Cambridge Analytica: What, When, How, Why

In early 2013, Canadian data scientist Christopher Wylie pitched an idea to his boss, Steve Bannon, for a company that would change how political campaigns use data to change minds. The two men secured funding for their project from Republican billionaire donor Robert Mercer and, excited by their idea’s potential, set about founding and building a company called Cambridge Analytica. Wylie turned whistleblower and told this story to a British newspaper in March of 2018.

Like many things to do with the alt-right, the elevator pitch for Cambridge Analytica sounds harmless: the company would gather and analyze social media profile data to better target events and news stories to eligible voters in the US presidential election, in the British EU membership referendum, and in any other election a paying campaign wanted to win. Using Wylie’s innovative data mining and analysis techniques, the company would offer better targeting and stronger results for its campaigns.

But, like everything having to do with the alt-right, there was a lot more to it.

Preying on Fear in the West

Cambridge Analytica hit the ground running. Between June and August 2014, the company harvested data from around 50 million Facebook profiles using a methodology that involved pulling data from friends of people who took a personality test set up by a Russian academic. Per British newspaper The Guardian:

The data was collected through an app called thisisyourdigitallife, built by academic Aleksandr Kogan, separately from his work at Cambridge University. Through his company Global Science Research (GSR), in collaboration with Cambridge Analytica, hundreds of thousands of users were paid to take a personality test and agreed to have their data collected for academic use.

However, the app also collected the information of the test-takers’ Facebook friends, leading to the accumulation of a data pool tens of millions-strong. Facebook’s “platform policy” allowed only collection of friends’ data to improve user experience in the app and barred it being sold on or used for advertising.

Having access to such rich data allowed Cambridge Analytica to, as one of the firm’s managing directors put it in a video filmed undercover by a team from Britain’s Channel Four News program, “drop the bucket further down the well than anybody else, to understand what are those really deep-seated underlying fears, concerns.” He added: “It’s no good fighting an election campaign on the facts because actually it’s all about emotion, it’s all about emotion.”

“Information Warfare”

Once the company built profiles of voters using their Facebook data, they set to work on behalf of the Trump and pro-Brexit campaigns. They created and disseminated fake news stories designed to prey on people’s deepest fears and concerns. In videos secretly filmed by Channel Four, the company’s CEO Alexander Nix boasted about all of the shady tactics his firm could set loose on both the people it has profiled and the leaders they follow. 


These tactics were summed up by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation as “information warfare.” In an indictment for several companies and people associated with Russian troll farms, the Special Counsel said that groups using unbranded memes, fake news stories, and videos, “engaged in operations primarily intended to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump.”

How deeply their actions influenced the presidential election and Brexit referendum in 2016 is currently an open question – but it’s one that both America and the United Kingdom have a vested interest in asking.

Russian Influence, Western Consequence

There are multiple lines of evidence that connect Cambridge Analytica to Russian influence, elevating this from being a question of morals and privacy to being a question of national security. Additional revelations suggesting that Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, SCL Global, had high-level contractor access to the British Ministry of Defence and the US State Department have raised the stakes even higher.

Within days of Wylie’s story being published in the British press, the British Parliament and parts of the U.S. Congress had called for representatives from Cambridge Analytica and Facebook to appear before them to answer questions.

Facebook has taken a pummelling from the developing news stories (including news that its employees shared office space with Cambridge Analytica in San Antonio during the Trump campaign), with its stock tumbling rapidly while its executives remain silent. For its part, Cambridge Analytica has suspended its CEO and continues to protest its innocence.

We Can Help Take Them Down

There’s no question that Cambridge Analytica and the companies that supported it in its work deserve to face transparent justice. The West needs to thoroughly investigate the extent of the company’s undue influence over critical, history-making elections held throughout 2016. With both of its senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee, California residents have outsized power to make sure this happens.

 

Image courtesy of rawpixel via Pixabay.

Use the Force for Good, Senator Harris

Trying to keep track of America’s current government is like playing a Kafkaesque game of whack-a-mole where you wear a blindfold while news anchors give you instructions on where the moles are in a different language several hours ago.

One persistent mole is Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). When it’s not very publicly tearing families apart, detaining people without due process, or targeting individuals who pose no threat, this militarized arm of the Trump administration spends its time quietly watching our Congress enact legislation that strengthens it and expands its powers ever further.

