Nel's New Day

December 4, 2016

Victory at Standing Rock

CANNON BALL, ND - DECEMBER 04: Fireworks fill the night sky above Oceti Sakowin Camp as activists celebrate after learning an easement had been denied for the Dakota Access Pipeline near the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on December 4, 2016 outside Cannon Ball, North Dakota. The US Army Corps of Engineers announced today that it will not grant an easement to the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under a lake on the Sioux Tribes Standing Rock reservation, ending a months-long standoff. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

CANNON BALL, ND – DECEMBER 04: Fireworks fill the night sky above Oceti Sakowin Camp as activists celebrate after learning an easement had been denied for the Dakota Access Pipeline near the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on December 4, 2016 outside Cannon Ball, North Dakota. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Protesters across the United States celebrated today after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would “explore alternate routes” for the Dakota Access Pipeline instead of granting an easement for the pipeline. Over 2,000 U.S. military veterans had joined the thousands of protesters at the site to protect them from the authorities, and federal officials had given them until tomorrow to leave the site.

Native American tribes began last April to block the part of the current 1,172-mile-long pipeline’s $3.8 billion project designed to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota at the confluence of the Missouri and the Cannonball rivers because it threatened the water supply, damaged sacred sites, and violated federal law and tribal treaties with the U.S. “Oahe” means “a place to stand on” in the Dakota language. Pipeline opponents argued in court that the pipeline “crosses areas of great historical and cultural significance” and “crosses waters of utmost cultural, spiritual, ecological, and economic significance.” Sally Jewell, Secretary for the Interior, said that the government will conduct “an in-depth evaluation of alternative routes for the pipeline and a closer look at potential impacts” and “underscore that tribal rights reserved in treaties and federal law, as well as Nation-to-Nation consultation with tribal leaders, are essential components of the analysis to be undertaken in the environmental impact statement going forward.”

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The small protest that started eight months ago developed into a standoff after the Standing Rock Tribe was supported with hundreds of tribes and joined by thousands of celebrities and activists from around the country throughout the sweltering summer into the freezing winter weather. Police departments from 24 counties and 16 cities—as far away as 1,500—have sent law enforcement officers to Standing Rock, using the 1996 Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) as an excuse that it fits the category of “community disorders, insurgency, or enemy attack.” North Dakota taxpayers will be required to pay for all these out-of-state officers, including their wages, overtime costs, meals, lodging, and mileage reimbursement. The state already has a $1 billion revenue shortfall for the current year, and law enforcement costs were up to $10.9 million as of November 22. Morton County had spent another $8 million, and local courts and jails were on the hook for 575 arrests.

Arrested demonstrators, called “water protectors,” report having been strip searched and detained in dog kennels. Police set dogs on the protesters. Last week local law enforcement announced fines of up to $1,000 to vehicles delivering supplies to the Standing Rock encampments.

Police commonly use water cannons, rubber bullets, and pepper spray. By mid-November, their treatment of the protesters so accelerated that the police are now being sued by protesters. Police shot streams of icy water in the freezing temperatures and fired tear gas and rubber bullets against the demonstrators for six hours. Water froze to people’s bodies, and 300 people were treated for injuries. Twenty-six of them were taken to hospitals.

Police took this action after pipeline opponents tried to remove two burned military vehicles from a bridge so that they could get supplies and emergency medical services from Bismarck. Law enforcement denied that they had water cannons, claiming that they used a “fire hose” to spray “more as a mist” but not “directly on them” in order “to help keep everybody safe.” A medic saw the police “hosing people down with their water cannon that continued for the entirety of the four hours I was out there watching.” He added that they flushed the eyes of people sprayed with tear gas with water and milk of magnesia that turned to black ice on the ground. Medics also reported that the demonstrators were unarmed and largely nonviolent.

