Reverse Robin-Hood at HUD: Rob the poor to give the rich tax cuts

Section 8. The name sounds ominous. Is it a secret location near Area 51 where UFOs go to vacation? Or is it next to South Africa’s District 9, harboring aliens desperate for a new home? The answer: neither of the above.

Section 8 is far more benign and greatly beneficial. It provides financial assistance to millions of low-income individuals, allowing them to find an affordable place to live and still have a bit of money left to buy food and other minimal essentials.

Not surprisingly, therefore, this popular and successful program is caught in the cross-hairs of the Trump administration’s shotgun. On April 25, Ben Carson, our Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and office furniture bargain hunter, put forward the Making Affordable Housing Work Act. Under his plan, low-income families could wind up paying rent at a rate 300% higher than they now do (an astronomical boost from $50 to $150). The Act would also require recipients to work at least 15 hours per week at the federal minimum wage.

Think $150 per month doesn’t sound like a lot for rent, and that working 15 hours a week is a reasonable request? Carson claims his proposal “encourages work and self-sufficiency” while making the program “sustainable” within the limits of a Trump budget that cuts $1.5 billion from the Section 8 voucher program. Housing advocates, on the other hand, know that the proposal amounts to a “disaster” that could mean the difference between having sufficient food and going hungry — or even having a place to live. When you are so close to the edge, even seemingly small differences are crucial.

Over 20,000 low-income people in San Francisco currently get Section 8 assistance. Many of these people are barely surviving even with this aid. Seventy percent already work — sometimes at two jobs! Others are disabled and can’t work at all. Some are on such tight budgets that they literally cannot afford the bus fare to take the literacy or adult ed classes that could help them get better jobs.

The situation is no better here in the East Bay: Contra Costa and Alameda counties manage over 12,000 people with vouchers. Over 90% of these voucher holders are in the VLI (very low income) category. Unfortunately, qualifying for a voucher does not guarantee you will ever obtain housing. Currently, people issued vouchers in Contra Costa County have to wait an average of 47 months; in Alameda County, the wait is 67 months. And if you are not already on one of these waiting lists, you’re out of luck. The lists are closed until further notice!

Eliminating or reducing Section 8 assistance, as will happen if the new legislation is enacted, would likely push far too many recipients past their breaking point. Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, noted: Making these cuts “just months after giving massive tax breaks to wealthy people and corporations is the height of cruel hypocrisy.”

As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, our local Congressional representatives and both California senators oppose the legislation. On April 26, Senators Feinstein and Harris issued a statement and sent Carson a letter expressing serious concerns and “highlight[ing] how these increases would jeopardize Californians’ ability to pursue the American dream, and how their communities are already some of the most cost-burdened in the nation.”

Please call your Members of Congress to stand by their current opposition to this poorly conceived and punitive legislation. What to say to your Senators:

My name is ________. I’m a constituent from [zip code], and a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling about HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s proposal to add work requirements and raise the rent for people who receive federal housing subsidies. I’m outraged at the continued attacks on the poor from the Trump administration, and I thank you for your public statement and the letter you sent to Carson opposing the proposal. Please continue to fight it and vote against it.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553

And your Representative:

My name is ________. I’m a constituent from [zip code], and a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling about HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s proposal to add work requirements and raise the rent for people who receive federal housing subsidies. I’m outraged at the continued attacks on the poor from the Trump administration, and urge you to fight them and to vote against any proposal of this nature.

 

  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065

 

 

IEB Meets With State Senator Nancy Skinner

On April 27, Indivisible East Bay had our first sit-down meeting with Senator Nancy Skinner, who represents California Senate District 9, covering Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, and several other East Bay cities and towns. We met Senator Skinner in her district office in downtown Oakland, where she spends most Fridays meeting with constituents and groups. We packed a lot into the very short – less than half hour – meeting.

First, Senator Skinner was curious to hear about IEB, especially wondering where most of our members are located and what our relationship is to other local Indivisible groups. Then we launched right into our big questions about why our Democratic legislature has been falling short of the bold, progressive agenda we think it should be capable of. Skinner pointed out that due to resignations we no longer have a Democratic super-majority, which complicates things.

