We welcome expressions, support, and collaboration from like-minded organizations

 

 

TRUMP TRAVEL

Get your latest news on the Trump’s trips abroad.

Latest Trump Travel Blog Posts

 

Brief #123—Immigration
By Kathryn Baron
The Department of Homeland Security will establish a Family Reunification Task Force with the mandate of reuniting families who were separated during the Trump Administration’s Zero Tolerance Policy. The Task Force will be led by Homeland Security Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, and involve substantial interagency coordination with the Department of Justice (settlement negotiation efforts), the Department of State (system for processing in-country requests for travel documents to enter the US), and the Department of Health and Human Services (facilitate services and support for effected families). The Task Force is expected to deliver a  progress report  by June 2, 2021.

read more

After Intense Pressure Biden Raises Refugee Cap from Historically Low Trump Administration Figures

Brief #122—Immigration
By Kathryn Baron
Under the Trump Administration, the US held a historically low refugee cap of 15,000. On the campaign trail President Biden  vowed to increase the limit for this fiscal year to 62,500 and ideally, to 125,000 for the following year. Biden emphasized the low Trump-era cap did not accurately depict America’s values as a “nation that welcomes and supports refugees.”

read more

Trump’s Comically Bad Communications Platform and the Power of Engagement and Deplatforming

Brief #47—Technology
By Scout Burchill
After four months of radio silence, former president Donald Trump is back in the social media game, sort of. After hyping a return on a platform of his own, Trump finally launched a new section on his website called From the Desk of Donald J. Trump, touting it as “a place to speak freely and safely.” Billed as a “communication platform,” the new feature on his website is basically a micro-blog that Trump uses to post messages in his trademark Twitter style.

read more

The sobering reality of a post-carbon world starts with lithium

Brief #116—Environment
By Todd Broadman
The Biden Administration has recognized what previous administrations have not: that carbon-based energy has been destroying our planet and must stop, that greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced to net zero by 2050. Recognition is a major step forward. Government action to replace our fossil fuel economy with renewables is a colossal task and one that Biden aims to tackle.

What we know is that carbon-free energy is actually more mineral intensive than its oil-based counterpart. There are some 35 rare earth minerals that are key components to making the transition from fossil-fuels to clean energy. Lithium has recently garnered much attention for its essential role in the production of lithium-ion batteries that power our next generation of EV cars. (Other essential minerals include aluminum, cobalt, copper, and nickel).

read more

The April Jobs Report Contains Mixed Messages 

Brief #116—Economics
By Rosalind Gottfried
The April reports showed that unemployment was 6.1%, up from 6% the previous month.  There were 266,000 new jobs; a figure that fell short of the anticipated one million new jobs.  This was on top of revised job estimates for March, which were down to 770,000 from earlier estimate of 916,000.  The portion of the labor force teleworking went down from 21% in March to 18.3% for April. Unemployment went up among black workers; at 9.7% they were the only group to undergo an increase in unemployment.  White unemployment was at 5.3%, indicating the duality of the job market on the basis of race.  Women dropped out of the labor force, bending to the pressures of home and child care, with 165,000 leaving the workforce. 

read more

Facebook’s Oversight Board Upholds Trump Ban but Criticizes Indefinite Punish-ment

Brief #46—Technology
By Scout Burchill
On Wednesday, May 5th, Facebook’s Oversight Board issued its much anticipated ruling on the social media platform’s indefinite ban of former President Donald Trump for his posts following the January 6th riots at the Capitol. After a week-long delay due to over 9,000 public comments on the case, the Oversight Board decided to uphold Facebook’s initial decision to suspend Trump.

However, in the nearly 12,000 word ruling, the Board made absolutely clear that the indefinite suspension is “not appropriate” as it constitutes an “indeterminate and standardless penalty.” On this issue, the Board did not mince words in reprimanding Facebook’s arbitrary punishment. The Board wrote, “in applying a vague, standardless penalty and then referring this case to the Board to resolve, Facebook seeks to avoid its responsibilities.”

read more

The Biden Administration Struggles to Find a Response to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Brief #111—Foreign Policy
By Reilly Fitzgerald
The Biden-Harris Administration has made it very clear throughout their first several months in the White House that their Middle East policy will be a divergence from the one that the Trump Administration had imposed throughout their term. The Trump White House’s Middle East policy was one of aggression and this was exhibited by assassinating Iranian officials, pulling out of the JCPOA (‘Iran nuclear deal’), consistently backing Israel, moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and other major decisions.

Earlier this week, Israeli and Palestinian tensions reached a high point as Palestinian militants (backed by Hamas) fired rockets into Israel. Israel has responded with violence as well and has killed numerous Palestinians. President Biden’s administration has said that it will maintain its support of a two-state solution; however, they did also express their support for Israel to be able to defend itself from attacks.

read more

Lessons for the US from Colombia’s Universal Basic Income Program 

Brief #111—Foreign Policy
By Brandon Mooney
This week, as center-left Democrats and some of America has begun to discuss universal basic income (UBI) and what welfare programs will look like in the post-pandemic future, I thought that we could look to the recent protests that rocked Colombia for an example of what not to do. For those who don’t know, UBI is a state-funded social program where a decided amount of money is sent to all citizens within a designated population group without the condition of a certain employment status or other test. Basically, it’s a regular check from the government to everyone within a selected population. Supporters of UBI have been calling for its adoption across the world as the pandemic has sparked mass unemployment, limited job growth, and tanked economies.

read more

Immigration Policy Brief #123

Biden Administration Enables Task Force to Reunite Immigrant Families Separated during Trump Administration 

By Kathryn Baron

May 14, 2021

Policy Summary

The Department of Homeland Security will establish a Family Reunification Task Force with the mandate of reuniting families who were separated during the Trump Administration’s Zero Tolerance Policy. The Task Force will be led by Homeland Security Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, and involve substantial interagency coordination with the Department of Justice (settlement negotiation efforts), the Department of State (system for processing in-country requests for travel documents to enter the US), and the Department of Health and Human Services (facilitate services and support for effected families). The Task Force is expected to deliver a  progress report  by June 2, 2021.

