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What the WNBA’s past can teach current WNBA players about the fight for their future

Think Progress - 3 hours 10 min ago

On April 7, 2003, during contentious negotiations over the second collective bargaining agreement in WNBA history, then-NBA commissioner David Stern issued a public ultimatum.

“We want to get a deal and work with the players,” Stern said. “But if that’s not to be, it’s not to be. We’ll know in the next 10 days if there will be a WNBA season.”

It was, without a doubt, a tumultuous time for the league. During the offseason, franchises in Miami and Portland folded, and the Orlando Miracle and Utah Starzz moved to Connecticut and San Antonio respectively.

The WNBA Players Association (WNBPA) had upped the stakes, bringing in leaders from National Organization for Women (NOW) and the National Council of Women’s Organizations, to help frame the players’ need for better contracts as a women’s rights issue. They were fighting for modestly higher salaries, the implementation of free agency, and a shorter contract — they wanted three years, the league wanted five.

Their demands, in short, were hardly outrageous. But the media was not having it. Pretty much every single article about the league painted the players as either delusional or greedy. When Stern issued his public deadline, the consensus seemed to be that the players would be absolutely bonkers not to cave immediately.

“The NBA has provided advertisers plus a TV network and all but forced Michael Jordan to wear a wig and suit up. All that, and it has yet to make a cent off the WNBA,” ranted David Whitley of the Orlando Sentinel. “When Stern issued his deadline, he said the NBA had voted an additional $12 million to subsidize its women’s league. You’d think the players would be happy their sugar daddy didn’t cut them off altogether.”

But while the public was laughing at the sports media’s self-appointed jesters, the WNBPA continued to fight. Stern’s deadline came and went without a deal, and the 2003 draft had to be postponed. Of course, there’s no need to create unnecessary drama, as you already know the end to this story: The second collective-bargaining agreement was signed, the WNBA’s seventh season went on as planned.

According to Pam Wheeler, who served as the WNBPA’s Executive Director from 1999 to 2014, the union always had confidence that a deal would be reached, no matter how Stern postured otherwise.

“David always threatened to shut down the league,” Wheeler told ThinkProgress last month.

Fifteen years later, the WNBA is still here, and still fighting many of the same battles they were in 2003. And now, they’re gearing up to face another test: At the beginning of this month, the WNBPA announced that it was opting out of the current collective bargaining agreement.

Many of the battles sound familiar. The players want more money, better travel accommodations, and more exposure. The league says there is no money to provide those things. The current CBA doesn’t expire until after the 2019 season, so there is time to negotiate.

Now, as the WNBA players gear up for a fight that could define the league’s future, it’s time to look at the history of collective bargaining in the league, the unique battles this fifth contract negotiation presents, and the reasons why this time might be different.

“We’re opting out because women’s basketball’s potential is infinite,” WNBPA President Nneka Ogwumike, the 2015 WNBA MVP, said in an essay on Players Tribune announcing the opt-out. “We’re opting out because there’s still a lot more work to be done. And we’re betting on ourselves to do it.”

History lessons

When the WNBA launched in the summer of 1997, it was actually the second professional women’s basketball league in existence; the American Basketball League (ABL) had launched in the fall of 1996. The ABL was independent league, without the support of a behemoth entity like the NBA, but it made an early splash. In 1998, ABL salaries ranged from a $40,000 minimum to $175,000, compared to the WNBA’s, which range from $15,000 to $62,500. (In 1997, WNBA minimum salaries were $5,000.)

The ABL also gave its players a more vested interest by granting each stock options, making them essentially part-owners of the league. The players were also provided with year-round health care. 

The WNBA, on the other hand, had nothing of the sort.

“There were no contract guarantees, no group marketing licensing rights, no free agencies, no maternity benefits, no revenue sharing, no year-round health care,” Wheeler recalled. “It was pretty much nothing.”

By 1998, most stars in the ABL had already migrated over to the WNBA. The ABL folded for good that winter. And, around the exact same time, WNBA players decided to unionize, under the guidance of the NBA Player’s Association. 

WNBA players got to play in NBA stadiums in front of more than 10,000 people per game the first couple of years. They were on highway billboards and had some games on ESPN and NBC. The NBA really did seem committed to the future of women’s basketball. Some thought that unionizing so early was a risk, that the players were asking for too much, too soon. That they didn’t understand how good they had it.

But most of the players felt that actually, this was a chance to secure that they had a say in their future. These weren’t all rookies right out of college; they were veterans who had been playing overseas for years, who had seen promises of professional women’s basketball leagues come and go many times over the years.

“The players decided after that second season to form a union and bargain collectively to make this venture something that could be a profession or a career, and not just a hobby you did in the side,” said Coquese Washington, the first President of the WNBPA and current head coach of Penn State women’s basketball. 

SEATTLE - OCTOBER 10: Sue Bird #10 of the Seattle Storm looks on during Game 2 of the WNBA Finals against the Connecticut Sun on October 10, 2004 at the Key Arena in Seattle, Washington. The Storm won 67-65. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

In that first contract, they were able to establish a $25,000 minimum salary for rookies and a $30,000 minimum for veterans, and ensure that contracts were guaranteed if a player was active at least half of the season. They also got a maternity plan in place, as well as year-round health care and dental, and established a 401K for the league. It wasn’t as much as they wanted, but it was a huge start.

In 2003, during the highly-contentious bargaining agreement detailed above, they still didn’t get as much money as they were hoping for, but they were able to get increases. And, they were able to secure what Wheeler considers her crowning achievement.

“Free agency is vital to any sport, so when we achieved free agency, to me that was the pinnacle,” Wheeler said. 

It’s easy to look at the financial realities of players in the WNBA today — with contracts that range from about $41,000 to $115,000 — and feel like nothing much has changed for WNBA players in the past 22 years, that bargaining hasn’t yielded successes. But the truth is, the union has had to fight for every penny, for every benefit, for ever right. Wheeler still dreams of living to see the first million-dollar WNBA contract, and Washington is happy that players are are asking for more, but it’s important to remember how far they’ve come.

She still remembers trying to get the message out to the public in the early days: “We’re not asking for millions. We’re asking for health care.”


Biggest challenges

Ogwumike and other WNBA players feel that this upcoming contract is time to take the next step for the league, to get the NBA and WNBA brass to re-think what it considers “investing” in WNBA players. Last season, the Las Vegas Aces forfeited a game because of a 25-hour travel nightmare. What if teams had access to private travel in cases of emergency? What if 6’11” players didn’t have to sit in non-exit row commercial seats for a long flight the day before playing a professional basketball game? What if players got just a little bit money every summer, so that so many of them didn’t have to go overseas to earn a living between October and May, and more could stay in the U.S,, building their brands, resting their bodies, and making themselves available to the fans and the franchises in the WNBA? Wouldn’t that be better for everyone? It sounds almost too simple.

Los Angeles Sparks players celebrate after winning the WNBA championship title with a 77–76 win over the Minnesota Lynx in Game 5 Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016, in Minneapolis. CREDIT: AP Photo/Jim Mone

But, of course, there’s nothing simple about it. In 2018, management is telling the players what they’ve always been told — that it wishes it was realistic to pay the players everything they want, but that there just isn’t enough money. WNBA President Lisa Borders, who had built a good relationship with the players over the past few years, departed abruptly this fall to lead the Time’s Up movement. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has reiterated his commitment to the league, but doesn’t see getting more games televised on ESPN as a priority, despite his ongoing frustration about the league’s limited growth.

So far, the WNBA and NBA have been controlling the narrative. As Howard Megdal wrote for Deadspin, Terri Jackson, the Director of Players Operations for the WNBPA — the new Wheeler, as it may be — has been relatively silent over the past year. That’s not ideal, especially considering ESPN, which has such a big megaphone in the sports world, has such close relationships with the NBA and WNBA. The players are going to have to find a way to cut through that with a unified voice.

They also have to get on the same page about their exact demands. Ogwumike’s essay for the Player’s Tribune was powerfully written, but it was sparse on concrete details. During the 2018 season, players said they wanted a bigger slice of the pie — NBA players split 50 percent of the revenue, while it seems that WNBA players only get about 20 percent of the league’s revenue. But they also want better health care, improved travel conditions, and improved television contracts. Retired players that spoke to ThinkProgress voiced support for the establishment of a pension plan — a long sought after goal. There is a lot that needs to be accomplished.

