02/05/17 2:58pm

school1

There’s been a lot of talk about how Democrats have voted in the cabinet confirmation process this week, calling out senators who have voted yes on Trump’s picks. I believe that on this matter reasonable people can disagree; it really is quite rare for nominees to be rejected, but then, these are unusual times and unusual nominees, many of them. Playing politics is, literally, senators’ jobs, and it’s not that surprising that many of them are more interested in confirming the devil they know (Ben Carson) than rolling the dice and getting a new, worse devil as a new nominee. But let’s be clear about one thing: there is no worse nominee for the position of Secretary of Education than Betsy DeVos. Let us count the ways:

She doesn’t understand or seem to care about basic education policy matters.

She doesn’t understand or seem to care about special education programs.

It appears that she plagiarized some of the written portions of the questions posted to her by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Her many, many conflicts of interest are not just financial, though those alone should be enough to disqualify her. Her family’s money has been used to do little more than advance extreme right wing agendas and her brother Erik Prince is the founder of Blackwater–yes, the vile mercenary group.

So what are we to do?

The Senate vote is Monday (the calendar indicates it will happen after noon), so there’s not a lot of time left. Still, call, call, call. Now is the time to talk to friends and family who have Republican senators if you do not have one to call your own. Write a script for them and email it with the phone number. Offer to speak for them if they initiate a three-way call to the senator’s office. Make the script personal, talk about a child you know who deserves a real education. Talk about your own excellent public education.

It’s also time to get creative. If you have a child in your life get your best photo of them (ask their parents’ permission first!), and tweet it at every Republican senator with a Twitter account, or post to their Facebook walls. It’s a public way to register your opinion. If you’re not comfortable with a photo, just use a name and say, my daughter Libby, my nephew Frank–to personalize this is the point.

Here are a couple options:

This is my son. He deserves a SecED who believes public education is an American value. All children do. #dumpdevos

All American children deserve to be educated, not monetized. @BetsyDevos #dumpdevos

You get the idea.

Here are a few to start with @SenDanSullivan is from Alaska and the other Republican senator from the state, Lisa Murkowski, has vowed to vote no. @SenJohnMcCain occasionally shows some independence from his party and good sense, and @SenBobCorker from Tennessee has been floated as someone who could be turned.

This is how much Betsy Devos or her family has contributed to each senator on this list. Graph:

This is how much Betsy Devos or her family has contributed to each senator on this list. Source: Center for American Progress; Every Voice; Federal Election Commission.

If you don’t like the tactic of using cute kid mugs to shame these Republicans into voting in the interest of public school children, then use their own fundraising against them. Here’s a chart and an article about how much all of these Republicans have accepted over the years from Betsy DeVos and her family. Tweet something like:

.@SenJohnMcCain @BetsyDeVos paid you $50,600, but you work for American children #dumpdevos

Two different campaigns have been started to “buy” senate votes. The GoFundMe started by a Philadelphia teacher to buy Senator Pat Toomey’s vote against DeVos (@SenToomey) has raised almost $70,000 (the money will go to several Philly-area educational resources). A similar campaign in North Carolina has raised $6,000 (this will go to Public School Forum of North Carolina) to buy Senator Richard Burr’s (@SenatorBurr) vote. His last tweet was about the Puppy Bowl. Tweet at both of these senators about all this. Link to the GoFundME campaigns. Get it out there for transparency, if nothing else.

Here’s what your week looks like, and no, it’s not pretty. (more…)

01/29/17 8:33pm
Protestors flocked to JFK Airport on Saturday to stand with immigrants and refugees. Photo: Kate Hooker

Protestors flocked to JFK Airport on Saturday to stand with immigrants and refugees. Photo: Kate Hooker

First off, apologies for the lapse in sending. This column has been finding itself as we move along into the brave new world of the Trump presidency. Immediately post-election one action a week seemed like the sane way forward. Right now though, trying to distill the chaos into a single story makes me feel crazy, like I’m trying to take the SATs, give a eulogy and play a hand of euchre, all at the same time. There’s so much to know and to do and I don’t want to leave out important information.

So for the foreseeable future, Action Trumps Hate will work like this: every Sunday night, starting tonight, I’ll send out a newsletter that focuses on one topic in depth in the intro, and then provides a calendar of actions and important events, protests and information, one item for every day of the week, below. Think of it as Your Week in Action. This way I can address more of the very many things going on, and also dive deeper into, or make an argument about a particular issue. Good? Good.

