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5/24/18

Contact Federal Government Officials

Find elected officials: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials

Fax legislators for free:  Reps:  https://faxzero.com/fax_congress.php
 
********************************
Many newspapers, including New York Times and Washington Post require subscriptions, but without one we can see a few articles each month.  We can also check with our local libraries to find out how to get online access through them.

1.    Department of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said she was not aware that Russia wanted Trump to win. This is in spite of the clear conclusion of the US intelligence community:https://apnews.com/f3e88ea359854442a5ba8f0aabdf574c  As there is no version of this statement from the head of Homeland Security that bodes well for us – denial, ignorance, being coy – let’s let Secretary Nielsen know that a firm grasp on this issue is essential to homeland security:  https://www.dhs.gov/contact-us  

2.   An Associated Press reporter was physically shoved out of an EPA meeting where certain press outlets were being blocked from attending. The topic was water contamination:  https://apnews.com/7c5ce52b316a4c91930a0998cd613115 Yes, this is where we are. Let’s let our MoC know that this is outrageous, and we can let Administrator Pruitt know that we still await his resignation:  
https://www.epa.gov/home/forms/contact-epa or on Twitter at @EPAScottPruitt

3.   Donald Trump has nominated J. Campbell Barker to be a federal judge in the Eastern District of Texas (https://setexasrecord.com/stories/511319783-texas-ag-praises-trump-nomination-of-deputy-solicitor-general-campbell-barker-to-federal-court-in-tyler). He has a long record of defending discriminatory voter ID laws and bigotry against the LGBT community and opposing protections for immigrants and the environment. We can read a full report about him from the Alliance for Justice here, and then call our senators and tell them we want them to oppose his nomination.

4.   In the wake of the numerous shootings our country has endured, it is Congress's job to respond with legislative action. While the omnibus spending bill that passed earlier this year included the Fix NICS Act, it did not include any new gun control measures, it merely encouraged agencies to adhere to requirements that are already in place to keep the background check system current (https://theatln.tc/2HVgUtX). Senator Chris Murphy introduced the Background Check Expansion Act (S. 2009), which would require background checks for all firearm sales, closing the "gun show loophole." There is a similar, though less comprehensive background check bill in the House (H.R. 4240), which has bipartisan support though it has not been brought to the floor. Let's call our MoC about these bills and urge them to fight our gun violence crisis with legislation. We can use the call scripts available at 5calls.

5.   The EPA just concluded its “National Leadership Summit” on PFOA, PFOS, and other PFAS chemicals, excluding both community groups working on toxic chemicals in the water supply and, apparently, the press—though not, of course, the American Chemistry Council and the Flurocouncil:  https://apnews.com/d799f4e096cc42cf99ae01b02d1e0688  The summit follows the revelation that the EPA and the White House tried to suppress a report from the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), which indicated that levels of the chemicals the EPA previously deemed “safe” may actually harm people, on the grounds that releasing it would be a “potential public relations nightmare”:  https://theintercept.com/2018/05/18/the-epas-leadership-summit-on-pfoa-pollution-will-exclude-victims-and-community-groups/ Some suggest that the move to quash the ATSDR study will damage Scott Pruitt more than his ethics scandals; surely it is more dangerous, and we can tell him so: @EPAScottPruitt or Mail Code 1101A, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20460 or 202-564-4700.

6.   So, the White House has just decided to reinstate Jared Kushner's top security clearance, which he supposedly "lost" in February: 
 https://www.npr.org/2018/05/23/613780930/trump-son-in-law-kushner-to-regain-top-clearance-following-mueller-interview. Expert on authoritarian states Dr. Sarah Kendzior has been warning us that this reinstatement is actually just a sham, since this administration has never followed protocol anyway.  
https://twitter.com/sarahkendzior/status/967452327476191232 What was announced today, she says, is simply "kleptocratic flaunting" since Kushner's protocol violations are broadly known. Let's ask our MOCs whether they're paying attention to this huge, and continuing, security risk. Are they OK with Kushner selling state secrets and abusing his position of power? Because that's what he is most likely doing.

