IEB’s Last Meeting With Sean

On October 24, 2018 Indivisible East Bay had our last-ever meeting with Senator Feinstein’s State Director Sean Elsbernd. It was also our last office visit with the Senator’s staff before the 2018 midterm elections, so it could possibly also be our last-ever Feinstein meeting – but as of this writing, that’s unlikely given her lead in the polls. Feinstein has given no indication yet on who will replace Sean as state director.

Our first topic was immigration. We followed up on Sen. Feinstein’s recent commitment to visit the detention facilities in California where separated kids are being held; Sean said she plans to make that visit soon after the election. Feinstein has also said that a comprehensive immigration reform bill is one of her priorities for the next Congress, especially if the Democrats win. We gave a list of priorities for such a bill, including legal status for immigrants, protection for asylum seekers, and less leeway for the executive branch to make the system harsher and more restrictive. We also had in our group an advocate for help for a very specific population: adults who were adopted from foreign countries as children, but who never became citizens because something went wrong with their paperwork, meaning they are now technically unauthorized immigrants and could be subject to deportation. Our advocate was the wife of such a person, following up on a request she had made at a previous meeting for Sen. Feinstein to look into this issue. Sean assured us that she had, but that they had not been able to find a way to move legislation forward under this Congress. He confirmed that she will continue to try, and may include it in comprehensive reform.

We asked what we could do to help the senator fight the terrible judges that the president nominated for California seats on the 9th Circuit. Senator Chuck Grassley scheduled a so-called hearing for these nominees while the Senate is away on recess – a farce of an event attended by up to two Republican senators who asked approximately zero questions. Sean said that Sen. Feinstein is certain that the way this happened was intended as revenge for what Republicans perceive as her role in “ruining” the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh. As for what we can do to help, Sean said that Democrats on the Judiciary Committee are still strategizing, and that, of course, a lot depends on who wins the Senate in next week’s elections. He suggested raising awareness of the red flags in the judges’ records, writing letters to the editors of newspapers, and generally making it clear that California does not support these nominees.

We also discussed the United States’ shameful role in the war in Yemen and on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty; we found, not surprisingly, that we are on the same page as Sen. Feinstein, who has called abandoning the treaty a “strategic mistake.” Even if the administration tries to withdraw from the formal treaty, Sen. Feinstein is committed to enforcing its terms by way of her role on the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee.

And we talked about creating a fair economy and protecting our social services. A theme of that conversation was the GOP’s false promises about its economic policy, its lies about looking out for working people who are struggling to get ahead, and its double-talk about everything from Social Security to pre-existing conditions. We told Sean that sometimes Sen. Feinstein’s moderate tone and abiding belief that Republicans will be reasonable “when push comes to shove” make some of us worry that she is falling for their lies and will be fooled into making compromises in exchange for empty words.

We also asked that the senator take the administration’s recent attack on trans people as an opportunity for a renewed push to pass the Equality Act. This bill amends existing civil rights law and defines sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs or activities.

And we asked that Sen. Feinstein look at the evidence that has come out on SESTA-FOSTA, an anti-sex trafficking bill she and Sen. Harris voted for. Although the bill was intended to prevent human trafficking and forced sex work, there are serious concerns that it has actually further endangered the populations that are vulnerable to those threats.

IEB Feinstein office visit. Photo credit: Catya de Neergaard

If Sean was sorry to be seeing the last of what he has called the “most demanding Indivisible group in California,” he didn’t show it. As for us, while we may not have shed tears at parting either, we do think he has set a high for bar his replacement as a responsive and informative representative for Senator Feinstein.

Photographs by Catya de Neergaard

This is not a drill! Call to action at All Member Meeting

It’s crunch time friends … the home stretch … now or never. Choose your metaphor, the fact is that the 2018 midterm elections are only a month away! If you’re angry about the current state of our country, the Kavanaugh debacle and other horrors (and if you’re reading this we assume you are), we have the only remedy: TAKE ACTION! Have you thought about volunteering, but you keep coming up with reasons not to do it (you’re too busy or it makes you too uncomfortable or whatever)? Well, NOW is the time to get over it and put your name on a sign-up sheet. There’s too much at stake to sit on the sidelines.

