U.S. Politics

Not Satisfied With His War On Immigrants, Trump Picks A Fight With Native Americans



It was a show of respect to Native Americans when President Obama on Sunday restored the name of the nation’s tallest mountain, formerly called Mount McKinley, to Denali. So it makes a lot of sense that presidential candidate Donald Trump didn’t like it.

On Tuesday, the Republican front-runner promised that he would reverse Obama’s decision if elected president. Restoring the mountain’s name to Denali, he said, was a “great insult to Ohio,” because former President William McKinley was born there. To be clear, Denali is located in Alaska, about 3,000 miles away from Ohio.

It’s unsurprising that Trump did not express concern for insulting Alaska Natives, who have been calling the mountain Denali for thousands of years. The billionaire has a historically hostile relationship with Native Americans, largely stemming from the fact that his casino business competes with tribe-owned casinos. But it was never solely business dealings that soured the relationship — it was Trump’s willingness to invoke offensive, sometimes racially-charged language to come out of those dealings on top.

The most egregious example of this came in 2000 in upstate New York, when Trump began bankrolling an ad campaign to stop a casino from being built in the Catskills. As the New York Times reported last month, the local newspaper ads showed “hypodermic needles and drug paraphernalia … [and] warned in dire terms that violent criminals were coming to town.”

“Are these the kind of neighbors we want?” the ad asked, referring to the St. Regis Mohawks Tribe at Akwesasne, which was planning to build the casino. “The St. Regis Mohawk record of criminal activity is well-documented.”

When the ads came out, Akwesasne Mohwaks were incensed. The uproar was documented in a book called Enduring Legacies, which explains that while there was some illegal activity within the tribe, “implying that all Akwesasne Mohawks support such activities is something of a racial slur.” The advertising, it asserted, was “clearly informed by the racist attitudes prevailing in the area” at the time. Local tribal leaders also took out their own newspaper ads in response to Trump’s. “How dare they smear a nation and brand us all as criminals,” it read.

It’s also worth noting that Trump initially tried to conceal his involvement in those ads. At the time they were released, the anti-Mohawks ads were put forth by an anti-casino group called the New York Institute for Law and Society. It wasn’t until New York’s state lobbying commission began investigating Trump’s funding of the organization that he admitted he was its primary funder. According to the Times, Trump entered into a settlement with the commission in which he was forced to pay a fine and apologize — “not for the content of the anti-Mohawk ads, but for evading state disclosure rules related to lobbying and political advocacy.”

A spokesperson for Trump did not return ThinkProgress’ request for comment. But in that article, Trump maintained he didn’t mean to racially insult the tribe. “I wasn’t knocking the Mohawks; I was knocking their record,” he said. “That’s not because they’re Mohawks. That’s because their record is bad and was proved to be bad at the time.”

But it wasn’t the only time he had made inflammatory remarks about Native Americans.

Back in 1993, Trump gave testimony to the Congressional Subcommittee Native American Affairs. A casino in Connecticut, owned by the Pequot Indians, had just become the most popular one in America, surpassing Trump’s casino in Atlantic City. Trump was unhappy about this, and accused the casino owners of not being authentic Native Americans.

“‘They don’t look like Indians to me,” he said, “and they don’t look like Indians to Indians.” AMediaite report noted that The Pequot have had centuries on interbreeding after being largely massacred by English settlers in the 1600s, so many have Caucasian features.

At the subcommittee hearing, Trump then began railing against the idea that Native Americans should be able to own casinos at all, due to organized crime. If they continued to be allowed, hesaid at the time, “you’re going to have the biggest organized crime problem in the history of this country. Al Capone is going to look like a baby.”

“It’s going to blow,” he continued. “It’s just a question of time, and when it blows you are going to have a lot of very embarrassed faces sitting right where you folks are sitting right now.”

Reporting from the hearing noted “gasps and puzzled looks of disbelief” from the mostly-Native American audience, and a rebuttal from an FBI official who said he had “found no evidence of skimming, money laundering, theft or any other criminal activity in Indian gaming.” To this day, the accusations haven’t panned out.

What also hasn’t panned out since then is a clear effort from Trump, now the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, to smooth or improve his relationship with Native Americans. And in that department, his decision to reverse Denali’s name back to McKinley surely won’t do him any favors.


