August 18, 2017
Even last Saturday it was clear that white supremacists were responsible for the violence in Charlottesville. Any civilized society must condemn such vicious bigotry — either we live together in peace, or perish together in hate.
The President tardily issued a prepared statement, but then quickly distanced himself from it and reverted to his initial response. His stream of consciousness rant on August 15th was abhorrent, and violated all that we stand for as a country. Instead of showing leadership and standing up against hatred and racism, the President chose to descend into a repugnant defense of neo-Nazism, white supremacy and ultra-nationalism. That position, it should be noted, was so completely indefensible that all four branches of the military, plus the Coast Guard, felt compelled to issue statements unequivocally denouncing hatred and intolerance.
I have always defended the right to believe and say things I find objectionable. But such tolerance does not condone violence. It upholds the American value of free expression. That said, the proper response to hate speech is not silence, it is renewed vigilance and commitment to our fundamental principles.
While we pray for those killed and injured last Saturday, we should all rededicate ourselves to the difficult task of ending bigotry in all its forms and building a better, more tolerant and compassionate society.
Additionally, yesterday I offered some thoughts on using racism as a political strategy, and on censuring President Trump on Facebook. I invite you to view them here.
AJC New England
I met with constituents from the American Jewish Committee who shared their concerns with me. The AJC, established in 1906, has worked for more than a century to oppose anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry, and to support human rights for all people world-wide. They are understandably troubled, as I am as well, that hate crimes targeting Jewish institutions have risen sharply in recent months. The AJC believes that the current political climate, marked by xenophobia and virulent nativism, has contributed to this increase. We met, in fact, the day after the Holocaust Memorial in Boston was vandalized for the second time this summer. We spoke too about Israel’s right to exist, and about ways to achieve a two state solution in the Middle East.
North Suffolk Mental Health Association
I met with officials from the North Suffolk Mental Health Association (NSMHA), operator of the Meridian House in East Boston. Meridian House is a residential program for individuals who are in recovery from addiction. I toured Meridian House, learning more about the services available to residents on site as well as through the NSMHA network. After spending time at Meridian House, I visited Harborview, an NSMHA residence in Chelsea for individuals with mental illness and co-occurring medical conditions. NSMHA’s services embrace a continuum of mental and behavioral health care. Mental health services, for example, are offered for children and adults as well as an after-school program designed specifically for children with emotional or behavioral needs. I am impressed by the dedication of NSMHA’s staff, and deeply appreciate their commitment to the people with whom they work.
Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea
I visited the Chelsea Soldier’s Home, a facility that offers qualified Massachusetts veterans both residential and outpatient health care services. Veterans living in the Soldiers’ Home have access to so much more than high quality medical support delivered by dedicated medical personnel. The facility houses a library, barber shop, pharmacy, dining room, recreational space and other services. However, the Home, while a state of the art facility when first constructed decades ago, is in need of updating. I met with staff from the Soldiers’ Home, as well as Massachusetts state personnel, for a briefing about the plans to modernize the facility so that it meets the contemporary standards we should expect for our fellow citizens who have served our country so selflessly.
Metro North Regional Employment Board
Thanks to Metro North Regional Employment Board personnel for meeting with me this week. The Metro North REB is one of Massachusetts’ Workforce Development Boards. This public-private partnership focuses on helping employees through career centers and skills development as well as identifying employer needs to help match candidates with existing opportunities. The organization also works with young people through its Metro North Youth Council, providing educational and networking opportunities. I enjoyed a wide ranging conversation with Metro North REB staff and Board members about the REB’s initiatives.
Fresh Pond Apartments
I talked Wednesday night with tenants at Fresh Pond Apartments in Cambridge. It was a great opportunity to hear directly from them about the local and federal issues that they are most concerned with. Not surprisingly, meeting attendees are worried about the future of their “expiring use” residence. Properties classified as “expiring use” are private developments that must remain affordable housing until mortgage and other financial obligations are met. Once that happens, building owners can start renting units out at market rates because the building’s affordability has “expired”. The Fresh Pond Apartments are several years away from this, but residents are right to be concerned and active. Additionally, residents had questions and concerns about immigration policy and health care. Unfortunately, as readers of this e-newsletter know, these are important issues that are currently under attack.
Behind the Curtain — More House and Trump Administration Actions You Don’t Want to Miss
Here are this week’s additions. If you need to catch up or share with friends, you can find the full list here.
- According to an August 10, 2017 report from the Environmental Integrity Project, the first 6 months of Trump's presidency has seen the Department of Justice file fewer cases against companies for violating the Clean Water Act, and they have also collected far less in civil penalties. The Trump administration has collected just $12 million in civil penalties, compared to $30 million under the first 6 months of George W. Bush's administration, and $25 million in the Clinton administration’s first six months. In last week's Behind the Curtain we reported on how Wall Street regulators have similarly prioritized business interests over the protection of the average American.
- On August 15, 2017 Trump issued an Executive Order overturning an Obama administration Federal Flood Risk Management Standard. The standard ensured that when federal dollars build infrastructure projects, they factor in increased resilience against flooding from the best available climate science. When Hurricane Sandy hit New York and New Jersey, it caused tens of billions of dollars in damage to their infrastructure. Preparing the next generation of infrastructure against storms that are already hitting our coasts not only helps them continue to function after a storm, but also saves us money in the long run.
- On August 12, 2017, the Department of Justice was granted a warrant to obtain a wide range of information about individuals who visited a website used to organize protests to President Trump’s inauguration. In addition to IP addresses for these 1.3 million people, DOJ is also seeking cell phone numbers, credit card information, even photos. This is not the first request by the Trump Administration for sweeping information about U.S. citizens — recall the demand to provide personal information about voters.