Saturday Snippets: Natives buying back stolen land; raising govt’s ‘social cost of carbon’ metric

Saturday Snippets is a regular weekend feature of Daily Kos.

Some Native tribes are buying back ancestral lands snatched from them

It’s expensive and the process can take years, but many American Indian tribes have been buying back lands taken from them, often at gunpoint or through connivery, during the colonization period of U.S. history. Even after they buy it, there is a complicated 16-step process before they can gain the right to govern the newly acquired land under the unique form of semi-sovereignty established between the federal government and the tribes. The Klamath tribe, for instance, recently purchased 1,705 acres of wetlands, timberland, and meadows in southern Oregon, part of what was once a 1.8 million-acre territory the government left it with when the tribe was forced in 1864 to cede 23 million acres. By 1954, with the Klamath victims caught up in the government’s effort to wipe out Native identity by terminating the tribes, all of their land had been taken. The Klamath have since been trying to buy as much of that land as they can. 

Willa Powless, Klamath Tribes’ council member at large, said the purchase was a big step toward piecing together a “broken heart,” adding, “Our people are born with a spiritual connection to the land that we all feel and we all know and our elders teach us about.” Another council member at large, Clayton Dumont, said, “I hear elders say, ‘The land doesn’t belong to us, we belong to it.’ And I think that’s true,” “The more of it we get back, the more we can care for it, the healthier the land will be and the healthier we will be.” The Klamath aren’t alone. There has been an increase in such purchases in recent years despite all the difficulties in doing so. The Yuroks of California have purchased some 80,000 acres in the past 10 years. And the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin has bought back two-thirds of its original 65,432-acre reservation, much of which was lost through “deceit and trickery,” said Bobbi Webster, the tribe’s public relations director.

Biden administration expected to return “social cost” of carbon to Obama level

The law requires the federal government to weigh costs and benefits of proposed new regulations. Unless a dollar value is placed on such benefits—such as improved health and longer lives—the calculation doesn’t pass muster. Under the Trump regime, that was exactly what happened. The value it put on actions to address the climate crisis was just $1 a ton of carbon dioxide. Under President Obama, that figure was $52. Which is likely to be what President Biden’s team will settle on temporarily while it works out an entirely new metric. Economists and environmental advocates think the $52 figure is way too low. For instance, Michael Greenstone, a University of Chicago economist who served as chief economist for Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, co-authored a working paper in January that put the social cost of carbon at $125 per ton or more. Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and Lord Nicholas Stern published a paper Monday saying, “It is clear that climate change involves the management of risks of enormous magnitude and multiple dimensions, which could destroy lives and livelihoods across the world, displace billions, and lead to widespread, prolonged, and severe conflict.” Returning to the Obama-era social cost number would be mistaken, they said, because it wouldn’t be enough to support policies that keep the world from exceeding a 2-degree Celsius rise from pre-industrial temperatures. Anything above that scientists say would be catastrophic.


NASA Scientists & Engineers successfully landed a rover & helicopter on planet Mars, where it’s 100 degrees below zero, 120 million miles away. On that same day it was cold in Texas. Millions of people lost electricity. Conclusion: Maybe NASA, not politicians, should run Texas.

— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) February 20, 2021

Enrollment at community colleges plummets during pandemic

Community colleges have traditionally provided a place for people unable to afford college or not interested in a four-year degree to acquire higher education, learn a trade, or, as an older person, gain new skills. Such colleges in many states have made attendance significantly more expensive than in the past, but they still give students access to opportunities they would not otherwise have had. Typically, during economic downturns, enrollment rises, as was the case during the Great Recession. But in our current crisis, that hasn’t been the case. Enrollment fell 10% from fall 2019 to fall 2020, according to the National Student Clearinghouse. Hard hit were older adult students. Taking classes while trying to stay afloat economically and keeping up with family obligations is no easy matter for many people in the best of times. But during the pandemic and the recession caused in the response to it, older students lost jobs or could not boost their own education while supervising their children’s online classes and dealing with all the mundane matters like grocery shopping that economic restrictions made more difficult. “The majority of them are working, many of them in industries that have been decimated by the pandemic,” said Martha Parham, a senior vice president for the American Association of Community Colleges. “Trying to navigate that and take classes is a very daunting challenge at this time.” 

Fauci says it’s “disturbing’ that most people being vaccinated against COVID-19 are white

In an interview on Joy Reid’s “The Reid Out,” America’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci labeled the racial disparities in who is getting vaccinated against the coronavirus “very disturbing.” People of color are “getting a double whammy against them, not only do they have the propensity because of their jobs out in the community to get infected, they have the underlying conditions that make them more likely to get a serious outcome,” he said. Fauci took note of a sense of “understandable vaccine hesitancy” among minority communities, which he said should be addressed more pro-actively. “We’ve got to really extend ourselves in the community to get the access to minority populations that they don’t have,” he said, noting that President Biden has commanded authorities to set up vaccination centers in communties heavily populated by Black people, the Indigenous, and other people of color.

