Journal, May 30, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/george-floyd-protests-minneapolis-11590844180

David G. Savage, “Supreme Court rejects challenge to California limits on church crowds during pandemic,” Los Angeles Times, May 29, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-05-29/supreme-court-california-church-crowds-pandemic

Michael Sainato, “The collapse of coal: pandemic accelerates Appalachia job losses,” Guardian, May 29, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/29/coal-miners-coronavirus-job-losses


Pacific Gas and Electric

If the California Public Utilities Commission wants to satisfy folks that regulatory capture is not involved in its decision to approve PG&E’s bankruptcy plan, it needs to explain exactly how it is that the judge’s ideas would hamper its flexibility in regulation.[2] That isn’t even the least bit clear.

KPIX, “Federal Judge Calls PG&E ‘Recalcitrant Criminal,’ Delays New Probation Ruling,” May 28, 2020, https://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2020/05/28/regulators-approve-pge-bankruptcy-plan-despite-safety-fears/


George Floyd

A Wall Street Journal news alert (figure 1) caught my eye:
FireShot Capture 166 - WSJ News Alert_ U.S. Army Units Prepare for Possible Deployment to Mi_ - mail.google.com
Fig. 1. Screenshot of a misleading Wall Street Journal news alert.

In fact, the National Guard is being mobilized.[3] And yes, the difference matters.

My last blog post remains relevant.

Ian Lovett, Erin Ailworth, and Joe Barrett, “Minnesota Bolsters Law Enforcement as Protests Roil U.S. After George Floyd’s Death,” Wall Street Journal, May 30, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/george-floyd-protests-minneapolis-11590844180

Jon Queally, “Cornel West Says ‘Neo-Fascist Gangster’ Trump and Neoliberal Democrats Expose America as ‘Failed Social Experiment,’” Common Dreams, May 30, 2020, https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/05/30/cornel-west-says-neo-fascist-gangster-trump-and-neoliberal-democrats-expose-america


  1. [1]Michael Sainato, “The collapse of coal: pandemic accelerates Appalachia job losses,” Guardian, May 29, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/29/coal-miners-coronavirus-job-losses
  2. [2]KPIX, “Federal Judge Calls PG&E ‘Recalcitrant Criminal,’ Delays New Probation Ruling,” May 28, 2020, https://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2020/05/28/regulators-approve-pge-bankruptcy-plan-despite-safety-fears/
  3. [3]Ian Lovett, Erin Ailworth, and Joe Barrett, “Minnesota Bolsters Law Enforcement as Protests Roil U.S. After George Floyd’s Death,” Wall Street Journal, May 30, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/george-floyd-protests-minneapolis-11590844180

We have told the poor to do what they cannot do

Pandemic

There is a a new blog post entitled, “Don’t just say #COVIDIOTS.”

The Washington Post has a story detailing the various reasons for not wearing face masks to try to limit the spread of COVID-19. Some of it really is political, reflecting a level of support for Donald Trump that risks one’s own life and that probably is another reason for defying lockdown orders. But there are other reasons as well.[1]

Marc Fisher, Clarence Williams, and Lori Rozsa, “Will Americans wear masks to prevent coronavirus spread? Politics, history, race and crime factor into tough decision,” Washington Post, April 18, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/coronavirus-masks-america/2020/04/18/bdb16bf2-7a85-11ea-a130-df573469f094_story.html


Recession

unnamed
Fig. 1. Cartoon by Matt Pritchett of the Telegraph, April 19, 2020, fair use.

Oh, and as people lose their health insurance because they’re losing their jobs,[2] remember that Joe Biden thinks Medicare for All would be an insult to his dead son.[3]

Amy Goldstein, “First, the coronavirus pandemic took their jobs. Then, it wiped out their health insurance,” Washington Post, April 18, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/first-the-coronavirus-pandemic-took-their-jobs-then-it-wiped-out-their-health-insurance/2020/04/18/1c2cb5bc-7d7c-11ea-8013-1b6da0e4a2b7_story.html


