Protect Offshore Drilling Regulations!

By Christina Tarr

It seems it’s not enough for the Interior Department proposing to open all coastal waters of the United States (including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge but excluding Florida, apparently) to leasing for continental shelf oil and gas drilling (don’t forget to comment on that, by the way, and note that there will be public hearings on leasing for offshore drilling, including one in Sacramento on February 8). Now, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement is asking to roll back offshore drilling safety regulations — the regulations that were put in place following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. This is part and parcel of  Trump’s effort to cut back on all environmental protections to increase profits for his friends in the oil and gas business. Naturally, groups like the American Petroleum Institute and the National Ocean Industries Association are in favor.

A few things (among others) that the proposed rules do:

  • Delete a requirement that drillers propose to use only a safe amount of pressure in new wells
  • Loosen controls on blowout preventers, which seal off wells in case of an accident, and which currently are required to have a back-up plan in case of malfunction
  • Amend a standard that currently requires that equipment demonstrate that it can withstand a surge in pressure
  • Do away with third-party certification, which requires that an independent party confirm that equipment meets standards

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), which was created by the Obama Administration after the Deepwater Horizon spill, was never intended to promote oil production. It was kept separate from the leasing arm of the Interior Department to ensure that safety would not be compromised for profit. With these regulation changes, the BSEE now moves into a role as a promoter of industry, leaving no agency whose sole role is to promote safety. If we know anything about pipelines, it’s that they leak. The danger is increased exponentially when you are drilling miles offshore underwater. In essence, experts have concluded, the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon spill could have been prevented – and the proposed changes in regulations favor the oil industry and money over safety and the environment.

You can read a description of the proposed changes here, and you have until January 29, 11:59 PM EST to submit comments protesting the proposed rules. Submit comments here, and also read comments that have been made already.

Sample comment:

Do not weaken the current regulations on offshore drilling. The current regulations incorporate valuable lessons learned from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, when 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled into the sea, killing nearly a million seabirds and still causing effects in the Gulf. The proposed rules loosen controls on blowout preventers and third party certification that safety devices will work under the extreme conditions in which they are placed. The impact of another spill like the Deepwater Horizon, which the new rules practically guarantee, will far outweigh the benefits of reducing operating costs for oil companies that can well afford them.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement should be committed to the safety of offshore drilling operations, not with oil company profits. Strong regulation and an independent BSEE are needed to ensure that offshore drilling can coexist with other important uses of our coastline, including recreation, tourism, fishing and wilderness.

You can also sign up to receive more information about, or help plan, actions during the first two weeks of February to protest plans for the huge new federal offshore drilling program.

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places.

Trump’s Dangerous Census Pick

Not content with GOP efforts to suppress the votes of low-income Americans and people of color at the state level, the Trump Administration has been trying to position the 2020 US Census as yet another arena where Republicans can make some Americans count and others not — this time literally.

The administration is planning to add a question about immigration status to the upcoming Census, a move that census experts and civil rights advocates agree would likely intimidate immigrants into not responding. At the same time, they have failed to ramp up Census funding for 2020, which will disproportionately impact the counting of lower-income and minority populations, who tend to be harder to reach.

Now they want to appoint Thomas Brunell, a political scientist inexperienced in civil service or government statistics, to the position of Deputy Director of the Census Bureau. The Deputy Director position does not require confirmation by the Senate; the position of Director does, but they are leaving the Director position unfilled. Oh, and just coincidentally we’re sure, Brunell has testified in support of gerrymandered Republican districts, drawing on his contrarian body of work supporting “non-competitive” elections. He’s even authored a book called “Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections Are Bad for America.”

Leadership positions in the Census have typically been nonpartisan and given to people with relevant expertise: for example, George W. Bush’s head of the Census had extensive government and statistical experience. Beyond the apparent politicization of career civil service roles, having an inexperienced Deputy Director handling budget and operations for the 2020 Census will likely lead to more problems with the data and undercounting of targeted populations.

An accurate Census population count is important, because what’s at stake are electoral college votes, congressional representation in the House, and the distribution of hundreds of billions in federal funding for things like education and health care.

