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The people of Denton, Texas, recently voted to ban fracking within the city limits. They were tired of the noise, lights and fumes caused by the 277 gas wells, some placed right next to housing developments. A blowout in 2013 covered homes in clouds of benzene. Some had to be evacuated.

One can hardly blame the citizens for trying to regulate industrial activity in a populated area unless one is the governor of Texas. Greg Abbott has denounced the vote and decisions by other local governments to regulate junkyards and ban litter-prone plastic bags as an affront to the “Texan model,” often defined as “letting businesses do pretty much as they please.”

The party in power at one level of government is understandably tempted to push around a lower level. Liberals do it. Conservatives do it. The difference is that conservatives profess to deplore such interference. Sadly, support for local control often evaporates when such principles run up against the interests of moneyed backers.

Listen to Governor Abbott talking to the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Local governments risk turning the “Texas miracle” into the “California nightmare,” he said. “Large cities that represent about 75 percent of the population in (Texas) are doing this to us.”

Large cities representing 75 percent of the population sounds like a whole lot of Texans. Makes you wonder who “us” is. Perhaps a state-run program to re-indoctrinate the peasants might be in order.

Similar battles are playing out in other places. Athens, Ohio, voted to ban fracking, but the Ohio Supreme Court just ruled that local governments can’t do that. They are clashing with the state’s “executive authority” on oil and gas drilling.

Conservatives running the Florida and Louisiana state governments are fighting local plans to raise minimum wages. The restaurants don’t want to.

“The state legislature is the best place to determine wage and hour law,” a spokesman for the National Restaurant Association told The New York Times, “This is not the kind of policy that should be determined jurisdiction by jurisdiction.”

Actually, the local jurisdiction is one of the better places to set a minimum wage. The cost of living in New York City is much higher than it is across the state in Buffalo, and so might the minimum wage be. Seattle might want to try out a $15-an-hour minimum wage, while less rich parts of Washington stick with the state minimum of $9.47 an hour, itself well above the national minimum of $7.25.

A number of cities across the country, as well as three counties in California, have approved fracking bans. Even Fort Collins in energy-rich Colorado has done so. But Texas, as those tourist ads said, is “like a whole other country” when it comes to showing deference to energy producers and purveyors of plastic bags.

At least the governor thinks so. He seems to see the locals’ efforts to set rules for their communities as evidence of creeping collectivism.

This prompted the following retort in a Dallas Morning News editorial: “Allowing Austin to make single-size decisions for local governments instead of allowing them to tailor unique solutions sounds an awful lot like central state planning to us.”

Some conservatives are reportedly hopping mad over the state’s efforts to curb the right of their local governments to control their own destiny. Tea Party folks, in particular, are known for hostility toward crony capitalism — the alliance of big business and government officials.

Abbott’s allies in turn accuse them of being closet socialists working in the interests of Russia. How ironic. The way the locals can show that they’re not tools of Russia, the fracking forces say, is by acting like serfs.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

Photo: The Texas Tribune via Flickr

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

Tina Peters

YouTube Screenshot

A right-wing conspiracy theorist who was indicted in March on criminal charges of tampering with voting machines to try to prove former President Donald Trump's lies of a stolen 2020 presidential election on Tuesday lost the Republican primary to run for secretary of state of Colorado, the person who oversees its elections.

With 95 percent of the vote counted, Tina Peters, the clerk and recorder of Mesa County, Colorado, was in third place, trailing the winner, fellow Republican Pam Anderson, 43.2 percent to 28.3 percent.

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