About ~ Learn, Take Action, Bookmark, Spread the Word! ~ Contact

Uphold These Rights


It all looks as if the world is preparing for war. --Mikhail Gorbachev (Time, 12/16/16)

(See also Preventing (Nuclear) War)

7/20/17 thread from an attorney regarding Trump's ability to pardon self and co-conspirators

dashboard.securingdemocracy.org: a tracker of Russian propaganda aimed at US citizens via Twitter, in real time

(scroll down to "Take Action" for immediate steps)

UPDATES 9/21: Hawaii prepares for nuclear attack, just in case, while trying not to scare residents and tourists (Washington Post) 12: Russian politician: US spies slept while Russia elected Trump (CNN). 9/10: Trump Admin. gamesmanship continues with North Korea. Sanctions imposed. Threats result. 8/28: North Korea launched a missile toward northern Japan. 8/24: North Korea launched 3 missiles into the Sea of Japan; 2 failed, 1 blew up on impact. (BBC) 8/23: Top Trump aide's email draws scrutiny in Trump-Russia investigation. (CNN) 8/11: As Trump ramps up threatening rhetoric towards nuclear-armed North Korea, and threatens unspecified military action in Venezuela (Reuters), see Preventing War section to take action. 8/9: Hawaii becomes the first state to prepare for a nuclear attack. 8/8: North Korea considering pre-emptive strike on US territory of Guam (note that North Korea has been threatening Guam since 2013). Trump threatens North Korea after some US agencies (and not all!) assess NK has miniaturized a nuclear warhead to fit within a ballistic missile--something they were not supposed to be able to do for a year or more (CNN). 8/3: Grand Jury assembled by Mueller in Trump-Russia investigation. Subpoenas issued. (BBC) 7/30: Trump says he'll attack a North Korean weapons site "within the next year." The act "would be a major step toward all-out war." (UK Daily Mail) 7/26: FBI conducts pre-dawn raid of Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort's, home, the day after he met with the Senate Intelligence Committee. In order to raid a home, the FBI must have a warrant, which means they have evidence of a crime. A few hours later, Trump tweeted, "Why didn't AG Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe..." and announced his military trangender ban attempt. 7/22: House & Senate reach deal on Russian sanctions bill, including new ability to block the White House from easing penalties. Older Updates.

LEARN: Concerned about the relationship between Trump, the Trump campaign, Trump Administration, and Russia? Catch up with (1) Anyone...With a Pulse: How a Russia-friendly adviser found his way into the Trump campaign (5/25/17, Hamburger & Helderman, Washington Post), and (2) The Kushners, the Saudis and Blackstone: Behind the Recent Deals (Melby & Yu, Bloomberg, 5/25/17). For an overall summary, here are (1) Politico's 7 charts of Trump Administration/Campaign ties to Russia; (2) and an excellent 3/8/17 summary of the situation, by Rep. Swalwell (D-CA15), who sits on the House Intelligence Committee; (3) The web of relationships between Team Trump and Russia (Bump, Washington Post, 3/3/17) (also see "Russian blackmail," below). Here is an enlightening twitter thread by strategic analyst, Eric Garland, which details the Administration situation regarding Russia at the moment (scroll up until you get to “THREAD,” then read down). Also, check out the XX Committee blog, written by John Schindler, the national security columnist for the New York Observer, former professor at the U.S. Naval War College, and a former counterintelligence officer and intelligence analyst at the NSA. The House of Representatives' and Senate's Intelligence Committes, as well as the FBI and intelligence teams of our allies, are all investigating the Trump Administration's ties to Russia and role in Russian interference with our election and hacking of our voting registration systems in several states (note that minorities across the country reported being unable to vote, as they were not listed on the voting rolls).

What are Trump’s general views on foreign policy? ontheissues.org has information from “every political leader on every issue.” Here’s what it found. What can we look forward to? Like most everything else right now, it’s not clear. So far, Trump appears to have no coherent foreign policy, but rather reacts impulsively to provocation, and "relies on" his generals to make decisions the President and relevant cabinet members typically make.

