PUNISHMENT POLITICS-Benny King is a gregarious, good-hearted, God-fearing 53-year-old black man from Alabama who shouldn’t be in prison. 

But he is. 

Mr. King is serving 14-months at the federal correctional institution in Jesup, Georgia, for violating conditions of his supervised release; conditions ordered as part of King’s sentence over eleven years ago, in 2005, for bank fraud. Mr. King’s underlying conduct in that nonviolent, low-level federal criminal case (involving stolen checks) bears no relation to his current incarceration other than the fact that, it too, like the entirety of King’s nonviolent criminal history, was a byproduct of decades-long untreated drug addiction.    

You see, just like hundreds of thousands of poor, disproportionately black and brown Americans sidelined from American life – stuffed out of sight in state and federal penal institutions across the U.S. – King is serving time for one, and only one, unconscionable reason: he suffers from a substance abuse problem. He drinks. 

Mr. King (photo left with picture of sister who died) started drinking when he was just twelve years old and the problem got worse at age fourteen when his mother died; it became still worse, a bare three years later, when his father passed too. Poverty, tragedy, and alcohol abuse are a multi-generational scourge in the King family. 

And for Benny King, as with many alcoholics, when the alcohol flows, other substances quickly join stream -- marijuana, cocaine, whatever’s around. As anyone who has battled drug addiction knows (or equally, has had a friend or loved one fight that hellacious war), once the substance-spigot starts its drip, the situation often spirals, becoming impossible – without effective, often repeated, long-term inpatient drug treatment – to stop.    

That’s why what happened this past November 16 in a courtroom in Montgomery, Alabama – when Senior U.S. District Judge W. Harold Albritton III threw the proverbial book at Mr. King because he relapsed, using alcohol and drugs in the wake of his sister’s death -- should outrage every American who cares about reducing our abominably bloated prison population. 

Using an official transcript for reference, here is an abbreviated version of the proceedings: 

Judge Albritton: Mr. King, you are charged with two violations. It’s alleged that you violated the special condition that required you to participate in a program for substance abuse. You violated that term of your supervision by showing up at Herring House, where you were to be given treatment, and they would not admit you because you had been drinking alcohol. The second violation is a charge that you violated the standard condition that you refrain from excessive use of alcohol or any controlled substance. 

Assistant Federal Defender Donnie W. Bethel: I have a few things I would like to say, Your Honor. Mr. King was arrested on a Thursday. The following Saturday, his sister passed away from cancer. It was an older sister, 12 years his senior. It was a sister who, after his mother died when Mr. King was a boy, had essentially been his surrogate mother. We were back in court on a preliminary hearing that following week, and at that point I asked for him to be released on bond so he could attend his sister’s funeral. That was vehemently opposed by the prosecution, by probation, by the United States Marshal Service, which I am still befuddled by. I know what it’s like to lose a sibling. I was really taken aback that there’s such a lack of basic Christian compassion in the criminal justice system, that we would do everything we could to deny a man simply the opportunity to attend his sister’s funeral. 

I convinced Judge Moore to release him to my custody. Everybody was thrilled that Mr. King was able to attend the funeral. At the funeral, he played the piano and he sang. He’s actually a talented musician. And before I left that day, every member of his family made a point in coming to me and thanking me for taking the time out of my weekend to bring Mr. King up there to attend his sister’s funeral. And I say that only to make this point. This isn’t a violation that involves Mr. King out on the street with a gun; Mr. King selling dope; Mr. King committing some other crime, burglary, theft of property. Mr. King has a drug problem. Mr. King knows he has a drug problem. That’s what this case is about. 

He would like another opportunity to go to the Herring House to get some drug treatment, because that’s what he needs. And I think we’ve become so callous, so used to in the federal criminal justice system to shipping people off to prison, that nobody would bat an eye if, for having a drink and getting high, we’re going to send Benny King off to prison for 14 months. I think we need to step back and say, let’s stop doing the easy thing, and let’s do the right thing. 

Mr. King, tell the judge what your plan is after you’re released. 

Mr. King: My plan is to go to Florida, be with my fiancée, get married. I’ve already started the process of enrolling for a GED to get my diploma. And I’m going to take some college courses at night. I’m going to work doing paving and construction, and also I’m working for a church called New Jerusalem Baptist Church in Ft. Myers, Florida. 

I violated, Your Honor. And I know you can’t overlook that, and I don’t expect you to. But I was – when I left and went home and saw my sister. And she was fading away, and I just – which was no excuse, but I used that as an excuse to drink. And when I drink, I get high. I violated, and I apologize, and I ask the mercy of the Court. But I’m just going to be honest with everybody. I’m tired. Benny King is tired today. I’m tired. I’m not trying to pacify nobody ears. 

Mr. Bethel: He’s 52 years old. Give him another chance. Let him go to the Herring House. He’s clean now. He’s not going to be positive when he shows up down there this time. Let’s get him straightened out. Let’s just do what we were planning to do a month ago. 

Assistant United States Attorney Curtis Ivy, Jr.: So coming forward now with all these great plans and ideas is an easy thing, but it’s not going to work. What’s proper in this case is 14 months’ imprisonment with no supervised release to follow. 

Mr. Bethel: Anybody who thinks that it’s easy for a drug addict not to use drugs has never had someone close to them who’s been a drug addict. I have. It’s not easy. No matter what you do to help them, no matter how much they go through, it is the most difficult thing I’ve ever seen in my life for someone to overcome a drug addiction. And that’s what we’re talking about. Talking about criminalizing this case, drug addiction. 

Judge Albritton: Under the law, being a drug addict is not a defense. In this case, Mr. King has been given more than one opportunity to try to get himself straightened out. I’m sympathetic with you – and I’m sorry about your sister’s death. This time I’m going to sentence you to the maximum under the sentencing guidelines of 14 months, with no supervised release to follow. You’ll be on your own after that. The court system and the probation office and everybody has done all they can to help you break your habit. 

Just a day after Benny King was “maxed out” by Judge Albritton in Alabama, The Washington Post’s Lenny Bernstein wrote about a new “landmark” report authored by the U.S. Surgeon General calling the drug crisis ‘a moral test’ for America.” Distressingly, the report noted that, “[i]n 2015, substance abuse disorders affected 20.8 million people in the U.S., as many as those with diabetes, and 1 ½ times as many as those with cancer. Yet, only one in ten receives treatment.” 

Echoing Benny King’s defense counsel, the Surgeon General said: “We would never tolerate a situation where only one in 10 people with cancer or diabetes gets treatment, and yet we do that with substance abuse disorders. Regardless of persistent beliefs, addiction is a brain disease, not a moral failing.” 

And then, just a month after Benny King began his newly imposed $31,000+ taxpayer-funded prison term – over four hours away by car from his fiancée and family – a rigorous, scholarly study by the Brennan Center for Justice convincingly demonstrated that 39% of prisoners in the U.S. should not be in prison. Specifically, the study found (1) that “39% of the nationwide prison population (576,000 people) is behind bars with little public safety rationale,” and (2) “25% of prisoners (364,000 people), almost all non-violent, lower-level offenders, would be better served by alternatives to incarceration such as treatment, community service, or probation.” 

Benny King is one of these sad, sad, stories in the sea of the overly incarcerated. 

Writing about another equally sad case with many parallels to Benny King, Tamra Ryan, CEO of the Women’s Bean Project, wrote: “Jessie is now back in prison and we are unlikely to hear from her again. While she may not have access to drugs in prison, she will also likely not receive drug treatment. Instead, she will do her time and, at some point, start over again without addressing the underlying issues that led to her relapse. Jessie’s addiction and inability to cope with stressors have been criminalized.” Ryan concluded “the time has come to address the underlying issue of addiction with treatment, not punishment, so that the potential of the individual is not wasted.”   


We don’t need more drug addicted people like Benny King or “Jessie” filling up this nation’s jails and prisons. They’re already overly full. We’ve got to start moving in the other direction. Now.


(Stephen Cooper is a former D.C. public defender who worked as an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015. He has contributed to numerous magazines and newspapers in the United States and overseas. He writes full-time and lives in Woodland Hills, California. Follow him on Twitter @SteveCooperEsq This column was first published by JURIST and is being republished with the author’s permission.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

GELFAND’S WORLD--The newly elected Republican majority in Congress wants to be sure that America is protected against terrorist attacks. They're willing to do what it takes and spend what is required to ensure our security. Otherwise, hundreds or even thousands of us could die. 

I suspect that most Americans are on board with this philosophy. 

What we're talking about is the idea of collective security. It would be unreasonable to expect every coastal community from Maine to Georgia to raise its own navy. We do it as a nation, not as individuals or families. And when Pearl Harbor was attacked, we treated it as a national loss, not the responsibility of a few Hawaiians. Likewise, when major Hurricanes hit the Gulf coast and the Atlantic seaboard, the national government pitched in with the recovery. Taxes coming from California and Nevada went to those recovery efforts. Few Californians complained. 

One reason for creating collective security is that there is an element of randomness in regard to who happens to be in the line of fire. We can't know that it is going to be ourselves or somebody else who gets blown up. And even if it was somebody else who was at the finish line of the Boston Marathon or in the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, we treat such events as attacks upon all of us. 

We used collective efforts to deal with the problem, in this case the matter of catching the killers. When an airport terminal was attacked a few days ago, police agencies all over the country raised the alert level and federal agencies were involved. 

Terrorism is definable not just by its underlying motives, but by the serious level of its effects. Petty theft isn't terrorism. Graffiti isn't terrorism. Terrorism involves direct threats to human life and, sadly enough, the loss of life or permanent injury. 

So we have a pretty good reason to take precautions against terrorism. As a liberal, I share with conservative Americans the desire that we all be protected against terrorism. We have this, at least, to agree on. 

I would like to suggest to both liberals and conservatives alike that there is a parallel when it comes to sickness. For a number of conditions, there is an unhappily random element to the whole thing. Childhood diabetes and childhood cancers are examples, as are broken bones and congenital heart defects. What these have in common is that they come as surprises to otherwise normal families and that they can cost a lot. 

Considering that these conditions are fairly random and fairly rare, it doesn't make sense for people to consider them in advance as a normal element of their own lives. Young couples planning a family can be forgiven if they don't decide up front what they would do if their new baby has a heart defect requiring surgery. Should every young couple be advised to set aside a couple hundred thousand dollars in advance of having children? 

At this level, it makes sense to consider randomly occurring birth defects and childhood cancers as physically and financially analogous to terrorist attacks. They are of course very different things, but each happens without warning and results in costly, painful effects. 

In other words, we should consider at least some physical ailments as falling into the category of collective responsibility, in the same way we think about collective security against foreign invasion, because individuals and individual families shouldn't be expected to either anticipate them or (if they happen) to be able to afford them. 

Beyond such near-catastrophic events are the severe but usually non-fatal chronic conditions such as asthma, scoliosis, and severe allergies, all of which are amenable to medical care following proper diagnosis. 

Let's get to the crux of the argument. If we are to have the equivalent of collective security against serious congenital defects -- in other words, a national healthcare system, or Obama Care, or socialized medicine -- and if we want to extend it to appendicitis, pneumonia, and dangerous allergy attacks, then where exactly do we draw the line? Where do you define a set of symptoms that are guaranteed to be so non-dangerous that we deny access to the national healthcare system for them? 

If this seems like a slippery slope argument, I assure you that this is exactly what it is. Nations that create a universal healthcare system for heart disease and cancer don't draw the line against treating the common cold or the flu. The public can't be expected to know in advance that a nagging cough is nothing to be concerned about. 

Western industrial nations that create some kind of national healthcare system do draw lines. But they do it after the diagnosis, not before. 

When we talk about childhood leukemia, it is easy to make a case, at least at the level of common decency, for some system of universal healthcare. Why then does the conservative political wing insist that healthcare should be provided through the free market? 

I suspect that the clash lies in the imagined picture of real world healthcare. It is possible to think of routine medical checkups, teeth cleaning, and the like, as normal expenses of being alive. We shouldn't expect the government to cover the cost of getting your nails done, buying tires for your car, or painting your house. Why then, they might ask, should we put the tab for your yearly physical on the taxpayer? 

The answer, I think, lies in the realization that the annual physical, the well-baby exam, and the emergency room are all parts of the same continuum in which mostly normal people are screened for dangerous conditions. What happens from there depends on the diagnosis. 

I wonder why conservatives treat our collective fear of cancer as less important than our collective fear of terrorist attacks. Each is susceptible to treatment, but only one is accepted by conservatives as requiring collective spending.


(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at amrep535@sbcglobal.net


EDITOR’S PICK--The fall of the Berlin Wall in October 1989 abruptly ended one historical era and inaugurated another. So, too, did the outcome of last year’s U.S. presidential election. What are we to make of the interval between those two watershed moments? Answering that question is essential to understanding how Donald Trump became president and where his ascendency leaves us.

Hardly had this period commenced before observers fell into the habit of referring to it as the “post-Cold War” era. Now that it’s over, a more descriptive name might be in order.  My suggestion: America’s Age of Great Expectations. 

Forgive and Forget

The end of the Cold War caught the United States completely by surprise.  During the 1980s, even with Mikhail Gorbachev running the Kremlin, few in Washington questioned the prevailing conviction that the Soviet-American rivalry was and would remain a defining feature of international politics more or less in perpetuity. Indeed, endorsing such an assumption was among the prerequisites for gaining entrée to official circles. Virtually no one in the American establishment gave serious thought to the here-today, gone-tomorrow possibility that the Soviet threat, the Soviet empire, and the Soviet Union itself might someday vanish. Washington had plans aplenty for what to do should a Third World War erupt, but none for what to do if the prospect of such a climactic conflict simply disappeared.

Still, without missing a beat, when the Berlin Wall fell and two years later the Soviet Union imploded, leading members of that establishment wasted no time in explaining the implications of developments they had totally failed to anticipate.  With something close to unanimity, politicians and policy-oriented intellectuals interpreted the unification of Berlin and the ensuing collapse of communism as an all-American victory of cosmic proportions.  “We” had won, “they” had lost -- with that outcome vindicating everything the United States represented as the archetype of freedom.

From within the confines of that establishment, one rising young intellectual audaciously suggested that the “end of history” itself might be at hand, with the “sole superpower” left standing now perfectly positioned to determine the future of all humankind.  In Washington, various powers-that-be considered this hypothesis and concluded that it sounded just about right.  The future took on the appearance of a blank slate upon which Destiny itself was inviting Americans to inscribe their intentions.

American elites might, of course, have assigned a far different, less celebratory meaning to the passing of the Cold War. They might have seen the outcome as a moment that called for regret, repentance, and making amends.

After all, the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union, or more broadly between what was then called the Free World and the Communist bloc, had yielded a host of baleful effects.  An arms race between two superpowers had created monstrous nuclear arsenals and, on multiple occasions, brought the planet precariously close to Armageddon.  Two singularly inglorious wars had claimed the lives of many tens of thousands of American soldiers and literally millions of Asians.  One, on the Korean peninsula, had ended in an unsatisfactory draw; the other, in Southeast Asia, in catastrophic defeat.  Proxy fights in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East killed so many more and laid waste to whole countries.  Cold War obsessions led Washington to overthrow democratic governments, connive in assassination, make common cause with corrupt dictators, and turn a blind eye to genocidal violence.  On the home front, hysteria compromised civil liberties and fostered a sprawling, intrusive, and unaccountable national security apparatus.  Meanwhile, the military-industrial complex and its beneficiaries conspired to spend vast sums on weapons purchases that somehow never seemed adequate to the putative dangers at hand.  

Rather than reflecting on such somber and sordid matters, however, the American political establishment together with ambitious members of the country’s intelligentsia found it so much more expedient simply to move on. As they saw it, the annus mirabilis of 1989 wiped away the sins of former years. Eager to make a fresh start, Washington granted itself a plenary indulgence. After all, why contemplate past unpleasantness when a future so stunningly rich in promise now beckoned?

Three Big Ideas and a Dubious Corollary

Soon enough, that promise found concrete expression. In remarkably short order, three themes emerged to define the new American age.  Informing each of them was a sense of exuberant anticipation toward an era of almost unimaginable expectations. The twentieth century was ending on a high note.  For the planet as a whole but especially for the United States, great things lay ahead.

Focused on the world economy, the first of those themes emphasized the transformative potential of turbocharged globalization le d by U.S.-based financial institutions and transnational corporations.  An “open world” would facilitate the movement of goods, capital, ideas, and people and thereby create wealth on an unprecedented scale.  In the process, the rules governing American-style corporate capitalism would come to prevail everywhere on the planet.  Everyone would benefit, but especially Americans who would continue to enjoy more than their fair share of material abundance.

Focused on statecraft, the second theme spelled out the implications of an international order dominated as never before -- not even in the heydays of the Roman and British Empires -- by a single nation. With the passing of the Cold War, the United States now stood apart as both supreme power and irreplaceable global leader, its status guaranteed by its unstoppable military might.

In the editorial offices of the Wall Street Journal,the Washington Post, the New Republic, and theWeekly Standard, such “truths” achieved a self-evident status.  Although more muted in their public pronouncements than Washington’s reigning pundits, officials enjoying access to the Oval Office, the State Department’s 7th floor, and the E-ring of the Pentagon generally agreed.  The assertive exercise of (benign!) global hegemony seemingly held the key to ensuring that Americans would enjoy safety and security, both at home and abroad, now and in perpetuity.

The third theme was all about rethinking the concept of personal freedom as commonly understood and pursued by most Americans.  During the protracted emergency of the Cold War, reaching an accommodation between freedom and the putative imperatives of national security had not come easily.  Cold War-style patriotism seemingly prioritized the interests of the state at the expense of the individual.  Yet even as thrillingly expressed by John F. Kennedy -- “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” -- this was never an easy sell, especially if it meant wading through rice paddies and getting shot at.

Once the Cold War ended, however, the tension between individual freedom and national security momentarily dissipated.  Reigning conceptions of what freedom could or should entail underwent a radical transformation.  Emphasizing the removal of restraints and inhibitions, the shift made itself felt everywhere, from patterns of consumption and modes of cultural expression to sexuality and the definition of the family.  Norms that had prevailed for decades if not generations -- marriage as a union between a man and a woman, gender identity as fixed at birth -- became passé. The concept of a transcendent common good, which during the Cold War had taken a backseat to national security, now took a backseat to maximizing individual choice and autonomy.

Finally, as a complement to these themes, in the realm of governance, the end of the Cold War cemented the status of the president as quasi-deity.  In the Age of Great Expectations, the myth of the president as a deliverer from (or, in the eyes of critics, the ultimate perpetrator of) evil flourished.  In the solar system of American politics, the man in the White House increasingly became the sun around which everything seemed to orbit.  By comparison, nothing else much mattered.

From one administration to the next, of course, presidential efforts to deliver Americans to the Promised Land regularly came up short.  Even so, the political establishment and the establishment media collaborated in sustaining the pretense that out of the next endlessly hyped “race for the White House,” another Roosevelt or Kennedy or Reagan would magically emerge to save the nation.  From one election cycle to the next, these campaigns became longer and more expensive, drearier and yet ever more circus-like.  No matter.  During the Age of Great Expectations, the reflexive tendency to see the president as the ultimate guarantor of American abundance, security, and freedom remained sacrosanct.


Meanwhile, between promise and reality, a yawning gap began to appear. During the concluding decade of the twentieth century and the first decade-and-a-half of the twenty-first, Americans endured a seemingly endless series of crises.  Individually, none of these merit comparison with, say, the Civil War or World War II.  Yet never in U.S. history has a sequence of events occurring in such close proximity subjected American institutions and the American people to greater stress.

During the decade between 1998 and 2008, they came on with startling regularity: one president impeached and his successor chosen by the direct intervention of the Supreme Court; a massive terrorist attack on American soil that killed thousands, traumatized the nation, and left senior officials bereft of their senses; a mindless, needless, and unsuccessful war of choice launched on the basis of false claims and outright lies; a natural disaster (exacerbated by engineering folly) that all but destroyed a major American city, after which government agencies mounted a belated and half-hearted response; and finally, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, bringing ruin to millions of families.

For the sake of completeness, we should append to this roster of seismic occurrences one additional event: Barack Obama’s election as the nation’s first black president.  He arrived at the zenith of American political life as a seemingly messianic figure called upon not only to undo the damage wrought by his predecessor, George W. Bush, but somehow to absolve the nation of its original sins of slavery and racism.

Yet during the Obama presidency race relations, in fact, deteriorated.  Whether prompted by cynical political calculations or a crass desire to boost ratings, race baiters came out of the woodwork -- one of them, of course, infamously birtheredin Trump Tower in mid-Manhattan -- and poured their poisons into the body politic.  Even so, as the end of Obama’s term approached, the cult of thepresidency itself remained remarkably intact.

Individually, the impact of these various crises ranged from disconcerting to debilitating to horrifying.  Yet to treat them separately is to overlook their collective implications, which the election of Donald Trump only now enables us to appreciate.  It was not one president’s dalliance with an intern or “hanging chads”or 9/11 or “Mission Accomplished” or the inundation of the Lower Ninth Ward orthe collapse of Lehman Brothers or the absurd birther movement that undermined the Age of Great Expectations.  It was the way all these events together exposed those expectations as radically suspect.

In effect, the various crises that punctuated the post-Cold War era called into question key themes to which a fevered American triumphalism had given rise.  Globalization, militarized hegemony, and a more expansive definition of freedom, guided by enlightened presidents in tune with the times, should have provided Americans with all the blessings that were rightly theirs as a consequence of having prevailed in the Cold War.  Instead, between 1989 and 2016, things kept happening that weren’t supposed to happen. A future marketed as all but foreordained proved elusive, if not illusory.  As actually experienced, the Age of Great Expectations became an Age of Unwelcome Surprises.

A Candidate for Decline

True, globalization created wealth on a vast scale, just not for ordinary Americans.  The already well-to-do did splendidly, in some cases unbelievably so.  But middle-class incomes stagnated and good jobs became increasingly hard to find or keep.  By the election of 2016, the United States looked increasingly like a society divided between haves and have-nots, the affluent and the left-behind, the 1% and everyone else. Prospective voters were noticing.

Meanwhile, policies inspired by Washington’s soaring hegemonic ambitions produced remarkably few happy outcomes.  With U.S. forces continuously engaged in combat operations, peace all but vanished as a policy objective (or even a word in Washington’s political lexicon). The acknowledged standing of the country’s military as the world’s best-trained, best-equipped, and best-led force coexisted uneasily with the fact that it proved unable to win. Instead, the national security establishment became conditioned to the idea of permanent war, high-ranking officials taking it for granted that ordinary citizens would simply accommodate themselves to this new reality. Yet it soon became apparent that, instead of giving ordinary Americans a sense of security, this new paradigm induced an acute sense of vulnerability, which left many susceptible to demagogic fear mongering.

As for the revised definition of freedom, with autonomy emerging as the nationalsummum bonum, it left some satisfied but others adrift.  During the Age of Great Expectations, distinctions between citizen and consumer blurred.  Shopping became tantamount to a civic obligation, essential to keeping the economy afloat.  Yet if all the hoopla surrounding Black Friday and Cyber Monday represented a celebration of American freedom, its satisfactions were transitory at best, rarely extending beyond the due date printed on a credit card statement.  Meanwhile, as digital connections displaced personal ones, relationships, like jobs, became more contingent and temporary.  Loneliness emerged as an abiding affliction.  Meanwhile, for all the talk of empowering the marginalized -- people of color, women, gays -- elites reaped the lion’s share of the benefits while ordinary people were left to make do.  The atmosphere was rife with hypocrisy and even a whiff of nihilism.

To these various contradictions, the establishment itself remained stubbornly oblivious, with the 2016 presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton offering a case in point.  As her long record in public life made abundantly clear, Clinton embodied the establishment in the Age of Great Expectations.  She believed in globalization, in the indispensability of American leadership backed by military power, and in the post-Cold War cultural project.  And she certainly believed in the presidency as the mechanism to translate aspirations into outcomes.

Such commonplace convictions of the era, along with her vanguard role in pressing for the empowerment of women, imparted to her run an air of inevitability.  That she deserved to win appeared self-evident. It was, after all, her turn.  Largely overlooked were signs that the abiding themes of the Age of Great Expectations no longer commanded automatic allegiance.

Gasping for Air

Senator Bernie Sanders offered one of those signs.  That a past-his-prime, self-professed socialist from Vermont with a negligible record of legislative achievement and tenuous links to the Democratic Party might mount a serious challenge to Clinton seemed, on the face of it, absurd.  Yet by zeroing in on unfairness and inequality as inevitable byproducts of globalization, Sanders struck a chord.

Knocked briefly off balance, Clinton responded by modifying certain of her longstanding positions. By backing away from free trade, the ne plus ultra of globalization, she managed, though not without difficulty, to defeat the Sanders insurgency.  Even so, he, in effect, served as the canary in the establishment coal mine, signaling that the Age of Great Expectations might be running out of oxygen.

A parallel and far stranger insurgency was simultaneously wreaking havoc in the Republican Party.  That a narcissistic political neophyte stood the slightest chance of capturing the GOP seemed even more improbable than Sanders taking a nomination that appeared Clinton’s by right.

Coarse, vulgar, unprincipled, uninformed, erratic, and with little regard for truth, Trump was sui generis among presidential candidates.  Yet he possessed a singular gift: a knack for riling up those who nurse gripes and are keen to pin the blame on someone or something.  In post-Cold War America, among the millions that Hillary Clinton was famously dismissing as “deplorables,” gripes had been ripening like cheese in a hothouse.

Through whatever combination of intuition and malice aforethought, Trump demonstrated a genius for motivating those deplorables.  He pushed their buttons.  They responded by turning out in droves to attend his rallies. There they listened to a message that they found compelling.

In Trump’s pledge to “make America great again” his followers heard a promise to restore everything they believed had been taken from them in the Age of Great Expectations.  Globalization was neither beneficial nor inevitable, the candidate insisted, and vowed, once elected, to curb its effects along with the excesses of corporate capitalism, thereby bringing back millions of lost jobs from overseas.  He would, he swore, fund a massive infrastructure program, cut taxes, keep a lid on the national debt, and generally champion the cause of working stiffs.  The many complications and contradictions inherent in these various prescriptions would, he assured his fans, give way to his business savvy. 

In considering America’s role in the post-Cold War world, Trump exhibited a similar impatience with the status quo.  Rather than allowing armed conflicts to drag on forever, he promised to win them (putting to work his mastery of military affairs) or, if not, to quit and get out, pausing just long enough to claim as a sort of consolation prize whatever spoils might be lying loose on the battlefield.  At the very least, he would prevent so-called allies from treating the United States like some patsy. Henceforth, nations benefitting from American protection were going to foot their share of the bill.  What all of this added up to may not have been clear, but it did suggest a sharp departure from the usual post-1989 formula for exercising global leadership.

No less important than Trump’s semi-coherent critique of globalization and American globalism, however, was his success in channeling the discontent of all those who nursed an inchoate sense that post-Cold War freedoms might be working for some, but not for them.

Not that Trump had anything to say about whether freedom confers obligations, or whether conspicuous consumption might not actually hold the key to human happiness, or any of the various controversies related to gender, sexuality, and family.  He was indifferent to all such matters.  He was, however, distinctly able to offer his followers a grimly persuasive explanation for how America had gone off course and how the blessings of liberties to which they were entitled had been stolen.  He did that by fingering as scapegoats Muslims, Mexicans, and others "not-like-me."

Trump’s political strategy reduced to this: as president, he would overturn the conventions that had governed right thinking since the end of the Cold War.  To the amazement of an establishment grown smug and lazy, his approach worked.  Even while disregarding all received wisdom when it came to organizing and conducting a presidential campaign in the Age of Great Expectations, Trump won.  He did so by enchanting the disenchanted, all those who had lost faith in the promises that had sprung from the bosom of the elites that the end of the Cold War had taken by surprise.

Adrift Without a Compass

Within hours of Trump’s election, among progressives, expressing fear and trepidation at the prospect of what he might actually do on assuming office becamede rigueur.  Yet those who had actually voted for Trump were also left wondering what to expect.  Both camps assign him the status of a transformative historical figure.  However, premonitions of incipient fascism and hopes that he will engineer a new American Golden Age are likely to prove similarly misplaced.  To focus on the man himself rather than on the circumstances that produced him is to miss the significance of what has occurred.

Note, for example, that his mandate is almost entirely negative.  It centers on rejection: of globalization, of counterproductive military meddling, and of the post-Cold War cultural project.  Yet neither Trump nor any of his surrogates has offered a coherent alternative to the triad of themes providing the through line for the last quarter-century of American history.  Apart a lingering conviction that forceful -- in The Donald’s case, blustering -- presidential leadership can somehow turn things around, “Trumpism” is a dog’s breakfast.

In all likelihood, his presidency will prove less transformative than transitional. As a result, concerns about what he may do, however worrisome, matter less than the larger question of where we go from here.  The principles that enjoyed favor following the Cold War have been found wanting. What should replace them?

Efforts to identify those principles should begin with an honest accounting of the age we are now leaving behind, the history that happened after “the end of history.”  That accounting should, in turn, allow room for regret, repentance, and making amends -- the very critical appraisal that ought to have occurred at the end of the Cold War but was preempted when American elites succumbed to their bout of victory disease.

Don’t expect Donald Trump to undertake any such appraisal.  Nor will the establishment that candidate Trump so roundly denounced, but which President-elect Trump, at least in his senior national security appointments, now shows sign of accommodating.  Those expecting Trump’s election to inject courage into members of the political class or imagination into inside-the-Beltway “thought leaders” are in for a disappointment. So the principles we need -- an approach to political economy providing sustainable and equitable prosperity; a foreign policy that discards militarism in favor of prudence and pragmatism; and an enriched, inclusive concept of freedom -- will have to come from somewhere else.

“Where there is no vision,” the Book of Proverbs tells us, “the people perish.”  In the present day, there is no vision to which Americans collectively adhere.  For proof, we need look no further than the election of Donald Trump.

The Age of Great Expectations has ended, leaving behind an ominous void.  Yet Trump’s own inability to explain what should fill that great void provides neither excuse for inaction nor cause for despair.  Instead, Trump himself makes manifest the need to reflect on the nation’s recent past and to think deeply about its future.

A decade before the Cold War ended, writing in democracy, a short-lived journal devoted to “political renewal and radical change,” the historian and social critic Christopher Lasch sketched out a set of principles that might lead us out of our current crisis. Lasch called for a politics based on “the nurture of the soil against the exploitation of resources, the family against the factory, the romantic vision of the individual against the technological vision, [and] localism over democratic centralism.” Nearly a half-century later, as a place to begin, his prescription remains apt.

(Andrew J. Bacevich is professor emeritus of history and international relations at Boston University. His most recent book is America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History. This perspective was posted first at Tom Dispatch.


NO CONFLICT HERE, RIGHT--As many suspected, President-elect Donald Trump’s web of business conflicts is much more complicated than he has let on.

An analysis by the Wall Street Journal published Thursday found that the incoming president owes at least $1.85 billion in debt to as many as 150 Wall Street firms and other financial institutions.

According to the examination of legal and property documents, “Hundreds of millions of dollars of debt attached to Mr. Trump’s properties, some of them backed by Mr. Trump’s personal guarantee, were packaged into securities and sold to investors over the past five years,” thus “broadening the tangle of interests that pose potential conflicts for the incoming president’s administration.”

In May, Trump filed documents with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that disclosed $315 million owed to 10 companies—but that only included debts for companies that Trump completely controls, “excluding more than $1.5 billion lent to partnerships that are 30 percent owned by him,” WSJ reported.

“As a result,” wrote WSJ reporters Jean Eaglesham and Lisa Schwartz, “a broader array of financial institutions now are in a potentially powerful position over the incoming president.”

Put more directly, as Think Progress’s Judd Legum did: “As president, Trump will be responsible for regulating entities that he also owes money to.”

In one troubling example, the investigation found that Wells Fargo, currently under investigation for a years-long banking fraud scandal, “runs at least five mutual funds that own portions of Trump businesses’ securitized debt;” is “a trustee or administrator for pools of securitized loans that include $282 million of loans to Mr. Trump;” and “acts as a special servicer for $950 million of loans to a property that one of Mr. Trump’s companies partly owns.”

“Once he takes office,” Eaglesham and Schwartz observed, “Mr. Trump will appoint the heads of many of the regulators that police the bank.”

The spread of Trump’s debt can in large part be attributed to the process known as “securitization,” when debt is repackaged into bonds and sold off. More than $1 billion of debt connected to the president-elect has been handled in this way.

While concerns over Trump’s conflicts of interest continue to mount, the president-elect has thus far failed to address the issue. Despite warnings from ethics attorneys, he has refused to divest his business holdings, though there were reports that he would hand the reins of the real estate empire over to his sons and advisors, Donald Jr. and Eric. At the same time, a December press conference was postponed and is now scheduled for Jan. 11—the same day as some of his more controversial appointees’ confirmation hearings

(Lauren McCauley writes for Common Dreams where this piece was first posted.)


THE CONSIDERABLE COST OF COLLEGE-The American student-debt system is so big and complex that there’s almost no aspect of it that the experts can agree on. Some commentators see a bubble overdue to burst: a trillion and a half (or so) dollars that could vanish at any moment; a housing crisis 2.0 ready to happen. Others see a well-oiled machine that is successfully expanding college access and increasing affordability --  a machine that has the most stable economic foundation possible. 

Even when there are numbers, there is disagreement over which ones to use and what they mean. There is evidence to support both of the above positions, and we might not understand the true character of student debt for decades. After all, these are long loans. 

Still, we can work with the best evidence we have. Forty-two percent of all American adults under 30 have student debt, according to a study from Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, and 79 percent agree that debt is a problem, whether they have it or not. 

If everyone agrees student loans need to change, then what’s the problem? Here’s an overview. 


One traditional progressive solution when a private industry is failing to serve the public good is nationalization, or at least a government-run competitor. In the health-care debate, for example, the left wing of the Democratic Party pushed for Medicare for all, or at least a public option. (They got neither.) In student lending, however, the government already took over. They just didn’t tell anyone.

As a cost-saving element of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, the Obama administration ended the federal practice of securing private student loans, which effectively nationalized over 80 percent of the market. The Obama administration didn’t publicize the change --  probably because being associated with the student-loan checks Americans have to send every month isn’t a smart political move. 

Nationalization has not, however, made much of a difference when it comes to how the student-lending system works. Now, instead of private companies profiting off the loans, the federal government cashes the checks. As long as there is debt, borrowers will have to pay. The next target for reformers is loan fees themselves, and the Democratic Party has been promoting the idea of “debt-free college” -- though if passed into law the promise would likely include a lot of asterisks. 


Before 2013, interest rates on federal loans were caught in limbo. While rates were officially set at 6.8 percent, Congress was using extraordinary action to hold them at 3.4 percent. Borrowers couldn’t be certain what their interest rate was going to be the next year, never mind 15 years down the line. The Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act  sought to change that. 

On this issue, Democrats and Republicans cooperated in a way we’re not used to seeing these days: Both sides took positions and they compromised in the middle. Republicans got higher interest rates and pegged them to Treasury rates, while the Obama administration got a modest pay-as-you-earn option. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the two more or less cancel each other out. For borrowers, the compromise was a wash. And if Treasury rates increase (as they inevitably will), then borrowers could be looking at interest rates of 8.25 to 10.5 percent, the maximum under the law. 


Many commentators — notably self-styled maverick billionaire Mark Cuban — have been warning about the imminent collapse of the student-debt system. On first look, this alarmism seems prescient: Like the housing market, college costs have been rising out of control. Post-nationalization, student loans comprise a rapidly escalating percentage of the federal government’s asset profile — between one-quarter and nearly half, according to different estimates. 

Cuban and those like him worry that the government, with its easy loans, has allowed college costs to escalate beyond their value. As with the housing market, they think much of the trillion-plus dollars in outstanding debt simply will never be recouped. The class of 2014 averaged $28,950 in debt (according to the Institute for College Access & Success’ Project on Student Debt); [[[   http://ticas.org/posd/home ]]] they might never make enough to pay it all back. 

It’s a compelling story, but the government probably is too big to fail as a lender. It passes laws, self-regulates, and literally prints money. The Treasury doesn’t have to worry about holding money in the form of debt owed by 20-somethings; it can stretch out repayment for decades. Those 20-somethings will be 40-somethings and 50-somethings, and eventually they’ll get Social Security payments. The feds can wait. 


The biggest difference between college degrees and houses --  since the costs are now basically comparable --  is that you can walk away from a house. If you take out a mortgage and the value of your property tanks and you end up owing more than it’s worth, you can leave, and the bank takes the hit. With education, there’s no way to give your purchase back to the bank because you agreed to pay more than it’s worth. 

When the federal government made a real push to subsidize higher education in the 1960s, it occurred to policymakers that some people might take out all the loans they could carry, go bankrupt after graduation, and run away with a free degree. To prevent the possibility (there’s no evidence it ever happened at any scale), they made student debt extremely difficult to escape. You can’t discharge it in bankruptcy, and the feds have extraordinary collection access. As a result, the Treasury recovers an average of nearly 100 percent of student-loan principal, even from borrowers who default. With the government collecting, defaults are not much of a threat. 


Although there’s not much difference between Democrats and Republicans on the subject of student loans, there is what we could call an “extra-parliamentary opposition.” When Occupy Wall Street took over a square in downtown Manhattan, it had a whole litany of complaints and it was hard to find two occupiers who agreed. But when economist Mike Konczal reviewed posts to a Tumblr of OWS supporters’ stories, he found that student debt was the overwhelming central issue among the protesters. 

The occupation is long finished, but it has inspired further anti-debt activism: As late as 2014, the group Strike Debt was using donations to buy up debt (though not mostly student-loan debt) at a discount, after which they forgave it. A few borrowers have even refused to repay their student loans, urging others to join them. The future of student debt could depend on how the government responds to these outside protests. We’ve seen the demand for debt-free college go from Occupy to Bernie Sanders to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Meanwhile, the numbers keep piling up.


(Malcom Harris writes for Pacific Standard where a version of this story first appeared in the January/February 2017 issue.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


THE LINGERING CONSEQUENCES--There are many ways to measure the cost of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War: In bombs (7 million tons), in dollars ($760 billion in today's dollars) and in bodies (58,220).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Two Organizations to Get You Started:

- Pediatric Cance

- Anti-Bullying 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

#2016, you’re the worst.

I hate you #2016

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

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

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

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

It took the greatest – Muhammad Ali 

It took El Commandante, Fidel Castro. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dave Chappelle came back to television.

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

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

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

Do you think we have time?

Do you think we have time?

These are the days of the open hand

They will not be the last

Look around now

These are the days of the beggars and the choosers

This is the year of the hungry man

Whose place is in the past

Hand in hand with ignorance

And legitimate excuses 

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


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

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

Be part of the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count 

Join the Fight for $15 LA



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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Boston Globe's Cristela Guerra wrote Wednesday:

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

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

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

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

ACTION INFO: womensmarch.com 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at amrep535@sbcglobal.net


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

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

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

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

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

So, we have two sides more polarized than ever. 

What happens now? 

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the Disconnect 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Takeaway 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of course I still believe in the tooth fairy.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

The Supreme Court Considers the Case of John Steinbeck

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This deserves to be repeated in simpler form: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



(Denyse Selesnick is a CityWatch columnist. She is a former publisher/journalist/international event organizer. Denyse can be reached at: Denyse@CityWatchLA.com) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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

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

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

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

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

The Rise of the Politics of Revenge.

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

What Happens when the Criminal is the Government? 

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

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

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

Businesses Employ the Governments. 

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

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

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


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



GELFAND’S WORLD--We've had television that celebrates old movies -- Turner Movie Classics comes to mind. We've had TV stations run marathons of a single series, the most notable of these being I Love Lucy. Recently, CBS has come out with a separate channel that does its own twist on television history. Decades is broadcast locally on subchannel 2.2. It runs what it calls binges on the weekends. That's where you can see two straight days of a single series such as The Fugitive or The Twilight Zone

What's the point of visiting old TV shows when there is so much that is new? I can think of one serious reason, one semi-serious reason, and one excuse. In order, they are the history of culture and technology, entertainment, and reminiscence. 

In recognizing and reviewing television as a medium worth taking seriously as part of our cultural history, it is worth thinking briefly about television's early days and its immediate precursor. 

Television began as a commercial entertainment medium that wasn't taken particularly seriously as art or even as entertainment. In this, it has a direct parallel in film. Consider: At this stage of our history, we can recognize that Casablanca, Metropolis, and City Lights are major works of art. But at the beginning of the movie industry, films were little more than brief documents of real life, spliced together roughly with little instinct for story or plot. Television's early days were also pretty rough hewn. It took a while for filmmakers to develop both technology and craft, and out of that foundation they learned how to tell stories made of flickering pictures. Television producers had grown up on the movies so they knew story telling, but they didn't have the pictorial quality of 35 mm film to work with. 

There is also the point that story telling has to be adapted to the medium. Reading fairy tales from a book is a lot different than watching a Disney animated cartoon of ostensibly the same story. What is important to realize is that the most memorable films, the ones we go back to see a second time, would not have happened without the existence of a commercial film industry which was churning out tens of thousands of films. Out of that mass of celluloid, there were thousands of mediocre efforts and a small percent that were masterpieces. There were also a lot of movies that don't rival Sophocles for depth and wisdom, but carry a solid entertainment punch. Not everything has to be high art, and most things cannot be great art, but decently made entertainment has a value of its own. 

So too with television. Early television was limited by a narrow picture that, unlike film, was of limited resolution. Like early film, it lacked color. Given the technical hurdles, we nevertheless got quite a lot of programs that are remembered for their comedic or entertainment value. 

I've been taking a look at some of the 1960s era programs on Decades. For some of these programs, its been to revisit shows that I saw the first time around. That's the reminiscense part. For the sake of the three reasons listed above, I'd like to say a little about three shows -- Rowan & Martin's Laugh In, the Phil Silvers Show, and Route 66. 

First to discuss -- and dispense with -- Phil Silvers and Route 66. I mention them because I saw them when they originally came out. One of them, the Phil Silvers Show, we watched as a family. It was the story of a conniving Sergeant in the U.S. Army who had a penchant for gambling and manipulating his commanding officer. I remember it as a high point of the week. At the time, the comedy clicked for me. I also saw a lot of Route 66, the story of a couple of otherwise normal seeming guys who drove from town to town in a fast corvette and found adventure wherever they went. 

When I look at them now, they just don't seem to have the same oomph that they once had. I think that the reason is a combination of the technical and the cultural. The 1960 era black and white television image didn't have the capability of showing much detail. The rule of thumb for that technology was to put your subject close to the middle of the screen, big and contrasty. Directors didn't have the luxury of providing the viewers clues that were small or off to the side of the screen. In this sense, early television was very unfilm-like. The result is that these older shows delivered their plot twists with a lot of dialog because the ability to be visually subtle wasn't there. Because information was conveyed as much by words as by the picture, things got slowed down. Compared to the modern romantic adventure shows, Route 66 comes across as stodgy. 

The Phil Silvers Show, remembered by many as Sergeant Bilko, is a little quicker, but its narrow screen format seems to render it a little claustrophobic by high definition television standards. To modern viewers, the Phil Silvers show looks like stage comedy done in front of the television camera. 

What both Route 66 and the Phil Silvers Show have in common, compared to modern shows, is that the old television system was of inherently low definition. It was a fuzzy picture at best. For this reason, it could not show human expression as well as film. Let's try to explain this a little more precisely. Even in old films, it was possible to convey emotions such as suspicion or guilt with a glance or a subtle change of expression -- possibly a nod or a shifting of the eyes. Even the earliest 35 mm film was fully capable of showing these things. Early television wasn't. So instead of an actor warning his buddy that the robbers are in the next room by using a shift of the head, the old television action hero would have to convey the same idea with a shout and a lot of words: "Look out! They're behind the door!" 

Modern viewers have become accustomed to receiving a lot of information visually. That's because the modern television screen has a wider format and lots higher resolution. In full color 1080i screen format, we have a picture that is beginning to rival that of celluloid. When television has moved on to the 4K format (even higher resolution), there won't be much difference between the movie experience and the television experience. 

We've also become used to getting bits and pieces of the plot fed to us in quick cuts. Even if television stays within a single scene on a single set, there is camera movement and a lot of cutting back and forth between different camera angles. Often, one character's lines or actions are cut away from, leaving them to the imagination of the viewer. Modern viewers have been trained to put pieces together in their own heads, mentally inserting what has been left out. 

Now for Laugh In. The show opened in 1968, a year in which street demonstrations against the Viet Nam War were on people's minds, even as the psychedelic scene brought in new art and music. Laugh In nibbles around the edges of the moment without really trying to confront political reality. That seems to have been the artistic price that had to be paid for being on network television at the time. 

What Laugh In contributes to television culture is the jump cut. That's where the picture jumps from one scene to another without the blackout or slow dissolve that traditionally represents a movement in place or time. You might see Rowan talking to Martin and then instantaneously, the picture is replaced with another actor saying one word sarcastically, followed just as instantaneously by a jump back to Rowan and Martin. Jump cuts were nothing new to movie audiences, at least those who had seen Godard's Breathless in 1960. But Laugh In seems to be doing it just to have fun with itself. 

In watching these old Laugh In reruns, you begin to figure out that the writers and video editors were making fun of all the old conventions of film and television. They also took pot shots at network censorship ("We can't say that on television"). In this sense, Laugh In is a part of our cultural history, and worth viewing in that sense. 

There is one thing a little strange about Laugh In as viewed from our modern perspective. Laugh In put together a remarkable group of comedic actors, both male and female -- Henry Gibson and Arte Johnson on the one hand, and Goldie Hawn, Lily Tomlin, Ruth Buzzi, Judy Carne, and Jo Anne Worley on the other. In Laugh In, the women were generally the funnier and had to carry a lot of the comedic load, but they are also the ones who appeared in skimpy bikinis, sometimes with words written on their skin. Modern gender studies students would probably classify this as objectifying the women. 

For example, Laugh In had a news segment (Rowan and Martin did the news portion) that was preceded by half a dozen of the women in ultra-short dresses or cheerleader costumes, singing and dancing the introduction. 

There is another difference between Laugh In and modern TV variety shows. In the first season's shows that we've reviewed so far, the cast is almost entirely white. There are one or two exceptions, but nothing equivalent to a leading role. 

One thing rather jumped out at me while viewing these old Laugh In reruns. From the news parody to the trashing of the accepted cliches of television drama, Laugh In is the precursor to Saturday Night Live. It's hard to watch the old reruns and not get that feeling in retrospect. It turns out that this wasn't either accident or piracy. Lorne Michaels, the godfather of Saturday Night Live, was a writer on Laugh In. Michaels has taken the original concepts further, but then he has had forty years of Saturday Night Live to do so. But the sarcastic approach to life and news started back in "beautiful downtown Burbank," as the Laugh In cast used to say. The writers also popularized "sock it to me" as a comedic expression, along with "you bet your bippy" and "verrry interesting." 

At some point, historians will consider television to be a serious art form, just as they already consider it to be some of the best available data on cultural progression, fashions, and hard news. I can imagine future students of the 20th century checking out old collections of ER.


(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at amrep535@sbcglobal.net) 


FREE RANGE RACISM-It could have happened anywhere. It’s been a white guy in a Tesla on the I-10. It’s been another white guy in his construction truck. This time it was shortly after the election, and we were driving back from a few days of camping in Joshua Tree, about halfway to Yucca Valley. The pickup truck pulled up alongside us, and the white guy inside, maybe in his 30s, waved his fist at us. Menacing. Intimidating. Haughty. Gloating. Then he roared on, leaving us in the wake of his muffler. 

I suppose an old Obama sticker on our bumper, another for Kamala and one for Hillary marks us. We’ve become targets for behavior certain white people now say they feel comfortable expressing. Anger. Rage. No more “political correctness.” They report feeling more comfortable in their white skin. 

Really? White people, mostly men, run the country. They dominate our institutions. Fortune 500 company boards are overwhelmingly white and male (about 86 percent). White families hold more wealth than non-white families. White workers have jobs that pay more. A Gallup study released in August found that Trump supporters, on average, earn slightly more than other Americans. As the New York Times reported, 45 percent of Trump’s voters were college graduates. And 37 percent have done post-graduate work. That doesn’t seem like exclusion and powerlessness to me. 

Furthermore, white people as a group do not walk around intimidated. We don’t get hazed just because we pulled up to a red light at an intersection. We don’t worry about when “it” will happen next. We don’t need to have “the conversation” with our kids. We don’t carry anxiety about a police traffic stop because we “fit the profile” of someone the police were looking for. 

Too many white people feel disempowered because a black man has sat in the Oval Office for the past eight years -- and, for the first time in the history of this country, a white woman could have followed him. 

Many white voters deny any taint of racism, yet they have stirred a deep vein of it. While the Tea Party pushed the House to vote five dozen times to repeal all or part of Obamacare, Republicans passed voter restriction laws that disproportionately affect people of color. This polarizing year has unleashed fringe white-identity groups that have stepped into the headlines, with hundreds of racist incidents having been reported across the country since November 8.  Taken together, these actions point to a deeper significance – a campaign of erasure. 

The poet Claudia Rankine uses the phrase in her award-winning book, Citizen, An American Lyric. She means the effort – conscious or not – to remove all traces of something or someone. Obliteration. She uses it to indicate how black people in society go unseen, their lives and experiences unacknowledged, and their triumphs unnoted. In the moment and in history, erasure makes people invisible. 

A self-value and cultural heritage based on living in opposition to those who are different – people of color, the immigrant, the refugee, the poor, the unhealthy, the broken, people who aren’t like me – is a sad version of identity. Too many white people know what they are not, but do not have a firm grasp of what they are. That so much of this shallow identity remains male-dominated only makes it feel more tenuous. 

In a workshop once, I heard the poet Robert Bly comment that “Americans elect one president after another in order to forget.” We forgot who began union busting and welfare “reform,” when good-paying jobs started moving away. We forgot who started wars we still fight and pay for. We forgot who allowed the economy to almost self-destruct. Now as a nation we reach beyond forgetting to erasure. And it comes with intimidation, emphasized with hand gestures and road rage.


(Rev. Jim Conn is the founding minister of the Church in Ocean Park and served on the Santa Monica City Council and as that city's mayor. He helped found Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, Los Angeles, and was a founder of Santa Monica's renter's rights campaign. This piece first appeared in Capital & Main.  Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

GELFAND’S WORLD--What will international relations be like with Donald Trump, the self-proclaimed master negotiator? Will the United States really get wonderfully advantageous new trade agreements? Will our currently negative trade balance reverse itself? 

Let's start with this simple fact. Every other major country has watched and listened to Trump during his presidential run. They all have a file on him. They have catalogued his personal and business history, his level of understanding of technical matters, and his personal relationships. They have psychological profiles and estimates of his trustworthiness. By now, they have studied his negotiating style and importantly, how deals he made turned out for each side. 

Out of all of these data points, one thing stands out. Trump has a tendency to renege on his obligations, often at the last moment. His record of unpaid bills became a part of the campaign narrative. Unless the rest of the world's trade ministers are total suckers, they will have noticed. 

If you were a trade negotiator in Mexico, China, or Korea, what would you be thinking right now? If I were in that position, my first thought would be, "What used to be a trade negotiation will now be a battle to the death. Trump will be looking for scalps to hang on his belt. I don't want to be the one to be his first victim." 

At a more rational level, what foreign trade negotiator would enter into an agreement if there is no reason to believe that the other side (that's us) will keep its word? After all, Trump breaks his word. That's his style. He bragged about it during the campaign. 

What is the rational strategy to adopt when dealing with the untrustworthy? 

About three decades ago, Herb Cohen authored You can negotiate anything. It was a precursor to scads of self-help books and pop-management books. In the book, he described a negotiating method used by the Soviet Union in purchasing property in this country. The Russians created lots of difficulties early on and dragged things out in order to exhaust the seller. Then, as completion of the deal seemed to approach, the Russians demanded a whole new set of substantial concessions. Cohen dubbed this the Soviet style of negotiation, and recommended avoiding involvement with those who practice it. 

Trump has his own style, but it isn't any better. He likes to make wild claims, but somehow fails to pay what he owes when the bill comes due. True, this was in the private sector, but it's an indication of personal character. This isn't appropriate to international trade deals which depend on both parties acting in good faith. 

Negotiating a trade deal is typically a laborious process, often taking years. The agreements can encompass thousands of products, processes, and legalistic details. There is no point in getting into such a negotiation unless you believe that each day's work leads to something productive. The likelihood that you will be faced with a whole new round of hurdles right at the end of the negotiation would be a spoiler. Countries which can afford to negotiate from a position of strength (those are the ones we want a better deal from) will avoid such scenarios. 

Therefore, one rational strategy for dealing with the Trump administration is to avoid any new negotiations. There is no point in upending current relationships, and Trump will be gone in less than a decade, maybe much less. The prediction therefore is that foreign countries, faced with offers to negotiate, will find excuses to stall. It will be "thanks, but no thanks. I'm washing my hair this year." 

The problem, you see, will arise when Trump explains confidentially, "Don't take what I said during the campaign seriously. I really mean this, and I will negotiate in good faith." Reporters refer to this maneuver as the pivot, but it will be unconvincing to any nation which is keeping a file on Trump. 

And they are all keeping a file on Trump. 

The Bubble 

American presidents gradually lose contact with the American people because they are of necessity kept in a bubble. Access is limited not only to assure personal safety but also for political reasons. Trump seems to have made his own bubble during the campaign. Stories he didn't like were tweeted out of existence. 

We might have expected him to tone down the reactivity after the election -- you know, engage in the pivot we were told to expect. One recent Trump action suggests otherwise. When confronted with the fact that he finished second in the popular vote by more than two million votes, he went right back into denial, claiming a grand and glorious win. If it hadn't been for illegal votes, he argued, he would have won the popular vote easily. This is of concern because it shows that Trump has not abandoned his propensity to lie when it provides him some political advantage. 

But presidents have the ability to appoint cabinet officers and advisers who can keep them aware of reality. It's not obvious that Trump is doing any such thing. The cabinet picks and security adviser he has chosen look to be precisely the opposite. There does not appear to be anyone in his close circle to tell him that global warming is a fact, that Putin is aggressive, or that vaccination saves lives. Needless to say, there doesn't appear to be anyone to tell him that cutting taxes on the ultra-wealthy is a bad plan, and not the recipe for economic expansion.


