Extra! Extra!: Some of the Changes We Can Already See as the Trump Era Drags On

In this week’s Extra! Extra! we continue following America’s election 2020 saga, the havoc the Trump administration continues to wreak in its final two months and a few encouraging outcomes from the 2020 election. We also have some States-side updates on the COVID-19 pandemic and other situations unfolding around the world.

But first, in honor of Trans Day of Remembrance, we want to point you to a few articles that both remember trans lives lost and celebrate those still with us. From our very own Xoài Phạm we have an interview with Mattee Jim. Over at The 19th a celebration of Gloria Allen and a new documentary about her Mama Gloria. And finally, a review of a new documentary, Born to Be, about New York’s first health care center for trans and non-binary people.

+ What Mattee Jim, Navajo Trans Elder, Teaches Us About Remembering

+ As transgender people mark deadliest year on record, one elder fights for the living

+ ‘A story that hadn’t been told’: inside a groundbreaking trans surgery center

Election 2020, or Republicans Rig [Another] Election in America

Lindsey Graham’s Alleged Attempt to Toss Georgia Ballots Is Felony Election Fraud

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Natalie: The last four years have been exhausting…and the days since the election have been especially so…as the president undermines the legitimacy of the election. And while I understand the impulse to just sit back, reserve your energy, save your outrage and wait 62 days until this long nightmare is over…don’t brush off what’s happening right before our eyes.

They’re trying to steal an election, brazenly, because they know there is no one who will hold them to account.

Trump Targets Michigan in His Ploy to Subvert the Election

Natalie: The president’s legal team, in their ongoing effort to prove voter fraud in Michigan, submitted an affidavit to the federal courts that used data taken from counties in Minnesota. The folly added to the Trump campaign’s 2-23 record (as it stands right now) in post-election litigation. They’re trying to steal an election and, without the Russians to help them, they’re not even good at that.

And while it’s easy to just sit back and laugh, these attempts to erode our democracy have a deterotative impact. This isn’t a tantrum. This isn’t something we ought to dismiss, even if the messengers the Trump campaign sends — Graham, Giuliani, whomever — are bumbling idiots who couldn’t talk their way out of a paper bag. This is an assault on our democracy and should be treated as such.

How fake news aimed at Latinos thrives on social media

Himani: There’s the obvious attempts to steal an election, like what the administration and their Republican allies are doing in Georgia and Michigan, which Natalie discusses above.

And then there’s stuff like this, which fundamentally undermines democracy from behind the scenes. That misinformation is spread through social media isn’t new. But this article is instructive in how it ties the surprising increase in support for Trump among Latinx voters to misinformation campaigns on social media. It’s also incredibly disheartening, as interviews with people who study misinformation on social media discuss how there’s little that can be done to address what gets spread, particularly in messaging apps like WhatsApp, Telegram or WeChat.

This has implications beyond this election, of course. The article also discusses how down-ballot candidates have also suffered from misinformation campaigns against them that spread on social media and caused people like House Representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell from Florida to lose her re-election.

Natalie: What really struck me about this piece is how reminiscent it was of the 2016 disinformation campaign that targeted black voters. I think it’s paramount both that Democrats start to think of ways to combat disinformation campaigns and also — and, of course, separate from any political considerations — the media reassesses itself. Disinformation has promulgated in part because of distrust in the media and without rebuilding that trust, it’s hard to imagine any effort to combat disinformation really taking hold.

North Carolina’s First Black Female Chief Justice May Lose Her Seat to Aggrieved White Colleague

Natalie: Aside from the presidential race, this race was the one I was most personally invested in: Cheri Beasley has been a fierce champion for justice in North Carolina and I’d be heartbroken to see her lose…especially to Paul Newby. Only 409 votes separate the two competitors though and Beasley’s requested a recount which is currently underway…fingers crossed for her success…

(Though if she isn’t successful, she should be at the very top of President-Elect Joe Biden’s list of potential federal judicial nominees.)

Meanwhile, the Trump Era Drags On

Natalie: I feel like a broken record on this but, again: Trump and Mitch McConnell’s work to reshape the federal judiciary will continue to do harm to our communities long after they are vanquished from public office. This decision by two justices appointed by the current president is bad and, if it holds, things could get much worse.