To our great disappointment, our own Senator Kamala Harris, a member of the authorizing committee for the Department of Homeland Security and ICE (Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, or HSGAC), has failed to use her position to halt the spread of ICE’s power, authority and funding. She has raised no opposition to ICE’s intent to spend $100 million on software that will allow for “automatic extreme vetting” – technology that will give it the capacity to digitally profile visitors and immigrants, which is inaccurate and biased and endangers civil liberties. And on March 7, 2018 – more than seven months after her committee received the DHS reauthorization bill that, among other things gives DHS the power to ask for more funding for ICE – she signed off on the bill without protest.

While we applaud Senator Harris’ strong public stance against ICE, we are disappointed that she has not taken any of the opportunities presented to her as a member of HSGAC to call attention to the need for greater scrutiny of this controversial agency or to seek to amend the reauthorization bill to address the numerous allegations about ICE’s abuses.

It’s vital that we continue to press our Members of Congress to hold ICE accountable and stand up to its persistent attempts to infringe on our rights. Here’s where you can help:

Contact Senator Harris. Let her know you’re keeping track of ICE and her responses to ICE, no matter how few headlines the stories get, and tell her you’re disappointed that she has not used the occasions she had to speak out against ICE’s grab for power and money. What to say:

My name is  _______ and my zip code is _________. I am a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank Senator Harris for her statements about ICE ‘s abuses of power, but I am concerned that she voted in the Homeland Security Committee to send a bill authorizing the agency to the Senate floor. I want her to use her position on this Committee as an opportunity to push for reform of ICE and to force the agency to be more responsive to Congressional oversight.

Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553

Be informed and inform others. Support and connect with your local ICE rapid response networks. Make sure you and your neighbors know what to do if you see ICE. Remember: respond with power, not panic. Download ACLU NorCal’s Mobile Justice app to make sure you’re ready to record ICE overreach if it happens in your neighborhood.

Image via TryJimmy licensed under Creative Commons.

Wake Up: We Still Need a Clean DREAM Act

This is our world now: the current occupant sells $50 hats with “American Dreamer” emblazoned on the front; ICE threatens repercussions against Oakland’s mayor for warning city residents of incoming raids; Congress has stalled for so long on passing a clean DREAM Act that somehow, unimaginably, the Republicans are starting to take ownership of it. How soon they forget that said current occupant caused this entire … mess … by rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program through which President Obama had protected more than 800,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation.

And while they continue their games, hundreds of thousands of lives hang in the balance. DREAMers attend doctors’ appointments, pick their kids up from school, go to job interviews, wait in line at the Post Office – and there behind them, like a thread weaving through every moment, is the American government’s failure to find a way to give back to these people the freedom to live their lives.

It is existential terror. It must stop.

March 5, 2018, was the original date when protection for DREAMers was supposed to end. On February 26, days before the deadline, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case that would have undone the two federal court injunctions that ruled it unconstitutional for the government to deny DACA renewals past that date. This leaves DREAMers in a situation where they can still potentially apply for a renewal of their status past March 5, but like everything related to this issue, that provision is subject to change at virtually any time.

You can help by calling your Members of Congress to demand that they pass a clean DREAM Act! What to say:

Thank you for your strong support of DREAMers. Please continue to work to include a clean DREAM Act in the next spending bill. These young Americans deserve to live without fear of having their families torn apart.

Both Senators Feinstein and Harris are supportive and have staff working on immigration cases, so you can reach out. And if you have any questions about current immigration policy, ICE actions, what is being negotiated in DC, or other issues, please come to our meeting with Senator Feinstein’s state director in Oakland on March 9, 2018.

ISF immigration rally
State Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), at the emergency immigration rally on February 22, 2018. Photo credit Indivisible SF.

 

Public domain image courtesy of StockSnap

Political and Proud: Alameda’s High Schoolers Voice a Call To Action

On February 21, 2018, Indivisible East Bay joined high schoolers, parents, and public officials from the Bay Area for Political and Proud, an evening of speeches and workshops at Alameda’s Encinal High School. The goal of the night was to bring young women, especially young women of color, together with leaders and organizations that could encourage and inform them as they set out on the path to building America’s more perfect union.

Judging by this event, Alameda’s future leaders are an incredibly organized and serious group of young women. They filled their school’s big gymnasium with decorated guest tables and a huge selection of organizing stations. Indivisible East Bay set up next to Alameda4Impeachment, Women’s March Oakland, The League of Women Voters, and more. The atmosphere was very much one of collaboration and community; Encinal High’s student AV technicians, journalists, and organizers did a wonderful job of managing and documenting a complex event.

A long line of impressive public officials gave speeches throughout the evening. Alameda’s mayor, Trish Herrera Spencer, talked about being Latina in law school, and encouraged everyone present to give themselves to as many opportunities as possible, no matter how remote the chance of success might seem. “When you show up, look around. Someone in that room will like you,” she said, to cheering and applause.

