Tax Scam Protests: Week One

Protest Trump tax plan. Photo by Charlie Moehle
Protest of the Trump tax plan. Photo by Charlie Moehle

IEB member Candace Goldman connected with Indivisible at its beginning, after the devastating 2016 election. She has participated in many events, from meetings at congressional district offices to protests, town halls, phone banking, emailing, and sending “thank you” notes to our elected officials.

November 6, 2017 marked the kick-off of a nationwide protest of the proposed Republican tax “reform” bill. Big picture, this bill would give enormous tax cuts to large corporations and the wealthiest 1% of individuals, to be paid for by the rest of us along with a deficit increase of another $1.3 – 1.7 trillion. This is not reform; it’s a scam that does great harm and increases the wealth gap. Or, as I am calling it, Structured Collusion Against the Majority.

So how’d this first week go? We began by encouraging our members (and family, and friends, and friends of friends!) to call and write their Members of Congress to encourage a NO vote on the tax scam. On the afternoon of Tuesday, November 7, while districts were flipping blue in state elections around the country, a small group of us gathered at the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland for a rush hour reminder to passersby to say NO to the tax scam. To our surprise, within ten minutes we were in the midst of a major police action straight out of a “Lethal Weapon“ movie. Police cars screaming everywhere, a helicopter overhead, fire engines and ambulances rounding the corner, and road blocks set up. It was disconcerting but we stood our ground and, despite all the flashing lights and screaming sirens, the public saw us and the response was very favorable.

After a protest organized by Indivisible Berkeley on the Berkeley Overpass on Thursday, November 9, which we supported, another small group of us met at the plaza in front of the Oakland Federal Building on Saturday, November 11, Veteran’s Day. We soon decided that Broadway, with much more foot and vehicle traffic, would be a better audience location than quiet Clay Street, so we changed spots. We handed out lots of leaflets and had some good conversations with pedestrians who stopped to talk and get more information; cars, and even some bus drivers, showed their support by honking and waving as they drove by.

We clearly reached a lot of people and drew their attention to the imminent threat posed by the tax scam; and we have a lot more work to do to ensure that Congress hears our roar of “NO” to this devastating bill. Thank you to all who participated in this week’s  events. Thanks to all of you who will be adding your energy and your voices to stopping this legislation. We will not be done until the tax scam is defeated. Keep your eyes peeled for more information. With your help, this “reform” WILL GO DOWN.

By Candace Goldman

No Saturday Night Massacre 2017

Word leaking from the White House is that Trump is losing his shizzle as Special Counsel Robert Mueller & Team close in on the president and his friends & family in pursuing the Russia investigation. The October 30 bombshell unsealing of the 12 count indictments against former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates, and an eye-popping guilty plea by Trump’s former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos for lying to the FBI has ratcheted up the pressure.

Some Republicans are trying to diminish, obstruct or outright kill the investigations into Trump’s Russia ties. A resolution was introduced on November 3 to remove Mueller, and Fox News and other right wing media are pushing for firing. Meanwhile, Democrats have introduced legislation to protect Mueller or bolster the investigation, including Rep. John Conyers’ (D-MI) Special Counsel Integrity Act (H.R. 3771).

There’s much you can do:

  • Call your MoCs and say: My name is ___, I’m a constituent from [zip code], and a member of Indivisible East Bay. Please do all you can to combat Republican efforts to obstruct Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, and to support Democratic efforts to protect it. Thank you.
  • Send an e-letter: Join the Action Network’s online letter-writing campaignRead more details and use the easy form to have letters sent to your MoCs.
  • Hit the streets if Mueller is fired!  MoveOn is calling for emergency Nobody is Above the Law rallies nationwide if Trump fires Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Search by zip code to find an event. At this time, local rallies set for San Francisco and Walnut Creek.

Stayed tuned for further news!

IEB’s Judiciary Team Rocks the Nation!

When the current occupant of the White House started what has turned into a terrifying court-packing effort (together with his cronies in the Senate), a few of IEB’s fearless research-loving members went into high gear. Since late summer 2017, what is now our Judiciary Team has created and shared an extensive database of information about judicial nominees as well as creating and sharing digital toolkits, and has become a resource for Indivisible National, Indivisible chapters nationwide, and other organizations. We’re proud to tell you some of their many achievements:

