Tag Archives: Trump

Republicans join Democrats against Trump’s Great Lakes cuts

It  sounds like an idea that would warm a conservative Republican’s heart: Kill funding of a regional environmental cleanup of the Great Lakes that has lasted seven years and cost the federal government more than $2 billion, with no end in sight. If states want to keep the program going, let them pick up the tab.

That is what President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget plan proposes for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, an ambitious push to fix problems that have long bedeviled the world’s largest surface freshwater system — from invasive species to algal blooms and toxic sludge fouling tributary rivers.

During the Obama administration, the program generally got about $300 million a year. Trump’s offer is zero. His spending plan says it “returns the responsibility for funding local environmental efforts and programs to state and local entities, allowing EPA to focus on its highest national priorities.”

The response from Republicans in Great Lakes states: No, thanks.

“I think it makes sense for us to continue to make prudent investments in protecting and improving the Great Lakes,” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker told The Associated Press, adding that he would lobby the Trump administration and congressional leaders to put the money back.

Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan considers Great Lakes funding “very important to Michiganders, therefore we know there is strong support among Michigan’s congressional delegation and we will work with them to preserve the funding,” spokeswoman Anna Heaton said.

GOP lawmakers from the region also rushed out statements defending the program. It “helps protect both our environment and our economy,” U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio said.

The reaction illustrates a political fact of life: Whether you consider something in the budget valuable or wasteful can depend a lot on where you’re from.

And it underscores the resistance Trump may encounter to some spending cuts he is proposing for the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Interior and other agencies that draw frequent attacks from congressional Republicans yet fund projects and services with support back home.

The president’s spending blueprint also targets a Chesapeake Bay cleanup begun in 1983 that received $73 million last year, plus other “geographic programs.” It doesn’t identify them, but a proposal by the Office of Management and Budget this month called for cutting all or most funding for San Francisco Bay, Puget Sound and the Gulf of Mexico.

Asked for more details, EPA released a statement saying the plan “reflects the president’s priorities” and that Administrator Scott Pruitt “is committed to leading the EPA in a more effective, more focused, less costly way as we partner with states to fulfill the agency’s core mission.”

The Great Lakes region includes swing states crucial to Trump’s election — Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin. There’s also New York, Minnesota and Illinois. And Indiana, whose former governor, Mike Pence, is now Trump’s vice president.

Coincidentally, the budget plan was released as about 100 Great Lakes advocates paid a yearly visit to Washington, D.C., in support of the restoration initiative. They flocked to the offices of home-state lawmakers, reminding them that Congress voted only last year to extend the program another five years.

“We are going to turn once again to our bipartisan congressional champions,” said Todd Ambs, director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.

While Democratic lawmakers excoriated Trump’s proposal _ “incredibly short-sighted and reckless,” said Rep. Dan Kildee of Michigan _ Republicans noted that former President Barack Obama at times recommended more modest reductions to the initiative, which Congress rejected.

Some also pointed out that former President George W. Bush signed initial legislation authorizing a wide-ranging Great Lakes cleanup, although he sought little money for it.

The initiative has funded nearly 3,000 projects across the eight states. Among them: efforts to prevent Asian carp from invading the lakes, prevent nutrient runoff that feeds harmful algal blooms, rebuild wetlands where fish spawn and remove sediments laced with PCBs and other toxins.

Nearly all the federal grants require cost-share payments from a state, local or tribal agency, or perhaps a nonprofit organization. But Ambs said they can’t afford to shoulder the burden alone.

Without federal support, “all of this restoration work would come to a halt,” he said.


Chris Abele: Oppose Trump’s plan to defund Great Lakes restoration

Like many of you, I was concerned when I first heard that President Trump planned to cut funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. That concern turned to shock when I heard that the funding was nearly eliminated altogether — a 97 percent reduction.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) sprang from the Great Lakes Compact, a regional commitment to protecting our natural resources that was approved by a bipartisan coalition that included all eight Great Lakes states, the U.S. Congress, and President George W. Bush. Long before I was elected county executive I was lucky enough to be involved with the organizations that advanced the research that led to the Great Lakes Compact. Today, both in office and as a citizen, I remain an ardent supporter of and advocate for the protection of our fresh water.

