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Who gets a second chance?

Opinion Editorial
By Anand Giridharadas
In theory, second chances are a good thing. I mean, we all need them. Many of the ancient religions counsel mercy, and second chances are the natural consequence of that. Situations are not identities. Your worst deed is merely a situation. You should have the chance to become more than that deed, to transcend it.
But as the Trump era fades and a new wave of second-chance-seeking gets under way, I have been wondering: Who gets second chances and who doesn’t, what must you do to get one, and how is that connected to all the people who don’t even get first chances in America?
After President Trump’s acquittal in the Senate, what we’ve known all along was confirmed once again, and flagrantly: that certain people, especially if they are rich and powerful and white and male, enjoy total impunity in American public life. There will be no consequences for Donald Trump. Maybe some prosecutor somewhere will find a spine, but I wouldn’t bet my coffee on it.

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Democrats Take Control of Committees Increasing Chances the Senate Will Get Things Done

Brief #150—Civil Rights
By Rod Maggay
On January 3, 2021 Vice President Michael Pence administered the oath of office to six new senators who had been elected in the November 2020 elections. Additionally, those senators who had won re – election in November were also sworn in. Two days later, elections were held in Georgia for both of Georgia’s Senate seats and a Democrat won each race. Their victories ensured that seats in the U.S. Senate would be equally split between Republicans and Democrats 50 – 50. Kamala Harris’ election as Vice – President gave the Democrats the ability to cast the tie – breaking vote if any vote in the chamber resulted in a tie.

read more

Biden Administration Seeks to Curb Unnecessary Arrests and Deportations

Brief #115—Immigration
By Kathryn Baron
This week, the Biden Administration issued new guidelines for ICE in attempts to curb arrests and deportations. Anyone unlawfully in the US is still subject to arrest, but ICE will no longer deport immigrants for crimes such as DUIs, simple assault, fraud, tax crimes, solicitation, money laundering and fraud, and charges without convictions. Biden announced he aims to focus more on national security threats and individuals with aggravated felony charges and/or convictions.

read more

Trump and Marjorie Taylor Greene 

Us Resist News Blog
By Sean Gray
Last week’s vote to remove freshman Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committee posts didn’t end the GOP’s problem with her, but underscored it. Many Republicans were no doubt hoping for a return to normalcy after four years of Donald Trump’s chaotic leadership. This was always a pipe dream and the representative from Georgia’s 14th district illustrates that Trump’s presidency may have been unprecedented,  and the political movement he inspired has staying power. Greene has no experience in government. She is a half-hearted businesswoman with more bombast than sense. She gained political recognition through the creation and dissemination of absurd conspiracy theories. Sound familiar? If Donald Trump was a symptom rather than the disease, Greene is a next-gen mutation. She can’t inflict the damage Trump did from the Oval Office. But her presence in Congress is a troubling commentary on the state of American politics. And her Republicans colleagues know it.

read more

New Efforts Seek to Reduce Growing Rates of Child Poverty

Brief #109—Economics
By Rosalind Gottfried
President Biden seeks to raise the child tax credit to $3600 for children under 6 and to$3000 for school age children under 18.  This is up from the current level of $2000 per child.  As part of the stimulus, this change would become effective in July and last for one year though many Democrats would like to see the change made permanent.   The credit would be available to individuals making $75,000 or less and couples making $150,000 or less.  It would be based on income data from 2019 or 2020.  To increase the effectiveness of the tax break, families could receive monthly payments of between $250 and $350 to meet their routine bills.  Researchers at Columbia University estimate that this measure could reduce the child poverty rate by close to 50%.  The proposal gained support with the weak jobs report released last week.  The cost of the program would increase the federal deficit by 120 billion dollars.

read more

General Motors and Wall Street can’t wait to plug into the new economy

Brief #108—Environment
By Todd J Broadman
Soon after President Biden’s election victory, General Motors Corporation (GM) publicly stated their vision: to manufacture vehicles that feature zero carbon emissions. That vision is the leading feature of their “triple zero,” which also includes zero congestion and zero crashes (through advanced safety technologies and self-driving vehicles). Over the next 15 years, GM will completely phase out the production of petroleum powered vehicles and will solely manufacture electric vehicles (EV). There are to be 30 such EV models available by 2025.

read more

Will the US Approach to the Security Council Change with the Biden Administration?

Brief #106—Foreign Policy
By Will Solomon
The relative weakness of the Security Council can be ascribed to multiple factors: its limited budget, differing interests among members, the veto power of permanent members. With respect to the US, its weakness of late is certainly due in part to the aggressive anti-internationalism of the Trump administration. But the problems in the Security Council have far deeper roots, many of which stem from a long history of US (in particular, but other states’ as well) unilateralism as regards the UN and other international institutions.