Otto v. City of Boca Raton, Florida creates a split on conversion therapy between the circuits and, thus makes, it ripe for the Supreme Court to step in — though they’ve declined to step in previously — and mitigate the dispute. And then it could get much worse…like this, from Slate’s SCOTUS reporter, Mark Joseph Stern:

The Supreme Court will hear a new attack on unions. The implications are profound.

Himani: In what will likely be another devastating blow to worker’s rights, the Supreme Court is hearing a case that argues that private companies don’t have to allow people onto their premises. This logic could be used to prevent union organizers from entering facilities and also… government safety regulators. As Natalie observed above, the consequences of Trump and McConnell’s court packing will be felt for decades to come.

Trump withdrawal plan could tip Afghanistan towards more violence

Himani: The situation in Afghanistan has been devastating ever since W. Bush stated the “War on Terror.” That goes without saying. And removing so suddenly… that too will come at a deadly cost. I strongly oppose military intervention because America enters and exits countries with only its own interests in mind. This is exactly how the war on terror began in 2001 and morphed into the Iraq War in 2003. But exiting the region with no strategy so you can get a political win at home for saying you withdrew troops for a war your political party started in the first place? The lives of the people on the ground never factor into America’s calculations in these moments. It is truly devastating.

Natalie: Trump’s goal is to ignite as many fires as possible and then blame Biden for not putting them out fast enough…and his efforts in Afghanistan are no different.

How the U.S. Military Buys Location Data from Ordinary Apps

Rachel: This is not a super intellectual or well informed response, but I just cannot get over how awful this is! The logical implications about why the US government — and not just the government, but specifically the MILITARY — would want this much detailed info about private citizens are extremely alarming, and it’s important to note that the apps being employed here specifically target Muslims, which is not a coincidence:

The news highlights the opaque location data industry and the fact that the U.S. military, which has infamously used other location data to target drone strikes, is purchasing access to sensitive data. Many of the users of apps involved in the data supply chain are Muslim, which is notable considering that the United States has waged a decades-long war on predominantly Muslim terror groups in the Middle East, and hundreds of thousands of civilians have died during military intervention in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Motherboard does not know of any specific operations in which this type of app-based location data has been used by the U.S. military.

The surveillance of Muslim citizens in the US is older than some of the folks reading this article, and the most recent layers of it deploying the “opaque location data industry” is just so horrific.

White House killed deal to pay for mental health care for migrant families separated at border

Natalie: The administration has failed to live up to American ideals. They turned the American immigration system into a weapon to uphold white supremacy. They have kept people in cages, forced them to sleep on mylar blankets and stolen their children. Mental health services are the absolute least they could do, and they can’t even be bothered to do that.

Change Happens, Albeit Slowly and Uncertainly

Census ‘Anomalies’ Could Thwart Trump’s Bid To Alter Next Electoral College

Himani: Let’s hope this pans out. Trump wants to exclude undocumented people from being counted through the allocations but a panel of judges shut that down (until the issue gets to the Supreme Court, of course). The first round of data was due to the White House at the end of December. Trump would then pass the data along to Congress after making alterations to his liking (which, again, would be illegal under the current ruling, but I’m not sure that’s ever stopped this administration before). The Bureau has said it can’t meet the December deadline because of standard data issues. For the time being, the Bureau has declined to commit to a timeline for sharing the results of the Census.

As Biden Names Advisers, Climate Activists Push Back on Fossil Fuel Influence

Himani: This article provides a detailed look at where the Biden administration’s cabinet selections and other top leaders stand on addressing climate change. It’s a mixed bag. There are folks who have clear ties to the fossil fuel industry and others who want to tackle climate change as the existential threat that it is. One environmental activist describes, Collin Rees, describes how talks with the transition team are going:

“They’re absolutely willing to talk to us and understand that we’re an important part of the base that got him elected. We’ve certainly felt like we’ve been able to have that conversation, but it’s Joe Biden; he’s a lifelong politician. He is very much seeking other input as well, so we are under no illusions that everything we’re saying is being listened to, but we definitely want to continue that dialogue and continue to push them.”

The other thing that makes this article a valuable read is it lays out how different agencies within the federal government interact with each other and the power they hold over each other. For instance, it lays bare just how much power members of the Office of Management and Budget have in determining what the other agencies can do. As Candance Bernd writes, “The Office proved a powerful administrative gatekeeper during the Obama administration, blocking or delaying agency rules that could have furthered the administration’s climate goals.”