The GLRI has funded millions of dollars in Milwaukee County Parks alone, to include a four-year, $43 million cleanup effort along the Milwaukee River and a $1.4 million investment in waterway improvements at South Shore and other parks.

Since the GLRI began the need for fresh water hasn’t gone down; it’s gone up. One only needs to look to the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan or the freshwater emergency that impacted hundreds of thousands of Ohioans in the Toledo area back in 2014 to know that we must protect the Great Lakes, which hold 20 percent of the entire world’s freshwater.

I strongly oppose the president’s proposed decimation of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Environmentalists, business owners, and politicians from across the divide have historically been advocates for our freshwater and they are speaking out now as well. Yesterday, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, and Gov. Scott Walker all spoke out in favor of restoring Great Lakes funding. And for good reason — the Great Lakes are a spectacular and rare treasure for all of us and we must protect them. Preserving these natural treasures isn’t idealistic or naïve; it’s part of who we are as a country.

I will be writing Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation to ask that they oppose this cut and I urge you to do the same. To find your elected officials visit: https://myvote.wi.gov/en-US/MyElectedOfficials

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele


A plea to reject Gorsuch for the U.S. Supreme Court

Senate Republicans in Washington, D.C. are set to begin confirmation hearings for Judge Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump’s appointee to the U.S. Supreme Court. This comes after their unprecedented partisan obstructionism, refusing a hearing or a vote on President Obama’s nominee to fill the vacancy created by the passing of Antonin Scalia in February 2015, nearly a full year before the end of the President’s term.

Republicans now want a completely different standard for themselves, arguing Democrats should neither scrutinize Gorsuch’s record nor oppose his nomination.

The reward for stealing a seat on the Supreme Court ought not be the lifetime appointment of a right-wing judge who could shape the direction of the court for decades. In fact, it is incumbent upon those who care about democracy to ensure there are consequences to prevent unprincipled obstruction from becoming an ongoing tactic.

The challenge to rational discourse and the very principles of our democracy from a Trump administration with a well-documented animus to a separate-and-equal judicial branch add urgency to the need for independent jurists and for extremist views to be rejected.

We deserve, and need, a consensus justice on our high court whose loyalty is to all of the American people and our American values, not one president nor one party.

But the record reveals Judge Gorsuch is far from that, finding him to be far to the right on nearly every issue. As a judge, he repeatedly sided with insurance companies that wanted to deny disability benefits and employers who wanted to cut pension benefits to employees, revealing himself as a staunch backer of corporations and willing accomplice in limiting worker’s rights. Gorsuch also regularly sided with employers in the employment discrimination cases on which he sat.

The courts are where average Americans seek redress for wrongs and ensure they are treated fairly. But in private practice, Gorsuch fought for corporations to protect them from being held accountable in class actions lawsuits. And on the bench he supported giving judges more power to strike down federal rules that protect consumers and protect the environment.

According to Gorsuch’s ideology corporations can be persons when it comes to exercising rights. This is a foreboding omen for those concerned about the unlimited corporate spending in elections unleashed by the Citizens United decision.

It is an unfortunate reality for women and families, because this ideological extremism led to his vote deciding corporations have a right to religious beliefs, and to put those rights before an employee’s right to make personal health care decisions. Gorsuch literally put corporations in the bedroom, joining an opinion saying your boss ought to be able to decide if you can have access to birth control through your insurance.

And the hostility which Trump and his administration have shown towards immigrants and rational immigration policy demands a commitment to judicial independence that Gorsuch has shown no signs of bringing to the job.

Our federal courts are critically important to protecting voting rights and participation in the political process; ensuring equal treatment for all regardless of gender, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation; protecting access to comprehensive health care; making sure our air is safe to breathe and our water is safe to drink and ultimately providing a check and balance on the powers of Congress and the president.

Our elected officials don’t pledge their fealty to a president, they swear an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution. For the health of our democracy now is the time for these legislators to put duty and patriotism before partisanship, to reject extremism and to stand against a lifetime appointment of a right-wing judge to the United States Supreme Court.