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Our Decentralized Health System Creates Vaccine Rollout Challenges

Brief #95—Health
By Erin Mcnemar
Confusion. Disorganization. Decentralization. All across the country, states are struggling with the vaccination process. From deciding who should be a priority to simply not having enough vaccines, many states are facing criticism for what seems like a failure to plan. These issues are due to the decentralized health system present in the United States. According to the World Health Organization, “Health systems decentralization involves moving decision making away from centralized control and closer to the users of health services. Many countries have embarked on a process to decentralize their health systems as a means to improve their responsiveness and performance.”

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Biden Signs Three Executive Orders to Reverse Xenophobic Policies

Brief #114—Immigration
By Kathryn Baron
Earlier this week, President Biden signed three Executive Orders to begin the lengthy process of undoing Trump-era immigration policies that have stained American foreign policy and international perception. The Senate had just confirmed Alejandro N. Mayorka as Secretary of Homeland Security – in which all but seven Republican voted no, which accurately depicts the divisions in the US government about American attitudes towards foreigners. Mayorka will be the first Latino-American of his position.

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Democrats Take Control of Committees Increasing Chances the Senate Will Get Things Done

Policy Summary: On January 3, 2021 Vice President Michael Pence administered the oath of office to six new senators who had been elected in the November 2020 elections. Additionally, those senators who had won re – election in November were also sworn in. Two days later, elections were held in Georgia for both of Georgia’s Senate seats and a Democrat won each race. Their victories ensured that seats in the U.S. Senate would be equally split between Republicans and Democrats 50 – 50. Kamala Harris’ election as Vice – President gave the Democrats the ability to cast the tie – breaking vote if any vote in the chamber resulted in a tie.

With the Senate chamber equally divided, the chamber adopted new rules. The “Organizing Resolution,” as it is popularly called, is a power sharing agreement that details how the chamber would operate with an equally divided Senate. The most significant portion of the agreement deals with the make up of the senate committees and how business would be conducted in the committees and the various subcommittees that make up the whole committee. The resolution states that membership of the committees and subcommittees would have an equal number of Senators from each party. And, since control of the chamber rests with the Democrats and the recently elected Democratic Vice President, the chairman or chairwoman of each committee, or “the one who holds the gavel,” will be a Democrat. Since the Republicans had been in control of the Senate the last six years, Republicans had more members on committees and they had been the chairman or chairwoman of every committee in the Senate during that time period. LEARN MORE

Policy Analysis: The Organizing Resolution, which passed by unanimous consent on February 3, 2021, is significant because of the rules it lays out regarding committees for the Senate for this session.

There is a common misconception that bills that are introduced in the Senate or the House get a full vote by the Congressional chamber but that is not the case. (There are rare exceptions like the reconciliation process to pass budget bills). After being introduced in the Senate, bills get assigned to the Senate committee that has jurisdiction over the subject matter of the bill. That committee and its members review the bill, make amendments and sometimes hold hearings to gather more information. If the committee votes to “report” the bill then the bill is sent to the full Senate chamber for a vote by the entire chamber. But if the bill is “not reported” then the bill “dies in committee” and there is no further action on the bill. This happens frequently especially when committee members vote on party lines. When Republicans were the majority in the Senate, committees were comprised of twenty-one members – eleven Republicans and ten Democrats. If Republicans did not approve of a bill, they often voted against it in committee, which effectively killed the bill’s chances.

With the even split in the Senate, the chances of Democrats advancing their legislative priorities have now increased. With Democrats now taking control of committee chairmanships they can control what is on the agenda for the committees. Republicans had often refused to schedule committee hearings for bills and other business that was not in line with their legislative priorities. Even before the passage of the Organizing Resolution, Republicans still took an obstructionist stance as when Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) refused to schedule a hearing for Merrick Garland, Biden’s nominee for Attorney General. But now that committee chairmanships have been transferred to Democrats, government business can no longer be held up with this tactic.

With membership in committees equally divided and the prospect of bills dying in committee not likely to happen during this Senate session, the question arises as to what will happen if there are tie votes in subcommittees and later in full committees. Instead of party line votes that could kill a bill, tie votes will now be sent to the full committee for a vote there. And if there is another tie, the status of a bill will be sent to the full chamber where a vote will be taken whether to place it on the calendar for a full vote. This is key because now the full Senate can vote on bills. There are often hundreds of bills every session that never make it out of committee for consideration. Senators who are not a member of a relevant committee often never even hear about a bill much less get a chance to vote on it. But that will not be the case anymore. As long as the Senate is equally split, committees can no longer hold up a bill. Unless outright defeated in a committee vote, bills that pass or end up tied will finally make it to the Senate floor where the entire chamber can review the merits of the bill. And with Democrats in charge of committees by virtue of their appointment to committee chair posts, they will control what bills will get a hearing and a vote. This will result in the Democratic Party and the Biden Administration having a better chance of advancing their legislative priorities in this Congressional session. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE 

Engagement Resources:

United States Senate Committees – webpage of Senate committees.

GovTrack.us – full text of the Senate’s 2021 Organizing Resolution.