(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for City Watch. He can be reached at amrep535@sbcglobal.net


ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE-Over the past eight months, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North Dakota have been joined by more than 200 allied tribes and tens of thousands of non-Native activists for a nonviolent resistance campaign against Energy Transfer Partners’ (ETP) $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The pipeline, which has been projected to transport at least 470,000 barrels of oil per day over 1,100 miles from the Bakken oil field to an existing hub in Illinois for delivery to refineries on the Gulf Coast, was rerouted in 2014 from north of Bismarck to the south, taking it through unceded treaty lands of the Sioux. Pipeline construction over this altered route desecrated sacred ancestral sites, and, until last Sunday, was slated to cross the Missouri River at the Lake Oahe reservoir, which would have threatened the safety of the drinking water of the Standing Rock Sioux and millions of people downstream. 

Since April 1, individuals, groups and organizations from around the world have come together at Standing Rock to proclaim Mni Wiconi, Lakota for “water is life.” They have put their bodies and freedom on the line in support of the water protectors of the #NoDAPL effort. Veterans For Peace (VFP), on whose board of directors I currently serve, is one of these organizations. We released a solidarity statement in September. A number of our members have been actively involved in the campaign. In mid-October, I had the great privilege and honor of joining nearly a dozen of my VFP colleagues at the main resistance camp, Oceti Sakowin (the proper name for the Sioux, meaning Seven Council Fires). 

During my visit, I was welcomed with respect, kindness and love, and treated as a family member – a relative, a profound experience of Mitakuye Oyasin, a Lakota term/prayer meaning “all my relations” or “we are all related.” 

As of last week, DAPL construction was all but completed. It seemed nothing could stop the Black Snake, as the Native people call it (a moniker that is based on an old Lakota prophecy which speaks of a “black snake” bringing destruction and devastation.) Then, last Sunday, following various legal decisions over many months that allowed the pipeline construction to continue, the easement to cross Lake Oahe was abruptly denied by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The announcement came down just hours before an evacuation order for the Oceti Sakowin Camp, which was issued by USACE in late November, was set to take effect. USACE added that it would be undertaking an environmental impact statement (EIS) to examine possible alternate pipeline routes. The decision was hailed by many as a significant victory for the #NoDAPL struggle. 

Following news of the easement denial, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II released a statement, which read in part: “…We want to thank everyone who played a role in advocating for this cause…Throughout this effort I have stressed the importance of acting at all times in a peaceful and prayerful manner – and that is how we will respond to this decision….We hope that Kelcey [sic] Warren, Governor Dalrymple, and the incoming Trump administration respect this decision and understand the complex process that led us to this point…Treaties are paramount law and must be respected, and we welcome dialogue on how to continue to honor that moving forward...To our local law enforcement, I hope that we can work together to heal our relationship as we all work to protect the lives and safety of our people. I recognize the extreme stress that the situation caused and look forward to a future that reflects more mutual understanding and respect.” 

After months of waves of brutal crackdown tactics perpetrated against the water protectors by militarized police and private DAPL security forces, which included the use of attack dogs, sonic cannons, concussion grenades, rubber bullets, pepper spray, and water cannons in freezing temperatures, thousands of veterans, under the operation banner Veterans Stand For Standing Rock (VSSR), organized by Wesley Clark, Jr. (son of retired U.S. Army General and former presidential candidate Wesley Clark,) and Marine veteran Michael A. Wood, Jr., converged at Standing Rock to stand in solidarity with the resistance. 

Based at least in part on their military experience, many of the veterans who joined VSSR wanted to intervene in and stop long-standing U.S. imperial policy of waging war for resources against vulnerable peoples. They understood that this was not something strictly happening abroad; it was also happening at home. They recognized that the violence against the water protectors was an expression of rampant U.S. militarism and structural white supremacy. They were aware that the targeting of Indigenous sovereignty by a colonial power is a strategic tool, used to dispirit, conquer and exterminate. They knew that the genocidal war against American Indians has never ended. Rather, it abates periodically until more resources are coveted, such as oil and lands to lay pipeline. 

Violation of the basic human rights of our Native sisters and brothers in the name of profit has been a recurring theme throughout U.S. history, often carried out through acts of state terrorism. The militaristic response by the state of North Dakota and ETP toward the unarmed water protectors has been one of the most blatant examples of this theme to unfold in modern times. The veterans of VSSR, like the activists who came to Standing Rock before, could not stand idly by and allow these abuses to continue. These veterans felt an obligation to do all they could to stop the assault on this land's original peoples. As American Indian rights activist, author and educator Four Arrows said in a recently published article, “The courage recognized in many veterans seems inherent in all Indigenous peoples who have managed to follow traditional ways. This is why especially courageous veterans seem to get along so well with American Indians. In the Indigenous worldview that guided all of us for 99 percent of human history, generosity is the ultimate expression of courage and fearlessness.” 

The VSSR mobilization, which included dozens of VFP members, was in its first official day when USACE’s rejection of DAPL’s easement was announced. It is reasonable to believe that the convergence of veterans at Standing Rock influenced the decision, even if only in some small way. Officials may have been acting to prevent conditions that could have led to a confrontation between law enforcement and the veterans, which would have been a national tragedy and a political nightmare. While we may never know for certain if VSSR had any sway over the decision-makers, it is safe to say that a considerable increase in the mainstream media coverage and public’s awareness of the situation occurred in the days prior to and during the VSSR operation. All things considered, the veterans played a small but important role in a much larger effort to prevent DAPL from crossing Lake Oahe. 

Last Sunday’s decision was an historic win for American Indian rights and environmental justice. More specifically, it was a win for the Standing Rock Sioux and the millions of non-Native people who would have been put at risk by DAPL going under the Missouri. It is an affirmation of the strength of the resistance, which demonstrated that prayerful people, guided by the virtues of fortitude, courage, humility and peacefulness, can indeed overcome enormous adversity. The power of nonviolence that was harnessed by the Native-led struggle on the North Dakota prairie over eight long months chipped away at the foundation of plutocratic and corporate interests that frequently put profit over people. 

Only time will tell if ETP has indeed been defeated. In a statement released by ETP just hours after the easement denial was announced, the company vowed to push forward with the pipeline on the route that takes it through treaty lands and under Lake Oahe. We know that the incoming Trump administration has different financial and business ties to the fossil fuel industry. ETP’s strategy may well be to bide their time until Trump takes office. Or, perhaps they will seek a legal ruling beforehand that could overturn USACE’s decision. The fight to force ETP to re-route the pipeline is probably not over. 

The #NoDAPL resistance has not ended, nor should it. People should continue to divest from the banks financing the pipeline and urge these banks to reconsider their funding. People should contact their elected officials and demand justice for Standing Rock, including investigations into the hostile and unconstitutional acts of Governor Dalrymple and his police. 

Vigilance must be maintained and the prayerful and peaceful campaign must continue on the ground even in the wake of Sunday’s decision. History tells us that settler colonialism, environmental racism and corporate fascism are three very resilient evils. The resistance must be equally resilient.           

Regardless of the future decisions and actions of the government and ETP and the nonviolent struggle against it, our children and grandchildren will be told of the historic unification of Native tribes and the efficacy of people power that made Sunday’s victory possible. It is imperative that we put our trust not in the promises of government but in the actions of people who hold their government accountable to those promises. Nonviolent direct action has been proven to work in grassroots movements and campaigns against oppression. Whatever the outcome of DAPL construction, the beautiful and enduring spirit of bridging differences to work collectively to protect and secure human rights, as seen in the #NoDAPL resistance, is something that will inform and inspire peace and justice efforts worldwide for many years to come.


(Brian Trautman is an Army veteran, peace educator/activist, and national board member of Veterans For Peace. On Twitter @brianjtrautman.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


AN AMERICAN WINS THE NOBEL--At a Stockholm ceremony this weekend, rocker and longtime colleague Patti Smith accepted Bob Dylan's Nobel in Literature by offering up to the glittering audience a searing, timely rendition of "A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall." Evidently rattled by the grand proceedings, Smith faltered on the second stanza, put her hands to her face and apologized to the audience - murmuring "I'm so nervous" in a lovely human moment - before gathering her strength and delivering a scorching, powerhouse performance.    (Photo above: Patti Smith performs at Nobel Ceremony.)

Smith's appearance in lieu of Dylan capped months of sometimes clamorous debate about whether the blue-eyed son's decades of ineffable poetry are or are not literature - and, later, if his delay in responding and his failure to appear was or was not arrogance. The uproar was best laid to rest by one Committee member who serenely noted, "He is who he is."

While Dylan had told the Committee he couldn't attend, he did send a notably Dylanesque letter of thanks.  Assuring them he was honored and "most definitely with you in spirit," he expressed astonishment he had thus joined the ranks of "giants of literature."

"From an early age, I've been familiar with and reading and absorbing the works of those who were deemed worthy of such a distinction: Kipling, Shaw, Thomas Mann, Pearl Buck, Albert Camus, Hemingway," he wrote. "That I now join the names on such a list is truly beyond words."

With a  slyly elliptical nod to the debate about his worthiness, he noted that he has long been so too focused on writing the "songs that are at the vital center of almost everything I do" that, perhaps much like Shakespeare, "Not once have I ever had the time to ask myself, 'Are my songs literature?' So, I do thank the Swedish Academy, both for taking the time to consider that very question, and, ultimately, for providing such a wonderful answer."

All in all, not dark yet.

Oh, what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what’ll you do now, my darling young one?
I’m a-goin’ back out ’fore the rain starts a-fallin’
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

  • Patti Smith Nobel performance (Video)


(Abby Zimet writes for Common Dreams  … where this perspective was first posted.)



FURTHER--What a sight. The extraordinary coming together of Natives and veterans at Standing Rock culminated with a deeply moving forgiveness ceremony where vets  sought atonement for U.S. military aggression against Natives.

"We came. We fought you. We took your land. We signed treaties that we broke," said Wes Clark Jr., who took a knee at the head of other supplicant vets. "We've come to say that we are sorry."

From one observer, "This is how healing begins." Many of the vets will reportedly now move on to Flint, where vital water is likewise threatened and "people are suffering." 

Here’s what Clark said:

“Many of us, me particularly, are from the units that have hurt you over the many years. We came. We fought you. We took your land. We signed treaties that we broke. We stole minerals from your sacred hills. We blasted the faces of our presidents onto your sacred mountain. When we took still more land and then we took your children and then we tried to make your language and we tried to eliminate your language that God gave you, and the Creator gave you.

“We didn’t respect you, we polluted your Earth, we’ve hurt you in so many ways but we’ve come to say that we are sorry. We are at your service and we beg for your forgiveness.”

Watch the ceremony. 

(Abby Zimet writes for Common Dreams … where this perspective was first posted.)


The ever worsening polarization of American politics—demonstrated and accentuated by the Trump victory—is now an undeniable fact of our daily life. Yet rather than allowing the guilty national parties to continue indulging political brinkmanship, we should embrace a  strong, constitutional solution to accommodating our growing divide: a return to local control.

Such an approach would allow, within some limits, local constituencies to follow their own course, much as the Founding Fathers suggested, without shaking the fundamentals of the federal union. Localism, as I label this approach, would address the sentiments on both right and left by reversing the consolidation of central power in Washington.

What Americans across the political spectrum need to recognize is that centralizing power does not promote national unity, but ever harsher division. Enforced central control, from left or right, polarizes politics in dangerous ways. The rather hysterical reaction to Trump’s election on the left is a case in point, with some in alt-blue California calling for secession from the union. Had Clinton and the Democrats won, we would have heard other secessionist sentiment, notably in Texas. 

This is no way to maintain a “United” States. Under Obama, conservative states resisted ever expanding federal executive power; now it’s the progressives’ turn to worry about an overweening central state. Some blue states are already planning to go on their own in such areas as health care and somewhat less plausibly, immigration. Progressives may also face potential federal assaults on such things as legal marijuana by a now GOP-controlled central government.

Do people want Washington to rule everything? The real issue is not the intrinsic evil of government itself, but how we can best address society’s myriad problems. For decades, many progressives have embraced an expansive central government as the most effective method of changing society for the better. Yet it is far from clear that most Americans prefer that alternative. A rough majority in November cast their votes for either Trump, who attacked President Obama’s executive orders, or libertarian Gary Johnson, a candidate with an even stronger localist tendency. Since 2007, the percentage of people who favored expanding government has dropped from 51 to 45 percent.   

In contrast, localism is widely embraced by a broad majority of the American public. By 64 percent to 26 percent, according to a 2015 poll—Americans say that they feel “more progress” on critical issues take place on the local rather than the federal level. Majorities of all political affiliations and all demographic groups hold this same opinion.  

The preference for localism also extends to attitudes toward state governments, many of which have grown more intrusive in recent years. Some 72 percent of Americans, according to Gallup, trust their local governments more than they do their state institutions; even in California, where executive power has run riot, far more people prefer local control to that of Sacramento.  

Critically, millennials, notes generational analyst Morley Winograd, generally  favor community-based, local solutions to key problems. Indeed, a recent National Journal poll found that less than a third of millennials favor federal solutions over locally-based ones. They are also far less trusting of major institutions than their Generation X predecessors. 

Any party, right or left,  that wishes to expand federal power will face broad political headwinds. Roughly half of all Americans, according to a 2015 Gallup poll, now consider the federal government “an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens”; in 2003, only 30 percent felt that way. The federal bureaucracy is held in such low regard that 55 percent of the public says “ordinary Americans” would do a better job of solving national problems.

The election of Trump and his “deplorables” is leading more progressives, after years of cheering on President Obama’s ever increasing policy of rule by decree, to seek ways of preserving their own progressive bubble. Cheerleaders for Barack Obama’s imperial presidency, such as The New Yorkerare now embracing states’ rights with an almost Confederate enthusiasm. There are increasing plans to promote new progressive measures, for example on energy as a means to counter the nefarious, anti-planetary intentions of the new monarch.

Yet in reality, progressivism and localism are hardly incompatible. The progressive Justice Louis Brandeis invoked the notion that the states, not the federal government, should serve as “laboratories of democracy,” empowering them to “try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.”  

This more decentralized progressive approach was also expounded by David Osborne in his 1990 book, Laboratories of Democracy. Notably, Osborne’s book featured a foreword by the then-governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton. The future president praised “pragmatic responses” to key social and economic issues by both liberal and conservative governors. Such state-level responses, he correctly noted, were critical in “a country as complex and diverse as ours.”

Localism also has fans among grassroots leftists. Some embrace the ideal of localism as a reaction against globalization and domination by large corporations. For example, grassroots progressives often support local merchants and locally produced agricultural products. Some have adopted localist ideas as an economic development tool, an environmental win, and a form of resistance to ever-greater centralized big business control.   

Yale Law professor Heather Gerken makes the case that progressive social causes like racial integration, gay marriage, marijuana legalization, and others have historically tended to be adopted first at a local level before spreading to other areas. Gerken argues that it’s necessary for cities and states to have these powers so that local “cities upon a hill” of social reform can be allowed to flourish and lead by example.

With Trump and the GOP ensconced in Washington for a likely four more years, more progressives can be expected to adopt Gerken’s strategy. Longtime Washington insiders such as Brookings’ Bruce Katz already have made a strong pitch for a supplanting federal control with a regional approach. Although this usually leads to the dominance of regions by well-connected urban elites, Katz’s approach at least leaves smaller cities and towns free to govern themselves.  

President-elect Trump needs to recognize there is no great clamor to replace one “imperial president” for another. The authoritarian tendencies of some of his key allies, notably Senator Jeff Sessions, to perhaps overturn state marijuana, abortion and gay rights measures would simply extend, in different fields, the pernicious federalization of daily life. This is not exactly a consistent message for a party that often promotes itself as the voice of “liberty” and local choice.

We have already seen some harbingers of right-wing centralism on the state level, notes analyst Aaron Renn, where conservative state legislators contravene the progressive agenda of their core cities. Already in some states such as North Carolina and Texas, conservative legislatures have overturned actions adopted by certain cities on issues as diverse as transgender bathrooms and fracking. A better solution would be to allow blue places to reflect their values on as many issues as possible, while granting to conservative places the same right.

When it comes to preserving the character of our communities, there is often no red or blue. We choose places for their character and, if they need to change, this is preferably shaped along the lines favored by local residents. What may be fine with residents of Portland or Brooklyn does not necessarily work for people in suburban reaches of Dallas, Houston, or, for that matter, New York. As far as I am concerned: vive le difference!

Localism, of course, is not a panacea for all issues, some of which are indeed better addressed on a larger scale. And some basic rights need to be protected from local overreach. But overall, nothing is more basic to the American identity than, whenever feasible, leaving control of daily life to local communities, and, as much as practical, to individuals and families. Effective policy can only be shaped where there exists a “common civic culture” of shared values, something far more evident today on the local than the national level.

In his drive to make America “great” again, the new president needs to revitalize our flagging democracy not by doubling down on federal power but by empowering local communities to determine what’s best for them. Anything else gives us a choice between ideological despotisms that can only enrage and alienate half of our population by forcing down their throats policies they can’t abide, and, in most cases, should not be forced to accept.

(Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com. … where this piece was most recently posted. He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, will be published in April by Agate. This piece first appeared at The Daily Beast and was published most recently by New Geography.) 


ON THE GROUND IN STANDING ROCK-Beyond the protests, police crackdowns, and pipeline drama, what’s it really like at Standing Rock, North Dakota? This October, I went to see for myself.

Like many other Native and non-Native visitors, I went to support the Standing Rock Sioux’s effort to keep the Dakota Access oil pipeline away from the Missouri River, which supplies water to an estimated 18 million people.

The tribe wasn’t meaningfully consulted before the pipeline slashed through its sacred lands. And even though pipelines are notoriously accident-prone, a full environmental impact study was never conducted.

Finally, on December 4, the Obama administration halted the construction of the pipeline and called for that assessment.

But in the preceding months, as the Sioux tried to protect their water, they faced surveillance, tear gas, arrests, water hoses, and attack dogs. Police were acting as the company’s protectors rather than the people’s.

Outrage and solidarity motivated my trip, but I also was eager to see the incredible multi-tribe community beside the river — Oceti Sakowin, the largest of the encampments created to sustain this difficult struggle. 

After driving in from Bismarck, I stopped first at the security booth, a small shed overlooking the terrain filled with tents, tepees, RVs, trailers, repurposed school buses, and yurts. A young man directed me to the media tent atop “Facebook Hill,” the only place you could get decent phone reception — at least when law enforcement wasn’t scrambling the signal.

The media tent was a hive of activity powered by portable solar and wind generators. Someone checked my ID and issued a media pass, along with strict guidelines for respectful and secure photography and recording.

Along the main avenue to my campsite, I walked under hundreds of tribal flags waving in the breeze. Everywhere people were chatting, sorting clothes, bustling around the collective kitchens, and chopping wood. Children were roaming about, with adults or on their own.

Before I got far, a Peruvian woman named Claudia called me over to help her husk the mountain of corn somebody had just dropped off. As we chatted, she roped in new helpers with cheerful cajoling.

In the days I was there, I ran errands for the children’s school and kitchen, drove people to actions and from jail, helped build a wigwam, and assisted a disabled elder. I attended meetings, made friends, and got my hurt foot treated at the medic tent and my migraine at the herbalist tent. No money, no appointments — just a pervasive spirit of mutual aid.

It was the same story with food. Besides the main kitchen, with its large army-style tents, tribes set up other kitchens. Each had its own specialties and personality lent by the cooks, who created fabulous meals on wood stoves and campfires with whatever donations came in.

Many recommended “Grandma’s Kitchen,” where Grandma Diane, a Paiute from California, starts each meal by honoring the ancestors and always adds abundant servings of love. No need to call for volunteers, she said. Folks “jump up to help.” Hundreds of hungry folks came in for elk stew, quinoa casserole, cabbage salad, sweet potato fritters, and fried bread — a favorite at every kitchen.

Despite the risk, Diane moved her kitchen a mile north to the front-line camp set up across the path of the pipeline. A few days later, police destroyed it.

I worried about Diane, until I heard she was okay and still calling for supplies to keep cooking for the folks in the struggle, who were then hunkering down to resist the ferocious winter — and the even more ferocious repression.

I didn’t just find a protest camp at Standing Rock — I found a model community. As Natives there celebrate their recent victory, how can anyone not celebrate with them?

(Juliana Barnet is an activist and anthropologist who studies communities that arise out of social movements. Posted first at OtherWords.org.) Photo: Dark Sevier / Flickr


ONE LAST LOOK--There seems to be some bickering happening in the post-mortem analysis of the recent election. I sense a failure among shell-shocked liberals to communicate because of a false dichotomy: Those who argue that economic dislocation or privation is largely responsible for the election result are often accused of trivializing the expressions of racism and other forms of bigotry that accompanied this turn of events. Similarly, they feel that their critics trivialize economic concerns. 

I believe that the two classes of issues are intimately related. While there is certainly a subset of voters who harbor purely reflexive suspicion, disdain, or hatred for others based solely on identity (and I speculate we all fit this description to some degree,) it's not a useful observation in itself. If politics is the art of the possible, then what do we propose to do about bigots who vote? Put them in internment camps for re-education? 

The history of racism, gender discrimination, xenophobia, and indeed, all forms of oppression in our country is tightly interwoven with economic issues. We didn't rip Africans from their homelands and haul them across an ocean because it was fun for white folks to feel superior. We abducted people to be slaves to run plantations and serve other economic purposes. Racist attitudes were cultivated and reinforced by the economy. We don't redline neighborhoods primarily because we care who lives in the houses. We do it because we deem classes of people financially unworthy. Redlining can be managed completely without regard to race and purely by the numbers, and is an example among many forms of institutionalized, structural, or algorithmic racism that are self-perpetuating. This is a distinction without a difference for the victims of the discrimination, and is not any kind of justification, but it is essential to understand to get past it. 

We don't have to love or approve of our political adversaries. But they needn't be our adversaries if we can placate them in ways that we find acceptable. That means putting our own justifiable anger aside and doing what we need to do to live and govern together. It doesn't mean compromising principles, but it does mean compromising, and it does mean swallowing some pride. There are not 60 million virulent, violent racists in the United States. There is instead a very complex continuum of individuals, each with their own set of motivations, and their own experiences and circumstances. A relatively small number of these people are those with whom we cannot coexist peacefully — or even respectfully. 

When we speak of justice, we often refer to symbolic issues like the words we use and the gestures we make. But most of us know that real justice involves economic justice. It means pay equity for women. It means changing policy and procedure to end the mass incarceration and disenfranchisement that is a burden imposed disproportionately on people of color. It means being vigilant against discrimination and protecting potential victims. This remediation is concordant with policies that lift up unfortunates in every swath of society, and that might include some rednecks and neo-nazis. But we cannot legislate emotions. 

In the Venn diagram of our society there is huge commonality among the economically deprived and the victims and perpetrators of racial and gender-based discrimination. The environment fostered by rivalries for power and prestige is a breeding ground for generalized intolerance and its free expression. Thus we see hate crimes and hate laws perpetrated against categories of people who might appear to be above the economic fray, in particular, LGBTQ people. 

I would never suggest that we forget about slights and indignities of victims of bigoted behavior, much less the appalling acts of intimidation and violence, nor should they be excused. But I hope we will get away from the Us vs. Them narrative and lean more heavily on nuance. If stereotyping is part of the problem, then we would be well served by a reduction of hypocrisy.


(Bill Michaelson is a software developer who lives with his family and his opinions in central New Jersey. He has been engaged with various social justice matters and governance in various capacities over decades. This piece originally appeared in newsworks.org.) 

POLITICS-Should Democrats seek common ground with Donald Trump or oppose him at every turn? On Capitol Hill, should they abet or obstruct? (Photo above: Senators Feinstein and Schumer.) 

I can answer that. But first, let’s flash back to Inauguration Night, 2009. 

Barack Obama had just beaten John McCain by a margin of 10 million votes and 7.2 percentage points — the biggest Democratic win since 1964. Democrats also won both congressional chambers. And yet, despite this decisive pro-Democratic mandate to govern, congressional Republicans resolved, at a private dinner on day one, not to offer a scintilla of cooperation. 

Resistance Isn’t Futile. 

They resolved to thwart Obama’s efforts to fix the Great Recession, hoping that his failures would grease a Republican comeback in the 2012 race. Newt Gingrich, a dinner guest, reportedly told his former colleagues, “You will remember this day. You’ll remember this as the day the seeds of 2012 were sown.” 

Here’s where we are today: Trump has lost the popular vote (at last count) by a whopping 2.66 million. His losing share of the popular vote (46.2 percent) is the worst for an Electoral College winner since John Quincy Adams in 1824. Even his winning electoral vote margin (74 votes) is a pittance compared to Obama’s winning ’08 margin (192). So why should Democrats on Capitol Hill give Trump the cooperative deference that Republicans denied to Obama? 

Godfather Wisdom. 

As Michael Corleone said in “The Godfather II” movie, “My offer is this: Nothing.” 

Cooperating with Trump, behaving as if he were just another Republican, would lend legitimacy to his authoritarian bent. Cooperating with Trump would “normalize” his racist populism and his serial lies. Such a strategy — tantamount to surrender — would be disastrous for a Democratic Party that has spent decades fighting for tolerance and diversity. 

Democrats have buckled in the past. Even though George W. Bush lost the popular vote in 2000, they acted as if the guy had a mandate to govern. Lots of Democrats voted for Bush’s deficit-cratering tax cuts. They voted for his Iraq war resolution, despite the dearth of evidence that Saddam had WMDs. They supplied enough votes to put John Roberts in charge of the Supreme Court. Republicans reciprocated by foiling Obama on a regular basis, blocking everything from his 2011 American Jobs Act  (which could’ve put as many as two million people back to work) to his last Supreme Court nominee (the radical refusal to even hold hearings on Merrick Garland was unprecedented.) 

Do What Mitch Did. 

David Faris, a political science prof at Roosevelt University, said it well in a column the other day: 

“[Cooperation] is the first instinct of the Democratic Party even after a crushing, incomprehensible defeat … The urge to minimize the damage in defense of the public interest is broadly shared, and understandable. It must make many Democrats proud to support a party that truly believes in the public good, even at the expense of winning. 

“On the other hand, no. It’s time for Democrats to say no. To everything … 

“It helps that the Republicans — led by a man who rage-tweets fake news in the middle of the night — are about to embark on a long voyage of turning every single thing they touch into garbage. There should be no Democratic fingerprints whatsoever on the coming catastrophe … Hand Trump the keys and let him drive into a tree.” 

He’s Already Too Extreme. 

That sounds harsh. But, lest we forget, Republicans paid virtually no political price for their eight years of anti-Obama obstruction. Voters didn’t seem to care that Republicans thwarted a president who twice won elections with a majority of the popular vote. Why would they punish Democrats for standing in steadfast opposition to an unqualified poseur who was rejected last month by 53.8 percent of all voters? Chuck Schumer, the new Senate minority leader, is indeed warning that when Trump gets too extreme, “we’ll go after him with everything we’ve got.” 

Senate Democrats can set the tone by putting Trump’s Cabinet picks through the wringer, because a number of them deserve to be seriously slow-walked — most notably, attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions (rejected for a federal judgeship 30 years ago, due to his racist remarks), Treasury nominee Steve Mnuchin (who made piles of money foreclosing on homeowners during the Great Recession), and Health and Human Services nominee Tom Price (who wants to kill Obamacare, a move that would nix coverage for 20 million people). And what remotely qualifies Ben Carson to be housing secretary, beyond the fact that he lives in a house? 

Fortunately, Democrats are indeed vowing to combat those nominees. Hey, it’s a start. My unsolicited advice is simple: Grow a pair.


(Dick Polman, former political writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, blogs at NewsWorks.org. This piece was posted most recently at CalBuzz.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

POST-ELECTION DISORIENTATION-America is in a muddle and our President-elect is the center of our national confusion. If you think that the general public is disoriented by “Trumpism,” that’s nothing compared to the panic within both the Democrat and Republican parties and our allies and enemies worldwide. The real cause of apprehension is not Trump’s highly questionable economic policies and strange affection for foreign dictators (except for Fidel Castro.) A legitimate concern is Trump’s mental stability or lack thereof. 

Over months of campaigning, Donald Trump exhibited some bizarre behavior, particularly with his late night tweets. The content of his tweets and other statements were beyond the pale. However, these eccentricities were excused by his background as a reality TV star and a lack of any political experience. 

Trump’s Post-Election Behavior 

Trump’s behavior after the November election, however, has set off alarm bells. The inability of a person to conform his behavior to the norms of society suggests that he could be mentally unstable. In all societies, there are cultural expectations. What is appropriate for a child is not permitted for an adult. A toddler who runs outside naked provokes giggles, but a 35-year old naked man walking around a department store will be arrested. In the words of William Shakespeare: 

   All the world’s a stage,

   And all the men and women merely players:

   They have their exits, and their entrances;

   And one man in his time plays many parts.

   [As You like it, Act II, Scene VII] 

Because the social role of Leader of the Free World is defined by the expectations of hundreds of millions of people, Trump’s inability to control his behavior is noticable. 

Perhaps, his first serious post-election mis-tweet came when he told the cast of Hamilton to “apologize” for asking Vice-President Pence make sure that the new administration represented all Americans. As a people, we have no more basic liberty than Free Political Speech. Yet Trump demanded an apology for free speech. He called the Hamilton cast’s message “harassment.” 

There is one aspect of Trump’s Hamilton tweets which people have not heeded: the cast was not speaking to Trump, but to Vice-President Pence. Nonetheless, Trump launched his vituperative tweets, possibly transgressing the respect he owed the Vice President-Elect’s ability to speak for himself. When Pence did have an opportunity to comment, he affirmed the American passion for free speech, saying that he told his family that the boos and cheers they heard when entering the theater were the “sound of freedom.” 

Loss of Citizenship for Displeasing President-Elect Trump 

On November 28, 2016, out of nowhere, Trump tweeted that anyone who burns the American flag should lose his US citizenship. Justice Jackson in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, (1943) 319 U.S. 624 stated America’s position on obnoxious speech: 

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.” 

Even arch-conservative Justice Scalia agreed with Liberal Justice Brennan in 1989 when both endorsed Justice Jackson’s opinion that the American Constitution protects obnoxious speech in Texas v Johnson, (1989) 491 U.S. 397. It’s vital for us to recognize that Americans across the political spectrum are unanimous on the sanctity of obnoxious speech. Trump’s repudiation of that shows that he either does not comprehend American values or he does not feel bound to behave as an American. 

His Actions Alarm Even Sarah Palin 

Quite recently, we’ve seen Trump intervene with the decision of Carrier to move jobs to Mexico. Independent of whether Carrier should move jobs to Mexico is Trump’s double disregard for his actual role as the President-Elect who is not yet the President. Furthermore, Presidents should not operate by making threats to private businesses or obtaining special benefits for them. The movement of jobs to foreign countries has complex causes; it requires Americans to act as a group through their elected representatives to decide what should be done. 

The Trashing of International Protocol 

The most egregious departure from international norms came with Trump’s phone call with the Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. Since 1979, the United States has followed a consistent and complicated policy with respect to Mainland China and Taiwan. Whether that policy should be altered is open to debate, but Trump’s gross violation of diplomatic protocol is beyond disturbing. President-Elect Trump has not even selected his Secretary of State. Thus, we know that his rash deviation from accepted world-wide procedure did not happen after discussing its ramifications with his nominee for Secretary of State. Even Vice-President-elect Pence’s comments on the Sunday, December 4, talk shows indicate that this change in China policy caught him by surprise. 

The Personal Punitive Nature of Donald Trump 

There is another aspect of Trump’s behavior that has thrown all of Washington into disarray. He seems to believe that people who disagree with him should be punished. Women who receive abortions should be thrown in jail. Companies whose business decisions he dislikes should be subject to a 35% tariff (as if this were 1650, the height of Mercantilism.) Free speech merits loss of citizenship.

This punitive approach against people who offend him is the most dangerous aspect of Trump’s personality. People we often lump under the labels of anti-social, psychopathic and sociopathic share these traits: an inability to abide by deeply held social norms and the tendency to attack people who displease them. 

As is customary when faced with a bully’s blatant disregard for fundamental values, no one has the nerve to stand up and denounce Trump’s psychopathic behavior. Rather, it seems that most, with the possible exception of David Frum, try to accommodate it. If you want to see how dictators take over a country, just turn on your TV set.


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

ALPERN AT LARGE--Much to the anguish of those who remember the 20th Century, and the horrific lessons learned during that era's worldwide conflicts, too much of our youth will never know of it. As with Civics, Financial Literacy, Home Economics, Shop Class, Cursive, and Typing/Keyboarding, there are many things that high school (and even college!) graduates just aren't being taught. 

So with the understanding that Millennials, much to the horror of their parents, often graduate high school (and college) with an understanding of U.S. History that stops at the American Civil War, I will continue to throw out occasional quizzes of the 20th Century and of history/civics-related issues.  

And one gigantic conflict that dominated the latter half of the 20th Century was the Cold War.

Because the 20th Century ... and all of its painful lessons ... DID happen.  


(Correct answers at bottom of this column)  

1) "From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe." This comment, part of a speech which many believe formally began the Cold War, was said by which World War Two leader? 

  1. a) Harry Truman of the United States 
  2. b) Winston Churchill of Great Britain
  3. c) Josef Stalin of The Soviet Union
  4. d) Charles DeGaulle of France

2) The Cold War was fought between which two entities?

  1. a) The Allied and Axis powers
  2. b) The Western (the Americas) and Eastern (Europe and Asia) Hemispheres
  3. c) The United States and its allies in Europe, and the Soviet Union and its satellite states
  4. d) The United States and China

3) Which organization was formed to halt the spread of Communism to western Europe, to forbid the recurrence of nationalist militarism, and to encourage political integration in Europe? 

  1. a) The North American Treaty Organization
  2. b) The North Atlantic Treaty Organization
  3. c) The United Nations
  4. d) The Warsaw Pact

4) The following Central and Eastern European nations had unsuccessful revolts against the Soviet Union and their Soviet-placed leaders in the 1950's and 1960's except: 

  1. a) Yugoslavia
  2. b) Czechoslovakia
  3. c) East Germany
  4. d) Hungary

5) The barrier that kept East Germans from escaping to the West, and was emblematic of "The Iron Curtain", was known as: 

  1. a) The German Divide
  2. b) The Great Wall of Germany
  3. c) The German Partition
  4. d) The Berlin Wall

6) The U.S. President who declared, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this Wall!" was:

  1. a) John F. Kennedy 
  2. b) Ronald Reagan
  3. c) Jimmy Carter
  4. d) Richard Nixon

7) The U.S. President who declared, "Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is "Ich bin ein Berliner!"... All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words "Ich bin ein Berliner!" in order to boost the morale of West Berliners, who lived in an enclave within East Germany, was:

  1. a) John F. Kennedy 
  2. b) Ronald Reagan
  3. c) Jimmy Carter
  4. d) Richard Nixon

8) Which President led a boycott of a Summer Olympics in Moscow, and in response to a Soviet invasion of which country? 

  1. a) John F. Kennedy/Cuba 
  2. b) Ronald Reagan/Granada
  3. c) Jimmy Carter/Afghanistan
  4. d) Richard Nixon/Vietnam

9) The United States and Soviet Union had major involvements in the following conflicts, and which were major sources of tension between the two superpowers, except for: 

  1. a) The Korean War
  2. b) The Vietnam War
  3. c) The Yom Kippur War 
  4. d) The Cyprus Civil War

10) Which of the following statements is true? 

  1. a) The United States was the first nation to send an unmanned satellite into space, and to land a man on the moon
  2. b) The Soviet Union was the first nation to send an unmanned satellite into space, and to land a man on the moon
  3. c) The Soviet Union was the first nation to send an unmanned satellite into space, but the United States was the first nation to land a man on the moon
  4. d) The United States was the first nation to send an unmanned satellite into space, but the Soviet Union was the first nation to land a man on the moon
  5. e) Both the United States and Soviet Union succeeded in landing a man on the moon 

It's nice to know that the International Space Station is a first-rate example of how the United States and Russia (the predominant entity of the Soviet Union) can work together and even be friends.

In the War on Terrorism, both the U.S. and Russia have been friends and enemies--"frenemies", if you will--because both nations have been and are threatened/victimized by terrorism.  But old rivalries die hard. 

And while President Obama ridiculed Republican contender Mitt Romney, during a 2012 election debate when Romney's declared that Russia was the foremost threat to the U.S., much of the outgoing President's foreign conundrums in office stemmed from the European, Asian, and Middle Eastern conflicts with Russia.  Again, old rivalries die hard. 

It's anyone's guess whether President-Elect Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will be friends, enemies, or "frenemies".  A half-century of pent-up and open frustrations and nuclear threats (HOW MANY OF US REMEMBER HOW HORRIFYINGLY REAL THE MOVIE "THE DAY AFTER" WAS?), to say nothing of nuclear bomb drills and ingrained fears of the Soviets, doesn't go away overnight. 

Because the Twentieth Century, and all of its horrific disasters (including the Cold War that dominated the foreign policy of the latter half of that century) DID happen. 


1) b

2) c

3) b

4) a

5) d

6) b

7) a

8) c

9) d

10) c


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


POST-ELECTION CONCERNS-Watching Donald Trump pick his Cabinet members has been like watching a 16-car pileup unfold in slow motion. Each move fills us with horror in the knowledge of what the near future brings. 

But the assembling of Trump’s transition team has been distracting us from one crucial aspect of our current political mess: what our current president is doing in his last few weeks in office -- or, more accurately, not doing. President Barack Obama appears so eager to be done with his tenure that he seems more invested in a smooth transition of power than in fulfilling his duty to the American people. 

Ensuring a smooth transition implies business as usual. Except that there is absolutely nothing usual, or even presidential, about Trump’s Electoral College win. And what the president-elect is promising us is so harrowing that Obama owes the nation a last-minute flurry of political actions that are within his power to take before the “Trumpocalypse,” as some are calling it, is upon us.

Democrats, are you desperate to do something about Trump? Then demand that your current president do you a solid and actually use the popular mandate he earned when he was elected, twice. Obama’s refusal so far to do even one of the following is only more proof of the Democratic Party’s ineptitude and spinelessness. 

Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline Project 

The most important political battle of this year outside the electoral realm has been the indigenous-led resistance against the Dakota Access oil pipeline (DAPL). After many months of activism by the Standing Rock Sioux and their supporters, law enforcement has upped the ante in incredibly violent ways, unleashing military-grade weaponry on an unarmed citizenry. President Obama has been forced by public pressure to delay completion of the pipeline. But what is needed is an end to the project.

President-elect Trump, on the other hand, is already eager for the decision to be made during his term and has promised to speed up the Army Corps of Engineers’ review process. Among Trump’s many financial conflicts of interest is his stake in the DAPL.  It would be disastrous for him to be the decider on this issue. There is absolutely no doubt about whose side he would take. 

Meanwhile high-profile political figures have tried in vain to get Obama to do the right thing on DAPL. From Sen. Bernie Sanders to former Vice President Al Gore and even musician Neil Young, many have appealed to Obama to end the project. Twenty-eight tribal leaders, appreciative of the attention Obama has paid to their communities in the past, have now called on him to “reroute the pipeline away from tribal lands, waters, and sacred places.” 

What does Obama have to lose by exercising his authority through the Army Corps of Engineers and doing the right thing? 

Make a Recess Appointment to the Supreme Court 

It is outrageous how the GOP has stood in Obama’s path to filling the Supreme Court vacancy. Without a doubt Democrats would not treat a Republican president in the same manner. No other Supreme Court nominee in the history of the United States has waited as long as Merrick Garland to be confirmed. What’s more, Obama’s pick to replace the late Antonin Scalia does not even come close to espousing the leftist counterpart to Scalia’s extremist right-wing ideology. Like Obama, Garland is a centrist liberal. Unlike Obama, Trump will not hesitate to appoint the most conservative justice possible. The resulting Supreme Court will probably roll back even more of the Voting Rights Act, possibly Roe v. Wade, and who knows what other social and political progress this nation has made in recent decades. 

What Obama can do to send a strong message to the Republican Party is make a temporary recess appointment of Garland to the court. Legal experts point out that Obama has the right to do it, even though he has taken scant advantage of the power to make recess appointments as compared with his predecessors. While temporary, Garland’s presence on the court could stave off regressive court decisions for at least a year. Sadly, Obama has given no indication that he plans to exercise his authority. 

The larger context is that Trump might get to appoint as many as three justices to the court during his tenure: for Scalia’s seat and those that might be vacated by Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who is 83, and Stephen Breyer, 78, both strong liberals. Again, what does Obama have to lose by making a strong gesture with a recess appointment to the court? 

Pardon DACA Recipients 

Among the most terrifying promises Trump made during his campaign was to deport millions of undocumented immigrants. There is especially great fear that he will repeal Obama’s signature immigration executive action, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Already, lawyers are recommending that those eligible for DACA should not apply at this time, given Trump’s election, because in order to be eligible for deportation relief, immigrants have to out themselves to federal authorities. With access to the information of hundreds of thousands of DACA registrants, Trump could easily deport them. 

Some people have urged Obama to use his presidential power to pardon DACA recipients. In California where many cities, as well as state and private universities, have declared themselves “sanctuaries” for the undocumented, Democratic lawmakers have publicly called on Obama to grant them legal status. According to the Los Angeles Times, Obama “promptly batted down the idea,” saying that pardons are not applicable because immigration violations are civil offenses, not criminal ones. 

Astonishingly, there is actually a Republican-led effort to help DACA recipients. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has announced plans to introduce legislation to extend DACA protections.

It might certainly be a legal gray area for Obama to pardon violators of civil offenses, but so is Congress’ stonewalling of the president’s right to appoint a Supreme Court justice. Where DACA is concerned, the lives of 750,000 young people are at stake. These are people who trusted the government and turned over their personal and contact information in order to live and work without fear. If Obama does not even attempt to protect the members of a program he created, he will be partly responsible for what they might face under Trump. 

Undo His Executive War Powers 

Many on the left spent the last eight years denouncing Obama’s unprecedented use of executive power for destructive purposes: the “war on terror.” Citing the Bush-era Authorization for Use of Military Force, Obama expanded the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and used it to justify military actions against Islamic State, even though Congress is supposed to authorize war. The legal gray areas where Obama appears reluctant to operate seem sometimes perfectly black and white when it comes to his right to drop bombs, particularly through the unmanned drone program.

The Intercept’s Alex Emmons summarized the “terrifying powers” that Trump will have as commander in chief, thanks to Obama—including the power of mass surveillance, the misuse of the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers, and more. 

Obama can undo the destructive powers he has granted himself before he leaves office. According to Emmons, “Most of the new constraints on the security state during the Obama years were self-imposed, and could easily be revoked.” After all, Obama warned Americans before this election of the dangers of having a president as unstable as Trump with access to the nation’s nuclear codes. He now owes it to us to take as much action as he can to curb the presidential powers he has unleashed. 

Offer Justice to Snowden, and Clemency to Political Prisoners and Drug Offenders 

One way in which Obama could offer a mea culpa for his aggressive legal pursuit of whistleblowers is to offer the chance for former NSA contractor Edward Snowden to return to the U.S. with assurances of a fair trial for crimes with which he has been charged. A letter signed by 15 former intelligence officials who served on the Watergate-era Church Committee asks the president for leniency in Snowden’s case. 

Going further, Obama could offer clemency to political prisoners who have spent decades behind bars (or in exile) under unjust circumstances and as a result of political persecution. A great starting point is this list compiled by Sara David, naming Assata Shakur, Oscar López Rivera, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier and Chelsea Manning as worthy of clemency. 

Human Rights Watch has also written the president a letter urging him to offer relief to federal prisoners serving long sentences for drug offenses through the use of his clemency power. HRW reminded Obama of the positive impact his commutation of hundreds of prison sentences has already had and warned, “The opportunities for addressing unfairly long sentences in 2017 appear bleak, as President-elect Trump publicly criticized your commutations grants during his campaign.” 

There are many other suggestions my list could include, such as President Jimmy Carter’s appeal to Obama to recognize the state of Palestine. But I offer this list not with a naive optimism that Obama will actually act on them, but rather to point out how many crucial issues a sitting Democratic president has the power to control but often chooses not to. Clinton supporters and Obama defenders need to acknowledge the moral complacency that such inaction reveals, which in turn feeds into the political losses of the Democratic Party. 

As we lament the horrors that may unfold next year, let us not forget that Obama had the chance to do the right thing on any number of issues and chose instead to leave us at the mercy of the “Trumpocalypse.” I certainly hope I am proved wrong.


(Sonali Kolhatkar is Co-Director of the Afghan Women's Mission and a political writer at TruthDig …where this piece was first posted.)

AT LENGTH-Christiane Amanpour (Photo left above), CNN’s chief international correspondent, just won an award for championing press freedom. She is also one of the better-known faces in the mainstream media. 

In her acceptance speech at the 2016 Burton Benjamin Memorial Award at a November 22 gala in New York -- an event organized by the Committee to Protect Journalists -- she said about her fellow journalists’ coverage of the recent elections: 

Much of the media was tying itself in knots trying to differentiate between balance, between objectivity, neutrality, and crucially, the truth. We cannot continue the old paradigm. We cannot, for instance, keep saying, like it was over global warming. When 99 percent of the science, the empirical facts, the evidence, is given equal play with the tiny minority of deniers. 

She took note of the president-elect’s tweets accusing the media of instigating the uprising of protests: 

I was chilled when [Trump’s] first tweet after the election was about professional protesters incited by the media. [Because as we all know] First the media is accused of inciting, then sympathizing, then associating. And then, suddenly, they find themselves accused of being full-fledged terrorists and subversives. And then, they end up in handcuffs, in cages, in kangaroo courts, in prisons and then who knows what. 

A sentiment with which I couldn’t agree more. 

In another tweet, Trump alleged that 3 million illegal voters cast votes in an election he won, albeit losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by some 2.5 million votes -- a number that continues to grow.

It was only after Trump called the leading national journalists to his “Tower” for a scolding about their treatment during the campaign and the New York Times stood up to him that other major media companies began tentatively calling him out on his lies, false accusations and otherwise aberrant pronouncements. 

On November 5, the Toronto Star newspaper published their list of Trump’s lies -- 494 in all that fell into 20 different categories. They wrote, “the category that has the most falsehoods is ‘Clinton’s policies,’ followed by ‘Clinton’s corruption,’ and then polls.” 

That list is far too long to be printed here but can be found on Slate.com. Since that time the presumptive president-elect has backed off on his pledge to prosecute Hilary, appoint a special prosecutor and throw her in jail. However, no one can be quite sure exactly what Trump will say next or even if he’ll do what he says next. 

This of course is his real talent: keeping everyone on edge. A negotiating trick that keeps everyone one guessing until the deal is done.  Stand back from the anxiety of the campaign and the depression from the election results to see Trump for the wheeler-dealer huckster he is. 

I was reminded this week of a quote from one of our nation’s most celebrated journalists, H.L. Mencken, who in 1920, had the prescient vision to write: 

The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.  

I think at this point the emphasis should be on devious and mediocre -- clearly this man, Trump, is not to be trusted either by his own party, the people who voted for him or the rest of us who didn’t. 

It is becoming quite clear that it’s very difficult to discern fact from fiction in the media environment in which we live. People say we’re living in a post-factual era of politics, but there are several sources to fact check what you read or hear. 

Wikipedia and Snopes.com, however, is the antidote to that. And for those looking deeper into the fictionalization of facts here’s a list of those fake news sites.  And even at Wikipedia, we have to pay attention to who is editing what. 

Contrary to the accusations of some trolls on our website, we at Random Lengths News do check our facts. But we do not pretend to be neutral. 

This newspaper has always defended its brand of informed political reporting. Our progressive reporting is not blindly partisan, but is informed by a perspective not commonly found in the corporate mainstream press. 

This paradigm is changing. We now live in a world where ultra-right wing and neo-fascist ideologies threaten even the middle-of-the-road media. Breitbart News is a leading example of this phenomenon and the elevation of Stephen K. Bannon to the position of chief political strategist for the Trumpster -- with an office inside the White House is disconcerting. 

Bannon’s claim to fame is his role as the executive chairman of Breitbart News, a media outlet filled with what the New York Times called “ideologically driven journalists,” that has been a source of controversy “over material that has been called misogynist, xenophobic and racist,” and was a “potent voice” for Trump’s presidential campaign. 

Breitbart News has been misidentified and normalized by calling it “alt-right” media; it has been aligned with European populist right wing and what I would call fascist politics. This invention of alt-right news of course is the reaction to the myth of the “liberal media” in America. 

With the birth of Roger Ailes’ Fox News, there’s a growing rant that “all of the media are a bunch of liberals.” 

Information wars between left and right perspectives are fueled by the increasing use of disinformation -- leaked or hacked information from dubious sources and the growing distrust of the media in general. 

What has clearly evolved out of this past election cycle is that some media platforms have become “weaponized” for use in disinformation warfare -- a tactic that has its roots in the CIA’s covert operations from the Cold War Era. 

This, at its very core, is a threat to our democracy and the institutions of electoral politics. It is curious that these very same tactics are being brought home to roost in the very same chicken coop from which they were hatched -- Washington, D.C. 

And all of this confusion effectuated by the rise of social media and convenient hand-held devices has only brought us closer to the truth that all democracies are fragile and dependent upon a public being able to deconstruct the information provided. Therein lies the great divide separating America today. What media outlet do you trust to tell you the truth?


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

GUEST WORDS-High above, somewhere behind the black glass façade, President-elect Donald J. Trump was huddled with his inner circle, plotting just how they would “drain the swamp” and remake Washington, perhaps the world. On the street far below, inside a warren of metal fencing surrounded by hefty concrete barriers with “NYPD” emblazoned on them, two middle-aged women were engaged in a signage skirmish.  One held aloft a battered poster that read “Love Trumps Hate”; just a few feet away, the other brandished a smaller slice of cardboard that said “Get Over It.”  (Photo above: Security agents in front of Trump Tower, New York.)

I was somewhere in between ... and the Secret Service seemed a little unnerved.

Trump Tower is many things -- the crown jewel skyscraper in Donald Trump’s real-estate empire, the site of the Trump Organization’s corporate offices, a long-time setting for his reality television show, The Apprentice, and now, as the New York Times describes it, “a 58-story White House in Midtown Manhattan.”  It is also, as noted above its front entrance: “OPEN TO THE PUBLIC 8 AM to 10 PM.”

When planning for the tower began in the late 1970s, Trump -- like other developers of the era -- struck a deal with the city of New York.  In order to add extra floors to the building, he agreed to provide amenities for the public, including access to restrooms, an atrium, and two upper-level gardens.    

When I arrived at Trump Tower, less than a week after Election Day, the fourth floor garden was roped off, so I proceeded up the glass escalator, made a right, and headed through a door into an outdoor pocket park on the fifth floor terrace.  Just as I entered, a group of Japanese tourists was leaving and, suddenly, I was alone, a solitary figure in a secluded urban oasis.

But not for long. 

Taking a seat on a silver aluminum chair at a matching table, I listened closely.  It had been a zoo down on Fifth Avenue just minutes before: demonstrators chanting “love trumps hate,” Trump supporters shouting back, traffic noise echoing in the urban canyon, the “whooooop” of police sirens, and a bikini-clad woman in body paint singing in front of the main entrance.  And yet in this rectangular roof garden, so near to America’s new White House-in-waiting, all was placid and peaceful.  There was no hint of the tourist-powered tumult below or of the potentially world-altering political machinations above, just the unrelenting white noise-hum of the HVAC system.     

On His Majesty’s Secret Service

The Stars and Stripes flies above the actual White House in Washington, D.C.  Inside the Oval Office, it’s joined by another flag -- the seal of the president of the United States emblazoned on a dark blue field.  Here, however, Old Glory flies side by side with slightly tattered black-and-silver Nike swoosh flags waving lazily above the tony storefronts -- Louis Vuitton and Saint Laurent, Burberry and Chanel -- of Manhattan’s 57th Street, and, of course, Trump Tower-tenant Niketown. 

That I was standing beneath those flags gazing down at luxe retailers evidently proved too much to bear for those who had been not-so-subtly surveilling me.  Soon a fit, heavily armed man clad in black tactical gear -- what looked to my eye like a Kevlar assault suit and ballistic vest -- joined me in the garden.  “How’s it going?” I asked, but he only nodded, muttered something incomprehensible, and proceeded to eyeball me hard for several minutes as I sat down at a table and scrawled away in my black Moleskine notepad.

My new paramilitary pal fit in perfectly with the armed-camp aesthetic that’s blossomed around Trump Tower.  The addition of fences and concrete barriers to already clogged holiday season sidewalks has brought all the joys of the airport security line to Fifth Avenue.  The scores of police officers now stationed around the skyscraper give it the air of a military outpost in a hostile land.  (All at a bargain basement price of $1 million-plus per day for the city of New York.)  Police Commissioner James O’Neill recently reeled off the forces which -- in addition to traffic cops, beat cops, and bomb-sniffing dogs -- now occupy this posh portion of the city: “specialized units, the critical response command, and the strategic response group, as well as plainclothes officers and counter-surveillance teams working hand-in-hand with our intelligence bureau and our partners in the federal government, specifically the Secret Service.”  The armed man in tactical gear who had joined me belonged to the latter agency. 

“You one of the reporters from downstairs?” he finally asked. 

“Yeah, I’m a reporter,” I replied and then filled the silence that followed by saying, “This has got to be a new one, huh, having a second White House to contend with?”

“Yeah, pretty much,” he answered, and then assured me that most visitors seemed disappointed by this park.  “I think everyone comes up thinking there’ll be a little more, but it’s like ‘yeah, okay.’” 

Small talk, however, wasn't the agent’s forte, nor did he seem particularly skilled at intimidation, though it was clear enough that he wasn’t thrilled to have this member of the public in this public space.  Luckily for me (and the lost art of conversation), we were soon joined by “Joe.”  An aging bald man of not insignificant girth, Joe appeared to have made it onto the Secret Service’s managerial track.  He didn’t do commando-chic.  He wasn’t decked out in ridiculous SWAT-style regalia, nor did he have myriad accessories affixed to his clothing or a submachine gun strapped to his body.  He wore a nondescript blue suit with a silver and blue pin on his left lapel. 

