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The War on Drug Users and Its Basis

tl;dr (read this either way) Including biological underpinnings, addiction is a social construct. "Drug user" is also a social construct, and worse, it is rooted in the US's war on drugs, which has taken on global scale. The War on Drug Users is a holocaust (Miller compares it to The Holocaust in Drug Warriors & Their Prey, and I use that as a major key off), and I briefly walk through its development upon the basis of those social constructs.
I wrote this huge ass perspective for everyone to consider. It's kinda loose, though I tried to add my major thought inputs, so that you have some leads to follow me, at the end. Please do legitimately criticize this. This is how we grow.
Why does this matter to anarchism? Because this is about the state oppressing us. My argument is that we need to seek out means of undermining this institution of oppression. The major routes to do that are decolonization and antiracism, as well as other anarchistic methods, in my opinion, though there are other intersecting factors as well. I think this is a common perspective in anarchism: people with addiction, whatever that even is, need compassion, not restriction. We need to integrate this into us deeply, because at this point, this superstructure of the war on drug users is a major source of our oppression, even on a global scale.
So. I've basically been sold on this idea that addiction is a social construct. (This paragraph is controversial in the field lol.) Yes, there is a natural brain process that occurs with what we call addiction. However, this is a very fuzzy brain process, and where it becomes addiction versus love versus just normal brain function is all just decided through a process of social construction. Addiction is not a disease. It is the development of coping habits within a social context. I'm going to focus on the social context side of that, as well as how the very notion of all of this is even defined, but note that there is a necessarily biological part of this, indeed.
That's fine. Whatever. The point there is that we need to care for people, have compassion, and help people through this thing we categorically call addiction for whatever reason. We especially need to empower them to take hold of their agency and growth-oriented perspectives, imo. I'm not alone in that, but it's not an agreed upon thing.
Another point in there is that we need to disrupt the social image of addiction. But that's where I'm going to head into something deep and dark.
Drug users is also an indescribable categorization of people. One that we make very sharply and strongly. When you really examine the edges, you find that the vast majority of rich white people just get ignored and not included, as do most people who just experiment once or twice or use the right kinds like caffeine, moderate alcohol, and so on. The line is really fuzzy. Because it is also a social construct. And an insidious one.
Why was the category of drug user even created? The lines around this category are xenophobic as hell (I'll get to that). They don't make any sense and aren't upheld as a society at all.
Why was the category of addiction even created? Again, the lines around this category are xenophobic as hell. They don't make any sense. A biological basis is claimed, but it would be more accurate to say that this idea is projected onto our interpretation of our biology, frankly (that can be useful, even though I'm going to explore its negative power relationship in a very specific way; importantly, it's classifying a natural human development of coping habits that are developed within the context that I am discussing from here out).
Addiction was not a thing. People who compulsively used in excess were treated with respect as suffering in some way, if anything was done at all. Maybe scolded for their ill behavior while using as well, of course, which patterns thereof may have surely caused some discussions and dealings. Unfortunately, some drugs, like morphine, were used to treat people's depression and such, so there was complications. It just happened to some people. There was no need to define it as a category or call it a disease or anything. It was just part of the human experience.
So what happened?
(I'm writing this in a very US-centric voice, and from this point, that gets really obvious, I think.)
First, prohibition (1920-1933, the US banned the production and sale of alcohol via a constitutional amendment that was overturned by a subsequent constitutional amendment)? That one is WAY more interesting, because it was bolstered by women's suffrage and a large movement inside Christianity against the use of alcohol. Men kept getting drunk and beating their wives, who would complain in the church, of course. That being normalized back then, a surprising amount of prohibition was about domestic violence. And it worked on that end. People drank way less and domestic violence did go down. Alcohol just wasn't the actual cause of that violence and its prohibition increased organized violence instead. Prohibition made a huge conversation about drinking and domestic violence, and the conversation worked, relative to before it (not that great, as it turns out). It's all even more complicated than that, tbh. There was an entire authoritarian religious movement involved in this, too, which wasn't a friendly force. Lol. Huge movements like that tend to be complicated if you really look at it.
So, about the religious parts there, though. After the US's founding, the idea of too much drinking and even alcoholism began to prop up. It wasn't really a thing before--getting drunk is just what happened when you drank enough. It was largely in the religious christian circles, and their focus was primarily on alcohol at the earlier stages, though opium surely was criticized as well. This religious stance that largely was/is for prohibition of alcohol/drugs eventually fed into prohibition and the war on drug users, obviously. It's kinda the root of the ideology that has taken us there, especially as it can be hijacked by the state to serve the higher classes while sabotaging the lower classes. So that's interesting about prohibition, but again, prohibition was complex. More interesting is this specific idea of consumption of too much or too regularly being potentially bad (regardless of where it is true or not).