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

Biden Administration Seeks to Curb Unnecessary Arrests and Deportations

Brief #115 – Immigration

By Kathryn Baron

Biden Administration Seeks to Curb Unnecessary Arrests and Deportations

Policy Summary
This week, the Biden Administration issued new guidelines for ICE in attempts to curb arrests and deportations. Anyone unlawfully in the US is still subject to arrest, but ICE will no longer deport immigrants for crimes such as DUIs, simple assault, fraud, tax crimes, solicitation, money laundering and fraud, and charges without convictions. Biden announced he aims to focus more on national security threats and individuals with aggravated felony charges and/or convictions.

Analysis
Biden announced he believed measuring ICE’s performance according to the number of arrests and deportation – as the Trump Administration did – is not sound law enforcement, but rather a method of hiking up statistics with low-hanging fruit and at the expense of migrants for minor infractions. Rather than operating with the mindset of looking for a reason to detain, arrest, and deport migrants, the Biden Administration will maintain migrants’ dignity and innocence until proven otherwise.

Engagement Resources

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

Trump and Marjorie Taylor Greene 

USRESIST NEWS Blog

 

The Republicans   A new USRESIST NEWS Blog Post series intended to report on the activities of  the Republican Party and Its Members in a Post Trump Era

Post # 1: Trump and Marjorie Taylor Greene 

By Sean Gray 

February 12, 2021

Last week’s vote to remove freshman Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committee posts didn’t end the GOP’s problem with her, but underscored it. Many Republicans were no doubt hoping for a return to normalcy after four years of Donald Trump’s chaotic leadership. This was always a pipe dream and the representative from Georgia’s 14th district illustrates that Trump’s presidency may have been unprecedented,  and the political movement he inspired has staying power. Greene has no experience in government. She is a half-hearted businesswoman with more bombast than sense. She gained political recognition through the creation and dissemination of absurd conspiracy theories. Sound familiar? If Donald Trump was a symptom rather than the disease, Greene is a next-gen mutation. She can’t inflict the damage Trump did from the Oval Office. But her presence in Congress is a troubling commentary on the state of American politics. And her Republicans colleagues know it.

Trump displayed  combination of dishonesty and disconnection from reality whenever he found facts disagreeable. Marjorie Taylor Greene has gladly accepted the torch of fantasy. She came to prominence as the ‘’Qanon candidate on the campaign trail.” Her views somehow got more reprehensible following her election. Greene is a full throated conspiracy theorist on subjects too numerous to list comprehensively in this space. She has cast doubt on the Parkland School Shooting, the 9/11 attack at the Pentagon and that lasers from a George Soros-owned company were responsible for California’s devastating 2018 Camp Fire. Her support for such insidious doggerel extends beyond a tip-of-the-cap bit of political opportunism. Prior to her election she authored 59 articles in the now defunct American Truth Seekers. Her 2A zeal goes beyond the usual rhetoric and harassing survivors of school massacres. Greene has also advocated for the executions of political opponents. There is no hope of sane and reasonable discourse with someone like this. She is deluded, race-baiting and as committed to Trumpian bluster as the ex-president. Yet she now commands $180K to shape legislation through the prism of her badly skewed worldview.

Trump may be gone, but he still looms large in Republican political calculus. By aligning herself so closely with the MAGA crowd, Greene has put her Republican colleagues in a tight spot. Many likely believe her to be a disgraceful albatross. But she is for all intents and purposes a Trump surrogate – which makes a formal repudiation of her dangerous nonsense unpalatable. Accordingly, when Democrats took a procedural vote to remove her from two committees just 11 Republican House members crossed the aisle against her. Trump pulled the party away from reason and reality. Greene has blindly followed suit. Her colleagues refuse to acknowledge the obvious pulls the entire party further away from reason and reality.

The dilemma posed by Greene’s activity is a serious problem for the party. For the most devoted Trumpophiles, Greene’s rhetoric is a selling point. They are not numerous enough to win contested elections. Furthermore the more outrageous of her positions (for instance, advocating the execution of the Speaker of the House) are antithetical to democracy and a turn-off to a plethora of voters. Trump’s personality in conjunction with his office made his political brand work. His allies could claim he had the mandate of the voters while working to further his agenda and tactlessly avoiding uncomfortable questions about the his behavior. Greene carries his water from much further down the trough. She occupies one of 538 House seats. Unlike Trump, whose lofty perch and cult-like following enabled him to browbeat Congress like subordinates, Greene is a liability. Her practice of Trump speak makes it much more difficult for her to actually accomplish anything. It also complicates any effort on the part of the GOP to move past four unsustainably chaotic years. Trump never had the support of approval of more than 50% of the American public. Those numbers dipped to around 33% in the aftermath of the Capitol riots. A less effective imitation is not what the doctor ordered.

