Scott Pruitt Faces the Music

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Director Scott Pruitt was finally made to face the music in a congressional hearing last Thursday.

The beleaguered director faces more than his fair share of investigations, including his scandalous living accommodations in Capitol Hill and the installation of an illegal $43K soundproof phone booth in his office.

Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ), head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, led the charge against Pruitt and concluded that the EPA director is “undeserving of the public trust.”

In his relatively short tenure, Pruitt has been accused of irresponsible spending of taxpayer dollars on travel, giving exorbitant raises to his favorite staffers, directing EPA employees to use misleading language regarding human involvement in climate change, as well as the aforementioned phone booth and apartment issues.

It’s almost impressive how many scandals he’s been able to get himself involved in in such a relatively short time.

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Haspel & Pompeo

The first encounters pushback and suspicion while the second secures his rise to power.

Haspel gears up for her confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee while Pompeo was sworn in as Secretary of State Thursday after receiving a confirmation vote in the Senate of 57 to 42.

Though the two have been steadily climbing the ladder of power ever since Rex Tillerson’s less-than-gracious dismissal started a chain reaction of vacancies to fill, it’s beginning to appear that Haspel’s climb will prove to be more difficult than Pompeo’s, and for good reason.

Pompeo has had the distinction of shaking North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s hand during a secret political liaison, and now looks forward to his official visits to Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan.

Haspel, meanwhile, continues to suffer the shame of her skeleton’s being dragged out of the closet as George Washington University’s National Security Archive has published additional documents relating to her involvement in the torture of detainees at a CIA black-site in Thailand and her instructions to destroy videotape evidence of a prisoner’s waterboarding.

The document is appropriately titled, “Gina Haspel’s CIA Torture File.”

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Michael Cohen will Plead the Fifth

Michael Cohen, lawyer to the current president of the U.S., has announced that, if called to testify, he will plead the fifth in the president’s upcoming trial over the allegedly invalid nondisclosure agreement signed by adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, more popularly known as Stormy Daniels.

The FBI recently seized documents pertaining to the $130,000 “hush-money” payment Cohen made to Clifford on the president’s behalf in the days leading up to the 2016 election.

While it has been pointed out that pleading the fifth — one’s right to protect oneself against self-incrimination — does not inherently mean that one is guilty, it does mean that Cohen will not be deposed and made to reveal sensitive information.

And, the president was upset enough by it to bring it up during his unhinged rant on his favorite show, “Fox & Friends.” So upset, in fact, that he finally admitted that Cohen actually did represent him in the Clifford case, which is a big break from his previous claims that he knew nothing about any of it.

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Who Cares About Affordable Housing?

Clearly not Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson, who on Wednesday announced plans that would triple the cost of rent for Americans who receive housing assistance.

The proposed legislation would also implement a work requirement that is in line with the current administration’s efforts to have such requirements for an increasing number of federal assistance programs.

As we’ve discussed before, the housing crisis is at an alarming high with families receiving eviction notices in the U.S. literally every minute.

Now, the same man who spent $31K on a dining set and blamed it on his wife has decided that the people in this country who need housing assistance the most should have to prove that they have a job so that they can qualify to work to pay more for housing assistance.

Even when you reread it and it makes sense, it still doesn’t make sense.

In his defense, HUD did put out a statement saying that the rent increases and work requirements would not apply to households “comprised of elderly persons or persons with disabilities,” at least, not for the first six years.

And yet, it still means that people who are struggling the most to make ends meet and keep a roof over their heads will now receive additional pressure from an agency endowed with the responsibility to “create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all.”

It is, however, in keeping with two popular administration agendas: a) implement work requirements for people who are struggling to find work to qualify for assistance programs, and b) to installdepartmentleaders whose goals are to work against and ultimately destroy the programs they oversee.

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68 Years of Tension on the Korean Peninsula

The conflict that has simmered between North and South Korea for more than half a century has finally come to an amicable end as Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in met in the Demilitarized Zone between the two countries to announce a return to peaceful relations.

The two leaders also announced their commitment to the denuclearization of the peninsula as well as their intention to negotiate an official peace treaty to replace the armistice of 1953.

“I came here to put an end to the history of confrontation.”  – Kim Jong-un

In the current political atmosphere where policy changes and disruptions in international relations have been happening at a dizzying pace, I think this is a political surprise we can all celebrate.

