How Your Voices Are Making a Difference: Russian Dominoes

The Russia dominoes seem to be starting to fall as Mueller’s investigation heats up:

Former Donald campaign chair Paul Manafort was indicted by a grand jury Monday in the first legal actions of Mueller’s investigation. Here’s a fantastic breakdown of the indictment, which includes conspiracy against the United States, money laundering, and making false statements, and here’s a great FAQ primer.

Donald’s foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making a false statement to federal investigators, which has now shed light on other administration members’ potential involvement (and may get Jeff Sessions accused of perjury). In light of conservative voices like FOX trying furiously to get Mueller to step down, MoveOn.org is organizing “Nobody is Above the Law Marches” to mobilize immediately in case Donny fires Muller as the heat gets turned up.

In good news, a majority of Americans approve of Mueller and the Russia probe and think it should continue (and nearly half are pretty sure Don John has committed a crime, for what that conjecture is worth). But call your MoCs and ask that they support one of the three bipartisan bills designed to protect Mueller and his investigation: S.1735 & S.1741 in the Senate, and HR 3771 in the house.


Sam Clovis—the climate change skeptic Donald nominated as chief scientist of the Agriculture Department who has no academic credentials in either science or agriculture—has withdrawn himself from consideration after his name surfaced in the Russia investigations as one of the top officials on Donny’s campaign who was aware of George Papadopoulos’s efforts to meet with Russia for dirt on the Clinton campaign.


In tax news:

The National Association of Home Builders has declared war on the Republican tax plan, which makes no mention of property tax deductions so essential to promote home ownership. The National Association of Realtors has joined their opposition.

In response to other outcry against the ill-formed tax plan, the GOP has backed off their plans to lower taxes for the wealthiest Americans, and is making noises about making the proposed corporate tax-rate slash temporary instead of permanent, as originally proposed.


Elsewhere in Donald’s thwarted attempts to subvert the Constitution, a federal judge blocked enforcement of Donny’s spurious decision to bar transgender servicepeople from military service.

In the face of widespread consternation about Whitefish—the two-person utility company that was a strong Trump campaign donor before being awarded the $300 million Puerto Rico infrastructure contract in a no-bid campaign—Puerto Rico has canceled the company’s contract.

One of Donny’s far-right-extremist appeals court picks was knocked down by the American Bar Association committee as “not qualified,” citing his temperament and his ability to rule impartially on issues like abortion rights.

The 600-plus-page Climate Science Special Report, part of an even larger scientific review known as the fourth National Climate Assessment, or NCA4, has concluded that it’s “extremely likely” that man is the “dominant cause” to potentially catastrophic climate change and global warming. This report, the nation’s most authoritative assessment of climate science, directly contradicts this administration’s frequent denials that humans are the cause of climate change—or in fact that it exists, a fact that might be especially embarrassing to the White House considering the study’s authors include experts from leading scientific government agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA and the Department of Energy, as well as academic scientists.

Finally, in shocking news to no one, Donny’s approval ratings are tanking. Last Monday one poll showed they’d sunk to a new low of 33 percent—another poll Sunday had them at 37 percent, lower than any other president at this point in the presidency in seven decades of polling history. Donald loves superlatives, so let’s humor him by pointing out that these are the lowest approval ratings for a first-term president in modern history—disgraceful!—and one of the worst approval ratings of all time. As this article points out, there have been only two days in Don John’s entire reign where more people approved of him than disapproved—both within his first week in office. Sad!

How Your Voices Made a Difference Last Week: DACA and the Zen Wisdom of Taking Action

After his categorical announcement terminating the DACA “dreamers” program that helps hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants on a path to education, jobs, and potentially citizenship, the ever-unpredictable Donald then did an about-face and he’ll be working with Democrats (his new BFFs “Chuck and Nancy”) to help pass legislation that protects them. Despite Paul Ryan’s bleated denials and cautions, this is great news for these “dreamers,” nearly half of whom came here before they were six years old and many who have known no home but the United States, and great news for our country: our undocumented immigrants contribute 11.74 billion in taxes (as opposed to the zero tax dollars Donald paid in the sole year of his released returns) and contribute to our society in a wide array of roles in our workforce and military. Even more good news: according to Pelosi and Schumer, these negotiations will include tightening border security—but stop short of building Donald’s ridiculous, exorbitantly expensive wall. And this may finally be the thing that begins to crack support from Donald’s die-hard core base.

Donald’s unconstitutional pardon of Joe Arpaio, the sheriff who repeatedly violated prisoners’ civil and human rights as well as his indictment for doing so, may not stand. At least four separate coalitions have filed motions protesting the pardon, and Arpaio’s conviction may yet be upheld—including objections from the federal judge who found him guilty.

