06
Wed, Dec

Obama, Deporter-in-Chief, Should Pardon All the Undocumented

CALIFORNIA ALERT--Donald Trump will soon sweep into the office of the U.S. presidency, buttressed by both houses of Congress firmly in Republican control. A wave of regressive executive orders and legislation are already being prepared to ensure that Trump’s first 100 days effectively erase the Obama presidency.

Where Trump was once the most prominent “birther,” attempting to deny President Barack Obama’s legitimacy with a racist campaign accusing him of being born in Kenya, Trump now will wield a pen to legally undermine Obama’s legacy. But Barack Obama is still the president of the United States until Jan. 20, and retains the enormous executive powers that the office bestows. That is why a swelling grass-roots movement is now urging Obama to use executive clemency and the presidential pardon to protect the nation’s millions of undocumented immigrants from the mass deportations Trump repeatedly promised on the campaign trail.

In case some think Trump’s deportation pledge is mere bluster, the Reuters news agency reported Tuesday on an internal Department of Homeland Security memo that summarized a December meeting between the Trump transition team and the agency. According to Reuters, the Trump transition team asked for details on border wall construction, the capacity for increased immigrant detention, and about the ability to restore aggressive aerial surveillance of the southern border (which was scaled back by the Obama administration). Chillingly, they also asked if any DHS staff had “altered biographic information kept by the department about immigrants out of concern for their civil liberties.”

This last question betrays a likely Trump transition team concern that federal employees may be purging databases of identifying information from the more than 740,000 young people who registered with the government under DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program initiated in June 2012. On Dec. 5, a group of 106 members of Congress wrote to President Obama, urging him to protect such information: “Countless community advocates, organizers, and public servants have promoted the DACA program to Dreamers on the premise that the information they supply to DHS would not be used to deport them in the future.  We cannot stand by and allow the Trump Administration to exploit the trust these young Americans placed in us and the government,” the letter read in part. In addition to name, date of birth, fingerprint and other biometric data, DHS also collects home address, which could endanger other family members who lack legal U.S. immigration documentation.

The Obama administration has already taken similar action after Trump’s election, formally shutting down the NSEER program, the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System created in 2002 as part of the “Global War on Terror.” The program targeted people from specific countries with majority Muslim populations, and was shut down by Obama to prevent its use as part of a Muslim registry.  Locally, cities like New York also are preparing to push back. Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to protect the information of more than 850,000 immigrants who hold the city’s municipal identification card. Numerous cities are becoming immigrant-protective sanctuary cities, or are reaffirming their status as such, in response to Trump’s threatened mass deportations.

A number of members of Congress, along with groups like the Hispanic Coalition NY and the Dream Action Coalition, are asking President Obama to go further than protecting the DACA data, and to extend a presidential pardon to all who applied for DACA. And renowned linguist and political dissident Noam Chomsky has taken this idea further, saying Obama “should proceed to what is in fact an urgent necessity: to grant a general pardon to 11 million people who are living and working here, productive citizens in all but name, threatened with deportation by the incoming administration. This would be a horrible humanitarian tragedy. And moral outrage can be averted by a general pardon for immigration infractions, which the president could issue. And we should join to urge him to carry out this necessary step without delay.”

“The power to pardon is one of the least limited powers granted to the President in the Constitution,” James Pfiffner wrote for the conservative Heritage Foundation, back in 2007. Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson granted amnesty to Confederate rebels. Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter gave amnesty to the more than 200,000 Americans charged with resisting the draft during the Vietnam War (Donald Trump didn’t need the amnesty; he got four draft deferments for college and one for an alleged bone spur). Forty years after Carter, President Obama can use his immense power of the presidential pardon to de-escalate the war on immigrants, which otherwise, under Trump, threatens to get immeasurably worse. 

(Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,300 stations. She is the co-author, with Denis Moynihan, of “The Silenced Majority,” a New York Times best-seller.)

-cw

Is Our Fear of Nuclear Energy Overblown?

GUEST WORDS--When we think about nuclear energy, what usually comes to mind are its worst consequences. The disastrous accidents of Chernobyl and Fukushima—as well as the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—loom large in the debate over whether we should rely more heavily on nuclear power as part of a shift toward a low-carbon energy economy. But do these terrible events loom too large? In a recent piece in Genetics, biologist Bertrand Jordan, of Aix-Marseille University in France, argues that most of us have an exaggerated view of the dangers of radioactivity, and that this is distorting the debate over nuclear power as a viable clean energy option. 

Jordan bases his argument on the results of long-term studies of Japanese atomic bombing survivors. 

The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were terrible human tragedies, but they were well-measured ones. In the weeks and years after the bombings, American and Japanese scientists assessed not only the physical injuries of the bombing victims, but also their level of exposure to radiation emitted by the bombs. These initial assessments grew into the world’s most important study of the health risks of radioactivity. Atomic bombing survivors of all ages and sexes, including some still in the womb, were exposed to different doses of radiation. Nearly 100,000 of them have been tracked over the subsequent six decades. 

This large study, a joint United States-Japanese effort called the Life Span Study, has also followed 77,000 children born to bombing survivors, and it continues to this day. Results from this study are the primary basis for essentially all government regulations and guidelines on safe exposure to radiation, from limits on medical x-rays and CT scans to recommendations for airline flight crews, who, working at high altitudes, are exposed to more cosmic ray radiation from space. 

What do the results of the Life Span Study show? Jordan argues that, as terrible as the atomic bombings were, there is “a very striking discrepancy between the facts and general beliefs” about the long-term effects of radiation on the bombing victims. Because we associate radiation with the awful power of nuclear weaponry (which threatened world destruction for half a century), or with disasters like Chernobyl, we tend to think that radiation is more harmful than it actually is. But if we look at the data of the Life Span Study, Jordan says, we find instead “measurable but limited detrimental health effects in survivors, and no detectable genetic effects in their offspring.” 

Jordan first points to cancer rates among survivors, which are indeed elevated, but still relatively low. Cancer is one of the most feared effects of radiation: At a low to moderate dose, you can’t see or feel radiation, yet that can be enough to cause mutations that produce a deadly cancer decades later. But only a minority of atomic bomb survivors ever developed cancer — even among those who were exposed to higher levels of radiation. For example, among one set of about 45,000 survivors, there was a 10 percent increase in solid cancers (such as breast or stomach cancer) compared to an unexposed population. This equates to roughly 850 cases (out of 45,000 people) that can be attributed to atomic bomb radiation — tragic, to be sure, but, according to Jordan, much less common than most people would expect.

Furthermore, radiation had little impact on the life expectancy of survivors. At moderately high doses, the Life Span Study found a roughly one year reduction in life expectancy. At lower doses, this reduction was less than two months. This, Jordan notes, is much less than the effect of a major social disruption, like the one that took place in Russia after the end of the Cold War, where life expectancy decreased by five years between 1990 and 1994.

Finally, radiation from the atomic bombs does not appear to have affected the next generation. Harmful mutations caused by radiation can sometimes be passed on from parents to children, which means that, in theory, the effects of the bombs’ radiation could persist across a generation. But Jordan notes that, among the children of atomic bombing survivors, there is “no detectable radiation-related pathology.” Jordan acknowledges the important caveat that some of these children are still relatively young (in their 40s and 50s), and thus an increased risk of cancer among them may not be evident for another few decades.

Given these relatively small effects, Jordan argues that the “contradiction between the perceived (imagined) long-term health effects of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombs and the actual data [is] extremely striking.” He believes that the issue of nuclear energy is much like the issues of climate change or the safety of genetically modified foods, where public misunderstanding gets in the way of good policy solutions. It is therefore “important to try to clear up these questions, and to disseminate widely the scientific data when [it exists], in order to allow for a balanced debate and more rational decisions.”

Are our fears of radiation really preventing us from rationally considering an effective, no-emissions source of energy as part of our plans to curb greenhouse gases?

Probably not. It’s true that, if you survive an atomic bombing, you are still unlikely to develop cancer and your children will probably not be afflicted by genetic diseases. And major nuclear accidents are not common — there have only been five in the past 69 years. That’s certainly a much better track record than coal-fired plants, whose emissions affect the health of thousands of people in the U.S. every year.

Yet even rare nuclear accidents affect the lives of hundreds of thousands to millions of people. The reactor meltdown at the the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011 ultimately led to the evacuation of about 170,000 people. Although nearby residents were exposed to only low levels of radiation, the accident caused an enormous disruption that measurably harmed residents’ mental health.

The explosion of the Chernobyl reactor in 1986 was even worse. The World Health Organization estimates that five million people currently live in areas contaminated with radioactive materials blown across Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, after the explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. WHO researchers estimate that this single accident will ultimately cause up to 4,000 deaths, largely from cancers that develop decades later. And so, even if, as Jordan argues, the health risks of radiation aren’t quite as bad as most of us believe, the dangers of a nuclear accident are still considerable.

When you consider these very real dangers alongside other major issues associated with nuclear power — disposal of extremely hazardous waste, security from terrorist threats, and the generally unfavorable economics of nuclear power — it’s clear that nuclear energy faces bigger problems than our irrational fears.

 

(Mike White is Assistant Professor of Genetics at Washington University in St. Louis and is a contributing writer at Pacific Standard magazine … where this piece was first posted.)