Election 2018 – General

An election guide from Postcards for America:  In this Google doc (updated regularly), each State shows ALL Democratic Candidates running for Congress, Governor, Lt Gov, Attorney General, Secretary of State (if applicable) with links to their websites and Twitter. Each has a link to a Twitter Thread, a Shareable Facebook Post and a Document. For most States, there are also Info & Links for Voter Registrations, Absentee Ballots, Early Voting & Voter ID, Age Requirements and being a Poll Worker.  Let’s check this out and use and share it:  https://docs.google.com/document/d/1NCYjsm3xKb79z19Gx7PWt5Zs9lkLiTqglHBHYs9mlX8/edit

1.    Postcards to Voter's results!  Tuesday's elections included three (3) campaigns for which Postcards to Voters volunteers sent cards to get out the vote. We won two and lost one. 1)AR-Campaign 77: Teresa Gallegos. Teresa lost her bid for State Senate.  (Source:  ArkansasOnline)  2) GA-Campaign 82: LaKeisha Gantt. LaKeisha has won for Clarke County Board of Education board of education for District 7. (Source: UGA Red and Black) 3) GA- Campaign 84: Lisa Lott. Lisa overtook incumbent Regina Quick for Superior Court Judge, Western Circuit for the win. (Source: UGA Red and Black). Congratulations to the winners and our thanks to all and candidates and volunteers. If we want to write cards for current open campaigns, we can sign up here.

2.   We now know that our voting equipment is not totally safe.   States need to adopt a form of voting that also provides a paper backup to be used, if/when necessary.  Let’s check to see what kind of equipment our state has:  https://www.npr.org/2018/05/08/599452050/the-u-s-voting-system-remains-vulnerable-6-months-before-election-day-what-now  If our state does not have a paper system, we need to contact our state election officials and tell them we want our votes backed up with paper:  https://www.usa.gov/election-office

3.   Swing Left, a grassroots organization dedicated to flipping the US House of Representatives blue, has a new initiative called Swing Left Academy. It offers online trainings to help us learn how to win political campaigns through canvassing, phone banking, voter registration, and organizing. Let’s check it out and sign up here: https://academy.swingleft.org/

Election 2018 – By State

1.       Voting dates and deadlines this week:

May 25
Iowa
Voter Registration Deadline
Primary
May 26
Utah
Voter Registration Deadline
Primary (postmark)

2.   AL:  Introducing FLIP ALABAMA, a Facebook group that helped to get Doug Jones elected by squeezing every possible vote out of the state. Now it’s part of a 50-state project to get our country back by electing Democrats to as many offices as we can. We can join here, get some new ideas and meet new folks. Together we can continue to turn our beautiful state Blue.  We can check the group out, then, if we like it, join here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/FlipAlabama/

3.   CA:  Introducing FLIP CALIFORNIA, a Facebook group dedicated to winning elections! It's part of a 50-state project that came out of the success of FLIP ALABAMA in helping to get Doug Jones elected by squeezing every possible vote out of the state. We can join here, get some new ideas and meet new folks. Together we can make our beautiful state the Bluest it’s ever been, so let’s start getting our country back, state by state! We can check the group out, then, if we like it, join here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/FlipCalifornia/

4.   CA:  From Political Charge:  California has its statewide primary election on Tuesday, June 5. Share and/or bookmark these voter resources and know the quick facts going into Election Day. There are also a few key races noted--click the name of the race to see a list of candidates.  https://politicalcharge.org/2018/05/23/california-6-5-primary-voter-resources/

5.   IA:  Introducing FLIP IOWA, a Facebook group dedicated to winning elections! It's part of a 50-state project that came out of the success of FLIP ALABAMA in helping to get Doug Jones elected by squeezing every possible vote out of the state. We can join here, get some new ideas and meet new folks. Together we can turn our beautiful state Blue, so let’s start getting our country back, state by state! We can check the group out, then, if we like it, join here:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/FLIPIowa/

6.   MS:  Introducing FLIP MISSISSIPPI, a Facebook group dedicated to winning elections! It's part of a 50-state project that came out of the success of FLIP ALABAMA in helping to get Doug Jones elected by squeezing every possible vote out of the state. We can join here, get some new ideas and meet new folks. Together we can turn our beautiful state Blue, so let’s start getting our country back, state by state! We can check the group out, then, if we like it, join here:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/FlipMississippi/

Other Actions

1.    The Poor People’s Campaign, which is continuing the last effort of Dr. King by organizing nonviolent direct action to demand answers on systemic racism and poverty, is in its second week, and is continuing to gain traction.  (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/article211362669.html). This is the sort of moral movement that may well help us respond to the Trump era. Let’s sign up to join in here. If we’re not in a position to do so, we can support the movement by contributing to the legal defense fund to get all those arrested after acts of non-violent civil disobedience get the support they need here.