Though many in this administration and the GOP continue to deny climate change, in the wake of devastating storms, fires, and earthquakes, the political conversation seems to at least be shifting toward how we can protect ourselves from its inevitable effects (even if deniers aren’t yet ready to admit what’s causing them), and many Republicans are speaking out and urging the administration to reconsider its climate policies.

Speaking of Republicans finally getting woke—the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee is considering legislation to make it harder for Donald to fire special counsel Robert Mueller in his investigation.

The California legislature passed a bill requiring all presidential candidates to release their tax returns in order to appear on the California ballot. If it passes in the senate it will head to the governor for his signature into law.

Meanwhile, if you want to keep track of all the Russia developments flying around (or any of the multitude of Donald’s transgressions against our country and democracy), Amy Siskind has a new searchable chart of every one of her weekly list of changes (“Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember”)—enter a keyword (may I suggest “Russia,” for example?) to get an exhaustive list of all developments regarding that topic.

Finally, if you find yourself twisted into knots of anxiety over the current administration, the New York Times published this excellent brief articleon the futility of worrying and the Zen wisdom of taking action instead. Resisting is not only not futile…it’s how we’ll overcome the forces acting against our democracy and our country, and we will win.

We’re Showing Up for Texas Today

Today we have a message for the president. Texans are hurting from Hurricane Harvey, and it will take us years to recover. While it will be some time before the full damage estimates and economic impact of the storm are assessed, we can be sure that our great state’s recovery will take a long time. But we’re Texans, and we’re not afraid of the hard work ahead of us.

Texas has never seen a storm like Harvey. It is epochal.

On his Texas visit today the president will likely take advantage of some photo opportunities, and speak some self-described perfect words. He will no doubt make promises and try to burnish his presidential image. But the real measure of his response will not be if he appears more presidential, but rather his administration’s accomplishments in the weeks, months, and years ahead. Will that response tackle not only the misfortunes of the affluent in this disaster, but also the misfortunes of those his administration has habitually targeted from its start?

It is difficult to reconcile the forthcoming pledges to rebuild impacted areas of Texas with the president’s pardon of Joe Arpaio as the storm was bearing down on Houston (for ratings, he said), his refusal to close border patrol checkpoints on evacuation routes out of South Texas, his destruction of some of our state’s most treasured natural gems to make way for his border wall, and his imminent repeal of DACA. That’s why we’re showing up for Texas today during the president’s visit.

There has never ever been a natural disaster in the U.S. during which public officials have had to clarify numerous times that those seeking shelter from the storm and  flooding will not be deported.

The test is simple. Will this administration start to take the threat of climate change seriously and begin tackling the technological and infrastructure challenges necessary to reduce the impact of future disasters like this one? Will this administration make sure that the poorest communities and communities of color – which suffer disparate impacts of natural disasters – recover from this storm? Or will those communities be offered only platitudes and empty gestures? Time will tell, but the recent actions of this administration make clear its steadfast refusal to extend the same consideration to those communities that it extends to the well-to-do. We are showing up today to make sure the administration knows we will not allow these concerns to be swept under the rug in the usual post-disaster niceties.

We also cannot forget that many other policies this administration pursues have negative impacts on our state, and when combined with the devastation from Harvey, further harm our state and our people.

The proposed border wall means Texans will lose their land through eminent domain, and fragile ecological regions will be decimated; even our own Senator John Cornyn’s recent border “security” bill doesn’t include funding for the president’s vision of this folly.

The nation’s largest inland port, Laredo, is on the front lines of the president’s Twitter war against against NAFTA. In 2015, Texas exported nearly $100 billion in goods to Mexico, and some 382,000 Texas jobs are linked to trade with Mexico. Targeting NAFTA hurts Texans and hurts our economy.

The president’s intention to rescind DACA, which is expected to happen this week, will have a disproportionate impact in Texas. Of the nearly 800,000 young adults whose DACA status has been approved, more than 25 percent of them live in Texas. They may have come to the U.S. as undocumented children through no fault of their own, but they have followed specific requirements to remain in the U.S. legally. As a result, they have graduated from colleges, started Texas businesses, bought homes, and built lives in Texas. For that they are being used to score political points by an administration determined to take a hard line on all immigrants regardless of status. He has used them as scapegoats. He lies about crime statistics to stigmatize a vulnerable group, and to stoke fear and hatred of all immigrants.

Trump’s policies will harm the Texas economy, which will be deeply strained during the long road of recovery from Harvey. We are already gearing up for the budget fights in Congress that could stifle the emergency relief we so desperately need.

Harvey has to be our top priority right now, as we anticipate thousands of evacuees coming to Austin. We have been and will continue supporting the rescuers and aid givers who need our volunteer hours and our financial and material assistance. But today we also need to send a message: Texans are great, resilient people, and we will do all we can to protect our state from policies that harm our residents and their livelihoods. 