In response to our question about why so many bills get held up—by Democrats— in committee when it looks like they have the votes to pass on the floor, she responded that it depends on the bill:

  • According to Sen. Skinner, SB 100, the 100% Renewable by 2045 energy bill that she co-authored with Sen. Kevin de León, was held up last year because the only version that could have passed at that time and gotten the governor’s signature would have had some harmful “poison pill” provisions attached. She thinks that being patient (and she didn’t say this, but we inferred, waiting for a new governor) will get us a better bill. Of course the longer we wait the better the bill will have to be if it’s going to get us to that 2045 goal. Skinner said this was just one example of the tradeoff between pushing a bill through quickly and ensuring a bill doesn’t have any “poison pill” provisions attached to appease the other side. Sometimes a bill is critical or time-sensitive enough that add-ons may be acceptable, but she usually prefers a “clean” bill.
  • On the other hand, Skinner said that in her opinion the “health care for all” bill, SB 562, the Healthy California Act, was held up in order to protect members who did not want to take a vote.

We moved on to upcoming legislation we want Skinner to support:

  • Assembly Bill 3131 would restrict police and sheriffs’ departments’ ability to buy and use military equipment. Skinner said that it hadn’t made it to her desk yet, but that she would be sure to take a look. We will follow up to make sure she does.
  • When we called AB 3131 a top criminal justice priority, Sen. Skinner asked, what about her Police Misconduct Right-to-Know bill, SB 1421? We were happy to tell her that one is also on our priority list—and we thanked her for introducing it.
  • We also asked her to keep an eye out for AB 3115, the Jails: Voter Education Program bill requiring that county jails allow external organizations to provide voter education to the incarcerated.

We moved on to discuss urban planning, telling Skinner that while there is disagreement within IEB (as across California) about the specifics of SB 827, the controversial “housing near public transit” bill she co-authored, we agree that we want her to do something to address the affordable housing shortage and boost public transit. She told us that she used to be one of those people who thought our government should not do anything to make it easier to build market-rate housing in the Bay Area, but that as she became better acquainted with the situation she came to realize that we need the revenue from that market-rate housing in order to subsidize affordable housing.

On the subject of elections, we asked Skinner whether she was familiar with Risk-Limiting Audits (RLAs). She isn’t, but expressed willingness to read our memo about election infrastructure issues, which includes a section about RLAs, the gold standard of post-election auditing of ballots that election security experts recommend all states implement ASAP. You can read our memo here.

We had no time to go into detail on election infrastructure, health care, immigration, cash bail, or CalFresh and other poverty reduction programs, but we left Skinner a detailed memo and promised to continue the discussion at another, hopefully longer, meeting very soon.

Want to get involved in talking to our state legislators about priority issues? Other state senators representing districts with a large number of IEB members are Bob Wieckowski in Senate District 10, which includes Hayward, Fremont, San Jose, etc.; and Steve Glazer in CA Senate District 7, which includes Walnut Creek, Antioch, Pleasanton, Livermore, etc. We’ve interacted with them in various ways and plan to set up similar meetings soon. Please email us at info@indivisibleEB.org if you want to get involved!

IEB meets with Feinstein State Director April 17, 2018

On April 17, 2018, a dedicated group of about 25 Indivisible East Bay, Indivisible Central Contra Costa County, and Together We Will Contra Costa members sat down with Senator Diane Feinstein’s State Director, Sean Elsbernd, at the Concord Public Library. After a week filled with news of scandals and investigations in the White House, as well as some major foreign policy developments, the participants were eager to talk to someone with inside knowledge of what’s going on in D.C.

As is typical of our meetings with Sean, IEB came prepared with a checklist of items to discuss. Our goals are to inform Sean of our position on various issues and request actions for the Senator to take — as well as to allow Sean to provide us with his reaction to our requests. This is never dull. Sean is not shy about asserting his views on the agenda topics, whether or not those views align with ours.