There were several big early things that led us to the thought of addiction and drug users we have today. There's of course all of the opium use during and after the Civil War, and an increasing thought of treating people who seem to be compulsively using too much. Eventually, politicians in Congress wanted to kick out the Chinese immigrants and found an excuse in the Chinese immigrants smoking opium. Also, opium trading in The Philippines, where we were busy slaughtering people just because we wanted to own them, also spurred anti-opium talk. They demonized opium and expelled the Chinese immigrants while beginning a process of restricting narcotics. Then prohibition came and went. FDR further strengthened the nonsense during WW2 after the army used morphine a bunch in WW1 and abandoned the soldiers when they got home, like we do. Enough people also grew up part of the strong tradition of slaughtering the shit out of Mexicans ever since the Mexican-American War, and they found an excuse in Marijuana, backed by their big corporate slush fund in Du Pont etc. Thus the demonization of Marijuana and slaughtering and expelling of Mexican immigrants. Everybody just kinda dealt with opiates being restricted and marijuana being bad, but the whole thing was still kinda vague, still not fully constructed yet. So far, there was just a vague attempt at restricting morphine, especially, and trying to help people. Law enforcement was involved, but it was small. A lot of separation still between opium users, marijuana smokers, and alcoholics. Notice how that separation still exists today (if you are in the US), though.
In all of this, patients who use opium and such for pain have been pulled in, too. That is, here's ableism. As opium derivatives remain one of the major successful drugs for chronic pain patients, they are forced to walk the line here. Are they considered "drug users"? Usually not, but in order to stay not, they have to constantly dance with the impossible outline of "drug users". In more recent times, this dance has led to increasing suicides and turning to heroin, but the dance started the second they began restricting opium. The dance has even changed just for the average person who injures themselves--how much more for those desperate for management of a chronic condition.
Now, remember, they had Jim Crow (and they totally used the opium and marijuana laws against Black people, too). Japanese internment camps in WW2. We were continuing active colonizer practices with the various Native peoples (plus weird alcohol/drug issues that Native peoples have had to deal with themselves, which deserves special highlight but I don't know enough, tbh), let alone global imperialism. LGBTQ+ people had not had Stonewall yet.
In the 50s, after some growth in the 30s and 40s, different attempts at treating people who continued to struggle with excessive, compulsive drinking and other drug use since the 1800s--especially alcohol--culminated in alcoholism being declared a disease, based on it having measurable changes in the body, which have been further highlighted in the brain. That has still stuck with us. Addiction was rooted in a word for slavery, moreorless, but in the disease model, it found its use.
So the whole Civil Rights Era comes, with it's Vietnam stirring up anti-war activism along with it. White people needed somewhere new to displace their racism and domination. LGBTQ people are starting to make noise. The American Indian Movement has successes (and losses). Vietnam is looking pretty awful.
Well, look at all these Black people using heroin. And y'know, we've got all these anti-war pot smokin' hippies. What if we just make a "War on Drugs" targeting them? That's what Nixon did. Nixon finally solidified the idea of drug users by creating the Drug Enforcement Agency and "starting" the "War on Drugs".
But it's actually really complicated, there. Nixon basically gave us the construct of drug users fully complete, with a state-backed power structure to hide its racist (against Black, Brown, and Asian people at this point) and imperialist foundations. However, Nixon practically ended how this constituted an actual war in many regards. Nixon focused the program heavily towards reducing punishment and increasing treatment. This is why I don't shit on Nixon about this, even though he repeated Eisenhower's dumbass thing of create massive state power structures that hide the absolute worst of our society out of sight and then tell everyone else to do good with them as they walk into the sunset... Um. Thanks asshole. Anyway.
Nixon and a lot of his administration were authoritarians in this. That's why they created the whole thing of the war on drug users. It's complicated, but don't celebrate anything there, frankly.
It's really around here that you start to get your modern construction of the concepts of "drug users" and "addiction." Think about how recent that is. Even still, the concept of "addiction" is so fuzzy, the some of the ways that we talk about "addiction" in 2020 would be seen as excessive and bizarre in 1980.
Fucking Reagan comes in and sees Nixon's creation, tho. Fuckin Reagan.
So, by his 1984 crime bill, Reagan takes Nixon's wonderful power architecture built on top of racism and imperialism and turns it into a tool of outright holocaust. Nixon inadvertently began the identification stage, and he participated in ostracism, but acted in a more pro-treatment way, reducing punishment. Reagan really began the ostracism that would necessarily lay the foundations for everything else, as well as the confiscation. By the time he left office, the groundwork for concentration was there, maybe even at its very birth.