But the biggest challenge that the players face is that the status of one of the league’s marquee franchises, the New York Liberty, remains in flux. James Dolan, who owns the Liberty, has made no qualms about the fact that he wants to sell the team. Already, the team has been moved from Madison Square Garden to a glorified high-school gymnasium in Westchester. The more that the WNBA can make it seem as if the league is struggling financially, the harder it will be for the players to fight for higher salaries and better resources. The current state of the Liberty helps the league play the poverty card.

“I don’t know if there’s ever been a time in the history of collective bargaining where a team folded in the midst of negotiations.”

The 2014 CBA, which the players just opted out of, has been much-maligned. When asked about that contract — the last one she negotiated — Wheeler says that there was an incredibly good reason for that: The Los Angeles Sparks almost folded, after the owner decided that she could no longer afford the team because she was losing so much money.

“I don’t know if there’s ever been a time in the history of collective bargaining where a team folded in the midst of negotiations,” Wheeler said. “All of the arguments from the league are around the fact that they’re losing money. So how do you counter that?”

Why this time might be different

Sometimes, looking back at WNBA headlines, it can feel like déjà vu. Take this article from the Los Angeles Times from 2000, “Season starts today with players unhappy they receive only a third of earning potential in Europe.”

In 2003, when Stern issued his ultimatum, he said the NBA was losing $12 million per year because of the WNBA. This summer? The NBA said the exact same thing.

Today, players in the WNBA still only earn a modicum of what they earn overseas. They still have to play compressed schedules, travel in coach, and only get a small fraction of the media coverage that their NBA counterparts receive.

So, with all this being said, why should this time be any different? Is there any hope that the players will end up with a contract that’s more favorable than the one Wheeler negotiated back in 2014? Believe it or not, there is.

First of all, there’s the fact that the quality of the basketball itself is far better than its ever been. “The product on the floor compared to 20 years ago is incredible,” WNBA legend Ticha Pichanero, currently a WNBA agent, told ThinkProgress.

And people are noticing. This has led to increased ratings, and exciting new partnerships with companies such as FanDuel and Twitter. (The attendance likely would have been up this year, too, if not for the Liberty’s aforementioned move to Westchester.)

The WNBA has found its voice

But the biggest reason to be hopeful? It’s the players themselves. In 2016, the WNBA fined its players for wearing Black Lives Matter t-shirts doing warm-ups to commemorate the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by police officers. The players from across the league came together in the wake of that to fight back, and along the way learned a lot about how to communicate, organize, and make sure that they are heard. Now that it’s time for bargaining, they have a stronger foundation to build upon than they have ever had before.

And while there are still out-of-touch media outlets like The Federalist writing articles about how greedy WNBA players are for daring to ask for better salaries, the general public and the sports media are better clued in this time around and understand that the players aren’t asking for LeBron James money, just a more equitable distribution of resources and a bigger investment to help the game grow at a faster rate.

“The advice I would give is to be together and to stay strong.”

It also helps immensely that women in other sports — such as hockey and soccer — have had recent, successful campaigns to win more equitable contracts from their governing bodies. Of course, the WNBA is a league, not a governing body, so it’s not an apples to apples comparison, but the same principles are in play. The public feels more primed for this fight, and since the media can be such a powerful tool in these fights, that’s not a small thing.

Washington is incredibly proud of how far the league has come, and says if she learned anything from her time leading the WNBPA, its that unity and messaging are key.

“The advice I would give is to be together and to stay strong,” Washington said. “There’s definitely going to be some differing of opinions, but they have to stay together, stay committed, and know what it is that they want and not settle for anything less than that.”

Categories: F. Left News

The Supreme Court just took up the first big voting rights case of the Kavanaugh era

Think Progress - 3 hours 20 min ago

As a Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanuagh seemed to vow revenge against Democrats who probed into credible allegations that he committed sexual assault. “What goes around comes around,” Kavanaugh told Senate Democrats in a hearing examining allegations that he attempted to rape psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford while both he and Ford were teenagers.

On Friday, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear one of the first cases Kavanaugh could use to exact such revenge — if landing partisan jabs on the Democratic Party is, in fact, his agenda. For the third time this term, the Supreme Court will wade into a challenge to the Trump administration’s effort to discourage many immigrants from participating in the 2020 Census.

The case is In re Department of Commerce.

Rigging the Census

Department of Commerce arises out of the Trump administration’s decision to ask Census respondents whether they are citizens — a question the Census has not asked as part of its decennial count since the Jim Crow era. Multiple experts, including top officials who led the Census in the Reagan and Bush I administrations, warn that asking a citizenship question “could seriously jeopardize the accuracy of the census,” because “people who are undocumented immigrants may either avoid the census altogether or deliberately misreport themselves as legal residents.”

Under the Constitution, the United States must conduct an “actual Enumeration” of “the whole number of persons in each state.” Thus, all persons who live in the country must be counted, regardless of their immigration status. The Trump administration’s citizenship question potentially violates the Constitution because it could discourage millions of immigrants from participating in the Census.

Among other things, this effort to keep undocumented immigrants from participating in the Census could have profound implications for how U.S. House seats are allocated. The Fourteenth Amendment provides that “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state” — so non-citizens count when representatives are allocated to the various states.

If the Trump administration successfully prevents millions of immigrants from participating in the Census, power will shift from states with large immigrant communities. One of the primarily beneficiaries of such a shift will be whiter states that tend to vote for Republicans.

A central issue in the litigation challenging the citizenship question is whether the Trump administration acted with an improper motive when it decided to add the question. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross claimed that the citizenship question was added because the Justice Department requested it to aid enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.

There is significant evidence, however, that this explanation is a pretext. Among other things, the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department has not filed a single Voting Rights Act case since Trump took office — so enforcing this act does not appear to be a high priority for this Justice Department. Moreover, as Judge Jesse Furman, the judge hearing the census litigation, noted in a September opinion, Ross ordered the citizenship question included despite “strong and continuing opposition” from the U.S. Census Bureau.

To probe this evidence that the Trump administration acted in bad faith when it added the citizenship question to the Census, Judge Furman permitted the plaintiffs to depose administration officials, including Secretary Ross and the acting head of the Civil Rights Division, John Gore. The Supreme Court halted the Ross deposition in October, but allowed the Gore deposition to move forward.

Bad faith

The specific question before the Supreme Court in Department of Commerce is whether Furman’s court may make such a deep inquiry into the motives behind the citizenship question. As a general rule, federal courts may only make a limited inquiry into federal agency actions, and this inquiry is typically limited to the evidence contained in the “administrative record” developed as the agency was considering its action.

There is an exception to this general rule, however. As even the Trump administration concedes, courts may probe deeper into an agency’s motives upon  “a strong showing of bad faith or improper behavior.”

Department of Commerce is an administrative law case — which means that, at least on the surface, it is a case solely about the particular rules governing decisions by federal agencies. But questions about what should happen when a policymaker acts in bad faith arise in voting rights cases all the time. A state can pass a facially neutral law that can reduce minority voting power — or disenfranchise people of color outright.

Often, these cases turn upon whether the lawmakers who backed such a law acted with racist intent when they enacted it. And, as appears to be the case in Department of Commerce, such lawmakers often offer an innocent explanation for their new law as a pretext to justify their racist motive.

So Department of Commerce isn’t just an important voting rights case in its own right. It could also provide our first window into how a Supreme Court newly dominated by hardline conservatives will view allegations that racist lawmakers acted in bad faith.

In fairness, Kavanaugh’s vote in this dispute is genuinely uncertain, as is that of Kavanaugh’s fellow Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts. Though the Supreme Court temporarily prevented the plaintiffs challenging the census question from deposing Secretary Ross last October, Neil Gorsuch wrote a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, suggesting that they would hand Trump a total victory in this litigation.

Then, a couple weeks later, the Supreme Court denied a request by the Trump administration to halt the Census trial altogether. This time, Justice Samuel Alito joined Thomas and Gorsuch in dissent.

Thus far, Roberts and Kavanaugh have both kept silent. We know that at least one of them voted with the liberals in both of these previous efforts to shut down this litigation. But neither publicly indicated how they voted.

So the outcome of Department of Commerce is all but certain to turn on Roberts and Kavanaugh’s vote. This case will present Roberts will an opportunity to show that he will not allow the Supreme Court to become a tool of the Republican Party. And it will allow Kavanaugh to show that he is a better judge than the enraged partisan who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Or, it could allow both men to confirm Democrats’ worst fears — that the Supreme Court has become a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party.