She noted, crucially, that more than one million Californian 17 year-olds will be eligible to vote come November 2018. It’s on us to make sure every one of them is registered and excited to participate.

A young woman with a small camera records an older woman speaking into the camera. They're on opposite sides of a table with an Indivisible East Bay banner on the front. A man stands to their left.
Volunteers recording a short interview about Indivisible East Bay with one of Encinal High’s student journalists.

Hydra Mendoza, Deputy Chief of Staff for Education and Equity in the San Francisco Mayor’s Office, spoke clearly to the students, saying: “We are dependent on your ability to educate yourselves.” Mendoza described the challenges she faced as a young woman of color running for public office in San Francisco, and made a brave attempt to explain redlining and the concept of generational wealth to an audience that may never own property unless their parents buy it for them. Hopefully they, unlike Millennials who will rent apartments into their retirement, force a change in this system before they end up trapped in it.

Pamela Price, currently running for District Attorney of Alameda County, gave a rousing speech that detailed her own experience as a litigant in a Title IX sexual harassment case. Price tied her role in this important case to her long career as a civil rights lawyer, and echoed the same themes as the mayor when she exhorted the audience to “fill out the application, okay? You don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Price ended on a resonant point: Alameda County is the most progressive in the country, and its teenagers have been chosen by virtue of their time here to lead the rest of the country to a progressive future that echoes the values they’ve learned in Alameda. What is familiar to them must become familiar to their counterparts in Alabama and Georgia if we’re to keep pushing the country forward. Listening to the speeches and watching the organizers manage it all, it was difficult not to agree with Price – and it was impossible not to feel a deep belief in the capacity of her bright young audience to change America for the better.

Images courtesy of Photography by Rex.

Power, Not Panic: What To Do If You See ICE

The Trump administration is making no secret of its intention to persecute California’s undocumented immigrants. Despite recent legislation barring authorities from cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the state, rumblings from D.C. coupled with recent egregious acts of overreach by ICE in California make it clear that these agents present a growing threat to our communities. Whether we’re immigrants, allies, or community members who care, we need to prepare ourselves to respond to raids and checkpoints wherever we find them. Below is a list of resources and training that you can use to be as ready as possible to hold ICE to account in our state.

How to Respond to ICE

Remember these key words: Power, not panic. Those words will help you find the website of the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, which has a treasure trove of info on protecting yourself and your community against ICE and fighting misinformation.

Keep in mind:

  • First and foremost: Know your rights. Know whether or not you are safe from ICE, and to what extent your immigration status, if any, would be impacted by an arrest.
  • Learn about ICE and how it operates.
  • If you see ICE on the street, take steps to confirm with others that you saw them. Spreading panic helps no one, and could traumatize children and families already living in fear.
    • Once ICE presence is confirmed, call your local Rapid Response network hotline. Use the hotlines only to report ICE activity and enforcement actions; website links are also given to make informational inquiries.
    • Document what you see ICE doing. We recommend downloading the ACLU’s free Mobile Justice – CA app, which automatically uploads video  from your smartphone to the ACLU Northern California office. This keeps the footage safe if enforcement officials try to delete it or confiscate your phone.
  • If ICE comes to your homeyou don’t have to let them in unless they show you a warrant. They will sometimes wave bits of paper that aren’t warrants around and say that they are warrants; they can and will bend the law to gain entrance to your home.
    • If you are arrested, remain silent, and ask to speak to a lawyer.
    • The ACLU has precise instructions on how to handle an ICE raid on your home in Spanish and in English.

Want to help? Volunteer or otherwise support your local Rapid Response Network:

Graphic © California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance 

Do No Harm, Mostly: Federal Government Opening New Doors to Denial of Health Care for Women

In January 2018, the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced its decision to offer support to medical professionals who decline to provide care – primarily abortion- and transgender-related healthcare – because of their personal beliefs. These beliefs don’t have to be written down anywhere, don’t have to be part of an organized religion or group, and don’t even have to be beliefs that anyone else holds. The person just has to say, “This goes against my conscience,” and the newly-empowered HHS Office of Civil Rights will get to work on finding ways to help them defend that belief by denying care.

This opens a valley-sized doorway to denial of care. This isn’t religious freedom: it’s a taxpayer-funded tool that will allow caregivers to hurt people who might depend on them.

While this might sound like a huge change or an affront to the Hippocratic Oath, belief-motivated denial of care isn’t a new concept in American health care. In fact, since 2010, more and more women have been reporting that they were denied abortion care or tubal ligation (having your “tubes tied” to ensure sterility), even in cases of emergency, right from their hospital bed.

