All posts by Roger Straw

Editor, owner, publisher of The Benicia Independent

Robert Reich: 5 POINTS TO COUNTER THE NRA

Repost from robertreich.org

5 REASONS THE NRA IS WRONG

5 REASONS THE NRA IS WRONG

The next time you hear someone repeating pro-gun NRA propaganda, respond with these five points:

1. Gun laws save lives. Consider the federal assault weapons ban. After it became law in 1994, gun massacres – defined as instances of gun violence in which six or more people were shot and killed – fell by 37 percent. The number of people dying from mass shootings fell by 43 percent. But when Republicans in Congress let the ban lapse in 2004, gun massacres more than doubled.

2. The Second Amendment was never intended to permit mass slaughter. When the Constitution was written more than 200 years ago, the framers’ goal was permit a “well-regulated militia,” not to enable Americans to terrorize their communities.

3. More guns have not, and will not, make us safer.More than 30 studies show that guns are linked to an increased risk for violence and homicide. In 1996, Australia initiated a mandatory buyback program to reduce `the number of guns in private ownership. Their firearm homicide rate fell 42 percent in the seven years that followed.

4. The vast majority of Americans want stronger gun safety laws. According to Gallup, 96 percent of Americans support universal background checks, 75 percent support a 30-day waiting period for all gun sales, and 70 percent favor requiring all privately owned guns to be registered with the police. Even the vast majority of gun owners are in favor of common-sense gun safety laws.

5. The National Rifle Association is a special interest group with a stranglehold on the Republican Party. In 2016, the group spent a record $55 million on elections. Their real goal is to protect a few big gun manufacturers who want to enlarge their profits.

America is better than the NRA. America is the young people from Parkland, Florida, who are telling legislators to act like adults. It’s time all of us listen.

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Billionaire puts Dems on the spot over Trump

Repost from The San Francisco Chronicle

Tom Steyer wants Trump impeached, and he’s mad that many Democrats don’t

By Joe Garofoli, April 8, 2018 Updated: April 9, 2018 9:20am
Political activist Tom Steyer speaks during the "Need to Impeach" town hall event at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, Friday, March 16, 2018, in Cincinnati. Steyer, a billionaire activist also involved in environmental causes, founded the "Need to Impeach" petition campaign on claims that President Donald Trump meets the criteria for impeachment. The event kicks-off a national tour in an effort to generate support. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) Photo: John Minchillo / Associated Press
Political activist Tom Steyer speaks during the “Need to Impeach” town hall event at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, Friday, March 16, 2018, in Cincinnati. Steyer, a billionaire activist also involved in environmental causes, founded the “Need to Impeach” petition campaign on claims that President Donald Trump meets the criteria for impeachment. The event kicks-off a national tour in an effort to generate support. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) Photo: John Minchillo / Associated Press

Billionaire activist Tom Steyer is bringing a nationwide town hall tour promoting President Trump’s impeachment to Oakland, but he’s got more in mind than leading a pep rally for Bay Area liberals. He intends to shame Democrats who aren’t cheering along with him.

“I think there’s a question about what people are willing to say in public that they know is true,” said Steyer, a former San Francisco hedge fund manager who commands attention in left-leaning circles for the tens of millions he’s spent on registering voters and backing Democratic candidates.

Many Democrats aren’t calling to impeach Trump, Steyer said, “because of political posturing before the midterms.”

Steyer’s appearance Wednesday highlights a stark divide among the most liberal Democrats: Is removing Trump from office “the most important issue in America right now,” as Steyer insists, or is it premature to move before they have what Dublin Rep. Eric Swalwell calls “an impenetrable set of facts”?

Some Democrats fear losing the moral and political high ground by backing impeachment before Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into any Trump campaign ties to Russian election meddling is complete.

It will be impossible to win Republican support for impeachment in the GOP-controlled Congress unless Mueller finds evidence of criminal conduct by Trump himself, Democratic leaders say. Impeachment requires a majority vote in the House, and conviction and removal from office takes a two-thirds vote of the Senate.

“I don’t think it’s helpful for anyone to be pushing impeachment before the investigation is finished,” Rep. Adam Schiff of Burbank, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told The Chronicle’s “It’s All Political” podcast earlier this year. While there is a legal standard for impeachment, he said, there “also a political standard. Can you make the case for impeachment in districts around the country?

“That case will be more difficult to make if it looks like this is where we wanted to go all along,” Schiff said.

Last fall, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco called Steyer’s impeachment campaign a distraction from the party’s efforts to retake the House. She declined last week to talk about Steyer’s town hall tour.

To Steyer, it’s an outrage that in an area with one of the nation’s highest concentrations of Democratic voters, six House members — Pelosi, Swalwell and Democratic Reps. Jackie Speier, Ro Khanna, Anna Eshoo and Zoe Lofgren — voted against an impeachment resolution in January.

