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Apparently, FEMA’s Failure is the norm especially when the poorest and neediest are involved. MA
March 5, 20195:00 AM ET
Heard on All Things Considered
Rebecca Hersher
Robert Benincasa
If they had known, they never would have bought the house on Bayou Glen Road. Sure, it was a beautiful lot, tucked in a bend of the creek, backyard woodsy and wild, the neighbors friendly and the street quiet. A little piece of nature just 20 minutes from downtown Houston. It was exactly what John and Heather Papadopoulos — recently married, hoping to start a family — were looking for in 2007. They didn’t think much about the creek that ran along their yard, aside from appreciating the birds it attracted to the neighborhood.
Across town, the Evans family was similarly indifferent to the wooded bayous that cut through their neighborhood. Janice Perry-Evans chose the house she rented because it was conveniently located near the local high school, which made it easy for her two boys to get to class and home from football practice. Her commute to the post office wasn’t far either. Plus, at $800 per month, the rent was affordable. By 2017, the family had lived there for four years and didn’t have any plans to move.
And then, in August of that year, both homes were destroyed. Both families had to start over from nothing. But today, one family is financially stable. The other is facing bankruptcy.

Disasters are becoming more common in America. In the early and mid-20th century, fewer than 20 percent of U.S. counties experienced a disaster each year. Today, it’s about 50 percent. According to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, climate change is already driving more severe droughts, floods and wildfires in the U.S. And those disasters are expensive. The federal government spends billions of dollars annually helping communities rebuild and prevent future damage. But an NPR investigation has found that across the country, white Americans and those with more wealth often receive more federal dollars after a disaster than do minorities and those with less wealth. Federal aid isn’t necessarily allocated to those who need it most; it’s allocated according to cost-benefit calculations meant to minimize taxpayer risk.

Put another way, after a disaster, rich people get richer and poor people get poorer. And federal disaster spending appears to exacerbate that wealth inequality.

The Flood
Nowhere are the economic and racial inequities of disaster aid more apparent than in communities that have experienced one of the most costly and widespread disasters: urban flooding.
Houston is arguably ground zero for urban flooding — a sprawling city built on low and marshy flatlands exposed to hurricanes blowing in from the Gulf of Mexico. In the past decade, there have been five major floods in the city, culminating in the largest amount of rain ever recorded from a single storm: Hurricane Harvey in August 2017.
The Papadopoulos and Evans families were two of the hundreds of thousands of families who evacuated their homes during the storm.

“We were the first ones to evacuate out of our house, up the street,” remembers John Papadopoulos. In the years before the hurricane, their home had gone from a refuge to a nightmare. It flooded in 2009, in 2015 and in 2016. By 2017, they knew what to do: Put the valuables up high, and get out. They went to a neighbor’s house first, and then to a hotel.
It was a new experience for the Evans family. “When the water started coming up, we thought we were going to have to go on the roof,” says Janice Perry-Evans. “But we ended up not going on the roof. We ended up, me and the kids, packing up a little bit of stuff” in a plastic container.
“We got out and we walked in that water,” she remembers. The water was up to her armpits in places. Eventually, a dump truck carried them to a bus, and the bus dropped them at the convention center downtown.

The next morning, Perry-Evans and Papadopoulos took the same first step to start rebuilding their lives — they turned to the federal government for help. But almost immediately, their experiences diverged.
From the beginning, a lot of things went right for the Papadopoulos family. John’s employer, Microsoft, gave him as much time off as he needed and more than $10,000 to help with rent and other bills that piled up after the flood. The Papadopouloses rented a townhouse nearby and, within a few months, the federal aid they had applied for began to arrive.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency gave them $30,000; because the family owned a home that had been destroyed in the flood, the Internal Revenue Service sent checks for more than $100,000 in refunded taxes — a perk of having a relatively high income. The Small Business Administration gave the family a low-interest loan.
About a year after the storm, Papadopoulos said, his family was financially stable.
The Evans family was not.

Janice Perry-Evans had one goal after the floodwaters receded: find a place to stay. She didn’t have any savings for a hotel or a new apartment, so when a co-worker offered her a room in his house, she took it, even though it was one room for her and her three kids and it was a 45-minute drive from work and school.
Then, she started applying for help from FEMA.
The agency gave her about $2,500, enough to cover a deposit and first month’s rent in a new place, but Perry-Evans needed the money for something else. Her oldest son was hoping for a college football scholarship. He couldn’t afford to miss school or football practice that fall, and the family couldn’t afford for Perry-Evans to miss shifts as a mail carrier for the post office.

“I had to go to work, and I had to get these boys back and forth to school. So I took that [money] and I put it for a car,” she explains.
With her immediate transportation needs met, Perry-Evans went back to FEMA to see about getting more money for housing, but she says agency representatives reprimanded her for incorrectly using the money she had been given.
“Some of them were kind of rude,” she remembers. “Some of them felt sorry for me because I would be crying, [saying] ‘Hey, I have nowhere to go. I don’t have no money. You guys are not helping me like I thought.’ ”
FEMA didn’t block Perry-Evans from reapplying for housing money, but she says after the scolding she turned to other potential sources of federal aid, unsuccessfully. Her income wasn’t high enough to claim a significant tax refund. She says she was denied a low-interest loan from the Small Business Administration because her credit score was too low. A FEMA representative suggested she try to get housing money from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, but after she used her day off to go to an information session, she was informed that her income was too high to qualify.

