Issue #55, 2018 Week 22

This week wasn’t as catastrophic as last week. I mean, it wasn’t good, either; in particular, there was a striking amount of constitutional crisis, the news from Puerto Rico is dire, and our political norms are continuing to erode. It says something about the misery of last week that I’m still feeling a small sense of relief about a slight scaling back of Bad, and I won’t judge you if you do, too.

 

Events to Know

Mueller v. Manafort.  Mueller’s team moved to revoke Manafort’s bail early this week, alleging that he tampered with witnesses in his ongoing investigation.   Since the allegations involve literally contacting witnesses via WhatsApp and telling them what to say, it’s understandable that the filing notes Manafort’s conduct “instills little confidence that restrictions short of detention will assure [his] compliance with the court’s orders and prevent him from committing further crimes.”  A bail revocation hearing is now scheduled for June 15, and it will be interesting to see what happens.

Key links:

  1. New York Times – Mueller Accuses Paul Manafort of Attempted Witness Tampering
  2. NBC – Judge Schedules Hearing on Revoking Paul Manafort’s Bail in Mueller Probe

 


Trade Tariffs Against Our Allies.  Trump is back to pushing tariffs against Mexico, Canada, and the European Union, because nothing says Alt-Right Summer Fun quite like alienating allies at our borders.  Unsurprisingly, none of these countries are happy with us, and we appear to be on the brink of a global trade war.  So now the EU’s opening a WTO case against us and Trudeau refused to meet with Trump because the latter insisted on a sunset provision for NAFTA.  Which naturally means the next step should be banning German cars, at least if you’re Donald Trump and therefore inexplicably hate them.  I’ll be honest, I can barely make heads or tails of any of this, because it’s so incredibly self-spiting it’s bananas.  We should definitely be calling about this.

Key links:

  1. New York Times – White House to Impose Metal Tariffs on E.U., Canada and Mexico
  2. Guardian – EU Opens WTO Case Against Trump’s Steel and Aluminium Tariffs
  3. Tampa Bay Times – Trudeau Declines to Meet Trump Because of US Precondition
  4. CNN – Why President Trump’s Obsession With German Cars is Misplaced



Puerto Rico Report Released. The New England Journal of Medicine released a report estimating the total number of deaths in Puerto Rico attributable to Hurricane Maria and its aftermath, and that number is a nauseating 4,645 people–a figure nearly seventy times the official death count of 64, and over twice the death count from Hurricane Katrina.  This discrepancy is so large that the Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics is suing to get more accurate information about the death count.  The high numbers are at least partially attributable to lack of electricity and medical assistance in the months after the hurricane, making access to ordinary medical care such as insulin injection difficult for island residents.  This is deeply horrifying, and should never have occurred, and we owe our fellow citizens better than this. A colleague with family on the island asks me to note that they particularly recommend donating to Puerto Rico Legal Services (SLPR) at this time.

Key links:

  1. New England Journal of Medicine – Mortality in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria
  2. CNN – On Trump’s Watch, the Single Most Deadly Natural Disaster in Modern America
  3. NBC News – Puerto Rico Faces Lawsuits Over Hurricane Death Count Data
  4. Puerto Rico Legal Services

 

Recent Resilience

Recent Court Resilience.  There were several steps forward by various courts this week, which is always exciting.  On the lawsuit side, a federal union is suing Trump over his executive order limiting union activity, alleging that it violates the First Amendment and oversteps his constitutional authority (both of which are probably true).  And the NAACP and special education groups are suing Betsy DeVos over how her department has managed civil rights cases, arguing that the behavior is arbitrary and capricious.  And finally, Iowa advocates won a minor victory when a state judge issued an injunction blocking the “heartbeat abortion” law from taking effect until the case is resolved.  Yay progress!

Key links:

  1. Washington Post Largest Federal Employees Union Sues Trump Over ‘Official Time’ Rollback
  2. Washington Post – NAACP, Special-Education Advocates Sue Betsy DeVos Over her Department’s Handling of Civil Rights Cases
  3. Des Moines Register – Judge Temporarily Blocks Iowa’s ‘Fetal Heartbeat’ Law While Lawsuit is Resolved

Things to Watch

What the ZTE.  First Trump started talking about softening the penalties against ZTE, a Chinese telecommunications firm that has been penalized by America in March and April, as a ‘favor’ to Chinese President Xi Jinping despite the penalty’s recent issuance.  Though Trump claimed the penalties “hurt a lot of American companies,” apparently by ‘American companies’ he meant his American company, because the Trump Organization got a $500M loan from China right before he announced he wanted to soften the penalties.  Then news broke this week that Ivanka Trump was granted seven trademarks by China’s State Department for Industry and Commerce.  This would be eyebrow-raising by itself, given Ivanka’s official role with the U.S. government, but it gets worse when you consider that they were literally issued while Trump was promising to assist ZTE, and were also issued unusually quickly–Ivanka only first applied in March.  Congress is understandably irate and pushing back, with a Senate panel approving an amendment that blocks Trump from removing penalties and sixty House Democrats demanding an ethics investigation into the entire thing.