I introduced myself as he took a seat across from me and, in response, though working for a federal agency, he promptly began a very NYPD-style interrogation with a very NYPD-style accent. 

“What’s going on, Nick?” he inquired.

“Not too much.”

“What are you doing? You’re all by yourself here…”

“Yeah, I’m all by my lonesome.”

“Kinda strange,” he replied in a voice vaguely reminiscent of Robert De Niro eating a salami sandwich.

“How so?”

“I don’t know. What are you doing? Taking notes?” he asked. 

I had reflexively flipped my notepad to a fresh page as I laid it between us on the table and Joe was doing his best to get a glimpse of what I’d written.      

I explained that I was a reporter. Joe wanted to know for whom I worked, so I reeled off a list of outlets where I’d been published. He followed up by asking where I was from. I told him and asked him the same. Joe said he was from Queens.

“What do you do for a living?” I asked. 

“Secret Service.”

“I was just saying to your friend here that it must be a real experience having a second White House to contend with.”

“Yeah, you could call it that,” he replied, sounding vaguely annoyed. Joe brushed aside my further attempts at small talk in favor of his own ideas about where our conversation should go. 

“You got some ID on you?” he asked. 

“I do,” I replied, offering nothing more than a long silence.

“Can I see it?”

“Do you need to?”

“If you don’t mind,” he said politely. Since I didn’t, I handed him my driver’s license and a business card. Looking at the former, with a photo of a younger man with a much thicker head of hair, Joe asked his most important question yet: “What did you do to your hair?”

“Ah yes,” I replied with a sigh, rubbing my hand over my thinned-out locks. “It’s actually what my hair did to me.” 

He gestured to his own follically challenged head and said, “I remember those days.”

Trump Tower’s Public Private Parts

Joe asked if there was anything he could do for me, so I wasn’t bashful. I told him that I wanted to know what his job was like -- what it takes to protect President-elect Donald Trump and his soon-to-be second White House. “You do different things. Long hours.  Nothing out of the ordinary. Probably the same as you,” he said. I told him I really doubted that and kept up my reverse interrogation. “Other than talking to me, what did you do today?” I asked. 

“I dunno,” he responded. “Look around. Security. We’re Secret Service.” It was, he assured me, a boring job. 

“Come on,” I said. “There’s got to be a lot of challenges to securing a place like this. You’ve got open public spaces just like this one.”

There are, in fact, more than 500 privately owned public spaces, or POPS, similar to this landscaped terrace, all over the city.  By adding the gardens, atrium, and other amenities way back when, Trump was able to add about 20 extra floors to this building, a deal worth at least $500 million today, according to the New York Times.  And in the post-election era, Trump Tower now boasts a new, one-of-a-kind amenity.  The skies above it have been declared “national defense airspace” by the Federal Aviation Administration.  “The United States government may use deadly force against the airborne aircraft, if it is determined that the aircraft poses an imminent security threat,” the agency warned in a recent notice to pilots. 

Back on the fifth floor, a metal plaque mounted on an exterior wall lays out the stipulations of the POPs agreement, namely that this “public garden” is to have nine large trees, four small trees, 148 seats, including 84 moveable chairs, and 21 tables.  None of the trees looked particularly large.  By my count the terrace was also missing three tables -- a type available online starting at $42.99 -- and about 20 chairs, though some were stacked out of view and, of course, just two were needed at the moment since Mr. Tactical Gear remained standing, a short distance away, the whole time.

This tiny secluded park seemed a world away from the circus below, the snarl of barricades outside the building, the tourists taking selfies with the big brassy “Trump Tower” sign in the background, and the heavily armed counterterror cops standing guard near the revolving door entrance.

I remarked on this massive NYPD presence on the streets. “It’s their city,” Joe replied and quickly changed topics, asking, “So business is good?”

“No, business is not too good. I should have picked a different profession,” I responded and asked if the Secret Service was hiring. Joe told me they were and explained what they looked for in an agent: a clean record, college degree, “law experience.” It made me reflect upon the not-so-clean record of that agency in the Obama years, a period during which its agents were repeatedly cited for gaffes, as when a fence-jumper made it all the way to the East Room of the White House, and outrageous behavior, including a prostitution scandal involving agents preparing the way for a presidential visit to Colombia. 

“What did you do before the Secret Service?” I inquired. Joe told me that he’d been a cop. At that point, he gave his black-clad compatriot the high sign and the younger man left the garden. 

“See, I’m no threat,” I assured him. Joe nodded and said he now understood the allure of the tiny park. Sensing that he was eager to end the interrogation I had turned on its head, I began peppering him with another round of questions. 

Instead of answering, he said, “Yeah, so anyway, Nick, I’ll leave you here,” and then offered me a piece of parting advice -- perhaps one that no Secret Service agent protecting a past president-elect has ever had occasion to utter, perhaps one that suggests he’s on the same wavelength as the incoming commander-in-chief, a man with a penchant for ogling women (to say nothing of bragging about sexually assaulting them). “You should come downstairs,” Joe advised, his eyes widening, a large grin spreading across his face as his voice grew animated for the first time. “There was a lady in a bikini with a painted body!”

Joe walked off and, just like that, I was alone again, listening to the dull hum of the HVAC, seated in the dying light of the late afternoon.  A short time later, on my way out of the park, I passed the Secret Service agent in tactical gear. “I think you’re the one that found the most entertainment out here all day,” he said, clearly trying to make sense of why anyone would spend his time sitting in an empty park, scribbling in a notebook. I mentioned something about sketching out the scene, but more than that, I was attempting to soak in the atmosphere, capture a feeling, grapple with the uncertain future taking shape on the chaotic avenue below and high above our heads in Manhattan’s very own gilt White House.  I was seeking a preview, you might say, of Donald Trump’s America.    

Descending the switchback escalators, I found myself gazing at the lobby where a scrum of reporters stood waiting for golden elevator doors to open, potentially disgorging a Trump family member or some other person hoping to serve at the pleasure of the next president. Behind me water cascaded several stories down a pink marble wall, an overblown monument to a bygone age of excess.  Ahead of me, glass cases filled with Trump/Pence 2016 T-shirts, colognes with the monikers “Empire” and “Success,” the iconic red “Make America Great Again” one-size-fits-all baseball cap, stuffed animals, and other tchotchkes stood next to an overflowing gilded garbage can.  Heading for the door, I thought about all of this and Joe and his commando-chic colleague and Trump’s deserted private-public park, and the army of cops, the metal barricades, and the circus that awaited me on the street.  I felt I’d truly been given some hint of the future, a whisper of what awaits. I also felt certain I’d be returning to Trump Tower -- and soon.

(Nick Turse is the managing editor of TomDispatch, … where this piece was first posted … a fellow at the Nation Institute, and a contributing writer for the Intercept. His book Tomorrow's Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa recently received an American Book Award. His latest book is Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead: War and Survival in South Sudan. His website is NickTurse.com.) 


STANDING ROCK STAND-OFF-(Editor’s Note: This is a update on Jennifer Caldwell’s earlier CityWatch article, “Thanksgiving 2016: The Worst in Seven Generation”.)In a remote, windswept corner of North Dakota, a seven-month standoff continues without an end in sight. Thirty miles south of Bismarck, where eroded buttes rise from grassland and corn fields, the Oceti Sakowin camp appears along the winding girth of the Missouri River. Here, a story of protection, protest and cultural conflict unfolds against the desolate prairie. 

At issue is the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL); an “energy transfer” project that would pipe approximately 470,000 barrels of oil per day from the Bakken Oil Fields through South Dakota and Iowa, to refining facilities in Illinois. The pipeline is a 1,172 mile, 30-inch artery that is touted by its progenitor, Energy Transfer Partners, as necessary to transport light sweet crude in a “more direct, cost-effective, safer and responsible manner.” 

At the juncture of the Missouri River and Fort Yates, along the northeastern edge of the Lakota Sioux Standing Rock Reservation, the project slowly churns its way toward a hotly disputed patch of land. Several hundred yards north of the camp, a lone bridge has come to define the front line of this conflict. On one side, the West Dakota SWAT Team stands watch over the DAPL’s border. On the other, two young Lakota men are charged with maintaining order among the camp’s curious and defiant. In between rest the carcasses of burned-out trucks, which several tribal “water protectors” torched in response to the past few days of skirmishes that had culminated in a volley of tear gas and rubber-bullets. A concrete barrier topped with barbed wire and decorated with vulgar graffiti exemplifies the air of tension. 

The stand-off has given way to violence and threats of violence, here and well beyond the borders of the Standing Rock Reservation. While law enforcement and the water protectors engage in a guarded choreography, fear strikes in the vulnerable hamlets that dot the plains. Across the prairie, the pipeline dispute has resurrected age-old enmity between the native peoples and those they perceive to have permanently occupied the territory of native birthright. 

Normally, by mid-November the ground here would be frozen with knee-deep drifts of Midwest snow. Today, however, the temperature will rise into the mid-60s with almost balmy comfort. 

“This is what I call the upside of global warming,” jokes Ken Many Wounds. “Or, perhaps Great Spirit is looking out for us.” A member of the Standing Rock Lakota Sioux, Ken is an organizer and the camp’s communications director. His authority is confirmed by the company he keeps with the core leaders of the action. Ken is an imposing figure. He has rugged features and strides with a cowboy’s gait as his long wiry ponytail flows from beneath a baseball cap. Ken bristles at the term “protesters” and admonishes that those opposing the DAPL are “water protectors.” 

Versed in the complex history of Sioux land disputes, Ken explains the intricacies of treaties, land grabs and the exceptions within exceptions that have chipped away at the territory of the Sioux Nation for over 150 years. “Where we stand is Sioux land, according to the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851,” he says, adding that the subsequent Sioux Treaty of 1868, which the Sioux allege to have never been properly ratified, illegally redefined the borders of Sioux territory. At best, the state of ownership and land rights is nothing short of confused. 

Indians and non-Indians mill around nearby, executing various tasks in the maintenance of the protest camp’s daily life. The aroma of wood fires and beef stewing in cast iron kettles fills the air. The setting sun casts a shadowy skyline of tents, tepees and converted buses, all gathered to push back at the slow, oncoming creep of the pipeline. The camp ebbs and flows in population, retaining about 6,000 inhabitants, and pushing hundreds of yards to the swampy tributaries flowing into the Missouri. 

In the distance, a drilling pad pushes closer to the river with the ultimate goal of tunneling beneath it. In the process, the excavation will cut through burial grounds. Distrust of the project has intensified over allegations that non-Indian archaeologists from the North Dakota State Historic Preservation Office have been exclusively charged with identifying native graves. Equally, there is concern as to what will occur should the pipeline breach below the Missouri’s pristine waters. 

On these two issues, there is an odd chorus of consensus bridging what is otherwise a de facto apartheid in this small corner of the world. On and off the reservation, the welfare of the Missouri River provokes ready conversation. 

“We don’t want that pipeline coming through here,” explains a woman named Terrie in Mandan, a town of roughly 20,000 inhabitants just west of Bismarck and 30 miles north of the standing Rock Reservation. Her youthful face softens as her distrust of me thaws. “If that pipeline ruptures, it will be the end of the Missouri. That’s going to affect millions of people down-river.” 

But, just as quickly as Terrie is to condemn the pipeline, her teenage daughter shows me photos of vandalism in the nearby veteran’s graveyard. The agitated teen exclaims, “Look! Look at this. These pipeline protesters went and put a Tonka truck in the veteran’s graveyard with a sign that says ‘Let’s start drilling here’!” 

Terrie is angry. “Leave our veterans alone,” she says. “Why would you desecrate their graves? They have nothing to do with this.” 

It’s hard not to be taken in by the women’s congenial earthiness. On the other hand, the irony of their sensitivity to a distasteful prank, and the simultaneous indifference to the impact on Native American burial grounds, is inescapable. Here, the contempt for Native Americans is palpable and ubiquitous. “They get handouts and they are taken care of by the government,” Terrie adds. “They don’t have to work for any of it.” 

As much as there is division between races, there is also dissent within. Earlier in the day, a group from Standing Rock led a march to Mandan’s municipal offices. Working on a theme of forgiveness, love and peace, the group prayed for a cleansing of what they claim are the hatred and offenses of both sides of the conflict that occurred in the preceding weeks. Those actions led to the arrest and detention of Lakota Sioux who continued to languish in the Morton County Correctional Center in Mandan. 

The march was in stark contrast to the more extreme “direct action” principles undertaken by elements within the camp. In silence, the demonstrators encircled the jail and courthouse and pleaded for the release of their brethren. It was a display of the diverse beliefs and tactics emerging from the reservation; the hawks and the doves form a division so easily overlooked on the erroneous assumption of a monolithic Lakota Sioux culture and a unified stance in the face of adversity. 

On my way back to Standing Rock, I stop at Rusty’s Saloon in St. Anthony, a village half way between Mandan and the reservation. It is a clean and orderly establishment constructed as a lodge, and decorated with “taxidermied” wildlife. The place is awash in camos and blaze orange as hunters gather for lunch. I take a seat alongside a regular who eyes me with suspicion. Lori, the barmaid, senses my apprehension and relaxes the atmosphere with some easy talk. I oblige and the conversation soon deepens. 

Before long, she voices concern about threats to local farmers, the killing of livestock and a plethora of fires and vandalism alleged to have been perpetrated by Indians. According to Lori, the acts are the product of a native reawakening of land rights and a history of intrusion. “Our children had to have an armed escort to school because of the threats over this pipeline,” Lori adds. “People here are just plain scared.” 

These and other conversations reveal that, while there is agreement as to issues between those on and off the reservation, opinions are very much in cadence with peer allegiances and along the cultural divide. 

The dialogue of race is different here. In contrast to the low rumble of urban settings, race-based hatred in rural North Dakota is immediately explosive. The conversations with non-Indians are rife with animus toward Indians and outsiders. Likewise, the indigenous population, on and off the reservation, offers little more warmth. There is a noticeable lack of eye contact with non-Indians and the almost obligatory dirty looks cast at the “was’ichu,” (the somewhat derogatory Lakota word for “white” and non-Indian). The culture is understandably steeped in historic distrust. 

Back at the camp, three young people bide their time waiting for a march to the front lines. Today, the Standing Rock Youth Council will take an offering to those manning the SWAT vehicles. The Youth Council is a contingent of the reservation’s younger generation that is guided by the mantra of “removing the invisible barriers that prevent our native youth from succeeding.” They are steadfast in support of the water protection action. Today, they will push to the front lines in peaceful offering to the men bearing arms and armor just beyond the barbed wire. 

I am confronted by the stoicism of two visiting tribal members from Michigan, and of Maria, a young woman affiliated with several North Dakota tribes. “This is not a conflict zone,” Maria explains. “It’s not a war zone. We don’t want it to be seen that way.” 

Maria is correct. While tear gas and rubber bullets have been unleashed in the course of the DAPL conflict, the people of Standing Rock show no interest in having their actions seen as being at war with the outside world. This erroneous characterization, spawned by the mainstream media, has drawn an array of characters to Standing Rock — Indian and non-Indian, each seeking to make the action their own. I find myself having to fight my way through throngs of posers and protesters to get to the core Native American water protectors who are truly sincere in their actions. 

Likewise, within the Indian community, as in any community, I discover a great variance of identity and adherence to the mores of Indian culture. Maria points to her companion, “Me Shet Nagle,” a visiting member of the Blackfeet Nation, and chides, “He doesn’t even know what his name means! For all he knows, he could be named after a sock!” 

Me Shet Nagle meets Maria’s playful contempt with a sheepish grin. I jokingly assure that they will be portrayed in the most stereotypical manner possible. They get the humor. We all get it; the revelation of the Native American as a diverse culture with all of the beauty, humor, internal conflict and struggle for identity as any other. 

Tension builds as the time to march draws near. Dozens of water protectors assemble across the bridge from the barricade. Members of the SWAT team can be seen readying themselves in the distance. The bridge is disputed territory. Leaders from the Youth Council cradle a sacred pipe and carry an offering of the life-giving water that is threatened by the DAPL. In silence, dozens march on toward the front line. 

Within yards of the barricade, the council motions for all marchers to be seated. People pray. Some look woefully onward, expecting plumes of tear gas. Cameras click away over the crowd. Among this throng, a young woman carries an infant wrapped in a thick wool blanket. The group is completely vulnerable. I glance over the edge of the bridge and quickly calculate a two-story drop to the freezing water of unknown depth. If things went as they have before, pandemonium could break out with any incoming projectiles. 

The leaders of the Youth Council disappear behind the burned-out trucks. A number of heavily armored police and military appear from behind the barricade to take stock of the crowd. They peer from behind dark goggles beneath Kevlar helmets, adorned in heavy flak vests, with weapons slung at the ready. 

The moments linger. 

Finally, the Youth Council members emerge. They slowly walk to the crowd and command that everyone rise and move forward. In unified mass movement, the marchers close another 10 yards toward the barricade and the tension heightens. The council leaders sternly motion directions and, again, everyone is seated. The marchers are entirely under the Youth Council’s control. 

“We offered them water,” one leader reports as he raise a mason jar. “They would not drink from it!” A murmur spreads across the crowd. “However,” the leader continues, “they prayed with us.” His words are slow and punctuated with the tension of the moment. “We prayed together and, while they would not drink the water, the men did accept our water and rubbed it about their uniforms in a showing of respect and solidarity.” 

After a long pause, a Lakota woman seated before me raises a rattle in the air and shakes it with a cry of approval. One by one, hands rise and a cheer of praise breaks the quiet. The armed troops’ act of personal solidarity and sensitivity was all they asked for. In modest triumph, the marchers make their way back across the bridge in humble silence and with a renewed hope. 

In the distance, the machines churn on. 

Recently, North Dakota law enforcement authorities, reacting to what they labeled a riot, turned a water cannon on hundreds of protesters and Indian “water protectors” opposed to the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline (DAPL). Tony Zinnanti’s story describes life on and around the Standing Rock Reservation in the days leading up to the assault on the protest encampment.


(Tony Zinnanti is a lawyer, freelance journalist and photographer from Los Angeles. His legal work has included defense of activists John Quigley and Ted Hayes, and representation of members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. This piece first appeared in Capital and Main. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

GUEST WORDS--I came out as bisexual to more than 43,300 people last year in a Daily Bruin column. But my parents weren’t among them. 

It may be 2016, but it can still be risky for someone to publicly identify as LGBTQ, undocumented or as part of any other marginalized group. And the holidays may be especially difficult for closeted individuals. Even someone who is out to her siblings, but not her parents or the other adults in her life, like me, can struggle.

My internal monologue is always running at family gatherings. I am constantly eyeing everyone in suspicion and worrying that someone might expose my identity. And it doesn’t help that the holidays are painted as a time when families lovingly gather in peace and harmony.

Despite coming out to the UCLA community and receiving support on campus, it is difficult to translate that same support at home. UCLA is a progressive bubble. It is not reflective of the rest of the world, and certainly not reflective of my family.

But it’s precisely this difference in thought we students have to embrace and face. Simply dismissing the other side inflames tensions. And what better time to reach out than the holidays? This is the one time of the year when you are with family and everyone is taking a break from the daily responsibilities of school and work.

This month’s events have brought to the forefront issues of racism, sexism and homophobia that have been quietly simmering. They inflame the hurt of being rejected or only partly tolerated rather than fully accepted by my family. But while we are able to create our own online echo chambers free of triggering ideas from the other side, unfriending your racist and homophobic uncle on Facebook is not likely to keep him away from the Thanksgiving dinner table back home.

Since the first time my tongue slipped and called UCLA “home,” I realized the stark contrast between the definition of the word and the place it represents. Home is a feeling of comfort and acceptance, whereas being home may not elicit those same emotions.

I, like many first-generation students of color, grew up in a pivotal position for an immigrant family. My parents grew up on small ranches in Mexico. They raised cattle and chickens and grew corn to make bread and tortillas. Their life was simplified to homemaking and cleaning for the women, and yard and paid labor work for the men until they each met a partner to have their own children with. This lifestyle they grew up with did not leave much room for experimenting alternative lifestyles, let alone deviating from the patriarchal and heteronormative culture.

My parents never studied past sixth grade. They never went to a university to learn about the things they do not know and they did not have the opportunity to socialize with the diverse set of individuals that colleges bring together. But with the growing visibility of the LGBTQ community, they engage the only way they can: making homophobic jokes – sometimes in front of me.

But this difference in viewpoints is natural. I have met many diverse people, heard from a wide array of speakers and read books that my parents have not. I, like every other Bruin, have been exposed to these differences in thought and have had the had the chance to analyze both sides of the ideological spectrum in a classroom setting. But my parents – and many other students’ – aren’t currently participating in these kinds of discussions, so it’s expected we diverge in opinion.

UCLA is a world all its own, but very few will call it home forever. As students of the country’s most applied-to university, we are put on a pedestal as examples of progressive citizens. And despite how diverse a picture UCLA paints on its brochures, the real test begins the moment you leave campus. The college bubble will eventually give way to the real world full of differing opinions – good and bad – and we need to confront and accept these differences if we are to pay homage to our education.

Whether you’re liberal or conservative, you’ll meet other people with different opinions from yours. And when you graduate, you will continue to be tested on what you have learned at one of the top public universities in the world.

For me, not confronting ideological disagreement with family members would cause them to reject me and my identity. And it’s no surprise that in return, I would reject them, despite my familial ties and everything I learned at UCLA about being a leader. You cannot reject your family during the holidays because of different viewpoints because your family ties and environment are likely to bring you together.

Confrontation does not burn bridges, avoiding it does.

Moral and social progress is not linear or inevitable. It is difficult and daunting. You cannot, and should not, reject those with whom you disagree.

So open up, listen and agree to disagree. ‘Tis the season for family and love, after all.

(Jasmine Aquino posts at The Daily Bruin … where this perspective was first published.)


@THE GUSS REPORT-In her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross created a framework of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. While her book was essentially about grieving the loss of human life, it could also apply to the loss of a marriage, a pet or even an election. 

Denial was exemplified by Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta telling her supporters late on election night that “there are a lot more votes to be counted,” as the reason why she did not come to speak to the crowd even though President Obama simultaneously urged her to concede. Anger was demonstrated by the violent protests that broke-out in major American cities over the subsequent days. Now the talk of vote recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania (states formerly known as part of Clinton’s “Blue Wall” that the Democrats never imagined losing to Trump, but did) are what might be described as the Bargaining phase of grieving. We need to take a second look at the votes in these states to make sure that they are legitimate. 

The problem for the Green Party and its presidential nominee Jill Stein, now that they quickly raised millions of dollars late last week for those recounts, is that people expect them to actually move forward and do them. But that is no sure thing. 

What the Green Party and Stein may have done was inadvertently shoot themselves in their feet.

In Pennsylvania, one cannot simply demand a vote recount and fork over a pile of cash to have it done. The Green Party and Stein (who were joined in the recall effort over the weekend by the DNC and Clinton campaign) must show evidence of voter fraud. A judge will then decide whether a Pennsylvania recount is warranted. And since Stein already acknowledged that there is no evidence of voter fraud, the effort is likely to hit a brick wall right there because even if flagrant, out-of-control voter fraud were discovered in Wisconsin and Michigan, it won’t be worth a hill of beans if they are shut out from doing a recount in Pennsylvania. 

The Green Party and Stein originally set a fundraising goal of $2.5 million, which was raised to $7 million once the original goal was quickly surpassed. But that also raises expectations that recounts will be done. If they are not done, donors may be disillusioned to learn that their money will not be refunded to them, but instead go to other voter confidence initiatives. Stein’s website says: “We cannot guarantee a recount will happen in any of these states we are targeting. We can only pledge we will demand recounts in WI and MI and support the voter-initiated effort in PA.” 

By rooking donors out of millions of dollars, and not delivering those recounts, if that is what eventually happens, the Green Party will do more harm to itself than it ever imagined. That is when the fourth stage of grieving, Depression, will sink in for many.

While the Green Party and Libertarian Party, which nominated former New Mexico Governor Gary “And what is Aleppo?” Johnson, have plenty of worthwhile positions for people to embrace, here are some sobering thoughts: 

In Pennsylvania, Trump beat Clinton by 68,236 votes. Together, Stein and Johnson siphoned 191,565 votes. 

In Wisconsin, Trump beat Clinton by 27,257 votes. In that state, Stein and Johnson got a combined 137,422 votes. 

In Michigan, Trump beat Clinton by 11,612 votes. Stein and Johnson collectively raked in 223,757 votes. 

Talk about depressing for the Anyone-But-Trump crowd! Trump is going to have the power of incumbency and Republican majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives. Then again, so did Barack Obama in 2008, so things do tend to even out eventually. 

The weeks between now and Trump’s inauguration will no doubt see people slipping back and forth between the Anger and Depression phrases, and perhaps by late January they will acquiesce to Acceptance, because there is simply nowhere else for them to go. 

By then, spring will be around the corner. We will get the hour of daylight back. And the 2018 mid-term elections will be not all that far off. The problem for those with 2016 “election regret” is that, Congressional redistricting being what it is, the Democrat presence on Capitol Hill and in state houses across the country is likely to get weaker before it gets stronger. 

The good news is that this might finally get people to start taking their votes, the candidates and the issues more seriously, and to spend less time blindly trusting what they see in political polls, the mainstream media and on social media. The candidates will, no doubt, continue to take all of us for granted.


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

ALPERN AT LARGE--If ever there was a justification for the mortality of a man, it would be the frightening example of Fidel Castro.  Two other examples would be Josef Stalin and Mao Tze-Tung.

(Photo above: President Kennedy silhouetted in his office during the Cuban Missile Crisis.) 

There are those who would lionize Fidel, his revolutionary export of Che Guevara and the bloodletting Guevara caused and their fight for the "people", and their revolutionary zeal against the excesses of capitalism...but while they lived most of their lives in luxury, millions suffered, were tortured, were starved, were unfairly imprisoned and were slain as a result of their "enlightened" cause. 

So with the understanding that Millennials, much to the horror of their parents, often graduate high school (and college) with an understanding of U.S. History that stops at the American Civil War, I have and will continue to throw out occasional quizzes of the 20th Century and of history/civics-related issues.  Because the 20th Century ... and all of its painful lessons ... DID happen. 


(Correct answers at bottom of this column) 

1) Fidel Castro allowed which nation to place nuclear missiles on its territory, and the Cuban Missile Crisis was responded to by which President in what was arguably the closest thing to World War III that ever occurred during the Cold War: 

  1. a) North Korea/Ronald Reagan
  2. b) China/Richard Nixon
  3. c) The Soviet Union/John F. Kennedy
  4. d) The Soviet Union/Dwight Eisenhower 

2) Fidel Castro vigorously opposed what he referred to as American Imperialism, and sent Cuban soldiers to unsuccessfully fight wars or to establish Marxist governments that were subsequently either overthrown or defeated by his opponents EXCEPT: 

  1. a) Israel (during the Yom Kippur War)
  2. b) Nicaragua (during the Nicaraguan Civil War)
  3. c) Venezuela (during the Venezuelan Civil War)
  4. d) Granada (subsequently overthrown by U.S. Forces) 

3) Fidel Castro, after almost succumbing to a gastrointestinal ailment (possibly diverticulitis with bleeding) in 2008, handed over the reigns of power in Cuba to: 

  1. a) Hugo Chavez
  2. b) Che Guevara
  3. c) Raul Castro
  4. d) Evo Morales 

4) The unsuccessful U.S.-backed attempt to militarily overthrow Fidel Castro in 1961 was called, and was supported by which U.S. President: 

  1. a) The Bay of Pigs/John F. Kennedy
  2. b) The Crimson Tide/Richard Nixon
  3. c) The Freedom Flotila/Jimmy Carter
  4. d) The War of Liberation/Harry Truman 

5) Prison work camps known as "Military Units to Aid Production" were created by Fidel Castro's younger brother Raul, and those sent there without trial for torture and threatened execution included: 

  1. a) Businessmen and those believed to be U.S. spies
  2. b) Individuals believed to be connected to former-elected Cuban President and later dictator Batista
  3. c) Counter-revolutionaries and criminals
  4. d) Homosexuals, men believed to be homosexuals or effeminate, and Jehovah's Witnesses 

6) The late communist dictator Mao Tse-Tung is credited with the deaths of approximately how many Chinese through execution, war, forced or war-associated starvation, or imprisonment? 

  1. a) 10,000
  2. b) 10 million
  3. c) 35 million
  4. d) 65 million 

7) Which of the following socialist/communist nations allowed/allows freedom of religion? 

  1. a) The former Soviet Union
  2. b) Maoist China
  3. c) Cuba
  4. d) North Korea
  5. e) None of the Above 

8) The late communist dictator Josef Stalin is credited with the deaths of approximately how many Russians and other Soviets through execution, war, forced or war-associated starvation, or imprisonment? 

  1. a) 100,000
  2. b) 10-20 million
  3. c) 35-45 million
  4. d) 55-65 million 

9) The English translation of the former Nazi Party of Germany before and during World War II is: 

  1. a) Nationalistic Zionist Party
  2. b) National Zeig Hail Party
  3. c) National Socialist Party
  4. d) Non-Associated Socialist Party 

10) Che Guevara, who is believed to have personally or indirectly killed thousands of men, women and children both in Cuba and in nations throughout Latin America and Africa, was executed in which nation? 

  1. a) The United States
  2. b) Cuba
  3. c) Bolivia
  4. d) Grenada 

It's likely that many, like Florida Senator Marco Rubio (Republican, of Cuban descent) are noting that Fidel Castro is finally meeting his maker, and are wondering if his soul now suffers the same fate as his soon-to-be-cremated body (after the week or more of "mandatory mourning" of course). 

It's also likely that New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez (Democrat, of Cuban descent) isn't the only one wondering if Raul Castro will be any better than his older brother, now that he is control, with respect to human rights, civil liberties, and democracy in Cuba. 

But one thing is truly likely:  if anyone wants to throw around the idea, or wear a Che or Fidel t-shirt, espousing the wonderful "revolution" of Cuban socialism in front of a person of Cuban descent whose family fled Cuba, and braved death and overcame persecution in order to do it, then that person should expect a verbal rebuke of the harshest sort, or maybe even a punch in the nose. 

And that person will have richly deserved and earned that rebuke or punch in the nose. 

Because the Twentieth Century, and all of its horrific disasters (most especially Socialism) DID happen.



1) c

2) c

3) c

4) a

5) d

6) d

7) e

8) d

9) c

10) c


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


MEDIA WATCH--On Monday, some of the biggest names in TV news trooped into Trump Tower for an off-the-record meeting with the president-elect.

It was an all-star cast. Not just on-air stars like Lester Holt, Wolf Blitzer and George Stephanopoulos, but their bosses were also summoned before the Potentate of Fifth Avenue.

The meeting was a huge success — for Donald Trump.

SKID ROW-After the recent election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States, a tremendous “display of pride” has been seen all across America by Trump supporters, who mostly identify with White America. 

It’s 2016 now and I can’t help but wonder, where was all this bravado and widespread arrogance from White America in 2008 when the United States of America almost completely collapsed financially? 

For Trump and his supporters to stick their collective chest out now is laughable seeing how the country has already been stabilized by outgoing President Barack Obama. Sure, anybody can take the reins as Commander-in-Chief...now that all the heavy-lifting has been done! 

Remember 2008, just before the election, when war and foreclosures were the two biggest concerns in all of America? Remember all the debates about a stimulus package and who should receive portions of it? Remember all the jokes about “W” possibly being the all-time stupidest President in the history of America?   

Right. I do, too. 

In Skid Row during that time, we had to differentiate between the “traditional homeless residents” and the sudden increase of “non-traditional homeless residents” who flocked into our community, already known as “The Homeless Capital of America.” 

At the same time, countless homes on seemingly every block in every neighborhood across America had “for sale” signs in their front yards. Then we all learned what a sub-prime loan was. People were genuinely frightened. They stood in long lines for hours to pull all their money out of the banks -- to the point where “W” had to give a presidential speech urging Americans to leave their cash in the banks and trust the leadership of the Federal Government. 

This was the moment in time for White America to step forward and collectively elect its most trustworthy choice for President: someone (male or female) who would, first, stabilize the country from total financial meltdown and second, rebuild America literally from the ground up: financially, by fixing the banks, and economically, by creating new jobs and industries, putting restrictions on previous de-regulation, and re-purposing the funding that goes toward multiple wars in multiple countries. This would have been that perfect moment in time for a Presidential campaign slogan of “Make America Great Again.” 

To use that eight years later, after America has already been stabilized is so asinine. The Dow Jones consistently hovering above 18,000 points means only one thing: the Great Recession is completely over. 

Jobs are constantly being created in a multitude of industries, unemployment numbers are at their lowest in decades and the real estate and home-buying markets have stabilized as well. 

So, in order to “Make America Great Again,” after we’ve completely come out of the Great Recession, seems highly redundant, virtually impossible and arguably improbable. 

All that should be done now is to continue building on the stabilization of America. In other words, there’s really nothing newsworthy to be shouting about at the top of one’s lungs! 

Yet White America is getting its collective gloat on as if something has been accomplished. Please keep in mind that after eight years of an African-American President, the pendulum was bound to swing back to White. In fact, both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates were White. 

So if White America has been in control of this country since its inception, and for eight years out of well over 500 years, a Black man helped America stabilize itself, exactly who is White America taking this country back from? Unfortunately, all the worthless and empty rhetoric is at the expense of other races and types of people who have all helped contribute to the current stabilization of America. 

This “we gotta take our country back” mindset is troubling to me. As someone who has voluntarily chosen to live in Skid Row for the last 10 years and who sees homelessness and extreme mental illness on a daily basis from a firsthand perspective, I am allowed to make realistic comparisons to the “loud and obnoxious” people within White America who have sparked KKK parades, racially-based protests, fistfights and so much more. 

I can’t help but see similarities between this behavior and the variety of mental illnesses, lack of common sense and/or use of basic logic that I see every day in Skid Row. It’s almost like saying we should “Make Skid Row Great Again.” Both these slogans equally defy common sense and logic. 

And to those who pause at this analogy, I ask, “When was America great to begin with?” During the cowboys’ battles with Native Americans? During slavery? During World Wars I or II, the Vietnam War or the Korean War? The Iraq or Afghanistan wars? Civil Rights or Women’s Rights eras? When, did you say? Exactly. 

Whatever moment in time one chooses to identify America as “great” would coincide with a moment in time when White America was either racist or discriminated against others. I single out White America because that is the group which claims to “run this country.” 

If making America “great again” includes any of the above notions, while tens of thousands of men, women and children have already taken to the streets in protest marches, then I struggle not to laugh at the simplicity of White America’s “rank and file.” At the same time, I am in awe of the true number of racists there are within White America. I seems that countless numbers wish bodily harm, incarceration and even death to people who look just like me, a Black man, even though they don’t even know me and apparently don’t even care to. 

That’s also funny because I look like the American President who brought America back from the brink of total collapse in 2008. President Obama is a smart, handsome and classy Black man who never disrespected women, Mexicans, Muslims, disabled people or anyone else for that matter. Currently, Obama’s approval numbers are well above 50% and this includes the approval of countless White Americans. 

So which is it, White America? Recent history says you hate me, but you need me; you know this, but you don’t want to admit any of this, all at the same time -- symptoms of collective mental illness. 

My suggestion to White America is to look in the mirror and decide among yourselves -- can White America truly “make America great again” without any Black or Brown people? 

If the answer is no, then why are you making a mockery of yourselves in front of the rest of the world?

Surely, the rest of the world doesn’t see this as anything “great,” either.


(General Jeff is a homelessness activist and leader in Downtown Los Angeles. Jeff’s views are his own.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

AT RANDOM--“Democracy is like growing a fig tree. It must be pruned for it to bear the best fruit. As it grows older, the pruning gives the tree its own unique and distinctive shape. But let it go too long without pruning, the tree will grow wild and the fruit it bears will be small and un-sweet.”

From James Preston Allen’s personal journal, Second Thoughts 1997 – 2016

THE EPPERHART REPORT-Real life has ruined fiction. Books, movies, television -- it’s all been wrecked by the characters who now dominate media. I don’t mean entertainment media. I’m referring to what we still call news media. 

Any number of spy thrillers used the device of secret information, usually some coded communication in the form of microfilm or a microdot. Whatever was contained therein was always so explosive in nature it could topple governments or start wars. 

Many of Alfred Hitchcock’s films (North by Northwest and The Man Who Knew Too Much, for example) used such a plot device. We never knew what the information was, just that it was crucial to the free world. Hitchcock called these devices used to drive the narrative “McGuffins.” 

The writers John Le Carre and Len Deighton created fictional worlds of cold war spies who traded in secrets. Their characters were always seeking to protect a secret or learn a secret, but never, ever to reveal a secret. 

That fictional device was saved for stories of the innocent trapped in the system and whose only salvation was to tell the world what really happened, usually via the New York Times (Three Days of the Condor) or some other equally righteous media outlet. These protagonists knew that widespread outrage would save them and result in punishment for the bad guys. 

Government’s secrets and the fictional tug-of-war over them made for some truly suspenseful fiction.

But thanks to Wikileaks and Edward Snowden and, apparently, the Russians, there are no more secrets. Real life has overtaken fiction. Plots were driven by the mere knowledge that there was a secret. What that secret was didn’t matter. What the hero had and the villain wanted, or vice versa, was key to the story. 

Now that everyone knows what the secrets are, what’s the point of protecting them? Where’s the thrill of knowing your operative in Berlin or Cairo or Hong Kong is risking their life when all you have to do is check the Wikileaks website to get the information? 

The worse part of all this is that the material in the deluge of emails is usually mundane and often trivial. Media digs through it looking for the good stuff, which frequently turns out to be no more than confirmation of what everyone already suspected. Now we know. So what? 

Today’s best authors of spy novels are setting their stories in earlier times. The years leading up to, during, and after World War II are particularly popular. By night, characters circulate in the drawing rooms of Europe, elegantly dressed and bantering with the representatives of the Third Reich. By day, they are organizing partisans and blowing up bridges. Communications is done using invisible ink or clandestine radios in dusty garrets. None of this smartphone stuff for our hero. And certainly no emails that will end up on Facebook. 

Transparency in the real world is a good thing. Discovering what our politicians and bureaucrats get up to behind closed doors is how we keep our democracy. But, all that openness can sure ruin a good story.


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

GUEST COMMENTARY-The LA Times Friday, Nov. 18 editorial, “Muzzling the muezzin,” opposing two bills working their way through the Israeli Knesset (parliament) sent conflicting messages. The Times stand opposing the two bills is pro-peace because both bills, if enacted, would deepen the occupation which will lead to increased violence in the Israel-Palestine conflict. 

But in its final paragraph, the Times changes course and summarized the status of the conflict in a biased pro-Israel, anti-Palestinian manner that undermines peace.

The first law the Times opposes would allow Israel to retroactively “legalize” Jewish-only, settlement outposts built on Palestinian-owned private-property in the West Bank, and force the owners of the property to accept a government offer of compensation.

The first thing to remember is that all Jewish settlements in the West Bank are considered illegal by the international community (including the United States but excluding Israel) because they are in the occupied West Bank; the United Nations holds that settlements are a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention as does the International Court of Justice. There are more than 200 settlements. About half were established before George W. Bush’s 2002 “Road Map for Peace,” and are considered “legal” by Israel. The remaining half were established after that date and even Israel considers them “illegal.”

The current bill is especially onerous because it creates a method to legalize settlements that were built on private land without the owner’s permission. By building these settlements, Israelis are stealing Palestinian’s land. And now the Israeli government wants to legalize that theft.

The Times correctly notes that “the bill deepens the occupation thereby threatening the viability of the two-state solution, which admittedly is nearly moribund but which remains the only realistic hope for peace.”

The second bill the Times opposes bans religious institutions from using public loudspeakers to reduce noise pollution. Although written generally, the bill would only apply to Mosques that universally broadcast the Muslim call to prayer. There is a “Shabbos exemption” that will allows some ultra-orthodox communities to continuing marking Shabbos with a siren.

The Times correctly says “this will not end happily. Instead of trying to work out a reasonable, mutually agreeable modus vivendi in mixed-population cities like Jerusalem and Haifa and Lod, the Knesset is poised to adopt a harsh and provocative approach that will deepen the conflict.” The Times suggests that Israel use existing laws to deal with excessive noise, rather than target the Palestinian minority which would increase animosity between Israeli Jews and Israeli Palestinians.  

Opposing the two bills is pro-peace because each would create additional barriers to Israeli – Palestinian peace. But the Times editorial takes a pro-Israel tact in its last paragraph that encapsulates the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by claiming that Palestinians kill Jews and “teach resentment and propaganda,” while Israelis merely “respond” with settlements, walls, and harassment.

That summary of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict blatantly distorts the dynamic in a pro-Israel manner by ignoring that the Israeli army regularly kills and arrests Palestinians as the leading edge of Israel’s systematic dispossession of Palestinians, destruction of their economy, and denial of political and human rights. That is the military occupation of Palestine that has been going on for 50 years.

Worse, to show balance in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Times summary buys into the Israeli and Jewish American propaganda that Israelis seek peace and Palestinians seek death. It ignores the well-documented fact that Israeli schools equal or exceed Palestinian schools in teaching resentment and propaganda. The summary ignores that the Israel army has violently occupied Palestine for 50 years, and in doing so has killed thousands of Palestinians. 

The LA Times can’t have it both ways. Either the Times stands for peace as it did by opposing the two bills that will propagate the occupation. Or the Times stands with Israel in its long-term project to take control of the West Bank and marginalize or expel Palestinians as it did in its last paragraph.

(Jeff Warner is a founding member of LA Jews for Peace. He can be contacted at: Jeff@Keyway.net)


NEW GEOGRAPHY--One obvious, if little discussed, reason the progressive wave receded last week: The left’s increasingly unappealing economic agenda. In the past, progressives focused on improving conditions for working and middle class Americans through economic growth, home ownership and expansive infrastructure projects.

Today, notes former Bill Clinton aide William Galston, progressives rarely promote economic growth, having developed a particular hostility to many of the industries—energy manufacturing, transportation and agriculture—that offer economic opportunity to millions of Americans. This new environmental orientation has been less than enthusiastically embraced away from the coasts, where Trump, not coincidentally, triumphed.

In contrast to the old Democratic notions embraced by the likes of Harry Truman or the late California Governor Pat Brown, today’s progressives promote social control and the consolidation of a cognitively determined world order. Its promise amounts to forging a kind of high-tech middle ages in which the new aristocracy—techies, media grandees, financial moguls, academics, high-level bureaucrats—dominate while the middle class becomes increasingly serf-like.

In this new neo-feudalism, property ownership, like power, is concentrated in ever fewer hands.

Trumpism as anti-feudalism

The Trump victory tapped into a class rebellion among middle- and working-class voters who feelthe most alienated and pessimistic about the future. The post-industrial, asset-inflated world so beneficial to the Apples, Googles, media stars and the trustifarians in glamour cities has been less kind to the middle and working class, whose incomes have dropped or stagnated over the past decade and a half.

While some percentage of Trump’s supporters were fundamentally “deplorable,” this wasn’t the KKK triumph imagined by scriptwriter Adam Sorkin. Rather, he won with the support of many people who had previously voted for Barack Obama.

White working class voters, endless mocked and sometimes even demonized in the media, were massively underestimated by the pollsters, as well — who used 2012 exit polls that undercounted as many as 10 million white voters over 45 to build their models for who would turn out in 2016. 

And Trump dominated those voters, winning them by 40 percentage points — a 15 point improvement over Mitt Romney’s margin. Trump’s opponent, it should be noted, was also white.

How feudalism could trump populism.

It remains to be seen how Trump’s voters will feel about their choice in the years to come, but the basic incoherence of his world-view, along with the corporatist leaning of the Republican majority in Congress, could undermine any attempt to restore upward mobility

There are fundamentally three forces driving our post-modern feudalization, all of them related. One is globalization, highlighted throughout the campaign, and clearly responsible for considerable job losses for certain classes and certain regions. As countries such as China and India move up the value-added chain, even higher-paid workers will face mounting economic competition. San Jose and Raleigh soon could feel some of  the pain that Youngstown and Flint have absorbed for decades.

The second is immigration which, for all its many blessings, tends to depress wages for lower and middle workers. Many native-born Americans who used to enjoy steady work have joined the rapidly expanding, and economically vulnerable, precariat made up of contingent, irregularly employed workers. Both Bernie Sanders and Trump identified the problems faced by such workers by unrestricted immigration.

Undereducated whites are not the only ones who are suffering from downward mobility. Trump trailed but still considerably outperformed previous GOP nominees among both Latinos and African Americans. Increasingly, educated workers are threatened by such things as -IB visas for skilled workers, which essentially replaces indigenous skilled workers with imported indentured servants. This has already resulted in job losses among IT workers at places like the Disney Company and Southern California Edison.

The third driver of feudalization lies in the concentration of business and property ownership. Lenin once identified “small scale production” as what “gives birth spontaneously to capitalism and the bourgeoisie.” America’s small firms are in retreat while large corporations increasingly dominate everything from food to technologyFor the first time in our modern history, exits from business now exceed new incorporations.

Similarly, home ownership has dropped to its lowest level in five decades, with the decline steepestamong young people. More millennials now live with their parents than with a partner. And when they do move out, they are often trapped into renting, often at high rates, with little chance of ever buying a house.

The Religious Slant of Ecotopia

The first feudal era was characterized by constrained class mobility, a decline of middle orders and a persistent concentration of power, first in feudal lords and later kings. But what held Medieval society together was an attachment to common articles of faith. Catholic dogma defined and justified the ascension of the aristocracy and royalty, and explained in theological terms both why the poor should accept their fate, and why middle-class aspirations were a threat to the moral order.

Today religion is in, pardon the pun, secular decline. Particularly in the bluest states, it has been replaced by two new faiths. One is the green religion, now focused on climate change. The other new faith is technological determinism, the idea that there is a magical, disruptive solution to any problem, including those relating to nature.

Nowhere are these two religions more commingled than in America’s Ecotopia, which extends from Northern California to the Pacific Northwest and is both the home to our leading tech companies and birthplace of modern environmentalism.

 Structural changes help explain this melding. Today Silicon Valley profits have become more centered on software and media than hardware, so the constraints associated with environmental regulations, such as high energy and water costs, have become less important to oligarchs. At the same time many Silicon Valley companies — notably Tesla/Solar City — have sought to profit from the shift to “green” energy, feeding on the beneficent federal subsidies attached to it.

For these interests, the GOP’s great sweep represents a bit of an unexpected setback. The federal subsidies driving some of these industries are likely to be scaled back. Used to a cozy relationship with the White House, the tech elite, with the notable exception of Peter Thiel, finds itself on the outside looking in.

Acolytes of the technocratic green ideology, hostile to Trump, geographically and ideologically removed from the rest of the nation and already functioning as a kind of wealthy, cossetted alt-nation, are now talking vaguely about succession. That conversation is driven in part by apocalyptic predictions about climate change generally accepted without skepticism in media, academic and political circles.

 Although couched in scientism, green politics should be seen as somewhat faith-based, a craving more about piety than practical reality. Both Bjorn Lomborg and NASA’s Richard Hansen, one of the earliest heralds of climate change, doubt that the measures embraced by the Paris accords will prove remotely effective in reducing temperature rise. California , a recent report demonstrates. could literally fall into the ocean with no appreciable impact on global temperature, particularly given that countries like China continue to boost their coal capacity.

Neo-feudalism and the fate of the middle class.

Most critically, the theology of green progressives will do as little good for today’s middle and working class people as extreme Catholic dogma did for the medieval peasantry. Overall, according to a recent Social Science Council report, California is now the most unequal state when it comes to “well being,” combining stupendous, mostly coastal wealth with the highest rate of poverty in the nation, concentrated inland.

Neo-feudalism diminishes  the property owning middle-class. In the Bay Area, regional governments are now seeking to limit all new development to a mere fraction of the area’s land mass, all but guaranteeing the future generations will face almost impossibly high housing prices. And a new set of state regulations, including a requirement that new houses have “zero” net energy use all but guarantees that houses, over time, will continue becoming ever more expensive.

The Bay Area’s regional plan also says goodbye to the American dream, suggesting that 82 percent of all new housing should be rental. Ultimately there will be little left for “little people” save for low end service jobs and benefit-less roles in the gig economy   created by the oligarchs  . Tech firms in the Valley employ shockingly few Latinos or African Americans, who make up barely 6 percent, for example, of Facebook’s workforce. And that’s better than the average of barely 5 percent among the leading tech firms.

Older industries do far better on these terms. In manufacturing, 16.2% of workers are Latinos and 9.7% are African America, according to 2015 data.  In mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction, Latinos make up 16.9% of the workforce and African-Americans 4.8%, while in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, nearly a quarter of the workforce—23%—is Latino and 2.7 percent is African-American.

As the green ideology undermines the last bastions of the middle and working class economy, some of the most extreme “ethnic cleansing” is taking place in such cities as San Francisco, Portland and Seattle, where high prices, regulations ,  sometimes aided local redevelopment,  have worked to push minorities to the poorer suburbs, or out of the region entirely.

Oligarchs and Alms for the Poor

Silicon Valley’s answer to this to this reality is hardly reassuring. At a conference on environmental economics several years back, I discussed with a prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalist the impact of these policies on homeownership and family formation. A low birthrate didn’t faze him because he believed “we really don’t need people now,” at least not those without special skills. Ultimately robots will do most of the basic work, he explained.

Of course, if the largely childless hipsters on of San Francisco may accede to this view, it’s unlikely that many others, including the poor and undocumented immigrants, will embrace the post-human perspective at the heart of Silicon Valley. Of course the oligarchs have a solution to the marginalization of the masses: a pool of subsidies to help cover artificially inflated housing and energy costs. Elon Musk and other valley heavyweightssupport a government-sponsored minimum income for what they regard as an  increasingly redundant population.

The oligarchs do not want risk a rebellion from below; the Trump victory demonstrates that potential. Yet don’t worry much about their being burdened by their call for societal generosity. Skilled at tax avoidance, they’ll pass the bill on to the remaining middle and working class residents, while the regulatory clerisy, both in government and the universities, enjoy pensions and other protections unavailable to the masses.  

Trump and the New Feudalism

For all the awfulness associated with Trump, his election stemmed from a disinclination among Americans to accept their place in the new technocratic order. Trump is best praised for some of the enemies he has made—movie stars and hierarchs of the environmental left, the racial grievance industry, the high-tech oligarchs, the bureaucracy and a university system that serves largely as a giant re-education camp. Not surprisingly, those enemies are having a collective fit about his victory.

Yet for all the pleasure one can derive from this spectacle, it’s dubious that Trump, himself the licker off a silver spoon, will be effective at slowing America’s slide towards neo-feudalism. After all, his basic policy instincts tend to be wrong: cutting taxes on the rich is not what the middle and working classes need. And banning illegal immigration and engaging in trade wars may help some industries, but will certainly hurt others. By themselves, there’s no chance that those steps will restore prosperity to so many Americans.

But Trump’s working-class-fueled victory should finally convince the operatives in both parties that restoring upward mobility constitutes our  great political challenge. There could be some common ground in policies that embrace things like expanding skills  education and economically useful infrastructure, relaxing federal regulation and reducing taxation of small enterprise.

What Trump deserves credit for—perhaps the only thing he deserves credit for—is derailing the predictable transition of the same old insiders who would feed at the trough in a Clinton Inc. administration. Now it’s up to the rest of us—those who supported him and those, like me, who did not—to determine that making America “great again” also means standing up to the new feudalism, and chasing this regressive order back into the darkness of the past, where it belongs.

(Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com. … where this piece was most recently posted. He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, will be published in April by Agate. This piece first appeared at The Daily Beast and was published most recently by New Geography.) 


YOU GOTTA STAND FOR SOMETHING--As Donald Trump plans his transition into the White House, some have called for “unity.” Let’s “come together,” they say. Let’s “give him a chance.”

I say no.

When a man abuses his wife, you don’t tell her to give him a chance. You don’t tell her to try to talk things out with him. Meet him halfway. Hear his side of it. Believe him when he says he loves her and he won’t hit her again.

Why? Because it won’t work.

The rules of normal social conduct don’t apply in such a case. Nor do they apply in this one. As I’ve said before, Trump exhibits textbook emotional abuse tactics

If you give him a chance, he’ll walk all over you. If you go into any negotiation ready to meet him in the middle, he’ll demand it isn’t enough, that he must get his way entirely. And he’ll strong-arm you to get it.

We already have evidence that Trump does absolutely everything he can get away with.

He walked in on naked teenage beauty queens while they were changing, just because he could. Twelve women have accused him of sexual assault. He openly admits that he kisses and gropes them without consent.

He doesn’t pay contractors for their work. During the campaign, he even stiffed his own pollster. And his lawyers had to meet with him in pairs to prevent him from lying about their meetings.

This is a man who’ll do anything he can get away with. And he’s about as ready to change as a man who beats his wife would be.

So we can’t roll over and let him. We fight.

That’s what we must do now. We must make it absolutely as hard as possible for this man to wreck our democracy. And that’s not a partisan statement.

At this point, it’s not about whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican. It’s not about whether you prefer to repeal NAFTA or Obamacare, or about whether you think same-sex marriage should be legal.

It’s now about whether you think the democracy the United States has had for over 200 years should remain in existence. If the answer to that question is yes, then it’s time to fight. Because that’s what’s under threat.

The pain of this bitter election hurts. For the second time in recent years, the Electoral College is on track to install a president who received fewer votes from the American people than his opponent.

We’re all dealing with difficult emotions in different ways. I’m listening to audiobooks and knitting. Okay, and ugly crying. Others are protesting. And some are trying to handle their anger and fear by “thinking positive.”

It’s not the time for that. Not when thinking positive means denying reality.

It’s been only days since the election and Trump has already appointed Steve Bannon, a white supremacist and “alt-right” media kingpin, as a top adviser. If you wanted to give Trump a chance, there. He’s had one. He blew it.

The next four years are going to be hard. But now is the time to start mobilizing. The continuation of our very democracy depends on it.

(OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It and an occasional contributer to CityWatch. Distributed by OtherWords.org.)