Trump believes (as Marco Rubio pointed out) that the conflict between Palestine and Israel needs a real estate deal, and that he alone can bring peace to the Middle East. He is heading to Israel in late May. On 1/21/17, Trump said he believes we should have “taken the oil” from Iraq during the Iraq War (which is a violation of international law). Two days later, when asked in the press briefing on 1/23 if he could “unequivocally state that this administration will not send more troops into Iraq to, as the President has put it, ‘take the oil,'" Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump’s been very clear that he doesn’t believe in signaling such future, even potentially catastrophic, actions to the citizens he represents. Trump has made this claim about taking oil from Iraq ever since 2007. Politifact fact-checking Trump's position on 9/9/16: "What Trump seems to be advocating here would be a fundamental violation of international law embodied in numerous international agreements and in recognized principles of customary international law," said Anthony Clark Arend, a Georgetown University professor of government and foreign service. Because Trump "doesn't believe" in signaling his future actions, even actions of war, to the American people (or Congress, as required by the Constitution)--and demonstrated that with his actions in Syria--it's best to watch legitimate news sources and UpholdTheseRights closely.

Beating the drums of war (with Iran)? 2/3/17

STATE DEPARTMENT. Rex Tillerson, our Secretary of State, inexplicably prefers not to talk to the Press. He is the first Secretary of State not to hold regular press conferences or to answer questions from the press. The New York Times recently reported that State employees have been instructed not to make eye contact with Tillerson. Each year, the State Dept. releases (to great fanfare) its Human Rights Watch, a report on human rights violations around the world. This year? Hardly a whisper. (Recall that Rex Tillerson, as CEO of Exxon, was given the Order of Friendship honor by Putin. Would Putin like to disappear, make invisible, defang the U.S. State Department?)

Rubio was particularly critical of Secretary Rex Tillerson's reluctance to call out human rights abuses during his Senate hearings, though he would eventually vote to confirm the former ExxonMobil executive. While Tillerson ran the oil company, he had frequent contacts with the Russian government to negotiate extraction rights, which led some to speculate that his State Department might be more tolerant of the Kremlin. --Fenwick, Patch, 3/3/17

UNITED NATIONS. Representative Mike Rogers, R-AL,introduced a bill in the House, euphemistically called the “American Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2017” (is this a monarchy?). The bill proposes that the United States terminate its membership in the UN, that the UN remove its headquarters from the US, and that the US stop participating in the World Health Organization—a disaster for international relations on all three fronts. However, snopes.com, a great fact-checking site, notes that this bill has been introduced every year for the past 20 years, and languishes in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs without ever coming to a vote.

NATO. Trump has repeatedly said he plans to pull America out of NATO, an alliance largely responsible for European-American stability since World War II, until they “pay their share.” Tillerson's recent comments to NATO underline that, while upholding the US commitment to NATO. The lack of complexity in his thinking belies his naivete regarding the purpose of NATO, which is to ensure bad actors, like Russia, don’t move against and invade smaller countries, like the Baltics or Ukraine/Crimea (which is beginning now). Yes, it is in America’s interest to have thriving, functioning democracies across Europe–and some things are more important than money.

RUSSIAN BLACKMAIL. Perhaps Trump doesn’t understand that without NATO’s presence on the Baltic States’ borders, Russia is likely to continue its annexation of neighboring countries, including its long-desired Ukraine, and Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania are once again in danger, as they were from the USSR decades ago. But perhaps Trump does understand that. Perhaps because he and his advisers could be, or are being (e.g., Flynn), blackmailed by Putin--a concern raised by our own US intelligence agencies--Trump intends to strengthen our relationship with Russia in order to avoid some catastrophe to his and his family's personal and/or business lives. Of course, his tax returns would shed light on the nature and extent of any payments received from any foreign government for any reason, including Russia. He's stated he will never release them, the first modern POTUS not to do so, despite Congressional pressure. Meanwhile, California passed legislation requiring candidates to release their taxes, so if Trump is still POTUS in 2020, he'll have to comply if he wants electoral votes from the state. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is suing to have his visitor logs released (who, exactly, is visiting him in the White House, and why?)–he's the first in modern history to refuse to do so.