Tamesha Means sits in a living room with two other people, one of them a young boy. Family photos crowd two large frames on the wall above them.
Tamesha Means suffered a miscarriage at 18 weeks; the miscarriage, a painful and traumatic experience, lasted days. Rather than offer abortion care that could have saved Tamesha from untold suffering, her Catholic hospital sent her home with Tylenol three times. Image: ACLU.

The reason behind the denials is simple: these women are in Catholic hospitals that follow the Catholic Directives, a series of rules laid out by bishops that specify what Catholic hospitals can and cannot do. In 2016, one in six hospital beds in the United States was in a hospital bound to the Catholic Directives; in California, it’s almost precisely that percentage, with the Directives covering 15.9% of all beds. It gets worse when you talk about health-related emergencies: Catholic hospitals control at least 40% of all acute care beds in five states. Ten of the nation’s 25 largest health system are Catholic-owned. And the situation only grows worse every time a Directives-bound organization buys up another hospital or health system. If you weren’t aware of any of this, you’re not alone: you can blame the fragmented and opaque structure of the American health care system for the largely unnoticed proliferation of Catholic hospitals.

On the ground, this translates directly into a significant reduction in the number of reproductive care procedures women receive. There are health systems in the country where women, particularly those in rural areas, don’t have access to a hospital that will care for their reproductive needs. This impacts their lives in countless ways.

Crucially, these hospitals also refuse to train new doctors in how to perform abortion, which is a very safe and relatively straightforward procedure for someone with the right expertise to perform. In Texas, for example, there are barely any clinics or universities left that offer courses in abortion. Volunteer groups like Medical Students for Change are doing what they can to train practitioners and keep this knowledge alive, but they face incredible challenges in their work. 

We’re going to see more and more of this, too, as HHS gets more familiar with its new powers.

This situation has led to devastating consequences for women seeking care. This report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) details case after case where women were subjected to painful and traumatic miscarriages, some of them lasting days, which would have been alleviated by abortion care in any non-Catholic hospital. There are cases where women who have reached their ideal family size, or who need to avoid pregnancy for medical reasons, were denied sterility procedures. Weaving throughout the stories are statements from doctors and nurses who wanted to provide the best care for their patients, including abortion care, but who were kept from doing so by hospital administrators.

A close-up of Mindy Swank sitting in a family room.
Mindy Swank was thrilled to discover she was pregnant a second time; she was devastated when she miscarried, and sought medical help when her body couldn’t complete the process. Her Catholic hospital refused to perform an abortion despite multiple hemorrhages and undeniable proof that Mindy’s baby wouldn’t survive. They finally induced labor at 27 weeks, when Mindy was hemorrhaging severely and after she had endured weeks carrying a baby she knew couldn’t live. Her baby died a few hours after delivery. Image: The Journal-Register.

This isn’t how health care should operate. Patients have the right to determine what happens to their body, and they have a right to have that spectrum of care include procedures and medicines that are safe and readily available, without having some options foreclosed because the practitioner objects to them. The ACLU and others have struggled to prosecute cases around denial of care based on religion or morality for numerous reasons, including the complexity and narrowness of medical malpractice law.

As with all things, the best way to remedy this situation is to elect lawmakers and local officials who will stand up for their constituents’ right to access health care with no strings attached. We hope you’ll join us in 2018 as we put in the work that will lead to a future where this ridiculous, discriminatory, and potentially life-threatening rule is completely rescinded, and Catholic hospitals are required to provide a complete spectrum of care to their patients.

I’m Not Listening: Boycotting Trump’s State of the Union

Sorry, What Was That?

For a looming moment on January 30th, Donald Trump will be called upon to address the country and sum up the state of the union that we all call home. A betting woman would put money on him devoting large portions of this speech to how wonderful tax cuts are, how beautiful the military is, how corrupt the media, how weak Senator Schumer, how cold it is in winter, how I really need to do the dishes after dinner tonight, how I think there’s still laundry in the —

Sorry! I drifted off. We know exactly what he’s going to say, down to the very last sequential adjective. It’s going to be a lot of lying and a lot of “Okay?” It’s going to be a wholesale waste of our time.

Open Hearts, Closed Ears

Several brave Members of Congress – so far predominantly people of color – are boycotting Trump’s State of the Union speech, because they too know exactly what’s going to happen. They know he’s going to manage not to say anything overtly racist for half an hour, and a lot of people are going to yap about how he isn’t a racist because all he did was dog whistle. They know he’s going to bumble through some words about #metoo that don’t directly call for the end of the Sixth Amendment. They know it isn’t worth their time.

