Mon, Feb

Human Rights: California Better than Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, and Texas!

DEATH PENALTY EXPOSED-Speaking in favor of Proposition 66, the ballot initiative that seeks to speed up executions in California to Texas-like levels of lethality, Los Angeles deputy district attorney Michele Hanisee told legislators during testimony before the Public Safety Committee in May: “The suggestion that civilized societies don’t support the death penalty is inaccurate. Many countries such as Japan (photo above), Thailand, Taiwan, and Singapore have the death penalty.” 

Ms. Hanisee is President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys. She is being sued for lying in a declaration she made under oath during a murder prosecution and, just recently, her claims of “absolute immunity” for that egregious conduct were rejected by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. While this alone clouds Hanisee’s credibility on the death penalty debate in California (whether the punishment should be ended forever or be “speeded up”), the countries whose justice systems Hanisee extols are even more troubling. Perhaps, in addition to remedial ethics courses on an attorney’s duty of candor to the court, Ms. Hanisee should also take a closer look at the countries she is suggesting Californians emulate with their vote on the death penalty this fall. 

For example, in Japan, it has been documented that death sentences are “implemented with disregard for international law, including denying the right of prisoners to seek appeal.” The condemned are subject to “degrading and inhuman treatment” which includes “prolonged solitary confinement.” Japan even executed an 89-year-old man last year who spent 46 years on death row protesting his innocence – all the way to his long-awaited, abominable end. 

In Thailand, Taiwan and Singapore, death sentences can be meted out for drug crimes alone. Furthermore, in Thailand, allegations of the torture of suspects charged with capital offenses have been substantiated by the Thai National Human Rights Commission. Taiwan, which is moving toward abolishing the death penalty, has a record of executing “psychologically or mentally impaired prisoners,” and failing to have “a clear and complete procedure for appeals for clemency.” Last fall, in an article for Slate called, “Singapore’s harsh death penalty: Inside the fight to save one man from the city-state’s death row,” Kirsten Han wrote about, “Singapore’s mandatory death penalty regime” where, under Singapore law, “anyone convicted of murder must be sentenced to death, with no chance for mitigating factors to be taken into account.” 

(In Singapore, prisoners convicted of low-level property crimes can even be caned, a punishment Berkeley Law Professor Jerome H. Skolnick called “brutal,” describing how a “martial artist strikes the offenders” with “a half-inch rattan cane moistened to break the skin and inflict severe pain” often causing significant “loss of blood” and “shock.”)   

Like Ms. Hanisee, Ms. Bethany Webb, who lost her sister in the 2011 mass shooting at a hair salon in Seal Beach, also got a chance to address the Public Safety Committee this past May. In her courageous testimony, Ms. Webb explained her support for Proposition 62 (which would, among other things, replace the death penalty in California with a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.) In voicing her opposition to the countervailing initiative, Proposition 66, Ms. Webb told lawmakers: “We could be more like Texas. We could start mass producing murder. Well, I’m sorry, California is better than Texas . . . We’re better than Texas.”      

Ms. Webb is right. When it comes to respecting human rights, California is better than Texas, where the lust for speedy executions has led to the execution of a panoply of potentially innocent men. And, despite what Ms. Hanisee thinks, we are also better than Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, and Singapore. Or, at least, we will be – as soon as we vote for Proposition 62 and against Proposition 66 – ending capital punishment forever in California.


(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. This column was first published by JURIST and is being reprinted with the author’s permission. [email protected]) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


Does Hillary Get It?

EDITOR’S PICK--Does Hillary Clinton understand that the biggest divide in American politics is no longer between the right and the left, but between the anti-establishment and the establishment?

I worry she doesn’t – at least not yet.  

A Democratic operative I’ve known since the Bill Clinton administration told me “now that she’s won the nomination, Hillary is moving to the middle. She’s going after moderate swing voters.”

Presumably that’s why she tapped Tim Kaine to be her vice president. Kaine is as vanilla middle as you can get.

"The most powerful force in American politics today is anti-establishment fury at a system rigged by big corporations, Wall Street, and the super-wealthy."

In fairness, Hillary is only doing what she knows best. Moving to the putative center is what Bill Clinton did after the Democrats lost the House and Senate in 1994 – signing legislation on welfare reform, crime, trade, and financial deregulation that enabled him to win reelection in 1996 and declare “the era of big government” over.

In those days a general election was like a competition between two hot-dog vendors on a boardwalk extending from right to left. Each had to move to the middle to maximize sales. (If one strayed too far left or right, the other would move beside him and take all sales on rest of the boardwalk.)

But this view is outdated. Nowadays, it’s the boardwalk versus the private jets on their way to the Hamptons. 

The most powerful force in American politics today is anti-establishment fury at a system rigged by big corporations, Wall Street, and the super-wealthy.

This is a big reason why Donald Trump won the Republican nomination. It’s also why Bernie Sanders took 22 states in the Democratic primaries, including a majority of Democratic primary voters under age 45.

There are no longer “moderates.”  There’s no longer a “center.” There’s authoritarian populism (Trump) or democratic populism (which had been Bernie’s “political revolution,” and is now up for grabs). 

And then there’s the Republican establishment (now scattered to the winds), and the Democratic establishment.

If Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party don’t recognize this realignment, they’re in for a rude shock – as, I’m afraid, is the nation. Because Donald Trump does recognize it. His authoritarian (“I’ am your voice”) populism is premised on it.

“In five, ten years from now,” Trump says, “you’re going to have a worker’s party. A party of people that haven’t had a real wage increase in 18 years, that are angry.”

Speaking at a factory in Pennsylvania in June, he decried politicians and financiers who had betrayed Americans by “taking away from the people their means of making a living and supporting their families.”

Worries about free trade used to be confined to the political left. Now, according to the Pew Research Center, people who say free-trade deals are bad for America are more likely to lean Republican.

The problem isn’t trade itself. It’s a political-economic system that won’t cushion working people against trade’s downsides or share trade’s upsides. In other words, a system that’s rigged.

Most basically, the anti-establishment wants big money out of politics. This was the premise of Bernie Sanders’s campaign. It’s also been central to Donald (“I’m so rich I can’t be bought off”) Trump’s appeal, although he’s now trolling for big money.

A recent YouGov/Economist poll found that 80 percent of GOP primary voters who preferred Donald Trump as the nominee listed money in politics as an important issue, and a Bloomberg Politics poll shows a similar percentage of Republicans opposed to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision.

Getting big money out of politics is of growing importance to voters in both major parties. A June New York Times/CBS News poll showed that 84 percent of Democrats and 81 percent of Republicans want to fundamentally change or completely rebuild our campaign finance system.

Last January, a DeMoines Register poll of likely Iowa caucus-goers found 91 percent of Republicans and 94 percent of Democrats unsatisfied or “mad as hell” about money in politics. 

Hillary Clinton doesn’t need to move toward the “middle.” In fact, such a move could hurt her if it’s perceived to be compromising the stances she took in the primaries in order to be more acceptable to Democratic movers and shakers.

She needs to move instead toward the anti-establishment – forcefully committing herself to getting big money out of politics, and making the system work for the many rather than a privileged few.

She must make clear Donald Trump’s authoritarian populism is a dangerous gambit, and the best way to end crony capitalism and make America work for the many is to strengthen American democracy.

(Robert Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley and the author of Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future, now in bookstores. This post originally appeared at RobertReich.org.)


Defeating Islamic Terrorism … Here’s How!

EDITOR’S PICK--As terrorism struck again in Nice and Germany and… Donald Trump outlined his policy against Islamic State: as president, he will seek a full declaration of war from Congress, the first such formal invocation since Pearl Harbor.

Trump was short on specifics but very clear he would take the strategies of the post-9/11 era into a presidency. Clinton, for her part, intends on “intensifying the current air campaign [and] stepping up support for local forces on the ground.” Their French counterpart, President Francois Hollande, declared “We will continue striking those who attack us on our own soil.”

The problem is that none of that will work. While perhaps necessary at times, military force is far from sufficient in defeating Islamic terrorism.

Post-Germany, Post-Nice, post-Brussels, post-Turkey, post-Paris… it is clear the last 15 years of the war on terror in general, and the last two against Islamic State in particular, have not worked. No society can defend itself fully when any truck can be turned into a weapon. No amount of curating social media will prevent disenfranchised people from becoming radicalized. Ramadi fell, Fallujah fell, Mosul will likely fall, and Nice still happened.

“The effect that’s going to happen now is like stepping on a ball of mercury,” stated one American intelligence analyst. “You step on a ball of mercury, all the pieces break up and spread around the world.”

A new way of thinking is needed.

The west must be willing to understand Islamic terror beyond scary search engine terms and decide if we wish to tackle the problem at its core, or simply choose to live with a new normal where incidents like Nice will just happen. Here is what might be considered. It will be hard, and will be unpopular.

— Admit the current strategy has not worked. Agree, in the U.S. and abroad, that something new is needed. Statements such as those from Trump and Clinton block anything beyond more of the same.

— Understand that the roots of Islamic terror rest in part in the Sunni-Shia divide, which the west helped fuel in arming jihadists in Afghanistan in the 1980s and whose fuse the west lit in 2003 when it invaded once-stable Iraq. A significant amount of terror takes place insider the Muslim world, and sectarianism is a steady fuel for recruitment.

At the same time, both sides of the divide recruit well off of horror stories of CIA torture, the continued existence of Guantanamo, the fits of Islamophobia played out in western refugee policy, French and American militarization of Islamic Africa, and a core belief that the actual goal of the western powers is not to “defeat Islamic State,” but to create a permanent state of war against Muslims while garrisoning the Middle East (it used to be more about taking Arab oil, but the point is the same.) More war, more troops, and more draconian security measures are just gas on those fires.

— Another driver of Islamic terror is the unhappiness of many Muslim youth with the autocratic, secular governments in most of their Arab nations. The west must pull back its support for such governments and lessen its fear of non-secular governments. What Washington sees, for example as expedient, realpolitik decisions to support the repressive Saudi government, Bahrain where the United States turns a blind eye to human rights in return for an important naval base, or allowing the Arab Spring to be crushed in Egypt as a military coup unseated the only democratically elected president in the nation’s history, have not worked well in even the medium term. Same for supporting the corrupt government in Baghdad.

The west must find rapprochement with Muslim leadership (Iran, with a robust participatory component inside a fundamentalist theocracy, is an interesting example.) Much of radical jihadism is less about destroying the west than it is about changing the Middle East; even 9/11, the worst of the terror attacks, had as its extended purpose pulling the United States into Afghanistan in hopes of triggering a broader Muslim uprising across the region.

— Immigration out of the Middle East is toothpaste out of the tube. It can’t be snaked back in by tough policies against refugees or stopping Muslims from entering the United States. Western nations must assimilate their Islamic immigrants.

Islamophobia, law enforcement discriminatory targeting of Muslims, hot-headed rhetoric and the rise of right wing governments pleasing citizens enamored anxious to trade their freedom for security, fuel the anger and sense of displacement of so-called lone wolves, and send them to the solutions offered by groups such as Islamic State. It is not about cleaning up Twitter. It is about chipping away at the mindset that makes those 140 character messages so attractive.

This is, in the end, a long war of ideas. Success must include difficult decisions to acknowledge the tides of history moving across the Middle East. Because you can’t stop the next truck. You do have a chance at making it so a man won’t choose to get behind the wheel.

(Peter Van Buren spent a year in Iraq as a State Department Foreign Service Officer serving as Team Leader for two Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs). Now in Washington, he writes about Iraq and the Middle East at his blog, We Meant Well.  His new book is We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People [The American Empire Project, Metropolitan Books] This piece was posted originally at WeMeantWell.com and most recently at Common Dreams.) 



Americans have been Fed Up with the Presidential Nomination Process for More than 200 years

ELECTION PENDULUM--Americans love to argue about the rules of picking major party presidential nominees. But no matter the method, these contests are essentially the same: They pit party elites against the voters. 

There is a clear pattern, a back and forth, that my co-authors and I identified in researching for our book, The Party Decides. While rule changes may give the upper hand to voters for a few presidential cycles, elites will always try to find ways to stage this voting process in their favor. 