Take Action:

Call Senator Feinstein’s office to express your opposition to Brunell’s appointment. (Senator Kamala Harris has already expressed concern regarding Brunell’s appointment). If you have to leave a message, please leave your full street address to ensure your call is tallied.

What to say:

My name is ________________ and my ZIP Code is _________.  I’m calling to express my opposition to Thomas Brunell as Deputy Director of the Census Bureau. He has proven he is hostile to objective and fair redistricting efforts. He also doesn’t have the necessary experience for the job. We need an objective, experienced statistician and career civil servant to keep the 2020 Census on track. This appointment of a deputy instead of a director for the Census (bypassing Senate confirmation) is an attempt by the administration to skirt the “Advice and Consent” requirement of the appointments clause of the Constitution so I ask that my senator speak out against this on the floor of the Senate.

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.

 

Resistance Donation List: Give ‘Til It Helps!

We hear from lots of people who don’t have much time to fight directly with the resistance but are glad to learn about grassroots, advocacy, and resistance groups they can donate to — organizations that need the funds to support their hard work in the trenches, streets, and courtrooms.

Or maybe you and people you know want ideas for year-end charitable giving. If so, remember that donations to 501(c)3 (but not 501(c)4) charities are eligible as tax write-offs. Also, because the new tax scam will likely substantially decrease the number of people who itemize deductions after 2017 and can therefore deduct charitable donations, giving to 501(c)3 groups will probably go way down in the future. Don’t care about the write-off? Do as Mila Kunis does, and donate to Planned Parenthood in Mike Pence’s name!

We’ve compiled a spreadsheet list of some organizations that need our support in fighting right-wing assaults. Can’t donate right now? Most of them also have opportunities for you to volunteer or help out in different ways. Have a birthday or other special occasion coming up? Ask your generous relatives and friends to donate to your favorite group in your name. And as always, please held by spreading the word – share this link with anyone you think would be interested.

The entire spreadsheet may be easier to read than the one we posted here – it also includes a column with issues (click on ‘Data’ and ‘Sort sheet by column D’). Know of other worthy resistance groups? Post a comment to this article.