Also during Reagan, the AIDS epidemic hit. While publicly totally blundering that, he also folded LGBTQ+ people into his War on Drug Users with it. One of the ways that AIDS spread in the homosexual community was drug use, including methamphetamines. Which is something the general LGBTQ+ community likes to brush under the carpet because it's full of liberal assholes, but this is a REALLY important part of the war on drug users and how it is built on the backs of cisheteronormativity, too. The negligent allowance of death of LGBTQ people to the AIDS epidemic, justified by heteronormativity, is a direct precursor to Trump's handling of COVID today.
So then the march down the chain begins.
The war on drug users marches steadily from identification to ostracism to confiscation and to concentration as it continues under Clinton. By this point, in the US, an entire generation is growing up being taught the concept of "drug users" and that holocausting them is justified, because "drug users" are bad people. And we all have to watch out lest we develop this scary disease called "addiction" that will turn us into these hopeless "drug users".
You have the creation of MS-13 in California prisons, who are then deported to El Salvador, where they organize and completely disrupt the country. We fully combined our imperialist tendencies with our at-home racism there, but imperialism and racism were the original foundations of the war on drug users and the whole construction of what all of this even means.
While the Southern Border has had active caging and slaughtering of Mexicans ever since the Mexican-American War, it REALLY starts to pick up steam as the CIA creates contras to create instability throughout Mexico and Central and South America to traffic drugs into the US and feed the war on drug users by ensnaring more drug users in it at home. MS-13 as above. Active discussion about the Border hides that all of this is an active construction of our own government in the drug war, a holocaust of our own regular, ordinary citizens, built on the imperialist thrashing of other peoples, too.
Insert GW Bush and the post-9/11 world. Now the War on Terror picks up where the imperialist anti-communist crusades had fizzled out, this time using a blowback from all of that. I'm not into that, but the War on Terror has been used to further weaponize the War on Drug Users, especially at the border.
Obama basically continues all of this BS, though he switched to largely having drones kill people instead of having soldiers do all of it outside the US. Inside the US, he continued the concentration infrastructure.
In fact, under Obama, we had the Occupy movement, where local and federal police involvement ramped up like never before, and the militarization of police began to show its extreme head. Ferguson, giving rise to BLM, and again tying in the Black racial basis. At Standing Rock, as we defied treaties and continued the active genocide of the Sioux peoples, police agencies from around the nation were invited to practice militarized policing tactics on water protectors. All of this matters. None of this could have happened without all that I said preceding it (none of this would be possible without the showing of this intersection with colonialism here; don't be fooled--it all began with colonialism and slavery and the general dominating hierarchies installed at the beginning of the nation lol; I'm just pointing specifically the War on Drug Users).
With the "opiate crisis" you get the ableism back in, mostly. People freak out because a large increase in drug use and overdoses. This is initially tied to an increase in prescriptions of opiates, but this myopic lens ignores the subsequent rise in alcohol and other "drug" use. A large society-wide movement of despair. This is a result of living in a society that is actively engaging in a holocaust on its own citizens and increasing effective wage slavery while a few at the top become exceedingly rich. Instead of doing anything about the increasing despair running rampant throughout society, we have continued to crack down even harder on these specific "drugs," primarily targeted at disabled people. As those who use such "drugs" to manage chronic conditions constantly dance with whether or not they qualify as "drug users" many end up falling in and never again escaping--often losing their lives.
Then comes Trump. And well. Now we're at the point where ICE is raiding our cities, paramilitary agencies grown out of all of this madness are occupying our cities, there's countless whistleblower accounts of agents raping children, sterilizing women, and countless more at the concentration camps at our borders. Police are immune to kill people in the street, usually the very ones all of this was constructed to allow them to specifically annihilate eventually (BIPOCs, LGBTQ+, etc.), and they do it regularly. This is what the birth of the true annihilation stage looks like.
Phew.
---
Okay, I need to list some texts that were influential on me on this. Some of this stuff was because I have studied, specifically, substance abuse in college. I have had multiple classes covering multiple aspects of this, though I disagree with my classes on parts. I also actively search out and read different articles and things. Not as much as a true expert. I'm not. This is just my thoughts through an indescribable amount of input so far. The following are some texts to consider:
Marc Lewis: The Biology of Desire (explores the biological perspective of addiction relative to this!)
The New Jim Crow (I actually haven't even read it, but I know it dives into this, so I'm excited for where it contradicts me tbh lol)
Robert Miller: Drug Warrior's And Their Prey: From Police Power to Police State (I use his framework borrowed from an analysis of The Holocaust projected onto the war on drug users here... the chain--identification, ostracism, confiscation, concentration, annihilation--is straight out of this book, and there are passages in this book that are at the very heart of this rant)
Daniel Immerwahr: How to Hide an Empire (mostly for the Philippines reference, tbh)
Greg Grandin: The End of the Myth (frontierism and a deep exploration of the US treatment of Mexicans, tbh)
Nick Estes: Our History is Our Future (exploration of the history of the Sioux resistance against the US government... READ THIS)
---
This isn't necessarily great. My definition of addiction here is contentious haha.
submitted by subaruvagabond to Anarchism