At this summer’s conventions, both parties are reconsidering the rules of the presidential selection process, after Donald Trump’s divisive triumph on the Republican side and Bernie Sanders’ strong Democratic challenge raised questions about the fairness of procedures. But no matter what reforms to the selection process that parties may pursue, the back-and-forth struggle between elites and the voters will likely continue. 

Today, the nominating process is itself the product of reforms that didn’t alter this dynamic. Presidential elections now consist of both primaries—where residents simply cast their ballots in the area designated to them based off their address—and caucuses—where voters gather openly to decide which candidate to support. 

This mix of primaries and caucuses is relatively new to American politics. 

In the early decades of the Republic, members of Congress got together to decide presidential nominations. The rest of the nation was totally frozen out of the process. In the early 19th century, reforms designed to make the process more representative led to national party conventions. These gatherings enabled leaders from across the country to take part in the momentous decision of nominating a potential president. The convention system lasted for more than a century until there was a reform movement put in place to increase participation even further. 

The modern presidential nominating process wasn’t born until 1968. The Democratic Party—like the rest of the country—was deeply and sharply divided over the war in Vietnam, when party leaders meeting at the convention in Chicago decided to select the sitting vice president, Hubert Humphrey, to take on Richard Nixon in November. There was rioting in the streets and shouting in the convention hall. The problem was not just that Humphrey was intimately associated with the Johnson administration’s hawkish military policies in Southeast Asia. What drew the ire of many was that Humphrey had failed to compete in any of the primaries and caucuses that nominating season. He was plucked from the wings and foisted upon the party in a very undemocratic fashion. 

In 1968, this type of political movement could occur because primaries and caucuses were not binding. In the aftermath of that bitter convention, Democrats created the McGovern-Fraser Commission to democratize the nominating process. They decided that, starting in 1972, candidates who won the most votes in each contest would receive the most delegates from that state, conferring significantly more importance on the primaries and caucuses. Additionally, the candidate who amassed a majority of delegates—2,383 for Democrats and 1,237 for Republicans—would automatically become the party’s nominee. While McGovern-Fraser was a Democratic Party committee, Republicans followed suit and the two parties had in place extremely similar procedures by 1976. 

… if your preferred candidate is ultimately victorious, the complaints tend to be muted. But supporters of the losing candidates are often quite vocal in their disparagement of the system—and 2016 was no different … 

The goal was to wrest the power to nominate away from the party bosses and give it to the people—and that is exactly what the McGovern-Fraser reforms succeeded in doing. Candidates for president were now essentially required to submit themselves to the voters in order to be crowned their party’s nominee. Democratic Party elites, seeing things slipping away, in 1982 convened the Hunt Commission to reform the process yet again. This time they sought to regain some of their influence by mandating that 20 percent of the delegates would not be bound by voter preferences and therefore would be able to choose whomever they wanted to support come convention time. These superdelegates only exist on one side of the party divide however, as the Republicans did not choose to emulate the Democrats this time.

One irony of this back and forth is that America’s presidential nominating process is among the most open and democratic in the world. Most other political parties worldwide do not have any sort of primaries, and many that do limit rank-and-file participation in a variety of ways. Also, some parties screen candidates and, without elite support, one cannot even run for the nomination. 

But still, the litany of complaints about our system is long: The primary process goes on forever. It is too expensive for non-elite candidates. Iowa and New Hampshire, two relatively unrepresentative states that lead off the proceedings, have disproportionate influence on the final outcome. The votes of many citizens essentially don’t count because in most instances the contest has been wrapped up before their states’ scheduled primaries and caucuses. 

Of course, if your preferred candidate is ultimately victorious, the complaints tend to be muted. But supporters of the losing candidates are often quite vocal in their disparagement of the system—and 2016 was no different in this regard. 

If you look at the Democratic race, it was clearly a case of the party deciding for Hillary Clinton before the voting began. Clinton quickly locked in virtually all of the elite endorsements, making her the strongest frontrunner the modern system has ever witnessed. Clinton also benefited from the overwhelming support of those infamous superdelegates. And finally, the Democratic National Committee initially scheduled a relatively small number of debates and broadcasted most of them on Saturday nights, minimizing the potential damage to a Clinton campaign that had huge systematic advantages. 

Despite running under a legal and ethical cloud for most of her campaign, and facing a powerful insurgency led by a surprisingly charismatic challenger, Clinton prevailed in the end and became the first woman ever to be nominated by a major political party for president. 

On the Republican side, the lead-up to the primaries and caucuses as well as the ultimate outcome could not have been more different. Party elites clearly would not or could not decide on a preferred candidate during the invisible primary period, splitting their support among several broadly acceptable aspirants including Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and John Kasich. This opened the door for Donald Trump to capitalize on a populist anger simmering among the Republican primary electorate. Trump won his party’s nomination without any elite support going into the primaries and caucuses and prevailed despite most party elites preferring anybody but him. 

One can already see countervailing pressures on the two major parties resulting from the drama of 2016. Sanders supporters are calling to abolish superdelegates and change states’ primary processes to make them more accessible. And Republican leaders will seek to gain a firmer grip on their nominating process to avoid the debacle that has been Donald Trump’s unlikely candidacy. In fact, we saw this play out earlier this week as anti-Trump forces in Cleveland tried to force various procedural roll call votes as a way of, if not stopping Trump, embarrassing him and his supporters.

No matter the reforms, the struggle between elites and voters will go on. 

(Dr. Martin Cohen is an associate professor of political science at James Madison University. He is co-author of the “The Party Decides: Party Nominations Before and After Reform” and author of the forthcoming “Moral Victories,” which will be published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.

Primary Editor: Jessica Suerth. Secondary Editor: Callie Enlow. This piece was posted originally at zocalopublicsquare.org.  Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


Time for Progressives to Take a Stand Against Politics of Hate

TRUTHDIG--Post-Bernie Sanders progressives should focus unrelenting attention on the racism infecting American society, illustrated by the killings of black men by police and the deaths of officers at the hands of armed African-Americans.

I consider this issue and income inequality the greatest problems facing America. Unfortunately, the Bernie Revolution is frittering away its energy by embracing too many good causes, rather than concentrating on these.

But before I discuss that, I’ve been digging into what Sanders’ followers are thinking of doing after the election this fall, and they’ve got interesting things to say.

“I think the [Bernie] movement is as strong today as it ever has been,” filmmaker Montgomery Markland told me. He’s planning to campaign and raise money for the state and local candidates Sanders hopes to mobilize after the Democratic National Convention next week.

Larry Cohen, former president of the Communication Workers of America, mirrored the pride and disappointment many followers are feeling after Sanders’ recent endorsement of Hillary Clinton. He wrote about it in In These Times

“While the platform is likely the most progressive ever, with enormous thanks to Bernie and his supporters, it will likely stop short of satisfying the tens of thousands who campaigned for him and the 12 million who voted for him. There is no proposal to end fracking; Medicare for all was voted down; and the platform does not support an end to new Israeli settlements in Gaza or the West Bank.”

I received a long and thoughtful response from Carson Malbrough, a young African-American man who is a junior at Occidental College in Los Angeles and a leader in Students for Sanders. We exchanged emails when I was writing about Sanders volunteers

“We [younger voters] are the future of this country, and what we saw in Bernie Sanders’ candidacy was unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, yet it was everything we could want,” Malbrough wrote.

“He advocated for economic justice, racial justice, environmental justice, drastic changes to higher education, etc., in ways we didn’t know were possible because most politicians don’t have the conviction to do it. … You’ll see many Sanders supporters joining or creating new issue-oriented organizations, educating and registering more of our peers to come out and vote, peacefully protesting for justice and even running for office with the same progressive platform Sanders called for. … I don’t believe any other candidate could have catalyzed this many people like this, especially considering how new most of us are to politics.”

I asked if he was disillusioned by his candidate’s endorsement of Clinton.

“I am far from disillusioned at this point,” he said. “I was disappointed at how the primary ended, but despite that, I still hold my head high. The anger and passion we all felt will not go away, and that’s because this is bigger than just Bernie Sanders. Our system that is corrupted by money and power is something we didn’t know could be changed. We never expected to see our voices amplified on a national level. We never expected for all of the issues and values we care about to be vouched for so passionately.

“To be honest, many of us never expected to even care about politics. But now that we’ve witnessed our potential, there’s no turning back. We will turn this anger into action in order to make our country better moving forward. Even when all the cards are stacked against us, we will lead, and we will achieve the unthinkable.”

As for himself, “I personally plan on casting my first vote for Jill Stein, and the reasons why are simple. My predecessors marched and died for my right to vote, and I value that right. I value it so much that I refuse to waste it on the two major parties’ nominees because I don’t align with them on a moral level. I do not align as Democrat or Republican, so this fall I will be voting with my conscience.”

All these folks have good ideas, and they believe in them. That’s why the Sanders movement was great to cover. It was something I myself hadn’t experienced for some time—politics with a purpose.

But the crisis over racism calls for something bolder and more single-minded than the laundry list of good ideas being tossed about by the Bernie Revolution. It demands support of Black Lives Matter and its police reform agenda.

There are good reasons for this, such as the special racism directed toward African-Americans since slavery, particularly by police and the rest of the so-called criminal justice system. Then there are the numbers. As The Guardian reported in its project titled “The Counted,” on American deaths, of the 598 people killed by police this year, 147 were black, 94 Hispanic, 13 Native American and 297 white, which figures, since whites are 77 percent of the population. African-Americans, being only 13 percent of the population, died in disproportionate numbers. So did Latinos, with 18 percent of the population, but not in the numbers inflicted on black people. 

Moving the country closer to open racial conflict is the fact that eight police officers—five in Dallas, three in Baton Rouge, La.—have been shot and killed by African-Americans recently. One of the Baton Rouge police officers, Montrell Jackson, was African-American. He had been on duty in the tense city during the days of protest that followed the killing of an African-American by white Baton Rouge officers, a period of time also marked by rumors of a foiled murder plot against police.

Jackson’s presence reflected a little-noticed aspect of urban policing: Police departments, particularly urban ones, tend to be racially mixed. For example, the Los Angeles Police Department is 40 percent Latino, 38 percent white, 12 percent African-American and 7 percent Asian, statistics that are generally similar to those of other urban police departments.

While on duty during the protests, Jackson posted a powerful message on Facebook. “I’ve experienced so much in my short life and the past 3 days have tested me to the core,” he wrote. “I swear to God I love this city but I wonder if this city loves me. In uniform I get nasty hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me a threat.” He also wrote, “Please don’t let hate infect your heart. This city MUST and WILL get better. I’m working in these streets so any protesters, officers, friends, family, or whoever, if you see me and need a hug or want to say a prayer I got you.”

He got a bullet, instead.

If Baton Rouge police had not killed a black man, there probably would have been no protests, and Jackson and the others, protecting peaceful demonstrators, would not have died.

Black Lives Matter is working to elevate the situation to the top of the national agenda.

Many people, liberals among them, will argue that all lives matter. That’s true, except that all deaths are not treated the same. Nor are all confrontations with police. Studies, and just as important, decades—even centuries—of anecdotes offer irrefutable proof that when stopped by police, African-Americans get a harder time and face a greater chance of being killed.

Black Lives Matter is being smeared at the Republican National Convention, which has given the GOP presidential nomination to Donald Trump. From the beginning, the party has framed the convention as a law-and-order event. As violence has increased in recent weeks, Trump took on the mantle of the law-and-order candidate. And the Republicans’ special target is Black Lives Matter.

Trump’s inflammatory campaign is designed to weaken liberals, just as Republican law-and-order campaigns did in the 1960s and 1970s. The well-intentioned Bernie Revolution will be eclipsed by race hatred.

It’s time for progressives, for all the people who rallied behind Sanders, to take a stand against this. Black lives do matter.

(Bill Boyarsky is a columnist for Truthdig, the Jewish Journal, and LA Observed. This piece was posted first at Truthdig.com.)


