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Fri, Apr

Dear So-Called President Trump: Where’s My Protest Paycheck?

THE PROTEST ECONOMY-Dear So-Called President Trump: I was among the roughly five million Americans who took to the streets in cities across the country a few weeks ago in opposition to your outrageous policies regarding women, Muslims, school children, immigrants, workers, the environment, and people who need health care. (That’s me in the photo above with my 20-year old daughter Sarah.) I left my home around 7 a.m., took the subway from Pasadena to downtown Los Angeles, and participated in the demonstration -- marching, holding signs, shouting chants, listening to speakers and musicians -- until about 4 p.m. I got back on the subway and returned to my house around 5 p.m. In other words, I spent about 10 hours involved in the protest. 

That was the largest one-day protest in American history. A majority of the five million participants (750,000 in LA alone) were protesting for the first time. I didn’t really understand what brought them out to protest on a sunny Saturday when they could have been doing so many other things. But your recent Tweet explained why. 

Last week you Tweeted that “Professional anarchists, thugs and paid protesters are proving the point of the millions of people who voted to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

Thank you for the reminder. I forgot to pick up my paycheck for protesting. Whomever is paying people to protest left me off the list -- or just ripped me off. Since the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, I am owed at least $72.50 for the 10 hours I spent protesting that Saturday. However, as of this January 1, the California minimum wage is now $10.50 an hour, so I’m actually owed $105, and even more if the people who are paying people to protest against you abide by overtime rules.

If all five million Americans who protested that day got paid the federal minimum wage, and if people spent an average of five hours protesting, those patriotic rabble-rousers are owed a total of at least $181 million in unpaid protest wages. 

I think you’ll agree that putting $181 million in Americans’ pockets is good for the economy. If you will recall the Economics 101 course you probably took at college, this is called an increase in “consumer demand.” Economists also call it the “multiplier effect.” The five million protesters will spend that $181 million in their local economies -- boosting sales, revenues, and jobs. So thank you for reminding us that protest is good for the economy. 

You will be pleased to know that Americans will continue to protest your policies for the next four years. Not all the protests will be as large as the January 21 women’s march, but the number of Americans who feel compelled to protest against you will certainly grow as you pursue reckless, dangerous and inhumane policies. Every week, in cities, suburbs and small towns across America, people will be in the streets, at town meetings, on college campuses, at their workplaces, at airports, in churches and synagogues, and elsewhere raising their voices in opposition to almost everything you are trying to do. 

Let’s take a conservative estimate that every week, on average, 100,000 Americans engage in some kind of local protest over the next four years. Let’s assume that each person spends an average of three hours participating in protest and earns the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. That adds up to $452 million during your four years as president -- assuming you are not impeached. 

Of course, you won’t be surprised that in addition to all those local protests, at least four times a year, Americans will mount the kind of major nationwide protests that we saw a few weeks ago, with five million people taking to the streets. So let’s add another $181 million for each protest -- four times a year, for four years. This will increase the protest payroll by another $2.9 billion. Altogether, that’s $3.42 billion in protest paychecks over four years. I haven’t even factored in the higher minimum wage levels in many states and cities. 

You are already doing your part by adopting policies and making statements that make Americans so angry that they are joining protests in record numbers. But if you’d really like to do something to improve the economy even more, you could raise the federal minimum to $15 an hour. That would quickly and dramatically increase America’s protest payroll and be a real boost the economy. 

I realize that it is selfish of me to bring this up, but what about all the back pay I’m owed for the protests I’ve participated in since the 1960s? I’ve been to hundreds of protests for civil rights, against the Vietnam war, for women’s rights and against apartheid, for more funding for public schools, against the U.S. overthrow of Chile’s president Salvador Allende and against U.S. aid to the Nicaraguan contras, against police killing of unarmed Black Americans, in favor of workers’ rights, and against government bail-outs to Wall Street banks. 

As you can see in the above photographs, I brought my twin daughters Amelia and Sarah to a protest in Los Angeles in 2002 against the U.S. invasion of Iraq and I joined with my wife Terry, our dog Mia, and our friends last year at a huge march of workers and supporters demanding a $15 minimum wage in my hometown of Pasadena. (You’ll be please know that we won that fight). On a rainy night two weeks ago I joined about 150 people at a protest in front of the $26 million Los Angeles mansion owned by Steve Mnuchin, the Wall Street predator (known as the “foreclosure king”) who was your campaign finance chair and whom you’ve nominated to be Secretary of the Treasury. (That’s me, with the gray hair, behind the sign). 

Shouldn’t the hundreds of millions of Americans who, over the years, sat in at lunch counters, participated in strikes, carried picket signs for reproductive rights and same-sex marriage, rallied against nuclear weapons, and shouted “no justice, no peace” and “end racism” get paid for their protest activism? Rep. John Lewis, who put his body on the line hundreds of times for social justice -- and whom you described as “all talk, no action” in a twitter tantrum last month -- would be owed a fortune in back protest pay. 

Do you think we could find a “so-called” judge who would be sympathetic to this wage-theft cause and order the owners of Protest Inc. to compensate us for our labor? 

I don’t consider this reparations for radicals and reformers. I see it as the kind of economic nationalism you’ve been talking about. You can’t export protest jobs. These are American jobs for Americans. As any economist could tell you, those back payments would do wonders for the economy. 

Just as George W. Bush was known as the “war president,” and Barack Obama was known (at least by Republicans) as the “food stamp president,” you will surely go down in history as the “protest president.” You’ve done more than any other U.S. president to unite Americans and galvanize them into an oppositional protest movement. You’ve called us “paid protesters.” Once we all get paid, we will feel proud to have helped make America Great Again.

 

(Peter Dreier is E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics, and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department, at Occidental College.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Trump’s ‘New Order’ Witch’s Brew: Not ‘New’ and Not ‘Order’

DIVINE THE FUTURE--As a student of history, I’m always drawing parallels between the present and the past. Like many of us, I believe that to divine the future we must understand what has gone before. That’s what makes the actions of Trump, Bannon and company so damn frightening. 

Let’s turn back the cover of the fascist playbook and see what’s inside. 

First, the lies and then the people who choose to believe them. 

Despite the fact that the United States under Barack Obama experienced recovery from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, significant expansion in healthcare coverage, and a fairly peaceful world scene, Donald Trump ran a campaign that painted our nation as a failure, crime-ridden and downtrodden, kowtowing to the Chinese and even worse, radical Islam. 

The target of these lies was, and continues to be, the susceptible individuals made receptive to belief in “alternative facts” through years of indoctrination by right-wing radio and alt right websites. It’s no accident that Trump’s chief henchman, Steve Bannon, comes from that world. Propaganda is most effective when there’s a willing audience and if anyone knows how to exploit that audience, it’s Bannon. As chief executive at Breitbart, he led the pack of alt right media hounds. 

Trump’s battle cry of “Make America Great Again” was just good enough to get him the prize. He is president only because of an anachronistic electoral system in which losing by three million votes at the ballot box becomes winning by 77 in the Electoral College. So the United States is experiencing what life might have been like if someone such as the junior senator from Wisconsin, Joseph R. McCarthy, had become president instead of Eisenhower. Nixon’s “law and order” rhetoric, anti-media bias, and enemies list don’t come close to what may in store under the current regime. 

The formula for Trump’s authoritarian witches’ brew is simple: 

You are in danger. 

Muslims are the enemy. 

Only I can save you. 

Anyone who opposes me is the enemy (including apparently those who no longer want to sell Ivanka’s clothing brand.) 

In keeping with his pledge to remake government, Trump has moved quickly to eliminate regulations to rein in polluters. Gutting consumer protection rules again allows the wolves of Wall Street to roam free. He’s attacked Obamacare, seeking to loosen administrative rules that make the system work. 

Most egregious, however, is his order to ban Muslims from seven nations. Despite protestations that this executive decree is not aimed at a particular religion, many know better. The judges who have done their sworn duty to the Constitution are being attacked as encouraging enemies of the state. 

The comparisons many in the United States and around the world have made to Trump’s regime and the fascists of the 1920s and ‘30s is apt. For some, “America First” carries the flavor of “Deutschland Uber Alles.” Referring to the current reality in Washington, D.C., Bannon said, “What we are witnessing is the birth of a new political order.” 

In 1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt, talking about an earlier political reality, said, “These men and their hypnotized followers call this a new order. It is not new. It is not order.” 

It’s time to heed the lessons of history.

 

(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.

 

How the Trump Resistance Can Succeed: Change the Narrative

DOUBLING BACK ON NATIONALISM-Mike Grillo teaches political science, not literature. But he argues that, to understand the success of Donald Trump --  and the most effective ways to oppose him  --  you need to start with narratives.

In a chapter of the just-published book Why Irrational Politics Appeals, the Schreiner University assistant professor presents new evidence that Trump’s appeal --  at least among his core supporters, who voted for him in the Republican primaries --  is rooted not in “rational concerns for material well-being or economic security,” but rather in racial resentment. 

His analysis shows support for the Trump/Bannon brand of nationalism is driven by prejudice-fueled emotional responses, which are shaped by the stories people read, hear, and share. When those narratives depict certain groups as threatening, they create hostile predispositions, which in turn create support for leaders who promise to mitigate the perceived danger. 

This is known as “symbolic politics,” and it drives people on both the left and right. Grillo’s equation, “preexisting biases elicit knee-jerk emotional reactions, which influence our decisions and behavior,” is not unique to Trump voters. But, given Trump’s nationalist rhetoric during his presidential campaign, Grillo focused on them when he analyzed a detailed survey of 1,200 Americans conducted in January of 2016. 

Grillo looked specifically at how their feelings toward Trump (measured on a “warmth” scale of one to 100) coincided with their feelings about immigrants, national identity, prejudice against minorities, fear of terrorism, and “racial resentment.” He discussed his findings in a telephone interview. 

Let’s start at the first link in the causal chain you identify. What kind of narratives are you speaking of? 

Narratives can come from various sources: parental upbringing, political and cultural elites, pop culture. They can include cultural narratives: Who belongs to the group, who doesn’t, who are rival groups. Numerous studies have shown that people’s anti-Muslim narratives have come from numerous places: politicians, popular films and television shows,certain media outlets, and the even pulpit, depending on the church. 

You conclude that these stories created fears and prejudices that engendered hostility toward minorities, including immigrants. How do you define and measure that term? 

Racial resentment is this idea that minorities are getting special treatment from the government (welfare, affirmative action, etc.), usually at the expense of whites. It is usually rooted in underlying beliefs that minorities are not deserving of any special treatment. There was also the idea that whites are now at a disadvantage  --  that the system is now working against them. 

In the data set, racial resentment was measured having people indicate how strongly they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements, including “Irish, Italians, Jewish and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should do the same without any special favors.” 

I assume many people differentiate between those earlier legal immigrants and today’s undocumented workers. 

They do. But even disapproval of legal immigration -- as measured by responses to the statement, “When people from other countries legally move to the United States to live and work, is this generally good for the U.S., generally bad for the U.S., or neither good nor bad?” --  was associated with racial resentment, prejudice, and other predispositions that, in turn, predicted support for Trump. 

But actual economic distress was only weakly associated with support for Trump? That would seem to contradict the narrative that his supporters were desperate, lower-middle-class whites struggling to make a living. 