In this latest meeting, our checklist was ambitious — it included more than 20 items. Here are some highlights:

The Mueller probe

With Trump frequently commenting about the possibility that he may fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller or otherwise attempt to shut down the Russia investigation, there’s pressure on Congress to pass legislation to protect Mueller. Senators Tillis, Graham, Booker and Coons of the Judiciary Committee, of which Senator Feinstein is a Ranking Member, have sponsored the bipartisan Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act to do just that. Senator Grassley scheduled a Committee vote, though it may be for naught, as Mitch McConnell will not bring the vote to the floor and the House apparently has no plans to do anything on this matter.

Sean offered little hope. He encouraged us to keep public pressure on the Senators and to keep these bills and the importance of protecting Mueller in the public eye. Consistent with news reports and the perception of groups who are mobilizing to protect the investigation (including Indivisibles), Sean believes the real immediate danger is that Trump will fire Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, as an indirect route to stopping Mueller.

Meanwhile, two committees in the Senate have been investigating Russian interference into our elections: the Intelligence Committee is focused directly on what happened in the 2016 election, while the Judiciary Committee is looking into obstruction of justice concerning the Russian interference. The report from the Intelligence Committee is close to completion. Their findings, when published, need to get to Secretaries of State across the country ASAP, so they can address possible voting obstruction/interference issues. Sean reports that Senator Chuck Grassley (chairman of the Judiciary Committee) has not been helpful in his committee’s investigation. We should be prepared to exert pressure for action here.

Judicial appointments

For judicial appointments, there is a longstanding tradition in the Senate whereby the nominee’s home state Senator is sent a form called a “blue slip” and can signal their support for a nomination by returning a positive blue slip to the Judiciary Committee. Declining to return a blue slip indicates the Senator does not support the nominee; this has traditionally doomed a nomination.

During the Obama administration, GOP Senators often withheld blue slips to prevent confirmation of judges that the Republican party opposed. Breaking with this tradition, Grassley has recently allowed two nominees to go forward without a blue slip. Feinstein has thrown down a marker on respecting the blue slip tradition. We at IEB see this as critical, especially because there are currently seven vacancies in the influential Ninth Circuit, which includes California. Blue slips may be the only way Democratic Senators can influence nominations to this Circuit.

Bombing of Syria

Feinstein believes that, while the President can unilaterally authorize limited strikes, sustained military action should require authorization from Congress. Last year, she voted to debate repealing the 2001 AUMF Authorization for Use of Military Force), but that vote failed. Senators Corker and Kaine on the Foreign Relations Committee have introduced a bipartisan bill to repeal and replace the current AUMF. Feinstein plans to review that bill and continues to support having that debate. IEB also wants Congress to have this debate, but considers the terms of the proposed replacement AUMF very problematic and has asked Feinstein not to support it.

Pompeo nomination

Feinstein opposes the nomination of Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State. We concur — see our article for action you can take to oppose Pompeo’s nomination.

Offshore drilling in California

Donald Trump continues to push to open the California coast to offshore drilling. Not surprisingly, Feinstein is strongly opposed to this. State Senator Hanna-Beth Jackson has introduced SB 834, which would designate as state land the entire California coast, from beaches to three miles out to sea. The bill would also prohibit “the State Lands Commission from approving any leases of submerged lands that would result in an increase of oil or natural gas production from federal waters.” This would effectively prevent federal authorization of offshore drilling in California. Feinstein supports this bill and additionally wants all California counties to pass resolutions opposing offshore drilling.

We at IEB need to call our state representatives in support of this bill!

Immigration reform

A California woman spoke about her husband who was born in Brazil and had been adopted by Americans as a child. The couple recently learned that, despite the adoption, the husband is not a U.S. citizen. Shockingly, at this point, there is no clear pathway to citizenship for him, nor for others in a similar position. As a result, such individuals could be sent back to their country of origin — where they know no one and do not know the culture. Faced with this prospect, some have committed suicide.

To address this injustice, the woman advocates for passage of the Adoptee Citizen Act of 2018 (S. 2522H.R. 5233), introduced on March 8, 2018 by Senators Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). A similar bipartisan bill has been introduced in the House. The acts “would provide U.S. citizenship to individuals born outside of the United States who were adopted as children by American parents.” She asked Senator Feinstein to support this legislation.

