Vol. 1, No. 9
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Greetings from VMF Co-editor
“The Democrats don't matter.”--- Steve Bannon
Hello and welcome members and friends,
I am amazed that it is already November! It is tempting to head into the holiday season wanting to put issues of government and politics behind us. Please understand that when you personally need a break, it is important to take one. No one's psyche can handle the current political whirlpool endlessly. There is a podcast I listen to, The Daily Beans, (more below in the new PODCASTS section) where the host often says, “Pass the baton.” She also finishes every episode with “Take care of your mental health.”
The thing about passing the baton is it only works if enough of us are in the relay race. I invite you to find a podcast that speaks to you (Please share links of your favorites with us at [email protected].) and take some action. Small, medium or large--- find a way to get involved with an issue that particularly matters to you.
We all live outside the States, at present, and I for one am most grateful to begin my 16th year living in my olive grove on the Greek island of Lesvos. But we all CARE. And things are not going well in our country of citizenship. In fact, alarming, disgraceful and dangerous things are happening in the US.
I titled this missive with words from Steve Bannon, from an interview he did with Michael Lewis, the author of many great books: Moneyball, The Big Short, The Fifth Risk, etc. I throw these words out there at the head of our precious newsletter because I think they are a wake up call. Influential people, like Bannon (as much as you might dislike him you ignore him at our democracy’s risk), believe that they can discount Democrats and get away with it.
In fact the whole quote is even more alarming: “The Democrats don't matter. The real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with sh*t.” This is the tactic being used all across America right now, a simple and simpleton's tactic but one that is sadly powerful. And let me tell you the sh*t is flying in the news these days. We as Democrats (and Independents who join in our fight) have to make ourselves matter.
If you need any convincing, I encourage you to listen to a 6-episode podcast series (approx 30-minutes each) called Southlake. I warn you people behave badly, and the students of the Carroll Independent School district suffer. Then, just yesterday my son called me from Wisconsin and said the local paper had a headline of similar school board issues in our home state.
One final podcast I will mention is called Gaslit Nation. It is a bit harder to listen to than some, it doesn't have great sound quality, and the topics are uncomfortable, but the two women are experts on the subject of rising autocracies and dictators around the world. They know a thing or two! Andrea Chalupa produced a film about Stalin's imposed famine in the Ukraine. Just last week there was a showing of the film in Moscow. The police came, locked the doors from the outside, and interrogated everyone present.
I truly don't know what Republicans are thinking. The path they seem determined to follow – just yesterday all 50 Republican Senators voted against even debating the Freedom To Vote Act – leads directly to such perilous outcomes. And in their attempts to control school boards America’s youth will be deprived. When perspective disappears only the sh*t remains.
I apologize for starting the month off with such a mood of doom and gloom, but if even one of us is motivated to take action, it has to be worth it. Thank you for your attention.
Robin H Rafaelidys
Lesvos, GreeceRead more
We are quickly approaching a time of great change in America. Former President Donald Trump won Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania in 2016 -- three states that made up a core part of the Democrats’ “blue wall.” In 2020, President Biden won back all three along with Arizona and Georgia, but his victory was achieved by incredibly small margins in key states.
As we prepare for 2022 and 2024, we will need to adapt to this change. We will need to identify the places where we can make a difference for our community and other communities alike and fight to keep the House, Senate, and White House blue. I am determined to ensure that our 2021-2023 VMF team is ready to tackle these challenging times with a diverse, active, and outspoken group of leaders and volunteers.
I will be accepting applications for our steering committee leadership positions until 11:59 PM EDT on October 15th. I will strive to complete making appointments to these positions no later than October 20th. If you are just interested in volunteering with our caucus’s teams, please still send an application! I will share volunteer applications with our appointed leaders so that they can fill out their teams with interested volunteers.
