Year 3, Week 37 (September 29–October 5)

Y’all, it hasn’t even been a full week since I last sent you an update, and yet we have three weeks’ worth of news. Much of it is venal nonsense, but that doesn’t mean it’s unimportant — unfortunately for us, we have to keep paying attention.

Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m mostly summarizing the news within my area of expertise. NNR summaries often contain some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise — I’m a lawyer, not a text message! — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. And, of course, for the things that are within my lane, I’m offering context that shouldn’t be considered legal advice. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!


Constitutional Crisis Corners:

The main contents of the CCC this week are another wild round of Whistleblowing Ukraine Biden Bingo, which is the gift that just keeps on giving. (I’ve summarized as best I can since this story keeps on growing new heads, and have folded things relating back to the Russia investigation into this section.) Here’s what I have for you, and I’m sorry about the mess:

  • Brand New Additional Articles? In addition to everything else happening this week, there’s some question of whether we’ll have additional articles of impeachment after some of the week’s events. For one thing, Trump said the quiet part out loud on the White House lawn this week, telling reporters that China and Ukraine should both investigate Biden and removing literally all doubt about whether he had done that particular crime. But there are also updates with the IRS whistleblower I mentioned last week, because the Treasury’s inspector general is now investigating the complaint. So we’ll need to keep an eye on both of these.

This week also saw the return of Disregard of Governing Norms separate from the impeachment inquiry, because nothing actually keeps this government from diversifying its own corruption very long — and we had some really bad news on this front today. Here’s what happened:


Your “Normal” Weird:


The Bad:

  • Guyger Scales Aftermath. Though it was validating when Amber Guyger was convicted of murder last week, many folks were frustrated by her very light sentence, which the judge on the case punctuated when she gave Guyger a hug and a gifted bible. Then, as an additional highlight of the systemic issues faced by Black Americans, a key witness on the case was fatally shot immediately after the trial concluded. Despite Guyger’s conviction, we have many, many issues of racism to address within our criminal justice system.

The Good:

  • Impeachment Tipping Point. The incredible outpouring of impeachment data has been overwhelming, but Americans are starting to respond to it. According to several polling organizations, public opinion now supports impeachment by a simple majority, with 74% of Democrats now supporting the endeavor. This is a promising sign, and it will encourage the House to keep issuing subpoenas to a recalcitrant White House.

  • Recent Court Resilience. We did see one major symbolic court win earlier today — a federal District Court judge ruled that Trump must turn over his tax returns on the Manhattan lawsuit, rejecting the argument that his current position gives him criminal immunity. The administration immediately appealed, surprising no one, but the case is still a valuable data point in the ongoing debate about Presidential immunity.

So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m sorry, but there are no news refunds. For making it through, you deserve John Scalzi’s beautiful photos of flowers and an eventual better government. I’ll be back next week with more (and hopefully better) news, and I hope you will be back as well — but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments. Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me a Time Turner; I promise I’ll use it responsibly!

Year 3, Week 31 (August 18–24)

This week has basically been ten pounds of chaos in a five-pound can — it’s a rough ride featuring everything from rainforest arson to Trump deciding he’s The Chosen One. I’m sorry, this is in fact reality, but your ice cream is here for you and so am I.

Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m only summarizing the news within my area of expertise. This week’s news contains some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise — I’m a lawyer, not a Twitter tantrum! — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!

Constitutional Crisis Corners:

With the Mueller investigation over and the Senate and House both on a break, the Russia Investigation has been pretty quiet. But here’s what I have right now:

The name of the game this week was Disregard of Governing Norms, and oh, what a week it was. Here’s what I have for you:

Your “Normal” Weird:

The Bad:

The Good:

So that’s what I have for this week, and good gravy, what even is the news right now. For making it through, you deserve this monkey reunion video and an eventual better government. I’ll be back next week with more (and hopefully better) news, and I hope you will be back as well — but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments. Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me more ice cream, cause we’re gonna need it!

Year 3, Week 30 (August 11–17)

Well, I got back from vacation and the nation was somehow even more on fire than I left it. (I swear I didn’t leave the stove on.) We’ll get through this and out the other side; it’s just going to take all of us pitching in to support each other.

Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m only summarizing the news within my area of expertise. This week’s news contains some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise — I’m a lawyer, not a trip to Israel! — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!