Another political scientist, Philip Klinkner, examined this very same data set, and found racial resentment and prejudice had greater impact on Trump support than attitudes about whether the economy was worse off. That research also found that (one’s personal) income, and attitudes about whether it is easier or more difficult to improve one’s economic status now, as opposed to 20 years ago, were not significant predictors of Trump support. 

Now, this is data that was collected during the primaries. In the general election, the people harboring racial resentment probably voted for Trump, but there were likely other factors influencing support, such as anger with government and the Washington establishment --  the idea that they no longer serve the interests of the working class, dislike of Hillary Clinton, voting on strictly partisan lines, and the hope that a person like Trump can bring back the jobs, etc. 

Michael Moore observed in his [Michael Moore in] TrumpLand film that, for many, the Trump vote was an anger-driven decision where people felt they could torch the government and politicians hurting them. I think that all of these explanations can be explained by symbolic politics, as they are all based on predispositions that trigger emotional responses. 

The connection between racial resentment and support for Trump was even stronger than the link between fear of terrorism and support for Trump. What does that tell you? 

I think it is reflective of the fact that you have this perception among a sizable portion of the white middle-class population that the government has abandoned them, while instead providing special assistance and treatment to minorities, who they see as undeserving, either because they believe that they don’t work hard enough, or because they believe that systematic racism is no longer a problem. 

You couple this with stagnating wages, higher cost of living, unemployment, and the decimation of small manufacturing towns, and you have a recipe for a very ugly populist nationalism. We’ve seen this in other periods of American history, where whites were resentful of Irish and Italians because of this belief that they were taking all of the good jobs because they were cheap labor. 

You noted that “Trump is not creating the narratives and predispositions detailed in this paper. They have been a feature of American politics for a long time.” Do you believe he was successful because he addressed them more openly than previous politicians? Or that his pugnacious style fit his supporters’ image of a “strong leader”? 

I think it was probably a combination of both. I also think that Trump was probably the only one who could do it, because, as we have seen, he was able to say many things throughout the campaign that would have destroyed any other candidate. 

Reading your paper, I had the thought that Trump is trapped, in a way. He feels the need to give his voters what he promised them, and for good reason: Your analysis suggests that they only support him to the extent that his positions align with their prejudices and speak to their fears. But if that’s the case, he can’t really moderate his positions, can he? He’s descending.  

That is indeed a possibility. Another possibility is that he can maybe buy himself some leeway if he manages to deliver on some of his promises. Or he may begin to alienate his own base via the consequences of his policies, such as higher taxes and tariffs. His rise and win was so unpredictable that I’m just not sure at this point.One thing that I have been discussing with my colleagues here in Texas is what happens if he is serious about building the wall. There would be all kinds of eminent domain issues, which people in Texas take very seriously. That could open up a hornet’s nest. 

So if this analysis is right, what path or paths does it suggest for the anti-Trump coalition? 

One thing they could try to do is reframe the argument. Trump’s opposition has definitely been galvanized, and if you look online at social media, they have begun advancing the argument that the policies and values of Trump and his followers are un-American and will hurt America, while their values of inclusiveness, tolerance, and compassion are the epitome of American patriotism. They are in essence trying to alter the narrative. 

Another thing they might do is try to capitalize on the “Trump regret” movement. Tumblr has a whole archive of tweets from Trump supporters who expressed regret voting for Trump. Some complain that his cabinet appointees are hardly “draining the swamp.” Others express concern about their healthcare coverage. They may try to advance the narrative that Trump is not a champion of the middle class, and that his policies will hurt them. 

So, once again, it’s all about narratives, since, whether we realize it or not, they shape our assumptions and our emotional responses to issues. Are they the battleground? 

I agree with that assessment. The main challenge with altering narratives is that, in most cases, it can take a very long time. Take, for example, the abolitionist, women’s suffrage, or civil rights movements. Changing the respective narratives in each of those instances was a long and painful process.

Whether Trump’s opposition can change the narrative on racial resentment and other prejudices remains to be seen.

 

(Tom Jacobs is a staff writer with Pacific Standard magazine, where this piece first was posted.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

Yes Sally, There are Patriots … You Just Won’t Find Them in the White House

AT LENGTH--It is one thing to pledge allegiance to the flag in the security of a neighborhood council or chamber of commerce board meeting. It is quite another to stand up to the newly-elected president of the United States and tell him that his latest executive order on immigration is indefensible and probably unconstitutional. I call that true patriotism. That’s what the now former-acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates did the other day when she directed the Department of Justice lawyers to disobey the executive order. The executive order bans entry to the United States from 7 Muslim-majority countries. Christians are exempt from the order.

“In litigation, DOJ Civil Division lawyers are charged with advancing reasonable legal arguments that can be made supporting an Executive Order. But my role as leader of this institution is different and broader,” Yates said regarding her decision. “My responsibility is to ensure that the position of the Department of Justice is not only legally defensible, but is informed by our best view of what the law is after consideration of all the facts…. I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right. At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the Executive Order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the Executive Order is lawful.”

Ol’ President No. 45 fired Yates. Or, just as likely, the newly-elected’s alt-right-ego and former  white nationalist news blog Breitbart editor-turned-“chief strategist” and newly- minted member of the National Security Council, Stephen Bannon, fired Yates. This only added more confusion to Trump’s executive order on immigration, which has been protested by thousands and challenged in federal court by the American Civil Liberties Union. A temporary stay has been issued by the U.S. District Court judge for the Eastern District of New York on Jan. 25. Now, instead of protecting America from foreign enemies, Trump has become one of the “bad hombres” that he warned us about.  So much for those who have been saying, “just give the new president a chance to prove himself”. 

Nyet! I say hurrah for those many thousands who are protesting, chanting, standing up shouting, “No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!” and who are now suing this administration. 

Ms. Yates heroically upheld her oath of office to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic

To many Americans, the current occupant of the Oval Office is ignorant of the Constitution he swore to uphold and is driving the nation into a direct collision with the fundamentals of our very liberties. The chaos emanating from the bloviator-in-chief would be amusing if it weren’t so tragic.

In just his first 10 days on the job, Trump has already signed more executive actions than any previous president, including Barack Obama. Trump has issued two proclamations, seven executive orders and seven presidential memoranda.

He’s even invented a new form of presidential directive — the national security presidential memorandum — and signed three of those.

For those who thought Trump’s antics were just campaign rhetoric, it is clear now that his campaign rhetoric was his real agenda — an agenda supported by “alternative facts,” his alt-right interpretation and his non-existent understanding of the Bill of Rights.

Reince Priebus signed the Memorandum to the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, freezing all new regulations; it is clear that this regime is on the warpath to overturn, dismantle or destroy as much of the Obama agenda as it can by executive fiat before Congress can act in the first 100 days.

Trump’s Executive Order 13767 and his Executive Order to “Protect the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” are just a two of 19 objectionable executive actions. The other messes he’s started includes creating diplomatic rifts with Mexico over his Great Wall; lobbing the opening salvo in dismantling the Affordable Care Act; restarting the Dakota Access Pipeline; and threatening sanctuary cities. (See pg. 10 to read the whole list of Trump’s executive orders thus far.) Trump has cancelled the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, but his penchant for alienating U.S. allies and rivals alike could have real effects on import industry jobs in the Los Angeles Harbor and consumer price inflation nationwide. In the end, will Trump actually create more jobs?

That the mainstream media should now seem shocked by any of this after promoting his celebrity status and profiting from the TV ratings that Trump generated during the bizarre 2016 campaign is a sad irony.

Even more disconcerting is mainstream media’s late arrival on fact checking and investigating his relationship to Russian President Vladimir Putin or even demanding the release of his taxes. Only now are some mainstream media outlets beginning to use the “L” word when reporting on Trump’s or his subordinate’s lies.

He is just a brand name like Coca-Cola or Twitter: empty of substance and short on communication.  That he is now slamming and abusing the White House press corps is just trumpish exploitation of the way things are in these great post-factual United States of America. Bannon said the other day that the press should, “Just shut up and listen.” As if journalists should be obedient stenographers rather than professional skeptics of the Fourth Estate.

This conflict has been coming to a head for some time as corporate public relation firms have been spoon-feeding journalists “alternative facts.”

The rest of us should not be shocked at the political confrontation now  in play. From the very birth of this nation—beginning with the Boston Tea Party through the Civil War and emancipation of the slaves and every decade and era since—the conflict has been between the rights of the people versus the tyranny of money, property and privilege. Liberty sometimes gets confused with ownership, depending on who owns what or whom.

That Trump is held up as a champion of the neo-Tea Party, neo-fascists and others only confuses both our American sensibilities and our American linguistics, such as they are. Trump is nothing more than an empty Coke bottle full of fizzy colored politics with no moral values.

Making America Great is a slogan, not a course of action or a cure for what ails this country. His inauguration was not much more than an insulting reiteration of his empty sloganeering soaked in sugar water.

However, from this chaos there will rise true patriots and heroes who, like many before Sally Yates, will stand up to speak truth to power.

 

(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.)

-cw

The Donald and the Judiciary

JUDICIAL JOUSTING-Because the judiciary is surrounded with mythology, Americans are unable to intellectually deal with significant issues that involve the court system. The vast majority of Americans do not even know that we have two separate court systems: (1) the federal judiciary and (2) fifty state court systems. To confuse people more, at times the two court systems are mutually exclusive and at other times, their powers overlap. (Photo above: AG speaks after federal judge in Seattle issues restraining order on President Trump’s travel ban.) 

The vast majority of Americans only want a court to validate their personal opinions. I call this the Judge Judy approach to courts. People want a bitchy, know-it-all avenging angel (devil) to wreak havoc on the villains. Increasingly, the TV courts have taken on the aura of a Roman circus, influencing the public’s beliefs about how the court system should function. 

At the same time, the public operates on myths about the impartiality of judges and an alleged respect for Due Process. When someone is promoted as thoughtful, he or she is referred to as “judicious,” or “sober as a judge.” 

On the other hand, we had a brief moment of reality in January 2015 when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stated that the California State court system suffers from an “epidemic of misconduct.”  The California Supreme Court also requires its lower courts to enforce arbitration awards which are based on Alternative Facts and work a substantial injustice on the victim. See Moncharsh v. Heily & Blase (1992) 3 Cal.4th 1. One should note that the federal court criticized the entire California state system and blamed the “epidemic of misconduct” on the judges and justices. 

Into this muddled sea of confusion over what the courts should be and what the courts actually are, waddles the befuddled Donald Trump. Donald Trump’s idea of a fair court is limited to judges who agree with him 100%; he believes that only judges with his same ethnic background are qualified to judge him. As a result, The Donald repetitively criticized federal trial court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, charging that since Judge Curiel was a “Mexican,” he was a “hater” and that the judge was “giving us [Trump University] very unfair rulings." 

Donald Trump’s attacks on Judge Curiel were in line with the public’s “Judge Judy philosophy” – a judge is good only if he or she agrees with one’s position. Unlike the federal court which singled out the California judicial system under Chief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye for creating an epidemic of misconduct -- where people were railroaded into prison on the basis of lying jailhouse informants and perjury -- The Donald’s attacks on Judge Curiel were based on the judge’s heritage and his belief that Judge Curiel was out to get him. 

In this toxic mixture of public ignorance, judicial corruption, and the personal rants of an Enfante Terrible, the nation finds itself in constitutional crisis due to Trump’s Muslim ban which alleges that Muslims from seven countries are not being properly vetted. Interestingly, Trump has no known business interests in those nations, none of which have sent us a Muslim who has killed any American on American soil. 