Name URL Mission statement
5 Calls https://5calls.org Make your voice heard. 5 Calls is the easiest and most effective way for citizens to make an impact in national and local politics
ACLU https://www.aclu.org/ The ACLU is a national organization that works daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States.
Americans of Conscience Action Checklist jenniferhofmann.com I turned bad news into positive action. When I started creating a weekly list of actions for local friends, it was re-shared on Facebook over 1,600 times. I call it the Action Checklist for Americans of Conscience.
Backing Black Business backingblackbusiness.com Make your dollars and your voice heard by supporting locally owned black businesses. Only together can we promote economic growth and well-being in the black community.
Black Lives Matter blacklivesmatter.com The Black Lives Matter Global Network is a chapter-based, member-led organization whose mission is to build local power and to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. We are expansive. We are a collective of liberators who believe in an inclusive and spacious movement.
Carpool Vote http://carpoolvote.com/ ​Every American DESERVES a Vote. We connect volunteer drivers with anybody who needs a ride to claim their vote.
Center for Reproductive Rights www.reproductiverights.org The Center for Reproductive Rights uses law to advance reproductive freedom as a fundamental right worldwide by documenting violations, waging legal battles and shaping policy.
CIVIC http://www.endisolation.org/ Ending the isolation of men and women in U.S. immigration detention
Code Blue https://www.codeblue.team/ Rebuild a progressive voting majority in federal, state and local government.
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) https://www.cair.com/ CAIR’s vision is to be a leading advocate for justice and mutual understanding. CAIR’s mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund https://dredf.org/ DREDF founded in 1979, is a leading national civil rights law and policy center directed by individuals with disabilities and parents who have children with disabilities.
Earthjustice https://earthjustice.org/ Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.
Ella Baker Center http://ellabakercenter.org/ We are named after Ella Baker, a brilliant, black hero of the civil rights movement. Following in her footsteps, we organize with Black, Brown, and low-income people to shift resources away from prisons and punishment, and towards opportunities that make our communities safe, healthy, and strong.
Emerge America https://emerge.ngpvanhost.com/ Emerge America identifies women community leaders and trains them so that they are ready to run.
Emily’s List and Run to Win https://www.emilyslist.org/ We ignite change by getting pro-choice Democratic women elected to office.
Environmental Defense Fund https://www.edf.org/ Environmental Defense Fund is dedicated to protecting the environmental rights of all people, including future generations. Among these rights are access to clean air and water, healthy and nourishing food, and flourishing ecosystems.
Flippable https://www.flippable.org/ Flippable is building a data-driven, people-powered movement to flip states blue and restore our democracy.
Free Speech TV https://freespeech.org/ Free Speech TV is one of the last standing national, independent news networks committed to advancing progressive social change. As the alternative to television networks owned by billionaires, governments and corporations, our network amplifies underrepresented voices and those working on the front lines of social, economic and environmental justice.
GLAD: GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders https://www.glad.org/ GLAD believes in leading through innovation and action. We are committed to establishing legal precedent in all areas affecting the LGBTQ community, including anti-discrimination law, family law, transgender law, and HIV law, paving the way for advances across the country.
Human Rights Campaign https://www.hrc.org/ As the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization, HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are ensured of their basic equal rights, and can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.
Indivisible National www.indivisible.org Our mission is to fuel a progressive grassroots network of local groups to resist the Trump Agenda. In every congressional district in the country, people like you are starting local groups and leading local actions.
International Rescue Committee www.rescue.org The IRC responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people to survive and rebuild their lives. Find out how you can help the IRC offer lifesaving care and life-changing assistance to refugees forced to flee from war or disaster.
L4GG: Lawyers for Good Government https://www.lawyersforgoodgovernment.org/ Fighting for democracy, justice, and the future of our nation. Our mission is to protect and strengthen democratic institutions, resist abuse of power and corruption, and defend the rights of those who suffer in the absence of good government.
Lambda Legal https://www.lambdalegal.org/volunteer Making the case for equality
Latino Victory http://latinovictory.us/ The Latino Victory Fund is a progressive political action committee with the mission of growing Latino political power by increasing Latino representation at every level of government – from the school board to the Senate to the White House.
Media Matters for America https://www.mediamatters.org/ Media Matters for America is a web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America https://momsdemandaction.org Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is a non-partisan grassroots movement to mobilize moms, families and everyday Americans to advocate for stronger gun laws.
MoveOn https://front.moveon.org/ Democracy in action. MoveOn.org is an American left-wing political lobbying group and political action committee.
NAACP http://www.naacp.org/ The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination.
NARAL Pro-Choice America https://www.prochoiceamerica.org/ NARAL Pro-Choice America is a 501(c)(4) organization in the United States that engages in political action and advocacy efforts to oppose restrictions on abortion and expand access to abortion.
National Black Justice Coalition http://nbjc.org/get-involved ​Civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS. NBJC’s mission is to end racism, homophobia, and LGBTQ bias and stigma. ​
National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC) https://democraticredistricting.com/ The political system is rigged. The fight to fix it is now.
National Immigration Law Center https://www.nilc.org/ Established in 1979, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) is one of the leading organizations in the U.S. exclusively dedicated to defending and advancing the rights of immigrants with low income.
National Resources Defense Council https://www.nrdc.org/ ​​NRDC works to safeguard the earth—its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends.
NextGen America https://nextgenamerica.org/ NextGen America acts politically to prevent climate disaster, promote prosperity, and protect the fundamental rights of every American.
Planned Parenthood https://www.plannedparenthood.org/ Planned Parenthood Federation of America is a nonprofit organization that provides sexual health care in the United States and globally.
Progressive Voices http://www.progressivevoices.com/ Providing politically progressive content to consumers via mobile device and online 24/7/365. Progressive Voices aggregates top progressive radio talk shows and delivers them via the Progressive Voices Channel on TuneIn and The Progressive Voices iOS and Android apps.
Purple Patriot http://purplepatriot.com/ Purple Patriot provides you with a quick and easy way to stay informed and active in politics. It is a single platform where you can learn about the political and social issues, engage in conversation on Facebook and Twitter, email with your Congressional representative, locate their next town hall meeting or donate to supporting associations.
Rapid Resist https://rapidresist.org/ Rapid Resist is a non-profit stopping Trump’s agenda by helping organizers in conservative areas by text-banking.
Resistance Manual https://www.resistancemanual.org/Resistance_Manual_Home Action requires information. There are more of us who believe in equity and justice than those who support an ideology of fear and hate. Together, we can harness the collective power of the people to resist the impact of a Trump presidency and to continue to make progress in our communities. Get educated. Get organized.
ResistanceLive by Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin http://www.patreon.com/ResistanceLive #ResistanceLive is a daily broadcast on Facebook, YouTube and iTunes that provides political updates for the Resistance, brought to you by Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin.
Run For Office https://www.runforoffice.org/ Our democracy depends upon citizens deeply engaging in the democratic process and choosing to lead by running for office. Run for Office is a free service that provides all the tools you need to launch a successful campaign whether you are a seasoned veteran or first—time campaigner.
Run For Something https://www.runforsomething.net/ Run for Something will recruit and support talented, passionate young people who will advocate for progressive values now and for the next 30 years, with the ultimate goal of building a progressive bench.
Sierra Club https://www.sierraclub.org/ To explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth;
To practice and promote the responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources;
To educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and to use all lawful means to carry out these objectives.
Sister District https://www.sisterdistrict.com/ The Sister District Project (SDP) is a grassroots organization that matches volunteers in safe blue places with strategic state elections throughout the country.
Southern Poverty Law Center https://www.splcenter.org/ Southern Poverty Law Center monitors hate groups and other extremists throughout the U.S. and exposes their activities to law enforcement agencies, the media and the public.
Spread the Vote https://www.spreadthevote.org/ Spread The Vote fights voter suppression by helping citizens of states with Voter ID laws get the IDs they need to vote. Voter ID laws are modern poll taxes. They have the intent and effect of suppressing the vote by people of color, poor people, and young people. Spread the Vote will fight these modern poll taxes.
Stay Woke https://www.staywoke.org/ StayWoke is a 501(c)(4) organization and digital accelerator that engages thousands of learners, builders, and activists in the work of advancing equity and justice in America. Together, we will win.
Swing Left https://swingleft.org/ Let’s take back the House. Find your closest Swing District and sign up to support a progressive win there in 2018.