  • Indivisible National cites IEB’s Judiciary Team for our work and recommends us as a resource (about 3/4 of the way down this page).
  • Judiciary Team members Linh, Donna and Heidi have begun organizing with Lawyers For Good Government, a national group interested in working on Trump’s judicial nominations.
  • IEB Judiciary Team member Donna helped organize Rapid Resist text/phone bank campaigns into Texas and North Carolina against the nomination of Gregory Katsas for the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. Indivisible SF also helped with the North Carolina campaign. Shout outs to Alysia, Cassie and Yoni of Rapid Resist!
  • Two groups in North Carolina have also mobilized against the nomination of Thomas Farr for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, after receiving information from us.
  • We have provided our friends at Indivisible SF with information and scripts to help their work contacting a network of groups in Colorado to mobilize against the nominations of Katsas and of Allison Eid to fill Neil Gorsuch’s seat on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Shout outs to Jonah and Kristen at ISF!
  • We have been in contact with two groups in Idaho that will call their Senators against Trump’s judicial nominations.
  • Donna has also been in contact with Indivisible chapters and other progressive groups in Minnesota and Oregon that have mobilized against Trump’s court nominations.
  • We have worked extensively with Indivisibles in Texas. At the request of Indivisible Houston, we created and provided a toolkit with talking points for MoC meetings, blog posts, graphics for social media posts, and call scripts. Indivisible Austin ended up using our materials to create a blog post/call to action. Indivisible Houston used the toolkit for a visit to Senator Cornyn’s office to discuss the nomination of Jeff Mateer (the one who said that trans children are “part of Satan’s plan”). Indivisible Denton did a call script and call to action. Indivisible Austin used our materials in their blog. Judiciary Team member Amelia also reached out to Equality Texas, which was also doing a call to action on Mateer, and shared their link with the Texas Indivisibles.
  • The latest addition to the state list: Arizona, where Rapid Resist has just begun campaigning against the Katsas nomination with IEB’s help. Thanks to Alysia, Cassie, and Yoni at Rapid Resist!

Have a questions for the Judiciary Team, or want to lend a hand? Contact us!

Making a Difference – An Easy Way

Editor’s note: Governance Committee member and IEB CA-11 team co-lead Ted Lam wrote about text banking for the Virginia House of Delegates’ election. If you’re interested in text banking with IEB – and after reading Ted’s account we hope you will be! – please see our Events page.

I saw Indivisible National’s Facebook request for text banking volunteers starting the weekend of October 28 through early November for the Virginia House of Delegates’ election. I couldn’t help myself due to my soft spot for Virginia, so I signed up for a 2-hour window on the first day.  As a Coast Guard Officer I spent a lot of my time in the late 90s and early 2000’s in Northern Virginia and the Tidewater region (Yorktown, Portsmouth, Williamsburg). I love the area.

Indivisible emailed me a link to a Zoom training by Michele from Indivisible Virginia. I couldn’t get on the video conference but the followup email had a recording of it, which worked perfectly. Michele’s training was excellent.

On the scheduled day, I was ready for my 10 AM to 12 PM slot. Although I was at a 5-hour seminar at downtown Oakland’s Preservation Park for my union’s delegate assembly, I was able to sneak away to a breakout room at 9:50 to start text banking. Indivisible used Relay, a web-based system which connects to your phone and laptop/iPad. It was simple. I think Relay and the pre-loading of information that it uses may be what Indivisible National has been buying with some of the money it solicited for “tools.”

I had a list of 40 people in my conversation queue with pre-loaded text messages saying I was a volunteer from Indivisible Virginia. I sent out the 40 texts and walked back to my meeting. The recipients get a local number for you, not your phone number. I had 10 responses back: most were re-commitments to vote Democratic and a few were “hell no, I’m Republican.” I heartily thanked the former and just thanked the latter for their time. I texted the responses sitting in the back row of the large meeting room, and don’t think anyone even noticed.

The whole experience could not have been simpler or more satisfying. I felt I was doing something concrete, and it helped that I have a strong connection to Virginia. Overall, I probably only “worked” 30 minutes in the two-hour shift. I could have been doing it at a pub with a pint.

If you’re looking for an easy action with big impact, this is it.

– By Ted Lam

Make Peace, Not War

Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in 2001 in reaction to the 9/11 attacks. Since then, thousands of American troops have been killed and injured and hundreds of thousands of civilian lives lost in the Middle East. It took an ambush in Niger (and fumbled condolence phone call) to get Congress to schedule a hearing on the 60-words long authorization that has enabled presidents to launch more than 37 military campaigns in the past sixteen years.

But a Congressional hearing doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods; hawks want to expand the scope of the authorization and if they prevail, it’s round infinity in the dead end war on terror. We must all demand a repeal of this blank check for the President, and Congress has to do its job. Hiding behind 4-star generals was not what the framers of the Constitution had in mind when they wrote that Congress had the power

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

With a dangerously out-of-touch and unstable Commander in Chief, we can not continue to be complicit when even those charged with oversight can’t keep track of where our military is deployed, let alone explain why!

For 16 YEARS our own Representative Barbara Lee has fearlessly pushed to revisit this dangerously overbroad war authorization. Let’s give her our full support and demand a full repeal.

