1. Will the taxpayer-in-chief refuse to concede?
On Wednesday, Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transition if he lost the election. Look closely at the quote NPR provided: “We’re going to have to see what happens. You know that. I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots. And the ballots are a disaster… Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly, there’ll be a continuation.”
He is not only hedging about the transition; he is telling us that he could stay in power if he could get rid of the ballots–mail ballots, presumably. Clearly, he understands that his presidency depends on reducing the vote as much as possible.
Trump also is clear about why he is rushing to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg; as the BBC and others quoted him as saying, “I think this [the election] will end up in the Supreme Court, and I think it’s very important that we have nine justices,”
75 per cent of Biden voters believe thatTrump will refuse to relinquish power and Biden told CNN in June that if that were to happen, “I promise you, I’m absolutely convinced, they [the military] will escort him from the White House in a dispatch.”
Waging Nonviolence offers some suggestions for stopping a coup–the true name for what it would mean for Trump to refuse to leave office. Building on a document from the Transition Integrity Process, Waging Nonviolence provides a number of excellent suggestions but argues that a show of (non-violent) people in the streets will be essential to stop a coup. Given the dynamics in which people affiliated with Anti-fa are unjustifiably being accused of causing violence (Washington Post) and groups like the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer are showing up at locations in the Northwest (Seattle Times) and Boogaloo Bois elsewhere (Washington Post) provoking violence, that approach may be a risky one.
Heather Cox Richardson, always the voice of reason, suggests that Trump is making these assertions to take the attention away from how far ahead Biden is and Biden’s platform.
Other writers are less sanguine. The New Yorker has a meticulous description of how both parties are preparing for the post-election struggle, and the Atlantic has a chilling piece making an argument that Trump will refuse to concede, no matter what. Read to the end of it, if you can; the writer proposes a nightmare scenario in which there are dueling slates of electors and hence two people with claim to the presidency. Because there are so many ways mail ballots can be challenged, the Atlantic ends up exhorting us to vote in person after all, if there is any way we can do so. Or–if we live in states where absentee ballots can be counted early, send them early. One critique of the Atlantic article was posted by Teri Kanefield, an elections lawyer in Georgia, on Twitter; she asks us to think about why the Trump-campaign legal adviser the Atlantic quoted went into such detail about the strategy: it may be that the spectre of Trump refusing to concede is designed to derail and discourage us. RLS
Progressive Change Campaign Committee/Bold Progressives has contacted all the Secretaries of State and is hiring organizers to plan a response. They are looking for donations. Daily Kos is looking for Election Protection volunteers. Bernie Sanders has a strategy to suggest, which you could review if you are going to write your elected officials. You also might want to write your governor to find out how he or she is preparing.
2. The Alternative
While Trump grabs headlines by refusing to state that he will abide by the results of November’s election, Joe Biden’s team has assembled a number of detailed proposals outlining what Biden hopes to accomplish as President and how he intends to do this. The topics covered include: Racial Equity Across the American Economy; Sustainable Infrastructure and a Clean Energy Future; Recovery, Renewal, and Respect for Puerto Rico; LGBTQ+ equality; Older Americans and Retirement; and Criminal Justice Reform. Unfortunately, Trump’s tweets trump careful thought about just and productive policy, leaving Americans aware of the latest vitriol from the White House, but with no sense of the detailed and coherent goals Biden has set for his presidency. The language of policy isn’t “sexy,” so considering Biden’s proposals requires a willingness to read without being entertained–but that willingness pays off with a vision of an America very different from the present day. Until November, we’ll be highlight one of these policy proposals each week, but you can see them all for yourself here.
We’ll start with the “Biden Plan to Build Back Better by Advancing Racial Equity Across the American Economy,” which covers thirteen subtopics. For small businesses, Biden plans to increase small business creation and expansion in economically disadvantaged areas, particularly for Black-, Latino-, AAPI-, and Native-American owned businesses, to modify federal contracting service practices to improve access to these contracts for small disadvantaged businesses (SDBs, a term used throughout the document), and to create incentives encouraging state and local governments and the private sector for contracting with SDBs.