The bill would fix a loophole in the Child Citizenship Act (CCA) of 2000. This existing legislation does guarantee citizenship to adoptees born outside of the U.S. under the age of 18. However, the CCA did not apply to adoptees who were over 18 when the law went into effect on February 27, 2001 — leaving out an estimated 35,000 adoptees. These adoptees remain “susceptible to deportation, unable to travel outside of the U.S. and unable to work legally.”

Everyone in the room was very moved by the woman’s story. We were shocked to hear that so many adoptees are being denied citizenship, and baffled that Congress would find this a difficult problem to solve. Sean rushed over to carefully take down the woman’s contact information, so hopefully Senator Feinstein will take action both on this case and the larger issue. IEB plans to advocate for this bill. So please contact your members of Congress today, and look out for more details and calls to action to come. 

Make those phone calls!

While your calls to our representatives continue to come in, Sean says call volume is down from last year. This is concerning, since if anything our call volume needs to increase — especially on these issues we are most concerned about. Make those phone calls! Today! 

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065

Tell Our Senators: Positively No Pompeo, Hell No Haspel

The Senate could vote on Mike Pompeo’s nomination for Secretary of State before the end of April, and if he’s confirmed, would vote on Gina Haspel’s nomination to succeed him as CIA Chief. Both would be disasters:

  • Pompeo is an Islamophobe who hates the Iran nuclear deal. He supports the NSA collecting Americans’ communications data. He has supported torture as an “interrogation technique,” and has expressed openness to waterboarding, though at his CIA chief confirmation hearing he told Senator Feinstein he wouldn’t restart using the techniques. He has lied about the intelligence community’s finding that Russia interfered in our elections.
  • Gina Haspel’s CIA career includes documented connections with torture, including connections with the torture of terrorism suspects in a secret prison and destroying evidence of the torture. She was denied a CIA promotion in 2013 because of her history with torture, in part thanks to Sen. Feinstein.

In an April 17 press release titled “Pompeo Not Qualified to Serve as Secretary of State”,  Senator Feinstein detailed why Mike Pompeo would not be “capable of proudly representing all of America in the pursuit of peace” – citing the exact reasons we’ve been calling on her to bring up.

Feinstein also recently said that Haspel has been a good CIA deputy director, but on March 14, 2018 said that Haspel “was involved in one of the darkest chapters in American history. Senators who will vote on her nomination MUST know the exact role she played in the CIA’s torture program.”

Senator Harris voted against Pompeo in his CIA confirmation hearings, but to date has said nothing about his nomination. Senator Harris, this should not be hard!

What you can do:

  • Please contact both senators.
  • Thank Senator Feinstein for standing up against torture in the past and for speaking out strongly against Pompeo.
  • Thank Senator Harris for voting against Pompeo in the past and ask her to speak out against him now. Tell her you are disappointed that she has not yet spoken out on this crucial issue.
  • Ask both Senators to vote against Pompeo and Haspel’s confirmations. 
  • Tell our Senators that since they stand against torture, they must stand against putting people who condone torture at the head of the State Department and CIA—they must vote NO on Pompeo and Haspel.

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

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

“Mission Accomplished” in Syria? Tell Trump He’s Not Above the Law

By Alice Towey

On Friday, April 13, 2018, the Current Occupant of the White House announced that the United States was launching a missile strike against Syria. Trump said that he had ordered U.S. armed forces to launch strikes on targets associated with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons program. It was the culmination of a tumultuous week in the White House. But the military strike on Syria did not eliminate concerns about Trump and the rule of law; rather, it added to them.