  1. [1]Marc Fisher, Clarence Williams, and Lori Rozsa, “Will Americans wear masks to prevent coronavirus spread? Politics, history, race and crime factor into tough decision,” Washington Post, April 18, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/coronavirus-masks-america/2020/04/18/bdb16bf2-7a85-11ea-a130-df573469f094_story.html
  2. [2]Amy Goldstein, “First, the coronavirus pandemic took their jobs. Then, it wiped out their health insurance,” Washington Post, April 18, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/first-the-coronavirus-pandemic-took-their-jobs-then-it-wiped-out-their-health-insurance/2020/04/18/1c2cb5bc-7d7c-11ea-8013-1b6da0e4a2b7_story.html
  3. [3]Tim Marchman, “Joe Biden: It Would Be an Insult to My Dead Son for Everyone to Have Healthcare,” Vice, August 27, 2019, https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/vb5d7y/joe-biden-medicare-for-all-would-be-an-insult-to-my-dead-son

Reports of OPEC’s demise have been heard before

Oil

I’m pretty sure I’ve heard predictions of the demise of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) before. Spencer Jakab’s forecast[1] is interesting, but like any forecast, faces the test of time.

Of course, one has to think of climate when one thinks of anything that might affect oil extraction. Jakab sees the industry being impacted by reduced demand—prompted by the coronavirus scare, a presumably temporary factor—forcing high cost producers into bankruptcy and depriving some OPEC countries of badly needed revenue.[2] I think we have to see how that plays out, in combination with other technological developments, such as improvements in battery technology,[3] long before we can see any move to “leav[ing] it in the ground.” Jakab concludes, “Shale isn’t gone for good. OPEC’s power may be.”[4]

Spencer Jakab, “OPEC, R.I.P.,” Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/opec-r-i-p-11583722267


  1. [1]Spencer Jakab, “OPEC, R.I.P.,” Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/opec-r-i-p-11583722267
  2. [2]Spencer Jakab, “OPEC, R.I.P.,” Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/opec-r-i-p-11583722267
  3. [3]Peter Valdes-Dapena, “GM’s new electric car battery tops Tesla’s,” CNN, March 5, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/04/business/gm-electric-car-battery-400-miles-of-range/index.html
  4. [4]Spencer Jakab, “OPEC, R.I.P.,” Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/opec-r-i-p-11583722267

It’s bad enough that Donald Trump is ripping off a television series without putting that series’ name in this title.

Donald Trump

Bill Kristol is, of course, a neoconservative, and one of the few who still subscribes to the failed #NeverTrump movement in the Republican Party that sought, much too late, to avert Donald Trump’s nomination for the presidency in 2016.

But, damn, does he have a way with words or does he have a way with words?

As to the New York magazine piece, some of us will remember that Captain James T. Kirk, in “The Omega Glory,” finishes a virtually unrecognizable utterance by one side in a society that had somehow managed to continue the Cold War over a series of centuries by reciting the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance, which in retrospect, seems like a strange thing for a Starfleet captain in the United Federation of Planets, three centuries later, to have memorized. There’s lots that’s weird about that,[1] but it plays into the patriotism I associate with authoritarian populism[2] and, since arriving in Pittsburgh, increasingly conflate with white supremacism (the flag-waving and other displays of patriotism, the guns, especially around Black areas, the combat fetishization, and the banners that overwhelmingly memorialize white but rarely Black soldiers, all seem so completely overdone as to compel the question of what folks around here are compensating for).

The Space Force logo resembles that of Starfleet, the military force of the United Federation of Planets. Yes, we are talking about Star Trek — but is Trump? The president does love television. Maybe he likes Star Trek, though the series doesn’t seem like his natural fare. Maybe someone was making a joke, and no one caught the joke, and here we are, contemplating the stupidest possible outcome of events. Maybe a consultant thought it would convince kids to sign up for the Space Force. You know, it’ll be just like Starfleet, except for the part where you’re in a military with a major white-nationalism problem. Or maybe it’s a viral marketing campaign for Star Trek: Picard, which premiered yesterday on CBS, but this seems very unlikely indeed. Trump bears no resemblance to the former captain of the Enterprise — not physically, not spiritually, not intellectually — so this is probably just what it seems, a dumb rip-off.[3]

Starfleet’s mission was not war, but peaceful exploration, something too many members of Starfleet International, the earth-based Star Trek fan club have forgotten, and something Trump is likely incapable of comprehending, that is, unless it’s for oil.

