IEB Meets with Senator Harris’ Staff, May 2018

Sen. Harris office visit 050518

By Myra S. Mitzman

On May 3, 2018, Indivisible East Bay met with Senator Kamala Harris’ State Director, Julie Rodriguez, and Bay Area District Director, June Williams, in downtown Oakland.  

We opened with a serious discussion surrounding ICE tactics of detaining pregnant women and separating children from their parents. Julie stressed that, in light of misinformation about the recently-arrived “caravan,” it is important to humanize the narrative—something we can do to help. Please email Senator Harris if you have a story concerning someone adversely affected by these harsh ICE policies.

The dialogue turned to national security, in particular Trump’s nominee to head the CIA, Gina Haspel (torture, anyone?). We pointed out that the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA Rendition, Detention and Interrogation, about the treatment of detainees during the so-called “War on Terror” rightly belongs to the Senate, not the CIA, and perhaps could be publicly released by any member of the Senate Intelligence Committee – which includes both Senator Harris and Senator Feinstein. Also on the national security agenda: Syria, where there is seemingly no long-term strategy, and where, according to Julie, the U.S.’s “muscular diplomacy” (i.e., ability to engage in effective negotiation) has dwindled.

On the topic of Social Security, IEB members and staff alike took umbrage at the characterization of this program as an “entitlement” when so many of us have paid into it for decades. Ironically, one of the best things we could do to shore up Social Security is to pass comprehensive immigration reform, so more young immigrants will be able to pay into the system—and earn more money, and create more jobs, growing an economy that can take care of the aging population. And let’s not forget how the Trump tax scam was always intended to dry up funding for social safety net programs.

Over the course of the next 60 minutes, we covered climate change (see S.2352, the Healthy Climate and Family Security Act of 2018, currently in need of co-sponsors); Puerto Rico (debt restructuring/renewable energy?); Trump’s latest judicial appointments (see snippet of Senator Harris grilling Wendy Vitter); defense spending (don’t count on a Harris “No” vote on increases); election security (demand paper ballots!); and sexual harassment in Congress (Harris’s staff undergoes regular harassment training, but she appears to be in the minority in doing this).

We also got into drug policy, including Senator Schumer’s proposed national Democratic platform for marijuana decriminalization. Julie pointed out that, with Democrats holding so few Washington “power levers,” one way to effect change is through the appropriations process. If Congress doesn’t approve appropriations, the Department of Justice can’t implement its regressive drug enforcement policies. For now, the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment is still good law (the DOJ isn’t supposed to spend money enforcing federal drug laws in states that have legalized medical cannabis). But as we know, true drug reform requires reforming sentencing laws, eliminating cash bail (promising, but not if the algorithm used to determine flight risk, etc. is inherently biased), and decriminalizing marijuana (including a nationwide “equity agenda” similar to Oakland’s).

Sen. Harris office visit 050518

A few more notable moments:

  • Julie saying that, for Senator Harris, the conversation always needs to be, “How do we improve people’s lives?” It’s her “litmus test” whenever evaluating an issue or proposal. Amen.
  • Quote of the day: “The Senator’s ability to be fearless is because you all are.” Awwww. See the Senator’s interview on the Stephen Colbert show, where she was perhaps a bit measured, but watch and judge for yourselves.
  • Reminding Julie that, despite Mitch McConnell’s bluster, any Senator can introduce the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, which would protect Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia 

Last but not least, we’re pushing for another town hall. June Williams said she’s been pressing the Senator on this. Historically, town halls were held only by House representatives. Fun fact: Before the 2016 election, Senators Feinstein and Boxer had not held a town hall in 24 years—last year’s Feinstein April town hall in San Francisco was her first ever! But in these troubled times, people’s demands have changed, and town halls are an important way to have our voices heard. Please call our senators and reps and demand more town halls this year—then show up (and speak up!) if and when they happen.

Myra Mitzman is an Oakland real estate/business attorney and sideline women’s fiction author (under the pseudonym Sheryl Sorrentino).

Photos by Maria Bernstein

 

Gina Haspel Should Not Run the CIA

On April 26, the Senate voted to confirm Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State, despite his record as an Islamophobe who has sought to dismantle the Iran nuclear deal, his support for the NSA collecting Americans’ communications data, his past support of torture as an “interrogation technique,” and his lies about the intelligence community’s finding that Russia interfered in our elections. In an April 17 press release titled “Pompeo Not Qualified to Serve as Secretary of State,” Senator Feinstein detailed these reasons, and more, why Mike Pompeo would not be “capable of proudly representing all of America in the pursuit of peace.” We could not agree more.