However, the Muslim ban excludes Arab nations from which terrorists have come to the U.S. and murdered thousands of Americans. And Trump does have extensive business interests in some of those un-banned countries such as Saudi Arabia. Thus, exemptions for some Muslim countries raise questions as to whether President Trump is using his power as President to advance his personal business interests. 

Within hours, federal judges began to restrict the scope of the Muslim ban. For example, on January 28, 2017, federal Judge Ann Donnelly found that retroactively applying the ban to people who have held American Green Cards for years was beyond the power of an executive order. 

On February 3, 2017, federal Judge James L. Robart, issued a temporary nationwide injunction against the Muslim ban, prompting an angry President Trump to tweet, “The opinion of this ‘so-called judge,’ which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” 

We shall leave aside the fact that Judge Robart issued only a TRO which would hold the status quo until a Three Judge Panel could hear the matter. President Trump called into question the legitimacy of Judge Robart by his use of the words “so-called judge.” What does that even mean? Is James L. Robert some guy off the street who snuck into the federal court house and issued an order while pretending to be a judge? 

In a nation where we learn weekly on shows like 20/20, 48 Hours, and Dateline about people who’ve been convicted using falsified evidence composed of lies, deceit and bigotry, we are beginning to realize that we have a serious problem with a corrupt judiciary. A huge number of judges are former prosecutors. When they preside over criminal trials and watch former colleagues parade lying jailhouse informants in front of juries in order to obtain convictions, these judges know exactly what is happening.  

Here we are, two years after the federal court accused California judges of creating an epidemic of misconduct, and we have a new federal investigation into the on-going use of lying jailhouse informants in Orange County, California. Judges in Los Angeles County have also created an environment in which Fiction becomes Fact and Facts disappear altogether, and where attorneys who “refuse Jesus Christ” are removed from cases. But no one will deal with the implications of the epidemic of judicial wronging in California, just like no one will deal with the implications of Donald Trump’s wheeling and dealing with judicial nominations. 

At the same time that President Trump has launched his attack on federal Judge James Robart, he is nominating Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. As we have seen with Judge Curiel as well as with Judge Robart, Donald Trump wants what he wants and that is all that matters. During the campaign, when asked by The Hill’s Peter Sullivan what he thought about the “sanctity of life,” Trump said, “I will protect it and the biggest way you can protect it is through the Supreme Court and putting people in the court.” On Tuesday night, in an interview with Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly, Trump said he will appoint Supreme Court judges in order to make abortion illegal. “I have become pro-life,” Trump told O’Reilly, “And the reason is, I have seen, in my case one specific situation, but numerous situations that have made me to go that way.” 

Trump habitually reminds the world that everything is a deal. His life appears to be based on his 1987 ghost-written book, The Art of the Deal. The question arises: what deal did Judge Neil Gorsuch make with Donald Trump in order to be nominated? It is a no win situation for the nation and an equally no win situation for Judge Gorsuch. If he did make a deal to get the nomination, would he admit it? 

Because the entire world sees that President Trump lacks self-restraint when acting in public, it would be naive to believe he had the self-restraint in private not to make a deal with Judge Gorsuch. It is hard to believe Trump would make any appointment without a deal. 

All the way from the faux TV court shows to the U.S. Supreme Court, the nation’s judiciary is in disarray. California is fatally ill with “corruptionism,” while much of the general public cares naught for due process or human rights. If a judge does not endorse its bigoted fears and hatreds, the public can refer to him as a “so-called judge.” What will the world think of a nation where the President himself calls into question the legitimacy of the federal judiciary – and who rails against a judge who, by all accounts, is a jurist of exemplary character?   

In Trump’s America, a man is no longer judged by the content of his character, but by his loyalty to the most powerful.

 

(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.

Is Reading Steinbeck an Antidote to Donald Trump?

READING FOR RELIEF-A rotten egg incubated by reality television and hatched by retrograde thinking about women and the world, the presidency of Donald Trump is creating anxiety, fear, and a growing sense among progressives that an American psycho now occupies the White House. Many, like me, are turning to John Steinbeck for understanding. But that consolation has its limits. 

As Francis Cline observed recently in The New York Times, one positive result of the groundswell of bad feeling about Trump is that “[q]uality reading has become an angst-driven upside.” Anxious Americans yearning to feel at home in their own country have a rekindled interest in exploring their identity through great literature: “Headlines from the Trump White House keep feeding a reader’s need for fresh escape.” “Alternate facts,” when “presented by a literary truthteller” like John Steinbeck, are “a welcome antidote to the alarming versions of reality generated by President Donald Trump.” 

The literary tonic recommended by Cline may or may not have the power to clear the morning-after pall of Trump-facts and Trump-schisms (the two sometimes interchangeable) afflicting our panicked public dialogue, our beleaguered press, and, for those as apprehensive as I am, the American-psycho recesses of our collective mind. Perhaps counter-intuitively, his prescription for mental wellness includes works by a group of novelists with a far darker worldview than that of Steinbeck, who felt an obligation to his readers to remain optimistic about the future whenever possible. The writers mentioned by Cline include Sinclair Lewis (It Can’t Happen Here), George Orwell (1984), Aldous Huxley (Brave New World), William Faulkner (The Mansion), Jerzy Kosinski (Being There), Philip Roth (The Plot Against America), and Philip Dick (The Man In The High Castle). As an antidote to Donald Trump, they are bitter medicine. Is Steinbeck’s better? 

As the Trump administration pushes plans to litter federally protected Indian land with pipelines (“black snakes”) that threaten to pollute the water used by millions of Americans, John Steinbeck's writing about the dangers of environmental degradation seems more relevant, and more urgent, than ever. To mark the 100th anniversary of Steinbeck’s birth in 2002, the award-winning author and journalist Bill Gilbert wrote an insightful article on the subject for The Smithsonian entitled “Prince of Tides.” In it he notes that “Steinbeck’s powerful social realism is by no means his only claim to greatness. He has also significantly influenced the way we see and think about the environment, an accomplishment for which he seldom receives the recognition he deserves.” 

Judging from “The Literature of Environmental Crisis,” a course at New York University, Gilbert's point about Steinbeck's stature as an environmental writer of major consequence is now more generally accepted than he thinks. Studying what “it mean[s] for literature to engage with political and ethical concerns about the degradation of the environment” the class will read “such literary and environmental classics as Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath” to “look at the way literature changes when it addresses unfolding environmental crisis.” 

“Before ‘ecology’ became a buzzword,” Gilbert adds, “John Steinbeck preached that man is related to the whole thing,” noting that Steinbeck’s holistic sermonizing about nature's sanctity reached its peak in Sea of Cortez, the literary record of Steinbeck’s 1940 expedition to Baja California with his friend and collaborator Ed Ricketts, the ingenious marine biologist he later profiled in Log from the Sea of Cortez. In it Steinbeck seems to foresee how America’s precious national resources -- and collective soul -- could one day become susceptible to the manipulations of an amoral leader like Donald Trump: 

There is a strange duality in the human which makes for an ethical paradox. We have definitions of good qualities and of bad; not changing things, but generally considered good and bad throughout the ages and throughout the species. Of the good, we think always of wisdom, tolerance, kindness, generosity, humility; and the qualities of cruelty, greed, self-interest, graspingness, and rapacity are universally considered undesirable. And yet in our structure of society, the so-called and considered good qualities are invariable concomitants of failure, while the bad ones are the cornerstones of success. A man – a viewing-point man – while he will nevertheless envy or admire the person who through possessing the bad qualities has succeeded economically and socially, will hold in contempt that person whose good qualities have caused failure. 

“Donald Trump has been in office for four days,” observes Michael Brune, the national director of the Sierra Club, “and he’s already proving to be the dangerous threat to our climate we feared he would be.” The executive actions taken by Trump in his first week as president (“I am, to a large extent, an environmentalist, I believe in it. But it’s out of control”) appear to fulfill Steinbeck's prophecy about the triumph of self-interest over social good. That’s a hard pill to swallow for anyone who cares about the planet. 

Whether Trump becomes the kind of full-throttle fascist described in It Can't Happen Here remains to be seen. Sinclair Lewis's fantasy of a future fascist in the White House appeared the same year as Tortilla Flat, Steinbeck's sunny ode to multiculturalism and the common man. Unfortunately, I'm not as optimistic about the American spirit as John Steinbeck felt obliged to be when he wrote that book more than 80 years ago. I’m afraid that the man occupying the high castle in Washington today is an American psycho with the capacity to do permanent harm, not only to the environment, but to the American soul Steinbeck celebrated in his greatest fiction.

 

(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 for Steinbeck Now. It is being published here with the author’s permission.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Dress Like A Woman: Paying Tribute to the Victims of the Tragic - Also Imaginary - Bowling Green Massacre

GUEST WORDS--Nation, do not despair. Despite the Trumpian carnage all around us, online wiseacres - along with mass resistance by a galvanized populace, lawsuits by the ACLU and other tireless defenders of the rule of law, ongoing investigations into multiple wrongdoings, impeachment proceedings when appropriate, our time-honored system of checks and balances, and the possible discovery one day soon by the press and Democrats of their respective spines - may help save us.

Kellyanne 'What Is This Thing Called Facts?' Conway offered the latest opportunity to be gleefully horrified - yes, these days that's possible - when in a tee vee interview with Chris Matthews she just plain made up  a "massacre" by Iraqi refugees to justify the travel ban. Conway cited two radicalized Iraqis here who were "the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre," helpfully adding, "Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered."

Yes, well. The media quickly agreed they had, in fact, failed to cover it because it had, in fact, never happened. Turns out Conway was evidently referring to a 2011 case in which two Iraqi citizens were caught in a Federal sting and indicted for trying to send weapons and money to Al Qaeda; both were convicted, and are now serving life and 40 year prison terms. Conway later admitted she'd made an "honest mistake," hastening to add that the press does that, like, all the time, like remember for the 9,784th time when that reporter said the MLK bust was removed and it wasn't so hah what's a fictional massacre anyway?

Too little too late: Twitter took  the massacre and happily ran with it. They offered "alternative thoughts and prayers" and silence for the victims. They chided commenters that the massacre jokes were too soon and "out of respect we should wait till it takes place." They offered RIP to those who lost their lives in the massacre as well as grizzly bear attacks in schools. They urged, "Never remember the imaginary victims." They blasted Conway "for attempting to politicize the massacre, in which I was killed." They listed other victims: "Paul Ryan's dignity, Marco Rubio's spine, Harambe, Voter Fraud Investigation, Cecil the Lion." They bitterly chimed in, "Thanks Obama."

They recalled their thesis on the massacre, their Ph.D from Trump University, and how Betsy DeVos plagiarized it. The best brought it all home by merging recent Trumpian catastrophes, as in, "Saddened and sickened by Frederick Douglass' silence surrounding the Bowling Green Massacre" and, "One still shudders to think how bad the Bowling Green Massacre would've been if not for the heroic intervention of Fred Douglass."

A Wikipedia page quickly sprung up. A mournful tribute folk song  - complete with fields of lollipops and unicorns - emerged. Enterprising New Yorkers held candlelight vigils for the victims: "Never remember! Always Forget! And one ingenious soul took constructive action by creating a Bowling Green Massacre Fund for the victims and families, seeking donations by intoning, "We all still carry the vivid memories of what horrors occurred at Bowling Green, but some still relive those moments every day as they work to rebuild a community torn apart...As we join together with our thoughts and prayers, we will always remember how our fortitude and compassion unite us all through these difficult times." Its website link - brilliant - goes to the ACLU.

