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Trump Issues Pardons and Creates Nuisances for the Biden/Harris Team on his Way Out the Door 

Brief #2—US Resist Blog
By Sean Gray
Trump’s last days were marked by chaos, scandal and general ineptitude. Donald Trump’s swan song as a one term president has been unlike any before him. Self dealing and empty bombast have been the cornerstone of Trump’s political brand. With his tenure at an end, those chickens have come home to roost. Trump faces a second impeachment trial for his inciting role in the siege at the Capital.

read more

Progress in Policing in 2020

Brief #4—Social Justice
By Laura Plummer
Two-thousand and twenty was a year defined by unprecedented hardship. A deadly global pandemic ravaged the country and crippled whole sectors of the economy. A contentious presidential election divided the nation, and killings of black and brown people by police officers sparked yearlong protests against police brutality.

The Black Lives Matter movement gained popular support last year as it exposed the systemic racism inherent in American policing. More than any previous year, communities started organizing to demand comprehensive police reform and to hold their leaders and elected officials accountable. The following list explores the progress achieved in policing in 2020 at the federal and state levels.

read more

 The Covid-era Classroom

Brief #52—Education
By Emily Carty 
The “traditional” classroom is facing an identity crisis. As teachers throughout the country have turned to remote learning or modified in-person learning, the classroom as we know it is changing. With distancing in the classroom, learning on electronic devices, and everyone in masks, the physical attributes of a modern classroom will certainly be different at least until the pandemic subsides.

read more

Damage Assessment Continues One Month After Massive Cyber Attack

Brief #31—Technology
By Charles A Rubin
In December 2020 Solarwinds, a major provider of computer network monitoring software, revealed that several of its servers that were used to distribute software updates to customers had been compromised. The servers had been routinely delivering altered code to computer networks throughout the US government and corporations that gave nefarious actors unfettered access to communications and internal systems. The malware created multiple “backdoors” that could be exploited in the future. Further, this compromise had gone undetected for several months. One month later the full extent of the intrusion is still not fully understood and the amount of information that has been exposed has not been completely assessed.

read more

Retired Military Veteran, A “Shy Voter”

Brief #2—Americans on America
By Linda F Hersey
A rigged system that favored Democrat Joe Biden unseated President Donald Trump. That is the blunt assessment of Election 2020 by a Trump supporter so timid about candidly expressing views that he declined to give his name or other identifying information during an hour-long interview with US Resist News about America’s values that quickly veered into politics.

read more

Biden’s Plan for an Ailing Country

Brief #104—Economic
By Rosalind Gottfried
President elect Joe Biden’s 1.9 trillion dollar stimulus plan provides a comprehensive assault on what ails America and reinstates some of the controversial elements rejected by Republicans in the $900 billion December plan.  Most notable is a reinstatement of 350 billion dollars to bolster state and local budgets suffering shortfalls largely attributable to the pandemic crisis.  It also includes 400 billion dollars of pandemic aid to vaccinate Americans and open schools.  Biden set a goal to vaccinate 100 million Americans in his first 100 days in office. 

read more

The Public Health System in the US: Does it Work?

Brief #91—Health & Gender
By Justin Lee
Newly inaugurated President Biden nominated Xavier Becerra to lead and be the next Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The HHS is comprised of various public health and human services agencies and offices that provide guidance, oversee and regulate operations, and establish laws and regulations. Agencies like the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (lead by the Surgeon General) all branch within the HHS.

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Trump Issues Pardons and Creates Nuisances for the Biden/Harris Team on his Way Out the Door 

USRESIST NEWS Blog

The Trump Watch:  A new USRESIST NEWS Blog Post series intended to report on the activities of President Trump at the end of his Presidency and after he leaves the White House.

# 2 Trump Issues Pardons and Creates Nuisances for the Biden/Harris Team on his Way Out the Door 

By Sean Gray

Trump’s last days were marked by chaos, scandal and general ineptitude. Donald Trump’s swan song as a one term president has been unlike any before him. Self dealing and empty bombast have been the cornerstone of Trump’s political brand. With his tenure at an end, those chickens have come home to roost. Trump faces a second impeachment trial for his inciting role in the siege at the Capital. His use of pardons is coming under close scrutiny. And though he mostly abdicated governing since failing to acknowledge his November election loss, he took care to try to impede the Biden administration before it begins.

Donald Trump was as likely to be impeached twice as any president ever will be. For all the partisan bickering over his conduct in office, he was seldom held to account in any meaningful way. There existed more appetite for doing so in the final hours of his term. Organizing and instigating the insurrection at the Capital building was apparently a bridge too far in the eyes of his Republican allies. So much so that 10 GOP House members, along with the entirety of the Democratic caucus voted for the Articles of Impeachment against him. That prospect was unthinkable last time around.

With his term of office ended, a potential Senate trial serves as more of a referendum on Trump as a political  more than anything else. When a trial begins, it will be after Trump is already out of office. Also different than the previous Senate trial, when the jury was publicly and vocally in the bag, most of Trump’s GOP confederates have been quite open in their condemnation of his behavior. If convicted by a 2/3 majority after exiting office, Trump would lose his presidential pension and a host of related perks. Soon-to-be Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, rather than whipping votes has told his Republican colleagues that their vote is ‘’one of conscience’’. No greater testament exists to how far Trump’s political star has fallen since his abortive coup on January 6th. Of most consequence in a post-presidency Senate trial would be a vote following conviction to bar Trump from holding office again, which would require only a simple majority. A vote to end Trump’s 2024 bid before it starts would serve as a thorough repudiation of him, at the risk of alienating an intensely loyal voting bloc.