More than 5,000 children were separated from their families from July 2017 to June 2018. In March 2021, there were an estimated 5,700 unaccompanied children in US Customs and Border Patrol custody; the number has since decreased to just below 700.

Analysis

Who will be reunited and in what order largely correlates to ongoing negotiations in an ACLU federal lawsuit in San Diego, to stop the forcible separation of families and hold the US government accountable for its actions during the Zero Tolerance Policy era. So far, the Biden Administration has announced parents from four different families will be allowed to cross the US border and rejoin their children, after being deported to Central America and Mexico. The parents will return on a Humanitarian Parole while immigration authorities consider long-term options for legal status.

The Task Force will also attempt to establish a database of separated families, amend inaccuracies in their files, and build a comprehensive process to locate families and give them opportunities for reunification. In line with the restorative undertone of the Biden campaign, this method of transitional justice is crucial to any immigration reforms that may follow in the coming months and will ideally serve as the basis for restorative  justice in several sectors of the American political and justice system.

Engagement Resources

  • The National Immigration Law Center: an organization that exclusively dedicates itself to defending and furthering the rights of low income immigrants and strives to educate decision makers on the impacts and effects of their policies on this overlooked part of the population.
  • The ACLU: a non-profit with a longstanding commitment to preserving and protecting the individual rights and liberties the Constitution and US laws guarantee all its citizens. You can also donate monthly to counter Trump’s attacks on people’s rights. Recently, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit challenging the separation of families at the border.
  • Center for Disease Control: the CDC provides updated information surrounding COVID-19 and the US responses
  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA): Through the Department of Homeland Security’s website, this link provides additional information regarding the Obama era program.

After Intense Pressure Biden Raises Refugee Cap from Historically Low Trump Administration Figures

Immigration Policy Brief #122

After Intense Pressure Biden Raises Refugee Cap from Historically Low Trump Administration Figures

By Kathryn Baron

May 14, 2021 

Policy Summary

Under the Trump Administration, the US held a historically low refugee cap of 15,000. On the campaign trail President Biden  vowed to increase the limit for this fiscal year to 62,500 and ideally, to 125,000 for the following year. Biden emphasized the low Trump-era cap did not accurately depict America’s values as a “nation that welcomes and supports refugees.”

However several weeks ago Biden reversed course and said the US would keep the Trump-era level of only 15,000. After facing intense backlash from Democrats and civil society, Biden agreed to increase the number.  His ability to reverse course reflects Biden’s flexibility and willingness to respond positively to those who disagree with him.

Analysis

Biden now says that  the US will admit 62,500 refugees in this fiscal year but cautions that that that this target is a ceiling. However he vows to nearly double the 62,500 number in following years. The US will accept the most refugees from Africa (around 22,000) for this fiscal year.

Engagement Resources

  • The National Immigration Law Center: an organization that exclusively dedicates itself to defending and furthering the rights of low income immigrants and strives to educate decision makers on the impacts and effects of their policies on this overlooked part of the population.

 

  • The ACLU: a non-profit with a longstanding commitment to preserving and protecting the individual rights and liberties the Constitution and US laws guarantee all its citizens. You can also donate monthly to counter Trump’s attacks on people’s rights. Recently, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit challenging the separation of families at the border.

 

 

 

Trump’s Comically Bad Communications Platform and the Power of Engagement and Deplatforming

Technology  Brief #47

Trump’s Comically Bad Communications Platform and the Power of Engagement and Deplatforming

By Scout Burchill

May 15, 2021

Summary

After four months of radio silence, former president Donald Trump is back in the social media game, sort of. After hyping a return on a platform of his own, Trump finally launched a new section on his website called From the Desk of Donald J. Trump, touting it as “a place to speak freely and safely.” Billed as a “communication platform,” the new feature on his website is basically a micro-blog that Trump uses to post messages in his trademark Twitter style.

Quite in line with the Trump brand, Trump’s Desk is a far shot from what it was originally hyped up to be and suffers from a number of comical technical issues. For one, there is no way to respond to or interact with any of Trump’s messages. Also, for each message there is an accompanying like button that serves no discernable purpose. When the site feature was first launched, tech savvy observers noted that it was not even coded with any action. At the time of writing, however, it seems to have been updated to turn red when clicked.

Additionally, the platform is very poorly integrated to work with Twitter, so even though Trump’s Desk allows Twitter users to share Trump’s messages on Twitter, which, in a way, would allow Trump to bypass his current Twitter ban, the interface is horrific. When shared on Twitter, most of Trump’s message becomes cut off and replaced with an ugly, blue link to Trump’s website and a giant image of Trump signing what appears to be a very large Bible.

Since Trump’s ban from Facebook and Twitter, the former president’s power to insert himself in the national discourse has diminished considerably. Social media interactions about Trump have fallen 91% since January. Google search traffic as well as Trump’s visibility and mentions on cable news have plummeted to levels not seen since before he began his presidential run in 2016. In total, Trump’s new communications platform has received 212 thousand engagements (meaning likes, shares and comments on the big social media platforms), whereas previously a single tweet or post of his would easily rack up hundreds of thousands of likes and retweets. Towards the end of the 2020 election, Trump’s Facebook served as his own private media company, garnering 336 million interactions, utterly dwarfing Biden’s 48 million as well as mainstream news outlets like The New York Times and NBC, which garnered even less.

While many people may feel a marked improvement in their mental health as their Twitter feeds and Facebook timelines have become noticeably saner without Trump, the ability of a handful of tech companies to multilaterally silence a former president is a serious exhibition of power. Without a shadow of a doubt, deplatforming works for certain individuals, and is perhaps even more effective than most people predicted. Even though Trump’s waning influence in our national politics is certainly worth celebrating, the power of tech companies to deplatform is definitely not.