They weren’t alone — only 66 House Democrats supported the resolution. Among them were Bay Area Reps. Barbara Lee, Mark DeSaulnier, Mike Thompson and John Garamendi.

Steyer hoped for better. Nationally, more than 5.1 million people have signed his NeedtoImpeach.com petition since October, and he’s put seven pro-impeachment commercials on national TV.

Now, through his 30-stop national tour, Steyer wants to generate public pressure to get Congress to join him, starting with key Democrats near his home.

James Strickley of Erlanger, Ky., asks a question of political activist Tom Steyer during a “Need to Impeach” town hall last month in Cincinnati. Photo: John Minchillo / Associated Press
Photo: John Minchillo / Associated Press James Strickley of Erlanger, Ky., asks a question of political activist Tom Steyer during a “Need to Impeach” town hall last month in Cincinnati. Photo: John Minchillo / Associated Press

He retains a big megaphone in Democratic circles because of the $91 million he spent on left-leaning causes and candidates in the 2016 campaign cycle and the $30 million he pledged to spend on registering 250,000 voters this year.

“Those who condemn Trump but do nothing to back their words with action are enabling the damage he is inflicting,” Steyer said. “Local Bay Area Congress members have repeatedly chosen to ignore their constituents’ voices by voting no on impeachment. The people deserve elected leaders who refuse to back down on our shared principles, and we will ensure their voices are heard.”

Steyer isn’t promising to fund primary challenges to anti-impeachment Democrats. Instead, he envisions his town hall meetings as a “two-way conversation” where he can build public pressure against those who oppose impeachment. He’ll hold his Oakland event at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Impact Hub on Broadway.

Steyer’s target list includes Swalwell, who has shown up regularly on cable talk shows over the past year excoriating Trump for everything from his tax plan to his foreign policy. Swalwell’s House website is filled with charts and videos explaining how “Trump and his team are directly and indirectly tied to Russia.”

But impeachment? Not yet, Swalwell said.

“We shouldn’t run or make this midterm election a referendum on impeachment,” he said. “I think the country wants to be assured that if you were to proceed that way, you would have an impenetrable set of facts to prove that it should happen. And right now we don’t have investigations that allow us to do that.

“I don’t think we should be as reckless with the truth as Trump has been,” he said.

Speier, D-Hillsborough, sides with Swalwell. She has been one of Trump’s most vocal critics in Congress, calling for him to be removed from office under the 25th Amendment, which allows the vice president and two-thirds of the Cabinet to declare a president unfit. She said Trump has shown “erratic behavior and lack of mental capacity.”

But she is not ready to back impeachment yet, either.

“I’m not saying it won’t be appropriate,” Speier said. “But I do not believe that we have the appropriate evidence yet that will make a compelling case. Impeachment is a political act. It’s got to be extraordinarily compelling to get Republicans to support it.”

Steyer counters, “We don’t need any more evidence. The evidence is already there.”

Trump could be impeached for several reasons, Steyer said, including obstruction of justice and violating constitutional bans on profiting from holding his office.

Every day, he said, Trump “does something to make you upchuck.”

Khanna, D-Fremont, said he respects Steyer’s efforts to energize Democratic voters, “but we have different roles. He is a citizen activist and leader. I am a member of Congress who took an oath to the Constitution and (to) follow the legal process that is foundational to our democracy.”

It’s hard to ignore that Steyer’s town hall tour includes three stops in Iowa — the first caucus state on the presidential campaign trail — and other events in swing states Ohio, Virginia, Colorado and North Carolina. But he said the impeachment tour is aimed at registering voters for this year’s elections, not testing his presidential prospects.

“We are really, really, really focused on what’s going on in 2018,” Steyer said. “Anyone who is looking beyond (election day in November) is missing the point.”

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Why California gets to write its own auto emissions standards: 5 questions answered

Repost from LEGALPLANET.org – BerkeleyLaw / UCLA LAW

Why California gets to write its own auto emissions standards: 5 questions answered

Authored by Nicholas Bryner and Meredith Hankins, Posted on April 6, 2018 10:02 am by Nick Bryner
Rush hour on the Hollywood Freeway, Los Angeles, September 9, 2016. AP Photo/Richard Vogel

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Legal Planet editor’s note: On April 2, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that the Trump administration plans to revise tailpipe emissions standards negotiated by the Obama administration for motor vehicles built between 2022 and 2025, saying the standards were set “too high.” Pruitt also said the EPA was re-examining California’s historic ability to adopt standards that are more ambitious than the federal government’s. Legal scholars Nicholas Bryner and Meredith Hankins explain why California has this authority – and what may happen if the EPA tries to curb it.

Where does California get this special authority?

The Clean Air Act empowers the EPA to regulate air pollution from motor vehicles. To promote uniformity, the law generally bars states from regulating car emissions.

