US orders refuges to staff for hunters despite shutdown
By ELLEN KNICKMEYER
Thursday, January 10
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is directing dozens of wildlife refuges to return staffers to work to make sure hunters and others have access despite the government shutdown, according to an email obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.
The partial restaffing of 38 wildlife refuges is angering wildlife groups, who accuse the Trump administration of trying to minimize the public impact of the more than two-week-old shutdown to limit the political blow back for President Donald Trump. Trump and Democrats in Congress are locked in a dispute over Trump’s demand for billions of dollars for a wall on the southern U.S. border.
In an email sent Tuesday afternoon, Margaret Everson, principal deputy director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, cites “opportunities, including hunting” that are being lost in the shutdown.
Everson advises in the email that 38 wildlife refuges around the country will bring back some furloughed staff using carryover funds.
“While many of our refuges have remained accessible, but not staffed, the extended lapse in federal appropriations is impacting both our ability to serve the public and to protect natural resources under our care in some places,” Everson wrote.
“For the next 30 days, using previously appropriated funds, we will bring back a limited number of employees to resume work on high priority projects and activities that support the Service’s mission and meet the public’s desire for access to Refuge lands,” Everson said in the email.
Everson did not immediately respond to an email from the AP seeking comment. An email sent to a Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman seeking comment elicited an automatic email saying she would respond to requests after the shutdown ends.
The shutdown has forced federal agencies to stop issuing paychecks for hundreds of thousands of government employees. Government services largely have been limited to the most pressing, such as Transportation Security Administration workers providing security at airports without pay.
Unlike as in some past shutdowns, the Interior Department — which oversees both wildlife refuges and national parks — initially had directed national parks to stay open but with little staffing, leading to pile-ups of uncollected garbage and human waste in parks. The National Park Service over the weekend said some parks could start using visitor fees to staff during the shutdown.
The Interior Department’s shutdown plan also says a small majority of agency staffers in charge of permitting and overseeing oil and gas development in federal waters will be kept at work no matter how long the shutdown lasts, “as they are essential for life and safety.”
The Trump administration has emphasized public use on public lands in general, especially by hunters and oil and gas developers. This has angered environmental groups, which say the government is putting wildlife and habitat at risk.
On Wednesday, the National Wildlife Federation, National Wildlife Refuge Association, the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, the Trust for Public Lands and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Retirees Association urged the Trump administration to keep national parks, wildlife refuges and other public lands closed to the public during the shutdown.
“It is simply impossible to steward these shared American treasures properly, leaving thousands of lands and waters accessible to the public with no staff on site, even for an emergency,” the groups wrote in a letter.
Desiree Sorenson-Groves of the National Wildlife Refuge Association criticized the partial restaffing of some wildlife refuges.
“If it wasn’t essential to have these refuges open for the past three weeks, how is it essential now?” she asked. The bottom line was the Trump administration was trying to “make this less painful to the American public,” she said.
According to the email, the wildlife refuges being restaffed include Oklahoma’s Wichita Mountains, scene of an annual winter elk hunt.
Rod Smith, a biologist with Oklahoma’s Department of Wildlife Conservation, works with the federal government to coordinate the annual elk hunts in the Wichita refuge, 59,000 acres of craggy mountains jutting from the surrounding prairie.
Smith said Wednesday he and others are awaiting word on whether the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s directive on carryover money means a hunt can happen next week. If applicants who won the roughly 300 permits granted this year don’t get to hunt by the end of January, they may have to wait until next winter.
“We’ve had to have patience. Wait and see is always hard,” Smith said. “Then, just logistically it makes it difficult. And it will make it more difficult next year when we’re carrying people over.”
Other refuges identified in Everson’s letter are Midway Atoll and Kilauea Point in Hawaii, Tualatin River in Oregon, Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually in Washington state, the Sacramento, Kern, Sutter and five others in California, the Lower Rio Grande Valley refuge and four others in Texas, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal refuge in Colorado, Utah’s Bear River refuge, and the Bosque del Apache and Valle de Oro refuges in New Mexico.
Others in the Midwest and South are the Minnesota Valley and Fergus Falls refuges in Minnesota, the DeSoto in Iowa, the Mingo refuge and two others in Missouri, the Crystal River refuge and three others in Florida and the Wheeler refuge in Alabama.
In the Northeast, the refuges singled out for more staff in the shutdown are Pennsylvania’s John Heinz, the Wertheim of New York, Bombay Hook of Delaware, Parker River of Massachusetts, and the Umbagog of New Hampshire.
