Issue #211, 2021 Week 44

The news this week contains a lot of doubling down on all sides, and I honestly can’t decide whether that’s good or bad.  But whatever it is, we’re here to summarize it for you, and we’re also here if anybody needs anything.

Events to Know

Election Rejection Eruption. Basically everybody doubled down on the ongoing January 6 fights this week. In the court case about whether Trump’s documents must be turned over, the obviously-annoyed district court judge issued an opinion stating that Trump et al had to fork everything over. But that decision was immediately appealed, and the circuit court panel issued a stay on releasing the documents while the appeal is pending. Meanwhile, the House January 6 panel, increasingly done with all the obstruction nonsense being shoveled their way, continued to just make it rain subpoenas. Former Trump aide Steve Bannon was officially indicted for contempt of Congress as well, and turned himself in earlier today. Also on the criminal side, the first person to plead guilty to assaulting a police officer on Jan 6 was sentenced to 41 months of incarceration.  More information was also released about Mike Pence’s precarious situation that day, which Trump immediately downplayed with characteristic surrealist garbage.  And speaking of Trump, a recent report noted that 13 of his officials committed Hatch Act violations by campaigning for him while serving as federal officials, though it’s unclear whether there will be any consequences for it. All told, there’s a lot to watch right now.    

Key links:

  1. CNN – January 6 Committee Is Losing Patience With Trump’s Former Chief Of Staff Mark Meadows As It Seeks His Testimony
  2. Washington Post – House Jan. 6 Committee Issues Subpoenas To 6 Top Trump Advisers, Including Pair Involved In Willard Hotel ‘Command Center’
  3. Politico – Watchdog: 13 Trump officials violated Hatch Act during 2020 campaign
  4. New York Times – Bannon Indicted on Contempt Charges Over House’s Capitol Riot Inquiry

Biden Bill Updates.   Last week, a deal was brokered for potentially voting on the Building Back Better Act sometime in the next few weeks, but after the initial procedural vote there wasn’t been much movement–the party experienced a lot of gridlocked, and Manchin is now citing our massive and unprecedented pandemic inflation problem as his new reason he won’t vote for it. Nonetheless, today the House passed the Build Back Better Act in a 220 to 213 vote. This complements the final version of the infrastructure bill, which last Friday night; since it had previously passed in the Senate, Biden signed it into law earlier this week. Meanwhile, disgruntled and violent Republicans continue to fling death threats at the thirteen GOP members that voted yea on that bipartisan bill. Of course, implementation of the bill will be its own process, especially with Biden struggling to address related supply chain issues and several provisions of the bill potentially tied to the reconciliation package. Also, somewhere in there, Senate Republicans yet again blocked debate on passing voter protection laws, which makes the third or fourth time in the past month.

Key links

  1. Washington Post – With Infrastructure Victory In Hand, Democrats Brace For Next Battle Over $2 Trillion Spending Bill
  2. ABC News – House Democrats pass sweeping social spending, climate policy bill
  3. New York Times – House Republicans Who Backed Infrastructure Bill Face Vicious Backlash
  4. NBC News – Manchin repeats worries about inflation amid final social spending bill battle
  5. CNN – Senate Republicans Block John Lewis Voting Rights Bill In Key Vote

Recent Resilience

Same Sex Survivor Social Security. The Biden Administration announced this week that it will be abandoning defense of a Trump-era policy barring survivors from receiving social security benefits if our history of marriage inequality barred them from meeting the formal requirements. This is a much bigger deal than might be obvious, because social security policy looks at federal definitions of marriage, which have only included same-sex couples for about six years. In fact, the plaintiff in Obergefell, the court case that resulted in full marriage equality in the U.S., was denied survivor benefits because his spouse died only three months later. This policy was likely leaving a lot of people behind.   

Key links:

  1. NBC – Same-Sex Partners Win Survivors Benefits After Justice Dept. Dismisses Lawsuits

Tiktok Hand Signals.  A missing teen was rescued this week because she made, and an onlooker recognized, an aid-seeking hand gesture popularized on Tiktok from the window of a moving car.  The gesture is designed to signal a need for help relating to intimate partner violence or risk of abuse, and it hopefully will remain a useful tool for people who need it.

