20 thingsMike Pence did while you weren’t looking and why it matters.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

With the exception of an infamous trip to see Hamilton last November and a controversy about whether it’s OK to dine with women other than his wife, we’ve heard relatively little about Vice President Mike Pence since the election. In May, CNN even ran a story with the headline, “Mike Pence’s Disappearing Act.”

He’s a heartbeat away from the presidency and seems interested in following his own political ambitions beyond this administration, so what exactly has Mike Pence been up to lately? A lot, actually.

Here’s 20 things Mike Pence has done since taking office:

1. In January, Pence and others lobbied Trump to take hard-line positions on abortion, making good on some of his anti-choice campaign pledges.

Just days after taking office, Trump signed a slew of executive orders. Among them was the reinstatement of the so-called “Mexico City policy,” restricting foreign aid from going to groups that offer abortion services.

The Independent wrote about the decision to reinstate the policy, saying that pro-choice activists “feared [Trump] would reintroduce the policy as a gift to Vice President Mike Pence, known for his staunch opposition to abortion rights.”

2. Pence has led the charge to advance Trump’s policy agenda.

You may have seen him popping up on the Sunday morning political talk shows to push Trump’s agenda items. This has especially been the case when it’s an issue where Trump himself may not appear to have a total grasp of the policy being discussed, such as health care.

3. He’s been very vocal about supporting the use of tax dollars to fund religious schools.

Under the guise of “school choice,” Pence has been a long-time supporter of using tax dollars to fund charter schools and religious schools. As governor, Pence expanded Indiana’s charter school program and opted out of the nationwide “Common Core” standards. One of the side effects of Pence’s reign in Indiana was an uptick in the number of publicly funded schools teaching creationism. Pence, himself, hasn’t given a clear answer on whether he believes in evolution.

Trump was short on specifics about education policy during the campaign. In office, he’s rallying behind Pence’s ideas.

4. In January, Pence met with anti-abortion activists at the White House and delivered a speech at the annual March for Life.

During his address at the anti-choice march, Pence riled up the crowd with a pledge to “work with Congress to end taxpayer funding for abortion and abortion providers,” along with promises to support Supreme Court nominees who would overturn Roe v. Wade.

5. Pence spent much of February selling the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court as “mainstream.”

Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat on Jan. 31. Gorsuch, who had a record as a far-right, anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ judge, would face an uphill climb. That’s where Pence came in.

Rather than nominate someone who could receive the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster, Trump picked Gorsuch, and Pence immediately began work urging Republican leaders in the Senate to blow up the filibuster. They eventually did, and Gorsuch was sworn in on April 10.

6. Pence cast the tie-breaking vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as secretary of education, the first time a vice president has done so on a cabinet pick.

In February, DeVos was under immense scrutiny from Democrats and moderate Republicans. The billionaire heiress had zero education-related qualifications to run the department, but she did have a history of donating to far-right causes and championing the use of public money to fund schools that would “advance God’s kingdom,” in line with Pence’s own views on education.

With Republicans Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) voting against DeVos’ confirmation, the 50-50 vote went to Pence to break the tie. He voted to confirm her.

7. In May, Pence was named the head of Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.

This commission was established based on Trump’s unproven and unfounded claim that there was widespread voter fraud during the 2016 election. Pence was named commission chair, with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as vice chair. Together, Pence and Kobach have begun making requests for extensive voter information from states, with many voting rights groups worried that the commission will lead to widespread voter suppression.

8. Pence invited anti-abortion activists to the White House to discuss how to merge their agenda with that of the administration.

On March 9, Pence met with anti-abortion activists to discuss what sort of provisions they would like to see in the American Health Care Act bill, later pitching it to conservative members of the House of Representatives.

9. Later that month, he would cast the tie-breaking vote to nullify an Obama-era rule allowing that Title X funds be used for family planning services.