Now the Senate has before it the Current Occupant’s nomination of Gina Haspel to succeed Pompeo as CIA Chief. Haspel’s confirmation hearing is scheduled for May 9, 2018. 

Haspel has no business running the CIA:

  • 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.
  • Haspel was denied a CIA promotion in 2013 because of her history with torture, in part thanks to Sen. Feinstein.
  • Feinstein 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.”
  • The details of Haspel’s involvement with torture are still classified by the CIA while the agency continues to push out glowing internal memos about her.
  • With Pompeo’s confirmation as Secretary of State, Haspel is now the CIA’s Acting Director, and has classification/declassification authority over records of her own culpability for torture and cover-up of torture.

What you can do:

Please tell Senator Feinstein and Senator Harris that since they stand against torture, they must stand against putting people who condone torture at the head of the CIA—they must vote NO on Gina Haspel.

Hi, My name is _______, I’m a constituent from [zip code] and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to oppose Gina Haspel’s nomination as head of the CIA. Gina Haspel carried out torture and destroyed the evidence. The CIA is refusing to disclose the extent of her involvement with torture. She is not qualified to lead the CIA. I want the Senator to oppose Haspel’s nomination and to speak out publicly against Haspel as head of the CIA. Thank you.

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.

Use the Force for Good, Senator Harris

Trying to keep track of America’s current government is like playing a Kafkaesque game of whack-a-mole where you wear a blindfold while news anchors give you instructions on where the moles are in a different language several hours ago.

One persistent mole is Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). When it’s not very publicly tearing families apart, detaining people without due process, or targeting individuals who pose no threat, this militarized arm of the Trump administration spends its time quietly watching our Congress enact legislation that strengthens it and expands its powers ever further.

To our great disappointment, our own Senator Kamala Harris, a member of the authorizing committee for the Department of Homeland Security and ICE (Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, or HSGAC), has failed to use her position to halt the spread of ICE’s power, authority and funding. She has raised no opposition to ICE’s intent to spend $100 million on software that will allow for “automatic extreme vetting” – technology that will give it the capacity to digitally profile visitors and immigrants, which is inaccurate and biased and endangers civil liberties. And on March 7, 2018 – more than seven months after her committee received the DHS reauthorization bill that, among other things gives DHS the power to ask for more funding for ICE – she signed off on the bill without protest.

While we applaud Senator Harris’ strong public stance against ICE, we are disappointed that she has not taken any of the opportunities presented to her as a member of HSGAC to call attention to the need for greater scrutiny of this controversial agency or to seek to amend the reauthorization bill to address the numerous allegations about ICE’s abuses.

It’s vital that we continue to press our Members of Congress to hold ICE accountable and stand up to its persistent attempts to infringe on our rights. Here’s where you can help:

Contact Senator Harris. Let her know you’re keeping track of ICE and her responses to ICE, no matter how few headlines the stories get, and tell her you’re disappointed that she has not used the occasions she had to speak out against ICE’s grab for power and money. What to say:

My name is  _______ and my zip code is _________. I am a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank Senator Harris for her statements about ICE ‘s abuses of power, but I am concerned that she voted in the Homeland Security Committee to send a bill authorizing the agency to the Senate floor. I want her to use her position on this Committee as an opportunity to push for reform of ICE and to force the agency to be more responsive to Congressional oversight.

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

Be informed and inform others. Support and connect with your local ICE rapid response networks. Make sure you and your neighbors know what to do if you see ICE. Remember: respond with power, not panic. Download ACLU NorCal’s Mobile Justice app to make sure you’re ready to record ICE overreach if it happens in your neighborhood.

Image via TryJimmy licensed under Creative Commons.

Contact Your Representatives!

Contact Your Members of Congress (Senators and Representatives:

Sen. Kamala Harris (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553; 333 Bush Street, Suite 3225, San Francisco CA 94104

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841; 1 Post Street, Suite 2450, San Francisco CA 94104

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (email): (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095; 440 Civic Center Plaza, 2nd Floor, Richmond, CA 94804

Rep. Barbara Lee (email): (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661; 1301 Clay Street #1000N, Oakland CA 94612

Rep. Eric Swalwell (email): (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065; 3615 Castro Valley Blvd., Castro Valley CA 94546

***************************************************************

Contact Your State Representatives and Governor:

Assembly and Senate: http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov/

Governor Edmund G. Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814

Phone: (916) 445-2841

Wake Up: We Still Need a Clean DREAM Act

This is our world now: the current occupant sells $50 hats with “American Dreamer” emblazoned on the front; ICE threatens repercussions against Oakland’s mayor for warning city residents of incoming raids; Congress has stalled for so long on passing a clean DREAM Act that somehow, unimaginably, the Republicans are starting to take ownership of it. How soon they forget that said current occupant caused this entire … mess … by rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program through which President Obama had protected more than 800,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation.