2.   Many are haranguing on those Democratic legislators who voted for the recent bank bill which is now on its way to Trump to sign.  These legislators did not sell out.  They fixed some things in the original Dodd-Frank bill that helped smaller banks, not large banks.  They knew what they were doing.  Even the co-author of the bill, Barney Frank said that the changes do not weaken the bill:  https://www.cnbc.com/2018/05/22/dodd-frank-overhaul-doesnt-weaken-rules-for-large-banks-barney-frank.html  When we hear this misconception, let’s make sure to counter it with the truth. 

3.   MGM Resorts International is phasing out plastic straws at all of its hotels. The "Straw Reduction Initiative" began this month at Aria and Mandalay Bay.The company says guests can still ask for straws, but they are not given out without request. Let's read more at Las Vegas Review-Journal. We can see a list of properties owned by MGM here. Let's contact MGM to let them know we support this initiative and are excited to see it roll out to all their properties. Since 19 of the 29 strip casinos are owned by just two companies, MGM and Caesars, let's also contact Caesars to let them know we want them to start their own Straw Reduction Initiative. 

4.   Connecticut’s child welfare agency has launched an initiative to actively recruit members of the state’s LGBT community to become foster and adoptive parents, bucking recent efforts in some states to curtail gay adoptions. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (D) has said that Connecticut wants to be known as a state that welcomes and embraces the LGBT community. Let's read more at APNews. We can send thank yous to Gov. Malloy.  We can also write to our own governors to encourage them to adopt a similar model for our states.

5.   Adult guardianship is easily misused in this country and so many people have their rights and their money intentionally taken away by people who do not have their best interests at heart.  http://www.cbs17.com/news/north-carolina-news/north-carolinians-describe-guardianship-as-a-sick-twisted-process-/1191065624  Let’s check out the National Center on Elder Abuse and Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship to see how we can help. 

6.   A federal court has ruled that Trump’s practice of blocking his Twitter critics violates the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. Let’s share the opinion on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. Here’s a link: 

Marches/events/webinars/Tweetstorms to attend/organize

1.    June 5, Washington, D.C., World Elder Abuse Awareness Day - Fourth Global Summit,  Register here:  https://www.regonline.com/registration/Checkin.aspx?EventID=2237772

States

1.    ALL:  We do not have to rely on Congress taking action at the federal level to pass gun control regulations. Rather, we can also focus on our MoC at the state level. Indivisible has a comprehensive guide we can use to learn about the current gun laws, and then the specific measures we can support in our state. Let's take a look at the guide, and then contact our state legislators.

2.   MI:  From MI Resistance:  "The Prevailing Wage Act of 1965 requires contractors to pay union-level wages and benefits for construction projects financed or sponsored by the state of Michigan.  It is currently in danger of being repealed. If the Prevailing Wage Act is repealed, companies will no longer have to ensure competitive compensation and safety standards for workers, and they will no longer have to participate in equitable bidding for contracts. Contrary to the GOP argument that the repeal will save tax dollars, it will likely only increase the contractor’s margin of profit. Other states, who have removed similar laws, found little to no cost savings to tax payers." For those of us with Republican state representatives, it is especially important to urge them not to vote on the repeal, so that Michigan residents can vote on the ballot measure in November: http://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/

Reading/Watching

1.   “Most Americans don’t realize Robert Mueller’s investigation has uncovered crimes” - https://www.vox.com/2018/5/23/17384096/mueller-investigation-poll  Let’s remember that the Mueller investigation has issued 17 indictments and gotten five guilty pleas.

2.   An interesting read from the NYT on understanding the process of Mueller’s final findings. The piece explains the way things could go if no crime is found OR if trump broke the law.  

3.   Looking ahead to the next school year, former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recommends more drastic measures to ensure changes to our gun laws: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/05/arne-duncan-boycott-school/560921/




5/23/18

Contact Federal Government Officials

Find elected officials: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials

Fax legislators for free:  Reps:  https://faxzero.com/fax_congress.php
 
********************************
Many newspapers, including New York Times and Washington Post require subscriptions, but without one we can see a few articles each month.  We can also check with our local libraries to find out how to get online access through them.