The previous week had been rough for Trump. On Monday April 9, the FBI raided the office and home of his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, seizing information that – we later learned – might include recordings of private conversations. Later in the week, it was reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had evidence that Cohen had visited Prague in 2016, lending credence to the Steele Dossier. On Wednesday House Speaker Paul Ryan announced he will not seek reelection. And on Thursday, excerpts of former FBI Director James Comey’s forthcoming memoir leaked to the press, including salacious details about his time working for Trump. By Friday, America was poised on the edge of its seat, and there were rumors that Trump might fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

In the midst of the chaos the White House abruptly scheduled a press conference, and Trump announced that the U.S, France, and Great Britain were launching missile strikes on Syria, in retaliation for the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime.

Make no mistake: the Assad regime has committed repeated atrocities against its own people, and the use of chemical weapons is inexcusable. However, the timing of this action, and Trump’s process for implementing it, are highly troubling:

  • Just last week, Trump announced his intention to withdraw the U.S. from Syria. Why become even more enmeshed now? Was the decision to use military force influenced by a desire to distract the country from the ongoing scandals and legal turmoil surrounding him?
  • Trump’s sudden concern for Assad’s victims is highly suspect in light of his repeated efforts to ban Muslims and Syrian refugees from entering this country. So far this year, only eleven Syrian refugees have been accepted for resettlement in the U.S. (compared to almost 800 by this time in 2016).
  • Trump blatantly circumvented Congress in launching this hostile military act. Under Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, only Congress has the authority to declare war; not the President. Unless the U.S. is in imminent danger, the President must seek Congressional approval before undertaking military action. So far, the Trump administration has neither sought Congress’s approval nor explained its rationale for bypassing Congress to strike Syria.
  • Trump is not above the law. Every illegal action that he is allowed to get away with sets a dangerous precedent, bringing us a step closer to Mueller or Rosenstein getting fired.

What You Can Do Now:

Our Members of Congress (MoCs) must make sure Trump knows that they hold him accountable, now. They need to assert their role in our government and insist that Trump not launch military offensives without consulting Congress, and they need to press for an actual strategy on Syria that includes diplomacy and real, significant humanitarian aid. And they need to make Trump understand clearly that any action to interfere with or distract from the Russia investigation will not be tolerated. 

Call or email your Members of Congress. The following actions are based on the statements each of our MoCs has made, beginning with their tweets immediately following the bombing:

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

Thank Senator Feinstein for her statement that Congress “must be consulted about the use of force,” which is an improvement over her statements following last year’s missile strikes. Ask her to insist that Trump come before Congress prior to launching any further action in Syria, and to vote NO on any authorization for further force in Syria, based on Trump’s demonstrated recklessness and lack of a full strategy. Thank her for her opposition to Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State.

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

Senator Harris tweeted from her personal account: “The president needs to lay out a comprehensive strategy in Syria in consultation with Congress — and he needs to do it now.” Please call Senator Harris and thank her for this statement, and tell her you’d like her to make a stronger, official statement condemning Trump for bypassing Congress. And please ask her to vote NO on any authorization for further force in Syria, based on Trump’s demonstrated recklessness and lack of a full strategy, and to vote against Trump’s pick for Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, who does not think Trump needs Congress’ approval to strike Syria.

  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095

Representative DeSaulnier penned a very thoughtful piece in the Chronicle about the president needing Congressional approval for further military involvement in Syria. Please call Rep. DeSaulnier and thank him and tell him that you agree that we need a cohesive strategy around Syria, and that you want him to push for hearings to assess the U.S. government’s own global war operations and the resulting ramped-up civilian body count across the world.

  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661

As ever, Barbara Lee comes through; please thank her for her strong statement criticizing Trump’s use of military force without Congressional authorization. Tell her you agree that only Congress has the power to authorize use of force and that you want her to push for hearings to assess the U.S. government’s own global war operations and the resulting ramped-up civilian body count across the world.

  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065

Rep. Swalwell also made a strong statement condemning Trump’s action; please thank him and tell him that you agree that we need a cohesive strategy around Syria, and that you want him to push for hearings to assess the U.S. government’s own global war operations and the resulting ramped-up civilian body count across the world.

Concerned About the Humanitarian Crisis in Syria?

Consider supporting a group like the International Rescue Committee that is providing vital support to people within Syria, as well as to refugees around the world fleeing violence. Here is a list by Charity Navigator of charities providing humanitarian aid in Syria, along with their ratings of the charities’ efficacy.