And while they continue their games, hundreds of thousands of lives hang in the balance. DREAMers attend doctors’ appointments, pick their kids up from school, go to job interviews, wait in line at the Post Office – and there behind them, like a thread weaving through every moment, is the American government’s failure to find a way to give back to these people the freedom to live their lives.

It is existential terror. It must stop.

March 5, 2018, was the original date when protection for DREAMers was supposed to end. On February 26, days before the deadline, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case that would have undone the two federal court injunctions that ruled it unconstitutional for the government to deny DACA renewals past that date. This leaves DREAMers in a situation where they can still potentially apply for a renewal of their status past March 5, but like everything related to this issue, that provision is subject to change at virtually any time.

You can help by calling your Members of Congress to demand that they pass a clean DREAM Act! What to say:

Thank you for your strong support of DREAMers. Please continue to work to include a clean DREAM Act in the next spending bill. These young Americans deserve to live without fear of having their families torn apart.

Both Senators Feinstein and Harris are supportive and have staff working on immigration cases, so you can reach out. And if you have any questions about current immigration policy, ICE actions, what is being negotiated in DC, or other issues, please come to our meeting with Senator Feinstein’s state director in Oakland on March 9, 2018.

ISF immigration rally
State Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), at the emergency immigration rally on February 22, 2018. Photo credit Indivisible SF.

 

Public domain image courtesy of StockSnap

Calling BS On Thoughts and Prayers

There aren’t words for what happened in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day. The trauma inflicted on the students and their families is so unimaginably vast that it may alter the course of American history.

Parkland’s students are forging their heartbreak and anger into action. Emma Gonzalez, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, stood in front of the world’s news cameras and spoke her truth to the nominal leader of the free world just days after February 14:

If the president wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy, and how it should never have happened, and maintain telling us how nothing is going to be done about it, I’m going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association. But hey, you want to know something? It doesn’t matter, because I already know: $30 million. … To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA, shame on you!

Gonzalez and her classmates are calling BS on the fiction that tighter regulation doesn’t save lives. It does. Fewer guns means fewer deaths, every time.

They demand that we take action, and we owe it to them and to ourselves to do so. Here’s where you come in. You can:

Support legislation requiring reasonable regulation of firearms:

Let Your MoC Know How You Feel About Their Track Record:

 

  • Outside the East Bay:
    • Explore this NPR chart to see how your Members of Congress have voted on gun bills.
    • Find out whether your representatives are funded by the NRA.
    • If your MoCs support gun safety, thank them! You can be sure the NRA is getting their members to give them grief, and they need to hear from you.
    • If your MoCs oppose reasonable regulation of firearms or are being bought by the NRA, tell them they’re not representing your wishes; tell them you won’t vote for them and will work against them. This fundraising piece from Gabby Giffords has graphics you can print and make into a postcard or tape to a piece of paper. You can use Giffords’ tweets for inspiration for your message too.

Hit the Streets and Support the Students:

Support and Donate to a Gun Safety Organization:

 

CONTACT YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS

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

 

Photograph of Emma Gonzalez copyright CNN

Halt the Heist Tax Scam Rally

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

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

By Nancy:

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

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

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

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

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

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

And special thanks to:

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

Remarks to the crowd by George McRae:

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

By Rohit:

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

By Barbara Kluger:

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

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

By Ted:

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

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

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

Giving thanks

It’s cold, it’s wet, it’s dark before you get home – winter has arrived in the Bay Area, and with it, the Thanksgiving holiday. Regardless of the day’s hurtful origins, there’s no reason not to take time during these long nights to nurture gratitude for the good in our lives. We’ve compiled this list of people and things that had America’s back in 2017, to give you and yours an easy way to spread a little of your infinite light this winter. This list isn’t exhaustive – it’s not even close – but it’s a starting point.

Members of Congress

Quick note: Not all of these people are perfect or have perfect legislative records. There are even a few we disagree with the vast majority of the time. We don’t think that disagreeing with someone sometimes means you can’t thank them for the times when you found yourselves aligned.