Categories: F. Left News

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will back primary challenges of ‘out-of-touch’ incumbent Democrats

Think Progress - 3 hours 21 min ago

Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has been making waves in Washington, D.C. even though the new Democratic House majority won’t be seated until January.

The 29-year-old Democratic socialist, who will be the youngest-ever congresswoman, joined protesters in the office of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Tuesday to push for a “Green New Deal” to address the urgent threat of climate change. Pelosi, the expected next House Speaker, reaffirmed her support for a select committee on climate change that Republicans discontinued when they regained control of the chamber in 2011.

However, not all Democrats are on board with these more aggressive environmental actions. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), who is slated to become the next chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told protesters that the reinstatement of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming would add an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy that could delay meaningful legislation. Pallone also declined to take a pledge to refuse donations from fossil fuel companies.

Sludge’s Alex Kotch noted that the Democrats who have expressed opposition to a “Green New Deal,” which would aim to make the U.S. 100 percent reliant on clean energy in a decade, have been recipients of large donations from fossil fuel advocates during the 2018 election cycle. Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), and Pallone all took at least five-figures from fossil fuel PACs or employees in recent years.

Ocasio-Cortez, whose stunning upset of longtime Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) in June’s primary shook the political establishment, is putting Democrats who aren’t showing sufficient urgency to tackle climate change on notice. The congresswoman-elect warned on Saturday that she will back primary challenges to incumbent Democrats who aren’t getting the job done.

Citing the need for politicians to stop accepting donations from the fossil fuel industry as part of the proposed “Green New Deal,” Ocasio-Cortez told Justice Democrats, a progressive advocacy group with ties to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) 2016 presidential campaign, that colleagues basically need to get with the program or make way for lawmakers who will eschew money from fossil fuel interests.

“All Americans know money in politics is a huge problem, but unfortunately the way that we fix it is by demanding that our incumbents give it up or by running fierce campaigns ourselves.”

Justice Democrats, which “recruited and supported Ocasio-Cortez” also backed Rep.-elect Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) in her upset of longtime Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA). In their September primary, Capuano’s corporate donations became a focus of the campaign. According to Justice Democrats’ executive director, they can “repeat the playbook” across the country. “There’s lots of blue districts in this country where communities want to support a new generation of diverse working-class leaders who fight tirelessly for their voters and build a movement around big solutions to our country’s biggest problems.”

The progressive group’s website promotes “taking on out-of-touch incumbents in primary challenges because we don’t need to just elect more Democrats, we need to elect better Democrats.”

Meanwhile, Ocasio-Cortez told activists to ignore any criticism of their focus on climate change.

“Know that they will come after you and that that’s okay because at the end of the day, when you are on the right side of that long arc of history that bends toward justice, we will be able to tell our grandchildren that we fought for what’s right.”

The congresswoman-elect also made it clear that she doesn’t fear possible repercussions for speaking out against fellow colleagues.

“If I made people mad, they could have put me on the dog-walking committee or whatever. They still might. But I knew that it was worth it.”

10 House Democrats have signed onto the plan for a “Green New Deal,” including Reps. John Lewis (GA) and Jared Huffman (CA), and Reps.-elect Deb Haaland (NM), Joe Neguse (CO), and Rashida Tlaib (MI).

9 Reps have already signed on. Call & @ them too to thank them and say you support the move.

Positive reinforcement goes a LONG way, trust me.

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) November 17, 2018

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) has urged Pelosi to make Ocasio-Cortez the chairwoman of the select committee on climate change, noting, “We need to shake up Congress & give the millennial generation a chance to lead. They have the most at stake re climate change.”

Categories: F. Left News

Farewell sermon of Prophet Muhammad, reiterating need for tolerance to people of all denominations

Counterview - Sun, 11/18/2018 - 23:08
By Moin Qazi* As you read these lines, 1.6 billion Muslims across the world, from Morocco to Jakarta, will be paying homage to the Prophet Muhammad on his birthday (November 21, 2018). This day, 1,429 years ago, Prophet Muhammad delivered the historic Last Sermon (khutabat al-wida) on the parched terrain of Mount of Mercy (Jabal … More Farewell sermon of Prophet Muhammad, reiterating need for tolerance to people of all denominations
Categories: F. Left News

Trump calls Democratic congressman ‘little Adam Schitt’

Think Progress - Sun, 11/18/2018 - 13:09

President Donald Trump, in his never-ending quest to promote civility and decorum, appeared to reach a new low on Twitter on Sunday, referring to Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) as “little Adam Schitt.”

So funny to see little Adam Schitt (D-CA) talking about the fact that Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker was not approved by the Senate, but not mentioning the fact that Bob Mueller (who is highly conflicted) was not approved by the Senate!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 18, 2018

Trump has mentioned Schiff, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, by name in six separate tweets since becoming president, including calling him “liddle”, “sleazy,” and a “total phony,” so it seems unlikely that “Schitt” was a typo.

In addition to calling Schiff, who will become the chairman of the powerful House Intelligence Committee when the new Democratic majority is seated in January, a “little Schitt,” the premise of the president’s tweet makes no sense.

The Attorney General is subject to Senate confirmation, but a special counsel, like the one led by former FBI director Robert Mueller that is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, is put in place by the Justice Department.

Schiff responded to Trump by referencing the president’s much-mocked claim that he wrote his own answers to Mueller’s questions.

Wow, Mr. President, that’s a good one.

Was that like your answers to Mr. Mueller’s questions, or did you write this one yourself?

— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) November 18, 2018

Despite Trump’s ongoing attempts to discredit Mueller’s probe, the special counsel has racked up over 100 criminal charges against dozens of people, including guilty pleas from the president’s former national security adviser, former campaign manager, and multiple former advisers.

Categories: F. Left News

Gillum, Abrams pledge to fight voter disenfranchisement in Florida and Georgia

Think Progress - Sun, 11/18/2018 - 12:57

Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum on Sunday shared what turned out to be very similar experiences with voter disenfranchisement in their quest to become the first African American governors of neighboring southern states.

The elections in Florida and Georgia were both seriously flawed, but in different ways, said Gillum, one day after conceding the governor’s race in Florida to Republican House member Ron DeSantis.

“In the state of Florida, the suppression tactics are enshrined in law,” Gillum told the A.M. Joy show in his first interview since conceding the election.

“The fact that you’ve got 67 counties and the rules between them are all very diverse and different between how elections are run.”

He appeared on the program, as did Abrams, to discuss the ways in which voter suppression and race continue to play a role in American elections, especially in states in the Deep South.

Gillum also said both states’ mismanaged elections produced the same result: suppressed votes.

After an election he lost by only 34,000 votes out of a total of 8.2 million votes, Gillum — the mayor of Tallahassee, Florida — pledged to work on transforming Florida’s election process into a 21st century system.

When asked by Reid whether she believes the election outcome in the governor’s race in Georgia was illegitimate, Abrams responded that she thinks it’s legal, but that it’s wrong.

“What happened is that we have watched systematic erosion of our democracy,” she said.

In Georgia, because Brian Kemp, the Republican nominee for governor, refused to resign from his position as secretary of state while he ran for governor, election experts contend he used his position to exert undue influence on the election outcome.

Georgia has long been a cause for concern for a number of its election policies, ranging from polling place closures to technical blocking of registration and voter roll purges.

Despite these concerns about whether Kemp did not allow a free election, Abrams acknowledged Friday that her Republican opponent will be certified as the next governor of the Georgia. But she refused to concede.

She said Sunday that serving as secretary of state as Kemp did, while also running for governor may be legal under Georgia law, but it’s wrong.

“[M]orals and ethics say you don’t oversee your own victory,” she told Reid.

Her comments echoed similar remarks she made Friday when ending her election bid.

“To watch an elected official who claims to represent this state baldly pin his hopes for election on the suppression on the people’s democratic right to vote has been truly appalling,” Abrams said in her speech Friday.

“This is not a speech of concession because concession means to acknowledge an action is right, true, or proper.”

The two politicians vowed to press for electoral change in their respective states, and they continued to use social media to amplify their message.

We are going to keep fighting. We will keep working. And in the end, I believe that we will win. I am so thankful to each and every one of you.

— Andrew Gillum (@AndrewGillum) November 17, 2018

It’s not simply a partisan issue, Abrams emphasized.

On December 4, for example, there’s going to be a redo of an election in a Georgia state House race because of a flawed ballot in a Republican district. A judge ordered the new election in a district where dozens of voters cast ballots in the wrong race.