If you are also already over what promises to be a lukewarm exercise in papering over the vast fissures this administration continues to widen daily, consider taking the following action in the days leading up to the speech:

  • Thank the Members of Congress who are taking a stand and boycotting the speech.
  • Petition other representatives to follow their example. Then, petition them some more.
  • Take part in the fourth annual People State of the Union, where people participating in our actual democracy will come together to share their stories about living in this great nation. These stories will be woven together into a poem.
  • Reclaim your time. Do literally anything other than watch him, comment on him, or engage with him. Join me in catching up on the dishes and laundry I was daydreaming about at the start of this piece. Walk your dog. Take your neighbor some coffee. Catch up on IEB Newsletters of the past. Deprive our nominal leader of the attention that sustains him.

A Year of IEB

The news cycle in the first few weeks of 2018 has been especially unforgiving. With the White House imploding under the weight of its own gossip while the Congressional GOP relaxes and plots its next moves, the fresh start promised by the New Year feels anything but.

Despite all of that, 2017 also saw IEB come into being, and we persisted through the year: on the streets, on the phone, sending texts, meeting Members of Congress, packing town halls… we kept the government on notice, and all it takes to see the size of our impact is a quick glance down the administration’s list of unfulfilled promises. If you hadn’t come out, if you hadn’t texted or written postcards or donated money, everything on that list would be part of our reality now.

With 2018 off to a start defined by the worst excesses of its predecessor, we thought it would be a good idea to look back and really take stock of what we did and how we did it in 2017, a year that rewrote the rulebook on our understanding of the American republic. The list below lays it out: We were there when it counted, and we made our voices heard.

Holding Power to Account

We spent a lot of time meeting and cultivating close relationships with our Members of Congress, and we wrote it all down.

Raising Our Voices

In 2017, IEB and its members were unafraid to raise their voices about the issues facing the country today. From phone banks to postcard campaigns to donation drives to knitting patterns, we used tools from every corner of our arsenal to keep the Trump administration on its toes.

Shining a Light

Information is power – so we made it our business to read, learn, and share our knowledge.

Building Our Community

The progress IEB makes in 2018 will rely on the relationships between and among its members. That’s why it’s so important that we meet, and keep meeting, and so wonderful when we do: we are building a community founded on political spirit that will outlast the current darkness and teach all of us lessons in how to be the best Americans we can.

TPS Revoked: A Betrayal By Any Other Name

Temporary Protected Status: A Reprieve from Disaster

In the late morning of January 13, 2001, El Salvador was rocked by a 7.7 magnitude earthquake that triggered vicious landslides in every part of the country. Almost 1,000 people were killed, with thousands more injured and displaced. Over 108,000 homes were destroyed. Life came to a halt.

Over the next month, still reeling from the first, massive quake, El Salvador was pummeled by more than 2,500 aftershocks, two registering at more than 5.7 on the Richter scale. Among them, the aftershocks and the insistent landslides made recovery in the near future extremely difficult; an economy and system of government made weak and dangerous by a US-backed civil war in the ’80s and ’90s made it all but impossible.

Seeing this horror unfolding, the US government extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to 200,000 of the earthquake’s victims. They would be granted permission to move to the US and work, on the understanding that they should return to El Salvador when the country had recovered. Their status would be renewed every 18 months if they paid the hundreds of dollars in processing fees on time. Crucially, it was assumed that they would send money home to their families – remittances – that could bolster the economy and speed recovery.

There Has Been A Change in Your Status

Next week will mark 17 years since the quake hit El Salvador. It will also mark two weeks since the Trump administration announced its decision not to renew TPS for the Salvadoran refugees.

In September of 2019, these people will be forced to return to a country that remains, for many, a difficult place to build a life. El Salvador is in the grip of one of the highest murder rates in the world, and its economy – 17% of which is based on remittances sent home by TPS recipients – isn’t ready for 200,000 new, skilled workers. Violence at the hands of gangs and police is common. If the TPS recipients are forced to return to El Salvador, Amnesty International predicts they could face “extortion, kidnapping, coerced service to gangs, and sexual violence.”

El Salvador has not recovered from the devastation wreaked by US meddling in its political landscape, and has not recovered from the damage done to the economy by the disasters that visited the land in January 2001. It is not a safe place to call home.

Ending TPS for the Salvadoran refugees is a betrayal.

This Land is Our Land

For the past 17 years, El Salvador’s TPS recipients have lived, worked, and built families and communities in the United States. They have paid taxes on their income, and bolstered the government with visa fees. For the better part of a generation, they have made America better.

