LAST CHANCE TO STOP TRUMPCARE

In May, Congress passed the AHCA; the bill that will, if passed in anything close to the form in which Congress passed it, leave millions of Americans without affordable healthcare so as to give the richest of Americans a break on their taxes. The bill is currently being argued out by the Senate – who won’t tell anyone what changes they’re making or what they’re currently planning to vote into law. All we know is that they’re almost certainly going to be holding this vote within the next few weeks. (The planned timeline has the Senators holding the vote by June 30th, less than a fortnight away.) If the bill goes through at that point, Americans could end up stuck with a bill that could have a disastrous impact on the most vulnerable of their people – without even the chance to know in advance what’s in it.

However, the bill has not gone through yet, and that means you still have just enough time to fight it.

 

How?

By contacting your Senators and putting pressure on them. They need to hear the strength of feeling on this one, and they need to know that if they support the AHCA they’re going to be very, very unpopular with a lot of Americans.

And they need to hear this not just via social media or e-mails, but via people – lots of people – phoning their offices directly. Because, when your switchboard is going crazy with calls, that’s a lot harder to ignore than e-mail.

If you can show up in person, better yet. If you can show up with others for a protest or sit-in (after reading the links below on how to do this effectively), even better! But if you can’t do those things – still, if you possibly can, call. And ask everyone you know to call too. Because it does make a difference.

But my Senator is a Democrat and is already against the AHCA!

Great! Phone them! If they hear how strongly their constituents feel on the matter, that’s really helpful ammunition that they can use when debating the GOP on the subject.

Also, there are specific things that senators who object to the AHCA can do to throw a spanner in the works of and make it harder for this act to go through – see below.

But my Senator is a jerk who would never listen to a thing I say against the AHCA!

Boo! Phone them! That jerk of a Senator is going to want to announce that his constituents are obviously happy with the AHCA, and he would love to be in a position where he can say that no-one’s calling him to object to it. If he is getting those calls, it’s a lot harder for him to say that (however much of a jerk he is, he still probably wants to avoid being in a position where constituents of his know damn well he’s a liar and can call him out on it). You may not change his position – but at least you’ve weakened it.

But what should I say when I call?

So glad you asked! Here are some helpful links I found:

Indivisible: the Stop Trumpcare in June action plan. An invaluable guide to what to ask for and how to go about it. Covers not just phone calls but also letters to your local paper and sit-ins. This is also the link that specifies what you can usefully ask of a Democrat senator in terms of practical opposition to the AHCA. Indivisible have also given sample scripts for Republican and Democrat senators.

Political staffer Celeste Pewter has tweeted some very helpful advice on how to call your representatives. (She’s also tweeted another helpful list on the AHCA fight specifically, here.)

And Bustle highlight an important point: If you have a personal story of how the AHCA would impact you, include that. The staffers answering the phone are human beings. It’s pretty hard to remain unmoved when you’re hearing stories like ‘My child needs lifesaving treatment for [chronic illness] and, under the AHCA, I won’t be able to keep affording that.’ Of course, most stories won’t be quite that dramatic; but still make them heard. Don’t be overdramatic, but do let the staffer you speak to know. (And anyone else you can. People need to hear how the AHCA will impact actual people they know.)

To summarise the important points:

  • Be prepared to give your address/zip code first off (they will want to check you’re actually a constituent; stick to calling your elected representatives)
  • Once you’ve done that, ask to speak to the staffer in charge of health (there will be a specific one).
  • Be polite but firm.
  • Ask for your senator’s position on the AHCA.
  • Be specific in your requests. (See the Indivisible links above for more useful details on this, but, in summary: If they’re against it, let them know you don’t find that acceptable because X, and you need them to support it. If they’re unsure or trying to dodge the question, same thing. If they’re for it, ask them to work actively to slow the bill down as much as possible, in the ways given in the ‘Democrat senator’ link above.)
  • Let them know any ways in which the bill would personally impact you. If it wouldn’t, give a one-sentence summary of your general concerns (‘This bill would leave millions without affordable healthcare’, for example).