Sarah Jones, “Why Did Trump Just Rip Off Star Trek?” New York, January 24, 2020, http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/01/the-new-space-force-logo-looks-like-starfleet-from-star-trek.html


White supremacism

Jason Wilson, “Prepping for a race war: documents reveal inner workings of neo-Nazi group,” Guardian, January 25, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/25/inside-the-base-neo-nazi-terror-group


  1. [1]Memory Alpha, s.v. “Pledge of Allegiance,” accessed January 25, 2020, https://memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Pledge_of_Allegiance
  2. [2]David Benfell, “The seven tendencies of conservatism,” Irregular Bullshit, n.d., https://disunitedstates.com/the-seven-tendencies-of-conservatism/
  3. [3]Sarah Jones, “Why Did Trump Just Rip Off Star Trek?” New York, January 24, 2020, http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/01/the-new-space-force-logo-looks-like-starfleet-from-star-trek.html

Winter? What winter? What’s a ‘winter?’

Climate crisis

When I woke up and looked at the weather report this morning, it was 59° F. As I was driving home—I quit around sunset—the thermometer reading in my dashboard told me it was 72-73° F. As I was fixing dinner, I received repeated warnings of impending thunderstorms—it might be quite a night. There is, of course, no snow on the ground.

I’ve been remembering, from my time here 50 years ago, walking door-to-door with a snow shovel, realizing that as I walked up people’s walks through freshly-fallen snow, I was compacting it beneath my footsteps such that it would adhere to the concrete below, making my own job harder. I had no idea what to do about that.

It’s certainly not a problem this year. The maintenance folks at my apartment complex usually (they missed one day) douse the walks and parking lots heavily with salt whenever snow or ice threatens.

Don’t get me wrong. There have been cold days and even snowy days. But the snow melts within a few days and I’m still not wearing winter clothing—I wear a Gore Tex windbreaker I bought for San Francisco Bay Area rain, not my heavy winter coat, and I’m still wearing sandals—because the effort required to don winter clothing seems wildly disproportionate to any fleeting discomfort I might feel in my brief exposures to the cold.
RAYGRAPHIC
Fig. 1. Pittsburgh snowfall by decade. Graphic by Ray Petelin, January 9, 2020.[1] Fair use.

But if a local meteorologist is to be believed, it actually turns out that this has not been an exceptionally low-snow decade.[2] I honestly don’t know how to reconcile his chart (figure 1) with, for examples, my mother’s ongoing terror of a Pittsburgh winter (she grew up here in the 1940s and 1950s) or what I hear from just about everyone. Something’s clearly off kilter there because contrary to what he says, what I hear even from younger folks is that there is less snow than there used to be. Those who were here for it recall an exceptional blizzard in the late 1990s, a much lower-snow decade than the 2010s, let alone the 1960s (I was here for a couple years in the 1960s).

I have to think that total snowfall in each decade is somehow—this would actually be a good human science question—the wrong measure for people’s experience of snow and cold.

Robinson Meyer, “Australia Will Lose to Climate Change,” Atlantic, January 4, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2020/01/australia-caught-climate-spiral/604423/

Ray Petelin, “Pittsburgh Weather: Did You Really See More Snow When You Were A Kid?” KDKA, January 9, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/01/09/did-you-really-see-more-snow-when-you-were-a-kid/


Ireland

Kate Devlin and Oliver Wright, “DUP and Sinn Fein agree deal to revive Stormont assembly,” Times, January 11, 2020, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/northern-ireland-s-power-sharing-government-is-expected-to-be-restored-within-days-after-sinn-fein-and-the-democratic-unionist-party-signed-up-to-a-draft-deal-brokered-by-the-british-and-irish-governments-three-years-after-sinn-fein-walked-out-gsk0sph39


Israel

Times of Israel, “In blow to Netanyahu, Knesset legal adviser said set to okay immunity debate,” January 10, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/in-blow-to-netanyahu-knesset-legal-adviser-said-set-to-okay-immunity-debate/


  1. [1]Ray Petelin, “Pittsburgh Weather: Did You Really See More Snow When You Were A Kid?” KDKA, January 9, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/01/09/did-you-really-see-more-snow-when-you-were-a-kid/
  2. [2]Ray Petelin, “Pittsburgh Weather: Did You Really See More Snow When You Were A Kid?” KDKA, January 9, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/01/09/did-you-really-see-more-snow-when-you-were-a-kid/

Revelation! I am not white. This explains everything!

aVK6jq25mnbRQsqHWxaJsswIS4Z69Inc
Fig. 1. Comic by Matt Pritchett of the Telegraph, via his newsletter, otherwise unpublished, December 1, 2019.