“This is a systemic erosion of our administration of elections and it started and became perfected by Brian Kemp,” she insisted.

Four-hour lines to cast ballots outside Atlanta because of broken voting machines

Reid asked Abrams’ opinion of some people who are calling for a boycott, especially television and movie production companies that have increasingly moved their operations to Georgia, over what they view as Kemp’s theft of the election.

I appreciate the calls to action, but I ask all of our entertainment industry friends to support #FairFightGA – but please do not #boycottgeorgia. The hard-working Georgians who serve on crews & make a living here are not to blame. I promise: We will fight – and we will win.

— Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) November 18, 2018

Abrams said she opposes an economic boycott of Georgia because there’s nothing to boycott. “The election is over,” she said. “But what can happen is we can use the same energy to engage and hold him accountable, to hold everyone in power accountable.”

Abrams said her next venture will be focusing on Fair Fight Georgia, a new PAC she launched just days ago.

Her new organization will “pursue accountability in Georgia’s elections and integrity in the process of maintaining our voting rolls,” she said.

Categories: F. Left News

Florida Democrat Bill Nelson ends U.S. Senate reelection bid, concedes to Gov. Rick Scott

Think Progress - Sun, 11/18/2018 - 12:23

Florida Senator Bill Nelson (D) ended his reelection bid, the New York Times reported Sunday, conceding the race to his Republican rival Governor Rick Scott.

The Nelson-Scott Senate race was one of several incredibly tight races in Florida which saw an unprecedented statewide manual vote recount. Nelson’s concession comes one day after Democrat Andrew Gillum conceded on Saturday to Ron DeSantis in the governor’s race.

According to The Times, Scott in a statement called for unity, saying “Now the campaign truly is behind us, and that’s where we need to leave it.”

“We must do what Americans have always done: come together for the good of our state and our country,” he continued.

The Florida elections, however, have been fraught with tensions over Republican fears of voter fraud.

Last week, Scott claimed without evidence that there was rampant fraud in both Broward and Palm Beach counties, blaming Democrats specifically.

DeSantis bemoans voter fraud in first interview after Gillum conceded Florida governor’s race

Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokesman Jeremy Burns, however, said that he was told there are “no indications of fraud.” Election monitors in Broward County also saw no evidence of criminal activity, a Florida Department of Election spokesperson told the Miami Herald.

At the same time, Broward Circuit Judge Jack Tuter called for the rhetoric on criminality to be toned down in the week after November 6. “These words mean things these days,” he said, “as everybody in the room knows.”

Scott’s victory gives the Republicans another seat in the US Senate, increasing their margin 52-to-47.

Categories: F. Left News

Trump claims with a straight face that he didn’t know Whitaker had criticized Mueller probe

Think Progress - Sun, 11/18/2018 - 11:38

Matthew Whitaker, Donald Trump’s handpicked choice for the post of acting attorney general, famously and on numerous occasions savaged Robert Mueller’s Russia collusion probe.

But the president, during an interview broadcast on Sunday, insisted rather incredibly that he had no knowledge about Whitaker’s views when he picked him for the post — a position which gives Whitaker direct authority over the Mueller investigation.

“I did not know that. I did not know he took views on the Mueller investigation, as such,” Trump told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.

Trump, of course, has been obsessed with the Mueller probe looking at Russian efforts to affect the outcome of the 2016 election. The investigation has ensnared several Trump friends and associates, and could even implicated family members and president himself.

Whitaker in the past has made comments about starving the investigation and has criticized it as having no substance — remarks viewed by some as something of an “audition” for a high level Justice Department position in Trump’s administration.

Trump insisted to Fox News Sunday however, that he had no knowledge that Whitaker had made made derogatory statements about the probe when he made him, effectively, Mueller’s boss.

“And when you found that out?” Wallace asked Trump.

“I don’t think it had any effect. When you look at those statements, they really can be viewed either way,” he said.

Whitaker has made numerous negative comments about the Russia probe.

In July of 2017, Whitaker said during an interview with CNN, that an acting attorney general could “just reduces his budget to so low that his investigations grind to almost a halt.”

Last year, Whitaker tweeted “Worth a read” and linked to an article with the headline, “Note to Trump’s lawyer: Do not cooperate with Mueller lynch mob.”

Whitaker also has said there is no public evidence of collusion or obstruction of justice by Trump or the campaign, has approved of Trump’s decision to fire James Comey from his position as FBI director, because it was “well within his power of the executive,” and said he hasn’t seen evidence that the campaign was involved in any conspiracy.

Whitaker said just last year that it was “unsophisticated” of Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., and Paul Manafort to take a meeting at Trump Tower in 2016 with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who admitted to being a Russian informant this year, and Rob Goldstone, a publicist who sent an email promising “opposition research” on Hillary Clinton.

He then added, “But I don’t think there is anything that I have heard to date except wild speculation that demonstrates that anybody knew it was a foreign national, anybody knew about these connections which I still haven’t seen a real connection to the Kremlin, and really other than somebody was sold something false and took the meeting based on that false premise.”

“If you have somebody that you trust that is saying you need to meet with this individual because they have information about your opponent, you would take that meeting,” he said.

Whitaker has also said Trump was “absolutely correct,” to take issue with Mueller looking at the finances of the president’s family and Trump Organization. Whitaker also has connections to at least one person on Trump’s campaign team, Sam Clovis, who is now senior White House Adviser to the United States Department of Agriculture. Whitaker chaired the 2014 Sam Clovis campaign for Iowa treasurer. Clovis has been interviewed by Mueller’s team.

Authorities have confirmed that Clovis was the campaign supervisor who told George Papadopoulos “great work” when talking about communication with Russians trying to arrange a meeting between Trump and Russian leaders, according to ABC News.

As most of the world knows, the president  watches something like eight hours of television a day, including CNN, ‘Fox & Friends’ and MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe.’ He devotes a lot of his television viewing to coverage of the Russia investigation, regularly tweeting about the latest news coverage of the investigation. It is entirely possible Trump did not watch the numerous times Whitaker has disparaged the Mueller probe on television, but unlikely.

Categories: F. Left News

Trump criticizes U.S. military for not finding Osama bin Laden sooner

Think Progress - Sun, 11/18/2018 - 10:11

President Donald Trump responded to a former Navy SEAL commander by criticizing the U.S. military for not finding Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden sooner.

In a Fox News interview that aired on Sunday, Trump reacted to Chris Wallace’s question about retired Navy SEAL Adm. William McRaven, who oversaw the military operations that killed bin Laden in 2011 and captured former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in 2003, by remarking, “Wouldn’t it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that?”

When Wallace asked about the 37-year U.S. military veteran and former Navy SEAL who has called the president of the United States “the greatest threat to democracy,” Trump dismissed McRaven as a “Hillary Clinton fan” and “Obama backer.” He then criticized the timing of the US military operation that killed one of the world’s most-wanted fugitives.

“Frankly, wouldn’t it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that? Wouldn’t it have been nice? You know, living — think of this — living in Pakistan, beautifully in Pakistan in what I guess they considered a nice mansion. I don’t know, I’ve seen nicer. But living in Pakistan right next to the military academy, everybody in Pakistan knew he was there, and we give Pakistan $1.3 billion a year, and they don’t tell him?”

After Wallace incredulously asked, “You’re not even going to give them credit for taking down bin Laden?,” the president didn’t answer and pivoted to praising himself for cutting aid to Pakistan.

“They took him down, but look, look — there’s news right there — he lived in Pakistan, we’re supporting Pakistan, we’re giving them $1.3 billion a year, which we don’t give them anymore, by the way. I ended it because they don’t do anything for us, they don’t do a damn thing for us.”

Bin Laden was killed during a late-night Navy SEAL raid on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan in May 2011. The Al-Qaeda leader was wanted for his role in planning the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998, and numerous other violent incidents around the world.

President George W. Bush’s administration received — and mostly ignored — numerous warnings in the months before the 9/11 attacks.

Trump’s criticism of the U.S. military could be confusing for Fox News viewers, as this troop-themed promo runs frequently on the conservative network.


Categories: F. Left News

The internet mocks Trump for saying ‘raking’ forest floors would prevent California wildfires

Think Progress - Sun, 11/18/2018 - 10:00

During his trip to Paradise, California — a town entirely wiped out by the Camp Fire — President Donald Trump discussed a favorite topic of his when it comes to wildfires: forest management.