Lost in the Sauce: GAO investigating Trump's handling of $2.2 trillion CARES Act

Welcome to Lost in the Sauce, keeping you caught up on political and legal news that often gets buried in distractions and theater… or a global health crisis. TLDR in the comments below.
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Let’s dig in!

Oversight mechanisms not functioning

The coronavirus relief and stimulus bill, the CARES Act, was signed into law on March 27. In the 25 days since, the $2.2 trillion benefits have been doled out with little oversight. Indeed, only one man was monitoring the funds for the majority of the time: Bharat Ramamurti was appointed by Sen. Chuck Schumer on April 6 to serve on the Congressional Oversight Commission, which is meant to be a five-person panel that oversees the implementation of economic relief provisions, holding hearings, and submitting monthly reports to Congress.
Ramamurti was the only appointee until recently, when on Friday three more positions were filled on the commission - at least on paper. “At the moment, it’s me and my laptop, at home,” Ramamurti told Vice News in an interview published Saturday.
And despite Ramamurti’s attempts to get answers, it remains unclear who will get loans, or what the terms will be. “I’m really concerned that the lending that’s targeted at bigger businesses comes with no conditions on maintaining payroll or [preventing] share buybacks,” Ramamurti said. “You could see taxpayer money going to support a company that then turns around and fires a bunch of its workers, while paying out full executive compensation.”
There is only one vacancy remaining on the commission - the chair, to be filled by an individual jointly-appointed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The other appointees are: Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL), a former Clinton administration health secretary appointed by Pelosi; Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), a former chairman of the conservative Club for Growth appointed by McConnell; Rep. French Hill (R-AR), named by House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy of California; and the previously discussed Ramamurti, former aide to Sen. Elizabeth Warren appointed by Sen. Chuck Schumer (and also the only non-lawmaker on the panel so far).
Ramamurti has sounded the alarm already, writing in a New York Times op-ed that “the strings aren’t attached” to the unprecedented spending authorized by Congress.
Congress recently gave the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve broad authority to lend out trillions of dollars to businesses, states and municipalities...The key question is whether that money ends up helping working people or flows instead to the managers, executives and investors who have already taken so much of the income gains in the past decade.
...Congress placed certain conditions on some of the funds… But beyond those basic rules, the Treasury and the Fed decide who gets money, how much they get and on what terms… The lending program for big businesses, for example, comes with no requirement that beneficiaries keep workers on payroll and no restrictions on stock buybacks, dividends or executive pay.