Alice Towey is a Civil Engineer specializing in water resource management. She lives in El Cerrito, where she and her husband are active in Indivisible CA-11 United.

Fun Ways to Help Flip CA District 21

By Ted Lam

The CD-21 Action Coalition, which includes many Indivisible East Bay members, is working hard to make it easy for us in the blue Bay Area to help flip nearby Congressional District 21. Centered in the San Joaquin Valley, District 21 includes parts of Fresno, Kern, Kings, and Tulare counties and is currently represented by Republican David Valadao, who’s running for re-election in November 2018.

Read my account of canvassing in Mendota over a recent weekend – it was really fun (and great food)! One-day canvassing involves less planning and no motel cost, but definitely offers plenty of opportunities to get great food. Sign up for any of the upcoming canvassing events below. There’ll be a quick briefing and training session before each, and if you’ve never canvassed the organizers will teach you how. You can also get connected with folks who are carpooling. And if you’re thinking it’s too far to drive, consider a normal Bay Area commute – driving from San Leandro to San Jose during rush hour can take me two hours and it takes only that or just slightly longer to get to the CA-21 canvasses. Best of all, you’ll be riding with other like-minded people.

Here are canvasses scheduled through June 2018; see each link for more info and to RSVP:

And if you really can’t get out to canvass, postcarding also works! You can help TJ Cox, the Democratic candidate in CA-21, by writing postcards from home, or you can organize a postcard party outing with friends at any friendly location (IEB just had some at friendly local pubs – you might want to arrange something like that with the venue in advance). You provide your own postcards (see this article for more info on postcard activism) and postage. Email me for addresses and scripts targeting voters in rural areas of the district, and if you have questions about canvassing, or contact me on IEB’s Slack at @Ted Lam.

Ted Lam is retired from the USCG and currently works as a civil engineer. Ted is a member of the Indivisible East Bay Governance Committee and is co-lead of the Indivisible CA-11 team.

Graphic copyright Govtrack

 

Nobody Is Above the Law

Update 5/1/18:  On April 26, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed Senate bill 2644 , the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, which would protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation. Senator Grassley, chair of the committee, asked for a prompt vote by the full Senate. Majority Leader McConnell has previously said he would not bring a bill to protect the Mueller investigation to the Senate floor for a vote, however if 51 senators want to receive a vote, they can force one over McConnell’s obstruction. Please call your Senators to urge that they demand a floor vote on S. 2644.

Use Stand Up America’s resource to plan a visit to your Senator’s office, to speak to them or their staff in person.

Indivisible Guide is on high alert, and has prepared this updated page to guide us through what we need to do if Trump fires Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. As they explain, “By firing Rosenstein—Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s boss, the person overseeing the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election—Trump is obstructing justice. This means we are facing a full-on threat to our democracy and a constitutional crisis.”

MoveOn, Indivisible, and many other groups are using these basic “red lines,” which would trigger mass protest if Trump crosses one:

  • If Trump fires Mueller
  • If Trump issues pardons of key witnesses
  • If Trump takes another action that would prevent the investigation from being conducted freely, such as replacing Mueller’s current supervisor, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, or repealing the regulations establishing the office

What you can do now:

  • Read the Indivisible Guide toolkit
  • See MoveOn’s Mueller’s Firing Rapid Response – The Plan. It includes the general plan, and also addresses something that we’re all wondering — what happens AFTER we hit the streets?
  • Find and RSVP to attend a Nobody Is Above the Law rapid response rally near you (800 events as of April 10, 2018)
  • No local rally? Sign up to host one
  • Spread the word by sending the link to everyone who’d be interested
  • Call your Members of Congress, and urge them to do all they can to protect the Special Counsel.
    • Updated 4/30/18: call your Senators to ask them to demand a vote on and support the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act (S. 2644) to protect Mueller and the Russia investigation.
    • This is a historical overview of the bills introduced to protect the investigation, none of which have progressed:
      • As of April 11, 2018, the Senate Judiciary Committee moved forward with legislation to limit Trump‘s ability to fire Mueller. The bill merged S. 1735 and S. 1741 (see below). 
      • Senate: S. 1735 led by Senators Graham and Booker
      • Senate: S. 1741 led by Senators Coons and Tillis
      • House: H.R. 3654, led by Representative Jackson Lee –thank Reps Lee, DeSaulnier and Swalwell for co-sponsoring,
      • House: H.R. 4669, Discharge Petition to Require Speaker to Call a Vote on Special Counsel Integrity Act. Info here.
  • See Indivisible’s earlier article with info and a great call script.
  • See the Wall of Us action
  • Read background info at our original article, and our updated article
  • Read the Lawyers for Good Government 33-year timeline of Trump-Russia connections here

