Issue #88, 2019 Week 6

I missed the Superb Owl’s great flight over everyone’s televisions this week to draft, which I’m a touch sad about.  But it turns out even the Superbowl involved the news this week (which, by the way, is definitely the most 2019 thing I’m going to type today).  So I like to think I was at everybody’s Superbowl parties in spirit, reminding people to resist and stealing too many nachos.

Events to Know

Shutdown Aftermath.   In the week after the shutdown, we’re still seeing a number of repercussions, though other things are bouncing back faster than expected.  There’s a bill going around the Senate that would give back pay to contractors, but Republicans other than Susan Collins aren’t touching it–they’re too busy working on repealing the estate tax.  And early reports suggest the shutdown cost the economy $11B in total, and $3B of that will never be recovered.  That said, the economy also added 304,000 jobs in January, which hopefully will mitigate the damage.  Nonetheless, the Fed isn’t going to beraising interest rates again anytime soon.

Key links:

  1. Vox – Only One Republican Has Signed on to a Bill Guaranteeing Back Pay for Federal Contractors
  2. The Hill – Senate Republicans Reintroduce Bill to Repeal the Estate Tax
  3. CNBC – The Government Shutdown Cost the Economy $11 Billion, Including a Permanent $3 Billion Loss, Congressional Budget Office says
  4. New York Times – U.S. Job Gains Show Employers Shrugged Off Government Shutdown
  5. MarketWatch – So the Fed Left Interest Rates Unchanged, but What Does that Mean for You?

State of the Union. As we mentioned last week, with the shutdown over, Nancy Pelosi issued another invitation to Trump to give a State of the Union on 2/5, which he accepted, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also invited former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams to give the Democrats’ official response.  So the State of the Union happened yesterday, and it sure… happened.  The early sections of the address talked a considerable amount about unity, but eventually Trump’s ordinary brand showed up to the party.  Highlights include: Toasting new law that creates fairer criminal sentencing, a shoutout to historic achievements for women in Congress, and a promise to end the AIDS/HIV epidemic in the next decade.  Lowlights include: Complaining about “ridiculous partisan investigations“, lying repeatedly about immigration, and claiming that if he weren’t elected we’d be at war with North Korea.  Eventually, Stacey Abrams gave the official Democrat response, which was very focused (and though she stressed she wanted the country to success, she pulled no punches).  Then the Internet collected all the great reaction faces from people forced to sit through the whole thing on camera.

Key links:

  1. CNN – Trump Accepts Pelosi’s State of the Union Invite
  2. NPR – Democrats Pick Georgia’s Stacey Abrams To Give Response To Trump’s State Of The Union
  3. Politico – Trump’s State of the Union Address
  4. Washington Post – In Democratic response, Abrams rebukes Trump and highlights parties’ contrasts

Immigration Updates.  Given the lack of movement during the shutdown and lack of a permanent funding solution, it is truly impressive how much awful immigration news happened in the past week.  We learned that the Pentagon is sending 3,750 more troops to the Mexican border, joining the 2,400 troops already there and extending the mission all the way to September.  (Hopefully I don’t have to explain why this is both unnecessary bullying and a shameful waste of resources.)  And news broke that ICE created a fake university as a sting operation, telling international students that the fake university was on their approved list of accredited schools and then arresting people who went there.  Meanwhile, people in ICE custody on a hunger strike are being force-fedthrough invasive nasal tubes, and DHS refuses to reunify families they tore apart at the border because they say it might be ‘traumatic’ for kids to see their actual parents again.

Key links:

  1. ABC – Pentagon Confirms 3,750 Additional Troops Heading to the US-Mexico Border
  2. Detroit Free Press – Farmington Hills Fake University Set Up by ICE to Nab Foreign Students
  3. NPR – ICE Confirms Force-Feeding Of Detainees On Hunger Strike
  4. NBC – Finding All Migrant Children Separated From Their Families May be Impossible, Feds Say
  5. Associated Press – US Sees Limitations on Reuniting Migrant Families

 

Recent Resilience

White Supremacy as Terrorism.   The white supremacist who murdered Timothy Caughman in 2017 pleaded guilty to terrorism and murder as a hate crime this week. It is hard to imagine a more textbook case of white supremacy as terrorism–the man literally murdered a random denizen going about his business in the hopes of sparking a racial war–but this is one of the first documented instances of a white supremacy terrorism conviction in the country. It’s grimly satisfying rather than ‘good’ to realize that we’re finally calling a spade a spade in a legal sense, but it’s still an important step for navigating the increase of hate crimes in a Trump-run America.

Key links:

  1. New York Times – White Supremacist Pleads Guilty to Killing Black Man in New York to Start a ‘Race War’
  2. Root – White Supremacist Who Vowed to Start Race War Pleads Guilty to Terrorism Charges in Murder of Black Man
  3. Law and Crime – New York Convicted a White Supremacist as a Terrorist for the First Time, and it’s Exactly What 2019 Needs

Things to Watch

Northam Mayhem.  News broke over the weekend that current Virginia governor and terrible Democrat Ralph Northam had photos in his med school yearbook that featured him either in blackface or wearing a KKK hood (it’s kind of unclear which).  Though Northam initially apologized, he then refused to step down and shared another anecdote about his adventures in blackface, somehow believing that overt racism isn’t a disqualifying in a party whose main 2019 platform is We Aren’t The Racist Ones.  To their credit, Democrats are livid, and increasingly calling for his resignation. But Northam isn’t budging, and meanwhile his lieutenant governor is accused of sexual assault.  So everything’s pretty much a mess, and likely will be for a while.

Key links:

  1. Washington Post – Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam Admits He was in 1984 Yearbook Photo Showing Figures in Blackface, KKK Hood
  2. Washington Post – Ralph Northam’s Answers Strain Credulity
  3. New York Times – Virginia Governor, Ralph Northam, Defies Calls to Resign Over Racist Photo

Attorney General Vote Postponed.  As we mentioned last week, Democrats requested a one-week delay in the confirmation vote of Attorney General hopeful William Barr–which puts the vote this upcoming Thursday.  As far as I know, there has been no movement on the introduced bipartisan legislation that would compel Robert Mueller to release a summary of his report to Congress and the public since then, but we did learn that Trump’s not willing to sharewhether he would bury the report (which I think means we can infer he would).
Key links:

  1. Politico – Senate Judiciary Committee Delays Vote on Barr
  2. Washington Post – Trump Refuses to Comment on Whether Mueller Report Should Be Made Public

 

INF Inconclusive.  The U.S. is officially leaving a 1987 nuclear arms treaty with Russia called the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, with our Secretary of State saying that Russia has been in violation for at least five years.  But Russia has been saying the same thing about us, and it definitely seems true that Trump is frustrated by China’s lack of restriction under similar treaty, so it’s kind of hard to know what’s going on in general.  And at minimum, Trump keeps leaving or threatening to leave various treaties, which is concerning all on its own.  Basically, there’s a lot to watch here.

Key links:

  1. New York Times – U.S. Suspends Nuclear Arms Control Treaty With Russia
  2. Washington Post – U.S. to Withdraw from INF Arms Control Treaty with Russia, Pompeo Announces
My favorite part of the halftime show was Nancy Pelosi’s clapback. (Admittedly, I didn’t watch the superbowl, or the halftime show, or the State of the Union. I’m not sure what it says about me that I’m pretty sure they’re part of the same game.)

Actions for Everyone

Get Big Money out of Politics: As the Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jorge Arreaza said, “Donald Trump…is the expression of capitalism.” It’s a sentiment I agree with. Big money in politics is not new, and we’ve written about this in the Activism Newsletter before, but we just gotta keep working to get decent elected officials back into positions of power in politics. Here are some organizations with actionable steps you can check out and take action on in order to sever Capital Hill’s ties to big money:

Overturn Citizens United & Amend the Constitution:

https://democracyisforpeople.org/

https://movetoamend.org/

Support the American Anti-corruption Act:

https://anticorruptionact.org/

https://represent.us/

Public Financing: 

https://www.nhrebellion.org/

Watchdog organizations to follow:  

https://campaignlegal.org/

http://www.opensecrets.org/

https://sunlightfoundation.com/

https://www.citizen.org/home

Black Lives Matter: Trayvon Martin’s birthday was Feb 5th. He would have been 24 years old. Trayvon was shot and killed in 2012 by George Zimmerman. His murder sparked the national movement we now know as Black Lives Matter, https://blacklivesmatter.com/. We should always work to build momentum around this and other social justice organizations. Visit the Take Action portion of the website to find out what campaigns BLM is running and how you can support them. Also, they have a beautifully in depth resource on Healing Justice that lists the importance of Healing Justice:

  1. Trauma, violence, and oppression live on and through our bodies limiting our experience, our connection and choice.
  2. Freedom for Black people must include healing that address the individual and collective, the current and the generational pain
  3. Our healing brings us into new kinds of relationships with one another
  4. Healing justice and transformative justice remind us that conflict can be generative and a way to care for each other and learn more about our needs and boundaries
  5. Healing allows us to move away from scarcity and fear and into connection and choice
  6. The trauma Black people feel is compounded, often constant and complex. Building a world that creates space and time for Black people to heal and limits the trauma they experience requires a deep reworking and reimagining of relationships and institutions
  7. Healing, culture and spirit have always sustained us and informed our struggles for liberation
  8. Healing justice allows us a place to practice the care with each other that we each deserve
  9. Healing justice makes care political in a world that harms and dehumanizes Black bodies
  10. Healing justice makes it possible to transform and heal a legacy of trauma for future generations of Black people

Things That Made Me Smile: This new song and music video by Molly Sarle.

Issue #87, 2019 Week 5

Well, folks, we’re officially past the halfway point of Trump’s first term (assuming he serves a whole one, though I suspect everybody reading this hopes he does not). And true to the last two years, this past week was a wild roller coaster ride; I think more than a few of us were a little green by the time it ended. But at least we got some good news as we cruised to a stop.

Events to Know

Shutdown Roller Coaster Ends (For Now).  Mitch McConnell finally allowed a vote on legislation to reopen government this past week, after the House had passed ten different bills on the subject. Since he’s Mitch McConnell, and therefore terrible, he scheduled two votes: One for House legislation that had already passed, and one for Trump’s bonkers bad-faith bill from last week. Unsurprisingly, neither bill passed; what was surprising was the minor mutiny McConnell found on his hands between the six GOP Senators that voted for the Dem bill and the GOP lunchroom fight the same day (to say nothing of all the protests that happened outside his offices). Eventually, and improbably, Trump agreed to the House version the next day, so a continuing resolution that lasts until February 15th was signed into law by the end of the evening, and federal employees ostensibly are receiving back pay by the end of the week.

Key Links:

  1. Slate – Both Senate Bills to End the Shutdown Failed—but That’s Progress
  2. Washington Post – ‘This is Your fault’: GOP Senators Clash Over Shutdown Inside Private Luncheon
  3. Associated Press – Police Called to Shutdown Protest at McConnell Office
  4. New York Times – Trump Signs Bill Reopening Government for 3 Weeks in Surprise Retreat From Wall
  5. The Hill – Mulvaney: Federal Employees Should Receive Back Pay by the End of the Week

Stone Cold Indictment.  Roger Stone was arrested and taken into custody before dawn on Friday morning, charged with several counts of lying, witness tampering and obstruction of justice. Though the actual charges are fairly mild, the facts of the indictments are anything but; they essentially connect Stone directly to both Wikileaks and the Trump campaign ahead of the 2016 DNC Russian hack. By the time that I write t his on Monday, Stone is already out on a personal bond and giving interviews. Needless to say, the connections between Trump, his associates, and Russia are getting so convoluted and numerous that many of us need a road map.