The Donald’s Convention Show Collapses on a Banana Peel: The Spin Doctors' Commit Malpractice

GELFAND’S WORLD--The major take-home lesson from this week's events is that Donald Trump isn't really all that smart after all. This becomes evident (and even obvious) when you look at this week's convention. It's also becoming increasingly obvious that Trump's spin doctors are either stupid themselves or so much under Trump's control that they aren't allowed to do necessary things like, for example, owning up to errors. In the face of obvious plagiarism in a major convention speech, the best tactic would have been to say "Oops" and throw some relatively unknown speech writer under the bus. Instead, the campaign went with "see no plagiarism, hear no plagiarism." 

The Verge summed up the Republican response to the plagiarism story deftly. Kevin Drum provides an equally fine summary. File this week's events under "you couldn't make this stuff up." 

Let's also consider what the news media missed in reporting on Melania Trump's speech. I think it's evident that Melania didn't entirely understand the sentences she was having so much trouble reading. I invite you to look and listen carefully to the alternate performances (all over YouTube), one the 2008 original and the other the 2016 counterfeit. Listen to Melania's reading of the plagiarized paragraphs, which was, as best I can tell, without a real feel for what she was saying. You can see it in her hesitations as she searches for the next words on the teleprompter, and then as she gives a wooden reading of what had originally been spoken with infectious enthusiasm by Michelle Obama. 

But Melania Trump had earlier told a reporter, "I read it once over, and that's all because I wrote it with as little help as possible." Melania's English is slightly broken even in this short comment (didn't she really mean, I read it over once?), so it's obvious that she needed a lot of help just to put grammatical sentences on paper. What she was reading is obviously not her own style of speaking, and it showed. I don't think we expect future First Ladies to be great rhetorical stylists, but the easy arrogance with which Melania lied about writing the speech is telling. It's part and parcel with the campaign and with her husband's easy use of falsity. 

All of this is, paradoxically, a modest defense of Melania Trump. I don't think she would have figured out to steal Obama's wording, because it is way above her English language ability. What's strange is that she didn't notice the inserted paragraphs. This failure to recognize the copied words would be even stranger had she taken a serious role in crafting the speech. 

The important point about this story is how the Trump campaign handled it. They could have taken a lot of the heat off by telling a bit of near-truth, as long as they did it immediately. "We goofed. Our writers let Melania down. She wanted to make a particular point, and as part of the writing process, they stuck in some filler, parts of an old speech, and worse yet someone else's speech, and forgot to replace them with fresh words that accurately reflect Melania's heritage." 

See how easy that is? Even I can write it. And it didn't take me all that long, although I'm not creative enough to have thought of comparing Michelle Obama's words with the My Little Pony story. That took a lot of Googling on somebody's part at the RNC headquarters. That this line of defense was tossed up by an RNC Communications Director shows just how walled off from reality this campaign is. Perhaps Donald should be campaigning on building a wall against reality instead of a wall against Mexicans. It would be a lot more believable. 

When the campaign spokesman told that magic pony story, I was reminded of a classic Jane Curtain - Dan Ackroyd skit on Saturday Night Live, the one where Ackroyd plays a sleazy businessman trying to defend his practice of selling bags of broken glass to children as toys. The logic of Bag O' Glass was equally as compelling as what we heard coming out of the mouths of serial Republican apologists. 

Following in the "you can't make this up" category, there was Ted Cruz doing a little getting even with The Donald by avoiding an actual endorsement. As of this writing, Sen. Ted Cruz is being castigated by the party faithful for inviting people to vote their consciences. The party faithful have a point. Kicking the party's nominee in the groin, at least figuratively speaking, isn't something a featured speaker is supposed to do at his party's national convention. During the speech, Cruz was booed, and after the speech, his wife was almost physically attacked. 

Some pundits have claimed that both Cruz and Trump got what they wanted -- Cruz got to embarrass Donald on the big stage and jump start his 2020 campaign, and Donald got to watch Cruz being booed off the stage. If either or both of these inferences are true, then it reveals a deep lack of political professionalism on both sides. 

The 2016 Republican National Convention is on track to set a Guinness Book of Records entry for most traditions violated, starting with Donald Trump's public intrusion in nearly every public festivity. Melania's goof, which could have been repaired by a little bit of timely near-honesty, has ballooned into a continuing point of discussion, even if the people inside the convention hall are doing their best to pretend that they've never heard of the word plagiarism

There are a few take-home lessons from the first three days of the convention. 

The first is that Donald Trump isn't all that good at administering things. As they say in the law, res ipsa loquitur -- the thing speaks for itself. Presidential nominating conventions have become all too predictably controlled, but that's for a reason. Since organizational control is something that we want in a president, loss of control is considered to be a negative. The 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago was the worst, what with street riots outside and turmoil inside, but for petty ineptitude that isn't linked to a major Asian war, this one wins the gold. 

The second take-home lesson is that Melania Trump is a liar. Not a very accomplished liar, and not convincingly intelligent as a liar, but a liar. 

The third take-home lesson is that we shouldn't trust anything that the Trump campaign tells us. Ever. The one time they really needed to say something truthful, it didn't seem to enter their minds. They seem to be so embedded in Donald Trump's easy way with falsehood that it took close to 48 hours to develop the scapegoat approach. 

The result, to our amusement and their chagrin, is that the Melania plagiarism story controlled the news for two straight days, and continues to show up on sites such as CNN.com even on the last day of the convention. 

Television is good at some things. On Monday night, tv stations were already showing the side-by-side footage of Melania Trump and Michelle Obama separated by eight years. Two speakers, two conventions, two different years, but it could have been choir practice for all the difference in the wording. About the best you can say for Melania Trump's stolen passages is that she mixed up a phrase in the middle of one of them. 

Late night comedians must be busting a gut laughing. They have easy punch lines for years to come: 

As believable as a Melania Trump speech. 

As believable as a Trump campaign spokesman. 

They blamed it on the Magic Pony.


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


Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Donald Trump: Unprecedented or a Supreme Court Norm?

EDITOR’S PICK--While Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg apologized for her remarks on Donald Trump last week, politicians and the media who did backflips to criticize her are rewriting history. Strong, opinionated women, like “The Notorious RBG,” are always criticized. She spoke what many people already feel about the utterly unqualified Donald Trump. Her comments deserve a deeper analysis beyond subjective punditry or sanctimonious Tweets. 

It is worth watching Lawrence O’Donnell’s piece taking the issue out of the headlines and putting it in context. There has been clear precedent for Supreme Court involvement in elections prior to Justice Ginsburg’s opining. 

The first justice of the Supreme Court, John Jay, ran for Governor of New York twice during his service. Three other Supreme Court justices ran for presidential nominations while serving and continued to serve after they lost their campaigns. As O’Donnell points out, a surprisingly erroneous Washington Post piece said, “Supreme Court experts I’ve spoken to were unaware of any justices getting so directly and vocally involved — or involved at all, really — in a presidential campaign.” 

Staying out of political campaigns is actually a recent tradition, despite what the media is yelling. 

In 2000, Justice Antonin Scalia was the justice who stopped the recount in Florida with an unprecedented injunction favoring George Bush. He then was one of the five Republicans on the Court who overruled the Florida Supreme Court and installed George Bush in the White House. The vast majority of the 5-4 decisions since the Justice Rehnquist era, when Republicans had the Court majority, have not deviated from GOP orthodoxy and favoritism. For instance, the Citizens United decision overwhelmingly results in more financial support on behalf of Republican candidates.

In 2004, it was public knowledge that Justice Scalia had a friendly and personal relationship with Dick Cheney, and yet would not recuse himself on a case involving the then-vice president. “In a 21-page memorandum filled with scorn and with lessons in the ways of Washington, Justice Scalia wrote that if people assumed a duck hunting trip would be enough to swing his vote, ‘the nation is in deeper trouble than I had imagined.’” 

The media states again and again that the Supreme Court stays out of politics, but actions speak louder than words. Justice Samuel Alito has not attended a State of the Union since President Obama critiqued the Citizens United decision in 2010. 

Public or not, how has having no personal opinion ever been an expectation of a Supreme Court justice? How would that expectation be at all plausible or rational? Gary Legum writing for Salon says that “the idea that [Justice Ginsburg] has ‘crossed the line’ or shattered some previously unspoken and unbroken pact America has with its Supreme Court judges that they stay away from politics is overblown... For us to continue pretending that the third co-equal branch of our government can somehow remain immune to the highly polarized atmosphere of the other two is to infantilize the American public.” 

If we are comfortable enough labeling our Supreme Court justices as either “liberal” or “conservative”... If we are so comfortable with assuming that an established and accomplished judge such as Merrick Garland, for instance, with a long resume of impartiality on the bench is nothing more than a political football to be tossed around by Republicans... If we are truly happy to accept these labels and partisan plays with the Supreme Court, is it actually surprising or so wrong that a distinguished, 23-year-serving justice should hold a personal opinion? The actions of Justice Scalia are lauded and Justice Ginsburg is immediately criticized. There is one big difference — Ginsburg is a woman.


(Barbra Streisand is a singer, actress, director, composer and activist who writes a blog for the Huffington Post where this piece first appeared. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.)



We've Got a Nation to Unite:  BLM Will be Left with the Reputation of MLK or the KKK ... Their Call

ALPERN AT LARGE--Black mayors, police chiefs, political leaders, and even a black President...check.   The call to reform law enforcement and promote community-based police...check.  Black Lives Matter and the President striking the right balance between being pro-civil rights and pro-law enforcement...well, not so much. 

As I stated in a previous CityWatch article, it is up to Black Lives Matter to be an organization that follows in the lead of the revered Martin Luther King, or to follow in the lead of the Black Panthers or Ku Klux Klan as to being a separatist, dividing (and resented) force in American culture. 

There are a lot of horror stories in the world, what with ISIS, European acts of terrorism and the economic forces behind the Brexit vote.  A senseless police shooting showing either bias or poor police training is something that Americans of all ethnic backgrounds cannot tolerate--but domestic or foreign acts of terrorism cannot be ignored while the issue of police/ethnic relations is being weighed. 

We now have not one but two crazed men who clearly had the goal of killing police officers--both in Dallas and Baton Rouge, it was undeniable, unmistakable murder.  Arguably, the Dallas shooting was a hate crime in that the shooter clearly wanted to kill white police officers, but in Baton Rouge both black and white officers were targeted. 

Particularly scary is that both shooters were American military veterans who were honorably discharged, and who took an oath to defend our nation. 

Also particularly scary is that a significant number of Black Lives Matter (BLM) and anti-police supporters are now taking the road of celebrating the deaths of these police officers. 

Even more scary altogether are the threats and hopes of some BLM leaders (like activist Shaun King) to stage a coup (or some sort of revolution) similar to that which we saw in the nation of Turkey. 

It should be emphasized that Turkey is a very different nation than the United States--but it's not hard to conclude that many Turks, even those who oppose Prime Minister Erdogan, were or are or ever will be OK with a military-supported coup in this modern era.  Yet the U.S., like Turkey, will fear and oppose a coup or military action and treat its supporters (even if they claim to be pro-civil rights) with contempt and outrage. 

Already there is a petition to label Black Lives Matter as a "terror" group, which the Obama presidency has turned down.  It is understandable, even though Black Lives Matter was to a large degree founded on the false narrative of Ferguson, MO criminal Michael Brown being angelic and shot with a "hands up, don't shoot" that never happened, because BLM can, if it chooses, be a uniting force for good. 

Black Lives Matter DOES have the ability to establish itself as a force for unity within this nation. When GOP senator Tim Scott of South Carolina described his unfair scrutiny at the hands of police, it's cause for compromise and concern. 

But of equal importance is that law enforcement, who defend both black and non-black Americans every day, and are themselves comprised of increasing numbers of black officers, also get their fair share of compromise and concern.  The decision of President Obama to not light up the White House blue at the request of police organizations was, in retrospect, a very bad one 

It's clear that the Black Lives Matter has the support of the White House, but does law enforcement?   

After the Dallas funeral, when the President didn't condemn the murderer enough and was too quick to throw the blame on that event on law enforcement, it clearly led to a reasonable complaint of Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick of President Obama's support of BOTH sides of the law enforcement debate. 

With the Baton Rouge shootings, President Obama will (despite his clear condemnation of the shooter) have a harder time than ever convincing the American people he supports both the police and civil rights alike.  Maybe he ought to throw up the blue lights at the White House NOW to show that he isn't taking the side of the more radical elements of BLM over law enforcement. 

