According to a report from the Sacramento Bee, a simple email sent out to employees of a California environmental agency offering a "safe space" discussion following the guilty verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin instead set off a flurry of racist comments that were shared with everyone on the email list.
The report states, that the "State Water Resources Control Board contacted the 2,376 staff members at the agency with the email that featured a subject line reading: "Employee Support Lunch Through Teams Friday 4/23/2021." In the email, a staffer at the Racial Equity Steering Committee and Working Group, "called for a voluntary lunch meeting for anyone who wanted to discuss Chauvin's conviction for murdering George Floyd, as well as more recent deaths of Black Americans at the hands of the police," with the text explaining, "We first and foremost want to acknowledge how rough the last few weeks have been on everyone's mental health with the senseless killings that have taken place all over the country. Secondly, we would like to let you know that you are not alone."
That resulted in an avalanche of responses that -- through a quirk in the way the email went out -- went to everyone on the list which exposed an undercurrent of barely disguised of racism within the agency.
In one exchange, replete with misspellings, a staffer wrote, "Killing occurs everyday in the United States and it is not all reported on. If the eater (sic) board actually wanted to make a difference they would or would not do this for everyone. The fact the water boards is doing this now, is just a sign of caving into the mob. Rome also was a great nation once before it feel (sic) to the mob."
That staffer, identified as a geologist, added, "intra racial killing of African Americans is much more higher and significant than white cops killing African Americans unnecessarily."
"I refuse to apologize or be victimized for immutable characteristics over which I have no control," wrote an employee from San Diego, while another added to what the Bee called a "Reply-Allpocalypse": "Shame on the waterboard steering committee for stoking the flames of division like this. How extremely inappropriate and unfortunate to distribute such egregious propaganda this way."
Another added, "I am really shocked to see all the hate mails — you may have opened a can of worms."
Despite pleas to "Please STOP replying all," the emails continued, the Bee reports, before adding, "The information technology office disabled the thread to prevent further reply-all responses," according to a statement from the agency.
You can read more here.
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Judge denies request from Georgia Lt Gov and former GOP state lawmaker to block subpoenas to testify in Trump probe
Georgia's lieutenant governor and a former state lawmaker William's efforts to avoid testifying in the Fulton County investigation into whether former President Donald Trump and his allies illegally tried to reverse the 2020 election's results in the state, Fox5 reports.
Lawyers for former GOP state Sen. William Ligon and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan asked a Fulton County Superior Court judge to quash subpoenas for them to testify, citing legislative privilege and immunity. But Judge Robert C.I. McBurney said this Wednesday that both Ligon and Duncan must testify, but there should be limits on the questions posed to them.
"Where the legislative privilege ends and the grand jury's authority to question the witnesses about possible criminal electoral interference by others begins is when a witness (or his staff) has engaged with private citizens on topics relevant to the grand jury's investigative charter," McBurney wrote in his decision.
"Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis opened the investigation early last year and in January of this year took the unusual step of requesting a special purpose grand jury. She wrote in a letter to the county superior court chief judge that her team believes the 2020 general election 'was subject to possible criminal disruptions" and is looking into "any coordinated attempts to unlawfully alter the outcome of the 2020 elections in this state,'" Fox5 reports.
"The special grand jury was seated in May and began hearing from witnesses in June. Top state elected officials, including Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Attorney General Chris Carr, have already appeared before the special grand jury. At least three Democratic members of the General Assembly have also testified before the panel."
The main thing I remember about that day at the U.S. Supreme Court was how cold it felt. A couple of inches of snow had fallen that January morning in 1984, but the real chill was in the court’s marble halls.
This was back when newspapers had money to spend. The Pensacola News Journal paid for my plane ticket to Washington to cover oral arguments in a voting rights case. It was a big deal because it ultimately led to the election of Escambia County’s first Black commissioner, who also ran the state’s first funeral home with a drive-through window.
The courtroom where the arguments took place was hardly warmer than the weather outside. The layout seemed designed to elevate the black-robed justices above us mere mortals and make their pronouncements seem as profound as if handed down by some ancient emperor.
Because I am forever a smart-aleck, though, I wondered which ones were wearing ONLY a robe — nothing else.
The news last week about the Supreme Court’s string of right-wing decisions on abortion, guns, and climate change carried an even deeper chill than my memory of that long-ago winter morning.
They did so by citing what the Founding Fathers thought and did in the 1700s, with little concern for how our world has changed since then. Apparently, those six are wearing 18th century knee breeches and wool mantuas beneath their robes, and no doubt will soon order the rest of us to follow suit.
When I heard the high court had also smacked down the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for trying to combat climate change, I thought perhaps they had followed the same loopy logic: George Washington didn’t have to deal with climate change caused by coal-burning power plants, so therefore neither should the EPA.
But no, that wasn’t it. Instead, the majority opinion turned on a matter of what the kids on “South Park” would call “authori-tah.”