To increase home ownership, especially for families traditionally excluded from the market, Biden proposes allocating a one-time tax credit of up to $15,000 for first-time home buyers; developing new more inclusive credit-rating systems through the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that take into account things like rental history and utility payments; rolling back Trump policies that gutted fair lending and fair housing protections; and holding financial institutions accountable when they use practices that deepen the impact of systematic housing discrimination.
In the area of education, Biden proposes including student debt relief in additional COVID-19 legislation; doubling the maximum value of Pell grants college students can receive, creating simpler, more generous income-based loan-repayment programs; and increasing support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, Asian American and Native American Pacific-Islander Institutions, and others—and for graduates of these institutions.
The above provides an incomplete summary of Biden policy proposals in three of the thirteen areas discussed in the “Biden Plan to Build Back Better by Advancing Racial Equity Across the American Economy.” The quality, imagination, and thoroughness of these proposals give evidence of the Biden team’s experience governing. S-HP
You might thank Biden for any of these proposals you find particularly valuable and suggest to your Congressmembers that you’d like them to work toward the same goals, regardless of who is elected in November.
3. CARES Act I: Lunches for children due to expire
The CARES Act, H.R.748, passed in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, established a Pandemic-Emergency Benefits Transfer Program (P-EBT), supporting food benefits for children who would normally receive free or reduced-price meals at school and who had no access to these meals when classroom teaching moved primarily online. A study by the Brooking Institute’s Hamilton Project found this program to be highly effective, reducing food insecurity among low-income children by 30% during its first week, and reaching 2.7 to 3.9 million children. Though some states were able to initiate P-EBT programs earlier than others, P-EBT ultimately functioned effectively in all fifty states. Now, explains Fern’s Ag Insider, the program is set to end on September 30, despite the fact that many children continue to attend school remotely and do not have access to free or discounted school meals. S-HP
If you feel strongly about this, urge your Congressmembers to support and extension of P-EBT to ensure that all children are adequately fed as the pandemic continues.
4. CARES Act II: Funds go to the Pentagon, not to PPE
In March, Congress allocated funding to the Pentagon to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus” through H.R. 748, the CARES Act. One would expect such funding to be spent on medical supplies that remain scarce: personal protective equipment, for example. Instead, as reported in the Washington Post, the Pentagon diverted $1 billion of that money to defense contractors to pay for things ranging from jet engine parts to drone technology to body armor to dress uniforms. The Pentagon argues that supporting the defense industry is an essential part of its coronavirus response, regardless of the fact that defense contractors would have had access to the significant funding available for businesses. According to follow-up Washington Post reporting, Congressmembers have called for an investigation of the ways this money was used. S-HP
If you are dismayed by this misuse of coronavirus funds, you can write those on the link below. It would also be worth calling for an investigation by the appropriate Congressional committees of this diversion of funds.
5. Impeach Barr?
William Barr has been serving as U.S. Attorney General for seventeen months and has racked up a considerable number of accomplishments. Let’s look at some of them:
◉Barr subverted the Special Counsel investigation both of Russian interference in the 2016 election and of Trump for obstruction of justice by writing an unsolicited memorandum arguing against the Mueller investigation, claiming that investigating a president for obstruction would be “fatally misconceived,” based on a “novel and insupportable reading of that law” that it would do “lasting damage to the Presidency and to the administration of law within the Executive branch.” (Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington—CREW)
◉In the words of Federal Judge Reggie Walton, Barr misrepresented the findings of the Special Counsel by making “misleading public statements” and distorting the Special Counsel report in ways that “show[ed] a lack of candor,” deliberately spinning the report’s findings in ways beneficial to Trump. (AP)
◉Barr gave misleading testimony to Congress: He claimed he had no knowledge whether Mueller supported Barr’s presentation of the Special Counsel’s findings (Mueller did not) and claimed that the White House “fully cooperated with the Special Counsel’s investigation” (CREW)
◉Barr interfered with the lawful functioning of the Department of Justice by overturning career prosecutors’ decisions in the cases of Roger Stone and Michael Flynn and by falsely claiming U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman had resigned and subsequently firing Berman when he refused to play along with Barr’s false claim. (CREW)
◉Barr oversaw violations of the First and Fourth Amendments—freedom of speech and assembly and protection from unreasonable search and seizure—by authorizing the presence of federal officers in Portland, Oregon, and through the actions of those officers, using the legally questionable justification of “defending the federal function,” an overly broad claim with no precedent beyond Barr’s earlier use of it. (CREW, Just Security)
◉Barr has interfered with Congressional direction of funds by accepting and acting on Trump’s call for specific cities to be identified as “anarchist jurisdictions” as a prelude to depriving these cites of federal funding. (NBC)
If Barr were to be impeached, the confirmation process for a new Supreme Court justice would be stalled. On September 20, according the Mother Jones, Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to rule out that possibility. S-HP
You don’t have to sit still for this. You can condemn Barr’s partisanship and political theatre and demand a House impeachment hearing of Barr for these and other actions that are contrary to the Constitution and that violate the rights of citizens. Appropriate addresses are here.