Signed by Jenni Dye, Research Director One Wisconsin Institute; Stephanie Bloomingdale, Secretary-Treasurer, Wisconsin State AFL-CIO; Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Executive Director Voces de la Frontera; Nicole Safar, Government Relations Director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin; Astar Herndon, Executive Director 9 to 5 Wisconsin; Dana Schultz, Executive Director Wisconsin Voices


Wisconsin company vies to build Trump’s wall along US-Mexico border

A Dodge County construction company is the lone Wisconsin firm bidding on the federal government’s call for designing and building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Brownsville-based Michels Corp. is bidding to build a wall spanning the roughly 2,000-mile border, the Fond du Lac Reporter reported. The wall is controversial for multiple reasons dealing with human rights, foreign relations and environmental concerns.

About 265 firms had responded to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s pre-solicitation for bids to build the wall as of Wednesday, according to the Federal Business Opportunities website.

Michels Corp. chief legal counsel David Stegeman declined to comment on the company’s interest in the project.

The Government Accountability Office estimates that it would cost on average $6.5 million a mile for a fence to keep out people who try to enter on foot and $1.8 million a mile for vehicle barriers. The price tag will depend largely on the height, materials and other specifications that have not yet been defined

The Wisconsin firm’s co-owner, Tim Michels, unsuccessfully challenged former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold for his congressional seat in 2004.

The Wisconsin company has worked on numerous government projects.

It recently won a $6.3 million U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contract to remove a dam and restore sections of a river near Traverse City, Michigan.

Michels has also worked along the border.

The company installed a 2,400-foot gas pipeline under the Rio Grande River, which lines the border between Mexico and Texas, in 2014.

Michels has more than 30 locations across the U.S. and Canada, and employs more than 5,000 workers. It specializes in construction of oil and gas networks, transportation infrastructure and deep foundations, among other projects.



Trump wants to slash EPA, nix Great Lakes Restoration project

The Trump administration would slash the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget, scaling back and all but eliminating EPA programs aimed at slowing climate change and maintaining water safety and air quality, while eliminating thousands of jobs, according to a draft of the  proposal obtained by The Associated Press.

Under the tentative plan from the Office of Management and Budget, the agency’s funding would be reduced by roughly 25 percent and about 3,000 jobs would be cut, about 19 percent of the agency’s staff.

President Donald Trump has said he plans to pay for billions of dollars more for the military by cutting spending on domestic agencies and departments. Trump plans to submit his budget to Congress the week of March 13.

The proposal would all but eliminate funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a wide-ranging cleanup of the world’s largest surface freshwater system that has deep bipartisan support across the eight states adjacent to the lakes, from Minnesota to New York. The program has received around $300 million annually from the federal budget during former President Barack Obama’s tenure — more than $2.2 billion in all. Under the Trump proposal, it would get only $10 million.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., described the proposed cut as “outrageous.”

“This initiative has been critical to cleaning up our Great Lakes and waterways, restoring fish and wildlife habitats, and fighting invasive species, like Asian carp,” Stabenow said. “I call on President Trump to reverse course on these harmful decisions.”

A spokeswoman for the EPA declined to comment, but a top official said in an internal memo that EPA leaders “will do everything in our power to protect our ability to support the mission of the agency in protecting human health and the environment.”

A copy of the memo from Acting Assistant Administrator Donna Vizian was obtained by the AP.

Vizian said she could not verify news media accounts, but said any proposed cuts were just the start of a lengthy budget process. A final plan is subject to congressional approval, which likely is months away at the earliest.

But the far right, which includes Trump’s core constituents, want his administration to do away with all laws that protect the nation’s air, water and natural resources. They believe that environmental regulations stand in the way of greater profits for oil companies, manufacturers, and other industries.

The conservative think tank Heartland Institute, for example, said Trump’s proposal doesn’t go far enough.

“If Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt are serious about ending the national scandal that is EPA, they will accept nothing less than a 20 percent cut this year and make this year’s cut the first step in a five-year plan to replace the organization,” said Joseph Bast, the group’s president.

The White House declined to comment.

Anti-science leadership

The EPA is now under the leadership of Scott Pruitt, a former state attorney general for Oklahoma, who has questioned the scientific consensus that human activities are contributing to global warming and joined lawsuits against the agency’s emission curbs.

As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt filed numerous lawsuits against the agency he now heads.