And prepare if we need to hit the streets:

  • Read the ACLU’s article Know Your Rights: Free Speech, Protests & Demonstrations
  • Download the ACLU’s Mobile Justice app to record police activity and send it immediately to the ACLU affiliate nearest you. Get the California app, MobileJusticeCA
  • Put the National Lawyers Guild hotline numbers into your phone, and write them on your arm in ink:
    • to call from local jails ONLY: 415-285-1011
    • outside of jail calls, call NLG hotline volunteers: 415-909-4NLG (4654)
    • if no answer, send an email to the NLG Demonstrations Committee at nlgsfhotline@protonmail.com
  • Prepare a go-bag with:
    • charged cell phone and portable power if you have
    • water bottle and energy bars or other portable food
    • layers of clothing to add if it gets cold
    • a sign with your message

Resistance go bag

Here’s some background: John Oliver dubbed it “Stupid Watergate,” but many believe the lies and smear campaigns Trump and many Republicans are flinging to discredit the FBI and derail investigations by Special Counsel Mueller and Congressional committees into Trump/Russia have already done more damage to our democracy than the GOP’s bungled break-in, attempted cover-up, and Saturday Night Massacre did back in 1973.

As Mueller’s investigation into collusion and obstruction of justice allegations closes in on the Current Occupant of the White House, fears of a constitutional crisis mount. Initially, the triggering event for a crisis was seen as Trump firing Mueller, mirroring Nixon’s orders to fire independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox. But in what is more like “Evil Watergate” the strategy has morphed into escalating assaults on the FBI, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and others. The Current Occupant, several GOP toadies, and right-wing media are sowing chaos, pushing fake scandals, and besmirching reputations, in not-even-thinly veiled attempts to divert, curtail, or shut down the investigations.

 

Tell Jerry Brown: Keep CA National Guard off the Wall

By Ted Landau

So you want to build a wall along the Mexican border of the United States — at an estimated cost of between $12 and $67 billion — but Congress only gave you $1.6 billion for “increased border security.” What’s your Plan B? That was the dilemma confronting the current occupant of the White House. His solution was to have thousands of people line up along the border, hold hands to form a human chain and start singing “Give Peace a Chance.” Okay…not exactly. Actually, he authorized the mobilization of up to 4,000 National Guard troops to stand guard along the California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas borders.

However, Trump doesn’t actually have the power to deploy those troops, and each state’s governor has the legal authority to refuse the President’s direction. The governors of Arizona, Texas and New Mexico – all Republicans – promptly agreed, at least in part, to Trump’s request. 

In a letter dated April 11, 2018, California Governor Jerry Brown said yes – and no. He agreed to deploy troops to combat gangs, human trafficking and illegal arms and drug smuggling—but not to build the wall or enforce federal immigration laws:

[L]et’s be crystal clear on the scope of this mission. This will not be a mission to build a new wall. It will not be a mission to round up women or children or to detain people escaping violence and seeking a better life. And the California National Guard will not be enforcing federal immigration laws.

As the San Francisco Chronicle says, there is no sensible goal for Trump’s actions. Whether you’re talking about a border wall or a deployment of troops, these actions remain a Trumpian fantasy that won’t stop illegal immigration or improve U.S. security … and will only serve to harm relations with a neighbor and close ally. Similarly, as Brown notes, there is no clear need for troop deployment at a time when border crossings are at their lowest point in decades.

