beatrice_otter: Me in red--face not shown (Default)
I call at least one politician every work day, using 5calls.org to get a rundown of an issue, a script, and the appropriate phone numbers.  For people like my Senators and Representative, I vary which office I call (DC and the two nearest my house) to spread out my impact a bit.  They don't have to get my address any more, I just give them my name and the know me.  I am polite, and when I get audibly angry about a subject, I make sure to say "I am not mad at you, it's not your fault, thank you for answering the phones."

When closing the call today, the receptionist ended the call with "talk to you soon."

beatrice_otter: This looks like a good day for World Domination (World Domination)
Need a good bit of political news?  Democrats in Delaware stood firm and kept the state blue in a special election to fill a State Senate seat that could have given a majority to Republicans if things had gone the other way.  This doesn't have as big a national impact as a US Senate election does, but it still has some impact ... and it has a potentially HUGE impact on Delaware itself.  Thank you to everyone who volunteered their time or donated money to help it happen.  And THANK YOU ESPECIALLY to all those who took the time to go vote for a special election.

Let's do it again!

The next state-level special elections are in Connecticut (February 28), Pennsylvania (March 21), and Louisiana (March 25).  There are others further out than that.  (Including Georgia 6 on April 18, which is historically Republican but which Hillary almost won.)

On the national level, the next special elections to the US House of Representatives are California district 34 (April 4), Kansas 4 (April 11), Georgia 6 (April 18), South Carolina 5 (June 20), and Montana At-Large (TBD).

Please CHECK THE LIST of upcoming special elections at Ballotpedia (general US politics encyclopedia) and Flippable (Progressive website designed to target seats that can be flipped to Democrat) and mark your calendars if you have a special election coming up.  They traditionally have low turnout, so even a small bump to one side or the other can make a difference.  Also, even if the Democrats don't win a particular election, other state politicians will be watching.  If something unusual happens--a district that has been reliably red only staying red by a much smaller margin of error than is traditional--they'll take note of it.  It will show them that the people calling them and showing up at town hall meetings aren't an isolated, small group of crackpots, nor people who are going to get burned out and stop caring, but an actual shift in the politics of their district that they're going to have to take into account if they want to keep their seats.
beatrice_otter: Me in red--face not shown (Default)
Want to bug your Congresscritters in person?  Here's a handy list of where they'll be in the next year!  Town Halls, office hours, etc.
beatrice_otter: Me in red--face not shown (Default)
From [personal profile] rydra_wong:

Hope not Hate have an urgent call for funds to try to stop Paul Nuttall of UKIP from winning the Stoke by-election (it's a real danger, would energize them a lot, and HnH's take is that Nuttall is even more right wing than Farage):

https://donate.hopenothate.org.uk/page/contribute/help-expose-nuttall

They're aiming for £5000; from the fund-raising e-mail:

The £5,000 will go towards:

15,000 ‘Nuttall Fraudster’ leaflets
5,000 letters which will be hand-delivered to key women voters in Stoke Central
A 8pp tabloid newspaper for Leigh

(Leigh is another likely upcoming by-election.)

From what I know, HnH have a very solid track record of effective campaigning against UKIP, which is one reason why Farage hates them so much.

(The libel suit is still in progress, btw.)


Good place to donate to stop fascist hate-mongers in the UK
beatrice_otter: Me in red--face not shown (Default)
The FBI and the Department of Justice are trying to put through a "small rule change" about how warrants that would have a big effect.  The Justice Department is using an obscure rule of federal criminal procedure – called Rule 41 – to sneak this expansion through.  Right now, when an FBI agent wants to hack computers of potential suspects or innocent victims of malware attacks, it has to get a warrant from a judge where the crime occurred.  That gives government hacking clear judicial oversight to make sure our Fourth Amendment rights aren’t violated and stops the FBI from hacking whomever it wants. But if the DOJ’s “small change” goes through, the FBI can shop around until it finds the right judge to sign just one warrant to hack any computers related to their case. That could mean hacking millions of computers all over the world with just one warrant.  And Congress hasn’t even held a public hearing to debate this expansion of government hacking and its potential consequences for the American people!

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon is trying to stop this with a bill called the Stopping Mass Hacking Act (S.2952).  This wouldn't stop it completely, but it would require Congress to actually talk about it before letting it pass.  You know the drill.  If computer security and government snooping are important to you, please call your congresscritter and talk to them about it.  http://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/ and http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

Here's a handy script:

I believe that the federal government already has too much ability to pry into the lives of US citizens and spy on them.  The Department of Justice is trying to greatly expand that with a change to their rules for warrants, so that they can hack large numbers of private citizens on suspicion that they may be related, without needing to justify each hack.  This is unlawful search and seizure.  Congress should stop this, or at least talk about it before letting it go through.  Please support the Stopping Mass Hacking Act bill, so that Congress and the rest of America can talk about what judicial oversight is appropriate to protect Americans from over-zealous government hacking.

beatrice_otter: Me in red--face not shown (Default)
This month, the United Nations General Assembly and President Obama will each host a summit to address the global refugee and migration crises. On September 19, the UN will be hosting a high-level summit to address large movements of refugees and migrants. The next day, President Obama will host a Leaders’ Summit on Refugees to encourage global leaders to make significant new commitments towards increasing financial support, resettlement, education, and employment opportunities for refugees.