GOP politicians gave Texans the yoyo treatment in deep freeze—“you’re on your own” 

As sweeping power outages and sub-freezing temperatures stripped millions of Texans of fresh food or heat, causing an unknown number of deaths, Marco Lopez, an organizer with South Texas–based community organization La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), thought to call a woman he knew in the Linda Vista colonia, an unincorporated border community. As it turned out, she didn’t have light or water, and had been cooking on a makeshift stove she’d built outside. Her car had broken down, so she was stuck at home—and even if she could drive, the nearest Walmart was closed.

“I was like, holy crap, I need to give her some food, pobrecita,” Lopez said. The two went to eat and buy tortillas, a pack of which she gave to the mechanic fixing her car.

With many state and local politicians falling down on the job of disaster relief, mutual aid networks and organizations like LUPE have been helping cold and hungry Texans. [...]  Even when mutual aid efforts involve city or state government, organizers are skeptical of their government’s ability to act quickly.


Saturday Snippets: Racial disparity plagues vaccination effort; migrant deaths soar; SC rep censured

Saturday Snippets is a regular weekend feature of Daily Kos.

A larger version of the chart can be found here.

AP analysis finds racial disparity in vaccination drive: The Associated Press took an early look at 17 states and two cities that have released racial breakdowns of people receiving inoculations against the raging coronavirus through Jan. 25. Results: African Americans are getting injections at levels below their share of the general population, “in some cases significantly below. In North Carolina, for example, Black people make up 22% of the population and 26% of the health care workforce, but they are only 11% of vaccine recipients so far. White people, including both Hispanic and non-Hispanic whites, make up 68% of the population and 82% of people who have been inoculated. That’s especially disturbing since severe illness and deaths from the pandemic have afflicted Black people disproportionately. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that African Americans and American Indians are dying at almost three times the rate of white people. Said Dr. Uché Blackstock, CEO of Advancing Health Equity, an advocacy group that addresses bias and inequality, “We’re going to see a widening and exacerbation of the racial health inequities that were here before the pandemic and worsened during the pandemic if our communities cannot access the vaccine.” The reasons for the disparity includes distrust among Black Americans because of long history of discriminatory medical treatment, poor access to the vaccine in Black neighborhoods, and less access to the internet when a large proportion of vaccination applications are being taken online. Regarding the reluctance of many Black people to be vaccination, Dr. Michelle Fiscus, the chief of Tennessee’s inoculation effort, “We have to be working very hard to rebuild that trust and get these folks vaccinated,” said. “They’re dying. They’re being hospitalized.” 

There’s more behind the racial disparity that has been clear in statistics from the beginning.  Priorities were set for distributing vaccines to people in more highly valued roles—doctors and nurses—who are more likely to be white than "essential workers" who are part of support staffs. Some states have placed put those essential workers in the very last category to receive the vaccine. On top of all that, in many states, distribution locations tend NOT to be in Black neighborhoods.

CDC issues masks be worn on public transportation: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an order late Friday mandating all travelers to wear a mask on nearly all forms of public transportation starting Tuesday as part of the effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which has already killed 448,000 Americans. Masks will also be required at airport and bus terminals as well as train and subway stations. On his first day in office, President Joe Biden issued an executive order mandating masks for passengers in all interstate travel. “America’s transportation systems are essential,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH. “Given how interconnected most transportation systems are across our nation and the world, when infected persons travel on public conveyances without wearing a mask and with others who are not wearing masks, the risk of interstate and international transmission can grow quickly.” The move is, of course, a sharp departure from what was done under the Trump regime up until two weeks ago. Trump made a big show of not wearing a mask and ridiculing people who did. Children under 2 and people who for medical reasons cannot wear a mask are exempt. Operators must remove passengers who refuse to wear a mask "at the earliest opportunity," according to the CDC order. Said Biden, "The experts say by wearing a mask from now until April, we'd save more than 50,000 lives going forward."


President Biden has extended the eviction moratorium through March 31. But there is so much more to be done. We all should have access to safe and stable housing.

— ACLU (@ACLU) January 30, 2021

Deaths of migrants crossing from Mexico into the U.S. hit record in 2020A record number of migrants seeking to cross the Mexico-U.S. border in Arizona died on their journey last year, with the remains of 227 found, according to the advocacy group Humane Borders. Since 1998, it’s estimated that at least 7,000 migrants have died trying to cross, and that number is almost certainly an undercount. The area is characterized by isolated wilderness and extreme temperatures. “This was the hottest summer ever, and we saw the most recorded deaths ever. It’s a reminder of how dangerous the border can be,” said Douglas Ruopp, chair of the group, which, among other things stashes water for migrants crossing the arid lands in the region. Donald Trump made a priority out of building a wall to keep out migrants. “That’s a longstanding tradition, these barriers and walls have pushed people into more remote and treacherous terrain,” said Jeremy Slack, an assistant professor of geography at the University of Texas-El Paso and author of Deported to Death: How Drug Violence Is Changing Migration on the Border.