And the Black Lives Matter movement will (despite the overwhelming majority of America's support for civil rights) have a harder time than ever convincing the American people they support the police, and American society in general, and become a uniting, not dividing force, of the civil rights movement in American culture and American politics.  

Because while Black Lives Matter asks the reasonable and timely question of who will protect young black men from untrained and potentially biased police officers, another reasonable and timely question is now that of: 

Who will protect the American people, including and especially black Americans, from Black Lives Matter?


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


So Long Grand Old Party; Hello, White People’s Party

GOP CONVENTION--As it officially puts Donald Trump atop its ticket this week, the Grand Old Party is rushing headlong toward an unofficial label it is desperately trying to avoid: the White People’s Party.

With his harsh tone toward Mexicans, his proposed ban on Muslims from entering the United States and his seeming tolerance of white nationalist groups, the reality TV star is painting Republicans ever further into a demographic corner that could threaten their viability as a national political organization in the coming decades.

“If we don’t expand our ability to reach voters, particularly Hispanic voters, and the rising tide of Asian voters, we’re going to have a generational wipeout,” said Florida’s Rick Wilson, a Republican political consultant and longtime Trump critic.

Trump’s language and positions appear to be translating into dismal poll numbers already, particularly in those states where it could matter most. In Florida, a June poll found Trump receiving 20 percent support from Latino voters compared to 68 percent for presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

And in Ohio and Pennsylvania, a Marist College poll for NBC News and The Wall Street Journal released last week actually showed Trump with zero percent support among African-American voters.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way at all. Just three years ago, the Republican National Committee published a report detailing the relentless demographic changes the country was undergoing, and how the party’s very existence was at stake if it failed to expand beyond its traditional base.

“If we want ethnic minority voters to support Republicans, we have to engage them and show our sincerity,” wrote the authors of the “Growth and Opportunity Project,” giving the example of 2012 nominee Mitt Romney’s poor showing with Latinos. “If Hispanics think we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies.”

Many Latino Republicans are already doing so, thanks to Trump. One California delegate said he tried to give away guest passes to the Cleveland convention to Mexican-American friends – longtime GOP donors from the Los Angeles area – as a way to get more black and brown faces in the Quicken Loans Arena. He was unable to find a single taker, he said, on condition of anonymity to speak freely about his party’s nominee. “Not even one,” he said.

But Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort said the candidate’s appeal would transcend race and ethnicity. “We think that the message that Donald Trump is talking about ― jobs, security, trying to bring law and order to a community with no preference to any particular ethnic group ― we think those messages will resonate,” he said at a Sunday news conference, and then predicted: “We do think that our Hispanic support is growing. ... I expect to do much better that Romney did in 2012 in the Hispanic community.”

Other Republicans remain unpersuaded.

One of the authors of that 2013 report, Ari Fleischer, said Trump’s nomination will at least test the validity of their conclusions. “Certainly Donald Trump has gone in the opposite direction from what we recommended,” said the former top aide to President George W. Bush. “If he loses, he’ll give even more credence to our report.”

At Trump rallies across the country, even in racially diverse communities like San Pedro, California, and Fairfax County, Virginia, black or brown faces are few and far between.

At the Iowa State Fair last summer, two middle-aged white men who had just dropped kernels of corn into Trump’s jar at a makeshift straw poll there discussed how important it was to end both illegal and legal immigration because the newcomers’ children would be American citizens ― and by dint of their ethnicity further change this country. (Neither wanted to share his name with a reporter.)

At a June Trump campaign event in St. Clairsville, Ohio, 62-year-old Brenda Johnson also railed against immigrants, and explained how much it upset her to hear them speak in other languages. “They should speak English in public,” she said. “It’s fine if they want to speak in their own language at home.”

Such attitudes, of course, are not new among voters, and Trump is certainly not the first Republican presidential candidate to use racially tinged language and identity politics.

That began in earnest in 1968, when Richard Nixon took advantage of Southern Democrats’ anger over President Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 Civil Rights Act to make inroads into the Deep South. While openly segregationist George Wallace ran a third-party campaign that year and won five of those states, Nixon’s use of the “Southern Strategy” led to what aide Kevin Phillips called “the beginning of a new Republican era” in his 1969 book The Emerging Republican Majority.

It was a dramatic reversal for a party that was founded to abolish slavery a century earlier, and which through the first half of the 20th century consistently supported civil rights laws for African-Americans. But from 1968 forward, Republican presidential candidates, to varying degrees, used phrases that appealed to working-class white voters who believed that Democrats were, at the expense of poorer white people, favoring blacks and other minorities.

Nixon’s appeal for “law and order,” Ronald Reagan’s story of the Cadillac-driving welfare mom, and George W. Bush’s refusal to condemn South Carolina’s display of the Confederate battle flag from atop its state capitol all spoke to a constituency that delivered Republicans the White House in every election between 1968 and 1988, with the exception of the post-Watergate election in 1976, when former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter won narrowly.

But in 1992, California flipped from Republican to Democratic, as Mexican-American voters responded to Republican efforts to crack down on undocumented immigrants. Republicans quickly learned that the “Solid South” no longer gave them a lock on the Electoral College.

In the subsequent years, Florida, then Colorado and Virginia, also came into play in presidential elections as their minority populations increased ― to the point where demographics now actually favor a Democrat over a Republican.

Ironically, Trump’s racially polarizing candidacy could actually accelerate that shift. North Carolina, which President Barack Obama narrowly won in 2008 but narrowly lost four years later, currently is leaning slightly toward Clinton. Georgia could also wind up closer than the 8-point win for Mitt Romney in 2012, while traditionally red Arizona, with its large Mexican-American population, could actually break for Clinton.

As it happens, this was exactly the sort of demographic change the party warned about in its 2013 report. Between 2000 and 2012, the Republican presidential candidate got between 87 and 88 percent of his total votes from white people. But as the electorate has gradually become less white, white votes are no longer enough to win. Only once in the past six elections has the GOP candidate won the popular vote: 2004, when George W. Bush took 43 percent of the Hispanic vote. In the 2012 election, Romney won only 27 percent of that vote.

 “The nation’s demographic changes add to the urgency of recognizing how precarious our position has become,” the report stated. “According to the Pew Hispanic Center, in 2050, whites will be 47 percent of the country while Hispanics will grow to 29 percent and Asians to 9 percent.” 

North Carolina RNC member Ada Fisher believes Donald Trump will do well with African-American and Latino voters.

At the RNC’s meeting in Boston the summer after the 2012 loss to Obama, party Chairman Reince Priebus fairly scolded Romney for suggesting during the primary season that immigrants living in the country illegally should “self-deport.”

“Using the word ‘self-deportation’ ― I mean, it’s a horrific comment to make,” Priebus said. “It’s not something that has anything to do with our party. But when a candidate makes those comments, obviously it hurts us.”

For party leaders, the need to adapt was not only for the next presidential election, but for the presidential elections in decades to come. Mainstream Republicans got behind a comprehensive immigration overhaul, as the “autopsy” recommended, and watched it pass the Senate only to founder in the House as the party’s disproportionately Southern, disproportionately working-class base revolted.

In perhaps the most ominous sign of where things were headed, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R), a co-sponsor of the bill in that chamber, reversed himself and opposed it as he positioned himself for his presidential run.

The rejection of the party’s received wisdom was complete when Trump in his announcement speech called undocumented immigrants from Mexico “rapists” (although he allowed that some might be good people) and promised to build a wall along the southern border. In the coming months, he vowed to ban Muslims from entering the United States as a response to terrorist attacks, declined at first to criticize former KKK leader David Duke, and most recently defended the use of an image that resembled the Star of David badge that Nazis forced Jews to wear in Hitler’s Germany before they systematically rounded them up and murdered them.

Even this week, when offered the opportunity to speak at the NAACP conference in Cincinnati ― a mere 30 minutes away on his 757 jet ― Trump declined, even though he was afforded the flexibility to speak at the time and day of his choosing. Every recent GOP nominee has spoken at the conference, going back to George W. Bush in 2000.

The promise to “take our country back” and “make America great again” appeals to lesser-educated whites who wish for a return to an era when a college degree was not necessary to earn a middle-class living and the population was overwhelmingly white, said Alan Abramowitz, a demographer at Emory University. “He’s trying to appeal to a sense of displacement, a sense of being left out, of being left behind,” he said. “Elect me and we’ll finally have a leader who will undo all these terribles.”

Priebus, in the wake of a new poll showing Trump’s overall standing with Latinos down to 14 percent, told Fox News on Sunday that Trump appreciates the need to do better.

“I know Donald Trump’s going to be doing a Hispanic engagement tour coming up soon,” Priebus said. “He understands we need to grow the party ― it’s the party of the open door, tone, rhetoric, spirit ― all those things matter when communicating to the American people.”

That statement, though, is somewhat of a departure from the party’s typical response since Trump became the presumptive nominee, which is to ignore the Growth and Opportunity Project report and the long-term strategy behind it. Instead, they focus on the tactics for this coming election, and how, despite everything, Trump can still triumph by winning big among white working-class voters in places like Pennsylvania and Ohio and Wisconsin.

RNC members and officials, in fact, even insist that Trump will exceed expectations among Latino and African-American voters, his rhetoric to date and current polling notwithstanding.

Helen Aguirre Ferre, who took over as head of Hispanic communications after the previous director quit because of her distaste for Trump, said Latino voters are interested in more than just immigration, and that many will be receptive to his message on jobs and national security.

Even in her hometown of Miami, where two of the three Cuban-American members of Congress have disavowed Trump, Ferre said Trump has the potential to do well. She pointed to his 22 percent showing in Miami-Dade County, Rubio’s home, in the March 15 primary. “I think that speaks volumes,” she said, adding that Trump’s campaign will work hard to win over those Latino voters in November. “I think they’re waiting to be courted.”

And North Carolina’s Ada Fisher, one of only a handful of African-American RNC members, said Trump will exceed expectations with black voters, too. “I think Trump will do quite fine. I think he will do great things,” she said, showing off the “Make America Great Again” hat his campaign had given her. “I’ve been a supporter of Donald Trump since the beginning.”

To Florida consultant Wilson, the official party line on Trump ― from the idea that he will do well with minorities to the hope that he can drive up working-class white voter turnout enough to win ― is just plain silly, especially with Trump’s weakness with college-educated white voters and women voters generally.

“This is them trying to whistle past the graveyard, pretending like Donald Trump isn’t happening,” he said. “Math is math, it doesn’t negotiate.”

(S.V. Date is Senior Political Correspondent for Huffington Post  … where this piece was first posted.)

Future Shock in Check: the Awesome Disruption of New Technology

 GUEST WORDS--I have a lot of respect for journalist Farhad Manjoo, who currently writes a tech column for the New York Times. But a few things struck me from his recent piece on Alvin Toffler (photo above), the writer of the six-million copy bestseller “Future Shock” (1970) who died recently at the age of 87. Manjoo captured Toffler well, but drew the case for a world overwhelmed by technological advancements much too starkly: 

“…in rereading [the] book, as I did last week, it seems clear that his diagnosis (of ‘future shock’) has largely panned out, with local and global crises arising daily from our collective inability to deal with ever-faster change.” 

Really? We are now to lay all societal and political ills, both foreign and domestic, at the feet of tech advancements? Manjoo, who is just 38 years old, sounds co-opted by digital elder-think, the affliction of many people over 50 who project onto everyone else their clumsiness and resistance to the firehose stream of messages and notices brought to us daily through our mobile devices. 

I have two millennial kids in their early and mid-twenties who seem to be adapting quite capably. They’re not much different than their peers. Their brains and social mythos may not resemble my older brain and views, but I have confidence that their grit and inventive powers remain undiminished. I put stock in those powers, as I believe we all should for the better part of the reasonably smart, reasonably stable kids stepping up to fill our shoes. 

“Millennials are going to save our asses!” roared a thoughtful boomer friend a few evenings ago when a group of us got together. Between us we have collectively parented at least a score of kids, all now aged between 20 and 32 years old. His was a frustrated rebut to our lamenting over the polarized state of American politics, and I believe his pronouncement approaches a ground truth. Let’s give the rising generation of young people all due credit for absorptive capacities either absent or anemic in we aging but still quite sentient products of a slower time. 