Thank you for these additional sites!

Color of Change https://colorofchange.org/ Color Of Change is the nation’s largest online racial justice organization. We help people respond effectively to injustice in the world around us. As a national online force driven by over one million members, we move decision-makers in corporations and government to create a more human and less hostile world for Black people in America.
Florida Rights Restoration Project https://floridarrc.com/ FRRC is a grassroots, membership organization run by Returning Citizens, Formerly Incarcerated Persons (FIPs) in partnership with allies. We are dedicated to ending the disenfranchisement and discrimination against people with convictions, and creating a more comprehensive and humane reentry system that will enhance successful reentry, reduce recidivism, and increase public safety.

 

The Sentencing Project https://www.sentencingproject.org/ The Sentencing Project is a leader in changing the way Americans think about crime and punishment. Founded in 1986, The Sentencing Project works for a fair and effective U.S. criminal justice system by promoting reforms in sentencing policy, addressing unjust racial disparities and practices, and advocating for alternatives to incarceration.

IEB and ISF Meet with Senator Feinstein’s State Director

Photograph © Charlie Moehle
Photograph © Charlie Moehle

By Ted Landau

The conference room in Senator Dianne Feinstein’s San Francisco office was packed — standing room only. In attendance at our December 6 meeting were over 20 members of Indivisible: a combination of members of the East Bay and San Francisco chapters, plus one brave South Bay commuter. At the head of the table was Sean Elsbernd, the Senator’s State Director.

After brief introductions, we dove into a 90 minute conversation where Indivisible members took turns sharing our positions and asking Sean about the Senator’s plans. He was both communicative and frank in his replies.

Top of agenda were the two looming topics of the day: the tax reform bill and the impending showdown over the budget.

When asked what we as Indivisible members could do to help block the passage of the tax bill, Sean stressed that we shouldn’t focus our attention on Representatives outside our own districts because our actions would be unlikely to affect those votes (a point already well-understood by Indivisible).

At the same time, he indicated that the Republican House members from California should be a primary target for any statewide action. Being from California, a state that will be hit especially hard by the tax reform bill, these GOP Representatives could be susceptible to a change in their vote. They did, after all, vote to raise taxes on their own constituents. Sean admitted it’s a long shot — but it’s the best we can do.