The other oversight

Meanwhile, none of the other oversight mechanisms are functional. The panel of inspectors general (the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee) was interrupted earlier this month when Trump demoted Chairman Glenn Fine. A successor has not yet been named.
Congress also created a new IG position to oversee the CARES Act spending, called the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery within the Treasury Department. Trump nominated White House lawyer Brian Miller to fill this role, but it requires confirmation from the recessed Senate.
You may recall, Trump undermined the oversight and accountability mechanisms from the very start, issuing a signing statement that declared the provisions requiring consultation with and reporting to Congress were unconstitutional and he would not comply. Sen. Richard Blumenthal wrote a piece in Slate outlining how to ensure accountability by including protections in the next coronavirus relief package. For instance:
The next COVID-19 bill must protect the independence of inspectors general by ensuring that they can only be fired for good cause...this protection should apply to acting inspectors general, as well as to Senate-confirmed ones, to prevent presidential end-runs. The bill must also require the secretary of the treasury, the special inspector general for pandemic recovery, and the chairman and executive director of PRAC to send Congress weekly reports listing instances where the watchdogs have been denied information by some part of the executive branch.
...To ensure participation, there should be a stronger enforcement mechanism this time around. If the letter is not filed, then it should trigger a rider prohibiting the payment of the salaries of any political appointee in the Treasury Department, including the secretary, until the letter is submitted.
...the clause should make clear that, if the administration declares that it will not comply with the provisions requiring reporting to Congress or with the rider denying political appointees’ salaries in the case of noncompliance, then provisions giving the treasury secretary discretion to decide how certain funds will be spent must also fall away.

UPDATE: GAO taking up the challenge

It seems, since none of the built in oversight of the implementation of the CARES Act is functioning, Congress’s own independent watchdog has taken up the challenge. The Government Accountability Office is reportedly preparing a “blizzard of audits” into Trump’s handling of the $2.2 trillion fund. As part of the legislative branch, Trump does not have control over the GAO.
Politico reports that at least 30 CARES Act reviews and audits will be underway by the end of this month.
Topics will range from the government’s handling of coronavirus testing to its distribution of medical equipment, and from the nation’s food supply to nursing home infections and any missteps in distributing the emergency cash payments that began landing in millions of Americans’ bank accounts this week. The office’s top fraud investigator said it’s already received a complaint about a check landing in the account of a deceased person. [emphasis mine]

Handling of CARES Act

Congress rushed to pass the Cares Act while the economy rapidly tanked, but lawmakers and administration officials are only now beginning to understand some of the implications of the law. Many Americans are experiencing the damaging consequences firsthand, while reading about billions of dollars going to big business and the wealthiest among us:
  • A report by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation found that more than 80% of the benefits of a tax change tucked into the coronavirus relief package will go to those who earn more than $1 million annually. Less than 3% of the benefits go to Americans earning less than $100,000 a year. The provision was inserted into the legislation by Senate Republicans.
    • WaPo: Hedge-fund investors and owners of real estate businesses are “far and away” the two prime beneficiaries of the change, said Steve Rosenthal, a tax expert at the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan think tank.
  • As a federal crisis fund of $350 billion established to keep small businesses afloat during the coronavirus pandemic ran out last week, we’ve learned that large companies were able to receive a big chunk of that money. Restaurant and hotel groups with no more than 500 workers at a single location could apply for the program. For instance, Sandwich maker Potbelly (whose CEO makes over $1.6 million salary) and Ruth's Chris Steak House (whose CEO makes more than $6.1 million) successfully obtained loans worth $10 million and $20 million, respectively.
  • President Donald Trump's top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, revealed that his artist wife easily applied for assistance through the small business loan program. Kudlow’s personal assets are valued at a maximum net worth of $2 million according to a 2018 Bloomberg report and his wife charges between $10,000 and $20,000 for commissioned paintings. It is unclear if she even has any employees.
  • An analysis by Bloomberg found an uneven distribution of the first $342 billion of Small Business Administration coronavirus-relief loans. For instance, firms in Nebraska got enough money to cover 82% of the state’s eligible payrolls. It was a different picture in New York and California, where companies did only half as well - 40% in NY and 38% in CA. The states that got the most: NB, ND, KS, and SD. The states that received the least: DC, CA, NY, NV, WA, and NJ.
    • Jackie Speier: “I’m hard pressed not to think that this is political. Blue states like California got a pathetic number of loans issued.”
  • Ten major U.S. airlines reached a deal with the Treasury Dept. to accept $25 billion in government assistance, only having to pay back a small portion. WaPo reports that “under the terms of the deal 70 percent of the money would be given to the airlines outright and 30 percent would have to be paid back to the government.”
  • The Trump administration is allowing banks to collect the direct payments to Americans to pay off an individual’s debt. Ronda Kent, chief disbursing officer with the Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service, effectively blessed this activity in a call with banking officials last week. So far, only the governors of Illinois, Washington, and Oregon have signed orders to protect stimulus checks from garnishment.
    • Vox: Banks were reportedly told they would be “first in line” to take money from the stimulus money to cover things like delinquent loans or past-due fees.
  • Six federally-recognized tribes have sued the Treasury Department over the disbursement of $8 billion of the CARES Act meant to go to “tribal governments” for assistance during the pandemic. The plaintiffs argue that the Treasury should not be allowed to give a portion of the aid to more than 230 Alaska Native for-profit corporations (ANCs), which are private corporations with shareholders that include both Indians and non-Indians.
    • Law and Crime: Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. called CARES funding “what Indian Country will rely on to start up again,” adding that “Congress surely didn’t intend to put tribal governments, which are providing health care, education, jobs, job training, and all sorts of programs, to compete against these Alaska corporate interests, which looks like a cash grab.”
    • The group of tribal leaders are also calling for the removal of Assistant secretary of Indian Affairs in the Interior Department, Tara Sweeney, over the decision to include ANCs in the emergency money disbursement. Sweeny is the former vice president of an ANC and thus “an interested party.”

