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Rachel Myers, ACLU National, (212) 549-2689 or 2666; email@example.com
Mark Silverstein, ACLU of CO, (303) 777-5482
Following news reports and a video showing Denver law enforcement agents ordering a reporter off a public sidewalk and pushing him into the street and later arresting him, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Colorado called for renewed protection of the First Amendment guarantees of free speech and a free press.
The following can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union:
"The physical removal of ABC reporter Asa Eslocker from public property and his subsequent arrest are a blatant assault on the First Amendment. Arresting a reporter for simply doing his job is both unconstitutional and un-American. That free speech is curtailed during the Democratic Convention underscores the need for continued protection of civil liberties, regardless of the party in power."
The following can be attributed to Mark Silverstein, Legal Director of the ACLU of Colorado:
"The arrest of Asa Eslocker is the latest of several troubling incidents in which law enforcement has mistreated dissenters or others exercising their right to free speech dissent during the Democratic National Convention. On Monday hundreds of people were rounded up by police, detained without access to attorneys and denied the most basic due process protections. Arrestees were flexi-cuffed together so that they couldn't even use the bathroom alone, and in at least one case a woman was forced to walk barefoot and in leg shackles into a courtroom. The First Amendment is supposed to be the cornerstone of democracy, but some law enforcement agents in Denver have shown a complete disregard for the right to free speech."
The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.(212) 549-2666
"Billions of dollars have been wasted trying to prove that this technology is real—and all we have to show for it are a series of spectacular failures," said one campaigner.
The Biden administration on Thursday unveiled a power plant emissions rule whose effectiveness at slashing planet-warming pollution would heavily depend on a major expansion of carbon capture, an oil industry-backed technological scheme that climate advocates view as wasteful, ineffective, and actively harmful.
The Environmental Protection Agency's newly proposed emission standards for coal- and gas-fired power plants were described as the most strict ever proposed in the U.S., and the rule garnered praise from major environmental groups.
If implemented—far from a sure thing given the Supreme Court's recent decision hamstringing the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gas pollution—the rule would require most new and existing fossil fuel power plants to capture 90% of their emissions by between 2035 and 2040. Coal- and gas-fired power plants are the nation's second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
"The draft rules offer utilities years of lead time to build out carbon capture or hydrogen infrastructure—or to take their plants offline," E&E Newsreported.
Climate campaigners expressed dismay that the EPA rule relies so significantly on the large-scale adoption of unproven carbon capture and storage technology, which would entail the construction of thousands of miles of new pipelines to carry the trapped emissions.
"Carbon capture is nothing more than a fossil fuel industry propaganda scheme," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch (FWW), an environmental group that has described the technology as a "dangerous fantasy."
"Billions of dollars have been wasted trying to prove that this technology is real—and all we have to show for it are a series of spectacular failures. Throwing good money after bad is not a climate solution—it's an industry bailout," Hauter argued. "Even if the technology managed to meet even the lowest thresholds for emissions capture, the energy required to power the facilities would negate much of the supposed benefit."
Last year, President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats approved large subsidies for the carbon capture industry via the Inflation Reduction Act, a law that proponents said would slash U.S. carbon emissions by 40% by the end of the decade.
But critics at the time cast doubt on that projection given that it hinges on the effectiveness of largely unproven carbon capture initiatives—and similar questions will likely be raised about EPA estimates of the power plant rule's potential impact. The EPA said the rule "would avoid up to 617 million metric tons of total carbon dioxide (CO2) through 2042."
"There is no technological quick fix for our climate crisis. We must cut fossil fuels off at their source and transition to clean, renewable energy now."
In a recent report, FWW analyzed major carbon capture projects and found that the technology's "track record makes it appear to be a handout to fossil fuel corporations, publicly financing their attempts to keep their harmful product viable."
Despite such findings, the EPA determined in its new rule proposal that "carbon capture represents a 'best system of emissions reduction,' which means it's been adequately proven," Politiconoted Thursday.