Rubber bullets fired at demonstrators caused one elder to lose consciousness, another man to experience a seizure, and a woman to have her eye injured. Sophia Wilansky, 21, underwent surgery after her arm was severely injured by a concussion grenade. Her father said that she will need multiple surgeries to regain use of her arm and hand because “all of the muscle and soft tissue between her elbow and wrist were blown away,” he said. “She will be, every day for the foreseeable future, fearful of losing her arm and hand.”

The police denied using grenades and accused the protesters of having explosives. Eyewitnesses including medics, however, “watched police intentionally throw concussion grenades at unarmed people” and said that evidence of these grenades was “the lack of charring of flesh at the wound site, and by the grenade pieces that have been removed from her arm in surgery and will be saved for legal proceedings.” Black Elk—resident of the reservation, an ethnobotanist, and instructor at the local college, said that police reactions to protest became “progressively more militant, more violent.”

Another method of intimidation against protesters has been to arrest them on bogus charges and then refuse them public defenders for “pretty mundane administrative mistakes,” according to a local attorney. For example, one man was rejected a public defender because he wrote “none” instead of “0” to a question regarding how many cars he owned. In October, a judge dismissed  riot charges against journalist Amy Goodman, who had filmed a confrontation between protesters and pipeline security officers. At least 130 demonstrators have had charges dropped due to lack of evidence, indicating that prosecutors are more interested in intimidating activists than securing convictions and signaling the “unprecedented” nature of Morton County pursuing baseless cases.

dakota-pipeline-oceti-sakowin-camp

The federal government has claimed ownership of the land where Oceti Sakowin camp (above) sits, but that land is within the area of the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty, which designated land for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. In 1889, Congress divided the Great Sioux Reservation into six separate, smaller reservations and forced the tribes onto smaller parcels of land. Yet terms of treaties are not removed until officially repealed by Congress, and the Supreme Court has ruled that subsequent treaties do not do away with an earlier treaty unless the new treaty specifically addresses and removes the terms of the older treaty.

Interactions between Native American tribes and police are too often violent throughout the rest of the nation. Although these tribes are sovereign nations, 70 percent of them are under the legal authority of police and sheriff’s departments from nearby non-tribal communities. Indians alternate with blacks to have the highest rates of deaths by law enforcement, and these deaths are undercounted for a variety of reasons.

The continued stoppage for the project is at risk because Donald Trump (DT), planning for his presidential inauguration on January 20, 2017, says he will support pipelines like this one. Kelcy Warren, the chief executive of the pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners, donated at least $103,000 to DT’s campaign. DT has said that he sold his shares worth $500,000 and $1 million in Energy Transfer Partners, but there has been no proof that he did this. He also owns $100,000 to $250,000 of stock in Phillips 66 that has a 25 percent stake in the Dakota Access project. Bruce Gali, a 67-year-old member of the Pitt River Tribe, said that it wasn’t the end until “all the razor wire comes down, until the helicopters stop flying overhead, the spotlights turn off, the drill pad is dismantled.”

Once again, the media showed its bias when it ignored the protests by the water protectors at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Despite it being “the longest-running protest in modern history” with “the largest, most diverse tribal action in at least a century, perhaps since Little Bighorn.” Despite the thousands of U.S. veterans who came to protect the water protectors. Despite the accelerating police militancy. From October 26 through November 3, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC combined spent less than an hour describing the demonstrations and violent law enforcement. In this time period, Fox network spent 4.5 minutes. Sunday “news” shows have ignored the events there since September. The few remaining progressive hosts on MSNBC did cover some of the events at Standing Rock, and Joy Reid invited a member of the tribe to be interviewed for her show—the first and only time that the “mainstream” media did this.

For the time being, however, there is victory at Standing Rock. We’ll see how the media treats this event.

February 23, 2013

No Compromise for VAWA

For 18 years the Violence against Women Act (VAWA) was the law of the land, passing in the year that Newt Gingrich took over the House and renewed every six years even when the GOP had control of a Congressional chamber and the presidency. Then the Tea Party came to town, and everything changed.