They are also not the first group of TPS recipients to be denied a right to continue making America better by the current government. 46,000 residents from Haiti had their status revoked last year, while 2,500 from Nicaragua had theirs revoked at the very beginning of 2018. 57,000 Honduran TPS recipients will learn their fate in July of this year.

We need a path to lawful permanent residence for TPS recipients. It is immoral in the extreme to assure families of semi-permanent status and then revoke it in order to fulfill the perceived wishes of a minority of the American electorate.

To help them, start here:

  • Thank our Senators for supporting the SECURE Act, which would create a path to residency for TPS recipients. Senator Feinstein was one of those who introduced the bill in the Senate, and Senator Harris supported it from the outset.
  • Contact your Representative too: Barbara Lee has issued a strong statement opposing the Administration’s action and Mark DeSaulnier has also spoken out on his facebook page and in his email newsletter; thank them. And tell Eric Swalwell that he, too, should speak publicly and loudly decrying this action for the betrayal that it is.
  • Educate yourself about how Trump is damaging legal immigration without involving Congress. Tell others what you learn.
  • Fight for a clean DREAM Act. Thousands will lose their DACA this year unless we act.
  • Be a friend to immigrants. This article was written by one. Two of her best friends are here on H1-B visas, living in fear that their status will be revoked. This is a horrible time to be a non-citizen. This author feels like a traitor every time she pays tax to the US government, because that same government is using her money to visit her worst nightmares on innocent people. The vast majority of immigrants can’t vote. We need you to vote in ways that let us continue to live with you and be a part of something that seemed so wonderful to us that we left everything familiar behind to be a part of it.

 

 

Image lovingly pilfered from NPR.

 

Giving thanks

It’s cold, it’s wet, it’s dark before you get home – winter has arrived in the Bay Area, and with it, the Thanksgiving holiday. Regardless of the day’s hurtful origins, there’s no reason not to take time during these long nights to nurture gratitude for the good in our lives. We’ve compiled this list of people and things that had America’s back in 2017, to give you and yours an easy way to spread a little of your infinite light this winter. This list isn’t exhaustive – it’s not even close – but it’s a starting point.

Members of Congress

Quick note: Not all of these people are perfect or have perfect legislative records. There are even a few we disagree with the vast majority of the time. We don’t think that disagreeing with someone sometimes means you can’t thank them for the times when you found yourselves aligned.

Representative Mark DeSaulnier

Mark DeSaulnier has represented CA-11 with progressive values this past year. He’s held town halls and been willing to meet with his constituents – including Indivisible members – face-to-face.

Representative Barbara Lee

From her work on racial, economic, and environmental justice to her leadership over the last 16 years on repealing the 2001 Authorization of Military Force (AUMF), Barbara Lee has been a powerful voice for Alameda County in Washington, D.C.

  • Phone: (510) 763-0370
  • Email: This form (you can also sign up for her excellent newsletter, Lee Mail, on this site)
  • Snail mail: 1301 Clay Street, Ste. 1000-N, Oakland, CA 94612

Representative Eric Swalwell

Eric Swalwell has been a strong advocate for CA-15 and a tireless voice in the fight to uncover the connections between President Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Senator Dianne Feinstein

We’re grateful to our senior senator for her work to protect an independent judiciary and the rule of law, and for her passion for very particular causes such as gun control and protecting the Mojave Desert and the undocumented, including an undocumented Oakland nurse and her family. She’d want us to say we’re thankful for her “ability to get things done,” and she has come closer than most Democrats—her sexual abuse bill passed the Senate and there is a (narrow) path forward for her bump stocks ban. We are thankful for her continued belief, backed by a lifetime of public service, in that ability to find a way forward against all odds.

Senator Kamala Harris

From her work on the Senate Intelligence Committee to her bold stances and direct and forceful questioning style in confirmation hearings, our junior senator has made an outsized impact during her first year in Washington. We are thankful for her eagerness to get out ahead of other politicians to endorse Medicare for all, for her promise to force the Republicans to protect DACA youth or shut down the government, and for her attention to women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ folks. And we are thankful for her efforts to look past politics to draw strength from our common humanity and use that strength to fight terrible policies.

  • Phone:  (415) 355-9041
  • Email: This form
  • Snail mail: 50 United Nations Plaza, Suite 5584, San Francisco, CA 94102

Senator Susan Collins

Hark! A Republican from Maine who voted consistently to save our healthcare from the worst excesses of her own party. No matter where she falls on the tax heist, she put her career on the line and took fire from some of the nastiest people in politics not just for the sake of the people she represents in Maine, but for the whole country. Visit her website or her Twitter.