Analysis:

The trick to ending Trump’s madness-inducing spell over the nation’s collective consciousness was always to simply stop feeding into it. Trump’s political and cultural power is directly tied to engagement. For years, journalists woke up, checked Twitter and then proceeded to report the daily news starting with what Trump tweeted at some ungodly hour of the night. This became the norm. Entire cable shows were dedicated to obsessing over his inflammatory tweets and speculating about social media platforms’ responsibilities to stop the sitting president from spreading dangerous messages. During the 2016 presidential election, CNN would cut to shots of an empty podium where Trump would soon be scheduled to speak, ginning up their captive audiences’ outrage reflexes for maximum effect after a short commercial break.

The playbook was always predictable. Trump mouthed some horrendous opinion or outright lie and then commentators would play it over and over again while clutching their pearls in righteous indignation. Cable news outlets like CNN, MSNBC and Fox, as well as mainstream publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post raked in massive profits during Trump’s presidency and saw ratings soar to unprecedented levels. No surprise then that since Trump’s virtual disappearance, profits and ratings have plummeted.

While Facebook enabled Trump to maintain an organizing and fundraising infrastructure, Twitter was Trump’s not-so-secret weapon. With the twiddle of his thumbs he controlled media narratives and succeeded at putting himself at the center of everything. If there was a culture war issue simmering at the surface of America’s deeply polarized society, Trump’s tweets doused it in gasoline.

Herein lies Trump’s real power, engagement. Trump completely lacked a coherent political vision or ideology What Trump did have though was unrivaled cultural power through the constant engagement he fostered with those who loved him as well as those who hated him. He empowered his supporters with his whole-hearted willingness to own the libs and curse in the face of the political establishment. On the other side, Trump Derangement Syndrome became a pejorative diagnosis to describe those obsessed to the point of madness over his antics and cruelty. Engagement was central to this power dynamic because through engagement Trump’s followers were made to feel empowered and his detractors exasperated and powerless.

It’s hard to celebrate Trump’s deplatforming as a victory for American democracy or a viable solution to the harms posed by people who espouse dangerous ideas. No matter which side of the political spectrum you may fall on, the success of Trump’s deplatforming should be alarming. The fact that a few companies have the power to multilaterally silence a former sitting president is not a sign of a healthy democracy or media ecosystem. Needless to say, Trump is not the only political figure to be silenced. Left leaning individuals and communities have been suppressed, as well, and historically, deplatforming movements have overwhelmingly targeted individuals deemed to be socialists or communists. Palestinian voices, too, are systematically erased by Big Tech companies, demonstrating that any idea or opinion that challenges power and does not serve the status quo is liable to be punished or suppressed. When the power to deplatform some and amplify others becomes so concentrated and so potent, the real danger resides in the power itself. Even though Trump may be gone for now, our information ecosystems are still sick.

Engagement Resources:

Accountable Tech

https://accountabletech.org/

American Economic Liberties Project

https://www.economicliberties.us/big-tech-monopolies/

Center for Humane Technology

https://www.humanetech.com/

Sources:

If you want to engage with Trump’s new communications platform, you can find it at his website

Aviv Ovayda’s Proposal to Facebook Oversight Board

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1UUefNIiTZL7vvBvhtcZ9lfYSN2gA_4WH7kQm_uA_QSI/edit

Trump’s Hyped Return to Social Media

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/trump-social-media-platform-return-adviser

Data on Trump’s Decline After Social Media Bans

https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/trumps-blog-isnt-lighting-internet-rcna890

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/04/06/trump-media-era-ends-not-with-wow-whisper/

https://www.axios.com/donald-trump-social-media-attention-d6829513-644d-4235-9090-20284862e009.html

The sobering reality of a post-carbon world starts with lithium

Brief # 116 Environment Policy

Title: The sobering reality of a post-carbon world starts with lithium

By Todd Broadman

May 17. 2021

POLICY

The Biden Administration has recognized what previous administrations have not: that carbon-based energy has been destroying our planet and must stop, that greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced to net zero by 2050. Recognition is a major step forward. Government action to replace our fossil fuel economy with renewables is a colossal task and one that Biden aims to tackle.

What we know is that carbon-free energy is actually more mineral intensive than its oil-based counterpart. There are some 35 rare earth minerals that are key components to making the transition from fossil-fuels to clean energy. Lithium has recently garnered much attention for its essential role in the production of lithium-ion batteries that power our next generation of EV cars. (Other essential minerals include aluminum, cobalt, copper, and nickel).

As part of Biden’s 2.25 trillion-dollar American Jobs Plan (AJP), $174 billion-dollars is earmarked to address this mineral requirement – though indirectly through subsidies to the EV industry. It is wrapped in “mobilizing the country to meet the great challenges of our time: the climate crisis and the ambitions of an autocratic China.” And as its title suggests, millions of jobs are to be created along the new EV supply chain. The AJP also calls for $35 billion in related research and development investments that “address the climate crisis.”

The Plan is also framed as an industrial “race” against China. Specifically, a competition for dependable, self-reliant supply chain from sourcing of the necessary raw minerals like lithium to the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries, and finally the automobiles themselves. U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm stated that, “the supply chains for critical materials like lithium and cobalt will determine whether we win or lose.”

Currently, 55% of lithium is sourced in Australia, and most of the remaining sources are in Latin America. With more than 50 lithium-ion “megafactories” in operation and another 60 or so planned, China controls the vast majority of lithium processing. Granholm underscored the importance of funding Biden’s Plan and national self-reliance: “[China] wants to be the go-to place for the guts of the batteries, yet we have these minerals in the United States. We have not taken advantage of them, to mine them.”

At 29 percent of total CO2 emissions, transportation is the single largest contributor, and what guides Biden’s EV policy.( In consideration is a 33% tax credit for anybody buying an electric car – up to $10,000. )A further 25 percent of CO2 comes from electricity generation and 23 percent comes from industrial use.

Consequently, demand for lithium is expected to grow 70 times over the next couple decades. But the supply from existing lithium mines and projects under construction can only meet about half the projected demand this decade. According to Fatih Birol, the executive director of the IEA International Energy Agency (IEA), “This [supply/demand] mismatch is something that worries us … our numbers show that the critical minerals are not a sideshow in our journey to reach climate goals. It’s a part of the main event.”