6. Another of the usual suspects
Since November, Chad Wolf has been serving illegally in his position as Acting Homeland Security Secretary according to a federal judge (see our story #3 last week). Now he is finally having a confirmation hearing. He has been responsible for a number of atrocities: He was the architect of family separation in 2017, according to documents Mother Jones made available, and he was responsible for rushing to deport asylum-seekers without a hearing. He ignored intelligence reports about Russian claims that Joe Biden had a mental illness, according to ABC News, as well as Russian threats to the election, according to Mother Jones. Indeed, a whistleblower complaint filed by Brian Murphy, who headed the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, said that he modified these reports in order to suit Trump’s agenda, CNN reported. He also sent Homeland Security agents to Portland to take down unarmed protestors. At his confirmation hearing, Wolf lied about having done these things, according to Border Rights organization Al Otro Lado. It is not clear whether a confirmation vote for Wolf will be held in the Senate before the November election. RLS
If you want to get a word in, remind your Senators of Wolf’s disastrous and inhumane (also illegal) tenure at the Department of Homeland Security and insist on a “no” confirmation vote.
7. Foreshadowing of voting issues in LA
Primary elections in Los Angeles County this spring were chaotic, with many of the problems being traced back to issues with the voter check-in system the county used and inadequate training of and communication among poll workers. LA elections also revealed weaknesses in the voting machines themselves and the process by which they tally votes. Before the California primary, a coalition of thirty-one organizations and an additional thirty-six individuals—including academics and directors of nonprofit organizations—wrote a letter to Secretary of State Alex Padilla outlining weaknesses in the Voting Solutions for All People 2.0 (VSAP). The writers acknowledged that these problems couldn’t be remedied before the primary election, but urged that they be addressed before November’s presidential election. Unfortunately, several weaknesses remain:
◉Voters using VSAP receive a printout of their choices before their votes are finalized, which is good, but the document voters approve is not the actual text used to tally votes, as votes are “translated” from text to QR codes before tallying. This leaves open a window for manipulation of votes via changes to QR codes between the confirmation and the tallying. In fact, the State of Colorado specifically disallows voting machines that do a text-to-QR “translation.” Instead Colorado requires the tallying to be done via optical character recognition (OCR), which means tallying is done using the format voters receive when confirming their ballots.
◉The ballot confirmation process requires inserting a ballot into the system before receiving a print-out of votes for confirmation; then this print-out must be reinserted after confirmation. This creates two problems: it doubles the opportunity for paper jams that can slow down voting and it also means that the confirmation print-out actually passes under the system’s print-out head an additional time, creating another window (besides the QR code “translation”) for ballot manipulation.
◉During the 2013-14 session, the California Legislature passed SB-360, a bill requiring that source code for voting systems be made publicly available. While this might seem counterintuitive, the availability of code opens the possibility of multiple independent tests of the system’s security. Nonetheless, the VSAP source code has not been released.
◉LA used VSAP in the primary under a provisional certification of the system, with modifications required before the system would be fully certified. Some of these modifications, however, will not be made until 2021, meaning that known weaknesses will remain in place for the presidential election.