After the Judiciary Committee farce, oh sorry hearing, to take Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, we saw what citizen action can do. A call for immediate protests at Senate offices led to Ana Maria Archila‘s and Maria Gallagher’s momentous elevator confrontation of Jeff Flake, which in turn led to the Senator’s intended vote for Kavanaugh turning into a call for an FBI investigation before the final vote. The GOP and the Current Occupant reluctantly but quickly agreed — despite days of claiming that this was both not possible and not needed. Think about it: what if Archila and Gallagher had decided they were too busy, or it was too hard, or that they were powerless to effect change anyway? Kavanaugh might already be on the Supreme Court. Never underestimate what any one of us can do …

And that brings us to the Sept. 30 Indivisible East Bay All Members Meeting, where we spent almost the entire time strongly urging (we ain’t too proud to beg) members to do something, anything, in the weeks leading to the November 6 election.

The very least you can do is vote, and make sure everyone else you know also registers and votes! To emphasize this, the meeting opened with the Kesha video Here Comes the Change which effectively dramatizes that the “future is voting.”

Next, California Democratic Bay Area Field Organizer Titus Lin got the ball rolling with a plea for people to phone bank and canvass to flip two of the closest, most critical and winnable Congressional districts in California: CA-10, where Josh Harder is the Democrat running against Jeff Denham, and CA-21, where TJ Cox is running against incumbent David Valadao. Titus noted that while we hope to defeat Devin Nunes in CA-22, especially given his behavior as a Trump-lackey on the House Intelligence Committee — the odds are low enough that our priorities must be elsewhere.

Then, Kyoko Takayama of Organizing for Action made a passionate case for door-to-door canvassing as the most effective way to reach voters. Yes, it takes considerable time, energy and resources. But it works. People’s minds get changed. Kyoko explained that the best results come from focusing on people who have not voted in recent elections. Getting them to vote has the biggest effect on increasing voter turnout. Kyoko pointed us to an OFA video that’s a good bootcamp for people who haven’t canvassed before.

Team Blue Wave Contra Costa organizer Kook Huber spoke about how critical it is to flip CA-21. Located in the southern half of the Central Valley, it’s a rural district, relatively poor and with a 71% Latino population. Why do we believe it’s so flippable? Because, despite having a Republican incumbent, there are more registered Democrats (47%) in the district than Republicans (30%). Once again, the key is voter turnout. We’re hoping to encourage people to vote by mail, circumventing the voter suppression efforts by farm owners in the District. To accomplish this, canvassing is critical. Kook said there will be canvassing opportunities every day (!) between now and the election.

Kook Huber at September 2018 All Members Meeting, photo by Toby St. John
Kook Huber, photo by Toby St. John

IEB’s outreach team co-lead Toni Henle reminded us there’s much work we can do in our neighboring state of Nevada, especially phone-banking and canvassing to defeat incumbent Senator Dean Heller. Currently, Heller and Democratic challenger Jacky Rosen are in a race so tight it’s considered a toss-up. Toni explained that our phone-banking efforts with Issue Voters of Northern Nevada have been focused on “unaffiliated” voters, as these are considered the most persuadable to tilt towards the Democrats.

To help IEB members who are hesitant to volunteer because they’re unsure what to say, presenters took to the stage for role-playing demonstrations. Caitlin Patterson from Sister District and IEB’s Ted Lam showed how canvassing might go in CA-21 — with Caitlin confronting three different types of respondents all played by Ted. IEB’s Tom Janci and Toni role-played phone banking on behalf of Kyrsten Sinema, the Democrat running for the US Senate in Arizona.

September 2018 All Members Meeting, photo by Heidi Rand

The meeting also included announcements about a few issues, including an alert by Saadiqah Islam from the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights that the Center has demanded that the Alameda Board of Supervisors conduct an independent audit of Sheriff Ahern.

The meeting ended with break-out sessions so members could sign up for and ask more in-depth questions about our phone banking and canvassing events. Most members also wrote postcards to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, thanking her for her bravery and giving her support.

Postcards to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, photo by Andrea Lum
Postcards to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, photo by Andrea Lum

Don’t make us beg, if you haven’t stepped up yet it’s time to do your part. Here’s how you can help:

9/27/18 IEB & ISF Sen Feinstein office visit

Seventeen Indivisibles from IEB and Indivisible San Francisco met with Sean Elsbernd, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s state director, on September 27 at her San Francisco office. Our almost two-hour meeting was jam-packed with questions and “asks.”

First on the agenda: a detailed back and forth on how the homeless count in San Francisco is conducted. It was further emphasized that more resources were needed to help the homeless, from outreach to affordable housing. Sean seemed particularly concerned about the estimate that 2,400 kids may be homeless.