1.    The Hill describes Trump’s latest shots across the bow in his confrontation with the Department of Justice as “flirting” with a constitutional crisis:  
http://thehill.com/homenews/the-memo/388712-the-memo-trump-flirts-with-constitutional-crisis  Let’s let our MoC know that we are not interested in ANY connections with a constitutional crisis and let’s make sure we are signed up for alerts about national protests:https://act.moveon.org/event/mueller-firing-rapid-response-events/search/  

2.   “Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Tuesday that it’s up to individual schools to decide whether to call U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement if they suspect their students are undocumented.”  Perhaps DeVos did not realize that this is unconstitutional. https://www.politico.com/story/2018/05/22/undocumented-children-schools-devos-immigration-603277  “The Supreme Court has made clear that every child in America has a right to a basic education, regardless of immigration status. Secretary DeVos is once again wrong.”   Let’s remind DeVos:  https://www.usa.gov/federal-agencies/u-s-department-of-education

3.   The “Volcker Rule,” put in place after the financial catastrophe of 2007-8, prohibited banks from making their own risky bets with our deposits; now, in deference to the big banks and as part of Trump’s larger deregulatory agenda, this rule is about to be “softened.” Five federal agencies — the Fed, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), FDIC, Securities and Exchange Commission, and Commodity Futures Trading Commission — are all devising changes to the rule that would allow the banks themselves to define improper trading: 
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/21/business/volcker-rule-fed-banks-regulation.html. We’ve seen this before and it isn’t clear how we fight these moves, but we can at least let the Fed know that we don’t want the banks gambling with our money: Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580 or (202) 326-2222.  And more importantly, we can ask our MoCs to oppose any legislation that endangers the few remaining financial watchdog agencies.   

4.   In an appalling decision on Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that companies can use arbitration clauses in employment contracts to prohibit workers from banding together as a class to take legal action over workplace issues. Ruth Bader Ginsberg, in an unusual oral dissent, called the majority opinion “egregiously wrong” and said the upshot of the decision “will be huge under-enforcement of federal and state statutes designed to advance the well- being of vulnerable workers”: 
 http://thehill.com/regulation/court-battles/388601-supreme-court-upholds-agreements-that-prevent-employee-class-action She appealed to Congress to intervene; we can help by insisting that our MoCs bring legislation that protects the rights of workers to bring legal action collectively--and therefore affordably--against employers who steal wages, permit workplace abuse, or otherwise violate labor laws.

5.   It has been over a year since the Disability Integration Act (S. 910/H.R. 2472) was introduced, and it has still not been heard in committee. The bill would ensure that people who qualify for long-term support services get the help that they need through community-based services and programs, rather than having to resort to institutionalization (http://www.disabilityintegrationact.org/). Last week, ADAPT secured support for this bipartisan bill from Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Patty Murray, while Chairman Lamar Alexander refused to meet with ADAPT members (https://rewire.news/article/2018/05/18/disability-activists-fight-right-live-communities/). Let's contact Senator Alexander and tell him that we want him to support the Disability Integration Act and that it's time for the bill to move through the HELP Committee: Address: 455 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510 Phone: (202) 224-4944 Fax: (202) 228-3398 Let's also be sure to call our own MoC and ask them to cosponsor and support the Disability Integration Act,

6.   While too many Democrats crossed party lines to confirm Gina Haspel as CIA director in spite of her record of torture, one who has plenty of reason not to rock the boat with Republicans stood firm, even when it became clear she was going to be confirmed anyways: Senator Doug Jones of Alabama (http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/387856-doug-jones-to-oppose-haspel-as-cia-chief). Let’s make sure he knows we noticed his stand for decency, and we appreciate it. We can write him at 326 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510

Election 2018 – General

An election guide from Postcards for America:  In this Google doc (updated regularly), each State shows ALL Democratic Candidates running for Congress, Governor, Lt Gov, Attorney General, Secretary of State (if applicable) with links to their websites and Twitter. Each has a link to a Twitter Thread, a Shareable Facebook Post and a Document. For most States, there are also Info & Links for Voter Registrations, Absentee Ballots, Early Voting & Voter ID, Age Requirements and being a Poll Worker.  Let’s check this out and use and share it:  https://docs.google.com/document/d/1NCYjsm3xKb79z19Gx7PWt5Zs9lkLiTqglHBHYs9mlX8/edit

1.    We’re right around the corner from another set of special elections – and we’ve got the chance to help roll back some of the damage Scott Walker has done to Wisconsin from home.  On June 12, the two seats Walker tried to avoid calling special elections for are up. (http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/field-set-for-next-month-s-assembly-senate-special-elections/article_fbfc02a2-ef80-597a-acfa-515893e28415.html). Flippable is organizing virtual phonebanks to help elect Caleb Frostman to the state senate and Ann Groves Lloyd to the assembly. Let’s join in! We can sign up here.