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-This has been a long week. As a politically engaged vocal activist and a writer, I find it beyond challenging to silence my voice on social media. I respect and appreciate my friends’ decision to remain unwired for respite, peace and healing. 

I realize that unfortunately leaves me vulnerable to attacks. No matter which side of the aisle, we can probably agree that Trump has legitimized the voices of racists, sexists, homophobes, white supremacists and others. He may not be any of these things (well, pretty hard to walk back the sexist part) but in that scenario, he used the dog whistles to court the KKK, ant-Semites, and others in those camps to "win."  

I had a bizarre cyberbullying experience two nights post-election. A woman with a substantial following had posted about the protests on her Facebook wall. Some had written some pretty heated comments, which is their right. I’m not even sure at this point why I even bother to parachute into enemy territory but I did. I wrote a fairly innocuous fact-based comment and seconds later, “Laura Israel” asked if I “support criminals.” I took the bait. Her response included pretty vitriolic words about Hillary Clinton and an attack on me that included personal information. I felt violated. Did I know this woman? 

Moments later, I received a message from “D, whom I didn’t know but who shared this same Laura Israel had attacked her on one of the blogger’s Facebook threads about same-sex marriage and called her pretty vile names. Both “Laura Israel” and her “friend” had similar profiles so I suspected they might belong to a group. 

About an hour later, D. messaged that she had uncovered both Laura and her “friend” were troll accounts belonging to the same woman. It turned out “Laura” was someone I know. I had been a guest at her daughter’s bat mitzvah, celebrated at her holiday parties and her son’s bris. 

Since Donald J. Trump’s “season opener” with The Wall, I’ve wondered who nearby was on board. After Tuesday, I’ve begun to feel like we are in inside-out McCarthyism or the Salem Witch Trials. We aren’t really sure whom we can trust. I do not believe every person who voted for Trump shares the views he spewed at his rallies or in his early morning Twitter rampages. We don’t even know if he shares them. But we’ve turned the corner on what is accepted form. 

On the flip side, Donald Trump’s “anti-PC” scapegoating and rhetoric have exposed not only those who stand behind his dog whistles. He has also exposed our neighbors and Facebook “friends” who are appalled, people like the nurse from my children’s elementary school who turns out has a pretty strong activist bent. 

So, look around. We don’t know who might hold racist, sexist, ant-Semitic views or who might be hiding behind a phony troll profile or two to fire off cyberbullying missives to anyone who disagrees. But we also don’t know who among us is gearing up to protect our collective rights and to save the planet. 

Good will prevail. And despite the Electoral College outcome, Love Trumps Hate.


(Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles writer and a columnist for CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

BATTLING GEN X AND MILLENNIAL PERSPECTIVES?-The 2016 election is in the rear-view mirror. But the votes and views of a key demographic group – young women -- will reverberate significantly in future elections. Two members of this group, Ivanka Trump and Chelsea Clinton, were the most visible representatives of their peers during the campaign. Examining their unique demographic characteristics and attitudes provides clues about what we can expect from the emerging female electorate going forward. 


Let’s start with the basics. While very close in age, the two women fall into different generations. At 35, Ivanka Trump is at the front end of the much-discussed millennial cohort. Millennials are now the largest generation, making up more than one quarter of the nation’s population. Chelsea, at 36, is a young Gen Xer, a group with a less distinctive profile in public opinion. Together, Millennials and Gen Xers make up the largest share of eligible (not actual) voters (56%). 

The United States is experiencing what demographer Bill Frey calls a “diversity explosion,” with Millennials the most diverse generation in our history. Ivanka and Chelsea are part of the declining national white share of America’s population. Among Millennials, 56% are now white, 21% Hispanic, 14% African-American and 7% Asian. 

The Millennial generation is also the most educated generation in history, especially its women. Women surpassed men in bachelor’s degrees conferred in 1982, master’s degrees in 1987, and doctoral and other professional degrees in 2006. Ivanka and Chelsea’s Ivy League educations are not the norm for most young women, but their levels of education illustrate the impressive gains their female peers are making. This election, women with a college degree were 51 percent of voters and voted for Hillary Clinton, 58%-38%. 

The Future Family

Ivanka married at age 27, just days before her 28th birthday; Chelsea at age 30. Like many other women their ages and younger, they married later (and will be married longer if they stay married.) In 2015, the average age of first marriage was 27 for women and 29 for men, up from 21 for women and 23 for men of the Silent generation (born 1928–45). Around 20% of Millennials are married today. A quarter are the children of divorce or parental separation, true for Ivanka but not for Chelsea. 

While these two women have married, the rise of the non-married electorate may be more consequential politically. In the AEI/Brookings Institution/Center for American Progress report “States of Change: The Demographic Evolution of the American Electorate, 1974–2060,” we note that in 1974, 70% of eligible voters were married. Today, the married share of the eligible electorate is down to 52%. The non-married share is almost as large at 48%. Among female eligible voters, the non-married share has surpassed the married share. Strong majorities of non-married women (a group that includes single, divorced and widowed women) have voted Democratic in every presidential election since the 1980s, the first time the exit pollsters collected these data, and they have become more Democratic over time. Non-married women voted 62 percent for Hillary Clinton. Sixty-seven percent voted for Barack Obama in 2012. 

Religious intermarriage is becoming more common, and both Ivanka and Chelsea married someone of a different faith. Pew’s 2014 religious landscape survey found that people who married after 2010 were more than twice as likely to be in religious intermarriages as those who married before 1960 (39%-19%). 

Millennials are leading another significant religious change in America: the rise of the “nones.” More than a third of Millennials (35%) say they have no formal religious affiliation. Still, around 50% of Millennials say they are absolutely certain they believe in God. 

Declining fertility is another big story of our time, and the current fertility rate of 1.9 births per woman now falls below the replacement rate of 2.1. Ivanka has three children at this point, and Chelsea, two. Today, according to Gallup, American women say their ideal family size is 2.6 children, down from 3.6, a figure that remained constant until the late 1950s. In the same survey, 40% of Americans 18-40 years old who do not have children said they want them someday. Young adults still want kids; they just aren’t having as many. 

Women at Work -- And at Home?

Ivanka and Chelsea are working mothers, as both have highlighted in recent public appearances. They are both working moms of newborns, to boot. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 68% of married mothers in 2015 were in the labor force, as were three-fourths of mothers not married or living apart from their spouse. Fifty-eight percent of mothers with infants under a year old were in the workforce either full- or part-time last year. 

As more women have entered the U.S. workforce, their attitudes about working have shifted. Since 2007, around 50% of women, up from 36% when Gallup first asked the question in 1974, have consistently told the pollsters that if they were free to do either -- a big “if” for most women -- they would prefer to have a job outside the home than to stay home and take care of their house and family. While a majority of younger women and women with a college degree said they would prefer to work, a majority of women with children said they would not. In Gallup’s 2014-15 data, 54% of employed women with children under 18 preferred to stay home, as did 57% of women not currently employed with children. 

In 2015, both parents worked in 61% of married-couple families with children under 18, according to the BLS. Ivanka and Chelsea have more resources than most working mothers to help them navigate the work-family balance. More millennial husbands than husbands in earlier generations say they help at home. Fifty-nine percent of parents employed full-time say they share household chores equally, but women still handle most child-rearing responsibilities.

Ivanka is not alone in professing the joys of parenthood, as she did in her September Wall Street Journal article. In a 2015 Pew study, more than three in four parents with children under 18 described being a parent as enjoyable and, separately, rewarding. Mothers and fathers both gave equally as high responses. 

Political Laggards, Social Leaders?

In terms of partisan identification, Ivanka spoke for many in her generation when she said at the GOP convention: “I do not consider myself categorically Republican or Democrat.” More young people describe themselves as independents than as Republicans or Democrats. This election, more young voters cast ballots for third-party candidates than older voters did. But in recent elections, young voters have voted heavily Democratic. They voted solidly for President Obama in 2008 (66%) and 2012 (60%), fueled largely by the preferences of minority youth. 

In 2016, they voted 55% for Clinton to 37% for Trump. White young people voted narrowly for Trump, 48%- 43%. Minority millennials voted heavily for Clinton. Young white women voted for Clinton, 51%- 42%. Their older sisters, white women ages 30–44, voted more closely for Trump, 49%- 45%.

Younger voters pay some attention to politics. In the Spring 2016 Harvard Institute of Politics (IOP) poll, over half of 18- to 29-year-olds said they are following closely this year’s presidential election (60%) and, separately, news about national politics (52%). But unlike Ivanka and Chelsea, most do not actively participate. Although 37% have liked a political issue on Facebook and 29% a political candidate, most are passive and don’t engage in traditional political activities such as volunteering. 

Even though Ivanka and Chelsea haven’t made explicit their opinions on many mainstream issues, polling data show clear patterns in young people’s attitudes. Both Gen Xers and Millennials strongly support gay marriage, but until recently, young women were much more supportive than young men. Today their views are similar. Young men and women support marijuana legalization, but young women are more dubious about it than men. On abortion, the young, like other generations, want to keep abortion legal but are willing to put restrictions on its use. Young women are less supportive about women being drafted than are young men. Although these issues get substantial media attention, the top issues for most young people -- as for their parents -- are the economy, terrorism and health care. 

The granddaughters of feminism are charting their own course. In the Harvard IOP poll, 37% of women 18-29 years old identified themselves as feminists, while 58% did not. That’s not to say young women don’t think there’s progress to be made. In another poll from Pew earlier this fall, 63% of women 18-34 said there are still significant obstacles that make it harder for women to get ahead than men, compared with 38% of men this age who gave this response. When asked if they’ve ever personally experienced discrimination because of their sex, more women say they haven’t than say they have (53%-46%). 

Life at the Local Level

Ivanka and Chelsea campaigned on behalf of a parent for the country’s highest elected office, but young people aren’t very confident in government. They want the federal government to do many things and at the same time have little trust in it. Nearly two-thirds don’t think Social Security will be available when they retire. Similarly, young people are neither cheerleaders for nor hostile to big business. Many observers have commented on their distrust in central institutions, but this could have a silver lining. As they grow up, they are likely to be more self-reliant and perhaps more active in their local communities, where they have higher confidence that problems can be solved. 

Both Ivanka and Chelsea appear to have close relationships with their parents, another factor that defines the younger generations. Young people often talk to or text with their parents, and 32% of 18- to 34-year-olds live with a parent, surpassing for the first time the number of those living with a spouse or partner in their own household. Many also live near their parents. In the 2014 General Social Survey, over half (53%) of young adults said they lived in the same city as when they were 16 years old. Of those who moved away, one in five lived in the same state, while slightly more (one in four) moved to a different state. 

A Younger Direction

Ivanka and Chelsea didn’t sign up to be presidential surrogates, but both were a credit to their families on the campaign trail. Both have said their friendship will continue after the dispiriting political brawl that was this year’s campaign, something that could serve as good advice for the rest of us. And in an interview with 60 Minutes this week, Ivanka said she is “going to be a daughter” in her father’s presidential administration, rather than having a more formal role. As she and Chelsea return to their lives off the campaign trail, the demographic and attitudinal footprint of young women gives us a sense of how this emerging electorate will reshape the country’s political and cultural landscape for generations to come.

This piece is adapted from an article that first appeared on WSJ.com.


(Karlyn Bowman is a senior fellow and Heather Sims a program manager at the American Enterprise Institute. This piece was posted most recently at New Geography.)[[[   http://www.newgeography.com/content/005451-ivanka-trump-chelsea-clinton-and-emerging-female-electorate ]]] Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


Tags: Karlyn Bowman, Heather Sims, American Enterprise Institute, New Geography, Wall Street Journal, Millennials, Gen Xers, women in the workplace, demographic opinion patterns

TRUMP BRAND ADJUSTMENT BEGINS-Throughout the election, critics often savaged the media for “normalizing Trump,” broadly defined as the act of treating his rank sexism, xenophobia and fascist dog-whistles as just another policy difference against equally valid opponents. This trend, borne largely by a combination of cognitive dissonance and access, is being accelerated now that Trump has won the election, and its continuation, if left unchecked, could undermine opposition for years to come.

Oprah Winfrey, in an interview with Entertainment Tonight, said Trump’s recent visit to the White House gave her “hope” and suggested he has been “humbled” by the experience. The Guardian’s Simon Jenkins told his readers to “calm down” and that Trump wasn’t the “worst thing.” His college, Nouriel Roubini, insisted the Oval Office will “tame” Trump. People magazine ran a glowing profile of Trump and his wife Melania (though a former People writer accused Trump of sexual assault). The New York Times’ Nick Kristof dubiously added that we should “Grit our teeth and give Trump a chance.” The mainstays—Washington Post, New York Times and CNN—while frequently critical, are coving Trump’s transition as they would any other. President Obama, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have all issued statements recognizing Trump’s legitimacy and pleading we give him a chance.

Overall there’s a creeping sense that we’re stuck with Trump and we should make it “work” in some type of do-goody liberal appeal to patriotism.

But this is wrong, both tactically and ethically. Trump isn’t normal and he should never be treated as such, regardless of what President Obama and Clinton and Sanders say. These people are politicians, bound by a different covenant. The media, namely progressive media, is subject to no such charge. The overall message of normalizing Trump is that you can steamroll women, LGBT people, the disabled, Muslims, and people of color, yet everything will be okay so long as you win. Indeed, when asked if he thought his rhetoric had gone too far, Trump responded, “No, I won.” This is the logic of a fascist, and liberals are acquiescing to him by pivoting to “Trump as our kooky uncle” normalization mode.

In addition to it working in Trump’s favor in the present, it creates a moral hazard for all future Trumps: you can go as far right as you want and smear as many vulnerable populations you want, so long as you surpass 270 electoral votes come fall.

Had Trump lost, he would likely have been cast out of proper company, left to build his own Breitbart-like brand operating on the margins of acceptable opinion. Influential and profitable to be sure, but not mainstream. Political principles, to say nothing of morality, should not shift based on the outcome of an election. If Trump was a vulgar racist and sexual predator before November 8, he still is after, regardless of his new position.

So what to do?

Those not appealing to bromides about “working together” are staging massive protests throughout the country, from Austin to Portland to Kansas City to New York. As expected, the same pundit class that neither predicted nor adequately combated Trump’s rise are concern trolling those taking to the streets to show their revulsion. The Daily Show ran a boring segment hand-wringing over some overturned cars. New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait insisted the people shouldn’t denounce Trump the day after the election because it was “a little soon.” Too soon? Given the stakes, one is compelled to ask, why wait?

Israel has already signaled it will expand settlements with the blessing of the president-elect. The cabinet looks like it will be stuffed with unqualified Trump cronies. Virulently anti-poor people Paul Ryan has effectively been put in charge of budget priorities and is floating Medicare cuts. A climate change denier is selecting the head of the EPA. Why wait to use every available avenue to undermine Trump on the altar of civility?

Instead of appealing to civility or plotting a run four years down the road, pundits who truly want to undermine Trump as much as possible should spend more time supporting their local anti-Trump protests and far less time treating Trump like just another politician. The left can only combat Trump by leveraging both its political and activist wings, not indulging in Sorkinesque gestures of “working together.”

(Adam Johnson is a contributing analyst at FAIR and contributing writer for AlterNet. This perspective was posted most recently at TruthDig.) 


PERSPECTIVE-Ivanka Trump will take the oath of office as President of the United States in 2032. By then, she will have served in Congress for ten years, filling Rep. Peter King’s seat in New York. This would come after four years as White House Press Secretary. 

I can hear the readers of this article madly typing comments, many of them expressing outrage.

Before you hit the “send now” button, you should understand that those who are well-acquainted with me know my affection for satire. I have even written a few satirical pieces for Citywatch

In my early youth, I developed an appreciation for the genre. Steve Allen’s and Ernie Kovacs’ off-the-wall skits, while not about politics, not to mention tame by today’s standards, were the prototypes for contemporary comedic interpretations of current events and social norms. 

John Oliver’s work is at the top of my list these days (Jon Stewart is OK, but Colbert is a frightful bore.) Oliver pulls no punches and uses gut-busting delivery and politically incorrect content, although I wish he would refrain from over-reliance on the F-bomb. 

I’m waiting for someone to perform a skit about Ivanka Trump rising to power; Chelsea Clinton too – it has been reported that she is being groomed to run for Congress. There’s great potential material here. It could top all of the Donald Trump/Hilary Clinton sketches that appeared on SNL. 

I thought Donald Trump’s campaign was satire – until November 8th – but Clinton ended up as the punchline. So, while I am not serious about either Ivanka’s or Chelsea’s prospects for leading the nation, the recent election proves that anything can happen. Maybe Billy Bush can resurrect his family’s political fortunes. 

Yes, anything can happen, but, judging from partisan Facebook posts, few of Clinton’s supporters failed to recognize that right up through late in the afternoon of November 8th. By the way, Dave Chappelle’s sketch with Chris Rock on SNL hilariously made that point. 

Both candidates took their lumps in the parodies; perhaps Trump more so, but his rants were softballs which the writers were able to knock out of the park. Many Clinton supporters may have developed a false sense of security by assuming the satire reflected the prevailing sentiment across all regions. However, what may seem funny and improbable one day, can become reality the next.

Too many people have a myopic view of the world. They do not understand how anyone can hold an opposing position. As a result, they can get blindsided and unduly horrified when results do not go their way. 

We owe it to ourselves to understand the underlying reasons for the views of a wider audience, not just what is reported in the mainstream and social media, or fed to us by partisan organizations. Michael Moore had it right. 

Unless we make an effort to understand each other, we will allow satire to obscure reality. Then it will no longer be funny.


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

LEANING RIGHT--After eight years of George W. Bush ("the uniter, not the divider") and Barack H. Obama ("hope and change") we now have the Orange Man who came into office to "Make America Great Again".  Like so many others I voted for all three of them, and have both hopes and fears for the future, and a dent in my forehead from all the times I smacked my hand into it after Trump said something stupid. 

Yet after listening to a President who SAID things (transparency, listening to the other side) that were wonderful but yet DID things that were unforgiveable (oversaw an IRS, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Justice who were shockingly partisan and arguably corrupt), count me in as someone who will focus not on what Trump SAYS but what he DOES. 

And in so doing, he based his campaign on representing the oppressed (including, if they will accept him, Black Americans who are hurting more than ever). 

For all of Hillary Clinton's talk of killing Citizens United, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton with only half the money she spent, and a very, very small payroll...after overcoming more money than the GOP elites of Mitt Romney, the Bush Family and the Beltway Bunch could have ever thrown against one man. 

So eight years after electing its first African-American President, how did billionaire Donald Trump become the elected voice (of the electoral college, but not the popular vote) of so many who felt voiceless and unrepresented in the halls of power in D.C.? 

1) His efforts focused on what he would DO, and his supporters latched onto the gist of what he said, not on all the verbal "gotcha" moments his opponents threw at him. 

No, he is NOT an eloquent speaker--he's brash, frequently puts his foot in his mouth, and appears to be a rough, shoot-from-the-hip modern-day conglomeration of Andrew Jackson and Teddy Roosevelt.  The elites hate him, but the ordinary Joe/Jane loves him.  The Wall Street wealthy despise him, but those in the desperate middle class look to him for REAL "hope and change". 

Of course, it's likely that both Andrew Jackson and Teddy Roosevelt were more eloquent than Mr. Trump, but all three of them--and their supporters--recognized elitist bigots and those stacking the deck in their favor when they recognized it.  Currently, those wanting an end to borders and a focus on cheap labor are--intentionally or otherwise--KILLING the Middle Class. 

And after not one, but two Presidents, both a cowboy and a community organizer, clearly played to the wealthy elites, and oversaw income inequality that is both historical and breath-taking in its extent and severity, much of mainstream America wanted to reward hard work and playing by the rules. 

You know ... "Make America Great Again?" 

Hence the Trump team might scare both the Far Right and the Far Left, but both Reince Priebus and Stephen Bannon (for all their flaws) represent the moderate-conservative center of this nation who both did and want more outreach to minorities than Mitt Romney ever, EVER performed. 

And if Trump and his team are so "bigoted" then why are his three adult children married to Jews, with Tiffany Trump dating a Jew, to boot?  If Bill Clinton is the "first black President", then arguably isn't Donald Trump then the "first Jewish President"? 

Furthermore, if President Obama was the voice of the little guy, why were those most happy with him either uber-wealthy (Silicon Valley, Wall Street) or insulated from the realities of our harsh economy (public sector employees, high-paying jobs, those with cozy governmental contracts), leaving the Middle Class with nothing but debt and a painful loss of the American Dream? 

And although Obama supporters would probably rather swallow a bag of razor blades than admit it, eight years and ten trillion dollars of debt, and a host of excuses that stopped meaning anything six years ago, we ARE in the middle of a Second Great Depression, and a Second Gilded Age, to boot (the first was in the late 1800's, and resulted in labor unions and a 40-hour work week). 

Hence we saw labor unions more in favor of Trump (or at least individuals belonging to labor unions) than we ever saw them vote for a GOP candidate in decades, and more black Americans (and many Latino Americans) voting for Trump in historic percentages.   

Trump was the ONLY candidate that really emphasized what UNDEREMPLOYMENT was, and that we'd had no reasonable GDP growth for the entirety of the Obama Era.  Because "it's the economy, stupid!" 

2) Trump listened to his supporters, and to suffering Americans, in ways that neither the younger Bush nor Obama ever did. 

A surge to the Left helps only a few at the expense of the majority, and while Big Hollywood, Big Technology, and Big Green did well under Obama (just as major defense contractors did well under GW Bush), ordinary Americans and struggling small businesses were smashed and belittled whenever they complained. 

And just as the GOP was unforgivably guilty of ignoring the ever-worsening costs and access problems to health care, the Obama Administration was guilty of ignoring the shrieks and screams of businesses, economists, and independent contractors who complained about the "Affordable" Care Act. 

So when Donald Trump, on the campaign trail, emphasized a "repeal and replace" for the ACA, did enough leading Democrats acknowledge they should have been more responsive and respectful to those who complained about the ACA?  

Hardly--in so many words, they said, "Shut up, we know better. You just can't stand it that a black President was elected." 

Right--and so when I and my fellow physicians (most who, like myself voted for Obama in 2008) actually LISTENED to our patients (who didn't have good jobs like we did), and became aware of the fiscally-untenable future of the ACA, it became obvious that true "hope and change" was in order.  

And Trump HAS supported the "no pre-existing conditions" and "young adults remaining on their parent's health plans" that virtually all of America wanted before and after the ACA was passed. 

So the "secret handshake" and quiet, subdued, fearful suggestions of my patients and fellow physicians (and they were of both genders, and of all ethnic backgrounds!) led to an understanding that there were undercurrents that the insulated, "everything is fine, nothing to see here" Obama/Clinton crowd truly ignored.   

Not "deplorable" and not "unwashed" and not "stupid".  And certainly NOT "bigoted". Just IGNORED, and willing to work very hard to fight for an economic future for themselves and their children. 

And the first patient of mine who had major concerns about the ACA (President Obama's version of President GW Bush's Iraq fiasco)?  A young, U.S.-born, twentysomething Latino male with a mother who arrived here illegally and spoke not a single word of English. 

Some of us choose to listen, and some choose not to.  Some choose to presume they have a stranglehold over being "smart" and "right", and some choose to always ask themselves if they could be wrong.  

It's that simple.

3) Trump promises to make America inclusive...but one that follows the law, and doesn't have a problem promoting its own best interests. 

Those shrieking about racism might have their own divisive, race-obsessed agenda to confront. In his 60 minutes interview that just aired on Sunday, Trump told any of his supporters who crossed the line into bigotry to "Stop it."  He also supported those who protested out of passion but had a problem with those paid protestors causing destruction and injury. 

And how about, and what ARE we to do, about those far-Left agitators who are behind most of the destruction in the Black Lives Matter and anti-Trump protests?  When DO we acknowledge they're out there, and are the REAL dividing force in our nation? 

WILL we acknowledge that the Koch Brothers did NOT support Trump (they're libertarian globalists who have no problem sending the middle class straight to Hades in order to get cheap labor), but that George Soros is a vile man who must be limit-set, if not stopped altogether?   

Or at least acknowledge that the Koch Brothers and Soros are some creepy fellows (no less than Mitt Romney, who never did stop fighting Trump...and why is that?) who are dangerous to this nation. 

On a related note, when WILL we acknowledge that Trump repeatedly, as have many if not most of us, supported LEGAL immigration but NOT ILLEGAL immigration?   

Legal and illegal immigration is NOT the same, dammitall, and to dismiss those decrying lawbreaking (especially those hurting the rest of us to make a few bucks) as racists is itself immoral...and maybe even racist, to boot. 

Are "sanctuary cities" angelic defenders of the unrepresented, or merely corporate-run entities with an agenda that will send Black America straight to hell? 

And doesn't Trump's "New Deal for Black America" a sign that he's trying to do outreach for ALL Americans, or something that will be ignored because it's coming from the Orange Man? 

America is more divided than ever.  Donald Trump clearly won the electoral vote, but Hillary Clinton clearly won the popular vote

Not good.  But at least we'll brook no apologists for this new Trump Administration.   

There will be RESULTS, or a demand for a new person to bring about change.

And let's not forget how many people have ignored, and continue to ignore, those of our fellow Americans who are suffering and want nothing more than the opportunity to succeed through their own hard work, and by obeying the rules, and the laws, and the morals, of our American nation.


(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties.  He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at  alpern@marvista.org. 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.)


ELECTORAL COLLEGE REDUX-At 11:30 p.m. on Election Night 2012, outraged at President Barack Obama’s re-election victory over GOP nominee Mitt Romney, Donald J. Trump tweeted, “We can’t let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty.” 

Karma, of course, has its own cruel irony. The day after Trump’s stunning presidential triumph this week, tens of thousands of Americans unleashed their own outrage by beginning to march, if not on Washington, then at least on the streets of many of America’s cities, trying to stop the travesty they saw in his election. 

Those demonstrations on the streets reflect the feeling among millions in American unwilling to accept Trump’s victory, at least without some kind of protest – chanting their slogans “Not My President” and “Trump and Pence make no sense.” 

Racist, sexist, and a homophobe. Correct or not, concerns over those allegations against the brash, outspoken billionaire have left the first days after his election full of doom and gloom for protesters and others mourning the bitter, unexpected defeat of Democrat Hillary Clinton. 

In response, Trump supporters have taken to social media and denounced demonstrators as hypocrites or worse for not accepting defeat in a democratic process. 

This is not new, of course, in American presidential history. In 1969, protesters assaulted Richard Nixon’s inaugural motorcade along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington with smoke bombs, rocks and rotten eggs.  

In 2000, thousands of demonstrators attended George W. Bush’s inauguration ceremonies in the nation’s capital where Bush's limousine was hit by a tennis ball and an egg thrown from the crowd during the inaugural parade. 

“Hey, hey, ho, ho, that son of a Bush has got to go," chanted a cluster of protesters among a group of protesters along the parade route. Meanwhile, more than 10,000 protesters marched in San Francisco and Los Angeles. 

And as far back as 1860, news of that year’s presidential victory by a Northern Republican led the state legislature of South Carolina to declare Abraham Lincoln's election a hostile act and its intention to secede from the Union. 

Understandably, today the Obama White House is urging anyone choosing to protest Trump’s election, to do so non-violently. 

“We’re Democrats and Republicans, but we’re Americans and patriots first,” Obama press secretary Josh Ernest cautioned Thursday, amid what some protesters were calling the dawn of a new fascism. 

The concern is being further fueled by the fact that, though winning the presidency through an Electoral College majority, Trump apparently lost the popular vote to Mrs. Clinton, much as George W.  Bush lost the national vote to Democrat Al Gore. 

Mrs. Clinton will have won the popular vote by a wider percentage margin than not only Gore in 2000 but also John F. Kennedy in 1960 and Richard Nixon in 1968. 

Incidentally, Mrs. Clinton and George W. Bush are not the first candidates to have won the popular vote but lost the presidency, though the others date back to the 19th century. 

In the 1824 election, John Quincy Adams was elected president in a campaign decided by the House of Representatives under the provisions of Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution after no candidate secured a majority of the electoral vote. Andrew Jackson had received the most electoral votes, but lost the presidency in the House vote.  

Rutherford B. Hayes won the bitter 1876 presidential election despite Democrat Samuel J. Tilden of New York winning the popular vote. Even the electoral votes were in dispute but was resolved in a deal in which Democrats acquiesced to Hayes's election in exchange for Republicans agreeing to withdraw federal troops from the South, thus ending Reconstruction.  

In 1888, incumbent Democratic President Grover Cleveland of New York won the popular vote but was unseated by Benjamin Harrison in the Electoral College when Cleveland failed to carry his home state where New York City’s Tammany Hall political machine helped defeat helped defeat him. 

In all those instances, supporters of the defeated candidates have raised the question of electing a president in a way some see counter to traditional democratic rules. 

“If we really subscribe to the notion that ‘majority rules,’ then why do we deny the majority their chosen candidate?” asked a disappointed Jennifer M. Granholm, a Clinton supporter and a former governor of Michigan, in the wake of the most recent election. 

Trump would appear to agree. Or he did, at least, in a Twitter post on the eve of the 2012 election when he called the Electoral College “a disaster for democracy.” At the time Trump believed that Romney, who he supported, had beaten President Obama in the popular vote. He hadn’t. 

Today, the beneficiary of the unique indirect election of the American presidency put in place by the 1787 Constitutional Convention, Trump finds that his gleaming black leather size 12 Oxford is on the other foot.


(Tony Castro, a former political reporter and columnist, is the author of five books, the most recent being “Looking for Hemingway: Spain, The Bullfights and a Final Rite of Passage” (Lyons Press) He is an occasional contributor to CityWatch). Prepped for CityWatch for Linda Abrams.

NEW GEOGRAPHY-In an election so ugly and so close, one is reluctant to proclaim winners. But it’s clear that there’s a loser -- the very notion of the United States of America. 

Instead we have populations and geographies that barely seem to belong in the same country, if not to the same planet. The electorate is so divided that many states went for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton by lopsided margins. The Northeast was solidly Democratic, with Clinton winning New York, Massachusetts and Vermont with three-fifths of the vote or more. Washington, D.C., heavily black and the seat of the bureaucracy and pundit class, delivered an almost Soviet-style 93% to 4% margin. 

On the other side was a series of states where Trump won just as easily, including Tennessee and Kentucky, with three-fifths of the vote, and West Virginia, by a margin of two-to-one -- higher than those attained by 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. 

Much of the rest of the map has followed the usual patterns: Democratic domination of Illinois and the West Coast, while Republicans held the South. Where the election was decided was in previous battleground states: Florida, North Carolina and Ohio. 

The Revolt of Middle America 

America is a nation of many economies, but those that produce real, tangible things -- food, fiber, energy and manufactured goods -- went overwhelmingly for Trump. He won virtually every state from Appalachia to the Rockies, with the exceptions of heavily Hispanic Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, and President Obama’s home base of Illinois. 

Some of his biggest margins were in energy states -- Texas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Wyoming, and North Dakota -- where the fracking revolution created a burst of prosperity. Generally speaking, the more carbon-intensive the economy, the better the Republicans did. Many of his biggest wins took place across the energy-producing regions of the country, including Ohio, Texas, Louisiana, Wyoming, Idaho, and especially West Virginia, where he won by a remarkable margin of 68% to 27%. The energy industry could well be the biggest financial winner in the election. 

The Green Trap 

Clinton’s support for climate change legislation, a lower priority among the electorate than other concerns, was seen as necessary to shore up support from greens threatening to attack her from the left. Yet the issue never caught on the heartland, which tends to see climate change mitigation as injurious to them. 

This may have proven a major miscalculation, as the energy economy is also tied closely to manufacturing. Besides climate change, the heartland had many reasons to fear a continuation of Obama policies, particularly related to regulation and global trade, which seems to have been a big factor in Trump’s upset win in normally moderate to liberal Wisconsin. 

Trump either won, or closely contested all the traditional manufacturing states -- Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa and even Michigan, where union voters did not support Clinton as they had Obama and where trade was also a big issue. Trump did consistently better than Romney in all these states, even though Romney was a native of Michigan. Perhaps the most significant turnaround was in Ohio, which Obama won with barely 51% of the vote in 2012. This year Trump reversed this loss and won by over seven points. 

Agricultural states, reeling from the decline of commodity prices, not surprisingly, also went for the New Yorker. 

Premature Epitaphs for the White Voter 

Race, as is often the case, played a major role in the election. For much of the election, commentators, particularly in the dominant Eastern media, seemed to be openly celebrating what CNN heralded as “the decline of the white voter.” The “new America,” they suggested, would be a coalition of minorities, educated workers and millennials. 

To be sure, the minority share of the electorate is only going to grow -- from less than 30% today to over 40% in 2032 -- as more white Americans continue to die than be born. Just between 2012 and 2016, the Latino and Asian electorate grew 17% and 16%, respectively; the white electorate expanded barely 2%. 

In Colorado the new minority math was seen, with a strong showing among Latinos, the educated suburbs around Denver and millennials. 

That may be the future, but now is now. Exit polling nationwide showed Trump won two-to-one among people without a college degree, matched Clinton among college graduates, losing only those with graduate degrees, a group that has voted for the Democrats since 1988. 

But there’s simply more high school graduates than those with graduate degrees. And for now there are a lot more whites than minorities. As we look into the future, these groups will fade somewhat but right now they can still determine elections. Nowhere is this clearer than in Trump’s decisive win in Florida, a state that is home to many white retirees, including from the old industrial states. 

Latinos may be the one group in the “new America” that made a difference for Clinton, not only in Colorado, but also in Nevada. Republicans paid a price for Trump’s intemperate comments on immigration and about Mexico. 

They also made states like Texas and North Carolina closer, and may have helped secure Clinton’s win in Virginia. In contrast, neither African-Americans nor millennials seem to have turned out as heavily, both in numbers and percentage terms, as they did for President Obama. Trump appears to have made some modest gains with both groups, contrary to the conventional wisdom. 

Class Warrior 

Class has been a bigger factor in this election than in any election since the New Deal era. Trump’s insurgency rode largely on middle- and working-class fears about globalization, immigration and the cultural arrogance of the “progressive” cultural elite. This is something Bill Clinton understands better than his wife. 

Trump owes his election to what one writer has called “the leftover people.”  These may be “deplorables” to the pundits but their grievances are real – their incomes and their lifespans have been decreasing.  They have noticed, as Thomas Frank has written, that the Democrats have gone “from being the party of Decatur to the party of Martha’s Vineyard.” 

Many of these voters were once Democrats, and feel they have been betrayed. And they include a large swath of the middle class, whose fury explains much of what happened tonight. Trump has connected better with these voters than Romney, who won those making between $50,000 and $90,000 by a narrow 52 percent margin. Early analysis of this year’s election shows Trump doing better among these kinds of voters. 

At the same time, however, affluent voters -- those making $100,000 and above -- seem to have tilted over to the Democrats this year. This is the first time the “rich” have gone against the GOP since the 1964 Goldwater debacle. Obama did better among the wealthy, winning eight of the 10 richest counties in 2012. In virtually all these counties, Clinton did even better. 

What does this mean for America’s traditional middle class, whose numbers have been fading for a generation? Long the majority, notes Pew, they are no longer, outnumbered by the lower and upper classes combined. Yet like the Anglo population, in this election what’s left of America’s middle class has shown itself not ready to face the sunset. 

Now What? 

Given the unpredictable nature of Trump, it’s hard to see what he will do. Although himself a businessman, he was opposed overwhelmingly by his own class. Clinton won more support from big business and the business elite. If you had a billionaire primary, Clinton would have won by as much as 20 to 1. 

Initially many of those business interests closest to both Obama and Clinton -- Wall Street, Silicon Valley, Hollywood -- will be on the outside looking in. Their advantages from tax avoidance could be lessened. Merger-mania, yet another form of asset inflation, will continue unabated, particularly in the tech and media space. 

The clear challenge for (I can’t believe I am writing these words) President Trump will not be so much to punish these enemies, but to embrace those people -- largely middle class, suburban, small town and white -- who are not part of his world, but made him President. If he embraces his role as a radical reformer, he could do much good, for example with a flatter tax system, restoring federalism, seizing the advantage of the energy revolution and reviving military preparedness. 

The question is whether he will, or is capable, of doing these things. A Hillary Clinton administration would have been safer, and predictable, but it would not have addressed the very things that made Americans turn to this bizarre political poseur. Now it’s up to Trump to live up to his promise to restore the country’s self-confidence, and, for the rest of us, to make sure he does it in accordance with the Constitution and basic decency.


(Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com. … where this piece was originally posted. He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, will be published in April by Agate.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

NEW GEOGRAPHY-She had it all -- the pliant media, the tech oligarchs, Wall Street, the property moguls, the academics, and the all-around “smart people.” What Hillary Clinton didn’t have was flyover country, the economic “leftovers,” the small towns, the un-hipstered suburbs, and other unfashionable places. As Thomas Frank has noted, Democrats have gone “from being the party of Decatur to the party of Martha’s Vineyard.” No surprise, then, that working- and middle-class voters went for Donald Trump and helped him break through in states -- Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa ---that have usually gone blue in recent presidential elections. 

Trump seized on the widespread sense that American life was destined to get worse from generation to generation. Americans wanted opportunity for the next generation, not a managed decline. Democrats -- and I was one for over 40 years -- once offered this to the working and middle classes that have now deserted the party. 

More than anything, the Trump vote says “no” to oligarchies and ruling classes that not only hoard their wealth but also are convinced that they are morally superior. Trump may be as ostentatious as anyone in flaunting his own wealth, but compared with his garishness, the hypocrisy of the elites is infinitely worse. It’s one thing to be told that decline and future stagnation are your lot by, say, selfless monks wearing hair shirts or tough party cadres who live, like the pre-revolutionary Bolsheviks, with the common people. It’s quite another, when the message comes from trustafarians writing for the New York Times or people who fly their own planes and own numerous homes. 

Concern about climate change galvanized the elites -- Wall Street, Hollywood, Silicon Valley -- but left Main Street cold. Wall Street placed its bets on Trump and, like many blocs within the new “progressive” constituency, reacted with shock that the American people hadn’t bought in to their investment. 

The map tells all. Clinton won by large margins in the Northeast and on the West Coast, and in states -- Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada -- where Trump’s intemperate comments roused Latino voters. But outside of Illinois, a whole swath of the country, from the hills of Appalachia to the fringes of the Rockies, went solidly for Trump. 

Why would that be? Start with basic economics. The economy in the nation’s interior relies on producing things -- an endeavor that the coasts have largely abandoned. Energy, manufacturing, and agriculture still define these economies, and employ many white-collar as well as blue-collar workers. If you live in Texas and Oklahoma, “decarbonization” is a much less attractive concept than it might seem in Manhattan or San Francisco. Trump swept the areas that keep the lights on and the motors turning -- Ohio, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas, Wyoming, Idaho, Louisiana, and especially West Virginia, where he won by a remarkable 68 to 27 margin. 

Among other things, the media missed the fact that the middle of the country and the South continue to gain population. The “blue” model, for the most part, expels people, while, in contrast, the “red” one appeals, particularly to middle- and working-class families. Texas and Florida are now our second and third most-populous states. Once the pacesetter, New York is a mere shadow of itself as a determiner of elections, and California, no longer growing more quickly than the rest of the country, has perched itself on the Left fringe, with obvious bad ramifications -- high housing and energy bills, depressed blue-collar sectors -- for middle-aged, middle-class families. 

In contrast, Trump’s America presents an alternative model, which honors small enterprise, allows housing to meet demand, and does not see the United States as part of a global system to be managed. That there are xenophobic, and even racist, elements in the Trumpian ranks is undeniable -- but for most Americans, the true “deplorables” have been the self-appointed regulators and financial masters who seem determined to halt their upward progress, and that of their children. 

If our governing elites want to know how Trump happened, they need only look in the mirror.


(Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com. He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, will be published in April by Agate. This perspective was posted most recently at New Geography.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

TRUTHDIG--The people Hillary Clinton derided as a “basket of deplorables” have spoken. They have voted out of the pain of their economic misfortune, which Clinton’s branch of the Democratic Party helped engender.

What you have is a defeat of elitism. Clinton’s arrogance was on full display with the revelation of her speeches cozying up to Goldman Sachs—the bank that caused this misery more than any other—and the irony of this is not lost on the people who are hurting and can’t pay their bills. This is a victory for a neofascist populism—scapegoating immigrants and Muslims—and if Bernie Sanders had been the Democrats’ candidate, I feel confident he would have won. We were denied the opportunity of a confrontation between a progressive populist, represented by Sanders, and a neofascist populist.

It’s a repudiation of the arrogant elitism of the Democratic Party machine as represented by the Clintons, whose radical deregulation of Wall Street created this mess. And instead of recognizing the error of their ways and standing up to the banks, Clinton’s campaign cozied up to them, and that did not give people who are hurting confidence that she would respond to their needs or that she gave a damn about their suffering. She’s terminally tone-deaf.

So too were the mainstream media, which treated the wreckage of the Great Recession as a minor inconvenience, ignoring the deep suffering of the many millions who lost their homes, savings and jobs. The candidate of Goldman Sachs was defeated, unfortunately by a billionaire exemplar of everything that’s evil in late-stage capitalism, who will now worsen instead of fix the system. Thanks to the arrogance of the Democratic Party leadership that stifled the Sanders revolution, we are entering a very dangerous period with a Trump presidency, and this will be a time to see whether our system of checks and balances functions as our Founding Fathers intended.

Make no mistake about it: This is a crisis of confidence for America’s ruling elite that far surpasses Nixon’s Watergate scandal. They were the enablers of radical deregulation that betrayed Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s contract with the American people in the wake of the Great Depression. The people are hurting, and regrettably, Trump was the only vehicle presented to them by either major party in the general election to register their deepest discontent. The Trump voters are the messenger; don’t demonize them in an effort to salvage the prestige of the superrich elite that has temporarily lost its grip on the main levers of power in this nation.

Thankfully, the Clinton era is over, and the sick notion that the Democratic Party of FDR needed to find a new home in the temples of Wall Street greed has been rudely shattered by the deep anger of the very folks that the Democrats had presumed to represent. That includes working-class women, who failed to respond to the siren song of Clinton, whom the democratic hacks offered instead of a true progressive like Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. Yes, we need a female president, but not in the mold of Margaret Thatcher.

(Robert Scheer is the founder of TruthDig … where this commentary was first posted.) Graphic credit: Mr. Fish


THE MOURNING AFTER-Was your party rejected by the voters during Tuesday’s election? If so, here are two things you should know. 

  1. You should be prepared to feel some intense emotional distress. 
  1. But it should lift pretty much completely by this time next week. 

That mixed news comes from a study published last year. Lamar Pierce of Washington University, Todd Rogers of Harvard University, and Jason Snyder of the University of California–Los Angeles tracked Americans’ emotional reactions to the 2012 election, in which President Barack Obama defeated challenger Mitt Romney. 

They found evidence of the agony of defeat, but the thrill of victory? Not so much. 

“We find that the pain of losing an election is much larger than the joy of winning one,” they write in the Journal of Experimental Political Science. “Elections strongly affect the immediate happiness/sadness of partisan losers, but minimally impact partisan winners.” 

Pierce and his colleagues used data from CivicScience polls. Each day during the weeks immediately before and after Election Day 2012, an average of 210 Republicans and 111 Democrats were asked, “How happy are you today -- very happy, happy, so-so, unhappy, or very unhappy?” 

They found “little change in the likelihood that Democrats report being happy,” even after Obama’s re-election win. 

However, “immediately following the election, Republicans’ self-reported happiness drops from approximately 60 percent to 30 percent.” That represents “a strong negative effect on the baseline level of happiness” for members of the losing party. 

The researchers compared this drop with the effects of other events that caused distress: Specifically, the reaction of parents with children to the mass shooting at Newtown Elementary School, and that of Boston-area residents to the Boston Marathon bombing. 

Each of those events did indeed lower happiness levels in those demographics. But the plunge in mood was twice as large for partisans whose party had lost the election. 

“People’s social, physical, economic, and mental lives are shaped by their partisan identities, and these social identities are widely and deeply held,” the researchers note. Thanks to this intense personal connection, “winning an election is fine, but losing one is painful, at least in the short run.” 

Unhappy people can take heart in that last point. The data suggests that, “over the eight weeks before and after (the 2012 election), happiness is relatively constant, except for Republicans in the week immediately following the election.” This suggests their sense of well-being returned to its normal level within seven days. 

So if today it feels like the world is ending, keep in mind that this pain is temporary. And remember: the next election in LA is only four months away! 

Wait, now I’m getting depressed.


(Tom Jacobs writes for Pacific Standard Magazine where this perspective was firs posted.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

@THE GUSS REPORT-Any fair-minded person knows that fighting racism (and other forms of discrimination) is an important pursuit. But people harm that effort when they label as racist those people who are not.

In October 2013, President Barack Obama made a great, spirited and fair challenge to the Republicans.

"You don't like a particular policy or a particular president? Then argue for your position. Go out there and win an election. Push to change it.”

At the time, the Democrats had just lost control of the U.S. Senate. Several years earlier in his first term, they lost control of the House of Representatives. Despite that slide, the still-standing Obama courageously threw down the gauntlet.

Last night, with more help from the previously unknown campaign advisor Kellyanne Conway than from the Republican establishment, Donald Trump rose to the occasion and won.

Instead of acknowledging that Trump’s crystal ball had a better read on the American voting population than did Hillary Clinton’s, suddenly, sadly, but not unpredictably, some of those on (or disenfranchised by) the losing side of the scoreboard spent much of the night online labeling the outcome that which it is not: racism, misogyny and sundry other accusations.

From a friend: “We live in a racist country and now have a racist president. Next he'll go after Jews….Hitler got elected too.”

But the friend did not have an answer for this: Are you saying that the people who overwhelmingly elected Obama in 2008, and re-elected him in 2012, (except those who were too young to vote in those elections) suddenly became “racists” last night?

I guess, channeling Bill Clinton’s wordplay, it depends on your meaning of unfairness, discrimination, anti-Semitism, dishonesty, racism, sexism and misogyny.

  • Was it unfair when former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, as proven by WikiLeaks, rigged the Democratic primary against Bernie Sanders?
  • Was it discrimination or anti-Semitism when, as proven by WikiLeaks, the DNC plotted to use Sanders’ Judaism against him in the West Virginia and other primaries?
  • Was it dishonest when Wasserman-Schultz’s successor, Donna Brazile, as proven by WikiLeaks, told Fox News Channel’s Megyn Kelly that she “did not receive any questions from CNN” that she leaked to the Clinton campaign?
  • Was it racist when Brazile said in the same interview, “As a Christian woman I understand persecution, but I will not sit here and be persecuted because your information is totally false. 
  • Was it sexist when Hillary described Bill Clinton’s assault accusers as a “Bimbo Brigade,” or when her longtime ally James Carville described their motivations as “(when you)…drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you'll find.”
  • Was it appropriate for Hillary to embrace Beyoncé and Jay Z at their concert this weekend teeming with racist, misogynistic lyrics? What if that was a concert for Trump?

If what happened with Trump’s near-solo victory over Clinton was motivated by racism, how does one explain the Republicans’ simultaneously retaining control of the Senate and House? Many of those candidates ran away from Trump during the long campaign slog.

In fact, were the 59,581,587 million Americans who voted for Trump in cahoots, but the 59,787,604 million who supported Clinton were not? That would be one crowded chat room! (The Electoral College gives those in every state a balanced voice despite the popular vote. Those are the rules of the game.)

Take out of the equation those who do harbor racist beliefs, because they exist on both sides. What you have left is still have a mass of good people who overwhelmingly elected, and then re-elected, Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. When you power-wash off the tabloid stuff, they decided that things were not working out, and that significant change was better than more of the same. That is all it is.

(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a contributor to CityWatchLA, KFI AM-640 and Huffington Post. He blogs on humane issues at http://ericgarcetti.blogspot.com/. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

@THE GUSS REPORT-At the risk of momentarily being labeled as a jingoist, the world’s stability is largely based on that of the United States. Election Day has finally arrived, so buckle-up amigas y amigos, your investment portfolio may be in for a wild ride until the world’s financial markets calibrate life with a new President, Senate, House of Representatives and the geopolitical mish-mosh that is about to ensue.

GUEST WORDS--As the Presidential election campaign ends, the smears and accusations have not let up. The Clinton forces accuse Donald Trump of fascist tendencies because of his dog whistles to white supremacists and support from what is now called the Alt-Right, an amalgam of racists and bigots. And, the Trump forces accuse Hillary Clinton of corruption based on her long history of collusion between private business interests and government. 

Unfortunately, both sets of accusations have a grain of truth, and in my view, under the right circumstances either presidency could react to a wide range of economic, political, and military crises with fascistic responses. 

I realize this prediction will strike many supporters of Hillary Clinton as far-fetched because they only see one component of fascism: extreme bigotry, and have therefore incorrectly concluded that a Clinton presidency would end the fascist threat from Donald Trump. 

But, in fact, fascism has many components, as I have previously written in City Watch, in particular foreign wars, authoritarian rule, mass surveillance, and police and (sometimes) vigilante political repression. As I hope to demonstrate through many links to supportive documents, these are all frequent historical components of U.S. foreign policy and domestic policy, regardless of the party in power at the White House, Congress, or even local government.

We do not yet know who the next President of the United States will be, nor what policies and programs the next administration will pursue. But, we do know the next administration will face crises large and small, and we also know that the toolbox that the administration will reach into to deal with these crises is filled with fascist implements.

One set of crises would be economic, and a look at recent booms and busts indicates that the Great Recession that began 2007 is hardly unique. Many more sharp economic downturns are on their way, and the only question is when. Likewise, military conflicts are widespread and increasing in the Middle East and Africa, as well as between the U.S. and China and the U.S. and Russia. Just like economic crises, the only unknowns are when, where, and how deadly. 

So what is in the tool box? 

Internationally, the United States spends over $1 trillion per year on military and security, which supports, among many categories, approximately 1000 foreign military installations. Our government also possesses an arsenal of 7000 nuclear weapons, for which it intends to spend $1 trillion to modernize. At the same time according to the U.S. State Department, the U.S. military conducts unclassified training operations in 137 foreign countries. 

Plus, the U.S. is actively involved in two wars, Iraq and Afghanistan, which are now approaching 15 years, with little chance of ending in the foreseeable future, regardless of who is elected President. Their total cost is so far estimated to be $5 trillion, a truly staggering sum. In addition, the U.S. is currently engaged in drone warfare in at least six countries: Somalia, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, and Libya, with prospects for expanded drone warfare in more, not fewer, countries. 

If we look back, though, to the entire post-WW II era, the crisis-response toolbox has much more to offer, according to author William Blum. There is a long, sordid, and totally bi-partisan history of the U.S. government supporting regimes that are variously characterized as authoritarian, totalitarian, and fascist police states. This partial list includes 22 countries at present, as well as 67 countries in the past. 

According to Blum, the United States government also has ample experience with a vast array of fascist practices. Since 1945 our government has: 

  • Attempting 60 coups of foreign governments. 
  • Since 1980, intervened in the affairs of fourteen Muslim countries: Iran, Libya, Lebanon, Kuwait, Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Kosovo, Yemen, Pakistan, and now Syria. 

The Domestic Tool Box 

In the past century, the U.S. has had many domestic mass movements, including unionization movements from the 1890s through the 1930s, the anti-Vietnam war movement, Civil Rights movement, Ban the Bomb movement, student movement, anti-Iraq War movement, and women’s movement. In the past few years, new mass movements include Occupy Wall Street, which had over 1000 encampments throughout the entire country. There is also the Black Lives Matters movement, and related grass roots groups opposing police violence. 

The list of mass movements also include many that have a climate change and ecological focus, such Bill McKibben’s 350.com and the movement to stop the Dakota Pipeline in North Dakota. While we don’t know which new mass movements will emerge over the next four years, we do know the history of government responses to such movements. Occasionally they are co-opted through legislation, like the Civil Rights Acts of 1965 and 1968 in response to the Civil Rights movement and the ghetto rebellions of the 1960s. Many times, though, the mass movements are the victims of police surveillance, sabotage, and direct police repression, such as Occupy and the Dakota Pipeline.

Furthermore, the United Sates has a long history of repressive legislation, and many of these laws have distinct fascist overtones. They include the Espionage Act and Sabotage Act from President Woodrow Wilson to the first and second Patriot Acts after 9/11. Along the way, these laws have been complemented by anti-communist legislation, most originating with the Roosevelt and Truman Administrations, including the Smith Action, McCarran Act, Subversive Activities Control Act, Internal Security Act, and Hubert Humphrey’s Anti-Communist Control Act of 1954.

Other notable government programs to disrupt domestic political movements include Cointelpro, which began under FDR, and Operation Chaos, both of which were widely used against the Civil Rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s and early 1970s. President Lyndon Johnson initiated Operation Chaos in 1967, and the program ended with a New York Times expose in 1974. 

The formation of SWAT teams has continued to grow in the United States from their initial formation by the LAPD in the 1960s to the present, when nearly every U.S. police department has established a SWAT team. The U.S. government has heavily militarized these SWAT teams, and local SWAT teams deploy at least 80,000 times per year. In recent years these local military functions have been boosted by anti-terrorist spying and surveillance sections added to local police departments, all linked to 78 regional fusion centers. 

In addition, the Department of Defense has and will set up an elaborate drone-spying network in the United States, as shown on the RPA Dod Ops Activities map below. Beyond the direct use by the military, local police and related agencies will also have access to these drones, including Stingrays to monitor cell phone conversations. Presumably, they will be used to augment the complete monitoring of all domestic and international telecommunications in the United States by the National Security Agency and other government intelligence offices, as exposed by Edward Snowden and other whistle blowers. 

In applying the above history to the Presidential election, the following implications should be carefully considered: 

First, the Hillary Clinton supporters ignore the historic role of mass movements, as opposed to voting in presidential elections, to block racist and fascist movements, such as the rise of the KKK during the Woodrow Wilson administration, and then again in recent decades. In both cases, anti-racist and anti-KKK movements lead to the demise of this domestic terrorist organization, even thought DW Griffith was able to spark a short-term revival of the KKK through the premier of his pro-Klan movie, Birth of a Nation, at the White house during the Wilson administration. Later, from the 1970s to date, there have been hundreds of grass roots confrontations to stop KKK and neo-Nazi rallies all throughout the United States. 