More details and a script to call your senators and representatives with. )

Support for an overhaul of the criminal justice system surged this year after months of calls and pressure from advocates like you across the country. Decades of harsh and overly unfair prison sentencing policies have devastated communities. From overcrowding in prisons and skyrocketing federal detention costs, to countless families unnecessarily separated for small nonviolent crimes, reform is urgent now. More information and link to an email you can send your Senators about it. )

A few notes on why this is important. Politicians do not, by and large, pay attention to online petitions. You see, they long ago figured out that huge numbers of people who sign online petitions either a) don't live in their districts or b) aren't going to vote anyway. Young people are more likely to sign petitions like that, and pass them around; young people are the demographic least likely to vote. Why should a politician care about what someone who isn't going to vote thinks? Answer: they don't! But people who call their office or email them directly, those are a horse of a different color. Particularly those who talk about specific bills and whether they should or shouldn't support them. People who do that? Those are the people who are absolutely going to vote. Those are the people who are paying attention and holding them accountable. So those are the people they listen to. Do you want politicians to listen to your opinions? Then call or email them directly about specific policies, and follow it up by voting not just in national elections, but every local election too. This does not guarantee that they will do what you want all the time, or that people you agree with will get elected. But at least you have a shot this way.
beatrice_otter: When you choose an action, you choose the consequences of that action. (Action and Consequences)
The days left on the Congressional calendar are numbered, and yet, funding provisions to respond to the greatest humanitarian crisis of our lifetime have not been allocated. Congress has from now until September to pass funding bills for Fiscal Year 2017 that ensure critical funding for refugee resettlement. However, the draft text cripples the U.S. Refugee Admissions program and reduces resources for refugees at a time when our commitment to serving uprooted men, women, and children is needed most.

More details and how to help )
beatrice_otter: When you choose an action, you choose the consequences of that action. (Action and Consequences)
Graph of Citizen Voting Turnout by Age Bracket

First, consider the chart on the left.  It lists the percentage of people in each age bracket who voted in each election since 1986.  Unsurprisingly, a higher percentage in each age bracket vote during Presidential election years than in off years.  Also unsurprisingly, young people are the bottom group.  In years with a Presidential election, we usually get about the same number of 18-29 year olds voting as the next age bracket up (30-44 year olds) in off years.  The older the age group, the higher the percentage of the people who vote.  This is true across the boards.

Now.  Every politician and political strategist in the country has seen this chart or one like it, I guarantee.  Put yourself in their shoes.  They need to win an election.  Who should they court? ).

When you choose an action, you choose the consequences of that action.  When you desire a consequence you had damned well better take the action that would create it.--Lois McMaster Bujold, Memory

beatrice_otter: Cover of Janelle Monae's Archandroid album (Archandroid)
The Moral Economy of Tech, by Maciej Ceglowski
The feeling of competence, control and delight in discovering a clever twist that solves a difficult problem is what makes being a computer programmer sometimes enjoyable.

But as anyone who's worked with tech people knows, this intellectual background can also lead to arrogance. People who excel at software design become convinced that they have a unique ability to understand any kind of system at all, from first principles, without prior training, thanks to their superior powers of analysis. Success in the artificially constructed world of software design promotes a dangerous confidence.

Today we are embarked on a great project to make computers a part of everyday life. As Marc Andreessen memorably frames it, "software is eating the world". And those of us writing the software expect to be greeted as liberators.

Our intentions are simple and clear. First we will instrument, then we will analyze, then we will optimize. And you will thank us.

But the real world is a stubborn place.
An interesting piece on technology, arrogance, politics, and the modern surveillance state.
beatrice_otter: SG-1--Master Bra'tac, staff held high (Bra'tac is Awesome)
So remember that Puerto Rico is, because of weird loopholes in US law and terrible management, in crippling debt?  And because of more loopholes, was going to have to pay creditors instead of basic services like hospitals unless Congress did something?

Congress actually did something: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2016/06/29/senate-poised-to-act-on-puerto-rico-debt-days-before-debt-cliff/

The problem is not fixed; PR still has huge amounts of debt to pay off.  But at least now they can pay for basic services like schools and hospitals before paying off the hedge fund vultures.
beatrice_otter: Me in red--face not shown (Default)
[personal profile] rydra_wong has a great post on why Brexit is a bad idea. If you can vote in the referendum, please do so!