Representative Mark DeSaulnier

Mark DeSaulnier has represented CA-11 with progressive values this past year. He’s held town halls and been willing to meet with his constituents – including Indivisible members – face-to-face.

Representative Barbara Lee

From her work on racial, economic, and environmental justice to her leadership over the last 16 years on repealing the 2001 Authorization of Military Force (AUMF), Barbara Lee has been a powerful voice for Alameda County in Washington, D.C.

  • Phone: (510) 763-0370
  • Email: This form (you can also sign up for her excellent newsletter, Lee Mail, on this site)
  • Snail mail: 1301 Clay Street, Ste. 1000-N, Oakland, CA 94612

Representative Eric Swalwell

Eric Swalwell has been a strong advocate for CA-15 and a tireless voice in the fight to uncover the connections between President Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Senator Dianne Feinstein

We’re grateful to our senior senator for her work to protect an independent judiciary and the rule of law, and for her passion for very particular causes such as gun control and protecting the Mojave Desert and the undocumented, including an undocumented Oakland nurse and her family. She’d want us to say we’re thankful for her “ability to get things done,” and she has come closer than most Democrats—her sexual abuse bill passed the Senate and there is a (narrow) path forward for her bump stocks ban. We are thankful for her continued belief, backed by a lifetime of public service, in that ability to find a way forward against all odds.

Senator Kamala Harris

From her work on the Senate Intelligence Committee to her bold stances and direct and forceful questioning style in confirmation hearings, our junior senator has made an outsized impact during her first year in Washington. We are thankful for her eagerness to get out ahead of other politicians to endorse Medicare for all, for her promise to force the Republicans to protect DACA youth or shut down the government, and for her attention to women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ folks. And we are thankful for her efforts to look past politics to draw strength from our common humanity and use that strength to fight terrible policies.

  • Phone:  (415) 355-9041
  • Email: This form
  • Snail mail: 50 United Nations Plaza, Suite 5584, San Francisco, CA 94102

Senator Susan Collins

Hark! A Republican from Maine who voted consistently to save our healthcare from the worst excesses of her own party. No matter where she falls on the tax heist, she put her career on the line and took fire from some of the nastiest people in politics not just for the sake of the people she represents in Maine, but for the whole country. Visit her website or her Twitter.

Senator Lisa Murkowski

Like her colleague Senator Collins, Murkowski stood fast against her own party to protect the healthcare of millions of Americans. She has some seriously questionable opinions about a lot of things, but without her and Collins (and some late glory-theft by John McCain), the ACA wouldn’t be with us this holiday. Let’s hope that her vote on the tax plan doesn’t dismantle it. Visit her website or her Twitter.

Senator Chris Murphy

The junior Senator from Connecticut has been a steadfast progressive on the national stage, representing us and our values with clarity and consistency. His particular attention to gun safety law is worthy of note. Visit his website or his Twitter.

Senator Elizabeth Warren

It’s everyone’s most favorite nerd! Warren has spent the past year doing what she does best: persisting at being a detailed-obsessed, unerringly intelligent thorn in the side of the GOP. She’s been on their tail with numbers, facts, and unimpeachable arguments across all issues, but especially her mainstays in economic policy and consumer protection law. Visit her website or her Twitter.

Representative Frederica Wilson

Wilson shot to the national stage this year with her relentless and dignified defense of a Gold Star family living in her Florida district. The Trump administration and all of its apparatus came for her and that family with a racially-motivated fervor, and she resisted all of it flawlessly, setting a wonderful example for the rest of us in not taking shit from people just because they’re in power. Plus: cowboy hats! Visit her website or her Twitter.

Representative Maxine Waters

She reclaimed her time, showing the world how it’s done, and she continues to be a brave and powerful leader for residents of Southern California – and the entire country – in resisting the administration. Visit her website or her Twitter.

Journalists and Journals

Journalism is facing a critical moment in its history. Whether or not it survives this period of time, and in what form, will depend almost entirely on the people running it. Below are a list of newsrooms that have spent this past year working to protect journalism, hold the Trump administration to account, and sincerely tell truth to power.

Reveal News from the Center for Investigative Reporting

Based out of Berkeley, the Center for Investigative Reporting has been providing high quality investigative journalism to the Bay and the nation for years. Its writers have sharpened their focus this past year to shed light on abuse in the justice system, the Trump cabinet and its slumlords, and federal women’s health care spending. Reach out with thanks on their site or via Twitter.