U.S. Politics

Lawmakers Sue To Take Away People’s Health Care, Send $450,000 Legal Bill To Taxpayers


This is a prime example of what’s wrong with politics today…


Low income people in Alaska are on the verge of getting health care. So, in a story that’s becomeso familiar that it’s practically a cliché, Republican elected officials filed a lawsuit on Monday trying to prevent this expanded access to health care from happening.

As a bonus, they’re sending the bill for this lawsuit to the state’s taxpayers.

Last month, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (I) announced that he would expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act despite opposition from the state’s Republican-controlled legislature. According to an opinion drafted by the Alaska Legislative Affairs Agency’s non-partisan Division of Legal and Research Services (DLRS), Walker “likely has authority to accept additional federal funding to provide expanded Medicaid coverage” without seeking the legislature’s approval.

Nevertheless, the Alaska Legislative Council, a Republican-controlled legislative committee that can bring suits in state court, agreed to spend up to $450,000 in public money on a legal team including Republican superlawyer Paul Clement. Clement, who has urged courts to adopt conservative positions on issues as diverse as immigration, health care, voter suppresion, health care and gay rights, is the de facto Solicitor General of the Republican Party — an experienced Supreme Court advocate frequently hired by Republican lawmakers and interest groups to argue landmark cases.

If past is prologue, it is likely that the total bill for this legal team will exceed $450,000. In 2011, for example, U.S. House Republicans hired Clement to defend the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act for “a sum not to exceed $500,000.00.” This contract was amended several times to raise this cap, however. In the end, the American people paid Clement’s legal team $2.3 million to unsuccessfully defend the proposition that same-sex couples are not entitled to the same federal marriage rights as opposite-sex couples.

Clement raises several attacks on the state’s Medicaid expansion, but the case is likely to turn upon how a specific provision of Alaska law interacts with a partial victory Clement achieved in a different case seeking to deny health care to needy Americans. Under Alaska law, “[a]ll residents of the state for whom the Social Security Act requires Medicaid coverage are eligible to receive medical assistance” under the state’s Medicaid program. Moreover, the Affordable Care Act, which amended the Social Security Act to create the Medicaid expansion, is written in mandatory terms. Thus, taken together, these two legal provisions suggest that Alaska must provide expanded Medicaid coverage under Obamacare.

In NFIB v. Sebelius, however, the Supreme Court held that it is unconstitutional for Congress to “penalize States that choose not to participate in” the Medicaid expansion “by taking away their existing Medicaid funding.” States that do not expand Medicaid in compliance with the law still face a consequence — they are denied funding for the Medicaid expansion itself. But this is a different consequence then the one Congress intended when it enacted Obamacare.

In essence, Clement argues that NFIB fundamentally altered the nature of the Medicaid expansion such that states are no longer required to expand Medicaid for purposes of the Social Security Act. The DLRS opinion, by contrast, suggests that the fact that NFIB altered the consequence for states that refuse to expand Medicaid may not overcome the fact that federal law still says that the expansion is mandatory. It’s a semantic game that, until this point, had very little practical impact — does a mandatory program become optional if its mandatory nature is only backed by a very weak sanction?

In Alaska, however, this semantic distinction could literally have deadly consequences. An estimated 42,000 Alaskans will be eligible for health coverage under the Medicaid expansion. If Clement prevails, they will lose that eligibility.

Alaska · Racial Epithets · United States Army

‘Racial Thursdays’ Alleged at Alaska Army Base, Report Says

NBC News

The U.S. Army has reportedly opened an inquiry into an alleged practice among some soldiers in Alaska of holding “Racial Thursdays” — when racial slurs were allowed without consequences.

The Army Times reported the allegations from two anonymous soldiers at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, in an article posted online Wednesday evening.

U.S. Army Alaska spokesman Lt. Col. Alan Brown confirmed to NBC News that the allegation was made and said the command launched an investigation late last week. “There are allegations, and like any type of allegations of something like this, we take it very seriously,” Brown said. “That’s exactly what the command has done very quickly.”

Brown said he was not aware of any other complaints of the practice alleged in the report. “The nature of those allegations are not at all commonplace about how soldiers behave and how they’re treated up here,” he said.