-cw

Turn Last Year’s Lessons Into a Winning 2017 … Here’s How

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--By most accounts, 2016 was one helluva year. We were sideswiped by a billionaire Twitter addict who swings back and forth on withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement and building the infamous Wall while attempting to fill his Cabinet spots with an assortment of Goldman Sachs and oil company execs. We’ve lost more than our fair share of entertainers and luminaries. Closer to home, we’ve struggled with a drought and brushfires. We’ve faced the pop-up of large scale development and gentrification.

As we turn the page to the New Year, we tend to reflect on the past months while anticipating the next twelve months. We resolve to log in more time at the gym or on the yoga mat, to drink more water and less wine, to spend less time on Facebook and more time actively engaged in our communities.

I am grateful for the activists I’ve met through writing this column who inspire us to face challenges by creating change. I’ve sat in living rooms with neighbors who brought their concerns about neighborhood integrity, increased traffic, and overdevelopment to councilmembers and planning commissions.

Calabasas residents petitioned for a successful ballot measure against a proposed hotel that would have compromised a cherished hillside, against all odds. Also in Calabasas, parents work tirelessly to raise awareness and funds for pediatric cancer to honor the memory of their son. This fall, I attended a dinner honoring dozens of environmental activists who are committed to preserving the Santa Monica Mountains.

I joined hundreds of community members gathered in a West Hills McDonald’s parking lot to march in support of a Valley teen who was randomly attacked while his father works to organize efforts against bullying.

What will 2017 bring? Certainly not every outcome is within our control. However, what I’ve learned from the people I’ve had the opportunity to meet and to interview is that we can affect change. We can make a difference, especially if we work together. That’s what grassroots activism is all about. Choose your passion. What infuriates or disappoints you? We’re fortunate we have the right to express ourselves and to assemble. Not every attempt may be successful but like the group that attempted to gather signatures to unseat Councilmember Krekorian, if you don’t succeed, try again.

I’m excited for 2017 to unfold, to check in with the activists I know and to follow those I haven’t yet met. If you have a mission or are part of a group working to make a difference, please contact me here. Together, we can make a difference, one step at a time.

  • Two Organizations to Get You Started:

- Pediatric Cance

- Anti-Bullying 

(Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles writer and a columnist for CityWatch.)

-cw

2017: For Better or For Worse!

AMERICA’S CONFLICTED FUTURE--After the craziness of an election cycle that was as historic as anything we've ever seen, and after a host of celebrity deaths and world turbulence that defied description, 2016 is coming to an end.  So what, we're all asking, does 2017 bring to us all? So what adventures, good or bad, await us?  What themes await us?  Here are my predictions--and while arguably necessary, and arguably unavoidable, I can't say these predictions are all that pretty ... so here we go! 

For better or for worse, the majority of the nation will move politically and economically to the right, while California and some of the coastal states and larger midwest cities will attempt to lurch to the left ... and there will be conflict. 

For better or for worse, Republicans throughout the nation will be divided among those who fear this nation is losing its conservative values (and/or its Christian values) versus those who claim that true conservative and Christian values have been lost by the so-called "political establishment" ... and there will be conflict. 

For better or for worse, Democrats throughout the nation will be divided among those who fear this nation is losing its focus on civil rights and inclusion (and/or its Constitutional values) versus those who claim that true liberal and representative values have been lost by the so-called "political establishment"... and there will be conflict. 

For better or for worse, we will hear from many that the rights of immigrants are being squashed, and we will also hear from many that the rights of "true immigrants" (who follow current immigration law) and native-born Americans are being squashed ... and there will be conflict. 

For better or for worse, we will hear from many that the civil rights of African-Americans and other ethnicities are being attacked, and we will also hear from many that those claiming to be "civil rights advocates" are the ones truly overseeing the attacks on civil rights of the same African-Americans and other ethnicities ... and there will be conflict. 

For better or for worse, American Jews will struggle between a traditional tendency to lean Democratic (or moderate Republican) versus an acknowledgement that Jews are under worldwide attack and require a new conservative leaning ... and there will be conflict. 

For better or for worse, there will be much anger and alarm about the public sector pension and debt crises of our cities, states and nation, versus those who insist on defending the rights and benefits of our local and national civil service ... and there will be conflict. 

For better or for worse, there will be more defense spending but with a simultaneous debate on how to best focus on how to spend on our defense (both in financial and human costs) ... and there will be conflict. 

For better or for worse, there will be a push to add the entirety of the city of Jerusalem into the nation of Israel as a result of recent political events, and after eight years of our current foreign policy...and there will be conflict. 

For better or for worse, there will be heightened rivalry, and perhaps military action, between the nations of Israel and Iran as a result of recent political events, and after eight years of our current foreign policy ... and there will be conflict. 

For better or for worse, there will be closer and altered ties between the United States, its western and eastern European allies, and Russia, with a new focus on "North versus South" rather than the old "West versus East" conflict ... and there will be conflict. 

For better or for worse, there will be new economic and political rivalries between China and both its Asian neighbors and the United States ... and there will be conflict. 

For better or for worse, there will be an emphasis placed on "Buy American" and "American innovation and exclusivity" versus a push for a more global approach to economics ... and there will be conflict. 

For better or for worse, there will be a variety of civil, economic, and perhaps even military, rivalries between the United States and its immediate neighbors to the south (Mexico and Cuba) ... and there will be conflict. 

For better or for worse, there will be a major emphasis on either internal reform within the Muslim world (both secular and religious in nature), with accompanying divisions between Muslims and their non-Muslim neighbors ... and there will be conflict. 

Yet here's the rub ... and hopefully a happy ending to these horrific conflicts: 

For better or for worse,  these conflicts can be resolved--some peacefully, some decidedly NOT peacefully, if cities, states, and nations all learn to balance what THEY can do better, and what THEY can do more, while demanding the same of their neighbors. 

Happy Holidays and New Year to All!  Happy 2017, and may good health, happiness, and prosperity be in your future!

 

(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties.  He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at  [email protected]. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)

-cw

California Prepares for Climate War, Won’t Back Down to Trump

EDITOR’S PICK--Foreign governments concerned about climate change may soon be spending more time dealing with Sacramento than Washington. 

President-elect Donald J. Trump has packed his cabinet with nominees who dispute the science of global warming. He has signaled he will withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement. He has belittled the notion of global warming and attacked policies intended to combat it.

But California — a state that has for 50 years been a leader in environmental advocacy — is about to step unto the breach. In a show of defiance, Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, and legislative leaders said they would work directly with other nations and states to defend and strengthen what were already far and away the most aggressive policies to fight climate change in the nation. That includes a legislatively mandated target of reducing carbon emissions in California to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

“California can make a significant contribution to advancing the cause of dealing with climate change, irrespective of what goes on in Washington,” Mr. Brown said in an interview. “I wouldn’t underestimate California’s resolve if everything moves in this extreme climate denial direction. Yes, we will take action.” (Read the rest.

-cw

In an Era of Fake News the Pursuit of the Truth is Essential

AT LENGTH--This past election cycle brings me back to November of 1980, when Ronald Reagan was elected president and Random Lengths News was newly established. 

The October surprise involving the hacked emails of James Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, are far too reminiscent of the 1979 U.S. Embassy hostage crisis in which 52 American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for 444 days by Iranian students belonging to the Muslim Student Followers of the Imam’s Line. 

Abolhassan Banisadr, the former president of Iran, has stated “that the Reagan campaign struck a deal with Tehran to delay the release of the hostages in 1980.” He asserted that “by the month before the American presidential election in November 1980, many in Iran’s ruling circles were openly discussing the fact that a deal had been made between the Reagan campaign team and some Iranian religious leaders in which the hostages’ release would be delayed until after the election so as to prevent President Jimmy Carter’s re-election.” 

This truth wouldn’t become publicized until the New York Times blew the lid off the Iran Contra scandal and the release of Banisadr’s memoir of the incident, “My Turn to Speak: Iran, the Revolution and Secret Deals with the U.S.” 10 years later. 

Donald Trump, like Reagan before him, denied any pre-election negotiations with foreign governments to influence these elections. But much can be read into the defense of a man who protests too much. 

At this point, we can only surmise that the Trump campaign was working in concert with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discredit Hillary Clinton during the final weeks of the 2016 general election. But this supposition was solidified by the CIA and 17 of national security agencies in a late arriving report. 

Who knew there were so many “intelligence” agencies protecting us? What we do know is that all of this “intelligence” hasn’t made our republic any safer or smarter in the face of cyberattacks and political treachery. 

Yet, this is precisely the same kind of political treason that has been used time and again to defeat Democratic candidates­. It must have been codified in the Republican playbook.

Nixon used this same play to derail Hubert Humphrey’s presidential campaign in 1968 by delaying the Paris peace talks on ending the Vietnam War -- a war that ultimately didn’t end until seven years later in ignominious defeat. Nixon campaigned on his “secret plan to end the war.” It turned out the secret was simply using Henry Kissinger to delay any deal prior to the 1968 election. The rest -- as they say -- is history.” Now, we are condemned to repeat it. 

Clearly, all three of these historic October Surprises were successful attempts at disrupting the electoral processes of our nation, influencing the vote and misinforming the public before the truth could be widely known or published. This will be the template by which a Trump administration rules. The Office of Public Diplomacy is one of those pages out of the Republican handbook that the Reagan administration used for the express purpose of producing propaganda. 