Marjorie Taylor Greene is a problem for the nation, and not just those who lean right. Her landslide election based on a semi-comprehensible platform speaks to the erosion of political discourse in this country. She is a thorn in the side of many Republicans. However her presence in Congress is a pernicious threat to America as a whole. Last month’s coup attempt didn’t occur in a vacuum. It was the predictable result of a disaffected and propagandized group of people incited to violence by the man at the center of the lie they were fed. Opportunities exist for repeat performances. Right-wing extremism in general saw a sharp uptick during Trump’s tenure. To some extent, a sympathetic ear in the legislative branch legitimizes those kinds of beliefs. In a nation as polarized as this one, this bodes poorly beyond political prospects. Trump routinely fanned the flames of these divisions to his own end. An unscrupulous acolyte is likely to follow suit. Marjorie Taylor Greene represents the worst in American politics. She is a thorn in the side of Republicans and a blight on the US with far-reaching consequences.

New Efforts Seek to Reduce Growing Rates of Child Poverty

Brief #109

New Efforts Seek to Reduce Growing Rates of Child Poverty

Rosalind Gottfried    

February 8, 2021  

Policy

President Biden seeks to raise the child tax credit to $3600 for children under 6 and to$3000 for school age children under 18.  This is up from the current level of $2000 per child.  As part of the stimulus, this change would become effective in July and last for one year though many Democrats would like to see the change made permanent.   The credit would be available to individuals making $75,000 or less and couples making $150,000 or less.  It would be based on income data from 2019 or 2020.  To increase the effectiveness of the tax break, families could receive monthly payments of between $250 and $350 to meet their routine bills.  Researchers at Columbia University estimate that this measure could reduce the child poverty rate by close to 50%.  The proposal gained support with the weak jobs report released last week.  The cost of the program would increase the federal deficit by 120 billion dollars.

On February 8th the American Family Act was re-introduced in Congress; it would maintain these increases and extend them to individuals making up to $150,000 and couples making up to $200,000.  In order to maintain the value of this increase, future credits would be tied to the rate of inflation.  Mitt Romney has introduced a competing bill which would provide a tax credit of $3000 for school age children and $4200 for children under 6 but the net gain would be undermined by the elimination of the TANF program (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, often referred to as “welfare”); the end of the State and Local Tax deduction (SALT); the loss of the head of household designation; and cuts to the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit.

Analysis

The losses of family income and resources, from the pandemic, have increased food insecurity in families with children from 14-28% and roughly 20% of these families are behind in rent.  Treasury Secretary Janet Yellin has promoted the child tax credit as one mechanism to help the economy, especially given the tepid rate of the jobs recovery.  She cautions that failure to act quickly and large will result in a long and slow economic recovery like the one seen in response the to 2008 recession.  Though there would be a cost to the fiscal budget, the ultimate cost of child poverty will be far greater in hunger and housing loss as well as in the future well-being of children who will suffer setbacks in education, health, and work.

Learn  More References

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/02/09/democrats-include-3000-dollar-child-tax-credit-in-covid-relief.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/07/us/politics/child-tax-credit-stimulus.html

General Motors and Wall Street can’t wait to plug into the new economy

Environmental Policy Brief #108

Title: General Motors and Wall Street can’t wait to plug into the new economy

By Todd J Broadman

February 12, 2021

POLICY

Soon after President Biden’s election victory, General Motors Corporation (GM) publicly stated their vision: to manufacture vehicles that feature zero carbon emissions. That vision is the leading feature of their “triple zero,” which also includes zero congestion and zero crashes (through advanced safety technologies and self-driving vehicles). Over the next 15 years, GM will completely phase out the production of petroleum powered vehicles and will solely manufacture electric vehicles (EV). There are to be 30 such EV models available by 2025.

In addition, GM has a goal to transform their internal operations to be carbon neutral by 2040. Their path to that aim includes powering all of their facilities – U.S. and abroad – with renewable energy by 2035. They estimate the cost to re-tool at $27 billion dollars.

Mary Barra, GM’s CEO since 2014, was hired in part for her vision and enthusiastic attitude towards technology. She is aligning GM with the new administration and met recently with: Gina McCarthy, climate change adviser to the President, and Brian Deese who heads the White House National Economic Council. Both administrators will play a lead role in creating the new auto rules.

Other political actors of importance to GM include: California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) who issued an executive order that 100% of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles in the state will be zero-emission by 2045. Former GM executive Debbie Dingell and now a Democrat Representative of Michigan, had cautioned Barra, “When Joe Biden gets elected, your world will turn upside down. You’ve got to be at the table or else this thing gets jammed down your throat.”  States including Massachusetts and New Jersey have since laid the groundwork for setting the same goal as California.

Barra has also found a strange bedfellow in Fred Krupp, President of the Environmental Defense Fund. Mr. Krupp is confident they can reach “common ground” and create a “shared vision for an all-electric future.” Mr. Krupp’s annual compensation is nearly $600,000 and among EDF’s major contributors are the Walton Foundation, Chevron, and Exxon-Mobil. And others like Larry Fink, CEO of the world’s largest hedge fund, BlackRock, who claimed their business model “will be compatible with a net-zero economy.” Like others, the transition to green technology represents the next sector worthy of major investment.

