Trump’s Dangerous Census Pick

By Rob Schoenbeck

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. 415-393-0707; DC: 202-224-3841. (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.

 

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.

Overflow Crowd Packs DeSaulnier Town Hall

Along with a standing room only crowd of over 200 people, CA-11 Team members Kristen, Ted, Colleen, and Elizabeth attended Representative Mark DeSaulnier’s 90-minute Town Hall at Miramonte High School in Orinda on November 20, 2017. Overflow attendees listened in the School’s library.

DeSaulnier highlighted many of the negative aspects of the House and Senate tax bills, and gave the sobering historical perspective that whereas in 1986 it it took 11 months to pass tax reform, the current GOP plan is to rush the bills through in two months. He also mentioned the mind-blowing amount that the bill will add to the national debt over 10 years: $1.5 trillion.

Pointing out that CA-11 is the twenty-third most impacted of all 435 congressional districts in terms of housing costs, DeSaulnier added that 45% of CA-11 residents use the local and state deductions that save them an average of $20,000 a year. If some version of the tax bill is passed, the deductions could be severely impacted or eliminated completely. In addition, DeSaulnier pointed out that 44% of CA-11 residents use student deductions, also on the GOP chopping block.

Of special interest to Indivisible members and other activists using the tactic of engaging our Members of Congress, DeSaulnier said he previously didn’t believe that making calls to Senators and Congresspeople worked — until he saw for himself that it does! He urged CA-11 residents and people in all congressional districts to call their Members of Congress, because it does make a difference.

As he does at each Town Hall, DeSaulnier reminded the crowd that as citizens we need to be engaged and to stay engaged. California District CA-11 is truly fortunate to have Mark DeSaulnier represent us in Congress.

If you couldn’t attend the Town Hall, watch the archive video. You can also subscribe to his newsletter, and here’s his contact info, let him know your opinions:

  • Email
  • Richmond Office phone: (510) 620-1000
  • Walnut Creek Office phone: (925) 933-2660
  • Washington DC Office phone: (202) 225-2095