More from Congress

Negotiations

Democrats are still negotiating with Republicans and the White House to obtain additional funding in exchange for the roughly $250 billion the GOP wants to use to replenish the small business program. The latest numbers being discussed in a “tentative” agreement include $300 billion for the small business program, $75 billion for hospitals, $50 billion for Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance, and $25 billion for coronavirus testing.
MONDAY UPDATE: The snag in negotiations is reportedly the provisions regarding COVID-19 testing. Specifically, how to structure the funds for testing and if lawmakers should require the Trump administration to rollout a national testing strategy.

Remote voting

In a major shift, Speaker Pelosi and House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern now support a rule change allowing House members to cast votes by proxy during the pandemic. Proxy voting, Politico explains, “would allow a member who is physically present in the chamber to cast a vote for lawmakers who are absent, only for a limited period of time.”

Biden probe

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, is pushing forward with the investigation of Joe Biden’s son Hunter, planning to release a report in the summer.

Russia probe

Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Chuck Grassley and Sen. Johnson are also continuing to pursue an investigation into the origins of the Russia probe, promoting recently declassified details from the Steele report as evidence that the FBI’s Russia probe was “tainted.” During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in December, DOJ IG Michael Horowitz said the Steele dossier “had no impact” on the initiation of the FBI’s investigation.
During Sunday’s rally coronavirus task force briefing, Trump called the FBI agents who worked on Mueller’s investigation "crooked ... dangerous ... very bad ... human scum." The president also praised Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and Michael Flynn.
  • Also… A FOIA lawsuit by Jason Leopold revealed that DOJ personnel sent Fox News talking points to promote then-regular-attorney Bill Barr’s “unsolicited” 2018 memo criticizing Mueller’s probe.

Gaetz controversy

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) is under scrutiny for spending almost $200,000 of taxpayer money to rent an office from real estate developer Collier Merrill, “a longtime friend, adviser, campaign donor and legal client.” Both men admitted Gaetz “paid below market rent for the space — although Gaetz later shifted,” saying it was actually “at or below market rate,” which is against House rules.

Burr’s stock trades

Two articles to read on Burr came out last week: NPR’s “Sen. Richard Burr's Pre-Pandemic Stock Sell-Offs Highly Unusual, Analysis Shows,” and ProPublica’s “Senator Richard Burr Sold D.C. Townhouse to Donor at a Rich Price.”

Court cases

SCOTUS

For the first time in history, the Supreme Court will be holding arguments remotely while allowing the public to listen in real time. Ten cases have been scheduled for the first half of May, including three involving whether Trump may shield his financial records from Congress and from a New York state grand jury investigation. It appears arguments will be heard for these cases on May 12.

Stone

Last week, Roger Stone was denied a new trial by DC District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who ruled that the jury forewoman had not lied to the court about her opinions when she was screened for bias before the trial, as Stone alleged. CNN: “Stone could appeal over the next two weeks, but may be ordered to report to prison to serve his 40 months -- at earliest, two weeks from now.”
The ruling also removed the gag order that has been silencing Stone, resulting in his immediate appearance on Fox News where Tucker Carlson was able to posit that the president should pardon Stone. Trump had chimed in earlier in the day, calling the denial of Stone’s retrial request “a disgraceful situation.”