“It was like every time I tried something, it was an obstacle in the way,” she says.
The entire time, Perry-Evans says, she never missed a shift at the post office. She even worked the week that Hurricane Harvey hit Houston. She often worked six days a week. But her paycheck just wasn’t enough to cover all her bills, and her co-worker said it was time for the family to move out of the spare room.
Six months after the flood, Perry-Evans did the only thing she felt she could: She signed a lease to rent a house that cost 50 percent more than where they used to live, for less space. The electricity didn’t always work. For more than a year after the flood, Perry-Evans was still sleeping on a cot she took from the convention center.
The Rich Get Richer; The Poor Get Poorer
Perry-Evans is not alone in her struggle. “Recovery for vulnerable families [looks] a lot different than it does for more affluent neighborhoods,” says Kathy Payton, the director of the Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corp., a neighborhood nonprofit that works a few miles from where Perry-Evans lives.

Payton grew up in Houston and has spent decades supporting the basic needs of her neighbors, many of whom live on fixed incomes or do not have a cushion of savings to fall back on after a disaster.
“We had loss of income because people lost their jobs. We had increased health issues as a result of them living in bad situations,” she says, ticking off the cascade of challenges lower-income families have contended with since the flood. Many families struggle to successfully apply for money because they do not have access to a computer, she says, or do not have all the paperwork they need, or can’t take time off from work to meet with a FEMA representative.
Payton says wealthier families are more able to comply with the rigid application requirements. “There shouldn’t be a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all template,” she says. “You’ve got to make adjustments based on the vulnerabilities and the needs of the families. And that’s not what we do.”
Those application requirements are not explicitly designed to favor some citizens over others. Under the 1988 federal disaster relief law, the requirements exist to protect taxpayers from fraudulent or improper payouts after a storm, by keeping track of who has been given money for what.
But Payton says the upshot in Houston is that the more affluent parts of the city have recovered more quickly and deeply since the flood. Private insurance accounts for some of that, but Payton also believes residents in those areas have been more successful at getting federal money.
“Those families who are more apt to be able to respond to that [funding] will do so quickly, will do so more efficiently and the funds will be available on a first come, first serve basis,” she says. Families who cannot, she says, “will be left behind again.”
A new and growing body of research backs up Payton’s observations. Studies by sociologists, as well as climate scientists, urban planners and economists, suggest that disasters, and the federal aid that follows, disproportionately benefit wealthier Americans. The same is also true along racial lines, with white communities benefiting disproportionately.

“Cities are often very unequal to begin with,” says James Elliott, a sociologist at Rice University. “They’re segregated and there are lots of income disparities, but what seems to happen after natural hazards hit is these things become exacerbated.”
“We see these same patterns of wealth inequality being exacerbated in communities that receive more FEMA aid,” explains sociologist Junia Howell of the University of Pittsburgh. Howell and Elliott have published multiple studies that find a pattern in who wins and who loses after floods and other disasters: Rich people get richer after a storm, and poor people get poorer.
“That’s particularly true along racial lines, along lines of education, as well as homeownership versus renting,” explains Howell. And rather than mitigating the inequity, federal aid exacerbates it, in part because of the biases Payton has noticed that are baked into how federal money is distributed.

NPR examined one federal disaster program and found evidence of exactly that phenomenon. The program uses federal and local money to purchase homes that have flooded or been affected by other natural disasters and permanently turn the lots into green space to reduce flood risk.
The buyouts are voluntary, and the homeowner can use the money to move to a safer place. As climate change drives more extreme rain, David Maurstad of FEMA says he expects the program to grow more in the coming years.
But buyouts have disproportionately gone to whiter communities. NPR analyzed records of about 40,000 property buyouts funded by FEMA and state and local governments and found that most of them were in neighborhoods that were more than 85 percent white and non-Hispanic. For context, the nation as a whole is 62 percent white/non-Hispanic, and disasters affect communities of all demographics. (Search the database of FEMA buyouts here.)

A Tale of Two Cities
Hurricane Harvey in Houston was a cataclysmic event. But more extreme rainfall is falling all over the United States, and that means more flooding. The trend will continue in the coming years, and so will the need for disaster relief programs — and programs designed to mitigate damage. But even when those programs work as designed, NPR has found that inequality persists.
More than 1,500 miles northeast of Houston, two towns show how disaster relief efforts are determined and who wins and who loses in the calculation.
Manville, N.J., an hour outside Manhattan, has flooded repeatedly since the 1970s. On a recent tour, Superintendent of Schools Robert Beers drove over a bridge and into a neighborhood called Lost Valley, a suburban enclave of Cape Cod-style homes built in a compact grid along the Raritan River.

“This area was hit the hardest,” he says. “And as we drive through you’re going to be able to see a lot of vacant homes, and areas that were bulldozed. Some of these open, these vacant lots here, there were homes here.”
Over the past two decades, about 150 homeowners in Manville have taken disaster buyouts, and 80 more abandoned their homes. A drop in household incomes followed, and home values lagged behind nearby towns.
“After the first flood, people began thinking, ‘Is it time to get out?’ ” says Eleanor Nieliwocki, who lived in Lost Valley for more than 30 years. “After the second flood, not again. And the third flood, we’ve had it.” She finalized the sale of her house to a government buyout in 2015.
And buyouts like Nieliwocki’s matter to Beers. All those vacant lots affect how much money his schools get. Fewer homes overall mean less tax revenue to fund education. Last year, Manville’s public school system found itself battling large budget shortfalls. At the same time, Beers says, the schools faced new demands: Since 1999’s Hurricane Floyd, Manville’s Hispanic population had risen from 5 percent to 23 percent.
“Nearly 30 percent of our students speak only Spanish at home, so we need to fund additional positions to transition these children and provide them with the services they need,” Beers said last spring. (By summer, after an intense lobbying effort, Beers was able to get the state government to increase funding for Manville’s schools.)
And even though the buyouts in Manville hurt the tax base, FEMA says the strategy actually saves money in the long run. The agency says for every dollar spent on buyouts and other hazard mitigation programs, federal taxpayers save $6 in future disaster losses. The agency has allocated more than $15 billion on those strategies since 1989.