◉Finally, there is no plan for a new round of full testing of VSAP once these modifications are completed, which means any new weaknesses introduced during the modification process may remain unidentified until the next time the system is used during a 2021 election. S-HP
You could ask Secretary of State Padilla for a summary of the progress made on addressing weaknesses in VSAP (and which weaknesses will have actually been addressed by November 3) and urge a full round of testing of VSAP once changes have been made with the intention of moving the system from being provisionally certified to fully certified–because election interference by is a reality, not just a possibility. Alex Padilla, Secretary of State, 1500 11th St., Sacramento, CA 95814, (916) 653-6814
8. Post office victory for voters and workers
It’s pretty difficult to find good news this week, but this news might foreshadow more: A federal judge in New York ordered the U.S. Postal Service to expedite election mail, treating it as first-class or priority, regardless of its actual designation, Reuters reported. The judge also ordered the Post Office to pay overtime as needed. RLS
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT
9. Trump body count
How many people would be alive today if Trump had acted decisively instead of trying to make political use of COVID-19? In early September, a columnist for the New York Times speculated that 145,000 of the 185,000 people dead by then would be alive if Trump had done a merely average job of managing the country’s response. To come to this conclusion, he compared the US deaths per population size to those in other developed countries, where masking was routine and bizarre cures and solutions (such as “herd immunity”) were not touted at the highest levels. A “herd immunity strategy,” notes the Washington Post, “could lead to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lost American lives.”
Writing on Twitter, Bob Wachter, Chair of the UC San Francisco Department of Medicine, powerfully compares the now 200,00 dead to other catastrophic losses. He points out, “If the U.S. had Canada’s death rate, we’d be at 82,000 deaths, not 200,000. That’s 118,000 Americans who would still be alive. If the U.S. had Germany’s death rate, we’d be at 37,106 deaths, not 200,000. That’s 162,894 Americans who would still be alive. Not fair, you say. Those are very different countries, with different laws, cultures, economies, and history. OK, if the U.S. had San Francisco’s death rate, we’d be at 36,101 deaths, not 200,000. That’s 163,899 Americans who would still be alive.” RLS
10. Governor Newsom’s strategy for global warming: mixed blessings
California Governor Gavin Newsom has taken a lot of flack for the executive order he signed to combat global warming. Rather than being too radical, the changes he’s making may be far from adequate. According to the New York Times, the executive order does the following [emphases added]:
◉Requires increasing proportions of new passenger vehicles sold in the state to be zero-emissions, with a 2035 cutoff, when all new passenger vehicles must be zero-emissions;
◉Sets a goal of making all heavy-duty trucks on California roads zero-emissions by 2045, where possible;
◉Sets a goal of ending all new hydraulic fracking permits by 2024;
◉States his intention to work with the legislature to establish health and safety setbacks to protect vulnerable communities from the impacts of fossil fuel extraction.
In announcing the executive order, Newsom stated that he does not have the power to end all gas and oil drilling in California on his own. A mailer from 350.org outlines several weaknesses in Newsom’s executive order:
◉While he sets a goal of ending hydraulic fracking permits, goal-setting is not the same as creating a requirement—and, in fact, a number of California counties have already barred fracking, suggesting that this goal could be made a requirement;
◉His executive order leaves the issue of other forms of fuel extraction unaddressed;
◉While the governor has announced his intention to add protections to communities affected by fossil fuel extraction, he has not set specific requirements or expectations, although several California counties (and the entire state of Colorado) have enacted such protections, suggesting that he could have gone significantly further than stating an intention;
◉His order has no plan for ending all new oil and gas extraction permits in the state, so that even if a fracking ban is in place by 2024, the state will still be able to approve new permits for extraction by other means—which not only continues California’s economic reliance on fossil fuels, but also does not protect communities from the health and safety problems posed by fossil fuel extraction. S-HP
One approach to moving forward is to thank Newsom for the actions he has taken and point out areas where you’d like to see him go further, for example, broader bans of fossil fuel extraction and significant and immediate community protections: Governor Gavin Newsom, c/o State Capitol, Suite1173, Sacramento, CA 95814, (916) 445-2841. You can also sign 360.org’s petition calling for further climate action from Newsome.
The Americans of Conscience Checklist has a variety of things you can do in the five weeks before the election–helping displaced voters, encouraging young people to vote, focusing on local elections.
Rogan’s list has the demands for justice for Breonna Tayler–from Black Lives Matter Louisville, how to acertain whether accounts on twitter are fake or real, and various options to encourage voter turnout.