In other words, those six silly Supremes claim the EPA lacks the power to make power plants do the right thing for the planet.
This is particularly important decision for us folks in Florida, the state generally regarded as the one most at risk from climate change.
We’ve got sea levels creeping higher on three sides of us, the high heat gets worse, and hurricanes feeding on the warmer water gain greater strength before sowing destruction inland. There are other affects, too, including more toxic algae blooms (ew!), saltwater intrusion in our aquifer (yuck), and more mosquito-borne diseases (hello, Zika!).
I think I speak for everyone worried about Florida’s future as habitat for creatures without gills when I stand up to holler at these six dunderheads, “I object!”
Even Tricky Dick was for it
The fight here is over the Clean Air Act, which was passed back when even arch-Republican Richard Nixon claimed to be concerned about the environment. You know if Tricky Dick was for it, it was because he saw how popular it had become.
The first Earth Day drew millions of protesters into the streets across America in April 1970. They picketed against the nation’s rampant and destructive pollution of the air and water. By December, a bipartisan vote in Congress had approved the Clean Air Act of 1970 and Nixon quickly signed it into law.
Also born in December 1970: the EPA, created by Nixon (he really was a master at reading the zeitgeist, wasn’t he?). Under the Clean Air Act, Congress gave the brand-new EPA the power to regulate the sources of air pollution.
In the 52 years since, the EPA has used that power to clamp down on soot, smog, mercury, and the toxic chemicals that cause acid rain.
Air pollution is a threat to human health, so the EPA’s action has benefited all of us. No matter what our political beliefs, we all breathe air, right?
But when the EPA tried to take on the ultimate threat to humans — a scorched earth — that’s when the polluters really started pushing back.
I should warn you: This is where the whole thing gets craaaaaaaaaaaaaazy, and I don’t mean in a classy Patsy Cline kind of way.
Ruling against the Skunk Ape
Remember when a law professor named Barack Obama was president? Back before we had as chief executive a Florida golf club owner who’s now starring in my favorite true-crime TV show? (I just wish I could binge it.)
When he took office in 2009, Obama promised “a new chapter in America’s leadership on climate change.” But he had only a slim Democratic majority in Congress, and that for only the first two years of his eight in office.
During those two years, he was so focused on saving the auto industry, passing Obamacare, and reforming Wall Street that he missed his shot to pass any climate legislation prior to the 2010 mid-terms.
“Pro-fossil fuel industry groups spent record sums on Republican candidates in that election,” Inside Climate News reported in a 2016 round-up. “The House flipped and the Democrats’ lead in the Senate narrowed as a new crop of climate deniers was swept into Congress.”
In the remainder of Obama’s time, with no help available from Congress, he turned to executive orders and agency actions. His signature program was the Clean Power Plan, in which the EPA aimed to cut carbon pollution from power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels by pushing them to switch to cleaner fuels.
Even though coal-burning power plants are a major source of carbon pollution, the Clean Power Plan would not have ended the use of coal, said Michael Burger, executive director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School.
“Coal would have remained in the energy fuel mix for years,” Burger told me.
But the idea of being phased out drove those fossil fuel fools to challenge Obama’s plan in court, stalling it before it could take effect.
Then, when Donald “Climate Change Is a Chinese Hoax” Trump took office, that plan got dumped. Trump’s EPA director — a former coal industry lobbyist — concluded that the agency lacked authority under the Clean Air Act to shift power plants away from coal to cleaner sources without some specific authorization to do so from Congress.
Instead, Trump’s EPA came up with a new plan that would not hurt the industry Trump himself often described (inaccurately) as “clean, beautiful coal.” I prefer to think of it as the “black-lung-for-everyone” plan.
When Trump lost all of his multiple bids to hang onto the presidency, his pro-coal plan went out the window. The Biden administration was working toward a new power plant plan but hadn’t plugged anything in yet when the Supreme Court jumped on the EPA.
The case the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on was that challenge to the Obama plan — the plan that never went into effect. The court’s majority rejected a government program that didn’t even exist.
It was as if the court had ruled against the Skunk Ape, even though that smelly creature can be seen only in blurry photos on souvenir T’s.
The idiotic thing
The first time the Supreme Court heard a climate change case was 2007. Massachusetts sued the EPA because the federal agency had been reluctant to regulate greenhouse gases as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.
Massachusetts said the EPA was wrong, and the court ruled 5-4 for Massachusetts. The act’s definition of air pollutant was written with “sweeping” and “capacious” language so that it would not become obsolete as technology changed, said the majority opinion.
One of the dissenters: Chief Justice John Roberts, who contended Massachusetts had no standing, which to me seems like a weaselly way to avoid the main issue.
Guess who wrote the majority opinion for last week’s climate change opinion. Roberts again — who, I must point out, was chosen for the court by George W. Bush, who wouldn’t have been elected president if not for Florida’s 2000 butterfly ballot boner.