Key links:

  1. ABC News – Missing teen rescued using popular TikTok hand gesture to signal help

Things to Watch

State of the COVID-19.   By far, the biggest news this week is the implementation of the pediatric vaccine, which began this week and has vaccinated over a million children as I type this. Most people I know consider this extremely positive news, but it somehow still resulted in Ted Cruz getting into a fight with Big Bird, because protective vaccines remain extremely partisan in this country. On a related note, a federal judge has stayed the federal vaccine mandate for work environments, despite the fact that it creates exemptions for medical and religious reasons and almost certainly is constitutional. Shortly after,  the Fifth Circuit issued an opinion on Friday which affirmed the first decision.  In Oklahoma, the head of the National Guard elected to ignore the vaccine mandate ordered by the Pentagon for armed service members.  In Florida, the governor has called a special legislative session purely to challenge vaccine and mask mandates. Meanwhile, infection rates are rising again and several states are identifying a new substrain of Delta.  But there are some other bright spots as well; travel bans are being lifted for vaccinated travelers from many countries as of Monday, and both Merck and Pfizer have made strides towards a form of effective pill-based treatment for COVID.  

Key links:

  1. NPR – Nearly 1 Million Kids Ages 5-11 Will Have Their First Covid Shots By The End Of Today
  2. NBC – Big Bird’s Vaccination Announcement Sparks Backlash From Conservatives, GOP 
  3. Politico – Federal Court Blocks Biden Administration’s Vaccination Mandate
  4. CBS News – A potentially faster-spreading Delta variant, AY.4.2, has been spotted in 8 states
  5. Stat – Merck’s Covid-19 Antiviral Pill Receives First Authorization In U.K.

The Political Role of ViolenceThis week, we’re seeing a lot of news about political discourse including threats of violence.  In addition to the death threats addressed to bipartisan GOP voters that I referenced above, Rep Paul Gosar was in the news for tweeting a video that depicted him murdering fellow congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  (Nancy Pelosi is calling for an investigation, House Democrats are calling for a censure, and AOC took it as an opportunity to talk about workplace violence.) Meanwhile, the Kyle Rittenhouse trial over the past week highlights the role political contexts play in protest-related violence. While we’re discussing the Rittenhouse trial, I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that the prosecutor, the judge and the defense on that case have all displayed an appalling lack of professionalism that I believe is probably motivated by its own political context.  Nonetheless, Rittenhouse was acquitted today, which many people (including myself) believe to be a reflection of our system’s inherent bias against accountability for white supremacist action.

Key links:

  1. NBC News – Twitter flags GOP lawmaker’s anime video depicting him killing Ocasio-Cortez, attacking Biden as ‘hateful conduct’
  2. Washington Post – House Democrats introduce resolution to censure Rep. Gosar over animated video that depicted him killing Rep. Ocasio-Cortez
  3. New York Times – Key Moments From Kyle Rittenhouse’s Testimony

Actions For Everyone

Well my dear friends, sh*t’s effed as usual. Here’s some stuff we can do about it. Action items actually can feel pretty good when times are this rough, and remember we’re in this together. 

Build a new Justice System: The Rittenhouse verdict is in and he was found not guilty on all five felony counts of things he actually did, and many people watched on live streams as he did them. There’s a lot that needs to be done with our justice system, but one actionable item is to submit a formal complaint to the Wisconsin Judicial Commission with regards to Judge Bruce Schroeder’s bias during this trial. When I wrote my email it went simply:

“Dear Wisconsin Judicial Commission, 

I’m writing to file a complaint against Judge Bruce Schroeder’s clear and apparent bias during the Kyle Rittenhouse trial.

Sincerely,

(your name)”

Here’s the address, phone number and email you can write or call into:

Wisconsin Judicial Commission

110 East Main St. Suite 700

Madison WI, 53703

Ph: (608) 266-7637

Email: judcmm@wicourts.gov

The Milwaukee Freedom Fund will provide bail and legal support for protestors. If you have money to spare you can also donate to them.

Legalize Sex Work: Another ongoing case that’s heading into trial is that of Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex crimes. She’s accused of grooming underage girls for now-deceased financier Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse. 

I wanted to share this article called It’s Dangerous to Confuse Sex Work and Trafficking, because it really is dangerous, and the Epstein ring is one of the wicked byproducts of that.

Decriminalizing and legalizing sex work maximizes sex workers’ legal protection and their ability to exercise other key rights, including to justice and health care. Legal recognition of sex workers and their occupation maximizes their protection, dignity, and equality. This is an important step toward destigmatizing sex work. 

Visit Human Rights Watch Take Action page to learn more about what you can do about it, http://www.hrw.org/take-action

Take care of your body: There’s nothing more radical than self love. As we approach Winter and cloudy days, I wanted to remind everyone to keep up your Vitamin D levels and get / give hugs (consensually) to keep Oxytocin going,

Here are some foods that can boost your Vitamin D – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/9-foods-high-in-vitamin-d

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