Key Links:

  1. Washington Post – Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone Indicted by Special Counsel in Russia Investigation
  2. New York Times – Indicting Roger Stone, Mueller Shows Link Between Trump Campaign and WikiLeaks
  3. ABC – Roger Stone, Ahead of Arraignment, Won’t Categorically Rule Out Cooperation Agreement With Special Counsel
  4. New York Times – Trump and His Associates Had More Than 100 Contacts With Russians Before the Inauguration

State of the Union Showdown. This week also continued the surreal back-and-forth between the Speaker of the House and the “Dealmaker”-In-Chief that began last week with Pelosi’s strongly-worded letter. Although it initially looked like 45 would content himself with petty airplane power moves, he announced by letter midweek that he planned to come to the House to give his State of the Union despite being uninvited. Without Pelosi’s invitation, however, he doesn’t have the legal right to take the podium, and she made it clear that no invitation was forthcoming while the shutdown was ongoing. By midweek, Trump was the one to blink first, which probably impacted some of the shutdown news above. Since the shutdown is now over, Pelosi has issued another invitation for February 5. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has also invited Stacey Abrams to give the official response. So this will be an interesting State of the Union, to say the least.

Key Links:

  1. New York Times – Nancy Pelosi Presses Case to Delay State of the Union Address
  2. Time – President Trump Tells Nancy Pelosi He Will Deliver State of the Union Address to Congress Next Week Despite Delay Request
  3. CBS – Pelosi Tells Trump She Won’t Let Him Deliver State of the Union from House Chamber
  4. The Hill – Trump to Delay State of the Union Until After Shutdown
  5. Washington Post – Democrats Tap Georgia’s Stacey Abrams to Deliver the Response to Trump’s State of the Union Address

 

Recent Resilience

LA Teachers’ Strike Successfully Concludes.  The LA teacher’s union strike successfully concluded this week, winning terms such as classroom size caps and nurses at every school. The superintendent noted that though “40 years of under-investment [can’t be fixed] in a week,” the strike settlement represented a good start. Between this and the air traffic controllers’ impact on the government shutdown, this week had some powerful messages about the value of organizing.

Key Links:

  1. New York Times – Los Angeles Teachers’ Strike to End as Deal Is Reached
  2. ABC – LA teachers’ Deal to End Strike Offers Higher Salaries, Smaller Class Sizes                                                         

 

Things to Watch

Immigration Update.  On the same day the shutdown ended, the Trump administration started sending asylum seekers back to Mexico per the agreement they negotiated with the Mexican government.  Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen called the move “unprecedented,” and she’s probably right about that, because it’s also illegal as well as ill-advised.  Mexico is only grudgingly on board, calling the new policy “a unilateral move by the United States that we have to respond to,” so we might see pushback on that front.   And on top of everything else, as Vox notes, the whole thing is basically on countdown to a lawsuit.  I’ll definitely keep folks posted on developments as they happen.

Key Links:

  1. Reuters – U.S. to Start Returning Asylum Seekers to Mexico on Friday
  2. NPR – Trump Administration Will Send Asylum-Seekers To Mexico While Claims Are Processed
  3. New York Times – U.S. Will Send Migrants Back to Mexico as They Wait on Asylum Claims
  4. Vox – The US is Sending Some Legal Asylum Seekers Back to Mexico

Attorney General Vote Postponed.  Democrats have raised concerns about whether Attorney General nominee William Barr would allow the Mueller investigation to continue unimpeded, which has ultimately resulted in a one-week delay in his confirmation vote.  The delay has given two senators, Chuck Grassley and Richard Blumenthal, an opportunity to introduce bipartisan legislation that would compel Robert Mueller to release a summary of his report to Congress and the public–which would obviate concern that Barr might bury any findings.  But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has blocked this type of legislation before, so we’ll need to see if it reaches the Senate floor (and call regularly if it doesn’t).

Key Links:

  1. Washington Post – Senate Panel Postpones William Barr’s Confirmation Vote Amid Democrats’ Concerns
  2. Politico – Senate Judiciary Committee Delays Vote on Barr
  3. CNN – Republican, Democrat Introduce Senate Bill to Aid Public Release of Mueller Report

 

 

Actions for Everyone

Many of us will be hit hard this week with a polar vortex storm that will drop down the temperatures to -30 with a wind chill effect that goes down to -50. Stay safe, stay inside, go outside only in cases of emergencies. It’s crazy out there. Yet Donald Trump keeps being in the wrong side of history, claiming climate change and global warming are not real. It’s like a very long sequel to Idiocracy… I’m over it.

Global Warming is real (duh!) –  Last Monday, President Trump tweeted “What the hell is going on with Global Warming? Please come back fast, we need you!” when talking about the crazy cold weather the Midwest is seeing this week.

There are no doubts Global Warming is happening and it isn’t stopping. Scientists have proven time and time again that it is not a natural phenomenon but a very real consequence of human activity that promotes greenhouse gases. So, what can we do?

I feel the current discourse on climate change is centered on the individual and what each of us can do to help promote a healthier environment. And yes, using reusable things, stopping plastic use, cutting down on meat or factory farmed animal products are all good decisions but in the bigger picture, we’re not the culprits of large greenhouse gas emissions. It’s corporations (led on by government policy); and we need to hold them accountable.

Check out the Union of Concerned Scientists. They have different campaigns you can join and help out with that tackle corporations (specifically fossil fuel ones), lobbying against science and our government’s constant anti-science stance.

Shutdown over; lets keep it that way – Well the shutdown is over but it may start all over again come February 15th. We have 2 weeks to call them repeatedly and enforce that we will not leave thousands of federal workers without pay as our government keeps being used as blackmail for a madman’s (our president) wishes.

We don’t want a wall. We want to keep the government open. We want all workers to get backpay for the days they were furloughed.

Call your reps.

And now for Things That Made Me Smile

This story of a thicc dog who got adopted and found a forever home.

Shoebill storks, cause they look like Jim Henson puppets and I love them.

Issue #86, 2019 Week 4

This was a really weird week even by our ordinary standards, but it was also rage inducing; no one has a good time when the shutdown has hit the one-month mark.  (I don’t mind admitting that I may have yelled things several times while drafting.  I regret nothing, although my dog may feel otherwise.)

Events to Know

Russia Investigation Updates.   In true all-star lawyer fashion, Rudy Giuliani toured a couple of press circuits this week and now Trump looks even more guilty of collusion.  The latest is that Giuliani admitted Trump worked on the Moscow Tower project until October or November 2016–far, far later than anybody had previously admitted.  He also acknowledged that Trump talked to Cohen about his testimony on the subject beforehand, calling it “perfectly normal” for them to discuss what Cohen was going to say to Congress ahead of time.  There was also some back-and-forth about whether aides had been guilty of collusion, which he contextualized by saying “I never said there was no collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia.  (Yikes.)  Meanwhile, we still don’t know what Trump said to Putin in their five meetings and the Senate couldn’t stop the administration from lifting sanctions against one of Putin’s buddies.  So there’s a lot going on right now.

Key links:

  1. Politico – Giuliani: Trump Tower Moscow Talks May Have Lasted ‘As Far As’ October or November 2016
  2. The Guardian – Trump May Have Spoken to Cohen Before False Testimony to Congress – Giuliani
  3. CNN – Rudy Giuliani says Trump Didn’t Collude with Russia but Can’t Say If Campaign Aides Did
  4. New York Times – Trump and Putin Have Met Five Times. What Was Said Is a Mystery.
  5. Bloomberg – GOP-Run Senate Backs End to Sanctions on Firms Tied to Putin Ally
  6. Washington Post – McConnell Courting Pompeo to Run for an Open Senate Seat in Kansas

Immigration Updates.  This was another bad, bad week in immigration news, y’all. An inspector general report issued this week in an attempt to fix the zero-tolerance policy mess admitted that the number of children separated from their parents under the policy may be thousands higher than initially believed, because the administration began the practice almost a year before they publicly acknowledged it.  The report also acknowledged that we don’t have exact numbers, only rough estimates, because the administration didn’t bother to track the families they separated at all.  Investigators also found that, under the Trump administration, percentages of separated children in custody increased more than tenfold over the past two years.  And though DACA recipients got a bit of good news when the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal on the subject, four volunteers from No More Deaths were not so lucky–a federal judge convicted them of misdemeanors for leaving food and water for migrants crossing an Arizona wildlife refuge.  The women could face up to six months in federal prison for their relief work, and there’s some speculation that the arrests were retaliatory, because they occurred shortly after No More Deaths filmed CBP agents dumping water.  For those of you less familiar with that stretch of the border, I cannot stress enough that it is notorious for killing many, many people who attempt to cross through it–Humane Borders estimates over 3,200 people have died in the region while attempting to cross it over the past twenty years.  These are the first convictions for this type of humanitarian work in more than a decade.

Key links:

  1. Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General – Separated Children Placed in Office of Refugee Resettlement Care
  2. Washington Post – IG: Trump Administration Took Thousands More Children from Parents
  3. Associated Press – Supreme Court Inaction Suggests DACA Safe for Another Year
  4. The Hill – Four Women Found Guilty after Leaving Food and Water for Migrants in Arizona Desert
  5. The Guardian – Arizona: Four women Convicted after Leaving Food and Water in Desert for Migrants

Vexing Viral Video News.  Footage went viral of a teen from Covington Catholic High School blocking the path of Nathan Phillips, a Vietnam vet, and Omaha elder, as the latter tries to lead a small group through during the Indigenous People’s March.  The teen eventually issued a statement that he was ‘trying to diffuse the situation’ and that he was ‘provoked’.  A longer video does show that the students were being taunted by a group of four or five adults, but shows Phillips lead a small group forward to de-escalate, much as he originally described in his Saturday CNN interview.  Some short videos also illustrate that the students completely surrounded the group of indigenous people, yelling and gesturing in what may fairly be read as a threatening manner.  And the next day, videos began circulating of some students from Covington Catholic harassing female passers-by shortly before the much more viral video began (one of which captured a cringe-worthy and clearly audible “It’s not rape if you enjoy it!”).  Needless to say, the narrative is kind of a muddled mess at this point.

Key links:

  1. CNN – Native American Elder Nathan Phillips, in His Own Words
  2. Cincinnati Enquirer – Covington Catholic Student from Incident at the Indigenous Peoples March Issues Statement With His Side of the Story
  3. Washington Post – Viral Standoff Between a Tribal Elder and a High Schooler is More Complicated Than it First Seemed

 

Recent Resilience

Trans Rights Twitch Stream.   This weekend, UK Youtuber Hbomberguy began a spontaneous twitch stream of Donkey Kong 64 to support Mermaids, a trans rights organization that under funding threat due to moral panic caused by ‘faulty’ reporting.  Incredibly, the stream went on for 57 straight hours, during which time it raised over $340,000 and drew cameo calls from everybody from Lindsay Ellis to Chelsea Manning to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  As Hbomberguy himself noted on the twitch stream, the sheer success of the event highlights how many people believe trans rights are human rights–which is particularly welcome timing given the news below.

Key links:

  1. PinkNews –  MailOnline Apologises for ‘Incorrectly’ Reporting on Mermaids’ Hormones Stance
  2. Newsweek – Twitch Stream Pulls in $250,000 for Mermaids Charity, Featuring Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Owen Jones and More
  3. I news – Gamer live-streams 57-hour Donkey Kong marathon to raise £250,000 for trans children charity after National Lottery funding gets reviewed

Things to Watch

Consequences of Shutdown (Redux).  Another week of shutdown means more mess to untangle–although in this case, it sure feels like more than a week’s worth.  The most obvious and immediate effect is that airport checkpoints are becoming dicey, because more and more TSA employees are (understandably) unable to come in and it’s forcing security lanes to close.  But we’re also seeing trickle-down effects in our domestic violence shelter system, and our firefighting and cybersecurity systems are suffering as well.  If this continues, we can expect our federal court system and diplomacy structures to start malfunctioning too, because they will run out of money soon.  And it’s looking likely to continue, because Trump is recalling over 50,000 furloughed workers without pay, and signaled he might be recalling even more workers in the near future.  Meanwhile, his latest ‘offer’ for the wall money he’s demanding was protection for Dreamers that he’s legally obligated to give anyway because the Supreme Court declined to hear the case on the matter (which means injunctions preventing him from ending the program are still in effect).  Against this backdrop, it’s little wonder even Cardi B had things to say on the subject.