Manjoo’s column also reminded me of something I heard said by David Matthews, President and CEO of Kettering Foundation, at a conference in the early 2000s. When asked how what was then a new world of digital technology would influence politics, civics and society in general, Matthews gave a classic Matthews response in his slow Alabama drawl: “Willy. Nilly.” Which he pronounced “Willah. Nillah.” to our appreciative laughter. By that, he meant that technology’s effects would fall unevenly across people of the globe -- more like the way rainfall varies across vast and differing landscapes than like a tsunami pouring a devastating wall of water over us all. 

Finally, I think it’s inaccurate to suggest that because of the demise of knowledge centers like the Carter Administration’s Office of Technology Assessment the public sector is now at a complete loss for predictive perspectives on the future. We’ve still got the U.S. Defense Department’s DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) program and dozens of private and public institutes and universities that contract with government on research ventures of all kinds. 

We’re a country that builds hybrid institutional collaborations – public, private, nonprofit and combinations thereof – that don’t have distinction or the classic jurisdictional mandates of permanent governmental institutions. But they still manage to effectively elevate ideas and productive thinking into public discourse through other means and mechanisms. We do that because we have a history of not trusting public institutions too, too much for innovation, even as much as we rely and count on them to step in and help us with large-scale services and resources when things go haywire in giant ways.  

I picture Alvin Toffler going to his grave not at all a pessimist but rather as what I like to think of as an “awesome-ist,” struck dumb at times by the sheer wonder of how resilient humanity can be. He had an appreciation few people can grasp for the astonishing disruption that new tools and discoveries can unleash. 

Toffler clued us in with “Future Shock” to what he rightly foresaw as some dire consequences of rapid technological change. But he had a child, too, who, very sadly, died at about the same age Farhad Manjoo is today. 

At least for the time Karen Toffler was alive, I bet her father regarded the planet and its people with a measure of abiding hope, even fervent optimism, that the flesh and the ideas he spawned would throw into the common enterprise and blaze the way ahead. Not always perfectly, by any means, but amazingly well.


(Paul Vandeventer is President and CEO of Community Partners.  Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Make the Supreme Court’s 4-4 Split Permanent … Here’s Why

EDITOR’S PICK--Since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia earlier this year, the U.S. has obsessed over how and when to fill his sizable void on the Supreme Court. Much is at stake. Whether it is one of President Obama’s last significant acts or a major early decision by our next president, the new appointment will break the deadlock on a Supreme Court currently divided four-to-four between liberal and conservative justices.

Read more ...

Get Over It Bernistas, It’s an Imperfect Union

GELFAND’S WORLD--Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton, and a bunch of people instantly lost their minds. We're seeing pleas to support a minor party such as the Greens, or simply not to vote. The argument is all dressed up in the language of rejecting having to choose between the "lesser of two evils," but it's ultimately a version of political narcissism. Rather than support Clinton, a candidate who is viewed as too imperfect to be worthy of anything but scorn, we are being asked to join a revolution of the small minority in the hope that it will explode into a majority, even if nothing like that has happened since 1789. Well, in the spirit of ultimate irony, this is coming to a head on Bastille Day, even if it's 2016. 

Permit me to remind you that the last time something like this whole formulation succeeded, we got George W. Bush as president for eight years. We got a forever war and a devastated economy. We're still recovering from the Bush recession after nearly eight years, and we're still at war. Was getting revenge for not having Ralph Nader on the Democratic Party ticket really worth it? 

Because this self-defined progressive group views Hillary Clinton as no better than any other politician, we are being asked to commit a giant act of political vandalism, taking a chance that we will get something (and someone) truly evil. The strategy relies on the off chance that the people who will suffer most -- the poor and the working class -- will react to their upcoming misery by rewarding the folks who put them into it. Yeah, sure, after eight years of Bush, the one thing I wanted most was to put Nader in control. Not. 

The rejectionist argument seems to be that if enough people say No to politics as usual, then the political parties will eventually get the right idea. There are multiple problems with this logic, not the least of which is its profound distain for democracy. But that's just one little quirk. The main problem is substituting a utopian fantasy for making incremental progress. It's a perfect case of the perfect being the enemy of the good. And I'm not all that sure that the aspirations of the Bernie or Bust clan are all that perfect anyway. 

The core of the argument comes down to one thing. It's whether or not we accept the fact that even modest improvements take time and struggle. The corollary is that the improvements we get are not going to feel entirely adequate. The reason is that there is a substantial bloc of voters who disagree with the liberal notion of public good. They will fight us all the way. They have always fought against progress. 

Nevertheless, we won a partial victory in Obamacare. One commenter referred to Obamacare as the biggest Democratic innovation since the days of Lyndon Johnson. It's what has allowed some of the people I know to get health insurance and to have a doctor. 

Just the other day, the National Labor Relations Board voted to improve the rights of people who work for large companies as chronic temporary employees. It's a huge deal, because they get less pay and worse benefits for doing the same jobs. The reform has been a long time coming, but it's here. And it would be in grave peril of being reversed should Clinton not be elected president. 

As an aside, I would like to bring up one question for all the people who are so devoted to Bernie Sanders. If you are so trusting of him and his judgment, then why are you rejecting his judgment in this one thing, the endorsement of Hillary Clinton? The endorsement comes from the real, flesh-and-blood Bernie Sanders. What you seem to want is the plastic-idol version, an idealized Bernie Sanders who will stand atop the ramparts in an act of civil defiance. 

No such luck. Sanders has been a politician most of his life. He understands how the Senate works, and by extension, he knows how political progress develops in the United States. In other words, the real Bernie is not the guy you're demanding. 

There is also democracy itself to think about. More voters supported Hillary than Clinton. It's a fact. Bernie's supporters (and the Sanders campaign itself) have complained bitterly about the Democratic National Committee, claiming that they rigged the primary calendar to limit the number of debates and schedule them at awkward times. There may very well be truth to this, but let's remember that during the last couple of months of the primary season -- when Bernie Sanders was getting maximum exposure and news coverage -- that's when Hillary did the best in states like our own California. Losers can blame the process, often with some truth, but the last few months of the Democratic primary season did not merit such critiques. The voters had plenty of information available to them, and they made their choices. 

There is a difference between believing in democracy as it is, and in hoping that some day, democracy will go your way.


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


Conventions, Why Bother?

POLITICS--I’ll save you the guesswork. On July 21, Donald Trump will become the Republican nominee for president of the United States. On July 28, Hillary Clinton will become the Democratic nominee.

Trump’s pending coronation is unsettling many Republican leaders – prompting Republican national chairman, Reince Priebus, to warn them that “if we don’t stick together as a party and stop her, then the only alternative is to get comfortable with the phrase President Hillary Clinton.” 

That’s about as enthusiastic an endorsement Trump is likely to get from the Republican establishment. 

It’s also unsettling many other Americans, some of whom will be demonstrating in downtown Cleveland to protest the nomination of a man who has gone out of his way to denigrate Latinos, blacks, Muslims and immigrants.

But barring a miracle, Trump will be nominated anyway. 

So will Clinton, whose nomination isn’t going down easily with many of Bernie Sanders’s supporters, even after his endorsement of her. 

So why have the conventions at all?

First, because they’re perks awarded to people who worked hard for candidates during the primaries — just as top sales reps in companies are awarded trips to national sales conventions. Delegates will have fun and spend money, which hotels and restaurants in downtown Cleveland and Philadelphia will sop up like dry sponges.

They’ll enjoy circulating on the convention floors for five or six hours each night exchanging gossip and business cards, hugging old friends and meeting new ones, and taking selfies.

And they’ll feel important when they hear party leaders, heads of state delegations, members of Congress and occasional celebrities tell them how critical it is to defeat the opposing party in November, how strong their nominee will be, and what makes America great.

Second, the conventions generate prime-time TV infomercials featuring celebrities, heroes and former presidents (Bush 1 and 2 say they won’t appear at the Republican one) and, most importantly, the nominee on the last night. 

All will speak about the same three themes, although Trump will talk mainly about himself. These segments will be produced and directed by Hollywood professionals and marketing specialists whose goal is to get the major networks (or at least CNN, Fox News and MSNBC) to project stirring images into the living rooms of swing voters.

The third reason for these conventions will be hidden far away from the delegates and the prime-time performers: It’s to ingratiate the big funders — corporate executives, Wall Street investment bankers, partners in major law firms, top Washington lawyers and lobbyists, and billionaires.

The big funders are undermining our democracy but they’ll have the best views in the house. They’ll fill the skyboxes of the convention centers – just above where the media position their cameras and anchors and high above the din of the delegates. And they’ll feast on shrimp, lobster tails, and caviar. 

Each party will try to make these big funders feel like the VIPs they’ve paid to be,letting them shake hands with congressional leaders, Cabinet officers and the nominee’s closest advisers, who will be circulating through the skyboxes like visiting dignitaries. If they’re lucky, the big funders will have a chance to clench the hand of the nominee himself or herself.

The three conventions — for delegates, for prime-time audiences at home and for big funders — will occur simultaneously, but they will occupy different dimensions of reality.

Our two major political parties no longer nominate people to be president. Candidates choose themselves, they run in primaries, and the winners of the primaries become the parties’ nominees.

The parties have instead become giant machines for producing infomercials, raising big money and rewarding top sales reps with big bashes every four years.

That Donald Trump, the most unqualified and divisive person ever to become a major party’s nominee, and Hillary Clinton, among the most qualified yet also among the least trusted ever to become a major party’s nominee, will emerge from the conventions to take each other on in the general election of 2016 is almost beside the point.

(Robert Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley and the author of Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future, now in bookstores. This post originally appeared at RobertReich.org.)


Following Horrific Violence, Something More is Required of Us

EDITOR’S PICK--I have struggled to find words to express what I thought and felt as I watched the videos of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile being killed by the police. Thursday night, I wanted to say something that hasn’t been said a hundred times before. It finally dawned on me that there is nothing to say that hasn’t been said before.

As I was preparing to write about the oldness of all of this, and share some wisdom passed down from struggles of earlier eras, I heard on the news that 11 officers had been shot in Dallas, several killed from sniper fire. My fingers froze on the keys. I could not bring myself to recycle old truths. Something more is required. But what?

I think we all know, deep down, that something more is required of us now. This truth is difficult to face because it’s inconvenient and deeply unsettling. And yet silence isn’t an option. On any given day, there’s always something I’d rather be doing than facing the ugly, racist underbelly of America.

I know that I am not alone. But I also know that the families of the slain officers, and the families of all those who have been killed by the police, would rather not be attending funerals. And I’m sure that many who refused to ride segregated buses in Montgomery after Rosa Parks stood her ground wished they could’ve taken the bus, rather than walk miles in protest, day after day, for a whole year. But they knew they had to walk. If change was ever going to come, they were going to have to walk. And so do we. 

What it means to walk today will be different for different people and different groups and in different places. I am asking myself what I need to do in the months and years to come to walk my walk with greater courage. It’s a question that requires some time and reflection. I hope it’s a question we are all asking ourselves.

"If we're serious about having peace officers—rather than a domestic military at war with its own people—we're going to have to get honest with ourselves about who our democracy actually serves and protects."

In recent years, I have come to believe that truly transformative change depends more on thoughtful creation of new ways of being than reflexive reactions to the old. What is happening now is very, very old. We have some habits of responding to this familiar pain and trauma that are not serving us well. In many respects it’s amazing that we endure at all. I am inspired again and again by so much of the beautiful, brilliant and daring activism that is unfolding all over the country. Yet I also know that more is required than purely reactive protest and politics. A profound shift in our collective consciousness must occur, a shift that makes possible a new America.

I know many people believe that our criminal justice system can be “fixed” by smart people and smart policies. President Obama seems to think this way. He suggested yesterday that police-community relations can be improved meaningfully by a task force he created last year. Yes, a task force.

I used to think like that. I don’t anymore. I no longer believe that we can “fix” the police, as though the police are anything other than a mirror reflecting back to us the true nature of our democracy. We cannot “fix” the police without a revolution of values and radical change to the basic structure of our society. Of course important policy changes can and should be made to improve police practices. But if we’re serious about having peace officers—rather than a domestic military at war with its own people—we’re going to have to get honest with ourselves about who our democracy actually serves and protects.