Available Steering Committee and Volunteer Positions:
- Regional representatives for the Americas, Asia-Pacific, and the Middle East/Africa
- Member Engagement and Advocacy - Team leader and volunteers
- Events Coordinator - Team leader and volunteers
- Communications and Social Media - Volunteers
If you are interested in being on our VMF team, please send me an email with what position or activities you are interested in and why you want to be a part of our team. Current service members, veterans, military family members, and allies are all welcome and encouraged to apply.
Anthony “Mike” Nitz
Chair, Global VMF Caucus
Vol. 1, No. 8
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Greetings from a VMF Caucus Guest Contributor
One of the proudest decisions of my post-active and -reserve military life is committing to volunteering for Democrats Abroad (DA). As I'm sure you're aware, there are many non-profit organizations and political groups that aim to support veterans and military families (VMF), but DA's Veterans and Military Families Caucus is unique. We are comprised of not only VMF Americans living abroad but also strong allies of our causes who live abroad and understand the overseas perspective. In my involvement with the VMF Caucus, I've created templates for our members to contact their Members of Congress, edited podcast discussions with issue-expert guests, brainstormed ideas on how to take advocacy action, and much more. Why am I dedicated to volunteering with the VMF Caucus and urging you to do the same?
Since last year's General Election, Democrats across the board have made significant progress in taking care of America's veterans and military families. Six months ago, President Biden signed into law legislation to provide COVID-19 vaccinations, whenever available, to all veterans, veteran spouses, caregivers, and VA Civilian Health and Medical Program recipients. The Democratic-led Senate has taken legislative steps forward on tackling the serious issue of eliminating sexual assault within the military, while the Democratic-led House of Representatives has tackled other important issues such as allowing VA employees to organize into labor unions, researching ways to halt veteran suicides, and repatriating deported veterans. In addition, Secretary McDonough has committed to making meaningful reforms to the oft-plagued Dept. of Veterans' Affairs while Democratic governors throughout the states have been enacting pro-veterans laws supported by millions of Americans. We need to not only keep these Democratic incumbents in office but expand this group by booting out anti-compromise, do-nothing Republican politicians holding back meaningful pro-VMF policies.
However, despite the above Democratic-led accomplishments, I'm not yet fully satisfied with the state of things and I suspect you aren't either. If you’re anything like the fellow Marines and Sailors I served with, you know that legislative victories that support veterans and military families don't come easily. The current system of VA health care is far from covering all of our nation's veterans from the physical injuries and mental scars sustained from their time in service, especially those veterans needing care who live abroad. An estimated millions of veterans harmed from toxic smoke and particulate matter stemming from so-called “burn pits” over the past few decades have yet to receive the earned VA-provided care needed to address their health. Moreover, with mold, lead-based paint, asbestos, poor water quality and exposure to sewage, base housing is still not completely safe for military families, especially for those military families residing abroad. When it comes to veterans and military families, "taking care of our own" goes without saying. But it also is an all-of-the-above strategy that the DA VMF Caucus strives to achieve.
Maybe you've thought about becoming more active with our caucus but aren't quite sure what we do. Let's discuss. We register U.S. citizens living abroad to vote. We provide assistance to those needing to request their ballot from their home state voting jurisdiction. We spread our messaging via social media and encourage others to share. We strive to have diversity and inclusion among our steering committee and full caucus membership. In short, we want what you want: to improve the federal government's response to supporting and taking care of our nation's veterans and military families; to hold our elected officials accountable; to always seek to improve our Party and our Caucus; and to increase voter turnout from Americans overseas.
So what can we as VMF Caucus members do? As it turns out, there are plenty of action items we can and must do to move our country forward. Whether it be:
- making a generous contribution to getting out the critical military overseas vote,
- spearheading an issue advocacy campaign,
- sharing with us your personal veteran or military family experience that you believe should be brought to our attention,
- researching ways federal issues affect the American veterans and/or military families abroad population,
- recommending notable guests for VMF webinar discussions and roundtables,
- drafting an op-ed, letter-to-the-editor, or convincing language to reform our Party and stances on VMF issues,
- participating in a commemorative or remembrance occasion,
- being an extra pair of hands during in-person VMF events,
- attending monthly online VMF meetings and sharing new information with fellow Democrats Abroad members in your country committee and personal network,
- raising awareness of a political issue,
- assisting with I.T.-related projects,
- mentoring, engaging, or empowering other VMF members, or
- following us on social media to learn of events and activities, it is easy:
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There are countless ways you can help the VMF Caucus!