Constitutional Crisis Corners:

With the Mueller investigation over and the Senate and House both on a break, the Russia Investigation has been pretty quiet. But here’s what I have right now:

This week’s Disregard of Governing Norms news, on the other hand, sure had attributes. Here’s what happened:

Your “Normal” Weird:

The Bad:

The Good:

So that’s what I have for this week, and good gravy, what even is the news right now. For making it through, you deserve this primer on zero-proof beverages and an eventual better government. I’ll be back next week with more (and hopefully better) news, and I hope you will be back as well — but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments. Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me a kudos for surviving a nine-hour Ikea trip!

National News Roundup: Year 3, Week 27 (July 21–27)

This week has a lot happening, and much of it can feel like a shell game designed to hide the ball from view — because it is. I’ll try to keep folks posted on everything going on, though some days it’s hard for me to keep my eye on the ball as well — those cups move really fast! (But we all do our best.)

Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m only summarizing the news within my area of expertise. This week’s news contains some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise — I’m a lawyer, not a policy change! — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!

Constitutional Crisis Corners:

It’s another week of heavy movement on the Russia Investigation front, and some of the news has major implications. Here’s what’s going on right now:

This week’s Disregard of Governing Norms news is just repeated installments of the Trump Is Horrible Show, but we have to pay attention to it anyway because it has implications. Here’s what happened:

Your “Normal” Weird:

The Bad:

The Good:

So that’s what I have for this week, and it’s more than enough. For making it through, you deserve this excellent cover of Old Town Road and an eventual better government. I’ll be back next week with more (and hopefully better) news, and I hope you will be back as well — but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments. Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me a full night’s sleep so I can feel all fancy!

National News Roundup: Year 3, Week 26 (July 14–20)

You know, occasionally people will remark on how I’m able to stare into the news void so much without getting jaded, and I don’t know what they mean — but then I look at a dog and pony show like this past week’s media circus and I’m somehow still amazed by how Extra it is. So I guess y’all have a point. (That said, I’m not sure if that’s a comment on my resilience, on 45’s smoke and mirrors, or both. It’s probably both.)

Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m only summarizing the news within my area of expertise. This week’s news contains some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise — I’m a lawyer, not a Twitter tantrum! — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!

Constitutional Crisis Corners:

After a few weeks of quiet, we saw some significant movement on the Russia Investigation this week. Here’s what I have for you:

There was mostly just one gigantic story on the Disregard of Governing Norms front, but it’s quite a saga. Here’s what happened:

Your “Normal” Weird:

The Bad:

The Good:

So that’s what I have for this week, and it’s more than enough. For making it through, you deserve these videos of Broadway performers singing in the streets during last week’s blackout and an eventual better government. I’ll be back next week with more (and hopefully better) news, and I hope you will be back as well — but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments. Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me your completed bingo card to win a prize!

National News Roundup: Year 3, Week 25 (July 7–13)

My sense this week is that much like my car, we’re all out of gas right now. It’s okay to rest and refuel, folks — in fact, it’s important, because this dystopia is an ultra-marathon and we all get tired sometimes. Take the time you need and come back ready to fight. (In the meantime, sloth party at my place!)

Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m only summarizing the news within my area of expertise. This week’s news contains some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise — I’m a lawyer, not a Twitter tantrum! — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!

Constitutional Crisis Corners:

It was actually a pretty quiet week for the Russia Investigation, all things considered, but we did see a couple of things. Here’s what happened:

We did see a couple of bizarre actions on the Disregard of Governing Norms front, in contrast. Here’s what happened:

Your “Normal” Weird:

The Bad:

The Good:

So that’s what I have for this week, and it’s more than enough. For making it through, you deserve these calves with knitted earmuffs and an eventual better government. I’ll be back next week with more (and hopefully better) news, and I hope you will be back as well — but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments. Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me better news from our interior!

National News Roundup: Year 3, Week 24 (June 30 — July 6)

The immigration news section remains on fire, but the rest of this week was nowhere near the horrorshow of the previous few weeks. Of course, this is rather like walking into a house and saying, “well, only one of these rooms is ablaze” — we can’t just sit and enjoy the mesquite flavor in the next room; we still have to act.

Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m only summarizing the news within my area of expertise. This week’s news contains some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise — I’m a lawyer, not a subpoena! — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!

Constitutional Crisis Corners:

It was actually a pretty quiet week for the Russia Investigation, with the closest news technically being about Trump’s finances. Here’s what happened:

In contrast, there was a lot of Disregard of Governing Norms stories this week, and they cover a fair amount of ground. Here’s what happened:

Your “Normal” Weird:

The Bad:

The Good:

So that’s what I have for this week, and it’s more than enough. For making it through, you deserve this close-up view of sand and an eventual better government. I’ll be back next week with more (and hopefully better) news, and I hope you will be back as well — but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments. Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me better news from the border!

National News Roundup: Year 3, Week 23 (June 23–29)

Despite the conclusion of Pride, this week’s news isn’t exactly rainbows and sunshine — the thunderstorms yesterday felt like appropriate ambiance. Things are pretty grim but we’ll get through this, if we take action and just keep swimming. I’m here if anybody needs anything.

Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m only summarizing the news within my area of expertise. This week’s news contains some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise — I’m a lawyer, not a subpoena! — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!

Constitutional Crisis Corners:

We have a bit more than average Russia Investigation news, and most of it is fascinating in one way or another. Here’s what I have for you:

We saw a couple of Disregard of Governing Norms stories this week, and they’re about what we’ve come to expect — which is its own problem. Here’s what happened:

Your “Normal” Weird:

The Bad:

The Good:

  • Scoring Goals Under Pressure. Soccer midfielder and all-around rockstar Megan Rapinoe announced this week that she would definitely not be going to the White House when her team won their upcoming World Cup quarterfinal match, except her version maybe contained more expletives. She then proceeded to score two amazing goals in the quarterfinals and pose like a purple-haired god at the jeering French crowd, which is the kind of self-possessed big energy I’m here for in 2019. After the game, Rapinoe reiterated that she wouldn’t retract anything she said about Trump — except the expletive, because it made her mom sad. Then just for extra excellence, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez invited Rapinoe to tour the House on Twitter, which Rapinoe accepted. With a party emoji.
  • Recent Court Resilience. Despite the SCOTUS news above, there were some good federal cases this week as well. In addition to the immigration cases listed, a federal judge allowed the emoluments case against Trump to go forward again, thwarting yet another attempt by this administration to make the unjust enrichment suits go away. I’m sure they’ll try again, but it’s still good to see the courts remain firm on this.

So that’s what I have for this week, and it’s more than enough. For making it through, you deserve this cat in a sailor suit and an eventual better government. I’ll be back next week with more (and hopefully better) news, and I hope you will be back as well — but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments. Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me better news from the border!

National News Roundup: Year 3, Week 22 (June 16–22)


Folks, the news is never what I’d call great, but after several weeks of increasingly dispiriting nonsense, this may be the worst week we’ve had so far this year. I’ve restructured this week’s roundup under the Really Bad protocol, so you get your dessert good news first and we’re closing with things you can do to help. Try to hold on to the knowledge that it won’t stay this bad — we will come through the other side. I’m here if anyone needs anything.

Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m only summarizing the news within my area of expertise. This week’s news contains some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise — I’m a lawyer, not a coal emission! — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!

The Good:

Constitutional Crisis Corner

The Russia Investigation was fairly quiet this week, all things considered. Here’s what happened:

We saw a couple of Disregard of Governing Norms stories this week, and for the first time in a while they’re just all about Trump being horrifying. Here’s what happened:

Your “Normal” Weird:

The Bad:

  • Gag Rule Upheld in Appeals Court. The Ninth Circuit allowed enforcement of this administration’s Title X gag rule this week, which is pretty dispiriting news on several fronts at once. Just on its surface, the ruling’s not awesome because it set aside injunctions blocking enforcement, which means the administration to keep the rule in effect while the appeal is pending. But as the lower court injunctions suggest, the Ninth Circuit is a jurisdiction that’s not noted for its conservatism — the panel of three judges were all appointed by former Republican presidents. There’s another panel that will hear the case on the merits, and we’ll have to hope that the next luck of the draw is better.
  • Clean Power Setback.* The Trump administration is moving forward with its plan to roll back the Clean Power Plan, issuing a new rule on coal emissions ironically named the Affordable Clean Energy Rule even though the main goal is to save coal plants. The new rule relaxes emission rules considerably, giving states the option to punt on rolling back emissions entirely, so it’s not surprising that several clean-energy focused states already plan to sue.