Consider this: Philando Castile had been stopped 31 times and charged with more than 60 minor violations—resulting in thousands of dollars in fines—before his last, fatal encounter with the police.

Alton Sterling was arrested because he was hustling, selling CDs to get by. He was unable to work in the legal economy due to his felony record. His act of survival was treated by the police as a major crime, apparently punishable by death.

"None of the horrifying images from the Jim Crow era would've changed anything if a highly strategic, courageous movement had not existed that was determined to challenge a deeply entrenched system of racial and social control."

How many people on Wall Street have been arrested for their crimes large and small—crimes of greed and fraud that nearly bankrupted the global economy and destroyed the futures of millions of families?

How many politicians have been prosecuted for taking millions of dollars from private prisons, prison guard unions, pharmaceutical companies, oil companies, tobacco companies, the NRA and Wall Street banks and doing their bidding for them—killing us softly? Oh, that’s right, taking millions from those folks isn’t even a crime. Democrats and Republicans do it every day.

Our entire political system is financed by wealthy private interests buying politicians and making sure the rules are written in their favor. But selling CDs or loose cigarettes? In America, that’s treated as a serious crime, especially if you’re black. For that act of survival, you can be wrestled to the ground and choked to death or shot at point blank range. Our entire system of government is designed to protect and serve the interests of the most powerful, while punishing, controlling and exploiting the least advantaged.

This is not hyperbole. And this is not new. What is new is that we’re now watching all of this on YouTube and Facebook, streaming live, as imagined super-predators are brought to heel. Fifty years ago, our country was forced to look at itself in the mirror when television stations broadcast Bloody Sunday, the day state troopers and a sheriff’s posse brutally attacked civil rights activists marching for voting rights in Selma.

Those horrifying images, among others, helped to turn public opinion in support of the Civil Rights Movement. Perhaps the images we’ve seen in recent days will make some difference. It’s worth remembering, though, that none of the horrifying images from the Jim Crow era would’ve changed anything if a highly strategic, courageous movement had not existed that was determined to challenge a deeply entrenched system of racial and social control.

This nation was founded on the idea that some lives don’t matter. Freedom and justice for some, not all. That’s the foundation. Yes, progress has been made in some respects, but it hasn’t come easy. There’s an unfinished revolution waiting to be won.

(Michelle Alexander is the author of the bestselling book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness  (The New Press, 2010). The former director of the Racial Justice Project of the ACLU in Northern California, she also served as a law clerk to Justice Harry Blackmun on the U.S. Supreme Court.  Currently, she holds a joint appointment with the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University. This piece posted first on Michelle’s Facebook page and most recently at Common Dreams.


The Middle Class … Academics, Teachers, Journalists, Coders … also Falling Prey to Unstable New America

DOWNWARD SPIRAL-Precariousness is not just a working-class thing. In recent interviews, dozens of academics and schoolteachers, administrators, librarians, journalists and even coders have told me they too are falling prey to an unstable new America. I’ve started to think of this just-scraping-by group as the Middle Precariat.  

The word Precariat was popularized five or so year ago to describe a rapidly expanding working class with unstable, low-paid jobs. What I call the Middle Precariat, in contrast, are supposed to be properly, comfortably middle class, but it’s not quite working out this way. 

There are people like the Floridian couple who both have law degrees – and should be in the prime of their working lives – but can’t afford a car or an apartment and have moved back in with the woman’s elderly mother. There are schoolteachers around the country that work second jobs after their teaching duties are done: one woman in North Dakota I spoke to was heading off to clean houses after the final bell in order to pay her rent. 

Many of the Middle Precariat work jobs that used to be solidly middle class. Yet some earn roughly what they did a decade ago. At the same time, middle-class life is now 30 percent more expensive than it was 20 years ago. The Middle Precariat’s jobs are also increasingly contingent – meaning they are composed of short-term contract or shift work, as well as unpaid overtime. Buffeted by Silicon Valley-like calls to maximize disruption, the Middle Precariat may have positions “reimagined.” That cruel euphemism means they are to be replaced by younger, cheaper workers, or even machines. 

This was brought home to me at a legal fair with thousands of attendees this winter. Between the small plastic gavel swag and the former corporate lawyer building a large-scale Lego block version of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, there were booths advertising software that reviews legal documents. That software helps firms get rid of employees, including attorneys, and might soon make some of the lawyers on that trade-show floor extinct. 

Other professionals describe how they must endure harsh non-traditional work schedules, much like their retail worker brethren. They work on weekends and late into the day and barely see their children. At the end of the year, they just break even, all the while retaining debt from college and even graduate school that they will never be able to repay. 

While households that make anywhere from $48,000 to $250,000 can call themselves middle class, to group such a wide range of incomes under one label, as politicians love to do, is to confuse the term entirely.

A worker at a tech company in California I interviewed has two jobs and commutes at least an hour each way to one of them, much like the working class Precariat does. He can’t afford to live anywhere near his offices – San Francisco is the most expensive housing market in the country, with an average rent at $4,780 for a two-bedroom apartment as of April. 

They and other members of the Middle Precariat I have spoken with over the last three years are ostensibly bourgeois, but with few of the advantages we used to associate with that standing. They may not be able to afford their mortgage payments or daycare, health and retirement savings or college educations for their kids. They also usually can’t afford a car for each adult, summer vacations or gym memberships, those status markers of the past. Indeed, some have resorted to SNAP and other federal benefits from time to time. 

The Middle Precariat also may be threatened by the rise of the robots, like their working-class peers. Like the lawyers at that trade show. The numbers confirm this: in 2014, only 64 percent of law school graduates had jobs that required bar passage. In 2013, unemployment was at 11.2 percent with underemployment numbers even higher. (By contrast, in 1985, more than 81 percent had full-time legal jobs and only seven percent were not working at all.) 

Journalists also have the machines nipping at their heels. Last month, tronc, formerly known as the illustrious Tribune newspaper company, demonstrated the rise of the Middle Precariat: tronc’s inadvertently hilarious branding videos celebrated artificial intelligence over photo editors, reporters and the like, replacing them with optimization and something called content funnels. 

Even nurses may soon join the Middle Precariat. The National Science Foundation is spending nearly a million dollars to research a future of robotic nurses who will lift patients and bring them medicine while keeping living nurses “in the decision loop”, even though nursing is one of the few growth industries that allows for upward mobility. 

The Middle Precariat, as the 2013 McKinsey Global Institute report on disruptive technologies explained, will only grow, as highly skilled workers are put on the chopping block and the “automation of knowledge work” expands. Soon to come are robot surgeons, robot financial workers, robot teachers and perhaps, robots that can take their mimicry of recent college graduates to the next level and argue that Beyonce’s Lemonade is feminism while drinking a micro brew. 

It’s reached a point where this threatened class has begotten a layer of consultants to fix the problem. In San Francisco, Casey Berman counsels economically and professionally desperate people who happen to be lawyers. “There is an easier, less painful, less stressful and lucrative way to make money,” Berman’s site Leave Law Behind reads. When I spoke to him a few months ago, he told me that he sees his mission as “motivating” former lawyers that are now broke and frustrated to do something else with their lives. 

But retraining and specialized psychotherapy aren’t the only answers. We need broad-based fixes. Universal subsidized daycare. Changing the tax code so it actually helps the middle class. Real collective bargaining rights for Middle Precariat workers. Paid leave to keep mothers from exiting the workforce against their will. Fair hours, not just for McDonald’s workers, but also for adjunct professors. 

We also need to question the pundits and companies that incant “artificial intelligence” as a mantra, even as they are celebrating a future where so many middle-class humans’ jobs may be jettisoned. And we can start to rebuke terms like “machine learning” or “disruption,” unmasking them – along with “the billionaires” – as some of the culprits. 

(Alissa Quart writes on labor and the economy for the Guardian where this article was first posted. Reposted by Capital and Main.  Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Step Up and Speak Up - 5 Things Each of Us Can Do to Change America

MAKING A DIFFERENCE--Yes, there is something that each of us can do ... to change LA and America. In fact, nothing will improve unless each of us does actually start doing some things. 

(1) We Need to End the National Ethos That Killing People Is a Good Solution to Problems. 

As long as the majority of Americans support the death penalty, they support the idea that killing of people is an acceptable solution to some problems. If each of us rejects the death penalty, we can start to reorient our national consciousness. Even most mentally ill people are constrained by their country’s cultural norms. 

(2) We Need to Drop the Idea Some People Are Above The Law. 

The Obama Doctrine of “Too Important to Prosecute” will soon become the Trump Doctrine or the Hillary Doctrine. The pernicious idea that important people are above the law creates deep resentment within society. The avoidable crash in 2008 made millions of people homeless which has devastated families, traumatized many of the dispossessed children for life, and resulted in divorces, bankruptcies and suicides. Meanwhile the Federal government gave trillions of dollars to the crooks who had crashed the economy. (By making some people above the law, I do not mean the absurd idea that Hillary did some terrible crime with her emails. This leads to my next point.) 

(3) We Must Stop Supporting Our Own Party When it Spews Nonsense. 

Obama made some serious mistakes, but the nation never could have a rational discussion about Obama’s economic policies because the GOP has continued with it relentless racist attacks. The people who had the power to stop this extremely harmful activity were the GOP electorate. 

On the Dem side, the entire party was silent as Obama followed the regressive and asinine economic nonsense of Geithner. By remaining silent, these economic policies paved the way for the Tea Baggers in November 2010 and set the stage of the current politics of revenge. Obama did nothing to revive the economy. What we see now is the normal upswing of the business cycle. We need to develop the ability to admit our own mistakes and shortcomings rather than to habitually blame “the other.” Both the GOP and Dems persist in the blame game, while accepting zero responsibility for anything. 

We also have to be smart enough to realize that both parties raise millions of dollars from highlighting the zanies on the other side. So we give credence to the more extreme because it raises money for our party. That is a vice which both parties must forgo.  

(4) We Must Cease to Hold Predators in High Esteem. 

As a nation, we laud predators. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of Trump knows that he is a predator who intentionally abused the bankruptcy laws to ruin other people while making himself vastly wealthy. Despite this widespread knowledge, millions of Americans herald him as a savior. No one can support Trump without endorsing a predatory culture where the strong feed upon the weak. (Why do the disenfranchised support the person who is the number one example of the culture that has cheated them for the past 30 years? The answer is probably found in Anna Freud’s Identification with the Aggressor. I guess it is akin to the Stockholm Syndrome.)

Trump is not America’s first predator. For decades we tolerated Antonin Scalia as if he were some sage, when in reality he was a predatory egomaniac suffering from the delusion that he alone could divine the Original Intent of the framers of the US Constitution. That gave us the absurd idea that the right to own a gun was an individual right. Under this theory, individual Americans need to arm themselves so that they can kill government employees who would threaten their life, liberty or property. We saw how that philosophy works out in Dallas on July 7. (Oh, that’s right, Scalia didn’t mean that the right to own a gun applied to Blacks.) 

(5) We Need to Stop with the Jingoistic Charade that America is the Greatest Nation. 

Not only is this claim poppycock, but it also dangerously blinds us to our faults. No nation is the greatest. Each nation has its strengths and its weaknesses. America is far more racist than many other nations. We have an unacceptably high infant mortality rate and an inexcusably low educational achievement level. Too many children live in poverty and lack adequate food. It is extremely obnoxious to scream that we’re the greatest when we tear down the homes of the poor and shove them out onto the streets so that we can have photo-ops to justify giving billions of dollars to developers. See my recent article in CityWatch about “The Great LA Housing Scam.”

The greatest nation would not have the worse Gini wealth index. The lower the number, the more equitable the distribution of income. The higher the number, the more wealth is concentrated in the elite. 

“It found that the U.S. had the most wealth inequality, with a score of 80.56, showing the most concentration of overall wealth in the hands of the proportionately fewest people.” (Fortune Magazine, 9-30-2015, “America is The Richest, and Most Unequal, Country,” by Erik Sherman) Notice that the sources is not some far leftist propagandist, but Fortune Magazine

Since the Crash of 2008, most of the gain in new wealth due to increased productivity has not gone to the workers who created the wealth but to the top 1% who are responsible for causing the Crash. Those statistics alone explain the “politics of revenge” which Trump exemplifies. 