“I think our program is achieving in Manville what it’s intended to achieve,” says Maurstad, who oversees FEMA’s buyout program. He says FEMA is meeting its goals if it makes a community less risky, saves property and potentially saves lives.
And he points out that while FEMA pays 75 percent of the cost to buy out homes in disaster-prone areas, states and localities decide where they want those buyouts to occur, so demographic changes aren’t on the federal agency’s radar.
“I’m not aware that there’s been a specific study by FEMA or anyone else on the demographic distribution of [the buyout] approach,” says Maurstad. “But the approach itself is not one that would necessarily, intentionally lead to those outcomes.”

Reeling from repeated floods, Manville asked the Army Corps of Engineers to build a flood control system to protect it. In 2016, the Corps said no.
Catherine Kling, an economist at Cornell University, studies the kind of benefit-cost analysis the Corps does to decide which property is worth saving. “The whole idea of a benefit-cost analysis is actually very simple,” Kling says. “It simply seeks to answer the question: If we do this project, is the total value from this project greater than the total costs?”
That means that protecting 10 families in $1 million houses has the same value as protecting 100 families in $100,000 houses.
In Manville, the Corps counted about 500 homes and businesses in flood zones and said it could protect them for about $67 million. But for every dollar spent on the project, only 40 cents’ worth of property would be saved. Under federal guidelines, that’s not enough.
“It is completely agnostic as to who receives those benefits and those costs,” says Kling. And, she says, economists assume the people displaced and the economic activity they generate will simply move somewhere else.

Still, even if the approach is designed to avoid picking winners and losers, it ends up doing so anyway, favoring wealthier neighborhoods. “It’s also going to be [choosing] more valuable businesses,” Kling says. “More valuable real estate.”
Indeed, if there were a climate change lottery with public funding as the prize, you could say Bound Brook, N.J., just 4 miles from Manville, hit the jackpot: a sweeping, $650 million flood control project whose local portion was completed in 2016. Developers followed, investing tens of millions of dollars.
In Bound Brook, on a very different tour around town last summer, Councilman Abel Gomez detailed plans for hundreds of upscale apartments, new restaurants and an expanded Main Street. “Without flood control,” he said, “you were always the next natural disaster before you were wiped out.”
But some residents worry about how they will afford to live there once the new projects are completed. Bound Brook has one of the nation’s largest concentrations of Costa Ricans — enough that the country’s president visited in 2014 — and a history of alleged housing discrimination. The Justice Department sued the town in 2004, saying its housing policies discriminated against Latinos, and for years its housing and development practices were regulated by a consent decree. In 2017, a local government analysis found that households in the most heavily Latino neighborhoods had lower incomes and spent a greater portion of their incomes on housing than those in the majority-white area.
Some of the newer apartments are already renting for hundreds more than the town’s median rent. Francisco Morales Mora, who emigrated from Costa Rica in 1994 and owns a restaurant downtown, say that’s too much. “The people of Bound Brook are poor”. He says, “unless the new [ apartments] are cheaper, people will leave”

Robert Greco, the project’s manager for the Corps, says the flood control project in and around Bound Brook protects a highly dense area with a range of income levels. He says it isn’t intended to favor the wealthy but acknowledges that the project is changing the area.
“The Borough of Bound Brook is not wealthy,” Greco says. “But guess what, now they’re building and the economic vitality is picking up, and it’s beautiful, actually.”
Pressed on what the new, expensive development plan might mean for the Latino community, Gomez, the councilman, says, “We really, really hope that the Latino identity that’s here remains here. … Because that’s key to this. It sets us apart.”

The bigger picture around the country is that some Americans will be more vulnerable and some will be more resilient in the face of climate change. And who wins and who loses appears to mirror existing inequalities.
“Hardworking Americans who are working class are going to find their communities stressed even more than they are now,” says Andrew Light, an editor of the 2018 National Climate Assessment. “If you’re already a community at risk, you’re going to be at more risk.”
In Houston, the Papadopouloses have applied for a buyout and are likely to be offered one if they wait long enough. It may take years.
Janice Perry-Evans and her family are still in their rental but, “It is really a struggle now to stay afloat,” she says. She plans to file for bankruptcy.
And in Manville, even as the Army Corps of Engineers declined to build a flood control project, it predicted that “significant flooding can result in municipal infrastructure damage, loss of jobs, and closure of businesses,” as well as “continued potential for loss of life.”

NPR’s Meg Anderson and Barbara Van Woerkom contributed to this story.

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At least one member of Congress gets it.MA

Kadia Tubman
Reporter

Yahoo News•March 3, 2019
Rep. Amash: ‘The president doesn’t get to just declare an emergency’
out in the wilderness on this one? Rep. Justin Amash, the Michigan Republican who broke with President Trump to vote to overturn his declaration of a national emergency at the southern border, said some of his colleagues are failing to uphold their duties to the Constitution.
Asked on CNN’s “State of the Union” if he thinks that “Republicans who are supporting this national emergency are abdicating their responsibilities to the Constitution,” Amash responded “I think so, yes.”
He added: “I don’t think that they are all intending to do that.”
Days after the vote, Amash explained his views when he tweeted, “If you think my job is to support the president one hundred percent, then you don’t understand what it means to be a representative in Congress. My job is to support the Constitution one hundred percent and to represent all the people of my district by protecting their rights.”
“The president is violating our constitutional system,” said Amash on Sunday. He didn’t directly address whether he believes the border situation amounts to a crisis, but said Trump shouldn’t be making that call unilaterally.
“There’s a fair debate that there are big problems on the border — some people would call it a crisis — but that has to go through Congress,” said Amash. “The president doesn’t get to decide that he can override Congress simply because Congress doesn’t do what he wants.”
“If there were an emergency in the sense that the president is describing, there would be a lot more consensus,” continued Amash. “When a house is on fire, nobody’s debating whether they should go in to save people or whether they should put out the fire. Everyone understands that’s an emergency.”
He added: “The fact that there’s a debate going on here, there’s not a consensus, indicates that it’s not an emergency in the sense that the president is describing, and he can’t just go around Congress.”