2.   Yesterday, Postcards to Voters launched Campaign 88: Penny Newman for Riverside County, California, Supervisor. In this June 5th election, there are 4 Republicans running. Penny is the only Democrat. If Penny wins, she will flip the board to a 3 to 2 Democrat majority for the first time since the great depression. Let's request 5 addresses for Riverside County voters if we are returning postcarders.  If we are new volunteers, we can sign up by following the instructions here

3.   Michigan is among several states where democracy will be on the ballot in November, thanks to the "Promote the Vote" initiative to amend the state constitution. The initiative would allow no-excuse absentee voting, protect a secret ballot, add audits for election results and make it easier to register (https://www.wxyz.com/news/political/spotlight-on-the-news/spotlight-on-the-news-the-campaign-to-promote-the-vote-the-future-of-the-mi-state-fairgrounds). We can help expand voting rights in Michigan from anywhere in the country. You can sign up to phone bank from home at this link.

Election 2018 – By State

1.    Voting dates and deadlines this week:

May 25
Iowa
Voter Registration Deadline
Primary
May 26
Utah
Voter Registration Deadline
Primary (postmark)

2.   CA:  Our Primary Election is coming soon, on June 5. Along with voting for our elected officials, we must decide about five Ballot Propositions. To help us make an informed decision, The League of Women Voters is providing a Pros & Cons PDF on these ballot measures in English and Spanish. We can also see our entire ballot and polling place using Voter's Edge as we get ready to vote. We can sign up, using our email here. The League won't sell or share our email. We can read their privacy policy to make sure.  https://lwvc.org/vote/download-june-5-2018-pros-and-cons-pdf   If we prefer, we can just see the Pros and Cons on this page here:  https://lwvc.org/vote/elections/ballot-measures

Other Actions

1.    An Orlando high-schooler is planning a “die-in” on June 12thon the second anniversary of the massacre at Pulse nightclub: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/may/21/us-gun-control-protest-high-school-die-in-day  Let’s share this information with our favorite student activists.

2.   "Amazon has entered the surveillance business, and they're selling to the government.  Amazon's product, Rekognition, has the power to identify people in real time, in photos of large groups of people, and in crowded events and public places...[but] Facial recognition is not a neutral technology, no matter how Amazon spins this." I think we can all see what a corrupt administration could do with such technology. Let's sign the American Civil Liberties Union's petition to tell Amazon to "get out of the surveillance business":   https://action.aclu.org/petition/amazon-stop-selling-surveillance 

3.   Gun violence continues to be one of our most pressing problems today, yet much of what people say and believe about guns in this country is simply not true. Let’s get armed with the facts from Moms Demand Action, so we can refute misinformation when we hear it. When we check out this page, we can find some of the key myths the gun lobby spreads and the facts we can use to rebut them. While we’re on this page, we can also can find graphics to use on Social Media. Let’s spread the truth about guns and help save lives!  https://momsdemandaction.org/campaigns/debunking-gun-myths/

Marches/events/webinars/Tweetstorms to attend/organize

States

1.    CA:  Some law enforcement bodies have been surveilling our online activities without public scrutiny, or even public awareness. This state of secrecy has already led to abuses of power against racial minorities, immigrants, and Muslims. To remedy this, the ACLU is asking us to tell our state senators to support SB 1186  (https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB1186), which would bring greater transparency and oversight to police use of online surveillance. We can use this:  https://action.aclu.org/send-message/ca-support-sb1186

2.   MI:  From AFT Michigan: "In conjunction with the MEA, AFT Michigan will participate in a month of action every Wednesday in May. Wear red for public education on Wednesdays and plan a walk-in for May 23rd!  Walk-ins are easy-to-plan collective actions illustrating that we are all dedicated to the cause of valuing students, respecting educators and funding schools.  On Wednesday, May 23rd walk into your school as a group to show our unity." We can register our walk-in here.

Reading/Watching

1.    “Twitter Bots Helped Trump and Brexit Win, Economic Study Says” - https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-05-21/twitter-bots-helped-trump-and-brexit-win-economic-study-says

2.   Economic inequality undermines democracy in many ways—including by making it close to impossible for those without wealth to run for office. Let’s read more here:

3.   Here’s a book suggestion for those of us trying to gain some insight on Putin, Russia, and how we got here: From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia by Michael McFaul. The author is uniquely poised to comment on the pickle in which we currently find ourselves. “From one of America’s leading scholars of Russia who served as U.S. ambassador to Russia during the Obama administration, a revelatory, inside account of U.S.-Russia relations from 1989 to the present.” We can borrow it from our local library or order from our local bookstore.