Key links:

  1. Fortune – Shutdown Pushes TSA to Start Closing Some Airport Security Lanes
  2. Washington Post – Government Shutdown: Drawn to the Brink, Domestic Violence Shelters Worry Life-or-Death Services to Women Could Be Imperiled
  3. New York Times – Federal Courts, Running Out of Money, Brace for Shutdown’s Pain
  4. ABC – Shutdown Hits US Diplomats Overseas, Even as State Department Calls Employees Back for Next Two Weeks
  5. Bloomberg – Trump Orders Thousands Back to Work Without Pay to Blunt Shutdown Disruption
  6. Nation – Trump’s Big Offer to End the Government Shutdown Is Just Another Scam

2020 Candidates Emerge.  As we move forward into 2019, it’s unsurprising that Democrat candidates are beginning to throw their hats into the ring for 2020.  In addition to Senator Elizabeth Warren and Hawaii rep Tulsi Gabbard, who declared their intent to run last week, we’ve now also got Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris and San Antonio mayor Julián Castro stepping forward.  They join candidates who announced prior to 2019, of course, and several major outlets are keeping track of all the current contenders (as well as those likely to add their names).  All told, it’s going to be a pretty crowded ring, but there will be an unprecedented four women running this election.  (Hilariously, the Hill reports that Trump is already trailing several of them in polls.)

Key links:

  1. Washington Post – Warren’s Jump into the Presidential Campaign Kicks the 2020 Race into High Gear
  2. CNN – Tulsi Gabbard Announces 2020 Run
  3. New York Times – Kamala Harris Declares Candidacy, Evoking King and Joining Diverse Field
  4. CNN – Julián Castro Officially Announces 2020 Presidential Bid
  5. Rolling Stone – The RS Politics 2020 Democratic Primary Leaderboard
  6. New York Times – Kamala Harris Has Entered the 2020 Democratic Race. Here’s Who Else is Running

Trans Ban in the Military Resumes. The Supreme Court issued a 5-4 holding today agreeing to reinstate Trump’s ban on trans military service while review of the case is pending.  They simultaneously declined to let the administration fast-track the case, which means lower appeals courts will hear the case first.  Incredibly, the administration’s winning argument was that preliminary injunctions were a ‘growing trend’ that denied them “the ability to implement significant policy measures.”  (This view, I feel the need to note, blithely ignores the fact that preliminary injunctions are only issued if there’s a high likelihood of prevailing on the merits of the larger case–in other words, the administration isn’t being discriminated against; they just keep trying to do things that are illegal.)

Key links:

  1. ABC – Supreme Court Allows Enforcement of Trump Military Transgender Ban While Appeals Continue
  2. Washington Post – Supreme Court Allows Trump Restrictions on Transgender Troops in Military to Go Into Effect as Legal Battle Continues

Actions for Everyone 

TW: Heads up, this week I’m talking about R. Kelly, Cyntoia Brown, and other potentially triggering topics related to sexual assault.

At this point in the Activism Newsletter, it feels like y’all have been in my living room for the past two years having one, lengthy, treatise on democracy – what’s working, but mostly what’s threatening our beautiful United States of America. I’m not sure if we’ve reached any conclusions yet, but I’m gonna brew another pot of coffee and let’s keep at it.

Believe Women & Do Something About It: Since we live in a rape culture, one that normalizes sexual violence specifically to woman, the fact that that “Surviving R. Kelly,” the three-part docuseries A. exists and B. exposes the fact that a lot of people knew Robert Kelly was sexual assaulting women and girls, and C. is divisive in the minds of some, is not surprising. Nor is it surprising that Cyntoia Brown was incarcerated for 15 years for killing a man that bought her for sex when she was 16 years old. In lighter news, Ms. Brown was granted clemency earlier this month, which I guess is an example of the Justice System working…?

One step in the right direction toward putting an end to rape culture is to believe a person when they tell you about something that happened to them. If it involves their body, specifically if it involves sexual violence, you simply believe them.

Men, talk to other men about what consent means, and if you know a person who has sexually assaulted someone, talk with a trained professional about how you can help them and/or intervene. To people of all genders, if you know there are sexual aggressors within your community, family, neighborhood, please speak up – we believe you.

Here’s a list of resources we all should know about:

End Hate: It’s a big order, but let’s try, shall we? After Covington Catholic High School Students departed from an anti-abortion training they’d traveled from Kentucky to D.C. to attend, they were confronted by Hebrew Israelites at the Lincoln Memorial. It was there that Nathan Phillips, who was attending the Indigenous Peoples’ March, attempted to diffuse the intense cultural collision, but was instead surrounded by CCHS students and seemingly harassed by the students, including one Nick Sannman. This video breaks everything down step-by-step. 

I’m at a loss for how to encourage everyone to be better, except to say if you see people being racists, sexists, bigots, or other violent and oppressive “ists,” please contact the Southern Poverty Law Center.  

Support those held back by the Shutdown: The partial Government Shutdown turns one-month old and has affected about 800,000 employees within 9 Government departments: Homeland Security, Justice, State and Treasury, and several agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and NASA, according to the New York Times. About 400,000 of those employees are being forced to work without getting paid, due to the National Labor Relations Act.

So, for starters, if anyone knows of a group of organizing a General Strike of Federal employees, I’d be very interested to know about it. Please email info to activism@patrothfuss.com

For secondsies, the shutdown affects more than just the employees who have been laid off, it also affects people enrolled in government programs like SNAP, whose grocery budgets get cut if the shutdown continues. If that happens, there will be millions of Americans in need of food, and so this week, I’m asking you to donate your food and time to a food shelter near you. Feeding America is a place to start.

 

Issue #83, 2019 Week 1

Improbably, the news was almost… quiet since the new year?  Although there was another week of government shutdown, a new Congress, and a lot of Trump yelling, so it might be more accurate to call the news ‘stabilized.’  There’s certainly still a lot for us to do, as you’ll see below!

 

Events to Know

Government Shutdown Sure Is (Still) Happening.  We’re currently in one of the longest shutdowns of the past forty years as it enters its third week.  Though the House passed a bill to reopen government on its first day in session, Mitch McConnell refused to let the Senate vote on it, and meetings with the White House proved less than fruitful.  So Trump resorted to flavor-of-the-day wheedling to try to get some semblance of a wall funded, leading to gems like these: “[You] don’t like concrete, so we’ll give [you] steel.”  “I’ll keep the government closed for months or even years!”  “The Shutdown is only because of the 2020 Presidential Election.”  And on Tuesday, he took to prime time airwaves to explain again how we need a wall that nobody wants because it’s “humanitarian”.  And 800,000 government workers remain along for the ride.

Key links:

  1. Washington Post – This Shutdown is Already one of the Longest Ever. Here’s How Others Ended.
  2. CNBC – House Passes Bill to End US Government Shutdown Without Border Wall Money
  3. NPR – No Deal Out Of ‘Contentious’ Shutdown Meeting At The White House
  4. New York Times – Trump Offers a ‘Steel Barrier,’ but Democrats Are Unmoved
  5. Business Insider – Here’s What Happens to Social Security and Disability Benefits During a Government Shutdown

Russia Investigation Updates. A U.S. citizen, Paul Whelan, was arrested on espionage charges in Russia at the end of 2018.  Though his family says he was only there for a vacation, he apparently had passports from three other countries and a checkered past with the Marines, so by this point it’s anybody’s guess what is going on.  And in other improbable American agent news, Paul Manafort’s attorneys accidentally revealed by improper redaction that he shared Trump campaign polling data with a Russian associate during the 2016 campaign.  So there is a lot to unpack there despite the relative quiet from Mueller this week.

Key links:

  1. CNN – Lawyer for American Charged with Espionage in Russia Appeals Detention and Applies for Bail
  2. New York Times – American Detained in Moscow Also Has British, Irish and Canadian Passports
  3. Washington Post – Paul Manafort Shared 2016 Polling Data with Russian Associate, According to Court Filing

Immigration Updates. No matter what else is going on, the 45 immigration engine just keeps churning.  Among the lowlights since the new year: Another CBP use of tear gas against migrants at the border in Tijuana, some of whom have probably been camped waiting there since the last incident in November. But there was also a surreal moment when Trump blamed Democrats for the death of two migrant children in custody over the past few weeks–deaths which, I cannot stress enough, were entirely under executive branch control at every stage; this one really isn’t a “blame on both sides” kind of situation at all.  And then, of course, there was Tuesday’s strange prime time pep talk, but on the plus side that didn’t come with any actual news attached.

Key links:

  1. New York Times – The Price of Trump’s Migrant Deterrence Strategy: New Chaos on the Border
  2. Reuters – U.S. Agents Fire Tear Gas into Mexico at ‘Violent Mob’ Near Border
  3. ABC – Trump Blames Democrats for 2 Child Deaths at Border, Says Children were Already ‘Very Sick’
  4. Washington Post – Trump’s prime-time address on the border wall shutdown, annotated

 

Recent Resilience

Recent Court Resilience.  We received judicial clarity this week that the ACA ruling out of Texas from a few weeks ago–which I’m still mad about, by the way–definitely won’t impact the law while an appeal is pending.  It’s nice to have this clarified, because it will definitely help a lot of people keep coverage while this is sorted.  And in lawsuit news, a federal employee union is suing Trump over the shutdown, alleging (probably correctly) that it’s illegal to force400,000 workers to continue performing duties indefinitely without compensation.  Needless to say, it will be very interesting to see what happens with this suit, particularly as we watch the shutdown drag on.  

Key links:

  1. NPR – Affordable Care Act Can Stay In Effect While Under Appeal, Judge Says
  2. The Hill – Workers Union Director says Shutdown Lawsuit will Prove Trump Administration Not ‘Above the Law’

 

Clemency for Cyntoia Brown.  This week, some belated clemency reached Cyntoia Brown, an inmate in Tennessee serving a life sentence for shooting her sex trafficker as a juvenile.  As he stepped down, her state governor commuted her life sentence, which will make her eligible for parole in August. You can read Brown’s extraordinarily gracious statement online.

Key links:

  1. CNN – Cyntoia Brown is Granted Clemency after Serving 15 Years in Prison for Killing Man who Bought Her for Sex
  2. Tennessean – Read Cyntoia Brown’s Full Statement on her Clemency

 

Things to Watch

New House Matters.  The House resumed on Thursday, and there’s already a lot to watch!  To start with, the Dems are refusing to seat a Republican from North Carolina–yup, you guessed it, the guy with a giant pile of ballot fraud allegations–because he’s still under investigation for said giant pile of allegations.  But this is an unprecedented Congress even without the extra bonus fraud, because the breadth of representation is a new national record.  And continuing the “new but improved” theme, the Dems in the House immediately kicked off the new session by introducing an anti-corruption billthat would limit gerrymandering and create automatic voter registration, among other changes.  And, of course, both the House and the Senate may need to act further to end the shutdown.  We’ll continue to update as things develop!