I actually think that decent people can disagree about whether the UK should leave the EU. There's even a left-wing case for Leave that can be made, though nobody's really trying to make it.

(Pragmatically: there are a lot of credible and knowledgeable voices saying that it would be an economic disaster, which, given our government, also means more “austerity”: more people starving and more people driven to suicide.)

But in the last few weeks, it's suddenly turned out that we're no longer debating "Should the UK be in the EU?", we're apparently now debating "Immigrants: how much do we hate them?". And the answer seems to be "Quite a lot".

We also seem to be debating “Do you want a new government made up of Boris Johnson (a completely amoral opportunist clawing his way into power by posing as a adorably-befuddled tousle-haired buffoon), Michael Gove, and Nigel Farage?”

...

beatrice_otter: Les Mis stage show singing "One Day More" (One Day More)
Tomorrow the Senate is going to vote on a bill that has an amendment that would allow the FBI access to your internet metadata without a warrant: account numbers, who you talk to and when, where you were when you did it, browsing history, and more.  All they'd need is a National Security Letter, which doesn't require any court oversight.

Here's a handy widget to help you call your Senators to ask them NOT to allow warrantless metadata snooping.  It will also give you a script to read--you don't have to do anything but read the script and tell them your name and address when prompted.  (I also took the time to express how unhappy I was that the legislation to close the loopholes in background checks gun purchases was voted down yesterday.)

beatrice_otter: Supergirl Victory (Supergirl Victory)
I've posted a couple of action alerts to call-email your congressmen about the debt crisis in Puerto Rico.  On Thursday, the House passed the legislation!  WITH the child poverty amendment attached!  Yay!  That's awesome.

Now it just needs to get through the Senate.  If you would like to email your senator to encourage them to vote for it, Jubilee USA has a form here.

beatrice_otter: Me in red--face not shown (Default)
The European Union is currently coming up with regulations for net neutrality. Regulators will finalize their guidelines by the end of August. They’ve published a draft, and there are some really bad loopholes.

Here's what the loopholes are, why they're bad, and how to fix them: )

United States and Child Nutrition: the U.S. House of Representatives could vote soon on a bill that would roll back years of positive steps toward eliminating childhood hunger in the U.S.

What the problem is and how to email your congresspeople )

beatrice_otter: Me in red--face not shown (Default)
As you may know, Puerto Rico is facing a huge debt crisis that has triggered an even bigger humanitarian crisis.  This crisis has come from two parts: first, the US's really screwy laws about Puerto Rico, with all kinds of weird and arcane loopholes just begging for exploitation by the unscrupulous, and second, Puerto Rico's government's own mismanagement, taking advantage of parts of those loopholes without looking at the longterm costs.  These two factors have left Puerto Rico in a really terrible situation, deep in debt with vulture funds demanding payment before social services like schools and hospitals are paid for.

Here's what you can do )

beatrice_otter: What are we Protesting against? (Protest)

Many households facing financial struggles may look to short term loans in order to cover emergency expenses. In some states, payday lending companies that claim to provide needed support charge interest rates of 300% or more to borrowers. Steep interest rates and hidden fees can often surprise and trap those not able to quickly repay loans. This leads too many families into a “debt trap” that requires them to continue to take out more payday loans just to keep their regular bills paid. Right now, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has the power to curb this predatory debt trap.

 

How to act )
beatrice_otter: All true wealth is biological (Wealth)
Here's an action alert from Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services:

the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is planning renewed deportation efforts targeting children and families who fled to the U.S. from Central America seeking protection. As with the enforcement actions that occurred just after Christmas 2015, the Administration again claims it will target for deportation only children and families with no legal claim to stay in the United States. Many of these mothers and children are refugees, but the process is unfairly tilted against them.

More information and what you can do to help )
beatrice_otter: All true wealth is biological (Wealth)
You all know the horrors of the Flint water crisis. There's a bi-partisan Senate bill to enable federal funding to help fix the crisis, so Americans might want to contact your congresscritters to tell them to vote for it.

Read more... )

beatrice_otter: Me in red--face not shown (Default)
Another congressional action alert for US peeps!

Guys, if you watch John Oliver you know just how screwed Puerto Rico is right now.


Short version: huge numbers of bizarre loopholes in US laws (since PR is a territory and not a state) let the PR government play fast and loose with finances and make some decisions with shitty long-term consequences that are now coming home to roost, with catastrophic consequences for PR, leaving them in HUGE debt.  Basic services like hospitals and schools are being closed left and right.  They need the ability to restructure their debt and get some breathing room for a long-term solution, and need Congressional approval to do it.

Guess what!  YOU TOO can call your congressional representative and urge them to let PR restructure itself!  Jubilee USA has a handy dandy little form that a) gives you your representatives phone number and b) gives you a script to read.

As always, directly calling or emailing your representative has a LOT more impact than signing a petition online.  Using the above form, it is SOOPER EASY.

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