Second, the Hillary Clinton campaign has vastly overestimated the anti-fascist role of the Democratic Party. A quick look at the many fascistic programs supported by Democratic administrations’ domestic and foreign policies should finally put this belief to bed. After all, the Democrats are the party of the still active Espionage and Sabotage Actions, Cointelpro (FDR and Johnson), Operation Chaos (Johnson), Anti-Communist Witch Hunts (Truman), Korean War (Truman), Bay of Pigs (Kennedy), Vietnam and Laos Wars (Kennedy, Johnson), Cold War (Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton), "Peacetime" conscription (FDR, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson), mass incarceration and welfare "reform" (Clinton), Bombing of Yugoslavia (Clinton), Escalation in Afghanistan and Libya (Obama), drone missile attacks (Obama), mass deportations (Obama), support of Saudi Arabia (FDR, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Obama), support of the Shah (Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter), and support of Israeli settlements (Carter, Clinton, Obama). 

Third, the Clinton Campaign has also exaggerated the fascist menace of the Republican candidate, Donald Trump. Unlike real fascists, he does not have support of the country’s business class or most of the press, does not have a mass movement of organized street thugs, does not call for aggressive wars, and does not call for subservience to the state. While all this could change, especially in response of to a sudden crisis, the same prediction applies to a Hillary Clinton administration. 

Fourth, both presidential campaigns have deployed slogans that can be used to build public support for a wide range of harsh government response to economic, political, and military crises. “Make America Great Again” echoes Mussolini fascist call to Italians to restore the glory of the Roman Empire, while “Better Together” parallels the Third Reich’s call for all Germans to unite through aggressive pan-Germanism.  

By the time some CityWatch readers check out this article, they will know who the next U.S. president is. If and when the crises and fascistic responses that have appeared in my crystal ball eventually emerge, I trust these readers will not only remember what they read here. The real response will be their support or participation in the many anti-fascist movements that will emerge in response to U.S. wars, repressive policing, spying and surveillance, and patriotic bluster. 

(Victor Rothman lives in Los Angeles. He can be reached at rothmanvic@gmail.com.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

CAMPAIGN 2016--Remember Jeb Bush? You know, he was the guy, with the... thing? And our dear friend Martin O’ Malley! He held an event in Iowa in a blizzard. One guy showed up ― and he wasn’t really feeling it, as it turned out. 

So much has happened since we launched First To Last in January 2015. American politics as we understood it seems to have fallen apart. Jeb Bush folded like aHoberman sphereDonald Trump stepped out from a puff of brimstone to sell America a monorailHillary Clinton, like The Dude in “The Big Lebowski,” abides.

We’ve seen Bernie Sanders ― who maybe didn’t think he was going to be in this race too long ― hang on through the entire primary, and influence the Democratic Party. We learned, the hard way, that winners don’t finish third. (Sorry, Marco Rubio.) And somehow, Wikileaks has gone from plumbing the secrets of the Deep State to being as obsessed with dumb campaign minutiae and horse-race politics as the establishment media it rebelled against. Who knew Julian Assange was destined to become Woke Mark Halperin? Seems a disappointment.

Seriously, what have we learned? Here are our Dirty Dozen takeaways. No time to be clever, people, the apocalypse is nigh. (Hey, that’s also Trump’s pitch to America!)



This is probably something you've noticed. Very few people figured on Trump being a serious candidate. He laid waste to our conventional wisdom and all of the well-worn cliches in which we've taken comfort.




Or at least, we don't know what we thought we knew. In a race where political science has been upended and norms put to the torch, we were all like the cast of "Lost," struggling to feed ourselves and wary of smoke monsters.



The fact that Rudy Giuliani's cronies essentially walked up to the edge of staging an actual coup d'etat shouldn't make us sleep that easy!




See Jeb Bush.



See Jeb Bush.




It elevated Trump in the first place. It also frequently set the narrative before the pundit class could get there. And it's been a Love Canal of grotesqueness throughout.



Trump has come very close to winning this thing. Just think about what might have happened if he'd invested any time or effort in a real ground game!




Clinton has come very close to winning this thing. But her ability to govern, and to keep the Democratic coalition together, may depend on her abandoning the middle-of-the-road Clintonism that she wears like a pantsuit.



Donald Trump finally exposed the fact that the Emperor of the House has no clothes.




Or, in the case of Reince Priebus and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, just "moron" will do.



Did any? (See also: the lack of ideas.)




We always knew that this wasn't going to be a particularly upbeat election. But this campaign season exposed a real darkness at the center of our body politic, a lack of vision among our leaders, and no small amount of rot in our institutions, which we've always trusted to keep autocrats at bay. Whoever wins this race will face an enormous challenge stitching this country back together, and as near as we can tell, only one of the major-party candidates has even a passing interest in doing so.


(Howard Fineman Global Editorial Director, Jason Linkins  Eat The Press Editor, and Lauren Weber  The Morning Email Editor, The Huffington Post … where this piece was first posted.)







ELECTION 2016--In an era of increasing dissatisfaction with and disengagement from governments, political parties, and much of the rest of the democratic establishment, it’s more important than ever that you show up and vote.

Suffrage is not a right afforded to everyone. Rather, voting is a privilege in the United States – and a hard-earned privilege at that.

At the beginning of the republic, only those white men with land were allowed a hand in electing our leaders and lawmakers. Later, under President Andrew Jackson, that decision-making power was extended to most white men. After a lengthy civil war – shedding a staggering amount of blood and treasure – successive amendments to the US constitution granting broader voting rights followed. Women, at this time, were entirely disregarded – until the 19th amendment passed in 1920.

Although some people of color were allowed to vote, many still faced disenfranchisement prior to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. With the recent gutting of that act by the supreme court, the systematic disenfranchisement of people of color is alive and well today.

Progress on suffrage has always tended to be incremental. And, far from being a closed chapter in our history, the fight to keep things moving forward continues to this day.

For every thousand people living in the US, seven are incarcerated. That population consists disproportionately of black and brown people, whether accused and convicted of crimes or held by immigration authorities.

Even when the incarcerated leave prison, they often return to our communities without the ability to vote. That means the people most affected by our political institutions and processes today often have absolutely have no say in how they are run. This group includes me. In Maryland, my state of residence, for instance, I will not be able vote until the year 2045.

Disenfranchisement and legal exclusion – whether by race, gender, class, immigration status, or otherwise – from our democratic institutions is one of the most significant failures of American society today.

One of the most contentious general elections in modern US history is in front of us. Next Tuesday, if, instead of making your way to the booth, you decide to go shopping, out for lunch or dinner, stay at home, play a video game, or whatever, just remember that many of us cannot vote but would dearly like to. While universal suffrage remains an ideal yet to be attained, if you’re lucky enough to be able to vote, don’t let that privilege go to waste.

(Whisteblower Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley) is the US Army Private (Pfc) who leaked military and government documents to the online media outlet Wikileaks which became the basis for the Collateral Murder video, which showed the killing of unarmed civilians by a US Apache helicopter crew in Iraq. Leaks made by Manning also resulted in the Afghan War Diary, the Iraq War Logs, and a series of embarrassing US diplomatic cables that became known as Cablegate. In 2013, was convicted by a military court or the disclosures and sentence to 35 years in prison. This piece was posted most recently at Common Dreams.) 


FIRST PERSON--It is impossible to fully express the devastation of sexual assault in words. But for millions who read the “victim impact statement” written by Emily Doe, the pseudonym used by the 23-year-old woman at the center of the Stanford rape case, the letter was a powerful recounting of the pain, anguish, anger, sadness, and strength of a rape survivor. Doe’s message went viral; as Glamour magazine notes, four days after it was publicly released it “had been viewed 11 million times; it was read aloud on CNN and the floor of Congress.”

Brock Turner, Doe’s attacker, was sentenced to a mere six months in jail. He ultimately served just three. The glaring injustice in the case, as in so many cases of rape and sexual assault, made Doe’s words resound even more loudly. Citing the importance of her message, Glamour magazine named Doe a Woman of the Year, and published her incredibly powerful followup essay.

“From the beginning, I was told I was a best-case scenario,” Doe writes. “I had forensic evidence, sober un­biased witnesses, a slurred voice mail, police at the scene. I had everything, and I was still told it was not a slam dunk. I thought, if this is what having it good looks like, what other hells are survivors living? I’m barely getting through this but I am being told I’m the lucky one, some sort of VIP. It was like being checked into a hotel room for a year with stained sheets, rancid water, and a bucket with an attendant saying, No this is great! Most rooms don’t even have a bucket.”

Despite all that, Turner would receive a slap on the wrist. Doe writes of how stunned she was by the leniency Judge Aaron Persky showed the rapist.

“[W]hen it was quickly announced that he’d be receiving six months, I was struck silent. Immediately I felt embarrassed for trying, for being led to believe I had any influence. The violation of my body and my being added up to a few months out of his summer. The judge would release him back to his life, back to the 40 people who had written him letters from Ohio. I began to panic; I thought, this can’t be the best-case ­scenario. If this case was meant to set the bar, the bar had been set on the floor.”

Just one day after the sentencing, Doe was contacted by Buzzfeed with a request to publish her statement. She agreed. Doe could not have expected the overwhelming response; she received an outpouring of thanks from people around the world who were moved by her words.

“I started getting e-mails forwarded to me from Botswana to Ireland to India,” Doe writes. “I received watercolor paintings of lighthouses and bicycle earrings. A woman who plucked a picture of her young daughter from the inside of her cubicle wrote, This is who you’re saving.

She goes on to point out that blaming victims—suggesting women should get better at avoiding being raped, instead of telling rapists not to rape—is not a real solution. Dismantling rape culture starts with recognizing that rapists are responsible for rape, and demanding justice for survivors.

“If you think the answer is that women need to be more sober, more civil, more upright, that girls must be better at exercising fear, must wear more layers with eyes open wider, we will go nowhere.” Doe writes. “When Judge Aaron Persky mutes the word justice, when Brock Turner serves one month for every felony, we go nowhere. When we all make it a priority to avoid harming or violating another human being, and when we hold accountable those who do, when the campaign to recall this judge declares that survivors deserve better, then we are going somewhere.”

The entire essay, which can be found on the Glamour site, is well worth a read. As the outlet notes, you can support the campaign to recall Judge Aaron Persky by visiting recallaaronpersky.com. [[hotlink]]

(Kali Holloway writes for AlterNet. This piece was posted most recently at TruthDig.)  Photo credit: Valeri Pizhanski / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 .


GELFAND’S WORLD-Most everyone understands that Hillary Clinton is going to be elected president a week from Tuesday and will be sworn in on Friday, January 20 of the new year. Even now, Hillary and her staff are getting an earful about what she should do as president. May I offer a bit of advice? Hillary should take note of how Ronald Reagan acted when he was governor of California. 

That's right -- when he was governor, back in 1969-70. 

Back then, there had been lots of student protests and even a few incidents that led to the police using tear gas and clubs. Student riot was the colloquialism for demonstrations based on political speech and on the escalating war in Viet Nam. At the time, it appeared that California, if not necessarily the whole United States, was entering into a period in which student demonstrations would become more and more a part of society in general. Students closed down college administration buildings and whole campuses. Rebellious groups predicted that their movement would force needed changes not only in universities, but in society as a whole. The Peoples' Park rebellion in Berkeley led to prolonged strife, including violence between police and students. 

In response to the violence that had been and was yet to be, Reagan famously remarked, "If it takes a bloodbath, let's get it over with. No more appeasement." Reagan was not willing to acquiesce in what he saw as extortion over either public facilities or public policy. In his mind, you could not just close down a public resource because you had an ideological gripe. 

Perhaps you may have recognized a philosophical similarity between 1960s students and today's Republican congress. The students were headstrong, convinced of the rightness of their cause, and unwilling to engage in the kind of back-and-forth that negotiation requires. The students, not being trained troops, could just barely close down a small piece of publicly owned land in Berkeley. But if they could have, they would have closed down the whole United States government. Radical organizers pretty well said as much in public meetings all over the country. 

Twice now since the 1990s, we've seen that same attitude in a high place. A small group of people got together and forced the closure of the U.S. government. We call that group the Republican Party. Newt Gingrich was the early pioneer of this tactic in the years 1995-96 of the first Clinton presidency. We saw it again during October of 2013, in the fifth year of Obama's presidency. 

In each case, we saw a self-selected and extremely self-righteous group insist on imposing its own ideology on the rest of the country. In the latter case, the congressional Republicans decided that their ideological pursuits outweighed the benefits of maintaining the national government. 

"Shut it down" said the student radicals. 

"SHUT IT DOWN" said congressional Republicans. Shut it down, indeed. 

Looking back to the earlier events, it is obvious that Reagan had an overly circumscribed view of student thought. He was biased and narrow. But he was effective in maintaining some semblance of public order in the governmental setting. He did that by calling his opponents' bluff. 

We have had analogous conflicts over the past 20 years when we've had a Democratic president and at least one house of congress held by the Republicans. The Republicans have been willing to threaten shutting down the government, and they have been believable because they have been able to convince the rest of us that they don't care if the government continues or does not. In fact, some of them have been able to convince people that they truly relish the idea of putting federal agencies out of business. 

Democrats are philosophically and temperamentally opposed to government shutdowns. 

The new president will likely be facing a Republican led House of Representatives which will have nothing better to do than make mischief. We've already been told that congressman Jason Chaffetz intends to spend most of the efforts of his House Oversight Committee on investigating Hillary Clinton. Can attacks on liberal causes and even threats of impeachment be far down the line? 

Shutting down the federal government is part of this unwholesome package because it is the way that the Republicans try to enforce their warped ideas. They will complain about deficit spending and find some excuse (like the need to raise the debt ceiling) to make trouble. The threat of a government shutdown will be used in an attempt to extort favors. 

A counter-strategy is available, but Hillary and her congressional allies have to be willing to use it. As I've mentioned in these pages before, the most serious weakness of the congressional Democrats is their chronic failure to do payback when they are unfairly attacked. Reagan had his own way of dealing with recalcitrant Democrats. He threatened to go over their heads and take his case directly to the people. In earlier years, Lyndon Johnson could make life difficult for those who opposed him, and Richard Nixon developed the science of sneakiness and dirty tricks to a whole new level. 

Hillary Clinton won't have to go nearly as far as her predecessors in order to be toughly effective. All she has to do is withhold money from her opponents' states and districts. She doesn't have to make war on all Republicans, only those who make things personal. That word personal includes unmerited threats of investigations and it means threats to shut down the government. It also means threats to damage Planned Parenthood and other worthy social and medical programs. 

Let's think a bit about a threat to shut down the government. The so-called red states are, by and large, the old confederacy and the western plains states running from Oklahoma up through the Dakotas. Interestingly, they get more money from the federal government than they pay in the form of taxes. This makes them different from the blue states, which on the average pay more in federal taxes than they get back from the government. The red states gain a lot of income through military installations, NASA, defense plants, national parks, and national highways. 

Hillary's response to the extortionate threat of the Republican coalition should be taken from Governor Reagan: If it takes a bloodbath, let's get it over with. If there is to be a government shutdown over raising the debt or over healthcare, then let's have it now. Make one thing especially clear: The people who will be hurt most are those whose congressmen are voting for this outrage, because they represent areas that get as much as two dollars back from the federal government for every dollar they pay in federal taxes. 

And one more thing. It should be whispered quietly to the red state congressmen that in the event of a shutdown, there will be some federal money that they will never see again. The chair of the senate Budget Committee, Bernie Sanders, will keep his blue pencil active every day that the shutdown continues. 

Part of the Democratic threat will include an officially nonpartisan commission on military base movements and closures, to be appointed by the president, whose real function will be to threaten red states with loss of federal income. Nothing brings out the willingness to compromise like the threat of losing local employment. 

In other words, the Democrats need to learn to play hardball politics because the Republicans have already made it their lifestyle. 

It's as simple as a television crime show. Mess with us? Then we mess with you. You want us to consider your governing philosophy? Then consider ours. We might eventually compromise, but we won't play the extortion game. There can be bargaining, but it has to be in good faith. And every day that the government stays shut down, your state loses ten million dollars off its military and governmental budget. Chairman Sanders will see to that

After three or four weeks of shutdown, the red state inhabitants who live off of government money -- directly through salaries or indirectly through selling goods and services to federal employees -- will be demanding that their Republican congressmen make a deal. At that point, and not until that point, the Democrats in congress will be able to bargain from a position of strength. 

Here's another way to think about this approach. There are now millions of people who are benefitting from the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Right now, the Act needs a little polishing in terms of adequate federal expenditures to maintain discount pricing on policies. But the millions who benefit by the insurance will be hurt by a legislative attack on the Act. Those people are spread all over the country, including in the bluest of the blue states. Their interests have to be protected, so we must create a new principle: Damage to the Affordable Care Act results in greater or equal damage to those states and congressional districts which vote to do that damage. 

One more thought, somewhat of a cliche, but still worth thinking about. Hillary should govern in her first term as if she was already in her second term -- that is to say, without concern for winning reelection. The people who vote for her this time around will love her for it, and the people who hate her aren't going to switch to supporting her anyway. She should forget any and all debts or favors she owes to anybody, including Wall Street, her fellow Democrats, and even president Obama. That's what being president is supposed to be about. 

We might also remember that when Reagan was governor of California and making his famous bloodbath remark, Hillary was a college student in an atmosphere of antiwar protest. She was also a leader in a generation that created the first inklings of the movement that was called Womens' Liberation. I'm thinking that maybe she can channel some of her 1960s idealism and directed anger towards worthy projects. And if she has to preside over a bloodbath, it will be different from Ronald Reagan's and it will be to a loftier end.


(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for City Watch. He can be reached at amrep535@sbcglobal.net


NEW GEOGRAPHY-It’s increasingly unfashionable to celebrate those who made this republic and established its core values. On college campuses, the media and, increasingly, in corporate circles, the embrace of “diversity” extends to demeaning the founding designers who arose from a white population that was 80 percent British. 

In this American version of Mao’s “Cultural Revolution,” which tried to eviscerate traces of China’s past, venerable buildings are being renamed, athletes refuse to stand for the national anthem and, on some campuses, waving the American flag is now considered a “microaggression,” while English students at Yale want to avoid reading the likes of Milton, Shakespeare and Chaucer. 

Of course, some changes are justified. Asking anyone, particularly African Americans, to revere the Confederate flag or attend schools named after the founder of the Ku Klux Klan is, indeed, offensive. But in our zeal to address old wrongs, we may also be sacrificing the very things that have made this republic so attractive to millions from distinctly different backgrounds for the last two centuries. 

Why we come here 

Just to clear the air, I have not a single drop of British blood in me. The closest ties I have to what I consider my cultural and political home country come from my great uncle Simon, who served in Gen. Allenby’s Jewish brigade in World War I, and that my wife, born in Montreal, came into the world a subject of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth. Career wise, I did work for a think tank in London for several years. 

But what ties most Americans to the founders is not race, but our embrace of a political and legal culture based on distinctly Anglo-Saxon ideas about due process, representative government, property rights and free speech. These proved infinitely superior to the divine right of czars, kaisers, emperors and other hereditary autocrats for generations of non-Anglo-Americans. 

This system, always capable of amendment, has allowed waves of traditional outsider groups -- African Americans, Latinos, women, Mormons, Jews and Muslims -- to join the economic, political and cultural mainstream. In some cases, as in the case of President Obama, they have also secured the highest reaches in the national firmament. 

The idiocy of ‘cultural appropriation’ 

The Maoist nature of the current anti-Anglo campaign is exemplified by the current notion of “cultural appropriation.” By this theory, writers and analysts are being told to stay away from topics that don’t resonate with their DNA. 

This approach undermines the very purpose of art as a means of transformation. Can we imagine reconstructing the realities of the antebellum South without “Huckleberry Finn?” Should all of the producers and directors responsible for “Zoot Suit” or “Roots” have been forced to submit to DNA screening? Do we kick Elvis Presley, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones out of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame because of their “appropriations” from African American culture? 

When working well, a multicultural society works both directions. Think of the hit play “Hamilton,” written and conceived by a Hispanic, played largely by African Americans and adored by an entire generation of young theater lovers, many of whom are getting their first good taste of American history. By the standards of cultural appropriation, the Daughters of the American Revolution should be filing suit. 

The road to nihilism 

Cultures, and nations, get stronger when they can incorporate new elements into their existing narrative. The Roman Empire, by offering citizenship to non-Italians, extended its period of pre-eminence. “Rome,” declared the second-century Greek writer Aristides, “is a citadel which has all the people of earth as its villagers.” 

As in the case of the Roman Empire, America’s greatest achievement has been to incorporate other cultures into its mainstream. Despite the current racial discord, it must be noted that America has succeeded in welcoming, and integrating, vast numbers of Hispanics, Asians and Middle Easterners over the past half-century. 

Their growing success puts the lie to existing racist sentiments that have been fanned, in effect, if not consciously, by the candidacy of Donald Trump. Neither are our multicultural prospects made better by Hillary Clinton’s demeaning of largely white “deplorables” or her embrace of the Black Lives Matter politics of division and victimization. 

Both Clinton and Trump seem unable to acknowledge what America already is, or, more importantly, what it can be. On our streets, in our theaters, in our foods and in our music, we experience a rich commingling of cultures every day. Politicians may see advantages in stirring up enmity but America is becoming a profoundly less racist nation, and will be even less so in the future. For example, the percentage of Americans who approve of interracial marriages has grown from 4 percent in 1958 to 87 percent today. 

So let’s have more African Americans donning colonial garb to tell the national story while whites add black, Asian or Latino notes in their music, cooking and writings. This is a testament to the greatness of our Anglo founders’ vision, which should be embraced -- even by those of us whose lineage extends far from the British Isles. 


Joel Kotkin is the R.C. Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in Orange and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism (www.opportunityurbanism.org. This piece originally appeared on NewGeography.com. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams. 

TRUTHDIG--Tom Hayden and I happened to be on the same flight from Los Angeles to Sacramento as he prepared to begin his first year in the state Legislature in 1982. We sat next to each other and began to talk. For me, it was an unexpected treat. I always enjoyed the company of a man who, rather than talk about himself, seemed so interested in what others had to say. 

That, in fact, was one of his great qualities, rare in public figures -- especially in elected politics, the business Hayden was about to enter. He was nice to people, charming in an unassuming way.

On the plane to the capital, Hayden questioned me on how the Legislature worked. He wanted hints on getting along with his new colleagues, pitfalls to avoid, opportunities to do good. How would he, the famous antiwar radical, be treated by Sacramento’s conventional establishment? They were, after all, conventional politicians, including supporters of the Vietnam War he had opposed, and were still angry over the anti-war demonstrations at the Democratic National Convention. Hayden had been a leader in that protest. 

Here’s what happened after he got to Sacramento: While never one of the guys, Hayden compiled an impressive record in 10 years in the California Assembly and eight in the California Senate. He got millions of dollars for his district to improve the quality of Santa Monica Bay and rebuild the Santa Monica and Malibu piers. He helped delay University of California and Cal State University tuition increases. He led efforts that extended laws against sexual harassment. Also included in a long list of legislation was his Hayden Act, which extended the time shelters must keep abandoned animals alive, giving volunteers more time to find them homes. 

I got to know him best when he was involved in the frustrating work of local politics. I followed him around during his losing campaign for Los Angeles mayor in 1997. As a state senator, he campaigned through neighborhoods in an easy, relaxed manner, making some of his more controversial proposals sound palatable. Even when meeting with the editors of the Los Angeles Times, he passed the test of convincing his stuffy listeners that he wasn’t a threat to them and the city. 

These were mild efforts compared to his greatest Los Angeles crusade, taking up the cause of Salvadoran gang members in the abysmally crowded slums of a part of the city known as Pico-Union. The violent gangs were being targeted by the Los Angeles Police Department’s Rampart Division anti-gang officers, some of whom turned out to be violent and crooked themselves. The public strongly supported the police, and anyone standing up for gang members was scorned and headed for political death. 

Caught up in all this was a Salvadoran gang member, Alex Sanchez, who served time in juvenile camps and state prisons for crimes including car theft and possession of weapons. A community leader, he was also trying to negotiate peace between rival gangs. It was clear, Hayden felt, that the Rampart gang cops and the immigration service disapproved of Sanchez’s leadership ability and peacemaking and were cooperating illegally to send him back to bloody El Salvador. 

The Times was investigating the Rampart cops intensely. Hayden wanted us to also dig into the Sanchez case. By then, defense of Sanchez had become a movement extending beyond Pico-Union.

Hayden came to the paper with a few other Sanchez supporters to meet with me and other editors. He recalled our meeting in his book “Street Wars.” Hayden said we editors “sat sphinxlike listening to our tale. I wondered if we were becoming too emotional, too conspiratorial.” But Hayden convinced us, and we quickly put reporters on the Sanchez story. 

Police continued their efforts to get rid of Sanchez. He was charged in 2009 with taking part in a 2006 gang murder. At this point, Sanchez was a well-respected leader in efforts to stop gang violence. It took three more years, but in 2012, charges were dropped in what prosecutors admitted was a flawed case. 

This was not a cause that attracted national attention. Helping the immigrant community organize was tough, gritty work for Hayden. It took him to Central America on an arduous trip to meet gang members in their homelands, where they had been deported, visiting the prisons where many of them were kept. 

In recent years, his health was failing. He looked older and thinner. But he persevered, just as he had during the Vietnam War protest era and the civil rights movement. That activism and his leadership in the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests helped shape national politics.

But Tom Hayden will also be remembered for his other, less well-known accomplishments -- by many in the still crowded Pico-Union slums, by swimmers and surfers at the Santa Monica beach and in shelters where volunteers seek homes for the abandoned animals that his Hayden Act helped save.


(Bill Boyarsky is a columnist for Truthdig, the Jewish Journal, and LA Observed. This piece was posted first at Truthdig.com.) Photo: Steve W. Grayson/AP. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

VOICES--In watching a recent Frontline presentation covering the respective lives of 2016 presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, it dawned on me that while voting for Hillary might have reasonably been construed as only just the latest example of my 48 year voting history of either holding my nose and voting for the supposed "lesser of two evils" or alternatively wasting my vote by voting for a Jill Stein-esque candidate, that had objectively no chance of winning. 

Voting for Hillary next month might actually be my best chance of being part of a sea change away from what has been a male chauvinist American politics that Donald Trump's continuing crude comments and candidacy prove is regretably still alive and well. 

In this morality play, Hillary represents the every(wo)man who has had to suffer the humiliation of a lying and philandering husband, who in what would be his new role as "first lady" would now have to live under the same historically humiliating role he and other presidents have put their undervalued wives into in the past. 

It would also serve as a final repudiation of a male chauvinism that Donald Trump is clearly the posterboy for and whose successful candidacy in capturing the Republican presidential nomination shows is still regretably alive and well in too many places in this country. 

The ultimate revenge and substantive 2017 reality of a Hillary presidency is to say that it's no longer business as usual at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Just as Barak Obama's presidency has made one think in a whole new light about what will never again be the "white” house, Hillary Clinton as president will irrevocably challenge and change what has been the negatively stereotypic roles of both president and "first lady.” 

Hopefully many other American societal roles that continue to undervalue women and others at a time when we need the best of all our people if we expect to survive the contradictions that have brought down great societies in the past. 

Be a part of a political sea change. Vote for Bill as ‘first lady.’


(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.com. Leonard can be reached at Lenny@perdaily.com)


HULLABALOO--I wrote about some possible secret votes for Salon today:  

One of the emerging themes of the last weeks of the presidential campaign is the resurgence of the right’s “unskewed polls” theory, which holds that when Republicans are behind it’s because the pollsters are sampling the wrong people.

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-As we head to the last weeks of the most contentious election cycle in my memory, I’ve come to realize that our choice is much bigger than who will reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Certainly, we need to consider party platforms, candidates’ views on the economy, foreign policy, SCOTUS nominations, immigration, and civil rights. We need to look at which candidate is best qualified to serve as president. 

Perhaps it’s neither irony nor a coincidence that in the first election where a woman is on top of a major party ticket, her opponent has a decades-long history of sexual objectification and attempts to humiliate women. This election is a referendum on feminism and the way we see women in a fast-evolving world. 

For decades, Donald J. Trump has included his “bad boy” objectification of women as part of his brand. He’s made countless guest spots on Howard Stern, where their shtick typically included rating, ranking, and discussing female celebrities in graphic sexual terms. In December 2004, Trump initiated a discussion about then 18-year old Lindsay Lohan that was capped by his observation that “deeply troubled women are the best in bed.” He approved of Stern referring to his daughter Ivanka as “a piece of ass” and jokingly agreed when Stern’s sidekick Robin characterized him as a predator.

Trump shares his ideas about women whether or not he believes the mic is hot. In 1994, he told Primetime Live’s Nancy Collins that “putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing,” blaming the demise of his first marriage to putting wife Ivana in a management position at one of his Atlantic City casinos. 

Three years earlier in May 1991, he was quoted in an Esquire magazine profile about bad press, “You know, it doesn’t matter what they write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass. But she’s got to be young and beautiful.” 

The Republican candidate’s Twitter account has been his arsenal to disparage the looks of any woman who criticizes him, from Arianna Huffington to New York Times columnist Gail Collins, as well as a Who’s Who of celebrities. 

Trump’s surrogates and campaign staff appear on cable news panels and interviews to defend his words as “entertainment” but his words denote his character and he has escalated his M.O. since he first declared his candidacy. Many of us watched Mr. Trump taunt Megyn Kelly when she asked him during a primary debate about his insulting attacks on female celebrities. He’s come to the defense of Roger Ailes and Jeffrey Epstein as “nice guys” and said if a woman is sexually harassed at work, she should find a new job. On abortion, Trump has backpedaled on his statement that any woman seeking abortion should receive “some sort of punishment.” 

By now, we’ve all heard the 2005 tape where Trump (“egged on by the host to say bad dirty words,” per Melania) bragged how his fame allows him to grab women’s vaginas or kiss them without consent. Trump, along with Melania, Rudy Giuliani and other surrogates, have attempted to minimize his words as “locker room talk” or what happens when two teenaged boys get together. 

In a recently shared Entertainment Tonight report from 1992, Trump jokes about a ten-year old girl on the escalator at Trump Tower: “In ten years, I’ll be dating her.” 

As of this article, at least ten women have come forward alleging Trump had touched them without their consent, a list that includes People’s Natasha Stoynoff. Trump has denied all allegations, shouting at his rallies that the women weren’t “hot enough” for him to assault. “Have you seen her? She wouldn’t be my first choice.” 

At the second debate, Secretary Clinton brought up Alicia Machado, the Miss Universe Trump taunted with names and had subjected to a humiliating personal training session in front of members of the press. Mr. Trump’s early morning tweets challenged followers to watch her “sex tape.”

And of course, at the third debate, Trump muttered under his breath, calling Secretary Clinton a “Nasty Woman,” which has become the rallying cry for feminists. 

Secretary Clinton spoke what many of us have been thinking each time Mr. Trump attacks women. “Donald thinks belittling women makes him bigger. He goes after their dignity, their self-worth and I don’t think there is a woman anywhere who doesn’t know what that feels like. So we now know what Donald thinks and what he says and how he acts toward women. That’s who Donald is.” 

We do need to examine the issues and the platforms to determine which candidate we believe aligns with our ideals for our country. That’s the responsibility we all carry as participants in a democracy.

But beyond this, our vote may serve as a strong message to every man who has touched or grabbed us without our consent, to every classmate, teacher, husband, partner, colleague, boss, family member, and stranger who has attempted to humiliate us in order to boost his own ego. Our vote is a message to every man and woman who has downplayed the importance of rape, who has unfairly victim-blamed, and who has referred to aggressive references to sexual assault as “locker room talk” or “boy talk.” Assuming all men are rapists waiting for opportunity is a tremendous insult to men, as well. As Howard Beale screamed in Network (1976), “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore!” 

Our vote can also deliver the message that women can be intelligent, accomplished, educated, and strong. And maybe one of us can even be the president.


(Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles writer and a columnist for CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

URBAN PERSPECTIVE-The race for the White House is effectively over. Hillary Clinton will be the 45th president of the U.S. The question now is what can Americans expect from a Clinton White House? She has laid out pages after pages of policy wonk positions on civil and women’s rights, civil liberties, taxes, jobs, the economy, health care, education, military preparedness, and combatting terrorism on her campaign website. Most of them are the almost obligatory positions that Democratic presidential candidates have taken on the big-ticket issues. 

However, it’s one thing to spell out an agenda on paper and another to get any of it through. She’ll almost certainly kick things off by trying to make good on the pledge that she made in a speech at a Michigan auto and aircraft parts manufacturing plant near Detroit in August, 2016. She promised a big spending plan to the tune of nearly $300 billion on a vast array of infrastructure building and repair projects -- roads, bridges, airports schools, sewer systems and so on. The projects would create new jobs for thousands. 

Clinton made it clear that she expects the rich to foot much of the bill by demanding hefty tax hikes on them. She added the final FDR touch to her big spending plan by promising to plop the legislation on Congress’ table within her first 100 days in office. 

Clinton knows full well the perils ahead. The biggest threat is the Congress that she’ll have to go to with her big spending package. A GOP-controlled Congress will be as hostile to her big budget and tax increases as it was to Obama’s. 

With a big White House win, Clinton is on far more solid ground when she tries to follow through with the pledge. This will give her the breathing space needed to get parts of her jobs, education, health care, and infrastructure overhaul programs through. 

A Democratic take-back of the Senate is absolutely a must be when it comes to the Supreme Court. Arizona Senator John McCain has openly saber rattled for the GOP to block any Clinton high court pick. Clinton almost certainly will have the chance to pick one, two, or even three more justices to the bench. The judges she will choose will be in the mold of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor. They will not be radical ideologues of the left. They will be judges with long standing court experience, solid legal credentials, and the highest ratings from the ABA and other legal groups. They will deliver safe and predictable votes on everything from women’s and civil rights to stemming environmental abuses.

Clinton can’t and won’t try to avoid the problem that has been perennially the single biggest tormenting lightening rod for black-white discord, namely, wanton police violence against blacks and minorities, and the astronomical numbers of blacks in America’s jails and prisons.

Her Oval Office to-do list is a mix of old and new proposals on police and criminal justice reform. They will meet with a wall of intense opposition, stonewalling or disregard by conservative Democrats and GOP congresspersons and state legislators, police and prison unions, and victim rights groups. To get one or more of her justice initiatives through Congress she’ll need a lot of help from Democrats within and without Capitol Hill. She’ll get lots of help here from civil rights groups and criminal justice reformers. 

Clinton’s policies on foreign affairs, military security, the fight against terrorism and checking Iran’s nuclear ambition, will be more muscular than Obama’s. She won’t send in troops to Syria. But she’ll be tough on sanctions, and enforcing a no-fly zone there. She will back with weapons and logistical support any faction with a pronounced tilt toward the U.S. that purports to be any kind of real alternative to ISIS and the Assad regime. 

She’ll rigorously monitor Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal, cut not a penny from U.S. military financial backing to Israel, while making the obligatory nod on paper to a Palestinian state. She will take the hardest of hard lines on Russia’s saber rattling in Eastern Europe and other hot spots. But this is still a far cry from a big ramp up in the U.S. military presence in Iraq or Afghanistan as Obama did. 

President Clinton will be pulled and tugged at by corporate and defense industry lobbyists, the oil and nuclear power industry, government regulators, conservative family values groups, conservative GOP senators and house members, foreign diplomats and leaders, and in turn, LGBT, women, civil rights and liberties, and environmental watchdog groups. They all have their priorities and agendas and will vie to get either White House support for their pet legislation, or to kill or cripple legislation that threatens their interests. 

Clinton’s entire political history, if anything, has shown that she will keep a firm, cautious and conciliatory eye on American public opinion when it comes to making policy decisions and determining priorities. That’s what presidents, all presidents, must do and President Clinton will be no different.


(Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of What We Can Expect from President Hillary Clinton (Amazon Kindle) He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network. Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/earlhutchinson.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

NEW GEOGRAPHY--For progressives, the gloating is about to begin. The Washington Monthly proclaims that we are on the cusp of a “second progressive era,” where the technocratic “new class” overcomes a Republican Party reduced to “know-nothing madness.”

To be sure, Trump himself proved a mean-spirited and ultimately ineffective political vessel. But the forces that he aroused will outlive him and could get stronger in the future. In this respect Trump may reprise the role played another intemperate figure, the late Senator Barry Goldwater. Like Trump, Goldwater openly spurned political consensus, opposing everything from civil rights and Medicare to détente. His defeat led to huge losses at the congressional level, as could indeed occur this year as well.

Goldwater might have failed in 1964, but his defeat did not augur a second New Deal, as some, including President Lyndon Johnson, may have hoped. Instead, his campaign set the stage for something of a right-wing resurgence that defined American politics until the election of President Obama. Pushing the deep South into the GOP, Goldwater created the “Southern strategy” that in 1968 helped elect Richard Nixon; this was followed in 1980 by the victory of Goldwater acolyte Ronald Reagan.

History could repeat itself after this fall’s disaster. People who wrote off the GOP in 1964 soon became victims of their own hubris, believing they could extend the welfare state and the federal government without limits and, as it turned out, without broad popular support. In this notion they were sustained by the even then liberally oriented media and a wide section of the “respectable” business community.

Three decades later a similar constellation of forces —- Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Wall Street—have locked in behind Hillary Clinton. But it is the transformation of the media itself both more ideologically uniform and concentrated more than ever on the true-blue coasts, that threatens to exacerbate Progressive Triumphalism. In this election, notes Carl Cannon, no Trump fan himself, coverage has become so utterly partisan that “the 2016 election will be remembered as one in which much of the mainstream media all but admitted aligning itself with the Democratic Party.”

 Progressive Triumphalism may lead the Clintonites to believe her election represented not just a rejection of the unique horribleness of Trump, but proof of wide support for their favored progressive agenda. Yet in reality, modern progressivism faces significant cultural, geographic, economic and demographic headwinds that will not ease once the New York poseur dispatched.

Successful modern Democratic candidates, including President Obama and former President Clinton, generally avoid openly embracing an ever bigger federal government. Obama, of course, proved a centralizer par excellence, but he did it stealthily and, for the most part, without the approval of Congress. This allowed him to take some bold actions, but limited the ability to “transform” the country into some variant of European welfare, crony capitalist state.

Hillary Clinton lacks both Obama’s rhetorical skills and her erstwhile husband’s political ones. Her entire approach in the campaign has been based on creating an ever more intrusive and ever larger federal government. Even during Bill Clinton’s reign, she was known to be the most enthusiastic supporter of governmental regulation, and it’s unlikely that, approaching 70, she will change her approach. It seems almost certain, for example, that she will push HUD and the EPA to reshape local communities in ways pleasing to the bureaucracy.

Yet most Americans do not seem to want a bigger state to interfere with their daily life. A solid majority—some 54 percent—recently told Gallup they favor a less intrusive federal government, compared to only 41 percent who want a more activist Washington. The federal government is now regarded by half of all Americans, according to another poll by Gallup, as “an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens.” In 2003 only 30 percent of Americans felt that way.

Nor is this trend likely to fade with time. Millennials may be liberal on issues like immigration and gay marriage, but are not generally fans of centralization, fewer than one-third favor federal solutions over locally based ones. 

Due largely to Trump’s awful persona, Hillary likely will get some wins in “flyover country,” the vast territory that stretches from the Appalachians to the coastal ranges. In certain areas with strong sense of traditional morality, such as in Germanic Wisconsin and parts of Michigan, notes Mike Barone, Trump’s lewdness and celebrity-mania proved in the primaries incompatible with even conservative small town and rural sensibilities, more so in fact than in the cosmopolitan cores, where sexual obsessions are more celebrated than denounced.

Yet Trump’s strongest states, with some exceptions, remain in the country’s mid-section; he still clings to leads in most of the Intermountain West, Texas, the mid-south and the Great Plains. He is still killing it in West Virginia. This edge extends beyond a preponderance of “deplorables” and what Bubba himself has referred to as “your standard redneck.”

Exacerbating this cultural and class discussion is the growing division between the coastal and interior economies. Essentially, as I have argued elsewhere, the country is split fundamentally by how regions makes money. The heartland regions generally thrive by producing and transporting “stuff”—food, energy, manufactured goods —while the Democrats do best where the economy revolves around images, media, financial engineering and tourism.

Energy is the issue that most separates the heartland from the coasts. The increasingly radical calls for “decarbonization” by leading Democrats spell the loss of jobs throughout the heartland, either directly by attacking fossil fuels or by boosting energy costs. Since 2010, the energy boom has helped create hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout the heartland, many of them in manufacturing. At the same time, most big city Democratic strongholds continued to deindustrialize and shed factory employment. No surprise then that the increasingly anti-carbon Democrats control just one legislature, Illinois, outside the Northeast and the West Coast.

Trump’s romp through the primaries, like that of Bernie Sanders, rode on the perceived relative decline of the country’s middle and working classes. For all her well-calculated programmatic appeals, Hillary Clinton emerged as the willing candidate of the ruling economic oligarchy, something made more painfully obvious from the recent WikiLeaks tapes. Her likely approach to the economy, more of the same, is no doubt attractive to the Wall Street investment banks, Silicon Valley venture capitalists, renewable energy providers and inner city real estate speculators who have thrived under Obama.

Yet more of the same seems unlikely to reverse income stagnation, as exemplified by the huge reserve army of unemployed, many of them middle aged men, outside the labor force. The fact remains that Obama’s vaunted “era of hope and change,” as liberal journalist Thomas Frank has noted, has not brought much positive improvement for the middle class or historically disadvantaged minorities.

The notion that free trade and illegal immigration have harmed the prospects for millions of Americans will continue to gain adherents with many middle and working class voters—particularly in the heartland. We are likely to hear this appeal again in the future. If the GOP could find a better, less divisive face for their policies, a Reagan rather than a Goldwater, this working-class base could be expanded enough to overcome the progressive tide as early as 2018.

The one place where the progressives seem to have won most handily is on issues of culture. Virtually the entire entertainment, fashion, and food establishments now openly allied with the left; the culture of luxury, expressed in the page of The New York Times, has found its political voice by identifying with such issues as gay rights, transgender bathrooms , abortion and, to some extent, Black Lives Matter. In contrast, the Republicans cultural constituency has devolved to a bunch of country music crooners, open cultural reactionaries and, yes, a revolting collection of racist and misogynist “deplorables.”

Yet perhaps nowhere is the danger of Progressive Triumphalism more acute. Despite the cultural progressive embrace of the notion that more diversity is always good, the reality is that our racial divide remains stark and is arguably getting worse. As for immigration, polls say that more people want to decrease not just the undocumented but even legal immigration than increase it.

And then there’s the mountain rebellion against political correctness. Relative few Americans have much patience with such things as “micro-aggressions,” “safe spaces,” the generally anti-American tone of history instruction whose adherents are largely concentrated in the media and college campuses. Fewer still would endorse the anti-police agitation now sweeping progressive circles. For some, voting for Trump represents the opportunity to extend a “middle finger” to the ruling elites of both parties.

Yet Trump’s appeal also represented something of a poke in the eye for the old-school religious right; Trump has actually helped the GOP by embracing openly gay figures like Peter Thiel. He may have caused many bad things, but the New Yorker succeeded, as no Republican in a generation, in making the holy rollers largely irrelevant.

The dangers for the Democrats lie in going too far in their secularism. As recent emails hacked by WikiLeaks have demonstrated, there is widespread contempt in left circles for most organized religion, most importantly for the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, even under a more progressive Pope. Some Democrats may argue that irreligiosity will remain “in” among millennials. Yet this was also said about boomers and turned out to be wrong. Few sociologists in the 1970s would have expected a religious revival that arose in the next decade.

Simply put, millennials’ economic and cultural views could shift, as they become somewhat less “idealistic” and more concerned with buying homes and raising children. They could shift more the center and right, much as Baby Boomers have done.

No matter what happens this year, the battle for America’s political soul is not remotely over. Trump may fade into deserved ignominy and hopefully obscurity, but his nationalist and populist message will not fade with him as long as concerns over jobs, America’s role in the world, and disdain for political correctness remain. If Hillary and her supporters over-shoot their nonexistent mandate and try to impose their whole agenda before achieving a supportable consensus, American politics could well end up going in directions that the progressives, and their media claque, might either not anticipate or much like.

(Joel Kotkin is the R.C. Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in Orange and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism (www.opportunityurbanism.org. This column was posted most recently at New Geography.)





GELFAND’S WORLD--I am not by birth or upbringing a fan of the Chicago Cubs. But I know a few. For them, it's been a life of tragedy. Some of them have moved here to Los Angeles and have found it extremely odd that local baseball teams can win pennants and even on occasion the World Series. They don't know how to react or what to say. For the native Chicagoan, doom is the normal order of the universe, at least when it comes to National League baseball. Come to think of it, it's also pretty much the case for American League baseball, but White Sox fans (World Series victories in 1906, 1917, and then nothing until 2005), haven't had the kind of public relations that the Cubs (aka "cubbies") had. 

That's because the Cubs had Mike Royko as a fan and observer. It didn't hurt that Mike Royko was the Vin Scully of newspaper columnists, albeit a sarcastic and argumentative version. As an example of his 7500 published columns, here is one that got a lot of play at the time, a wry take on the corporate MBA takeover of once family organizations. Royko spun out newspaper columns the way Scully spun out play calling, with the right train of words and without shouting. 

Royko wrote for a series of Chicago newspapers. What the Sun Times and the Tribune had in common was a restaurant called the Billy Goat Tavern, known colloquially as Billy Goat's. It is in an odd location, underneath Michigan Avenue. Billy Goat's is a long flight of stairs down from the avenue, but an even longer way above the Chicago River. That's the way the river crossing was designed, with the Wrigley building set high above the water, back along the northern end of the bridge, with Chicago's version of Rodeo Drive to the north, and with a lower level and its own road in proximity to the newsrooms of the day, back when newspapers were flourishing. And along that road, there is the tavern. It was a hangout for writers and printers and typesetters back in the days before automation. 

Billy Goat's was memorialized by comedian John Belushi in the early days of Saturday Night Live. On the show, it was the fictional place made famous by the words "cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger." The phrase wasn't a Belushi invention, but was taken from the real life lunch counter. 

In the next few days, sports fans will be hearing about Billy Goat's curse ad infinitum. Billy Sianis was a Greek immigrant to Chicago who founded the tavern. The story goes that Sianis went to the 1945 World Series at Wrigley, taking his pet goat with him. The goat was ejected, ostensibly for smelling like a goat, and Sianis was annoyed. He cast a curse of Wagnerian proportions on the Cubs, and they never got to another World Series ever again, throughout the remainder of the millennium. 

Over the years, there have been numerous attempts to rid the Cubs of the curse, but to no avail. You have to understand that curses of this magnitude are hard to abolish. After all, in Richard Wagner's ring cycle, ridding the world of its curse required the death of the gods and the destruction of Valhalla. Now that was a curse. 

As to Billy Goat's curse, I have a theory, as Royko had his. My theory goes like this: Just like Purdue University went to the Rose Bowl once in the preceding millennium and then once more in the current millennium, the Cubs are absolved of the curse for at least one World Series appearance between now and the year 3000. Maybe even a couple more. The millennium broke curses, at least on midwestern sports teams. 

Royko had a different slant, being a Chicago native, friend and patron of the tavern and its Sianis owners, and a deep social observer. In his very last column (March 21, 1997), just before succumbing to a massive stroke at a relatively young age, Royko wrote a piece titled, It was Wrigley, not some goat, who cursed the Cubs. As Royko explained, the Cubs went through World War II with a team populated by players who were rejected by the army. They were good enough to get into the 1945 World Series because most of the other teams had lost a substantial amount of talent to the armed services. After the war, the other teams brought back the talent and Wrigley kept his team of 4F's. As Royko explained, the Cubs could have beefed up their postwar lineup by following in the footsteps of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who had desegregated baseball in 1947. 

Wrigley wouldn't do that, and the very white Cubs floundered for a few more decades. (It's a story not unlike that of the Boston Red Sox, who continued to lose under racist ownership throughout much of the modern era.) 

Times have changed, and Chicago baseball is now competing on a more even level. It's been a while since the Cubs won a World Series -- it was last done in 1908 -- and I don't have enough fingers and toes to count off the time lapse. Back in 1908, the movie capitals of the world were New York, Paris, and London, and even the existence of Hollywood was known to only some. There were a few cars at the time, and there were steam powered locomotives. Radio had been invented, but it was dots and dashes, and ships at sea communicated by Morse Code. There were a few airplanes, mostly crafted of wood and canvas, and the Wright brothers went public with an airplane that could carry a passenger.  

And that's the last time the Cubs won a World Series. 

So here's to the Chicago northside, to Steppenwolf Theater and the Second City, to the Parthenon restaurant and the Lyric Opera, and to a World Series victory in this, the new millennium. 


Tom Hayden died on Sunday. He personified one wing of 1960s youth radicalism which he turned into a productive career in California politics and later into political education. There will be long articles written about him. Those who had a chance to chat with him at Democratic Party events will remember his remarkable wit.


(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for City Watch. He can be reached at amrep535@sbcglobal.net)


GOD BLESS OUR INDIRECT DEMOCRACY--Suppose we ask all Americans to vote on whether anyone whose first name starts with the letter “A” should pay an extra tax, giving everyone else a tax break. The appalling measure would probably pass. 

From the perspective of us A-listers (sorry, couldn’t resist), that would amount to a classic case of the kind of “tyranny of the majority” our Founding Fathers were so eager to avoid, illustrating why certain filters, or brakes, on direct democracy are desirable. The idea was that people shouldn’t legislate themselves, but instead leave that up to their representatives. 

And even if the people’s representatives get carried away, our political system has other checks and balances to insulate it from too much democracy: Congress itself is split into two bodies; unelected judges protect the Constitution from lawmakers; our nation’s monetary policy is set by an “independent” (undemocratic, that is) Federal Reserve Board. We’ve also developed a stable of technocratic agencies like the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Communications Commission to govern areas of American life at a dotted-line remove from the democratic process.

All these checks on democracy, together, constitute the genius of American democracy. We pride ourselves on our freedom to do as we damned please, but at the same time we’ve locked away all the chocolate and given the key to a friend, and warned him not to listen to us if we call to ask for it urgently late some night. Of course we then complain about how the system doesn’t work, about how we can’t binge on chocolate whenever we want. 

Such complaints are the fuel of the term “populism.” The word wasn’t current in the era of the Founders, and it remains vaguely defined in ours, but it’s precisely what our republic’s designers were intent on protecting against: The danger that over-indulging majority passions could overwhelm and subvert the system at any given moment. 

This is the election year of mad-as-hell-and-not-going-to-take-it-anymore populism (to cite the Howard Beale character from the classic Network movie), with Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump railing against how bankers, Washington, the Federal Reserve, foreigners, and conspiring elites are holding back “the people.” Those are familiar rants, yet, there is something novel about the threat posed by today’s populism: The real threat nowadays is a potential tyranny of an agitated minority, more so than a potential tyranny of the majority. 

The two dangers are easy to confuse because agitated minorities can look very much like a majority now that they can mobilize via once unimaginable communications technology and dominate wall-to-wall cable TV news coverage. Who knows how far William Jennings Bryan or Eugene V. Debs would have gotten with a Twitter following, a YouTube channel, and the ability to call into CNN? 

Let’s tweak our imagined tax referendum to illustrate what a tyranny of the minority looks like. Suppose that instead of asking Americans whether people whose first name starts with an A should pay more taxes, we ask them to vote on whether A-listers should be exempted from ever again having to pay any taxes. 

This measure, if uncoupled from any other balloting in a low-turnout vote, might conceivably pass. Why? Because we A-listers would turn out to vote in droves, and most everyone else would have little incentive to vote, or to speak out against the measure. 

The real threat nowadays is a potential tyranny of an agitated minority, more so than a potential tyranny of the majority. 

It’s an extreme hypothetical, but too much of American political life has become vulnerable to hijacking by intensely motivated and agitated minorities. It’s why teachers unions can control school board elections, why the gun lobby can punch above its weight in Washington, and why we haven’t fixed our broken immigration system. 

The danger of not appreciating the threat posed by an extremely motivated minority, as opposed to an untrammeled majority, is that our society is enabling the former threat with its overzealous vigilance against the latter. So, for instance, while a bicameral Congress and the separation of powers that allots the executive a veto and the courts judicial review are good brakes on majority rule, the Senate’s filibuster rules and the so-called “Hastert Rule” observed by House Republicans go too far in empowering agitating minorities. 

The Senate’s longtime filibuster rules were infamous in delaying the adoption of needed civil rights in the 20th century, long after a majority of Americans were ready to go along. This was a case of an aggrieved minority—white Southern Democrats—subverting the will of the majority to protect said minority. 

The Hastert Rule in the House is a more recent, and less formalized, tradition in the House of Representatives that has similarly served to block immigration reform favored by a majority of Americans, and by a majority of their representatives in Congress. The policy, enunciated by Dennis Hastert when he was the Republican Speaker of the House (long before he was revealed to be a child molester), and loosely followed by some predecessors and successors, is that proposed legislation should not be brought for a vote on the floor of the House unless it is supported by a majority of the party’s own caucus. 

As speaker in recent years, John Boehner set aside the rule at key times to allow for bipartisan votes to keep the government open when some far-right Republicans were threatening to close it down, and that’s one reason Mr. Boehner is no longer in office. But he did not allow the House to vote on a sensible immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in 2013, which would have legalized the status of the millions of undocumented workers in this country. The bill could have passed in the House with the support of Democrats and more moderate Republicans (as it did in the Senate), but the Hastert Rule stood in the way. 

The Founding Fathers intended for both chambers of the Congress, as well as the president and the judiciary, to all wrestle with thorny issues like immigration—balancing the will of the people with the Constitution. It’s a perversion of their design for one faction within the House to hijack the process, and allow for an agitated minority of anti-immigration nativists to become the arbiters of what constitutes a proposal worth voting on. 

Immigration and international trade feature prominently in this election cycle’s populist discourse, but it’s inaccurate to portray these issues, as the media often does, as pitting elites against “the people.” Opinion polls consistently show that a majority of Americans view trade in a positive light and favor immigration reform along the lines of what the Senate passed three years ago (as opposed to mass deportations and a wall). It’s easy to lose track of that reality, though, given the asymmetry of passion and interest between supporters and opponents of immigration and free trade. 