Key links:

  1. Charlotte Observer – Fight Over NC 9th District Election Could Drag on for Months, with No One Seated
  2. Guardian – New Members Sworn in to Most Diverse Congress Ever – in Pictures
  3. NPR – House Democrats Introduce Anti-Corruption Bill As Symbolic 1st Act
  4. Washington Post – The Democratic House Wants to Reform Democracy. It’s Not a Panacea — But it’s a Start

 

Remaining Mueller Miscellany.  There are a lot of dangling ends on the Mueller investigation, so there’s a lot to track! Michael Flynn’s delayed sentenceis still on the radar, and it remains to be seen what Mueller will do with his copy of Roger Stone’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.  Then, of course, there’s still all of the ongoing shenanigans with acting AG Matthew Whittaker, not to mention the admission Paul Manafort just made… it’s starting to feel like we all need a scorecard, but we’ll continue to keep you posted as new developments occur!

Key links:

  1. NPR – Federal Judge Delays Michael Flynn Sentencing After Plea Of Lying To Feds
  2. The Hill – House Intel Votes to Release Roger Stone Transcript to Mueller
  3. Politico – DOJ Delaying Whitaker Testimony Before House

Actions for Everyone

 

Happy new year everyone! I’m so glad we are here and we got through 2018 together. I think we should visualize this new year as the Year of Impeachment! Here’s to us and justice and all that is good!

A Green New Deal & the Sunrise Movement: Ralph Nader uses the phrase Climate Destruction instead of Climate Change to describe the extreme weather patterns caused by human influence on earth, which feels accurate because Climate Change is a seemingly ineffective term these days. My personal favorite newest member of Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is urgently calling for a Green New Deal and has written a proposal that spells out a 10-year-plan which seems to have fallen flat with moderates such as Nancy Pelosi (although she also calls climate destruction “the existential threat of our time.”)

 

There’s a group of young folks called Sunrise Movement, a movement to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process. They’re on board with Ocasio-Cortez’ Green New Deal and are urging YOU to call your Reps. Additionally, they have an Action Center where you can find a chapter near you, volunteer, and stay involved.
We still have no government – The government shutdown is still in full swing and we will probably not see any moves till Pelosi is officially leader on January 3rd. We need to keep an eye on what is to come. How this shutdown may affect agencies and specially government workers who will be financially in jeopardy because of the president’s tantrum for his “steel slats”.

We can still let our voices be heard about the matter by calling our representatives to let them know we demand an end to this nonsense shutdown but that the people will not budge on the approval for any budget that considers a border wall. We say no to racism and xenophobia and welcome a world without borders, frontier-less.

Call your reps here.

We also should raise our voices in favor of the workers who will be affected by this shutdown by asking that the House pass a bill introduced by democrat senator Van Hollen that ensures federal employees will be paid back in case of a Shutdown. Senate already passed it so now we’re waiting for a “yes” from the House.

Investigate the DHS – After the tragic death of two immigrant children in the hands of the Department of Homeland Security, Sen. Dianne Feinstein from California has asked the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing and investigate on the matter.

Call on your senators, specially if they are part of the Judiciary Committee to show you support this hearing.

Self care is also direct action – You guys know I’m big on self care. I believe it’s an integrative part of our movement. If we don’t take care of ourselves we can’t take care of the rest of the world! I’m corny and I don’t care. Being constantly informed and aware of all that goes on in this here world is hard. So my 2019 “resolution” is to start a list of things I’m grateful for. And yeah, it sounds very “live, laugh, love” of me but then again, who doesn’t like living, laughing and loving? Let yourself be basic. Make thinking about how you can improve your mental health one of your actions this week. We need us to be healthy so we can keep on being strong.
And here are the Things That Made Me Smile this week:

This article full of environmental good news!

This video of beautiful human-animal hugs

Issue #82, 2018 Week 51

With the comparative quiet on the border, I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop for a couple of weeks now, and, well… a child-sized shoe definitely has.  The border news is a sobering reminder that while things sometimes make Trump’s administration seem comically ineffectual, they are capable of a great deal of damage–which is why we have the Activism Newsletter, and suggestions on what to do to help!

 

Events to Know

Russian Attempts at Influence.  Russian professional Maria Butina pleaded guilty to conspiring to act as a foreign agent for Russia–and sure enough, the plea admitted that the NRA was a primary target for infiltration.  Butina agreed to cooperate with prosecutors as part of her plea deal, which may have interesting implications in the near future.  Meanwhile, and relatedly, a conservative anti-kleptocracy organization run by the Hudson Institute was in the news for accepting a major donation from Russian oligarch Leonard Blavanik.  And a new report prepared for the Senate shows that we grossly underestimated the scope of Russia’s media campaign, which spanned Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube.  So it’s been a pretty busy week for news about Russian influence on the U.S.

Key links:

  1. NPR – Maria Butina Pleads Guilty In Foreign Agent Case, Admits Clandestine Influence Scheme
  2. NBC – Russian Operative Maria Butina Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy
  3. Nonprofit Quarterly – Kleptocracy and Philanthropy: Viral Tainting among the Elite
  4. Washington Post – New Report on Russian Disinformation, Prepared for the Senate, Shows the Operation’s Scale and Sweep

Noted Recent Trump Scandals. Info started trickling in this week about Trump’s presence in the room when American Media Inc decided to pay Karen McDougal hush money, which was a transfer of money the company confirmed did occur in light of the Cohen plea in the past week.  News that Trump was present for the discussions definitely supports Cohen’s claim that Trump knew about the deal ahead of time, and does nothing to make Trump look more credible.  Meanwhile, the Trump inaugural committee and a related super PACare also now under investigation for misspending donations and accepting pay-to-play bribes.   And the Trump Foundation was ordered disbanded, with all remaining assets being donated to actual charities, as part of the ongoing New York investigation into its many, many willful misdeeds–an investigation that will continue past when the organization disbands, which should be really interesting.  All told, this makes at least six separate investigations into Trump-related misconduct–as the Washington Post gleefully notes, nearly every organization Trump has led in the past decade is currently being scrutinized.

Key links:

  1. Variety – National Enquirer Parent Admits to Making Karen McDougal Payments to Help Trump in 2016 Election
  2. NBC – Trump was in the Room During Hush Money Discussions with Tabloid Publisher
  3. New York Times – Trump Inaugural Fund and Super PAC Said to be Scrutinized for Illegal Foreign Donations
  4. Bloomberg – Trump Faces Threat in New York Lawsuit Even After Charity Closes
  5. NBC – First Read: All the President’s Investigations
  6. Washington Post – “Over My Dead Body”: Giuliani Dismisses Prospect of Trump Interview with Mueller 

Immigration Updates. After a couple of weeks of relative quiet, there was a lot of immigration news this past week, and some of it is really upsetting.  At the beginning of the week, a third protest regarding the backlog of people waiting for entry in Tijuana, Mexico, this time on the U.S. side in San Diego, resulted in 31 arrests for trespassing.  Shortly after, Trump announced that he wants to deport Vietnam War refugees despite a 2008 treaty protecting them, which has House members immediately pushing back.  News also broke that the tent city shelter in Tornillo is doubling its capacity to 3,000 beds–a particularly upsetting fact because kids housed there apparently don’t have access to education or counseling and the administration has been waiving background checks for staff there since the shelter was opened.  But the most horrifying news came in at the end of the week, when the Washington Post first reported that a seven-year-old Guatemalan girl died at a CBP checkpoint a full week ago without any acknowledgement or investigation from the administration.  Eventually DHS released a statement that blamed the dangerous trip up, the girl’s father countered that she was healthy before arriving and that she waited over 90 minutes for any medical care, and the DHS inspector general began an investigation.

Key links:

  1. NBC12 – The Latest: US Arrests 32 at San Diego Border Protest
  2. Atlantic – Democrats Challenge Trump Over Vietnam Deportations
  3. Texas Tribune – No one on the Inside can Talk about What’s Happening at the Tent City for Migrant Kids
  4. Washington Post – Hours Before Her Collapse in U.S. Custody, a Dying Migrant Child’s Condition Went Unnoticed
  5. CBS – DHS watchdog investigating death of 7-year-old migrant girl

 

Recent Resilience

Happier Environmental News.  This week brought good news about carbon emissions, which is a welcome change from previous weeks’ news about carbon emissions!  Though the U.S. were conspicuously absent from the table, the rest of the climate change diplomats from 200 countries met in Poland and negotiated a deal to keep the Paris Treaty moving forward this week.  And in similarly positive and literally lukewarm environmental news, scientists have begun to notice that coral reefs that survive warm periods remain resilient in subsequent warm periods, suggesting that coral bleaching may be slowly addressed by natural selection.  Good job, Mother Nature!

Key links:

  1. NPR – Nations Agree On Rules To Put Paris Climate Agreement Into Action
  2. New York Times – Scientists Find Some Hope for Coral Reefs: The Strong May Survive

 

Things to Watch

Staff Shuffle Circus.  Despite announcing last week that Chief of Staff John Kelly will be out by the end of the year, Trump seems to be having a tough timefinding a replacement–when even Chris Christie turns you down, you know things are looking pretty dire.  Eventually he ended up making his current budget directorMick Mulvaney, start doing the job until he can get somebody else to do it—and in case anyone is curious, no, it’s not normal to make a budget director start taking on chief of staff duties a week before a government shutdown.  Meanwhile, Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke resigned this week–by tweet, because 2018–to spend more time with his remaining scandals.  And Ben Carson’s deputy at HUD resigned as well.  Needless to say, this kind of turnover remains unprecedented, and I can only imagine how hellish conditions must be inside the White House.

Key links:

  1. The Hill – Chris Christie declines White House chief of staff role
  2. Washington Post – Donald Trump Names Budget Director Mick Mulvaney as Acting White House Chief of Staff
  3. New York Times – Ryan Zinke, Face of Trump Environmental Rollbacks, is Leaving Interior Department
  4. NBC – Pam Patenaude Resigns from HUD, Top Deputy to Ben Carson
  5. New York Times – You’re Hired! You’re Fired! Yes, the Turnover at the Top of the Trump Administration is … “Unprecedented.”

 

Government Showdown Shade.  In other ridiculous government news, Trump’s repeated insistence on a border wall has been leading to inevitable fights with Pelosi and Schumer all week as they attempt to negotiate to avoid shutdown.  Eventually, Trump stormed out of a meeting, prompting Pelosi to comment that it’s “like a manhood thing for him–as if manhood could ever be associated with him.”  (Since most adult men don’t throw temper tantrums, I’m not inclined to say she’s wrong.)  At the time that I write this, both sides expect a shutdown, in part because the rest of the GOP doesn’t have room to maneuver and in part because some of the lame duck legislators aren’t bothering to show up to vote.  Needless to say, it’s gonna be an interesting end of the week.

Key links:

  1. CNN – Trump Defends Shutdown Threat after Clashing with Pelosi, Schumer
  2. Newsweek- Donald Trump “Stormed Out” of Oval Office after Heated Meeting with Democratic Leaders, MSNBC Guest Claims
  3. Washington Post – White House, Democrats Dig in As Fears of Partial Shutdown Intensify
  4. New York Times – A Shutdown Looms. Can the GOP Get Lawmakers to Show Up to Vote?

ACA Attacks. A federal judge in Texas concluded this week that the entire Affordable Care Act should be thrown out because it found the individual mandate to be unconstitutional after Congress reduced the penalty to $0 in 2017.  On the plus side, there is no injunction attached, which means the ACA stays in effect while this is inevitably appealed, and the ruling does not affect 2019 enrollment coverage.  But nonetheless, these Groundhog Day attempts at undoing popular and necessary legislation purely because Obama engineered it are beyond frustrating, and potentially can have very real consequences if appeals aren’t favorable to the ACA.  We’ll need to keep a very careful eye on this, but for now we’re all ambling forward.