Amash, a fifth-term representative from Grand Rapids, Mich., was one of 13 House Republicans in opposition to the national emergency, a resolution that now goes to the Senate, where the vote is expected to be close. If it does pass, Trump can veto the resolution, and an override is considered unlikely.
Amash had another breakout moment this week when he questioned Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen at the House Oversight Committee hearing, where he, unlike most of the other Republicans on the panel, didn’t use his time to attack the credibility of Cohen, a disbarred lawyer felon who had lied to Congress in earlier testimony.
As Amash put it, instead of “just yelling at him or trying to grandstand or make political statements,” he asked a question that stumped Cohen: “What is the truth that you know President Trump fears the most?”
“That’s a tough question, sir,” said Cohen. “I don’t have an answer for that one.”
Reflecting on his questioning, Amash told “State of the Union” host Jake Tapper that Cohen “deserves the opportunity to be believed.”
Cohen’s testimony has kicked off renewed speculation about possible impeachment motions against Trump, but the head of the House Judiciary Committee said it was too soon to start the process.
“Impeachment is a long way down the road,” Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” “We don’t have the facts yet, but we’re going to initiate proper investigations.”
Tapper asked Amash about a possible challenge to Trump in 2020 on the Libertarian Party line. Amash said he hasn’t ruled it out.
“That’s not on my radar right now, but I think it is important that we have someone in there who’s representing a vision for America that is different from what these two parties are presenting.”
“Everything has become, do you like President Trump or do you not like President Trump?” continued Amash. “We need to return to basic American principles… and try to move forward together rather than fighting each other all of the time.”

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Eddy Lampert is attempting to continue capitalizing on the sears name after destroying lives, neighborhoods and perhaps entire towns with his uninformed running of the Sears /Kmart chains. The companies alone were having difficulty but with the right management there was a possibility of redemption but E .Lampert has one focus and that recouping losses and building wealth at any cost. MA.

BUSINESS NEWS
MARCH 6, 2019 / 6:48 PM / UPDATED 10 HOURS AGO
Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Sears is back into court, less than one month after emerging from bankruptcy protection.
The retailer was sued on Wednesday by Stanley Black & Decker Inc, which accused it of breach of contract and trademark infringement over its new line of professional-grade mechanics tools under the Craftsman Ultimate Collection brand.

Sears did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The complaint was filed in Manhattan federal court.
Craftsman had been an iconic Sears brand before Stanley paid about $900 million for it in March 2017, while giving Sears what it called a “limited” license to sell some Craftsman products.
But according to the complaint, Sears breached the license agreement by launching its new tool line and touting its stores as “the real home of the broadest assortment of Craftsman.”
Stanley said the tagline falsely implies that other Craftsman products are “somehow illegitimate.”
It also said Sears’ actions threaten to confuse shoppers and irreparably harm Stanley’s own Craftsman brand and trademarks, as well as its goodwill and customer relationships.

Sears emerged from Chapter 11 in February after longtime Chairman Edward Lampert, who oversaw its years-long descent into bankruptcy, won court approval for a $5.2 billion takeover, which included the Craftsman licensing rights.
The reorganized company was expected to have about 425 Sears and Kmart stores, down from roughly 3,500 when those companies merged in 2005. Sears brands also include DieHard and Kenmore.
The case is Stanley Black & Decker Inc v Transform Holdco LLC, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 19-02081.
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Richard Chang
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Trump, Cohen and the paradox of believing proven liars
David Knowles 16 hours ago

Throughout Michael Cohen’s testimony this week before the House Oversight Committee, Republicans repeated what would seem to be a simple rule of human nature: Never trust a person who has been proven to be a liar.
“I want everyone in this room to think about this, the first announced witness for the 116th Congress is a guy who is going to prison in two months for lying to Congress,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said in his opening remarks.
But as more Republicans on the committee followed Jordan’s lead, that strategy quickly hit a wall.
“You’re a pathological liar. You don’t know truth from falsehood,” Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz, scolded Cohen, who then swiftly turned the tables on his interrogators.
“Sir, I’m sorry, are you referring to me or the president?” Cohen asked with a boyish grin.
Therein lies a paradox for the Republican Party. They distrust the fixer who lied to protect the president, but trust the president who himself has been shown to have difficulties telling the truth.
By the Washington Post’s count, as of Feb. 17, Trump has made 8,718 “false or misleading claims” while in office. One of the more glaring untruths was revealed by the New York Times on Thursday, showing that Trump had apparently misled the paper when asked directly whether he had intervened in any way to secure a top-level security clearance for his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner.
“I was never involved in the security,” Trump told the paper just weeks ago when asked about his involvement.
That claim was laid bare after the Times learned about two contemporaneous memos written last May. One written by Trump’s former chief of staff, retired Gen. John Kelly, and the other by former White House counsel Don McGahn, detailed how Trump had personally ordered that Kushner be granted the security clearance despite objections by the CIA and others in government.
Whether it be Trump’s changing explanation for a meeting between members of his presidential campaign — including Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and his son, Don Jr. — and a Russian lawyer, or his insistence to reporters on Air Force One that he never knew that Cohen had paid hush money to Daniels (checks presented this week by his former lawyer for the repayment of a debt undercut that notion), the president’s own claims would seem to merit more than a touch of skepticism.
But trust, it turns out, is a partisan sport. And the Democrats were caught in their own truth dilemma this week by choosing to believe that Cohen, who begins a three-year prison term in May, in part for lying to Congress, was finally coming clean when speaking ill of Trump.
“I believe he told the truth,” committee chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., told reporters at the conclusion of Cohen’s marathon grilling.
1While asking liars to tell the truth carries self-evident risks, in the matter of Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, it would seem to be the only option. Mind you, for a skilled prosecutor, the truth is out there, and in this case, it involves talking to a whole lot of liars to find it.
Manafort, for instance, was convicted of eight felonies, including multiple counts of tax and bank fraud. In addition, Robert Mueller laid out his case that Manafort breached his cooperation deal by lying about his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Ukrainian-Russian political consultant.
Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign adviser, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about searching in the 2016 presidential election for Russian “dirt” on Hillary Clinton that could aid Trump.
Roger Stone, a longtime Trump adviser, has been indicted by Mueller’s office on one count of obstruction, one count of witness tampering and five counts of making false statements.
That Trump has surrounded himself with this cast of characters may help explain why the president spends so much time decrying “fake news.” If no one can be trusted to tell the truth, after all, then why bother worrying about the coverage of Cohen’s testimony, the Mueller investigation or whether Trump intervened on behalf of his son-in-law obtaining a security clearance?
Though this week’s events on Capitol Hill confirmed that we may never solve what philosophers call the liar paradox, we can at least be sure that if it applies to one liar, it should apply to all.