VAWA provides vital protections against domestic violence and sexual assault, providing assistance to victims through funding clinics, shelters, hotlines, and services. Greatly improving the nation’s infrastructure of dealing with rape and abuse, VAWA has saved countless women’s lives and livelihoods. It established the National Domestic Violence Hotline; trained law enforcement officers, judges, and prosecutors to help victims; made stalking illegal; and updated laws throughout the United States to consider rape by a partner equal to rape by a stranger.

Since VAWA, partner violence and homicides fell: from 1993, the year before VAWA’s passage, until 2010, the overall rate of intimate partner violence in the United States declined by 64 percent. The number of women killed by partners dropped 43 percent.

vawa

Last April, the Senate passed another six–year extension to VAWA, but the House rejected it. This month the Senate passed VAWA, but the House opposes support for Native American, undocumented, and LGBT victims of DV and SA.

One sticking point with the GOP-controlled House, that has proposed a watered down version of VAWA, is the provision that would protect Native American women on tribal reservations. They ignore the statistics of sexual violence against Native American women. Three out of five are assaulted by their intimate partners, and 56 percent of these women have non-Indian husbands. Despite epidemic rates of domestic violence against Native women on reservations by non-Native men, local governments are not permitted to respond to crimes in their community if the perpetrator is not Native. Only federal prosecutors, often hundreds of miles away without local resources, are allowed to investigate and prosecute these crimes. On some Indian reservations, the homicide rate of Native women is ten times that of the national average.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is an example of the 22 senators–all men–who voted against VAWA, bigots who oppose protecting Indian women from non-Native men. He declared that VAWA was unconstitutional because white men would be deprived of their rights by facing a tribal court.  “On an Indian reservation, it’s going to be made up of Indians, right?” he said. “So the non-Indian doesn’t get a fair trial.”

“The jury is supposed to be a reflection of society,” Grassley wrongly claimed. According to the Sixth Amendment, juries are drawn from the “state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.” The U.S. Supreme Court decisions ruled that criminal defendants have a right to a jury “drawn from a fair cross section of the community” where the case is heard. Over 95 percent of Vermont is white, so the jury might be all white. On the other hand, the population of local communities on the Navajo Nation are largely Native American. Grassley’s statement indicates he thinks that Navajo jurors are less like to be impartial than whites.

Of these 22 senators, five senators are so anti-women that they voted against an amendment to ban human trafficking.  

Grassley has company in his anti-VAWA stance. Heritage Action, from the group headed by ultra-conservative Jim DeMint, and Freedomworks, one of the Tea Party groups,  are fighting VAWA’s reauthorization because it is “unprecedented, unnecessary and dangerous.” Claiming that VAWA is “bad for men,” the groups stated, “Under VAWA, men effectively lose their constitutional rights.” Because male victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking may also be covered, the only men who might suffer from VAWA are those who commit these violent crimes.

Sponsored by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), one of 17 GOP women who constitute 8.5 percent of Republicans in the House, the House bill removes rights from three specific groups of people:

Native American Victims: Tribal court sentencing on non-Native defendants would be limited to one year in addition to other options allowing defendants to evade justice in tribal courts. Non-Native American men who abuse Native American women on reservations could move their cases to a federal court if they feel their constitutional rights are not being upheld. The bill also eliminates the 2000 VAWA allowing tribes to issue and enforce civil protection orders against all persons, the only protection a tribal government can provide to victims of domestic violence from DV, stalking, and harassment.

LGBT Victims: The bill removes “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” from the list of underserved populations who face barriers to accessing victim services, thereby disqualifying LGBT victims from a related grant program; eliminates a requirement in the Senate bill that programs that receive funding under VAWA provide services regardless of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity; and excludes the LGBT community from the STOP program, the largest VAWA grant program, which gives funds to care providers who work with law enforcement officials to address domestic violence.

Undocumented Immigrants: Undocumented immigrants who are victims of domestic violence can be eligible for legal status only if federal or local officials certify that it would help investigate or prosecute criminal activity.