The Very Bad:

What We Can Do:

  • Immigration Detention Conditions. I put together a list of suggestions for folks who want to help and have no professional or cultural ties to targeted populations. Tl; dr version: 1) Learn about major organizations’ efforts; 2) Talk to your government; 3) Donate time and money; 4) Disseminate information without contributing to panic. For attorneys and other folks with professional ties, there are already many organizing efforts underway, and I recommend checking them out. For impacted populations, many groups have suggestions as well. We’ll get through this, and action can help.
  • Iran Crisis. This one is down to mostly calling our reps, particularly given the encouraging Senate news from this week. You can find your House rep info here and your Senator info here, and as always, sites like ICalledMyReps and 5Calls have scripts for you.

So that’s what I have for this week, and it’s more than enough. For making it through, you deserve this ridiculous mashup and an eventual better government. I’ll be back next week with more (and hopefully better) news, and I hope you will be back as well — but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments. Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me a clone army so I can Do All the Things!

How Concerned Americans Can Help with Immigration Crises: An Evergreen Primer

Oren Rozen [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

(This is the googolplexth installment of a series of articles unpacking the many horrifying immigration implications created by the Trump administration. Though I am not an immigration specialist, I am a legal generalist working with indigent populations professionally full-time. This article is not intended to form an attorney-client relationship or constitute legal advice, though it is my hope that it will help people feel equipped to take action.)

As all of us living in America watch the immigration enforcement machine churn, it can be hard to know how to best help — if you’re not an immigration lawyer and not personally involved, direct action can feel elusive. But there are definitely things that help slow this hydra down, and most of us can take many of these actions in our day-to-day!

Before we start, some disclaimers: This primer is intended for folks who want to help non-professionally and are not themselves a primary target for detention or deportation— it assumes no cultural or professional ties to immigrant populations, which impacts the nature of the suggestions. Some suggestions may be difficult for government workers, but I tried to include a broad range so that even folks who can’t lobby or donate have things they can do. Okay, onward to the suggestions!


1. Know and Support the Major Players

Immigration law is quite a rabbit hole, and sub-specialization is very common — folks who do asylum work full-time may look at changes to public charge and think, “Whoa, that’s not my burrow.” But for each common issue, some credible orgs will come up over and over again. It’s a good idea to get to know these organization names, because this first step will make every other suggestion easier to do long-term.


2. Talk to Your Government

This is the veggie consumption everybody is told will help grow strong civics but nobody feels does anything. The good news is, much like eating vegetables, efforts do result in healthy growth over time!

  • Federal Calls. Reps who support immigrants respond to calls thanking them for action because it helps them gauge their constituents. Reps who don’t will still sometimes respond to pressures, and if nothing else it can help you feel better to vent your spleen. You can learn who your House rep is here, and search for Senator contact info here. I also really strongly recommend connecting to Celeste P’s newsletter — she’s a former Congressional staffer who keeps close track of government movement on this issue and will email you info and scripts.
  • State Calls. Your state reps may be considering legislation that impacts immigrants locally — here in Massachusetts, there are currently multiple bills kicking around the Statehouse. Your local organizations and research entities like CLINIC and NCSL can help you learn more about what’s going on where you are!
  • Public Comments. This administration likes to do stuff that requires a public comment period by law. Groups like Protect Immigrant Families often organize comment drives, and there are three still happening as I type this. Leaving a public comment is a great way to help create real change, and it’s not as scary as it sounds — you don’t need to be an expert, your comment likely won’t take more than an hour or two to draft tops. And because the administration has to review and respond to every single unique comment they receive, it can be really effective at slowing down hateful policy.

3. Donate Your (Culturally Competent) Time

It may not feel like it, but there are things that even a person with no professional or cultural ties can do to donate time to immigration issues. This can be a great way to feel more involved and make a concrete difference with results you can see. Just remember to center your work around the people you’re trying to help — they’re the experts on their lived experience, and this is a really rough time for immigrant populations. Folks deserve empathy and understanding if you work with them directly!