As for the budget, Sean informed us that the Senator’s priorities are health care and disaster relief (especially for California fires and Puerto Rico). We stressed that we want Senator Feinstein to vote no on any funding deal that doesn’t include immediate re-authorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and to again vote no if the bill does not include a solution for DREAMers.

Sean responded cautiously, noting that while the Senator supports these priorities, they have to be balanced against the damage to constituents that a government shutdown would cause. Similarly, he added, the Senator believes it is not in our interest to sound as if we are in favor of shutting down the government, as this opens us up to potentially shouldering the blame should a shutdown occur. All agreed that this is a delicate balancing act, although Indivisible’s position tilted more strongly to proclaiming the intent to vote no if these issues were not addressed satisfactorily.

The rest of the meeting covered a diverse array of issues, ranging widely from Temporary Protected Status visas to gun control to net neutrality to health care to sexual assault to the Russia investigation to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) reauthorization. In general, as you might expect, Sean indicated that the Senator agreed with and was supportive of our requests and concerns, although how this would translate into action was often less clear. A few highlights:

  • Regarding Senator Feinstein’s Safe Environment from Countries Under Repression and Emergency Act, Sean informed us that this would not be taken up until next year.
  • On the matter of net neutrality and the FCC’s plans to dismantle it, Sean indicated that he did not think there was much that could be done on this matter legislatively.
  • When asked about reports on a major escalation in the privatization of intelligence work, separate from the CIA, Sean said Senator Feinstein will continue to oppose this.
  • Sean predicted that removal of the ACA’s individual mandate will remain in the tax bill, and said he thought there’s no stopping it at this point.
  • Regarding the Russia investigation, Senator Feinstein is sending out letters to various people requesting information regarding obstruction. However, her letters do not carry the force of a subpoena. On the plus side, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein’s tacit support for Mueller’s budget is a sign that Mueller will be protected from possible actions by Trump.
  • When asked whether the Senator expects passage of an amendment to the FISA bill that would prevent warrantless searches, Sean replied that this is a top priority for her. She still thinks the amendment has a chance to pass when the bill hits the Senate floor.

Overall, everyone agreed it was a productive and worthwhile discussion. IEB looks forward to our next meeting with Sean, which will likely be held separately from the ISF contingent.

Ted Landau is a retired professor of psychology. He has also spent several decades as a tech journalist/author — writing primarily about Apple products. He has been politically active in the East Bay since moving here in 2004.

Defend Wildlife: Protect the Endangered Species Act

Center for Biological Diversity
Copyright Center for Biological Diversity

By Christina Tarr

The Endangered Species Act (ESA), passed in 1973, currently protects more than 1,600 species and has likely saved at least 2,223 others from extinction. It has allowed the designation of millions of acres of critical habitat, and it has very strong public support. Read the Center for Biological Diversity’s description of how successful the Act has been.

Five Republican-sponsored bills that would weaken the ESA have recently passed out of the House Committee on Natural Resources and are now before the House. They include:

  • H.R. 424, which would remove protections for gray wolf populations in Wyoming and the western Great Lakes states;
  • H.R. 717, which allows the Departments of Interior or Commerce to prioritize consideration of petitions to list species other than in the order in which the petitions are received, and does not allow prioritization of species to be listed over species to be delisted. It also gives each department the authority to preclude listing a species if there is the likelihood of significant, cumulative economic effects;  
  • H.R. 1274, which says that Interior or Commerce must use data submitted by a state, tribal, or county government in making determinations of species listed, thus forcing regulators to accept any information even if it doesn’t meet scientific standards of peer review;
  • H.R. 2603 (SAVES Act), which amends the ESA to disallow listing on nonnative species; and
  • H.R. 3131, the Endangered Species Litigation Reasonableness Act, which amends the ESA to replace the current standard for awarding court costs, including attorney fees, in citizen suits with the federal judicial code standard for awarding costs to a prevailing party – thus making it harder for citizens to challenge illegal government actions in court.

What you can do:

Please call your Representative to say that you support the Endangered Species Act and that you oppose these five bills that would weaken it.