Appalachia

Sam Adler-Bell, “Appalachia vs. the Carceral State,” New Republic, November 25, 2019, https://newrepublic.com/article/155660/appalachia-coal-mining-mountaintop-removal-prison-fight


Racism

Never mind that I am ethnically British, German, and a little French, or that I have pale skin. Or that my heritage is, regrettably, Christian and, even more regrettably, Mormon. Or that I drive down the roads of the Pittsburgh area with very little fear of police even when I’m on my way to district courts where it seems I only pick up Black men in trouble with their drivers’ licenses. It seems none of that matters.

By the logic that I am denied access to certain resources, like a real fucking job,[1] it seems I’m at least as non-white as Ashkenazi Jews.[2] I’m pretty sure my mother will find this news astonishing.

Or maybe Ashkenazi Jews can stop reifying white supremacist bullshit. For fuck’s sake.

Masha Kisel, “How does it feel to be white?” Times of Israel, November 29, 2019, https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/how-does-it-feel-to-be-white/


  1. [1]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/
  2. [2]Masha Kisel, “How does it feel to be white?” Times of Israel, November 29, 2019, https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/how-does-it-feel-to-be-white/

Not the good kind of acid

There is a correction in the previous issue.


Ohio River

April Johnston, “‘That’s vinegar:’ The Ohio River’s history of contamination and progress made,” Environmental Health News, November 14, 2019, https://www.ehn.org/ohio-river-pollution-cleanup-2641307895.html


Hong Kong

The appearance of the People’s Liberation Army, that is, Mainland China’s army, on the streets of Hong Kong was relatively benign: They cleared roadblocks set up by protesters. But everyone understands the implicit threat of possible intervention.[1]

John Lyons, Steven Russolillo, and Eun-Young Jeong, “Mainland Chinese Soldiers Take to Hong Kong Streets for First Time During Protests,” Wall Street Journal, November 16, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/mainland-chinese-soldiers-take-to-hong-kong-streets-for-first-time-since-protests-began-11573907250


  1. [1]John Lyons, Steven Russolillo, and Eun-Young Jeong, “Mainland Chinese Soldiers Take to Hong Kong Streets for First Time During Protests,” Wall Street Journal, November 16, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/mainland-chinese-soldiers-take-to-hong-kong-streets-for-first-time-since-protests-began-11573907250

Scottish parliament to vote on Brexit: Daily Bullshit, February 7-10, 2017 (updated 3x)

Updated for

  1. the appeals court hearing on Donald Trump’s Muslim ban.[1]
  2. for more on the hearing,[2] for a rather alarming story on trust in the media,[3] for the outcome of the British parliament’s vote on Brexit,[4] for the outcome (I missed this earlier) of the Scottish Parliament’s vote on the same issue,[5] and for an article on why it’s right to call it a Muslim ban.[6] On the latter point, I’d just point to that C-5A-sized loophole about how more—an unspecified number—countries might be added later. But perhaps we could start with Indonesia. Which we probably can’t tell from Pakistan anyway.
  3. for the outcome of the hearing[7] and for the Sioux running out of legal options to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.[8]

Scottish independence

I’m unclear on the point. We already know that Scotland’s electorate opposed Brexit[9] and we have little reason to suspect that’s changed. But we also know that most Scots oppose another referendum on independence at this time,[10] which suggests rather strongly to me that one would not pass. And finally, we know that, as an entity, Scotland is effectively invisible to the European Union, that it is entirely subject to whatever Article 50 deal Britain negotiates with the Union.[11] So the only way that Scotland can negotiate access to the EU is to be independent, which its voters apparently do not want. I’m really not seeing the way forward here.