U.S.-based lithium and other mining interests are pressing the administration to accelerate domestic production and want lawmakers to insert a $10 billion grant program into Mr. Biden’s infrastructure bill, arguing that it is a matter of national security. These efforts are balanced by environmentalists, tribes and local groups who are taking legal action to block lithium mining development.

ANALYSIS

Of America’s 270 million inventory of cars, just 2 million are currently of the carbon-free EV variety. What we do know is that oil-based gasoline has 100 times the energy density of a lithium-ion battery utilized in electric cars. This disparity was factored into a recent University of California, Berkeley model which concludes that by 2050, with an EV transition, the U.S. will need almost 90% more electricity than it did in 2018. Their study looked at what it would take to make the power grid 90% carbon-free by 2035.

The administration must also be able to address environmental impacts of lithium mining and processing. The mining of metals continues to be the leading industrial polluter in the United States. A standard lithium mining practice is to mix the clay dug out from the mountainside with tons of sulfuric acid creating millions of cubic yards of mining waste that must be treated. Lithium processing requires an immense amount of water: 500,000 gallons of water per ton of lithium extracted.

Even if ways can be found to minimize environmental damage of lithium mining, there is the issue of lithium supply. One study found that in a 100% renewable energy future, demand for lithium could reach 280% of known deposits – deposits that are economically feasible to extract. A single EV manufacturer, Tesla, has a goal of selling 20 million vehicles a year by 2030. This volume alone would require more than three times the current total global lithium supply. To meet the projected demand from all auto manufacturers worldwide, our supply of lithium would need to grow six times.

Adding to this ambitious transition ahead, is the need for convenient, ubiquitous lithium-ion battery charging stations. In the AJP, Biden proposes $15 billion to begin rolling out electric vehicle charging stations, with the goal of reaching 500,000 charging stations nationwide by 2030. The American Energy Alliance reports that 500,000 charging stations “wouldn’t even amount to half of what is needed in California alone.” And we haven’t begun to practically address the electrification of larger trucks and buses.

Lithium and other essential minerals will play a crucial role on the road to decarbonization. The level of sacrifice ahead and scale of mobilization required by the American public is unprecedented, even through the historical lens of a Civil War, Great Depression, and couple of World Wars. If the country cannot be united in this effort, more will be lost than Biden’s second term in office.

Engagement Resources:

https://gspp.berkeley.edu/ University of California, Berkeley School of Public Policy: a graduate school that prepares students for careers in public leadership.

https://www.americanenergyalliance.org/ a not-for-profit organization that engages in grassroots public policy advocacy and debate concerning energy and environmental policies.

https://www.iea.org/ The IEA is at the heart of global dialogue on energy, providing authoritative analysis, data, policy recommendations, and real-world solutions to help countries provide secure and sustainable energy for all.

https://www.eenews.net/ E&E News reports on energy and environment issues for professionals. It is staffed by a dedicated reporting team within the POLITICO newsroom.

The April Jobs Report Contains Mixed Messages 

Brief #116

The April Jobs Report Contains Mixed Messages 

Rosalind Gottfried    

May 13, 2021  

Policy

The April reports showed that unemployment was 6.1%, up from 6% the previous month.  There were 266,000 new jobs; a figure that fell short of the anticipated one million new jobs.  This was on top of revised job estimates for March, which were down to 770,000 from earlier estimate of 916,000.  The portion of the labor force teleworking went down from 21% in March to 18.3% for April. Unemployment went up among black workers; at 9.7% they were the only group to undergo an increase in unemployment.  White unemployment was at 5.3%, indicating the duality of the job market on the basis of race.  Women dropped out of the labor force, bending to the pressures of home and child care, with 165,000 leaving the workforce.

Although there are 9.8 million officially recognized as unemployed, economists say an additional 12.3 million can also be considered to be unemployed.  “Real” unemployment is likely about 8.9%.  This figure represents people classified as employed who are not actually working; people with hours and/or pay cuts; and those who have ceased looking for work.  These figures are cited as a justification for the 1.9 trillion recovery plan Biden implemented.

The slight increase in job creation did not keep up with the number of people looking for work, indicating a mixture of trends in various job sectors.  Jobs in leisure and hospitality went up as people begin to go out and travel more.  Leisure and hospitality gained 331,000 jobs though that figure is still 2.9 million less than a year ago.  Jobs among grocery workers and couriers saw a decrease.  Local government  jobs increased by 31,000; social assistance by 23,000; and financial jobs by 19,000.Manufacturing jobs decreased, largely as a consequence of a shortage of semiconductors and other supply shortages.

Restaurants are reporting a shortage of workers and some feel that this is due to the generous unemployment payments subsidized by the federal government.  Other analysts dispute this saying that the downturn is due to health concerns and lack of childcare.  Others suggest that there is a migration to warehouse jobs which pay better and to tele-customer service jobs allowing workers to stay home.

In contrast to the tepid labor force picture, the gross domestic product is exhibiting healthy gains with the first quarter showing an annualized rate of 6.4% and the second quarter predicted to come in at 10%.

Analysis

Some analysts suggest that the government pandemic aid for unemployment is leading workers to remain out of the labor force until federal benefits run out in September.  A few states are cutting them at the end of June, to facilitate return to jobs.  Montana is offering a $1200 bonus for taking a job, and some employers are also offering incentives.  Still other experts say that the lack of return to work is more likely due to concerns outside of the work place, such as daycare and health.  Others point to the poor wages in restaurant services, offering a lower minimum wage, and the greater pay rate in other sectors as a reason that some in the restaurant and leisure business are having difficulties filling jobs.

The Federal Reserve has expressed both confidence and caution with respect to the future, suggesting that the return to full employment will meet with challenges even as some sectors are adding jobs more quickly than others.  Some observers suggest that Biden’s plan to infuse four trillion dollars into infrastructure projects will be essential in assuring the strength of the post-pandemic economy.