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When your actions are questionable, you tend to keep a low profile and hope no one notices your errant ways, right Mitch? MA.

By Tanya Snyder 10 hrs ago

The records also do not show how frequently Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has met with people from outside Kentucky, a state Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has represented in the Senate since 1985.
A trove of more than 800 pages of emails sheds new light on the working relationship between Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, one of the most potent power couples in Washington — including their dealings with McConnell supporters from their home state of Kentucky.

Chao has met at least 10 times with politicians and business leaders from the state in response to requests from McConnell’s office, according to documents provided to POLITICO by the watchdog group American Oversight. In some cases, those people later received what they were hoping for from Chao’s department, including infrastructure grants, the designation of an interstate highway and assistance in getting state funds for a highway project — although the documents don’t indicate the meetings led to those outcomes.
The records also do not show how frequently Chao has met with people from outside Kentucky, a state her husband has represented in the Senate since 1985, or how readily she has responded to similar requests from other lawmakers. But at least a dozen of the emails show McConnell’s staff acting as a conduit between Chao and Kentucky political figures or business leaders, some of whom have had prior relationships with the couple.

In one email from Feb. 2, 2017, just days after Chao was sworn in, McConnell’s state director emailed a Chao lieutenant asking the secretary to meet with maritime industry lobbyist Jim Adams about proposed changes to “Buy American, Hire American” requirements for offshore drilling equipment. The lobbyist and his wife, a Kentucky state senator who used to work for McConnell, donated $1,500 to McConnell’s 2014 reelection campaign, according to FEC filings.
“The Secretary knows them both well,” McConnell state director Terry Carmack wrote to Todd Inman, who at the time was director of operations at the Department of Transportation. Chao met with the lobbyist the following month, according to her calendar.
Carmack also requested a meeting in April 2017 for Greg DeLancey, the general manager of Taylor Motors in Murray, Ky., a government contractor that provides bus services primarily to the Defense Department. Carmack wrote that DeLancey was “the Calloway county GOP chairman and about to be the first district GOP chair.” Chao met with someone from Taylor Motors in July 2017. When the McConnell staffer asked Inman to arrange a meeting for Jason Vincent and other people from the Pennyrile Area Development District during a March 2017 fly-in, he noted that some of the representatives were “friends.”
American Oversight obtained the emails under the Freedom of Information Act. The group’s executive director and founder, Austin Evers, said they show an unusually close relationship between a Senate leader and a member of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet — and that “Secretary Chao built a political operation in her office to favor Kentucky.”
“We launched this investigation because we were intrigued by the president’s selection of Elaine Chao as Transportation secretary,” Evers said. “The media and political class identified it as a savvy move to hire the spouse of the majority leader of the Senate. We wanted to see what that relationship looked like.”
DOT said no such favoritism exists, and that any agency “would be responsive to the requests of the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate.”
Chao’s office treats “requests from Congress with serious consideration and is responsive to all members and their staff,” a spokesperson said. “She understands the needs of Kentucky, which is her home, and naturally has enjoyed a long friendship with many of the people who are also in contact with Senator McConnell’s office.”
When asked about the propriety of setting up meetings for constituents, a spokesperson for McConnell told POLITICO that “the Leader regularly advocates for Kentuckians with Members of the Cabinet and agencies of the federal government.”
“He has advocated on behalf of Kentuckians his entire career — and that includes both Republican and Democrat Administrations,” the spokesperson added.
At the very least, the emails offer a rare glimpse at the working relationship between Chao and McConnell, who aside from a few confrontations with protesters, typically maintain a low public profile about their interactions together. But other people familiar with the workings of DOT and Congress said they didn’t see anything unusual in a Cabinet secretary responding to requests from lawmakers.
A Democratic Senate aide said it’s common for members of Congress to contact DOT or other agencies on behalf of their constituents and that the department is responsive and accommodating to all.
“DOT will talk to anyone,” said the aide, who requested anonymity because of his ongoing dealings with the department. He said he doesn’t often ask Chao to take meetings because “people know they can pick up the phone and call DOT themselves,” but that on occasion he will “make an introduction.”
Former Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta, a Democrat who served under President George W. Bush, told POLITICO it “happened a lot” that lawmakers asked him to meet with constituents traveling to Washington, “and then you would meet with them.” Mineta said a request from a member of Congress would carry additional weight, regardless of what state that member was from.
“Of course you’re going to meet with people from your home state,” added a former DOT official from the Obama administration who asked to remain anonymous to speak candidly about the department she once worked for.
But Evers from American Oversight contended that in these emails, Chao’s staff appear to go out of their way to make McConnell’s Kentucky contacts “feel special.” In one March 2017 email to Inman, requesting a meeting between Chao and the group Kentuckians for Better Transportation, Carmack suggested that if Chao herself couldn’t make it, perhaps “an assistant secretary or 2” could. “That way it is not taking up the Secretary’s time but they feel special,” Carmack continued.