The soldiers told the Army Times that the practice was considered a “tradition” and that although it was forbidden it still goes on. The Army Times reported that the platoon allegedly involved is part of a unit that is part of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.

Chinese-American Danny Chen was also assigned to the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division before he committed suicide while deployed with that unit in Afghanistan, the military has said. Chen’s family said he was subjected to cruel hazing and abuse by other soldiers, NBC New York reported.

Eight soldiers were court martialed. Two received prison sentences, two were discharged, and others were demoted and docked pay.

Brown said the recent inquiry “is in no way connected” with Chen, and that there have been several leadership changes in the years since his death.

Marriage Equality

Federal judge rules Alaska’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional

Plaintiffs Matt Hamby, left, and Chris Shelden speak following oral arguments in the Hamby v. Parnell case concerning same-sex marriage held on Friday, Oct. 10, 2014. Caitlin Shortell, right, was one of the attorneys representing five pairs of plaintiffs at the hearing | Erik Hill / ADN


Alaska Dispatch News

A federal judge ruled Sunday that Alaska’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, paving the way for gay couples to begin marrying in the state for the first time.

“The court finds that Alaska’s ban on same-sex marriage and refusal to recognize same sex marriages lawfully entered in other states is unconstitutional as a deprivation of basic due process and equal protection principles under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,”  U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess wrote in a order in the case Hamby v. Parnell, released Sunday.

The Hamby suit was filed in May by five same-sex couples. It challenged the state’s constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman, approved by voters in 1998.

The ruling comes less than a week after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appealsruled to overturn similar marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada. Same-sex marriage advocates said the 9th Circuit ruling would likely lead to the quick overturn of Alaska’s ban on gay marriage because the bans were similar and Alaska also falls under the jurisdiction of that court.

Both parties in the Hamby case made oral arguments in the case on Friday.

At 2:45 p.m. Sunday, Caitlin Shortell, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs in the case, said she was just beginning to absorb the news of the judge’s decision, which came to her by email.

“We’re completely overjoyed,” Shortell said.  “It’s an immediate injunction from further enforcement of the (law banning same-sex marriage), so people are going to start getting married.”

She and the other two attorneys working on Hamby v. Parnell were just getting in touch with plaintiffs.

“It’s been a long time coming,” she said. “It’s justice and equality in Alaska.”

Gun Control Legislation · U.S. Politics

Senators Lose Support After Opposing Gun Background Checks, Poll Shows

The Huffington Post

Senators in several states who voted earlier this month against increasing background checks for gun buyers have since seen their approval ratings noticeably drop, according to new polls released Monday by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) net approval rating dropped 16 points, as she shed much of her previous cross-party appeal. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) saw his numbers dive 18 points, from a positive to a negative rating.

Not all of the change can be attributed to the vote. Portman, for instance, saw his approval drop among Republicans when he announced his support for gay marriage in March. But in Alaska, Arizona, Nevada and Ohio, at least 60 percent of voters supported background checks, and many expressed disappointment with politicians who voted otherwise.

Fifty-two percent of Arizona voters said they were less likely to support Sen. Jeff Flake (R) for reelection due to his “no” vote, while 46 percent of Nevadans said the same of Sen. Dean Heller (R). More than a third of voters were less likely to back Portman as well as Alaska Sens. Mark Begich (D) and Murkowski. A previous PPP poll found that Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) also saw her ratings tumble 15 points, likely due in part to her vote against background checks.

Much of the lost support comes from independent or moderate voters.

PPP hasn’t yet conducted polling on how senators who supported the bill have fared. But Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who cosponsored background check legislation, saw his approval rating increase by a net 7 points, according to a Quinnipiac University pollreleased Friday.

Nationally, most polls taken since the shooting in Newtown, Conn., have found thatupwards of 80 percent of people support gun background checks, and that there isrelatively little partisan division on the issue.

Opinions were less unified on the actual legislation considered in the Senate, but most still say they wish it had gone through. A 65 percent majority of Americans said the measure should have passed, including 45 percent of Republicans and a majority of Democrats and independents, according to a Gallup poll released Monday.


U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: January 5, 2013

Congress voted to $9.7 billion to cover insurance claims for homes like this one that were damaged or destroyed by Sandy.