Still, it's hard to keep up with orange-tinted idiocies: By mid-day Friday, the enthusiasm for the massacre had met its snarky match thanks to a report from the White House that the Sexual-Assaulter-In-Chief "likes the women who work for him 'to dress like women.'" This news was received about as well as to be expected, swiftly sparking the now-viral hashtag #DressLikeAWoman highlighting high-achieving women wearing whatever damn thing they want. For a change of pace, it relies on photographs not words, even though, don't forget, he has the best ones, ever.

(Abby Zimet posts at Common Dreams … where this and other excellent perspectives on the current state lives was first posted.)

-cw

The New California Ferrari Goes 196 Miles per Hour, and Comes with a Cupholder

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA-When I finally got the keys to California, I wondered how fast it would go. So, on the 210 freeway, I floored the accelerator and within seconds I was driving 100 miles per hour. 

I immediately felt exhilaration -- and fear. This speed was totally unfamiliar to someone who has spent his life driving beaten-up Toyotas. In California we like to think we can move as fast as our imaginations can take us, but this shiny red convertible named California moved too fast for me. 

I was not driving my own car. Ferrari let me drive its latest California model -- officially the Ferrari California T -- for four rainy January days. I requested the loaner because I thought it might provide some escapist fun at a difficult time for our state and country, and because, on the north side of age 40, I deserve a mid-life crisis. 

But for journalistic purposes, I wanted to know whether the rare car named for our entire state (it’s far more common to name automobiles for specific California places, like the Chevrolet Malibu or Tahoe) could really embody California. I suspected that the folks back in Maranello, the Italian town where Ferrari makes its cars, might just be using our state’s name to sell a pretty automobile. 

My suspicions were wrong. The Ferrari California was a revelation -- as wonderful as our most kaleidoscopic dreams of the Golden State can be. The real problem was that Ferrari’s representation of California may be too faithful. The car is so damn perfect that it has a way of reminding you of our state’s imperfections. 

The Ferrari California aligns with the state on the level of metaphor. California is famously the “Great Exception” among American states, as the 20th century author Carey McWilliams named it, and California is an exception among Ferraris. But the nature of that exceptionalism might surprise you; California is not the most expensive or the most glamorous or the fastest Ferrari. 

To the contrary, Ferrari markets the California as the most practical and versatile of its cars. In its ultra-luxury, high-end way, it nods to the realities of modern California lives -- our business, our diversity, our traffic. 

The California is not a sports car, but a convertible grand touring car, built for comfort, which makes sense if you’re a Californian who works far from where you live, has kids, or is often stuck on our state’s abysmally congested freeways. It’s got two doors, but also enough space in back to fit two children’s car seats. 

“It is a little bit an exception,” Edwin Fenech, the president and CEO of Ferrari North America, told me by phone. “It’s able to be very versatile. You can drive it every day, and it’s very easy to drive. You can go to the grocery store with your car.” 

This has frustrated some Ferrari purists, who seem to equate the brand’s value with extreme male self-indulgence (you’ll see it referred to disparagingly as the “chick” Ferrari online) and complain about everything from its cupholder to its eight cylinders (most cars make do with four or six, but some Ferraris have 12.) 

But Fenech said that versatility shouldn’t detract from the car’s mystique, or California’s. It’s supposed to represent our sun-kissed Hollywood beauty, the kind he experienced as a young professional who saved up to fly his grandparents to California and guide them on a long drive up the coast, from Los Angeles to Monterey to San Francisco. The memory of that trip is a touchstone for Fenech and his family. 

“It’s a car that has all the attributes of being a Ferrari,” he said, referencing “high performance, elegance and flair.” He added pointedly that, in an era moving with surprising swiftness toward self-driving -- or autonomous -- vehicles, Ferrari wanted to affirm its support for Californians determined to steer clear of the trend. After all, what is more emblematic of the Golden State than our belief in primacy behind the wheel? 

“We are the ones who are going to defend the right to drive,” Fenech told me. “Americans in California should have the right to drive every day … Don’t brainwash the new generation with autonomous driving—it’s so beautiful, driving.” 

Fenech said that, while Ferrari makes all its cars in Italy, the U.S. and California also have defined the brand and its market. The race car driver Luigi Chinetti, who immigrated to the U.S. in the middle of the 20th century, pushed Enzo Ferrari to build his own cars and then imported them here. 

Today’s Ferrari California draws on our current infatuation with everything mid-20th century. Ferrari produced three different California models between 1957 and 1967. (Filmmakers used replicas of a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spider in the classic ‘80s comedy, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off). The car became such a valuable collector’s item (some have sold for $20 million or more) that Ferrari revived the brand in 2008. 

The newest iteration, the Ferrari California T, was introduced for the 2015 model year. Fenech said the car fits California in multiple ways. It’s designed with a dual-clutch automatic transmission and a technologically advanced suspension, which makes it easy to navigate through the dense neighborhoods of America’s most urban state. “It’s the most urban Ferrari in our range -- you are able to drive it comfortably in the city,” he said. And the T stands for Turbo, as in the twin-turbo, 3.9 liter engine, which is a nod to our environmental awareness. It can still get the car to 196 miles per hour but uses less fuel and decreases the car’s emissions. (The auto press has speculated that all Ferraris will eventually be hybrids.) 

The Ferrari representative who loaned me the car encouraged me to do as much as I could with it. So I tested its California-ness. I drove it for 90 minutes through bumper-to-bumper traffic to my office in Santa Monica. I navigated potholes in downtown LA. (The seats are so comfortable you barely feel the bumps.) I made my rounds to the grocery store and the In-N-Out drive-through, complete with the requisite in-car consumption of a double-double. I chauffeured my kids to school, secured in their car seats in the back. And I carted luggage, golf clubs, and Little League equipment in the trunk. 

The car held up. I felt far safer while driving it in a rainstorm or on bad roads than I do with my usual ride, a five-year-old Prius. With the top down, I loved the way that the car connected me with other drivers and pedestrians, some of whom offered a thumbs-up and asked what the car was. 

When I took it out on PCH with the top down, the ride was joyful. And I’ve never had an automotive experience happier than the drive up Angeles Crest Highway, with the radio first playing Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “California” (“It’s time we better hit the road”) and then R.E.M’s “Electrolite” (“Hollywood is under me. I’m Martin Sheen. I’m Steve McQueen. I’m Jimmy Dean.”) 

I didn’t want to keep this experience all to myself, so I took the historian Bill Deverell, director of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, for a spin, hoping for expert commentary on the car’s California-ness. He took exception to the suggestion that such a luxury item could be for anyone but the most moneyed Californians. But mostly, he just enjoyed the ride, and the respite from work. “It sure is fun,” he said. 

Of course, the car, like so many wonderful things in our state, fails the core test of accessibility: the base MSRP of the Ferrari California T is $198,973. The one I drove costs $240,000. By Ferrari standards, that’s a bargain (the hybrid La Ferrari sells for well over $1 million), which is by design: An estimated half of Ferrari California buyers are new to the brand. But the car I was driving would cost this non-profit journalist more than three years’ take-home pay. 

Which is another thing that makes the California very Californian. The good life is highly visible throughout our state. But only a few can afford more than a brief ride.

 

(Joe Mathews is Connecting California Columnist and Editor at Zócalo Public Square … where this column first appeared. Mathews is a Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010).)Photos by Louis Wheatley. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Why Groundhog Day Now Elevates Science over Superstition

MARMOT MUSINGS-I am a scientist who loves Groundhog Day, that least scientific of holidays. Every February, as Punxsutawney Phil shakes the dust off his coat, emerges from his burrow, glances at his shadow (or not) and allegedly prognosticates winter’s end, I gather a group of professors, graduate students, and other assorted science geeks at my UCLA lab to nibble, drink, schmooze, and revel in ground-hoggery in all its magnificent splendor. 

I study the behavior, ecology, and evolution of groundhogs and the 14 other species of marmots --large, charismatic ground squirrels that live throughout the northern hemisphere. I realize that these rodents can’t tell us when seasons will change. I know that the whole idea of celebrating a mid-winter festival in Los Angeles’s usually balmy clime also makes little or no sense. I know that hanging out with a taxidermied animal I stuffed myself might seem a bit quirky for a tenured professor. 

But Groundhog Day -- and its inherent absurdity -- also serves as a reminder to me and my colleagues of why we do what we do. The United States has prospered in no small part because of our commitment to supporting science and technological innovation. With each new advance -- from the automobile to the polio vaccine to computers to space travel -- we have reinvented ourselves and the world around us. Scientific discovery is at the core of America’s success. Conversely, an Internet meme a few years ago wondered, “Why is that only in America do we accept weather prognostication from a rodent but deny climate change from a scientist?” But for my colleagues and me, groundhogs are symbols of science, not superstition. 

At my annual lab celebration, posters of groundhogs and plush stuffed groundhogs -- not to mention a glittering Swarovski crystal specimen, given to me by UCLA’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology as thanks for years of service as department chair -- add to the ambiance. Groundhog-themed comics festoon the lab walls. “Two Buck Chuck,” our stuffed adolescent groundhog, presides over the festivities perched in one corner. One fall long ago, when I was doing my postdoctoral research, I found him dead on the side of the road and threw him into the freezer. My wife Janice and I had to wait to stuff him until Christmas break, when the smell associated with thawing and skinning him would be less offensive to our lab mates. 

We’ve been holding our Groundhog Day fête since 2001. America has been at it far longer than that. Groundhog Day was originally a reimagining of Candlemas Day, a Catholic mid-winter festival which itself had roots in a pagan celebration. Europeans observing Candlemas tracked hibernating hedgehogs to predict when winter would end. When the Pennsylvania Dutch came to our shores, they too looked for a hibernating mammal that might help them monitor the weather. 

Woodchucks, also known as groundhogs, were native and seemed to fit the bill: Males popped up out of their burrows each February, probably checking things out and deciding when they should start waking up females to mate. The new Americans took notice, and Groundhog Day was born. 

Since 2001, I have run a long-term study, initiated 55 years ago by my mentor Ken Armitage, now an emeritus professor at the University of Kansas. Ken is the world authority on marmots, and is credited with emphasizing the importance of their annual cycle, which varies by location, in explaining why marmot sociality varies. It was Ken, actually, who first came up with the idea of celebrating Groundhog Day. He used to host the members of his lab at his house, serve “ground hog” (a.k.a. sausage), and recite marmot poetry. 

The study follows individually-marked yellow-bellied marmots at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Gothic, Colorado. The value of the work is rooted in its longevity -- it’s one of the longest-running studies of its kind and an important tool for studying evolution in action. The animals are now emerging about a month earlier in the spring than they did 30 or 40 years ago. 

Understanding how individuals respond to environmental change is essential if we want to predict how animals will react to global warming and other human-driven habitat shifts. 

Science is what I do. I’m thrilled and inspired by being able to spend my days uncovering the secrets that hide in plain sight around us, and to use my marmot studies to train students to think critically and objectively. Our grand American experiment has prospered when it has the best possible information -- and I know that the scientific method is a very efficient process for revealing nature’s truths. This is the spirit in which I commemorate Groundhog Day -- celebrating America’s devotion to science, not just superstition.