For those of you not placing the date, September 27 was the day Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh testified in front of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. Of course, the hearings came up, and we stressed – as we have consistently done – that we are firmly against Kavanaugh being confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice. The group urged Senator Feinstein to continue what she’s doing and to look as well for other methods to stop his confirmation.

On a not-necessarily-unrelated note, the topic of reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act came up. Sean thinks that Congress will just extend the Act, at least for the short term.

Sean told us that on the important issue of immigrant family separation, their office is not getting phone calls, and that it’s crucial for people to keep this issue alive by contacting the Senator. He did acknowledge that the Kavanaugh hearings have diverted attention – but we should look for any opportunity to revive the issue.

Sean said that the House is expected to head home for campaigning and won’t be back until after the midterms, so don’t expect any legislation to pass that needs both chambers to act on.

We also talked about protecting the Mueller Trump-Russia investigation, election security, digital privacy, environmental/public health, the war in Yemen, the Farm Bill, workers’ rights, the federal judiciary, tax policy, trade, criminal justice reform, and having a town hall. Sean’s comments on each of those topics were informative and indicated the Senator’s position. As an example, the Farm Bill is in conference and the final version will have to be acceptable to 60 Senators regardless of what the House passed. Another insight: White House Counsel Don McGahn’s imminent departure will force the Administration and Senate Republicans to start from scratch on judicial nominations and will give Senate Democrats a bit of breathing room.

As of November 7, Sean will be the chief of staff for San Francisco Mayor London Breed. As of now, Senator Feinstein has not selected his replacement but he’s hoping that will be resolved shortly. The general feeling from the Indivisible folks was that Sean will be missed.

Read our memo to the Senator.

 

IEB’s September meeting with Sen. Feinstein’s staff

By Candace Goldman

On September 5, a group of Indivisible East Bay members met with Sean Elsbernd (Senator Dianne Feinstein’s current State Director) and Abby Ellis (the Senator’s Field Representative). FYI, Sean will be joining the office of Mayor London Breed in San Francisco after the mid-term elections; we wish him well.

The main focus of the meeting was Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. As the ranking Democratic member on the Judiciary Committee, the Senator has been spending most of her time on this, actively working to obtain better background information from the National Archives and engage in more intense questioning of the nominee, as well as corralling the troops in opposition to Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Senator McConnell recently dumped over 42,000 documents for review but refused a reasonable extension of time on the hearings to allow for a proper review of the documents. As we have seen this past week, Senator Feinstein has been working hard on the new sexual assault charges that have come to light. The Senator has additionally focused on issues such as the nominee’s view of “settled law” and the immunities and prerogatives granted the President. She continues to make efforts to to push the vote back and to shed more light on the negative aspects of the nominee. However, the Senator is hampered by the limited procedural steps that can be taken and by the fact that the Republican committee majority, under hardliner McConnell, can force the process.

Regarding other GOP-backed judicial nominees, we particularly noted the federal court nominations of Jonathan Kobes, Stephen Clark, and Carl Nichols, all of whom have shown bias in relation to women’s rights — as well as on other civil rights issues (such as warrantless searches). We believe their backgrounds make them weak candidates. We encouraged the Senator to continue opposing these candidates and to work with Senator Harris and others to stop these nominations from going forward. We were advised that the Senator was working to ensure additional oversight hearings, including having Jeff Sessions address the Judiciary Committee.

We suggested bringing a writ of mandate suit to force the Republicans to adhere to the Judiciary Committee’s own rules, a tactic that could be used in other settings as well, such as immigration proceedings.

Some other issues we raised at the meeting:

Immigration

The Senator has staff visiting detention centers, particularly in El Centro and near Victorville, to work on the issues of family separation and claims of sexual abuse. They are seeing some progress and continue to work on these issues. Regarding passport denials for people born near the border, the Senator’s office is doing direct casework on this problem for constituents.

We noted the problem with bank account denials as well. Sean was not aware of this and said he would bring this to the Senator’s attention. We agreed to send information to the office on this issue.

Foreign Affairs

The Senator is not on the Foreign Affairs Committee, but she is working against efforts to stop aid to Palestine. Regarding the efforts of Erik Prince to use private forces in Afghanistan, the Senator’s office didn’t have much information on this; we encouraged her to do what she can against such a contract in the Defense Appropriations Committee.

National Security

We thanked the Senator for her support of S-2047, Preventing War in North Korea Act of 2017. Sean responded that the Senator was definitely in favor of careful diplomacy on this and other critical issues.