Photograph © Rep Mark DeSaulnier

November 2017 Visit with Sen. Feinstein’s State Director

As we do every few weeks, IEB members met with Senator Feinstein’s State Director Sean Elsbernd on November 15, 2017. After an opening round of brief intros for the members not already well acquainted with Sean, we dove into discussing some of our top priorities:
Tax scam:
We thanked the senator for fighting the tax bill and encouraged her to continue the fight and efforts to bring all possible Republicans along in her wake. We noted the potential terrible effects of the bill on higher education in general, and graduate engineers and scientists specifically. Sean responded that Senator Feinstein is deeply concerned with the tax bill’s specific effect on California, including losing deductions for state and local taxes and mortgage interest. The bill will have a significant impact on affordable housing, particularly in California. It’s ironic that this bill is coming from “the party of trickle down economics,” he noted, as it would have a very negative trickle-down effect on state and local governments’ ability to serve their communities. (It might have an unintended result though: “People vote with their pocketbooks.”) The senator is doing everything she can to slow the bill process down.
DACA and other immigration issues:
Sean reported that with all focus on the tax bill, there’s no news on this front, and likewise no update on protecting recipients of Temporary Protected Status visas. The next day she and two other Democratic Senators announced that they were introducing legislation to help TPS visa holders, but we haven’t seen the text yet.
They are working with hundreds of people mired in the DACA process, hindered by administrative issues such as whether their paperwork was filed on time. Sean is skeptical that grassroots campaigns can have an effect, and urges the grassroots to put all efforts into tax reform. especially since the GOP House wants something done by Thanksgiving.
UPDATE: as of 11/22/2017, TPS legislation text, as submitted by Sen. Chris Van Hollen.
West County Detention Facility:
Sean asked what our East Bay Representatives are doing about this issue. The Sheriff and Representative Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) are not able to tour the facility until Nov. 27th, an unacceptably long time away from when the abuses were revealed. We asked for the Senator’s help to get a full and prompt inspection of the facility. Sean suggested that we also continue to contact Rep. DeSaulnier (CA-11) to put more pressure on the detention center. We followed up with Sean on Tuesday and he said that Sen. Feinstein’s office is writing an oversight letter, something they did not appear to have been considering doing until we brought the issue up.
Health Care:
Senator Feinstein supports the Murray-Alexander bill to fix the ACA, but thinks it will be difficult to pass in the current Congress. They aren’t sure how the tax scam will affect the bill with respect to elimination of the health care mandate. Bernie’s Medicare For All is not a priority for the Senator; according to Sean, “These guys are not going to stop going after the ACA [while Republicans hold majority and Trump is President]. Defense of the ACA is the first priority.” Also: “The GOP painted themselves into a corner with catchy slogans. We need to be careful of falling victim to catchy slogans.” He elaborated: Even if every Democrat sponsored Medicare For All, there would be no hearings and no legislative movement, and it wouldn’t do anything to stop Republicans from going after the ACA; and there is no way for the minority party to force McConnell to bring Murray-Alexander to a floor vote.
CHIP:
It’s not clear whether Congressional failure to re-authorize the CHIP program has made Senator Feinstein re-evaluate the way she tries to work with Republicans. The re-authorization is getting sucked up in the wake of the end-of-year budget process, and the priority is getting through Thanksgiving without letting the tax plan pass.
S.1989—Honest Ads Act:
Senator Feinstein likes the bill a lot, and will be supportive of it. The current bill is co-sponsored by two Democrats and Republicans. Sean thought leadership might try to keep the numbers even, so she might not officially sign on until another Republican does.
Media Consolidation and Net Neutrality:
Focus in committee hearing has been on social media companies. They are tackling both aspects: news sources and internet companies.
Judicial Appointments:
Feinstein, like IEB, wants senators to have more time to review judicial nominations. She issued a press statement the morning of our meeting with Sean about the rushed schedule of confirmation hearings. In answer to our question of how the grassroots can help, Sean suggested electing more Democrats to the Senate. We told Sean that we applaud Senator Feinstein’s efforts to slow the nomination process, but want her to do more.
Sexual Assault and Harassment:
Feinstein does not control the Judiciary Committee schedule and cannot call for the hearing on this important issue.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions:
Sean doesn’t know that the senator would ask for his resignation; we asked for her to explicitly do so. She has already asked for him to come back to testify again, but she doesn’t control the agenda, Grassley does. Sean isn’t aware of the senator receiving any written answers from him yet from his October testimony in front of Senate Judiciary Committee. When she does, we want to hear about it.
Russia Investigation:
Feinstein is not ready to call Trump campaign’s actions “collusion with Russia.” She issued a press release the same day as our visit, announcing a “second tranche of request letters related to the Russia investigation.” Sean says that “the intelligence committee continues along. They seem to be trying to wrap up. It’s no longer much of a joint effort in the Judiciary Committee—there’s now a Minority investigation and a Majority investigation.”  Senator Feinstein has been more and more vocal but all the eggs are in the basket of Robert Mueller: No one wants a Democratic report or Republican Report, they want a Judiciary Committee report.
Puerto Rico:
Sean said that there will be a separate emergency funding bill, akin to what Congress passed for the Texas hurricane and California wildfires. He suggested that we build grassroots support for cosponsoring S.2041, a bill to amend the Stafford Act so that recovery and rebuilding efforts will include improvements in resiliency and efficiency of the energy infrastructure. We assume that she would support such a measure, but might need something of a push from constituents so please call about this.
North Bay Wildfires:
Major focus on has been on the casework team. People are calling FEMA, trying to register for victims’ individual assistance grants. FEMA has been a very good partner, very responsive so far, so the senator sees no need to change the process. We mentioned flood risk during storms and the need for legislation to avoid using plastic pipes, to which Sean replied “You don’t want the federal government regulating building codes” and said that the senator is very focused on getting people in the North Bay through the winter. He suggested that IEB focus on funding efforts for North Bay charities and volunteer efforts. Also: Senators Feinstein and Harris wrote a letter to Secretary of State Tillerson about expediting the process of getting replacement passport and to waive fees for people who lost their passports in the fires; Sean suggested that this might be a grassroots letter-writing opportunity.
Gun Control:
In an update, Sean said that the bump stock bill, which was supposed to get a hearing that week, had been pushed to the first week of December, because Sen. Grassley is the chair and he wanted to push it back to us committee time to confirm some more judicial nominations. The assault weapons bill, he said, is the kind of bill that passes in a Democratic-controlled Congress. They are continuing to try to get sponsors in the Senate and support among national and local organizations to sponsor letter-writing campaigns, and he urged us to work with local organizations such as churches, PTAs, etc., and to be in touch with him on this effort. However, he warned that we should not have expectations about a hearing any time soon.
Climate change mitigation:
We asked if the senator would sponsor the senate counterpart to the House’s Climate Solutions Caucus to help unify bipartisan effort to advance meaningful climate change mitigation policies such as S.1639 – American Opportunity Carbon Fee Act. Sean said she doesn’t feel that the Senate with 100 members needs a caucus to organize around  compared to the House with its 435 members. He did say that she did support a previous version of a carbon fee bill and that she would look at this update to the legislation.
FY 2018 Budget:
Though it’s likely that there will be a continuing resolution bill to fund the government until the end of the calendar year and possibly into part of 2018, the 2018 appropriations bills are waiting to be completed and won’t be taken up until after #TaxScam. Of concern to us is the massive 2018 National Defense Authorization Act which comes in at an estimated $700 billion. Programs authorized in it won’t actually be allowed to draw on funds until there’s a matching defense appropriations bill and negotiations for funding defense and non-defense will be hashed out as part of the budget and appropriations process. Dems plan to push for appropriations increases in non-defense categories in exchange for any defense spending above caps mandated by existing budget laws. We expressed dismay that both our senators had voted for such a bloated and costly NDAA but Sean said that the programs authorized affected many constituencies in California.
FISA Amendments Reauthorization Bill:
Senators Feinstein and Harris cosponsored an amendment to require probable cause warrants from the FISA court for intelligence agencies seeking to do domestic surveillance on American citizens as part of any Section 702 search queries. The amendment did not pass in committee. When asked why she voted for the bill out of committee without that important amendment, Sean replied that she felt that there was a better chance of the amendment passing in a floor vote.
Town Halls:
IEB sent a proposal about future town halls to the Senator and her press team, but haven’t gotten a response yet. Sean said it could be feasible and that he “appreciates the creativity” but he didn’t give any feedback to improve the proposal. He did, however, say that he would talk to the Senator about it.
Photograph copyright Toby St. John