Key links:

  1. CNN – Federal Judge in Texas Strikes Down Affordable Care Act
  2. NPR – What You Need To Know About The Affordable Care Act After Texas Ruling

Issue #81, 2018 Week 50

Well, this week sure happened!  It was like three weeks crammed into a one-week bag (again), but at least there was some good mixed in among the bad.  So, as is so often true these days, it could have been worse.

Events to Know

Cohen Conviction.  Though Cohen requested a favorable sentence that lacked prison time just like Flynn’s, that wasn’t quite what he got from federal prosecutors recommending a substantial prison sentence on Friday.  Mueller himself was a bit more forgiving, noting Cohen’s efforts to cooperate and other mitigating factors.  Ultimately, Cohen was sentenced to three years in prisonand nearly $2 million in fees the following Wednesday, suggesting the judge listened to both Mueller and the other prosecutors. The other key thing to know: The forty-page sentencing memorandum directly implicates Donald Trump on issues of campaign finance, which has the potential to be a first step in charges against Trump himself.

Key Links:

  1. The Atlantic – Three Remarkable Things About Michael Cohen’s Plea
  2. New York Times – Michael Cohen Sentenced to 3 Years After Implicating Trump in Hush-Money Scandal
  3. Chicago Tribune: ‘Individual 1’: Donald Trump Emerges as a Central Subject of Mueller Probe
  4. CNN – Donald Trump Jr., Trump Org. in Spotlight after Cohen Plea

Comey Questioned by Committee.  While everything else was going on, former FBI Director James Comey was deposed on Friday by two House committees regarding Russia and Hillary Clinton’s emails.  Comey complained after that most of the questions were about Clinton, and to his point, her name shows up in the transcript 116 times (and for those of y’all playing the home game, this contrasts with ‘Russia’ coming up 128 times and ‘collusion’ coming up only 16).  But of course, that didn’t stop Trump from tweeting about the Steele dossier two days later because something something Rigged Fraud.

Key Links:

  1. Washington Post – Trump Promises a ‘Major Counter Report’ to Rebut Mueller’s Findings
  2. The Hill – Trump Says Approval Rating Would be 75 Percent Without Mueller
  3. CNN – Rex Tillerson Says Trump Got ‘Frustrated’ When Told he Couldn’t do Something that ‘Violates the Law’
  4. Washington Post – Russians Interacted with at Least 14 Trump Associates During the Campaign and Transition
  5. New York Times – Prosecutors Effectively Accuse Trump of Defrauding Voters. What Does It Mean?
  6. Associated Press – Top House Dems Raise Prospect of Impeachment, Jail for Trump

Other Russia Investigation Updates.  This was not Trump’s best week regarding the Russia investigation, so it’s not surprisingly he was yelling about “a major Counter Report” to respond to Mueller’s investigation and generally degrading it with typo-ridden tweets.  (It’s a bit less understandable that he apparently blames Mueller for his low approval rating, and also got into a protracted fight with Rex Tillerson, who doesn’t even work for him anymore, but I guess everyone blows off steam differently?)  Of course, if I were him, I’d be most worried about the news that fourteen different associates had contact with Russia during his campaign and transition, the fact that he got accused of committing a felony in Cohen’s sentencing memo, or the fact that House Dems are starting to call for impeachment.  But that’s just me.

Key Links:

  1. BBC – Trump calls for CNN boss Jeff Zucker to be fired
  2. The Verge – Trump’s latest misleading attack on Google, explained
  3. Washington Post – Trump suggests protesting should be illegal

Recent Resilience

Heather Heyer Case Ends in Conviction.   This is less ‘good’ and more ‘grimly satisfying,’ but the man who killed Heather Heyer in Charlottesville last year, James Fields, was convicted of first degree murder this week. He now faces the possibility of life in prison, and in fact the jury’s full recommendation was life plus 419 years of incarceration (though the final sentencing won’t happen until March 29).  Nothing that happened in his trial will bring back the person he killed, but it’s important to see society taking this kind of hate crime seriously.

Key Links:

  1. New York Times – Jury Recommends Life in Prison for James Fields in Fatal Charlottesville Attack
  2. NPR – Charlottesville Jury Recommends 419 Years Plus Life For Neo-Nazi Who Killed Protester
                                                            

Pentagon Relents.  This one is actual good news, I promise!  A court decision has forced the Pentagon to start sending green card holding recruits to basic training again, ending a form of discrimination that was hurting the military as well as denying opportunities to immigrants.  It’s unclear whether this policy will be permanently overturned, because it’s another stay via injunction, but it’s nonetheless a step in the right direction.

Key Links:

  1. ABC – Pentagon will resume sending green card holding recruits to training to comply with court order
  2. Washington Post – After losing court battle, Pentagon will send green-card holders to recruit training

Things to Watch

Dow and Meng Turbulence.  The Dow had been doing a bit better of late, probably because Trump announced a tentative deal with China.  But then Canada arrested a Chinese company’s CFO, Meng Wanzhou, over alleged attempts to circumvent Iran sanctions, and all H-E-double-hockeystick broke loose (for both the Dow and world politics).  At the time that I write this, Meng is facing charges, trade talks between China and the US are understandably shaky, China is trying to separate the talks from the arrest, and the market has no idea what is going on.  So where we are by this time next week is kind of anybody’s guess.

Key Links:

  1. Bloomberg – U.S. Pursued Huawei CFO’s Arrest Despite Risk to Trade Talks With Xi
  2. CNBC – Dow Tumbles More than 500 Points, Wipes out Gain for the Year to Cap Wild Week on Wall Street
  3. Reuters – U.S. Accuses Huawei CFO of Iran Sanctions Cover-Up; Hearing Adjourned
  4. South China Morning Post – China Separates Arrest of Huawei Executive Sabrina Meng Wanzhou from US Trade Talks

More Saudi Sketchiness.  News broke this week that Saudi-representing lobbyists booked 500 rooms at a Trump hotel immediately after the 2016 election, which would probably be an emoluments clause violation if we could get everybody to agree that’s still a thing.  (Fortunately for us, judges, about half of Congress, and a bunch of angry ethics groups keep remembering for us, so we’ll likely see this latest news pop up in court as well.)  The news is causing people to pay closer attention to Jared Kushner’s unusually strong ties to the Saudi royal family, and it’s very possible we’ll see Kushner more directly swept up in one or more of the other investigations, so it behooves us to keep an eye on all of this.

Key Links:

  1. Fortune – 500 Rooms Were Booked by Saudi-Connected Lobbyists at Trump’s D.C. Hotel in 2016-2017, Report Says
  2. New York Times -The Wooing of Jared Kushner: How the Saudis Got a Friend in the White House

New Staffing Nightmares.  Trump announced at the end of this week that he’ll be selecting Bush-era AG William Barr as the next Attorney General and former Fox anchor Heather Nauert as the next UN Ambassador.  And between Barr’s weird fixation on investigating Clinton and Nauert’s… well, Foxnewsiness, these aren’t exactly picks that fill most of us with confidence.  (Both Barr and Nauert will need to be approved by the Senate, so this should be an interesting month, to say the least.)  And rumors also started brewing this week that Trump and White House chief of staff John Kelly were no longer speaking, and that John Kelly’s job was not long for this world.  Then Trump announced that Kelly would be gone by the end of the year, but his preferred pick Nick Ayers refused the job, and now this part of the news cycle is pretty much a free-for-all.  So the trajectory of that last one is anybody’s guess.

Key links:

  1. New York Times – Trump Will Nominate William Bar as Attorney General
  2. New Yorker – Trump Picks the Former Fox News Anchor Heather Nauert as His U.N. Ambassador
  3. CNN – Kelly Expected to Resign Soon, No Longer on Speaking Terms with Trump
  4. Washington Post – Nick Ayers, Trump’s Once-Likely Replacement for Chief of Staff John Kelly, Won’t Take the Job
  5. Reuters – Exclusive: Trump says he is looking at 10 or 12 candidates for chief of staff job
Actions for Everyone

We’re almost done with 2018! We did it folks. Give yourself a pat in the back. You got this. 2 more weeks! I hope everyone has a great time for the holidays.

You still have time to apply for Healthcare! – Open enrollment ends on December 15th, which means you still have time! Head over to Healthcare.govand enroll. Help your friends, family and neighbors enroll too! The current administration doesn’t want you to be aware of this so TELL EVERYONE! Scream it out loud

Justice for Cyntoia Brown – As you all probably know, because it’s been in the news all last week, Cyntoia Brown, a young girl who was in a sex trafficking ring and bought as a sex slave and who killed her captor is unjustly being sentenced to life in prison with a possibility of parole in 51 years. We obviously think this is a completely unreasonable sentence and a serious case of victim blaming.

Folks are asking Tennessee’s governor Bill Haslam to intervene. He can grant her clemency before he leaves office in January.

The Women’s March is also addressing the issue in their nationwide march on January 19th, 2019.

You can also write to Cyntoia. She needs all the support in the world. This is the current address shown for her:

Cyntoia Brown
#410593
Tennessee Prison for Women
2 North, B49
3881 Stewarts Lane
Nashville, TN 37218-3302

This week is loaded with so many issues, the great Celeste Pewter at I Called My Reps has an extensive lists of actions you can also look into. Follow her!

And here are the Things That Make Me Smile:

This baby flamingo wearing blue boots

Issue #80, 2018 Week 49

Holy crow, there is so much wild Russia investigation news this week I considered creating a new section for it.  (An analogy I wrote earlier today, and I stand by: “Mueller is driving a go-cart that runs on biodiesel through a mine field and lucky for us, he’s one of the best go-cart drivers in America.”)  The rest of the week’s news is fairly middling, which means it’s mostly overshadowed, but given how difficult some of the past weeks have been that’s not a bad thing.

Events to Know

Cohen Joins the Fray.  In addition to the ongoing Manafort plea drama, Russia investigation news got even more bonkers this week on Thursday when Michael Cohen surprised everybody by entering a plea deal (yes, again).  This time the plea involved Mueller’s charges of lying to Congress about plans for the Trump Tower in Moscow, which by the way included a penthouse for Putin.  The documents made it clear that the the Trump camp’s business negotiations with Russia continued past when Trump won the primary, potentially linking Cohen to the Kremlin during campaign season.  Since Mueller waited until after Trump had answered his questions to enter the plea deal, we know that Trump’s story lines up with Cohen’s, but the plea deal still has plenty of implications for Trump on its face, and is inviting further speculation about what the Kremlin might have on him.  The details of the plea suggest that Trump Jr lied to Congress as well, though we don’t know the exact contents of his Congressional testimony, and we’re very likely to hear more on that soon one way or another–especially with a new House Committee that is far more interested in a full investigation.

Key Links:

  1. The Atlantic – Three Remarkable Things About Michael Cohen’s Plea
  2. New York Times – Cohen Pleads Guilty and Details Trump’s Involvement in Moscow Tower Project
  3. Chicago Tribune: ‘Individual 1’: Donald Trump Emerges as a Central Subject of Mueller Probe
  4. CNN – Donald Trump Jr., Trump Org. in Spotlight after Cohen Plea
  5. Salon – Devin Nunes Protected Roger Stone and Donald Trump Jr. from Mueller Probe: Democrats Won’t

Finalizing Flynn Sentencing.  Mueller issued sentencing recommendations this week for Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI over a year ago on December 1, 2017. Incredibly, the memo references nineteen different interviews, which I would say definitely counts as “substantial cooperating” with Mueller, and that cooperation plus the memo’s the frequent redactions should have Trump worried.  Given the breadth of cooperation, it’s not surprising that Mueller is recommending a sentence “at the low end of the advisory guideline range”–although for Flynn’s sake, I hope the sentence due on December 18 also includes some kind of witness protection.