Presidential pardon power is near absolute. Trump hasn’t shied from using it on felons in his orbit, as in the cases of Roger Stone or Paul Manafort. Once again he has demonstrated that norms are worthless if they’re ignored without consequence. Trump has treated his entire presidency transactionally on a personal level. His last few days have proven no exception. According to The New York Times, wealthy felons have spent good money to bend the outgoing president’s ear as he reviews the clemency process. Brett Tolman, a former federal prosecutor brought in to assist in the process has allegedly collected tens of thousands of dollars from deep-pocketed convicts looking to lobby Trump. He’s advocated on behalf of an imprisoned son of an Arkansas state senator, a Manhattan socialite who pled guilty in a fraud case, and Silk Road founder Russ Ulbricht. The lawyer brought in to assist this president with pardons and commutations monetizing the process is perhaps the most spot-on characterization of the Trump administration.

Former and current Trump attorneys John Down and Rudy Giuliani are also reportedly active in the pardon-lobby racket. Giuliani, who Trump has refused to pay for his recent legal work in relation to overturning the 2020 election, has taken the pay-for play scheme to audacious levels. Rather than mere ‘’access fees’’, Giuliani has taken an interest in the case of former CIA officer John Kiriakou. Kiriakou was convicted in 2012 for revealing the identity of a fellow CIA officer involved in torture overseas. Giuliani reportedly told Kiriakou a pardon would cost him $2 million, a price tag at which the latter balked. An associate of the former CIA officer informed the FBI of the conversation.

Such lobbying efforts appear to have been effective. A great many recipients of last minute pardons were wealthy, well-connected individuals; a fitting commentary on Trump’s political priorities from the beginning.

Steve Bannon, alt-right provocateur and Trump’s 2016 campaign manager was facing federal fraud charges related to swindling donors in the private financing of a southern border wall.

Eliot Brody, once-convicted fraudster and former head of the Republican National Convention pled guilty in October 2020 of acting as an unregistered foreign agent. He lobbied the Trump administration on behalf of the Chinese and Malaysian governments.

Each is off scot free and with seemingly little reason other than an intimate connection to Donald Trump. No other pardonees were as close to the seat of power, but convictions and accusations of fraud are the most prevailing trends among the other beneficiaries. A man awaiting sentencing in the Varsity Blues scandal received a pardon. As did the former husband of Fox News host, Jeannine Pirro, who had been convicted of tax evasion. Over a dozen pardons were issued to politicians of either party engaged in various acts of self-enriching misconduct. Some of the pardons issued did go towards more traditional and deserving recipients, such as those who’d served time, and shown a degree of contrition. But by and large, most of the issuances by Trump were a nod to the swamp he pledged to drain four years ago.

Unscrupulous as it may appear, neither Trump nor associates have run afoul of the law. Pardons are intended to ease punishment of offenders who’ve shown contrition, though it is not a hard-and-fast rule. The usual channel runs through a dedicated office within the Department of Justice. Dowd, Giuliani and Tolman are involved in what amounts to legal bribery. Their conduct violates the spirit of, but not the actual letter of the law. These ethical considerations provide ample food for thought without even mentioning an attempt by Trump to pardon himself.

Trump has still yet to and probably won’t acknowledge Biden as the legitimate president. As a parting gift to the incoming ‘’election, Trump has attempted to plant a few landmines for the Biden/Harris team.

In a letter to Congress, Trump has sought to freeze $27.5 billion in funding to key cabinet agencies. A provision in the 1974 Budget Impoundment and Control Act allows him to request freeze and rescind budget authority in specific areas. The proposed cuts, among them to the Environmental Protection Agency, mostly coincide with the ones rejected in Trump’s 2021 budget. With Democrats in control of all three branches of government, the move is unlikely to stick, or do anything more than delay inevitable funding to federal programs. Still, Trump’s attempt at forced austerity on his successor (after a term in which he ballooned the national debt) signal his intentions loud and clear.

With less than 72 hours left in his term, Trump nominated a political ally for the role of General Counsel at the National Security Agency. Michael Ellis is a former GOP operative and White House aide who also worked for blind Trump loyalist, Rep. Devin Nunes. He was involved in covering-up the call which led to Trump’s impeachment and fed disinformation to Nunes, which he used in an attempt to discredit Robert Mueller’s investigation. Such a partisan actor in what is supposed to be a strictly apolitical role would be problematic at anytime. For Trump to do so with less than three days remaining in his term is irregular and irresponsible. Politicizing intelligence helped Trump discredit information unflattering to him, and amplify intelligence he found agreeable, regardless of veracity. It also weakened national security and sowed confusion. Appointing a political hack to the top legal position in the NSA can only reinforce dangerous precedents. It also creates another headache for the incoming administration to contend with.

Trump’s budget maneuver is likely to be little more than a nuisance. Ellis’ appointment (to a civil service, not a political role) may be more difficult to undo. Notes of pettiness and sabotage may be detected in both. Each case was among several reported fires the Trump administration has started on the way out. It begs the question of what other nasty surprises await Biden/Harris upon assuming office.