Learn More References

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/07/jobs-report-april-2021.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/07/business/economy/jobs-report-april-2021.html

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-april-jobs-report-reveals-two-very-different-americas-2021-05-07

Engagement Resources

https://edlabor.house.gov/imo/media/doc/RAISE%20THE%20WAGE%20ACT%20-%20One%20Fair%20Wage%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf   Information on tipped employees

Facebook’s Oversight Board Upholds Trump Ban but Criticizes Indefinite Punish-ment

Brief #46 Technology Policy 

Facebooks Oversight Board Upholds Trump Ban but Criticizes Indefinite Punishment

By Scout Burchill 

May 14, 2021

Summary:

On Wednesday, May 5th, Facebook’s Oversight Board issued its much anticipated ruling on the social media platform’s indefinite ban of former President Donald Trump for his posts following the January 6th riots at the Capitol. After a week-long delay due to over 9,000 public comments on the case, the Oversight Board decided to uphold Facebook’s initial decision to suspend Trump.

However, in the nearly 12,000 word ruling, the Board made absolutely clear that the indefinite suspension is “not appropriate” as it constitutes an “indeterminate and standardless penalty.” On this issue, the Board did not mince words in reprimanding Facebook’s arbitrary punishment. The Board wrote, “in applying a vague, standardless penalty and then referring this case to the Board to resolve, Facebook seeks to avoid its responsibilities.”

The decision still leaves many of the larger questions surrounding the case unanswered. On the crucial question of whether or not Trump will be able to return to the platform the Board punted, kicking the question back to Facebook policy makers by recommending a six month re-examination of its policies. In effect, the ball has moved from Facebook’s controversial ‘Supreme Court’ back to their boardroom, once again leaving people guessing. For a good in-depth look at the powers and controversies of Facebook’s recently established Oversight Board, be sure to check out Technology Brief #39. 

Analysis:

The first major test of Facebook’s self described Supreme Court did not produce a flurry of explosive, attention grabbing headlines. Instead, the case decision laid out a relatively honest assessment of the well-documented problems of Big Tech’s content moderation policies and demonstrated the limitations of the Oversight Board’s authority to act as a proper check on Facebook’s immense power.

On the issue of upholding Facebook’s decision to suspend former President Trump for his two posts on January 6th, the Board ruled that the original decision was justified based on Facebook’s Community Standards. In a half-hearted attempt to quell the violence as it was raging at the Capitol, Trump posted a short video and a message addressing the rioters in which he praised them for their passion and actions and told them to go home. According to the ruling, Trump’s messages violated Facebook’s Community Standards by praising and supporting people engaged in violence. The Board specifically honed in on the phrases “We love you. You’re very special” in Trump’s first message and “great patriots” and “remember this day forever” in the second message. While this part of the case is pretty cut and dry, the real heart of the ruling lies in the Board’s assessment of the indefinite nature of the suspension.

The Board rightly rebuked Facebook for the arbitrary and ad-hoc nature of Trump’s indefinite suspension. In short, because there is no official Facebook policy or guidelines that permit Facebook to suspend an account indefinitely with no clear criteria or procedure outlining how that suspended user can return to the platform, the suspension constitutes an arbitrary abuse of power. Referring to the standards set by international law, the Board points out that clear and accessible rules need to be in place for speech and expression to be restricted in a legitimate manner. This observation echoes many previously articulated critiques of Big Tech’s content moderation powers. The arbitrariness and ad-hoc manner of these companies’ moderation decisions poses a real threat to creators, small businesses, the freedom of expression, and especially political speech.

Unfortunately, no matter how well articulated the Board’s condemnation of Facebook’s half-baked policies may be, they have no authority to actually change the company’s policies. In this respect, it is clear that the Oversight Board poses no threat to Facebook’s actual power, a topic explored in depth in Technology Brief #39. This case demonstrates just how much of a sham the Oversight Board is as an effective entity of regulatory oversight. At the end of the day, it’s hard not to see the Board as merely an extension of the boardroom. While the recommendations and critiques it offers may be insightful, it has no real sway in influencing the systemic problems arising from Facebook’s business model and policies.

Despite this, the Board raises two particularly salient points that Big Tech critics have been trumpeting for years. Firstly, they problematize Facebook’s notoriously vague ‘newsworthiness’ criteria, which allows politicians and other powerful people to routinely break the platform’s Community Standards without penalty. The newsworthiness policy was first established during 2016 presidential campaign and protects content from removal if it is deemed “newsworthy, significant, or important to the public interest.” At the time, media outlets were grappling with how to report on the infamous Access Hollywood tape. However, the utter lack of transparency for deciding what makes something newsworthy or significant presents a major built-in inconsistency in Facebook’s policies. In other words, why should your neighbor be held to higher standards, and silenced for far lesser offenses, than our elected officials and leaders? Ultimately, these decisions smack of greedy profit-driven calculations and betray a willingness to always serve the interests of the powerful.

Secondly, the Board acknowledged that Facebook “has become a virtually indispensable medium for political discourse and especially so in election periods.” While this is practically common knowledge, by saying the quiet part out loud, the Board sets up an interesting problem for Facebook. If Trump is the 2024 Republican nominee, how will Facebook possibly defend banning him from the platform? In effect, Facebook would have to justify meddling in elections in a way foreign adversaries could only dream of. Back in 2017, Brad Parschale, the digital media brain behind Trump’s 2016 campaign said, “Facebook was how Donald Trump was going to win…Facebook was the method – it was the highway which his car drove on.” In modern campaigning, Facebook is an essential part of most politicians’ fundraising and organizing infrastructures, and this is especially true of Donald Trump and other outsiders from both sides of the political spectrum.

While the Oversight Board provides a useful distraction and the facade of corporate accountability, the fate of Donald Trump’s Facebook account ultimately rests where it always has, in the hands of Mark Zuckerberg. Once again, on one of the most significant political issues of the era, the public is left in limbo, awaiting the decrees of a tech billionaire.