Please call Senators Feinstein and Harris, and Representatives DeSaulnier and Swalwell, and say:

My name is _____, I’m a constituent from [zip code], and a member of  Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to ask [ ] to support a full repeal of the Authorization of Military Force passed by Congress after 9/11. The 16 year old AUMF is a blank check to wage war. Giving this President such latitude is a risk to national and global security. His disregard for our military service-members and their families (evidenced by his reaction to the ambush in Niger), civilians caught in the crossfire, and provocative statements to other foreign powers show that he is incapable of the responsibility of leading a nation at war.  Please call for repeal of 2001 AUMF.

Phone Banking in West County

Living the motto “friends don’t let friends phone alone,” hero members of Tassajara Indivisible and Indivisible El Sobrante/Richmond, also in IEB’s CA-11 team, are burning up the phone lines hosting multiple phone-banking parties reaching hundreds of voters in other states’ upcoming elections.

Join them at any of the several West County phone bank parties up to Election Day, November 7, to help make calls for the Virginia House of Delegates races and for Dr. Kathie Allen, running for Jason Chaffetz’s open Utah seat.

These are the currently scheduled West County phone banks:

Saturday October 28, 11 AM to 1 PM, El Cerrito
Sunday October 29, noon to 2 PM, El Sobrante
Monday October 30, 5 to 7 PM, El Cerrito
Tuesday October 31, 1 to 3 PM, El Sobrante

Saturday November 4, 10 AM to 4 PM, El Sobrante [come when you can for as long as you can]
Sunday November 5, noon to 2 PM, El Sobrante
Monday November 6, 2 to 6 PM, El Sobrante

TUESDAY ELECTION DAY, November 7, 8 AM to 2 PM, El Sobrante [come when you can for as as long as you can]

For information on locations and to RSVP, visit the Commit to Flip Blue website and enter your zip code into the search box. Have general questions? Email us.

The hosts will gladly train you on the script and making the calls. Bring your phone, charger, and earbuds (for your comfort) AND a laptop or tablet (or when you sign up, indicate you’d like to borrow one), and don’t forget your good cheer and positive energy to #Resist! And bring friends!

Can’t make it to an in-person phone or text bank? You can text with MobilizeAmerica for Virginia. They’re having two Get Out the Vote trainings — they’ll walk through setup, who you’ll be texting, how to mark data, and best practices.

After you sign up, MobilizeAmerica sends you dial-in info for the conference call. Upcoming dates are Mon Oct 30 and Wed Nov 1, both 3 to 4 PM. Sign up here.

 

We are Indivisible, and Indestructible!

IEB has been in close touch with Indivisible Sonoma County throughout the terrible fires that have devastated Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino this October. Some ISoCo members and leaders have lost their homes and all they owned; everyone has been deeply affected, as have their whole communities. The following was written by an Indivisible leader from the town of Glen Ellen, California:

When the fires started, I was out of town, working with a client on their annual conference. My daughter’s call woke me Sunday night. She was frantic. “Dad, Mom can see fire through the neighbors’ trees and we’re trying to get the things we need to take with us. What do you need us to take?”

Half-asleep, I tried to think of what we absolutely had to have and talked with them as they raced, grabbing what came to mind as essential, hurrying to get out. Soon they left and I went back to sleep, hoping that fleeing would have just been a precaution. Instead, the next morning my wife’s text began, “Honey, I’m afraid we lost everything.”
After the initial shock, I was just grateful that my family had escaped. They were safe. The dog was with them. That was what mattered to me. Life would go on. We even found out later that the studio and barn had made it through. The house, though, had burned to the ground.

In 2016 this same conference was in November, right after the election. It occurs to me that I was more distraught last year. Restless with dread about Trump and the damage he would cause, I couldn’t sleep, imagining only the worst. Having the conference frame both events, I realized now that I had lost my home two years in a row.

Last year that home was my country. This year it was my house. Losing my country was and is the bigger threat. But I’m rebuilding both, dammit. However long it takes and no matter how hard it is to do.

Our family is lucky. We’re all safe. We were insured. We have emergency funds that we can draw on. But there were thousands here who were impacted as much or more and have less to fall back on. They could use your help. Here are the causes that members of Indivisible groups in Sonoma County are supporting:

Financial:

Volunteerism:

Thank you. We are Indivisible, and Indestructible!