Key links:

  1. Bloomberg – Trump Reconsidering ZTE Penalties as ‘Favor’ to Xi
  2. Business Insider – Trump’s controversial ZTE order came days after the Chinese government provided millions to a Trump Organization-tied project
  3. New York Times – Ivanka Trump Wins China Trademarks, Then Her Father Vows to Save ZTE
  4. Newsweek – Did Trump Violate Ethics Rules with China Theme Park Deal? House Democrats Demand Federal Investigation into $500 Million Loan

 

The Eroding Power of Pardons.  Emoluments would be bad enough, but we also have to worry about Trump’s habit of pardoning people convicted of disrupting or disregarding government process, because it eats away at our government norms just as much.  The big news is his pardon this week of Dinesh D’Souza, who was convicted of campaign finance fraud for illegally using straw donors to donate to a Republican candidate in 2012.  Though D’Souza was the only actual pardon granted this week, Trump also insinuated that he might pardon Martha Stewart or commute the sentence of Rod Blagojevich, both of whom were convicted of government-related misconduct as well.  Commuting Blagojevich’s eighteen-year sentence for, among sixteen other corruption charges, literally trying to sell a Senate seat would be particularly repugnant, but Trump’s previous pardons have been pretty bad as well, and he’s since moved on to announcing he can pardon himself (with the apparent support of his legal team).  So there are all kinds of alarm bells going off on this front right now, and we should definitely be calling our representatives about it.

Key links:

  1. Vanity Fair – “The President is Acting Like a Mob Boss: as Trump Plays With His Pardon Power, the Signal to Allies and Adversaries is Clear
  2. Washington Post – Trump Pardons Conservative Pundit Dinesh D’Souza, Suggests Others Also Could Receive Clemency
  3. CNN – President Trump Keeps Pardoning his Political Friends
  4. CNBC – Trump: ‘I have the absolute right to Pardon myself’
  5. New York Times – The Trump Lawyers’ Confidential Memo to Mueller, Explained



North Korea Uncertainty (Again Again).   According to Trump, the North Korea summit is now back on for next week, although his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seemed less sure about this.  And Kim Jong Un took an opportunity to complain to Russia about us only a day earlier, so I’m inclined to think Pompeo’s opinion more reflects reality as we head into the new week.  But that said, Senate Democrats are giving Trump instructions like they think the summit will be a Real Thing, so perhaps the optimism is warranted–and either way, the summit isn’t scheduled until next Tuesday.  That’s practically three news cycles away by our current reckoning; pretty much anything could happen in that time!  We’ll keep you posted.

Key links:

  1. Politico – Trump-Kim Summit Still Uncertain After Meetings with North Korea
  2. Guardian – Kim Jong-un Complains to Russia over ‘US Hegemonism’
  3. Washington Post – Senate Democrats Demand Trump Hold the Line in North Korea Talks

Actions for Everyone

My friend gave me a hug today without knowing I needed it. Go give your friends hugs (obviously ask for consent first!). They probably need them too. Hugs are direct action at it’s finest.

LGBTQ anti-discrimination – Last monday we learned that the case of the Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple’s wedding was resolved by the Supreme Court siding with the baker. This case has brought forth the reality that only 21 states have anti-discrimination laws based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We need to do better! Congress is considering two bills that can ensure protection and truly make a difference, these are the Equality Act and the Do No Harm Act. Let your congresspeople know you support these bills!

Guatemala’s volcano emergency – Guatemala’s Volcán de Fuego erupted last sunday killing around 25 people and damaging entire communities. The volcano hasn’t been this active in 40 years. A Go Fund Me page has been created to help with the relief efforts. Donate what you can and/or share it with your community!

Puerto Rico’s truth after María – This past week the world found out via an independent study conducted by Harvard University that the death toll caused by hurricane María (September 2017) in Puerto Rico was calculated to be around 4,600 people. The oficial government’s death toll was 64. There are still thousands of houses without roofs and some areas are still without running water or electricity. Hurricane season started June 1st. Puerto Rico still needs our help and it can’t be forgotten, we have to do what our government didn’t. Here is a list of charities that are still working to make the situation better:

La Guagua Solidaria – Direct action and hands on work helping farmers rebuild

Unidos por Puerto Rico – Coalition of NGO’s that are working directly on health, social welfare, economic development and distributing food and water

Puerto Rico Hurricane Recovery Fund – Focused on creating new infrastructure for a possible hurricane in the future

Guatemala’s volcano emergency – Guatemala’s Volcán de Fuego erupted last sunday killing around 25 people and damaging entire communities. The volcano hasn’t been this active in 40 years. A Go Fund Me page has been created to help with the relief efforts. Donate what you can and/or share it with your community!

Puerto Rico’s truth after María – This past week the world found out via an independent study conducted by Harvard University that the death toll caused by hurricane María (September 2017) in Puerto Rico was calculated to be around 4,600 people. The oficial government’s death toll was 64. There are still thousands of houses without roofs and some areas are still without running water or electricity. Hurricane season started June 1st. Puerto Rico still needs our help and it can’t be forgotten, we have to do what our government didn’t. Here is a list of charities that are still working to make the situation better:

La Guagua Solidaria – Direct action and hands on work helping farmers rebuild

Unidos por Puerto Rico – Coalition of NGO’s that are working directly on health, social welfare, economic development and distributing food and water

Puerto Rico Hurricane Recovery Fund – Focused on creating new infrastructure for a possible hurricane in the future

Call your representatives and ask them what they are doing to help Puerto Rico, ask them to use their voice to keep Puerto Rico relevant, ask them to bring forth bills that would eliminate Puerto Rico’s financial debt, let them know how their inaction  let these people die

As always visit Resistance Calendar to know about events near you (Don’t forget June is Pride month!).

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