Last year, Grassley vote against the rights of these groups, saying that it was just the Democrats’ “election year politics.” He indicated that these provisions were included to make Republicans look bad in an election year. Instead of accepting the motivation to make the United States a better place to live, he follows the paranoid complaint from the National Review :

Democrats have nearly perfected the following exercise in cynical electioneering: 1) introduce legislation; 2) title it something that appeals to the vast majority of Americans who have no interest in learning what is actually in the bill, e.g., the “Violence Against Women Act”; 3) make sure it is sufficiently noxious to the GOP that few Republicans will support it; 4) vote, and await headlines such as “[GOP Lawmaker] Votes No On Violence Against Women Act”; 5) clip and use headline in 30-second campaign ad; and 6) repeat.”

Amanda Marcotte laid out the issue much better:

“There’s a long and ongoing history of rape and domestic violence being minimized and ignored by law enforcement and society at large. Domestic violence is frequently minimized as mere couple-squabbling. Rape is often written off as the victim’s hysterical reaction to bad sex or just desserts for a woman who broke one of the many unwritten sexist ‘rules’ about going out at night, being alone with a date, dressing a certain way, or drinking alcohol.

“VAWA addresses these realities, by strengthening law enforcement response and providing victim services that avoid victim-blaming or minimization, and is not, contrary to conservative hopes and dreams, an attempt to make up for women’s supposed physical or emotional inferiority.”

If the House version even gets out of committee, GOP members will whine about Democrats not compromising with them. Trying to find common ground by refusing rights to specific groups of people is like the agreement of 1787 that gave each slave in the South only three-fifths’ status of a white man in determining Congressional representation. Emory University President James Wagner declared this a good compromise. Denying people rights is never a good compromise.          

November 1, 2012

Ryan, As Bad as Romney

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:28 PM
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The whites are winning over the Native Americans in Montana. Over 30,000 Native American voters live in that state, most of them on reservations, forced to drive as far as 113 miles to vote. In his ruling, a judge refused satellite voting polls on the reservations even though he admits that the Native Americans don’t have equal voting rights. He probably doesn’t want a Democrat senator from Montana. Native Americans in 2006 are largely credited with giving Jon Tester the boost at the polls he needed to narrowly beat out Republican Sen. Conrad Burns by just 3,500 votes out of more than 400,000 cast.

A question to ask the 73 percent of the evangelicals who plan to vote for Romney/Ryan.

Paul Ryan has been so far in hiding that I’ve ignored him during the past couple of months. With Election Day a few days off, however,I dragged out my Ryan folder.

During his 13 years in the House, Ryan has produced only two laws: (1) changed the name of the post office in Janesville (WI); and (2) changed the way arrows used in bow hunting are taxed, removing sales tax on the arrows that cost from $35 to $185 dollars. You may have guessed that Ryan’s hobby is bow hunting. He did have a disastrous tax plan, but it wasn’t his law. 

Soon after he was named the GOP VP candidate, one of his interviews may have caused him to disappear from view. Ryan’s position until he developed Romnesia is that there should be no exceptions for abortion. Perhaps one reason he has this opinion is that he identified rape as “a method of conception.” Raped women probably don’t agree with his wording.

Before his disappearance, he committed several other gaffes.

About his criticism of the  stimulus three years ago: Ryan not only took advantage of this (although he tried to deny this), but he really liked the same proposal when George W. Bush proposed it because it “is to create jobs and help the unemployed.”

About his foreign policy credentials: Ryan said he “voted to send men to war.” About one of his favorite bands: Ryan listed “Rage against the Machine”;  its band leader Tom Morello called Ryan the embodiment of the machine against which the band is raging.

About ENDA: Ryan voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2007 but later voted against it because of the language “gender identity.”

About rape:  Ryan co-sponsored legislation with Rep. Todd Akin (R-MI) that would redefine “rape” for the purposes of Medicaid funding just a year before he declared Akin’s comments about “legitimate” rape to be “outrageous.