For many, the Women’s March was the highlight of January so far, and I found it energizing and uplifting as well. But there was something even better that I got to be part of, especially in light of recent events. I attended my sister’s nursing school pinning ceremony–essentially a graduation–at the City University of New York. It was an evening I will think about and hold close as we move through these perilous times, and not just because I’m proud of my sister.

Each name that was called, each student pinned, added a dot to a world map that surely covered at least five continents. In her speech, the valedictorian talked about the concept of the humblebrag, and the fact that there was no word for it in Russian, her native tongue. She thanked CUNY, and the U.S., for giving her so many opportunities as an immigrant. Judging from the number of different languages swirling around that room she was in the majority as a non-native English speaker. The sense of pride, of accomplishment, of forward momentum, transformed a decidedly non-fancy affair–it was held in the CUNY Tech cafeteria in downtown Brooklyn–into something that felt remarkable. The parents and siblings and children and aunts and uncles and spouses and boos there were overflowing with so much happiness and pride. There was a palpable sense of possibility, that the American dream still does exist, and yes, I know how sentimental that sounds, but I was inspired by being there with those graduates; it reminded me of what America can be.

Then, just about a week later, Trump signed an executive order that is government-sanctioned Islamophobia, disguised with the thinnest of veneers, while continuing to insist that we build a wall along the border with Mexico. Before Christmas I wrote a column about supporting refugees and resettlement programs–it’s still a good resource for helping people on the ground in Syria and for supporting resettlement work in the U.S. And of course, keep protesting the wall, keep speaking up for refugees and immigrants and against xenophobia of all kinds. We need to keep the pressure on. Call anyone and everyone, donate to the ACLU. But remember that it’s just the most incendiary action of the moment–there are several slow burners we need to keep an eye on as well.

This week, the thing I want to you to get good and angry about, in a productive way, is Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns and his allergy to transparency. There’s a connection here. All those refugees and immigrants who supposedly pose a risk to American citizens? They’ve been vetted more thoroughly than our president. This should make us all incredibly pissed.

(more…)

01/20/17 9:25am

I think it’s time for a pep talk.

Since the election there’s been a great deal of panic, a never-ending news cycle full of outrage. The holidays may have been a respite for some, a deeper twist of the knife for others, and then Congress, the Affordable Care Act, ethics, the FBI, Russia, and wait, let’s think about Congress again for a minute. It’s been a lot. It’s been too much. But here we are. Part of the franticness of the past months has been, I think, a hope that there would be some last minute play, some Hail Mary or Hollywood ending that would change all this. That if we wailed and gnashed our teeth loudly enough the world would come to its senses. It hasn’t and it won’t.

This is a moment to wake up. This is a moment to be quiet and make decisions.

I hate the idea that this moment in politics, this moment in American life has some sort of silver lining. It is not though, without opportunity. This is a moment to wake up. This is a moment to be quiet and make decisions.

There’s been so much talk of bubbles and talk against bubbles and about how particular bubbles are better than others. If you’re reading this and you haven’t yet sent me an email telling me I’m disgusting or pathetic, then you know which bubble you belong to. I’ve been thinking about our bubble, the coastal elite. The urban. The gentrifiers of America. And while I have joked over the past weeks and months that part of my outrage comes from the fact that I was really counting on Hillary Clinton to keep on keeping on with forward progress without any work on my part, there is a real truth to that. Now I have to engage in democracy. Now I have to pull my weight to shape the society I want to live in, that I want my child to grow up in.

Is that imperative so bad? Isolate it from, well, the tangerine nightmare, and we have arrived at a crucial moment. A place where we stop telling ourselves that buying organic kale at the farmer’s market is the sum of our civic and moral duty. Now is a moment in which we start taking true responsibility for our bodies, and their privilege, whatever that might be on an individual level, moving through this world. I’m not talking about becoming joyless ascetics, (I am drinking a latte right as I write this), but I do feel that many of us have lost a sense of community outside our own circle of friends.

This has to be a time, not just of protest, but of interconnection, of thrift on one hand and generosity on the other. We must be willing to speak, to stand, to sacrifice not just for our own needs and interests, but to understand that we are all stronger when our neighbors have access to health care, our co-workers can send their children to great public schools, and the elderly are not alone.

We need a compassion infusion in our culture, and whenever I find myself lacking this quality, I think about something my mother, who started a restorative justice program in her small town, often says: On most days, most people do the best they can. Implied in this is a social contract that says that it is your job to give others the tools to do better, if you have the resources.