According to a staff report on Otto Reich (a senior official in the administrations of Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush), released by the House Foreign Affairs Committee in Sept. 7, 1988, investigators concluded that: 

“… senior CIA officials with backgrounds in covert operations, as well as military intelligence and psychological operations specialists from the Department of Defense, were deeply involved in establishing and participating in a domestic political and propaganda operation through an obscure bureau in the Department of State, which reported directly to the National Security Council rather than through the normal State Department channels….Through irregular sole-source, no-bid contracts…established and maintained a private network of individuals and organizations whose activities were coordinated with, and sometimes directed by, Col. Oliver North (of Iran-Contra fame), as well as officials of the NSC. 

“These private individuals and organizations raised and spent funds for the purpose of influencing Congressional votes and U.S. domestic news media. This network raised and funneled money to off-shore bank accounts in the Cayman Islands or the secret Lake Resources bank account in Switzerland for disbursement at the direction of Oliver North. Almost all of these activities were hidden from public view and many of the key individuals involved were never questioned or interviewed by the Iran/Contra Committees.” 

This, my friends, is what we are going to see recycled as foreign and domestic policy by the Trump administration. So readers, beware! 

In this era of fake news and disguised propaganda, it will be difficult at best and impossible at worst to determine who’s telling the truth. 

My greatest fear at this point is that there will be a Trumped up 9/11-style attack, initiated by our Tweeter-in-chief who would then rally white-supremacist patriots to the cause of our next war of aggression. Then he might impose martial law for the sake of national security and defense of the homeland. And it will all be packaged in a way to make you feel that Trump is making America great again.

 

(James Preston Allen is the Publisher of Random Lengths News, the Los Angeles Harbor Area's only independent newspaper. He is also a guest columnist for the California Courts Monitor and is the author of "Silence Is Not Democracy - Don't listen to that man with the white cap - he might say something that you agree with!" He has been engaged in the civic affairs of CD 15 for more than 35 years. More of Allen…and other views and news at: randomlengthsnews.com.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Let the Sun Go Down on 2016

Everyone is ready to be rid of 2016. Scores of people are posting to social media, personifying the year as a dreaded tormentor: 

#2016, you’re the worst.

I hate you #2016

#2016, don’t you dare (beside a photo of Carrie Fischer) 

2016 did take Carrie Fisher. It took George Michael, Leonard Cohen, Prince, David Bowie, Gene Wilder and Florence Henderson – Patty Duke, Garry Shandling and Merle Haggard. 

It took civil rights fighter Georgia Davis Powers, and it took Fred Hayman, the godfather of Rodeo Drive. 

It took John Glenn, Nancy Reagan, Edward Albee, Harper Lee, and Morley Safer. 

It took the greatest – Muhammad Ali 

It took El Commandante, Fidel Castro. 

It took Tupac’s father, Afeni Shaukur. It took my co-worker’s father and my home-town neighbor’s mother. 

It took the twin sister of Iran’s deposed Shah and Thomas E. Schaefer, retired Air Force Colonel who was one of the 52 American hostages held in Iran in 1980-1981. 

It took progressive California Senator Tom Hayden and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who the Republi-Tea party refused to replace during the Obama administration. 

It took Margaret Vinci Heldt, who created the bee-hive hairdo. 

It took Sam Iacobellis, the Rockwell CEO who handed up 100 B-1 bombers to Ronald Reagan in six years and Phyllis Schafley, who led the charge to defeat the ERA in the 1970’s. 

It took James Delligatti who invented the “Big Mac” and Henry Heimlich, who created the lifesaving maneuver of his namesake. 

It took 1058 people who were killed by US police according to The Guardian’s “The Counted” project. 148 of them were unarmed. 

It took 74-year-old Francisco Serna, the most recent death reported on The Buardian’s website. Francisco had dementia. He often took walks in his Sacramento neighborhood to help himself sleep. He was carrying a crucifix that was mistaken for a gun. 

It took the lives of 5,000 refugees in the Mediterranean Sea (UNHCR.org). 

2016 took the safe homes of a record 5.8 million people according to the International Business Times. This brings the total number of forcibly displaced people in the world to 65.3 million (UNHCR.org).

2016 took “more than enough to provide an education for all of the 124 million children currently out of school, and to pay for health interventions that could save the lives of six million children” (Oxfam Policy Paper, 12.12.2016). This due to their research which shows developing countries’ loss of around $100 billion due to tax avoidance schemes that benefit 65 people.

Right here in The City of Los Angeles, over 28,464 people are homeless on any given night (2016 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count). This is up by 11% from the 2015 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count. Youth homelessness accounts for 52% of that increase.

These researchers cited LA’s affordable housing crisis, its’ high unemployment rate and its’ prevalence of low wage jobs as culprits.

The good news is that homelessness among veterans fell by 41% in the City.

2016 brought another report – this one from the LA County Economic Development Corporation. The report projects that a whopping 63% of all jobs expected over the next five years in LA County will require a high school education or less and will not afford the ability to pay the high cost of living as housing prices continue to outpace income.

I could go further and deeper into the horrors of 2016. Did the year bring any bright spots?

My personal bright spots were all about family, friends and the beauty of nature. My parents and I were able to travel to Oregon where my father worked as a boy, picking produce in the Hood River Valley. We saw the orchards where he and his brother worked. We visited the now defunct saw mill where they also labored to gain some money for the family back in New Mexico.

Thanks to social media, we witnessed the heroic stand of the people of Standing Rock and their allies who remain to this day in the bitter killing cold. No longer a sensation, but still fighting perhaps the hardest battle yet to come as they face blizzards and continued arrests and harassment.

The opening of friendlier relations with Cuba allows Americans access to the lung cancer vaccine developed and available for free in the island nation since 2011.

The end of the year saw the discovery of an ebola vaccine.

After being liberated from jihadists, the people of Aleppo were able to celebrate for the first time in five years.

PBS reported that the world’s tiger count rose for the first time in 100 years.

In Los Angeles, the FightFor$15 campaign won a path to victory in 2016 – and paid sick days for all workers.

UniteHere! And the Teamsters brought union protection and wages to drivers and cafeteria workers across the Silcone Valley.

Pope Frances was out there making friends across the globe and making me want to become a Catholic.

Harriet Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson on some money – best exchange I’ve heard of in years.

Dave Chappelle came back to television.

By the looks of it, 2017 will be a real whopper. The incoming administration promises to undo all of the layers of gains that workers fought and died for from the 1800’s to the time of the New Deal.

Still, the past year has also shown that in the face of heartbreaking loss, there are those who will risk it all to open the portal to moments of joy, unity, justice and peace. As the vise on the lives of regular people becomes tighter, more and more of us may find ourselves in their ranks.

On the death of George Michael and the end of the year, I am struck by the lyrics of one of his songs: 

Do you think we have time?

Do you think we have time?

These are the days of the open hand

They will not be the last

Look around now

These are the days of the beggars and the choosers

This is the year of the hungry man

Whose place is in the past

Hand in hand with ignorance

And legitimate excuses 

Let’s hope 2017 will be a year of movement towards a future where the hungry man, ignorance and legitimate excuses are in their place in the past. Better yet, let’s fight for it.

NEED TO KNOW:

Help the Water Protectors of all our water in their Titanic struggle to stop the DAPL: 

Watch the award-winning must-see doc, “13th.” It documents the history of slavery to mass incarceration as well as putting police brutality in context. 

Be part of the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count 

Join the Fight for $15 LA

 

 

(Jennifer Caldwell is a an actress and an active member of SAG-AFTRA, serving on several committees. She is a published author of short stories and news articles and is a featured contributor to CityWatch. Her column at www.RecessionCafe.wordpress.com is dishing up good deals, recipes and food for thought. Jennifer can be reached at [email protected].  Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jennifercald - Twitter: @checkingthegate ... And her website: jenniferhcaldwell.com)  

-cw

 

The Trumpster Creates a New Industry!

EASTSIDER-After being unkind to the Dems, I thought it only fair but equal to make a couple of observations about the Trumpster and the RNC. As I was watching all the news junkie channels this weekend, I suddenly became aware of a big change in how the news is covered -- particularly news about Donald Trump. 

You see, under the “old” news format for TV, you had a talking head moderator, flanked on either side by a paid “left” consultant and a paid “right” consultant. Depending on the niche market of the news channel, the moderator would then side with whichever side he or she was getting paid millions to front for. 

More recently, with the demise of Clinton, we saw a shift to the “roundtable” format in which directly paid news channel “consultants” offer whatever niche news slant the TV channel uses to keep its audience. However, they do tend to keep the “left” Dems and the “right” Republicans. 

But with Donald Trump, that old dog won’t hunt -- mostly because The Donald doesn’t speak in any detail. He tweets for twits. (Note: since I’ve used that phrase a few times, I should probably explain what I mean.) The tweeter is, of course, The Donald; the twits I’m referring to are the talking head moderators of the TV shows in question. You see, in 140 characters, no one can really tell what the heck he is saying. 

This is perfect for news anchors. They get to hire a whole new host of paid consultants to explain what The Donald really meant! I mean, Fox News gets to create a new set of (paid) Republican consultants to tell us what The Donald really meant when he tweeted. This is diabolically clever -- Donald Trump is completely free to explain himself later on, after the tweet has been debated for an entire news cycle by all the media; he can repudiate anything that the talking heads said that he said! 

There is another economic benefit for the TV news channels. They don’t have to spend any time actually investigating the news and hiring a lot of expensive staff. Since the “news” is only talking about the tweets, who cares about factual anything? In a day or two, The Donald will either clarify or simply move on. The savings to the network can be huge, giving a nice bounce to profit margins. 