The Week

An earthquake strikes Alaska, Congress finally passes a bill for Sandy aid, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion

The Labor Department reported on Friday morning that the economy added a solid 155,000 jobs in December, and that the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 7.8 percent — tied for its lowest level in four years. The report is the latest evidence that the labor market — after years of periodic setbacks — is now on a steady, if slow, climb out of the deep hole caused by the Great Recession. In addition, the economy created 161,000 jobs in November, up from an initial projection of 146,000. [Washington Post]

The House on Friday voted 354-67 to pass legislation that would provide the National Flood Insurance Program with $9.7 billion to pay out flood claims stemming from Hurricane Sandy. The Senate passed the bill hours later, ending, for now at least, a drama that saw House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) publicly put through a wood-chipper by members of his own party for tabling a $60 billion version of the legislation passed by the Senate. Boehner’s decision to spike the larger bill came shortly after the House passed the fiscal-cliff deal that raised taxes on the wealthiest Americans — a bitter pill to swallow for many in his caucus. But the controversy won’t end with this latest bill passage — the House still has to consider an additional $50 billion in requested aid that was included in the original Senate bill. [The New York Times]

A 7.5-magnitude earthquake struck Alaska around midnight Friday, centered roughly 60 miles west of Craig, Alaska. The temblor initially triggered a tsunami warning for much of the Alaskan and Canadian coast, but when it was judged that waves posed no threat, the alert was canceled. The earthquake was reportedly widely felt in Alaska, but there haven’t been reports of major damage. [CBS]


Despite his very recent retirement, former Democratic congressman from Massachusetts Barney Frank said Friday on MSNBC’s Morning Joe that he’s eager to throw his hat back into the ring, and is interested in the interim appointment to fill John Kerry’s Senate seat. Frank rationalized his change of heart by saying that he wants to be present for the next few months, when Congress will likely butt heads again over spending cuts that are to be implemented on March 1. “A month ago, a few weeks ago in fact I said I wasn’t interested,” Frank said. “But that deal now means that February, March, and April are going to be among the most important months in American financial economy.” [ABC News]

The case of an alleged gang-rape of a teenage girl in Steubenville, Ohio, is getting national attention after self-proclaimed “hacktivist” group Anonymous released a video on Jan. 2 purportedly showing an apparently drunk Steubenville football player mercilessly mocking the victim. According to reports, on the night of Aug. 11, the 16-year-old victim passed out after getting drunk at an end-of-summer party. Two Steubenville High athletes, identified in court as Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, are accused of sexually assaulting her repeatedly over the span of several hours. They are scheduled to appear before a judge in juvenile court on Feb. 13. Last month, The New York Times reported that the unconscious girl may have been dragged to multiple parties over the course of the night, and may have been urinated on. [The Week]

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday proposed sweeping food safety rules that it says would help reduce the estimated 3,000 deaths a year from foodborne illnesses. The FDA’s proposed rules would require farmers to take new precautions against contamination, including making sure workers’ hands are washed, irrigation water is clean, and that animals stay out of fields. Food manufacturers will have to submit food-safety plans to the government to show they are keeping their operations clean. In the past year, outbreaks of listeria in cheese and salmonella in peanut butter, mangoes, and cantaloupe have been linked to more than 400 illnesses and as many as seven deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control. [Associated Press]

After her office posted a Photoshopped image to Flickr of the new class of Democratic Congresswomen in the 113th Congress, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi defended the edit as “an accurate historical record of who the Democratic women of Congress are.” The photo got attention after someone noticed that there were four additional women in the Pelosi Flickr photo than there were in the original Associated Press picture. “It also is an accurate record that it was freezing cold and our members had been waiting a long time for everyone to arrive and… had to get back into the building to greet constituents, family members, to get ready to go to the floor. It wasn’t like they had the rest of the day to stand there,” Pelosi said. [Associated Press]

An American Eagle pilot in Minnesota set to fly a commercial plane across the country was arrested before takeoff after he failed a blood-alcohol test. A spokesman said the authorities were notified after a witness who claimed to smell alcohol on the pilot’s breath tipped them off. The pilot, who was to fly American Eagle flight 4590 from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to LaGuardia Airport in New York City, was suspended pending investigation. [CNN]