"In the U.S., only one power plant has ever captured carbon dioxide at scale: the W.A. Parish Generating Station near Houston," the outlet observed. "The carbon capture technology at Petra Nova, bolstered by nearly $200 million in federal money, grabbed coal-produced CO2 and piped it to an oil field to be used for crude oil production."
In a statement, EPA Administrator Michael Regan ignored concerns about the efficacy of carbon capture, declaring that the new rule would harness "proven, readily available technologies to limit carbon pollution and seizes the momentum already underway in the power sector to move toward a cleaner future."
The EPA rule will undergo a 60-day public comment period after it is formally published in the Federal Register.
\u201cThis entire rule is based on carbon capture technology. As it stands, no carbon capture goal has been met. Why should we expect anything different?\nhttps://t.co/FYd0saFQuR\u201d— Andrew Ahern (@Andrew Ahern) 1683803212
Instead of resting its climate agenda on dubious carbon capture schemes, Hauter said the Biden administration should be prioritizing "immediate actions to limit the supply of dirty fossil fuels" and expand renewable energy, which research has shown to be a much better climate investment than carbon capture.
"This requires using existing federal authority to halt new drilling and fracking, and stop new fossil fuel infrastructure like power plants, pipelines, and export terminals," Hauter continued. "There is no technological quick fix for our climate crisis. We must cut fossil fuels off at their source and transition to clean, renewable energy now."
Jason Rylander, legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute, said it is "no surprise" that the EPA's proposed standards "fall far short of what the climate emergency demands given the right-wing Supreme Court's restrictions on power plant rules."
"The EPA needs to get serious about cutting carbon emissions by creating a national science-based cap on greenhouse gas pollution through the National Ambient Air Quality Standards program," said Rylander. "That's the best way to spur the economy-wide decarbonization we need now."
Other environmental groups were less critical of the Biden administration's proposal as a whole, welcoming it as a meaningful step in the right direction while acknowledging that more ambition is needed to fend off the worst of the climate emergency.
"We're pleased to see the Biden Administration continue to address climate pollution in a serious way. Now, the administration must finish the job and ensure the final standards are as strong as possible," said Ben Jealous, executive director of the Sierra Club. "But we know the work to confront the climate crisis doesn’t stop at strong carbon pollution standards. The continued use or expansion of fossil power plants is incompatible with a livable future. Simply put, we must not merely limit the use of fossil fuel electricity: we must end it entirely."
Julie McNamara, the deputy policy director of the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, called the release of the power plant rule "a pivotal turning point, with Administrator Regan rightfully and necessarily moving to hold coal- and gas-fired power plants to account for their ongoing carbon pollution."
But McNamara also implored the administration to "prioritize robust environmental justice protections and environmental and public health safeguards, especially when it comes to carbon capture and sequestration and hydrogen co-firing."
"The agency must protect against greenwashing attempts by fossil fuel interests that would worsen, not lessen, environmental injustices," McNamara said.
"They put a sexual abuse victim in harm's way for views," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. "This was a choice to platform lies about the election and Jan. 6th."
Former President Donald Trump predictably used the megaphone CNN handed him Wednesday night to spew falsehoods about the 2020 election, the January 6 attack, abortion, and E. Jean Carroll, turning the hour-long primetime town hall into what one of the corporate media network's own reporters characterized as a "spectacle of lies."
Many others echoed that assessment, faulting CNN and its chosen host—Kaitlan Collins, a former reporter for the right-wing Daily Caller—for giving Trump a platform to let loose a torrent of egregious claims with minimal and ineffective real-time fact-checking.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) was one of the most vocal critics of CNN's decision to hold the town hall, which came a day after a jury found the former president liable for sexually abusing and defaming Carroll. Unsurprisingly, Trump took the opportunity he was gifted by CNN to mock Carroll—sparking laughter from the live studio audience packed with Republicans.
"CNN should be ashamed of themselves," Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter. "They have lost total control of this 'town hall' to again be manipulated into platforming election disinformation, defenses of Jan. 6th, and a public attack on a sexual abuse victim."