 

Finally, if you really can’t phone – and I know there are good reasons why not everyone can – is there anything else you can do? Letters and e-mails may carry less weight than phone calls, but they still count for something, and the more communications representatives get by whatever means, the more they know the strength of feeling on the matter. Spreading the word to other people – even if it’s just sharing the information on your Facebook page – means more people potentially willing to join the list of those calling and taking part in other actions.

Good luck to all.

How to deal with fascism denial

I attended a local meeting of Indivisible in which regressive Tea Party followers were scattered throughout the audience. They were kept under control by the organizers, but near the end, one comment stirred up a ferocious (and frustrated) frothing by one of the Tea Partiers — someone mentioned that Trump was building a fascist regime, which led to much indignation and insistence that no, he was nothing like Hitler.

This will happen to you, too, in conversations with Trump followers. Prepare yourself by reading Sunsara Taylor’s article, Why It’s Not Just Right, but Highly Illuminating and Very Necessary to Compare Trump to Hitler. In this instance, the Trump defender was shut down to prevent him from disrupting the meeting, but you might have to explain this situation to someone else.

First, let’s get something out of the way. History never repeats itself exactly. During Hitler’s rise, Germany was coming out of defeat in World War 1, was in the throes of a major depression, and faced a popular communist movement and broad sections of very combative and progressive working people. The U.S. ruling class does not face that situation. But it does face an international situation increasingly fraught with challenges to its geopolitical, military, and economic domination. It does face a situation in which different sections of the ruling class are sharply divided over the “legitimating norms” of society—that is, the common set of values and morality around which the society is broadly understood, held together, and cohered.

Quite a bit of this crisis flows out of the conflict between the foundational and structural character of the U.S. as a white supremacist society, and the way this has been challenged over the past 50 years—both through righteous liberation struggles and through major demographic changes, like the growing number of immigrants. And while the U.S. does not face a major depression right now, there is no work for huge sections of the working class (speaking here of the multinational U.S. working class, made up of Black, Latino, Arab, Asian, and other nationalities, as well as white), living standards and future prospects have gone significantly down for sections of the working class that do have jobs, and large sections of the middle class also face great uncertainty.

So, no, the U.S. does not face the exact circumstances of Germany; but the contradictions and problems it DOES face have proven extremely intractable. In the face of this, there have been increasingly strong fascist currents brought forward over a whole period of decades. In this situation, Trump has been able to cohere forces and come to power determined to carry out a fully fascist restructuring of society. And let us not fail to notice, Trump has already inherited—and has vowed to massively strengthen—a repressive apparatus that goes far beyond what Hitler inherited when he came to power. And, Trump—unlike Hitler—has unchecked personal control over the world’s largest nuclear arsenal and is clearly itching to use it. During a briefing, he asked three times, “If we have nuclear weapons, why can’t we use them?”

Don’t dismiss the comparison out of hand. There are differences, but also deep similarities. We are seeing a racist, nationalist regime coming to power, and you can’t ignore it by telling us that Trump doesn’t have a toothbrush mustache.

A Global Letter to Trump…

Dear

Avaaz has a global letter going, and they’d like to get 6 million signatures. I’ve signed. Please, sign yourself, and boost the signal! We can make our voices heard.

With the Muslim ban, Trump has shown that the worst fears about his Presidency are true. Add your voice to the open letter below to join the resistance — then spread it far and wide:

—-

Dear Mr. Trump,

This is not what greatness looks like.

The world rejects your fear, hate-mongering, and bigotry. We reject your support for torture, your calls for murdering civilians, and your general encouragement of violence. We reject your denigration of women, Muslims, Mexicans, and millions of others who don’t look like you, talk like you, or pray to the same god as you.