(Daniel T. Blumstein is a professor at the UCLA Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. His seventh book, Ecotourism’s Promise and Peril: A Biological Evaluation, will be published by Springer in 2018. This piece was first posted at Zocalo Public Square.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

African-Americans to the Democratic Party: ‘We’re at a Crossroads’

LET’S TALK ABOUT IT-As an African-American Democrat, I share the core values of my political party. That is why I am a Democrat. Like me, most African-American Democrats do not want to see the mass deportation of undocumented citizens and families broken up. That said, we would be completely within our right to give the side eye to political leaders who are falling over themselves to get on the “sanctuary state” PR bandwagon.  

When thousands of Blacks left Los Angeles County as a part of the Black flight into San Bernardino County and other far away cities in search of more affordable housing and better schools for their children there was no campaign urging us to stay -- in fact, some would argue cities paved the way to the freeway leading out of city limits. It is not lost on us that no one introduced legislation to help reverse the journey of our grandparents and great-grandparents from the west back to the South. 

When the number of Blacks in California dipped below 10 percent there were no emergency meetings to confer on how cities could better meet the needs of their Black residents and provide sanctuary to those living in areas rife with gentrification to keep them from leaving. 

Living in California -- particularly Los Angeles County -- there is no shortage of “sanctuary cities” with political leaders offering their residents promises of safety from arrest, detention and deportation based solely on their citizenship status. President Donald Trump has wasted no time in making good on the very same controversial campaign promises around immigration laws enforcement that many would agree put him into office.  

To date Trump has signed orders to start construction of a border wall, expand authority to deport thousands, increase the number of detention cells and punish cities and states that refuse to cooperate -- giving new meaning to the phrase “the ish is about to hit the fan.”  

Most African-Americans abhor Trump and the Republican Party, but privately agree with Trump’s assertion that “illegal immigration” has harmed the Black community economically. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that at the end of 2016, 7.8 percent of African-Americans were unemployed compared to 5.9 percent of Hispanics, 4.3 percent of whites and 2.6 percent of Asians. With Blacks making up a disproportionate number of low-skilled workers, they find themselves more likely than any other group to be competing with undocumented workers for work in the construction, service and hospitality industries -- areas where Blacks have traditionally been able to find work. 

I know it’s politically incorrect to point this out but that doesn’t make it any less true. And knowing this, when push came to shove, African-Americans still weren’t willing to let the possible security of their own economic welfare take precedence over everything else that’s wrong with Trump and the Republican Party. In other words, even though Trump told us that we have no jobs, horrible education and no safety or security, we did not buy into his “New Deal for Black America” or the idea that in order for us to succeed others had to leave the country. No, that is what disaffected white voters did last November -- not my people.  

But what have we gotten from the Democratic Party after decades of loyalty besides knowing that ethically we are on the right side of history? What has our silence and “go along to get along” attitude gotten us? The Democratic Party expects (and usually receives) our blind allegiance election after election but what is really our return on investment as African-Americans?    

Too often when it comes to the Democratic Party as a whole, we hand pick our battles based on which way the wind of popularity is blowing on an issue. It’s no secret that African-Americans have been both the conscience and backbone of the Democratic Party seemingly ever since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and today we are just taken for granted right along with our issues.  

I’m not sure which is worse: The Democrats continued assumption of the Black vote or how most members of the Republican Party refuse to acknowledge the passage of the 15th Amendment granting Blacks the right to vote. 

When Democrats fight for a higher minimum wage, paid sick leave, childcare, paid family and medical leave it means nothing if you can’t get the job to begin with. Now, is that all the fault of undocumented workers? Absolutely not. But when you factor in a job market that demands more and more bilingual employees, employers who want to hire cheap labor, a workforce with generations of Blacks who are not prepared to meet the demands of 21st century employers, a lack of real educational opportunities as well as the highly exploitable position of the undocumented -- you have a recipe for disaster.    

Instead of ignoring or talking around the issues that plague both Black and Brown people, Democrats need to sit down and talk through them as a Party and figure out how we can all come up -- together.   

Rebuilding the Democratic Party to meet the needs of everyone and not just some means acknowledging and addressing the unequal economic impact that exploiting the undocumented has had on African-Americans in the workforce -- and not just the impact on the undocumented worker. It also means being honest about the situation and not simply labeling those who dare to talk about it as racist. It is not racist to want to figure out how all workers -- both Black, Brown and otherwise -- can work together to further everyone’s cause. On the other hand, acting like what is happening to Blacks is not happening and hushing the voices of those who try to talk about it could be considered as such.  

African-Americans know what it means to fight for human and civil rights probably better than most – hence, the constant replication of our tactics from the 60s Civil Rights Movement by various groups in the fight for theirs. In 2017, the Democratic Party stands at a crossroads. We win elections by bringing people together and working together -- not by taking each other’s support and votes for granted. As a Party we can do better. Our core values demand it and the future success of the Democratic Party requires it.

 

(Jasmyne A. Cannick is nationally known television and radio commentator on political, race, and LGBT issues who works in politics as a communications strategist. Follow her on Twitter @Jasmyne and on Facebook @JasmyneCannick. Her website is www.jasmyneonline.com.)

Photo: CFAAC, California Friends of African American Caucus. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Make No Mistake: This is a Muslim Ban

GUEST COMMENTARY-I am profoundly saddened and angered by the broad discrimination sanctioned on Friday night by the Trump administration against refugees -- those fleeing violence and terrorism within their country -- and immigrants from Muslim-majority countries. 

There are two elements to this executive order: a ban on all refugees entering the country and a ban on all immigrants from seven, predominantly Muslim countries. Make no mistake — this is a Muslim ban, many of whom are women and children displaced by violence. 

This runs counter to our national security interests and will be used as a recruitment tool for terror groups, endangering the lives of Americans overseas. 

Furthermore, the Trump administration has proposed no practical or effective solution to make Americans safer from terrorism. Remember, between 2001 and 2015, more Americans were killed by homegrown terrorists than by foreign-born extremists. Rather than address that threat, the administration has cruelly closed our doors to immigrants and refugees who are already vetted for more than two years to ensure they pose no threat to our citizens. 

Since the Holocaust, it has been the policy of presidents of both parties to open our doors to those fleeing war and oppression. This moral leadership has enhanced our ability to shape world events while promoting global stability and protecting Americans abroad. 

Refugees don't make us less safe; they enrich our communities. I have seen refugees in California become business owners in Sacramento who grow our economy and students in Los Angeles developing cutting-edge research, all in the pursuit of contributing to a country that proudly opened its doors in their hour of need. 

During the Holocaust, we failed to let refugees like Anne Frank into our country. And today, we are making the same mistake under the illusion of security. 

Turning our backs on millions of refugees is a dark moment in American history; one that we must rise to meet because this is only the beginning of this fight. I fear that it will get worse before it gets better. 

But I believe that our commitment to action and to defending those who have been left out and displaced will be able to overcome the bigoted policies of this administration. 

To our brothers, sisters, and friends in immigrant and refugee communities at home and all across the world -- know that you are not alone. We are fighting for you. We will not give up on you. Don’t give up on us. 

Fight on. 

(Kamala Harris is U.S. Senator for California and former California Attorney General. She can be reached here.)  Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Nixon's Revolutionary Vision for American Governance

THE FAILURE OF NEW FEDERALISM-President Nixon, though possessing the instincts and speaking the increasingly conservative language of the mainstream Republican Party all his life (his writings on domestic policy attest to this,) governed within the boundaries set by the New Deal. Where other conservatives like Barry Goldwater had no interest in “streamlining government,” “making it more efficient,” and “promoting welfare,” Nixon sought to do exactly these things. He might be considered a “good-government conservative,” seeking, as did his mentor Eisenhower, to make the institutions of the New Deal state work more effectively and efficiently for the American people. At the time, liberal Democrats had no interest in reforming governance in this way, while more conservative Republicans offered no solutions but “starve-the-beast.” Nixon was pioneering a pragmatic middle ground. 

If there was a single animating principle behind Nixon’s good-government reform efforts, it was this: lessen the power of the federal bureaucracy. There were various ways Nixon went about this, but this article will examine three. Nixon would empower the poor and those dependent on federal aid by replacing strings-attached welfare and social programs with no-strings-attached payments, believing poor people would be better at deciding how to spend their money than bureaucrats. Nixon would empower officials (and bureaucrats) at the state, city, and county levels by passing revenue sharing aid along to them. Finally, Nixon would oversee the smoother management of the federal government, by reorganizing the federal departments into departments based on broad purpose and function rather than on sector or constituency. 

These initiatives-the Family Assistance Plan, General Revenue Sharing, and Executive Reorganization- made up a significant chunk of Nixon’s domestic policy, also known as the “New Federalism.” There were other aspects, including Keynesian full-employment spending, creation of new federal regulatory departments, and a push for universal healthcare. But the Family Assistance Plan, Revenue Sharing, and Executive Reorganization were the boldest in terms of reforming the New Deal and Great Society institutions for a new era, and incidentally, they all failed to gather sufficient popular support to be institutionalized in the long term. The Reagan Administration ended most Revenue Sharing plans in 1986, while the Family Assistance Plan and Executive Reorganization never passed in Congress (in the latter case, largely due to the distracting factor of Watergate.) 

But these bold good-government reforms are worth revisiting today, if only to gain insight into the unique governing philosophy of President Nixon. 

The Family Assistance Plan 

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, head of Nixon’s Urban Affairs Council, strongly advocated for what he called the “income strategy“ -- a resolution to fight poverty by boosting incomes and putting money in poor people’s pockets, rather than providing social services staffed by career bureaucrats. After much internal jockeying over such issues as the enforcement of work requirements and rates of support payments, the “Family Assistance Plan” became the administration’s keystone domestic policy initiative, the vital core of its New Federalism. 

The Family Assistance Plan (FAP) was designed to largely replace the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) put in place by the New Deal and expanded under the Great Society. FAP’s logic was simple: poor families would have a better knowledge and understanding of how to help themselves if given welfare payments than would the social workers and bureaucrats whose programs those dollars might otherwise fund. There was also a strong work requirement and work incentive, distinguishing the plan from previous versions of welfare programs. 

As President Nixon said in his August 8, 1969 Address to the Nation on Domestic Programs“… I, therefore, propose that we will abolish the present welfare system and that we adopt in its place a new family assistance system. Initially, this new system will cost more than welfare. But, unlike welfare, it is designed to correct the condition it deals with and, thus, to lessen the long-range burden and cost.…The new family assistance system I propose in its place rests essentially on these three principles: equality of treatment across the Nation, a work requirement, and a work incentive.” 

The FAP would have been the most significant reform in American social welfare policy since the 1930s and one of the most transformative domestic policies of the latter half of the 20th Century. It would have served the administration’s goal of weakening the bureaucracy by reducing the responsibilities of federal service agencies, opting instead for a cash handouts approach that incentivized job attainment. 

Ultimately, due to lengthy conflicts over the substance of welfare reform between the Moynihan and Burns camps, the administration never put forth a bulletproof proposal to Congress, and Congressional conservatives and liberals united to defeat what they respectively regarded as too generous and too stingy a proposal. 

Revenue Sharing 

If the purpose of the Family Assistance Plan was to remove the bureaucratic middleman from welfare policy, then the point of Revenue Sharing was to remove the bureaucratic middleman from many other aspects of federal policy, particularly social services. Revenue Sharing in its various forms- General Revenue Sharing, which did not have any strings attached, and Special Revenue Sharing, which was directed at specific sectors but still had few strings attached- was conceived in the spirit of decentralizing policymaking power to states, counties, and municipalities. 