We are never going to put our country on the right track by brainlessly screaming “We’re #1" or “We’re the greatest.” Rather we need a new culture which admits that we are far from perfect, but that each day we will strive to improve. 

If not now, when? 

These are things which all of us can do right now today in our own lives. We can ferret out these self-defeating traits in ourselves and in our national discourse. We can recognize that it is not only the GOP who made people poor and it is not only the Dems who love Wall Street predators. We all participate in the culture of death and self-centered jingoism. Some of us actively support these ideas, while many of us are silent. We let the Los Angeles City Council be run as a criminal enterprise and we pretend we do not know that our state’s legal system is corrupt to the core. Even the federal courts said that the California system has an epidemic of misconduct because the judges condone such behavior.  

The habitual murders reflect who we are as a people. These things do not regularly happen in other nations whose cultures do not enshrine killing as a civic good and do not promote predators to be their national leaders. 

The only way to change our national consciousness and hence our destiny is for each of us to change our individual consciousness. 

(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.


Relax World. Trump Isn’t Going To Be President. But He’ll Rinse Some Cash from His Run ...

GUEST WORDS--During his throat clearing at the 2011 White House Correspondents dinner in Washington, D.C., comedian Seth Meyers delivered a prophetic critique of the political ambitions of Donald J. Trump. 

The mogul, touting a run in the 2012 race, sat scowling at his table as the comic quipped: 

“Donald Trump has been saying he’ll run for president as a Republican, which is surprising as I just assumed he was running as a joke.” 

Read more ...

If You Believe Sarah Palin Shot Gabby Giffords, Then You Believe Barack Obama Killed 5 Dallas Police Officers

ALPERN AT LARGE--Like so many other upset and heartbroken Americans, I've no more capacity for "moments of silence" to address issues where silence is anything BUT the right response.  Of course, silence was never my strong suit. My religious, educational and moral training all point to the virtues of being hard on one's self, and on one's society--and our society is drowning in its own stupidity. 

If anyone reading this still honestly believes that former 2008 Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin is responsible for the shooting of former representative Gabby Giffords, then clearly it's a sign that the reader has forgotten what "free will" is, and the ability of a human being to make a decision on his/her own.  No diagram, photo or statement of former Governor Palin (whether you like or hate her) was ever any more a statement of "kill her!" than any political statement of President Barack Obama was any credible advocacy of violence against police officers. 

Sarah Palin didn't shoot Rep. Gabby Giffords, and would certainly have opposed (and probably opened fire on, were she present) the crazed lunatic who shot Giffords.  Similarly, President Obama didn't shoot those five heroic police officers in Dallas, and has condemned (and would certainly have order troops to open fire on, were he present) the crazed lunatic who shot them.  Lunatics and racist monsters have no tolerance in our society. 

But while Sarah Palin had no governmental power when Gabby Giffords was shot, President Obama does have power--so that while only a fool would suggest he wanted the Dallas shootings, it can be accurately stated that it occurred on his watch...and his being too tough on police officers while too kind and supportive to the more radical elements of Black Lives Matter is also on his watch. 

I advocated for the Brady Bill in years past, and support reasonable gun control measures presently and in the future.  Yet at the least, however, those advocating gun control at this time are quite ignorant both of the different types of guns and the statistics that completely ignore gun killings are going up, and have no correlation to how and where aggressive gun control measures are being implemented (think Chicago and Washington, D.C.). 

At the very most, those advocating gun control at this time are using "gun control" as a mindless, irrational mantra that entirely diverts from the REAL causes of violence in our society, and which deflects from and hurts the credibility of proper gun control measures.  Like a decay in our society's moral values, economic and social frustration and alienation of too many in our society, and a failure of leadership at the top. 

As in "the buck stops here" paradigm of Democratic President Truman's years versus the "I first heard about it in the newspapers" paradigm of Democratic President Barack Obama. 

Contrary to the political agitation and fomenting of divisions from the current presidential administration, our nation is almost entirely united: 

1) We believe that Black Lives Matter, and Blue Lives Matter.  The recent police shootings in Minnesota and Louisiana shake us to the core, and scream for better police training and the implementation of community-based policing that has transformed Los Angeles from a riot-prone city to one where violence is quite low compared to other cities. 

Yet the shootings of police officers in Dallas (and let's not forget New York and other assassinations of police officers throughout the nation) also shake us to the core, and it's upsetting that both President Obama and Attorney General Lynch aren't harder--MUCH harder--on the more radical elements of Black Lives Matter. Because and Obama and Lynch (and Holder before her) are hurting the credibility that Black Lives Matter needs to implement true and positive change. 

2) Black Lives Matter should not, and need not, be a hate group, but it will be considered one if it doesn't clean up its act.  There are now no shortage of Americans who view Black Lives Matter as no better than the Ku Klux Klan, and are part of the problem.  Too many leaders in Black Lives Matter seem to have a problem with America in general. 

Furthermore, Black Lives Matter is alienating too many black police officers (they do exist, and in increasing numbers) and community leaders.  The black police chiefs of Dallas and El Paso are certainly part of the answer, and creating civil UNREST while marching for civil RIGHTS can only make a well-intentioned effort into part of the problem, and not part of the answer. 

Black Lives Matter has too many extremist radicals among its ranks and if it's own leaders aren't purged and brought to bear, then the expression "Black Lives Matter" will bring visceral contempt when admiration should be the right response. 

And if Black Lives Matter is to remain part of the answer, then it must ask itself whether it wishes to follow the example (and the lousy and failed fate) of the 1960's black separatist movements, or if it wants to to adhere to an "improve and be pro-America" that follows the example of the late Martin Luther King. 

3) Black youth have not one but TWO deadly threats to confront: police bias and shootings, and black-on-black violence.  To argue about which one is worse is about as stupid as arguing whether food or water is less essential than the other.  In particular, black men have their health (and even lives) threatened when the cops drive up and slow down next to them...but also when cars filled with black men suddenly show up, with criminals all-too-ready to enforce their "turf". 

The accusation of a broken tail light can escalate into something violent or deadly, but so can a "Where you from?" question/demand of a black youth from another neighborhood.  BOTH are horrible.  BOTH are deadly. And BOTH have as much of a role in our modern society as a Confederate flag in a black church--they don't belong...period. 

Snoop Dogg and other black icons are embracing BOTH the police and civil rights leaders.  Love and kindness, and a dropping of the violent epithets and anti-police threats, is the strategy that will allow black and other American leaders the ability to emulate the success and admiration of Martin Luther King, and avoid the failure and derision of Louis Farrakhan, when it comes to improving the lives and status of African-Americans. 

4) We need our police, and we need credible and courageous leaders.  There are those who will demean and ignore the success of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani in turning New York around, and in uniting that previously-divided city...and they will do it for political gains no matter how the nation suffers as a result. 

There is no reason for Dallas or other police officers to boycott and disrespect President Obama in his last few months in office, but there is every reason to get our President to acknowledge that his own rhetoric, or at the least his one-sided rhetoric, from both himself and past/former Attorney Generals is in dire need of improvement. 

President Obama, and the rest of us, have the choice to both decry and condemn (harder, MUCH harder) the monster in Dallas who proved he was no better than the monster in South Carolina who shot up so many innocents in a black church.   

We can't let either of these monsters separate us.  Demand reform and accountability from the police AND from Black Lives Matter. 

It should be emphasized that there is a bias, although not as deadly as many have contended, of police officers against blacks than against whites, and that community-based policing can fix that. 

It should also be emphasized that the statistics for black-on-black violence are ALSO frightening--and these CANNOT be dismissed by ANY leader wanting to improve the future of black Americans. 

And stupidity, whether it's for political gain or not, cannot be dismissed.  It's the right for any American to be "stuck on stupid", but it's also the right--nay, the responsibility--for Americans to keep their eyes on the ball and decry stupidity or political correctness wherever it exists.   

Because politically-correct or politically-obsessed stupidity is killing and destroying the lives of too many innocent Americans. 

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


Ending the Violence: Meaningful Solutions vs. Meaningless Soundbites

GUEST WORDS—(Editor’s Note: The traffic deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and five Dallas police officers over the past 10 days has produced torrent of public chatter. Most of it meaningless. Finger pointing … “Barack Obama is responsible for the deaths of those Dallas police officers”. Tired clichés … “We have to do better.” Advice from non-experts on who has to be more ‘respectful’ to whom. Not an honest to god solution in sight. CityWatch is posting this think piece by Zoe Weil because it offers real and meaningful solutions. I hope you will give them serious thought. Then, I hope you will commit yourself to taking serious action on one of the most important issues facing our country. We need more meaningful solutions, less meaningless talk. -kd)


I am a humane educator, a person dedicated to creating a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world through education. This past week’s killings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and five Dallas police officers underscore the necessity of educating a generation of solutionaries who have the capacity and the will to prevent such violence from continuing into the future. 

This morning I did what I want students in classrooms to do. I explored the interconnected systems that perpetuate violent deaths to determine major points of leverage to address them.

On a white board I visually created a mind map linking the many interconnected systems that contributed to the deaths of two black men at the hands of police officers and the subsequent death of five other police officers. Here’s what it looked like:  


In the center are the seven deaths. The surrounding boxes represent systems. The bullet points represent some of the problems within those systems, and the lines show where there are connections between the systems and the deaths.

I then considered what were the major leverage points for preventing violence in the future, (specifically toward black men by some police officers and toward police by some mentally disturbed and enraged black men), and I put a star in those boxes.

While I wanted to put a star in the gun control box (because I believe that meaningful gun control will ultimately prevent the preponderance of violent deaths), I know that this won’t happen without first addressing other systems. (And possibly, if these other systems are addressed effectively, gun control measures might not even be necessary.)

Not surprisingly, given my life’s work, I put a star in the educational system box. I also put stars in the political system box; the justice, legal and prison systems box; and the police training system box.

Why these systems?

First and foremost, the educational system is fundamental to all the others. Without excellent and equitable education that ensures that every child graduates not only literate and numerate, but also with proficient critical-, creative-, strategic-, and systems-thinking skills, and with deeply fostered values of empathy, integrity, responsibility, and kindness, we cannot hope to create wise, compassionate, systemic changes.

Education is the most significant key to ending racism; to transforming our political system into one that is functional, collaborative, and solutions-focused; to developing research skills and teamwork for problem-solving; and ultimately for ensuring that all the other systems on the mind map are equitable, healthy, and sustainable.

The political system offers another leverage point because if we can shift from polarization toward problem-solving; from gerrymandering toward collaboration; from ceding political office to the highest bidder toward real democracy, then we stand a chance of creating better and more effective laws that balance the protection of individual rights with the protection of our citizenry as a whole.

The justice, legal and prison systems rose to the top because the U.S. currently incarcerates 25% of the world’s prison population, even though we have only 5% of the world’s population, and our lower levels of social services and mental healthcare for those living in poverty mean that prisons become the places we often institutionalize the mentally ill.

Further, race-related inequity in prison sentences; prison time for such infractions as failure to pay fines; sentences for minor drug offenses; and a host of other factors that lead to prison time, perpetuate inequity, injustice, rage, fear, and poverty. And with our penal system’s punitive focus rather than a rehabilitation and educational focus, already-disenfranchised inmates face high recidivism rates. And because these ex-inmates are easily able to obtain guns upon release, the fear that leads to police shootings in confrontations is exacerbated.

Changes in police training – an area with which I’m admittedly least knowledgeable – seem to me to also offer significant opportunities for positive shifts, especially under the leadership of primarily black police officers, such as former police chief Donald Grady II

You may or may not find that my leverage points reflect your own thinking. That doesn’t matter.

What matters is that individually and collectively we engage in this systems-thinking, strategy-oriented, and solutions-focused process, and that we teach young people to do this in schools.

What matters is that we resist simplistic either/or responses and avoid pursuing information that only reinforces our already-established beliefs, confirming our existing biases and preventing new and better ideas from taking root.

