Elliott Abrams, Death Squad Advocate, is No Diplomat
President Biden has done a lot to revive the US reputation in the world of international diplomacy. He has strengthened our alliances with NATO countries and brought them together to defend Ukraine against the Russian invasion. The Biden Administration’s public diplomacy has been about strengthening global alliances in defense of democracy.
Therefore, it was a searing shock to see President Biden undermine his administration’s contributions to twenty-first-century diplomacy by nominating Elliott Abrams, a Reagan-era Iran-Contra war hawk and hardline neoconservative, to one of the seven seats on the Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. Abrams was the architect of catastrophic interventions and coups in Latin America and was convicted of lying to Congress about the Iran-contra scandal—he embodies the complete opposite of public diplomacy. We still remember the Reagan administration’s support for ruthless death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala, proudly defended by this very man.
The US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy can only have four out of seven members from the same political party, so Biden cannot appoint another Democrat to the commission. But choosing a defender of death-squads is the worst alternative.
Tell President Biden and our senators that the nomination is antithetical to the Biden administration’s diplomatic support for democracies worldwide.
Global Warming and NDAA: Audit Pentagon Emissions
The Pentagon is the largest institutional polluter on the planet. It is estimated that the US war machine pumps more greenhouse gasses into our air than the total output of 140 nations combined. If we’re serious about climate change and preventing environmental catastrophe, we must include the Pentagon in our solutions.
National defense policy and spending are governed by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is currently being debated on the House floor as you read this. Representatives Huffman (D-CA,
San Rafael) and Raskin (D-MD) have proposed amendment #667 to the NDAA, requiring the Defense Department to do a full accounting (audit) of its greenhouse gas emissions.
The Pentagon will fiercely oppose #667 and we don’t expect the House Republican majority to pass it. The Senate probably won’t include it in the final version of the NDAA either. But the NDAA is a “must pass” bill, and when the House and Senate versions are merged, there will be deals, trades, and concessions made to all sides in order to obtain the final votes needed. If the Congressional Progressive Caucus shows backbone and determination, it has enough votes to force Republicans and conservative Democrats to include some of our priorities—such as the Huffman/Raskin Pentagon climate audit—in the NDAA.
We need to continue reminding our elected representatives right now that global warming is a crucial national-defense issue and we expect them to begin addressing it with the Pentagon.
Help get out the vote in Ohio to protect reproductive freedom and more
Ohio has an election happening right now through August 8. Voters in Ohio must vote no on Issue 1 to block an attempt by their Republican-controlled legislature to make it harder for voters to amend their state’s constitution.
The context for this is that a later election may have an amendment on the ballot that would enshrine reproductive freedom in Ohio’s state constitution, if proponents can get enough signatures. Ohio Republicans have proposed two changes to block this: one to make it harder to get enough qualifying signatures, and one to raise the threshold for passage if the amendment does make it to the ballot.
The last step in the Ohio Republicans’ plan is a special election, which is now underway, in which voters will decide whether to accept those changes. This is an attempt to prevent a repeat of Kansas, where voters showed up to quash an attempt by their legislature to take their reproductive rights away. Kansans won with 59 percent of the vote, so Ohio Republicans are trying to raise the bar in their state to 60 percent, and they’re hoping that this special election, with Election Day in August, in an off year, will depress turnout enough that they can squeak out a win.
So progressives all over the country are contacting voters in Ohio, letting them know there’s an election right now, that their vote is needed, and that their freedoms are on the line.
Whether you like phonebanking, textbanking, or writing letters or postcards, there’s a get-out-the-vote program for you. Check out our Vote page to see how you can help.
The Biden Infrastructure Law in action: RAISE grants for improvements in the Bayview
The Biden Infrastructure Law included additional funding for the Department of Transportation’s RAISE grants. Local and state government agencies can apply for these funds to build transportation projects.