Richard Nixon’s odes to the concept of a “silent majority,” whose support he cherished, were often mocked by pundits in his day but it’s a concept worth revisiting. Today there is a silent majority that thinks it’d be insane to deport millions of hard-working, law-abiding immigrant workers. But, like many other insane ideas out there, this one isn’t going to keep most people from going about their daily business. It’s the supporters of the insanity who likely consider immigration THE ISSUE of our times, and can be found screaming at rallies and pestering their members of Congress, threatening to have them “primaried” if they work with Democrats on the issue. 

The dangers posed by agitated minorities are not merely an American phenomenon. They are wreaking greater havoc in other western democracies, like Colombia and Britain, that have ill-advisedly put big questions to a public vote in 2016. Elites in London and Bogotá were seeking additional legitimacy for their decisions to stay in the European Union and reach a final peace settlement with a vanquished narco-insurgency by engaging their silent majorities in the process. In the end, sizable impassioned minorities prevailed.

Trump’s populist campaign narrative of elites pitted against “the people” is off. Today’s politics is pitting elites and a silent (or quieter) majority against a loud, angry, mobilized faction of people susceptible to a populist pitch. The question on November 8 is whether the silent majority makes itself heard, or whether it will cede the electoral battleground to the more clamorous minority.


(Andrés Martinez is the executive editor of Zócalo Public Square. Primary Editor: Joe Mathews. Secondary Editor: Sara Catania. Photo by Brynn Anderson/Associated Press.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.)


GELFAND’S WORLD--This week, the nation's press and pundits are all aflutter about Donald Trump's response to a question that came up in Wednesday's third and final presidential debate. Trump refused to agree to accept the results of the November 8 election. His answer is being quoted by every commentator: "I will look at it at the time," but it might just as well have been, "I'll jump off that bridge when I come to it." My view is that the editorial writers are taking a rather pessimistic view of the American people in treating this one remark as the most newsworthy event of the evening. 

First of all, let's make the point that a Trump loss without a formal concession speech would not be the worst outcome ever for an American presidential election. Consider one previous election back in the 1860s, when the state of South Carolina attacked a federal fortification and seceded from the United States. They didn't even wait until Lincoln's inauguration. 

So when Trump loses, it hardly matters whether he makes a gracious concession speech, engages in fiery rhetoric, or says nothing at all. It's not going to lead to a civil war. The fiery rhetoric would actually be better for his reputation, because his failure to say anything would just mark him as a pouting loser. 

Perhaps I'm being a little naive here, but I took Trump's response to be an attempt at his Trumpian form of standup comedy. His follow up line, "I will keep you in suspense," made that point. What he may have been trying to say in effect was that we are all getting a little tired of the pomposity of debate moderators, so take this question and shove it. 

Of course turning the presidential election into one big joke is not what normal people expect, but it's in line with the entire Trump campaign. I suspect that the long-term interpretation of that response eventually will be that Trump came unprepared for this question -- unprepared in the deeper political sense -- just as he has been unprepared on so many other topics. 

This is my day to be optimistic about American democracy (fueled in part by the substantial repudiation of Trump's answer by so many well known conservatives). Assuming Hillary Clinton wins, which is becoming ever more likely, the majority of the American people will accept the result as legitimate. It's true that some will refuse to accept the result, but that would be the case whether Trump concedes or not. Most of us will tune in to the inauguration on January 20 and watch the peaceful transfer of power. Those who have some grasp of world history (and particularly European history) will be thankful. 

As to the debate itself, a few points are worth making. Let's start with the lesson of Richard Nixon and John Kennedy from their initial debate back in 1960. Historians love to tell us that people who heard the presidential debate on the radio either called it a draw or felt that Nixon won marginally. But television viewers got a favorable view of John Kennedy and an unflattering view of Nixon when picture was added to sound.  

Somehow, Donald Trump didn't get the memo. In contrast to Hillary Clinton's poise, he couldn't keep himself from twitching, frowning, smirking, and interrupting. He did a little better job of holding back on the interruptions during the first half hour or so, where he appeared to be scripted and rehearsed. His answers were plainly arguable from the intellectual standpoint, but he had his words in grammatical order and his attacks followed one another in some semblance of structure. 

In this, he seemed to have help from the moderator, who has paradoxically been praised for his performance in a lot of places. It's true that he asked real questions and largely stayed away from Bill Clinton's sex life, but his economic biases came through. Particularly when he brought up the national debt, his question, you might say, was questionable. One commentator on the Daily Kos website who writes under the pseudonym dcg2 summed up the moderator's approach deftly.  The moderator took it as a given that a mounting national debt is a bad thing, even though some serious economists point out that we don't, at this time, have an economic problem based on the debt. 

And yes, it's true that the questions thrown at the candidates were filtered through the conservative perspective, without raising real world worries such as climate change or the continuing loss of union power. This had two opposing effects, one negative and one positive. The negative effect was to force the more liberal candidate to recite a few conservative platitudes such as creating a deficit-free federal budget. The more positive side is that it allowed Hillary Clinton to present the liberal argument on topics such as Planned Parenthood, Roe vs. Wade, and social security, all without some obnoxious talk show host constantly interrupting her. There are not all that many opportunities for the liberal side to tell its story to conservative viewers, and Hillary made use of this one.

Speaking of interruptions, the Donald managed to hold himself in check for that first half hour or so. Perhaps he shouldn't have agreed to participate in 90 minute debates, because he obviously cannot maintain self control for more than a few moments. His style of interrupting with the word "wrong" escalated through the evening, leading to his most serious mistake of the evening, his interruption with the phrase, "Such a nasty woman." Perhaps Trump was trying to play to those who have been propagandized against the Clintons for decades, but the remark will reverberate against him for the remainder of the campaign. 

After the debate, I chatted with a few people to get their take. One view struck me as perspicacious: Trump comes across as somebody who is used to talking to underlings. In that context, he can interrupt, insult, and be dead wrong, and he doesn't expect to be corrected. In short, he expects to be treated as the boss. Some of this came out earlier in the campaign, when he complained about debate moderators such as Megyn Kelly. He expects subservience from most everyone, and goes ballistic when he doesn't get it. 

In the world of the corporate board meeting, the CEO presides not as an equal, but literally as the boss. There is a big contrast in candidate debates, where no candidate has the right to rule over the others. Trump understands this at some intellectual level, but his lifelong habits, now ingrained as instincts, keep pushing him towards the boss role. He appears unable to help himself, and keeps succumbing to his instincts by making irritating interruptions. 

Some of the deeper thinking pundits are beginning to understand that Hillary Clinton is not just the passive beneficiary of Trump's ineptitude. She, along with her otherwise invisible campaign staff, have played Trump like a violin, and he has cooperated in his own downfall. 

(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at amrep535@sbcglobal.net


PUFFED UP POLITICS-In a few more weeks, on the heels of a final Presidential decision by voters, and after the punditry and handwringing recedes, we may get a breather from the spew that has shredded this election season’s political discourse. This is neither the first nor last battering that will be visited on democracy’s dented carapace, but rather another in a long series of assaults born of ignorance, profit-seeking, appeals to outrage and delight in cheap and cheesy titillation. 

Those who pitch their political wares from such a low view of the world are regrettable, but expected features of the human landscape. They often rise higher than their deserved station on the back of moxie, materialism, vanity, and cultural division. This election cycle we have experienced a species of this parasitic ilk that personifies incivility. We’ve borne witness to a kind of acting out that sunders civil discourse and rejects a shared sense of mutuality and reciprocity. Instead of a striving vision for a common future, we’ve received a “gonna-tell-it-like-is” tough-guy, sneering and dog-whistling to the very darkest beliefs and urges in those who see themselves as losing out to everyone else. 

Highly visible figures, especially those inclined to preen in their own perceived exceptionalism, tacitly approve and effectively uncork ideas and actions in people who occupy the more impulsive margins of society. They stir the latent anger, rage and pent-up hatreds of society's discontents, too often at the peril of people who prefer to behave – and live alongside others who behave – in more civilized and tolerant ways.  

Community grows at the epicenters of tolerance and civility. Chaos threatens when those willing to pull the strings of a distorted public imagination grant their adherents permission to act in concert with base, even violent instincts, no matter the cost or collateral damage to others. There's nothing inherently wrong with alternative views, outright protest, angry demonstration, competing ideologies, and even nonviolent rebellion that challenges the status quo. We see these in all forms and permutations, often contained in the places where American civil society and nonprofit organizations offer a social safety valve to blow off steam and channel discontent productively. Problems arise, however, when putative leaders ignite righteous passions and then turn their backs on or disavow responsibility for the consequences of the rebellion they incite.  

Unbound, the “tell it like it is” mantra becomes “do as you please, it’s okay.” That’s when people end up getting wounded, further disaffected or abandoned. Surely a large part of the American electorate, called to take up electoral arms, will suffer political abandonment in the months and years ahead. Those who have chanted racist, sexist, anti-immigrant and other vicious incantations will resort to simmering and stewing, some feeling validated enough by their so-called democratic engagement to abuse and damage civility even more. Others will see loyalty and devotion rewarded by their crass commodification as the next audience for a low-brow television series or as customers for more worthless crap hocked their way. 

The degree of abuse visited on American democracy this election season has left civility punched in the face and momentarily knocked senseless on the street. We’re owed a refund, I believe, but it’s one we are never likely to collect because professed leaders obsessed with merely their own grasping, groping needs think not a jot about what happens next, nor do they care for the collective who.  

It is up to those who care about strengthening democracy to see demagoguery for what it is, to name it, to call it out and, in so doing, to sustain the vigilance and struggle that counters chaos and strives toward civil society. 


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

VOICES FROM THE SQUARE--For most of 2016, American politics could best be described as caught in a populist moment. Populism has always come in two variations, and we’ve seen both this year. The most familiar form, ably represented in all its raw madness-of-crowds by Donald Trump, is based on resentment of immigrants and other non-majority identities (racial, ethnic, linguistic, and religious most prominently), and rancor directed at political elites for their perceived role in changing social norms. This is the populism familiar from historian Richard Hofstadter’s “status anxiety” explanation of late 19th Century populism, or, in more recent history, the presidential campaigns of George Wallace.

The other version of populism is built around policies that would support working and low-income families, often coupled with a sharp critique of economic elites—“the 99 percent” versus “the 1 percent.” This was the populism that Bernie Sanders rode during a surprisingly successful challenge to the anointed Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and that mobilized younger voters almost as powerfully as Barack Obama had eight years earlier.

It would be a mistake to treat these two populisms as flip sides of the same coin. The white cultural resentment generated by Trump—particularly because it represents a distinct minority defined by identity rather than ideology—is a profound challenge to the Republican Party and to mainstream conservatism, just as Wallace’s was to the Democratic Party in another era. The policy differences between populist Democrats like Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren and their mainstream counterparts such as Clinton and her running mate Tim Kaine, however, are subtle. Sanders’ proposals, for example, flowed easily enough into the party platform and the vision of its nominee Hillary Clinton.

Remaining policy differences between the two camps are relatively minor, such as those between “free college” and “debt-free college,” or between a restoration of the New Deal-era Glass-Steagall banking regulations repealed in 1998 and a proposed new regulatory regime. These are still differences of ideology, but modest ones; and the differences in identity between the Sanders and Clinton camps, other than on matters of age and style, are hard to find. Instead, the left’s version of populism can seem more like a fresh coat of paint, or a sharper argument for otherwise standard liberal policies.

Nonetheless, the distinction between left populism and mainstream progressive politics does diverge in one significant way: Sanders and Warren want to name names. Their narrative, like Trump’s, is one of “heroes and villains”—the villains being not immigrants, but the “millionaire and billionaire class” or big political donors. Warren, for example, has been relentlessly focused on personnel, more insistent on limiting the revolving door between Washington and Wall Street and going after the Obama administration acolytes of former Citigroup chairman and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin (whom she blames for the tame treatment of executives during the financial crisis) than on any other particular policy.

In Hillary Clinton’s view of the world, though, there are few villains, and when they are named it is with legalistic care. (Trump himself is a villain, but carefully distinguished from other Republicans, even those who support him.) Politics, in this view, is a matter of problems, to be fixed, often by elites wielding dispassionate expertise.

So one of the central questions of our era has become: Does successful American politics need villains? Since the rise of the Tea Party in 2009, left populists have imagined that the politics of resentment that motivates the right can be coopted or converted to the left, redirected toward corporations, Wall Street, and the wealthy. While Trump attacks the “corruption” that leads to, in his view, bad trade deals, an ill-fated embrace of immigration and diversity, and American failure, left populists seem to be betting that an attack on “corruption” that names alternative targets betraying the American ideal—the Citizens United decision, middle-class wage stagnation, or the cost of college—will hook voters in the same way.

But there are major flaws in this thinking. The bonds of right populism are not so easily broken and reformed. The “heroes and villains” of Trump’s narrative (he is the only hero) are not forged by policy positions but by deep ties of cultural identity and affinity. Put more bluntly, white Trump and Tea Party supporters are not interested in a populism that involves an alliance with non-white, younger, culturally diverse voters. Meanwhile, the relentless attack on “corruption” from populists on both sides has led to the strange paradox that voters still view Hillary Clinton, merely a lifelong denizen of the existing political system, as more corrupt than the genuinely venal Trump, a master of tax scams, direct-marketing scams, and charity scams. Politics based on resentment and attacks on “corruption” have merely deepened mistrust of government, which is in itself a barrier to the policies that left populists favor.

Instead, perhaps what American politics really needs is a third kind of populism. Instead of the “them” populism of left and right, we should look to the tradition of “us” populism—one in which citizens work together, from local to national levels of government, to define and solve problems. A politics in which citizens are not just engaged as angry protestors calling on the system to change, but as part of the system itself.

America has had a populism like this before, as described in historian Lawrence Goodwyn’s portraits of the rise of late 19th century agrarian alliances, in Democratic Promise: The Populist Moment in America, and several other books. Where Hofstadter saw only resentment and status anxiety, Goodwyn saw millions of people who had been quiescent suddenly becoming engaged, participating fully through unions, farmers alliances, and new political movements to redesign the economic structures of a fast-growing country. He celebrated the cross-racial alliances forged in the South and the transformations of political consciousness experienced by individuals participating in this democratic renascence.

Our democracy would benefit from an investment in this kind of “us” populism, especially its ideas about refining existing institutions to strengthen citizen voices and public trust, and creating new mechanisms for public engagement and deliberation. This might include steps such as setting up participatory budgeting or seeing labor unions, community organizations, and similar associations as civil society institutions—rather than just economic claimants.

This new populism can’t simply be conjured into existence. It has to rise up from the lived experience of millions of individuals. But we have tools, including new technologies and new techniques of organizing, that can help. There are signs of a more meaningful and participatory democracy emerging in many American cities. Perhaps by the next presidential election, this budding “us” populism can compete with the populism of resentment that dominated in 2016.

(Mark Schmitt is the director of the Political Reform Program at New America. This piece originated at Zocalo Public Square.)



GELFAND’S WORLD--It would be a mistake to jail Dick Cheney just as it would be a mistake to jail Hillary Clinton 

The other night, Donald Trump said that if elected, he would throw Hillary Clinton in a dungeon. OK, I exaggerate a bit. He said that he would appoint a special prosecutor whose job it would be to send Hillary to jail. But actually, the two accounts are not all that different, since the desired outcome is essentially the same and the underlying attitude is essentially feudal. 

There are powerful historical and social reasons for opposing this approach to government and, curiously enough, they are exactly the same reasons why it would have been wrong for the Obama administration to try to prosecute George W. Bush or his vice president for war crimes. 

In stating this assertion, I oppose positions stated emphatically on the one hand by some American liberals and on the other hand by some American conservatives. The one group wanted Dick Cheney sent to prison, and the other group is now calling to have Hillary jailed. 

Those who fail to understand why both sides are wrong are failing to understand the fragility of democratic governance. 

Consider: We take for granted that there will be a presidential election every four years and that there will be a new president every four or eight years. This hope is actually one extreme on a continuum. It is optimistic in the sense that we have a national tradition -- presidential elections -- that has never been broken, but perhaps under the wrong circumstances could be. 

If we are to recognize that maintaining this tradition for over 220 years has at least partly been a lucky break for us, then there is a corollary: We should be careful about not taking democracy for granted, and we should be especially careful about doing what it takes to maintain the democratic tradition. 

There is of course an opposing, more pessimistic point of view: In one form, it is the claim that the current president intends to postpone or cancel the next election. I think I first heard people making that statement as far back as the Nixon administration, and the claim seems to get reborn with each new presidency. When you look at this claim carefully, it becomes apparent that it's opposite in one critical way from the throw her in jail trope. The throw her in jail view, although malicious, takes the continuation of our democracy for granted, while the assertion that the president plans to carry out a coup by cancelling elections assumes that our democracy is illusory. After all, if the president can crown himself king or declare himself dictator then it isn't much of a democracy. 

Historians tell us that we've had moments in our history when presidents took extraordinary powers. Lincoln negated the right of habeus corpus at one point in his presidency. Nixon in effect took the U.S. off the gold standard. George W Bush allowed the use of torture. Obama is accused (true or not) of violating the Constitution. 

Many of these allegations are demonstrably true, and others are matters of opinion. So if it is possible for an American president to act like a dictator, then what sort of democracy do we actually have? 

One obvious answer is that no president gets to be a complete dictator. Presidents sometimes push the envelope, but none has so far managed to collect a crown and royal scepter. There is plenty of balance in our system of checks and balances. 

But the most important element of this presidential system of ours is that new presidents come in and old presidents go out. The ultimate solution to presidential overreach is to elect a different one. The solution to political party overreach is the same. Routine elections are the answer. 

It's how we get rid of dictatorial behavior on the part of our leadership. Presidents stay as long as their electoral terms last, and no longer. It's almost the definition of true democracy vs. faux democracy. Any country in which the leader can cancel the upcoming elections (or never has elections) is not a true democracy. 

I'd like to think that there is a reason for why we have been able to maintain our tradition of 8 years and out. Part of that reason is that our government involves the participation of multiple actors, from presidents to senators to congressmen, and they have one thing in common. They are all players in a political game with defined rules of winning (getting more votes) and losing (getting fewer votes). It's not just a game of taking power as in a feudal monarchy, but a game of winning power according to a particular type of conflict. 

You might therefore treat our electoral system as having certain features analogous to chivalry. There is a cultural system with its own norms. Rather than the loyalty of the knight to his duke, we have a certain level of loyalty to a system as a whole. You can call it fealty to Constitutional law, or you can just say that this is the way that things are done. In either case, there were a lot of Republicans who chose loyalty to the system over their loyalty to Richard Nixon during the Watergate crisis. We can see some of the same reaction from Republicans who are deserting Trump. 

Now let's imagine for a moment that when Obama ascended to the presidency, he didn't give George W Bush that well-photographed hand clasp, but instead acted to prosecute Bush and Cheney for war crimes. What message would this send? 

If you have any sense of history, you would immediately recognize that this would be a recipe for any future Republican president to find some reason to prosecute his predecessor. Allow me to remind you that a lot of Republicans carried decades-long grudges over the forced resignation of Richard Nixon. "He was hounded from office" was their claim. It took a while, but they finally got even (rightly or wrongly) through the impeachment of Bill Clinton. 

The effect of a current president taking legal action against a former president would create a dangerous incentive. Any current president would understand the risk inherent in becoming a former president. It could get him or her thrown in prison. One way of avoiding becoming a former president is to find some excuse for cancelling elections. 

In other words, our democratic system depends on a tradition, and we don't know whether that tradition is strong enough to stand up to presidents prosecuting their opponents. There's a reason that the authors of the Constitution limited removal of the president to a specific series of actions that require both houses of congress, and leave the sitting president out of the process other than as the person facing trial. The founders even required a supermajority in the Senate to complete the act of removing a president from office. Notice by the way that there have only been two impeachment trials in the history of our republic, and both failed to achieve a guilty verdict. 

Viewed in this way, Donald Trump's threat to jail Hillary Clinton is more feudal than modern. It is the idea that kings battle against other kings, with the winner taking all. America rejects that culture, replacing it with written rules that define how authority is gained, and how it is shared among competing arms of government. It's true that there have been occasional lapses, as when a member of congress beat another member in response to a difference of opinion over slavery, or when Alexander Hamilton died in a duel. But our culture does not exult Aaron Burr the way feudal culture exulted conquest and assassination. We make changes in executive power by electing new presidents, not by a process in which presidents imprison their opponents. 

While preparing this column, I came across a piece by Garrison Keillor.  It says some of what is said here (at least I'd like to think that) but in the unique Garrison Keillor style. It's worth a read, particularly where Keillor, referring to Trump's views, says, "The government is not a disaster; it is a culture of process and law and organization that is alien to him." 

One more brief story. A few years ago, I attended a scientific meeting in an eastern city. I shared a cab to the airport with a fellow scientist from one of the remaining dictatorships. He asked me a little about the American system, and as we passed various monuments, I tried to explain: "What made George Washington great was that he gave up power." There have been many military leaders, but not many national leaders have established a tradition of the peaceful transition of power. My fellow scientist looked a little surprised at this answer, as it was not something that his world included. 

The peaceful transition of power signified by the presidential inauguration is a continuing miracle in a world that has only slowly been adopting such traditions. It is this peaceful transition of power that Trump mocks in his threats to jail his opponent.


(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for City Watch. He can be reached at amrep535@sbcglobal.net) 


MY TURN-I literally have spent the last week trying to figure out why there is such fear and loathing expressed when it comes to Hillary Clinton. I have read so many outlandish "facts" from friends and neighbors on Facebook and other sites that baffle me beyond description. 

Some are people I have known for forty or more years. We carpooled together...our kids grew up together...we celebrated and commiserated together. How these honest, and in most cases, bright people could not only swallow but repeat these outlandish stories is beyond me. 

I have stayed away from writing about the Presidential election. I have never been a partisan voter, even though I identify more with the Democratic platform than with the Republican. I vote according to my considered preference, whether it comes to politicians or initiatives. 

When I discussed the content of this article with CityWatch publisher Ken Draper, it was supposed to be ready for last week. I wrote it, then let it sit for a day; then I decided I came off almost as strident and emotional as the people I was accusing. 

So I decided to start all over again. Believe it or not, this now represents a far more gentle approach. Now is a good time to reflect with so many "news" programs have lavished opinions and from all sides. Unfortunately, it was too early to start drinking so I doubled my usual caffeine intake. 

Many pundits trace the "Hate Hillary" phenomenon to 1992 when Governor Jerry Brown was running for President against Bill Clinton. Brown accused the former Governor of Arkansas of helping his wife’s law practice while he was in office -- an accusation that was never substantiated, like many of the Hillary tales. 

Hillary fired back via the press with a sentence that roiled traditionalists who were already fired up by the era’s culture wars: 

“I suppose I could have stayed home, baked cookies and had teas,” she said. Most of the media outlets neglected to report her complete quote that went on to say, “The work that I have done as a professional, a public advocate, has been aimed…to assure that women can make the choices, whether it’s full-time career, full-time motherhood or some combination.” 

Go back to the eighties and nineties. Women were going through their own evolutionary process. Gloria Steinem was accused of starting a gender war. Women had started to join the workforce but in mostly non-decision making positions. 

When Bill Clinton appointed Madelyn Albright as Secretary of State it was a huge achievement for women. I must admit, when I first heard Hillary talk about baking cookies I could relate to this because I felt the same way. My children will never have the memory of smelling freshly baked cookies emanating from their mother’s kitchen. To this day, I still burn the garlic bread. 

Intellectually, one can understand why men would have resented Hillary in those days. She was not the kind of role model they wanted their wives and daughters to emulate. And they were starting to resent the changes occurring to the traditional "Father Knows Best" male roles. Unfortunately, men in Trump's age group were the first to experience these vast social changes. 

Why do women hate her so much? I think it’s been partly due to jealousy; she’s always been doing important things perhaps while some have remained in traditional roles. However, over the years, she has served as a role model to more and more women, millions of whom have since discovered they have options too. 

We should differentiate between what is true and what is urban myth. I don't remember any hue and cry when Ronald Regan accepted a two week, two million dollar fee plus the usual travel/staff perks from Japan shortly after he left the Presidency. At that time, Japan was one of our main trade competitors. Of course, he was a man and was “worthy” of such an expense. A woman receiving $250,000 for a speech was unheard of.   

There was no investigation of the private RNC email server President George W. Bush used and where 55 million emails were "lost," even though they are supposed to be retained. There were no investigations of Condoleezza Rice when we had more than five terrorist attacks against U.S. embassies and military bases during her tenure. 

The fact is, Jason Chafitz, Utah Congressman and Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, turned down the request for extra money the State Department requested to beef up security at embassies and consulates in dangerous areas. This was before Benghazi. 

As a journalist, I have learned to check what are called "facts." Even the Investment Service Motley Fool, known as one of the most reliable Investment companies in the industry, recently included a list of the "Hillary Myths."  They certainly do not have anything to gain and I don't see them on the list of Hillary donors. 

Trump also blames Hillary for her husband of signing NAFTA, calling it the worst trade deal ever negotiated on the part of the United States. The initial beginnings for NAFTA were under President Reagan, who originally wanted a free trade agreement with Mexico. The famous Conservative think tank, Heritage Foundation, helped draft it and the first President Bush signed it. 

While NAFTA was being negotiated, there was a lot of talk about a future extension -- eventually having a “Common Market” for the Americas. It was thought then to be a smart move to compete with the European Union. 

One more thing that irritates me: Everyone refers to Trump as "Mr. Trump.” His surrogates, news reporters, employees and even his critics have given him this "Mr." title, which infers he is above everyone else. Hillary refers to him as "Donald," which I am sure, in his world, is a breach of etiquette. On the other hand, most of the time she is referred to by her first name. 

The tapes that have been released as of this writing have featured ten women who tell Trump groping stories. He and I are from the same vintage and I will bet almost every woman over fifty who was in business or in the work force has been subjected to verbal and physical sexual overtures. (I can recall almost every incident that I ever experienced.) We didn't say anything because, 1) we would lose our jobs 2) we would lose the client 3) or we would upset our husbands, who might have thought we encouraged this kind of behavior, or worse, would threaten violence against the perpetrator. 

I developed some pretty smart responses to those overtures to ensure that a man wouldn't feel resentful and would want to continue our business relationship. I also developed a pretty good right hook. That brings up another couple of points. 

The complaint that Hillary said she has a public position and a private position is not a cardinal sin. Anyone in business faces the same situation.  

Lastly, appointed Cabinet officials "serve at the pleasure of the President.” As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton’s responsibility was to carry out the wishes of President Obama, whether she agreed with him or not. Similarly, the job of Trump's surrogates is also to defend his behavior and policies, whether they agree with him or not. 

Those of you who have a supervisor or a "boss" do the same. 

I think we can all agree that this election is like no other in our lifetimes. The outcome has not been determined and, in spite of the Trump rhetoric, it is not a rigged system. What frightens many of us is the consequences of either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump being elected as the 45th President of the United States. It is going to be an interminable three weeks. 

My personal opinion is that Hillary Clinton is being subjected to a double standard and is definitely encountering gender bias. 

Before you resend an inflammatory email or tweet, check with the professional non-biased fact checkers. Do not add to the very tense and dangerous atmosphere we are encountering. All of the facts I have discussed have been substantiated and are available online. 

As always comments welcome.


(Denyse Selesnick is a CityWatch columnist. She is a former publisher/journalist/international event organizer. Denyse can be reached at: Denyse@CityWatchLA.com) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

WORKING AND WAITING FOR CHANGE-In these dismal days of climate change, imperial decline, endless war, and in my city, a hapless football team, I seem to be experiencing a strange and unaccustomed emotion: hope. How can that be? Maybe it’s because, like my poor San Francisco 49ers who have been “rebuilding” for the last two decades, I’m fortunate enough to be able to play the long game. 

But what exactly is making me feel hopeful at the moment? 

For one thing, we seem to have finally reached Peak Trump, and the reason why is important. 

Calling Mexicans rapists and drug dealers didn’t do it. Promising to bring back waterboarding and commit assorted other war crimes didn’t do it. Flirting with the white supremacist crowd and their little friend Pepe the Frog didn't do it. But an 11-year-old video tape of Trump bragging about grabbing women “by the pussy” seems to have been the drop of water that finally cracked the dam and sent even stalwart Republican leaders fleeing a flood of public revulsion. 

In the midst of the most frightening and depressing presidential election of my life, the reactions to this latest glimpse into the Mind of Trump have actually lifted my spirits. Not that many years ago, an exchange like the one between Donald Trump and Billy Bush would hardly have been news. Sexual harassment was an expected part of the lives of working women -- par for a Trump golf course. I remember, for instance, paging through my family’s New Yorker magazines and coming across a Whitney Darrow cartoon about a lesson at a secretarial school. A businessman is chasing a woman around a desk as the teacher explains, “Notice, class, how Angela circles, always keeping the desk between them...” 

There you have it: the devaluation of women’s work (secretarial skills reduced to techniques for evading the boss’s advances), the trivialization of sexual predation, and in Angela’s knowing smile, admiration for the woman who keeps her sense of humor while defending her virtue. 

What’s most surprising about the response to Trump’s hot-mic moment is the apparent national consensus that speaking -- or even thinking -- about sexual assault the way Trump did on this video is neither normal nor amusing. This shared assumption that women are not trophies for the taking marks an advance toward full personhood that we have achieved only in my lifetime. When you stop to think about it, it’s an extraordinary cultural shift. And once people figure out that women are, after all, human, it’s pretty hard to stuff that genie back into the bottle. 

Of course, there are still a lot of men who have a hard time with the woman-human being equation. Paul Ryan, for example, responded to the Trump video release by opining that “Women are to be championed and revered” -- a view that suggests we are either helpless creatures to be saved by a “champion” or other-than-human creatures belonging on some Victorian pedestal. 

Then There’s Hillary 

In her first debate with Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton actually said the words “systemic racism.” Never in our history has a mainstream presidential candidate described our country’s racial institutions in that kind of language. Indeed, one of the biggest political problems the movement for racial justice has faced in the post-Civil Rights era has been how to account for the fact that, absent legal segregation, people of color, and especially African Americans, remain disproportionately represented among the poor, the unhoused, and the incarcerated. Institutional, or systemic, racism describes the mechanism at play. 

Here’s what Clinton said in that debate: 

“And it’s just a fact that if you're a young African-American man and you do the same thing as a young white man, you are more likely to be arrested, charged, convicted, and incarcerated. So we've got to address the systemic racism in our criminal justice system.” 

She’s right of course. And she deserves credit for saying it, but it’s the analysis of groups like RaceForward, the organizing skills of the young activists of Black Lives Matter, and the moral voice of older leaders like the Reverend William Barber II of the North Carolina NAACP who created the atmosphere in which she had to say it. 

We are, in other words, witnessing a sea change in how people in mainstream politics talk about racism. Of course, there’s been pushback against Clinton’s rhetoric, but the idea that actual institutional structures exist that deeply constrain the lives of African Americans has now been admitted to the grown-ups’ table. 

Black communities have long known that they, and especially their young men, are at risk of police violence. That’s why sooner or later so many black parents of every economic class have “the talk” with their children about how to try to stay safe (or at least safer). But in the two years since the murder of Trayvon Martin by a self-styled vigilante, Black Lives Matter has focused national attention for the first time on the repeated deaths of unarmed black men and women at the hands of those who are meant to protect and serve. Now, even the mainstream media no longer treat such deaths as isolated incidents unworthy of coverage. Instead, it is recognized that they form a systemic pattern, and even presidential candidates have to respond to that pattern. That is a victory and it was almost beyond imagination even a few years ago. Of course, the real victory will come when police stop shooting unarmed people, but at least now the country generally admits that it happens. 

Similarly, many of us on the left have long known that wages in this country began to stagnate in the mid-1970s. We’ve watched the minimum wage (once intended to be for a family’s “breadwinner”) shrink to a poverty stipend. We’ve seen income and wealth inequality swell to the greatest levels since the Gilded Age of the nineteenth century. But it took the Occupy movement to remind us that the 99% could reclaim political power. It took organizations like OUR Walmart and the Fight for $15, lifted by Bernie Sanders’s run for the Democratic nomination, to bring that discussion into the mainstream. 

For the first time in years, the words “working class” have slipped back into public discourse. CNN now runs stories with headlines like “Working class white men make less than they did in 1996.” A few years ago, as far as anyone could tell from the mainstream media, we lived in a country populated by a vast, undifferentiated “middle class,” and a few wealthy or impoverished outliers. Now, both the Trump and Clinton campaigns have found that they must address the pain of working people. We may not agree with their proposed solutions, but they have to talk about it. That, too, is a change and a victory of sorts. 

Wait! You Mean We Won Something? 

For many years I’ve noticed that my corner of the political world, roughly the American left, has had a very hard time recognizing and claiming our victories. Maybe that’s because it’s cost us so much to understand all the ways in which the standard American narrative is a lie, to grasp how little the American Way -- whatever Superman may have believed -- has had to do with truth and justice. 

From birth, Americans normally swim in an ocean of heroic mythology about American exceptionalism, and for many of us it’s been difficult to make our way out of its riptides. So our knowledge has been hard-won. Figuring out that the United States is not the international defender of liberty we learned about in school wasn’t easy. 

It took work to realize and accept, for instance, that our country routinely supported dictators and torturers. We opposed U.S. efforts to prop up strongmen like Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines and Augusto Pinochet in Chile, and called out the hypocrisy when the U.S. government was shocked(!), shocked(!) to discover what they actually were. 

Having invested so much effort in recognizing the lies of the American exceptionalist narrative, we find it difficult to acknowledge when our government does something right. 

The Paris Agreement on climate, signed by 190 countries, comes into effect this November 4th. That’s because on October 5th, the world met two key criteria: ratification by at least 55 of the signatory countries, and ratification by countries responsible for producing 55% of the planet’s greenhouse gases. It’s fair to say that, without the Obama administration, this agreement to confront the extinction-level threat that climate change represents would not have come into being. Like any compromise, it’s by no means a perfect accord, but it’s the best chance we’ve seen in a long time that the Earth will remain the habitable and welcoming place for human beings (among many other species) that it’s been these last tens of thousands of years. This victory belongs to environmental activists around the world, and we should claim it! 

It’s almost as if, having worked so hard to understand the role and power of the United States on the world stage and of a ruling elite at home, we’ve imagined this country as a far greater powerhouse than it is.  It’s almost as if recognizing any cracks in the edifice of American power might endanger that hard-won worldview. It’s almost as if the possibility that we can sometimes push our country to do something right, that our side can sometimes win, seems to rattle us. Faced with that disorienting possibility, I suspect it’s sometimes easier to believe that, while we must always fight the good fight, our adversary is too strong for us ever to expect victories. 

On the domestic front many of us, both people of color and white Americans, have struggled to recognize our personal implicit racial biases. We’ve likewise taken the time and effort to reexamine what we were taught about U.S. history so that we could grasp the enduring and shape-shifting longevity of systemic racism. Knowing this history so well seems to make it harder for some of us to recognize and claim victories when they come. When, in front of 80 million Americans, Hillary Clinton says that “implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just [the] police,” that is a victory, and we should take it in and savor it. 

When President Obama responds to mass incarceration by commuting the sentences of federal drug offenders, that is a victory, however modest. It took half a decade for the ideas in Michelle Alexander’s groundbreaking book The New Jim Crow to penetrate to a mass audience. Now, the country has finally begun to recognize what prison activists have been saying for years: there is something very wrong when the “leader of the free world” has the largest prison population on the planet. An outrage that, a decade ago, was invisible to just about everyone except the affected communities and a small number of activists is now known to all. Our prisons are a national and international scandal and the spread of that knowledge -- and the urge to do something about it -- is also a victory, one worth celebrating, however provisionally. 

Who’s Most Likely to Be Hopeful? 

In the 1980s, I spent six months in Nicaragua’s war zones at a time when my government, the Reagan administration, was supporting the Contra armies against the Sandinista government. Together with many sectors of Nicaraguan society, the Sandinistas had thrown out the U.S.-supported dictator, Anastasio Somoza. Over and over I was struck by how living in the midst of war was like being stretched between two temporal realities. 

In the morning, a Nicaraguan in the town of Jalapa might help dig a communal refugio to shelter children from airplane attacks. In the afternoon, she might risk attack or kidnapping by the U.S.-backed Contras to plant trees that would take years to mature on mountains that had been clear-cut by American lumber companies during the Somoza dictatorship. You always had one eye on the present and the other on a better future. 

The Nicaraguans I knew seemed eternally ready for a party under the worst conditions imaginable. One day, in the city of Estelí, I remember running into an American friend who told me this story: she’d been feeling bummed recently because the Contras had attacked a little town near where she was living and killed seven children. It seemed to her as if this miserable war would never end. The family with whom she was staying was going to a fiesta that night and asked her along.

“I don’t feel like it,” she said. “I’m too depressed.” 

You can afford to be depressed,” they told her, “because you’re going home soon. We are the ones who will still be stuck in the war, so we have to have hope for the future. We have to dance. Now, get dressed, we’re going to a party.” 

What group in the United States is most optimistic about the future? Surprisingly, according to a recent Gallup Healthways poll, it’s not the billionaires among us, but poor African Americans. A Brookings report on the poll suggests a number of reasons for this, and adds:

“[T]he optimism of black Americans -- especially the poorest -- is a reason to be a little more hopeful. The second term of our first black President is nearing its end, but a renegade political candidate with open disdain for minority groups is enjoying rising support. At such a moment in history, it is noteworthy that it is black Americans who seem to be keeping faith with the American Dream.” 

Another poll, commissioned in 2015 by the Atlantic, found that “African Americans and Latinos are far more likely to be optimistic than their white counterparts, both about their personal station in life and the future of the country more broadly.” 

Such people are anything but stupid. They know that their communities are confronting terrible challenges, but they know, too, how important it is not to forget to dance. 

Why Doing Politics Is Like Surfing 

How do outrageous ideas -- for example, that women are human beings, or that the U.S. locks up way too many people, or even that gay people should be able to get married if they want to -- suddenly morph into everyday commonsense? It’s rarely an accident. It almost always involves dedicated people working away for years on an issue, often unnoticed, before it seems suddenly to surge into general awareness. 

Sometimes I think the politically engaged life is like surfing. You expend an enormous effort paddling past the breaking surf. Then you sit on your board breathing hard, scanning the horizon for the wave. Sometimes you sit out there for a long, long time, but when that wave comes, you have to be ready to grab it -- and enjoy it. 

Even when the wave looks like a sinking Donald J. Trump.


(Rebecca Gordon, a TomDispatch regular, teaches in the philosophy department at the University of San Francisco. She is the author of American Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes. Her previous books include Mainstreaming Torture: Ethical Approaches in the Post-9/11 United States and Letters from Nicaragua.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


AN AMERICAN IS CRIMINALIZED EVERY 25 SECONDS--Two prominent human and civil rights organizations are calling on the U.S. government to decriminalize all drug use and possession in a new report which finds that the so-called war on drugs has caused “devastating harm.”

The joint report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found that there were 574,640 arrests for marijuana possession nationwide in 2015, outnumbering arrests for all violent crimes combined, and that the massive enforcement of drug laws takes a toll at every level, from the individual to the institutional—ruining lives and pulling families apart, discriminating against people of color, and undermining public health.

In fact, the groups found, in the U.S., someone is arrested for low-level drug offenses every 25 seconds

“Every 25 seconds someone is funneled into the criminal justice system, accused of nothing more than possessing drugs for personal use,” said the report’s author and HRW/ACLU Aryeh Neier fellow Tess Borden. “These wide-scale arrests have destroyed countless lives while doing nothing to help people who struggle with dependence.”

The long-term impacts of drug law enforcement range from the separation of families to lifelong discrimination, the report states. People arrested for drug use can be excluded from employment opportunities, housing and welfare assistance, and the right to vote, among other things. The organizations interviewed hundreds of drug users, family members of those prosecuted, government officials, defense attorneys, activists, and service providers, and analyzed data from Texas, Florida, New York, and the FBI.

One woman interviewed in the report, “Nicole,” whose name was changed for privacy, was held pretrial for months in Houston, Texas away from her three children and eventually pled guilty to her first felony—possessing an empty baggie with heroin residue. The conviction cost her student financial aid, employment opportunities, and the food stamps she used to feed her children.

“The felony conviction is going to ruin my life…I’ll pay for it for[ever]. Because of my record, I don’t know how or where I’ll start rebuilding my life: school, job, government benefits are now all off the table for me,” she states in the report. “Besides the punishment even [of prison]...It’s my whole future.”

The report also found that while black adults do not use drugs more than white adults, they are over two-and-a-half times more likely to be arrested for possession. When looking just at marijuana possession, they are almost four times as likely to be arrested.

“Under international human rights law, prohibited racial discrimination occurs where there is an unjustifiable disparate impact on a racial or ethnic group, regardless of whether there is any intent to discriminate against that group,” the report states. “Enforcement of drug possession laws in the U.S. reveals stark racial disparities that cannot be justified by disparities in rates of use.”

As the organizations point out, since the war on drugs was formally declared by President Richard Nixon in 1971, use has not significantly declined—and criminalization, coupled with a lack of treatment for addicts, forces users to go “underground,” exposing them to increased risk of disease, overdoses, and other dangers, while making it less likely that they will recover.

“While families, friends, and neighbors understandably want government to take action to prevent the potential harm caused by drug use, criminalization is not the answer,” Borden continued. “Locking people up for using drugs causes tremendous harm, while doing nothing to help those who need and want treatment.”

The report concludes by calling on state legislatures and U.S. Congress to decriminalize personal use and possession of all drugs, and invest in risk reduction and voluntary treatment programs.

“Criminalizing personal drug use is a colossal waste of lives and resources,” Borden said. “If governments are serious about addressing problematic drug use, they need to end the current revolving door of drug possession arrests, and focus on effective health strategies instead.”


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



PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE, ROUND 2--The second presidential debate arrived, and if this were another year and a different set of candidates, we would probably be reading that Trump came back from his earlier defeat due to a stronger performance this time. After all, he didn't melt down into a pool of slag or run pouting from the stage. He stood his ground and exchanged punch for punch, accusation for accusation. Some commenters will score this one as a draw or even a modest Trump victory. But it's not a different year or a different Republican candidate, and this debate took place under circumstances that were not only bizarre, they appear to be rebounding against Trump. 

The following episodes are historically unprecedented but as we shall see, they have something in common. 

Trump came into the day of the second debate facing a situation in which a significant number of Republican leaders were pulling their support from him due to his comments about groping women. When you lose John McCain and others of his stature, you are pushing the envelope pretty hard. Trump got off a sort-of-apology for his comments, but he tried to make it sound as if it was just a boyish phase he was going through. After all, he was only 59 years old at the time. 

But what defines Trump as a political phenomenon is that he does things that others won't. In this case, it was his press conference held on the same day as the debate, in which he introduced women who had all accused Bill Clinton of doing something bad. The subtext was "if I did something wrong, the Clintons have done worse." The fact that his opponent is Hillary Clinton, not Bill, is obvious, but this was a play to Clinton haters of all stripes. 

The pre-debate press conference caused the MSNBC commenters to be all aflutter, with worried prognostications that Trump might call Bill Clinton a rapist during the debate itself. The story must have played out interestingly in foreign markets. 

During the debate, in response to Hillary Clinton's suggestion that Trump has avoided paying income taxes, Trump responded with dreary repetitions that a couple of other billionaires -- Warren Buffet and George Soros, alleged to be Hillary's friends -- also use available tax deductions. Once again, it was the argument that whatever Trump does, some liberal does it worse. 

When you look at these Trumpian games, it eventually becomes obvious that Trump is engaging in a technique that the American right wing has developed into a fine art: Whatever you are most guilty of, accuse your opponent of the same thing. When George W. Bush was facing a real war hero in the person of John Kerry during the 2004 reelection campaign, his side brought out the Swift Boaters. All of a sudden, Bush's failure to serve was balanced by a concerted attack on Kerry's battlefield performance. 

It's like the psychological concept of projection, except that instead of unconscious thoughts being painted onto other people, the political technique is to recognize your own defects at the conscious level and then to defend your own vulnerability by accusing the opposition of the same thing. 

In the case of Sunday night's debate, Trump took this technique to the extreme. Here is an excerpt from CNN.com. 

Donald Trump on Sunday night issued a remarkable threat against Hillary Clinton, telling the Democratic presidential nominee he would seek to imprison her if he was elected next month.

"If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your (missing email) situation," Trump said, "because there has never been so many lies, so much deception."

Trump's threat -- which he has made before on the campaign trail -- is extraordinary even by the standard of the vitriolic 2016 campaign. 

The comment is remarkable for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is how it forced Trump's campaign workers to scramble in the aftermath. His latest adviser explained this remark as Trump channeling the strong feelings of his followers. That reacting at this level to mob sentiment is the opposite of leadership didn't seem to occur to this spokesperson. The irony is rich indeed. 

But we should also notice that Trump's remark is another example of Trump doing a little conscious projection. He is the one who is under attack over the Trump University fraud as well as other scandals. He may not be at the level of criminal prosecution, but the trial over the Trump University case is approaching. 

So Trump threw the first punch. Now it happens to be true that the argument about jailing Hillary is not new. It's been going around since the early days of Trump's campaign. But this was a new element for a presidential debate. Those of an age to remember the Nixon-Kennedy and subsequent debates will recognize how weird this was. 

So Trump took out a little insurance against his own potential prosecution in the event that he does not win the presidency. He got in the first punch. But his threat is so out of bounds that even Ari Fleischer objected. You can read his remark in the CNN story quoted above. 

As for Hillary Clinton, she held her own on substantive points, but that wasn't what this debate was all about. She was forced to repeat the approach she took in the first debate, namely:

1) Point out that it is hard to fact-check Donald Trump during the debate itself, so the viewers should check out her website. 

2) Point out that what you just heard wasn't true, and that Donald lives in his own reality. 

These were useful stratagems during the first debate, but they weren't delivered with quite the oomph this time around. They sounded like something that Hillary was reminding herself to say, and didn't get the follow-up they could have profited by. 

On the other hand, Hillary did an effective job explaining that Trump is not fit for the job of president. She also got a boost from the moderators when Trump was asked to stop interrupting. 

There is one major difference in their competing personas. Over the course of their nomination acceptance speeches and two debates, the difference became clear. Trump presents himself as perpetually angry, outraged, and pessimistic. It's worked for him during the primary process, but it remains to be seen how well it will work for him in a general election. Hillary has taken the more optimistic approach. 

In one way this was forced on her, because it was necessitated by Trump's slogan "Make America Great Again." How do you compete with that, other than to say that America is great already? She is also trying to ride the Obama coattails, so she has to claim that things are improving. It's been a tightrope for Hillary to walk, but she seems to be doing about as well as she can. Historically, presidential candidates who present a positive message seem to have an advantage, as Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama showed. 


As of this writing a few hours after the second debate, snap polls show Hillary Clinton as the winner. Interestingly, she won big in the category of appearing more presidential. Perhaps this can be explained by Hillary's ability to maintain a straight face in response to Trump's attacks. Compare that to Trump's constant grimacing and frowning when attacked. Perhaps future historians will conclude that Hillary turned out to be the better actor, in spite of Trump's television experience. Or perhaps it was a mistake for Trump to adopt his television persona during his presidential campaign. Alternatively, it may be that the majority of the public found Trump's aggression distasteful and for that reason, found him to be less presidential. 

One question: Does Trump always know that he is going over the line? Admittedly a lot of his performance is contrived, a vaudevillian shtick. But perhaps that anger he presents is the real Trump, and what we are hearing is that anger spilling over. What presidential candidate would fail to know that threatening to jail your opponent is off limits in the American political tradition? At the extreme level, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis were not thrown in prison by the victorious side. Perhaps Trump's followers should remind him.


(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at amrep535@sbcglobal.net)


HUFFINGTON POST--People took notes during shoots of “The Apprentice,” even when those moments didn’t make it into the show. 

Top Democratic operatives have offered to pay millions of dollars for unaired footage of Donald Trump on the set of “The Apprentice,” hoping to unearth another unscripted moment like the one that surfaced Friday from 2005, when Trump said he would grab women “by the pussy.”

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-By now, we’ve all heard the Access Hollywood tape from 2005. Presidential candidate Donald Trump joked with Billy Bush about “moving on her (Nancy O’Dell) like a b*tch”” and how fame is an open door to grabbing women’s genitals.

TRUTHDIG--Most of you are already sick of this election and are looking forward to Nov. 8. But don’t count on it being over after Election Day. 

Donald Trump is already crying fraud. People with Cold War memories are warning of Russian hackers disrupting the election. Vote-counting systems are antiquated and often poorly run. All this adds up to investigations and lawsuits alleging miscounted votes and fraud stretching far beyond Election Day, and making doubters even more skeptical of the results. 

The combination of Trump’s paranoia and fears of mysterious hackers are fuel for conspiracy theorists. But with the rapid advance in computer technology and Russian hackers’ suspected penetration of Democratic National Committee (DNC) files, even people who don’t buy the conspiracy theories are alarmed. 

The Department of Homeland Security said 25 states have asked for federal help in assessing vulnerabilities and fighting computer attacks on their voting systems, Politico reported Wednesday. 

I spoke with attorney and election expert Robert Stern, who co-authored the California Political Reform Act and was chief counsel for the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission. Stern, definitely not a conspiracy theorist, is also concerned. 

“People don’t trust anything anymore, and the people who lost the election will say it was rigged,” he said. “I think now [that] we have learned Russians hacked the DNC … anything is possible. We did not anticipate all these hacks.” Stern pointed out that state election offices are often less sophisticated than federal agencies, such as the State Department and the FBI. “So,” he said, “it is much more a source of concern. … A large number of citizens will say ‘revote, revote,’ and that’s what [Russian President Vladimir] Putin wants. He wants mistrust, and probably the Chinese and [North] Koreans do, too.” 

Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Democracy Program at New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice, wrote in August: “In the last two weeks, there have been credible reports that Russia is attempting to influence our elections by hacking into the Democratic Party’s email server and other campaign files. These reports are troubling. But an attack on our country’s voting machines, once deemed far-fetched, is even more disturbing.” 

Norden and other election experts cited dangers in the use of voting machines, which don’t leave a countable paper record of the votes cast. One threat could involve hackers changing the count on machines, with no way to check the results after the election. “In November, tens of millions of voters in 14 states, including Pennsylvania and Virginia [battleground states], will vote on paperless electronic voting machines,” Norden wrote. 

“The threats to the integrity of our elections go beyond potential hacks to change the vote count on polling place voting machines,” he said. “Attackers could attempt a ‘denial of service’ attack, where machines simply crash more often. In those cases, voters could be forced to wait in line for hours while technicians work to fix the machines or replace them. Many would give up and never vote. Alternatively, the systems could be attacked after voting is complete, when results from individual machines are tallied at a central location.” 

Election Justice USA, which describes itself as a nonpartisan organization fighting election fraud, examined the possibility of attacks on the machines. It issued “Democracy Lost: A Report on the Fatally Flawed 2016 Democratic Primaries” and collaborated on another report, “An Electoral System In Crisis.”  

The organization alleges that hackers installed algorithms (a set of instructions) in electronic vote-counting machines. This would “have increased [Hillary] Clinton’s share of the vote and decreased [Bernie] Sanders share of the vote” enough to deny Sanders the Democratic presidential nomination. The group would like a rerun of the Clinton-Sanders race. 

Election Justice’s researchers also said they found evidence that the Clinton and Ted Cruz campaigns manipulated results in Wisconsin, where Cruz defeated Donald Trump in the primary.

The theory doesn’t make sense to me. Every crime needs a perpetrator and a victim. If both Clinton and Cruz were suspected perpetrators, did their campaigns work together on this scheme? Or did each have separate algorithm-installation operations? If it was a joint operation, why target two such diverse victims as Trump and Sanders?

The “Electoral System in Crisis” report admits the fraud-hunters don’t have a perpetrator. 

“At this point, we are unable to say who might be responsible for any data breaches to the voting equipment. There could be any number of independent players who would benefit from the victory of a particular candidate and would be willing to take action to influence the results. Our research also indicates that in some elections the footprint of more than one unofficial player is evident,” the report said. 

While Cruz beat Trump in Wisconsin, Clinton overwhelmed Sanders in California (2,713,259 to 2,326,030) and in New York (1,054,083 to 763,469.) That’s a lot of votes to fix. 

My first thought was to dismiss Election Justice USA. 

But this is 2016, the year of doubt and suspicion, and if Election Day is followed by months of lawsuits and investigation, the Election Justice USA reports no doubt will take their place in the evidence cited by those litigating the results. 

In addition, Trump has taken up long-standing -- and unproved -- Republican accusations of voting fraud. These allegations have inspired Republican legislatures around the country to impose limits on voting hours and demands for all-but-impossible voter identification. The moves are designed to reduce the turnout of Democratic-leaning African-American and Latino voters and students of all ethnicities. 

Trump, in fact, is urging his supporters to act as Election Day vigilantes in battleground states. “You’ve gotta go out, and you’ve gotta get your friends, and you’ve gotta get everyone you know and you’ve gotta watch your polling booths, because I hear too many stories about Pennsylvania, certain areas,” he said at a recent rally. “I hear too many bad stories, and we can’t lose an election because of you know what I’m talking about. So go and vote, and go check out areas, because a lot of bad things happen and we don’t wanna lose for that reason.” 

Trump adviser Roger Stone said, “The issue here is both voter fraud, which is limited but does happen, and election theft through the manipulation of the computerized voting machines.” 

A nationwide hack of American election machinery is probably impossible. Elections are run by thousands of local governments, loosely supervised by state governments. Each has its own system, ranging from well-run to incompetent. But a hack of electronic voting machines in a few crucial counties in key states is not impossible. And that could affect a close presidential election. 

Controversy -- remember Florida 2000? -- will follow fraud charges by Trump and others. This will sow even more doubt about the electoral process among voters ready to believe the worst about government, and inspire demands for a recount.


