Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for February 9th, 2017

Top Advisor Scorches Exxon’s Harassment of Environmentalists in Her Resignation Letter

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This is part of the corporate takeover of the U.S. government, as reflected by Trump’s choices for cabinet officers and other positions. Ben Adler reports in Motherboard:

One of ExxonMobil’s top independent ombudsmen resigned from her post this week with a scathing letter criticizing the company’s harassment of nonprofit environmental organizations.

The resignation of corporate social responsibility expert Sarah Labowitz—who had been on ExxonMobil’s External Citizenship Advisory Panel since 2014—comes as Exxon is pursuing an unusual lawsuit, alleging the state attorneys general from New York and Massachusetts have no right to investigate the company’s statements about climate science and questioning their consultations with environmental experts and advocates.

In a letter to the company obtained by Motherboard (embedded below), Labowitz said that she is, “particularly concerned about the company’s targeted attack on respected civil society organizations through the courts.”

“Many companies face criticism and critique, but few respond with the kind of vehemence and aggressive attack strategy that Exxon has executed over the last year,” Labowitz wrote to Ben Soraci, president of the ExxonMobil Foundation and general manager of ExxonMobil’s public and government affairs office. “I am disappointed that instead of examining its own record and seeking to restore a respected place for itself in the public debate, Exxon has chosen to turn up the temperature on civil society groups.”

The beef stems from reports published in late 2015 by InsideClimate News and the LA Times which revealed that Exxon had known for decades that burning fossil fuels causes climate change before admitting so publicly. The attorneys general in New York and Massachusetts are investigating whether Exxon’s public contradiction of its own internal climate science constitutes fraud. Exxon has sued to block them in a federal court in Texas, arguing that questioning climate science is protected speech under the First Amendment and that “the investigations’ true purpose” is “to suppress speech with which [the AGs] disagree.”

Last month, as part of making that case, Exxon subpoenaed records from a number of environmental organizations and experts to show that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s and Massachusetts AG Maura Healey’s consultations with them were proof of the prosecutors’ “political bias.” At the time, InsideClimate News wrote that, “Exxon’s actions are especially remarkable as an example of a giant corporation going after advocacy organizations for their activities.”

ExxonMobil’s “External Citizenship Advisory Panel” was created in 2009 and is made up of five human rights, business, environmental, and government experts. The independent panel critiques the oil company’s impact on civil society, human rights, democratic governance, and the environment. Labowitz, the co-director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, believes Exxon’s approach is anti-democratic and threatens to have a chilling effect on environmental activism. Exxon has not yet removed Labowitz from the panel’s website.

“[Exxon] defines conspiracy as routine advocacy, like holding meetings with government officials,” Labowitz told me in a phone call. “That crosses a line. This is what you see in countries where the government tries to suppress human rights.”

Exxon filed this dubious lawsuit while Rex Tillerson, the newly-appointed Secretary of State, was still the company’s CEO, raising questions about Tillerson’s commitment to promoting human rights and civil society abroad. Critics question whether Tillerson can be trusted to advocate for protecting the health of non-governmental organizations abroad while his former company continues to harass them and tries to diminish their role at home.

Labowitz says she advocated internally for dropping the lawsuit before becoming convinced by the recent round of subpoenas that Exxon was “doubling down,” and she saw no other alternative but to resign from the unpaid advisory position.

“I think it is a strong signal that ExxonMobil lacks credibility on issues of corporate citizenship and that the company is operating way outside the norm of acceptable corporate conduct,” Kathy Mulvey, a climate accountability campaign manager at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told me. The Union of Concerned Scientists is one of the organizations named in Exxon’s New York and Massachusetts lawsuits.