 

Engagement Resources:

The Real Facebook Oversight Board

https://the-citizens.com/real-facebook-oversight/

Accountable Tech

https://accountabletech.org/

American Economic Liberties Project

https://www.economicliberties.us/big-tech-monopolies/

Center for Humane Technology

https://www.humanetech.com/

Tech Transparency Project

https://www.techtransparencyproject.org/

Sources:

The Oversight Board’s Case Decision:

https://oversightboard.com/decision/FB-691QAMHJ/

Politico on Trump’s Facebook Ban and the Importance of Facebook

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/05/05/trump-social-media-supporters-485381

Columbia Journalism Review on Newsworthiness

https://www.cjr.org/the_new_gatekeepers/facebook-oversight-board-2.php

The Biden Administration Struggles to Find a Response to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

The Biden Administration Struggles to Find a Response to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

By Reilly Fitzgerald

May 14, 2021

Policy/Summary:

The Biden-Harris Administration has made it very clear throughout their first several months in the White House that their Middle East policy will be a divergence from the one that the Trump Administration had imposed throughout their term. The Trump White House’s Middle East policy was one of aggression and this was exhibited by assassinating Iranian officials, pulling out of the JCPOA (‘Iran nuclear deal’), consistently backing Israel, moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and other major decisions.

Earlier this week, Israeli and Palestinian tensions reached a high point as Palestinian militants (backed by Hamas) fired rockets into Israel. Israel has responded with violence as well and has killed numerous Palestinians. President Biden’s administration has said that it will maintain its support of a two-state solution; however, they did also express their support for Israel to be able to defend itself from attacks.

 

Analysis:

The attacks that have rocked both Israel and Palestine are due to a legal case regarding the evictions of Palestinians from their homes by Israel with the purpose of expanding their settlements into Palestinian territory. The region has been seeing extreme violence between police forces and Palestinians. The tensions between these two groups have been raging since the 1960s when the disputed borders of each country were drawn and has since been a tough subject for Presidents and their foreign policies.

President Biden’s administration has spoken several times this week regarding this issue and the message is one that is fairly consistent. The message is one of support for Israel in that they have a right to defend their country from attacks; but also, they have condemned the evictions of the Palestinians and have expressed support for finding a two-state solution.

The White House’s position of support for Israel to defend their country from attacks is a consistent message from previous administrations from George W. Bush to Barack Obama and Donald Trump. However, it gets increasingly more complex with Joe Biden’s explicit support for a two-state solution and his condemnation of the evictions of Palestinians from their homes.

On December 8th, 2020, The United Nations issued a statement saying that “The two‑State solution remains the only path to ensuring that Palestinians and Israelis can both realize their legitimate aspirations, living side‑by‑side in peace and security, based on the 1967 borders, and with Jerusalem as the capital of both States.” The two state solution has been a concept for decades and yet has remained elusive in terms of bringing tensions to a conclusive and peaceful end. Previous administrations have attempted, some more genuinely than others, to bring this conflict to a resolution. President Trump, for example, offered a peace proposal that was very much not a neutral peace plan that would evenly benefit both sides; rather it relied on increasing Israel’s security control over much of the disputed territory and also sought to demilitarize the Palestinians. Another major problem with that peace deal was that Jerusalem was only to be the capital of Israel and not be split between the countries as the United Nations has recently made a requirement of any two-state solution.

The Biden Administration has sent a State Department envoy to Jerusalem to engage with the Israeli government on this issue. The United States position of agreeing that Israel can and should defend itself against attacks will be one that could put the White House’s ambition of re-entering the JCPOA (after President Trump took us out of it) under strain due to the relationships at play: Israel and the United States being allies and the United States re-entering into a nuclear arms deal with one of their strongest enemies in Iran.

Engagement  Resources:

  1. https://teachmideast.org/ – Teach Mideast is an educational initiative started by the Middle East Policy Council. They provide regional briefs weekly, educational resources for schools and teachers, and also country profiles to assist learners in understanding the various factors at play in the Middle East.

https://www.armscontrol.org/ – Arms Control Association is an organization that specializes in educating people around the world on the issues related to arms control policy issues such as the JCPOA, and other deals.

Lessons for the US from Colombia’s Universal Basic Income Program 

Lessons for the US from Colombia’s Universal Basic Income Program 

May 14, 2021

By Brandon Mooney

This week, as center-left Democrats and some of America has begun to discuss universal basic income (UBI) and what welfare programs will look like in the post-pandemic future, I thought that we could look to the recent protests that rocked Colombia for an example of what not to do.

Policy Summary:

This week, as center-left Democrats and some of America has begun to discuss universal basic income (UBI) and what welfare programs will look like in the post-pandemic future, I thought that we could look to the recent protests that rocked Colombia for an example of what not to do. For those who don’t know, UBI is a state-funded social program where a decided amount of money is sent to all citizens within a designated population group without the condition of a certain employment status or other test. Basically, it’s a regular check from the government to everyone within a selected population. Supporters of UBI have been calling for its adoption across the world as the pandemic has sparked mass unemployment, limited job growth, and tanked economies.

So where does Colombia fit into this picture? With the pandemic causing the worst downturn in Colombia’s already-weak economy in the past 40 years, the administration of President Iván Duque Márquez followed the lead of many other countries in Latin America in the institution of an experimental UBI program called “Ingreso Solidario.” To Duque’s credit, this was a big step, as UBI is still a controversial idea with heavy opposition. However, the program came under early fire for being far more limited in scope than Colombia’s neighbors, with some blaming this on the influence of Duque’s mentor, former President Álvaro Uribe, a right-wing politician favoring government austerity. Ingreso Solidario only covered a little over 5% of Colombia’s population, and many more Colombians were suffering and clamored for the program to be expanded.

The Duque government, to its credit, decided that it would expand the program to another 3% of its population and make it permanent. Although Ingreso Solidario wouldn’t even qualify 10% of Colombia’s population, it was something. However, Duque decided that in order to pay for it, the government would reform the current tax code with a tax increase on goods and services and on a portion of the middle-class. This was not the right move. In a country already struggling with corruption, high unemployment, and staggering wealth inequality, this understandably did not go over well.