Facing your fear we choose compassion. Hearing your despair we choose hope. Seeing your ignorance we choose understanding.

As citizens of the world, we stand united against your brand of division.

Sincerely,
[Add your name!]

Please sign and share!

National Strike: February 17th.

Demonstrators block an escalator at the international terminal as protests against President Donald Trump's executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries continue at San Francisco International Airport, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Olga Rodriguez).

Demonstrators block an escalator at the international terminal as protests against President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries continue at San Francisco International Airport, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Olga Rodriguez).

In a column for the Guardian on Monday, American writer Francine Prose called for a “nonviolent national general strike” to demonstrate “how many of us there are, how strong and committed we are, how much we can accomplish.”

She wrote: “Let’s designate a day on which no one (that is, anyone who can do so without being fired) goes to work, a day when no one shops or spends money, a day on which we truly make our economic and political power felt.”

Calls to do just that have been circulating online recently, with activists setting Feb. 17 — the Friday before President’s Day — as the day for a #nationalstrike against the presidency of Donald Trump.

No one working, no one buying anything, for one day. I realize not everyone will be able to blithely ignore their job for one day, but if you can get away with it, please, please, do. Affinity will be closed for the strike on Friday, February 17th, and I will post a reminder prior to the day. Pretty sure most people can manage to forgo shopping for one day. Be ungovernable.

The full, in-depth story is at News.Mic.

Trump to put the Swastika on his Forehead?

Word from Reuters is that Trump is planning to remove white race terrorists from the sights of the “Countering Violent Extremism” program. Racists are not being shy about taking this as a nod of approval from the muffuckin’ POTUS. As I was saying elsewhere, the one thing Trump could do to defy expectations the hardest, to make the world a better place in an executive capacity without selling out his Robber Baron cred, would be to make hate groups a law enforcement priority. This is the opposite of that. If this comes to pass, it is the equivalent of branding the swastika into his forehead.

Of course, having Bannon in charge of national security – a man who thinks “american jews” are trying to sell us out to the mooslims what’re gonna somehow magically conquer the USA? Intentionally omitting jewish people from the offical observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day? That biz from back in 1990 where Trump had someone saluting him with “heil Hitler” and he was keeping a book by Hitler in his nightstand?  I dunno.

Tired of living in a world where any of this can happen.  Not to sound legit suicidal, I hope everyone who has those feelings finds a way past them.  Much love.


Speak out NOW to stop Betsy DeVos

There have been massive concerns about Trump’s nominee for education secretary, Betsy DeVos. She’s against public education, which is very frightening in a national education secretary; there have been ethical concerns raised about her financial conflicts of interest; and her confirmation hearing raised serious concerns about her ability to do the job. The good news is, you may actually be able to stop her nomination from going through.

The final vote is due early next week, and, as things stand, it’s set to be a tie; which means DeVos will get voted in, as the casting vote in the case of a tie will go to Mike Pence, who, not surprisingly, plans to cast his vote for DeVos if that happens. But that also means that if just one more senator changes their planned yes vote to a no vote, DeVos gets voted out.

Currently, it appears that every Democratic senator is going to vote no, and two Republicans – Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – also now plan to vote against her. If your senator is not one of those – now is your chance to make a difference. Call your senator’s office. Express your concerns. Make it very clear that you are very concerned about the idea of your senator voting for DeVos. These calls do actually influence representatives and every little helps. Now’s your chance. Make your objections heard before the final vote.

(Amended to add: Here’s a list of contact details for senators’ offices.)

Edited again to add: This post has some good, straightforward advice from a former Congressional staffer on the most effective ways to lobby your elected representative.