Intelligence agencies’ investigations into intercepted communication between Trump’s team and Russia, and the Special Counsel investigation on Russian interference is revealing more. We can hurry the process along (see “Take Action,” below)!

SELECTIVE SERVICE AND THE DRAFT. (UPDATE 3/1: If Russian aggression towards Ukraine continues, Russia invades Estonia, China feels compelled to "defend" the South China Sea, Trump continues with his plan to put American boots on the ground in Syria, and/or Iran retaliates for Trump's "on notice" warning, we could find ourselves in yet another war. In that case, it's likely the draft would need to be reinstated.)

A fake news article which came out in January, 2016, and was immediately debunked, stated that Trump planned to reinstate the draft. There are no indications from the Trump administration that they are planning to do this. After all, Trump got draft deferments so that he didn’t have to serve in the Vietnam War. However, on 12/1/16, USA Today reported that “President Obama supports requiring women to register for Selective Service when they turn 18—becoming the first president to endorse universal draft registration since Jimmy Carter.” As it stands now, all 18-year-old men must sign up with the Selective Service, or face penalties (like being denied student loans, security clearance, and government jobs). Selective Service registration makes implementing a draft system in the event of a large-scale war or national emergency easier and quicker. Still, “no one has been drafted into the military since 1973—and indeed the last enlisted man drafted into the military retired years ago.” (Korte & Vanden Brooke)

It’s unlikely there will be a draft unless we enter a large-scale war. On 1/12/17, Russia said US [NATO] troops arriving in Poland pose a threat to its security:

Few at NATO seriously believe that war with Russia is likely but there have been dangerous developments, with escalation on both sides, including a buildup of Russian troops. Russia alarmed Poland and other eastern European states by moving nuclear-capable Iskander-M missiles to its naval base at Kaliningrad in the autumn. (MacAskill, The Guardian)

On the other hand, North Korea's, Iran's, and Russia's recent missile tests, as well as the Pentagon's recent reported willingness to put U.S. soldiers on the ground in Syria, and Tillerson's recent comment he's willing to consider "all options," including a pre-emptive strike, on North Korea all point to troubling developments.


UPDATE: Despite pressing issues on many fronts (SCOTUS decisions, healthcare) sustained action is more important than ever to ensure the Special Counsel investigation proceeds unimpeded by Trump. On 5/17, Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to investigate. (Note that the law allowing for an "independent, special prosecutor" expired in 1999; a Special Counsel is the best we can do--and have!) Note that, despite initial conficting news reports, those who authored the Special Counsel rules in 1999 clarified that Robert Mueller can be fired at any time by Trump. Read more about this situation from PBS. Should Trump move to fire him, see #3, below. Mueller has assembled a Grand Jury, which is examining evidence, and issued subpoenas regarding Trump Jr.'s meeting with the Russians (BBC), and Manafort and Flynn's Russian activities.

(1) Please note: should we embroil ourselves in or create a domestic or international crisis, no one will be paying attention to the Russian influence on our elections, or to Trump's ties to, or possible blackmail by, Putin. WE MUST, and must pressure Congress to do so (see #3, below). On Trump’s, Sessions', and Tillerson's ties to Russia:

