USDA APHIS Pulls Access to Essential Inspection Database

Top part of an inspection report

For many years I and many others have had free and open access to USDA APHIS Animal Welfare Act inspection reports. The Humane Society of the US uses the data to compile its list of the 100 worst puppy mills in the United States. I’ve used the records to highlight the atrocities of one of the worst puppy millers in the US: Donald Schrage’s Rabbit Ridge Kennel.

Yesterday, without any warning, the USDA pulled down the database. In its place is a message that says, in part:

APHIS, during the past year, has conducted a comprehensive review of the information it posts on its website for the general public to view.  As a result of the comprehensive review, APHIS has implemented actions to remove certain personal information from documents it posts on APHIS’ website involving the Horse Protection Act and the Animal Welfare Act.  Going forward, APHIS will remove from its website inspection reports, regulatory correspondence, research facility annual reports, and enforcement records that have not received final adjudication.  APHIS will also review and redact, as necessary, the lists of licensees and registrants under the AWA, as well as lists of designated qualified persons (DQPs) licensed by USDA-certified horse industry organizations.

During the past year…

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Don’t Make Gorsuch into a Purity Test for Democrats

Protest against Gorsuch appointment

I normally agree with much of what Think Progress writes, but not in one of its latest pieces on how Senate Democrats stand on Gorsuch appointment. It’s interpretation of their stand is obvious from subheadings of “Team Spine”, “Team ¯\_(ツ)_/¯”, and “Team Trump”.

I am not happy with a Gorsuch appointment because of his strong beliefs against the Chevron Defense. This legal standard has allowed federal agencies to survive challenges to laws typically related to the environment and endangered species. He’s also a conservative judge when we had a chance to appoint a moderate who would actually make decisions based on the law, not ideology.

At the same time, Gorsuch is a much better option than some of the judges Trump was considering. And these latter judges may be up for consideration in the next few years if another Justice retires or dies. Gorsuch has demonstrated a willingness to buck conservatives in decisions if he interprets the law in a way that’s independent of their reasoning.

If I were a Democratic Senator, I wouldn’t vote for Gorsuch, but I wouldn’t filibuster his appointment, either.

By not voting for Gorsuch, I’m signaling that I believe the seat he’ll feel is a stolen seat. I’d want him to know that this “stolen seat” legacy will follow him throughout his years, and his decisions. I’d want him to think about this legacy, especially in light of his professed love of the law. I’d want him to remember that Merrick Garland is highly qualified, more experienced, and was lawfully appointed by the President of the United States.

However, by not filibustering him, I am acknowledging that he is a better option than what we could face from Trump. It’s a long two years until the Senate race when we can hopefully take back the Senate.  The Senate Republicans will destroy the SCOTUS filibuster rule if Democrats filibuster Gorsuch. Guaranteed.

Gorsuch will still be judge, but we’ll have lost the ability to force in-depth, stringent confirmation hearings for future appointees; hearings that may cause some Senate Republicans to question whether what’s being said in these hearings is worth the possible hit in their upcoming re-election bid. Because there’s a whole lot of Republicans coming up for re-election along with the Trump administration in 2020.

With the filibuster in place, Senate leaders are going to be more willing to allow for lengthy, robust questioning during the committee hearings, in hopes of appeasing those who might be thinking of filibustering the appointment. Without the threat of filibuster, why should they waste time when they know the control the votes to just vote the person in?

A longer confirmation process may expose information that not only is game changing for Democrats but could be game changing for some Republicans. Republicans who might actually join the Democrats…especially if they’re coming up for re-election.

That’s my take. Others, including many Democratic Senators, have different takes. Regardless of how each Senator handles the Gorsuch appointment, one thing I’m adamant about: I’m not turning this into a purity test for Democrats.

Purity tests, inspired by Sanders and sledgehammered by Jill Stein, helped us lose the election and put Trump into the Presidency. Trump’s Presidency has already hurt people. Trump’s Presidency has already killed people.

That Garland isn’t a Supreme Court Judge is the Republicans’ fault. That Gorsuch and not Garland is the current choice is Trump’s fault. Trump, his cabinet, and the Republican-controlled Congress are, and will remain, my only targets. My entire focus is to limit the damage this Congress and President can do, and to kick them all out in the next three federal elections. To me, nothing else matters.

Too much is at stake to play purity games.

Photo courtesy of Elvert Barnes CC BY-SA 2.0

 

 

Can Trump Create the Terminator Rule?

Donald Trump at rally

Rather than a press conference or interview, Trump put out a video seemingly to assure Americans that we don’t have to spend our days and nights in absolute terror because he’s in charge. Flip to the end: he didn’t succeed.

All Trump did was create confusion. Reading the transcript doesn’t provide more clarity.

There is much in the short Trump video to cause one sleepless nights, but the Trump promise that really grabbed me is his promise of a rule to kill rules:

On regulation, I will formulate a rule which says that for every one new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated, it’s so important.

In effect, he’s proposing a Terminator Rule.

Leaving aside the soundness of just tossing rules and regulations aside, can Trump as President create a Terminator Rule?

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