Inman had previously told Carmack that Chao’s office was planning to decline the meeting. But the meeting later appeared on Chao’s calendar for the following May 17.
A POLITICO review of two months of Chao’s calendar over her first 14 months in office doesn’t reveal a particular preference for Kentucky visitors — in more than 100 meetings and phone calls with people outside the executive branch, none had an apparent Kentucky connection.
Still, Evers highlighted two instances when DOT’s Inman instructed McConnell staffers to flag requests from Kentuckians for him in addition to sending them to Chao’s schedulers, “to make sure we take an extra look at” them.
“The Secretary has indicated if you have a [Kentucky] specific issue that we should flag for her attention to please continue to go through your normal channels but feel free to contact me directly as well so we can monitor or follow up as necessary,” Inman wrote to McConnell’s then-chief of staff, Brian McGuire, in an email from Feb. 28, 2017.
“There’s a normal channel and a Kentucky channel,” Evers said. “It would be surprising if there was also an Arizona channel and a California channel.”
And, on a tentative list of staff duties Inman shared with McConnell’s office soon after he started, “Kentucky” is listed as one of Inman’s responsibilities. No other state is included in any of the other 26 staffers’ list of duties.
Inman, who became Chao’s chief of staff last month, was a Republican political operative in Kentucky before joining DOT. He communicated frequently with McConnell staff for most of his first year in the job, until an assistant secretary for government affairs was confirmed.
The email cache is also sprinkled with instances of McConnell staffers referring to meeting-seekers’ personal ties to the couple and their status as GOP supporters.
In one email thread from March 2017, McConnell’s staff describes Hart County, Ky., Judge/Executive Terry Martin — the county’s top elected leader — as a “loyal supporter” and “friend.”
Chao met with Martin two weeks later and again a year later.
She met on March 20, 2017, with representatives from the Pennyrile Area Development District, who had gotten similar praise, and who were interested in discussing their long-running priority of redesignating the Breathitt-Pennyrile Parkway as Interstate 169. President Donald Trump signed a bill designating I-169, sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), into law in May 2017.
In another February 2017 email exchange, Carmack asked Inman to set up a meeting with two Kentucky county judge/executives who wanted to talk about bridge and highway problems in their counties. “Always value your input,” Inman responded.
Harlan County Judge/Executive Dan Mosley, who met in April 2017 with Chao about widening and improving a flood-prone stretch of U.S. 421,said in an interview with POLITICO that Chao was “one of the smartest people I’ve ever met” and that “her commitment to transportation issues” was evident in their meeting. After they met, a Federal Highway Administration official came to evaluate the project, and eventually the  state allocated  $800,000 to start the project, Mosley told POLITICO.
Boone County Judge/Executive Gary Moore, who asked for and, in June 2018, received a $68 million DOT grant for two interstate interchanges,said he met with Chao and asked for her support for the grant at his December 2017 meeting with her. Boone County had been seeking a federal grant for this since at least 2017.
Cooperation between the two offices goes in both directions, the emails indicate. In May 2017, a group of real estate company representatives and public officials from China enjoyed a Capitol tour organized jointly by Chao’s and McConnell’s offices. The group “was thrilled to get the VIP treatment by [McConnell’s] office and were particularly excited to hear that the leader’s office was normally off limits to normal guests,” said Melissa Fwu from Chao’s office, in an email to a McConnell aide.
Oversight groups aren’t just worried about the meetings Chao is granting, however. A new, previously unreleased report from the watchdog group Restore Public Trust questions the 2018 choice of a town of about 25,000 residents situated near the Tennessee, Ohio, Cumberland and Mississippi rivers, as the site of a new DOT maritime gateway office intended to help coordinate between port operators and government bodies to help improve freight movement on inland waterways.
Paducah is the smallest city to host one of DOT’s 10 maritime gateway offices. The nine other such offices are in major cities such as New York, Chicago and Miami.
“This is the kind of stuff the American public hates,” said Caroline Ciccone, executive director of Restore Public Trust, adding that a “prudent elected official” will avoid favoritism “not just because it looks bad, it’s because it is bad.”
But a DOT spokesperson who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the department chose Paducah because it’s “always been a natural hub for regional inland waterway traffic,” given its proximity to four major rivers and the presence of “more U.S.-flag inland waterway operators than anywhere else in the nation.” The low cost of living also made it attractive, the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said a strategic analysis, undertaken by the Maritime Administration in 2015, resulted in a decision to close one of two gateway offices in California in favor of one on the inland waterways to support the St. Louis office. Paducah was chosen out of five inland waterway locations that were evaluated.
Deb Calhoun, senior vice president of the Waterways Council, called Paducah “the epicenter of the inland marine industry.”
“Many of the major inland operators have offices in Paducah,” she told POLITICO. “There is a maritime training center. And each year, hundreds of inland marine related companies gather for an annual river industry awards event.”

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Not sure that TOTUS has viewed Star Wars but this seems to echo the declaration by Jar Jar Binks to give emergency powers to the Chancellor (who as you may remember is the Evil emperor), who stated upon acceptance that he would give those powers up upon the end of the “crisis”. Not seeing that happen with this Leader(?). MA
Christopher Wilson 36 minutes ago