In his eight years in office, Joe Biden never cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate. Pence, just months into the job, has broken four ties (confirming DeVos, the motion to proceed on blocking the Title X rule, the final vote on blocking the Title X rule, and the motion to proceed on the Senate’s health care bill).

Gutting the Title X rule is bad news, especially for low- and middle-income women across the country.

10. Pence has met with members of the financial industry and championed efforts to roll back Dodd-Frank consumer protections.

Shortly after taking office, Pence addressed the GOP retreat, promising to dismantle the legislation enacted in the aftermath of financial collapse and its “overbearing mandates.” In May, he spoke out in favor of Republican Rep. Hensarling’s (Texas) CHOICE Act, which would deregulate the financial markets once again.

11. In May, Pence addressed the Susan B. Anthony List “Campaign for Life” gala.

Touting the administration’s successes when it came to curtailing reproductive rights, Pence declared, “For the first time in a long time, America has an administration that’s filled top to bottom with people who stand without apology for life.”

To cheers, he would later promise to ensure that people receiving health care subsidies would not be able to purchase insurance coverage that includes access to abortion.

12. Pence played a role in urging Trump to sign a “religious liberty” executive order during a National Day of Prayer ceremony.

While the final order was viewed by many conservatives as simply being one step in the right direction and not everything they wanted, the move showed just how much pull the extremely religious vice president has over his boss.

13. Pence addressed the first-ever World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians on May 11.

The speech bolstered the administration’s narrative that Christians are the true victims of terrorism in the Middle East. The truth is that people of all faiths have been targeted by ISIS, and messages about how Christians are the most persecuted only help advance some of the inherent Islamophobia in actions such as the travel ban — which only helps ISIS.

14. At the University of Notre Dame, Pence delivered a fiery commencement address, targeting “political correctness.”

The idea that college campuses are suppressing freedom of speech is a popular talking point, especially among conservatives. Pence used his platform to stoke that fire, saying, “Far too many campuses across America have become characterized by speech codes, safe zones, tone policing, administration-sanctioned political correctness — all of which amounts to nothing less than the suppression of freedom of speech.”

15. In May, Pence started his own political action committee called the “Great America Committee.”

Marking another first for a sitting vice president, the formation of a PAC signals that maybe he has some larger political ambitions that go beyond the Trump administration and his role as VP. Coupled with outgoing White House press secretary Sean Spicer saying that he’d be on board with a Pence run in 2024, this is worth keeping an eye on.

16. In June, Pence was put in charge of U.S. space policy.

Pence, being someone who likely doesn’t really believe in that whole “evolution” thing and once claimed that “smoking doesn’t kill,” seems like an odd choice to dictate anything related to science. But that’s what President Trump did after signing an executive order bringing back the National Space Council.

It’s still unclear what sort of direction Pence will take, though he has made promises to put people on Mars.

17. He’s raised money for his own PAC and other political causes.

What’s the point of having a PAC if you’re not going to raise money for it, right? In July, The New York Times reported that Pence has been playing host to “a string of dinners held every few weeks at the vice president’s official residence on the grounds of the Naval Observatory in Washington,” courting “big donors and corporate executives.”

18. On June 23, Pence addressed Focus on the Family, a powerful anti-LGBTQ organization, for its 40th anniversary.

Speaking about the administration’s commitment to helping “persecuted people of faith” and protecting their right to discriminate against LGBTQ people under the guise of “religious liberty,” Pence told the crowd, “This president believes that no American, no American should have to violate their conscience to fully participate in American life, and he has taken action to protect the expressions of faith by men and women across this nation.”

This is the same organization, mind you, that has called homosexuality “a particularly evil lie of Satan” and has called transgender people “mentally ill” and “like Cinderella in a fantasy world.”

19. As special elections have popped up across the country, Pence has been hitting the campaign trail in support of his fellow Republicans.