Speaking to reporters, he praised Finland for its approach to tackling forest fires.

“We’ve got to take care of the floors, you know the floors of the forest, very important,” Trump said. “You look at other countries where they do it differently and it’s a whole different story.”

“I was with the president of Finland and he said… we’re a forest nation, he called it a forest nation,” Trump continued, “and they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things. They don’t have any problem, and what it is, it’s a very small problem.”

The internet wasted no time tearing down these remarks. And the hashtag “Rake America Great Again” was born.

Trump (self-described genius) thinks Finland have fewer forest fires than California because they rake

— James Felton (@JimMFelton) November 17, 2018

And the Fins, ever faithful allies, step up to the plate. #RakeAmericaGreatAgain #RakeTheForest #Trump

— Memeditorialist – Yes to Prop Rep (@ajhtweeting) November 18, 2018

It appears Trump was referring to the practice of thinning forests that become overgrown after decades of fire suppression. California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) approved $1 billion in state aid over the next five years for similar projects.

However, equating Finland and California, many critics said, was a bit of a stretch.

For one thing, many areas wildfires in California occur not in forests, but in chaparral, or shrub land. Months of drought turned such brush into easily ignited kindling.

Just an ordinary day in the Finnish forest ~ Ihan normipäivä suomalaisessa metsässä #Trump #forest #firesafety #raking #forestry #Finland #Finnish #CaliforniaFire #RakingAmericaGreatAgain #rakingtheforest #Suomi #haravointi #metsäpalot #rakingleaves

— Pyry Luminen (@pyryluminen) November 18, 2018

Goin’ to California!#RakeAmericaGreatAgain

— T.A. Pierce (@t_a_pierce) November 17, 2018

Finland on the other hand sits in the colder, northern latitudes, and is covered by dense, boreal forest. And while its fire season is much shorter as a result, this doesn’t mean it hasn’t been impacted — just this summer wildfires raged in Lapland.

What’s more, unlike California, Finland has a problem of too few forest fires, which risks impacting biodiversity. If charred areas are protected afterwards, this can help nature restore valuable habitats.

Trump tours California wildfire devastation, blames everything but climate change

Trump’s penchant for blaming the fires on forest mismanagement has been widely mocked by scientists. Singling it out as the lone culprit for California’s record breaking wildfire season ignores, among other factors, climate change.

The catastrophic Camp Fire has killed at least 71 people, with more than 1,000 others missing. Millions of California residents are breathing the worst air in the world as smoke from the deadliest fire in state history travels hundreds of miles.

Fueled by hot, dry, windy conditions that are becoming more common as climate change intensifies, the Camp Fire exploded last week. Around the same time, the massive Woolsey Fire charred huge swaths of Southern California.

In addition, more people are living along the wildland-urban interface. This puts an enormous strain on California’s firefighting resources — the state exhausted its annual budget of $442.8 million in August. Trump, however, in blaming poor forest management has threatened to withhold federal funds.

Climate change is making western wildfires much worse

Trump said this weekend that witnessing firsthand the destruction caused by the fires in California has not led to him re-think his misguided stance on climate science.

“No, no,” Trump told reporters when asked if he had changed his mind on climate change. “I have a strong opinion. I want great climate, we’re going to have that, and we’re going to have forests that are very safe… that is happening as we speak.”

Trump says seeing the devastation of the wildfires in California hasn't changed his opinion on climate change.

"No, no. I have a strong opinion. I want great climate, we're going to have that, & we're going to have forests that are very safe… that is happening as we speak."

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) November 17, 2018

Others disagree. Responding to Trump’s comments, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) said: “It is unfortunate that we have a president that doesn’t appear to believe in science. If preventing wildfires was as easy as raking leaves, we would have done that by now. But it is a complicated issue. Climate change does play a large role.”

Categories: F. Left News

Taxi drivers refuse rides to Proud Boys after far-right rally in Philadelphia

Think Progress - Sun, 11/18/2018 - 08:32

Philadelphia taxi drivers refused to give rides to members of the white nationalist “Proud Boys,” after a rally where the far-right group was vastly outnumbered by anti-racist protesters.

Videos show cab and Uber drivers, who arrived after far-right rally ended, leaving with their cars empty when they were told by anti-racist protesters of their racist and neo-Nazi politics, HuffPost reported Saturday.

The “We the People” rally, organized on a Facebook group run by Proud Boys, attracted other right-wing extremists, including members of the Three Percenters, a white nationalist militia, and people who described themselves as Trump supporters.

At the rally, the two sides were kept separate by metal barricades and rows of police.

This is completely surreal. Fascists are trying to take taxis , but the drivers keep leaving whenever they realize what’s happening.

— Tess Owen (@misstessowen) November 17, 2018

Tensions flared, the Daily Beast reported, after a group of Proud Boys crossed a police line and confronted the anti-racist demonstrators.

The group reportedly included David Kuriakose, a Proud Boy who is facing riot and assault charges over an October 12 brawl in New York City with anti-fascist protesters.

Gavin McInnes, founder of the Proud Boys, was giving a speech inside The Metropolitan Republican Club in New York City, while the anti-fascist protesters gathered outside. McInnes is a co-founder of Vice Media but left the company in 2008.

Mob of white nationalist ‘Proud Boys’ brutally beat several men: ‘Are you brave now, faggot?!’

“This is completely surreal,” Vice News correspondent Tess Owen wrote on Twitter on Saturday. “Fascists are trying to take taxis, but the drivers keep leaving whenever they realize what’s happening.”

Owen reported that police tried to help far-right attendees leave the rally by Ubers. But when an Uber would arrive, “protesters would swarm and tell the driver they were about to pick up fascists, and the Uber would speed off,” Owen wrote.

Categories: F. Left News

DeSantis bemoans voter fraud in first interview after Gillum conceded Florida governor’s race

Think Progress - Sun, 11/18/2018 - 07:36

There is no question that “there was flagrant violation of the law” during Florida’s election, the state’s governor-elect Ron DeSantis (R) told Fox News in his first interview after Democratic opponent Andrew Gillum (D) conceded the race on Saturday.

Florida’s election saw a bitter campaign marred by racist innuendo and malfunctioning voting machines in majority Democratic precincts. And even after winning the race following contentious recounts, DeSantis maintained Republican claims that crimes had been committed during the election.

Speaking to the Justice With Judge Jeanine program on Fox late Saturday, DeSantis celebrated his “re-election” win while also criticizing balloting and early voting. “I don’t think there was any question that there was flagrant violation of the law,” the Florida US congressman said.

“Some of these votes that were counted late, a day or two after the election, were supposedly cast during early voting and they were just never reported as having been cast,” he continued. “And we have a lot of transparency and legal requirements precisely because that’s what confers legitimacy to these results.”

DeSantis won the governor’s race after a legally mandated ballot recount was completed on Saturday following the initial November 6 results were too close to call. Recounts were also ordered in two other Florida races, meaning the state had to review 8.2 million ballots in just five days.

The recounts have led to Republican lawmakers claiming that Democrats are trying to steal the election, including President Donald Trump.

DeSantis pointed to two counties in particular: Broward and Palm Beach, which also saw vote-counting problems in the 2000 presidential race. He told Fox News that what happened in these two counties “really tarnished the image of the state.”

Andrew Gillum concedes race for Florida governor to Ron DeSantis

Last week, current Republican Governor Rick Scott also claimed without evidence that there was rampant fraud in both Broward and Palm Beach counties, blaming Democrats specifically.

Despite these claims by Scott and DeSantis, officials have found no instances of voter fraud.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokesman Jeremy Burns, for instance, said that he was told there are “no indications of fraud” and so they won’t be investigating the issue. Election monitors in Broward County also have seen no evidence of criminal activity, a Florida Department of Election spokesperson told the Miami Herald.

At the same time, Broward Circuit Judge Jack Tuter called for the rhetoric on criminality to be toned down. “These words mean things these days,” he said, “as everybody in the room knows.”

While Gillum didn’t hint at his future plans post the election and the end of his mayoral term, he did give a nod to the ongoing tensions surrounding voter fraud. Upon conceding, he called for updating the state’s election system to “bring it into the 21st century.”

Categories: F. Left News

Democrats may change rule to allow Muslim member of Congress wear headscarf

Think Progress - Sun, 11/18/2018 - 07:25

Democrats in Congress are planning to update their rules to allow religious headwear in the chamber, a change that most immediately would benefit Representative-elect Ilhan Omar (D-MN), a Muslim woman who wears a headscarf.