Progress in Policing in 2020

Brief # 4 Social Justice

Policing in America Series: An ongoing  series that covers efforts to reform policing in America, written by USRESIST NEWS Reporter Laura Plummer.

Progress in Policing in 2020

January 19, 2021

Summary

Two-thousand and twenty was a year defined by unprecedented hardship. A deadly global pandemic ravaged the country and crippled whole sectors of the economy. A contentious presidential election divided the nation, and killings of black and brown people by police officers sparked yearlong protests against police brutality.

The Black Lives Matter movement gained popular support last year as it exposed the systemic racism inherent in American policing. More than any previous year, communities started organizing to demand comprehensive police reform and to hold their leaders and elected officials accountable. The following list explores the progress achieved in policing in 2020 at the federal and state levels.

Federal Level:
House and Senate Democrats unveiled the Justice in Policing Act to ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants, improve reporting on police misconduct and make it easier to prosecute police officers for misconduct.

Senate Republicans introduced a bill to improve reporting in police departments, apply harsher penalties for falsified documents, provide funding for de-escalation training, and establish a commission for criminal justice reform.

U.S. representatives introduced a bill in the House to end qualified immunity.

House Democrats introduced the George Floyd Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act to implement national policing standards, require agencies to report data to the DOJ, and increase oversight.

Pres. Trump signed the Executive Order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities, providing financial resources to departments that meet certain standards set by the attorney general.

State Level:
The Arkansas governor signed an executive order to establish a police task force to review its community policing policies.

California’s governor called for the banning of chokeholds. The California attorney general recommended key reforms.

Colorado passed a bill to ban chokeholds and tear gas, remove qualified immunity, require body cameras, prevent fired officers from being rehired, and hold officers accountable for not intervening.

The Connecticut governor required state police to stop using chokeholds and receiving military gear and to start using body cameras at all times. He signed a bill to increase oversight, review use-of-force policies, ban consent searches, investigate police shootings and weaken qualified immunity.

The Iowa governor signed a bill to ban chokeholds, prevent fired officers from being rehired, require anti-bias and de-escalation training, and weaken qualified immunity.

Massachusetts proposed several bills regarding use of force, hiring standards, and criminal justice reform.

The Michigan State Senate passed a bill to require mental health screenings for prospective officers and training in implicit bias and de-escalation for current officers.

The Minnesota State Legislature banned chokeholds and antiquated training programs, introduced trained peace officers, and improved investigations into fatal police encounters.

The New Hampshire governor issued an order on police reforms, including the use of body cameras by all state police.

New Jersey banned chokeholds and similar restraints.

The New York governor signed bills related to police misconduct, chokeholds, racial profiling, body cameras and reporting requirements. He also made departments come up with plans for reform in order to qualify for state funding.

Pennsylvania’s governor approved sweeping changes to policing, including background checks and mental health evaluations, a termination database, and training on use of force and de-escalation.The Rhode Island State Police agreed to obtain and use body cameras.

Tennessee House Democrats introduced a series of police reforms regarding use of force.

Analysis

At the federal level, most legislation introduced in the House in 2020 was not taken up by the Republican-controlled Senate. Only 14 states proposed significant changes to police policy last year and some of it was dead on arrival. In some cases, legislation is still pending. Readers can continue to put pressure on their governors and lawmakers to overhaul this historically racist institution. 

Resources

 The Covid-era Classroom

Brief #  52 Education Policy

 The Covid-era Classroom

By Emily Carty 

January 21, 2021

The “traditional” classroom is facing an identity crisis. As teachers throughout the country have turned to remote learning or modified in-person learning, the classroom as we know it is changing. With distancing in the classroom, learning on electronic devices, and everyone in masks, the physical attributes of a modern classroom will certainly be different at least until the pandemic subsides.

So far teachers have been reporting several new aspects of the modern covid-classroom. The CDC has provided educational centers with guidelines for reopening and arranging classrooms so students and teachers will be safe. Many school districts have added onto those recommendations or have created more rigorous requirements for reopening. These requirements are the, by now, familiar six feet of distancing, directional walking patterns, and limited capacity of students indoors. While teachers are mostly required to wear masks, in some cases it’s up to the teacher to decide if students must wear them in the class. Either way, a masked classroom is a definitive marker that things have changed.

With little control over the space and desks spread six feet apart, classrooms in the Covid-era are literally and figuratively sterile. One resource for teachers suggests we consider if “we have signage that cares for all or produces fear.” Ensuring students feel welcome at school and in the classroom will be key to success. Teachers must work within these space constraints to create a learning environment with choice and safe movement. Educators are familiar with the model that choice and movement within the educational space is beneficial for learning. Providing students with spatial options, while having them remain near or at their desks will be challenging but likely necessary to promote engagement. This might look like mask breaks outside, standing near their desk for a portion of class, or even sitting on their desk. Since reading nooks and close discussion groups will be on hold, new ideas for movement in and outside will be crucial.

When it comes to classroom supplies, teachers worry about the extra costs and time that sanitation practices might require. While teachers don’t necessarily control the ventilation systems, and many are without classroom sinks for handwashing, building in sanitation and hygiene practices will be critical. Things like sanitation stations upon entering the classroom and wipes on desks, or individual sanitation kits instead, could be implemented and systematized for rapid use before instruction.