It’s time to take responsibility for the world we live in. There’s no one way to do this, but before I return, next week, to more discrete actions, let me just fill your tool box with some options for ways to move this mission forward. Remember, my friends, we are playing the long game. There is no other way. Listen to Nina Turner’s words and then gather your wishbone, your jawbone and your backbone together. We can do this. Onward!

Assemble your toolkit

Of course, at the top of this list is developing a relationship with a non-profit or advocacy organization that you feel passionate about. Volunteer in a local school, mentor a child, serve on a restorative justice panel, stuff envelopes, get involved in a political campaign. Your help is needed and there’s a new community out there waiting for your talents.

I also have a request: Send me your ACA stories. I want to give them a home where people can come and read a variety of stories about how the ACA has changes lives and what it would mean to lose it. Email me at Annaliese@brooklynbased.com.

Politics:

Swing Left is a website that identifies key House races for 2018, helps you find the one closest to you, and makes it easy to connect with those campaigns. Remember, the entire House is up for re-election and there are some very tough races ahead.

There was a moment in the final debate where Hillary Clinton was speaking about abortion not as a political act, but as an intensely personal and difficult decision. In that moment I felt truly represented and in that moment I realized how rare that is. To finally shatter that glass ceiling we need a wave of women to enter politics and change the game. Ignite is an organization that supports the political ambitions of young women, and works to get more women into positions of power.

Stay informed: The echo chamber of the post-truth era is crazy making. Factba.se is a site that has assembled a public record of Donald J. Trump’s statements, campaign speeches on video, public document, policy statements, and archived them so that you can go to tape when you’re trying to understand his track record or past statements on an issue.

The House and the Senate propose, reject and approve mountains of legislation while they are in session and it’s very difficult to keep track of, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the process. Gov Track  and Countable are both online tools that help you stay on top of what our legislators are up to on any given week, and to track the various bills and other pieces of legislation they may be championing or gutting. They’re more granular than the media, but less confounding than official government websites.

Online inspiration: Writer Amy Siskund has been keeping a record of things, large and small, that have changed since Trump was elected, as a way of resisting normalization of his presidency. Read hers, start your own, share her lists. The Facebook group Task a Day to Defend Democracy does just what it sounds like, offering up ways to stay engaged on a daily basis. Wall-of-Us is another email subscription that offers four actions a week to engage, connect and resist.

Brooklyn Based delivers free daily emails about the borough's best food, events, attractions and innovators. Get Brooklyn Based in your inbox--sign up here.

01/12/17 2:55pm

When I started #actiontrumpshate, it was in reaction to the tsunami of information and calls to action I was seeing on social media. I felt overwhelmed and I wanted to help readers winnow down mass outrage into real action. My strategy has always been to pick one topic, event or group for the week, and present in-depth analysis of why focusing on that one item is important, along with an action or a set of actions, as well as background information and a reading list.

I have to admit, this week has defeated me.

There’s no one thing to say without sounding like I’m ignoring so many others. I’ve referred to action in the post-Trump world as feeling like a game of whack-a-mole before (you’re welcome for the video, btw), but in the context of helping readers avoid that sensation. This week it’s inescapable. Barack Obama addressed the nation for the last time as President. The Senate voted last night at 1:30am to approve a budget that is the first step to dismantling the ACA. Corey Booker stood against the confirmation of fellow senator, Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, but then he (and 12 other Democrats) voted against a Bernie Sanders bill that would have lowered the cost of prescription drugs. Trump’s nominees for top posts in the government have failed to fully participate in the standard vetting process for government service, like lazy teenagers who refuse to write a college application essay because they know that their parents will just write a big check to the family alma mater instead, but the confirmation process is moving forward nonetheless. Trump gave his first press conference since July (compared to President Obama’s 18 between election in 2008 and inauguration, and Bush’s 11), during which he mostly smirked at America. Then there’s dossier about his ties to Russia, which is certainly a real thing that exists, but we don’t know how much of it is true.

It’s like episode 7 of Twin Peaks, when the mill burns, Cooper gets shot, Catherine and Shelly almost get murdered, Doctor Jacoby has a heart attack and Leland kills Jacques Renault, only real and not fun to watch at all.

There’s no one thing I can tell you to do in light of this deluge. So I’ll give you some choices, how about that? (more…)

01/04/17 1:59pm

coloredbandaids

Update: It’s come to my attention that the 2017 National Single Payer Strategy Conference is happening in NYC  Jan. 13-15. Registration is $85 and since the Republicans have no plan to replace the Affordable Care Act with anything, maybe going to this and getting behind single payer healthcare (remember, Obamacare is the MORE CONSERVATIVE alternative to single payer, otherwise known as nationalized health insurance) is the change you want to dig into this year. 