Opioids and Marijuana

Attendees shared personal experiences with and information about medicinal marijuana and encouraged Senator Feinstein to reconsider her more conservative position on drugs, especially regarding support for recovery programs rather than jail. 

Election Security

Regarding S-2593, Secure Elections Act, which was pulled from hearing by Rules Committee chair Roy Blunt, we encouraged the Senator to continue her efforts to get it reset for a hearing and to actually strengthen the bill. We suggested inserting the bill’s provisions in the homeland security funding. Sean thought that strategy might be a good approach. We agreed to send the February 2018 report on state election security to him for the Senator’s attention.

Farm Bill

We encouraged the Senator to vote against any reduction in SNAP and imposition of work requirements in the Farm Bill. Sean indicated that Senator Feinstein supports SNAP but the bill is a lower priority right now as the Senate is generally better on these issues than the House.

Puerto Rico

We urged support of the Resilient Energy Infrastructure bill to aid the recovery in Puerto Rico. Regarding this issue, Sean suggested we also reach out to Senator Bill Nelson from Florida.

Lobby visit to Senator Feinstein's office, 9/5/18, photo by Toby St. John
Sean Elsbernd, Senator Feinstein’s State Director. Photo by Toby St. John

It was a congenial meeting and the staff was quite responsive to our questions and ideas. One exception: the ongoing request for a town hall meeting seems to be falling on deaf ears — not necessarily from the staff, but from the Senator herself.

Click here to read the Indivisible East Bay memo for the meeting.

IEB meeting with Senator Feinstein staff, Candace Goldman. Photo by Toby St. John
IEB meeting with Senator Feinstein staff, Candace Goldman. Photo by Toby St. John

Photos by Toby St. John

 

When abortion was illegal: Looking backward and forward at once

Have you heard the one about the back alley abortion?

Yeah, it isn’t a joke. And it sure as hell isn’t funny. It’s an actual question: Have you heard it? Roe v. Wade made abortion legal throughout the USA in 1973 – so as of the last census in 2010, slightly over 60% of the population never knew a time when abortion was illegal. And as the population ages, many of those people may never even have known anyone who lived through those dark, bloody times.

Federal judges on all levels are increasingly willing to deny women their reproductive rights. Appeals court judge and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh would have denied access to abortion for an undocumented teenager, writing that undocumented youth in custody are not entitled to “abortion on demand” – favorite words of the anti-choice movement. His view didn’t prevail in the appeals court – but will it prevail, sooner or later, in the Supreme Court?

All of this means it’s time to tell the stories. Again.

Let’s start with this chart:

The number of deaths from abortion has declined dramatically since Roe v. Wade.

Source: The Alan Guttmacher Institute, Trends in Abortion in the United States, 1973-2000, January 2003.

Remember, there is no way to give an accurate number of deaths from illegal abortions before Roe v. Wade, because abortion was a crime and a scandal and abortion deaths were usually covered up. The National Abortion Federation estimates up to 1.2 million illegal abortions per year, with thousands of women who died or were grievously injured from back alley or self-induced abortions. And hospital emergency rooms stopped seeing these patients after abortion became legal.

But as with anything, statistics don’t tell the story. Human stories tell the story. As one article said about gathering the stories of Holocaust survivors, “The act of absorbing history often requires peering backward and forward at once,” and stories of illegal abortion matter for the same reason: so that we understand, and so that we never go back.

We ask you to share these stories. Tell people who don’t know what it was like. Tell your elected representatives that you’re not willing to give up any of your reproductive rights, and you’re not willing to accept judges who would be willing to compromise them:

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

And if you have a story, or if you know someone who has a story, we invite you to share it hereAll submissions will come to us anonymously and we will publish everything anonymously. It’s crucial to show how many of these stories there are – so that we keep there from being more of them.