Deutschewelle, “Scotland to hold nonbinding vote on rejecting Brexit,” February 6, 2017, http://www.dw.com/en/scotland-to-hold-nonbinding-vote-on-rejecting-brexit/a-37425380

British Broadcasting Corporation, “Holyrood votes against triggering Brexit,” February 7, 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-38880999


Dakota Access Pipeline

Steve Almasy, “Dakota Access Pipeline: Army issuing final permit,” CNN, February 7, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/07/politics/dakota-access-pipeline-easement-granted/index.html

Ernest Scheyder and Terray Sylvester, “North Dakota tribe says running out of options to stop pipeline,” Reuters, February 8, 2017, http://www.reuters.com/article/usth-dakota-pipeline-idUSKBN15N2HP


Muslim Ban

The short version is that Trump “lost dramatically and completely.”[12]

I previously discussed my surprise over the clumsy performance of the Justice Department in defending the Trump executive order on immigration. Those concerns were magnified after the oral argument before the Ninth Circuit that was made available on YouTube. The performance by August Flentje, special counsel to the assistant U.S. attorney general, was surprisingly lackluster and seemingly ill-prepared. The shaky start that I described earlier seems now to be seismic as the Justice Department stumbles toward a ruling that can come as early as today. As Flentje observed during his uninspired argument “I’m not sure I’m convincing the court.”[13]

Jonathan Turley relies on a general rule that courts generally defer to the executive branch on national security matters.[14] So far, that seems not to be holding this time,[15] probably because, whoops:

The tendency by judges not to question the president on national security issues is rooted in the belief that the president, aided by national security advisors and the wealth of information at their disposal, is in the best position to make such decisions, said Matt Waxman, a national security law expert at Columbia University.

“But I’d argue that is a customary practice that is heavily reliant on the credibility of the executive branch,” said Waxman, who served on the National Security Council and in the State Department under President George W. Bush.[16]

One thing I would not say about the Trump administration is that it is credible.

Trump, Waxman said, “squandered a lot of that credibility” with his “wild and shifting claims about national security” and his unorthodox decision not to seek input from national security experts before rolling out the travel ban.

“I think it is quite possible and even likely the courts will not show the president the same level of deference they have shown previous presidents on national security,” he said.

Shirin Sinnar, a national security expert at Stanford Law School, echoed Waxman.

“It is a unique situation here,” she said. “We know national security agencies were sidelined, so it is hard to see how this idea of the executive branch being entitled to deference would apply.”[17]

And there is a more substantial defense of the order offered by Jonathan Hafetz.[18] Then there’s Amy Davidson’s impression, in which the government’s performance at the hearing appears truly awful.[19] Turley believes the order is defensible and he “believe[s] that the weight of binding authority on these trial courts favors President Trump,”[20] and, to say the least, this is a high-profile case, which is to say that poorly-performing lawyers will surely be embarrassed.

That Justice Department lawyers are nonetheless performing so poorly in a high-profile case catches my attention. It’s true they had been told not to defend the order by an acting Attorney General[21] who was subsequently fired[22] and therefore may have had less time to prepare a defense of the order. But in my dealings with lawyers over the years, I have become suspicious that lawyers may not always actually act in their clients’ best interests, that sometimes when they believe when to do so would be to act in the interest of justice, they may intentionally lose a case. Trump can fire an acting attorney general; I’m not so sure he’s persuaded the attorneys at the Justice Department.

By the way, I suppose I should emphasize that all this is over a temporary restraining order. In theory, Trump might still prevail at trial. But he’s surely going to have to up his game to do that.

Devlin Barrett, Brent Kendall, and Aruna Viswanatha, “Court Grills Lawyers on Donald Trump’s Immigration Order,” Wall Street Journal, February 7, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/donald-trumps-immigration-action-in-courts-hands-1486491207

Joel Rubin, “Courts rarely second-guess the president on national security. But that doesn’t mean they can’t, experts said,” Los Angeles Times, February 7, 2017, http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-live-updates-9th-circuit-arguments-courts-have-been-reluctant-to-1486509412-htmlstory.html

Amy Davidson, “The Ninth Circuit and President Trump’s Lies,” New Yorker, February 8, 2017, http://www.newyorker.com/news/amy-davidson/the-ninth-circuit-and-president-trumps-lies

Jonathan Turley, “Ninth Circuit Deliberates Appeal Over Trump Executive Order,” February 8, 2017, https://jonathanturley.org/2017/02/08/ninth-circuit-deliberates-appeal-over-trump-executive-order/