Also, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, remember him?, is organizing a series of rallies all over the country to support the ACA on Sunday, Jan. 15. 

And, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is asking for your ACA stories on his site. 

Well, it’s 2017. Are you ready?

This week I wrote a story for Brooklyn Based about two excellent tools for organizing your thoughts about political action for the year to come. Stop Freaking Out is a set of tools that will help you figure out a more specific course of action that is tailored to your interests and abilities. Take a look, gather a group, order some pizza and prepare to be that change. Indivisible is a document that outlines the best ways for progressives to make their voices heard in congress, both in terms of working with Democrats, and how to stand against the Republican representatives who are poised to dismantle so many things.

If you had any doubt at all what this Congress was going to be like, perhaps holding out hope that we all, progressives, conservatives, Bernie lovers, Hillary voters and secret Ben Carson fans alike could align in solidarity against racism, cronyism and ugliness, well think again. House Republicans voted, in a secret session, to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics on Monday. That plan has been halted, for now, but their intentions and attitude is clear: they don’t believe that they work for us.

Two things about that. Well three.

First, Trump is totally gaslighting the Republicans. It’s like he’s the cool new kid with a bad attitude and a leather jacket with lots of patches on it and Goodlatte and the gang were all like, “Hey man, wanna smoke in the parking lot after school with us?” and Trump was all, “Losers. Smoking makes you ugly, didn’t you know?” as he ground out a butt on a teacher’s desk.

Second, citizen voices really are important. I can’t stress this enough. Yesterday several government accountability organizations, including the Project on Government Oversight, reported that House offices were absolutely FLOODED with calls from citizens saying, “No way, you work for us and let us tell you, ethics and accountability matter and NO we don’t trust you to do it on your own.” (more…)

01/03/17 12:25pm

typorama

Welcome to 2017! It’s time to shake off that 2016 hangover, that cookie hangover, that latke hangover and that hangover hangover and make some plans.

Here are two different tools to help you organize your hopes, dreams and goals for the year ahead in an action plan for 2017. One will sort out a general approach to being more engaged with your community, whether that means volunteering at a local school or donating more of your income to charity or getting involved with a non-profit organization. The other is an overtly political plan of engagement and resistance.

Stop Freaking Out/Start Doing Something

In the wake of the 2016 election my social media feeds were choked with calls to action, petitions to sign, phone calls to make. All of these were well intentioned, but they were also disorganized and overwhelming, which is part of the reason we started Action Trumps Hate, our political email (it’s a separate subscription from Brooklyn Based–sign up here if you’re interested). We wanted to figure out which actions would be most effective and present them to readers in a manageable, weekly dose, which will resume this week after a holiday break.

In Portland, Ore. a group of friends and colleagues had a similar reaction. Many of them work at a design consultancy business called Xplane, and so they approached the problem from a product designer’s point of view. (more…)

Brooklyn Based delivers free daily emails about the borough's best food, events, attractions and innovators. Get Brooklyn Based in your inbox--sign up here.

01/02/17 7:51pm

thridreconIt’s winter, or at least it will be this weekend. The holidays are over. The inauguration looms. All the cookies are gone. If you’re not tempted to just crawl under the covers on the couch and spend the rest of the month watching all the dumb television you missed this fall, well, you’re a better person than me. We gotta stick together in this thing, though. Here are a few articles and books I’ve read lately that have been inspiring, or, important to stay warm all winter, infuriating, or informative in a way that will guide that fury. Onward!

• If you’re not exactly feeling happy right now, maybe you at least feel like your life has meaning? Scientific American’s blog tells us that meaningfulness, whether it comes from work, play or protest, is good for us.

• A friend recently introduced me to the interfaith work that The Reverend Dr, William J. Barber II is doing, working to reintroduce morality into politics as a way to address racism and poverty. I just got his book The Third Reconstruction and I’m excited to read it.

• Professional troll, Milo Yiannopoulos, has a book coming out in February and it guaranteed to be appalling. Here’s why boycotting publisher Simon & Schuster is not going to be effective, and could actual harm progressive writers.

• Here’s why hate speech matters, from Errol Lewis at The Daily News.

• Lewis mentions an essay that appeared in Tablet in the above article, but it’s not linked.  It’s called What to do about Trump.