Hello, my name is [__________] from [______]. I urge Representative ____ to oppose five dangerous bills that attack the Endangered Species Act, peer-reviewed science, endangered species, and the right of Americans to go to court to defend them: H.R. 424, H.R. 717, H.R. 1274, H.R. 2603, and H.R. 3131.

Among other things, these bills would strip protections for imperiled wolves in Wyoming and the upper Midwest and allow for wolf hunting in those states; cripple enforcement of illegal wildlife trafficking; stymie citizens’ ability to challenge illegal government actions in court; and allow regulators to accept any information that is presented by state, local or tribal governments as science—even if it doesn’t meet scientific standards of peer review.

Learn more:

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places.

No One Is Above the Law

It’s been a month since we began talking about reports that Trump was considering firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller. As Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election continues, speculation is that he’s lasering in on Trump and his cronies’ ties to and collusion with Russia, and that the current occupant of the White House will try to kill the investigation before it gets too close …

After Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn pled guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with Russians, attacks against the FBI, former FBI director James Comey, and Robert Mueller have sharply escalated. In seemingly coordinated attacks over the past few days, Trump, Republican mouthpieces, and Fox (fake) News have all been trying to discredit Mueller and shut down the investigation.

As Indivisible National plainly states (and oh yes, they hit caps lock on purpose): “FIRING COMEY CREATED A CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS. FIRING MUELLER WOULD BE A CRISIS TIMES TEN.”  Further: “[f]iring Comey was obstruction of justice, pure and simple. But firing Mueller would be far worse—because the entire reason Mueller has this job is to protect the investigation from political interference. No one is above the law, especially not the President of the United States.”

MoveOn, Indivisible, and other groups are working in coalition to activate emergency rallies if Mueller is fired. Although we all hope it won’t happen, the threat is real enough to justify preparing an immediate, strong response.

What you can do now:

  • Find and RSVP to attend a Nobody Is Above the Law rapid response rally near you if Mueller is fired (see partial list below);
  • No local rally near you? Sign up to host one;
  • Spread the word by sending the link to everyone who may be interested;
  • Ask Congress to prevent Mueller from being fired. See Indivisible’s call script here;
  • Read our earlier article, with more info and actions.
  • Note that for any specific event, the timing may vary from the general MoveOn suggested timing (and all involve your local time), so please check the event you RSVP’ed for: if news of the firing occurs before 2 PM, the rally begins that day at 5 PM; if news occurs after 2 PM, the rally will begin the following day at noon.
  • AND NEW! Also general guidelines from MoveOn, check your local event: because of the holidays, if Mueller is fired between December 23 and December 26,  the rally will be held on December 27 at 5:00 PM.  Any other firing date will be treated as above.

nobody is above the law mueller firing.jpgAs MoveOn, the primary organizer behind the rapid response rallies, states: “This is our moment to stand up to protect our democracy. Let’s mobilize to show that we won’t let Donald Trump become the authoritarian that he aspires to be. The law applies to all of us, and it’s essential that it also applies to the most powerful people in our country.  Our response in the minutes and hours following a power grab will dictate what happens next, and whether Congress—the only body with the constitutional power and obligation to rein Trump in from his rampage—will do anything to stand up to him.”

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Please check this link for additional locations, and RSVP to receive updates.

Still Need to Enroll in the ACA? Here’s What to Do (But Act Fast!)

The deadline to enroll in the Affordable Care Act is fast approaching. Some states, including California, have extended deadlines: Covered California open enrollment ends January 31, 2018. But Friday, December 15, is the deadline for people in many states to enroll for healthcare under the ACA.

ACA Open Enrollment is the annual period to enrollswitch plans, and get subsidies; it’s the only time people can sign up without qualifying for special enrollment and avoid a monthly fee.

What you can do: First, enroll yourself & your family, then spread the word to everyone you know about the imminent deadline.

There’s free drop-in enrollment help at the Oakland and Richmond Public Libraries:

More important info:

Halt the Heist Tax Scam Rally

Tax rally photo by Charles Moehle
Photo credit: Charlie Moehle from Pro-Bono Photo

On December 4, 2017, IEB and other local Indivisible chapters held a rally in front of Senator Kamala Harris’ San Francisco office to protest the tax scam bills making their way through the Congress. Below are accounts from several IEB members who attended the rally, beginning with rally co-lead Nancy:

By Nancy:

I walked up from Civic Center BART to the UN Plaza to be met by gorgeous rally weather – blue skies and gentle winds. A few wonderful team-mates from the rally organizing team were already there, with set-up well underway – and two frenzied weeks of planning were about to pay off. 

