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.
Election 2020, or Republicans Rig [Another] Election in America
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.
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.
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.
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
#BREAKING: The 11th Circuit just ruled that banning conversion “therapy” violates the First Amendment. The two judges in the 2-1 majority were both appointed by Donald Trump.
— Lambda Legal (@LambdaLegal) November 20, 2020
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's six conservative justices will likely (1) strike down laws barring licensed counselors from seeking to change a minor's sexual orientation or gender identity, and (2) continue to uphold laws that force physicians to recite anti-abortion propaganda to patients.
— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) November 20, 2020
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Himani: Probably one of the best things to come out of the election.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.