(Bill Boyarsky is a columnist for Truthdig, the Jewish Journal, and LA Observed. This piece was posted first at Truthdig.com.) Photo: Seth Perlman/AP. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

EASTSIDER-I am old enough to have grown up in and around labor unions and the union-management collective bargaining system, a system that today is largely broken, even as the 1/2 of 1% grow obscenely rich and the rest of us are beggared into a two class system. In fact, most people alive today have never experienced labor unions since manufacturing, American companies with roots in America, and the concept of full time employment of our citizens have all been supplanted by a new system of global financial manipulation masking as “Free Trade.” 

I mention all this because there was a method for conflict resolution that came out of those days called “arbitration.” Born out of World War II and the War Labor Board, the idea was to establish a relatively efficient, bilateral system to quickly resolve disputes without the necessity of spending zillions of dollars and decades of time playing with lawyers and the court system. It was well understood then, as now, that the American civil court system is essentially run for the exclusive benefit of those who can afford to use it. 

Anyhow, back in the day, arbitration presumed that there were two institutional parties -- labor and management -- who came to the table as relative equals interested in the resolution of their disputes. The idea was that they would agree upon a neutral third party, called an arbitrator, to hear their disputes, cogitate, and render timely, final and binding decisions as to the outcome. 

Of course, this system, which worked quite well as an alternative to the courts, flourished in a time when America actually built things in the U.S., and where a significant part of the labor force was unionized and covered by collective bargaining agreements. It also assumed that employees could work for most of their careers for the same employer or industry. 

Over time, the concept of lifetime employment relationships with employers was systematically destroyed and unions went into decline. Company CEOs were transformed into financial drones, managing debt rather than actually looking out for the long term health of the companies they ran. I can still recall President Bill Clinton proudly announcing that we should get over the idea of working for one employer, and begin to spend our lives constant retraining for whatever jobs the ‘new economy’ might require. Unmentioned was the implied destruction of pensions, employer-paid medical care, and most of the middle class. Welcome to the new “shared” or “gig” economy. 

Arbitration continued, of course, but it was and is largely a niche market for those who still work in a collective bargaining environment -- employees in the public sector and what remains of private sector unions in areas like health care, education and a few other industries who are still the beneficiaries of this system. 

But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. As unions went into decline, those pesky personal injury attorneys started to replace the arbitration of collective bargaining with civil litigation in the court system. Given that there is no real check and balance governing the behavior of companies anymore, it is not surprising that they often engaged in behaviors which did not pass muster in court. 

Actually, as a young hot dog union organizer, I used to just love nonunion companies. You could quietly organize a key group of employees, hook up with an attorney, and start filing a bunch of tort claims in court to make them realize a contract was a lot cheaper than a bunch of expensive lawsuits resulting in damage awards, not to mention attorney fees. 

While companies hated those “shyster” plaintiff attorneys, even worse from their standpoint was the rise of class action firms who became rich in their own right, jet-setting around the country in search of raw group litigation meat. You know, like John Edwards used to do prior to his presidential dreams. 

Ultimately, companies began to feel the economic sting of all of these lawsuits. As firms like Littler, Mendelson and Jackson Lewis managed to destroy the unions, they became the victims of their very success and were putting themselves out of business. The solution was to quickly reinvent themselves as ‘employment law’ specialists to union-free employers. 

Mandatory Arbitration 

Of course, never underestimate the ability of a lawyer to turn rules on their head and make up look like down. Finally, the companies and their law firms hit upon a brilliant scheme: Bring back arbitration -- but in a rigged system that they could totally control. This brainstorm morphed into what we call today “mandatory arbitration” agreements. 

Here’s how it works: Companies and their high-priced lawyers figured out a long time ago that their worst fear is someone finding a lawyer, going to court, and suing the bejesus out of them for unlawful acts. While the plaintiffs’ attorneys might get the bulk of any award, there was still enough left over for aggrieved citizens to find that lawyer and avail themselves of their constitutional rights. And in the case of class action lawsuits, there was enough money involved that, suddenly, millions of dollars could be at risk just waiting for a hungry attorney. 

On the other hand, if you could control the arbitrators, you could (a) largely control the outcome, and (b) deny folks their constitutional right to the civil litigation system. To control the arbitrators, all you really needed to do was create a new class of “arbitrator” where you and your client get to choose the so-called neutral. That way, any arbitrator who rules against you would cease to get any more cases. 

Just to give this new system the appearance of propriety, along came a whole class of retired or retiring judges eager to make the big bucks they believed that they were denied when working for the public. You know, in relatively low-paying jobs like superior court judges. 

It worked like a charm. Agencies like JAMS & the American Arbitration Association were perfect vehicles to provide the appearance of authority and neutrality for such a system, and served as a shield between the corporate attorneys and the arbitrators themselves. Even better, the arbitrators loved the system, because they could charge hundreds of dollars an hour for their labors without fear of pushback. After all, the attorneys representing the companies were charging more than that, times the number of attorneys involved, so the arbitration fees looked reasonable. Everyone wins except the innocents sucked into the system.  

Wow! This worked so well that if you read the fine print in almost any commercial transaction agreement, you will discover (usually too late) that you have given up your right to sue the rascals for any transgressions or misdeeds against you. Instead, you will be subject to a mandatory arbitration clause in lieu of being able to go to court. 

If you listen to the people who cooked up these deals, they will proudly declare that this is a fast and efficient way of resolving disputes without clogging up the court system. Just like the tooth fairy is real. 

What they won’t tell you is that the corporate attorneys control virtually all of the so-called arbitrators, and you the innocent consumer/employee can be on the hook for 1/2 of the thousands and thousands of dollars that the arbitrators will charge for your little case. In my humble opinion, we have successfully transformed the one dollar one vote of Citizens United into a unilaterally controlled private justice system by this technique. 

A Few Examples 

If you’re not living under a rock, most of us watched or read about the recent grilling of Wells Fargo’s CEO John Stumpf regarding the millions of fake accounts they made their employees create under threat of termination. Well, buried in the testimony, there is a reference to mandatory arbitration by Mr. Stumpf himself: 

“Brad Sherman asked if consumers who had forced arbitration clauses who wanted their day in court would get one. Stumpf tried to pass off the idea that having Wells pay for mediation was just as good but finally admitted, ‘no’.” 

Another favorite Wall Street firm of the Great Recession, JP Morgan Chase, is also a great fan of mandatory arbitration. In an article called Wall Street’s Protection Racket: Mandatory Arbitration,” Pam and Russ Martens point out the huge differences between mandatory arbitration and a court, where the public and the press can actually observe the proceedings, and even write about it. 

In point of fact, this issue has become so pervasive that the New York Times recently described the process as In Arbitration, a Privatization of the Justice System. 

The Times article describes a whole litany of horror stories, including how an ER doctor in Philadelphia brought a sex discrimination suit, was forced into private arbitration, had an ‘in the bag’ arbitrator, and is still paying off some $200,000 that the experience cost her even after she lost the case. The article is part two of a three part report - it’s a good read, and you can follow the links. 

Recent Hopes 

It does look like the government has started to figure out that mandatory arbitration clauses are popping up in almost every kind of contract between consumer and corporation. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is actually in the process of adopting a rule that will simply bar mandatory arbitration clauses in consumer financial products (read banksters). Chalk one up to Dodd-Frank. 

Also, in a recent 7th Circuit Court of Appeals case  in Chicago, the court threw out an arbitration clause which banned employees from joining together as a class to fight their employer. 

I mention this case because in many ways it draws my story full circle. In less than a century we have gone from meaningful labor management relations with honest and cost effective arbitration, to attempts to turn arbitration on its head and make unionization as well as group action illegal. Gee, where did that pesky idea of freedom of assembly and association come from? Oh yeah, the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. 

Moral of the story: read the fine print, and don’t believe the spin doctors.


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

DEBATING THE DEBATES-The vice-presidential debate Tuesday night was rated by some commentators as generating more heat than light. At times, that certainly seemed true when watching Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike Pence hurl charges at each other, insert practiced digs and cut each other off. 

But it pays to read the transcript and remind yourself that this debate did raise some points of real consequence about the economy, race relations and policing, immigration, reproductive rights, and foreign policy. It is true that this debate did not address much of what we would expect in a real “people’s debate” that focused on the real concerns of struggling Americans. But there were ample moments of real contrast between the America that works for all people that is promised by Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the mix of alt-right nationalism and tea-party policies that would surely be ushered into Republican Donald Trump’s administration. 

Here are a few: 

  • On wages, Kaine pointed out that while Clinton supports raising the minimum wage, Trump has indeed said that wages are too high for American companies to be competitive, and Pence has been a “one-man bulwark against minimum wage increases” as both governor of Indiana and as a conservative leader in Congress before he became governor. 
  • Kaine said that the Clinton administration would “never, ever engage in a risky scheme to privatize Social Security,” while pointing out that Trump embraced privatization (in a 2000 book, “The America We Deserve”). PolitiFact gave Kaine a “mostly false” for the implication that a Trump administration would embrace privatization. But here PolitiFact gets it wrong by omitting that Trump’s admittedly vague statements about how he would restore Social Security’s long-term solvency by economic growth alone – a statement no serious expert on Social Security finances on either side of the aisle believes – leaves a policy vacuum that would be likely filled by Pence’s embrace of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan for Social Security, which does include allowing Social Security trust funds to be diverted into private stock market accounts. In a word, privatization. 
  • Pence sounded less strident than Trump when talking about policing in African-American communities, leavening a reference for “law and order” with support for community policing. But then he undercut that attempt at moderation by saying that talk of implicit bias and institutional racism in policing “has got to stop” and echoed Trump’s support of “stop-and-frisk” police practices that were ruled unconstitutional when they were practiced in New York City. The lessons learned in dozens of cities – that training police officers of all colors in recognizing implicit bias and how to use de-escalation strategies to prevent unnecessary use of force makes for safer neighborhoods and more safety for police – continue to be rejected by the Trump-Pence ticket, to the peril of not only people of color but the nation at large.

Kaine and Pence also reprised the well-known differences between the candidates at the top of the ticket on immigration, sparred on Clinton’s foreign policy record as secretary of state, and highlighted a sharp contrast on reproductive rights, which Pence unapologetically opposes. 

It was here that Pence left himself most vulnerable, not simply because of his faith-based stand against reproductive rights for women, but because his willingness to defend what he believes his Christian faith says about the immorality of abortion under any circumstances did not extend to what his Christian faith says about the immorality of Donald Trump. 

Kaine kept pressing Pence to defend Trump’s slurs against women, the disabled and people of color. He kept goading Pence into defending Trump’s extreme use of the tax code to avoid paying taxes for the government he now seeks to lead. He referenced Trump’s unethical business practices and the thousands of workers and vendors who have been stiffed by Trump’s businesses over the years. He noted that because Trump has not released his tax returns, we have no evidence of Trump’s charitable giving (but we do have a growing number of news stories about his abuse of the Trump Foundation). The Bible that Pence uses as the guide star for his political life contains denunciation after denunciation of people who abuse wealth for their own gain at the expense of those who do not have wealth or power. 

After the debate, the spin room was full of pronouncements that Mike Pence won. But Pence himself had to know in his heart of hearts that he was being asked to defend the morally indefensible, and that never makes you a winner. 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.


(Isaiah J. Poole has been the editor of the OurFuture.org blog since 2007 and is also communication director for People's Action. This piece appeared in CommonDreams.org.)  Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

ELECTION 2016--Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party presidential candidate, is currently having a moment with younger voters. Presumably this is because he has emphasized his pro-marijuana stance and stayed away from touting his views on nearly everything else, which, as AlterNet has reported, are very right-wing. Yet look behind the curtain, and you’ll find that Johnson’s candidacy is fueled by money provided by funders who are driving forces behind things most young voters abhor, like the privatization of public education and the “right” to pollute the environment.

A combination of engaging social media launched by pro-Johnson PACs and the candidate’s goofy, likable personality add up to 29 percent of voters between the ages of 18-34 telling pollsters for NBC News that they plan to vote for the third-party candidate. (His “What is Aleppo?” gaffe seems not to have made a dent in his numbers.) Several respected pollsters and political scientists have deduced that Johnson’s totals cut further into votes that would normally accrue to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton than to Republican nominee Donald Trump. Young voters comprise a critical constituency in the Democratic coalition, and Clinton has struggled to engage them, even gaining the endorsement of Bernie Sanders, the primary challenger who garnered great enthusiasm among young Democrats.

Johnson’s plan, as reported by Politico’s Ben Birnbaum, is to siphon enough votes from both major-party candidates to deprive each of the 270-electoral vote majority a candidate needs in order to win the White House. Then the race gets thrown into the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, where the third-party candidate quixotically expects to win. But even if this long-shot scheme had a chance, it’s hard to imagine members of the Republican majority in Congress voting to hand the White House to someone other than their party’s nominee. That all raises the question, what is Johnson really up to, and whose interests does he represent?

Birnbaum reports that the Johnson campaign has “recently reshuffled its map,” focusing on states “with large numbers of disgruntled Sanders voters,” which he identifies as Iowa, Wisconsin, Oregon and Washington. In addition, the Johnson forces are also making television and radio ad buys, according to Advertising Age, in Nevada, Colorado, New Hampshire and Maine—all states identified by FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten as more-or-less “must-win” states for Clinton (meaning her chances of winning the general election drop precipitously if she loses any one of them).

While the Johnson airtime buys are tiny compared with Clinton’s, they amount to gauntlets thrown, especially when you factor in the Johnson forces’ clever online strategy. If your target is young voters, television buys probably aren’t a great use of your resources. But creating viral videos probably is, and the pro-Johnson AlternativePAC is doing just that.

Despite the fact that Johnson’s poll numbers—he’s at 8 percent in the Real Clear Politics average—are higher than any previous modern-era third-party candidate at this point in the election cycle, he still has a long climb to make the 15 percent threshold required for inclusion in the presidential debates. So, the campaign’s present focus is on elevating his profile so his poll numbers go up, with the hope of making it onto the debate stage October 9. (Read the rest.) 


DEBATING DEBATES-Before the face-off between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, many were pleading for Lester Holt (above left), the NBC anchor and moderator Monday night, to be a “fact checker.” 

Any delusions in that regard should have been dashed right away as he perpetrated a root falsehood at the very start of the event. 

Holt claimed that the event was “sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. The commission drafted tonight’s format, and the rules have been agreed to by the campaigns.” 

While the CPD certainly controls much of the event, it’s not a “nonpartisan” organization at all. It’s about as far from nonpartisan as you can get. It’s totally bipartisan. It’s a creation of the Democratic and Republican parties designed to solidify their dominance over the public. 

Its origins are in an agreement “Memorandum of Agreement on Presidential Candidate Joint Appearances” from 1985 signed by Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., then Chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Paul G. Kirk Jr., then Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The two would go on to head the CPD. 

But that original agreement didn’t even have the word “debates” in it. This commission is the mechanism by which the Democratic and Republican parties came together to push aside the League of Women Voters, which had organized presidential debates before 1988. It was to make sure that the campaigns, not some independent entity, would decide on moderators, on formats—and to critically exclude other participants unless both sides agreed. They simply wanted to ensure “televised joint appearances”—which became emblematic of a pretense of democratic discourse.

Holt’s fabrication—he can’t possibly be ignorant of this—is really a root problem of our politics. All the lies and spin from Clinton and Trump largely manifest themselves because each side excuses them because “the other” is worse. That is, the very “bipartisan” structure of our elections is in large part responsible for the dynamics we’re seeing. 

Normally decent people ignore all of Clinton’s deceptions because they loathe Trump, and normally decent people excuse Trump’s fabrications because they detest Clinton. That’s why candidates with incredibly high unfavorability ratings—as Clinton and Trump famously have—may still have millions voting for them, like two crumbling buildings helped up by each other. 

And the voters have “nowhere else to go” because they are in effect held prisoners by fear. Millions of people who might agree with other candidates—Jill Stein of the Green Party or Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson or the Constitution Party or socialist parties—do not actually coalesce around those candidates because they fear helping Trump or Clinton. This mindset probably prevents stronger challengers to the duopoly from ever coming forward in the first place.

There are two ways out of this that I see:


Pollsters can find ways of finding out what the public actually wants. That is, every tracking poll today has the same format—some minor variation of “if the next election for president were held today, with Donald Trump as the Republican candidate, Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate, Gary Johnson the Libertarian candidate, and Jill Stein the Green Party candidate, for whom would you vote?” (NBC / Wall Street Journal) 

What pollsters are not doing is asking people who they actually want to be president. That is, there are lots of people who want Johnson or Stein, but feel like they have to vote for Clinton or Trump to stop the other. So while media outlets claim that Gary Johnson is at 8 percent in “the polls” and Jill Stein is at 3 percent in the “opinion polls”—that’s not accurate. They are not opinion polls. Polls are not gauging the actual views and beliefs of the public. They are ostensibly predicting a future event. But they are molding that reality as we go along. Most brazenly because the CPD has set 15 percent in these polls as the criteria for exclusion. 

USA Today, in a refreshing departure from usual polling, recently found that 76 percent of the public want Stein and Johnson in the debates. And here’s the kicker: When reformers suggested that someone should be included in the debates if a majority wanted them in, the heads of the commission rejected the effort. Paul Kirk, now co-chairman emeritus of the CPD, said: “It’s a matter of entertainment vs. the serious question of who would you prefer to be president of the United States.” But that’s the problem: The polls the CPD is relying on don’t actually ask the public who they prefer to be president. We could have a “third party” candidate with plurality support and we wouldn’t know it because the question to gauge that isn’t asked of the public.

Obvious recommendation: Pollsters should actually have an interest in the opinions of the public and ask them who they prefer to be president. 

Voters Can Unite 

The other way out of this seemingly perpetual duopoly bind is that voters come together. That’s what I outline at VotePact.org: People who feel compelled to vote for Clinton because they detest Trump can team up with their opposite number. This requires real work. Instead of stopping Trump by voting for Clinton, a progressive can stop Trump by taking a vote away from him. 

That is, instead of a husband and wife who are actually unhappy with both Clinton and Trump casting votes that in effect cancel out each other—one voting for Trump and the other for Clinton—they can both vote for candidates they actually prefer. Each would be free to vote their preference—Johnson, Stein, whoever. 

The progressive would undermine Trump not by voting for a candidate they don’t trust—Clinton—but more skillfully: by taking a vote away from Trump. The conservative would not feel they have to suffer the indignity of voting for a candidate that’s distasteful—Trump. They would instead succeed in depriving Clinton of a vote. 

It’s that kind of outside-the-box thinking that’s going to get us out of the binds that the ever-duplicitous duopoly attempt to impose on the citizenry. 

(Sam Husseini is founder of VotePact.org. This piece first appeared in TruthDig. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

NEW GEOGRAPHY--Whether he loses or, more unlikely, wins, Donald Trump creates an existential crisis for the Republican Party. The New York poseur has effectively undermined the party orthodoxy on defense, trade and economics, policies which have been dominant for the last half century within the party but now are falling rapidly out of fashion among the rank and file. 

In this sense, Trump’s nomination could be seen as both an albatross and something of a life preserver. His rallying of a large working-class base, particularly in the Heartland, provides a potential new direction for the party that has lost irretrievably the business elite, the coastal states, minorities and the educated young. Clearly, the party needs to revise its electoral strategy. 

Geography and economics 

Trump’s raw and poorly considered economic nationalism positions the GOP against Hillary Clinton’s crony corporate establishment — anchored by Wall Street, Silicon Valley and the coastal media. This resonates broadly among many Americans, who are increasingly disaffected with the oligarch-dominated, big-bank-driven economy. 

Now the Democrats have become the party of the urban gentry, public employees and the government-dependent poor, an identification that hurts them elsewhere. In contrast, Trump’s strongest support comes from small towns and, to a lesser extent, the suburbs. In these geographic heartlands, low labor participation rates, declining incomes, struggling Main Street businesses and collapsing opportunity incite resentment and a call for radical change. The disconnect with the power centers is further stoked by the celebratory coverage received by the asset/inflation-driven “false economy.” 

Clearly, the traditional Republican path to victory — pandering to the ultrarich — seems misplaced, if not a trifle masochistic. Trump may boast about how he benefited from cronyism, but his critiques resonate more with the owner of a bar on a small town Main Street or a 20-person machine shop who knows that he can’t count on the Treasury Department defending his tax avoidance, as has occurred in the case of big-time Democratic donor Apple. 

Similarly, Trump’s crude assault on undocumented immigration makes more sense to many lower-skilled Americans who compete with them for jobs. Additionally, Trump’s attack on the Democrats’ ever more strident decarbonization drive has brought Appalachia firmly into the GOP realm, and may also deliver some key Midwestern swing states, such as Iowa and Ohio. 

Bill Clinton, who once effectively reached such voters, now denounces the “coal people” like they are a bunch of mindless Bubbas. His wife’s recent attack on Trump supporters as homophobes, racists and xenophobes revealed an unflattering glimpse at the inner thoughts of the “party of the people.” 

Not just the white people’s party 

Trump’s shameless, needlessly provocative antics clearly appeal to those with residual racist and nativist sentiments, which undermine GOP efforts to break into the increasingly racially diverse electorate. But, surprisingly, Trump isn’t doing much worse than more temperate Republicans, such as John McCain and Mitt Romney, among Latinos. It’s shocking how little appeal country club Republicans, despite their nicer manners, wield outside the county club. 

The challenge now is to expand Trump’s class-based appeal in ways that can also win over minorities. Becoming the white people’s party is not the road to long-term success; better to reach across the racial divide and make common cause with the new party core. 

Most Latinos and African Americans, after all, share many economic concerns with the white working class — the loss of blue-collar jobs, lack of affordable housing and diminished prospects for homeownership. They also are most likely to suffer from the efforts to protect poorly performing public schools, which are fervently defended by Clinton’s core supporters in the teachers unions.

And as most Latinos are, themselves, not immigrants, and are becoming ever more native-born, they may prove more amenable to such basic economic appeals than focusing on people crossing the border. 

But perhaps Trump’s signature achievement may prove to be the marginalization of the religious right, exemplified by the embrace at the Cleveland convention of gay billionaire Peter Thiel. Religious conservatives have posed a mortal threat to Republican future prospects, not only among millennials and educated professionals but across a broad swath of an increasingly secular electorate. 

The only way to relevance: Exploit the weaknesses of the other side 

In the post-Trump future, Republicans need to focus on issues that exploit the Democratic disconnect with middle- and working-class voters: absolutist arrogance on environmental issues, the increasing embrace of radical social engineering and issues related to law enforcement. It may help that there does not seem to be any great progressive tide out there, since Congressional Republicans, although burdened with Trump at the top of the ticket, are doing better than expected. 

Ultimately, the GOP strategy needs to incorporate the populist aspects of Trumpism – economic nationalism, respect for blue-collar labor, opposition to political correctness -- while ejecting the New Yorker’s bile. A positive, inclusive message embracing economic growth – now abandoned by the Democrats years ago – could make the GOP attractive enough to avoid being tossed into the dustbin of history.


(Joel Kotkin is the R.C. Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in Orange and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism (www.opportunityurbanism.org. This column was posted most recently at New Geography.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

EPPERHART ON POLITICS--I, along with about 84 million or so of my fellow Americans, myself Monday evening watching the Democrat and Republican candidates trying to not make fools of themselves. (One of them, anyway.) This will be my 11th presidential campaign as a voter and, like just about everybody, I’ve never seen one like 2016. 

A year ago, few took Donald Trump seriously. His Republican opponents certainly didn’t. Over the following months, what their campaign operatives came to understand was that a rock solid core of G.O.P. voters (about a third) started out for Trump and never wavered. This was all he needed to carry him through the early primaries. As his opponents fell by the wayside, he picked up enough to keep going all the way to Cleveland and the nomination. 

Trump’s strategy, if you can call it that, has been to drive home the same message that America is a dark place, broken and in desperate need of the remedies that only he can provide. It is a pitch that works, but only for those who want the product. Who are these people? 

They are the “disaffected” — folks whose vision of the United States got obscured when all those black and brown and gay people proliferated on their TV screens. They wonder why The Simpsons and South Park are still on and King of the Hill isn’t. They don’t understand why an NFL player, who should be grateful for the opportunity afforded him in this great nation of ours, won’t stand for the National Anthem. 

No matter what Trump says or how he behaves, these folks will stand with him. But they are not enough to get him past the finish line ahead of Hillary Clinton. 

Despite the back-and-forth in national polls, electoral vote prognosticators consistently predict a Clinton win. None have shown Trump at or near the 270 electoral votes he needs to become president. To do that, he will need to persuade the handful of undecideds who could swing the outcome in his favor. 

It’s the deal of his lifetime and he’s blowing it. 

Monday night he tried and failed to make the pivot to “Teleprompter Donald” (as the media have dubbed the more presidential persona.) The split screen showing both candidates provided a stark contrast between the constantly moving Trump and the still, poker-faced Clinton. She looked cool and collected. He looked like he needed to use the restroom. 

Trump’s constant interruptions didn’t rattle Clinton. She is the consummate pro and it showed Monday night. When he tried to distract her, she kept on talking like he wasn’t there. 

His assertion that not paying taxes made him smart (as opposed to us dummies who do) and making money off people who lost property in the recession is good business was a naked display of ego. Telling people you’re bright and they’re dim isn’t a winning strategy. 

Donald Trump has his solid 40 percent of the electorate. They live in his alternate reality and will turn out for him come hell or high water. But, the other 10 percent he needs aren’t buying his sales pitch. With every day that passes, it’s looking more like a done deal.


(Doug Epperhart is publisher, a longtime neighborhood council activist and former Board of Neighborhood Commissioners commissioner. He is an occasional contributor to CityWatch and can be reached at: Epperhart@cox.net) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

TRUTHDIG-As I interview blue-collar workers about their jobs, their futures and their struggles with an unequal economy, I’m struck by how compelling their stories are compared to the rhetoric of the presidential campaign. 

I get caught up in the details of their work and lives, their concerns about how automation is changing their jobs, their worries about child care. So interesting—and sometimes moving—are their stories that I almost forget to ask them how they feel about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. 

That’s what happened this week when I visited Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, a community college centered on vocational education and preparing students for the increasingly technological workplace. Carpentry, plumbing, diesel and electric engine repair, air-conditioning installation and repair, the culinary arts and nursing are among the many trades and professions taught. The student and faculty experiences were more interesting than hearing campaign correspondents and anchors excitedly report on a 1-point shift in the polls. 

Trade Tech proudly considers itself the college of the second chance—another chance for those who messed up in high school, served time in prison, are looking for a trade after time in the service, or have been laid off because of downsizing or job obsolescence. Some are there because they’ve found themselves stuck in a dead-end job. It’s a cross section of working-class America, and I wondered how people were coping in this time of factory closings, the loss of millions of blue-collar jobs and growing incomes for the rich. 

I saw no posters, tables of volunteers, banners or other signs of the presidential election. It’s hot on cable television, but this campus seems to be in another world, grittier and grimmer than the political news.

The school’s unassuming buildings occupy 25 acres near the gaudy Staples Center —the multipurpose sports arena next to the restaurants, clubs and theaters of L.A. Live—in the increasingly luxurious downtown Los Angeles. The contrast is striking. 

Trade Tech has a student body of 25,000: 56 percent Latino, 27 percent African-American, 6 percent Asian and 6 percent white. Nearly half of the students work more than 30 hours a week. 

Carlos Gonzalez (photo above) was fired from his dead-end job as a supervisor for a chain that sells food to poor people with government food-stamp vouchers. An Army vet, he served in Iraq since the beginning of the war. East Los Angeles College didn’t work out. Neither did his job in the food stores, where, as a supervisor, he made $15 an hour after eight years. So he enrolled at Trade Tech to study plumbing. After a year and a half, he has a 3.8 grade-point average, has won two awards from deans and one from the college president, and is president of the plumbing club. 

“In my family, there are welders and electricians, but we don’t have a plumber,” he said.

The work involves more than fitting pipes together or fixing stopped sinks and toilets. Gonzales studies architecture and how to use the computer to make blueprints, plus a thick book on building codes. “A union job, that’s my goal,” he said. “Jobs are not hard to get for a plumber.” 

Not far away, I sat down in the smoking tent with Angel Carrizosa, 18; Eric Chavez, 21; and Raul DeLeon, all carpentry students. 

“I wanted to learn a trade, get a job,” said Chavez. 

“My dad is a carpenter and I want to follow in his footsteps,” said Carrizosa. 

I asked him what was different about what he was learning at Trade Tech compared to what his father taught him. 

“Blueprints,” he said. “He never learned blueprints. Blueprints tell you where everything goes.”

Math, computers, and complex, quick decision-making are all involved in the process. Jobs await those who make it. 

“It’s a prime time for carpentry,” said DeLeon. 

I asked them about the presidential election. 

“I’m not voting,” said Chavez, who’s not registered and doesn’t intend to register. “I’m not really into it.” 

Carrizosa said he was voting for Clinton.

Then, Chavez ended the conversation. “Sorry, Bill,” he said, “but we have to go to class.” 

Bianca Alvarez, a chef coming back for more education, had made her mind up—to vote against Trump. “I don’t like the racist stuff,” she said. “I know he is not directing it against me personally, but I hate him. I am Hispanic. My own father comes from Mexico and his [Trump’s] words of hate, I don’t like that.” 

What about Clinton? 

“I don’t know much about her,” Alvarez said. “There’s the fraud thing.” 

She and Christian Oso, 23, another culinary student, are more interested in how they will cope with their challenging profession, where, as he said, “people in our industry burn out in two or three years.” 

Federal and state governments can do much to help them on their way. Veteran Carlos Gonzales is attending Trade Tech on the GI Bill. Many advocate that all community college students in the United States should get tuition, books and a living stipend from the government. 

Downsizing or being shipped overseas? Government should pay them a minimum salary whether or not they find a new job. Let the corporations pay from the big profits they earn by eliminating jobs, or from their new clean-energy facilities that are heavily subsidized by government. If coal is obsolete, why should unemployed miners starve? 

As I saw at Trade Tech, jobs are available. But it takes determined students and instructors such as those on the faculty—skilled carpenters, plumbers, designers, nurses and many others with the ability to teach their skills—to make it. 

That’s what I learned at the college of the second chance. If the candidates talked about this, about something truly relevant to people’s lives, the students I met and millions of Americans across the country might be interested in this election.


(Bill Boyarsky is a columnist for Truthdig, the Jewish Journal, and LA Observed. This piece was posted first at Truthdig.com.) Photo: Bill Boyarsky. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


TRADE WINDS--I never stood a chance. Of course Russia would seduce me.

It was the early 1980s and Robert Massie had just published his riveting Peter the Great biography (I devoured it on a family cruise, which surprisingly didn’t impress the teenage girls onboard); Warren Beatty had produced his magisterial (super long) Reds; and the ABC TV network broadcast The Day After, a movie about a Soviet nuclear strike that millions of high schoolers across the land, myself included, were encouraged to come together to watch, and then discuss. Because, you know, that really could happen. And so, the adults wanted to know, how did that make us feel?

ELECTION 2016--For those of us struggling to pull ourselves from our summer distractions, and who are now confronting this November's elections, it's an easy choice. Some of us looooove Clinton, and some of us looooove Trump. Some of us love neither...and may even hate both of them. So what to do...what to do...hey, I know! We should reach for our Johnson! 

Gary Johnson, that is, the Libertarian candidate who also ran in 2012. Now which Johnson you'll reach for is up to you, presuming that this is a "protest vote.” (For those who genuinely like Gary Johnson and his political platforms, you might want to stop reading right now.) 

Many who claim to support Johnson (but really don't know which Johnson they're actually reaching for) may not be aware that: 

--Johnson not only favors "amnesty" for those here illegally, but strongly opposes the term "illegal immigrant" altogether. 

--Has viewpoints on legalization of drugs that place him further to the left than anyone else running for President. 

--Wants to cut the federal budget by approximately half, which includes education, the military, Social Security, and just about everything else...yet chose William Weld, known as a "Big Government" Republican from Massachusetts, as his running mate. 

But for the rest of us who are STILL enraged and/or disgusted and/or offended and/or put off and/or distrusting of and/or annoyed by and/or oblivious to BOTH Trump and Clinton, there's always the option of grabbing your Johnson. 

Will you grab your anti-Democratic Big Government Johnson, or will you grab your anti-GOP Christian Nation Johnson? 

Hillary Clinton's health got you concerned -- they've got a catchy tune for her coughing. No need to reach for your Advil...reach for your Johnson! 

Donald Trump's verbal antics got you down? They've got a catchy tune for that, too. No need for seizures...seize your Johnson instead! 

Sick of Clinton's endless claims of chauvinism and sexism?  Then take hold of your Johnson -- he's a dude and he won't accuse you of gender discrimination if/when you disagree with him! 

Sick of Trump's endless calls for "the wall?"  No worries, just grapple your Johnson instead -- he favors open borders and empathizes with our neighbors to the south! 

Hillary's laughing off the inquiries and accusations leaving you with the impression she's just too evil for your tastes? Then nab your Johnson! 

Donald's statements got you wondering if Hitler's been reincarnated? Then lay your hands on your Johnson, and never let go! 

Will Mitt Romney, both former Presidents Bush, and John McCain take hold of their collective Johnson and go third party this year?  

Will former Sanders supporters snap up their collective Johnson and vote third party this time around? 

Colin Powell and several other major political figures haven't taken a break on making their living from book-writing and the speaking circuit, and yet they still refuse to endorse either Trump or Clinton at this time. Are Colin Powell and the others each clutching their Johnson because they think the two main candidates are jerks, and they prefer a Johnson to a jerk? 

Certainly the two-party system appears to have devolved from a real choice to an oligarchy of the "same ol’, same ol’," with the base of each party having to figure out which political leadership listens to and cares about the needs and hopes and fears and goals of average Americans. 

Which means that each and every one of us, come Election Day, will have to choose between reaching for the lever to vote for the lesser of two evils...or reach instead for our own personal, private Johnson.


(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  alpern@marvista.org. 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.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


LATINO PERSPECTIVE--Here in the United States September is Hispanic Heritage month, and I like to talk about what it means to be Hispanic or Latino in America. This subject is something that growing up in Mexico City I never really thought much about. 

In Mexico when it comes to identifying yourself in official government forms like the passport they don’t ask you whether you are Hispanic or not, they just ask what kind of skin shade or tone do you have. So it was either tez blanca or tez morena meaning white tone or brown tone or shade, none of these Hispanic, or white non- Hispanic classifications. 

Unlike America, Mexico is a very homogeneous country, and they don’t collect census data on ethnicity. But according to the Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook Mexico is composed of mestizo (Amerindian-Spanish) 62%, predominantly Amerindian 21%, Amerindian 7%, other 10% (mostly European). You will never see forms asking you whether you are Latino or Hispanic, in Mexico that is irrelevant. 

However, here in the United States it is important being that our country is very diverse. So which is it? Hispanic or Latino? What are we? What does it mean to be Latino? Or, Hispanic in America? – The answer to this question depends on who you ask. The two words are most of the time used interchangeably. So which word to use? Ever since I started college at USC I have been asking myself this question, and here we are many years later still trying to figure this out. 

I did a little research online and I think I finally found a definition that I can settle with, and of all places I found it in The Tennessean, this paper is part of the USA Today Network and their Education reporter Jason Gonzales explained it very well when he said that “for those of For those of Spanish or Latin American origin, the terms describe a shared experience in the United States and by their definition includes a broad category of people with different cultures and heritage. Both words are to be celebrated because they represent our many differences.” 

He added “Latino means those from Latin America and includes Brazil, while Hispanic means those of Spanish-speaking origin and includes Spain.  The term Hispanic was first used by the U.S. Census Bureau in 1970 to describe the numerous Spanish speakers in the United States. And Latino was adopted by the U.S. Census Bureau in the 2000 count. Neither word specifies a certain ethnicity, but speaks more to a broader group of people.” 

A broader group of people who share the same experience of being Americans of Latin decent. The word Latin and Hispanic unites us in a common bond that in many ways is, ironically uniquely American. 

Let’s celebrate Hispanic Heritage month by remembering that we are Hispanics, we’re Latinos, and we are Americans. Whichever word you use to describe yourself be proud of it, and always keep in mind that no matter where we came from, or what’s our cultural heritage Latinos, Hispanics have made, and continue to make America great. Happy Hispanic Heritage month to all.


(Fred Mariscal came to Los Angeles from Mexico City in 1992 to study at the University of Southern California and has been in LA ever since. He is a community leader and was a candidate for Los Angeles City Council in District 4. Fred writes Latino Perspective for CityWatch and can be reached at: fred.gwnc@gmail.com.)


URBAN PERSPECTIVE-There’s been a fierce debate about presidential debates. The debate is whether they really do make or break a presidential candidate. This starts it all over again in the run-up to the three scheduled debates between GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The hard political reality is that unless a candidate makes a whopper of a misstatement, looks blurry and bleary on stage, or is simply flat-footed, and grossly unprepared with his or her answers, they don’t mean much in deciding who ultimately bags the White House. 

Most voters cling to their party affiliations, political beliefs, and personal likes and dislikes of candidates no matter what the candidates say on the issues. The mass of voters just aren’t swayed by a candidate’s verbosity, good looks, or seeming erudition on the issues. 

However, this go around, the debates do have real significance because Trump and Clinton have a lot to prove to a lot of voters who don’t like either one of them, and are deeply uneasy about the prospect of either one of them in the White House. 

Trump’s high mountain to scale starts with Trump. He’s loathed by millions as little short of a stupendously unqualified carnival barker pitchman who parlayed wild and deliberately inflammatory “birtherism” and racist- immigrant- Muslim- and Obama- bashing into the top GOP spot. 

The added knock is that he got where he did in great part because of a slavish media that at times has acted as his unofficial PR team in shoving him down the public’s throats. His job is to try to undo, soften, or instill collective amnesia about his dubious history and ploys to get attention. His management team has already given a big hint at how he’ll try to pull off this Houdini trick. 

He palavered with the Mexican President. He went to two black churches. He went to Flint, Michigan. He talked about jobs and police abuse both places. He pithily back-pedaled from birtherism vis-à-vis Obama. He laid out a detailed policy position on child care, promised to lay out even more detailed positions on tax reform, foreign policy, health care and social security. He’s trying mightily to take off the table that he’s little more than a Klansman in a suit, has a zero policy program, less than zero ability to govern, and is totally incapable of being anything other than an arrogant, know-it-all blowhard. 

The charm image he’ll try to project is Trump the reasoned, thoughtful, stick to the script, disciplined, play by the established political rules candidate with the right temperament to work with Democrats, make sound political decisions, and show cool judgment on the thorny and at times crisis issues that confront all presidents. 

It’s a tall order. But in the debates and everything surrounding them, Trump must convince the independent conservatives and moderates in the handful of swing states that will decide the White House -- who don’t think much of Clinton, but just can’t bring themselves to pull the lever for a guy who they see as an overt racist and an egomaniacal political neophyte -- that he is neither one. 

Clinton has a high mountain to scale too. It also starts with Clinton. In the early going, the election seemed almost a forgone conclusion for an easy Clinton win given the trainload of baggage Trump dumped on the political platform. But the continued pulverizing of her over the emails, the Clinton Foundation doings, and now health questions all of sudden have turned a seeming rout into a real dogfight. 

Clinton’s bigger problem is the nagging perception that is shown in the polls, and that is that millions see her as everything from a congenital liar to a crook. The most charitable in all of this negative voter perception of Clinton is that she’s untrustworthy. 

Clinton must undo, offset, or instill collective amnesia about these negatives. She must play hard on her strengths, dependability, experience, and her cast iron grasp of the big ticket policy issues from the economy to foreign policy. 

She must tie herself to the Obama positives where needed and project a people friendly-no academic think tank policy wonk-plain English speaking demeanor when answering debate questions. When the inevitable questions come up about the emails and the foundation and her health, she’ll have to act and show physical vigor, look directly into the cameras, admit that she made mistakes with the emails, learned from the mistakes, and it will never happen again. 

And, while the foundation has done phenomenal work and improved conditions for legions globally, say that she’ll be completely out of the Clinton Foundation business, and that includes Bill and Chelsea too. 

There’s little margin of error for Trump and Clinton in the debates. Both have a lot of hard work to do to try to turn their mountain high pile of negatives into some semblance of positives. Millions will be watching to see if they can do that. This time the debates really do mean something.


(Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of Let’s Stop Denying Made in America Terrorism, (Amazon Kindle) He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

ANIMAL WATCH-California is one of the states with the highest percentage of surplus wild horses and burros; yet, little public or political attention has focused on this. Because of the projected wild-equine population increase, it is a humane issue that is becoming critical from both an ethical and financial standpoint and has gained heightened importance after a recent recommendation by the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board for disposing of these animals. 

An estimated 67,027 wild horses and burros roam 31 million acres of public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management in the Western U.S. The agency’s recommended total sustainable population for this space is 26,715. This means the number of animals now exceeds the maximum appropriate level by more than 40,000; and, it is increasing at a rate of 15 to 18 percent annually. The BLM's historical finding is that both wild horse and burro herds double in size about every four years.

Additionally, in August 2016 the BLM reports that the number of off-range -- unadopted or unsold -- wild horses and burros maintained in holding facilities called Herd Management Areas (MHA's) from California to Illinois was over 45,000.

The federal Bureau of Land Management is mandated to manage, protect and control wild horses and burros under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. This law also authorizes the BLM to remove excess wild horses and burros, which have no significant natural predators, from the range to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands for multiple uses, in accordance with the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act. 

Each year, an inventory is required of the number of wild horses and burros roaming BLM-managed lands. From this, the Appropriate Management Level (AML) is determined. This is the number of animals that can thrive in balance with other public land resources and uses. The AML for California is estimated at 2,200. However, the Golden State's wild equine population is now at 4,925 horses, plus an additional 3,391 burros, for a total of 8,316. 

In neighboring Nevada, an epic number of 34,531 wild horses and burros inhabit the federal rangelands -- nearly three times the AML 12,811 figure the BLM says the state can support. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) announced in April he will take legal action to force the federal government to fund the management of Nevada’s wild horse population at appropriate levels because of the impact on the state's economy.

The BLM has been rounding up and relocating wild horses and burros to its holding facilities so that privately owned cattle could graze on the land, critics contend. The cost of maintaining almost 46,000 horses in these overcrowded facilities reached $49 million in 2015. 

Director Neil Kornze says it can cost about $50,000 per animal to feed and care for wild horses sitting in corrals and pastures over their lifetime and that cost has doubled over the last seven years. He predicts that if the BLM cannot adopt out and/or transfer a significant number of the wild horses and burros being held to other government agencies upon request (such as, the Border Patrol), the cost of feeding and caring for them during their lifetime could rise to $1 billion. 

On September 9, in an effort to curb the increasing overpopulation West-wide, the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, which suggests policy for the Bureau of Land Management, proposed a program that would either euthanize (which means shoot) or sell without limitation “all suitable animals in long and short term holding deemed unadoptable.” 

Cries of outrage by animal activists accused the government of squandering its very limited resources in rounding up and holding the animals instead of launching a wide-scale birth-control effort. 

A petition to the United States Congress claiming that not enough had been done to have the horses adopted was posted by Protect Mustangs  on September 12, declaring, “The public is outraged. Wild horses and burros are living symbols of freedom and the pioneering spirit of the American West.”

Ginger Kathrens, executive director of The Cloud Foundation, a wild horse advocacy group based in Colorado, stated the BLM should advance the use of fertility control vaccines that keep populations in check but allow horses and burros to remain free on the range. 

In a chart titled, Population Growth-Suppression Treatments, the BLM explains that the currently available fertility control vaccine (PZP) is limited to a one-year period of effectiveness (initially assumed to be 22 months) and must be hand-injected into a captured wild horse." If deployed via ground-darting, PZP has the same duration but is very difficult to deliver to an animal which avoids human contact and the sizes of the herds makes it difficult to locate or track individual animals. 

Kathrens told the House Subcommittee on Federal Lands earlier this year that. “Current management practices of round-up, removal and warehousing … cause compensatory reproduction – an increase in populations as a result of decreased competition for forage.” 

"In other words, there would not be a surge in wild horses if the BLM hadn’t removed most of them from their land in the first place," summarizes Inhabitat. 

Director Neil Kornze advised Congress in his 2017 budget request that the BLM is "overwhelmed" and sees no slowdown in population of these animals. BLM is requesting the establishment of a congressionally chartered foundation that would help fund and support efforts to adopt horses that have been rounded up.

Kornze told a House Appropriations subcommittee in March that the growing herds are causing environmental harm to vast swaths of rangeland. Among other things, he asked Congress to help by authorizing tax credits to "incentivize adoption" of wild horses (E&E Daily, March 4.) 

Skeptics pointed to the Washington Times article on October 24, 2015, confirming a report by the Interior Department's Office of Inspector General that between 2009 and 2012, the BLM sold 1,794 federally protected wild horses to a Colorado rancher who admitted that most of the horses that he purchased through the BLM's Wild Horse and Burro Program went to slaughter. The Times also reports that taxpayers footed the $140,000 cost of delivery of the animals. 

On September 15, BLM spokesman Jason Lutterman issued a rapid response that the agency will NOT institute the controversial proposal by the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board. “The BLM will not euthanize or sell without limitation any healthy animals. We’re going to continue caring for and seeking good homes for the un-adopted animals in our off-range corrals and pastures.” 

To sell the animals “without limitation" essentially removes protocols established in a BLM 2013 policy aimed at ensuring they won’t be slaughtered and includes other provisions to assure that these protected animals are not resold or do not fall into the hands of abusers. 

BLM Director Kornze also asked Congress to help by authorizing tax credits to "incentivize adoption" of wild horses (E&E Daily, March 4.) 

However, The Verge points out, adoptions are only $125 apiece, and even purchasing all 45,000 equines for $5,625,000 would do little to offset the $49 million that the BLM spent on them just last year.

Now we have more facts, but resolution still seems to be at an impasse. How would Californians react to the possibility that -- without progress in management -- thousands of the Golden State's wild horses and burros could face euthanasia?


(Animal activist Phyllis M. Daugherty writes for CityWatch and is a contributing writer to opposingviews.com. She lives in Los Angeles.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.  

INFORMED COMMENT--A Brown University political scientist estimates that as of 2016, The Iraq and Afghanistan Wars have cost the American taxpayers $5 trillion. That number isn’t important when we consider the human cost: Some 7,000 US troops dead, 52,000 wounded in action; hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead who wouldn’t otherwise be, 4 million displaced and made homeless, etc.

Just to put that $5 trillion in perspective. Let’s say you chose five individuals.  Each of the five will spend $10 million a day.  That’s the cost of Heidi Klum’s mansion.  They’d be buying the equivalent of five of those each day.

They’ll do that every day of their lives.  All five of them.  And then each of them will be succeeded by one their children, who will spend $10 million dollars a day, and one of their grandchildren, and one of their great-grandchildren, until 270 years have passed and it is the year 2286.  That’s the equivalent of a stardate for Captain Picard of the Enterprise. 

Neta Crawford, a professor of Political Science at Brown University published the study for Brown University’s Watson Institute. 

Professor Crawford writes:

“As of August 2016, the US has already appropriated, spent, or taken on obligations to spend more than $ 3.6 trillion in current dollars on the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria and o n Homeland Security (2001 through fiscal year 2016). To this total should be added the approximately $6 5 billion in dedicated war spending the Department of Defense and State Department have requested for the next fiscal year, 2017, along with an additional nearly $3 2 billion requested for the Department of Homeland Security in 2017, and estimated spending on veterans in future years. When those are included, the total US budgetary cost of the wars reaches $4.79 trillion.”

The US has spent $1.7 billion for combat and reconstruction.  I have a sinking feeling that first they spent half of it on destroying things and then they spent the other half on rebuilding them.

Through 2053, the US government owes the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans $1 trillion in medical and disability payments along with the money to administer all that.

Crawford adds:

“Interest costs for overseas contingency operations spending alone are projected to add more than $1 trillion dollars to the national debt by 2023. By 2053, interest costs will be at least $7.9 trillion unless the US changes the way it pays for the wars.”

Of 2.7 million military personnel who served in those two theaters, 2 million have now left the military and have entered the Veterans Administration system.  Some 52,000 of them were wounded in action and many need care.

Because the Bush administration borrowed money to pay for the wars, we’ve paid half a trillion dollars in interest alone.

At least al-Qaeda had been based in Afghanistan.  Iraq had had nothing to do with September 11.  It was Bush’s invasion that brought al-Qaeda there, which later morphed into ISIL.

We were lied into that war, and it has weakened our economy.  If anyone can tell me what benefits that war brought the average American, I’d like to hear it.

The Iraq War was a government-led Ponzi scheme and as usual the little people are the ones who took a bath.

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


EASTSIDER-Full disclosure: I’ve always been a news junkie. Until lately, when I stopped watching for a week because it was all the same stuff and I couldn’t take it anymore. I had been channel surfing, and trying to figure out why all 200 news media outlets have the same 10 stories every day, like synchronized swimming. It used to be that local stations actually did local news, newspapers did investigative journalism, and it was only the one or two big national news items that got any system-wide attention. 

That’s all changed in the last decade. There are no real reporters anymore, because they all got fired to save money. Heck, even the old wire services like the AP, UPI & Reuters are going down fast. For those of you who don’t recognize any of these names, they are havens for journalists to sell their news stories to whomever is willing to buy them. They are great for avoiding the cost of having to pay employees to cover overseas events, with all that payroll overhead. You can read more about them here.  

One way to look at wire services is that they were the harbinger of the new cost cutting measures to provide no news at all. If you think about it, those brave wire service men and women were the first wave of our new “gig”, or “sharing” economy, where there are really no employers as such, hence no nasty overhead costs or liability for the big corporations who pipe out the news. 

Kinda’ like the Los Angeles Times of Chicago we have now, with under 400,000 subscribers and one centralized source of non-content. Leavened by a few casual help. Or the local television stations and cable networks, where all the money goes to the few talking heads, who have to fix their teeth and regularly visit the plastic surgeon to look just like their employers want, and spend hours just getting through makeup so we can adore them on air. 

So what happened to the news? Now we have the same formula across the 200 or so media outlets. Ninety percent of this “news” is the same identical regurgitation of every single shooting, mass protest, car chase or international terrorism event in the universe, plus a couple of the same national political events. This pablum is then bookended by stories about Tech and Social Media. 

The only way we can tell the difference between a national and a “local” show, is that the local news has traffic and weather. 

So what’s the new source of news? 

After a week away from the news, I tried again, and Eureka! I suddenly understood what’s replaced reporting. We now have TWEETS! It finally occurred to me that over time, all the faces we see on television have been paying more and more attention to their iPhones and tablets and laptops. They have shifted to tweets for their news to share with the masses who tune in with bated breath, albeit in fewer numbers. 

Tweets are perfect for the new news. They are cheap (free), mindless (at 140 characters or less, they can’t really convey much detail,) and by concentrating on what’s “trending,” you can leverage the burned out attention span of the masses to the folks who have zillions of followers. Yes sir, what’s trending now is the new mantra of the people who don’t want us actually thinking about the decline of our country by the corrupt politicians, their political parties, and the billionaires who own it all. 

In short, it’s the absolutely perfect environment for Donald Trump. Think about it. He’s all flamboyancy, tweets instead of talks, he has tons of followers, gets off on controversy and creates all kinds of groovy stuff that the mindless talking heads can riff off of everyday. Wow, in our 24-hour endless news cycle, he is the perfect tool to increase audience share. Heck, sometimes he even tweets a bunch and then we get updated news flash tweets. 

What a brilliant news concept. No cost here -- tweets are free. Even better, the personalities who inhabit the 200 news outlets don’t have to do any research, much less think. Just report the tweet, pump up the controversy and wait for the outrage. 

Perfect. The twits who give us the news can handle tweets. No danger of substance there. No nasty facts. Revenues up. The owners of the outlets are happy. More advertisers. 

Hillary Clinton doesn’t stand a chance. Character defects aside, the shortest sentence she knows is a paragraph. Face it, she’s a policy wonk at heart. She knows that this President stuff is complicated, darn it, and she is determined to share her expertise with us whether we want it or not. 

So even as they go say “oh my goodness, see what Donald has done now,” the media love him – he’s the absolute paragon of tweets for twits like them. Hillary is boring. Unless, of course, she gets sick or has the two hundredth “new” report come out about her email server. Then it’s hot news, at least as a soundbite. 

After all, the captains of industry who own the news media don’t really want to spend too much time talking about how she’s a member of the billionaire club. Not on air. After all, club members don’t rat each other out when it comes to money. 

Now I am not saying that all news media personalities are twits. Some are probably smart – smart enough to swap millions of dollars a year in their personal services contracts in exchange for being a professional twit. And increasingly, they have their own twitter handles, so that people can follow them as they follow .... 

Partly as a result of all of this pablum, and the shift away from print media, more people use smartphones than desktop computers these days. Recent studies would indicate that all this is simply increasing the gap between the haves and have nots when it comes to news.


These information shifts create all kinds of problems in terms of learning about what is really going on in the world that affects our lives and our money. People with crummy internet access, or none at all – something that is particularly prevalent in rural and low socioeconomic areas -- aren’t getting much real news at all. And the news that the rest of us get on our smartphones tends to be soundbite news -- most folks aren’t reading long articles on their phone. 

So, how do we get informed? 

The most important way to get informed is to have a population that has learned to learn and think for itself. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be a big goal of the current educational system, which focuses on career choices and specific occupations, even though most of the jobs that this produces won’t be around in a decade. 

On the other hand, most people I know are pretty pragmatic and have at least developed a solid BS meter as they grow up. So let me share with you how I find the news. 

Reading CityWatch is a great beginning. You will get more truth here about the machinations of our local political elite and their lords and masters than you will ever find in commercial media outlets. At least until Ken Draper makes a bundle of money and sells the website to MSNBC or Fox News. 

More generally, given that we’re all time challenged, I use a news aggregator called Feedly.com, although there are lots of other web based sites that do the same thing. You take all the online information sources that you want to know about and these web apps deliver the summary content of each. That way I can look through the headers to choose which full articles to read. I also subscribe to the electronic editions of the LA Times (sigh) and the Sacramento Bee. Told you I’m a news junkie. 

This system allows me to skim the posts for issues I’m interested in to get different points of view. Instantly. It’s a handy way to sort the crud from solid information. Otherwise, the temptation for us is to only get information that simply reinforces our existing beliefs. I believe the growth of this kind of niche media marketing is how we got to the place where people are challenged to have a civil conversation about matters political. Everyone reinforces his or her own belief system. 