It’s not so surprising that Pence is getting out there. A little curious, however, is how little Trump has done comparatively — and how little coverage Pence’s presence has garnered. This once again shows Pence for the shrewd politician he is, able to help prop up other candidates. Trump, on the other hand, is mostly good at promoting one person: Trump.

20. Pence has been pressuring Congress to implement anti-transgender policies in the military.

Days before Trump tweeted that he was banning trans people from serving in the military, Foreign Policy reported that Pence was lobbying hard to fight back against trans inclusion in the military. Pence was reportedly putting pressure on members of Congress to hold the 2018 defense authorization bill hostage unless it included a rider barring funds being used on transition-related health care.

According to Politico, Trump was motivated to outright ban all trans people from the military for fear that the defense bill would stall and he wouldn’t receive the funding he requested for his wall. In the end, however, Pence got what he asked for and more. Though the Department of Defense is holding on implementing the tweeted policy until Trump formally submits a plan, it’s nearly a done deal.

This matters because Pence might not always be in the background.

It’s pretty clear that Pence’s political ambitions don’t end with being Trump’s vice president. With scandals rocking the White House on what seems like a daily basis — including calls for investigations and even some for Trump’s impeachment — it’s pretty important to take a long hard look at the man next in line for the position.

During the campaign, Pence’s extreme positions were largely whitewashed. His extreme anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion views were rarely talked about. As vice president, Pence has shown himself to be the man he’s always been: a smooth-talking politician with far-right social conservative views. So let’s keep a watchful eye on what he’s doing now because he might just be president one day.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/20-thingsmike-pence-did-while-you-werent-looking-mdash-and-why-it-matters

She fought to get a mat on the sand so her wheels could take her to the sea.

The day Gabrielle Peters started using a wheelchair was the day she started learning how to fight.

Peters is prickly, and it’s earned. For years, she clammed up in the face of condescending stares from strangers, platitudes from politicians, and second-class treatment from doctors. Now, when people try to “fix” her, she recommends they “take a good, long look in the damn mirror.”

When the housing complex where she lives in Vancouver was sold to a Mennonite group that forced residents to participate in prayers in the communal dining hall, she told Canada’s largest newspaper.

She doesn’t want to be saved, humored, or, worst of all, anyone’s “inspiration porn,” that flat, familiar treacle where a disabled person “overcomes” the odds to run cross-country, throw a javelin, or juggle a dozen chainsaws behind their back stories told mostly to remind able-bodied people how “good” they have it.

Peters wants equal health care, equal access, and equal rights. She also wants to go to the beach.

Until Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017, it had been more than 10 years since Peters had been on the sand. “The world I exist in was not designed for me, and the people I exist with have all sorts of messed up ideas about me,” Peters says.

A self-proclaimed “city person,” the water is her favorite place to be. The forest is a close second. When Peters was discharged from the hospital after rehabbing from the autoimmune disease that required her to begin using a wheelchair, she was determined not to let her new mobility arrangement reduce her quality of life.

But, without a flat surface, determination means squat.

She tried hiking the “accessible” trail in the city’s expansive Stanley Park to no avail. The surface was uneven, the paving was intermittent, and the grade was too steep.

A photo Peters took of the trail in October, showing pebbles and pine needles over uneven dirt. Photo by Gabrielle Peters.

Accessibility, it turns out, is subjective.

At the beach, she would sit as close to the water as she could by a paved seawall far from the tideline while her friends lounged on on a sandy section nearby. When she left, her friends would get up and move closer to the water.

Unlike the United States, Canada does not have a major federal law mandating equal opportunity and access for people with disabilities.

While many Americans, particularly those who lean left, tend to view the country as a sort of “America Plus” what we could be if only our self-involved, short-sighted politicians rolled up their sleeves, delivered a killer Aaron Sorkin-style speech, and started working for the common good on disability, Canada largely relies on a vague statement of principles laid out in documents like the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom, which calls for “equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination based on mental or physical disability.”