Activists continue to push the administration. Recently a Ugandan climate activist, Vanessa Nakate, wrote to the president-elect and vice president-elect urging them to take climate change seriously. And she wants the Global South to be part of these conversations. As Nakate says in her interview:

“Well, there is no climate justice if it isn’t global, and if it doesn’t include everyone. If it is only going to be justice in the Global North, then it isn’t justice at all, because it erases the voices of the activists speaking up, and it also erases the suffering of the millions of people who have to sleep hungry, who have to walk long distances to have access to water, whose kids have to drop out of school because they can’t take care of them. So that really needs to be understood that we are not talking about a future disaster. We are talking about a present catastrophe that needs to be addressed now.”

Natalie: Himani’s done a good job of examining these specific appointments, but can I just say something about forthcoming Biden appointments in general? If you are looking for a new slate of progressive leadership at any Cabinet position: be prepared for a lot of disappointment.

I say that notsomuch as an indictment of Biden — however warranted that might be — but as a recognition of how many of the systems that exist within the federal government have been eroded (or worse, eliminated) over the last four years. The first six months to a year of the Biden presidency will be about rebuilding the basic foundation of our systems…and that’s going to require people who know how intimately how the system worked. I expect a lot of Obama-Biden redux…and anyone who isn’t is setting themselves up to be disappointed.

New Democratic sheriffs in Georgia and South Carolina have vowed to cut ties with ICE

Himani: Probably one of the best things to come out of the election.

COVID-19 Update

What Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine results mean for ending the pandemic

Himani: Another cause for cautious optimism, I suppose? Science and research is a slow process with a lot of advances and setbacks. This article breaks down some of what is promising and what remains unknown about Moderna’s vaccine. But at the end of it, we’re all still in a holding pattern.

Fauci warns that White House transition delays could slow vaccine rollout

Our Healthcare System Is Completely Unprepared for Long COVID

Natalie: Heather’s been warning us about this for months now.

Social distancing is a luxury many can’t afford. Vermont actually did something about it.

Rachel: At the risk of repeating the obvious, as someone from the East Coast of the US who’s lived in the Midwest for almost a decade now, it’s no surprise to me that we’re seeing case counts skyrocket here while they’re merely on the rise in my home state. (In Massachusetts, new cases are now approaching or equal to what they were in April; in Minnesota, they’re orders of magnitude higher than they ever were at the start of the pandemic.) A lot of the “big government” or “socialist” policies that states like MA and VT were frequently derided for in my youth are the reason for that, the other side of the coin of the fact that countries led by neo-fascist leaders like Trump, Johnson and Bolsonaro have been devastated by th pandemic. Policy that’s collectivist and oriented toward resource redistribution as a basic right rather than a morality test doesn’t just benefit the most vulnerable; it makes the entire society more resilient. Anyways, obviously there are population and demographic differences as well, but Minnesota has had at least 3,138 confirmed COVID deaths; Vermont has had 61.

Congress is forcing cities to defund the police, firefighters, and schools

Lawsuit claims Tyson Foods managers bet money on employees getting COVID-19

Natalie: This is absolutely repugnant. I hope that this lawsuit is successful and those workers find justice…but also? Those managers should go to jail for public endangerment.

And Other Happenings Around the World

Both sides in Ethiopian conflict are killing civilians, refugees say

Himani: Recently, we shared news on the ominous conflict unfolding in Ethiopia. Mere weeks later, the conflict has exploded incredibly violently with survivors describing attacks that amount to ethnic cleansing. There’s a lot that is unknown about the situation right now. As the article describes, both the central government under Prime Minister Abiy’s direction as well as the regional government in Tigray appear culpable in the horrible violence that is unfolding.

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy lawmakers quit en masse. One explains why.

Himani: Earlier this year, China passed another national security law targeting the pro-democracy protests. Recently, it also removed pro-democracy members who had been elected to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council. In response, the remaining pro-democracy members have stepped down from their position. This interview with one of the former members of the Legislative Council offers insight into the motivations behind the decision to step down and the grim reality of day to day life on the island under their latest security law.