But when the Clean Air Act was passed, California was already developing innovative laws and standards to address its unique air pollution problems. So Congress carved out an exemption. As long as California’s standards protect public health and welfare at least as strictly as federal law, and are necessary “to meet compelling and extraordinary conditions,” the law requires the EPA to grant California a waiver so it can continue to apply its own regulations. California has received numerous waivers as it has worked to reduce vehicle emissions by enacting ever more stringent standards since the 1960s.

Other states can’t set their own standards, but they can opt to follow California’s motor vehicle emission regulations. Currently, 12 states and the District of Columbia have adopted California’s standards.

Gov. Ronald Reagan signs legislation establishing the California Air Resources Board to address the state’s air pollution, August 30, 1967. CA ARB
What are the “compelling and extraordinary conditions” that California’s regulations are designed to address?

In the 1950s scientists recognized that the unique combination of enclosed topography, a rapidly growing population and a warm climate in the Los Angeles air basin was a recipe for dangerous smog. Dutch chemist Arie Jan Haagen-Smit discovered in 1952 that worsening Los Angeles smog episodes were caused by photochemical reactions between California’s sunshine and nitrogen oxides and unburned hydrocarbons in motor vehicle exhaust.

California’s Motor Vehicle Pollution Control Board issued regulations mandating use of the nation’s first vehicle emissions control technology in 1961, and developed the nation’s first vehicle emissions standards in 1966. Two years later the EPA adopted standards identical to California’s for model year 1968 cars. UCLA Law scholar Ann Carlson calls this pattern, in which California innovates and federal regulators piggyback on the state’s demonstrated success, “iterative federalism.” This process has continued for decades.

California’s severe air pollution problems have made it a pioneer in air quality research.
California has set ambitious goals for slowing climate change. Is that part of this dispute with the EPA?

Yes. Transportation is now the largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States. The tailpipe standards that the Obama EPA put in place were designed to limit GHG emissions from cars by improving average fuel efficiency.

These standards were developed jointly by the EPA, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), and California, which have overlapping legal authority to regulate cars. EPA and California have the responsibility to control motor vehicle emissions of air pollutants, including GHGs. DOT is in charge of regulating fuel economy.

Congress began regulating fuel economy in response to the oil crisis in the 1970s. DOT sets the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard that each auto manufacturer must meet. Under this program, average fuel economy in the United States improved in the late 1970s but stagnated from the 1980s to the early 2000s as customers shifted to purchasing larger vehicles, including SUVs, minivans and trucks.

In 2007 Congress responded with a new law that required DOT to set a standard of at least 35 miles per gallon by 2020, and the “maximum feasible average fuel economy” after that. That same year, the Supreme Court ruled that the Clean Air Act authorized the EPA to regulate GHG emissions from cars.

The Obama administration’s tailpipe standard brought these overlapping mandates together. EPA’s regulation sets how much carbon dioxide can be emitted per mile, which matches with DOT’s increased standard for average fuel economy. It also includes a “midterm review” to assess progress. Administrator Scott Pruitt’s new EPA review, released on April 2, overturned the Obama administration’s midterm review and concluded that the 2022 to 2025 standard was not feasible.

The EPA now argues that earlier assumptions behind the rule were “optimistic” and can’t be met. However, its review almost entirely ignored the purpose of the standards and the costs of continuing to emit GHGs at high levels. Although the document is 38 pages long, the word “climate” never appears, and “carbon” appears only once.

The EPA’s decision does not yet have any legal impact. It leaves the current standards in place until the EPA and DOT decide on a less-stringent replacement.

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from transportation exceeded those from electric power generation in 2016 for the first time since the 1970s.  USEIA
Can the Trump administration take away California’s authority to set stricter targets?

The EPA has never attempted to revoke an existing waiver. In 2007, under George W. Bush, the agency denied California’s request for a waiver to regulate motor vehicle GHG emissions. California sued, but the EPA reversed course under President Obama and granted the state a waiver before the case was resolved.

California’s current waiver was approved in 2013 as a part of a “grand bargain” between California, federal agencies and automakers. It covers the state’s Advanced Clean Cars program and includes standards to reduce conventional air pollutants like carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, as well as the GHG standards jointly developed with the EPA and DOT.

The Trump administration is threatening to revoke this waiver when it decouples the national GHG vehicle standards from California’s standards. EPA Administrator Pruitt has said that the agency is re-examining the waiver, and that “cooperative federalism doesn’t mean that one state can dictate standards for the rest of the country.” In our view, this statement mischaracterizes how the Clean Air Act works. Other states have voluntarily chosen to follow California’s rules because they see benefits in reducing air pollution.

How would California respond if the EPA revokes its waiver?

Gov. Jerry Brown, Attorney General Xavier Becerra and California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols have all made clear that the state will push back. It’s almost certain that any attempt to revoke or weaken California’s waiver will immediately be challenged in court – and that this would be a major legal battle.


Nicholas Bryner, Emmett/Frankel Fellow in Environmental Law and Policy, University of California, Los Angeles and Meredith Hankins, Shapiro Fellow in Environmental Law and Policy, University of California, Los Angeles

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