"This falls squarely on CNN. Everyone here saw exactly what was going to happen," the New York Democrat added. "Instead they put a sexual abuse victim in harm's way for views. This was a choice to platform lies about the election and Jan. 6th with no plan but to have their moderator interrupted without consequence."
\u201c"What we saw tonight was a series of extremely irresponsible decisions that put a sexual abuse victim at risk...in front of a national audience, and I could not have disagreed with it more. It was shameful."\u201d— Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) 1683770762
Trump's team and CNN, which is now under the leadership of Chris Licht, reportedly negotiated over the New Hampshire town hall for weeks. According toPolitico, the former president's advisers saw the event "as an opportunity to reach a major national audience" as Trump campaigns for another White House term.
"Sorry, but—as predicted—this was a clear win for Trump," MSNBC's Mehdi Hasan wrote in a column following the nationally televised event. "He felt no pressure and conceded nothing. He was welcomed onto CNN to address an audience of non-Republicans watching at home and an audience of loyal Republicans sitting in that hall in New Hampshire. Win-win."
"When Trump falsely denied he had suggested 'terminating' parts of the Constitution, Collins didn't correct him," Hasan noted. "When Trump falsely claimed Democrats wanted to execute babies, Collins didn't correct him. When Trump falsely claimed he finished building his border wall, Collins tried to correct him—but he just talked over her. And when Trump made a racist remark about Chinatown, Collins said nothing whatsoever. Nor did she defend herself when he called her a 'nasty person.'"
Much of the criticism over the town hall was directed at Licht, CNN's CEO. Last year, shortly after taking the helm, Licht pledged to combat the spread of disinformation on CNN's platforms.
“The analogy I love to use is some people like rain, some people don't like rain. We should give space to that," Licht toldCNBC in October. "But we will not have someone who comes on and says it's not raining."
That promise appears laughable in the wake of Wednesday night's debacle. As CNN's own Oliver Darcy wrote in a recap of the town hall: "Trump lied about the 2020 election. He took no responsibility for the January 6 insurrection that those very lies incited. And he mocked E. Jean Carroll's allegations of sexual assault."
"And CNN aired it all," Darcy continued. "On and on it went. It felt like 2016 all over again. It was Trump's unhinged social media feed brought to life on stage."
One on-air CNN personality, speaking anonymously to The Daily Beast's Justin Baragona, said the town hall devolved into "a Trump infomercial."
"It is so bad," the person added. "We're going to get crushed."
"Brinkmanship and crises aren't random accidents in our democracy—they are inevitable outcomes of an electoral system that incentivizes and rewards them," says a new Fix Our House report.
Amid rising fears that Republican lawmakers could soon force a catastrophic U.S. default, Fix Our House on Wednesday released a report arguing that "Congress lacks the incentive structure necessary to responsibly handle crucial tasks like raising the debt limit."
The release comes between a pair of meetings at the White House. After sitting down with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday, President Joe Biden told reporters they plan to come together again on Friday.
Biden and congressional Democrats are calling for a clean bill and stressing that GOP lawmakers took action on the debt ceiling three times under former President Donald Trump. However, House Republicans continue to hold the global economy hostage, demanding massive spending cuts that would affect working families—as demonstrated by their recent passage of the so-called Limit, Save, Grow Act, which would increase the debt limit by $1.5 trillion or until March 31, 2024, whichever comes first.
Some fearful of a default—or even coming precariously close to one, given warnings that the deadline could be as soon as June 1—have pushed the president to take unilateral action, but Biden on Tuesday downplayed perhaps the most popular option: invoking part of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to keep paying the nation's bills.
"Just like in 2011 and 2013, Washington will hopefully find a way to avoid disaster. Whatever happens, one thing is certain: Brinkmanship and crises aren't random accidents in our democracy—they are inevitable outcomes of an electoral system that incentivizes and rewards them," states the report from Fix Our House, which advocates for proportional representation.