 

12/19/16 1:38pm
Infographic: UNHRC

Infographic: U.N. Refugee Agency

The Electoral College votes today. This New York Times article explains the whole process in depth, the takeaway of which is that the only good thing about Jan. 6 is likely to be Joe Biden’s complete lack of a poker face when he delivers the news.

While the Electoral College has dominated all my political action channels on social media for the past week, I’ve also been consumed by reading about Syria, the unthinkable violence in Aleppo and the refugee crisis Syria’s civil war has caused. This week, as we contemplate Hanukkah and Christmas, two Judeo-Christian celebrations that include themes of persecution, conflict, scarcity and flight, let’s take a moment from our comparatively comfortable lives to support refugees.

This action does nothing to block Trump’s path to the White House. However, it supports a group of people who desperately need help. The international refugee advocacy community is still reeling from the election–their clients are terrified and they have no idea what to expect from the President-elect, who promised on the campaign trail to halt resettlement from “terror prone” regions. If you look at his policy outline on his website, it doesn’t mention Syrians, or refugees as distinguished from immigrants, specifically, so there’s no way of knowing what his intentions are at this point, but refugee resettlement numbers are determined by executive order–President Obama expanded the number of refugees slated for resettlement in 2017, to a total of 110,000. Trump can reverse that with a signature.

The element of all this that really kills me is that opening our arms to refugees should be a cornerstone of American identity that we fiercely defend. The U.N., the State Department and other government entities screen, admit and arrange transportation (refugees have to pay the government back for their plane tickets–yes, you read that right). A network of local agencies including non-profits and church or faith-based organizations do much of the work helping people find their way in new communities.  This process should unite us.

The U.N. has reported that the world is currently facing the biggest refugee crisis since the end of World War II, and that there are currently 21.3 million refugees worldwide, half of whom are children under the age of 18. These refugees are part of a larger group of displaced people that now numbers about 65 million, worldwide. I spoke with Megan Cagle, policy and advocacy media specialist for the Immigration and Refugee Program of Church World Service. She underscored the deeply traumatic experience of being a refugee. “These are people just like us, who have been forced to flee the homes they worked so hard to build,” Cagle said. “They don’t leave because they want to leave.”

Cagle shared several ways to support refugee resettlement and refugee in the U.S. through political action, donations and volunteer efforts. Most of all, she stressed the importance, and long American tradition of welcoming. “We’ve seen an amazing outpouring of support across the U.S.,” she said. “We can never have too much welcoming.”  (more…)

12/19/16 10:43am
No, soup won't save Syrian, but it may humanize the conflict.

No, soup won’t save Syria, but it may humanize the conflict.

Chances are there will either be some travel, some time off, or both in your life this week. Here are a few articles and books, a novel even, to sink your teeth into.

Aljazeera published this explainer on Syria’s civil war last week and it’s incredibly helpful if you’re trying get your head around what’s going on there, who the players are and why this has become such an intractable and bloody conflict.

• No, a cookbook won’t rebuild Syria, but Soup for Syria is a project that both raises money for Syrian refugees and humanizes the war, reminding us that Syria is a place with a culture, a place where people live, where they cook and eat and go to work and have families.

• Ivanka Trump has played a protean role in her father’s campaign and pre-presidency, at once an arm charm who normalizes and balances his bluster, and an alleged policy shaper, pushing for paid maternity leave (though not for fathers, gay couples, adoptive parents or anyone else not fitting the gender normative nuclear family mold). A very smart Elle editorial argues that she is no friend to women who are not as privileged as she is–so basically no friend to women at all.

• At the grocery store this weekend my two-year-old waved and said hello to the Obamas on the cover of a magazine, which was equal parts adorable and heartbreaking. Read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ article “My President Was Black” on the history and meaning of the Obama administration in The Atlantic to really feel all the feelings and appreciate our 44th President.

• Finally, lose yourself in Americanah the wonderful, wide ranging novel from Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. We included it in a favorite books of 2013 round-up a few years ago and I finally picked it up a few weeks ago and it’s big hearted, funny and addictive, while also concerning itself with race, class and immigration. This is a sweet little bit of escapism that will also expand your worldview.

12/12/16 1:06pm

just_mercy_stevenson_bryan_002

This week’s Action Trumps Hate, writing a letter to the Electoral College, may not be for everyone. You may not have a connection to someone in a state where these letters have the most sway. You may not believe that a letter writing campaign will make any difference when electors cast their votes on Monday, Dec. 19. That’s okay, we’re playing the long game here and there is always plenty to do.

Here’s my #actiontrumpshate reading list for the week: