Issue #152, 2020 Week 21

Hey everyone,

We are trying to keep up and we are here for you. Read on to make sure that you’re staying informed!
As always, please reach out (activism@patrothfuss.comwith any tips, suggestions, questions, or concerns!

Thanks,
The Activism Team

This week was a rough one, and it’s not even over yet.  In COVID news, we’ve made it to partially open, and now we may be here for a while–though since everyone is anxious about a second wave, we may end up moving backwards before we move forwards.  And in non-COVID news, we have a lot of disturbing official action and a very real reminder that Black lives still matter.  As always, we have suggestions for action below.

Events to Know

‘Obamagate’ Investigation. Though William Barr was quick to downplay its importance, Republican Senators are trying to subpoena several Obama-era officials. The request is extremely broad, covering everything from the Carter Page surveillance to Hunter Biden’s work in Ukraine–welcome to 2020, where everything’s made up and the points of law don’t matter. They did this, by the way, at the same time that they narrowly voted in a new Director of Intelligence that even said GOP senators wouldn’t endorse in July, forcing his nomination at the time to be withdrawn. (It’s kind of hilarious to compare Rubio’s quote from July with his lukewarm vote of confidence this week.) This does, however, mean we see the retreating back of acting director and MAGA horrorshow Richard Grenell, so that’s something, but it likely has implications for the Obamagate investigation.

Key links:

  1. Guardian – Trump’s Attorney General Dismisses Possibility Of ‘Obamagate’ Investigations
  2. Politico – Lindsey Graham Seeks Broad Authority To Subpoena Former Obama Officials
  3. Washington Post – Senate Confirms John Ratcliffe As Next Director Of National Intelligence In Sharply Divided Vote
  4. CBS – Staunch Trump Ally Richard Grenell To End Tumultuous Tenure As U.S. Ambassador To Germany

Retaliatory Firing (Again Again). Speaking of investigations, the acting Transportation Department inspector general, Mitchell Behm, was removed from the role over the past week–so that makes four inspectors general removed in two months. And wouldn’t you know it, just like the State Department IG removed, Behm was looking at the conduct of his department’s head–in this case, whether Elaine Chao was improperly favoring Kentucky for project priority. (Chao is the wife of Kentucky Senator and overall nightmare man Mitch McConnell, for those of you playing the home game.) The replacement acting IG, “Skip” Elliott, works in the Transportation Department and literally reports directly to Chao, so that’s nice and normal and in no way an obvious conflict of interest.    

Key links:

  1. Politico – Democrats Blast Removal Of Acting Dot Inspector General
  2. Washington Post – Democrats Open Investigation Into Trump’s Replacement Of Acting Transportation Department Inspector General

Black Lives Still Matter. This was, frankly, a bad week for civil rights of Black Americans.  In Minneapolis, a name named George Floyd was choked to death by police, with videotape very clearly showing one officer’s knee on his neck for several minutes.  Protests of the death resulted in even more deaths and mass arrests, including the arrest of a journalism team that was caught on camera.  Several grassroots groups are organizing efforts as I type this, both locally and nationally, and the officer in question has been arrested and charged with third-degree murder.  Meanwhile, in New York, a woman was caught on camera calling 911 and filing a false report that claimed a fellow park-goer was assaulting her because he asked her to leash her dog.  Needless to say, one of these stories informs the other–calling police on Black individuals so commonly results in danger to those individuals that the 911 call should be viewed as an assault of its own.

Key links:

  1. Washington Post – Through the lens of a CNN camera on the ground, a view of American disintegration
  2. NBC – George Floyd Protest Turns Deadly; Minneapolis Mayor Requests National Guard
  3. Minnesota Freedom Fund
  4. CNN – White Woman Who Called Police On A Black Man Bird-watching In Central Park Has Been Fired

Recent Resilience

Recent Court Resilience.  This was another good week for court cases, for the most part!  In Florida, a federal judge struck down a law that would prohibit voting for people with outstanding court fees.  The court used very clear language when calling the law unconstitutional, noting that it created “a pay-to-vote system” that is reminiscent of poll taxes.  And another federal judge ordered the FCC to server logs on its net neutrality public comments, which the New York Times is alleging were fraudulently filed.  Progress!

Key links:

  1. NPR – Federal Judge Rules Florida Law Restricting Voting Rights For Felons Unconstitutional
  2. Tampa Bay Times – Federal Judge: Florida Can’t Stop Poor Felons From Voting
  3. Ars Technica – NYT Defeats Ajit Pai As Judge Orders FCC To Provide Net Neutrality Records

Things to Watch

State of the COVID-19.  We have officially surpassed 100,000 deaths in this country at the time that I type this, and over 1.7 million cases have been reported.  Current national data suggest that more infections are happening in rural areas, which is important to note as well.  Also, remember how last week, I said that Georgia’s numbers looking more promising than Texas or Florida’s?  Yeah, about that: News broke this week that they were doctoring their numbers, which apparently was intended in Florida as well (but their top data scientist refused, and was fired for her efforts.)  Given this news, combined with high rate of asymptomatic infection and a country that is increasingly reopening, an effective method of contact tracing has become extremely important.  It’s particularly alarming that we’re also seeing news of businesses banning masks and government officials hiding COVID-positive test results.
Key links:

  1. New York Post – Georgia Department Of Health Slammed For Misleading Coronavirus Data
  2. NPR – Florida Ousts Top Covid-19 Data Scientist
  3. Washington Post – A Deadly ‘Checkerboard’ – Covid-19’s New Surge Across Rural America
  4. New York Times – Coronavirus In The U.S.: Latest Map And Case Count
  5. Washington Post – While U.S. Struggles To Roll Out Coronavirus Contact Tracing, Germany Has Been Doing It From The Start

Trump’s Continuing COVID Mess.  Trump continued to publicly illustrate his obvious unfitness for office this week, visiting a Ford plant and refusing to wear a mask, then yelling at the state’s Attorney General about it on Twitter.  He also refused to close down the country if there’s a second wave of COVID outbreaks on the same tour.  For an encore, he implied the official death toll is inflated and threw a tantrum about houses of worship, demanding governors reopen them regardless of COVID threat level.  He also started taking concrete steps to force the United States to leave the World Health Organization, though it’s unclear if he legally can.  I seriously cannot overstress what a bad idea this is in the middle of a pandemic; we need to be calling our reps about that.
Key links:

  1. CNBC – Trump Says He Won’t Close The Country If Second Wave Of Coronavirus Hits
  2. New York Times – Trump Suggests Virus Death Count Is Inflated. Most Experts Doubt It
  3. NBC – Trump Deems Places Of Worship ‘Essential,’ Claims He Can Order Their Reopening
  4. STAT News – Trump: U.S. will terminate relationship with the World Health Organization in wake of Covid-19 pandemic
  5. Vox – Trump announced US withdrawal from the WHO. It’s unclear if he can do that.

Market Mess Continues. The market continues to be…struggling, to put it politely.  The unemployment rate isn’t really slowing, and another 2.4 million Americans filed for the first time in the past week, bringing the total over the crisis to about 41 million people.  Experts worry that these lost jobs may not be coming back–even a White House official has expressed concern, contradicting Trump and probably becoming next week’s retaliatory firing paragraph.  Despite this, Mitch McConnell wants to end unemployment supports, even as our Treasury Secretary says we need another stimulus bill.  There’s growing support in Congress for paycheck subsidy, but the SBA subsidy loans are still a mess, so hopefully any new efforts will be better managed.
Key links:

  1. Bloomberg – Americans Again File By The Millions For Unemployment Benefits
  2. CNBC – Another 2.1 Million File Jobless Claims, But Total Unemployed Shrinks
  3. Washington Post – Top White House Economic Adviser Expresses Uncertainty About Recovery Despite Trump’s Confidence
  4. Politico – Mcconnell Vows End To Enhanced Unemployment Benefits
  5. Wall Street Journal – Mnuchin: Strong Likelihood We’ll Need Another Stimulus Package
  6. New York Times – A Struggling Stimulus Program