ProPublica

ProPublica is a nonprofit news organization dedicated to in-depth investigative journalism. Like the Center for Investigative Reporting, ProPublica has this year turned its focus squarely on the Trump administration and its corporate sponsors. It is part of the only projects in the country that are actively tracking hate crimes and, separately, the causes behind America’s astonishingly high maternal death rate. Reach out on their site or on Twitter.

The Washington Post

After the election, the Washington Post adopted a new masthead motto: “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” First-rate reporting on issues international, national, and local, together with a first-rate mobile website and app. Yes, WaPo has a paywall, but journalists need to eat – so if your support of the First Amendment allows, please consider paying the entry fee.

The New York Times

The “failing” New York Times has been a constant thorn in the side of the Trump administration. The Dear Leader seems to reserve a special brand of distaste just for it and its journalists, which makes its strong growth and consistently illuminating journalism all the sweeter. Reach out via their site.

NPR / KQED / KALW / KPFA

National Public Radio (NPR) and its subsidiary stations, and Berkeley-based community radio station KPFA, give us free access to high quality local and international reporting and analysis without the need for an internet connection or a paper subscription. Despite repeated threats against its funding by the current administration, NPR has maintained its excellent programming while rising to become the nation’s dominant podcast network. You can thank them by reaching out through their site, or by, yes, giving in and sending them some money the next time a funding drive gets in the way of Fresh Air.

Progressive Voices Radio

Thirsting for more in-depth and radical analysis? The free internet radio programs on Progressive Voices include shows from leading progressive talk hosts like Stephanie Miller, Randi Rhodes, Thom Hartmann, and more.

Free Speech TV

The anti-Fox News, Free Speech TV is a 24-hour TV network and multi-platform news source committed to advancing progressive social change. FSTV is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization funded entirely by individual donations and foundation grants.

Media Matters

Media Matters is a web-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.

Teen Vogue

Oh yes, you read that right. Alongside articles about Kylie Jenner’s birthday dress and thong jeans, TV has an amazing News and Politics beat where you can read about disability rights, reproductive rights, America’s gun problem, and much more. Their slogan: “Don’t Just Sit There: Now is the Time to RESIST Donald Trump’s America.” You go, girls!

Our Favorite Research & Resistance Resources

Wikipedia, the Congressional Research Service, the Congressional Budget Office, Snopes  … where would we be without research at our fingertips, arming us with facts to fight fake news and crazy claims?

A few of our top go-to’s on the why and how to #resist:

Info & actions: Indivisible Guide, Resistance Manual, Jen Hofmann’s Americans of Conscience Action Checklist

Tools & apps: 5calls, Resistbot, and two by local (Oakland) heroes: Rapid Resist, Purple Patriot

Awesome Local Businesses

Though much of IEB’s work is done online, we welcome the opportunity to join together IRL at meetings, actions, and events …  Since we’re not getting Koch $$ or Putin rubles, and our George Soros checks all bounced, we often rely on the kindness of local businesses and institutions. Big thank-yous to:

  • Panorama Framing and owner Patrick Cheatham, for letting the IEB Governance Committee meet gratis at your wonderful picture framing shop and art gallery! Check out the great political (and other) artwork at Panorama!
  • Drake’s Dealership, Oakland, for hosting our Rapid Resist texting meetups and All Member Meetings!
  • Sports Basement, Berkeley, for providing free meeting space at the coolest sports emporium in the Bay Area!
  • The Oakland Public Library, bringing you free books, videos, computers, music, events, and so much more – and gracious host for IEB’s All Member Meetings. (P.S. Any California resident can get full borrowing privileges and one of their beautiful library cards!)

Please patronize these terrific businesses, and tell them THANKS for helping IEB #resist!

Awesome Famous People

Colin Kaepernick

Football player, philanthropist, activist, educator, GQ citizen of the year … He took a stand and a knee and lost his football career for it, with no guarantee that anything would come his way to replace it. This is a person we’ll be talking about for decades. Say thanks on Twitter or on his site.

Rev. Robert Lee IV, General Lee’s grandson

When all around him embraced hate, Rev. Lee rejected them, bringing down insults, threats, and instability on himself and his home. He stood up against centuries of racism – against the legend and legacy of his own ancestors – to move his congregation and his community forward. Say thanks on Twitter.

Amy Siskind

Somehow, Amy Siskind has it within her to track everything the Trump administration does and then record it. Her weekly list of its activities was terrifying in the moment, but has taken on an even greater sense of horror as the months have passed by. Her work is in the Library of Congress now; it’s a true document of our times, and she deserves everything in the world for gritting her teeth and writing every excruciating detail of it down. Say thanks on Twitter or on Facebook.