Whether anyone, including Mr. Trump, has any idea what he’s really saying, remains undetermined. After all, for a fella who can repudiate stuff he did or said that is readily contradicted by tape or audio files, what’s the reframing of a tweet? 

How this new format will play out after Mr. Trump is sworn in as president, who can tell? It’s possible he will continue tweeting. Maybe the government will have to give him a secure twitter account so that it can’t be hacked. On the other hand, it is quite possible that The Donald wouldn’t care if he got hacked, because it’s all really out there in the first place. 

What we do know is that Donald Trump loves the spotlight, and I doubt that this will change after he becomes President of the United States. If you look at his cabinet and key staff picks, it seems to be a group with considerable differences, along with strong egos. My personal guess (you read it here) is that he will foment and exaggerate policy differences, so that he can step in and publicly announce the Trump Policy after all the newsies have had a day or so to keep him and the issue in the headlines. 

Gee, if President Trump continues to tweet and play spin the bottle with his policy agenda, he could consume the bulk of every news cycle. Heaven indeed.

 

(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Rights Icons Join Women's March … A "Movement for Dignity"

EVOLUTION OR REVOLUTION? --The Women's March on Washington, a mass mobilization to champion women's rights, is growing as President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration approaches.

Organizers announced this week that several high-profile supporters, including Gloria Steinem (photo left) and Harry Belafonte, will be joining the January 21 march as honorary co-chairs. Planned Parenthood has also signed on as a partner.

"This is a historic moment to come together to protect the progress we've made," Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards said in a statement. "We will send a strong message to the incoming administration that millions of people across this country are prepared to fight attacks on reproductive health care, abortion services, and access to Planned Parenthood, as they intersect with the rights of young people, people of color, immigrants, and people of all faiths, backgrounds, and incomes."

Although the organizers say the march aims to be "proactive about women's rights" rather than to target Trump specifically, the connection between his incoming anti-choice administration and the organizers' goals seems clear. 

Linda Sarsour, a chair of the march and executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, previously described the march as a "stand on social justice and human rights issues ranging from race, ethnicity, gender, religion, immigration, and healthcare."

Nearly 200,000 people have pledged to attend the march in Washington, D.C., with many traveling in from out of state. One of the largest contingents is expected to come from Massachusetts, where at least 8,000 people have signed up.

The Boston Globe's Cristela Guerra wrote Wednesday:

What is motivating thousands to board buses to Washington, D.C., next month? It is deeply personal.

There are mothers and fathers marching with their daughters to show that women's rights are human rights. There are Jews and Hindus and Muslims, members of the LGBTQ community, people of color, and allies marching against the spike in discrimination they've seen or experienced. There are people who marched earlier against the war in Vietnam or for equal rights for women. There are students making their first march on Washington.

After a contentious beginning and numerous bureaucratic roadblocks, including a "massive omnibus blocking permit" that will prevent people from demonstrating at historic D.C. landmarks, the march seems stronger than ever.

"We know that we stand on the shoulders of giants, and we are thrilled to welcome Ms. Steinem and Mr. Belafonte as honorary co-chairs," Sarsour said Tuesday. "Alongside our new partner Planned Parenthood, together we are bridging the historical struggles for women's rights and civil rights to the current intersectional movement for dignity and human rights."

ACTION INFO: womensmarch.com 

(Nadia Prupis writes for Common Dreams … where this piece was first posted.)

Now Is the Time for Obama to Recognize a State of Palestine

INFORMED COMMENT--I’d like to return today to an argument I made two years ago in The Nation, which is that President Obama should recognize Palestine before he goes out of office.  For different but related reasons, Jimmy Carter made a similar plea last month

One of the arguments often heard is that Israel cannot survive as a Jewish state if it annexes all of the West Bank, since it will ultimately acquire 4 million Palestinians (West Bank & Gaza residents) as citizens in that case.

I don’t really care whether Israel has a Jewish majority, just as I don’t care if Egypt has a Sunni Muslim one or if Germany has a German one.  In the tradition of the French revolution, I think states should be civil states, for the people of the Republic, whoever they may be.  The United States in 1789 was mostly British and had a population of 4 million.  Now it is 80 times as big, and has large Italian, Latino, German and Irish populations, not to mention over three million Muslims.  So what?  All those groups have brought gifts to enrich the nation.  In an age of globalization, trying artificially to maintain one ethnic group as a majority is probably a fool’s errand, anyway.  (Not to mention that “ethnic groups” are fluid and change definition over time).  Israel is importing Thai agricultural workers and initially was welcoming African refugees.

So what is called a “one-state” solution would be fine with me, as long as all the citizens of that one state had equal rights and it was a genuine democracy.

It just would be very difficult to get to that outcome, whereas it would be fairly easy to set up two states, since the basic framework of the two states already exists.

Moreover, it is entirely possible that the Israeli squatters on Palestinian land in the West Bank will at some point engineer a civil war, and try to expel the Palestinians, making them stateless refugees all over again.

What is wrong with the present arrangement is that the Palestinians do not have citizenship in a real state.  A state controls the water, air and land of a territory.  The [Palestinian] Authority controls none of those things.  A state has a judicial system that can protect the basic property and human rights of a citizen.  Palestine has none of those things.  Important cases are kicked to the Israeli judiciary, which with a few exceptions tends to rule in favor of Israelis.  And, a lot of decisions are made for Palestinians by the Israeli army or by colonial administrators.

People who are stateless, in the phrase of Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, do not have the right to have rights.  It is unacceptable that millions of Palestinians should be kept stateless at the insistence of Israel.  Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has even vowed that he will not allow a Palestinian state as long as he is in power (a violation of the Oslo Peace Accords).

The reason that all these decades of negotiations have proved fruitless is that the Palestinians, as stateless, don’t really have standing to negotiate.  You can renege on agreements with stateless people at will, as Netanyahu has repeatedly done, without fearing any consequences and without the stateless having recourse.  So you can’t start with negotiations.  You have to start by addressing Palestinians’ lack of citizenship.

It should be noted that the National Socialists in Germany stripped German Jews of their citizenship, in preparation for committing a Holocaust against them or driving them out of their homes as refugees.  (Let’s see, sniffed Goebbels, if any of their liberal champions will want them then.)  The Nazis understood very well that you can do with Stateless people what you will, and that no one will effectively so much as object.  For the Zionist right wing, Israel comes as a solution to the problem that Jews are always in danger of losing their citizenship rights when they are citizens of other states. (This was a problem of the 1930s; it is not clear that it is perennial or universal– contrast with the US).  Moreover, in a nuclear-armed world, the idea that a state can protect you from another holocaust is a false messiah; ask the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  In any case, solving the artificially created problem of Jewish statelessness cannot come at the price of creating Palestinian statelessness.

One way or another, I insist on the problem of Palestinian statelessness being solved.  I don’t care how it is solved.  They can become Israeli citizens, or Palestinian citizens.  But they have to be citizens of something.  Otherwise, we will continue to see serial disasters befalling them, and the injustice being perpetrated on them will continue to generate security risks to the US.

The chair of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Saeb Erekat, said Monday that the Palestinian leadership was invigorated by the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli colonization of the Palestinian West Bank.  As a result, it would redouble its efforts to achieve full membership in the United Nations for the State of Palestine.

Likewise, he said, the Palestinians would take their case to the International Criminal Court at the Hague, charging Israeli officials with various crimes against the international law of occupation, chief among them flooding their own citizens as colonizers into the Occupied Territory.

Erekat recognizes that the Palestinian cause will go nowhere until Palestine has some of the perquisites of a state, such as UN membership and ability to take cases to the International Criminal Court.

So here we come to President Obama.  Just as he established diplomatic relations with Cuba, so he could do the same with regard to Palestine.  It would be one step toward resolving the decades-old problem of Palestinian statelessness.

(Juan Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He has written extensively on modern Islamic movements in Egypt, the Persian Gulf and South Asia.  He lived in various parts of the Muslim world for nearly 10 years and speaks Arabic, Farsi and Urdu. This post originally ran on Juan Cole’s website.)  

-cw

New Year's Revolutions: First, Stay Angry

GELFAND’S WORLD-It was two days after the 9/11 attacks, on September 13, 2001, that Dave Barry published a column which began, "No humor column today. I don't want to write it, and you don't want to read it." I suspect that this is how most of us feel about trying to do a traditional Year in Review for 2016. To me, it's sufficient to say that a near-majority of the American people (but controlling a majority of the Electoral votes) made a terrible decision, and the remaining majority will have to endure its effects. We can, however, think about what we plan to do about the new administration in the coming year.

What to do? Here's a start: As a friend of mine put it, the first thing to do is to stay angry. Remember your anger. Don't let it go. In a way, this is a prescription for independents and Democrats to take the same approach that the Republican core have taken during the past several Democratic presidencies. The hatred directed towards Bill Clinton and Barack Obama went far beyond what any rational analysis could possibly justify. That emotion, carried on chronically and with intensity, had an effect on the political process and ultimately on legislation.

The difference between 2017 and those other years is that our concerns are justified. We need to figure out how to act effectively, even if we don't have it in ourselves to be a hate filled mob.

We do have justification for our anger. Everything about the incoming administration and its allies in the congress screams reactionary. Some of what we are hearing would have been inconceivable even just a few years ago. It seems hard to believe that any rational politician would talk about phasing out Medicare, but we've seen the Speaker of the House talking seriously about it. Others in that party have put Social Security, always considered a "third rail" in our lifetimes, in the crosshairs.