As President Nixon said in his February 4, 1971 Special Message to Congress proposing General Revenue Sharing, “There is too much to be done in America today for the Federal Government to try to do it all. When we divide up decision-making, then each decision can be made at the place where it has the best chance of being decided in the best way. When we give more people the power to decide, then each decision will receive greater time and attention. This also means that Federal officials will have a greater opportunity to focus on those matters which ought to be handled at the Federal level.” 

Strengthening the States and localities will make our system more diversified and more flexible. Once again these units will be able to serve–as they so often did in the 19th century and during the Progressive Era–as laboratories for modern government. Here ideas can be tested more easily than they can on a national scale. Here the results can be assessed, the failures repaired, the successes proven and publicized. Revitalized State and local governments will be able to tap a variety of energies and express a variety of values. Learning from one another and even competing with one another, they will help us develop better ways of governing. 

The ability of every individual to feel a sense of participation in government will also increase as State and local power increases. As more decisions are made at the scene of the action, more of our citizens can have a piece of the action. As we multiply the centers of effective power in this country, we will also multiply the opportunity for every individual to make his own mark on the events of his time. 

Finally, let us remember this central point: the purpose of revenue sharing is not to prevent action but rather to promote action. It is not a means of fighting power but a means of focusing power. Our ultimate goal must always be to locate power at that place–public or private-Federal or local–where it can be used most responsibly and most responsively, with the greatest efficiency and with the greatest effectiveness. 

Integral to the Revenue Sharing programs, and indeed to the New Federalism as a whole, was the urge to, as Richard P. Nathan put it, “sort out and rearrange responsibilities among the various types and levels of government in American federalism.” 

With the complex ecosystem of American federalism approaching incomprehensibility, Nixon’s administration sought to rationalize it somewhat by decentralizing some functions and centralizing others. Nathan argues that inherently trans-regional issues, such as air and water quality or basic minimum welfare standards, were best managed at the federal level, as were basic income transfer payments. Meanwhile, more complex and regionally variant issues, such as social services and healthcare and education, might be better dealt with locally. 

Many of the functions of powerful federal departments would thereby increasingly be taken up by states and cities, which would now have the federal funding to manage things they once could not. In this way, Nixon weakened the federal bureaucracy by empowering political entities far away from the national bureaucracy’s central core in Washington. 

Revenue Sharing of all sorts was broadly popular across party lines, but was terminated by the middle of the Reagan Administration. 

Executive Reorganization 

The third significant aspect of President Nixon’s domestic agenda was the wholesale reorganization of the Executive Branch’s departments. The twelve departments existing at the time of Nixon’s presidency had all been born out of necessity over the first two centuries of American history, and typically corresponded to particular economic or infrastructural sectors (for example, the Department of Agriculture.) New agencies proliferated within the departments, and often times different departments would pass conflicting regulations on the same subjects, making a tangled environment for citizens navigating through the mess. 

The solution developed by the President’s Advisory Council on Executive Organization (PACEO) was to completely reorganize the Executive Branch based on function rather than constituency. The Departments of Defense, State, Treasury, and Justice would remain largely as they were; the remaining departments would be reorganized into a Department of Human Resources, a Department of Natural Resources, a Department of Community Development, and a Department of Economic Development. As President Nixon said in his March 21, 1971 Special Message to Congress on Executive Reorganization, "We must rebuild the executive branch according to a new understanding of how government can best be organized to perform effectively. 

The key to that new understanding is the concept that the executive branch of the government should be organized around basic goals. Instead of grouping activities by narrow subjects or by limited constituencies, we should organize them around the great purposes of government in modern society. For only when a department is set up to achieve a given set of purposes, can we effectively hold that department accountable for achieving them. Only when the responsibility for realizing basic objectives is clearly focused in a specific governmental unit, can we reasonably hope that those objectives will be realized. 

When government is organized by goals, then we can fairly expect that it will pay more attention to results and less attention to procedures. Then the success of government will at last be clearly linked to the things that happen in society rather than the things that happen in government. 

Rather than being a conscious component of the New Federalism, the Executive Reorganization is more rightly thought of as a part of what Richard P. Nathan calls the “Administrative Presidency“ -- Nixon’s attempts after 1972 to bring the federal bureaucracy much more directly under his personal control, through reorganizing the Executive Branch and through appointing personal loyalists to Cabinet positions and other spots. This, of course, would have lessened the influence of career bureaucrats and directly increased the President’s power over policy implementation. 

The Executive Reorganization failed largely due to the Watergate scandal. 

Conclusion 

It’s very likely that much of Nixon’s plan to weaken the federal bureaucracy and fundamentally reform the federal government was driven by his own distrust of the “Establishment.” That does not, however, detract from the very real fact that the U.S. federal government of 1968, after almost three-and-a-half decades of near-continuous expansion, was cumbersome, overbearing, and inefficient at fulfilling the tasks assigned it by the American people. Much of this dysfunction, it could be argued, lay in the fact that the federal bureaucracy was becoming an interest group committed to its own perpetuation and loathe to undergo reforms imposed from the outside. 

Nixon’s plans to lessen the federal bureaucracy’s authority, responsibility, and power, whatever their fundamental motive, bore much potential to transform the federal government from a hulking behemoth into a sleeker, more responsive, and fundamentally more effective machine attuned to the needs of the last few decades of the 20th Century. Had the Family Assistance Plan, Revenue Sharing and policy decentralization, and the Executive Reorganization passed, the apparatus of the federal government might well look different today. Agencies and departments would be more goal-oriented than constituency-oriented; many federal services would be outsourced to newly-vibrant state and local governing entities; the welfare system would be entirely transformed into a payments system rather than a services system. 

President Nixon’s legacy as a good-government reformer ought to be examined more closely, both for its own sake, and for the sake of better informing government reform efforts in the 21st Century. There is potentially much we could learn from many of Nixon’s initiatives.

 

(Luke Phillips is a political activist and writer in California state politics and an occasional contributor to CityWatch. His work has been published in a variety of publications, including Fox&Hounds, NewGeography, and The American Interest. He is a Research Assistant to Joel Kotkin at the Center for Opportunity Urbanism.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Trump Removes Jews and Genocide from Holocaust Remembrance Day

WORDS MATTER-One of the characteristics of the Alt-Right is how they view themselves as the victims of everyone else. To the Alt Right, Christians are the most persecuted group of people in the world. 

On the flip side of this belief we find Holocaust Deniers. These people deny the Hitlerian Genocide of Jews and others; there are also those who deny the earlier Armenian Genocide. 

Not only has Donald Trump removed Jews from Holocaust Remembrance Day, he has removed Gypsies, (called Roma these days) and he has omitted mentioning Trade Unionists and Catholic priests. Trump pretends that he is being all inclusive by excluding the groups who were actually the targets of Hitler’s genocide. 

Here is what Trump’s White house wrote: 

“It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember and honor the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust. It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror. 

Yet, we know that in the darkest hours of humanity, light shines the brightest. As we remember those who died, we are deeply grateful to those who risked their lives to save the innocent. 

In the name of the perished, I pledge to do everything in my power throughout my Presidency, and my life, to ensure that the forces of evil never again defeat the powers of good. Together, we will make love and tolerance prevalent throughout the world.” 

Trump has removed the concept of Genocide from the Remembrance. He refers to “depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people,” but he is silent about the attempt to eradicate an entire people. Trump’s words about the Holocaust could have been used to describe the Chicago murder rate which he termed “horrible carnage.” 

Trump has taken a significant step toward the Holocaust Deniers’ camp by making no mention of Jews and no mention of Genocide. “Holocaust” by itself does not mean “genocide.” Then Trump quickly makes himself the center of attention by saying, “…I pledge to do everything in my power throughout my Presidency, and my life….” 

In 2015, President Obama’s statement remembered Jews and the other victims. Contrary to Trump, one does not have to exclude Jews in order to remember others; one does not have to omit genocide to decry other crimes against humanity. President Obama said: 

“Today, with heavy hearts, we remember the six million Jews and the millions of other victims of Nazi brutality who were murdered during the Holocaust. 

Yom HaShoah is a day to reaffirm our responsibilities to ourselves and future generations. It is incumbent upon us to make real those timeless words, ‘Never forget. Never again.’ Yet, even as we recognize that mankind is capable of unspeakable acts of evil, we also draw strength from the survivors, the liberators, and the righteous among nations who represented humanity at its best. 

With their example to guide us, together we must firmly and forcefully condemn the anti-Semitism that is still far too common today. Together we must stand against bigotry and hatred in all their forms. And together, we can leave our children a world that is more just, more free, and more secure for all humankind.” 

At the same time Trump was omitting Jews and Genocide from the Holocaust Remembrance, he was denying access to refugees seeking asylum from persecution -- except for Christians who get a free pass.

 

(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.

Trump’s Executive Order: A Personal Perspective

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--In 1994 I volunteered to teach a Level One ESL class at a Tarzana temple. Each week I met with four men who had emigrated from Iran and one who had emigrated from Russia. We did not share a common language, other than the vocabulary and grammar I taught them in an elementary religious school classroom but we still understood each other. I can still hear the excitement in my student’s voice as he proudly recited the names of vegetables he had learned. “Artichoke! Asparagus! Broccoli!” I had no idea what he did in his home country but here, he was working in a Valley produce market. 

As I read about Donald Trump’s onslaught of executive orders during the week, I thought about my students and other immigrants I have met since I’ve lived in Los Angeles, many who are colleagues and friends. Multiculturalism is one of the greatest qualities of our city. When I rode the Red Line to the Women’s March last week, I was struck by the number of languages I heard in the car. Los Angeles is a city of immigrants -- all of whom have arrived here to make a better life for themselves and for their families, to pursue a dream. 

From Trump’s executive order Wednesday that calls for the “immediate plan, design and construction of a physical wall along the southern border” and would allow the Attorney General and Homeland Security Secretary to determine whether “sanctuary cities” like Los Angeles are eligible for federal grants to his doublespeak “extreme vetting” of immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, the president has sent a loud message. 

Although a federal judge in New York had temporarily blocked part of the immigration order on Saturday, as of publication, at least seven were detained at LAX. Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer stated, “People in this country -- we’re talking about lawful permanent residents who are returning to this country or coming here for the first time to be united with family --- have rights! Here in Los Angeles, we stand up for uniting families. We stand up for giving people their basic rights. We need to prevent this from having a further negative effect on our community.”

According to the Twitter feed of immigration attorney and author Greg Siskind, immigration attorney Ally Balour reported Sunday that Iranian passengers on two LAX-bound flights were given I-407 forms and ordered to surrender their green cards while in flight. Attorneys advised the passengers in question not to sign the forms and to inform other passengers. The passengers took almost five hours to clear customs, were debriefed, and an investigation is expected.

We are sure to hear much more talk about the constitutionality and legality of Trump’s executive orders in the weeks to come. In the meantime, we need to reflect on the stories of each and every person and family whose lives would be impacted by these orders. It’s far too easy to paint a broad picture of those who might be incorrectly perceived as a threat, whether in terms of security or economy. Sweeping generalizations and executive orders to appease fear and intolerance point to the worst moments of our history, of Japanese internment camps, of lynchings, and of McCarthy’s Black List. We cannot allow fear-based intolerance to dim our collective empathy and to keep us from doing what is right.