I offer the following humane education-inspired steps that each of us can take today, tomorrow, and in the weeks, months, and years ahead so that events like those that occurred this past week become rare instead of routine. None represent brand new ideas; none are panaceas, and none offer quick solutions. Yet collectively I believe that they offer us a meaningful path toward building a less violent future.

Commit to listening and learning

  • As a privileged white woman, I offer this heartfelt plea to other white Americans: commit to listening to the voices of black Americans who live with the legacy of centuries of racism, oppression, and injustice. Resist the tendency to assume that because racism isn’t as acute as it was during slavery or Jim Crow, or that because we twice elected Barack Obama to the presidency, that it no longer exists and isn’t a significant factor in the deaths of black men by police. In addition to the interview with Donald Grady II linked above, and the powerful memoir by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, read posts like this one to get you started. 
  • Seek out, listen to, and converse with people who have different perspectives than yours, and don’t assume that they are racist because they are focused on the shootings of the Dallas police rather than on the black victims of police shootings, or that they are un-American if they are focused on gun control and holding police accountable. No name-calling. No vitriol. Listen, learn, and share your perspectives with respect so you can learn from and challenge each other.
  • Seek out media that does not confirm your existing bias. Commit to reading, watching, and listening to differing perspectives.

Commit to finding solutions and taking action

  • Create your own mind maps with groups of people with varying perspectives and ideas. Determine your own points of leverage. Choose one area and create an action plan to take concrete steps to influence change. Follow through with your plan.
  • Engage in democracy. This may sound trite and simplistic given the problems with our democracy, but we have no democracy at all if we don’t engage with it. Contact your elected officials. Express your specific suggestions and ideas for change. Support collaborative- and solutionary-focused candidates with viable policy platforms and realistic plans for reaching out to others for feasible positive changes.
  • Participate in the educational system. You do not have to be a teacher, school administrator, student, or parent to have a voice. Every citizen has a role to play in transforming education so that it is solutionary-focused  and helps students harness their own capacities to address racism and violence in the U.S. (and beyond). Until and unless we prepare students for their critical roles in solving these pervasive and entrenched problems we will be limiting our most powerful capacity to create a more just and healthy future.
  • Put your particular skills and knowledge to use. If you are in law, law enforcement, or corrections, direct your knowledge and expertise toward meaningful solutions rather than side-taking. This may be difficult and feel risky, but now is your time to be a hero. Speak out with your best ideas.

 If you are a teacher, create lesson plans to bring these thorny, complex problems to your students so they can work together to find answers through good research, deep thinking, and committed problem-solving.

If you are a social worker or psychologist, bring your expertise to help the public understand and resist our tendencies to polarize, think simplistically, and confirm our own biases. Bring people of different races and backgrounds together to listen and learn from one another and build bridges of understanding, empathy, and solidarity.

Whatever your work, profession, or field of expertise, commit to using your knowledge in a positive way to help our country come together with real answers, not soundbites.

Last night I drove past a church with a sign out front that read: "Pray for the families of the victims in Dallas." I wanted to simultaneously shout with frustration and cry with sorrow.

That a church of all places would ask us to pray only for the families of the Dallas police and not also for the families of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, broke my heart and, momentarily, dashed my hopes for change.

Especially now, we must enlarge our capacity for empathy.

Yet even if this particular church were to have written on its sign, “Pray for all the families of the victims of this week’s terrible violence,” I would have still felt frustrated.

We must do more than pray. We must act.

(Zoe Weil is the president of the Institute for Humane Education  (IHE), which offers online graduate degrees in comprehensive Humane Education; solutionary-focused programs and workshops; and an award-winning free resource center. Zoe has given six TEDx talks including her acclaimed “The World Becomes What You Teach.”  She is the author of numerous books, including: The World Becomes What We Teach: Educating a Generation of Solutionaries (2016) This perspective was posted most recently at the excellent Common Dreams.)  Photo credit: Stephen Melkisethian/cc/flickr


Parents, Stop the Corporate Takeover of Public Ed … Opt-Out!

EDUCATION POLITICS--Many parents and educators are outraged by the over-testing and misuse of testing that has been embedded in federal policy since the enactment of No Child Left Behind in 2002. No high-performing nation in the world tests every child every year in grades 3-8, as we have since the passage of NCLB.

Young children sit for exams that last up to 15 hours over two weeks. The fate of their teachers rests on their performance. Parents remember taking tests in school that lasted no more than one class period for each subject. Their tests were made by their teachers, not by a multinational corporation. Parents can’t understand how testing became an endurance trial and the goal of education.

Politicians claim that the tests are necessary to inform parents and teachers and the public how children in one state are doing as compared to their peers in other states. But this information is already reported by the federal test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Parents have figured out that the tests don’t serve any purpose other than to rank their child. No one is allowed to see the test questions after the test. No child receives a diagnosis of what they know and don’t know. They receive only a score. In every state, the majority of children have been ranked as “failures” because the testmakers adopted a passing mark that was guaranteed to fail close to 70% of children. Parents have learned that the passing mark is not objective; it is arbitrary. It can be set to pass everyone, pass no one, or pass some percentage of children.

In the past 14 years, parents have seen the destruction of neighborhood schools, based on their test scores. They have seen beloved teachers fired unjustly, because of their students’ test scores. They have seen the loss of time for the arts, physical education, and anything else that is not tested. They have seen a change in their local public schools that they don’t like, as well as a loss of control to federal mandates and state authorities.

In the past, testing companies warned that tests should be used only for the purpose for which they were designed. Now, these corporations willingly sell their tests without warning about misuse. A test of fourth grade reading tests fourth grade reading. It should not be used to rank students, to humiliate students, to fire teachers and principals, or to close schools. But it is.

Communities have been devastated by the closing of their neighborhood schools.

Communities have seen their schools labeled “failing,” based on test scores, and taken over by the state or national corporate charter chains.

Based on test scores, punishments abound: for students, teachers, principals, schools, and communities.

This is madness!

What can we as citizens do to stop the destruction of our children, their schools, and our dedicated educators?

Opt out of the tests.

Use the power of the powerless: Say NO. Do not participate. Withdraw your consent from actions that harm your child. Withdrawal of consent in an unjust system. That’s the force that brought down Communist regimes in Eastern Europe. Vaclav Havel and Lech Walensa said no. They were not alone. Hundreds of thousands stood with them, and the regimes with their weapons and tanks and heavy armor folded. Because the people said no.

Opting out of the tests is the only tool available to parents, other than defeating the elected officials of your state (which is also a good idea, but will take a very long time to bear fruit). One person can’t defeat the governor and the local representatives. But one person can refuse to allow their child to take the toxic tests.

The only tool and the most powerful tool that parents have to stop this madness is to refuse to allow their children to take the tests.

Consider New York. A year ago, Governor Andrew Cuomo was in full attack mode against teachers and public schools, while showering praise on privately managed charters. He vowed to “break the monopoly” known as public education. The New York State Board of Regents was controlled by members who were in complete sympathy with Cuomo’s agenda of Common Core, high-stakes testing, and evaluating teachers by test scores.

But in 2015, about a quarter million children refused the state tests. Albany went into panic mode. Governor Cuomo convened a commission to re-evaluate the Common Core, standards, and testing. Almost overnight, his negative declarations about education changed in tone, and he went silent. The legislature appointed new members, who did not share the test-and-punish mentality. The chair of the New York State Board of Regents decided not to seek re-appointment after a 20-year career on that board. The Regents elected Dr. Betty Rosa, a veteran educator who was actively supported by the leaders of the opt out movement.

Again in 2016, the opt out movement showed its power. While official figures have not yet been released, the numbers evidently match those of 2015. More than half the students in Long Island opted out. Federal and state officials have issued warnings about sanctions, but it is impossible to sanction huge numbers of schools in middle-class and affluent communities. The same officials have no problem closing schools in poor urban districts, treating citizens there as chess pawns, but they dare not offend an organized bloc in politically powerful communities.

The opt out movement has been ridiculed by critics, treated by the media as a front for the teachers’ union, belittled by the former Secretary of Education as “white suburban moms” who were disappointed that their child was not so bright after all, stereotyped as privileged white parents with low-performing children, etc. There are indeed black and Hispanic parents who are part of the opt out movement. Their children and their schools suffer the greatest penalties in the current testing madness. In New York City, where opt out numbers were tiny, parents were warned that their children would not be able to enter the middle school or the high school of their choice if they opted out.

Thus far, the opt out movement has not been discouraged or slowed by these tactics of ridicule and intimidation. The conditions have not changed, so the opt out movement will continue.

The reality is that the opt out movement is indeed a powerful weapon. It is the one weapon that makes governors, legislators, and even members of Congress afraid of public opinion and public action. They are afraid because they don’t know how to stop parents from opting out. They can’t control opt out parents, and they know it. They offer compromises, promises for the future, but all of this is sham. They have not let go of the testing hammer. And they will not until opt out becomes the norm, not the exception.

In some communities in New York, opting out is already the norm. If politicians and bureaucrats continue on their reckless course of valuing test scores more than children, the opt out movement will not be deterred.

Save your child. Save your schools. Stop the corporate takeover of public education. You have the power. Say no. Opt out.

(Diane Ravitch is a historian of education and Research Professor of Education at New York University. Posted earlier at Diane’s blog and at Common Dreams.) 


Hillary Clinton: Too Big to Jail

EDITOR’S PICK--On Monday America celebrated the 240th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, which condemned King George III for “(obstructing) the Administration of Justice.” 

On Tuesday the American left celebrated as the federal government obstructed the administration of justice on behalf of one of its ruling families, the Clintons. 

Last week the attorney general of the United States met with former President Bill Clinton, whose wife and foundation were under FBI investigation. They both insisted nothing untoward happened. Days later The New York Times reported that Hillary Clinton might offer Lynch a position in her administration. 

Over the holiday weekend the Obama administration announced that President Obama would fly to North Carolina with Clinton aboard Air Force One in order to campaign with her. Americans would, in part, foot the bill for the travel. 

On Tuesday FBI Director James Comey called a supposedly impromptu press conference to announce his findings in the investigation of Clinton’s private email server. He began by announcing that nobody knew what he was about to say, which seems implausible given that Obama was preparing to go onstage with Clinton at the time. Is it even within the realm of imagination that Obama would stand next to Clinton hours after Comey announced the intent to prosecute her? Of course not. 

Then, Comey proceeded to lay out all the reasons why Clinton should have been indicted: She set up multiple private email servers, all of which were vulnerable to hack; she did not set them up in order to use one mobile device, as she has so often stated; she transmitted and received highly classified material; her team deleted emails that could have contained relevant and classified information; she knew that classified information was crossing her server. He concluded that Clinton’s team was “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.” 

This was all criminal activity. 

But Clinton is a member of the Royal Family. Thus, said Comey, she was innocent. Comey tried to say he wouldn’t recommend prosecution because she didn’t have the requisite intent, but the law doesn’t require intent; it requires merely “gross negligence” under 18 U.S.C. 793. In fact, even the level of intent required to charge under statutes like 18 U.S.C. 1924 and 18 U.S.C. 798 was clearly met: the intent to place classified information in a nonapproved, non-classified place. 

Nonetheless, Clinton would be allowed to roam free — and become president. “To be clear,” Comey intoned, “this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions. But that is not what we are deciding now.” 

One rule for the peons, one for the potentates. 

This is the Wilsonian legacy, finally achieved after a century of waiting: the Big Man (or Woman), unanswerable to the law, approved by the population without regard to equality under the law. We now elect our dictators. And they are unanswerable to us — except, presumably, once every four years. The commonfolk, on the other hand, find themselves on the wrong side of the government gun every day. 

Tyranny doesn’t start with jackboots. It begins with the notion that a different law applies to the powerful than to the powerless. Under Barack Obama tyranny has become a way of life. Ronald Reagan always said that freedom was one generation away from extinction. It looks like we’ve finally found that generation.


(Ben Shapiro, 31, is a graduate of UCLA and Harvard Law School, a radio host on KTTH 770 Seattle and KRLA 870 Los Angeles, Editor-in-Chief of TruthRevolt.org, [[hotlink]] and Senior Editor-at-Large of Breitbart News. He is the New York Times bestselling author of Bullies: How the Left's Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences Americans.  This piece was posted most recently at Freedoms Back.



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