\u201cIn an uncompetitive district, the consequences of compromise can be career-ending, while grandstanding is likely to play better with the crucial ideological base.\n\nThanks to our broken system of single-member districts, 90% of districts are uncompetitive.\u201d— Fix Our House (@Fix Our House) 1683744781
The report—Debt Limit Chicken: Why Washington Plays Games With Disaster—criticizes "the winner-take-all election rules that make performative conflict easy and compromise difficult" along with calling for the creation of "a more functional electoral system that would disincentivize Congress from playing death-defying stunts with the full faith and credit of the U.S."
"The overwhelming majority of congressional districts are not competitive between the two parties," the report explains.
Citing another recently released Fix Our House publication, the document details that "90% of House elections last fall were decided by a margin greater than five percentage points. About 83% had a margin greater than 10 points. Landslides are normal; the average margin of victory in 2022 was 27.7% for Democrats and 30.2% for Republicans."
Although both parties have been accused of gerrymandering, since Republicans won narrow control of the House in the wake of redistricting last November—leading to a 222-213 divide in the lower chamber—experts have highlighted how current political maps served the GOP, and may continue to do so if they are not challenged in court.
The new report includes a section dedicated to the "five families" of the fractured House GOP: the Republican Study Committee, Republican Main Street Caucus, Republican Governance Group, Freedom Caucus, and Problem Solvers Caucus.
"As with the rest of the House, the overwhelming majority of the members of the five families don't face competitive general elections," the publication points out. "The average margin of victory for the members of each major caucus was a blowout election."
\u201cOnly the @ProbSolveCaucus has a substantial percentage of its GOP members come from competitive districts.\n\nThese representatives have an electoral incentivize to build coalitions that include voters beyond their party -- and they're incentivized to act accordingly in Washington.\u201d— Fix Our House (@Fix Our House) 1683744781
"In uncompetitive districts, the potential to be primaried is a much greater concern than a general election challenge," Fix Our House Co-Founder Lee Drutman said in a statement Wednesday. "That motivates representatives to focus on pleasing their voting base and disincentivizes compromise for fear of appearing too weak on 'the enemy."
"This problem is unique to America's outmoded system of single-member districts," Drutman added, "and it's only getting worse as urban-rural polarization makes it even harder to draw competitive districts."
As the report puts it, "gerrymandering is a huge problem," but it is not the only barrier to having 435 competitive districts.
"Rural voters are increasingly trending more to the right, and urban voters more to the left," the document says. "Voters are increasingly moving to places that better reflect their ideology. Red areas are getting redder, and blue areas are getting bluer."
"Even if the most fair-minded saints were drawing our congressional district maps, we would still have mostly uncompetitive districts," the report stresses. "And within the current system that we use to elect Congress, nothing can be done about it."
The report also emphasizes that "winner-take-all single-winner districts are not inevitable, and they are not in the Constitution."
In fact, "the Constitution specifically empowers Congress with the ability to change how its elections work, something Congress has done many times," the publication continues, urging federal lawmakers to pursue proportional representation.
Used by 80% of the world's democracies, proportional representation "disincentivizes binary conflict and showmanship and instead incentivizes coalition-building and compromise," the report states.
As the document explains:
Put simply, proportional representation is a system where a political party's share of votes in an election determines how many seats it holds in the legislature. Instead of each district electing one representative, a state divides into larger regions that each elect several representatives. The size of Congress—435 members—can be increased, or it can remain the same.
In a proportional system, voters can support multiple candidates, and each party wins seats in proportion to its share of the votes cast. For instance, if a region elects three representatives and the vote is 65% for Republicans and 35% for Democrats, it would elect two Republicans and one Democrat.
The existing U.S. system incentivizes "the us-vs-them conflict at the heart of the debt limit issue," the report concludes. "Thanks to the ever-escalating doom loop of polarization and dysfunction, the problem is worse than ever and will only grow more intractable. If we want to address this systemic problem, we need to look at systemic solutions."