And then there is the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. The House Republicans have been licking their chops about repeal for half a decade. This is the government program that will be the first big test. And it is a big test, particularly if you either have some preexisting condition or expect to live long enough (say 45 or so) that you will develop one.

An email arrived this week explaining that one day in January will be dedicated to protesting the possible changes to Obamacare. I don't know where those people learned their protest skills, but one day isn't enough. It needs to be a national campaign that begins right now and continues for as long as it takes, week after week and month after month. There should be no congressional office left unvisited by people who rely on the new system for health insurance. There should be no American city with a population over 30,000 that doesn't see pro-Obamacare demonstrations.

It's time that the rational and humane people in this country learn to fight back against the irrationalist impulse that fuels the right wing movement, the movement that brought on the disaster of 2016. We need to figure out how to balance and counteract the kinds of tactics that talk radio and Fox News use to mislead people. We've been looking for a strategy for more than 20 years, and we haven't quite put our collective finger on it yet.

I have a thought: We've been too nice. We have to change that. It's the kind of thought that nice liberals didn't vocalize much, until now. But fighting back is as American as a Mary Pickford movie, and we have to learn how.

We also need to learn to not be intimidated by right wing blowback. The right wing has perfected a technique which finds something to focus on, and then invites its followers to express their outrage. It doesn't matter how trivial the event is. One time, the president was sipping from a cup of coffee as he walked down the steps of Air Force One. At the bottom, a member of the armed services saluted, and Obama absent mindedly returned the salute without changing the hand holding his coffee cup. This became the cause of the day for the right wing. They used the event to imply that the president didn't respect members of the armed services.

That's right. They manufactured outrage over which hand held a cup of coffee, or that there was a cup of coffee at all. Outrage, real or feigned, is the weapon of choice for the right wing echo chamber.

We shouldn't let the right wing intimidate us with its phony outrage. We should relish it, because it will be the proof that we've struck a nerve. Whatever their outrage, double down on it. Ask for more, and explain why we too are outraged.

One other thing. We need to understand that being coldly intellectual is not always the most effective course: people don't necessarily react to the beauty of our logic or the presentation of our facts. The other side has a different tack. They use ridicule and overstatement. They raise their voices and let their feelings be heard. This seems -- shall I be so indelicate as to put it this way -- kind of rude. The other side has played at being school yard bullies, and we've watched and tsk-tsk'd at their crudeness.

When I suggest that we fight back in a similar fashion with ridicule and volume, it may sound crude, but there is a point to the exercise. The right wing uses ridicule and anger as a way of establishing its tribal boundaries and keeping its converts within the pack. You don't attract the next generation to your own pack by ignoring the bullying tactics of the opposition, neither are you likely to attract people from the other side over to your side.

But there is some possibility to attract people from the other side by establishing that your side is stronger. What that word stronger is supposed to represent will have different meanings in different contexts. In the academic context, it refers to the intellectual content. But in the social context of politics, we refer to stronger social bonds and more developed communities. In other words, the goal is to teach right wingers that they are less respected (or popular) than the other side. We make that case using logic and facts, history and story, but we need to understand that the story needs to be told with emotion and belief.

There is also a case to be made for repetition. The other side knows that part of the process. That's why we refer to the right wing echo chamber. They've learned how to take a trivial subject such as emails -- about the equivalent of doing 45 in a 35 zone -- and turn it into high treason. They got away with it using repetition and overstatement. We may be a little too honorable to get into that level of overstatement, but it's not dishonorable on our part to use repetition.

The right wing has been driven by fear of loss: loss of religious power, loss of guns, loss of white privilege. Now we fear for our own losses -- reproductive freedom, health care, the scientific approach to global warming -- and we should respond in kind. Let the members of congress and the new president be faced with massive rallies, hundreds of thousands of letters, and personal visits by those who will be most affected by health care cuts. When congressman Darrell Issa is visited by Republicans who fear the loss of their Medicare, that will be a sign that public sentiment is moving. (Note that Issa won reelection by a mere 1621 votes out of 310 thousand votes cast, a mere zero point six percent difference. Let's find all the Darrell Issas across the country and arrange constituent visits.)

All this talk of rallies and marches can't help but remind us of the antiwar protests of the 1960s. I'm particularly reminded of one aspect of that era, the teach-in. Teach-ins were gatherings in which experts on southeast Asia and foreign affairs explained the background of the Viet Nam conflict to students who would otherwise have remained ignorant and confused. The teach-in movement expanded, and pretty soon all kinds of people were attending. I suggest that we start doing teach-ins about global warming. The point is to educate a large mass of people about the technical realities of global warming so they will be immunized against the ad hominems and trivializations of the right wing. We might start by summarizing the different kinds of information that point unanimously to the existence of human-induced global warming. It is a way to educate people against the propaganda of the right wing.

We might continue by educating people about the failures of supply side economics (cutting taxes on the rich) in terms of building the economy.

We might also consider educating people about the realities of deficit spending and the national debt, that neither is a bad thing per se, and that each can be used constructively. We might want to begin a national conversation the first time that the Republican congress goes into deficit spending for the military budget.

There will be much to discuss and I intend to discuss it here on CityWatch. Next year's topics will certainly go beyond national politics  -- everything from parking enforcement to municipal government reform to pseudoscience is subject to discussion. They are all grist for the word processor. But first we have to deal with the political and legislative emergency that we've fallen into. We have a lot to talk about in this upcoming year. Let's start the conversation.

(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected]

-cw

2016 In a Word: Surreal

PURE SPECULATION-Merriam-Webster, the dictionary publishers, chose “surreal” as their Word of the Year for 2016. I doubt anyone would disagree with that assessment of the events of the past 365 days. The “Top 10” lists of news stories should actually be labeled, “Top One and Everything Else” -- the “one” being the election of Donald Trump. 

The election may not be unique, but the winner sure is. Several pundits have plumbed the depths of American history seeking an example that might shed light on the next four years. Thus far, I’ve read commentaries comparing Trump to Richard Nixon, Warren Harding, and Andrew Jackson. Strangely, at least one conservative suggested Trump was like John F. Kennedy because of a tax cut passed during his administration. Nothing yet about Washington or Lincoln. 

While some aspects of the characters of previous presidents may seem predicative, there’s no way of determining how Trump will ultimately govern. We may have a good idea of his personality, but none of us can guess what external factors and events will affect the future. Perhaps what is more potentially dangerous is not what Trump does, but what others think and do.

About half of Americans don’t like Trump. Many loathe him. As I talk to people about what happened, I’m witnessing a level of anger I’ve never seen before. There’s also a lot of folks depressed about the outcome. What I’m not seeing is acceptance. Does this mean Democrats will now adopt the Republican strategy and just dig in and oppose everything? 

On the other side, there appears to be a cocky defensiveness. A “we won, get over it” attitude. There’s also a self-righteousness based on a belief that what right-wing media says is fact. A large number of Americans choose to exist in an alternate reality that supports their notion that something is wrong and only Trump can fix it. Only he can “make America great again.” 

So, we have two sides more polarized than ever. 

What happens now? 

If we’re lucky, very little. Obamacare, Medicare, and Medicaid remain relatively untouched. Funding will be cut, but hopefully the basic structure remains intact. In foreign affairs, the rest of the world will spend the next four years rolling their eyes at America, but there won’t be any new wars. Trade agreements may be renegotiated, but will mostly remain in force. The federal government will not block state efforts to regulate pollution. There will not be a wall at the border and millions will not be deported. And, despite a likely lurch to the right in the courts, most will follow precedent and not upend established law. 

If the doomsayers are proven correct, we will see the social safety net in tatters and a resulting spike in poverty. Certainly there will be even greater homelessness. The federal government will abolish most clean air and water regulations or, at least, gut enforcement. Massive tax cuts combined with massive increases in government spending will drive the economy into another deep recession. This, of course, will be worsened by the elimination of anything resembling regulation of financial markets. The economic wild card is whether Trump will actually prevail in tearing up trade treaties and getting tariffs to punish importers. 

All of this is pure speculation. The truth is, nobody knows. It’s the uncertainty that’s making everybody crazy right now. Half of America is hoping that Trump will do what he says and the other half is afraid that he will do what he says. More than ever before in living memory, we are in uncharted waters.

 

(Doug Epperhart is a publisher, a long-time neighborhood council activist and former Board of Neighborhood Commissioners commissioner. He is a contributor to CityWatch and can be reached at: [email protected]) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Don’t Write that Email Unless You Want to Read it On the Front Page of the LA Times!

EASTSIDER ON THE LIES AND DIRTY TRICKS OF 2016-Having spent most of my adult life working for politicians and union officials (which are pretty much the same,) I have totally lost count of the number of times that I’ve reminded them of the headline to this article. And never, never, never -- except for a few days after some devastating headline -- have any of them paid a bit of attention to what they send out in their emails. 

Yet every time their failure to take a pause between their brain and their keyboard bites them in the you know what, they run around blaming the messenger. Witness the recent blame game between the Clintonistas and the Trumpsters. My god, even the President of the United States and the CIA and the FBI are duckin’, bobbin’ and weaving and pointing fingers. 