Watching the Electors

When voter suppression tactics prevent citizens from exercising their right to vote, election outcomes fail to represent the true will of the people. – Election Watch program overview

2016 was the first presidential election after the Supreme Court gutted key protections of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder (2013). Free to alter voting laws and practices with no oversight or system of ensuring that their revisions weren’t discriminatory, many localities snuck through changes that went unnoticed and unchallenged. These changes, including strict voter ID requirements, closing down polling places, purging voters, and cutting back early voting and voter registration, disproportionately impacted people of color and young or low-income people, and severely curtailed voters’ access to the ballot.  Election WatchElection Watch, a non-partisan voting rights program, has the ambitious goal of mobilizing trained lawyer volunteers in every county or county-equivalent in the country (count them: 3,144!) to monitor and defend voting rights year-round. The new program, run by the Lawyers for Good Government Foundation (L4GG) in partnership with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Voting Rights Institute, will “monitor, report on, … and address problematic decisions made by local election boards across the country on a year-round basis.”

Election Watch will train volunteer lawyers on the ground to monitor local election boards all year and detect rights violations. With this early alert system flagging potential issues as they happen, EW can proactively address problems before damage has been done (i.e., before an election). A national steering committee of experts, including representatives of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and the American Constitution Society Voting Rights Institute, will review the reports, and EW will prioritize and determine next steps for each.

As Trump and the GOP cheat to pack the federal courts with more and more far-right wing judges, it’s clearer than ever that we the people have to educate ourselves about voting issues, and step up to watch over the officials who run the elections in our states, towns, and counties.

How to help:

  • Are you a lawyer, law student, or legal professional interested in volunteering with Election Watch? If so, email me for more information, learn more at the Election Watch program overview, or fill out the signup form.
  • Know any legal eagles, including in other parts of the country, who might be a good fit for Election Watch? Send them the program overview or my email address.
  • Donations to support the program are welcome.
  • Non-lawyers are invaluable in this fight! Learn all you can about your state and local election officials and bodies, and help monitor them.

By Heidi Rand

 

In Counting There is Strength

Many of us were shocked by the results of the 2016 election, and months later still grapple with an ever-growing pile of reasons that added up to the Democrats’ devastating losses. But most of the 100+ experts and activists at the October 7-8 Take Back the Vote Conference were not surprised; to them the results were the predictable outcome of problems they’ve been warning about and working on for years.

Take Back the Vote conference
Photo © Heidi Rand

Hard truth time: no matter how many voter registration and get out the vote drives we run, no matter how many hours we spend canvassing and phone or text-banking, our efforts will amount to a hill of uncounted ballots if we don’t restore the soundness of our election infrastructure.  

The non-partisan conference “to advance the conduct of American elections – how votes are collected, counted and cast,” featured 25 speakers, a Who’s Who of nationally recognized election integrity experts and activists, computer scientists, professors, lawyers, journalists and election officials as well as federal, state and local legislators. They presented findings, shared and debated ideas, and answered tough questions. To see their bios, click the “speakers” link on the NVRTF website, and view or download the Conference program at the “schedule” link.

The audience, ranging from seasoned activists to new volunteers, passionately discussed necessary next steps and strategies to restore publicly verified democracy in the United States. The issues are complex, many have no easy answers, and reasonable minds differ about best practices. In coming weeks we’ll follow up this conference report with in-depth looks at issues covered, including:

  • propaganda and political communication
  • internet voting and cybersecurity risks
  • open source election software
  • election suppression
  • auditing options; including risk limiting, hand-count, two-tier, and digital ballot audits

Despite differing opinions on issues, had we taken a vote at the conference it likely would’ve been unanimous that our country is careening down the path of having our democracy stolen from us, and that protecting our elections from internal and external attacks will take ALL of us becoming educated, engaged, and involved in the process.

What can you do? Get involved! A good start – watch videos of the conference at the “videos” tab of the Voting Rights facebook page. Next, work with IEB’s voting issues team – no experience necessary, we’ll get you up to speed! Email us for info.

And to learn Everything You Wanted to Know About Voting But Were Afraid to Ask, check out these websites:

boss tweed cartoon vote with caption small

 

Help the OtO Team Find Partners

The mission of IEB’s Outreach to Organizations (OtO) team is to build partnerships with and support effective community groups. Two great examples of organizations that have been working in the trenches for years and that OtO has been working with: the Alameda County Community Food Bank, which among other things fights to save SNAP (food stamps) funding, and Oakland Rising, which organizes in Oakland around immigration,  criminal justice reform, and many other issues.

We invite anyone interested in strengthening IEB’s connections to activist community groups to join the OtO team! With more liaisons we can inform IEB members about terrific grassroots organizations fighting for justice and equality and against the Trump agenda; and we can increase our support and mobilize IEBers to take action on state or local policies, and to get involved in issues that the most vulnerable populations in our community face.

You can help! Are you a member of – or do you know about – a grassroots group that’s mobilizing its community around progressive issues or values? We’d love to hear from you! Please contact @tonihenle on Slack or email Toni  at ieb.outreach@gmail.com with your ideas and input.

ACCFB
IEB at AFFCB event to educate community about the farm bill and SNAP