Key Links:

  1. New York Times – Mueller Says Flynn ‘Substantially’ Aided Probe of Possible Links Between Russia, Trump Campaign
  2. Washington Post – Mueller Seeks No Prison Time for Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Citing his “Substantial Assistance”
  3. CNN – Mueller Recommends no Prison for Flynn, Citing Cooperation

GM Gets Out of Dodge. GM announced this week that they are closing seven American factories and pulling 14,000 jobs in the next year, which unsurprisingly has Trump seeing red–after all, it’s kind of hard to argue that manufacturing jobs are coming back when they’re literally disappearing.  In a huff, he announced he’s pulling GM subsidies in the coming year.  Of course, GM doesn’t actually have any government subsidies right now, but he’s not letting that stop him, and neither is the stock market; GM’s shares have dropped substantially since he made the threat.  2018, y’all.

Key Links:

  1. Detroit Free Press – GM’s Secret Plan to Shut Plants, Cut Jobs Likely Signals More to Come
  2. Fortune – Trump Threatened to Pull GM’s ‘Subsidies’ Over Plant Closings. But There’s One Question: What Subsidies?
  3. CNBC – General Motors’ Shares Fall after Trump Threatens to cut its Subsidies as Retaliation for Layoffs

Recent Resilience

                                                               
Congressional Resilience.  The House and the Senate have reached a deal on this year’s farm bill, and the final form does not include work requirements for SNAP benefits.  This is exciting if you’re me, both because work requirements for food were a terrible idea and because the House GOP won’t have another opportunity to put this in place for at least another two years.  And speaking of good news about terrible ideas, despite some touch-and-go offers from Schumer the Senate Dems have conclusively stated they won’t be funding a wall.  The House won’t change hands for another few weeks, but we’re already starting to see positive changes.

Key Links:

  1. Washington Post – Deal to Pass Farm Bill Scraps House GOP Plan for New Food Stamp Work Requirements
  2. The Week – 3 Reasons Why Work Requirements for Food Stamps are a Bad Idea
  3. The Hill – Schumer: Dems Oppose Spending More than $1.6B on Border Security

Things to Watch

Border Updates (again).   In the wake of last week’s border news, we continue to hear bad things on the immigration front. Mexican officials continue to hint that they might agree to make U.S. asylum seekers remain in Mexico, which would leave many people in danger.  Some of the asylum seekers in Tijuana have begun a hunger strike in response, using a form of protest unlikely to jeopardize their legal case. Meanwhile, an independent autopsy report done on a trans asylum seeker who died in ICE custody suggests that she died from intentional custodial abuse.  And we also learned that tent cities holding unaccompanied kids have been waiving background checks for staff workers with this administration’s blessing since the tent city opened in June.  They nonetheless still require full immigration checks for sponsors who step forward to take unaccompanied kids out of shelters, leaving shelter numbers artificially high, which is why they have a shelter staffing crisis in the first place.

Key Links:

  1. Reuters – Trump Demand that Asylum Seekers Wait in Mexico May Turn on Legal Clause
  2. NPR – Trump Plan Could Leave Asylum-Seekers At Risk In Mexico
  3. Newsweek – Migrants Waiting at U.S. border Begin Hunger Strike as they Wait for Asylum
  4. New York Times – Independent Autopsy of Transgender Asylum Seeker Who Died in ICE Custody Shows Signs of Abuse
  5. NBC – Trump Administration Waived Strict Background Checks for Staff at Migrant Child Detention Camp
  6. New Yorker – To Free Detained Children, Immigrant Families Are Forced to Risk Everything

Election ‘Irregularities.’  We finally found evidence of the voter fraud that the GOP keeps insisting is happening this week, and it was perpetuated by… the GOP in North Carolina.  Which is particularly bad, because North Carolina often serves as a bellwether for what the next form of GOP shenanigans will be on the national stage.  The results have so many irregularities that the elections board refuses to certify the results, instead taking a few weeks to gather evidence on all the malfeasance.  Among the incredible things being documented: sitting on absentee ballotsforging absentee ballots; and ballot bundling.  Meanwhile, GOP legislators in Wisconsin and Michigan are taking steps to strip power from offices with incoming Democrats in move very reminiscent of North Carolina’s gubernatorial struggles in 2016. (See, this is why I say that North Carolina is a bellwether.)  We definitely need to be keeping tabs on these stories, for obvious reason.

Key Links:

  1. New York Magazine – North Carolina Race Roiled by Claims of Voter Fraud — But Not the Kind the GOP Worries About
  2. CNN – North Carolina Elections Board Delays Certification of Congressional Election Results Again
  3. Charlotte Observer – ‘Tangled web’ in Bladen County has Questions Swirling about Votes in the 9th District
  4. Washington Post – Republicans in Wisconsin and Michigan, defeated in November, seek payback by limiting the powers of incoming Democrats

G20 Takeaways.   The G20 summit was this past weekend, and a huge amount managed to happen besides dictator bromance.  For one thing, Trump managed to meet the President of China there and work out a trade war truce, which is tentatively relieving–though he immediately tweeted about the Great Leap Forward apparently by accident, so who only knows where we’ll be by the end of the week.  Trump also initially signaled he was canceling a meeting with Putin, but then managed to have an ‘informal’ meeting with him anyway.  Other events of note: Major climate change protests offsite in the city; a joint statement of commitment to combat climate change (signed by literally everybody but us); and Trump canceled the scheduled press conference, citing George H.W. Bush’s death as the reason.   Given other recent climate change news, this is worth keeping track of as well.

Key links:

  1. CNBC – This timeline Shows How the US-China Trade war led to Trump and Xi’s High-Stakes Meeting
  2. Washington Post – Trump Used a Really Unfortunate Phrase While Hailing Progress with China
  3. The Hill – White House: Trump had ‘Informal’ Conversation with Putin at G-20
  4. NBC – Thousands Protest in Argentina During G20 Summit
  5. Vox – The US Got its Own Section in the G20 Statement on Climate Change
  6. Politico – Trump Cancels G-20 Press Conference
Actions for Everyone

Midterm Aftermath: 2018 Midterm elections took states from red to blue throughout the country, and especially in historically purple states like Wisconsin and Michigan. Now, in an effort to maintain power, the Republican controlled executive and legislative branches are looking to slash control of newly elected Democratic officials take office, such as WI governor elect Tony Evers. According to an article by the New York Times, some proposed power grabs in Wisconsin include: new limits on early voting, a shift in the timing of the 2020 presidential primary in Wisconsin, and new authority for lawmakers on state litigation. They also want to slash the power of incoming attorney general (D) Josh Kau.

Apart from pulling up the blankets and staying in bed all day thinking dark, nihilistic thoughts and waiting for the demise of our democracy, if this is happening in your state you can and should call your state reps! People are gathering in Wisconsin’s state capitol to make their voices heard. If the power grab vote goes through, get ready for litigation, keep calling your electeds, and stay tuned.

Fourth National Climate Change Assessment: The Global Change Research Act of 1990 mandates the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) deliver a report to Congress and the President no less than every four years. I know we talked about it in last week’s issue, but a climate assessment came out  (the front cover is an image of wildfires, just to set the tone) and Trump says, “I don’t believe it.”

Imagine living your life with a slight 1 or 2 degree fever due to a lifelong infection, and that’s what climate change is on the earth. Anyway, there are huge policy (and incompetence) issues at play here, but what can we do about it? We can change the way we impact the earth.
Here’s a list of money saving, which translates to environmentally conscious, ways to keep your energy bills down as well as limit your eco footprint.       
Things that make me smile: As old as his presidency itself, but to me, it’s timeless – Trump(et) Donald

Issue #79, 2018 Week 48

This past week… what can I say, this week had a lot of turkeys.  (It’s a fraught time for most of us under the best of circumstances, and much like the leftovers we’re all wrangling, the news this week was a bit much.)  But we’re here to keep you posted and help you figure out how to take next steps!

Events to Know

Election Endings.  Most of the residual election news is resolved by now, with Mississippi’s runoff resulting in one more GOP senator but a closer race than expected.  Meanwhile, the Dems duke it out over who will lead the House, but increasingly Nancy Pelosi is looking likely–a fact only underscored by the op-ed she wrote in the Washington Post.  It’s been an unusually long window for figuring out what happened on November 6, but things are settling, and we’re looking at a divided Congress.  And after the last two years, that’s a step towards equilibrium.

Key links:

  1. New York Times – Mississippi Senate Election Results: Cindy Hyde-Smith vs. Mike Epsy
  2. CNN – Nine Democrats Vow to Oppose Pelosi for Speaker Unless House Rule Changes are Adopted
  3. Washington Post – The Democratic Majority’s First Order of Business: Restore Democracy

Climate Change Calamities. All right y’all, this one is way out of my lane, so bear with me.  A Climate Science Special Report was issued at the end of last week pursuant to the Fourth National Climate Assessment, and its conclusions about climate change were… well, not great, let’s just put it that way.  Specifically, the report concluded that climate change would cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars by the end of the century due to severe disruption of American exports and supply chains.  It also concluded that climate change was making the fires in California worse and that changing temperatures would prematurely kill thousands each year by the end of the century.  So of course Trump’s response was that he “doesn’t believe” the report.  I’d pity the fool, but since he’s taking the whole planet with him it’s kind of hard.  (Sorry, y’all, there’s really nothing I can say that makes this better so I’ll be relying on President T jokes for the duration.)

Key links:

  1. Fourth National Climate Assessment Volume II: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States
  2. Reuters – Clashing with Trump, U.S. Government Report Says Climate Change Will Batter Economy
  3. CNN – Climate Change Will Shrink US Economy and Kill Thousands, Government Report Warns
  4. Wall Street Journal – Trump Says He Doesn’t Believe Climate-Change Report’s Economic Predictions


But Her Emails. Ivanka Trump was in the news this week for using her personal email account for government business throughout 2017, which you may recall is exactly what Hillary Clinton did that led Trump to lead chants to “lock her up.”  It’s ironic that this story is resurfacing at the same time news breaks that Trump tried to order the Justice Department to prosecute Clinton.  But in true White House fashion, they are refusing to comment while Republicans are subpoenaing James Comey and Loretta Lynch on their handling of the same exact topic–because somehow there’s still a House investigation into FBI’s actions in mid-2016, despite it currently being November 2018.  On the plus side, that will probably slow to a crawl come January once the House changes hands.  And if you need a score card just to keep all of this straight, I feel you friends; I can barely track it and I write the Events to Know section!

Key links:

  1. CNN – Ivanka Trump Used Personal Account for Emails About Government Business
  2. New York Times – Trump Wanted to Order Justice Dept. to Prosecute Comey and Clinton
  3. ABC – No White House Comment on NYT Report Trump Wanted Clinton, Comey Prosecuted
  4. New York Times – Republicans Subpoena James Comey and Loretta Lynch Over Clinton Email Case

Recent Resilience

Recent Court Resilience. When Trump threw a wobbly about last week’s stay on his asylum rule, we saw another form of court resilience–more specifically, Chief Justice Roberts stepped up to the plate to tell him to knock it off already.  That’s a big deal, because it means the courts are protecting their own agency, and Roberts–a Dubbya appointee, belying Trump’s point about “Obama judges”–was the one to say something.  Naturally, Trump handled this by doubling down despite conservatives backing the Chief.  Then, after Trump had made it real clear that he didn’t care what Roberts had to say, he asked the Chief for a favor the next day.  It’s gonna be some sweet schadenfreude when they tell him no on that last point.