Associated Press writer Adam Kealoha Causey contributed from Oklahoma City.
Trump calls border a ‘crisis of the soul’: 3 scholars react to his Oval Office address
January 9, 2019
Editor’s note: President Donald Trump’s address to the nation on Wednesday night from the Oval Office announced no new initiatives either to end the government shutdown or to build the wall that’s caused the shutdown.
Instead, Trump stressed the themes – most of them discredited – that he’s long depended on to support his demand for the wall to bar entry to a sea of immigrants who will bring crime, drugs and mayhem into the country.
We asked a panel of scholars to respond to the speech.
Trump backs himself against the wall
Enrique Armijo, Associate Professor of Law and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Elon University
Going into Trump’s speech, there was much speculation that the president might declare an emergency under the 1976 National Emergencies Act to pay for the $5.7 billion border wall that is behind the current government shutdown – funds that House Democrats have refused to provide.
That didn’t happen, though reports are the administration is still considering the option.
The constitutional issues associated with such a declaration are far from clear. First off, the facts underlying whether an emergency exists are disputed, to say the least.
A National Emergencies Act declaration for wall funding would immediately be challenged in court. Congressional Democrats would argue that this is a usurpation of their legislative appropriation power.
States and private landowners would also protest their land being taken by eminent domain for the project, since the federal government owns less than a third of the land needed to build the wall.
Despite the lack of legal clarity — and the inevitable delays that such a lack of clarity would bring — there is another more straightforward reason why the administration didn’t declare an emergency, one that was likely obvious even to a president who has shown himself to be not quite as good a deal maker as was advertised.
The reason is this: The formal declaration of an emergency would limit Trump’s ability to strike a compromise.
Without one, Trump will be able to declare victory and sign a bill reopening the government after finding a middle ground with Democrats, and then try to sell that compromise to his angry base.
But once he declares it’s a wall or nothing, the issue will be resolved by the courts – which may well tell Trump he can have nothing at all.
It appears the self-declared “very stable genius” does understand a little game theory.
Making a crisis when there is none
Michael Blake, Professor of Philosophy, Public Policy, and Governance, University of Washington
Trump used the word “crisis” six times to vouch for his proposed wall.
He described a border under siege by an unprecedented number of undocumented migrants, unusually prone to violence and mayhem, whose progress could only be stopped by a physical barrier.
That description is, to put it mildly, poorly supported by the facts.
The number of undocumented migrants seeking to cross into the United States is now considerably lower than it was only a decade ago; the undocumented tend to be more law-abiding than the native born, not less; and few experts think that a barrier itself is an effective means of preventing illegal immigration.
Trump’s distortion of facts isn’t new. What is new – and, from the standpoint of political ethics, deeply troubling – is the heightened emphasis on a crisis through a formal address.
Both political philosophy and common-sense morality would say that normal procedure doesn’t apply during an emergency. Citizens are more willing, in the face of an emergency, to surrender allegiance to particular rules and to the moral principles that undergird them. Even deeply held moral beliefs, such as the wrongness of separating young children from their parents, might need to be suspended in a genuine crisis.
When President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the internment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War, he justified the decision by saying that the United States was facing an “unlimited national emergency.”
So when President Trump asserts that the border is in crisis, he gives himself permission in effect to take whatever radical or unprecedented action he deems necessary to end that crisis. If he violates legal or moral rules in the process – well, that’s simply a tough-minded response to an emergency.
The extraordinary nature of a crisis, however, requires an extraordinary level of evidence. Elected officials must show the public evidence that the crisis exists, and that the proposed solution will genuinely fix the problem.
Otherwise, a temporary permission to suspend normal rules tends to become a permanent permission to ignore them.
Not an authoritarian speech
Sylvia Taschka, Senior Lecturer of History, Wayne State University
American presidents have traditionally made Oval Office speeches only under the gravest circumstances, such as during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis or after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
So when Trump said he would address border security in a nationally televised speech, critics who see authoritarian tendencies in this president understandably got worried. They feared he would declare a national emergency, abusing his executive powers to build a wall along the Southern border.
Instead, viewers got a rather measured – if somewhat hastily and awkwardly delivered – speech by a softer version of a president better known for provocative, vicious rhetoric and obsessive daily tweets. Trump sat behind the Oval Office’s iconic, heavy wooden desk, framed by his beloved golden curtains, American flags and photos of his parents.
On the surface, this restrained address didn’t look or sound authoritarian. Trump showed neither the grand posturing of a Benito Mussolini nor the maniacal intensity of a Joseph Goebbels.