The court challenge came from 19 states — so not even half of the 50 — as well as utilities and coal companies. Thank heavens Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, who frequently dives into these kooky GOP legal kerfuffles as if all of the state’s taxpayers supported her, chose to skip this one.
This time, Roberts did not say the states lacked standing. Instead, his opinion aped the conclusion of Trump’s pro-coal EPA:
“Capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity may be a sensible ‘solution to the crisis of the day,’” Roberts wrote. “But it is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme. … A decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body.”
Never mind that 200 Democratic members of Congress filed a friend of the court brief insisting that they were fine with what the EPA was doing. Never mind that Congress repeatedly failed to act, leaving the EPA to handle it. And never mind that “capacious” and “sweeping” language mentioned in the 2007 decision.
And never mind that the Clean Power Plan was cheaper for the power industry than any other alternative.
“That’s the idiotic thing,” said Burger. “The Clean Power Plan was considered to make the transition [to clean sources] the most affordable way.”
For a brutal rebuttal, I refer you to the clearly angry dissenting opinion by Justice Elena Kagan and joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and the retiring Stephen Breyer.
“Today, the court strips the EPA of the power Congress gave it to respond to ‘the most pressing environmental challenge of our time,’” she wrote. “Whatever else this court may know about, it does not have a clue about how to address climate change. … The court appoints itself — instead of Congress or the expert agency — the decisionmaker on climate policy. I cannot think of many things more frightening.”
I can, Justice Kagan: Living in Florida while the Supreme Court botches the response to climate change. That’s scarier than anything at the Busch Gardens Howl-o-Scream.
This particular court ruling didn’t rate the razzing its abortion and gun decisions attracted. The closest was satirist Andy Borowitz, who in The New Yorker offered the headline, “Nation’s Fetuses Puzzled Why Supreme Court Wants Them Exposed to Air Pollution.”
The sitting EPA administrator, Michael Regan — who is most definitely NOT a former coal lobbyist — talked about launching a “counterpunch” to the ruling. I think what he’s referring to are several ideas explored by Inside Climate News last week that it said are “more restrictive and more expensive for the power sector.”
So, what can we do, here in Florida? Not much — yet.
Our governor, Ron “The Developers’ Dupe” DeSantis, is happy to spend tax dollars armoring waterfront property against rising seas, but he refuses to do any “left wing stuff” to wean the state off fossil fuels. In fact, he can’t even bring himself to say the words “climate change.”
There are two people who’d like to replace him, and both are able to utter that phrase.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried announced recently that she’s setting a goal for Florida to switch to 100 percent renewable energy sources by 2050.
The only problem is, she can’t enforce that. The rules are in the hands of the Public Service Commission, all gubernatorial appointees, and under DeSantis the PSC tends to be to the utilities as Miss Piggy is to Frank Oz.
The only Florida governor to ever crack down on coal-burning power plants was a Republican named Charlie Crist. Now Crist, a congressman, is running for governor as a Democrat.
“This Supreme Court has gone wild,” he told me Wednesday. “It’s pretty scary stuff. Basically, shackling the EPA is not good for Florida or for America.”
When I asked him what he’d do about it if elected, Crist promised he’d “sign an executive order on my first day in office to limit carbon emissions.”
But what can we, as citizens of Florida, do to let the Supreme Court know we think they’ve screwed up? Here’s my modest proposal.
Every time your street floods on a sunny day, every time a storm surge washes out your property, every time you discover saltwater has toppled your freshwater-dependent palm trees, scoop up a bottle of the stuff.
Put a label on the bottles that says, “This Is the Result of Your West Virginia vs. EPA Opinion.” Then mail it to the chief justice’s office in Washington, D.C.
And maybe send some clothes, too. I think beneath their robes, all of six of these empty-headed emperors are actually naked.
Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.
Donald Trump removed himself from the board of his social media company just weeks before the company was issued federal subpoenas.
The former president was removed as chairman of the Trump Media and Technology Group, along with five other board members, on June 8, records show, and the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a subpoena to the Florida-based company on June 27 and the a grand jury in the Southern District of New York issued another on July 1, reported the Herald-Tribune.
The investigation appears to be related to the proposed $1.3 billion merger between the media company and a special purpose acquisition company called Digital World Acquisitions Corp., whose directors were served subpoenas seeking similar records to those sought from Trump Media, which issued a statement pledging full cooperation.
However, that statement did not mention Trump -- who had a licensing deal with the company to use his name -- was no longer chairman, but still listed former Rep. Devin Nunes as chief executive officer and businessman Phillip Juhan as chief financial officer.
The other board members removed with Trump were Kashyap Patel, a Nunes ally who served various roles in the former president's administration, Donald Trump Jr., and former Trump assistant Scott Glabe.
SPACs are blank-check companies formed to raise money to go public with the intent to find a company to merge with, but they are prohibited from finding a partner before going public, and the SEC is investigating whether Digital World Acquisitions and Trump Media held premature talks about such a deal.