Curiously enough, GM did not join BMW, Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and Volvo when those auto manufacturers signed onto California’s aggressive fuel economy standards: an average of 51 miles per gallon by 2026. Perhaps GM is awaiting the new 2026 – 2035 federal emission rules.

ANALYSIS

Underlying the “save the planet” ethic, what GM and other auto suppliers need is a sustainable business model. 68% of U.S. oil use is from transportation; petroleum is a commodity that will soon be in painfully short supply. Yet less than 5% of GM’s revenue comes from EV sales. Contrast that with the book value of Tesla, the world’s biggest EV manufacturer, at $752 billion, about ten times that of GM. And much of Europe has already said they will ban sales of new gasoline and diesel cars starting in 2030.

President Biden wasted no time in signing an executive order directing the Environmental Protection Agency to develop tough tailpipe pollution regulations, vehicles being the U.S.’s biggest contributor to planet-warming pollution. In terms of the necessary charging station infrastructure, he has an immediate call for 500,000 more public charging stations. Federal agencies will be required to purchase EV. Consumers can expect tax incentives to make the switch. He sees the creation of vast numbers of “green jobs.”

In spite of these trends, The American Petroleum Institute (API), a leading oil trade group, suggested customers, not automakers, should be driving any vehicle transition. “This is a free market, and every auto company is going to do what makes sense for their customers and their business model. Ultimately, it should be up to American consumers to choose what kind of car they want to drive,” according to Frank Macchiarola, API’s vice president for policy.

Aside from the flimsy “free choice” argument, there are more substantial underlying problems with electric vehicles: their range is limited to around 200 miles before requiring a charge; they are still more expensive than gas-engine cars. EV battery technology is relatively new and it takes far longer to charge than to fill a gas tank. EV still isn’t practical for a multiday camping trip or long rural drives. The electric charging infrastructure will take time to build and plugging in thousands of cars could fundamentally alter the country’s electric grid’s patterns. According to Paul DeCotis, a former New York state energy official and an analyst for consultancy West Monroe, “Utilities are going to need to make significant investments in infrastructure to accommodate this.”

GM has already announced operational plans: three of its U.S. plants will immediately begin the transition to produce electric vehicles. An EV battery plant is being built in Ohio. The industry is leaning in the right direction. Whether society will lean with it and how soon remains to be seen.

Engagement Resources

Will the US Approach to the Security Council Change with the Biden Administration?

Brief # 106 Foreign Policy

Will the US Approach to the Security Council Change with the Biden Administration?

 By Will Solomon

 Feb 12, 2021

 

Policy Summary:

The UN Security Council (UNSC) was established at the founding of the UN, in 1945, and first met in 1946. The Security Council is arguably the most powerful organ within the UN, as it is the only body that can pass binding resolutions, including the power to approve military action and sanctions. It is comprised of fifteen states, five of which are permanent—the United States, Russia (originally, the USSR), China, Britain, and France—and can exercise a veto on any potential resolution.

This veto power, coupled with the widely varying interests of its member states (often the United States, versus Russia, and/or China) make the task of promoting a functional and potent Security Council extremely challenging. The UNSC’s history has indeed been marked by significant failures of consensus: for instance, the inability to achieve peace, or prevent massacre, in Rwanda, Bosnia, Myanmar, Syria, and other states. When deployed, its peacekeeping forces have on multiple occasions been embroiled in severe accusations of sexual and child abuse, among other crimes. The United States has also faced accusations of bribery, exchanging foreign aid for support from non-permanent members of the Security Council.

 

Analysis:

The relative weakness of the Security Council can be ascribed to multiple factors: its limited budget, differing interests among members, the veto power of permanent members. With respect to the US, its weakness of late is certainly due in part to the aggressive anti-internationalism of the Trump administration. But the problems in the Security Council have far deeper roots, many of which stem from a long history of US (in particular, but other states’ as well) unilateralism as regards the UN and other international institutions.

As the bribery point above suggests, the US has exhibited a tendency in the post-World War II era to treat international institutions as tools of American global policy. Broadly speaking, the US is willing to support an international consensus so long as it aligns with US interests, but will act unilaterally, against and outside the UN, when desired. This policy has wide bipartisan support in the United States government and long predates the Trump administration; in many respects, Trump’s policy towards the UN was merely an intensification of longstanding American policy.

This said, an oft-expressed intention of the Biden administration has been to meaningfully engage multilaterally. What might this mean with respect to the Security Council?

First, we ought to acknowledge that meaningful reform of the UNSC is quite unlikely. Two-thirds of UN member states would have to agree on any reform, as would all permanent members of the Security Council. This said, moves toward meaningful multilateral engagement through the Biden administration may be possible through existing institutions. One obvious move  would be to acknowledge international consensus on significant issues, one of which might be Israel. The UN Security Council has passed over 200 resolutions with respect to Israel and the Arab-Israeli Conflict. The United States has been a reliable ally for Israel, consistently shielding it from sanctions—particularly regarding Israeli settlements and occupation of Palestinian land—or even condemnation, a pattern that has intensified in recent years and particularly under the Trump administration. Among others, UN Security Council Resolution 242, passed in November 1967 after the Six-Day War, called for Israel to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders (prior to capture of the West Bank and Gaza). It’s over a half century later, and this still has not been enacted.