In a rambling, teleprompter-free diatribe, President Trump announced that he was declaring a national emergency in order to build a wall at the southern border.
Speaking in the White House Rose Garden Friday morning, after a long digression in which he touched on trade policy with China, the war on ISIS and other subjects, Trump announced he would take executive action to divert federal money to declare a national emergency for “virtual invasion purposes.” In doing so, he brought up many of the discredited arguments he has been relying on over the last several months. He said drugs coming across the southern border don’t come through official ports of entry (not true), that El Paso, Texas, was dangerous before the construction of a wall (not true) and that women are being trafficked across the unguarded portions of the border (no evidence exists of this). Trump also disputed studies that have found undocumented immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than native-born citizens.
An emergency declaration would allow Trump to divert funds appropriated for other purposes to build the wall. Trump has said he would shift the money from “far less important” government programs, including the Department of Defense. A Pentagon official told the New York Times that one likely scenario would be to divert up to $2.5 billion in counternarcotics funds to the Army Corps of Engineers.
This is a departure from Trump’s original campaign promise that Mexico would pay for the wall. The administration did not press for money to build a wall during the two years when Republicans had control of both the Senate and House. Illegal border crossings have declined during that time, and the administration has not explained why the border situation is now an emergency. If, as seems likely, there is a constitutional challenge to the declaration, it may hinge in part on Trump’s admission in his remarks that “I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn’t need to do this.”
A deadlock with Congress over border security issues led to the 35-day partial government shutdown that ended last month. Congress passed a continuing resolution Thursday to fund the government and avert a second shutdown, and Trump has agreed to sign it, but he made no mention of it in his remarks.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has the option of triggering a vote on Trump’s declaration, forcing Republicans to go on the record about whether they support the emergency wall. Two Democratic representatives, Joaquin Castro of Texas and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, have already announced plans to introduce a resolution that would terminate the emergency declaration.
But even if the declaration survives congressional challenges over appropriations, actually building the wall could face legal challenges from landowners along the border whose property would need to be acquired. Trump acknowledged that this act would likely face a legal challenge that could reach the Supreme Court.
While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was supportive of Trump declaring a national emergency, many of his Republican colleagues were less enthusiastic. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida called it a “bad idea,” Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said it was “of dubious constitutionality” and Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said, “It would be a pretty dramatic expansion of how this was used in the past.”
On Thursday, Pelosi warned that a future Democratic president could use the precedent of declaring a national emergency for other purposes, such as gun control, citing the anniversary of the Parkland, Fla., mass shooting that left 17 dead.
“Because if the president can declare an emergency on something that he’s created as an emergency, an illusion he wants to convey, just think what a president with different values could present to the American people,” said Pelosi. “You want to talk about a national emergency? Let’s talk about today. The one-year anniversary of another manifestation of the epidemic of gun violence in America. That’s a national emergency. Why don’t you declare that emergency, Mr. President? I wish you would. But a Democratic president can do that. A Democratic president can declare emergencies as well.”
All the major network and cable news outlets carried Trump’s Rose Garden announcement live. But as the president’s rambling speech wore on, CBS cut away and returned to its regularly scheduled programming — which, on the East Coast, was “The Price Is Right.” Trump’s declaration of a national emergency came hours before he was scheduled to depart the White House for his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., for the weekend.


It is worth remembering that Steven Miller is a major architect of the negative influence in the trump administration regarding Race. MA
Mary Papenfuss, HuffPost 9 hours ago

White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller tried mightily to bulldoze Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday as the host sharply fact-checked him on President Donald Trump’s reasons for declaring a national emergency so he can build his border wall.
Wallace began by challenging Miller with a quote Friday from Trump, who conceded: “I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather [build the wall] much faster.”
Wallace turned to Miller: “How does that justify a national emergency?”
Miller cited a “crisis” at the border with an “increasing number of people crossing the border.”
“Let’s look at the facts,” Wallace responded.
He pointed to statistics highlighted on a screen that illegal border crossings were less than 25 percent of figures from 19 years ago. He also noted that nearly 90 percent of illegal drugs coming across the border enter via ports of entry, where walls don’t — and won’t — exist.
Miller responded that no one, including the administration, knows who is dodging detection. “You don’t know what you don’t know,” he said.

Wallace also pressed Miller, who considers himself a staunch defender of the Constitution, to provide a single example of another president invoking national emergency powers to get money that Congress denied him through the appropriations process.
As Miller dodged the issue, Wallace again pressed: “Answer my question,” then: “Yes or no, sir?”
Wallace noted that of the 59 times the 1976 National Emergencies Act was invoked by a president, only two were for military construction funds, which Trump plans to use: during the Gulf War and after 9/11.
“That’s hardly comparable to either of those,” Wallace said. Wallace read the article as shown below:

Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7. Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7. No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time. 1. 

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Listen· 3:10
3:10February 17, 20198:12 AM ET
Heard on Weekend Edition Sunday
Glynis Board
Tariffs announced by the Trump administration have led to a glut of milk in the United States. Food pantries are suffering because they’re deluged with milk and have no way to store or distribute it.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Got milk? Food banks in the United States are overflowing with it, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. The cause of the oversupply is the U.S.’s trade disputes. The federal government has been buying up surplus milk to help out dairy farmers hurt by the trade wars, which has led to the glut at food banks. Glynis Board of the Ohio Valley ReSource team tells us more.
GLYNIS BOARD, BYLINE: At Facing Hunger Food Bank, Executive Director Cyndi Kirkhart steps into her agency’s walk-in refrigerator in Huntington, W.Va.
CYNDI KIRKHART: This is the only cooler we have. So this is Kentucky milk, and this is West Virginia.
BOARD: There’s not very much space.
KIRKHART: No.
BOARD: There’s so much milk, they’ve often had to store it inside their refrigerated trucks and keep them running all night. Every couple of weeks since November, Kirkhart’s operation has gotten about 8,000 half-gallon cartons of milk.
KIRKHART: We never have received what we refer to as fluid milk, which is fresh milk.
BOARD: Donations from the federal government are normal, but products usually have a long shelf life – months or years. Milk lasts maybe two weeks.
The dairy industry is already producing plenty of surplus milk, and recent trade disputes with the Trump administration made the situation worse. Jim Goodman is a former dairy farmer who now heads up the National Farm Coalition (ph).
JIM GOODMAN: Twenty-five percent of our dairy exports probably go to China. And probably another 25 percent of them goes to Mexico. Both of those countries put a tariff on in response to the steel and aluminum tariffs.
BOARD: The Trump administration released $12 billion last year to bail out farmers. Ten percent of that was put toward purchasing commodities, like milk, to be distributed for hunger relief.
JOSHUA LOHNES: Whose responsibility is it to get rid of this milk?
BOARD: Joshua Lohnes is a researcher at West Virginia University. He explains the donated perishable food doesn’t come with money to offset extra administrative costs associated with storage and distribution.
LOHNES: It costs the food banks $2 a mile to deliver this, quote, unquote, “free food” across this vast, rural landscape. So they are advocating, you know, with our state legislators and the powers that be at the Department of Ag to try to figure out how to not have all of this surplus pretty much tank their operation.
BOARD: In Huntington, Kirkhart says food banks like hers do get some federal financial support for administrative costs, but it doesn’t match the increases in overhead created by perishable donations.
Still, she feels she has to accept them, despite logistical difficulties, because the need in her region is so great. Two hundred and eighty-five thousand people throughout West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and southeastern Ohio are food insecure.
KIRKHART: We’re going to keep on keeping on. And I know that we have a lot of love in this community around our service area, and people will help us through because that’s what Appalachians do.
BOARD: Even if accepting these donations threatens her food bank’s continued existence.