  • Interior Efforts. Many locations have accompaniment networks or bail efforts that help make sure people held by ICE are able to make it to immigration court properly, get bail granted, and receive access to appropriate conditions while held. (Here in Massachusetts, Beyond Bond runs the main accompaniment network I know of.)
  • Asylum Efforts. Many asylum networks take volunteers of all stripes, for everything from medical evaluation to ESL classes to translation services. It’s a bit easier to do direct work if you have specialized training, but many places provide general or specialized training as an initial step.
  • General Efforts. Finally, general organizations like #StandWithImmigrants have more general volunteer programs, covering everything from court observation to ESL classes to legal services intake. This can be a great way to give a more general hand as people get situated.

4. Donate Your Dollars

Everyone in this field is spread very thin right now, because the immigration crisis manages to be everywhere at once. Providing monetary support can help increase resources in a variety of different ways.

  • Sections 1, 3, and 5 Make a Great List! Unfortunately, such a multi-pronged crisis leaves a lack of universal, centralized lists to direct efforts. But most of the groups referenced above and below have links to accept donations. All my recommendations can be considered reasonable places to send money.
  • Some General Suggestions: For widespread support, national legal organizations are often a safe bet; a lot of the traction we’ve gained has come from a combination of publicity and legal work. (For localized issues such as the border crisis, obviously, a local organization may be better.) If all else fails, or you just need a quick one-stop suggestion, Charity Navigator lists reputable organizations doing good work.

5. Support Information Dissemination

This administration does a truly unprecedented amount to obfuscate information and limit the range of our free press, especially around immigration issues. The good news is, there is a lot that the average citizen can be doing to counter this, on social media and otherwise:

  • Uphold a Free Press through Sharing Links and Resources. One major way we learn about atrocities is responsible journalism — in particular, outlets like the Associated Press, the New York Times, the New Yorker, Reuters, and the Washington Post all have broken major stories on the subject since 2017. I know a lot of the major players run obnoxious op eds, and their reporting isn’t always optimal. But these news outlets spotlight 45’s worst practices; we need them to stay functional and working with advocacy organizations. Please consider disseminating links and providing financial support for their efforts!
  • Myth-Bust. MAGA minds tend to use the same false talking points about immigration over and over and over again. This garbage Groundhog Day practice does have an upside, because predictable myths have predictable counters — and many of them are relatively straightforward and simple. I compiled a list of greatest hits about six months ago, during the Obnoxious “Immigrants are Criminals” Campaign of ’18, but Snopes, PolitiFact, and other fact-checking institutions definitely have your back on new issues as they occur. Engaging with fascists on the Internet in 2019 is its own art, but it can do a lot to spread accurate information to bystanders. You really are doing something helpful by correcting common misconceptions!

6. …but Don’t Spread Panic.

I cannot overstate what a time of fear this is — the administration terrorizes people repeatedly, trying to create a chilling effect on access to rights and services. Unfortunately, studies show that’s been pretty successful, at least on some issues, and we don’t want to do DHS’s work for them. So Section 5 has a couple of important caveats:

  • Check Your Sources. News outlets in Section 5 are generally reputable sources of information, and the organizations listed in Section 1 definitely are. Whenever possible, please check information against sources, because misinformation spreads like wildfire during times of high stress and crisis. The good news is, this is another issue where Snopes, PolitiFact, and other fact-checking institutions have your back, and they’re worth taking a few minutes to review. Try to double-check social media news especially, for obvious reason!
  • Account for Vicarious Trauma. If you’re reading this, it’s likely that the atrocities going on are impacting you too — even with no direct ties, it’s really hard to stomach kids in camps. People experiencing secondary or vicarious trauma are more likely to share information in ways that panic others, so it’s important to learn what you need to recenter and stay on your game. (And, obviously, it’s also helpful to you and other activists — we’ve got to look out for each other!) I’ve written a resilience roadmap on this topic which compiles suggestions much like this piece does, but there are a lot of great resources out there in general. I promise it’s worth the time — a lot of folks can run on empty for a time, but why do it when you don’t need to and it may hurt the folks you’re trying to help?

So there you have it! Six concrete suggestions for ways you can help with the current immigration horrorscape. Please feel free to link to this essay, take links from it, or otherwise use it to keep fighting the good fight — it’s rough out there, and I’m happy to help if I can.