Senator Lisa Murkowski

Like her colleague Senator Collins, Murkowski stood fast against her own party to protect the healthcare of millions of Americans. She has some seriously questionable opinions about a lot of things, but without her and Collins (and some late glory-theft by John McCain), the ACA wouldn’t be with us this holiday. Let’s hope that her vote on the tax plan doesn’t dismantle it. Visit her website or her Twitter.

Senator Chris Murphy

The junior Senator from Connecticut has been a steadfast progressive on the national stage, representing us and our values with clarity and consistency. His particular attention to gun safety law is worthy of note. Visit his website or his Twitter.

Senator Elizabeth Warren

It’s everyone’s most favorite nerd! Warren has spent the past year doing what she does best: persisting at being a detailed-obsessed, unerringly intelligent thorn in the side of the GOP. She’s been on their tail with numbers, facts, and unimpeachable arguments across all issues, but especially her mainstays in economic policy and consumer protection law. Visit her website or her Twitter.

Representative Frederica Wilson

Wilson shot to the national stage this year with her relentless and dignified defense of a Gold Star family living in her Florida district. The Trump administration and all of its apparatus came for her and that family with a racially-motivated fervor, and she resisted all of it flawlessly, setting a wonderful example for the rest of us in not taking shit from people just because they’re in power. Plus: cowboy hats! Visit her website or her Twitter.

Representative Maxine Waters

She reclaimed her time, showing the world how it’s done, and she continues to be a brave and powerful leader for residents of Southern California – and the entire country – in resisting the administration. Visit her website or her Twitter.

Journalists and Journals

Journalism is facing a critical moment in its history. Whether or not it survives this period of time, and in what form, will depend almost entirely on the people running it. Below are a list of newsrooms that have spent this past year working to protect journalism, hold the Trump administration to account, and sincerely tell truth to power.

Reveal News from the Center for Investigative Reporting

Based out of Berkeley, the Center for Investigative Reporting has been providing high quality investigative journalism to the Bay and the nation for years. Its writers have sharpened their focus this past year to shed light on abuse in the justice system, the Trump cabinet and its slumlords, and federal women’s health care spending. Reach out with thanks on their site or via Twitter.

ProPublica

ProPublica is a nonprofit news organization dedicated to in-depth investigative journalism. Like the Center for Investigative Reporting, ProPublica has this year turned its focus squarely on the Trump administration and its corporate sponsors. It is part of the only projects in the country that are actively tracking hate crimes and, separately, the causes behind America’s astonishingly high maternal death rate. Reach out on their site or on Twitter.

The Washington Post

After the election, the Washington Post adopted a new masthead motto: “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” First-rate reporting on issues international, national, and local, together with a first-rate mobile website and app. Yes, WaPo has a paywall, but journalists need to eat – so if your support of the First Amendment allows, please consider paying the entry fee.

The New York Times

The “failing” New York Times has been a constant thorn in the side of the Trump administration. The Dear Leader seems to reserve a special brand of distaste just for it and its journalists, which makes its strong growth and consistently illuminating journalism all the sweeter. Reach out via their site.

NPR / KQED / KALW / KPFA

National Public Radio (NPR) and its subsidiary stations, and Berkeley-based community radio station KPFA, give us free access to high quality local and international reporting and analysis without the need for an internet connection or a paper subscription. Despite repeated threats against its funding by the current administration, NPR has maintained its excellent programming while rising to become the nation’s dominant podcast network. You can thank them by reaching out through their site, or by, yes, giving in and sending them some money the next time a funding drive gets in the way of Fresh Air.

Progressive Voices Radio

Thirsting for more in-depth and radical analysis? The free internet radio programs on Progressive Voices include shows from leading progressive talk hosts like Stephanie Miller, Randi Rhodes, Thom Hartmann, and more.

Free Speech TV

The anti-Fox News, Free Speech TV is a 24-hour TV network and multi-platform news source committed to advancing progressive social change. FSTV is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization funded entirely by individual donations and foundation grants.

Media Matters

Media Matters is a web-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.

Teen Vogue

Oh yes, you read that right. Alongside articles about Kylie Jenner’s birthday dress and thong jeans, TV has an amazing News and Politics beat where you can read about disability rights, reproductive rights, America’s gun problem, and much more. Their slogan: “Don’t Just Sit There: Now is the Time to RESIST Donald Trump’s America.” You go, girls!

Our Favorite Research & Resistance Resources

Wikipedia, the Congressional Research Service, the Congressional Budget Office, Snopes  … where would we be without research at our fingertips, arming us with facts to fight fake news and crazy claims?