For NPR News, I’m Glynis Board in Huntington, W.Va.
Copyright © 2019 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at http://www.npr.org for further information.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio

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Ann Coulter is spouting off because she can and wants Trump to know that she is unhappy that he caved on the shutdown.MA
Amy Russo, HuffPost Fri, Feb 15 12:26 PM CST

President Donald Trump’s former hardline supporter Ann Coulter is continuing to turn on him, slamming his national emergency declaration as a way to “scam the stupidest people in his base.”
Coulter, who some have speculated influenced Trump’s decision to stand firm in his demands for border wall funding last December as the federal government spiraled into a shutdown, has been visibly furious with the president ever since he backed down.
In two posts on Twitter Friday, the right-winger claimed Trump’s latest move was all for show:

Ann Coulter
✔ @AnnCoulter

No, the goal of a national emergency is for Trump to scam the stupidest people in his base for 2 more years.

Daniel Horowitz @RMConservative
The goal of a national emergency is to end illegal immigration and cartel smuggling. Building 100-200 miles of fencing gradually will not do it. With this new amnesty,they UACs will come anywhere including points of entry and not only get amnesty for themselves but for those here
29.8K
1:55 AM – Feb 15, 2019
Twitter Ads info and

Ann Coulter
✔ @AnnCoulter

The goal is to get Trump’s stupidest voters to say “HE’S FIGHTING!” No he’s not. If he signs this bill, it’s over.

Daniel Horowitz @RMConservative
The goal of a national emergency is to end illegal immigration and cartel smuggling. Building 100-200 miles of fencing gradually will not do it. With this new amnesty,they UACs will come anywhere including points of entry and not only get amnesty for themselves but for those here

Asked Friday about the power of conservative media over his decision-making, Trump claimed not to know Coulter, much to the surprise of many Twitter users who reacted in astonishment and amusement on the social media platform.
Aside from Coulter, a handful of Trump’s Fox News allies initially expressed frustration with the congressional deal on border security, which the president intends to sign.
On Monday night shortly after the agreement was announced, Sean Hannity trashed it as a “garbage compromise” and Laura Ingraham called it “pathetic.” Lou  Dobbs echoed the disapproval, tweeting that it was “an insult to @POTUS and the American people.”
The proposal will give the president $1.375 billion for his border wall while slashing the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention beds by roughly 17 percent. Trump plans to get ahold of billions more in border funding with his national emergency.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

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By Brendan Cole On 1/11/19 at 8:10 AM
Vice President Mike Pence once condemned the declaration of a national emergency in the face of congressional opposition, it has emerged.
As President Donald Trump continues to threaten declaring national emergency over funding for his wall, Pence criticized the attempt by former president, Barack Obama, to do the same thing during a quarrel over immigration reform.
Read more: The shutdown crisis is far worse than either party realizes
Back then, Obama issued an executive order to stop five million immigrants from being deported, after facing opposition from the Republicans who at the time controlled Congress and the Senate.

Pence, who was then the governor of Indiana, said the Obama’s actions were “not leadership” which, he argued, could only come with “finding common ground,” USA Today reported.
“I believe that issues of this magnitude should always be resolved with the consent of the governed,” Pence said in 2014 on a Republican Governors Association panel.
“Signing an executive order, giving a speech, barnstorming around the country defending that executive order is not leadership, the likes of which we practice every day. I would implore the president to reconsider this path,” he said.
Obama faced fierce criticism from Republicans for acting unilaterally, and saw his plan rejected by the Supreme Court in 2016.
But this week Pence continued to defend any prospective unilateral action by Trump, who, he said, had “an absolute right to declare a national emergency.”
Pence’s press secretary Alyssa Farah told USA Today in a statement that the Democrats had refused to negotiate and are “holding the government hostage.”
“As the Vice President said in 2014, and countless times during this current shutdown, House and Senate Democrats must be willing to negotiate a solution for the American people,” Farah said.
The White House is looking to use money in the Army Corps of Engineers budget and a disaster spending bill that includes $13.9 billion allocated for civil works projects to meet the cost of the wall, NBC News reported.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that lawmakers from both parties are bracing themselves for the declaration with the Democrats looking at their options on how to respond.

Related Stories:
NBC Correspondent Confronts Mike Pence on Border Policy
Pence Suggests Thousands of Terrorists Cross the Border
Trump Joins Wall Supporters Mocking CNN’s Jim Acosta
Trump is taking legal advice over how he might declare a national emergency and use it to divert funds to meet the $5.7 billion that he seeks for the border wall.

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