(a) In addition to Eric Garland's (see above), read Adam Kahn’s twitter feed. (You can do this even if you don’t have twitter, by searching on @Khanoisseur using your web browser.) He’s doing excellent investigative journalism, even though he’s not a journalist. His work is thought-provoking and widely read.
(b) Any person or organization can file a Freedom of Information Act request. Do so. Ask for Trump’s tax returns, which could easily put our minds at rest about his business dealings/kickbacks received from/debts owned to Russia.
(c) Let your representative know now what you think about deploying ground troops in Syria, increasing troops in Afghanistan, and Trump's escalating threats regarding North Korea (see #3, Preventing War section, and/or StopTrump section!).
(d) Thank Reps. Crowley, Conyers, Thompson, Lowey, Schakowsky, & Raskin for standing up to demand Jeff Sessions recuse himself from investigations involving Russian interference in our democracy! Contact your House representative (see #3) and call for them to join in the fight to have Sessions fired from his post as our chief legal officer.

(2) Be watchful. Read the genuine journalistic press (see the Fake News section for who they are and aren’t, and how to tell). In the first 100 days of his administration, Trump had the most goodwill from Congress he will likely ever have, and most presidents push their biggest legislative changes in their first year in office. We are nearly there! In particular, attend to the administration’s statements and press reports about NATO, the UN, UN peacekeepers, troop movements.

(3) Immediately contact your representatives if something changes and concerns you. It’s up to us! Remember, as the Indivisible Guide notes, members of Congress are MOST concerned about their own re-election. All House members and 8 GOP Senators are up for re-election in 2018, with 22 GOP Senators up for re-election in both 2020 and 2022. If they get the sense people will vote based on their position on an issue, they will listen! It really does take only a handful of phone calls on a given topic from a representative's own constituents to influence that member of Congress. You have two House Representatives (depending on where in your state you live) and two Senators (which are the same for your entire state’s population). Find their number here: https://www.nationalpriorities.org/take-action/contact-your-representative/. When you call, remind them, politely, that the midterm elections take place in 2018, and you are keeping track of all Congressional votes. If you call outside your own district, tell them you'll be phoning their voters prior to the next election. Remember, the most effective actions you can take are (in descending order): phoning your representatives’ offices (and if lines aren't answered, write and send letters via the mail to flood their offices), visiting in person, writing op-eds/letters to the editor of news outlets, participating in town halls, protesting.

For more actions, see Stop Trump section. Other, less urgent things you can do anytime:

(4) Learn about countries outside the United States. Americans’ world geography knowledge is lacking. Here are ten ways you can improve US international relations. Learn a foreign language. Fewer Americans speak another language than do citizens of smaller countries, where it is common to come into regular contact with others speaking a variety of languages. Words and phrases used or not used in various languages give you a window into understanding how their culture thinks and their cultural priorities. If you travel there or meet a traveler here from there, knowing even a few words of another’s language builds a bridge. Given Trump's rude, offhand, hostile, attacking behavior toward our closest allies (Canada, the UK, Germany, and Australia, so far), kindness goes a long way.

(5) Traveling internationally? Concise information on cultural etiquette for almost all countries around the world. To avoid misrepresenting your country’s intentions and attitudes, and to present yourself in the best possible light, this is extremely helpful and fascinating information.

(6) Considering traveling internationally, but not sure where you want to go? U.S. News’ 2016 “best countries” rankings provides information on each country, lists on best countries for women, for adventure, cultural influence, entrepreneurship, and so on. Overall, the U.S. is behind Germany, Canada, and the UK, but it’s #14 in Quality of Life. Germany is #1 and it’s also “one of the world’s most popular migration destinations,” so clearly immigration doesn’t make a country less “great.” (also see LGBTQ Rights: Take Action)

(7) Consider corresponding with an adult pen pal in a part of the world that interests you and/or you are concerned about. Pen pals are becoming increasingly popular again, and there’s nothing like getting to know a country intimately from someone who lives there! Try apenpals.com.

Our standing in the world, 2014-2017, from Pew Research Center:

Take action on:

Preventing (Nuclear) War

Our foundational rights are threatened. Act now to save those you value most:
First Amendment Rights
Public Education
Human Rights
Foreign Policy/Preventing War
Political Action Primer