San Francisco has received RAISE grants before; most recently, the new connections from Highway 80 to Yerba Buena Island were part of a larger project funded by a RAISE grant back in 2021 and still ongoing.
This year, the Bayview received a RAISE grant for some improvements on Harney, including Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and bike lanes. Read the RAISE 2023 Award Fact Sheets for more info on this project and many others.
San Francisco Civil Grand Jury releases its reports
Every county in the state of California empanels a civil grand jury every year to investigate and report on the functioning of local government. The City’s Civil Grand Jury for 2022–2023 concluded at the end of June and published four reports.
The Jury’s reports cover four aspects of local government:
- The City’s shortage of credentialed teachers (and yes, they do mention the failures to pay the teachers SFUSD already has)
- The effectiveness of two City programs meant to help small businesses get started
- The City’s “hiring crisis”
- The need for more rigorous measurement of the effectiveness of companies contracted by the City to help with the homelessness crisis
Apply now to enter your block into SFMTA’s Residential Traffic Calming Program
If it seems like drivers are barreling down your street at unsafe speeds more and more lately, your street might be in need of traffic calming. This is a broad category of street design interventions that discourage drivers from speeding by adding variety—and, in some cases, obstacles—to the street to force drivers to pay attention and be careful.
SFMTA is in charge of making changes to our streets, including building traffic calming features. These range from simple speed bumps and lane shifts (making the road not straight) to things like the median islands we see on McAllister.
These features make our streets safer for residents and others, whether they are drivers, pedestrians, or cyclists. And the people who live on a street know what it needs better than anyone else.
SFMTA is taking applications for traffic calming projects. You can submit a form that describes your concerns on your street, and the SFMTA will consider what interventions they’ll propose to build.
On Medi-Cal? Take action now to keep it
Medi-Cal checks in with members once a year to verify their continued eligibility. These check-ins were on hold during the COVID-19 emergency declaration, but now that this hold has been rescinded, check-ins have resumed.
Make sure your contact information is up to date so that your check-in letter will arrive without incident and you can maintain your healthcare coverage. See the state’s Department of Health Care Services website for details.
If you’re interested in participating in activities like drafting letters to our Members of Congress and developing our strategy for influencing them, the Indivisible SF Federal Working Group is where it happens.
Indivisible SF Federal Working Group: Thursday, August 3, 7:30–9 PM. Planning meeting where we discuss strategy to influence our Members of Congress and the Biden administration to enact a progressive agenda. Meeting starts promptly at 7:30 PM. All are welcome. Register here!
Get out the vote in Ohio: Please see Ohio GOTV Events on our Vote page.
NERT full training: Six sessions starting Wednesday, July 26. San Francisco’s Neighborhood Emergency Response Team is a team of volunteers trained to respond to fires, earthquakes, and other disasters. This is a six-week course; please apply only if you can do all six sessions. Register here.
SURJ SF Dialogue: Take Risks, Make Mistakes, Learn, Make Amends, and Keep Going: Sunday August 6, 12–1:30 PM. We will explore what it means to make mistakes in racial justice organizing, what needs to be done after mistakes are made, and how we can continue doing this critical work even after mistakes are made. Register here.
CPUC Voting Meeting: Thursday, August 10, 11 AM. Cruise and Waymo are asking the CPUC to consider allowing them to expand their driverless car operations within the City. Cruise wants to operate cars with no driver at all hours, and Waymo wants to begin sending out cars with no driver. Indivisible SF does not have a position on this at this time, but if you do, you’ll have an opportunity to give public comment at the meeting. (These items were deferred from the July 13 meeting tomorrow.) Meeting details here.
About this week’s photo
If you’ve seen our newsletter posts on Twitter and Facebook, you might have noticed that we include a photo or graphic with each issue.
This week’s image is a photo of a protester in the background as Elliott Abrams testifies at a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee hearing on Venezuela in 2019. The photo was taken by Jose Luis Magana for AP and featured in a Washington Post article about Elliott Abrams.
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