We take great pride in the fact that since our caucus' founding four years ago, we have been 100% volunteer-run and operated with an overall clear goal of supporting American citizens abroad exercising their right to vote, and we invite you to help with our missions as our vital work continues to grow. Thank you for being a valued member of our caucus. And if you've received this newsletter from someone else, consider joining us, then let us know your skills and level of motivation, and we'll make sure your volunteering contributions won't be wasted.
Semper fi, Michael Ramos (DA Australia, IL voter, former enlisted USMC)
** IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT **
You might be surprised to hear that there are over 20 states having elections right now. All states allow absentee ballots to be returned by mail, but with supply chains slowed down by COVID, mail may not be the fastest or best option for you. Many states allow ballots to be faxed, so please check your state's guidelines at Votefromabroad.org. (If you don’t have access to a fax machine, there are several online fax services that will send your ballot quickly and safely, or perhaps a copy store near you.)
Vol. 1, No. 7
Greetings from the Co-Editor
Although we Democrats have big challenges ahead, most notably the evacuation in Afghanistan, the Covid-19 spikes hitting mainly the unvaccinated, the GOP’s coordinated efforts to suppress voting, and the global environmental crises, there are plenty of very real and tangible reasons for optimism. The 7-month-old Biden-Harris administration has executed a robust agenda, and significant accomplishments have been made. Here are the more salient reasons for optimism.
To start, in March Congress and Biden passed the very popular $1.9 trillion Covid Relief Bill, clearing the way for stimulus checks and vaccine aid. Then the Senate passed a massive bipartisan infrastructure bill. Fifty Democrats and 19 Republicans voted for this bill, which will be devoted to rebuilding the nation’s roads, transit networks, water-supply pipes, and sewer systems. Then comes the budget resolution, which Senate Democrats hope to pass by this fall. It would allow social policy legislation, paid for by raising taxes on the wealthy, large inheritances, and corporations. Should all 50 Democratic Senators close ranks, the measure could pass the Senate without any Republican votes, thereby avoiding a filibuster threat.
Together, these 2 bills could secure all of President Biden’s $3.5 trillion economic agenda: to rebuild the nation’s roads, bridges, rail lines, water systems and electricity grid, while upgrading public education, social welfare, health care, addressing climate change, and revamping the federal tax code. This is further explained in WHAT’S CONGRESS UP TO? Go to page 11 and check it out, or click here.
The Biden administration already participated in an important victory when 130 countries signed on to a plan for a global minimum corporate tax, supporting Biden’s belief that countries need to prevent corporations from taking advantage of weak tax rules.
Let’s not forget the August job report released by the Department of Labor showing better results than economists had predicted, and the administration had hoped for. The report also validates the Democrats’ approach to growing the economy. Since Reagan in 1981, Republican lawmakers have opposed government intervention to stimulate the economy, insisting that low taxes and private investment will drive the economy more efficiently. This recent job report confirms the exact opposite approach works more efficiently.
In another vein we heard the shocking revelations from former acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen about former president Trump’s direct efforts to use the Department of Justice to overturn the 2020 election. With Trump loyalist Jeffrey Clark from the DoJ and Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, soon testifying to Congress about their messaging that “the election had been stolen”, we can expect more damning revelations.
Sadly 25% of Republicans say they support the January 6 Insurrection as repackaged by allies of former president Trump to sway the public’s understanding of what happened that day. However, 535 insurrectionists have been arrested and await their sentences, some with jail time. There are reports that the Insurrection has convinced some moderate Republicans to shift their party identity to Independent, and to be noted, some even joined us, the Democrats.