In the midst of all this, not once in this post-election dust up have I heard any talking heads in our esteemed media state the obvious: if they didn’t want to look like underhanded scumbags then maybe they shouldn’t have written the darned emails. And is there any real discussion as whether these emails are the honest to golly emails that Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Podesta & Co actually wrote? 

No. You bet they were the real thing and they reveal the true depth of how scummy the Democratic National Committee and the Clintonistas really are. How they try to rig outcomes, just like Bernie’s people said. No doubt the same is true of the Republican National Committee, but with Donald Trump tweeting for twits 24/7 nobody has bothered to expose the RNC. The media is too busy covering every tweet that the President-Elect pops out. 

Maybe it’s just that the heads of the big media outlets are terrified that someone’s going to hack into their email accounts. I wonder if any of Roger Ailes’ emails that came into play with Megyn Kelly contributed to his recent demise. Hmm. 

Honestly. It’s almost 2017 and the best that we can fill our channels with is, “The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!” Next thing you know we’ll be asked to practice our nuclear attack drills and build bomb shelters like back in the 50s. Sheesh! So much for adult political discourse. 

When professional slime mongers like political consultants send emails, they have no one but themselves to blame for the content. 

Here’s the Disconnect 

Most of the younger people I know (which is pretty much everybody) gave up the notion of any privacy long ago -- emails, cell phone calls, tweets, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat -- you name it. They know either expressly or subconsciously, that everything we do electronically is tracked by corporations, google and their ilk, aggregators, as well as every spy agency in the United States of America. Ho hum, move on. 

After years of this, you and I are pretty much inured to the fact that there is no privacy. We simply rely on the fact that most of us will never be “important” enough to have the fickle finger of hackers, cops, spies or the news media actually focus on us. 

But politicians and government officials seem to march to a different drum. Why are government institutions and politicians different? Simple, really. The politicians still believe that they can hide stuff from us because we have “no right to know.” It’s called legislative immunity. Goodness. What a quaint concept. 

And then there’s the Brown Act and the Public Records Act. Try to get a document or an email from a public figure and the entire legal establishment of the United States of America unleashes its refusals, evasions and redactions -- generally making it so expensive in time and money that you and I will never get to know what they’re doing. 

Clearly what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander, as my grandparents used to say. I say, let’s ask the same standard question of them that every law enforcement agency I’ve ever seen asks of us citizens: “If you aren’t doing something illegal, what are you afraid of?” What, indeed. I wonder if it’s the same reason that law enforcement folks don’t want to reveal any information about themselves to anyone. 

I have no idea what happened to the notion of privacy as a sacred constitutional right that we were taught in school. Events of the last decade or so clearly prove that our government views the Constitution of the United States as an archaic concept, along with movies like “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington or the cartoon about “how a bill becomes a law” they teach in school. 

The Takeaway 

Recognizing that people have widely different and passionately held views on the issue of privacy and leaks, here’s my take. 

If it wasn’t for Snowden, we would never know how deep and insidious our government’s spying is on you and me as ordinary citizens. We’re talking about secret courts with rubber-stamp judges and government gag orders on big tech companies -- forcing them to hand over all our information and then lie about whether they do. And all the while, government agencies and Congress lie to us denying that they’re doing any such thing. That’s not the America I knew. 

If it wasn’t for The Panama Papers, we would not know for real how the superrich, dictators and drug lords happily launder money using fake overseas corporations, aided and abetted by handsomely compensated law firms, banks and consultants. No taxes, just graft. I say we should know about these events. 

And finally, our political processes. When the head of the DNC conspires in the dark to take out Bernie Sanders, keeping him from his aspiration to become the Democratic nominee for President; when the Clinton machine engages in dirty tricks to marginalize him; when paid democratic talking heads like Donna Brazille give debate questions in advance to Hillary and not Bernie, then I say we should have a right to know. 

Most secrets are, in fact, not vital to America’s national security. They are secret because powerful people have done dirty deeds and are terrified that you and I might find out about it. 

I can only infer that the 1/2 of 1% at the top of the economic food chain believe they are safely insulated from the rest of us by virtue of their elevated position – all enforced by countless lobbyists, lawyers, accounting firms, and a stacked regulatory and judicial system. 

I say, let the disclosures roll. If those in power want to restore our constitutional right to privacy, then, and only then, we should revisit the issue. 

When these folks get outed, I personally rejoice. Heck, I even gave Wikileaks some money. I want to see more, I tell you! Maybe then, these people will think twice before they trample all over your and my rights. 

Of course I still believe in the tooth fairy.

 

(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Photo: Elizabeth Daniels/LA Curbed. Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Coming Out of the Closet: I’m a Warrior for Joy

GUEST WORDS FOR THE SEASON--A friend wrote to me despairing of the seemingly hopeless scenario of the world today. The following poured out of me in response. I thought I’d share it with my friends this holiday season. I’m turning 55 today so consider this my BIRTHday message. I’m coming out of the closet and declaring myself … A Warrior For Joy!! 

Starting with Nature, horrors are a natural part of this earthly experience. 

In my opinion the greatest horrors in the human world come from our own natural enemies, hate, envy, greed, delight in cruelty, quickness to judge and retaliate, apathy, inertia, you get the picture. 

These enemies of ours find safe harbor in our consciousness by using the weapons of fear, misinformation, isolation, constant hunger for more and constant sorrow (of which I'm guilty of all) to prevent us from experiencing our most noble and natural states of joy and Light (information, kindness, compassion, respect for and connection to ALL living beings,) liberation from our self limiting thoughts and the ability to stand up in courage and strength and justice in order to make room for these experiences within us and our community.  

The enemies control us in so many ways with their weapons of fear and sadness and seem to always get the upper hand but in fact, in this century [the last century] we've seen more progress for the Light than at any other time in our written history. We have seen the liberation of consciousness for many who have been trapped and oppressed by the insane testosterone matrix that has dominated us. One century is a small dot in time but we have seen major strides in the 20th Century of the liberation of women, slaves, nations and now a growing movement for the liberation of nature, animals and environment, from our strangling grip, the liberation of gay people and hopefully soon liberation of the least able to protect themselves...children.  

Don't despair. The Game is not over by a long shot and radical change in our history and its effects happen not over one century but two or three or more of new and radical activity. What Terrence McKenna refers to as “Novelty”. Our changes have just begun. As fast as they are happening we are still very much in the beginning. 

That is why I really believe we need to stay out of the weapons of the enemies, fear, anxiety, hopelessness and instead nurture and support a clear vision that shifts us toward a better world by the actions we take in our everyday lives based on the vision of Joy, laughter, kindness’s, speaking our truth and sincerely considering the truth of others, taking care of ourselves and then others. 

To know in our bones that Light always prevails and even when the enemies, Hate, Fear, Separateness think they are winning they ultimately find out they were unwitting tools of Light. 

We win when we maintain our connection to our joy and the joy of all living people and things we meet on a daily basis when we demand our right to Joy regardless of what is happening around us, for the enemies are the thieves of this light in our Spirit. We win when we continue to uncover the ways we misinform ourselves or others and when we are ever vigilant to the places where the enemy lies within. 

We win when we have the courage to plainly speak out against injustice especially in our everday life. 

It’s easy to rail against injustice in another city and harder to rail against injustice practiced in your own back yard. We speak for joy when we nurture a view that allows us to see how the reality of each moment is constantly in service to the good. But mostly…we win when we learn to really face the folly of our own selves and have a good laugh about it with our friends.

 

(Dianne V. Lawrence is the publisher/editor of The Neighborhood News and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.)

-cw

The Trumpster is Going Nuclear … ‘til World Comes to Its Senses’

REUTERS REPORT--U.S. President-elect Donald Trump called on Thursday for the country to expand its nuclear weapons capabilities until the world “comes to its senses” - a signal he may support costly efforts to modernize the aging U.S. nuclear arsenal.

During the next decade, U.S. ballistic missile submarines, bombers, and land-based missiles - the three legs of the nuclear triad - are expected to reach the end of their useful lives.

Maintaining and modernizing the arsenal is expected to cost at about $1 trillion dollars over 30 years, according to independent estimates.

“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” Trump said in a post on Twitter.

Trump, who is at his Florida resort for the Christmas holiday, gave no details about what prompted his tweet. Representatives for his transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump, who won election on Nov. 8 and takes office on Jan. 20, campaigned on a platform of building up the U.S. military, but also pledged to cut taxes and control federal spending.

Trump met on Wednesday with a dozen Pentagon officials involved with defense acquisition programs, as well as the chief executives of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, the country’s two largest defense contractors.

Trump said he talked with the CEOs about lowering costs for two high-profile programs: Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jets and Boeing’s replacement 744-8s for the presidential Air Force One plane.

Defense stocks were little changed after Trump’s tweet, but shares of small uranium miners including Uranium Resources Inc and Uranium Energy Corp rose sharply.

(This piece was posted earlier at Huff Post. Susan Heavey and Roberta Rampton report for Reuters.)

-cw

Off Limits: ‘Of Mice and Men’ and the Death Penalty Today

GUEST WORDS--Seventy years after its publication John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men continues to stimulate debate, pro and con, about the death penalty. But justifying capital punishment was the last thing on the mind of the author, a liberal thinker who created the character of Lennie to increase our understanding of the mentally challenged and the American underclass. As a defense attorney who admires Of Mice and Men for this very reason, I’m angry that Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Cathy Cochran used Lennie in a 2004 legal opinion about imposing the death penalty when mental capacity is at issue. The "Lennie standard," she proposed, continues to have consequences in the courts and in the lives of the condemned. 