Lin-Manuel Miranda

I don’t mean to brag, but dang I amaze and astonish … It’s one thing to write the greatest musical of all time, but quite another to use the platform that your success grants you to pick fights with the government and further the causes of your own people. In Miranda’s case, that has meant being a tireless advocate for Puerto Rico, both before and after the (ongoing) horror of Hurricane Maria. Miranda has also been a tireless advocate for Planned Parenthood, the National Resources Defense Council, and United We Dream. Say thanks on Twitter, or buy a fridge magnet with his face on it here.

Jimmy Kimmel and his writers

The next in a long line of brave residents putting their careers on the line to say something, Jimmy Kimmel has taken his enormous platform and used it to give emotional, rousing speeches on health care and gun safety. He didn’t have to do this. It would have been easier, so much easier, for his show to have remained impartial, but they chose to do the difficult thing, and their decision spread the message on health care further than we could have ever hoped. Say thanks on Twitter.

Chef José Andrés

Celebrity chef José Andrés took the initiative to build a food network of his own in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria, and has so far served over a million and a half meals to families in need. That’s more than any other organization, including the Red Cross. Say thanks on Twitter, or support his World Central Kitchen.

The Woman Who Flipped Off Trump’s Motorcade from Her Bicycle

Not all heroes wear capes. Say thanks to Juli Briskman on Twitter. #her2020

Ivanka Trumps’s Festive Trash Clam

Sensing that the nation was feeling weary, Ivanka Trump took a break from her busy career in nepotism to brighten our collective season with her contribution to festive centerpiece design. It’s as if Franz Kafka directed the opening shots of The Little Mermaid. Stolen ideas, elementary school Nativity play production values, racism so deeply ingrained that it turned the pumpkins white: it’s the Trump way.

You!!

If you’ve made it this far into this post – or even if you skipped down here, we don’t judge – you’re likely someone who is owed gratitude. We are thankful for every phone call, every postcard, every difficult conversation with a loved one, every protest, every sign, every idea, every atom of energy you gave to our resistance this year. Despite how difficult it’s been, despite the psychic and social horror of it all, we have won far more often than we have lost. Our successes and our continued defense of the United States is down to you, your families, and your communities. Sincerely and with the deepest hope for our next year: thank you.

 

Image lovingly borrowed from the NPR media library.

Two State Directors in Two Days

It was quite a week at the beginning of October 2017 – we met back to back with the state directors for Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.

We didn’t plan on having our first meeting with Sen. Harris’ state director, Julie Rodriguez, the evening before our umpteenth meeting with Sen. Feinstein’s state director, Sean Elsbernd. (Julie is based in LA, so we normally meet with with Daniel Chen, the head of the senator’s SF Office. But Julie has agreed to another meeting the next time she’s in  town.)

But two in a row worked out well, since there are a lot of things we wanted to impress on both senators: from reminding them of the urgency of passing the DREAM Act, to expressing disappointment that they both voted in favor of a huge national defense authorization bill last week, to some specific asks on long-term help for Puerto Rico as part of a hurricane relief package.

We heard a few more details about Sen. Feinstein’s hesitations around endorsing Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All — mainly about implementation and some remaining fuzzy details on the funding side. But Sean tells us that it’s the feedback from us that has moved her from off the cuff comments about “complete government takeover of health care” to asking her staff to take a close look at Sen. Sanders’ bill.

We also heard a few more details about Sen. Harris’ next steps in her push for Medicare for All. Julie says she will take the lead from Sen. Sanders, but that with a minority in Congress, the important thing to focus on is building grassroots support for single payer health care.

We shared our concerns about oversight of the Homeland Security Department, specifically ICE, and learned about some of the individual cases involving detention centers that each of our senators’ constituent services departments have worked on. In fact, Sean told us, a couple of years ago when ICE detention facilities were overcrowded due to the Central American refugee crisis (including many unaccompanied children), Sen. Feinstein had her staff visit every facility in California to compile a report and recommend changes to President Obama.

We spoke with Sean at length about Trump’s judicial nominations being fast-tracked through the Senate Judiciary Committee, on which Sen. Feinstein is the lead Democrat. He told us she’s fighting hard to preserve the “blue slip” process, which gives every senator a say about judges appointed to the federal courts within their state. We asked Sen. Harris to make a statement in support of the senators who have withheld blue slips on dangerous federal court nominees in Oregon and Minnesota.