The proposal is included in a number of rule changes Democrats plan to put in place when they take over the House next year. Hats, and with them, head coverings of any kind, have been banned in Congress for 181 years.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Democrat Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) co-authored the proposal, along with Omar.

The first Somali-American in Congress, Omar was born in Somalia and came to the U.S. as a refugee. Before she and another incoming freshman lawmaker, Rashida Tlaib, (D-MI) were elected during the midterms, no Muslim woman had ever been voted into Congress.

Najat Hamza, a leader from the Oromo community, which, according to Feet in 2 Worlds, is the second largest East African immigrant population in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, said to the publication, “As an immigrant she understands our hurdles and our newly adapted American roots and values … If it was someone from a different background they can speak to you, but they can’t claim they have lived it and know what has worked and what hasn’t. They don’t carry that heart, that passion in a real sense.”

Another proposal by House Democrats would establish a diversity office and write a ban on discrimination against LGBTQ people into the House rules.

INFOGRAPHIC: The 113th Congress Will Be The Most Diverse In History

These rules are an acknowledgement of the diversity of incoming members of Congress on the Democratic side.

Among other firsts for newly elected Democratic leaders, Rep.-elect Ayanna Pressley will be Massachusetts’ first black congresswoman. Sharice Davids (D-KS) and Deb Haaland (D-NM) were the first Native American women elected to Congress. Rep.-elect (D-NY) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest person to be elected to Congress.

The LGBTQ community will also be better represented. Davids would also be the first lesbian Kansans elected to Congress. Katie Hill (D-CA) will be the first bi woman to represent Californians in Congress.

Some conservatives are already nervous about some of these new members of Congress. Fox News host Laura Ingraham called Pressley, Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, and Tlaib the “four horsewomen of the apocalypse,” Ingraham accusing them of being on a “warpath against white men.”

Categories: F. Left News

States lead the way on pivotal shift toward renewable energy after midterms

Think Progress - Sun, 11/18/2018 - 06:50

The shift in the political balance at the state level following the midterm elections will produce far more benefits for the renewable energy industry — at least in the next few years — than the Democratic takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives, according to clean energy experts.

Voters in several states elected Democratic governors in previously Republican-controlled states, shakeups that could lead to a more rapid advancement of clean energy policies. The Democratic Party also seized control of seven state legislatures, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures, a shift that could make it easier to pass laws favorable to renewable energy.

Speaking Friday at a clean energy forum in Washington, D.C., Gregory Wetstone, president and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), a nonprofit trade group that advocates for the growth of renewable energy, referred to the results of the November 6 elections as a “seismic shift” in the political landscape.

But it’s primarily at the state level, according to Wetstone, that the political changes will improve the fortunes of the wind, solar, and other renewable energy sectors.

A trend that started more than a dozen years ago — the creation of renewable energy standards and the establishment of clean energy incentives — could gain even more momentum due to what happened in the governors’ races and in state legislatures, he predicted.

Although renewables legislation used to be more bipartisan, Democrats have been far more likely to support renewable energy-friendly policies than Republicans since the rise of the Koch Brothers and other pro-fossil fuel political funders a decade ago.

As New Green Deal Democrats cement their hold, climate change emerges as a top priority

At the federal level, Wetstone and the other panelists at the event, titled “Election 2018: What’s Next for Clean Energy Policy,” didn’t completely discount the importance of at least 36 seats swinging to the Democrats in the U.S. House in the midterm elections. But they weren’t optimistic about any immediate major federal policy changes that would benefit the renewables industry or address climate change.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to make progress at the state level,” said Wetstone. “But we don’t want 50 different state approaches to carbon. We want a national approach.”

Tackling climate change, Wetstone explained, will require bipartisan movement at the federal level. “Carbon is the biggest externality in the history of economics,” he noted, referring to the high societal costs of burning carbon-emitting fossil fuels.

In the next Congress, there could be opportunities for the passage of bipartisan legislation, but nothing on the scale needed to adequately address the climate crisis.

Hal Harvey, CEO of energy and environmental research firm Energy Innovation, told the forum that he met with more than two dozen Democratic members of Congress last week, many of whom said there’s an opportunity for the passage of bipartisan bills, but only on a small scale.

The House is more likely to pass “sensible, incremental policies that could find favor in the Senate,” the lawmakers told Harvey, who added, “They’re not looking for a dramatic change.”

Some of those modest steps, such as providing additional federal incentives for the deployment of offshore wind energy, could turn out to be important for the advancement of renewables. “We’re going to see an opportunity for comity between the parties to get some incremental things done,” he said.

Modest policy steps are not what many Democratic House newcomers promised in their successful election bids. Many made fighting climate change one of their top legislative priorities, especially in light of the recent United Nations’ report that gave the world 12 years to take the necessary steps to avert a climate catastrophe.

Climate activists are rallying behind Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who is pushing a “Green New Deal.” The plan calls for a massive national mobilization to transition the U.S. economy away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy while creating green jobs and infrastructure.

Climate activists take fight over climate legislation to incoming House energy committee leader

Environmental activists are also pushing for passage of the Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act (OFF Act), a major piece of legislation introduced in September 2017 by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) which currently has 45 co-sponsors. The bill mandates a transition to 100 percent renewable energy in electricity production, with 80 percent of that shift happening within 10 years.

With Democrats now controlling the House, such legislation, which would have a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions, could get passed — and then the future of climate legislation would then be in the hands of the Senate.

In the Republican-controlled Senate, though, the passage of any meaningful climate legislation will have little chance.

Even on the Democratic side of the Senate, the news is not rosy. Wetstone warned that Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) could give up her ranking spot on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to become the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee. Such a move would open up the top Democratic spot on the energy committee to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), a strong supporter of the fossil fuel industry, especially the mining and burning of coal for power generation.

“That’s not exactly the ideal scenario for renewable power, to be clear,” Wetstone said of Manchin’s possible promotion.

All in all, though, the tone of the forum was a positive one.

Elias Hinckley, an attorney at forum host K&L Gates, kicked off the event by offering an optimistic view of the midterm election’s impact on the growth of renewables. “I really do think this is the moment when things change,” Hinckley said.

At the state level, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Maine, and Wisconsin all switched from Republican to Democratic governors. In 14 states, Democrats will have control of the governor’s office and control of both houses of the legislatures, with Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Nevada, Maine and New York joining eight other states.

The failure of two ballot initiatives — the carbon fee proposal in Washington state and the 50-percent-renewables-by-2030 proposal in Arizona — did not overly concern the panelists.

Democrats vow aggressive oversight of Trump’s pro-polluter agencies with House majority

“Does the loss in two states on ballot initiatives cause me great heartache? No, because I think the rest of the election shows that there’s broad support” for clean energy, said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Polls show that Americans strongly support a major expansion of renewable energy deployment, with a large percentage willing to pay more for clean energy, she said.

The extent to which voters elected officials who support clean energy at the state level “should not be understated — that is a huge outcome,” Hopper said. “Now let’s go from talking to action.”

Categories: F. Left News

Andrew Gillum concedes race for Florida’s governor to Ron DeSantis

Think Progress - Sat, 11/17/2018 - 17:57

Andrew Gillum on Saturday ended his bid to become Florida’s governor, conceding the race to his Republican rival Ron DeSantis after a bitter campaign marred by racist innuendo and malfunctioning voting machines in majority Democratic precincts.

Gillum posted a video of himself Saturday, flanked by his wife R. Jai, in which he broke the news that he was ending his bid to become Florida’s first African American chief executive.

“R. Jai and I wanted to take a moment to congratulate Mr. DeSantis on becoming the next governor of the great state of Florida,” Gillum said, calling the contest “the journey of our lives.”

He said he would fight to try to create a more equitable voting system in the state, telling his supporters “this wasn’t just about an election cycle.”

“This was about creating the kind of change in this state that really allows for the voices of everyday people to show up again in our government and in our state and in our communities. We know that this fight continues,” said Gillum, the mayor of Florida’s capital city Tallahassee.

Florida orders recount of votes in Senate, gubernatorial races

“We want you to know that we see you and we hear you and that your voices will continue to power us as we still stand on the frontlines right alongside you to make this a state that works for all of us,” Gillum said.

“The issues that we cared about, the issues that we championed, the issues that we feel even still today so passionately about still matter to us.”