  • It was an honest to God back alley abortion, in an honest to God back alley, on a dirty kitchen table covered with a not very clean sheet. He had alcohol on his breath and his hand wasn’t very steady. He told her to spread her legs and told her not to spread them next time, which he found very funny. She had an infection and was horribly sick but she survived and later had a family. Some of her friends weren’t so lucky.
  • He was successful and well-known and nearly fifty when his elderly Irish Catholic mother told him: when he was a toddler, she and her husband just couldn’t afford another kid, and she had an abortion. She had never told anyone before, but the Supreme Court kept issuing anti-abortion rulings and people were telling their stories – and she asked him to tell hers.
  • It was the 1950s. She and her friends were young working women in New York. They had the name of a doctor in Pennsylvania who was very expensive but was supposed to be clean and reputable. When anyone in their crowd needed an abortion, they all pooled their money and went without lunch for a while. And the women who went to him came back. She said she had no idea what they would have done if they hadn’t had jobs and a support network.
  • It was the 1940s. She and her husband were Italian Catholic and dirt poor, and they had several very young children and couldn’t afford another. The illegal abortion killed her. In those days, when a mother died, the father rarely raised the children; at least one of the little girls was brought up by relatives who treated her badly, and when she had children, she had never really had a mother of her own.

And more:

  • The Academy Award-nominated documentary When Abortion Was Illegal features powerful stories of women who had abortions, their families, and the health care providers who witnessed the devastating effects of illegal abortion. Available here in English and Spanish, for purchase or on Vimeo.
  • Actress Sally Field discusses her illegal abortion in Tijuana in her recent memoir, In Pieces, and talks about it in her September 11, 2018 NPR interview.

Stop Kavanaugh: rallying cry at IEB’s August AMM

It’s not just about getting out the vote on November 6, 2018. Yes, that’s critical. But there’s more than one front in our ongoing battle against Trump and his minions, so we gotta walk and chew gum at the same time! As important as the election — and with very long term implications — is the fight over control of our federal judiciary. A shocking statistic: Congress has already confirmed more of Trump’s nominations to appellate judgeships (24) in his first term than any other president going back to Reagan!

Right now, perched at the top of our judicial concerns sits the Supreme Court. The Republican-controlled Senate is pushing hard to get Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s uber-conservative nominee, confirmed as soon as possible. Hearings are scheduled to start on September 4 — with most pundits predicting that success is almost certain.

The good news is that “almost certain” means “not 100% certain.” This fight is still winnable … if we act like it!

All of which brings us to the Indivisible East Bay August 26 All Members Meeting. An overflowing house packed the room, with many of the 200+ people there showing up for their first-ever IEB event.

Fighting the Kavanaugh Nomination

For the top attraction, we joined with MoveOn’s Unite for Justice national day of action to promote the fight against Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Linh Nguyen, co-lead of the IEB Judiciary Team, delivered an impassioned presentation detailing exactly why we must push as hard as we can to delay or prevent the vote on Kavanaugh:

  • Linh gave a distressing overview of what we already know of Kavanaugh’s equally distressing record: his opposition to Roe v. Wade, his assertions that a sitting President should be exempt from any investigation, his support for unlimited pardon power for the President (even before defendants stand trial), his belief that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is unconstitutional, his opposition to climate change protection measures, and his support for vote-suppressing voter ID laws.
  • There’s likely much more, but it has been hard to find out; thanks to the GOP’s obstruction in Congress, only 6% of his record has been made available to the public!
  • Yes, Kavanaugh has stated that Roe v. Wade is “settled law.” But don’t be seduced by this admission! Saying the case is settled does not imply that Kavanaugh believes it was correctly decided. If he is confirmed to the Supreme Court, he could still act to overturn it — and probably would.
Linh Nguyen's presentation on Kavanaugh, photo by Catherine de Neergaard
Linh Nguyen’s presentation on Kavanaugh. Photo by Catherine de Neergaard

Linh also talked about the Judiciary Team’s efforts to coordinate with Indivisibles and other groups around the country to block other Trump nominees to federal courts — nominees who are too far-right, blatantly partisan, or unqualified to hold the lifetime positions. The Team’s work has paid off! Activists’ pressure has terminated the nominations of Jeff Mateer, Brett Talley, Matthew Petersen, and Ryan Bounds. These potential judges were exposed as racist, homophobic, and/or lacking in any judicial experience. While Trump appears to view these attributes as desirable, our opposition eventually forced an embarrassed GOP to abandon the nominees.

What can you do?

All of which bring us to … YOU, and what you can do to prevent further judicial disaster from becoming a reality.

First and foremost: contact your senators EVERY DAY by phone, email, or fax to voice your opposition to Kavanaugh. It doesn’t matter that they’re already on record as opposed to his confirmation — contact them (every day) anyway! Their staff tells us it helps immensely for them to hear our support. Otherwise, they only hear from constituents who disagree, making it harder for them to hold to their positions. That’s why, at the meeting, all attendees took direct action by making phone calls and writing more than 300 (!) postcards to Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.