This was the first inter-Korean dialogue that has occurred in over a decade, and it has produced results that are so positive leaders around the world have been left completely stunned.

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The Religious Hierarchy of the U.S.

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) appears as though it may go against previous decisions in lower courts that declared the so-called “Muslim Ban” unconstitutional.

Justice Samuel Alito suggested that there were many other reasons to justify the banning of immigration from the targeted countries that went beyond any connection to Islam.

Here is Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito questioning Neal Katyal, who argued against the ban in court.

“Mr. Katyal, would any reasonable observer reading this proclamation, without taking into account statements, think that this was a Muslim ban? I mean there are—I think there are 50 predominately Muslim countries in the world. Five countries, five predominately Muslim countries are on this list. The population of the predominately Muslim countries on this list make up about eight percent of the world’s Muslim population. If you looked at the 10 countries with the most Muslims, exactly one, Iran, would be on that list of the top 10. So would a reasonable observer think this was a Muslim ban?”

Katyal responded that if a company were to employ a mix of white Americans and black Americans, but only fire black employees, you wouldn’t rule out the possibility of race having been a motivating factor simply because the company still employs other black individuals.

In other words, just because every single predominantly Muslim country isn’t on the ban doesn’t mean that the ban isn’t motivated at least in part by religious discrimination.

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90 Days to Kill DACA

U.S. District Judge John D. Bates ruled yesterday that the federal government’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was unlawful due to a lack of sufficient evidence supporting its repeal.

Bates has given the current administration 90 days to provide clearer reasoning to support the decision.

The judge also ruled that until the administration is able to provide compelling reasons for the program’s repeal, the government must reopen the program and resume accepting renewal applications as well as new applications.

“DACA’s rescission was arbitrary and capricious because the Department failed
adequately to explain its conclusion that the program was unlawful.” – Judge Bates

This is the third time that the repeal of DACA has been shot down by the courts.

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The Convenience of Law

Ten anti-fascist protesters were arrested in an Atlanta, Georgia suburb Saturday under a law originally meant to prevent Klu Klux Klan rallies while a group of Neo-Nazis rallied nearby.

A police force of over 700 officers was present at the event, predominantly dressed in full riot gear and carrying military-grade weapons.

The law officers cited in the arrests, which dates back to 1951, was originally put in place to prevent public gatherings of Klu Klux Klan members in the state.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reports that at least 18 states passed such laws between 1920 and the late 1950s.

After the rally, Neo-Nazis reportedly moved to a field where they made fascist salutes while burning wooden swastikas.

None of the Neo-Nazis were arrested.

When Colonizers Dismantle First-Nation Sovereignty

In a fight over access to Medicare & Medicaid between the federal government and sovereign tribes, the president has challenged Natives’ standing as separate governments and has expressed interest in reclassifying them as a ‘race’ instead.

The announcement comes as the president seeks to require proof of employment for those receiving Medicare/Medicaid.

The legal standing of indigenous peoples in the United States has always been obscure and unsteady to say the least.

Only a select handful of native tribes have received federal designation as sovereign governments, which is a classification that provides legal standing for accommodations to be made for equal rights protection.

And while some tribes may be recognized by the authority of the state in which they live, they may not necessarily have the recognition of the federal government, which means that individuals can be part of a tribal nation without benefiting from federal protections.

To further complicate the whole issue, membership requirements are determined by each individual tribal nation, and can range from simply being descended from a current tribal member to having a specific “blood quantum.”

This disconnect can result in people being recognized by the federal government as a tribal member even when their tribe no longer counts them among their numbers.

If the president were to repeal Natives’ standing as sovereign tribes and reclassify them as a ‘race’ instead, millions of indigenous Americans will lose what little protection they have left.

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Dining While Black

Yet another white domestic terrorist has been apprehended alive after murdering multiple people of color, demonstrating once again that white men with loaded guns who have gone on killing sprees are still less threatening to law enforcement than black men with cellphones.

James Shaw Jr. became a national hero after he intervened in the shooting and successfully gained control of the murderer’s AR-15.

“I figured if I was going to die, he was going to have to work for it,” – James Shaw Jr.

Sadly, domestic terrorist Travis Reinking succeeded in killing four people, all who were young people of color, before Shaw was able to stop him.

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