The New York Post reports that supermodel Naomi Campbell was attacked in Paris by muggers on motorbikes in late November, and was injured in the process. Campbell, 42, was apparently trying to get into a car in Paris’ historic 4th Arrondissement when the assailants tried to grab her purse, but instead left her with a suspected torn ligament. She had been using a wheelchair and crutches to get around following the attack. [New York Post]

If Vice President Joe Biden doesn’t run for president in 2016, as some believe he might, he could have a future in reality television. In a new White House petition at the government’s We the People site, some 24,000 people have signed on to demand that Biden be featured in “a recurring C-SPAN television program” because he has exhibited “the ability to bring people together, whether at the negotiating table or at the neighborhood diner.” The petition comes after Biden’s humorous antics at the Senate swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 3 became an internet sensation. [The Hill]


U.S. Politics

Chris Matthews CONFRONTS Lady Who Tells Him To Do His Homework, ‘Obama Is A Communist, Buddy’

This is as bad as Rachel Maddow interviewing some very uninformed folks in Alaska during the 2010 mid-term election cycle…

These folks are so uninformed thanks to Fox News.

H/t: Democratic Underground (My best video source.)
HBO's 'Game Change'

HBO Films: Game Change Trailer

This new HBO film follows John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, from his selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, to their ultimate defeat in the general election.

“Game Change” premieres on March 10th.

Newt Gingrich · Sarah Palin

Gingrich: I would call Palin for advice

English: Former Speaker of the House Newt Ging...

Now it’s been confirmed, Newt Gingrich is a dumb, ignorant racist and a lap-dog for other ignorant people who are more powerful than him…

The Raw Story

During an appearance Wednesday on CNN, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich suggested he would ask former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be member of his Cabinet if he was elected President of the United States.

“I don’t want to suggest anything,” he said. “We haven’t talked about anything at all. Gov. Palin is somebody who I think was a very good reform governor, she was extraordinarily effective negotiating with big oil, she did a good job in the state of Alaska, I think she is a very articulate leader of the tea party conservative movement.”

“Certainly, she is one of the people I would call on for advice,” Gingrich continued. “I would ask her to consider taking a major role in the next administration if I am president, but nothing has been discussed of any kind and it wouldn’t be appropriate to discuss it at this time. I’m just delighted that she and Todd have both been so supportive of my candidacy.”

During a tele-town hall in December, Gingrich said he would consider picking Palin as his vice president. Republican presidential nominee John McCain lost in 2008 after selecting Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Gingrich also previously said he would ask former Bush administration U.N. ambassador John Bolton to be U.S. Secretary of State if he were elected. USA Today  and other news outlets said the comment were illegal under U.S. law, which prohibits candidates from “directly or indirectly” promising or pledging the appointment of any person “for the purpose of procuring support in his candidacy.”

But Talking Points Memo reported that Gingrich had in fact not broken the law  because he had not made the remark for the purpose of getting Bolton’s endorsement in return.

Watch video, clipped by Talking Points Memo, below:


Palin organizer: She will announce her campaign in September

Add one more to the over-crowded GOP roster of candidates for the Presidency…

The Raw Story

Peter Singleton, an activist who is helping organize former Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s September tea party rally in Iowa, insisted that Palin will announce her candidacy for president by the end of September.

“Labor Day will kick off the Republican campaign for the nomination,” Singleton told the National Review. “She is going to make a major, major speech.”

Though he is the Iowa “Organize4Palin” representative, it doesn’t seem that Singleton has any inside information about Palin’s campaign or about any deeper purpose her September 3 appearance at the Iowa tea party rally.

“I believe that she will run,” he said. “I can’t see her sitting this election out.”

Singleton has long been making the rounds in support of Palin, but just how much contact he has actually had with the former Republican vice presidential nominee is unclear. In April, he told the Wall Street Journal that he had never met Palin or made contact with her team, but several Iowa Republican leaders the paper spoke to insisted that Singleton had an inside track on Palin’s plans.

Connie Armstrong, a local GOP organizer who met Singleton at the Des Moines Conservative Principles Conference this spring, was one such leader.

“He kept saying ‘we,’ but he wouldn’t clarify who ‘we’ was,” Armstrong said. “My gut feeling is he’s working on her campaign.”

Continue reading here…

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