Biden-Harris administration officials offer slightly mixed messages on Iran: In a speech at the United States Institute of Peace Friday, national security adviser Jake Sullivan hinted at a faster timeline than previously has been outlined for returning to a deal curtailing Iran’s nuclear development program. Donald Trump withdrew from the multilateral 2015 agreement that he verbally trashed despite the fact that international inspectors had found Iran to be in complete compliance since the signing. Like other Democratic candidates, Joe Biden had made clear in his campaign for the presidency that he would return to the agreement signed by the United States and five other nations with Iran, but only conditionally. Sullivan did not mention a key condition Biden had laid out, this being that Iran make the first move by rolling back its moves after Trump’s withdrawal to exceed the agreement’s provisions. These include Iran’s using more and more advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium, and enriching uranium above the permitted 3.75% level to 20%, which makes it much easier to reach the 90% needed for making a nuclear weapon if Iran chose to do so. Other issues are Iran’s actions across the region and its growing sophistication in missile development. “We are going to have to address Iran’s other bad behavior, malign behavior, across the region, but from our perspective, a critical early priority has to be to deal with what is an escalating nuclear crisis as they move closer and closer to having enough fissile material for a weapon,” Sullivan said. “And we would like to make sure that we reestablish some of the parameters and constraints around the program that have fallen away over the course of the past two years.” While this stress on the need to contain Iran suggests an accelerated response, Sullivan offered no timeline. “No one should over-read these comments,” a senior White House official said Saturday. “Mr. Sullivan made a general statement that the U.S. wants to put Iran’s nuclear program back in the box—which we do. Notably, he did not even mention rejoining the JCPOA, let alone in what sequence.” The JCPOA—Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action— is the formal name of the nuclear agreement. And Secretary of State Antony Blinken said from his first full day in office Wednesday that any U.S. return to the deal is still distant. “Iran is out of compliance on a number of fronts. And it would take some time, should it make the decision to do so, for it to come back into compliance and time for us then to assess whether it was meeting its obligations,” Blinken said said at a news conference. “We’re not there yet, to say the least.”

South Carolina Republicans censure lawmaker’s impeachment vote: Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina’s 7th congressional district voted with the Democrats and nine other Republicans to impeach Donald Trump for inciting the Capitol insurrection. That landed him in hot water with state Republican leaders. And on Saturday at the quarterly meeting of the state Republican Party’s executive committee, they censured him. “We made our disappointment clear the night of the impeachment vote. Trying to impeach a president, with a week left in his term, is never legitimate and is nothing more than a political kick on the way out the door,” said SCGOP Chairman Drew McKissick in a statement. “Congressman Rice’s vote unfortunately played right into the Democrats’ game, and the people in his district, and ultimately our State Executive Committee, wanted him to know they wholeheartedly disagree with his decision,” he added. 

Gun control advocates say the NRA laid the foundation for Capitol insurrection: Although nobody is saying the National Rifle Association didn’t itself promote the murderous assault on the Capitol, the ideology connecting all the fringe groups and conspiracy theorists who showed up to trash the place and hunt for politicians to string up or shoot in the head was a product of decades of propaganda and agitating by the gun lobby. "The violence that we saw at the Capitol, the firepower that they brought with them, may not have been part of the NRA's call. But they're responsible for getting us to this moment," said Nick Suplina, managing director for law and policy at Everytown for Gun Safety, an gun violence prevention organization founded and funded by Michael Bloomberg. "They should not be allowed to distance themselves from the Frankenstein monster that they've created. This is the NRA's handiwork. Years of conspiracy peddling, fear-mongering that the government is going to come take your guns and your freedom, and the call upon Americans to do something about it, to take action, that's what we saw on Jan. 6. That base of militia groups and white supremacist groups and other extremists has been listening to the NRA's talking points for years, and we saw it play out." Everytown released a report noting that police have seized more than 3,000 rounds of ammunition and arrested nine people on weapons charges related to the insurrection. But that could be an undercount given that only a few people were searched. More than 150 people have been charged since.

Hillary Clinton calls on Tim Ryan to run for Senate in Ohio in 2022.

 Pardons Trump didn’t give are the real scandal. Here’s one.

• Only Accountability Will Allow the U.S. to Move Forward, by Mitch Landrieu.

• There Is No GOP Civil War. The Party Has Already Chosen Trumpism, by Nathalie Baptiste.