Another relevant topic is Iran. While not a UN agreement, UN Security Council Resolution 2231 endorsed the Iran Nuclear Deal (JCPOA), negotiated by the Obama administration  Rejoining the accord that Trump exited would express a meaningful commitment to multilateral engagement adjacent to the UNSC. However, despite repeated campaign pledges that he would re-enter the accord, Biden recently indicated that he would not lift sanctions imposed by the Trump administration unless Iran returns to the deal, a position Iran refuses to support. It is difficult to find any meaningful justification for Biden’s action, given that the United States reneged on the deal, and signals a potentially growing blemish on a commitment to multilateral engagement.

In short—the globe faces countless challenges now, including the pandemic,  a series of recent regional wars, failed states,  domestic upheaval in many countries,  climate change, and  a collapse of multilateralism itself. Despite institutional limitations, the Security Council could have a role to play in addressing some of these challenges. To live up to a meaningful conception of promoting American leadership in a multilateral 2021 world, the US ought to abide by international norms and look for new ways to collaborate with other countries..

 

Resources:

https://quincyinst.org — “The Quincy Institute is an action-oriented think tank that will lay the foundation for a new foreign policy centered on diplomatic engagement and military restraint. The current moment presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring together like-minded progressives and conservatives and set U.S. foreign policy on a sensible and humane footing. Our country’s current circumstances demand it.”

https://thebulletin.org — “At our core, the Bulletin is a media organization, publishing a free-access website and a bimonthly magazine. But we are much more. The Bulletin’s website, iconic Doomsday Clock, and regular events help advance actionable ideas at a time when technology is outpacing our ability to control it. The Bulletin focuses on three main areas: nuclear risk, climate change, and disruptive technologies. What connects these topics is a driving belief that because humans created them, we can control them.”

https://www.democracynow.org — “Democracy Now! produces a daily, global, independent news hour hosted by award-winning journalists Amy Goodman and Juan González. Our reporting includes breaking daily news headlines and in-depth interviews with people on the front lines of the world’s most pressing issues.”

Our Decentralized Health System Creates Vaccine Rollout Challenges

Brief # 95 Health Policy

Our Decentralized Health System Creates Vaccine Rollout Challenges

By Erin McNemar

February 11, 2021

Policy

Confusion. Disorganization. Decentralization. All across the country, states are struggling with the vaccination process. From deciding who should be a priority to simply not having enough vaccines, many states are facing criticism for what seems like a failure to plan. These issues are due to the decentralized health system present in the United States.

According to the World Health Organization, “Health systems decentralization involves moving decision making away from centralized control and closer to the users of health services. Many countries have embarked on a process to decentralize their health systems as a means to improve their responsiveness and performance.”

Analysis

While this idea of allowing the people that are affected and impacted to make decisions seems just, it has proven to be problematic when facing the current pandemic. Due to the decentralized approach in the United States, the nation is trailing behind other countries in terms of the vaccination process. According to the University of Oxford, the United KIngdom’s centralized health system has been able to vaccinate 13.7 percent of the population compared to the United State’s 7.8 percent.

Part of this major issue is lack of preparation. According to CNN, in the final weeks of his administration former President Trump did little to nothing to develop a plan to distribute vaccines to states; even after vaccines were approved to be administered. When President Biden came into office, his team claimed that they had to work on developing a plan from scratch; which is also prolonging  the process.

The frustrating  vaccination process comes down to a lack of organization stemming from the federal level. Rather than creating a comprehensive plan that all states are required to follow, each state is responsible for coming up with their own plan for vaccinations. Governors have to ask, how will the vaccines be distributed? What groups of people should be prioritized? How will individuals register to get the vaccine? While these decisions are happening on a state-by-state basis in the United States, countries with centralized health systems are able to move quicker.

These countries only have to come up with one vaccination rollout plan. There isn’t a battle for resources and those disrupting the vaccine are able to focus on administering it to as many people as possible; rather than worrying about the politics of the situation. Additionally, the decentralized approach can create issues among the total percentage of individuals vaccinated across the nation. For example, if West Virginia is effectively vaccinating their population but Massachusetts is struggling, it’s not going to be beneficial to the country as a whole in stopping the spread.

While a decentralized health system has benefits in everyday life, addressing a pandemic response requires a more centralized approach. Evidence shows that with unified planning coming from a federal level, more vaccines would be efficiently distributed to the public. After a rocky start to the vaccine rollout process, it could be several months until the vaccine hits the general public and even longer until we see life begin to return to normal.