 

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

War on Facts Sparks Scientists' March on Washington … Facebook Members Already at 300,000

DEMONSTRATIONS CONTINUE--The Trump-Pence administration's war on facts may have galvanized the next major demonstration in the nation's capital—the Scientists' March on Washington, which is as yet unscheduled but is garnering significant enthusiasm online.

Spurred by the new administration's stance on climate change, muzzling of scientists, and slashing of environmental regulations, the idea grew out of a Reddit thread started in the wake of Saturday's inspirational Women's March on Washington and global solidarity events.

As the Washington Post reports:

[S]omeone wrote, "There needs to be a Scientists' March on Washington."

"100%," someone replied. Dozens of others agreed.

One participant in the exchange, University of Texas Health Science Center postdoctoral fellow Jonathan Berman, took the conversation to heart. In short order, the march had a Facebook page (whose membership swelled from 200 people on Tuesday night to more than 150,000 by Wednesday at noon), a Twitter handle, a website, two co-chairs, Berman and science writer and public health researcher Caroline Weinberg, and a Google form through which interested researchers could sign up to help.

Indeed, the Facebook group had swelled to nearly 300,000 members as of later Wednesday, and @ScienceMarchDC now has more than 50,000 followers. 

Organizers said Wednesday they would "soon be releasing our formal vision" (as well as a date for the march), but for now they summarized their mission thusly:

Although this will start with a march, we hope to use this as a starting point to take a stand for science in politics. Slashing funding and restricting scientists from communicating their findings (from tax-funded research!) with the public is absurd and cannot be allowed to stand as policy. This is a non-partisan issue that reaches far beyond people in the STEM fields and should concern anyone who values empirical research and science.

There are certain things that we accept as facts with no alternatives. The Earth is becoming warmer due to human action. The diversity of life arose by evolution. Politicians who devalue expertise risk making decisions that do not reflect reality and must be held accountable. An American government that ignores science to pursue ideological agendas endangers the world.

Indeed, Union of Concerned Scientists president Ken Kimmell said Wednesday in response to the latest crackdown on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in particular: "Demands to shut down informational websites and prevent the release of scientific findings are straight out of Orwell. We don't live in a world of 'alternative facts'—you can't delete climate change and you can't overrule the laws of physics by preventing scientists from talking about them."

"President Trump and his representatives in the EPA and other agencies are accountable to the public interest," Kimmell said, "and the scientific community will continue to expose and resist abuses like these."

"This is not a partisan issue," the March for Science team told Mashable by email. "Scientific research moves us forward."

On other pro-science fronts, the climate movement is planning a redux of the People's Climate March for April 29, and The Atlantic reported Wednesday that a newly formed group called 314 Action has been "created to support scientists in running for office." 

As 350.org noted in its call to action for the April 29 march, "Now more than ever, it will take everyone to change everything."

Keep up to date on the scientists' demonstration under the hashtag #ScienceMarch.

(Deirdre Fulton writes for Common Dreams where this piece was first posted.)

-cw

‘Reality’ - The Biggest Loser in Trump World

AMERICAN CARNAGE-It has been said that the first casualty of war is truth. Certainly that’s the case in the fight between Donald Trump and reality. So far, reality appears to be losing.

In the realm of fiction, readers and viewers engage in a willing suspension of disbelief. They know human beings don’t have super powers, animals can’t talk, and magic is an illusion, but the ability to set aside this knowledge allows them to enjoy the story.

When most of us finish the book or leave the theater, we re-enter the world where truth and nonfiction are synonymous.

But, there are some who apply a suspension of disbelief to the real world. These folks range across a broad spectrum from the spiritual to the merely eccentric to the seriously deluded. Conspiracy theorists inhabit a particular niche of paranoia many of us find amusing. When the president of the United States engages in this behavior, it’s not funny anymore.

Trump and the Republican establishment apparently believe in, and practice, social and economic Darwinism. Regardless of where they start, individuals are expected to compete for everything. It is not government’s job to level the playing field.

The government’s job is to reward the winners and ignore the losers. That’s how a nation competes in the global arena—by putting its best team on the field. United States foreign policy is no longer concerned with peace and stability. America First means everyone else second.

Trump’s world is divided into winners and losers. If you are poor, sick, disabled, or not born in this country, you are a loser. And if you are Donald J. Trump, you cannot be a loser.

That’s what drives Trump to insist that more people attended his inauguration than any other in history and that he only lost the popular vote because millions of “illegals” broke the law and cast ballots for Hilary Clinton.

And the people who work for Trump repeat those lies. They pretend he’s a victim of the big, bad media. They complain that opponents are attempting to “delegitimize” Trump’s presidency. And, of course, those lies aren’t lies, they’re “alternative facts.”

Perhaps the most dangerous of alternative facts in Trump’s mind is that the law does not apply to the President. In fact, numerous rules regarding conflicts of interest and self-enrichment do bind our chief executive. But if he can get away with breaking those laws, why can’t he just ignore them all?

According to Trump, the world is a dark and scary place. The “carnage” wreaked on America by Obama can only be fixed by Trump. Americans have been losers and now he can make us winners. We just have to suspend our disbelief, buy the lies, and follow the leader.

(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.

Truth or Twitter? Why Donald Trump Is No John Steinbeck

THE POWER OF WORDS-Donald Trump bragged, via tweet, that he’s the Ernest Hemingway of Twitter. Unfortunately for us, the new president possesses neither the courage nor the self-control of Hemingway, winner of the 1954 Nobel Prize in Literature for writing unforgettably about bravery under fire. As the problems created by Trump-tweets pile up, the source of Trump's addiction to Twitter has become all too clear. Eugene Robinson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist, described it in words worthy of John Steinbeck: “Trump’s Twitter tantrums are a message of weakness.” 

When I read Trump’s recent Twitter attack on Congressman John Lewis, the venerated civil rights leader who, despite vivid memories and bloody images to the contrary, Trump had the temerity to write was “[a]ll talk, talk, talk – no action or results,” I was reminded of the lecture Toni Morrison gave when she won the Nobel Prize in 1993. Like the speeches of two previous Nobel Prize-winners, William Faulkner and John Steinbeck, her lecture extolled the power of language in explaining and validating human experience. “We die,” she observed. “That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” 

Echoing George Orwell, Morrison warned that “the systematic looting of language can be recognized by the tendency of its users to forego its nuanced, complex, mid-wifery properties for menace and subjugation.” Foreshadowing Donald Trump’s grade school twitter-burns, she described “language that drinks blood, laps vulnerabilities, tucks its fascist boots under crinolines of respectability and patriotism as it moves relentlessly toward the bottom line and the bottomed-out mind.” 

At her popular blog BrainPickings.org, Maria Popova praised Toni Morrison’s lecture as “perhaps our most powerful manifesto for the responsibility embedded in how we wield the tool that stands as the hallmark of our species.” I agree with this assessment, and with Morrison’s Orwell-like admonition. “Whether it is the malign language of law-without-ethics, or language designed for the estrangement of minorities,” she said, “it must be rejected, altered and exposed.” 

I also agree with Kyle Sammin, the lawyer and writer from Pennsylvania who advised Donald Trump to delete his Twitter account, quoting Calvin Coolidge: “[t]he words of the President have an enormous weight and ought not to be used indiscriminately.” As Toni Morrison noted, Abraham Lincoln provides an even better example of presidential brevity: “When a President of the United States thought about the graveyard his country had become, and said, ‘The world will little note nor long remember what we say here. But it will never forget what they did here,’ his simple words are exhilarating in their life-sustaining properties because they refused to encapsulate the reality of 600, 000 dead men in a cataclysmic race war.” 

By the time Republicans convened in Cleveland last summer, I had already blogged that the Republican nominee for president was the antithesis of Abraham Lincoln. He’s no Coolidge either. Hell, he may not be as good as Dan Quayle, who at least had the sense to stop explaining when he misspelled “potato” at a Trenton, New Jersey elementary school during the 1992 campaign. As Arthur Delaney pointed out in a recent Huffington Post headline, “Donald Trump Can’t Stop Tweeting Mean Things About People.” America's new president is like a gambler on an all-night binge in Atlantic City, compulsively feeding nickel-and-dime tweets, retweets, and mentions into the slot-machine of his ego. 

Since he shows no sign of stopping, Trump would do well to follow the example of John Steinbeck, whose son Thom -- also a writer -- had this to say about the virtue of authorial self-control during a 2012 interview with Alexander Jaffee. “Ultimately,” he noted, “the greatest amount of time in all writing is spent editing. My father said there’s only one trick to writing, and that’s not writing, that’s writing and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting. Like sculpture. I mean, the first thing off the top of your head isn’t the most brilliant thing you ever thought of. And then when you’re writing about it, when you want others to understand what you’re still talking about, then it really requires that you edit yourself really, really well, so that other people can comprehend it.” 

Sadly, Donald Trump has a problem in this area that no amount of self-editing can fix. Describing John Steinbeck's honesty, Thom wrote: “[e]verything he wrote had truth to it. That’s what he was addicted to. He was addicted to the truth.” As demonstrated by Twitter attacks on true American heroes like John Lewis, Donald Trump has the opposite addiction.

 

(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 for Steinbeck Now. It is being published here with the author’s permission.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Thick Irony On All Sides of Anti-Trump Rallies

@THE GUSS REPORT-If the whole point of “Love Trumps Hate,” the slogan used throughout most of Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the presidency, is that love, inclusiveness and positivity are better than the divisive statements, particularly Tweets, of now-president Donald Trump, you wouldn’t know it by some of Saturday’s protests and related social media activities over the weekend. 

Saturday Night Live writer Katie Mary Rich, 33, wrote that 10-year old Barron Trump “will be this country’s first homeschool shooter,” taking a triple pot-shot at Trump’s youngest son, those who homeschool their children and school shootings. (Note: Trump’s son is not homeschooled, but attends a pricey private school in New York.) In the meantime, as ironic as it gets, the NY Times reports that Rich was suspended indefinitely from her SNL job for cyber-bullying Barron.   

Rich got a taste of her own cyberbullying medicine as a tidal wave of bad publicity called for her firing.   She subsequently put her Twitter account on private, then shut it down altogether, followed by shuttering all of her other social media accounts, as well as her website. Whether she stays employed by NBC Universal or ends up with a quiet development deal somewhere remains to be seen, but no protest leaders were heard calling for an apology or retraction, and none was offered by Rich. 

Pop singer Madonna, 58, who sings a familiar lyric of “respect yourself” while coming off a year in which she lost custody of her son, and had a string of other bizarre incidents, told throngs of protestors in Washington, D.C., that “I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House.” Way to go on that peace and love thing, Madge.

Pollster Frank Luntz Tweeted that he was called a “fascist MFer” and had paint thrown on himself and a form of confetti thrown in his eyes, for sharing an observation about drunk protesters harassing guests at a local hotel, and the vulgarity of some protest signs. But Luntz may have overlooked his own irony when he referred to protestors as “ineffective,” while reporting on them. He also Tweeted a photo of trash strewn on a sidewalk at one of the protests, noting that it isn’t in sync with protestors’ concerns about the environment, when it simply could have been a by-product of the crowds being so immense that public works officials underestimated the need for more and bigger trash receptacles. Or perhaps they were still overflowing from the activities of the inauguration and protests of a day earlier. 