While these things are doable in theory, the cost of Covid is  proving tough for teachers. The New York Times reported one teacher’s solution to the risk of contracting the virus — makeshift desk dividers from shower curtains. Another teacher spent nearly $2000 of their own money on Covid-related supplies. For one special education teacher and choir teacher, challenges of space, materials, and the physical appearance of the teacher with PPE have already made themselves apparent.

Minimizing contact with other students, and especially other classes or grades throughout the school day are the driving factors for school and classroom changes. Some hybrid-learning models require students to be on a zoom call with their peers at home or even across the classroom. This promotes community, but also ensures distance. Screens in the classroom can facilitate collaboration despite a distance. For schools in session, staggered bell schedules, students remaining in one classroom all day, and classes spread out into new spaces are the norm. Regulating when and where students can walk through the halls is also built into Covid-safe plans. With regard to lunch, some students are sitting six feet apart, on the same side of the table, so they can avoid facing one another. Some recommendations to normalize this new and ever-changing spatial order at school are to focus on routines to give students some sort of structure no matter where they are learning.

Another thing teachers are considering is repurposing existing spaces where possible. If students aren’t to be sitting directly next to one another, purchasing new desks or rearranging seats will be necessary. Additionally, classes might need to be moved so that there is more room. If possible using the gym or an outdoor space could be a way to maximize space between students and minimize the risk of Covid. It has also been recommended that schools use smooth and easy-to-clean surfaces (no more colorful class rugs!) in the near future, as it will make disinfecting surfaces much quicker and easier. Teachers have been doing this throughout the pandemic, but constraints of funding, space, weather, and safety are real. Not every school or teacher has the money, flexibility or weather to create a great outdoor classroom, buy protective gear to deck out the class and students, or replace old materials and decorations with easy-to-clean ones. Nor does every school have ample space for moving around, using empty rooms, or distancing students.

New teachers reflect on their first year during a pandemic, and while they expect things to be different, most are relatively positive that this era will turn out great because of the passion and love for education that teachers hold. While teachers are remaining strong, many US classrooms will be without the generous support from parents, paraeducators, and other staff who take on myriad tasks to ensure teachers can focus on teaching. With limited adults in the classroom to minimize risk of Covid, some teachers with large classes will have to revise strategies so that lack of in-class support won’t be an issue.

With all of these considerations, students and safety are being placed at the forefront. At the end of the day everyone is working with what they have, or don’t have, with safety being prioritized. As the pandemic rages on, schools will continue to refine their plan, with hopes set on Biden’s support for education. With increased and equitable financial support, schools will be able to do a better job at keeping everyone safe and learning throughout the pandemic.

Engagement Resources

American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education — This membership association has resources for teachers and educators to advocate for policy and legislation related to schools, teaching, and professional development. It provides great tools for reaching out to your representatives, learning about relevant policy, and teaching equitably in the Covid-era.

National Education Association – EdJustice — NEA EdJustice provides lots of resources to take action for education justice. It puts students at the center and has a fabulous collection of resources addressing equity, racial justice, social justice, and more. Join their community to get updates on justice initiatives, sign petitions, or find resources for teaching and learning mindfully in Covid times.

Adopt A Classroom — Find a Teacher or School in your area and donate directly to them! This accountable and easy to use platform allows you to find educators in your area who need support and provides you with a way to directly contribute to them.

Learn More

Damage Assessment Continues One Month After Massive Cyber Attack

Brief #31 – Technology

By Charles A. Rubin

Damage Assessment Continues One Month After Massive Cyber Attack

Policy Summary

In December 2020 Solarwinds, a major provider of computer network monitoring software, revealed that several of its servers that were used to distribute software updates to customers had been compromised. The servers had been routinely delivering altered code to computer networks throughout the US government and corporations that gave nefarious actors unfettered access to communications and internal systems. The malware created multiple “backdoors” that could be exploited in the future. Further, this compromise had gone undetected for several months. One month later the full extent of the intrusion is still not fully understood and the amount of information that has been exposed has not been completely assessed.

Cybersecurity experts are in general agreement that the perpetrator was likely a state actor and most probably the Russian State security agency, the SVR, and specifically the group known as APT29 or more commonly referred to as Cozy Bear. President Trump has been dismissive of this assessment suggesting, without evidence, that China may be the culprit.

Analysis

There is an adage among cybersecurity professionals that there are two kinds of organizations; those that have been hacked and those that don’t know that they have been hacked.  Because of the nature of this attack; hijacking and compromising the software supply chain, all networks that communicate over the internet should be suspicious and wary. It can only be presumed that any email or file has potentially been exposed. It is a frightening thought and a terrifying lapse in our defenses.

The US Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has highlighted critical infrastructure as an active target in this attack, the Department of Energy is investigating a breach of the National Nuclear Security Administration, which maintains the US nuclear weapons stockpile, according to a report in Politico. Several major software vendors including Microsoft, Cisco and Alphabet (the parent company of Google) have reported breaches and probable theft of their source code raising concerns that further attacks based on information gleaned from that code could be imminent.

CISA, which performed admirably, in protecting the US election system in the November and January elections, was caught completely off guard by the scope of these violations. We can only hope that the cause of this was the Trump administration insistence that Russia was not a threat. A Biden Administration, we trust, will have a more sober and reality based approach to cyber defense.