Efforts led by groups like Barrier Free Canada, Every Canadian Counts, and others to establish concrete, nationwide standards for accessibility, have thus far failed to produce legislation.

In the meantime, many disabled Canadians are forced to rely on the generosity of local governments and the tenacity of their fed up, pissed off peers like Peters to safeguard and expand their right to access public spaces.

In summer 2016, Peters (@mssinenomine on Twitter) began tweeting at the Vancouver Park Board, the agency responsible for the city’s beaches, demanding access to the shore.

The solution, she discovered, was 2,700 miles away, in Northern Bruce Peninsula, Ontario where the town had installed a flexible mat on the sand, allowing wheelchair users to glide all the way up to the waters’ edge.

If a tiny Lake Huron community of fewer than 4,000 people could get its disabled residents and visitors to the shoreline, Peters argued, her wealthy global city had no excuse.

The Park Board replied with a “survey of a plan of priorities for some time in the future.”

It felt insulting.

It turns out Vancouver city officials were indeed working on a solution having spent the previous two years searching for a way to open up the shoreline.

Park Board Chair Michael Weibe, who also sits on the Vancouver’s Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee, spends a lot of time on the road.

When he travels with his mother, who uses a wheelchair, he keeps a running note of “what works and what doesn’t,” based on her feedback as well as the feedback from residents who write and call his office with suggestions.

“Its always great to have such a healthy user group thats willing to share the information with us,” he says.

Part of the solution, it turned out, was in Vancouver’s own backyard.

The Park Board purchased a single MobiMat dirt cheap from an event company eager to sell it.

The low cost turned out to be a warning sign. The mat didn’t come with all the required parts, which required money the board hadn’t budgeted for and then had to find.

There was another problem too. Unlike Northern Bruce Peninsula, Vancouver has 14-foot tides. If the MobiMat was rolled all the way out to the water’s edge, parts of it would quickly be swallowed by the sea.

As a result, the mat sat in storage for the first few weeks of the summer.

Peters didn’t think she should have to wait for something able-bodied residents already had unlimited access to.

On June 23, she emailed a representative from the Park Board who had contacted her after her earlier tweets. She explained the feeling of dependency that comes with having to call in and request a beach wheelchair which are not self-powered in order to get on the sand. She explained the fear of leaving one’s wheelchair unsecured, and that many people have no desire to be pushed. She explained the longing she and others experience standing or sitting by the seawall, squinting at the waves meters away.

“I want on the beach now,” she wrote.

A member of the board followed up with a phone call a few days later. The hold up, he explained, was the missing parts, which were awaiting delivery.

For the first time, it was evident that someone was listening.

On Aug. 9, the city finally rolled out the mat at English Bay Beach.

Peters had been having health complications and had a doctor’s appointment scheduled for that day, but was determined to “soak in this tiny little win in a sea of inequality.”

And, of course, to “try it out and get close to my water.”

This time, her determination was met with the right piece of equipment.

She was nervous wheeling to it. As her chair edged on, the artificial surface slowed her pace, but did not leave her feeling “tippy or off balance.” She found that it wasn’t difficult to maneuver. A small gap in one section turned out to be easy to navigate.

A few minutes later, she caught the sunset.

“You’re a trailblazer,” an older woman told her.

Peters explained that she didn’t work for the Park Board, and she left to go get a hot dog. Back near the seawall, her former high water mark, she saw a man in a motorized wheelchair and told him about the mat. She watched him power over and down the path, stopping at the edge.

As she was leaving an hour later, she noticed he was still there.

“I never spoke to him, but I think I know how he feels about it,” she wrote on Twitter later that day.

Still, years of delayed promises have left Peters feeling anxious about the mat’s prospects.

“What if no one uses it?” she wonders. “What if it turns into an excuse to not make something else accessible because it wasn’t popular enough?”

The current setup is not perfect. Right now, there’s only one mat and the beach gets crowded. Also, it can’t really get that close to the shoreline because of the extreme rise and fall of the bay.