Regardless of where you stand on the political issues, you have to love this photo from an unknown source on the web. 

(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a contributor to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, Huffington Post and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

The New Normal: ‘Alternative Facts’

GUEST COMMENTARY--Many of us in this election season have referred to the Trump 'anshluss' as a world of 'smoke and mirrors', and we were correct.  But now we know from the twisted mouth of his hired gun, KellyAnne Conway, that it is really not so much calculated duplicity, but rather it is a presentation of "alternative facts."  She says we must look at the news as "BROADcast, not NARROWcast."  A whole new political vocabulary has emerged from the Trumpists in our new 'post factual' world.  Veracity is now in the eyes and ears of the beholder. 

As a student, and then a professor, of public policy, I learned early on that a fact was considered true when, as a thesis, it was proven by non biased investigation.  However, we have changed course in epistemology and linguistics to find that we now live in a world where there is a sliding scale of what registers as fact and what is fiction, and either or both can come out  in every sentence of the limited vocabulary spouting from Donald Trump's mouth. 

As I listened carefully, admittedly with tears in my eyes, to the inauguration speech of this deplorable new President of the US, and leader of the Free World, who was standing only feet from four of our past Presidents as he defamed each of them with his rhetoric about how he finally, for the first time, is giving the nation back to the people, I was amazed at his bizarre gall, his ignorance,  and his despicable manners to insult Obama, Bush, Clinton, and Carter, by asserting that they were all inept, uncaring, and failing in their duty to America.  He vilified them in so many ways that it was mind blowing, and watching their faces, the faces of their wives, and the others on the dais, I came to finally understand what a villainous demagogue this new President is, and how dangerous he is, and what is even worse, how dangerous and uninformed his followers are.  

I have read much in these past weeks since he won this questionable election by a fluke of the Electoral College, but without the popular vote, and with the interference of both Russian hacking and Comey's false Clinton report and the NY Times knowing about it all for weeks before the election but choosing not to report any of it.  Much has been written by groups of psychiatrists who go beyond his personality disorders like Narcissism and megalomania, to discuss his potential brain dysfunction and the possibility of dementia which rules his lies and  loss of control as with the endless tweets at the smallest and the most inconsequential of slights.  Yesterday, sending his lackey, now known as Afghanistan Sean Spicer, in to the first formal White House press announcement only to admonish the media for "fake" reporting on how many people were standing to watch this nonsensical reality show of an inauguration was incomprehensible and will be recorded in the history books for posterity.  This man continues to make himself, and America, the laughing stock of the planet. 

Facts on the emerging Russian connection now being investigated by the CIA and the FBI, not only with the Putin hacking of the US election process, but with the years of contact and 'deals' between Trump and Putin and Manafort, and the Russian Oligarchs who now seem to be bankers to Trump, and all of them also possible black mailers of Trump, and purveyors of films of "golden showers" which is a topic most never heard of before this election, all of this boggles the mind of voters and citizens of the US and is even more terrifying to the other nations of the world which have to deal with his nuclear threats and the angst of being his target if he gets insulted.  I suspect his family knows how deranged he is and that is why they have Jared Kushner,  who is evidently the smartest among them, posted in the West Wing as his closest advisor.  Jared strikes me as playing Iago to his father-in-laws madman, Othello.  

Not only do we Americans have to worry about his little fingers on the button of the cataclysmic nuclear coded football, but the world now wonders who he will blow up first.  

Democrats are asked by Republicans to foster unity and support him...to give him a chance, yet everything he says brings us back to his lack of intellectual stature, lack of political experience, lack of calm judgment, and his over arching greed, mendacity, and self aggrandizement.  It is not rational to support anything or anyone he recommends for his edicts do mirror the manipulating and false populist claims of tyrants from Nero to Hitler.  His speeches about giving the decision making "to the people" are almost word for word the speeches of the Third Reich and they are a page out of his favorite bedside book, Mein Kampf.  The Drumpf family has long been known known to consort with others of the underworld like Roy Cohn, and their Mafia ties, and most probably the similar Russian mob.  Why would anyone think that due to this 'trumped up' election, Donald has changed from his lifelong playboy, misogynistic, self serving, highly bigoted persona?  

Just look carefully at those he has chosen to run OUR country with him as their leader, their Commander in Chief.  Keep wearing the pussy cat hats and speaking up without fear. Keep Rex Tillerson at Exxon Mobil instead of in the role of the US Sect. of State where he will be dropping US sanctions (to insure vast profits for the oil barons) against an aggressive Putin Kremlin which is committing war crimes, and keep the ignorant and spoiled, religious ideologue debutante, Betsy DeVos, out of the Dept. of Education, and keep the well determined bigot, Jeff Sessions, from being America's AG ... and send all the rest of this crew of US oligarchs back to their well padded nests under the rocks from which they crawled into Drumpf's daylight including HUD, Labor, Health and Human Services et al.  What a bunch of over privileged thugs they all are. 

  • What can you do about it? For one thing, join the over 100,000 people that have signed the Impeach Donald Trump Now’ petition and get your voice on record.

 

(Ellen Lubic is Director of Joining Forces for Education, a public policy educator and journalist and an occasional CityWatch contributor.)

 

 

The Divided States of America: Trump May have Already Lost His Chance to Unite the Country

AT LENGTH-Amidst the uproar over Donald Trump’s latest tweet, his latest cabinet picks, and the latest revelations on the impact of Russian hacking on his surprise election win, the airing of Michael Kirk’s documentary film, Divided States of America, on Frontline (PBS) was overlooked. 

The documentary, which aired on January 18, examines President Barack Obama’s two terms in office and the widening divide over politics, race, and economics. The film noted that when Obama was elected eight years ago, Democrats became a majority in both houses of Congress. Pundits prognosticated that the Republican Party would be out of power for at least a generation. 

The documentary, however, reveals how, instead of accepting the dead-on arrival prognosis, Republican Party members gathered at their favorite watering hole and mapped out a plan to stop Obama. The plan from the very beginning was to keep any of his objectives from ever being implemented or passed. And that’s exactly what they’ve done for the last eight years. 

Their strategy explains a great deal about why so little has been accomplished by this Republican-led Congress, which was won back a majority of seats, starting with the House of Representatives in 2010 and the Senate by 2012. This is also why Obama began to increasingly turn to using executive orders to accomplish his agenda. 

The stalemate was planned by none other than Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and a co-author and architect of the Contract With America. 

It also reveals how politically naïve Obama was to the ways of D.C. politics as he tried repeatedly to cross the divide between liberals and conservatives and weld bi-partisan support for the economic recovery and the Affordable Care Act, subsequently dubbed ObamaCare. 

This was probably Obama’s greatest failing as president. Under his tenure, the nation has only grown more divided. In the end, that divide created both the Tea Party revolt and the election of someone who is the exact opposite of Barack Obama. Our country hasn’t been this divided since the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War era. 

As the nation celebrates the legacy of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. with street parades and closed government buildings, I’m reminded of how my generation reacted to the assassinations of national leaders like King, President John F. Kennedy and his brother Sen. Robert Kennedy and never found satisfaction in the official explanations given. This was also so after the FBI Counter Intelligence Program was exposed following the 1971 burgling of an FBI field office of classified dossiers which were distributed to the media. News of President Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal spread. He and his merry band of political plumbers were caught red handed. 

President Obama likes to quote Dr. King regarding the nature of justice, saying: 

‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,’ many of my generation are still not willing to wait, nonetheless endure a repeat of the injustices of the past. This is among the many reasons why I, and millions of other Americans, am not going to ‘just give the new guy a chance to prove himself.’ 

Trump has already lost his opportunity to unite this nation behind his alt-version of reality.

 

(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.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

Commander-in-Tweet

PERSPECTIVE-By the time this article is published, either the most awaited or un-awaited presidency, depending on your point of view, will have begun. Trump’s loyal supporters believe he will initiate sweeping, long-overdue changes; his most ardent detractors fear he will take us down the road to fascism. 

For certain, we are in for a wild ride, but I do not believe President Trump (can’t believe I am typing those two words together) will be able to wave a magic wand and have his way across the board. This is a guy who did not have a majority of his own party behind him. His victory was more about the other candidate’s problems. 

A Washington Post/ABC poll showed his favorability rating on the eve of taking office as forty percent. That does not signal a honeymoon; an impending divorce is more like it, a nasty one at that. 

Without a broad consensus behind him, Congress will not rubber-stamp much of Trump’s agenda, assuming he really has one other than poorly defined tweeting points. 

So one should not expect broad support for any of his plans beyond the selection of a new Supreme Court judge. That’s a big one, but the High Court has always ebbed and flowed between conservative and liberal influence. It’s been that way for a few decades. There’s always a wild card, too, like Justice Kennedy. Let’s not forget that Chief Justice Roberts saved Obamacare. You just never know. 

I anticipate we will have a balanced court, unless one of the liberal judges retires during Trump’s term. It is unlikely any of them will retire during a first term. It would take a Scalia-type departure for another vacancy on the left side of the bench. 

What about a wall across our southern border? 

I think you might see some segments constructed in strategic locations, but funding will be a problem for any lengthy stretch. It will be more show than substance. The repercussions will give Republican lawmakers pause. 

But there will be some extensive changes to immigration policy, some of which will be embraced. Take for example tightened restrictions on H-1B visas. Even there, Trump will learn that this abused program can only be throttled back so far, because our schools are not turning out enough STEM talent to meet the demands of science and industry. 

A beefed-up Border Patrol is one practical objective many will support. The members of the USBP save lives and interdict dangerous criminals. Unlike a wall, they offer a flexible response for dealing with illegal immigration. Walls cannot make arrests or render assistance to those challenging the hostile terrain which exists over a vast swath of the border. 

Government environmental regulations will be reduced, but to what degree depends on popular support. A majority of our citizens do care deeply about the environment. People depend on it for recreation, comfort, health and a safe food and water supply. If they feel the environment is significantly threatened, they will push back in noticeable numbers, enough to turn up the political heat in Congress. 

A reduction in corporate taxes is almost a certainty. However, it will be a balancing act between what it will take to bring offshore earnings back home and avoiding the appearance of catering to Wall Street. And no politician wants the Wall Street label to stick. This could be the biggest battle Congress faces, one in which Trump will have the least influence for fear of alienating blue collar workers, the very constituency that helped push him over the top in the election. 

The greatest uncertainty involves international relations. A president has wide leeway in deploying or redeploying troops. Some would argue he has the power to terminate a treaty without the consent of Congress. The Constitution is not specific on this subject. 

Most certainly, Trump could effectively undermine NATO by pulling resources from it, turning the alliance into a mere shell. 

How about a trade agreement such as NAFTA? 

NAFTA is a congressional-executive agreement, not a real treaty. There are no rules as to who can terminate one, so it would appear Trump could pull out over the objections of Congress. 

In the end, for Trump’s policies to prevail, he needs broad support from both Congress and the public. 

You do not earn broad support with provocative remarks in social media. Think of the number of people who are unfriended on Facebook because of their relentless partisan posts and memes.

The Tweeter-in-Chief will have more to lose than gain in his use of the internet. People just might un-vote him. 

(Paul Hatfield is a CPA and serves as President of the Valley Village Homeowners Association. He blogs at Village to Village and contributes to CityWatch. The views presented are those of Mr. Hatfield and his alone and do not represent the opinions of Valley Village Homeowners Association or CityWatch. He can be reached at: [email protected].) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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