Engagement Resources

  1. SANS Institute –  Established in 1989 as a cooperative research and education organization, SANS is a go-to place for security industry professionals for education and analysis of security threats.
  2. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) is part of the Department of Homeland Security charged with repelling attacks and informings the public.
  3. AISP – The Association of Information Security Professionalsthe is a leading organization for security professionals worldwide.
  4. Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) s a not-for-profit, international organization of information security professionals and practitioners.

Retired Military Veteran, A “Shy Voter”

USRESIST NEWS Investigates

Americans on America: What My Country Means to Me

Americans on America is a USRESIST NEWS investigative reporting  series with ordinary Americans on the values that they believe their country stands for and what needs to be done to enable their country to live up to those values

# 2  Retired Military Veteran, A “Shy Voter”  

I believe America has lost its core values, namely respect at home and abroad. Our democracy,  freedom, and the right to privacy are all at risk.

By Linda F. Hersey

A rigged system that favored Democrat Joe Biden unseated President Donald Trump.

That is the blunt assessment of Election 2020 by a Trump supporter so timid about candidly expressing views that he declined to give his name or other identifying information during an hour-long interview with US Resist News about America’s values that quickly veered into politics.

Nourished by a steady diet of conservative opinions on radio talk shows that he turns on before dawn each day, this voter expressed reluctance about sharing his own opinions publicly for fear of being judged and ostracized. He worried that friends and neighbors may recognize him.

Dubbed the “shy voter” during the 2020 presidential election, this retired white military veteran expressed anger, confusion and a sense of betrayal about his own perceived status in a nation undergoing vast changes in demographics and the economy, in what many experts call the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This “shy voter” admits to feeling left behind and marginalized.

There are many other voters just like him.

Has the U.S. Lost Its Core Values?

More important, he believes that the U.S. has lost its core values, namely respect at home and abroad. “I got respect from my service in the military. But there is a big decline in respect today,” he said.

What are the traditional American values that this voter cherishes the most – and feels are at risk? “Democracy, freedom and the right to privacy,” he said, quickly ticking off a list. “I’ve had the freedom to live and work where I want,” he said. “But all of this seems threatened today.”

He blames the decline he sees in American values on entitlement programs. “There has been a breakdown in society of values. People have unrealistic expectations about what the government should do for them.”

In an interview with US Resist News, this so-called shy Trump voter admitted to voting the GOP ticket for most of his adult life. But he described the outgoing commander-in-chief as “the most important president of my lifetime. And,” he asserted, “The election was stolen right from under him.”

He said he admired Trump’s willingness to voice fears and concerns that people just like him share but keep to themselves.

Undercounting the ‘Shy’ Trump Voter

Dutch economist Arie Kapteyn, a researcher at the University of Southern California, aptly predicted that polls would undercount “shy Trump voters” like him, who were not disclosing their support for a second Trump term or the reasons behind it.

Robert Cahaly, founder of the Trafalgar Group polling company, echoed that conclusion prior to the election, telling Politico that it is difficult for many Trump supporters to talk candidly about their views: “We live in a country where people will lie to their accountant, they’ll lie to their doctor, they’ll lie to their priest. And we’re supposed to believe they shed all of that when they get on the telephone with a stranger?”

This “shy voter” – who served in the military for two decades prior to retiring — said he strongly identifies with Trump, whom he sees as a victim, just like himself. “Donald Trump and his entire family served this country, and never got a moment of peace,” he said. “Any country bumpkin can see he was robbed of his victory.”

Economic Structural Changes Lead to Uncertainty

He blames the struggling economy not on setbacks from the Covid19 pandemic but on people who are abusing the “welfare system and taking government handouts for generations.” A smaller government would serve everyone better, he argues.

Economists point to job layoffs from shelter-in-place orders to limit the spread of Covid19 for business slowdowns that may extend well into 2021.

In addition, there are structural changes in the U.S. and global economy under way that lead to uncertainty for many about the future, giving rise to the nationalism that Trump espoused.

Major disruptions in the U.S. economy and other advanced nations are occurring from automation of traditional jobs that used human labor, referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The growing knowledge economy, which has emerged in its place, has a smaller number of high-paying jobs filled by well-educated, technologically skilled workers, while middle and working class jobs have been “hollowed out.” That leaves increasing competition for low-paying, unskilled service jobs.

Trump, by contrast, presents supporters with an old-world view of the U.S. that is more about domination than the educational opportunities, cooperation and diplomacy required in a globalized digital economy. “Everything is moving too fast today,” said this voter. “I wish we could go back to simpler times.”

Engagement Resources

  • Politico is an American political journalism company.
  • Trafalgar Group is a U.S. political polling company.
  • Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, D.C., that informs the public about policy, politics and trends shaping America.

Biden’s Plan for an Ailing Country

Brief #104

Biden’s Plan for an Ailing Country

Rosalind Gottfried        

January 17, 2021

Policy

President elect Joe Biden’s 1.9 trillion dollar stimulus plan provides a comprehensive assault on what ails America and reinstates some of the controversial elements rejected by Republicans in the $900 billion December plan.  Most notable is a reinstatement of 350 billion dollars to bolster state and local budgets suffering shortfalls largely attributable to the pandemic crisis.  It also includes 400 billion dollars of pandemic aid to vaccinate Americans and open schools.  Biden set a goal to vaccinate 100 million Americans in his first 100 days in office.