John Steinbeck’s late son Thom, an accomplished writer, was furious about Judge Cochran’s opinion after it was rendered. In a 2012 interview with the Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise, Thom’s wife Gail Steinbeck, an attorney, said that “his ears turned red” when her husband first learned of Ex Parte Briseno, in his view a gross distortion of his father’s meaning. In a statement published by The New York Times on August 8, 2012, Thom complained bitterly about the misconstruction of his father's intentions in writing Of Mice and Men: 

“I had no idea that the great state of Texas would use a fictional character that my father created . . . as a benchmark to identify whether defendants with intellectual disability should live or die. My father was a highly gifted writer who won the Nobel Prize for his ability to create art about the depth of the human experience and condition. His work certainly wasn’t meant to be scientific, and the character of Lennie (portrayed in photo left) was never intended to be used to diagnose a medical condition like intellectual disability. I find the whole premise to be insulting, outrageous, ridiculous and profoundly tragic. I am certain that if my father, John Steinbeck, were here he would be deeply angry and ashamed to see his work used in this way.”

The Supreme Court Considers the Case of John Steinbeck
 

In 2002 the Supreme Court outlawed the death penalty for the intellectually disabled, but left it to the states to define what constitutes intellectual disability. Since 2004 courts in Texas have used Judge Cochran's ill-considered Lennie standard to determine intellectual disability in capital punishment cases. Arguing before the Supreme Court last month in Moore v. Texas, the solicitor general of Texas, Scott Keller, bristled when Justice Sonya Sotomayor asked him about the state's use of the Lennie standard, an illogical jumble concocted from a sentimental -- and incorrect -- interpretation of John Steinbeck’s character. “The character from Of Mice and Men was never part of the test,” asserted Keller in the state's defense, “it was an aside [in Judge Cochran’s] opinion.” Justice Sotomayor replied, “But it informed its view of how to judge [intellectual disability]," insisting that Texas clearly "used the Lennie standard.” 

Questions about Judge Cochran’s odd Of Mice and Men citation -- and the quirkiness of a judge relying on a work of literary fiction to support a legal opinion -- had been predicted long before oral argument before the Supreme Court began. M. Todd Henderson, a University of Chicago law professor, pointed out the nature of the incongruity in 2008. “Citations to literature are extraordinarily rare in federal appellate court opinions, appearing in only 1 out of every 10,000 federal appellate cases,” he wrote. When judges do cite fictional works in judicial opinions, he continued, “they are most likely to cite to novels for propositions that are closely related to their own work and job.” That’s why it’s baffling that Judge Cochran was reportedly “unfazed” when she learned of Thom Steinbeck’s outrage over her violation of his father’s purpose in writing Of Mice and Men

John Steinbeck wrote much of Of Mice and Men at the Steinbeck family cottage in Pacific Grove, California. Ironically, Judge Cochran is said to have reread “all of Steinbeck” while living in nearby Monterey, three decades later, in the 1960s. Recently my wife and I traveled to the National Steinbeck Center in neighboring Salinas to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. Driving through John Steinbeck's beloved Salinas Valley, we saw the still poor, still struggling migrant workers toiling under the California sun, like Lennie and George, for subsistence pay. That evening we left our comfortable bed and breakfast to stroll hand-in-hand along the shore celebrated by Steinbeck in Sea of Cortez and Cannery Row. Nowhere, not even in the turbulent tide pools that Steinbeck explored with his wife Carol, did we perceive the death penalty.

 

(Stephen Cooper is a former D.C. public defender who worked as an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015. He has contributed to numerous magazines and newspapers in the United States and overseas. He writes full-time and lives in Woodland Hills, California. Follow him on Twitter @SteveCooperEsq.

This piece was written as written for http://www.SteinbeckNow.com. It is being published here with the author's permission.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

The Real Cost of Marginalizing the ‘Elderly’

EDUCATION POLITICS-The recent victory of Donald Trump and his now almost across the board appointment of ultra-conservatives to fill key positions in his administration is no surprise. Rather, it's just the latest expression and expansion of longstanding laissez-faire corporate theories touted by the late economist Milton Friedman of the University of Chicago. 

These ideas are expounded and implemented through what author Naomi Klein called “The Shock Doctrine," in her 2007 book of the same name. She shows in alarming detail how Friedman and his followers, with the active support of the U.S. government, have over the last half century created a multinational corporate oligarchy throughout Latin America (Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Bolivia) and elsewhere in the world, pledging alliance to only the country it can control. Simply stated, sovereignty and the majority’s well-being now take a back seat to ever increasing corporate profits at any cost. 

What is rapidly being sought now is the phasing out of any government role in the independent performance or regulation of American and world economies in many diverse areas, including public education and the waging of endless wars motivated by perceived corporate profit in the future. More simply said, having the third largest oil reserves in the world had more to do with going to war in Iraq in 2003 than did weapons of mass destruction. 

However, it has only dawned on me recently that there is something much worse than entities like multinational corporations that determine their well-being exclusively by whether they attain ever increasing profits. If you think about it, such uncontrolled growth without reinvestment is actually much more akin to the definition of a cancer than a viable social entity. 

What is worse, for example, than targeting your most senior workers for the sole reason of replacing them for a fraction of the cost -- adding the savings" to more corporate profits -- is not realizing that the loss of your more senior workforce destroys the institutional memory that might have allowed you to know what happened the last time the economy was pushed over the edge by corporate greed. I think it was called the Great Depression.

 

(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.com. Leonard can be reached at [email protected]) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Executives and Attorneys Pressing On Electoral College Decision

ELECTORAL EMERGENCY-A lot of wishful thinking is happening in America right now. “Maybe Trump the President will be different than Trump the Candidate.” We already know this is a fallacy. Trump the president-elect is exactly the same as Trump the candidate. “Maybe he’ll suddenly become more responsible and balanced.” “Maybe this is the kick in the pants America needs.” “Maybe he’ll be impeached.” But the most damaging wishful thought of all is: “Maybe I don’t have to do anything — maybe the Electors will choose to appoint someone else, on their own.”

The Electors should. But they won’t. Not without political pressure the likes of which America has rarely seen before. Which means we all need to be motivated. Well — how about the safety of our own lives, and the lives of everyone we love? Because let’s not fool ourselves. Anyone with a rudimentary appreciation of the powers of the president of the United States knows that the stakes are life and death. Pretending otherwise is wishful thinking.

The president of the United States has complete and unilateral control over 1,900 active nuclear weapons. Due to advances in modern technology, the most common protocols for authorizing American nuclear weapons allow for as little as 90 seconds of reflection by the one person alive with the power to use them. How on Earth are any of us safe, how are our loved ones safe, when that person is considered entirely unqualified by some of the most respected members of his own party, and has been assessed by hundreds if not thousands of psychological professionals as having incurable Narcissistic Personality and Sociopathic Personality Disorders? 

Other than thermonuclear war, virtually every competent scientist in the world believes that the biggest threat to human survival is global warming. Donald Trump doesn’t believe global warming exists. Members of his own party have said that his ignorant insistence of this, despite the facts, should disqualify him from the Presidency. They are right. Actions must be taken, and incredibly swiftly, to address global warming or we will reach a point of no return. But the head of Trump’s EPA transition team (himself a global warming denier) consistently fights to roll back crucial stopgap measures already underway. We’re talking about our lives, people. 

Thankfully, the founders of this nation predicted this. They foresaw that the people might elect someone unfit to be president. Hence, they added the idea of electors to the Electoral College.

There are those who mistakenly believe that the Electoral College requires electors to vote for Donald Trump. But that is the opposite of what the electors are supposed to do in circumstances like these. Lawrence Lessig, this nation’s premier constitutional expert, cleanly explains the responsibility of electors, as follows. 

“Like a judge reviewing a jury verdict, where the people voted, the electoral college was intended to confirm — or not — the people’s choice. Electors were to apply, in Hamilton’s words, “a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice” — and then decide.... [T]heir wisdom — about whether to overrule “the people” or not — was to be free of political control yet guided by democratic values. They were to be citizens exercising judgment, not cogs turning a wheel.” 

As Lessig states convincingly and with authority — the will of the people is Hillary Clinton. She won the majority of votes by a margin of over two and a half million people. It’s pretty simple. This is a democracy, and if the winner of the Electoral College, but not the popular Vote, is unfit to serve, then the elector’s sole responsibility is to elect the winner of the popular vote. 

This deserves to be repeated in simpler form: 

No less an American than Alexander Hamilton himself expressed clearly that the Constitution established electors as a protection valve; to have a group of citizens bound not by party, but by their responsibility to this nation. Whether you like her or not, the sizable majority of voters actually chose someone who is more qualified to be president than anyone in the last few decades, Hillary Clinton. Electors are obligated, by design, to elect her. 

Clearly, there is little chance that they will do so if Americans don’t demand it. The Constitution allows for, and requires, civic involvement. We need to stand up so profoundly that the electors feel protected and supported for voting their conscience. By December 19th, those who feel an itch to speak up, but haven’t done so, are going to regret it. By January 21st, those who have remained uninvolved will have a hard time containing their regret. After January 21st, if something terrible happens, it will be impossible to justify having been silent when something still could have been done. 