Let’s also remember that in July, New York prosecutors charged the Trump Organization with a 15-year “scheme to defraud” the government and charged its Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg with grand larceny and tax fraud. Since Weisselberg, who has pandered to Trump for decades wants to avoid spending the rest of his life in prison, many suspect he will flip and cooperate with authorities despite the hold Trump has over so many facets of his life.
There is good and bad news coming from a report by James Hohmann in the Washington Post related to voter protection efforts. "Twenty-eight states have passed 71 laws since last November’s election to make voting easier, which will benefit 63 million eligible voters, while 18 states have passed 31 laws during that same time to erect barriers, affecting only 36 million eligible voters.” Speaking on the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, Merrick Garland endorsed moral courage when he said, “We must say again that it is not right to erect barriers that make it harder for millions of eligible Americans to vote. And it is time for Congress to act again to protect that fundamental right.”
Further, Jennifer Rubin made an encouraging analysis at the Washington Post by pointing to the Republican assumption that restrictions on early or mail-in voting would hurt Democrats, but since many Republican voters are older or live in rural areas and cannot get to the voting stations easily, the Republicans may be shooting themselves in the foot, and their efforts to undermine democracy may boomerang and reduce their chances for 2022 victories. Here
Although the road is bumpy, there are reasons to be optimistic about our country’s and our party’s future. The Biden-Harris administration is moving forward and I hope you will join me in admiring all the accomplishments described above.
Democratically yours, Bob GouldRead more
Vol. 1, No. 6
Greetings from the Co-Editor
Let My People Vote
Hello All Members and Friends,
As your newest Read, White, and Blue co-editor let me introduce myself and then dive, briefly, into what – despite all other news – I think is MOST serious. I was born in the 1950's in Madison, WI a middle-class town, in a middle-class world. I walked to school and had weekly $5 piano lessons. I went to Michigan State University and married at age 21. I have NO idea who, or where I'd be now if that man hadn't walked out of my life one day 3 years later. There I was at 24 with the rug pulled out from under me and I re-calibrated. As you can imagine I have stories for days but I will skip ahead to what matters: YOU.
In the 2018 election my vote – mailed from Greece to Milwaukee – was returned months later. With the “former guy” destroying democracy right and left I sought out support and found Democrats Abroad. However you got here, wherever you are WELCOME! And thank you. I deeply believe every grain of energy and intention contributed to fighting back at those attempting to damage democracy makes a difference.
And the most serious issue today – amidst all the challenges at present? The VOTE. Without it we are literally powerless. With the vote we are successful only in great numbers. If we can't amass those numbers because of disenfranchisement, harassment, challenging regulations, redistricting and state legislatures that get the authority to throw out results ----- we are defeated. End of story.
There are brave, dedicated serious groups working to fight back in many states. Lawyers for multiple organizations are taking anti-democratic regulations to court. (Even the ex-president MAY face the law – we can only hope.) I want to highlight what Texans and some other “good trouble” (Thank you, John Lewis!) people are doing right now. A brief rundown:
May 31: The Texas Democratic lawmakers walked out of session denying a quorum so no vote could be taken on the voting restrictions bill.
July 8: Texas legislators were called back for a special session.
July 12: 51 Democratic Texas legislators left Texas and went to DC, again stalling the Texas legislature from passing a major voter restriction bill.
July 15: Congresswoman Joyce Beatty of Ohio lead a group of women in a peaceful protest in the Hart Senate building (DC). They sang protest songs and chanted: Free the vote! End the filibuster! Fight for justice! They were arrested (in under one hour!).
July 19: Over 400 people assembled in Austin, TX for a LET MY PEOPLE VOTE rally held by Texas Impact, an interfaith organization.