To address the needs of individuals and families, Biden is providing $1400 dollars in direct payments to individuals; up to $8000 in childcare tax credits; federal subsidies of $400 weekly for unemployment benefits through September; sustained pandemic relief payments to freelance and other workers not normally eligible for unemployment benefits; emergency paid leave; and rental aid.  Grants to small businesses will also aid in sustaining the well-being of families.

Other provisions include raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour; increased funding for Community Health Centers and funding to mitigate the spread of the pandemic in prisons and jails.  Additional programs to address the exponentially increasing crisis of hunger, particularly among children, are also addressed.  Biden plans a broader set of programs to be proposed in February starting with raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

Analysis

Of course, all this hinges upon passage of the bills in Congress where the Democrats have a narrow lead in the House and are tied with Republicans in the Senate.   Biden’s plan is 50% greater than the program passed in 2009 by the Obama administration in response to the great recession.  That plan was narrowly passed among sharp dissension.  Biden’s plan enjoys some support absent in the Obama era, such as from entities like the Chamber of Commerce.  The pathway to success is tenuous at best.  The Democratic leadership expects major Congressional resistance and is unlikely to get the 60 Senate votes needed to avoid a filibuster.  The Democrats are hoping to invoke the budget reconciliation process to bypass the filibuster, a strategy Trump utilized to pass his 2017 tax cuts. In the February program Biden hopes to address job creation; infrastructure projects; clean energy programs, and more.

The stimulus will be funded by borrowing and the Biden administration suggests that this is not alarming because inflation and the interest rates are low.  He is likely to argue that the top 1% richest Americans gained 1.5 trillion dollars in assets since the pandemic.  Financial institutions are flush; JP Morgan posted profits of 12.1 billion dollars in the last quarter and BlackRock showed increases of 19%.   The administration will refer to these trends to reassure policy makers and representatives that the country can cover an increased debt.  The Democrats are planning major overhauls to the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage programs which would build capital reserves and may ultimately lead to privatization of these government supported entities. Additionally there is pent up demand for goods and services and from personal savings that have accrued to some parts of the population during the pandemic shutdown which should bolster the budgets in the recovery.

In the coming weeks President elect Biden is expected to propose additional  programs to address multiple crises in the country frequently cited in the news.  These include economic recovery; virus containment; racial injustice; inequality; a financially and politically disaffected working and middle class; climate change; and myriad other issues reflected in new levels of partisan bickering. USRESIST NEWS will provide our readers with information and analysis of Biden administration policies as they are rolled out.

 

Learn More

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/14/business/economy/biden-stimulus-plan.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article

https://www.npr.org/2021/01/14/956940196/-1-400-checks-and-help-for-the-jobless-whats-in-bidens-plan-to-rescue-the-econom

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/15/business/dealbook/biden-economy-deficit.html

Engagement Resources

https://joebiden.com/the-biden-emergency-action-plan-to-save-the-economy/

Biden’s program website

The Public Health System in the US: Does it Work?

Brief # 91

Health and Gender Policy

The Public Health System in the US: Does it Work?

By Justin Lee

January 19,2021

 

Policy

Newly inaugurated President Biden nominated Xavier Becerra to lead and be the next Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The HHS is comprised of various public health and human services agencies and offices that provide guidance, oversee and regulate operations, and establish laws and regulations. Agencies like the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (lead by the Surgeon General) all branch within the HHS.

As the HHS presides as the federal entity in setting public health policies and guidance, the responsibility of protecting the public health of Americans primarily lies within  state and local governments. State health agencies collect and analyze health data and are responsible for implementing national and state mandates. The states also have the power to set certain policies and standards of their own. Local health departments are more the “front line” agencies, responsible for health education, screening, immunizations, disease control and health/mental/ambulatory services within its jurisdiction.

This system of distributing public health responsibility and power between federal, state, and local levels provides a level of autonomy and governance to the state and local health agencies. But does this system work? Like China, should the federal government dictate public health and decrease the power of state and local agencies to ensure federal orders are carried out nationwide?

 

Analysis

It is clear that China, and many east Asian countries, have handled the COVID-19 pandemic more efficiently than the US and Europe. Some of the east Asian countries had existing agencies and organizations already established to track and implement measures in an infectious disease outbreak, such as Japan. Many of the same countries also have previous experience with large scale coronavirus outbreaks, such as SARS and MERS. For many of these governments in regards to social distancing, wearing facial coverings, and contact tracing, the question was not if these measures should be implemented but rather how quick can these measures be implemented.

So given the failure of the US to establish any real nationwide contract tracing measures, and the inconsistent messaging from federal, state, and local agencies in regards to social distancing, facial coverings, and other protective measures for protecting Americans, should the US reconsider how we structure our public health system? The answer is no. The American public health system is designed to protect the public health system of all Americans, from those living in urban Los Angeles to those living in the Kentucky countryside. The state and local health agencies should have the direct power and authority to regulate and implement measures needed for the benefit of their citizens. Federal lockdown measures will affect urban Americans differently than Americans living the countryside. State and local governments should know and be able to take federal guidance and implement specific measures to their jurisdiction.