Social Media Standoff. Trump’s ongoing standoff with Twitter this week has truly been a sight to behold.  The conflict started brewing over the previous week, when Trump falsely tweeted that Joe Scarborough killed somebody repeatedly and the deceased person’s widower publicly called on the platform to delete it.  Though Twitter did not in fact delete that one, they did fact-check his subsequent tweets about mail-in voting, which is something they’ve never done before Trump went ballistic in response, yelling that this was censorship that violated his First Amendment rights (spoiler: No, it really doesn’t).  He then passed a bonkers executive order that will probably be successfully challenged in courts.  Twitter, meanwhile, has continued to fact-check his tweets and also started adding warnings to tweets they think are violating their policies by glorifying violence.
Key links:

  1. New York Times – Trump Pushes a Conspiracy Theory That Falsely Accuses a TV Host of Murder
  2. Axios – Husband of deceased Scarborough staffer asks Twitter to delete baseless Trump claims
  3. NPR – Twitter Places Fact-Checking Warning On Trump Tweet For 1st Time
  4. Bloomberg – Trump Aims Order at Social Media Giants Amid Fury Over Twitter
  5. CNN – Trump tweets threat that ‘looting’ will lead to ‘shooting.’ Twitter put a warning label on it

Actions for Everyone

I wish I could screen share with all of you right now and share the 18 open tabs I have featuring articles and podcasts, links to places we need to invest and divest our money. Since we can’t all screen share, I’m going to try to summarize in three paragraphs below.

Disability, Visability: The Disability Visibility Project is an online community dedicated to creating, sharing, and amplifying disability media and culture. One outspoken disability activist, Stacy Park Milbern, passed away unexpectedly on May 19th, 2020 of complications from surgery. To honor their work, I wanted to make sure everyone knows about the Disability Visibility.

It’s so important for able-bodied people to spend time learning about the daily lives of folks with disabilities, because a. getting to know people is important and also b. we need to dismantle abilism. Check out Disability Visibility Podcast and consider hiring this org for feedback, research, strategic planning, etc.

Black Lives Matter: This week, George Floyd was killed by a Minnesota police officer. The video of the murder has been circulating, as well. As someone who watched the video with great heartbreak, fury, and disgust, I know it can feel right to share the video in hopes of igniting shared feelings with the online community.

There is a lot to work on. For starters, the video and images of Floyd is graphic and triggering for many people. There are definitely some white folks who need to see it to believe it, but there are lots of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) who know and live with the fear of police violence every day. For them, please consider not spreading the video and image, OR if you feel like it’s necessary for your audience to see, add a Content Warning (CW). It’s nice in this case that Instagram will blur our sensitive content so you can consent before clicking on it.

You may have seen the unnecessary use of force, again, from police during the protests that followed the killing of George Floyd. Police adorned riot gear and used tear gas on non-violent protesters. Please consider donating to the Minnesota Freedom Fund. They make bail for people arrested by ICE, and also for people who are criminally arrested like many of the protestors.

Last and not least (not least at allllll – there are books and films and podcasts and support groups, and we haven’t even talked about Amy Cooper, but I can’t get to it all in one newsletter, so I’ll like to more soon), sign the Justice for George Floyd petition, AND call County Attorney Michael Freeman, the local prosecutor, who has the power to arrest and charge these police officers to ask him to hold them accountable for the murder of George Floyd.

Trump’s an Idiot: Before I go any farther, I want to remind everyone about Make America Kittens Again, which replaces pictures of Trump with pictures of kittens.

After yeeeeaaars of saying inaccurate, sometimes hateful, mostly incomprehensible things on Twitter, the Twitter Safety team stepped in to fact check him, and now Trump wants to shut down the internet. This effing guy. I’m not a constitutional lawyer, but how far does he think he’s going to get fighting against some of the richest, most powerful companies in the world over free speech? THE FIRST AMENDMENT?! Read this Politico article for answers to questions like: Can he really do that? (not really, is the short answer.) What is Section 230? Has this ever happened before?

No direct action needed yet, but stay tuned. Also, for issues concerning Freedom of Speech follow the ACLU – they have all sorts of great lawsuits going on.

We hope this newsletter left you feeling more informed and more energized to go out there and make a difference in whatever way you can.

We’d love to hear from you, not only for tips or suggestions (though they’re always welcome), but also to hear about how the activism has been going. Do you have any success stories? Did anything surprise you that you weren’t expecting? Let us know at activism@patrothfuss.com and hopefully we can use your stories to help encourage and educate others!

Best,
The Activism Team

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