He followed up those remarks with a series of messages sent on Twitter, including one thanking the “millions of Floridians” who had supported his candidacy.

I want to congratulate @RonDeSantisFL on becoming the next Governor of the great state of Florida. My wife R. Jai and I could not be prouder of the way we ran this race. We could not be more thankful to my running mate, @ChrisKingFL and his wife Kristen.

— Andrew Gillum (@AndrewGillum) November 17, 2018

We are going to keep fighting. We will keep working. And in the end, I believe that we will win. I am so thankful to each and every one of you.

— Andrew Gillum (@AndrewGillum) November 17, 2018

The general election campaign got off to a bitter and polarizing start last August when, within hours of winning his primary contest, DeSantis introduced a none-too-subtle racial attack against Gillum in a Fox News interview, calling him an “articulate spokesman” for leftist views. He warned that “the last thing we need to do is to monkey this up” by embracing Gillum’s “socialist agenda” in Florida. 

Weeks later, Gillum had one of the most memorable lines of the entire 2018 campaign, when he said of his Republican rival and his many far-right followers, “I’m not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist. I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist.”

President Trump, a strong DeSantis backer, also sent out a racist tweet about Gillum as the election campaign drew to a close.

Trump sends racist tweet about Andrew Gillum, Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Florida

After the November 6 balloting, DeSantis held a narrow lead, which prompted Gillum to concede the race on Election Night. He retracted his concession days later as more votes poured in and the margin narrowed.

But a legally mandated ballot recount completed on Saturday showed that Gillum continued to trail DeSantis, whose advantage ultimately proved to be insurmountable.

Shortly after Gillum’s concession on Saturday, DeSantis sent out a tweet acknowledging that the campaign had been “hard-fought” and saying “it’s time to bring Florida together.”

This was a hard-fought campaign. Now it’s time to bring Florida together.

— Ron DeSantis (@RonDeSantisFL) November 17, 2018


Categories: F. Left News

Trump tours California wildfire devastation after blaming state officials

Think Progress - Sat, 11/17/2018 - 13:12

President Donald Trump arrived in California Saturday to assess the damage from the catastrophic Camp Fire, which has claimed the lives of 71 people so far, with more than 1,000 others missing. Millions of California residents are breathing the worst air in the world as smoke from the deadliest fire in California history travels hundreds of miles.

Trump was met by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom (D), both of whom routinely find themselves at odds with the president on numerous issues, including climate change, plus House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and FEMA Director Brock Long.

“This is very sad to see,” Trump said, standing in front of the charred shell of a home in the town of Paradise, which was almost entirely incinerated. After vowing to “work together” with Brown and others, Trump once again implied state officials are to blame for the catastrophic fires despite receiving widespread criticism for doing so last week.

“We do have to do management, maintenance, and we’ll be working also with environmental groups… I think everybody’s seen the light and I don’t think we’ll have this again to this extent,” Trump said, without acknowledging factors like climate change that scientists say are contributing to larger and more destructive wildfires.

“We’ve got to take care of the floors, you know the floors of the forest, very important,” he continued. “You look at other countries where they do it differently and it’s a whole different story. I was with the president of Finland and he said… we’re a forest nation, he called it a forest nation, and they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things. They don’t have any problem, and what it is, it’s a very small problem.”

President Trump gets tour of burned-out neighborhood in Paradise, CA

— Jonathan Lemire (@JonLemire) November 17, 2018

An endless line of Cal Fire engines heads out to go fight the #CampFire. Yes it’s still going. Forget about presidential visits. Putting this fire out and rebuilding our towns is what’s important.

— David Little (@ER_DavidLittle) November 17, 2018

Fueled by hot, dry, windy conditions that are becoming more common as climate change intensifies, the Camp Fire exploded last week. Around the same time, the massive Woolsey Fire charred huge swaths of Southern California.

Trump responded to the devastation by blaming the state’s elected officials for poor forest management and threatening to withhold federal funds. He was swiftly rebuked by officials, scientists, and firefighters alike.

“The president’s assertion that California’s forest management policies are to blame for catastrophic wildfire is dangerously wrong,” Brian Rice, president of California Professional Firefighters, said in a statement.

“Wildfires are sparked and spread not only in forested areas but in populated areas and open fields fueled by parched vegetation, high winds, low humidity and geography.” What’s more, Rice pointed out, nearly 60 percent of California’s forests are under federal management and a significant chunk is privately controlled.

“We’re in extreme climate change,” Daryl Osby, Los Angeles County fire chief, said in response to Trump lashing out on Twitter. “It’s very hurtful for all first responders that are putting their lives on the line to protect lives and property.” (The Southern California fires, in fact, were never burning forest land.)

Climate change is making western wildfires much worse

It was perhaps not surprising that Trump said in an interview set to air in full on Fox News Sunday that the purpose of his trip was “just to see the firefighters.”

Back in August, the president again sought to blame California’s massive wildfires on state officials; that time, he claimed the problem was water management. Scientists called Trump’s tweet “comedically ill-informed” and “unmitigated crap.”

While California has a long history of annual wildfires, the blazes are bigger and more destructive than ever. Fifteen of the 20 largest wildfires in California history have occurred since 2000 — and that doesn’t include this November’s monstrous blazes. Across the western U.S., the average number of large fires (over 1,000 acres) tripled from the 1970s to the 2010s and the fire season has been extended by 105 days, Climate Central found in a 2016 report.

The combination of higher temperatures and drought, fueled by climate change, and more people living along the wildland-urban interface has put an unbelievable strain on California’s firefighting resources; the state fire agency exhausted its annual $442.8 million budget in early August of this year.

“Behind the scenes of all of this, you’ve got temperatures that are about two to three degrees Fahrenheit warmer now than they would’ve been without global warming,” Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, told the New York Times.

But because Trump has repeatedly rejected widely accepted climate science — he has referred to global warming as a “hoax” on several occasions — he needs something or someone else to blame for increasingly destructive and dangerous wildfires sweeping through states like California.

“Maybe [climate change] contributes a little bit. The big problem we have is management,” Trump said in the Fox News Sunday interview prior to visiting California. “You need forest management. It has to be. I’m not saying that in a negative way, a positive — I’m just saying the facts. And I’ve really learned a lot.”

As he continued his tour Saturday, Trump was asked about the role of climate change in devastating wildfires like the Camp Fire. “You have a lot of factors. You have the management factor… Right now that seems to be a very big problem and we’re going to get that problem solved,” Trump said, going on to discuss funding for forest management without answering the question.

“Does seeing the devastation change your opinion at all on climate change, Mr. President?” a reporter then asked. “No, no. I have a strong opinion,” Trump answered. “I want great climate, we’re going to have that, and we’re going to have forests that are very safe because we can’t go through this every year.”

Categories: F. Left News

Trump revives shutdown threats over border wall funding

Think Progress - Sat, 11/17/2018 - 11:23

The coming weeks “would be a very good time to do a shutdown” to force Congress to approve funding for a physical wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, President Trump said Saturday.

The president has already forced the government to shut briefly two times over the controversial policy, which was the central promise of his 2016 campaign but draws little enthusiasm from border security experts.

In each case, the standoffs were resolved within a few days, and the consequences were more theatrical than practical. But that’s not always been the case in the past, when more sincere and dug-in parties kept the government shut for weeks at a time.

While a border wall has far less material, substantive effect in reducing border-crossing than its emotional value to the president’s relationship with his base, the consequences of a real shutdown — that is to say, longer than the hours- or days-long flickers Trump’s induced in federal budget capacities twice this year — can be dire.

Republicans forced a 16-day shutdown in 2013 during bully-ball budget negotiations with then-President Barack Obama. The sandbox fight knocked $23 billion worth of economic activity off the country’s growth for the year. The country’s National Parks lost about $450,000 in revenue per day during the closure.

Those topline dollar figures don’t fully illustrate what a shutdown does to the lives of people seeking help from the bureaucracies that interface between the public and the services they pay for, however.

Government shutdowns disrupt casework of various kinds, slow or stop the processing of complex and time-sensitive processes involving grant funding, taxpayer-subsidized loans, health care reimbursement, and other staples of the relationship between a people and their representatives.

The wall itself continues to be incoherent as policy, but potent as politics. Trump’s supporters continue to demand it, and to look askance at anyone who points out that even the Border Patrol, former Homeland Security Secretary turned Trump Chief of Staff John Kelly, and various border-district Republicans think barricading the entire southern border as the president has promised would be a fool’s errand.