Fortunately, resources exist to help us, right now. www.asktheelectors.org is a simple tool to reach out to electors directly — use it to voice your concerns, and offer your support and thanks for their conscientious votes for Hillary Clinton. Sign a petition at Change.org, and share it on social media. Join in any public protest. And take every opportunity to speak honestly and earnestly to friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers, urging them all to join you in the fight for our shared future. If you are a Democrat, remind your Republican friends that if Trump had run as a Democrat — something he could have chosen to do - you’d be making the same argument. This isn’t about party. It’s about survival.

(Roger Wolfson currently serves as a writer/consulting producer for USA Network’s "Fairly Legal." He has also written for NBC's “Law and Order: SVU," TNT's "Saving Grace," and TNT's “The Closer.” Wolfson has also served on Senator Joe Lieberman’s staff, as Legislative Assistant and Speechwriter for Senator John Kerry, and as Chief Education Counsel for Senator Paul Wellstone.  Jared Berenholz is a television executive.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Dear Readers: Can We Talk?

MY TURN-Remember when the late Joan Rivers would open her TV appearances with "Can We Talk?" We knew it was her "schtik" but part of me used to feel that she was having a conversation with me. I knew it would be juicy ... scandalous ... or just a laugh ... but it was personal. 

That is how I feel right now. I want to reach out and talk to each of you. There have been few instances in my life when I can remember being at a loss for words, but this week has been one of them. I cannot recall a time when people have been so dispirited. 

I was talking with a friend who happens to be a Dermatologist. He said he has had more people come in with unexplained rashes in the last month than in the last six months. His diagnosis? “Trumpitis." And his recommended treatment is...stop watching the news! 

Certainly the President-Elect’s new cabinet selections are no cause for rejoicing -- unless you are part of the 25% who voted for him. It is by far the strangest mix of appointments I can remember. At least four of them have talked previously about getting rid of the department or agency for which they are being tapped. One of them proclaimed to the world that he was not qualified for the position but decided to accept it anyway. 

It is a strange wind that blows when the two most popular appointments are both four star Generals. Hopefully those eight stars will be able to control the three star general who, in my opinion, is a walking disaster. Not only has he been reprimanded for sharing classified information with other countries, but he has taken part in the "fake news" epidemic. 

During Bill Clinton's first Presidential campaign he touted that we would be getting "two for the price of one"...him and Hillary. That campaign rhetoric quickly disappeared. Today we learned that we will get six for the price of one. Instead of the First Lady's office in the East Wing it will be the "First Family's Office.” First daughter will be acting as First Lady until ????. So we’ve gotten more than we bargained for. 

So the question is...now what? I mentioned a few weeks ago that we in California live in a bubble and are pretty well insulated from some Congressional actions. We just have to make sure our California Super Majority Legislature doesn't go off the rails (pun intended) and over-spend our "rainy day" funds. We may need every penny just in case the Federal government cuts off funding in some areas. Governor Brown threw down the gauntlet on Wednesday. 

There is another local election coming up in March in which more than 21 candidates are running for LA City Council in District 7. The list of those that qualified to be on the ballot and those who had enough signatures to receive equal funding has not yet been released. It has been said that any one of them would be better than former Councilmember Felipe Fuentes, so it will be an interesting contest to watch. 

We do know that the Electoral College will not change the vote next week. Unless something unforeseen happens, Donald J will be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States in January. 

We can sit back and cheer for chaos. It’s tempting... but not in our own best interests. CityWatch’s Publisher and Editor, the stalwart LA cheerleader Ken Draper, asked my colleagues if we would be writing holiday and end-of-year columns. 

Writing "My turn" regularly for more than three years has subjected you all to a lot of my opinions. This year I have decided to write two articles: one for Christmas-Hanukkah-Kwanzaa that would be a “Wish List” directed toward whomever may be listening; the other is a New Year's Resolution list. 

This time I am inviting all of you to participate in both articles. I ask this partly because I have a bit of writer’s block, but mostly because I truly want to know your individual desires for the "City of Angels." If you email me at [email protected] and let me know about one or two wishes you have for this holiday season, I will publish that list next week. It can be soaring -- solving the homeless crisis or having the schools start the fall semester or quarter when it's not 110 degrees. I'll try to summarize how many people have the same wishes. 

If you want our distinguished readers, of which you are part, to know it was your suggestion, let me know. But if you don't want to claim authorship, you can remain anonymous. 

The same goes for my New Year's article. I would like you to send me one helpful resolution that you intend to perform for your fellow Angelenos in 2017. Can you imagine what we could accomplish if everyone agreed to do just one thing next year to make our City more livable? 

One of my more cynical CW colleagues (we do have one or two) said people only like to complain and they won't take the time to write something positive. I don't think that is true. All of us know we cannot be complacent. So, all of you Trump Supporters, Republicans, Hillary Supporters, Democrats, (they aren't always the same), Independents and Undecideds please send me your ideas. This is a chance to share your thoughts without having to operate under the famous Brown Act. You don't have to fill out a speaker card and since CW averages over two million readers per week, you’ll have quite a significant audience. 

Perhaps, there is a silver lining here: Instead of allowing these times to tear us apart, we can find a way to pull us together, to become more involved and responsible for our collective destiny. 

Comments NECESSARY!

 

(Denyse Selesnick is a CityWatch columnist. She is a former publisher/journalist/international event organizer. Denyse can be reached at: [email protected]) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

The New Mercantilism and the Destruction of Hope: Whither We Goeth?

CORRUPTION WATCH-Where are we going? Do we want to go there? If not, how do we not go there? Few know where the country is headed, but a lot of people are certain that they don’t want to go there. However, they have no idea how to change direction. 

The Destruction of Hope.
What does a people do when hope has been destroyed? Obama rode into office on a high crest of hope, made all the more significant in light of the economic crash a few months earlier. Since the Crash of 2008 happened after eight years of Bush, everyone blamed Bush, and thus, they were certain that Obama, being a Democrat, would follow the opposite economic policies from Bush.

People did not realize that both the Iraq War Profiteering and the economic Crash of 2008 were bipartisan. Bush did not abolish Glass-Steagall nor did Bush legitimize credit default swaps (CDWs), but he certainly sounded no alarm of the impending disaster. Once Glass-Steagall had been repealed, Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) correctly forecasted how events would play out. In a true show of bipartisanship, everyone ignored him. Thus, it is not as if no one knew. It’s just that no one cared.

So when the worldwide crash hit in 2008, the nation turned to the Democrats under the naive belief that the GOP alone had been responsible. When Obama assumed office, he then trashed the hope of the middle class for a better future. With the help of little Timmy Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury, he installed a reactionary pro-Wall Street economic policy from which the nation has yet to recover.

Psychologically, hope places control outside one’s self. It is a form of “trust in the universe” that difficult times will turn into good times, that good jobs will return, that sleepless nights of anguish over financial problems will cease. Instead, under the Obama-Geithner regime, people’s lives became worse. Meanwhile Main Street heard that Wall Street was being given trillions of dollars by Obama, yet there was no money to save the average guy’s home from foreclosure. Instead, everyone in the Obama Administration fretted that some millionaires might lose their financial shirts if their credit default swaps crashed. Obama-Geithner closed their eyes to the swelling ranks of the homeless.

The Rise of the Politics of Revenge.

Looking back, one can see why the Politics of Revenge became the dominant theme. After years of trusting in promises that the economy would improve, the reverse was occurring. After someone has invaded your home, stolen your TV and killed the kids’ puppy, you want revenge. If one candidate promises to get back all your stuff while another candidate champions the people who you believe are the thugs, who gets your vote? (We shall pause while the Dems try to figure this out.) 

What Happens when the Criminal is the Government? 

But what if the champion avenger is himself the thug? There is a significant difference from the gangsters of the 1930s and what is occurring today. 

“I got nothing against the honest cop on the beat. You just have them transferred someplace where they can't do you any harm. But don't ever talk to me about the honor of police captains or judges. If they couldn't be bought, they wouldn't have the job.” -- Al Capone 

When the criminals are on the outside as they were in the 1930s, we had a different situation than we have today where the criminals are the government. There is no Elliot Ness to come to rescue the citizens of Los Angeles. Here, the City Council itself is the criminal doling out billions of our tax dollars to its developer buddies. On the national level, there is no police force to deal with the emerging business alliance between Putin and Trump. As Trump keeps reminding us, no conflict of interest laws apply to the President. Most Americans are totally bewildered as to what Trump means by this statement, but they are certain that his friendship with Putin is a good thing. After all, Putin is a predator who takes what he wants, like Crimea, and runs the government like his personal business empire. 

Businesses Employ the Governments. 

People fail to realize that governments no longer set the parameters within which a society functions; rather, governments have become the employees of businesses. People have not yet grasped the significance of businesses being the employers of the city councilmembers, of the judges, of everyone in government. In Los Angeles, laws are passed to give developers whatever they want, and if there is a law which says that a developer cannot have something, business employs a host of judges to ignore the law. In Los Angeles courts, Facts and Fiction are Fungible, and the magic which transforms one into the other is money. 

This type of societal organization is a new form of mercantilism, razed from the dead like some Hollywood horror movie. Mercantilism’s heyday was from the 1500s to 1700s. Its official end came with Adam Smith’s publication of Wealth of Nations in 1776. Somewhere between 1999 and 2016, it rose from the grave to become our New Economics and our new form of government. 

It does not matter whither we are going or whether we even want to go there. The New Mercantilism has arrived -- whether you like it or not.

 

(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney. He can be reached at: [email protected]. Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

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