Amazon-Pentagon case

It appears that the White House stonewalled an IG investigation into a federal contract that is currently the subject of a lawsuit. Reuters reports:
The Pentagon’s inspector general on Wednesday said it could not determine whether the White House influenced the award of a $10 billion contract to Microsoft Corp over Amazon after several officials said their conversations were privileged “presidential communications.” ...Amazon, originally considered to be the favorite to win the award, has blamed President Donald Trump for bias against the company and for improperly pressuring the Pentagon.
Meanwhile, US Court of Federal Claims Judge Patricia E. Campbell-Smith granted the Defense Department’s (DoD) request to put a hold on the lawsuit, filed by Amazon, to allow the DoD to revise the contract in question.

Apprentice tapes

Two weeks ago, an SDNY judge ordered that MGM must turn over unaired footage from “The Celebrity Apprentice” to plaintiffs in a fraud and deceptive trade practices lawsuit against Trump and his children. The ruling specifically pertains to “hundreds of hours of recordings from two episodes of the show, when principals of the marketing company ACN Opportunity LLC were guests on the set.”
Trump and three of his children, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump, were sued in 2018 over their promotion of the marketing company from 2005 to 2015, during which Trump allegedly suggested that people could invest in a video phone from the company with little to no risk, Bloomberg News first reported. The Trumps have been accused of not disclosing that they were paid to endorse the company… Plaintiffs claim that they lost hundreds of thousands of dollars by trusting the promotion
Last week, the Trump family filed a notice of appeal, hoping to instead force the lawsuit into arbitration - keeping it out of the public eye.

Fox News lawsuit

Fox News has moved to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a Washington state group accusing the network of "deceptive" coronavirus coverage by arguing that the First Amendment protects "false" and "outrageous" speech.
...The Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics (WASHLITE) filed a lawsuit in King County earlier this month seeking a court order barring the network from "interfering with reasonable and necessary measures to contain the virus by publishing further false and deceptive content." (source)

Trump Not stepping up (or down)

  • WaPo: In five U.S. cities where President Trump’s company operates large hotels — New York, Chicago, Miami, Washington and Honolulu — local authorities said the Trump hotel was not involved in their efforts to provide low-cost or no-cost rooms to those fighting the novel coronavirus.
  • NBC News: Fourteen municipal governments — from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Wildwood, New Jersey — want Trump's campaign committee to clear a combined $1.82 million worth of public safety-related debt connected to Trump's "Make America Great Again" campaign rallies… [to] immediately help them grapple with the coronavirus crisis
  • NYT: [Ivanka] Trump herself has not followed the federal guidelines advising against discretionary travel, leaving Washington for another one of her family’s homes, even as she has publicly thanked people for self-quarantining… Ms. Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, who is also a senior White House adviser, traveled with their three children to the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey to celebrate the first night of Passover this month.
  • Vanity Fair: 153 non-essential staffers at the Palm Beach club, as well 560 workers at Trump Doral in Miami, have been furloughed… The president, however, issued no tweets about leading by example, minimizing his own profits and offering his workers wage security during these increasingly worrying times.
  • Business Insider: Kimberly Guilfoyle, the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr., and Lara Trump, the wife of Eric Trump, are being "secretly" paid $15,000 a month [$180,000 a year] each by the president's re-election campaign, White House advisers report… The payments are reportedly made through companies owned by Brad Parscale — Trump's re-election campaign manager — in order to skirt Federal Election Commission requirements that mandate political campaigns disclose detailed spending reports.
    • Stuart Stevens, a top aide to 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign, was even more blunt: “That’s why Parscale has the job. He’s a money launderer, not a campaign manager.”

Immigration

The following is a selection of immigration-related news that broke last week:
  • Daily Beast: In the middle of a pandemic that has killed 27,000 Americans and counting, the Army this week gave a politically connected Montana firm half a billion dollars—not to manufacture ventilators or protective gear to fight the novel coronavirus, but to build 17 miles of President Trump’s southern border wall… That works out to over $33 million per mile—steeply above the $20 million-per-mile average that the Trump administration is already doling out for the wall.
  • WaPo: Smugglers sawed into new sections of President Trump’s border wall 18 times in the San Diego area during a single one-month span late last year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection records… The agency said the average cost to repair the damage was $620 per incident.
  • Miami Herald: National health experts say U.S. immigration officials are violating federal guidelines by grouping inmates together by the hundreds if they have COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to the coronavirus, according to a lawsuit filed in Miami federal court Monday.
  • Two articles you should read about coronavirus in ICE detention: Mother Jones “At Least 20 People Have COVID-19 at One ICE Jail. Those Inside Say Many More Are Sick.” and ProPublica “At Least 19 Children at a Chicago Shelter for Immigrant Detainees Have Tested Positive for COVID-19.”
  • NPR: Guatemala's Health Minister Hugo Monroy says migrants deported back to Guatemala from the United States now account for a large number of COVID-19 cases in the country.