Advice for government employees

Slate has a article by Ian Samuel, explaining the legal situation for government employees. Samuel is a lecturer on law at Harvard Law School and a former law clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia. The whole article is worth reading, but the last two paragraphs are the most important ones

Of course, asserting your legal rights and standing up to the government you work for aren’t always easy and come with substantial risks. (For one thing, a court might end up agreeing with the Trump administration that its orders were perfectly lawful.) The wise civil servant who was ready to refuse a Trump executive order would do well to talk with a lawyer beforehand. That’s why I’ve offered to represent, pro bono, any government official who refuses to execute a Trump order on the grounds that the order is illegal. A huge number of other lawyers—in particular, professors Daniel Epps (of Washington University in St. Louis) and Leah Litman (of the University of California–Irvine)—have offered their services as well, as have countless other lawyers, paralegals, law students, legal secretaries, and even (my favorite) a bartender in Cleveland.

No government program or White House command is self-executing. It takes thousands and thousands of people, distributed throughout the country, to transform an illegal order into an injustice. These loyal civil servants were there before President Trump arrived and they will mostly be there when he’s gone. Are you one of them? If so: The American system provides you with a choice. You can insist that you were just following orders. Or you can follow the law.

So, if you are a government employee who think that you have gotten an illegal order, there are resources available for you to draw upon. Please use them.

James Baldwin wasn’t prescient, it’s just that nothing has changed

Baldwin could say exactly the same thing today, and it would be just as painfully accurate.

That’s part of the dilemma of being an American Negro; that one is a little bit colored and a little bit white, and not only in physical terms but in the head and in the heart, and there are days — this is one of them — when you wonder what your role is in this country and what your future is in it. How, precisely, are you going to reconcile yourself to your situation here and how you are going to communicate to the vast, heedless, unthinking, cruel, white majority, that you are here? And to be here means that you can’t be anywhere else.

I’m terrified at the moral apathy — the death of the heart which is happening in my country. These people have deluded themselves for so long, that they really don’t think I’m human. I base this on their conduct, not on what they say, and this means that they have become, in themselves, moral monsters. It’s a terrible indictment — I mean every word I say.

LIAR.

liarofyear

We need more of this kind of truth-telling:

Donald Trump is a proven liar. He lies often and effortlessly. He lies about the profound and the trivial. He lies to avoid guilt and invite glory. He lies when his pride is injured and when his pomposity is challenged.

Indeed, one of the greatest threats Trump poses is that he corrupts and corrodes the absoluteness of truth, facts and science.

This is the straight talk you don’t usually get in our cautious, conservative, cozy-with-evil media: you get “euphemisms like “unsubstantiated,” or “unproven,” or “baseless.”” This has to stop.

We all have to adjust to this unprecedented assault on the truth and stand ready to vigilantly defend against it, because without truth, what’s left? Our president is a pathological liar. Say it. Write it. Never become inured to it. And dispense with the terms of art to describe it. A lie by any other name portends the same.

Our president is a LIAR. Say it loud.

Protest where ever you can #NOFASCISTUSA

trumpprotest

We must protest every step of the way, we must make it clear that Trump is intolerable. There will be a protest tonight in Washington DC, as the Trump Hotel will be surrounded.

But, like many of us, I face a dilemma. We cannot afford to travel to DC or NY on a moment’s notice. We are tied down in a web of obligations and responsibilities — for me, this is the first week of classes, and I can’t abandon the students — so we can only wish we had the freedom to express our anger.

There’s an alternative, though: act locally. The Trump regime is not going to harm only NY and DC and our reputation in foreign countries — it’s going to hit you hard right were you live. The Republicans are already trying to destroy our healthcare, and it’s going to be a blight spreading across the entire nation.

Look to see what’s happening in your community. If nothing is happening, organize something — there will be people willing to join you. Case in point: the Women’s March on Washington is taking next week, and if you can go, you should. But there are also simultaneous Sister Marches being organized everywhere. Look at this map:

sistermarches

Sign up for your nearest march. If there isn’t one close enough, start one yourself, even if it is just you standing in your driveway waving a sign at passing cars. You might just be the nucleus of an anti-Trump cell in your neighborhood.