IEB member Amelia hand-delivered 160+ postcards to Senator Harris
IEB member Amelia hand-delivered 160+ postcards to Senator Feinstein. Photo by Amelia Cass.

Please do the same…right now!

What to say:

My name is ____. I’m a constituent from [zip code] and a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to ask the Senator to vote NO on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. I’m worried by his opposition to a woman’s right to choose, environmental and consumer protection, workers’ rights and common sense gun safety. His willingness to shield the president from prosecution and investigation is frightening. Kavanaugh’s nomination should be rejected.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553

Next: we can’t stop there. It’s essential that all 49 Democratic Senators are steadfast in their opposition to Kavanaugh — plus we need to get at least two Republicans to vote no. To accomplish this, we must contact Democratic voters in other states, particularly ones with vulnerable Republican Senators, encouraging them to voice their opposition to Kavanaugh and vote NO.

Three generations of resisters! Ellen, Meriam and Iris. Photo by LeAnn Kanowsky
Three generations of resisters! Ellen, Meriam and Iris. Photo by LeAnn Kanowsky

But wait, there’s more: Expanding on Linh’s call to action, IEB Governance Committee members Andrea and Charlotte offered additional actions you can take:

  1. Sign up for the IEB weekly newsletter. Each issue opens with 3 action items, and the actions are also listed on the Calls & Emails page of our website, and are featured on our Facebook page.
  2. Use social media to get the message out. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and post your support for IEB’s positions on your own social media pages, your Twitter feed or even on Nextdoor. Check out this perfect example of boosting the cause!
  3. Share these tips with your family and friends, especially those in other states, and ask them to take action.

The goal: make it so “expensive” for Mitch McConnell to twist arms that he abandons the effort to confirm Kavanaugh. We have the opportunity to win by running out the clock. If Kavanaugh is not confirmed by the end of the 2018 Congressional session, the nomination gets kicked back to the President, forcing a delay that could doom the appointment — especially if we win a majority of the Senate in November.

The ultimate symbol of America

While info and direct action to #StopKavanaugh was going full steam, kitchen science was also happening! IEB Wizard Ted Lam conducted extensive testing (yeah, noms!) to perfect a recipe for homemade Peet’s Major Dickason’s blend ice cream, and he let loose his team of IEB family members (his son Lucas and  volunteers extraordinaire Tiffany and George) to churn up 12 delectable quarts with a robin’s egg blue vintage electric ice cream maker.  

Tiffany, Lucas and George making ice cream for the resistance!
Tiffany, Lucas and George made ice cream for hungry activists! Photo by Heidi Rand

The action we take

George did double duty, and says that “after churning up resistance . . .  I mean ice-cream, I was posted post-haste to help out at the Postcards to Voters table.” Members flocked to write 100 postcards to Democratic voters in support of Audrey Denney and TJ Cox, running for Congress in California Districts 1 and 21. Both districts, largely rural and agricultural, are ripe to be flipped.

Aaaand that brings us full circle — back to the importance of the midterm elections, as we mentioned at the top of this article. Almost every problem we face right now will get better if we can end the GOP’s control of Congress; however, we need to continue keep making noise and applying pressure. Every phone call, postcard, and email counts!

 

Tracking down Senator Feinstein

On the morning of August 11, 2018, IEB members tracked down Senator Dianne Feinstein at a campaign office-warming for San Francisco Supervisor Catherine Stefani. It was a very cozy event of the kind Sen. Feinstein clearly (and understandably) prefers to open town halls — though during her remarks she did say something about envying Supervisor Stefani’s ability to get out and meet her constituents in her small district, compared to a whole state. That was a little galling from someone whom we’ve barely seen try to meet with the general public.

But the event was also kind of sweet in its way. Along with Sen. Feinstein, several SF women politicians came out to support Supervisor Stefani, including Mayor London Breed and State Treasurer Candidate Fiona Ma. Senator Feinstein led the crowd in a chorus of “Happy Birthday Your Honor the Mayor” and all of the younger women appeared genuinely starstruck to be there with one of their role models, whom a couple of them jokingly compared to Taylor Swift. Certainly, it was heartwarming to see this group of women come together to support each other and marvel at how much has changed — and how much has stayed the same — since Sen. Feinstein was the second woman (first elected) on the SF Board of Supervisors.