A little before noon people were gathering, some singing tax carols and chanting. I’m an introvert, and was waiting to get nervous but I never did – I think I was too angry. Or more likely I was just too happy to look around and see this radiant gathering of the community – of people who know that this is what Democracy looks like. Honestly, most of the rally feels like a blur at this point. All I really remember is that it was a gorgeous show of solidarity, caring, and action. The beautiful crowd wanted EQUITY, and they wanted it NOW!

Most of us didn’t even know each other until we threw our hats in the ring together to plan this rally, but we were united in our rage at the unfairness, wrongheadedness, and bottomless bad faith of the tax heist. I am in awe of the willingness of everyone to say at every turn: “sure, yes, I’m on it.” No matter what else they had going on, they just got it done – and with brilliance and boundless good humor. I’m so grateful to the whole amazing team! Clear heads, valiant hearts, speaking truth to power: that’s who we are, dammit.

Tax rally photo by Charles Moehle
Photo credit: Charlie Moehle from Pro-Bono Photo

Meet the team (with a partial list of their duties):

  • Karen (Indivisible Sonoma County): Rally Co-Lead, Press List Wrangler, Tireless Promoter, Warrior Goddess and Cat Herder
  • Lisa (Indivisible Sausalito): Rally Co-Lead, Warrior Goddess and Mover-Alonger of Rally Activities
  • Ted (IEB): Steward of Rally Signs and Doer of Everything that Needs to be Done
  • Heather (IEB): Media Advisory Writer, Ruthless Editor, and Keeper of Captive Designer of Rally Signs
  • Robyn (Indivisible Sonoma County): Harris Team Liaison and Person Bonding with Rally Crowd
  • Shana (Indivisible Sonoma County): Keeper of Rally Central on Rally Day, and Cheerful Rememberer of Small Details Leaders Have Forgotten
  • Rohit (IEB): Writer of Harris Letter, Prolific Live Tweeter, and Knower of All Things Tax Bill/Healthcare-Related
  • Barbara (IEB): Storyteller and Person Making Sure All is Well with the Sound System

And special thanks to:

  • Amelia (IEB), who reached out to and coordinated with staff from Harris’ and Pelosi’s office
  • Christine (ISF) who edited our Media Advisory
  • Gen (Indivisible Sonoma County) who helped with the press list and sent out the Advisory and Press Release
  • Charlie Moehle (IEB) who documented the rally

Remarks to the crowd by George McRae:

Immediately after my 16th birthday I had to, by law, begin to have deductions made from my paycheck. There was the shock of a take-home amount much, much less than I had been used to. But I understood, and accepted that this was my responsibility as a citizen to contribute to the common good of the nation. Among the deductions were Social Security and Medicare, money I have since been faithfully paying into my account my entire working life. I always had the expectation that this money would be there for me when I needed it. Now at 64 years old I have no expectation, because the government is planning to steal this money to make up the budget shortfall with the tax scam. The Republicans admit to this and Senator Sanders got them to admit it the other day. Mitch McConnell himself said that the middle class would be screwed.  I played by the rules, and now I’m about to get screwed. No one held a gun to my head and told me — you are now 64. You get to this age automatically. And I didn’t get here with the expectation that I would be screwed for just getting here. The only way to stop this is to flip the congress. I urge everyone to work tirelessly to do that. Here in California that means the primaries in March, only three months away! Unless we get these sons of bitches out, this will continue. Thank you.

By Rohit:

When we come together, anything seems possible. Over 200 people attended the protest in front of Senator Harris’ office. Many courageously shared personal stories of how the GOP tax plan will hurt our communities. Representatives from Harris’ and Pelosi’s office listened and reiterated their resolve to do everything possible to stop the Trump tax heist. Special thanks to the indefatigable organizers at Indivisible chapters of East Bay, San Francisco, Sausalito, and Sonoma County, for bringing us together, and a shout-out to our partner indivisible San Francisco, who helped so much with promotion and who brought a big contingent to the rally. Check out Facebook to see how we are continuing the fight.

