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.

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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.

Sister Marches.

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If you can’t make the women’s march on Washington, there are sister events! They are going on everywhere, not just here in uStates, but all over the world. Check out the sisters page, and see if you can find a march near you. (There are even three here in nDakota!)

World of Wonder has more details.

Rewire announces tracking tool for religious imposition bills.

Rewire this morning announced via email a new interactive tool for tracking the landscape of “religious imposition bills” (generally referred to by the enemies of humanity as “Religious Freedom™ bills”). As the release notes, already in 2017, 30 such bills have been introduced in state legislatures around the nation, including New York. It’s a good page to bookmark whether you are a writer or activist, as the fight on this front directly intersects with so many others. In addition, being a squeaky wheel at your state representatives’ offices and local newspaper is something all of us can do, and do more of, whenever these bills pop up.

__________

To: Interested parties
From: Rewire President and Editor in Chief Jodi L. Jacobson, and Director of Communications Rachel Perrone
Re: Tracking tool for religious imposition bills
Date: January 18, 2017

We are writing to alert you to our Religious Imposition Legislative Tracker, a new resource from Rewire that provides a comprehensive database and interactive map of state and federal legislation that seeks to expand religious power control of decision-making in the public and private sphere.

The past few years have seen a sharp increase in legislative efforts to shield private individuals and businesses from complying with nondiscrimination laws, and permit them to deny people basic services based on stated religious beliefs. Around 30 such religious imposition bills have been introduced so far in 2017, in Alabama, Colorado, Kentucky, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.

Religious imposition frequently takes the form of expanded Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRA) in state legislatures across the country. Other types of religious imposition include anti-transgender bills (or so-called “bathroom bills”), that target specific groups and seek to shield businesses and individuals from anti-discrimination laws. Still others, such as conscience and refusal bills, permit civil servants, health-care workers, and others to deny people access to birth control, abortion and other basic services based on a moral or religious objection.

Additional Resources:

** A Timeline of the Religious Imposition Laws Sweeping the Nation

** How We Can Combat the Legislation Taking Aim at Transgender People Around the Country

** The Biggest Religious Imposition Fight Teed Up for 2017

Rewire, 7315 Wisconsin Ave. Ste. 400, Bethesda, MD 20814 United States

Protest where ever you can #NOFASCISTUSA

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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.

Screenshot Activism.

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Credit: Matt Chase.

Screenshot activists are reaching out to advertisers, pointing out ads which are right next to hateful commentary, fake news, and open bigotry. The primary target right now is Breitbart. So far the activism has been effective, but as with all activism, this could be, and needs to be, a much larger effort.

One day in late November, an earth and environmental science professor named Nathan Phillips visited Breitbart News for the first time. Mr. Phillips had heard about the hateful headlines on the site — like “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy” — and wondered what kind of companies would support such messages with their ad dollars. When he clicked on the site, he was shocked to discover ads for universities, including one for the graduate school where he’d received his own degree — Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. “That was a punch in the stomach,” he said.

Why would an environmental science program want to be promoted on a site that denies the existence of climate change? Mr. Phillips figured — correctly — that Duke officials did not know where their ads were appearing, so he sent a tweet to Duke about its association with the “sexist racist” site. Eventually, after a flurry of communication with the environment department, he received a satisfying resolution — an assurance that its ads would no longer show up on Breitbart.

Mr. Phillips had just engaged in a new form of consumer activism, one that is rewriting the rules of online advertising. In the past month and a half, thousands of activists have started to push companies to take a stand on what you might call “hate news” — a toxic mix of lies, white-supremacist content and bullying that can inspire attacks on Muslims, gay people, women, African-Americans and others.

In mid-November, a Twitter group called Sleeping Giants became the hub of the new movement. The Giants and their followers have communicated with more than 1,000 companies and nonprofit groups whose ads appeared on Breitbart, and about 400 of those organizations have promised to remove the site from future ad buys.

[…]
 
But when I reached out to several organizations that seemed to have joined the ban, they didn’t want to talk about it. A bank and a nonprofit group did not respond to my queries. Two companies — 3M and Zappos — declined to talk about the matter. A Patagonia spokeswoman said that her company did not advertise on white-supremacist sites — but she would not comment on the screenshots that activists had sent to Patagonia in early December showing the company’s logo on Breitbart’s Facebook page. Warby Parker was the most forthcoming; a representative pointed me to a statement that thanked a Twitter activist for inspiring its own ban on Breitbart.
In the behavior of some of these companies, you can detect the way our norms have already shifted. In the old normal, it would have cost little to stand up against neo-Nazi slogans. But in the new normal, doing so might involve angering key players in the White House, including the president-elect, Donald J. Trump, who has hired the former editor of Breitbart as his senior adviser. Mr. Trump recently proved the damage he could do to a company by criticizing Lockheed Martin on Twitter; soon after, its stocks prices tumbled.
 
Still, a new consumer movement is rising, and activists believe that where votes failed, wallets may prevail. This struggle is about much more than ads on Breitbart News — it’s about using corporations as shields to protect vulnerable people from bullying and hate crimes.

Nicholas Reville, a board member of the Participatory Culture Foundation who has worked with the Sleeping Giants, pointed out that businesses benefited from embracing diversity: “You have to be inclusionary if you’re going to try to sell to a very large audience.” And he pointed out that consumer activism might be especially effective because so many people feel they have no other way to express their opposition to Trump-ian values.

The founder of Sleeping Giants agreed. “It’s scary to say it, but maybe companies will have to be the standard-bearers for morals right now,” he said. He added that most corporations embrace policies (on paper at least) that prohibit racist bullying and sexual intimidation. Even if President Trump flouts these rules, corporations may continue to uphold them. “We’ve all seen employee handbooks where they have codes of behavior,” he said. “Maybe that’s all we have to fall back on now.”

If you’re already on Twitter, and can cope with skimming Breitbart, consider joining #sleepinggiants. There’s also a sleeping giants EU.

The NY Times has the full story.

Jeanine Pirro: “He won!”

Pirro is a histrionic nut-bag, and she brought on Carl Dix to argue for the legitimacy of Trump.

The most chilling thing to me was her flat declaration that Trump can carry out his agenda because He won! We do not elect dictators. We do not simply accept heads of state who declare all kinds of dangerous nonsense simply because they carried the electoral college. Authorities must be constantly questioned and policed and kept in the bounds of responsible action by the electorate, and Trump has consistently declared his intent to violate those boundaries. That a corrupt crook and demagogue bamboozled a significant fraction of the American public does not imply that we have to allow him to destroy the country.