“I work at a business school and I see companies that face criticism on human rights frequently,” Labowitz said. “Good corporate citizens examine the allegations, look at ways they can improve, and adopt a new way forward. That’s what Exxon should do.” . . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 February 2017 at 8:19 pm

Brilliant chess combination ends game in 4-minute video

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Written by LeisureGuy

9 February 2017 at 6:03 pm

Posted in Games, Video

Slavitt: Obamacare Should Be Profitable This Year if Republicans Don’t Blow It Up

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Very interesting column by Kevin Drum at Mother Jones.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 February 2017 at 5:19 pm

Judicial and Media Independence After the Next Attack

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Curtis Bradley and Neil Siegel write at Lawfare:

With his repeated disparagement of the judiciary and unfounded criticism of the news media for under-reporting terrorist attacks, a number of commentators have suggested that Trump is preemptively trying to shift the blame to the courts and the media in the event that an attack occurs.  We agree that this is a concern.  Our greater concern, however, is that he may be able to use this blame-shifting narrative to reduce the future checking power of institutions like the judiciary and the media, especially in the wake of a terrorist attack.

At the moment, the judiciary and media are functioning well.  But these institutions will inevitably become more vulnerable after an attack, especially a significant attack.  Trump has already given specific indications that, in the event of such an attack, he will blame these institutions.  For example, he has publicly claimed that because of the recent district court decision stopping enforcement of his immigration order, “many very bad and dangerous people may be pouring into our country” and that the decision “opens up our country to potential terrorists and others that do not have our best interests at heart.”  He has also contended that if the government does not win the case, “we can never have the security and safety to which we are entitled.”

It is not a stretch to think that he would attempt to use such a narrative in an effort to rally a fearful public into accepting a disregard of judicial authority or a reduction in freedom of the press.  Jack Goldsmith has already speculated that Trump may be trying to lose the pending immigration case in order to help set up such a narrative.  While we have some doubts about whether Trump is specifically trying to lose the case, it is at least plausible that he is looking ahead to how he might use a loss to his advantage, especially because it is now obvious that both the courts and the media are likely to be a continuing thorn in his side.

Knowing that Trump may well challenge the authority of the judiciary and the media after an attack, it is important for judges, reporters, and civil society more generally to be braced for it and to be very clear about who bears responsibility for any national security failings.  For example, it is obviously Trump’s fault—not the courts’ or the media’s—that his executive order on immigration and refugees was so poorly developed, reviewed, and rolled out.  And it is Trump’s fault—not the courts’ or the media’s—that he has made so many bigoted statements about Muslims, which calls the constitutionality of the order into question on establishment clause, free exercise, and equal protection grounds, notwithstanding the President’s ordinarily expansive authority in this area of the law.

To be clear, we do not yet have a situation in which Trump is ordering executive branch officials not to comply with or enforce federal court orders.  Nor are we at the point at which Trump is taking affirmative steps to suppress the media.  It is essential to avoid hysteria and to avoid turning everything into a purported constitutional crisis.  But given Trump’s conduct and statements to date, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 February 2017 at 5:07 pm

Trump believes national security justifies unnecessary suffering

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Fernando Santos reports in the NY Times and includes an on-the-scene video.

or eight years, Guadalupe García de Rayos had checked in at the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement office here, a requirement since she was caught using a fake Social Security number during a raid in 2008 at a water park where she worked.

Every year since then, she has walked in and out of the meetings after a brief review of her case and some questions.

But not this year.

On Wednesday, immigration agents arrested Ms. Rayos, 35. Despite efforts by her family and others who tried to block, legally and physically, her removal from the United States, her family said Thursday that she had been deported to Mexico, a country she has not seen since she left it 21 years ago.

Immigration agents “said she’s a threat, but my wife isn’t a threat,” her husband said in an interview.

Ms. Rayos was arrested just days after the Trump administration broadened the definition of “criminal alien,” a move that immigrants’ rights advocates say could easily apply to a majority of undocumented immigrants in the United States.

“We’re living in a new era now, an era of war on immigrants,” Ms. Rayos’s lawyer, Ray A. Ybarra Maldonado, said Wednesday after leaving the building here that houses the federal immigration agency, known by its acronym, ICE.