By Barbara Kluger:

I’m overwhelmed with the continuous daily political assaults and relieved whenever I can be with others who actually want to talk openly about it. Some people shared their personal stories on paper we made available on the info table; we will send these to Senator Harris. Others shared stories aloud by microphone to the crowd. Everyone attending was keen on meaningful human interaction: singing the satirical songs, chanting slogans, encouraging speakers with focused attention. It’s good to be together when so much of our time is spent keeping up with the latest news and interacting online. I had planned to tweet our activities during the rally, but never had time. I’m not sure my tweets would have made any impact on anyone, but I know that talking face-to-face with others was good for me.

Tax rally photo by Rohit Reddy
Ted speaking at tax rally. Photo by Rohit

By Ted:

For several weeks, a team of amazing Indivisibles from Indivisible East Bay, Sonoma County, and Sausalito planned the December 4th anti GOP tax rally in United Nations Plaza in San Francisco. The goal of this noon rally was to get Senator Kamala Haris’ staff and as many concerned citizens involved in this blatant “rob from the poor to give to the rich” GOP tax bill.

IEB’s Nancy kicked off the rally with an introduction of the terrible tax bill and its near certain bad effects. She and Karen of Indivisible Sonoma County led the large crowd in chants of “Kill the Bill” and similar messages. Many progressive groups showed up to show their support in creative ways: one group sang “Kill the Bill” Christmas carols! After ten people told the crowd how the tax bill would negatively affect them personally,  Robyn from Indivisible Sonoma County gave a letter, drafted by all the Indivisible groups present, to Daniel Chen from Senator Harris’ office, urging Harris to stand strong against the GOP bill. Mr. Chen then addressed the large crowd and reiterated Senator Harris’ opposition to the bill and her efforts to fight it.

Tax rally photo by Charles Moehle
Photo credit: Charlie Moehle from Pro-Bono Photo

Fight for the Clean Power Plan

By Christina Tarr

The Clean Power Plan (CPP) represents one of the strongest actions to combat global warming taken by the United States federal government. So likely you’re not surprised to hear that the Trump administration, playfellow of Big Oil, Gas, Coal, and Global Warming Deniers, wants to “suspend, revise or rescind” it. We have until January 16, 2018 to submit our comments and say “hell, no!”

What you need to know: The CPP works by reducing climate-changing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from existing coal- and gas-fired electric power plants. CO2 is the most widespread of the greenhouse gases fueling climate change. Existing coal and gas-fired power plants together emit more CO2 than any other category of emissions sources in the U.S.—roughly one-third of America’s emissions—so reducing those emissions goes a long way to reducing our total CO2 output.  The CPP effectively reduces power plant CO2 emissions in 2030 by 32% from 2005 levels.

Under the CPP, the EPA assigned each state a goal to limit emissions from existing power plants, and gave the states broad latitude to meet those goals, such as switching from coal to natural gas or building new wind or solar farms—thus encouraging innovation.

Under the CPP, $20 billion in climate-related benefits alone would occur in 2030, as well as health benefits of $14 to $34 billion. The net benefits of the CPP, including the value of total health, environmental and other economic benefits, minus the cost to comply, were estimated to range from between $26 to $45 billion in 2030.

Trump’s EPA—headed by Scott Pruitt, who says “the war on coal is over”—is now reviewing the CPP with the intent to “suspend, revise or rescind.” The Trump administration challenges both the legal basis of the CPP and its economic analysis. (Of course, the administration is also full of people who deny climate change …)

What you need to do: Comment by January 16, 2018 to urge the EPA to keep the CPP. We need to move toward the future; instead of clinging to old, dirty technologies we need to move beyond them. The jobs are in clean power. We don’t want to cede the field on newer, cleaner power industries to other countries while we grow sicker and poorer. Please make your voice heard by submitting comments to EPA, and then by sending a copy of your comments to your Representative and Senators. 

Trump’s revised proposal is here.

Submit comments to the docket here by January 16, 2018

Read more about the CPP and Trump’s assault on it, and find talking points. Read our previous article.

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places.