Austin Wright, “Top Democrat: U.S. allies see Trump order as Muslim ban,” Politico, February 8, 2017, http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/trump-muslim-ban-us-allies-ben-cardin-234799

Josh Gerstein, “3 key Trump mistakes that led to the travel ban court defeat,” Politico, February 9, 2017, http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/3-key-trump-mistakes-that-led-to-travel-ban-court-defeat-234884

Richard Primus, “Will the Supreme Court Back Trump?” Politico, February 10, 2017, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/02/will-the-scotus-back-trump-214763

Ariane de Vogue and Laura Jarrett, “Trump furious after court upholds block on travel ban,” CNN, February 10, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/09/politics/travel-ban-9th-circuit-ruling-immigration


Trust in Media

It seems to me that journalists need to get on top of this. Now.

Joe Concha, “Trump administration seen as more truthful than news media: poll,” Hill, February 8, 2017, http://thehill.com/homenews/media/318514-trump-admin-seen-as-more-truthful-than-news-media-poll


Brexit

Angela Dewan and Simon Cullen, “House of Commons OKs Brexit bill,” CNN, February 8, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/08/europe/brexit-bill-parliament-vote-article-50/index.html


  1. [1]Devlin Barrett, Brent Kendall, and Aruna Viswanatha, “Court Grills Lawyers on Donald Trump’s Immigration Order,” Wall Street Journal, February 7, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/donald-trumps-immigration-action-in-courts-hands-1486491207
  2. [2]Amy Davidson, “The Ninth Circuit and President Trump’s Lies,” New Yorker, February 8, 2017, http://www.newyorker.com/news/amy-davidson/the-ninth-circuit-and-president-trumps-lies; Jonathan Turley, “Ninth Circuit Deliberates Appeal Over Trump Executive Order,” February 8, 2017, https://jonathanturley.org/2017/02/08/ninth-circuit-deliberates-appeal-over-trump-executive-order/
  3. [3]Joe Concha, “Trump administration seen as more truthful than news media: poll,” Hill, February 8, 2017, http://thehill.com/homenews/media/318514-trump-admin-seen-as-more-truthful-than-news-media-poll
  4. [4]Angela Dewan and Simon Cullen, “House of Commons OKs Brexit bill,” CNN, February 8, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/08/europe/brexit-bill-parliament-vote-article-50/index.html
  5. [5]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Holyrood votes against triggering Brexit,” February 7, 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-38880999
  6. [6]Austin Wright, “Top Democrat: U.S. allies see Trump order as Muslim ban,” Politico, February 8, 2017, http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/trump-muslim-ban-us-allies-ben-cardin-234799
  7. [7]Josh Gerstein, “3 key Trump mistakes that led to the travel ban court defeat,” Politico, February 9, 2017, http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/3-key-trump-mistakes-that-led-to-travel-ban-court-defeat-234884; Richard Primus, “Will the Supreme Court Back Trump?” Politico, February 10, 2017, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/02/will-the-scotus-back-trump-214763; Ariane de Vogue and Laura Jarrett, “Trump furious after court upholds block on travel ban,” CNN, February 10, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/09/politics/travel-ban-9th-circuit-ruling-immigration
  8. [8]Ernest Scheyder and Terray Sylvester, “North Dakota tribe says running out of options to stop pipeline,” Reuters, February 8, 2017, http://www.reuters.com/article/usth-dakota-pipeline-idUSKBN15N2HP
  9. [9]Peter Geoghegan, “Scots against Brexit,” Deutschewelle, June 18, 2016, http://www.dw.com/en/scotland-plays-it-cool-over-brexit-debate/a-19326241; Peter Geoghegan, “Scotland eyes British exit,” Politico, October 12, 2016, http://www.politico.eu/article/all-eyes-on-scotland-scottish-national-party-conference-nicola-sturgeon/; Peter Geoghegan, “Scottish nationalists huddle to talk Brexit, independence,” Deutschewelle, October 12, 2016, http://www.dw.com/en/scottish-nationalists-huddle-to-talk-brexit-independence/a-36015386; Rowena Lindsay, “Scotland revives independence bid in wake of Brexit vote,” Christian Science Monitor, September 2, 2016, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2016/0902/Scotland-revives-independence-bid-in-wake-of-Brexit-vote; MercoPress, “Scotland ‘undoubtedly’ closer to an independence referendum,” January 18, 2017, http://en.mercopress.com/2017/01/18/scotland-undoubtedly-closer-to-an-independence-referendum; Nicholas Winning, “Scotland to Consider New Independence Referendum Bill,” Wall Street Journal, October 13, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/scotland-to-consider-new-independence-referendum-bill-1476363221