Key links:

  1. The Hill – Trump rails against Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals after asylum ruling
  2. Washington Post – Roberts, Trump spar in extraordinary scrap over judges
  3. Slate – Trump Doubles Down on Fight Against Chief Justice by Continuing Tirade Against Judges
  4. NPR – White House Asks Supreme Court To Fast-Track Ruling On Transgender Military Ban

Things to Watch

Border Updates.  This is a rough story that I can’t candy-coat, and it’s still developing.  Before the holiday, Trump approved use of force by troops (which, incidentally, probably violates the Posse Comitatus Act) and threatened to close the Mexican border, and by Sunday he had struck a deal with Mexico to make asylee seekers wait there instead of entering the U.S.  Between artificially long waits during normal processing and Trump’s constant threats not to take asylees at all, unrest caused about 500 people to protest at the San Ysidro port (at the U.S. southern border between Tijuana and San Diego) on Sunday.  The protest started out peaceful, but when people started to evade a police blockade and run towards the border, U.S. border officials began firing tear gas at the crowd of women and children and the border was shut down entirely.  Eventually it was reopened later in the day, but Mexico has begun deporting the people at the demonstration.  Trump is now calling for Mexico to deport everyone at the border and is back to threatening to close the border permanently.  Happy Thanksgiving, pilgrims.

Key links:

  1. Military Times – White House Approves Use of Force, Some Law Enforcement Roles for Border Troops
  2. Washington Post – Deal with Mexico Paves Way for Asylum Overhaul at U.S. Border
  3. CNN – They’re Steps Away from the US Border. But Crossing it Legally Could Take Weeks
  4. New York Times – Migrants in Tijuana Run to U.S. Border, but Fall Back in Face of Tear Gas
  5. BBC – Migrant Caravan: Mexico Deports Group that Stormed US Border
  6. New York Post – Trump Threatens to Permanently Close Mexico Border After Clashes

Mueller vs. Manafort. Mueller announced this week that Manafort lied to federal officials about a broad range of topics after pleading guilty in September, which is a pretty serious breach of the plea agreement–and Mueller’s likely right that it renders the whole deal forfeit.  The special counsel is recommending that Manafort be sentenced immediately, and he may face a decade or more in jail.  Meanwhile, the Guardian is reporting that Manafort met with Julian Assange several times before the 2016 election, which a few other outlets believe is related to the Mueller status report.

Key links:

  1. New York Times – Manafort Breached Plea Deal by Repeatedly Lying, Mueller Says
  2. CNN – Manafort Lied After Pleading Guilty, Mueller’s Team Says
  3. Guardian – Manafort Held Secret Talks with Assange in Ecuadorian Embassy, Sources Say


Slow Government Shutdown Showdown. Congress and Trump are edging towards a shutdown showdown yet again this week as we near December 7, which is the next stopgap funding deadline to track–and just like every other time, Trump is threatening to let a government shutdown happen if he doesn’t get his border wall funded.  Meanwhile, Flake is edging towards getting that Mueller bill on the floor by continuing to refuse to vote on judges unless there’s a vote on bipartisan special counsel protection legislation instead.  That said, his group is running out of time (both due to the shutdown date and because Flake himself is retiring at the end of the term), so it will need to happen soon if it happens at all.

Key links:

  1. New York Times – Trump Tells Republicans He Won’t Budge on Wall, Raising Odds of Shutdown
  2. Roll Call – Cornyn Says Flake Might Get Mueller Protection Vote to Get More Judges Confirmed
  3. The Hill – Senate GOP Discussing Vote on Mueller Protection Bill

 

Actions for Everyone

Women in Puerto RIco are rising up! –  A group of women in Puerto Rico have been protesting in front of the governor’s house asking him to sign an executive order that establishes a National Emergency Plan that against gender-based violence. The demonstration has been going since last friday; the women are sleeping in tents in front of the government building. There have been violent encounters with the police, some resulting in pepper and tear gas being sprayed on the demonstrators. I believe it is important we support these women by making their demands be heard and virilizing this story. Here is an article to learn more.

Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act –  The H.R. 6545: Violence Against Women Act which “establishes funding and grants towards criminal investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women” is expiring on December 7th. We need to call our representatives in the House and the Senate to make sure it goes through. Call your reps to demand they vote in favor.

Care for our National Park –  The Guardian wrote a wonderful article that focuses on how crowds, motivated by social media, are putting our National Parks and natural areas in danger. I highly suggest a reading! I looked into it and the organization Leave No Trace is doing some really cool things to protect the outdoors and educating the public. Go learn about their work and join their efforts!

As always check on Resistance Calendar  to see what actions are going on in your community.

This were the Things That Make Me Smile for this week:

This singing Pika

These coffee sorters in ethiopia singing while they choose beans (they are the real heroes)

Issue #78, 2018 Week 47

This was another weird and toxic news cycle, although there were a few bright points amid all the darkness.  As always, we’ll keep you posted and include suggestions for how to make those points of brightness increase–the recent elections show that when we work together, we can accomplish a lot!

Events to Know

Accosting Jim Acosta (continued).  The CNN/Trump weirdness has continued into another week, though it may be drawing to a close thanks to judicial intervention.  After sending Acosta to Paris to cover Trump where he can’t control access, CNN sued Trump over the yanked credentials–a suit which even Fox News joined!  So it’s not ultimately surprising that the judge granted a temporary order to CNN, holding that the White House had to give Acosta access back pending a final ruling on the underlying case.  The White House ultimately responded by creating autocratic rules that say people may only ask one question, and get no follow-ups unless the President feels like it–and if they ask follow-ups anyway, their passes will be revoked.  (I have a feeling we’ll be seeing another trip to court in the near future despite today’s settlement.)

Key links:

  1. NPR – CNN Sues Trump Administration To Restore Jim Acosta’s Press Credentials
  2. CNN – Fox News and Other Outlets Join CNN Fight Over Press Access to White House
  3. Politico – Judge Orders White House to Return Press Credentials to CNN’s Acosta
  4. Washington Post – CNN Drops Suit Against White House After Acosta’s Press Pass is Fully Restored

Suppression and Concession. All three of Florida and Georgia‘s ongoing battles ended in Democrats conceding this week, with voter suppression and logistical issues looming as obvious specters. Though she has acknowledged her loss, Stacy Abrams is not giving up the suppression fight; she has indicated she will be suing Kemp in his capacity as Secretary of State.  We’re now down to only the Mississippi runoff for Senate results, which will happen in a few weeks and is a surprisingly close race, and four remaining House races that underscore a sweeping blue wave creating at least 40 new Dem seats.

Key links:

  1. NPR – Democrat Andrew Gillum Concedes Florida Governor’s Race To Ron DeSantis
  2. Miami Herald – After All the Drama, Broward Finishes Recount with Minutes to Spare — but it Won’t Count
  3. New York Times – America’s Election Grid Remains a Patchwork of Vulnerabilities
  4. Washington Post – Abrams Ends Georgia Governor Bid; Says She’ll File Lawsuit
  5. Fivethirtyeight – We’re Tracking The Unresolved Midterm Races
  6. Intelligencer – The 2018 Midterms Were a Solid Democratic Win, Not a Split Decision

Khashoggi Fallout Continues. The CIA concluded this week that the Saudi crown prince had ordered the death of Jamal Khashoggi, on the same day that Trump claimed it was “too early to tell” whether he had been involved and called Saudi Arabia “a spectacular ally.”  Meanwhile, the White House official who sets policy towards Saudi Arabia has resigned after pushing for sanctionsagainst the crown prince, and Trump has made it clear that no punishment of the crown prince will be forthcoming from the White House.

Key links:

  1. New York Times – C.I.A. Concludes That Saudi Crown Prince Ordered Khashoggi Killed
  2. Politico – Trump Promises Intel Report on Khashoggi Murder ‘Over the Next Two Days’
  3. New York Times – Top White House Official Involved in Saudi Sanctions Resigns
  4. CNN – Trump Signals US Won’t Punish Saudi Crown Prince Over Khashoggi Killing

 

Recent Resilience

Recent Court Resilience. Only a few days after the administration issued a proclamation refusing to accept asylum applications raised from inside the U.S., a federal judge has temporarily forced them to keep accepting the applications–at least for now. In its temporary order, the judge reminded the administration that they “may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden.” (I have a feeling that sixty years of honoring international treaties on the subject also played a role here.)  The bar will remain in place for one month, until another court date scheduled for December 19.  We should definitely keep track of this, because it can have a lot of broader implications for immigrant populations and for us all.

Key links:

  1. New York Times – Read Trump’s Proclamation Targeting the Caravan and Asylum Seekers
  2. Washington Post – Trump’s Asylum Ban Blocked by Federal Judge
  3. Associated Press – US Judge Stalls Enforcement of Trump Asylum Restrictions

Things to Watch

What About Whitaker?  This was quite an eventful week for Matt Whitaker.  First Maryland asked a federal judge to rule that his appointment was illegal, prompting some Republicans to tell Trump to just pick an actual Attorney General already.  Then the Supreme Court was asked to rule on the issue, which frankly may or may not work out well for any of us.  And Trump would like us all to know that he’s not going to rein Whitaker in, just in case we needed it spelled out in giant neon letters. Meanwhile, every shady thing from Whitaker’s past wound up in the news, and I’m here to tell you there was a lot of shady stuff.  Major documented lowlights of Whitaker’s career: Claiming only Christians can be judges because all others lack “a biblical view of justice”; abandoning a taxpayer-funded public project midstream only last year; and running a scam company that sold toilets for guys with large penises (and yup, improbably, Masculine Toilets were a real thing with an actual patent application).  Against that backdrop, it’s no wonder that some analysts seem to believe Trump can’t get rid of Mueller now–though we should keep an eye on it anyway.

Key links:

  1. Politico – GOP Pushes Trump for New Attorney General Amid Mueller Uproar
  2. NBC – Matt Whitaker Faces New Challenge in Supreme Court
  3. Newsweek – Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker Once Said Jews, Muslims and Atheists Should Not Be Federal Judges
  4. Time – Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker Abandoned a Taxpayer-Funded Project in Iowa in 2016
  5. Vanity Fair – Dems Demand Info on Acting Attorney General’s ‘Masculine Toilet’ Scam
  6. Washington Post – Trump’s Battle to Destroy the Mueller Investigation is Officially Doomed

 

Census Circus Continues. The Supreme Court agreed this week to hear arguments regarding whether Wilbur Ross can be compelled to answer questions about the citizenship question on the 2020 census.  The news comes at the same time that the Trump administration admits it’s considering sharing census answers with law enforcement (which, spoiler, is as illegal as you think it is).  I legit can’t decide if the timing here is a good sign or a bad one, so I guess we’ll all read the tea leaves in real time on this one.

Key links:

  1. CNBC – Supreme Court Says it Will Hear 2020 Census Case, Setting up Showdown over Citizenship Question
  2. Washington Post – Trump Administration Officials Suggested Sharing Census Responses with Law Enforcement, Court Documents Show

McConnell Muck and Mueller. Less than a day after publishing a hypocrisy-filled op-ed about the importance of bipartisanship, Mitch McConnell blocked an attempt to bring a bipartisan bill protecting Mueller onto the Senate floor this week. Nearly-retired Senator Flake and his bipartisan buddy Senator Coons are refusing to vote on any judicial appointments until the bipartisan bill had been considered, and so far appear to be staying true to their word–which, in turn, is making Lindsey Graham remember he helped write that bill.  We should definitely keep an eye on this, because legislation protecting Mueller would be a big deal.

Key links:

  1. Washington Post – Mitch McConnell Wrote an Op-Ed Calling for Bipartisanship, and People are Not Having It
  2. NPR – Flake Pledges To Block Committee Votes On Judges — Until Mueller Bill On Senate Floor
  3. CNN – Sen. Jeff Flake: ‘Worth Using a Little Leverage’ to Get Mueller Bill Passed
  4. The Hill – Graham Urges McConnell to Allow Vote on Bill to Protect Mueller

Actions for Everyone

My heart goes out to California this week, who are facing deadly wildfires. May Mother Earth ease the burden promptly.

Asylum laws are being Trumped with – Recently, Trump ruled out a new directive that limits asylum seeking immigrants that enter the country illegally (probably as a reactionary move to the migrant caravan).  Using national security as an excuse, he is putting in action his racist views, like we’ve seen before with the muslim travel ban. Last Monday, a judge blocked the proclamation till December 19th,when there will be another hearing. We got to keep a lookout on this till next month. But, how can you help?

Thanksgiving – Most of us know that the truth behind our beloved feast of Thanksgiving is problematic, meaning that it fails to mention the genocide and colonization the over 530 tribes of Native Americans that lived in this land endured. There seems to be a social narrative that places First Nations as part of the past, negating the reality of Native Americans in the present. I’d like to shed light on a topic that has been popping up on my feed for the last month. The disappearance of Native American women and girls, the inaction from the authorities in their search and the public’s lack of social outcry. This article goes in depth on the issue.  At the moment there is several pieces of legislation that would help. Call your reps to show support. This website has more info on it.

Help California! – As you all probably know, California is suffering through massive wildfires, one of the deadliest in its history. These fires, unlike what President Turd’s opinion about bad forestry management suggest, are fueled by climate change and global warming and seem to be getting progressively worse every year. The people of California need our support and help, this article has a great list of actions you can follow to do so.

One of the Things That Made Me Smile this week are these great political cartoons.

Does anyone just dream of Captain Planet making a comeback? I do.

Issue #77, 2018 Week 46

This week was easily three weeks long–when asked to summarize it at a party this weekend, all I could come up with was “Election Day happened, then Trump threw a temper tantrum, then things got weird.”  And, you know, writing that summary out later? Honestly, I still kind of stand by it. (Although you still get a full summary, because I’m not at a party anymore.)

 

Events to Know

California Tragedies.  This was a week of intense tragedy in California, and particularly in Thousand Oaks, where a marine corps veteran opened fire in a crowded bar on Wednesday night.  The shooter ultimately killed twelve people as well as himself, shooting with with what survivors described as chilling efficiency.  Unlike other recent attacks, we don’t know if this was stochastic terrorism because we have no idea what motivated the shooter.  Perhaps most upsetting is the fact that several people who survived this attack were also present for last year’s shooting in Nevada.   Thousand Oaks also had a second tragedy only hours after the shooting, because it was one of several cities asked to evacuate ahead of the worst forest fires in recent California history.  As I write this, the raging fires have claimed the lives of at least 48 people and many more are still missing.  (Though Trump responded to the tragedy by blaming bad forest management and threatening to pull federal funding, he did eventually approve a major disaster declaration, which will create federal funding.)

Key links:

  1. CNN – Thousand Oaks Gunman Went from Marine Vet to Mass Shooter. Investigators Want to Know Why.
  2. New York Times – There Are Now Americans Who Have Lived Through Two Gun Massacres
  3. Washington Post – Death Toll Rises in California Forest Fires
  4. ABC – Trump Threatens to Pull Federal Funding for California Wildfires Over ‘Gross Mismanagement’
  5. KTLA – President Trump Approves Major Disaster Declaration for California, Sending More Federal Funds Amid Deadly Wildfires

 
A Difficult Veteran’s Day. Today is a national holiday honoring our troops, but it’s been a truly weird and stressful time for American veterans.  Likely the biggest issue is the technical problems within the Department of Veteran Affairsthat have messed up housing stipends for hundreds of thousands of veteranstudents–an issue first uncovered much earlier in the year, but gaining new urgency as the semester draws to a close.  Adding insult to injury, Trump has canceled state visits to two different veteran cemeteries this weekend–one in Paris which other state leaders still attended, and one in Virginia on Veteran’s Day itself.  And troops stationed at the border will likely have to remain there over Thanksgiving, eroding morale even further. 

Key links:

  1. Stars and Stripes – Student Veterans, Schools Frustrated Over Lack of Housing Payments from VA
  2. NBC – Veterans Haven’t Received GI Bill Benefits for Months Due to Ongoing IT Issues at VA
  3. Washington Post – Trump in Paris: Skips WWI Battlefield Commemoration With Eye on Political Fights at Home
  4. New York Magazine Intelligencer – The Military Doesn’t Seem to Appreciate Trump’s Border Stunt
  5. Santa Fe New Mexican – Troops awaiting caravan, likely past Thanksgiving

 

Recent Resilience

Recent Court Resilience. There were several different promising court cases this week.  The Ninth Circuit affirmed a district court injunction prohibiting the Trump administration from improperly ending the DACA program, which the administration plans to send before the Supreme Court.  Several legal groups are suing the administration over this past week’s illegal attempt to curtail asylum. A judge in Montana blocked the Keystone pipeline from moving forward.  And in Maryland, a district court judge held that the emoluments lawsuit could proceed  because Trump dared people to sue him via tweet.  Hey, at least his tweets have proven good for something!

Key links:

  1. Washington Post – Trump Can’t Immediately End DACA, Appeals Court Panel Says, Setting Up Supreme Court Fight
  2. Associated Press – Trump moves to limit asylum; new rules challenged in court
  3. New York Times – Judge Blocks Disputed Keystone XL Pipeline in Setback for Trump
  4. Second Nexus – U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte Rules Emoluments Lawsuit Against Donald Trump Can Move Forward Citing Trump Tweet Asking to Be Sued

 

Help for Immigrants. Despite an ongoing glut of bad news for immigrants in this country, we did see a brief glimmer of light this week.  As the Activism Newsletter mentioned a few weeks ago, a recent lawsuit brought in Californiaforced the administration to halt its plan to remove status from about 300,000 people.  In response to this lawsuit, the administration codified a renewal process this week, and its terms are fairly generous–the programs affected will now offer automatic nine-month extensions, authorization to work, and ability to re-register until the court case is resolved.  This process buys time and relief for huge numbers of people legally present in the United States.

Key links:

  1. The Hill – Federal judge blocks Trump administration from ending TPS program
  2. Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti – Haiti TPS Extended to January 2020: Latest Developments on Haiti TPS
  3. Federal Register Online – Continuation of Documentation for Beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status Designations for Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador

Things to Watch

Accosting Jim Acosta.  This was a bad week for press credentials.  First Trump lost his entire business on Jim Acosta and Yamiche Alcindo at a press conference, and then revoked the former’s credentials on a false claim that he had “put his hands on” a White House intern.  To support this claim, the White House put out a doctored video that appears to have been created and originally aired by the conspiracy-theorist website Infowars.  Needless to say, by this point several outlets have released side-by-side comparisons of the Infowars video and frame-by-frame reviews of it, which might be why Trump is now threatening to pull more reporters’ credentials.  In response, CNN sent Acosta to Paris (where Trump can’t control his access) and sued Trump over the press pass–a suit which Fox News joined!  So needless to say, this will be a weird and ongoing process.

Key links:

  1. ABC – Trump Rips Republicans Who Defied Him, Threatens to Retaliate over Dem Investigations
  2. BBC – White House Suspends Credentials for CNN’s Jim Acosta
  3. Business Insider – White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders Tweeted a Doctored Video of the Jim Acosta Mic-Grab that was Shared Hours Earlier by the Far-Right Site Infowars
  4. CNN – President Trump Threatens to Pull More Reporters’ Credentials
  5. Washington Post – CNN Sues White House to Regain Access for Reporter Jim Acosta
  6. Variety – Fox News Backs CNN’s White House Lawsuit

 
Ongoing Election News. We’re not yet done figuring out all the election results, even a week later–the day after election night, there were a whopping sixteen races too close to call.  Though much of that has since died down (including the Arizona senate race, which resulted in another Dem, hooray!) we’re still seeing a lot of confusion and ugliness in Florida and Georgia.  In Georgia, which had a lot of different issues with voter suppression during the election season, Brian Kemp has claimed he won but Stacy Abrams isn’t conceding, because ballots are still being counted.  And Abrams is suing to include more rejected ballots (which, given Kemp’s track record, easily could have really been unlawfully excluded).  Meanwhile, in Florida, both the Senate race and the gubernatorial race are shrouded in uncertainty, with recounts now ordered on both races.  We’re hearing about all kinds of shenanigans, and of course the area’s checkered history regarding voting process doesn’t help anything.  We’ll all just have to keep watching these races to learn what’s going on.
Key links:

  1. FiveThirtyEight – We’re Tracking The Unresolved Midterm Races
  2. Guardian – ‘Textbook Voter Suppression’: Georgia’s Bitter Election a Battle Years in the Making
  3. Courthouse News Service – Abrams Refuses to Concede Close Georgia Governor Race
  4. ABC – Democrat Abrams Files New Suit in Georgia Governor’s Race
  5. NPR – Florida Elections For Governor And U.S. Senate Heading For Recount
  6. New York Times – See How Close the Results are in Arizona, Georgia and Florida

North Korea Nuclearization. On Veteran’s Day, a Washington think tank put out some bad military news:  It looks like North Korea is not denuclearizingeven slightly, according to new commercial satellite imagery.  In fact, the images suggest they have continued their ballistic missile program at sixteen different hidden bases, and the total number might be as high as twenty.  Technically Kim never actually agreed to denuclearize, so he’s not happy about this being characterized as a ‘deception.’  We’ll need to keep an eye on these developments, for obvious reason.

Key links:

  1. Beyond Parallel – Undeclared North Korea: Missile Operating Bases Revealed
  2. Washington Post – Newly Revealed North Korean Missile Bases Cast Doubt on Value of Trump’s Summit With Kim Jong Un
  3. CNN – Satellite images reveal hidden North Korean missile bases
I’m knee deep in the TV series House of Cards. It’s an amazing interpretation of politics and ethics on Capitol Hill, and it’s effing brutal. The first episode aired in 2013, and I swear that the Trump administration just lifted the plot to this series and is playing it out in real time. For example that Jeff Sessions A. Was ever Attorney General, B. Was fired along with so many other Trump staffers since he took office, and C. was replaced by Sessions own Chief of Staff Matthew Whitaker, who had run a fraudulent company that was forced to pay out $26M in damages only a few months ago. What’s at the root of this power play? We’ll find out on the next episode of: House of WhatIsDonaldDoing.

Actions for Everyone

Support Veterans: As we regularly write about, mental health and self care are always important facet of progress. Nearly 1 in 4 active duty members showed signs of a mental health condition, according to a 2014 study in JAMA Psychiatry. In honor of Veteran’s Day this week, I want to make sure everyone knows about The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). They have some great mental health resources for everyone, but they also have a specific section for folks who have served or are serving in the military. Check out their Get Involved page to find out how you can help from destigmatizing to working on policy issues.

Forgive Student Loan Debt: I feel like a broken record here because this is not new news anymore, but this week there’s a different angle on the urgency of this request. In the nineties there was a dude name Jeff who noticed that the internet was becoming really popular and also noticed that not a single book store had every book you could ever want. So he bought a warehouse, bought every book you could ever want, and people started ordering them through his new business via the world wide web. Fast forward to today and Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon.com, is the world’s wealthiest person. Amazon is choosing their new HQ and American cities are pouring money at them to move to their city. NYC has committed to $3 billion in tax breaks and incentives to them, but New York Assemblymember Ron Kim says they should be forgiving the next economic crisis instead – student loan debt.

When 44 million borrows owe collectively $1.5 trillion in the US, 2nd only to US mortgage debt, you know there’s a big issue. Okay, so the actions many, but here are two:

  1. Bring an end to Citizens United: We gotta stop this whole corporations + politicians = wicked systemic issues. Move to Amend is working on this, and End Citizens United has an Action Center, too.
  2. Forgive Student Loans: This changes administration to administration, but for now, here’s a list from Student Loan Heros of forgiveness programs.

Things that make me smile: Maybe if I had kids I’d get tired of it, but I think kids are hilarious, so I’ll probably never tire of Kids Say the Darndest Things(Youtube version, NOT Cosby version.)