What you can do:

Tell Governor Brown he must hold firm and NOT accept federal money for National Guard troops, or agree to deploy troops, under any conditions other than the ones he has set out in his letter:

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.

California Indivisibles Stand Together

Members of IEB Governance Committee
Members of IEB Governance Committee at California Conclave

Several members of the Indivisible East Bay Governance Committee attended the first-ever Conclave of California Indivisible groups in Sacramento on April 7-8. Organized by Indivisible National and California Indivisible folks, members from around 50 groups came together to discuss best practices and share stories. Hearing what Indivisible San Diego and Indivisible Calaveras are doing in red areas was eye-opening and inspiring to those of us in solidly blue East Bay.

IEB Governance Committee member Nancy Latham speaking at Conclave. Photo by Tama Becker-Verano.
GC member Nancy Latham speaking at Conclave. Photo by Tama Becker-Verano.

Over the weekend (plus Monday for lobbying), the presentations – channeling Jerry Maguire – helped us learn how to help ourselves. Sacramento union leader Fabrizio Sasso reminded us that today’s attacks on unions are a threat to everyone. Racial justice and equity leader PaKou Her shared with us Gloria Anzaldúa’s feminist theory of the borderlands, a powerful concept that challenged us all to think about our proximity to those in power. The big takeaway from the first day was to remember that it’s not just about fighting the big chicken, but about lifting up others and finding ways we can be of service.

IEB Governance Committee member Andrea Lum, with a {not} friend
GC member Andrea Lum, with a [not] friend
One of the Conclave’s most important goals was to build how we work together as a California network of Indivisible groups, so we can reduce duplication of effort (e.g. access a common repository of tools, research, trainings, etc.), avoid reinventing the wheel (learn about the amazing tools and models other groups have developed), and amplify our voices by engaging in advocacy coordinated across the state.

To build our California networked infrastructure, on the second day we broke into four work groups: Policy & Advocacy, Communications, Organizational Sustainability, and Electoral Action. Each work group formed sub-teams which created action plans to carry the work forward. It was inspiring to hear at the end of the Conclave how the sub-teams plan to work on California-wide teams to influence policy, amplify our collective voice, ensure our members and groups are sustainable, and flip the House in November!

Interested in learning more about IEB’s Governance Committee? Want to know how you can help build our organizational capacity? Please email uswe want to hear from you!

 

 

Tell EPA Not to Remove Pollution Controls from Oil & Gas Companies

Let’s start with the basics:

  • The United States Environmental Protection Agency currently has guidelines that allow states to control emissions from the oil and natural gas industry.
  • The oil and gas industry is the largest single industrial source of dangerous chemicals in smog and major contributors to emissions of greenhouse gases.
  • The deadly duo of Trump/Pruitt wants to get rid of those guidelines.
  • With five refinery communities in the Bay Area plus the traffic we all love so well, oil and gas industry emissions affect our health, and the health of those we love, every single day.
  • The public has until April 23, 2018 to comment on the proposed withdrawal of the guidelines. 

These guidelines gives states non-binding “control techniques guidelines” (CTG) with information on recommended techniques for emissions by the oil and gas sector, with leeway for states to choose other techniques if they prefer. However, if there are ozone smog problems, when EPA issues a CTG, under the Clean Air Act a state must revise its clean air plans to require “reasonably available control technology” for oil and gas industry equipment. The EPA estimates that the guideline has the potential for annual pollution reductions of over 64,000 tons of volatile organic compounds, which create smog; nearly 200,000 tons of the greenhouse gas methane; and 2,400 tons of other hazardous air pollutants that can cause serious health effects. Without the CTG, oil and gas company equipment could spew pollutants even where there are reasonably available ways to control the pollution.

In other words: get rid of the guidelines, unnecessarily increase air pollution and increase the harm to our health and the health of our environment.

Submit comments here by April 23, 2018, 11:59 PM Eastern Daylight Time (8:59 PM in California). More info, including talking points, here; more info, including a link to other people’s comments, here.

Want to do more environmental action?