What he did do, prominently, is what he’s done since his 2016 presidential campaign: hype up a manageable situation to create a “crisis.”
He portrayed the drug trade and undocumented immigration – decades-old social issues tackled by numerous government agencies – as existential threats that allegedly pose a mortal danger to the American people.
By evoking horrific crimes committed by a small number of immigrants, he turned an entire group of people into composite figures of limitless cruelty – perpetrators of rape, brutal murder and other particularly heinous crimes.
He demanded a border barrier – be it a concrete wall, metal slats, or, why not, a giant “no trespassing” sign – to “protect our country.”
This completely unjustified vilification – immigrants commit less crime than native-born Americans – culminated in a rhetorical question:
“How much more American blood must we shed?”
His language implies that some people’s lives are worth more than others. This stance recalls racist, nationalist policies of the past in both Europe and the United States – a past many had foolishly hoped had been put behind us.
Disclosure statement: Michael Blake receives funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Enrique Armijo and Sylvia Taschka do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. Partners: University of Washington and Wayne State University provide funding as members of The Conversation US.
Steyer to put more millions into impeachment, not a campaign
By THOMAS BEAUMONT and JUANA SUMMERS
Thursday, January 10
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Billionaire investor and Democratic activist Tom Steyer said Wednesday that he will not run for the White House in 2020 and will instead focus on calling for President Donald Trump’s impeachment.
Steyer, who has spent $50 million on his Need to Impeach campaign and announced plans to spend $40 million more this year, said at an event in Des Moines that “the impeachment question has reached an inflection point,” given that Democrats have taken majority control of the House.
“I said last year that I’m willing to do whatever I can to protect our country from this reckless, lawless and dangerous president,” Steyer said. “Therefore, I will be dedicating 100 percent of my time, effort and resources working for Mr. Trump’s impeachment and removal from office. I am not running for president at this time.”
Steyer said his $40 million commitment for 2019 was designed to pressure the Democratic-controlled House to begin impeachment hearings and to persuade the party’s presidential contenders to support impeachment on their platform.
The decision not to run comes as a surprise since Steyer had been traveling the country promoting the political platform he released after November’s midterm elections.
But Steyer, who chose the premier presidential caucus state to make his announcement, likened his mission to seeking the presidency itself.
“Most people come to Iowa around this time to announce a campaign for the presidency,” he said. “”I am proud to be here to announce that I will do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to remove a president.”
Although Steyer’s call for impeachment comes as House Democrats have taken the majority, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that the House shouldn’t move to impeach Trump without more facts and that the effort would be divisive.
“If someone says there are tactical, political reasons not to do the right thing for our country, I would say that’s not the basis on which we’re making decisions,” he said.
Although Steyer opted against a presidential run, the constellation of political organizations that he has built is likely to have an impact on the presidential race and on key congressional races across the country.
Several prominent Democrats have also declined to run in 2020, including former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti.
Summers reported from Washington.
The downside of doing good with a market mindset
January 10, 2019
Author: David Campbell, Associate Professor of Public Administration, Binghamton University, State University of New York
Disclosure statement: David Campbell serves on the board of the disability services organization Racker, in Ithaca, New York, as well as The Conrad and Virginia Klee Foundation. He is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Committee for the Learning by Giving Foundation.
Partners: Binghamton University, State University of New York provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
Billionaires made some eye-popping donations in 2018.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced plans to spend US $2 billion to help the homeless and create a network of free preschools. Media mogul and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg pledged $1.8 billion to Johns Hopkins University, his alma mater. Those were just the biggest of the nearly 800 donations of $1 million or more from very rich people over the course of the year, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports.
While it might seem ungrateful for the rest of us to do anything but cheer about boatloads of money being given away, there are legitimate reasons for concern, as the journalist Anand Giridharadas raises in his provocative new book “Winners Take All.” In particular, he makes a compelling argument against the increasingly dominant way of thinking about philanthropy that emphasizes the impacts that givers expect from their donations.
When the winners take all
Learning whether their giving achieves the results they want is front and center for charities and their funders, as many scholars of philanthropy, including me, have found. Many of the largest givers are increasingly reporting results information on their websites and sharing what they’ve learned.
But perhaps all the focusing on data misses a larger point. Giridharadas questions whether these well-intention donations have diagnosed the problems correctly. If what he calls “solutions peddling” is focused on the wrong thing, he suggests, the results they seek will inevitably fail to address the most pressing issues of our times.
The book Anand Giridharadas wrote about the limits of modern philanthropy grew from a controversial talk he made in 2015.