That being said, the federal government and HHS plays a critical role in American public health by setting the tone and guidance for state and local governments. The failure of the US in controlling the spread of COVID-19 and distributing approved vaccines lies from the failure of the Trump administration to provide effective leadership and guidance. Inconsistent messaging and directives regarding the importance of facial coverings, social distancing, and contact tracing in combination of delayed decisions critical in controlling the spread of the pandemic has lead to the worst health crisis in American history. Despite many east Asian countries having had a pandemic blueprint that America could have built their own response from quickly, the federal government failed to provide the consistent messaging and guidance needed to exemplify its role in protecting public health for Americans.

President Biden comes into power at a critical time where COVID-19 continues to surge in urban cities across the US, but also has the means to finally take control of the pandemic through the distribution of treatment and vaccines. President Biden and his new administration has made it clear that the pandemic is a priority in his first 100 days in office; a hopeful sign for state and local health agencies that the federal leadership and guidance that was missing could finally arrive to help.

Learn More

Helpful links

NCBI: Summary of Public Health

HHS: Family of Agencies

Reuters: Biden Pick for HHS Secretary

MarketWatch: Asia Response to COVID

Engagement Resources

The American Red Cross heavily relies on volunteers to assist during a health crisis; including the COVID-19 pandemic. Volunteers play active roles in clinical and non-clinical settings. The American Red Cross also operates one of the largest blood donation networks in the US. To volunteer in a clinical setting and/or to give blood, use the links below:

ARC: Become a Volunteer

ARC: Give Blood

Trust for America’s Health is a public health policy and research organization that advocates for a nation that values the health and well-being of Americans. Their organization has valuable information regarding health policies and issues on a federal and state level, and also actively publishes reports regarding public health on their website. To find more information or to get involved, use the link below:

TFAH Website

The American Public Health Association is an organization aimed to Improve the health of the public and achieve equity in health status. As the main publishers for the American Journal of Public Health and The Nation’s Health newspapers, APHA educates the public on public health, policy statements, and advocacy for public health. To volunteer or become a member, use the link below:

APHA Website

Fixation on Fixtures; The Showerhead Rollbacks

Environmental Policy

Brief # 106

Fixation on Fixtures; The Showerhead Rollbacks

Shannon Q Elliott

January 18, 2021

President Trump has rolled back the Department of Energy’s (DOE) standards for consumer appliances. It was concluded that the performance exhibited by showerheads, washers, and dryers is a burden on the American consumer. In December, our sitting president told the press; “People are flushing toilets 10-15 times, water is dripping out of faucets, and water is plentiful in the United States.” As a result of this statement, the administration aggressively pursued the current rule and revised it without conclusive evidence that the rule needed to be amended.

The initial rule set by Congress in the 1990s allowed showerheads a flow rate of 2.5 gallons of water per minute. It was determined that the definition of the term showerhead was to be interpreted as “the part of the shower that water flows out of”. As newer showerhead models entered the market with multiple nozzles, the Obama administration narrowed the definition.  If four nozzles were now part of a showerhead design, 2.5 gallons per minute is what the four nozzles were able to collectively dispense. The quick math will show that under Obama’s redefinition, .62 gallons of water could be dispensed per nozzle on the showerhead, per minute.

When the term showerhead was reworked in December of 2020 to appease Trump, multiple jets, and various models of showerhead systems will now be counted individually. The four nozzles mentioned above are able to spit out 2.5 gallons per minute each, collectively using 10 gallons of water per minute.

Analysis

Contrary to Trump’s belief that “water is plentiful” in the United States, The Waterproject.org reports that water scarcity is an emerging reality. Southwestern states are unable to replenish their water supply, and the shortage will soon affect other regions. Macroeconomics tells us that a larger population equates to more demand. If the water supply continues to dwindle, because the government fails to regulate usage responsibly, the United States may find itself among the countries that ration water.

Other countries struggle to find clean water sources for survival. Trump is dissecting legislation that shows no indication or need for revision. According to David Friedman, Assistant Secretary; DOE under Obama, there was no justification to revise the current rule. This is just another presidential vexation to an Obama era rule, being dissected. As a result, the new administration will have to revisit it, using their time, and taxpayer dollars to protect the water supply, and piece back together legislation that served the country until the last hours of Trump’s presidency.

Learn More:

Leblanc, P. (2020, December 15). Trump administration finalizes rollback of showerhead standards. https://www.cnn.com/2020/12/15/politics/showerhead-standards-trump/index.html

Sprunt, B. (2020, December 17). Trump Bemoaned Water Pressure. Now His Administration Has Eased Standards.: https://www.npr.org/2020/12/17/947251937/trump-bemoaned-water-pressure-now-his-administration-has-eased-standards

Resistance Resources:

Appliance Standards Awareness Project . (2020). https://appliance-standards.org/

Natural Resources Defense Counsel . (2020). https://www.nrdc.org/.

The Water Project . (2020). https://thewaterproject.org/.

Trump’s Final Days in Office – the Beloved Wall

Brief #113 – Immigration

By Kathryn Baron 

Trump’s Final Days in Office – the Beloved Wall  

January 18, 2021

Policy Summary

Shortly after the events at the Capitol earlier this month, President Trump traveled to Texas to observe the border wall that defined his presidential campaign. Rather than celebrate his ‘accomplishments,’ as defined by his support base, during his term – such as tax cuts, rolling back federal regulations, and transforming federal courts with the appointment of Conservative judges – he is harping on his border wall. Trump was advised to highlight his ‘successes’ in his final days of office but to no avail.