Bobi Wine protests: death toll rises in Uganda’s worst unrest in years

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8 Comments

  1. Thanks for this. I do want to point out, without being snarky/snide about it, that in the aftermath of the 2016 election, this site included at least one long article calling for state electors in states that went for Trump to defect from their state’s vote, follow the nation-wide popular vote instead, and cast electoral votes for Hilary Clinton. After watching Trump’s effort to convince electors to vote for him, I’m thinking back to that time and the way many on the left went along with a version of that idea.

    While one could argue that advocating for this move was justified in 2016 because the popular vote went to Clinton, (1) given that candidates would campaign differently if they knew that the vote would be decided by popular vote rather than electoral college, we can’t just use the popular vote in an electoral college system to know how people would have voted in a popular vote system, (2) the losing party trying to change the rules of the game after the election really doesn’t sound like democracy, even if the rules do need to change as a matter of principle. In response to (2), I was told that it wouldn’t be ‘changing the rules of the game’ to do that because it was technically legal in some states for electors to cast against the state popular vote. But now in 2020, basically all of us on the left are against Trump’s pursuing this point on a legal technicality, and outraged by the fact that Trump is trying to get states to go against the state-wide popular vote.

    Again, I really don’t want it to come across as snide or a ‘gotcha’ remark to be saying this. And I don’t want to suggest that the overall situations in 2016 and 2020 are fundamentally comparable — for example, it’s not like the Clinton campaign was baselessly alleging massive fraud, or Obama was refusing to accept the results and blocking efforts to brief the incoming administration. But in the wake of near-universal condemnation on the left for Trump trying to get electors in states that voted against him to cast their vote for him, it seems worth reflecting on the way there was at least some willingness on the left to endorse this idea back in 2016. There’s a lot of different reflections one can have on that moment given what we’re living through now, and I don’t want to go on at length in a single post, but I did want to take note of this.

    • Thanks for sharing this S. I honestly don’t remember this whole line of argument in 2016 but that’s probably because after that election I receded deeply into myself and was resigned to the reality that Trump would become president and it would be awful. (I had a good friend who was in denial about that up until the inauguration; everyone coped differently back then, I think. Also 2016-me did not know what Autostraddle was, but that’s another story.)

      Regardless, the point you’re bringing up about playing the game fairly, even when it means you’re going to lose, is an interesting one. Sometimes, I wonder about the really arcane rules that exist in the first place. Like why this whole song and dance about, well now here are the electors and here’s how they’re chosen and etc etc etc. I also think it’s hard to look at one aspect of our electoral system without looking at the whole thing. Voter suppression was widespread in 2016, especially in some of these places with razor-thin margins like Wisconsin.

      But the main thing I think about, and this is going well beyond the point you’re raising, is that when Democrats are in power they generally try to play nice and play by the rules. Republicans don’t, and they’ve become increasingly brazen about that. This is why they have been able to maintain power for so long and this is why Republican policy is becoming increasingly extreme. So I struggle with this question because, on the one hand, I’m inclined to agree with about fairness and morality and playing by the rules. But on the other hand, I’m so fucking tired of watching Republicans steal their way into power so that they can write rules that will further secure their power, but this time legally, again and again and again…

      So, I don’t have a good answer or response to this, but I think you’re raising a good point and those are some of my thoughts.

      • this is an interesting discussion. it’s valuable to consider hypocrisy in behavior, but equally important is the point that holding to standards circumvented/thwarted by other parties tilts the playing field.

        there’s a joke about a rising flood and a guy who rejects help from two boats and a helicopter because he’s a good christian so the lord will save him. he dies in the flood, and in his subsequent audience with god, he complains about being left to die. god then replies that having sent two boats and a helicopter, what more help did the man expect?

        humans are imperfect and so are our systems. we seem to do better when we don’t fetishize purity, and instead continue pushing forward to enfranchise fairness, equality, and justice.

    • I’ve also been perplexed why appealing to the electoral college was a virtuous mission and had national ads supporting it in 2016, but in 2020 the system clearly works and people who appeal to it are sore losers and should move on. Plus when an R is in office it’s “Not my president” with mass rallies, but with someone with “D” the losers are bad and need to move on. I think the common thread is everyone has a team and hypocrisy crosses gender, race, and class. Trump is evil, not just bad, but the 180 degree swings are maddening to try to explain to my child.

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