Pruitt is under fire for using a private email account as Oklahoma AG to coordinate strategies with fossil fuel companies to oppose environmental rules. During his confirmation hearings, Pruitt said he’d never improperly used emails in an official capacity; but an investigation by The Associated Press found that he did use his private emails to conduct official business, including communicating with staff and lobbyists.

Democrats have accused Pruitt of perjury and called for an investigation, which is unlikely proceed given Republican control of the entire federal government.

Trump’s draft proposal for the EPA would help to achieve the goals of Pruitt and Big Oil. It would cut the EPA’s budget from about $8.2 billion to $6.1 billion. Proposed cuts include reducing the climate protection budget by nearly 70 percent to $29 million, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative by 97 percent to $10 million and environmental justice programs by 79 percent to $1.5 million.

Also targeted for steep spending rollbacks are the agency’s monitoring and enforcement of compliance with environmental laws, as well as regional projects intended to benefit degraded areas such as the Chesapeake Bay, Puget Sound and the Gulf of Mexico. A program dealing with San Francisco Bay that received $4.8 million last year would be eliminated, as would initiatives for reducing diesel emissions and beach water quality testing.

Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy called the proposed budget “a fantasy” that ignores the EPA’s mission to protect public health.

“It shows the Trump administration doesn’t hold the same American values for clean air, clean water and healthy land as the vast majority of its citizens,” McCarthy said in a statement. “Our health comes before the special interests of multibillion-dollar industries.”

Environmental groups said the proposed cuts would threaten thousands of jobs and could harm health and safety protections for millions of Americans. The proposals would especially affect programs to address climate change and enforce clean air and water laws, they said.

“Instead of working to protect American families, President Trump’s plans put the interest of big-money special interests over people,” said Nat Mund, legislative director of the Southern Environmental Law Center, a Virginia-based advocacy group.

Congress in December authorized continuing the program through 2021 at $300 million a year, although separate annual votes are needed to provide the money.


Trump tower opening in Vancouver sparks outrage, disgust

The furies unleashed by Donald Trump’s rise to the U.S. presidency are shaking Vancouver, where a gleaming new Trump International Hotel and Tower is about to open.

The mayor wants its name changed. A city councilman calls it “over the top, glitz and glamor” that clashes with Canadian values. And the property developer who built it sounds traumatized by the whole affair.

The 69-story building designed by one of Canada’s most renowned architects has drawn praise for its sleek, twisting design. Prices for the condominiums have set records.

But Trump’s politics, especially his criticism of immigrants, has caused such outrage that the mayor won’t attend the grand opening next week. Even the Malaysian developer has had second thoughts about the partnership.

Joo Kim Tiah, who like the U.S. president is the son of a prominent businessman who got into global real estate, said he found it “extremely stressful” when Trump’s statements about Muslims, Mexicans and women, among other things, made him extremely unpopular in Vancouver, one of the world’s most diverse and progressive cities. Unfortunately, it was well after he signed the licensing deal to use the Trump brand.

“I was terrified,” Joo Kim of Holborn Development told The Associated Press. “The people who ran the city were not happy with me. I was scared, but I think they understand. They understand that I’m trapped into — not trapped, locked into — an agreement.”

The developer said he would have had no legal grounds to back out of the licensing deal, the terms of which have not been publicly released. “There would be severe legal implications,” he said.

The hotel and residence will have its grand opening on Tuesday, with Trump sons Donald Jr. and Eric in attendance.

Located along an upscale six-lane downtown thoroughfare, the tower is the second-tallest in Vancouver and offers majestic mountain and ocean views. A one-bedroom apartment, at 699 square feet, starts around $1 million and the average 1,153-square-foot two-bedroom condo went for $1.7 million but has since gone up. Hotel rooms in the slow season start at around $228 ($300 Canadian).

The chief White House ethics lawyers under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have criticized Trump’s turning over control of his business to his sons, saying it does not eliminate potential conflicts of interest. Legal experts also say Trump’s overseas businesses could violate the “emoluments clause” of the U.S. constitution, which bars public officials from accepting payments or gifts from foreign governments or companies they control without the consent of Congress. A liberal-funded watchdog group has filed a lawsuit against Trump citing the clause.

The Vancouver tower is the second Trump-branded property to officially open since he took office, coming shortly after a golf course in Dubai. The Canadian project has generated much more debate, however, because of its location in a place that prides itself on multiculturalism. Forty-eight percent of Vancouver’s residents are foreign born.

Mayor Gregor Robertson, among others, has urged the developer to drop the Trump name. “Trump’s name and brand have no more place on Vancouver’s skyline than his ignorant ideas have in the modern world,” he said in a letter.

City councilman Kerry Jang said the tower, which he calls a “beacon of racism … intolerance, sexism and bullying,” is out of place not just because of the views of the person whose name adorns it but for a style that he said clashes with low-key Canada. “It represents a brand that’s over the top, glitz and glamor,” Jang said. “It’s not our thing. “

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark also said the Trump name doesn’t represent the values of a city that is known for its support of environmental causes and open drug policies.

Donald Trump Jr. brushed off his father’s Vancouver detractors in an interview with CTV television last year, calling them “ridiculous” and “disgusting.” On Thursday, White House aide Hope Hicks directed all questions about the tower to the Trump Organization, which did not respond to requests for comment from the AP.

Joo Kim said he was saddened by the criticism, noting that people of 30 different ethnicities work at the hotel.

Silver and gold ingots of chocolate stamped “TRUMP” are displayed in hotel room minibars, part of the sumptuous decor in the $275-million ($360-million Canadian) tower.

Building general manager Philipp Posch said Trump and his controversies have little to do with the company. “President Trump, what he does is separate,” said Posch, who also opened Trump’s Chicago hotel. “I focus on getting the beds ready and putting a chocolate on your pillow for turndown.”

Ten percent of the condo owners are foreigners, more than double the average in Vancouver. Joo Kim said a few owners called during the campaign concerned that Trump’s remarks would hurt their property values, but no one has sold. Still, he understands why people are upset. “I did a lot of soul searching because people were attacking me for it,” he said.

Joo Kim’s father, Tony Tiah Thee Kian, is one of Malaysia’s richest men, and built his fortune trading stocks in the 1990s before expanding into property. He was charged in 1999 with abetting a businessman to defraud another brokerage, Omega Securities. In 2002, he was convicted on a reduced charge of providing a false report to the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange and resigned as head of his financial firm, TA Enterprise.

The father, who plans to attend the Vancouver tower opening, made a comeback in 2009 with the listing of his property arm, TA Global. Tiah groomed his eldest son as his successor, and 37-year-old Joo Kim was appointed CEO of TA Global last year. He also heads the family-owned Holborn Group, which says it earned $10.4 million from the Vancouver Trump project in 2015, representing 57 percent of its profit.

Joo Kim says he chose the Trump brand in part because he felt a bond with Donald Jr. “We’re both the oldest son and our fathers were really dominant and difficult at times,” he said. “We may be OK financially but we didn’t get the attention of our parents because our parents were always busy working. But at the same time there’s a big expectation to be perfect.”

Joo Kim has a picture on Instagram of himself at Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration, along with a picture of his ticket for the Liberty Ball, one of three balls the president attended.

A protest is planned for the Vancouver hotel’s opening, but the city police department says there haven’t been any special requests for security.

The neighborhood where the tower is located seems split on its presence. Businesses on the block don’t see a threat from the presence of the Trump name or possible protests. The general manager of the Equinox sport club, Zak Miller, said he hasn’t seen any negative impact.

The reactions of many passers-by are the opposite.

Vancouver resident Jim Smith wondered why anyone would go inside. “It’s bad enough just to walk in front,” he said.

Daniela DeSanto, another city resident, said the building ruins Vancouver’s reputation.

“I’m so against it,” she said. “I think we should represent the city in better ways than his actions and his way of thinking.”


Gillies reported from Toronto. Associated Press writer Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, contributed to this report.



Reaction as Puzder withdraws nomination to be Trump’s labor secretary

President Donald Trump’s nominee for labor secretary has withdrawn from consideration. Fast food executive Andrew Puzder said in a statement provided to The Associated Press that he was “honored to have been considered by President Donald Trump to lead the Department of Labor and put America’s workers and businesses back on a path to sustainable prosperity.”

Here’s early reaction to the news from progressive voices:

Darin Brooks, a Hardee’s worker and a member of Raise Up $15, the Fight for $15 chapter in Durham, N.C.:

“When Donald Trump first tapped Andy Puzder to be labor secretary, fast-food workers told the President that if he sided with fast-food CEOs instead of fast-food workers, he’d be on the wrong side of history. We rallied outside Puzder’s stores nationwide and showed America how his burger empire was built on low pay, wage theft, sexual harassment and intimidation. And today, we are on the right side of history. This is a major victory for the Fight for $15, but we can’t and won’t back down until the Trump Administration gives us a real labor secretary who will put working people over corporate profits.”

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights: “While we welcome the news that Andrew Puzder will not be our next Secretary of Labor, it is incumbent upon the president to nominate someone who will fully respect the laws designed to protect American workers.  The record clearly showed that Puzder was not the right person for this critically important job.

“Workers in America deserve a Secretary of Labor who will work to improve their economic opportunities, advocate for raising the minimum wage, respect the right of workers to organize collectively, strengthen economic and retirement security, improve overtime protections, and vigorously enforce non-discrimination protections and the Fair Labor Standards Act.

“The next Secretary of Labor must honor the legacy of Frances Perkins and fully enforce the laws and regulations that safeguard workers.  Whomever is nominated must be an advocate for workers and not a lapdog for corporate interests.”

Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter:

“Today, fast food mogul Andy Puzder announced he will bow out of the running to be Labor Secretary. The controversial CEO of Hardees and Carl’s Jr. had attracted criticism from a wide range of groups opposed to his corporate ties and unsavory views on labor.

“Puzder is in no way qualified to set our nation’s labor standards or to lift up our workers, and apparently even he knows that. Puzder opposes the minimum wage and rules to protect workers. Installing him as Labor Secretary would have had extremely negative consequences for the safety of poultry workers and USDA inspectors who have had to endure intolerable conditions in plants that have been under investigation by OSHA.

“The Department of Labor should be just that — a voice for America’s workers, not America’s corporations. Like the rest of Trump’s cabinet, Puzder was an inappropriate choice. Of course, who the President taps to replace him is anyone’s guess.”

Communications Workers of America:

“The withdrawal of Andrew Puzder for consideration as Secretary of Labor is a victory for working families and demonstrates the power of grassroots resistance and mobilizing against corporate greed.”

“Puzder was an outrageous pick for Labor Secretary and to head an agency responsible for promoting “the welfare of wage earners, job seekers and retirees.” His long record of public statements and action opposing a fair minimum wage, overtime pay and other basic policies that support working families made him an unacceptable choice.”

“The Department of Labor is supposed to be on the side of working people when it comes to keeping jobs safe, stopping employer abuse and safeguarding workers’ rights on the job. That’s what working people are looking for from the Secretary of Labor.”

Betsy DeVos’ family gave $1 million to senators who’ll vote on her confirmation

In this last election cycle, billionaire Betsy DeVos and her family invested $1 million to help elect 21 U.S. senators who will now vote on whether she becomes Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education. The DeVoses have given Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson nearly $49,000.

Trump proposes spending $20 billion for vouchers and chartered schools for inner-city youth. In fact, DeVos and her family have spent $47 million since 2000 supporting politicians who advocate privatizing American public education.

How did DeVos get so rich? She earned her money the hard way:  A. She was born in the wealthy Prince family.  B. She married into the super-wealthy DeVos family (owns Amway).

She never went to public schools, does not know a lot about educational policy and laws but really wants to be secretary. If confirmed, she’ll certainly advocate to implement Trump’s effort to further privatize public schools.

Why do people who hate government want to work for government so much?

In our nation, schools for young children and colleges for older children have always been private and mostly church schools for those who had the money to pay for schooling. But in the 1800’s Americans advocated free, public, good educations for all. Over the last 200 years public schools have played a major role in the development of the middle class. Poor kids and all others have a chance to succeed.

On Monday, Feb. 6, the Senate may take its final vote on DeVos. Does the situation look like pay-to-playto you? Does the highest earner in your family even make $49,000 in a year? Does your whole family even make that in a year? Nearly half the families in Wisconsin do not even earn $49,000 a year.

Johnson should recuse himself from voting on her nomination. She did NOT give him the money because of his good looks. She and her family invested that money to get a payback. Will Johnson pay her back with his vote for her confirmation?

All the 21 senators who received the $1 million in total donations should recuse themselves and abstain from voting on DeVos’ nomination.

You probably cannot stop all the senators from voting.  But you may be able to stop Sen. Johnson from voting.  Call Sen. Johnson’s offices in Wisconsin at 920-230-7250 and 414-276-7282 and email him at https://www.ronjohnson.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/email-the-senator.

Calls/email to Johnson need to be made before Monday. Tell him to recuse himself because of the DeVos money and because she wants to privatize public education.

At this point 50 senators have said they will vote “no” (48 Dems, two independents and two Republicans), while 50 Republicans are being pushed to all vote “yes.” If a tie occurs, Vice President Mike Pence will cast the tie-breaking vote and DeVos will become Secretary of Education.

Urge Johnson to recuse himself from voting on DeVos’ nomination and hopefully help stop Mr. Trump’s federal effort to privatize public schools in WI and America.

Leslie “Buzz” Davis

Buzz Davis, formerly of Stoughton now of Tucson, is a long time progressive activist, a member of Veterans for Peace and a former VISTA Volunteer, Army officer, elected official, union organizer, impeachment organizer, executive vice president of Wisconsin Alliance4Retired Americans and retired state government planner. You can respond to him at dbuzzdavis@aol.com.


Trump’s Supreme Court pick blasted by LGBT and choice advocates

Donald Trump promised his Supreme Court picks would be cast in the mold of Antonin Scalia, and he delivered, according to legal experts.

He also delivered a blow to liberals and centrists who had hoped that Trump would make an ideologically neutral choice.

Trump announced this evening that he’d chosen Judge Neil Gorsuch, 49, of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Colorado. According to initial reports, the Trump administration believes he has a sterling legal reputation that will make it harder for Senate Democrats to mount a filibuster to block him, as many have promised they would.

Democrats are angry because Republicans blocked Barack Obama’s pick for the court, Merrick Garland, from even receiving a hearing. Like Gorsuch, Garland has an impeccable reputation among legal scholars.

But Republicans left the court short of a judge for an entire year in the hope that they’d win the presidency and have the chance to pick a conservative judge to maintain the court’s rightward tilt.

And that’s exactly what happened.

Garland is a centrist, but Gorsuch follows a strict or originalist approach to interpreting the Constitution, just as Scalia did. According to that philosophy, the Constitution is a document that is frozen in the time it was written. Originalists take the same approach to the Constitution that religious fundamentalists take to the Bible. They fail to allow for the many changes in society that have occurred since the document was first drafted in 1787.

Immediately following Trump’s choice, the Democratic National Committee released a statement noting that Gorsuch has “a legal history that shows a deep sympathy for corporate interests and an apparent disdain for workers.”
As an attorney, Judge Gorsuch routinely represented big businesses in class action lawsuits,” the statement said. “He upheld a decision that denied long-term insurance benefits to a worker who sustained a work-related injury that required spinal surgery. He even dissented from a ruling in favor of a truck driver whose employer illegally fired him for abandoning a trailer with locked brakes — so he wouldn’t freeze to death.”

Sen. Tammy Baldwin issued a statement blasting Gorsuch as too far out of the mainstream.

“With this Supreme Court nomination, President Trump has made it clear he has no interest in being a president for all Americans and that he is intent on creating more division in our country,” she said. “Instead of putting forward a mainstream nominee for the vacant Supreme Court seat, he has offered someone who will have a hard time earning bipartisan support.”

Gorsuch’s rulings have revealed him to be a jurist who opposes government interference in American life, particularly in matters such as regulation and religion. For instance, he sided in favor of “religious freedom” in the imprtant Hobby Lobby case, ruling that the retail chain’s “Christian” values allowed them to ignore the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that they pay for contraceptive coverage for their employees, according to National Public Radio.

That sort of mindset will be of grave concern to LGBT citizens at a time when far-right lawmakers are pushing so-called “religious freedom” bills that permit discrimination in the name of religious beliefs.

Although Gorsuch’s views on a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy are scant, he published a book in 2006 titled The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia. The book defended the “intrinsic value” of human life in arguing against the practice.

Trump had promised to select anti-choice judges, although the most fervent opponents of reproductive freedom might find his scant (as far as we now know) judicial record in this area alarming.

On their part, advocates of choice are extremely alarmed at Trump’s choice.

“A justice who does not understand what it is like to face an unintended pregnancy, or what it is like to lose an intended pregnancy, threatens the health and safety of women across this country. We should not accept a nominee who believes that the state can place medically unnecessary barriers in the path of women seeking access to safe, legal abortion services,” said Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin in a prepared statement.

For Republicans to survive a filibuster of Gorsuch’s nomination, they’d need eight Democrats to join them in order to get the 60 votes needed. At least one Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, has said he would not join a filibuster.

But Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon circulated a petition yesterday urging his colleagues to block any Trump nominee due to the way Republicans ignored Garland.

“This is a stolen seat. This is the first time a Senate majority has stolen a seat,” Merkley told Politico. “We will use every lever in our power to stop this.”


AP compares Trump’s statements and tweets with the truth about his travel ban

In statements and tweets, Trump has defended his travel ban of refugees and citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries. Alicia A. Caldwell of The Associated Press assessed how Trump’s statements have compared with actual facts.

TRUMP: “Only 109 people out of 325,000 were detained and held for questioning. Big problems at airports were caused by Delta computer outage.”

THE FACTS: According to a federal law enforcement official briefed on the implementation of the order, nearly 400 green-card holders were delayed after arriving at U.S. airports after the travel ban was signed. As of Sunday afternoon, one legal permanent resident had been denied entry as a result of the order, according to the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person wasn’t allowed to discuss the matter publicly.

Delta Airlines did report a computer problem that forced the cancellation of more than 150 flights on Sunday. But the chaos and protests at airports around the country began before that happened.

TRUMP: “My policy is similar to what President (Barack) Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months.”

THE FACTS: According to State Department data, 9,388 Iraqi refugees were admitted to the United States during the 2011 budget year. The data also show that Iraqi refugees were admitted every month during the 2011 calendar year.

After two Iraqi nationals were arrested on terrorism-related charges in 2011, the Obama administration slowed processing for Iraqi nationals seeking refuge in the U.S. under the government’s Special Immigrant Visa program for translators and interpreters who worked with American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. But that same year, 618 Iraqis were granted such special visas to enter the U.S.

Government data shows that during the 2011 budget year, more than 7,800 Iraqis were allowed into the United States on non-immigrant visas, including tourists.

TRUMP: “The seven countries named in the executive order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror.”

THE FACTS: That is misleading. The Republican-led Congress in 2015 voted to require visas and additional security checks for foreign citizens who normally wouldn’t need visas — such as those from Britain — if they had visited the seven countries: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. This was included in a large spending bill passed overwhelmingly by Congress and signed by Obama.

As the law was enacted, the Obama administration announced that journalists, aid workers and others who traveled to the listed countries for official work could apply for exemptions. There were no special U.S. travel restrictions on citizens of those seven countries.

TRUMP: “To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion — this is about terror and keeping our country safe. There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order.”

THE FACTS: Trump is right that there are many majority-Muslim countries that have not been included in the travel ban. But he’s also being misleading. While the executive order does not specifically say Muslims can’t visit the U.S., it does create a temporary total travel ban for citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries. It also indefinitely bans Syrians.

TRUMP: “If the ban were announced with a one week notice, the ‘bad’ would rush into our country during that week. A lot of bad ‘dudes’ out there!”

THE FACTS: The immigration system doesn’t allow the kind of “rush” Trump described. There are 38 countries, mostly European, whose citizens can visit the U.S. without a visa. But they must be approved for travel in advance by supplying background information to the U.S. government. Any other foreigner looking to visit or move to America for school or work has to get in line for a visa and be subjected to a variety of background checks, including reviews by federal law enforcement and intelligence. Before Trump’s executive order was signed, some people were eligible to skip an in-person interview if they met a variety of requirements.

And the U.S. can always stop a foreigner from boarding a U.S.-bound flight or cancel a visa upon someone’s arrival. A visa is not a guarantee that a foreigner will be allowed into the U.S.