Giridharadas contends that the wealthy philanthropists and other prominent social change leaders co-exist in a parallel universe he calls “MarketWorld,” where the best solutions to society’s problems require the same know-how used in corporate boardrooms. That is because MarketWorld, as he sees it, ignores the underlying causes for problems like poverty and hunger.
Its virtual inhabitants do this, he argues, because inequality causes many of these issues. And taking on inequality directly threatens the status and power of elite donors.
Paradox of privilege
“Winners Take All” is one of several recently published books raising difficult questions about how the world’s biggest donors approach their giving. As someone who studies, teaches and believes in philanthropy, I believe these writers have started an important debate that could potentially lead future donors to make make a bigger difference with their giving.
Giridharadas to a degree echoes Ford Foundation President Darren Walker, who has made a stir by denouncing a “paradox of privilege” that “shields (wealthy people) from fully experiencing or acknowledging inequality, even while giving us more power to do something about it.”
Like Walker, Giridharadas finds it hard to shake the words of Martin Luther King Jr., who spoke of “the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.”
To avoid changes that might endanger their privileges, mega-donors typically seek what they call win-win solutions. But however impressive the quantifiable results of those efforts may seem, according to this argument, those outcomes will always fall short. Fixes that don’t threaten the powers that be leave underlying issues intact.
Avoiding win-lose solutions
In Giridharadas’s view, efforts by big funders, such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation, to strengthen public K-12 education systems by funding charter schools look past the primary reason why not all students learn at the same pace: inequality.
As long as school systems are funded locally, based on property values, students in wealthy communities will have advantages over those residing in poorer ones. However, creating a more equal system to pay for schools would take tax dollars and advantages away from the rich. The wealthy would lose, and the disadvantaged would win.
So it’s possible to see the nearly $500 million billionaires and other rich people have pumped into charter schools and other education reform efforts over the past dozen years as a way to dodge this problem.
Charters have surely made a difference for some kids, such as those in rural Oregon whose schools might otherwise have closed. But since the bid to expand charters doesn’t address childhood poverty or challenge the status quo – aside from diluting the power of teacher unions and raising the stakes in school board elections – this approach seems unlikely to help all schoolchildren.
Indeed, years into the quest to fix this problem without overhauling school funding systems, most public schools in poor communities have less money than those in wealthier ones.
Paying for tuition
Bloomberg’s big donation raises a similar question.
He aims to make a Johns Hopkins education more accessible for promising low-income students. When so many Hopkins alumni have enjoyed success in a wide range of careers, what can be wrong with that?
Well, paying tuition challenges millions of Americans, not just the thousands who might attend Hopkins. Tuition, fees, room and board at the top-ranked school cost about $65,000 a year.
Only 5 percent of colleges and universities were affordable, according to the Institute for Higher Education Policy, a nonpartisan global research and policy center, for students from families earning $69,000 a year or less.
Like Giridharadas, the institute argues paying for college is “largely a problem of inequity.”
Bloomberg’s gift will certainly help some people earn a Hopkins degree. But it does nothing about the bigger challenge of making college more affordable for all in a country where student debt has surpassed $1.5 trillion.
One alternative would be to finance advocacy for legislative remedies to address affordability and inequity. For affluent donors, Giridharadas argues, this could prove to be a nonstarter. Like most of what he calls “win-lose solutions,” taking that route would lead to higher taxes for the wealthy.
Subsidies for gifts from the rich
Similarly, who could quibble with Bezos spending $2 billion to fund preschools and homeless shelters? Although he has not yet made clear what results he’s after, I have no doubt they will make a difference for countless Americans.
No matter how he goes about it, the gesture still raises questions. As Stanford University philanthropy scholar Rob Reich explains in his new book “Just Giving,” the tax break rich Americans get when they make charitable contributions subsidizes their favorite causes.
Or, to phrase it another way, the federal government gives initiatives supported by Bezos and other wealthy donors like him preferential treatment. Does that make sense in a democracy? Reich says that it doesn’t.
The elected representatives in democracies should decide how best to solve problems with tax dollars, not billionaires who are taken with one cause or another, the Stanford professor asserts.
That’s why I think it’s so important to ask the critical questions that Giridharadas and Reich are raising, and why the students taking my philanthropy classes this semester will be reading “Winners Take All” and “Just Giving.”
Editor’s note: Johns Hopkins University Press provides funding as a member of The Conversation US, which also has a grant from the Walton Family Foundation. The Gates Foundation is a funder of The Conversation Media Group.