What followed was over a week of massive protests, civil disobedience, vandalism, and police violence, concentrated largely in Colombia’s main metropolitan cities. Tens of thousands would march and demonstrate, with Duque deploying the military. Although the numbers given in official government reports were lower than citizen and human rights reports, dozens of protesters were killed across the country and videos circulated on social media platforms showing the use of excessive force by authorities and live fire against civilians. Duque would eventually withdraw his tax reform but argued that it was inevitable and needed.

Analysis:

I’m sure that in the coming months and years, the protests in Colombia against Ingreso Solidario will be tossed in the faces of UBI supporters by fiscal conservatives arguing that it is proof that UBI programs are unpopular or doomed to fail. However, this would be a gross over-simplification of why the protests occurred and have even continued in many cities across Colombia.

First, UBI is supported by progressives as a way to strike back against the wage exploitation of the working class and poor by the wealthy. Therefore, increasing taxes on the middle class and on goods and services that everyone uses to pay for such a program is a ridiculous farce of its ultimate goal and a recipe for disaster. Second, Ingreso Solidario seemed to be working for those that received payments. Sure, it was limited to only a few and many more needed assistances, but it was certainly helping those families that received it. It was helping enough that the Colombian government was going to expand it and make it a permanent fixture. Third, you can’t convince people who are struggling that they should shoulder the burden when the wealthy are seemingly untouched. As of 2020, Colombia had only a 1% tax on those with a net worth over $1.3 million..

It is true that there are many other reasons why Colombians protested, ranging from police corruption to poverty to the use of certain pesticides to the government’s support of peace with paramilitary groups. Saying that protests in the U.S. will happen for the same reasons and in the same manner as in Colombia would be untrue and at best palm reading, but the protests in Colombia stand as an example of the consequences of political preferentialism. The catalyst was the Duque administration attempting to pay for a UBI system meant to help those most in need with a tax on the middle class. This was the metaphorical straw that broke the camel’s back, and we in America should not be ignorant of the Colombia people’s plight. It serves as both a reminder of what is to come if our government continues to favor elites and what shouldn’t be sacrificed to make progressive gains.

Engagement Sources:

Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia – as one of the world’s largest coffee exporters, much of Colombia’s people are dependent on the trade, and this organization works for the betterment of these farmers.

Human Rights Watch – an internationally-recognized organization working to force policymakers across the globe to address human rights violations and work towards a peaceful future.

Congressional  Representation and Electoral Votes  Don’t Change Much in the 2020 Census Totals

Civil Rights; Congressional  Representation and Electoral Votes  Don’t Change Much in the 2020 Census Totals; May 2021

Policy Summary: In 1929, Congress passed the Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929. After battles between rural and urban factions in Congress, the act permanently capped the number of U.S. House Representatives at 435. (Membership in the Senate was not altered, as each state would continue to receive two Senators regardless of population or geographic size). With the United States continually increasing in population at this time the number was capped in order to manage the large number of representatives. In subsequent years, Congress developed a formula as to how the 435 seats would be apportioned and Supreme Court case law later determined that every congressional district should be roughly equal in terms of the number of persons residing in a congressional district.

In April 2021 the United States Census Bureau (Bureau) as part of the United States Department of Commerce (DOC) issued the report titled “A Preliminary Analysis of U.S. and State – Level Results From the 2020 Census.” The report issues a statistical breakdown of the population numbers of all the states and compares these numbers to the official population tabulation from 2000 and 2010. Since 2000 the U.S. population increased 9.7% from 281,424,603 in 2000 to 308,745,538 in 2010. From 2010 to 2020 the U.S. population increased 7.4% from 308,745,538 in 2010 to 331,449,281 in 2020. Even with this increase in numbers, the members of the House of Representatives is still capped at 435 members with each state guaranteed at least one Representative and additional members apportioned to states based on their population. In 2010 each congressional district was comprised on average of 710,767 persons. In 2020, that average number will increase with each congressional district comprising 761,169 persons. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Policy Analysis: When the 2020 census numbers were released a number of groups remained wary of the totals. The reason for that was because the 2020 census had a troubled history that resulted in a number of federal lawsuits. Former President Donald Trump contributed to the confusion by trying to add a citizenship question to the census questionnaire and by trying to exclude immigrant persons from the total tally. The concern was that the official 2020 final count might undercount immigrant and minority communities and cause federal monies to be allocated in an uneven manner.

But these concerns seem to have been unfounded so far. What the April 2021 report does is give a simple headcount of the population in the United States. Race and other demographic data were not included in this early report and will be released later in 2021 after the data is more closely scrutinized. What is important about this data now is how the 435 seats in Congress will be divided among the states and what the implications will be for future presidential elections and the electoral vote totals.

Many pundits had forecasted a radical swing in the number of seats that red states stood ready to gain. While representation in Congress was a big reason to watch the census closely, future presidential elections were also a concern. The number of electoral votes a state has is equal to the total number of senators and representatives a state has in Congress. If a state gained additional representatives from apportionment because of the census, then their number of electoral votes would go up as well. Because of the winner takes all electors system used in most states in presidential elections the focus was on traditionally red states that might get more presidential electors. Arizona, Florida and Texas were projected to accumulate additional representatives because of their large Latino populations. But the big boon for red states did not really materialize.

In all, only seven seats shifted among a total of 13 states. While traditionally red Texas gained two additional House seats, consistently blue states Oregon and Colorado each gained one seat. Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania each lost a seat but since Florida and North Carolina each gained one it cannot be considered significant as all of those states are considered battleground states. All of them have a history of voting both red and blue in recent presidential elections. The shifting of seven House seats and the change in electoral vote totals for those states does not appear to have given Republicans an advantage nor given Democrats a disadvantage in future presidential elections. The census was predicted to cause a sea change in the number of House Representatives for a number of states and a possible increase in electoral votes for red states but that has not been the case at all. The final legacy of the 2020 decennial census may come later this year when race and demographic information will be released and show whether minority communities can benefit and be included in the package of federal benefits that are traditionally earmarked for states after a census. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources:

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org.