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So you’re meeting with a staffer. Now what?

During the Cornyn Stakeout last week, I, on impulse, walked into the Chase Bank Building, rode the elevator to the 15th floor, and knocked on the door to Cornyn’s office. Next thing I knew I was sitting face to face with a young staffer. Now what?

I had my talking points about the Senate Intelligence Committee’s–and especially John Cornyn’s–lackluster response to Russian election interference, but it seemed weird to launch into that. When there is a human being sitting a few feet away, the dynamic is very different compared to speaking on the phone or firing off angry tweets.

She may have been more nervous than I was. I’m a tall man in an Indivisible Austin t-shirt and for all she knows I am about to start shrieking at her, or worse. So I explained, calmly, that I was from Indivisible Austin, one of the organizers of the stakeout, and that we aren’t scary. I joked that most of the Indivisible activists look like our moms, and in fact, my mother is an Indivisible activist in rural Texas. (See, we’re not all Austin hippies, either.)

The staffer smiled, and let her guard down a bit. Sure, she was being paid to listen to my concerns, and we might disagree vigorously on many things; but it was clear that a human connection was forming.

I believe these human connections, seeking common ground, will save our Democracy.

Paraphrasing what I said:

On the AHCA

“Getting people to question facts is a hallmark of authoritarianism. When John Cornyn called CBO data ‘fake news,’ that sent a dangerous signal. The CBO score may not be perfect, but it’s the only data we have, and the Congressional Budget Office is as nonpartisan as it gets. For our Democracy to function, we need to have agreed-upon facts. If we can’t agree on facts, our Democracy dies.”

On withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord

“Sen. Cornyn signed a letter encouraging Trump to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. Cornyn and other Republicans like to point out that the treaty is not legally binding. But one thing we have learned from the Trump presidency is that norms and traditions uphold our Democracy far more than laws do. By withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, we send a message that we no longer take seriously the bonds, however symbolic, between the U.S. and our global allies. Additionally, climate change is a nonpartisan issue, affecting everyone. We can disagree about the means with which to solve the problem, but we first need to agree on the basic fact that it is happening.”

On Russian election interference

“The original purpose of the Cornyn Stakeout was to send a message to Sen. Cornyn that Americans take very seriously the issue of a foreign power interfering in our Democratic process. Sen. Cornyn’s seemingly flippant attitude toward his own committee’s investigation is inappropriate. This is not a Democratic or Republican issue. If Russia, or any foreign power, is influencing our elections in any way, that is dangerous to both parties, and to our nation as a whole. We need Sen. Cornyn to take this issue more seriously.”

I spent 15 to 20 minutes sharing my concerns with the staffer, who was very professional and polite, and took notes that she said she would deliver to the senator. It is quite possible that she was seething inwardly, disagreeing with everything I said… but I don’t really think so. Human beings are social creatures and instinctively seek common ground. And it is much easier to find that common ground in person, than on social media or phone calls.

This summer we’ll be kicking off a series of “air-conditioned activism”* events, centered around meetings with congressional staffers. We’re planning a toolkit to make your meetings with staffers as effective as can be, and we would love to hear what has and has not worked for you. We would especially welcome feedback from staffers. Please email vp@indivisibleaustin.com or leave a comment here.


*Many thanks to the Indivisible TX-25 Eanes / West Austin group for coining the term “Air-Conditioned Activism.”

 

 

How Your Voices Made a Difference Last Week: Paris Climate Accord

Courtesy of 5 Minute Activism

When Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris agreement, people immediately mobilized…

  • China and all 28 EU states reaffirmed their commitment to fully implement the Paris Climate Agreement.
  • California, New York, and Washington formed a climate alliance.
  • More than 60 mayors of U.S. cities (including Pittsburgh) committed to adopting and upholding the Paris Climate Agreement goals.
  • Michael Bloomberg is coordinating a group of corporations, colleges, and mayors who are negotiating their own climate plan directly with the U.N.
  • Phoenix, Arizona announced plans to become carbon-neutral by 2050.
  • Protesters held rallies outside the White House and across the country.
  • Even Weather.com got in on the action!
  • Both Paris and Montreal lit their city halls green.

…And pretty much the entire world will continue to take action against climate change:

  • India canceled the creation of huge coal power stations, moving instead toward more affordable solar energy—and announced plans to allow the sale of only electric cars by 2030.
  • South Korea is beginning to shut down coal power plants, in a move to combat pollution.
  • Shareholders approved a proposal for ExxonMobil to report on climate change-related risks, despite management’s recommendation to vote against it.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the grassroots progress forward, and the success of these movements in resisting Donald and the GOP’s regressive agenda, so I hope these positive signs offer some peace to your soul in trying times. Hang in there, warriors. We are our nation and our future’s hope.