A few of our top go-to’s on the why and how to #resist:

Info & actions: Indivisible Guide, Resistance Manual, Jen Hofmann’s Americans of Conscience Action Checklist

Tools & apps: 5calls, Resistbot, and two by local (Oakland) heroes: Rapid Resist, Purple Patriot

Awesome Local Businesses

Though much of IEB’s work is done online, we welcome the opportunity to join together IRL at meetings, actions, and events …  Since we’re not getting Koch $$ or Putin rubles, and our George Soros checks all bounced, we often rely on the kindness of local businesses and institutions. Big thank-yous to:

  • Panorama Framing and owner Patrick Cheatham, for letting the IEB Governance Committee meet gratis at your wonderful picture framing shop and art gallery! Check out the great political (and other) artwork at Panorama!
  • Drake’s Dealership, Oakland, for hosting our Rapid Resist texting meetups and All Member Meetings!
  • Sports Basement, Berkeley, for providing free meeting space at the coolest sports emporium in the Bay Area!
  • The Oakland Public Library, bringing you free books, videos, computers, music, events, and so much more – and gracious host for IEB’s All Member Meetings. (P.S. Any California resident can get full borrowing privileges and one of their beautiful library cards!)

Please patronize these terrific businesses, and tell them THANKS for helping IEB #resist!

Awesome Famous People

Colin Kaepernick

Football player, philanthropist, activist, educator, GQ citizen of the year … He took a stand and a knee and lost his football career for it, with no guarantee that anything would come his way to replace it. This is a person we’ll be talking about for decades. Say thanks on Twitter or on his site.

Rev. Robert Lee IV, General Lee’s grandson

When all around him embraced hate, Rev. Lee rejected them, bringing down insults, threats, and instability on himself and his home. He stood up against centuries of racism – against the legend and legacy of his own ancestors – to move his congregation and his community forward. Say thanks on Twitter.

Amy Siskind

Somehow, Amy Siskind has it within her to track everything the Trump administration does and then record it. Her weekly list of its activities was terrifying in the moment, but has taken on an even greater sense of horror as the months have passed by. Her work is in the Library of Congress now; it’s a true document of our times, and she deserves everything in the world for gritting her teeth and writing every excruciating detail of it down. Say thanks on Twitter or on Facebook.

Lin-Manuel Miranda

I don’t mean to brag, but dang I amaze and astonish … It’s one thing to write the greatest musical of all time, but quite another to use the platform that your success grants you to pick fights with the government and further the causes of your own people. In Miranda’s case, that has meant being a tireless advocate for Puerto Rico, both before and after the (ongoing) horror of Hurricane Maria. Miranda has also been a tireless advocate for Planned Parenthood, the National Resources Defense Council, and United We Dream. Say thanks on Twitter, or buy a fridge magnet with his face on it here.

Jimmy Kimmel and his writers

The next in a long line of brave residents putting their careers on the line to say something, Jimmy Kimmel has taken his enormous platform and used it to give emotional, rousing speeches on health care and gun safety. He didn’t have to do this. It would have been easier, so much easier, for his show to have remained impartial, but they chose to do the difficult thing, and their decision spread the message on health care further than we could have ever hoped. Say thanks on Twitter.

Chef José Andrés

Celebrity chef José Andrés took the initiative to build a food network of his own in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria, and has so far served over a million and a half meals to families in need. That’s more than any other organization, including the Red Cross. Say thanks on Twitter, or support his World Central Kitchen.

The Woman Who Flipped Off Trump’s Motorcade from Her Bicycle

Not all heroes wear capes. Say thanks to Juli Briskman on Twitter. #her2020

Ivanka Trumps’s Festive Trash Clam

Sensing that the nation was feeling weary, Ivanka Trump took a break from her busy career in nepotism to brighten our collective season with her contribution to festive centerpiece design. It’s as if Franz Kafka directed the opening shots of The Little Mermaid. Stolen ideas, elementary school Nativity play production values, racism so deeply ingrained that it turned the pumpkins white: it’s the Trump way.

You!!

If you’ve made it this far into this post – or even if you skipped down here, we don’t judge – you’re likely someone who is owed gratitude. We are thankful for every phone call, every postcard, every difficult conversation with a loved one, every protest, every sign, every idea, every atom of energy you gave to our resistance this year. Despite how difficult it’s been, despite the psychic and social horror of it all, we have won far more often than we have lost. Our successes and our continued defense of the United States is down to you, your families, and your communities. Sincerely and with the deepest hope for our next year: thank you.

 

Image lovingly borrowed from the NPR media library.