 

Giving Thanks for Social Security and Medicare – TAKE ACTION NOW!

At Thanksgiving we remember what we’re thankful for. For many seniors among our family and friends, thankfulness includes financial security in old age through Social Security and Medicare. But Trump’s go-for-broke tax bill gives big tax cuts for the wealthiest people in our country, and this will cause large budget deficits to threaten Social Security and Medicare.

The Congressional Budget Office has warned that Trump’s tax cuts for the very rich would add $1.5 trillion to the national debt. Because of the pay-as-you-go rule, Medicare could be cut by $25 billion as soon as next year. Afterwards, our government would have to cut “mandatory spending” – which means Social Security and Medicare – because of even bigger deficits from Trump’s tax plan.

We’re thankful for the support people receive from Social Security and Medicare. But if we want to keep it we have to take action now. Please call your U.S. senators and ask them to vote NO on Trump’s go-for-broke tax plan. And please pass this message on to everyone you know, all over the country!

WHAT TO SAY:

My name is [name] and I’m a constituent from [zip code]. Trump’s tax cuts will benefit the wealthy over the middle class and they will cause big budget deficits for years. I’m afraid Social Security and Medicare benefits will be cut because our government won’t have enough money to pay for them. My family, friends, and I all benefit from the financial security that Social Security and Medicare give to seniors. Their health and financial peace of mind matter to us.  Please vote against Trump’s tax plan.

California Senators:

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

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (email)
(415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841

Contact your Senator (anywhere in the country)

More info:

 

 

 

Abuses Alleged at Richmond ICE Facility

No access to bathrooms, only to plastic bags. Hours-long lockdowns. Federal immigration detainees at the West County Detention Facility have documented these and other complaints in a September letter signed by 27 inmates to Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), a group that monitors jails where immigrants are detained.

Complaint filed by immigration detainees

The Contra Costa County Sheriff – whose office has a $6 million-a-year contract with ICE to operate the immigration detention center – is investigating the allegations of mistreatment raised by the detainees.

The allegations were publicly revealed in a San Francisco Chronicle article on November 2, and the newspaper has further investigated the story:

You can also read detainees’ demands to improve conditions at the West County Detention Facility, released by the East Bay Interfaith Immigration Coalition.

The reports have raised concerns among state elected officials. Reportedly, Representative Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) has scheduled a tour of the jail on November 27, and State Senator Nancy Skinner has urged California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in a letter to probe conditions at the jail.

What you can do:

Please call your elected officials and say:

Hi. My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m with Indivisible East Bay. As the SF Chronicle has reported, immigration detainees at the ICE facility at West County Detention Center in Richmond are alleging abuse and mistreatment. Please move quickly to conduct a thorough, independent investigation to insure that their rights are upheld and that conditions do not put their health at risk.

Call State Attorney General Xavier Becerra and ask him to investigate, as Sen. Nancy Skinner has reportedly asked him to do. Public Inquiry Unit: (916) 210-6276 or (800) 952-5225

Other ways to help:

  • Nancy Burke, of Courageous Resistance / Indivisible El Sobrante & Richmond, is organizing a meeting with the sheriff who runs the West County Detention Center to bring the community’s concerns to her attention. The meeting will focus on 10 points of concern about conditions at the facility. Please contact Nancy by email or phone: (510) 932-9267 if you have questions or you’re interested in attending the meeting.
  • Save the date to help support CIVIC (the group to whom the detainees sent the letter) in their work to end the isolation of West County immigration detainees. Artists for Humanity invites all to an afternoon of music, poetry, and dance, January 28, 2018, 2:30 to 5:00 PM at Ashkenaz in Berkeley. The benefit concert (asking for a sliding scale donation) will create a revolving bail fund to be used by West County detainees to reunite with their families and gain legal representation. Email for more information.

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!

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.