Engagement Resources

  • Learn more about the
  • Track the vaccine distribution by
  • Check your state’s government website to find out when you can get the vaccine.
  • Reach out to your senators and representatives to take action!
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Biden Signs Three Executive Orders to Reverse Xenophobic Policies

Brief # 114 – Immigration

Biden Signs Three Executive Orders to Reverse Xenophobic Policies 

By Kathryn Baron

February 8, 2021

Policy Summary

Earlier this week, President Biden signed three Executive Orders to begin the lengthy process of undoing Trump-era immigration policies that have stained American foreign policy and international perception. The Senate had just confirmed Alejandro N. Mayorka as Secretary of Homeland Security – in which all but seven Republican voted no, which accurately depicts the divisions in the US government about American attitudes towards foreigners. Mayorka will be the first Latino-American of his position.

Two of the Executive Orders call for reviews and of Trump’s policies that limited asylum, stopped funding to certain foreign countries, slowed down legal immigration, and made it more difficult to obtain green cards. One of these demands a review of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP – ‘Remain in Mexico’) that ordered 65,000 Asylum Seekers to wait in Mexico for their US court hearings. These reviews could trigger policy changes in the coming weeks following a thorough examination of the policies Trump put in place. The third Executive Order established a task force to reunite migrant families who were separated at the US-Mexico border as a result of Trump’s 2018 Zero Tolerance policy.

Analysis

President Biden stated he is “not making new law” but rather he is “eliminating bad policy.” All the necessary reversals of Trump-era immigration policies cannot be done properly and effectively in a short time-frame. The Executive Orders signed at the beginning of this week provide an avenue for thorough investigation and action to re-track American immigration and foreign policy measures to ensure the principles and values that defined the US throughout history are upheld and restored.

Engagement Resources

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

First Lady Jill Biden Highlights Role As First Professor in the White House

First Lady Jill Biden Highlights Role As First Professor in the White House

By Linda F. Hersey

February 8, 2021

Twenty-four hours before Joe Biden was inaugurated as president, First Lady Jill Biden was teaching her English composition class as usual at Northern Virginia Community College.

The First Lady’s decision to keep her day job as she settles into the White House is symbolic. She said that she likes her job as a college professor, worked hard for her PhD and is committed to teaching.

Having a first professor in the White House energizes calls or free college education, which is available in many European countries, including Norway, Sweden and Germany, which have apprenticeships as well.

Her commitment and advocacy raise the status of higher education in the Biden presidency. The First Lady is a long-time member of the National Education Association (NEA), which is the nation’s largest labor union and whose members advocated for the Biden presidency.

The First Lady supports making community college free for all U.S. students.  President Biden has pledged to do just that. He wants to make community colleges and historically black colleges and universities tuition-free for all students. The new president:

  • Pledged as a candidate to promote new policy and enact legislation allowing students to attend community college for up to two years tuition-free. Funds also could be used to pursue training and certification that link students to meaningful employment.
  • Endorsed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ idea to make public colleges and universities tuition-free for all students whose family incomes are below $125,000 and forgive a portion of student debt for all borrowers.
  • Outlined a plan to invest $50 billion in high-quality training programs that would be administered through community colleges, in partnership with businesses, unions and other organizations.

Jill Biden as the ‘Conscience’ of the President

On Day One of the Biden presidency, the First Lady showed her support for strengthening education. The Washington Post reported that she met with the nominee for education secretary, welcomed the leaders of the nation’s two largest teachers’ unions at the White House, and hosted an online forum with 11,000 educators from around the country.  In the Post article, First Lady Jill Biden was described as her husband’s “conscience and confidante.

Higher Education, Training Emphasized

Higher education already is a priority for both the President and First Lady, who describe it as a necessity to stay competitive in the knowledge economy.

Jill Biden’s own background demonstrates that. At 69, she holds two master’s degrees and a doctorate awarded when she was 55 years old. Her doctorate in educational leadership was earned at the University of Delaware.

Her determination to continue as an educator sets her apart from all Frist Ladies who preceded her.

For the first time in 231 years, a First Lady has a career outside the White House. Of course, her dedication has required some logistics with security, such as Secret Service agents dressing as students with backpacks as they trail the First Lady through the halls of academia.

Jill Biden’s decision to continue working and having an independent career beyond the White House marks a shift from the traditional role of the First Lady.

Wives of U.S. presidents historically leave behind careers and professional identity to be the helpmate for the president. Michelle Obama is an attorney but ceased her job practicing law to take a high-profile role on many public health initiatives, including improving school lunch menus and planting a vegetable garden on the White House grounds, with the help of schoolchildren.

Jill Biden’s decision to keep her career is in line with millions of American families.  The U.S. Bureau of Labor reports that in close to 50 percent of married households, both spouses work. “Teaching is not what I do. It’s who I am,” she said prior to the election.

The First Lady says she uses the honorific “Dr.” because she “worked hard” for her advanced degree. She taught writing during the eight years her husband served as vice president. She does not consider working outside the home – even when it is the White House – a departure from the norm.