  10. [10]Elisabeth O’Leary, “Scottish independence vote may be decided ‘within weeks’: Sturgeon ally,” Reuters, February 5, 2017, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-scotland-idUSKBN15K0UA
  11. [11]Gabriela Baczynska, “European Commission says after Brexit vote: Scotland part of UK,” Reuters, June 25, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-eu-scotland-commission-idUSKCN0ZB0LQ; Telegraph, “Spain rejects Nicola Sturgeon Brexit plan for Scotland in seemingly fatal blow,” December 22, 2016, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/12/22/spain-rejects-nicola-sturgeon-brexit-plan-scotland-seemingly/
  12. [12]Jeffery Toobin, quoted in Ariane de Vogue and Laura Jarrett, “Trump furious after court upholds block on travel ban,” CNN, February 10, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/09/politics/travel-ban-9th-circuit-ruling-immigration
  13. [13]Jonathan Turley, “Ninth Circuit Deliberates Appeal Over Trump Executive Order,” February 8, 2017, https://jonathanturley.org/2017/02/08/ninth-circuit-deliberates-appeal-over-trump-executive-order/
  14. [14]Jonathan Turley, “Judges In Seattle and Boston Reach Opposing Opinions On Trump Executive Order,” February 4, 2017, https://jonathanturley.org/2017/02/04/108507/; Jonathan Turley, “Ninth Circuit Rejects Motion For Immediate Reinstatement Of Executive Order But Schedules Expedited Argument For Monday,” February 5, 2017, https://jonathanturley.org/2017/02/05/ninth-circuit-rejects-motion-for-immediate-reinstatement-of-executive-order-but-schedules-expedited-argument-for-monday/; Jonathan Turley, “Ninth Circuit Briefing Completed Today For Ruling On Trump Appeal,” February 6, 2017, https://jonathanturley.org/2017/02/06/ninth-circuit-briefing-completed-today-for-ruling-on-trump-appeal/
  15. [15]Ariane de Vogue and Laura Jarrett, “Trump furious after court upholds block on travel ban,” CNN, February 10, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/09/politics/travel-ban-9th-circuit-ruling-immigration
  16. [16]Joel Rubin, “Courts rarely second-guess the president on national security. But that doesn’t mean they can’t, experts said,” Los Angeles Times, February 7, 2017, http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-live-updates-9th-circuit-arguments-courts-have-been-reluctant-to-1486509412-htmlstory.html
  17. [17]Joel Rubin, “Courts rarely second-guess the president on national security. But that doesn’t mean they can’t, experts said,” Los Angeles Times, February 7, 2017, http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-live-updates-9th-circuit-arguments-courts-have-been-reluctant-to-1486509412-htmlstory.html
  18. [18]Jonathan Hafetz, “Why Courts Appear Willing to Reject Trump’s Travel Ban Order,” Lawfare, February 6, 2017, https://www.justsecurity.org/37388/courts-reject-trumps-travel-ban-order/
  19. [19]Amy Davidson, “The Ninth Circuit and President Trump’s Lies,” New Yorker, February 8, 2017, http://www.newyorker.com/news/amy-davidson/the-ninth-circuit-and-president-trumps-lies
  20. [20]Jonathan Turley, “Judges In Seattle and Boston Reach Opposing Opinions On Trump Executive Order,” February 4, 2017, https://jonathanturley.org/2017/02/04/108507/
  21. [21]Mark Berman and Matt Zapotosky, “Acting attorney general declares Justice Department won’t defend Trump’s immigration order,” Washington Post, January 30, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/01/30/trump-says-all-is-going-well-on-immigration-order-amid-questions-and-confusion/
  22. [22]Jordan Fabian, “Trump fires acting AG for refusing to defend travel ban,” Hill, January 30, 2017, http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/317018-trump-fires-acting-ag-for-refusing-to-defend-travel-ban