But there are signs the tide is turning. One of the first things Peters noticed was that there was no sign alerting beachgoers to the presence of the mat. If you didn’t already know about it, she realized, you would have no idea it was there.

Peters wrote the Park Board on Twitter. This time, they replied immediately.

Weibe notes that other residents have recommended creating more sitting areas adjacent to the mat to make it a social space. Recently, the Park Board purchased nine new wheelchairs with inflatable tires that can travel over sand to the water line, though they still require the aid of a friend or lifeguard.

A beach wheelchair. Photo by the National Park Service.

“Our goal is to have them at every beach because the call in [to get a beach wheelchair] is just another barrier,” Weibe says.

Peters agrees and has a million more ideas for what the city can do next.

She wants Vancouver’s beaches to get waterproof wheelchairs powered by compressed air for use in the ocean. She wants the Park Board to install a ramp by an area of stairs near the water. She wants adapted versions of the dozens of adventure activities in the city.

“I don’t get people who see this accessibility innovation as burdensome,” she says. “It’s fucking amazing and cool and requires the best kind of integrating of tech, design, ideas, and people.”

Gabrielle Peters knows how to fight. She fought to go to the beach and won. She’ll keep fighting until every space everywhere is accessible for everyone.

Until that happens, she’ll celebrate the small victory the way she prefers. By soaking in the salt air.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/she-fought-to-get-a-mat-on-the-sand-so-her-wheels-could-take-her-to-the-sea

One of the Portland heroes made an emotional video for all those sending him support.

Praise and gratitude continue to pour in for two men slain in Portland while defending two young girls from violent harassment on a train.

On, Friday, May 26, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Rick Best were stabbed by Jeremy Christian after they confronted him for harassing two young girls, one wearing a hijab.

The response around the globe has been nothing short of inspiring.

There have been vigils throughout the city honoring both men, who died as heroes. Support has overflowed on social media, and Namkai-Meche’s mother even wrote a powerful open letter to President Donald Trump urging him to condemn the attack.

There was a third man on the train who was brave enough to step in as the girls were berated: Micah Fletcher. He was lucky enough to survive the fight that followed.

Now, nearly a week since the attack, Fletcher is speaking out about what he saw.

After being treated for serious injuries, Fletcher is recuperating home. He posted a video to his Facebook page on Wednesday that quickly went viral:

“As a poet, you would think that I would have the words. It’s kind of my job,” he begins. “But for once, I don’t.”

https://www.youcaring.com/survivorsofthemaxattack-833557

#ChangeHerDestinee

Posted by Micah Fletcher on Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Amid all the donations and support coming his way, he wants people to know one thing: He is not the real victim.

A clearly emotional Fletcher grasps for words at times before issuing a powerful reminder:

“Can you imagine being the little girl on that MAX [train]?” he says in the video. “This man is screaming at you. … Everything about him is cocked and loaded and ready to kill you.”

“So brave that young girls experience that and still find ways to wake up in the morning with smiles on their faces, to trudge through the day and make their parents proud,” he continues.

Fletcher says that, of course, the men who died by his side while defending the women are heroes, and they deserve to be honored. But he urged his viewers not to get swept up in what he calls a “white savior complex.”

We should praise the men who stood up against it, but we can’t forget that this kind of violence and harassment continues to go on every single day around the country.

“I think it’s immensely, morally wrong and irresponsible how much money we have gotten as opposed to how much money and love and kindness have been given to that little girl,” Fletcher says near the end of the six-minute video. “These people need to be reminded that this is about them. That they are the real victims. “

Fletcher encouraged everyone watching the video to donate to a fundraiser that would provide the girls with meals, transportation, and mental health care as they recover from the traumatic attack.

Doing so is without a doubt the best way to keep the fight against hate and intolerance alive.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/one-of-the-portland-heroes-made-an-emotional-video-for-all-those-sending-him-support