Planned for July 27- 31: a “Selma to Montgomery'' march for voting rights. Marchers will walk from Georgetown, TX to Austin (27 miles) to demand that Texas legislators listen! It will be led by The Poor People's Campaign (founded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and led now by Reverends William Barber II and Liz Theoharis), Powered by People (founded by Beto O'Rourke) and more civil rights/voting rights organizations.
This IS what democracy looks like. I know this letter will come out when these things have all happened. But that does not mean they are over or done. I urge all of you to support any voting rights efforts you can in your home state or with any group you feel connected to. Various groups like Indivisible are planning events in every congressional district during the August recess period. If you have been active all along, good for you! If not, this is a great time to start! This debate is not yet decided. Congress does not go on recess for a couple weeks yet. If I had my say, they don't deserve vacation till they've done their job and defended all Americans' rights to vote.
Democratically yours, Robin H Rafaelidys (DA Greece)
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Vol. 1, No. 5
Greetings from the Co-Editor
We have been hard at work these last several months building a newsletter for our community: veterans, service members, military families, and allies. A whirlwind of news and legislation has impacted our community so far this year. Between COVID vaccinations for veterans and military families, burn pit and toxic exposure legislation, veteran deportation legislation, and more, we have been very busy. That is why we created a new section of our newsletter: “How We Are Fighting for Veterans and Military Families.” We want to tell you all about what we’re working on, and we want you to continue to tell us what you want. We receive emails every month from our readers about VMF issues. You can write us at our newsletter email address [email protected].
Please continue to tell us what you want to see, what you’ve enjoyed or would like to see change about our newsletter, and keep bringing new issues to us so we can continue to advocate for our community. We have had amazing results so far from our analytics team. Almost 40% of our members are reading the newsletter! We want to continue improving this publication for those who read it now and those who may read it in the future. Our next goal is to better integrate our newsletter with the Democrats Abroad website where we can create more detailed versions of particular sections of our newsletter. For instance, we intend to move much of the legislation we are tracking onto the website. We understand that these bills moving through Congress are important, but we also realize that two pages of legislation in the newsletter may be too much.
Remember, this newsletter is for you. Contact us any time you have VMF concerns that you believe we should address and never hesitate to ask us questions about voting, registering to vote, utilizing the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), or Vote From Abroad!
Anthony “Mike” Nitz, Navy Veteran
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MARGRATEN ON MEMORIAL DAY AND EVERY DAY
By Roberta Enschede, DA The Netherlands
“If ever proof were needed that we fought for a cause and not for conquest,
it could be found in these cemeteries. Here was our only conquest:
all we asked ....was enough.....soil in which to bury our gallant dead.”
Lt. Gen. Mark W. Clark
Sadly, this year like last, there can be no public ceremony at Margraten on Memorial Day. The thousands of people - grandparents, parents, children, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, veterans who come year after year will not be there to put a flower or a bouquet on the grave of “their soldier” or a handful of pebbles on a white marble Star of David.
Yet, even though they can’t be there, their memories and thoughts, like mine, will be in the rolling land of Limburg where we “buried our gallant dead.” Perhaps they’ll tell friends a story about “their soldier,” the young hero the family adopted. Perhaps they’ll say a prayer or look at a book of old photos. Maybe they’ll think about how they felt when they had the privilege to lay a wreath during the Memorial Day Ceremony. Maybe they’ll remember when they were Scouts and walked around and placed a Dutch and American flag in front of each grave.
The more you go to Margraten, the more meaningful it becomes. When I’m there, I always stop at the grave of Robert van Klinken. He was a young soldier whose parents were Dutch immigrants and who died in the land of their birth. I visit the grave of Willie James, an African-American soldier who posthumously was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama. I walk over to the grave of Major General Maurice Rose, the highest ranking soldier buried in Margraten and the most decorated.