Analysis

President Trump has attempted to shift the blame for inciting the insurrection that occurred last week, but even Senior Republicans have turned on him. Chad Wolf, the former Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security resigned within a week of the events at the Capitol and will not be accompanying Trump to Texas. His frivolous trip to the border will only further fuel the violence and lead to more harm.

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.
  • Border Network for Human Rights: network to engage education, organization and participation of border communities to defend human rights and work towards a society where everyone is equal in rights and dignity.
  • 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.

Re-engaging with Allies and International Organizations

USRESIST NEWS

Investigative Reports

Re-engaging with Allies and International Organizations

For 4 years the Trump administration pursued failed a go-it-alone foreign policy, withdrawing the US from its commitments to its allies and international organizations. The Biden administration has indicated its intention to reverse course and take a multi-lateral approach to foreign policy. In this series USRESIST Reporter Will Solomon analyzes the challenges involved in the US re-engaging with international organizations such as the International Criminal Court, the World Trade Organization and others.

# 1 The International Criminal Court (ICC)

By Will Solomon

Summary:

The United States has a troubled history with international law. And is that so surprising? Much of the architecture for contemporary international law was established as and after the United States became the dominant world power; the USA has had a long incentive and privilege to promote an international rules-based system that favored this country, and that if needed, it was free to break.

One institution in this nexus is the International Criminal Court. The ICC was preliminarily voted into existence by 1998’s UN Rome Statute—seven countries voted against its founding, including the United States. The ICC was then formally established in 2002—at which point the United States withdrew its preliminary signature (by Clinton in 2000) and announced it was not party to the treaty. This was followed by the 2002 congressional passage of the American Service-Members’ Protection Act, colloquially called the “Hague Invasion Act,” which effectively allows the United States to use force to protect any American or allied person who has been imprisoned or come under the court’s jurisdiction.

The American attitude towards the ICC has, in practice, only hardened in the nearly two decades since, and much of the discourse around the ICC may be seen as a rhetorical cudgel in the “national vs. international sovereignty debate”—i.e., “nationalists” seek to prevent the court from extending its jurisdiction over the US and nullifying this country’s sovereign laws. But this disagreement largely obscures US bipartisan opposition to the ICC and a major US position towards the court—namely, protecting American and allied (Israeli, for instance) complicity or active engagement in war crimes.

The Obama administration, in fairly typical fashion, signaled a willingness to cooperate with the ICC without rejoining it. Thus in practice, while the US adopted a less aggressive outwards posture towards the Court, it did not substantially alter its position. Predictably, the Trump administration renewed the Bush administration’s aggressive hostility towards the ICC. This was amplified recently after the ICC began investigating American war crimes in Afghanistan, in 2019. In response, the US withdrew the visa for the ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda.

 

Analysis:

The US holds a unique position with respect to international treaties, and in particular, to organizations like the International Criminal Court. As suggested above, on the one hand, the modern international order came into effect largely due to US design in the post-World War II era. The US is thus incentivized to adhere to the system and promote its legitimacy. On the other hand, the US has always been careful to maintain a dominant position in that order, and has in many ways become more assertive in this respect since the collapse of the USSR and American emergence as “sole superpower” in the 1990s. Increasingly—particularly post 9/11—this has led the US to effectively function as a “rogue state” within the order it designed.

All this said, we are no longer in the world of the 1990s. In many ways this is a multipolar world, with China existing as dominant US competitor, and a series of secondary but significant powers around the world, including Russia, India, and others (notably, neither China, Russia, nor India are currently a party to the ICC). While an extraordinarily complex topic in its own right, Trump’s America-first posture ought to be seen in this light of this relative American decline.

This brief summary brings us to the present. The Biden administration seesms to be committed to rebuilding international alliances, perhaps the most practical way to advance national interests in a multipolar world. The reinstitution of alliances and multi-lateralism has the potential for addressing complex international issues like climate change and nuclear proliferation. Many of our traditional allies belong to and support the International Criminal Court.

The ICC has played and could continue to play an important role in prosecuting the practitioners of state-sponsored terrorism (Charles Taylor of Liberia) war crimes
(Slobodan Milosevic ) genocide, and human rights violations. The US should welcome the court’s ability to intervene in these matters. However, it is unrealistic to think that the US would be willing to have its own citizens tried by the ICC under international law. Unfortunately US domestic politics is not ready to recognize the court’s jurisdiction. We still cling to the outdated belief that we are better than and outside of the international legal system.

It is, for these and other reasons—above all, the longstanding bipartisan commitment to unilateral hegemony—unrealistic to expect that Biden will choose to seriously cooperate with the International Criminal Court. But he should. Democratic candidates further to the left have frequently said as much since the ICC’s founding, and it would be enormously significant as a gesture of international engagement.

At the very least—Biden must pursue a less antagonistic approach to the activities of the ICC. It seems likely Biden will remove the sanctions placed on Fatou Bensouda, and pursue a line more akin to Obama’s mediated approach. (Likewise, Biden will likely take a less hostile approach towards the United Nations than Trump has done). But the Biden administration ought to seriously consider the global implications of a multipolar world. Rising powers like China will increasingly hold sway in international relations, and graceful international cooperation is the best strategy in this respect. Reengaging with the international community, including the ICC, is a meaningful component to this approach.

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