Will the Governor be Recalled?

California Dispatch

A new USRENEW NEWS blog post on the policies and p0liticas in America’s most populated and economically productive state.

# 1 Will the Governor be Recalled?

By Patrick Dwrire

May 15,2021

The vote for the recall of Gavin Newsom as the governor of California is now a political certainty, with a Special Recall Election to be scheduled later this year. If a simple majority of voters decide Newsom should be removed from office, then the highest vote –getter on the ballot, even if less than 50 percent of the total number of votes cast becomes the next governor of California. If the 2003 recall election in California is any kind of historic guide, scores of colorful candidates from all walks of life can to be expected to get qualified for the ballot.

More than 1.7 million registered voters signed petitions to recall Governor Newsom, signatures recently verified as valid by election officials, exceeding the number required to trigger the election by more than 200,000 signatures. The number of required signatures is specified by law to be no fewer than 12 per cent of the total number of votes cast in the last election for the office that is targeted by the recall. The 1.7 million signatures represent about 13.8 per cent of 2018 electorate.

According to most Newsom supporters commenting on the recall, those 13.8 per cent of voters who signed the petitions basically signed up the balance of 86.2 per cent of California voters for a three ring political circus that promises all manner of sideshows and carnival barkers across the state for the next several months. According to estimates reported in the Los Angeles Times, this political circus could cost California tax payers as much as $400 million.

A carnival atmosphere was recently released into the media-stream by John Cox, a multi-millionaire real estate investor who lost in a landslide to Newsom in the 2018 governor’s race, but  is running again in the hope Newsom is recalled. Cox rented the services of a tame, 1,000 pound Kodiak bear named Tag for his campaign mascot. Cox filmed a commercial with Tag lumbering alongside him, saying “Gavin’s mismanagement of California is inexcusable. We need big beastly changes in Sacramento. I’ll make ’em.”  Cox also had Tag available live to kick off his “Meet the Beast” campaign tour in Sacramento.

Couple this with the May 5th soft ball interview of Caitlyn Jenner, the Olympic athlete-turned-media darling transsexual spokesperson -turned Republican candidate for governor, by Fox news host Sean Hannity, and It’s  hard not to notice the reality show contestant aesthetic of spectacle.

“Learn more about the people behind this,” Newsom urged state firefighters at a May 4th press conference with California Professional Firefighters union officials in attendance, who are strong Newsom supporters. “Why is the Republican National Committee behind this? Why is Newt Gingrich behind this? Why is there a whole [TV] network putting their energy and attention to covering this? Is it because they have the backs of Californians? Take a look at their agenda and contrast that with ours. I think the majority of Californians support our agenda.”

The cost of this recall election seems to be the price of hyper-partisan politics. California Republicans find themselves in a clear and diminishing minority in both houses of the state legislature as well as in the overall electorate, with only 24 per cent of voters registered as Republican statewide.

Can a 12 or 13 or 14 per cent minority of voters be the tail that wags dog of the entire state. Especially when that minority receives a good deal of funding from outside the state, and gets plenty of attention from national conservative media. The result is a highly charged atmosphere of a recall vote for a Democratic governor who was quite popular for his first two years or so in office, before the COVID pandemic, before the wildfires, and before Trump lost the election.

Although subsequently trying to walk back some of his remarks, California Democratic Party chairperson Rusty Hicks was blunt in his initial assessment of the certification of signatures for the recall, saying, “This recall effort, which realty ought to be called ‘the California coup,’ is being led by right-wing conspiracy theorists, white nationalists, anti-vaxxers and groups who encourage violence on our democratic institutions.”

After trouncing Republican candidate John Cox with just shy of 62 percent of the vote in the 2018 governor’s race, in which Cox ran with then-President Trump’s endorsement, Newsom’s popularity has no doubt diminished.  This can be attributed to  a very difficult year of stop and start pandemic shut-downs, disastrous wildfires, a major meltdown in the State’s unemployment payment system in the face of spiking demand during the shutdowns,  the state getting successfully scammed into sending unemployment checks to inmates, and Newsom’s  widely publicized hypocrisy of ignoring his own Covid restrictions at a high-priced dinner party with a lobbyist at a five-star gourmet restaurant in Napa.

But has dissatisfaction with Newsom’s performance risen to the level that a majority of voters will vote to remove him from office, and then suffer the paralysis that is likely to ensue for a year because. No matter what the result of the recall, either Newsom or his replacement will need to begin running for re-election soon after the recall vote in anticipation of the 2022 election.

This is the question to be answered by the voters in this special election expected in the fall, in which Republican organizers are obviously hoping, again with history a guide, that off-year special elections typically have a much smaller and more conservative voter turn-out than regular elections.

But for most California political observers and campaign consultants, a successful recall of Newsom seems doubtful in this deeply blue state that voted 63.48 percent for Biden/Harris only six months ago; a state in which even most Independent voters seem to have a deep aversion to Trumpism. But the possibility for a recall exists, and history shows the politics of resentment toward a sitting governor can run strong in California.

Several opinion writers and California electoral historians have pointed out that Gavin Newsom in 2021 is no Gray Davis in 2003, who was never exceedingly popular and was beleaguered by Enron-produced energy shortages. Nor is Caitlyn Jenner or John Cox for  anywhere close to an Arnold Schwarzenegger in their ability to unite disparate voting groups and present a viable alternative to the governor getting recalled.

According to a March survey by the non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California, only 40 percent of likely voters said they would vote yes on removing Newsom, while 56 percent would vote no, with five percent unsure. Responses break heavily along party lines, with fully 79 per cent of Republicans supporting the recall, while 42 per cent of Independents and only 15 per cent of Democrats say they would vote to recall Newsom.

Patrick Dwire is a freelance writer living in Santa Cruz, CA . He can be reached at paddyd385@gmail.com.

x
x

Join the Resistance---Your donation helps support the work we do to bring you news and analysis of government policies and the organizations seeking to resist them.

Pin It on Pinterest