Before I leave, I find some of the graves of the Timberwolves - the 104th Infantry. I was fortunate enough to get to know some of their comrades who made it out of the war and made a point of returning to Margraten for as long as they were able to travel. My Timberwolf friends are all gone now - those funny, feisty, smart, wise, courageous men. I could always feel how they cared for each other. Sometimes, they acted like teenagers who won a ballgame, slapping and laughing. Sometimes, I could feel their sadness and I knew they were asking themselves: why was I lucky? Why is he here and not me? One fellow, a jeweler from LA, would say, “Margraten, that’s my church.” Another tall lanky gentleman, an architect from Kansas, would amble over to the graves of his comrades and come back with tears filling his eyes. He’d tell his soldier buddies, “I said hello.”
I would stand to the side and just watch and listen. They were in a world only another soldier could understand.
The ancient words of Pericles are carved in the white marble of Margraten. They are especially fitting this year when we are only able to be there in our thoughts and memories.
"EACH FOR HIS OWN MEMORIAL EARNED
PRAISE THAT WILL NEVER DIE AND WITH
IT THE GRANDEST OF ALL SEPULCHRES
NOT THAT IN WHICH HIS MORTAL BONES
ARE LAID BUT A HOME IN THE MINDS OF MEN."Read more
Vol. 1, No. 3
Greetings from the Co-Editor
Nearly 15% of the attempted insurrectionists on January 6 were veterans. Research is consistently indicating that the primary driver for those insurrectionists was fear of the “great replacement,” the belief that the rights of minorities will “overtake” that of Whites. One study by Chicago’s Project on Security and Threats found that for every 1% decline in a county’s White non-Hispanic population over a 5-year period, the county was 6 times more likely to send at least one insurrectionist.
- The ingredients currently exist for future political violence.
- We need a thorough bipartisan investigation into the insurrection, including how it was possible that there was a 58 to 1 ratio of rioters to Capitol Police officers, and why 78 requests for backup were denied or ignored.
- FBI, National Guard, mayors, law enforcement, the CIA, etc. need better intelligence, communications, and sounder risk analysis of right-wing extremist groups in America.
- Research is needed to assess the extent radicalization occurs before, during, or after military service and police training.
Democratically yours, Bob Gould
Washington Post 4/6/21 What an analysis of Capitol insurrections tells us Here
Chicago’s Project on Security and Threats (CPOST) Here
Washington Post 4/15/21 Police at the Capitol Severely Disadvantaged Here
The Nation 4/7/21 The US Military Is an Extremism Incubator Here
Today V-E and WW II are commemorated around the world as those who served are honored. V-E Day marked the end of most fighting in Europe where tens of millions of service members and civilians lost their lives. President Harry S. Truman, who was born on May 8, 1884, announced the end of the war in Europe on his 61st birthday. About 16 million Americans served in World War II—with 2 million serving in Europe. 11% of our population fought in World War II.
May-National Military Appreciation Month
A month to recognize and show appreciation to the Armed Forces of the United States of America.
May 1, 2021- Loyalty Day
A day set aside for American citizens to reaffirm their loyalty to the United States
and to recognize the heritage of American freedom. Learn more...
May 1, 2021 - Silver Star Service Banner Day
A day set aside to honor our wounded, ill, and dying military personnel by
participating in flying a Silver Star Banner. Learn more...
May 6, 2021 - National Day of Prayer
The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of
May, inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation. Learn more...
How can you pray for the military community? Learn more...
May 7, 2021 - Military Spouse Appreciation Day
A day set aside to acknowledge the contributions and sacrifices of the spouses of
the U.S. Armed Forces. Learn more...
May 8, 2021 — V-E (Victory in Europe) Day
(Celebrated May 7 in Commonwealth countries)
A day which marks the anniversary of the Allies' victory in Europe during World War II
on May 8, 1945. Learn more...
Volunteers Honoring Veterans in Washington, D.C. with Helen Belletti, Volunteer Coordinator
RSVP for the Zoom Webinar: [email protected]
To join on Zoom, go to: http://us02web.zoom.us/j/4414855431
Meeting ID: 441 485 5431 (Waiting room. No password needed.)
To join the VMF Caucus: http://www.democratsabroad.org/vmf