The Obama administration made a priority of deporting people who were deemed a threat to public or national safety, had ties to criminal gangs, or had committed serious felony offenses or a series of misdemeanor crimes. Ms. Rayos did not fit any of these criteria, which is why she was allowed to stay in the United States even after a judge issued a deportation order against her in 2013.

That all changed under Mr. Trump. Among the 18 executive orders that he has issued since taking office on Jan. 20 is one stipulating that undocumented immigrants convicted of any criminal offense — and even those who have not been charged but are believed to have committed “acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense” — have become a priority for deportation. . .

Continue reading.

And you know her Representative is a Republican, who will do nothing.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 February 2017 at 5:03 pm

Court Refuses to Reinstate Travel Ban so SCOTUS, here we come

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Those of a certain age can remember the visceral shock when the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Nixon must turn over the Butterfield tapes. By a nice coincidence, that unanimous decision was (also?) 8-0.

If SCOTUS unanimously decides the EO is unconstitutional in whole or part—as seems quite likely, since it is—that will really put the ball in play. Donald does not take defeat gracefully, particularly public defeat or humiliation (cf. Obama’s making humor of Trump at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner (a dinner tradition I imagine will end fairly soon)). And he is impulsive. And he wants to strike back. And he has a lot of enablers. And his closest adviser Stephen Bannon has explicitly said he wants to destroy the government. What a terrific opportunity. Must strike quickly.

Man, I might enjoy the movie (with Tom Cruise playing the “save-the-day” role), but it’s not so pleasant living through it, is it?

Adam Liptak reports in the NY Times:

A three-judge federal appeals panel on Thursday unanimously refused to reinstate President Trump’s targeted travel ban, delivering the latest and most stinging judicial rebuke to his effort to make good on a campaign promise and tighten the standards for entry into the United States.

The ruling was the first from an appeals court on the travel ban, and it was focused on the narrow question of whether it should be blocked while courts consider its lawfulness. The decision is likely to be quickly appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

That court remains short-handed and could deadlock. A 4-to-4 tie in the Supreme Court would leave the appeals court’s ruling in place. . .

Continue reading. And check out Donald Trump’s initial reaction, which is consistent with the above scenario. And so far my prediction that the 25th Amendment will be exercised before March. We still have almost 3 weeks.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 February 2017 at 4:21 pm

The internet and its services are enabling effective protest: Betsy DeVos edition

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When I say “enabling” effective protest, I mean only in providing a way for groups to communicate and work together. Their work, however, is still required, and it has to be more than marching in protest, which is fun—and an opportunity to meet people, make contacts, plan, identify resources and next steps, and organize and start to work. And the Internet greatly facilitates not only the quick and efficient organization of the Womens March on Washington—endless details quickly resolved, great visual symbol, terrific impact nationally and even globally. Not bad for a bunch of amateurs, but really revealing the power of a distributed approach, drawing on and pooling the expertise of many individuals: crowd-sourcing, in effect. And efficiently: nowadays good project management software abounds and many people have experience in using them: expertise from the crowd.

Now look at this story in Salon by Taylor Link:

On her first day as the head of the education department, Betsy DeVos learned that American teachers have to buy their own pencils.

In a tweet that quickly went viral, Devos shared her first moment in her new office.

What was supposed to be a harmless message has now been turned against her. Hundreds — from retired teachers to concerned citizens — responded to the tweet by informing the new education secretary that many school districts lack the resources to provide enough pencils for their class.

The billionaire Republican donor . . .

Continue reading.

What Twitter does:

  • It is an efficient way to voice opinions.
  • It is public: you can see how many others are voicing opinions.
  • Your contact information is included, so if the government goes very authoritarian, they have a handy list of dissidents.
  • Your contact information is included, so dissidents can identify each other and communicate directly with each other to organize.

That last thing is a bit tricky. Trolls are clever, and some will want to play a long con, joining and going along to see what’s happening and who are the nexus points.

Avoiding that would, I think, require a good procedure of personal vetting, with a multistep entry.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 February 2017 at 4:01 pm

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