Environment

The following is a selection of environmental news that broke last week:
  • This NYT op-ed asks why Trump is focused on profits for the oil and gas industry while seemingly content to allow the USPS and hospitals to flounder. “First, since when is it the president’s job to organize international cartels? Second, why are higher oil prices in the U.S. national interest? We’re not a major oil exporter — in fact, we import more oil than we export… Trump says that it’s about jobs. But U.S. oil and gas extraction employs only around 150,000 workers. That’s less than 1 percent of the number of jobs America has lost in the past three weeks.”
    • The answer: “The oil and gas sector makes big political contributions, almost 90 percent of them to Republicans… Russia and Saudi Arabia are basically petrostates that export oil and almost nothing else. So propping up oil prices is a way for Trump to help his two favorite autocrats.”
  • AP: Ten years after an oil rig [Deepwater Horizon] explosion killed 11 workers and unleashed an environmental nightmare in the Gulf of Mexico, companies are drilling into deeper and deeper waters, where the payoffs can be huge but the risks are greater than ever… safety rules adopted in the spill’s aftermath have been eased as part of President Donald Trump’s drive to boost U.S. oil production… the number of safety inspection visits has declined in recent years
  • Vice News: Republicans Are Planning to Use Coronavirus to Gut Renewable Energy. Conservative groups aligned with the oil industry hope to block any aid for the solar and wind industries, which have been decimated by the pandemic.
  • NYT: Disregarding an emerging scientific link between dirty air and Covid-19 death rates, the Trump administration declined on Tuesday to tighten a regulation on industrial soot emissions that came up for review ahead of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • NYT: The Trump administration on Thursday weakened regulations on the release of mercury and other toxic metals from oil and coal-fired power plants, another step toward rolling back health protections in the middle of a pandemic.

Other

  • Like ICE detention facilities, our "domestic" jails are facing similar crises: In just one Ohio prison, 1,828 inmates — 73% of the total — have tested positive for Covid-19, state officials say. The remaining 667 prisoners now are in quarantine. (tweet)
  • The Stranger (a Seattle paper): For the second time in two years, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has filed suit against Facebook in a case that grew out of reporting by The Stranger. A complaint filed today by Ferguson in King County Superior Court alleges Facebook has "repeatedly and openly violated" state campaign finance law by failing to disclose required details about the money trails behind hundreds of local political ads that targeted Washington state's elections in 2019.
  • CNN: The bump in coronavirus cases is most pronounced in states without stay at home orders. Oklahoma saw a 53% increase in cases over the past week, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Over the same time, cases jumped 60% in Arkansas, 74% in Nebraska, and 82% in Iowa. South Dakota saw a whopping 205% spike.
  • Daily Beast: The state of Florida passed two milestones in the coronavirus pandemic this week: its deadliest day yet, and the reopening of several public beaches. Hundreds of people flocked to the newly opened beaches in northern Florida on Friday evening, just two weeks into Gov. Ron DeSantis’ monthlong stay-at-home order began
  • Guardian: Thousands of people are preparing to attend protests across the US in the coming days, as a rightwing movement against stay-at-home orders, backed by wealthy conservative groups and promoted by Donald Trump, continues to take hold.
    • The Michigan Freedom Fund, which said it was a co-host of the rally, has received more than $500,000 from the DeVos family, regular donors to rightwing groups. The other host, the Michigan Conservative Coalition, was founded by Matt Maddock, now a Republican member of the state house of representatives.
  • In a letter sent to Attorney General Bill Barr on Friday, the Conservative Action Project, a group of conservative leaders including Matt Schlapp of the American Conservative Union, Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch and Jenny Beth Martin of Tea Party Patriots, urged the Justice Department to sue state and local governments for enacting social distancing orders. “Many see this crisis as an opportunity to reduce liberty and enlarge government power in permanent ways,” the letter states. “We urge the DOJ to take numerous, specific actions, right now, to focus and act against this disturbing new danger to our country’s future.”
  • Some good news regarding the stay-at-home protests: Those organized on Facebook in California, New Jersey, and Nebraska are being removed from the platform on the instruction of governments in those three states because it violates stay-at-home orders, CNN reports.
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