Ryan hates government help for business and calls the progressives who work to help people a cancer. He claims that “hard-working Americans are what create jobs, not government. What he doesn’t tell people is that his family business, the one he briefly worked for as a “marketing consultant,” was built in large part on government contracts, starting in 1884. Ryan Incorporated Central began with government-subsidized railroad construction, moved into building federal interstate highways, and then helped build O’Hare Airport. The company has had at least 22 defense contracts since 1996, including one worth $5.6 million.

Ryan also voted to keep $40 billion in special subsidies for big oil. Ryan and his wife hold ownership stakes in big oil and benefit from his vote.

Ryan is in another position to help his family, this time his wife. Janna Ryan previously worked as a lobbyist for a “roster of clients [that] included pharmaceutical and insurance clients such as Novartis, Cigna and Blue Cross/Blue Shield,” according to a Reuters profile. Ryan touts a Medicare plan that would expand the role of private insurers by replacing the traditional Medicare plan with a voucher program that seniors could use to purchase private health plans. Janna Ryan was also part of the team that lobbied for UPS to defeat a postal reform bill that would have made the U.S. Postal Service more profitable. During that time Paul Ryan made one of his two corporate-funded trips in 2000 to Atlanta, a trip funded by UPS. 

Ryan’s great attachment to Ayn Rand’s writing gives him confusion about an older document, the Constitution. A year ago, he said, “What makes our Constitution such an extraordinary document is that, in making the United States the freest civilization in history, the Founders guaranteed that it would become the most prosperous as well. The American system of limited government, low taxes, sound money, and the rule of law has done more to help the poor than any other economic system ever designed.”

The original Constitution placed no limits on the amount of federal taxes; the Sixteenth Amendment provided that the United States “shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes.” People decide how much the taxes will be, not the Constitution. The most disturbing aspect of Ryan’s speech, however, is a seemingly innocuous claim that the “the enforcement of contracts” is protected by the “constitutional cornerstone of our free society.” The Constitution had almost nothing to say about contracts between private parties. If the Constitution actually did shield contracts in the way Ryan suggests, nearly all laws protecting workers and consumers would be unconstitutional, the perception of the Supreme Court before the Great Depression. It appears that Ryan wants to drive the country back to those dark days.

 Jonathan Chait wrote last spring in a Ryan profile that nobody, with the possible exception of Grover Norquist, had done more to destroy bipartisan deficit reduction agreements than Paul Ryan. In another article he wrote about Ryan voting against the Bowles-Simpson commission and then destroying another deficit plan. The third time that Ryan stopped a long-term fiscal readjustment was when President Obama and Rep. John Boehner striking a deal far more favorable to the GOP than either Bowles-Simpson or the Senate plan. During negotiations to raise the debt ceiling and keep the country stable, Rep. Eric Cantor, second in control of the House, told the president that Ryan disliked its policy and worried that a deal would pave the way for Mr. Obama’s easy re-election.

Ryan’s connection to Romney goes back to Bain Capital when Ryan’s brother was a consultant for the leverage company. This came to light after both Romney and Ryan were accused of profiting by a possibly shady deal with a marketing company contracted by the state of Massachusetts while Romney was the Massachusetts governor.

The debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan showed some of Ryan’s techniques: The Blame Game where it’s always somebody else’s fault; The Boogeyman Move in which he accuses the opponent of trying scare people; The Denial which says that other people have succeeded in something similar; The Pivot which changes the subject; and Attack which Ryan used for the question, “Don’t you think negative campaigning is bad?” Instead of answering, Ryan simply attacked President Obama.

In one interview, Ryan managed to follow The Pivot with The Blame. Asked if “this country has a gun problem,” Ryan immediately retorted, “This country has a crime problem.” Unfortunately, he slipped up when he used a variety of racist stereotypes: “But the best thing to help prevent violent crime in the inner cities is to bring opportunity in the inner cities, is to help people get out of poverty in the inner cities, is to help teach people good discipline, good character.” I guess that’s why crime only happens in poor areas, not in the Aurora (CO) shootings.

Ryan is closer than a heartbeat away from the presidency; some people are saying that he’ll be the Republican presidential candidate in 2016.

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