But the real reason we were there was to talk to Sen. Feinstein about Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. We politely cornered her near the exit, shook her hand, and thanked her for everything she was doing, all her letters and tweets. We told her we were also working hard to fight the Kavanaugh nomination. As she edged away up the stairs, we told her we wanted to see action from the Democrats. She stopped, turned back to us and said that they would take action, but that we couldn’t win. As we looked at her, dismayed, she reframed the statement: Democrats in the Senate need Republicans to vote with them, and that to get that, we probably need some new information to come out. We agreed and told her we were working on both of those things too.

It’s clear that she hasn’t given up, and that she will keep up the fight to the best of her ability no matter what, but it’s also clear that she needs our calls and encouragement to build her strength and resolve. Because if we don’t win this fight, it won’t be because it was impossible; it will be because it was very hard and too many of us gave up. We need to make her believe that we can win, and we need to believe it ourselves because that’s the only way we have a chance.

Please contact both senators today and say:

My name is ______, my zip code is _________ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for everything you’ve done to protect the Supreme Court. Please keep fighting the Kavanaugh nomination and rallying your constituents. We are winning the battle for public opinion. Most Americans support reproductive rights, workers’ rights, and the ACA. We need to keep showing more of them that Kavanaugh threatens those things, and keep showing vulnerable Republicans how much they have to lose.

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

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

 

Meeting with Senator Feinstein’s staff in Oakland

By George McRae

A group of mainly Indivisible East Bay members met for a great Q&A on Tuesday, August 14, 2018 at the Oakland Public Library with Senator Dianne Feinstein’s State Director Sean Elsbernd and Field Representative Abby Ellis.

Top of list: the upcoming confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Senator Feinstein has been adamant and doing what she can to open up all the hidden files on Kavanaugh, while Senator Grassley is pushing to start hearings the Tuesday after Labor Day, so when the Supreme Court meets the first Monday in October (the Court’s traditional giddy-up) they’ll have a full house of nine. Discussion revolved around the National Archives not being able to even produce the requested documentation by at least the middle of October. The issue of Kavanaugh perjuring himself when he was being vetted for the D.C. District Court was discussed and it was clarified that those documents are in the pile at the Archives.

What to do about it?? Call Senator Feinstein’s and also Senator Harris’s offices REPEATEDLY! Yes, emailing over and over – daily, if not hourly – is vital. Seriously. The Senators’ staffs keep track of numbers of contacts per zip code per issue and calls, faxes, emails are weighted EQUALLY. Senator Feinstein asks for and is given daily reports on numbers for and against issues, and the zip codes where the comments are from. So if she gets ten thousand calls supporting Kavanaugh, that’s what she gets. If, on the other hand, she gets ten thousand calls against Kavanaugh, then that’s what she gets! She is shown the high volume reports daily. The staff stressed that they are NOT hearing from US about Kavanaugh, and the lack of calls is a mystery. [Ed. note: see our current actions, posted here, and call every day. The Kavanaugh actions listed are all still timely]

We discussed that many people think they don’t have to call because they know that the Senators are opposed to Kavanaugh already, or know their public position on another issue, but again, THEY NEED to hear from us even so! In addition, they really need to hear our thanks when they are doing a good job! It encourages them to keep going in getting the work done on the issues we strongly support.

IEB meeting with Sen. Feinstein staff Aug. 13, 2018

We discussed the tariff war, and the destruction it is bringing to our state as well as to the rest of the country. Sean specifically mentioned harm from the tariffs on Chinese goods that have provoked Chinese retaliation in the form of tariffs on agricultural exports and said that small, medium and even large farms are looking at this coming Labor Day as the day to decide whether they can live or die as businesses. Sean also said that such harm is galvanizing even GOP Senators from states with a large agricultural base.

We touched on some international issues, including a discussion about Israel, Turkey, and Iranian nuclear proliferation. Sean said that Sen. Feinstein is very concerned about problems that Netanyahu is causing, and about the threat of global economic collapse due to the ongoing economic crisis in Turkey.

Finally, we asked the Senator’s position on universal health care, and as we’ve heard from Sean before, the question is how to pay for it, and the Senator’s main concern is to make sure that everyone is covered first.

 

George McRae works as a theater professional, an audio-describer for blind and visually impaired people, and standardized patient for healthcare educators. Oh, he also keeps bees. 

Photographs by George McRae

Experts talk about how to beat the Kavanaugh nomination

By Candace Goldman

On August 2, 2018, Indivisible East Bay took part in a community meeting in Berkeley to discuss Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court, and actions we can take to prevent his approval by the Senate. IEB co-sponsored the meeting with the California Civil Rights Coalition, Equal Justice Society, The Center for Independent Living, and People For the American Way.