Categories: F. Left News

Laura Ingraham lashes out over New York billboard condemning anti-gay group

Think Progress - Sat, 11/17/2018 - 11:00

“No gays allowed,” proclaims a new billboard in Times Square.

“STOP Alliance Defending Freedom,” smaller letters below the shocking message read. “Learn more at”

The billboard is an attempt by the group Citizens for Transparency to highlight the anti-LGBTQ work done by conservative group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which has, for more than two decades now, worked on cases that attempt to criminalize gay sex, restrict transgender rights, and allow businesses to deny service to LGBTQ people.

It was ADF that was behind the recent Supreme Court case, Masterpiece Cakeshop, and they have been designated a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

On Friday night, Laura Ingraham welcomed ADF’s vice president Jeremy Tedesco on her Fox show to discuss the billboard, which ultimately turned into both Ingraham and Tedesco attacking the SPLC, because of course it did!

This sign was put up in New York and people don't see the small print and think @AllianceDefends put up a no gays allowed sign. It was actually put up by a pro LGBT org that uses the domain name nogays dot org. They should take it down

— The Teatarian (@teapartytempest) November 16, 2018

“They played a role in 54 victories in front of the Supreme Court and defended families and marriages, but now they’re being targeted by this forces on the left in an effort to blunt their effectiveness,” Ingraham said, by way of introducing her guest.

“They were targeted by this disgusting billboard campaign in New York City’s Times Square… Here now to respond, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom. Jeremy, I have a gay brother. I love him very much. I didn’t like that sign at all. I thought it was hideous.”

The ADF, Tedeso argued, is not an anti-LGBTQ organization but rather just dedicated to supporting everyone’s First Amendment rights, one of the right’s favorite euphemisms for supporting hateful policies.

“We do a lot of great work. We protect everybody’s freedom,” he said. “Their ad completely misrepresents everything our case is about.”

Ingraham asked Tedeso if the group would represent a “gay group” if they had a First Amendment case, and Tedeso said they “absolutely” would.

“We support the rights of everybody. Our wins are wins for everybody. We have represented gay clients, but we represent people from all faiths as well. So it’s really important to understand we win cases for everybody,” he said. “The free speech and free exercise rights that we protect are rights we all benefit from.”

The real problem, Ingraham declared, is the SPLC.

“They’ve branded you a hate group. And they’ve put people like me and other conservative commentators on hit lists,” she said.

Laura Ingraham’s racist, transphobic takes land her a primetime slot on Fox News

It’s worth noting, of course, that Ingraham has a history of racist and transphobic takes of her own. Before joining Fox News, on her radio show, she attacked the pope for talking about climate changerailed against affirmative actionsaid “the Muslims” never support “the conservatives” on anti-LGBTQ issues, called Planned Parenthood a criminal organization, said many minorities voted for Obama because of his race, and suggested the U.S. should shoot undocumented immigrants who want to re-enter the country, among a litany of other hateful and fact-challenged takes.

“People hear southern poverty law center, think they that’s the gold standard of civil rights organizations. I think that’s not true, she said, before turning to the SPLC’s assets.

“They have big mail solicitations,” she said, as Tedesco nodded along.

“Well, this group, the Citizens for Transparency, actually a very secretive group,” Tedesco responded. “They’re just parroting the Southern Poverty Law Center’s misinformation about us. What they do is they attack people who disagree with them.”

“It’s an attempt to intimidate people from expressing themselves,” Ingraham agreed. “We want more speech in this country. I like the fact that we have a First Amendment. For people of all backgrounds, religious, sexual orientation. Have your voice. Respect each other in your conversation. But the idea of intimidating people… I know they’re not going to intimidate you.”

Categories: F. Left News

Seb Gorka is hosting a new Sinclair propaganda special about the rise of socialism

Think Progress - Sat, 11/17/2018 - 10:38

Sebastian Gorka, the former Trump aide with ties to a Hungarian Nazi party, is hosting a new must-run show for Sinclair about the “dangers” of socialism.

As Media Matters wrote Friday, the 30-minute special appears to be the first in a multipart series which will “take an in-depth look at the appeal of a system that promises equality to all and what happens when the initial enthusiasm gives way to a sobering reality.”

According to Media Matters, the first installment of the series focuses on democratic socialists who have been elected in the United States, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and Virginia state delegate Lee Carter, as well as socialist regimes throughout history that have gone wrong and grown violent.

The special is part of pattern of Sinclair-mandated propaganda, including alarmist “terrorism reports” and right-wing opinion pieces packaged as news reports from former Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn and former Sinclair Vice President Mark Hyman.

Fox News overlooks alleged Nazi ties, hires former White House staffer Seb Gorka

Earlier this year, Sinclair mandated that their local anchors across the country read a script about “fake news.”

“We’re concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country. The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media,” it read in part.

“More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories… stories that just aren’t true, without checking facts first. Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’…This is extremely dangerous to a democracy.”

Gorka, for his part, made his name while working for Trump. He claims to be a national security expert, but his credentials are questionable.

“Several experts interviewed by Politico puzzled over the gap between the numerous military academic credentials listed by Gorka — a political science Ph.D. who unfailingly uses the title ‘Dr.’ — and their unfamiliarity with his work and views,” a Politico article from last year read.

Additionally, and more importantly, he is also a sworn member of a Nazi-allied party in Hungary. Last year, The Forward uncovered Gorka’s ties to a group known as Vitézi Rend, which according to the State Department, was “under the direction of the Nazi Government of Germany” during World War II.

Stable genius Seb Gorka is at it again, accidentally confirms White House cooperated with Wolff book

“I have never taken an oath of loyalty to the Vitézi Rend,” Gorka told Tablet Magazine after The Forward story was published. “Since childhood, I have occasionally worn my father’s medal and used the ‘v.’ initial to honor his struggle against totalitarianism.”

Still, he remained in the White House for months after his ties were revealed.

Sinclair has not said whether Gorka is now an official employee, but, as Media Matters noted, he has appeared in other must-run propaganda, including a special called “The Rise of Terrorism: A Clash of Cultures” and a town hall hosted by Sinclair’s Washington D.C. station in which he said he believed “Black Africans” are killing each other “by the bushel.”

Categories: F. Left News

Prosecutors: Kentucky grocery store victims were fatally shot for being black

Think Progress - Sat, 11/17/2018 - 09:14

The murders of two black shoppers at a Kentucky grocery store last month were indeed motivated by race-hate, federal prosecutors confirmed this week.

Gregory Bush had attempted to gain entry to a prominent black church in the Louisville suburbs shortly before walking into the grocery and killing one shopper inside, then walking out front and killing another.

Both targets were black. When a white man with a gun confronted Bush in the parking lot, he defused the situation by telling Bush “Whites don’t shoot whites.”

Bush was charged with hate crimes on Thursday. He committed the murders “because of [the victims’] actual and perceived race and color,” a federal grand jury indictment unveiled by the Department of Justice said.

Bush’s racially motivated killings, combined with his apparent interest that day in replicating the church massacre of Dylann Roof, was overshadowed at the time by the hunt for the so-called “MAGAbomber” who’d sent functional explosives to various prominent liberal figures. Days after the Kroger killings in Kentucky, another heavily armed white supremacist murdered 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.

“There is no place for hate-fueled violence in our community or Commonwealth,” U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman said in a press release announcing the Bush indictment. “Federal, state, and local law enforcement stand united to ensure that Kentuckians can shop, worship, or attend school without the specter of fear.”

Hate crimes statutes and penalty enhancements have long been a sticking point for conservative lawmakers, elected officials and pundits, who argue that the laws require mind-reading to enforce and that murder is murder regardless of motive.

But the indictment of Bush is the latest example of how the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division sometimes seeks severe penalties for white identitarian killers, as an emboldened and newly normalized white supremacist movement flexes its muscles in the Trump era.

Federal law enforcement officials have been on notice about the rising tide of white supremacist violence for years but both the feds and local partners have still been caught by surprise over the past two years, as the New York Times Magazine reported in detail earlier this month.

While most attention paid to political violence and terrorism on U.S. shores has focused on Islamic extremism, the Anti-Defamation League notes that white supremacists and other far-right extremists have racked up more than twice the body count of their more cable news friendly jihadist peers.

The group attributes 26 percent of all terrorism fatalities from 2008 to 2017 to Islamic terror groups, and 71 percent to far-right and white nationalist assailants.


Categories: F. Left News