The First Lady is known for being down to earth and personable. She eschewed having a ballgown to attend post-inauguration celebrations. Her focus was on more practical issues. She likes to tell people to call her “Jill.”

Jill Biden married Sen. Joe Biden in 1977, becoming mother to his two sons, Beau and Hunter, four years after his first wife, Neilia Hunter Biden, a schoolteacher, and the couple’s year-old daughter Naomi died in a car accident. Jill and Joe Biden’s daughter, Ashley, was born in 1981.

As First Lady, Jill Biden has prioritized education, cancer treatment resources and advocacy for military families. The issues have personal meaning and significance. In addition to being an educator, Jill Biden is a military mom. The Bidens’ son, Beau, the former attorney general of Delaware, died from brain cancer, in 2015.

Anita McBride, chief of staff for former First Lady Laura Bush, told the Washington Post that First Lady Jill Biden – after serving for eight years as the Second Lady during the Obama presidency — understands her high-profile role and how to advocate for issues that have personal significant for her family and millions of Americans.

“What this says to me is that [here] is someone who is so comfortable in this role,” McBride told The Washington Post. “It says, ‘I am thrilled and honored to have this position. These are the things I care about. I intend to be active. I intend to be visible and I intend to be a partner in the work of this administration.’  ”

Engagement Resources

Candidate Joe Biden’s Education Plan outlined his ideas for free college and training programs for all U.S. students.

White House Profile of Dr. Jill Biden articulates her interest in prioritizing higher education and supporting community colleges across America.

Washington Post reported on the First Lady’s commitment to teaching paired with her role as wife of President Biden.

The Prosecution of Alexei Navalny

Brief #  105 Foreign Policy

Title: The Prosecution  of Alexei Navalny

By Tim Irwin

February 4rd, 2021

Summary

Alexei Navalny was recently sentenced to three and a half years in prison for violating his probation from a 2014 case in which he was convicted of embezzlement. He violated probation because he was unable to contact his parole officer was because he had been poisoned . The poisoning occurred in Siberia and Navalny was flown to Germany where he was able to recover.  Investigative reporters eventually were able to conclude the poisoning, caused by a military nerve agent,  was carried out by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). Navalny himself says that Vladimir Putin spearheaded the effort.

Alexei Navalny has been a thorn in the side of Putin ever since he came onto the political scene. He has been involved in a multitude of anti-corruption campaigns across Russia. These efforts have led to a number of criminal charges,, levied against him, he most recent and relevant being the embezzlement charge of 2014.

The  European Court of Human Rights ruled Navalny’s  embezzlement trial was a violation of his right to a fair trial. However, after this ruling,  a Moscow  court repeated its’ sentencing, causing Russia’s Central Electoral Commission to bar him from running for president in 2018. Since then, he has led a number of other movements to combat  corruption within Russia’s government, which we believe led  in his poisoning. The Kremlin denies any involvement in the attack.

The poisoning occurred in August of 2020 while Navalny was on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow. The chemical weapon used was a Novichok agent developed by the USSR  during the cold war. It was the same agent as the one used in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer just two years earlier. After being sent to a hospital in Moscow, Navalny was flown to Berlin to get further treatment. On December 29th, 2020, the Russian government a announced that Navalny was wanted on account of violating his probation period. Navalny was undaunted by this announcement, and chose to return to Russia where he was immediately arrested. A court recently has sentenced him to spend 3 years in a Siberian prison camp.

Analysis:

The responses to Navalny’s detainment and subsequent conviction were met with massive backlash both internally and internationally. From the moment he was arrested after touching down on January 18th, there were huge protests in Moscow, resulting in the arrests of over 5,000 people.

The call for his immediate release was echoed throughout the western world, with many countries pledging their support for Navalny. The new Biden Administration has followed suit and done the same. The U.S. Secretary of State has condemned the sentencing and has called for Navalny’s release, along with the many thousands arrested during the protests. The initial poisoning back in August resulted in many European countries placing sanctions on a number of Putin’s inner circle. According to Navalny’s Chief of Staff, Leonid Volkov, this is exactly the type of action needed to produce a desired change within Russia. Volkov has stated that using personal sanctions targeting Putin’s inner circle could incite infighting among the wealthy elites. However, sanctions, unless specific, such as what Volkov is stating, can be harmful to the general population because the government can easily shift the burden to them.

The Biden Administration and the administration’s  National Security Team is currently reviewing the best course of action to take against Russia. Besides Navalny, the review also includes the SolarWinds hack as well as the alleged bounties placed on American troops

Engagement Resources:

https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/navalnys-arrest-is-bidens-first-big-test-heres-how-he-can-pass-it/ – Article detailing specific sanctions.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsAw3WynQJMm7tMy093y37A – Navalny’s YouTube Channel

https://joebiden.com/2020/09/02/statement-by-vice-president-biden-on-the-poisoning-of-alexey-navalny/

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