The evening was emceed by Eva Paterson, a long-time civil rights advocate, and speakers included Leslie Proll with the NAACP, Amy Everitt of NARAL Pro-Choice California, Raymundo Jacquez III from Centro Legal de la Raza, Noreen Farrell of Equal Rights Advocates, Dan Roth with the American Constitution Society, and IEB’s own Linh Nguyen, who co-leads our Judiciary Team.  Linh did a masterful job of informing the gathering about what IEB and the Judiciary Team have been doing. She really engaged the audience and was an inspiring example of what we can do when we band together to take action.  Great job, Linh – and thank you!

The speakers addressed the dangers a Kavanaugh confirmation would represent – and they are legion – and also the actions we can take to defeat his nomination.  Everyone’s rights and interests are at risk with this potential swing position on the Supreme Court – from women’s health to labor protections, from shredding Executive accountability to continuing environmental destruction to endangering the lives of immigrants.  Each speaker emphasized that it is NOT a foregone conclusion that Kavanaugh will be approved, but we need to keep a laser beam on the nomination and ramp up the pressure to defeat him.

What you can do:

  • Tell Senators Feinstein and Harris that you want them to vote NO on Kavanaugh in the Judiciary Committee; and that if the nomination gets out of committee and to the full Senate, you want them to vote NO and hold all other Democrats and swing voters to do the same
    • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
    • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Call all the people you know in the states whose senators are on the Judiciary Committee and urge them to tell their senators to vote NO on Kavanaugh in committee and, if necessary, in the full Senate
  • Ask all your friends to contact their senators – especially swing votes like Senator Murkowski of Alaska and Senator Collins of Maine – and tell them to vote NO if the nomination reaches the full Senate.
  • Read our articles here, here, here, here, and here (wow, we’ve been busy!) for more info, suggested call scripts, and actions you need to take.
  • Make your voice heard: Unite for Justice has called for nationwide rallies to oppose Kavanaugh on Sunday, August 26. Find an event near you at this link, or attend NARAL Pro-Choice California’s event from 1-3 PM, San Francisco Civic Center.
  • Educate yourself: the IEB All Members Meeting will also be held on August 26 from 1-3 PM at Sports Basement, Berkeley. Linh will present an updated version of the Kavanaugh presentation she made at the August 2 meeting. Please join us if you can – it’s important to educate ourselves about this unacceptable nominee who would serve for life (and he’s only 53 years old!) if confirmed. We need to keep the pressure intense to stop this dangerous nomination.

 

IEB Delivers Message to Sen. Murkowski from Alaska’s Indivisibles: Vote No on Kavanaugh

When we heard that the difficult to pin down Senator Lisa Murkowski was slated to be the guest speaker at the August 2018 Tahoe Summit, which several Indivisible East Bay members planned to attend, we reached out to Indivisibles in Alaska to see if there was a message we could bring to the senator on their behalf.

Sen. Murkowski is one of the most likely swing votes on the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination. She regularly breaks with Republicans to vote to fund Planned Parenthood (though she has yet to break with them in support of a judicial nominee) and she has demonstrated willingness to stand up to Republican pressure on ACA repeal.

Twenty-nine of her constituents gave us a letter asking her to vote NO on Kavanaugh, saying,

Here in Alaska, we are terrified that under a Kavanaugh Supreme Court, hundreds of thousands of us would lose access to safe, effective health care and autonomy over our bodies. We fear that the brave men and women who take on tough and dangerous work to bring prosperity to their families and our state will lose their protections. And we worry that if the federal government, under this president, or a future president, takes action that harms Alaska and we take it to court, this Supreme Court will automatically decide against working Alaskans.

After almost being denied access to the event by some Nevada State troopers, we successfully delivered the letter to Sen. Murkowski as she was entering the event, and told her that Alaskans are counting on her. She was very polite and friendly and thanked us for giving it to her, though her staff was kind of rushing her past us. She said she was headed to Alaska tonight to have some meetings about Kavanaugh, but she did not say who those meetings were with – we hope they are with her constituents, a majority of whom believe the Senate should not confirm a Supreme Court Justice who will overturn Roe v. Wade.

The Alaska Grassroots Alliance is collecting additional signatories to the letter we delivered here. Please share their petition with anyone you know in Alaska!

Photograph by Linh Nguyen