Honestly, to find out real information has never been easier. Even though we are all stressed with the realities of our everyday life -- making rent/mortgage/bills, trying to get/keep a job or series of gigs, kids and all that entails, figuring out health insurance, and a pension or anything that will allow us to retire – it’s important to take time to figure out the who, what and why of how we got into this mess. So that we don’t get surprised by the next financial meltdown, or at least get some notice to do our best to survive. 

We all know that politicians won’t suddenly take the pledge and get honest, and that the icons of the financial services industry and corporate CEOs who control the entire global economy aren’t going to suddenly get religion and start paying the taxes on what they’ve been hiding overseas. We need to get smart and learn how to see who’s doing what to whom for ourselves. 

Otherwise, it’s tweets, twits, and mindless mainstream media.


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

URBAN PERSPECTIVE-Let’s get one thing out of the way. When I ask Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos: Why Amazon is still listing on its site for sale Agatha Christie’s classic crime who-done-it, with its original racially offensive name, Ten Little Niggers, it’s not yet another PC screech for censorship of a beloved crime classic. In fact, I resolutely opposed the demand a few years back to get rid of Mark Twain’s timeless classic, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, because it uses the word nigger countless times and one of its principal characters is “Nigger Jim.” 

I said then that it was much ado about nothing because Twain was not a racist. The goal in the book was to show the ugliness and evilness of slavery and to do that he had to use the rawest racist language of his day. Huck Finn reflected not only the times but was a beautiful poetic, literary gem that readers young and old could learn from and admire for its historic and artistic content and quality. And, in any case, to pull it from libraries and curriculum was censorship in its rawest and ugliest form. 

Christie’s Ten Little Niggers and Amazon’s sale of it, though, is a horse of a totally different color. The “n word” is not buried in the novel for added literary effect. It’s the cover title in bold letters. In some editions, in case the intent is missed, there’s a picture of an upper crust white couple with a look of fear and revulsion staring at a semi-naked black boy on a pedestal. In others there’s a circle of Sambo-caricatured blacks dancing around in a circle. Christie based the title on a racist poem with this ditty: 

“Ten little nigger boys went out to dine; 
One choked his little self and then there were Nine…

Two little nigger boys sitting in the sun; 
One got frizzled up and then there was One. 
One little nigger boy left all alone; 
He went out and hanged himself and then there were None.”

The title was clearly meant to shock and pander to the prevailing racist sentiment of the day. It had absolutely no relation to the story line of the novel. 

Christie’s unabashed racist views read like a “what’s what” of racial stereotypes, vilification, and condescension in her mystery novels when there’s even the faintest mention of blacks and other non-white characters. She seemed to have a special fascination with their hair, eyes, or other physical characteristics that she found odd, different and always disgusting. 

Now there’s Amazon. Amazon clearly states that it takes a close look at the appropriateness of items sold on its site that may “offend cultural differences and sensitivities.” It has pulled, or flagged, several items from its site -- from racially offensive DVDs to the Confederate Flag. To call for Amazon to pull Ten Little Niggers then is hardly a case of censorship, but purely a call for the world’s largest online buying and selling commercial product site to cease profiting off the sale of a horrid racially demeaning title. 

It’s also a case of a company doing what legions of other companies have done that have had to come square with the fact they were selling and thereby profiting off of a racially, sexually or environmentally degrading product -- and that’s to pull it. In doing that, they have simply done more than pay lip service to their oft-time stated pledge to be a good corporate citizen. The removal of Ten Little Niggers from Amazon would in no way prevent buyers and collectors of the work with this offensive title from buying it. There’s a plethora of online book sellers and sites that sell the book, and they’re readily accessible to one and all. 

Twain could not have conveyed the sentiment of the evil of slavery and racial bigotry that’s a part of America’s shameful racial legacy by sugar coating the language or guarding his vocabulary against racial epithets. Huck Finn, with all of its racial crudities, provided then and now an insight into a time and place in America that should not be forgotten. Nothing of the sort can be said of Christie’s Ten Little Niggers. There’s no redeeming literary value in the title -- a title that has nothing to do with the book and everything to do with pandering to crude and vicious racial stereotypes. By continuing to sell the book, Amazon is doing the same as Christie did, for profit and nothing more.


(Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of Let’s Stop Denying Made in America Terrorism, (Amazon Kindle) He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

EDITOR’S PICK--Donald Trump has a zero percent chance of winning California in November, according to the reigning expert in presidential polling interpretation, Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com. He has the same chance to carry Los Angeles.   

But if he wins the presidency, something that Silver rates at a 30 percent chance of happening and rising, he would set himself up as the first Dictator in America. And a favored target of his hubris would be to attack California and its Democratic despots with all the force the federal government has at its disposal.

Clearly, as a man who blackened the eye of his fourth grade teacher who tried to stop him from bullying his fellow students and has gone on to establish himself as one of America’s most famous bully-cowards, Trump intends to act just like the autocrats he says inspire him: Vladimir Putin, Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad, Kim Jong Un and, of course, Muammar Gaddafi.

If he beats Hillary Clinton, he will be in a position to do just that.

He will pack the Supreme Court with a rabid pit bull like Rudy Giuliani, put the servile and corrupt Chris Christie in charge of the Justice Department and Joe Arpaio or someone like him as FBI chief. He has made it clear he will fire generals and anyone else who gets in his way of making America Great Again. (Read the rest.)



SOUTH OF THE 10-Leah LeVell is no stranger to politics. At 21, Levell is the newest member of the Strategic Initiatives team of the Republican National Committee. In her new role, LeVell is expected to help to craft a message for the RNC that will focus on engaging HBCUs and young Black voters this election cycle. LeVell is also a member of the advisory board of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump (NDC Trump), where her father Bruce LeVell serves as Executive Director. 

Bruce LeVell made his fortune in the jewelry business and is considered to be a close confidante of Donald Trump as the former chair of the Gwinnett County GOP in Georgia. It was a natural fit to have his daughter “stump for Trump” as they, and others, take on the monumental task of proving Trump is concerned with issues facing African-Americans. 

How did you get involved with the Republican Party? 

Leah LeVell: I first got involved with the Republican Party because of my father’s various leadership positions in the Georgia GOP. I grew up being able to see his passion for wanting to make a difference and stand up for those who don’t have a voice in our community. 

As I matured, I examined my personal values and the differences between the two political parties for myself. I realized that I, too, identified with the Republican Party, and wanted to be actively involved. Watching my father gave me the inspiration to want to stay engaged and end up working for the Republican National Committee. 

What issues, facing Americans today, are most important to you and why? 

LeVell: One of the main reasons why I am proud to support Donald Trump is because of his positions on the issues I most care about: job creation, criminal justice reform, and national security. There is no doubt that many Americans are having a hard time making ends meet because of our current economic system. 

In order to “Make America Great Again,” we have to do more to help our job creators, our small business owners, entrepreneurs and innovators. As a college student, I often worry about what employment opportunities will be there for my peers and for me after we graduate. We go to college; many take out loans with an expectation that there will be good paying jobs for us. In many instances, people feel like they are at a disadvantage to be able to achieve the American Dream because of our Criminal Justice system that is in desperate need of reform. Many right-leaning organizations are leading the fight for justice in a bipartisan fashion from the grassroots to Capitol Hill. 

Lastly, the fear of another terrorist attack is in the hearts and on the minds of many Americans. The legitimate threat from ISIS and other radical Islamic terrorist organizations to our homeland reminds me that national security has to remain on the forefront of every local, state and national conversation regarding the future leadership of our country. We can’t compromise our security. 

The media report mixed support for the Republican nominee. Do you feel the candidate’s positions reflect the Party’s values? 

LeVell: There is mixed support for Donald Trump inside the GOP establishment as it starts to get to know him and his positions. Hopefully, by the end of the GOP Convention, all Republicans will have united behind our nominee, who beat 16 other candidates, so that we will have a fighting chance to defeat Hillary Clinton in November. 

I believe Donald Trump absolutely reflects the Republican Party’s values. The proof is in the millions of Republicans that voted for him all across the country. To me, the Republican Party is all about less government intrusion in our everyday lives as well as the support for a strong free enterprise system and individual freedoms. These are all things I know Mr. Trump supports. 

What is the biggest misconception of a “Black Republican?” 

LeVell: The biggest misconception of a “Black Republican” is that we are not involved or care about the Black community. Just because we have an (R) next to our names does not mean we do not want the very best for our community; we just have different views on how to do it. Somehow if you are a Republican that happens to be Black you are instantly labeled a “sellout.” If you read the backgrounds of many Black Republican leaders you might be surprised to know how connected they really are and how their experiences growing up Black helped to shape their conservative viewpoints today. 

I am proud to be a young Black woman and equally as proud to be a Republican. I am humbled to have the opportunity to work for the Republican National Committee during a Presidential election year. The greater reward is working on initiatives and action items for my community. The Black community is better served when there are advocates for us, like any other group, working both sides of the aisle for our interests. 

In 2016, I hope I am judged by the content of my character and less about my political affiliation. In the end, I am following my passion, trying to help advance my party while making more inroads into my community. This could only happen in the greatest country in the world. And that is why I want to Make America Great Again for everyone -- especially those in my community.


(Melissa Hébert is an alumni of California State University Dominguez Hills with a degree in Political Science and a member of LAAAWPPI. She is the editor-in-chief of blog 2urbangirls.com and host of the Urban Girl Show. Melissa is also President of School Site Council in Inglewood Unified School District and is the mother of two handsome sons. She can be reached at Melissa@2urbangirls.com) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

GUEST WORDS-As this election season comes to a full boil, we should remember the importance of civil disobedience to our history. It is one of the few tools ordinary people still have to organize for change. With corporations spending unlimited campaign cash, and states requiring photo ID at voting booths, it’s through protest that we loudly proclaim that we won’t be silenced. 

Where would we be if the colonists hadn’t staged the Boston Tea Party to protest their lack of representation? Where would we be without protestors sitting where they were told not to sit, marching across bridges and to our Nation’s Capital, and standing in solidarity fully aware of the physical, legal and financial consequences awaiting them? 

Speaking in Reno, Nevada, in late August, Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton could have listened to some advisors and refused to take the hate-bait that floods daily from Republican candidate Donald Trump. But to her credit, she decided to speak up. As OurFuture.org’s Terrance Heath wrote:  

“In a scorching takedown of Donald Trump and his alt-right allies, Hillary Clinton reminded Americans that silence never defeats hatred, but that it must be called out and exposed for what it is.” 

Her choice was a clear reminder that we cannot defeat hate by being invisible – it’s up to each of us to stand up and step forward. We must all confront a challenger aiming to make racism mainstream. We are called at this moment to make sure that never happens. Decency will defeat hate, but we must speak up and speak publicly. 

When I’ve confronted racism in my life, I didn’t do so by complaining about it to my friends and going home. I organized and took action. One way I did this was through protest. 

After finishing high school in Virginia, I went to college in Pennsylvania, where I was the only African American in my class. Coming from the state that prides itself as the home of the Confederacy, I didn’t expect Pennsylvania would be the first place where I’d protest for racial equality, but that’s what happened. 

One evening, I went with a group of friends to celebrate a classmate’s birthday at the local café. We waited patiently to get served even after others were served. My white friends didn’t know why service was so slow. I knew why. 

“It’s because of me,” I said. But they didn’t believe me because their experience of racism was limited to atrocities of hate groups. One of my friends approached the waitress, who told her the restaurant’s owner wouldn’t let her serve us. 

We protested. We staged sit-ins and lobbied our student government, which voted to boycott the restaurant. Finally, the restaurant changed its practices. 

More than 50 years later, one of the friends with me that evening recalled how painful it had been for her. Seeing the discrimination that I’d spent my young life steeling myself against opened her eyes to an experience she hadn’t seen before. 

Our protest was about more than vindicating the right of black and brown people to eat in a restaurant without discrimination. For me, protest was a way to exert my humanity and claim that I am a person exactly like everyone else in our free nation. 

That’s why, at the age of 70, I engaged in civil disobedience to support my friends who need a path to citizenship, and was arrested. I decided to stand with them, just as my friends stood with me. 

We need to do a lot of soul-searching, remember our history lessons – and stand together. 

When we’re willing to put our lives on hold and use our bodies to stand up for good, we demonstrate that we’re not afraid, and that we reject the politics of prejudice and paranoia. I’m willing to stand up for what is right, just like so many before me. Are you?


(Janice “Jay” Johnson is the board president of People’s Action, a national organization with members in 29 states advancing economic, racial, gender, and climate justice. Johnson is a longtime youth advocate and community activist in Hampton and Newport News, Virginia. Previously posted by Janice "Jay" JohnsonPermalink.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

AT LENGTH-Francis Scott Key, the author of the National Anthem for these United States of America, came from a prominent legal family in Frederick, Md. 

During the War of 1812, which some have called the Second War of Independence, Key was appointed to act as the prisoner exchange agent and was aboard the HMS Tonnant the night Fort McHenry was bombarded during the Battle of Baltimore. 

The British confined him to the ship that night. He had become familiar with the strength and position of the British units. The British were intent on attacking Baltimore. 

Key witnessed the attack, from which came the lines, “the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air.” He was better known for his legal skills than his skills as a poet. After its first publication, more than a century would pass before the song was adopted as the primary national anthem for the United States -- first through an executive order from President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, then ratified by Congress and signed by President Herbert Hoover in 1931. 

The only reason this history is pertinent today is because of the action taken, or lack thereof, by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who refused to stand during the national anthem, inviting criticism from all corners of the sports world. This followed the seemingly innocent act by Gabrielle Douglas of the Gold Medal-winning U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics team, who neglected to put her hand over her heart while the anthem played during medal award ceremonies. Both athletes are black. 

Kaepernick’s protest was not accidental. “I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag. I know that I am a black man in a white world,” he said. 

Kaepernick is not the first black American athlete to use his position as a platform to protest injustice -- think Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, Tommie Smith and John Carlos during their medal ceremony at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. 

What partially explains this perspective are the uncommonly sung lyrics of our National Anthem: 

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave. 

The mention of “slave” is not entirely remarkable. Slavery was alive and well in the United States in 1814. Key owned slaves and was an ardent anti-abolitionist who once called black people “a distinct and inferior race of people.” At the time, the British offered freedom to any slave who chose to fight against these rebellious former colonials. 

This core issue of human bondage versus the expanded interpretation of liberty and justice for all would come to tear apart this nation in our bloody fratricidal Civil War two score-and-a-half years later. It is this fundamental crucible at the very heart of the American experience that shadows us these many generations later. This dichotomy is expressed by yet another American writer, Richard Henry Dana Jr., also a famous lawyer and the author of Two Years Before the Mast. 

Dana, who came from the blue blood Brahmin society of Boston, Mass., was a bit of a rebellious non-conformist. He left Harvard in his junior year and instead of taking a grand tour of Europe, as was the privilege of his class, signed on as a merchant seaman aboard the Pilgrim and sailed off to the coast of California. This turned out to be a pivotal life-changing experience that would color the rest of his life and career. 

His experience as a seaman in those years was not much better than that of a slave. After witnessing a flogging on board the ship, he vowed to help improve the lot of the common seaman and developed a lifelong dedication to fight injustice. 

In a recent biography on Dana, Slavish Shore—The Odyssey of Richard Henry Dana Jr., Jeffrey L. Amestoy wrote: “Dana’s sense of justice made him a lawyer who championed sailors and slaves and put him at the center of some of the most consequential cases in American history: defending the fugitive slave Anthony Burns, justifying President Abraham Lincoln’s war powers before the Supreme Court and the prosecution of Confederate president Jefferson Davis for treason.” 

Dana and Key are two prominent examples of the argument over abolition and racism that shaped the history of this nation -- an argument that continues this day. And, oddly enough that argument is held mostly by white people amongst themselves over the rights and actions of blacks -- just watch who’s criticizing Kaepernick. 

In Kaepernick’s defense, the words of Dana himself might be of some use: 

We have got to choose between two results. With these four millions of Negroes, either you must have four millions of disfranchised, disarmed, untaught, landless, thriftless, non-producing, non-consuming, degraded men [women had not yet been considered for suffrage at this point], or else you must have four millions of landholding, industrious, arms-bearing, and voting population. Choose between the two! Which will you have? 

Clearly there have been many eloquent black voices over these intervening decades arguing for liberty, equality and justice, including Frederick Douglass, W.E.B Dubois, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X to list just a few. 

However, it still remains an argument for white America to resolve with itself over the inherited and inherent injustices in this country -- a country that regularly pledges to support liberty and justice for all but falls short of this fundamental creed. 

What is needed at this point is a far more inclusive discussion about what it means to be a “patriot in the home of the brave and land of the free.” 

I think that those of us who side with Richard Henry Dana Jr. should thank Colin Kaepernick and all other voices over the generations who have demanded, protested and died asking, “if not now when?” 

Our nation’s most courageous patriots aren’t just ones in uniform fighting in some distant land for often-questionable political ends, but include ones without a flag, fighting for human rights and justice here at home.


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

ALPERN AT LARGE--Watching the government pundits, I suppose we're all supposed to be singing that song, "Everything is Awesome" from the Lego Movie

But despite the Big Lie (the economy is better, things are improving,) there are enough Americans to respond by quoting that song from The Who, “We Won’t be Fooled Again!” 

Certainly, we all want things to get better, but we're killing ourselves with the self-destructive -- and self-inflicted -- wound of low, low, low expectations. Americans are, by nature, fiercely independent and willing to work hard to get ahead ... and most of are getting ahead, sort of ... but is that because or despite the efforts of our federal and state governments? 

So, while maybe the Huffington Post is (sarcasm!) "anti-Obama,” it's to be reasonably and realistically referenced when roughly 2/3 of polled Americans acknowledge we're on the wrong track. 

And maybe CNN (accused of being the "Clinton News Network") is also (sarcasm!) "anti-Obama" when it acknowledges that, while Americans are "vastly better off than they were eight years ago," we are still in a nation where "most are worried." 

1) Politically, this is the last Labor Day before the post-Obama era, and this means that Ms. Hillary Clinton will have to thread the needle of maintaining the support of Obama voters while distancing herself from what many voters (including those supporting the President) want to change after President Obama leaves office. The "Obama Economy" isn't exactly the stuff of legends. 

And of Mr. Donald Trump? He will certainly have no problem distancing himself from President Obama, and that same CNN article above notes that the low GDP growth (2%/year) during the entirety of this President's tenure is a real story. Furthermore, worker pay, student debt, government debt, and income inequality have also become very, very real stories. 

And perhaps those following the news have noted that Mr. Trump trashed the "Bush Legacy" on his way to winning the GOP primary race? So his big question will be, "We all hate President Bush, but after eight years, is President Obama also guilty of keeping the American Economy down?" 

Translated, that means, "If Bush was responsible for the Great Recession, is Obama responsible for the Second Great Depression?”   

After all, could President Obama have listened to former President Bill Clinton's suggestions to make it easier for large employers to come back home to the United States, and could President Obama have listened to GOP leaders to make "Obamacare" less painful for both employers and employees alike? 

While the 2008 election was an autopsy of the Bush Presidency, won't the 2012 election be an autopsy of the Obama Presidency? The President might have roughly half of Americans polled giving him a "favorable" rating, but stocks and housing prices being up doesn't really help Main Street as much as it does Wall Street and the better off. 

2) We hear that the Unemployment Rate is down, but isn't that just more smoke and mirrors? 

There's a high likelihood that Mr. Trump will raise this issue again, just as he did during the GOP primary debates, of distinguishing between the Unemployment Rate (4.9%) and the Unemployment and Underemployment Rate (9.6%). 

CNBC reports on the vital distinction of the U-3 rate versus the U-6 rate and it's hoped that the reporting of the U-3 rate of "unemployment" will be discarded by our next Presidential administration in favor of the U-6 rate of "unemployment plus underemployment.”   

Because if you're underemployed, life still sucks. 

And if you're working 2-3 jobs and 50+ hours a week, and still barely making ends meet, your life still sucks. 

And for those giving up on looking for employment, and don't even register in the "unemployment rate?” Your life really sucks! 

A quick look on various websites even those unsympathetic to Mr. Trump will acknowledge that our economy is very unhealthy. 

And the proof? Why else would the Fed keep rates so historically low for so many years in a row?   

3) So while some of us are doing well, perhaps we should be thankful for what we have while sparing a few moments for our less fortunate friends and neighbors. 

Are those who've given up looking for work, or who've remained underemployed for years, real people or just a figment of our imaginations? They are Americans -- human beings with real needs and real hopes and real dreams. Ignoring them is just inhumane for this (or any other) Labor Day. 

The freeways and roads and rails are filled with people spending money and going to or from work. But too often it's for lousy jobs without benefits. Furthermore, thanks to both state and federal shackling of employers, it's too often for jobs that are only 30 or less hours per week. 

Both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump have put the pharmaceutical industry on notice that we're paying too much for prescription medicines. The "Affordable Care Act,” despite its good intentions, was too politically-motivated and written by the health plans who helped cause our nation's growing crisis in affordable health care. This leaves health care still too darned unaffordable for too many. 

Utility costs are also too darned unaffordable for too many so that our quality of life is yet again impacted negatively while trying to make ends meet and actually (gasp!) afford a vacation. 

There's a limit that we all, as adults aware of the limitations of the real world and of physics, must confront with respect to infrastructure costs and the limits of "green" energy. Rebuilding our infrastructure is something we will have to pay big bucks for, but are we doing it wisely and efficiently, or just benefiting those in the energy industries? 

And let's not kid ourselves: a home is all but unaffordable for anyone making less than six digit figures in the major metropolitan areas of California. 

To conclude, Americans are to be commended for their never-ending fight for financial freedom and independence. Using our cars for Uber or Lyft, or using our homes for Airbnb, might be innovative and smart...but these "cottage industries" are not the cornerstone of an economy that favors the middle class as much as they help the rich while enabling a few smart, tough middle-class folks stay in their income bracket. 

So here's to American Labor! Hanging in there, despite and not because of Washington, D.C. or Sacramento. And it's probably a labor force that is collectively looking forward to shedding the Big Lie in favor of embracing the Big Hope.


(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  alpern@marvista.org. 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.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


EDITOR’S PICK-Twenty-four years ago I was raped at gunpoint in the cold, dark backroom of the Payless shoe store where I was then working. Two years ago I signed on to a brilliant script called “The Birth of a Nation,” to play a woman who was raped. One month ago I was sent a story about Nate Parker, the very talented writer, director and star of this film. Seventeen years ago Nate Parker was accused and acquitted of sexual assault. Four years ago the woman who accused him committed suicide. (Photo above center: Gabrielle Union performing in the movie Birth of a Nation.)

Different roads circling one brutal, permeating stain on our society. A stain that is finely etched into my own history. Rape is a wound that throbs long after it heals. And for some of us the throbbing gets too loud. Post traumatic stress syndrome is very real and chips away at the soul and sanity of so many of us who have survived sexual violence.  

Since Nate Parker’s story was revealed to me, I have found myself in a state of stomach-churning confusion. I took this role because I related to the experience. I also wanted to give a voice to my character, who remains silent throughout the film. In her silence, she represents countless black women who have been and continue to be violated. Women without a voice, without power. Women in general. But black women in particular. I knew I could walk out of our movie and speak to the audience about what it feels like to be a survivor.

My compassion for victims of sexual violence is something that I cannot control. It spills out of me like an instinct rather than a choice. It pushes me to speak when I want to run away from the platform. When I am scared. Confused. Ashamed. I remember this part of myself and must reach out to anyone who will listen — other survivors, or even potential perpetrators.

As important and ground-breaking as this film is, I cannot take these allegations lightly. (Read the rest.) 


EDITOR’S PICK--By most accounts and most polls, Hillary Clinton is headed for a landslide victory over the know-nothing/believe-in-nothing narcissist Donald Trump. 

That is true this weekend — the traditional Labor Day weekend campaign kickoff — despite Clinton being badly-damaged and reviled in the eyes of most Americans just like her rival. 

Still, she is acting like someone with a lock on the presidency and a great chance to win control of the Senate and weaken the Republican stranglehold on the House. She doesn’t meet with the press. She isn’t even campaigning, preferring to immerse herself in thousands of pages of cheat sheets and training with a large support group for the first debate at the end of the month. 

It’s a dream come true scenario for Democrats so what could go wrong? 

Trump in the third resurrection of his deranged campaign has turned to racists, fascists and ideologues of the dark side of the American political experience. He has placed his only hope in shocking revelations that would confirm for one and all that Hillary is the lying, crooked amoral self-server that Republicans and rightist fanatics have been claiming for so long. 

Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, the accused rapist holed up in the Ecuador Embassy in London, says he’s got the dynamite ready to drop on Hillary just as he exposed how despicable the Democratic Party was in its treatment of Bernie Sanders. (Read the rest.)   




UNRAVELING RAPE-Over the last year, two serious threats students face on college campuses have made headlines. Young women are being raped at such an alarming rate -- one out of every five, according to a survey conducted by the Association of American Universities -- that the problem of sexual assault on campus is being described as epidemic. 

Young women aren’t the only ones under assault. Young men are being threatened by violence in another way. If they participate in America’s favorite sport – football -- they may incur repeated blows to the head, running the risk of suffering from a life-altering, progressive neurological impairment called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Symptoms of CTE include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, aggression and suicidal thoughts and can lead to conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia and even ALS -- amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. 

But with both problems, university administrators, coaches and other officials charged with protecting students have been slow to respond or take serious measures to protect students. And aside from the fact that in these cases, we appear to have abandoned the least modicum of care for our young, there are other, deeper ways these issues are connected -- not only to our ideas of gender, but to an eroding democracy with a social order in which the wealthy have garnered inordinate power over the rest of us. 

The treatment of football players reflects an economy so driven by outsize greed that, in too many cases, individuals, institutions and corporations have forsaken the most elementary decency toward their fellow human beings. Football is perceived as a cash cow for higher education, attracting media coverage and thus drawing alumni to donate. Even if these programs lose money, potential donors are feted at games with elaborate parties, often held in luxurious rooms dedicated for this purpose. And while tuition rises, ever more impressive stadiums are being built. At the University of California at Berkeley, according to The Washington Post, the mortgage on athletic buildings rose from zero to $23.4 billion in just 10 years. 

Beyond financial gain, football plays another role in an economy ruled by ruthless aggression. This sport is a prime example of the triumph of physical power, a metaphor for the reigning ethos which, whether consciously or unconsciously, is based on the notion that might makes right. Watching a game in which young men batter each other feeds the sense that somehow the larger game -- in which a privileged few take up the vast majority of resources, leaving the rest to fight for what’s left -- is the natural order of existence. In this way, football acts as a live-action demonstration of social Darwinism. 

By this logic, it may seem like business as usual if young men’s bodies have to be sacrificed in order to witness the triumph of will played out in college games. So why should it be surprising that this drama is played out in other ways, too? 

News stories from California to Kentucky to Florida have alerted the public to a spate of rapes committed by football players, on and off campus. 

Indeed, the link between football and rape is more than anecdotal. On game days, the rate of rape on campuses goes up by as much as 28 percent, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. Athletes are not by any means responsible for most of the rapes that occur on campus. But it is revealing that, according to a study conducted by sociologist and criminologist Laura Finley, athletes who play certain sports are disproportionately represented among the perpetrators of rape, attempted rape and assault, namely “power and performance sports” such as football, hockey, wrestling and boxing. 

Finley and others have recommended that we try to unravel what for decades feminists have called “rape culture” -- the idea, for instance, that football stars are entitled to bevies of women and the accompanying notions that women really never mean “no” when they say it and that, in fact, women like being raped. The perspective feminists brought to bear on the issue of rape in the 1970s has apparently not yet created the radical shift in consciousness they hoped for. 

Decades ago, feminists challenged conventional wisdom about rape, including the more liberal notions that rapists are sexually frustrated, lack impulse control or are propelled by an overwhelmingly strong sexual drive. Before this challenge, the typical perpetrator was often portrayed as a forlorn figure suffering from deprivation, or was secretly admired as a dashing character, one who, even if villainous, was also enviable. The conservative view tends to be more judgmental toward both the attacker and the attacked. Rapists are victims of seduction, it is suggested, except when not, and then they are simply monsters. Yet as diverse as these explanations are, one thing unites them: the assumption that rape is primarily motivated by physical desire, and that it is thus essentially a sexual act. 

Women who have been raped know otherwise. Though I have never been raped, in the course of researching a book I wrote about the subject, I heard many women’s accounts. What all of them had in common was the terror and pain the perpetrator inflicted. Far from taking pleasure in the assault, women who are raped are traumatized, suffering after-effects for years. Research conducted in the late 1960s and early ’70s by sociologist Menachem Amir supplied the other side of this disturbing picture. Studying a group of men serving time in prison for sexual assault, he concluded that they did not suffer from any sexual abnormality so much as an exceptional tendency toward aggression. 

Understanding rape as a cruel act of aggression has lifted the onus from the victim and helped restore dignity to women who have been raped. But it has done little to prevent rape. And perhaps this is because -- despite former Republican presidential candidate and current Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s recent suggestion that to prevent being raped, young women should not drink alcohol -- the problem does not lie with women but with the men who assault them. 

What, then, shall we do? I doubt most men or, for that matter, women believe that all men harbor an inborn tendency to rape. As Amir’s study makes clear, the qualities that differentiate rapists from others have little to do with either anatomy or desire. Rather, the motivations for rape often appear to stem from a toxic mixture of sexual arousal and aggression, desire shaped by the will to conquer, to take by force, to win and dominate. This formula becomes especially dangerous when coupled with pervasive ideas about women that cast them as objects willing, even wishing, to be dominated, to be taken by force. 

Yet it is clear that young women and men are being victimized in a similar way. Ultimately, despite all the fanfare, football players are treated like meat, commodities to be used up and discarded. Sound familiar? 

Creating a sense of connection between two groups that are exploited and abused will not be easy. This understanding does not excuse athletes who have raped women, nor does it constitute grounds for forgiveness. Rather, it offers a path to prevention, one that challenges the ways men and women alike are abused. Just as historically working-class whites have been pitted against African-Americans, when young men whose bodies are being exploited attack young women, ultimately they are serving the powerful by dividing the victims of a rapacious system. 

Moreover, for those brave enough to do so, to acknowledge our common cause offers a path of escape from damaging stereotypes about gender, including the idea that masculinity equals domination. And uncoupling brutal aggression from what it means to be a man could upend the entire social structure.


(Susan Griffin is the author of 20 books. In 1972, she published her groundbreaking essay, “Rape: The All-American Crime,” in Ramparts magazine. A Guggenheim fellow, she is also a recipient of the Fred Cody Award for Lifetime Literary Achievement. Her book “A Chorus of Stones,” was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. “Woman and Nature,” a work that inspired the eco-feminist movement, will be issued in a new edition by Counterpoint in September. This piece was first posted on TruthDig.com.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


DECISIONS, DECISIONS-Research shows that adults make somewhere in the neighborhood of 35,000 choices on a daily basis. The comforting news is that we don’t need the really powerful part of our brains for most of them. That’s a good thing because, as anyone who has scrolled through a lineup of 1,000 cable channels or perused the cereal aisle in a major supermarket can attest, decisions – even the most seemingly mundane – can be agonizing. 

But there are many decisions we make every day that do have wide-ranging impact. Let’s start with a surprising one – the choices we make every time we open our wallets. Six years ago, on Labor Day, I decided to try an experiment for three months to focus my buying decisions on ethical choices that would help create jobs in my community, and around the country. I chose to see if it was possible to purchase only union-made products and services in America today. I found out quickly it wasn’t always easy for me to do. But it was the right choice, and I had plenty of resources. Having spent much of my professional life working for or within the labor movement, I knew which cereals, beers and cars were made by companies that treat their workers fairly. 

These are the choices that we enjoy as free market American consumers, and while we may occasionally debate over Coors vs. Budweiser, we don’t lose too much sleep over it. Heck, Americans spend more than $5 trillion per year on consumer products alone. Shopping is in our DNA. In 2015, consumers spent $770 billion on groceries, more than $780 billion in restaurant sales and nearly $100 billion on hotels and motels. 

What if we captured just a portion of that tidal energy to generate a revived American economy? 

Our purchasing decisions – if made with some consideration – can be focused into what I like to call an Ethical Consumer Movement. I’m talking about a national movement through which we use the power of our spending dollars to speak out in favor of responsible businesses and against those that do not pay their workers the wages and benefits that they deserve. 

During the primary season this year, Americans were treated to spirited discussions on both sides of the aisle about our country’s increasing problem with income inequality. According to the Economic Policy Institute, in 2015, CEO pay rose to 276 times the annual average pay for the typical worker. This is up from what now looks like a very reasonable 20-1 ratio in 1965. All the while, productivity continues to rise, but wages have stagnated. Consider, the federal minimum wage is still $7.25 in 2016, stuck at the same rate it’s been for more than seven years. 

One of the responses to this inequity, naturally, is to raise the minimum wage, and cities from Los Angeles to New York have taken action. I applaud this, as no one should be making poverty wages for an honest day’s work. But simply increasing the floor isn’t enough. Change doesn’t have to come from the top down, or from the ballot box. Change can begin at home, every day, and progress incrementally for a long-lasting impact. 

If we as consumers only spend our hard-earned dollars on high-road businesses, the “rising tide lifts all boats” argument would take care of the rest. American businesses that pay their employees fairly and treat them well would prosper, and the others would pass by the wayside. The middle class, and America, would strengthen, and that pesky income inequality problem would slowly shrink. This is grassroots at its simplest. 

All this comes back to making decisions. This Labor Day, and every day, when at the supermarket or looking to buy a car, an appliance or considering which hotel to stay at, keep in mind where your money is going, and how those people making a product or providing a service are treated. Consider if they’re being paid fairly and justly. 

How can you help? 

By making the right choice.


(Cherri Senders is the founder and president of Labor 411, a consumer guide to union-made goods and services.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

SOUTH OF THE 10-Perhaps Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump is more of a viable candidate than I thought. The persistent violence in the city of Chicago has forced this author to take a closer look at the laws that allow repeat offenders to re-enter society – many of whom offend again. 

Angelenos were sympathetic to Democrat pleas that jails are overcrowded and Prop 47 would provide much needed relief. In Chicago, instead of reducing certain crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor, lawmakers implemented an ankle bracelet monitoring system that has been flawed from inception. 

In 2013, nearly 33,000 inmates were released which equates to the total population of Northbrook, IL, according to an NBC-5 report. The station went further to report that a high concentration of released inmates migrate back into the South Side of Chicago. The Westside actually sees the largest number of released inmates in their zipcode. 

In 2014, Illinois State Rep. Lashawn Ford, who represents the Westside, vigorously defended the rights of ex-offenders. He pushed for having state applications remove the box asking if the applicant was convicted of a crime. At the same time, Rep. Ford was facing bank fraud charges. He ultimately had 17 felony counts dismissed and only faced a single misdemeanor count for a tax offense. He is still in office. 

2014 also revealed the flaws in Illinois’ monitoring program. 

Both police and probation departments were against lawmakers awarding a contract to Irvine, Calif. based Sentinel Offender Services, as opposed to having them monitor their own parolees.

The revelation that offenders were not watched on a full-time basis came to light when kidnapping and assault charges were filed against a 17-year-old, who was wearing a home monitoring bracelet at the time he allegedly assaulted a pregnant Chicago State University student. 

Apparently, Sentinel sends an email alerting the non-compliance, and with the two hour time difference, many wonder if Chicago authorities are being alerted in real time. Probation and Police personnel have publicly declared they don’t check their email when they are not on duty. 

Two years later, the problem still persists. 

NBA star Dwayne Wade’s cousin was killed by two men on parole, one of whom was wearing an ankle monitoring device. Unfortunately, it wasn’t on. Chicago lawmakers allow those who wear the bracelets to have “free time” from monitoring. It was during this “free time” that Nykea Aldridge was murdered while pushing her child in a stroller. 

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson expressed his frustration that city regulations allow criminals a certain amount of hours to be free from monitoring. 

“I’m frustrated. You should be frustrated. It’s time we change the way we treat habitual offenders in Chicago,” said Johnson. 

If Democrats are allowing repeat offenders back on the street, under the guise of prison overcrowding, only for them to continue to wreak havoc on innocent citizens, then what do we truly have to lose by voting for Donald Trump

(Melissa Hébert lives in Inglewood, CA, and blogs on community and political issues on 2urbangirls.com.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

LEANING RIGHT--If you think this is a piece that will proclaim Donald Trump as the voice and the messenger this nation ideally needs, then it's best right now to state that this ain't that piece. 

Heck, I doubt that even Mr. Trump believes he's got the eloquence of Kennedy or Reagan or Teddy Roosevelt ... but there are many reasons why Trump's supporters stand behind him ... and NO, it's NOT racism! 

You want racism?  Then check out how racial divisions, and neglect of black and brown minorities, and lack of school choice and opportunities for these minorities, have worsened and even exploded under Democratic rule. Just ask yourselves if those black and brown Americans (many of them Democrats!) are "allowed" to speak up and complain about "the man". 

Particularly if "the man" is a Democrat.  Or maybe even an African-American Democrat. 

1) Enough of the New Racism, already--wherever it comes from! 

Are we past the era of race-baiting, opportunistic hucksters Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, or are we now entering an era of a "race conscious" cottage industry (I refer to this industry as the New Racism) geared to establish a new generation of divisive, counterproductive and self-promoting "community leaders" to become and remain both powerful and wealthy? 

Having fought like hell for 10-15 years for an Exposition Light Rail Line to connect the Westside, Mid-City, and Downtown portions of Los Angeles, and having done so proudly with other Angelenos of all political, socioeconomic and ethnic stripes, and having done so in large part to bring the City and County back together after the 1992 riots, I can assure you that racism is alive and well here. 

That's right--in the City of the Angels--and present among white, black, and brown Angeleno leaders.  My experience engaging with civic and political leaders, who I presumed would be both intent and content with bringing communities together, proved this presumption dead wrong. 

But ENOUGH of this obsession with race!  I'm a dermatologist by trade, and I assure you that the issues of skin color mean virtually zero beyond the world of dermatology, in the same way that eye and hair color do.  If a white man marries a black woman (or even if they don't marry), there is NO biological obstacle to them having children.  We're all one race:  the human race. 

So when the founder of the "birther" movement, one Hillary Clinton, proclaims Trump's supporters to be neo-Nazis and racists who are all just right-wing nut jobs and "birthers" by nature, well, that's where Americans of all political stripes will have to learn to confront their own racism--especially and including the New Racism from the Left. 

Particularly the racism and frustrations that lead to national divisions stemming from a lack of economic opportunities.  Shall I ignore my fellow doctors, professionals and patients of ALL racial and socioeconomic backgrounds who acknowledge they're financially hanging by their fingernails, and that many of them (secretly, of course...GOTTA keep it secret!) support Trump? 

2) Just how much are we supposed to ignore and pretend isn't harming our nation? 

Shall we ignore the exploding costs of what should be dirt-cheap medicines, many of them manufactured by plundering pharmaceutical companies led by Democrats and others tied to the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton campaign? 

Shall we ignore the "new normal" of disgusting creeps like overpaid Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers sitting down during the national anthem as a "protest" against wrongdoings against African Americans, and his team and the NFL being OK with that...while African American and other American military and police officers are fighting and dying for our safety? 

Shall we ignore the withering abuse that the Huffington Post, MSN, and Yahoo are hurling at its readers in their all-too-biased slant for the "correct" candidate--you know, that honest, easily-accessible, and idealistic candidate who is free of controversy? Or are these major news outlets ignoring the killing zone that is Chicago while belittling Trump ... not on the substance of his message, but the wording of his tweets in asking African Americans to vote for a better future? 

Shall we ignore the decades of calling for an end to the violence and bloodshed destroying African Americans' hopes and lives...and being told we're racists for even bringing it up?  How about the brown-on-black gang killings that get amazingly and frightfully underreported...is that racist to decry this new trend? 

Shall we ignore the reality that, were this nation to have the political will, we could bring back to our shores the manufacturing jobs that were once the mainstay of American middle-class economic strength? 

Shall we ignore the economic reality that "unemployment" being relatively low (based on how it's being measured) entirely masks the reality of double-digit underemployment, and that having multiple jobs without any guarantee of employer-paid benefits is now the new normal? 

3) So where the heck do independents, moderates, and conservatives fed up with both political parties go to find out just what on earth is REALLY going on? 

Well, we can forget the major news outlets (ABC, CBS, NBC, Huffington Post, Yahoo, MSN), and we can forget the Clinton News Network (CNN) because they're hideously one-sided.   

And we can forget about Fox News, too--it's well-watched by conservatives disgusted by the overwhelming left-wing bent of our media, but it's no secret that Fox isn't as "fair and balanced" as they promote themselves to be. 

Enter the "alt-right" Breitbart.com, named after the conservative, media-savvy, and iconoclastic Andrew Breitbart who, unfortunately, died relatively early in his life of heart disease.  Enter the Drudge Report.  And to hell with the National Review and other old-school conservative news sources who did and still ram the Bush Family, John McCain, and Mitt Romney down our throats. 

Enough Americans were fed up with BOTH political parties selling out the American People while proclaiming to be their representatives that moderates and independents came out in droves to register Republican, and proceeded to boot out the Bush Family--both George W. Bush and his brother Jeb. 

Goodbye, namby-pamby career politicians who favored those here illegally over those citizens playing by the rules ... and especially a goodbye to those employers who should be in jail for breaking minimum wage rules and driving down wages to unsustainable levels.  It's easy to understand the plight of illegal aliens, but NOT their disgusting, exploitative employers. 

So what's on Breitbart.com lately, as of 8/28/2016? 

Well, let's see: the makers of the app used to destroy the Clinton e-mails are boasting about hindering the FBI investigation. 

...aaaaand Dr. Drew Pinsky's show on Headline News is being shut down after five years after he questioned Ms. Hillary Clinton's health. 

...aaaaand former Secretary of State Clinton's calendars as secretary of state won't be released until after the election. 

...aaaaand former Clinton Global Initiative moderator Adam Davidson, who hosts a show on NPR, slammed the Clinton Foundation, and said in a podcast that the Clinton's were "beholden to scumbags" because of their work with that Foundation. 

...aaaaand the entire Facebook "Trending News" team was fired after their progressive biases were revealed by Breitbart Tech last month. 

Kinda like Trump's tweets: brass, some poorly- and hastily- and inappropriately-phrased.  But if one focuses on whether they were TRUE ... well, maybe the truth hurts, but it's still the truth. 

Of course, in this age of political correctness, there are those who care more about what a person SAYS than what that person DOES.  I suppose that, if you're one of those folks, then both this President and his former Secretary of State must make you very happy and excited to be living in these times. 

If, however, you are old enough to remember President Nixon, and learned about how his lies (relatively mild, by today's standards) got him to resign under pressure from both parties, you must be wondering what kind of nightmarish era we're entering.  Presidential lies and media bias are now working together against the will of the democracy-trained, rule-abiding citizen. 

But if it makes you feel better, Trump DID take the GOP Establishment (and the Koch Brothers) down a few notches...and they're still not over it.  Trump attacked Bush's wars during the GOP primary debates, as well as Bush's actions that led to the Great Recession.  The Christian Moral Majority now follows the lead of the GOP presidential candidate, and not the other way around. 

And so how did that Bernie Sanders being undermined by Debbie Wasserman Schultz thing go...did the Democratic Establishment get taken down a few notches, too?  Justice incarnate for the little guy and gal trying to live in a free society?  Wall Street being forced to take a back seat to Main Street?  Are billionaire George Soros, Warren Buffett and Mark Cuban brought to bear, now? 

So maybe, just maybe, we have a moderate-conservative coalition led by Mr. Trump who feel more empowered than they've felt in decades.  

Maybe this coalition won't lean too far right or left, but will instead tread the middle ground to do the RIGHT thing, and won't fall to the free-market-without-rules, cheap-labor-at-any-cost-to-middle-class-America crowd that is the current GOP leadership, and won't fall to the let's-say-we're-for-the-common-man-but-really-we-love-the-monied-elites that is the current Democratic leadership, either. 

"Alt-right" is an abused term now meant to discredit those moderate to conservative Americans calling for a rule of law, and to establish rules of fairness and inclusiveness, and to make sure that all Americans, of all races, get a fair shot at the American Dream while promoting the Melting Pot paradigm that made this nation great. 

And for those of you still convinced and appalled that tens of millions of urgent and alarmed Trump supporters have turned to the Orange Man (and want others to do the same) as their last hope for a united America that's fair to the middle class, and are doing so because of sheer racism, perhaps there's something you should confront: 

Why are you equating love of country as constituting racism?


(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  alpern@marvista.org. 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.)


URBAN PERSPECTIVE--Let’s be clear. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has the first amendment right not to stand for the national anthem. There is no legal requirement for anyone to stand for the national anthem. In fact, the National Football League made it official when it issued this statement: “Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the National Anthem,”

He showed guts in telling the world that he would not stand because of continued police abuse and killing of blacks. He plays in the pro sport that is the most rigid, quasi-military discipline, my way or the highway, pro sport run by some of the most conservative rich white guys on the planet; most with solid and deep GOP ties. He potentially could lose millions in contract money and endorsements now or down the line for his personal sit down.

So yes, he should be loudly applauded for having the courage of his convictions and for showing the world that there is some big name, big payday, pro athletes who are willing to speak out and take stands on controversial issues even at the cost of their jobs. The firestorm that he stirred up for that is way out of proportion to his action since there are 1700 players on the 32 team roster in the NFL and even with Kaepernick sitting during the anthem that still leaves 1699 or so players who will stand at rigid attention during the playing of the anthem.

But Kap’s actions aside, the script can easily be flipped and a case can be made for the millions of blacks who do gladly stand for the national anthem. Most know the brutal history of racial violence, exclusion, and poverty that trapped and still traps countless numbers of blacks. They watch and read almost daily of the police killings of mostly unarmed blacks, the mass incarceration numbers for blacks, the grim figures on job and housing discrimination, the gaping health care disparities, and the endless other big and small racial insults and indignities. The symbol of that is the flag that they are asked to stand at rapt attention to with their hand over their heart.

But, they also know that that tens of thousands of blacks answered the call to fight for that same flag and anthem in every major war the U.S. has ever fought, and despite the violence and discrimination black servicemen and women suffered, they still served their country honorably and wore the uniform proudly.

They know that civil rights leaders from W.E.B. DuBois to Martin Luther King, Jr. carried the flag and sang “My Country ‘tis of thee” at and during countless civil rights marches. They know that the landmark victories against racial oppression—the passage of three major civil rights bills, the Voting Rights Act, and legions of other civil rights initiatives and legislation passed by states and nationally were won under the banner of fulfilling the promise of American rights and liberties that the flag and the national anthem represent in theory, if not always in fact. It was their struggle to make the promise of freedom a reality for blacks and others victimized by racial injustice and violence.  

Blacks also know that despite the towering racial barrier and obstacles that the Constitution still stands as a powerful shield to protect the rights of all Americans, and for black Americans to continually use as a weapon to shame, embarrass, and cajole the nation to extend those rights and liberties to them too.

Finally, they know that blacks have paid with their blood and earned the right to lay as much, if not more, claim to the flag and the national anthem as theirs as those among the most rabid flag waving, phony super patriot bellowing crowd. This is their America, always has been, and it’s their flag and national anthem too whether they choose to stand when it’s played or not.

(Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of Let’s Stop Denying Made in America Terrorism, (Amazon Kindle) He is an associate editor of New America Media and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.)


A MILLENNIAL PROJECT VIDEO REPORT—Here is an investigative look at the much covered … and debated … Clinton Foundation. What does it do? How does it work? Is there anything to be worried about?


Presidential candidate Donald Trump calls it corrupt and should be closed down. 

Candidate Hillary Clinton says of the Foundation: ‘It's a longstanding strategy when advocating for the rights of a historically underserved or oppressed community — drawing through-lines, showing how what's good for one can be good for all.’ 

Look at Andrew Davis report. You decide.


‘The Millennial Project’ founder Andrew Davis hosts this unique look inside the Clinton Foundation. This video report … and various other newsworthy videos … originated and are available for viewing at The Millennial Project’.


TOO MUCH IN THE NEWS-That’s right, my fellow Americans, buck up, because, at a minimum, it’ll be four years before Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte’s shocking hairdos – Trump’s reddish-fox-paprika hued weave and Lochte’s silvery blue-raspberry bubble gum concoction – and equally, their boorish behavior, will finally recede, from both our collective conscience and our national press. Only the most naïve and optimistic citizens can believe otherwise.

No matter how you slice it, Trump and Lochte are in the news, and in the news is where they are going to stay. For how long, many of you viscerally wonder from the depths of your souls? Four more years, I'd say, and, actually, if it’s just four more years, and not interminably longer, that would be good news.

Lochte’s Olympic-sized whopper about being robbed at gunpoint by Brazilian police is just too juicy; for journalists, it’s like how catnip is to most cats (or how cute cat videos are to most people): impossible to resist. This is because, at its rosiest, the true story is that Lochte, the pampered thirty-two-year-old man-child, all decked out in his swanky, super-expensive suede shoes, couldn’t by the end of his all-night partying at the “France House,” hold his liquor or contain his entitled, frat-boy-style antics, much less tell the truth. 

Lochte’s boneheaded buffoonery and its collateral shenanigans, characterized by many as a bona fide “international incident,” will undoubtedly surface quickly now (and possibly, and depressingly, forever, or at a minimum, at least until the start of the 2020 Olympic Games) in any extended discussion or commentary about the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. This will be so on TV, online, or in good, old-fashioned print – likely around the world – because ultimately, even Usain Bolt can’t outrun a story with the legs and unflattering optics of Lochte’s petulant, now way overly-public pee. 

The same is true of Trump’s sewage, and by that, I mean virtually every word that has come out of Trump’s mouth. Sadly, I submit, that Trump’s dump of bigoted, xenophobic, misogynistic, and otherwise uninformed and unhinged views on life, society, and virtually every other subject of importance and nonimportance, will long stain our public and political discourse – and, will do so much more than Lochte’s gas station tinkle of entitlement. 

For how long will we continue to be sullied by Trump and all related Trumpisms (many of you plaintively cry out)? Like Lochte’s lunacy, at least four more years, I’d say, and I pray to God that it’s not even longer. Because come November 9, when Trump’s reality TV style candidacy for presidency confronts reality, no one rightfully and genuinely believes that we’ll stop hearing about Trump – or from him. 

Even when Trump embarks on his promised “very, very nice long vacation,” returning “back to a very good way of life,” he’ll tweet, he’ll call-in to radio and TV shows (perhaps even as he unwinds with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken on his twenty-four carat embossed “Trump Force One”). Trump can't resist a chance to opine, without any information or knowledge, on the current news and issues of the day, and, of course, to complain how the system is so “rigged.” 

Lochte and Trump are like two peas in a pod of putrid press: Expect to read and hear much more about them again. And, again and again.


(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.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

EDITOR’S PICK--The Republican, white-nationalist Donald Trump slanders and insults Latinos, Muslims and women. He promotes violence. He mocks the disabled. He refers to himself as brilliant, citing his fortune—obscenely accumulated over decades of predatory business practices that cheat workers and consumers—as “proof.”

He feuds with the gold star parents of a Muslim U.S. soldier killed in Iraq, claiming that he too has “sacrificed” (like the dead soldier and his parents) by employing “thousands and thousands of people.” It was a remarkable comment: Being born into wealth and in a position to hire a large number of people is not a “sacrifice.” If Trump isn’t reaping profits from all those workers under his command, he must not really be the brilliant, capitalist businessman he claims to be.

A military veteran gives the Republican presidential candidate his Purple Heart medal, bestowed on soldiers injured in battle. Trump quips, “I always wanted a Purple Heart. This was a lot easier.” Unreal. Donald Trump, Mr. Sacrifice, used college deferments to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War.

How is this noxious candidate even within shouting distance of Hillary Clinton? Let’s separate the fact from the fiction.

The Donald and the White Working Class

One easy, elite answer is to blame the supposedly stupid and racist white working class. It is common to hear mainstream (corporate) media talking heads proclaim that Trump is the candidate of the white working class and “low-income whites”—those that The Wall Street Journal and Trump himself like to call “the forgotten Americans.” These are who Barack Obama described in 2008 as people who “get bitter” and “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them.”

How accurate is this narrative? According to exit polls, the median household income of Trump’s primary voters was $72,000, $11,000 higher than the corresponding figure for Bernie Sanders’ and Clinton’s primary voters.

In his analysis of survey data gathered from more than 70,000 interviews in June and July, Gallup economist Jonathan Rothwell found that Americans who favor Trump have incomes that are 6 percent higher than that of nonsupporters.

Trump is less popular with the white working class than Mitt Romney was four years ago. In 2012, Romney garnered 62 percent of votes by “non-college-educated whites” (researchers’ and journalists’ longstanding, if imperfect, stand-in term for the white working class). According to the latest NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, Trump isn’t even backed by a majority of this group, with just 49 percent on his side. Earlier this summer, his support among these whites hovered around 60 percent, suggesting that they are capable of processing information on his toxicity.

When you consider that the nation’s abysmally low voter-turnout rate falls the further one moves down the U.S. income scale, it seems highly improbable that Trump—currently behind Clinton in national polls—will ride some great wave of white-proletarian, Brexit-like sentiment to victory in November.

Still, Trump is doing better than Clinton with working-class whites. In the aforementioned NBC-WSJ survey, she trails him by 13 percentage points among whites without a college education and by 21 points among men in that group. In former union strongholds and deindustrialized, white working-class enclaves like Pennsylvania’s Luzerne County and Ohio’s Mahoning Valley, Arun Gupta recently reported on teleSUR English that voters are “flocking” to Trump.

Where did Trump do best in the primaries? A New York Times analysis found that his strongest base was in predominantly white areas where a proportion of workers toil in jobs that involve “working with one’s hands, especially manufacturing”; a big share of working-age adults are jobless; an unusually high number of people live in mobile homes; and all but a few residents told the U.S. Census Bureau that their ancestors were “American.”

Jon Flanders, a retired railroad machinist and former union leader, told me that he recently “asked a question about who the union workers in the railroad shops predominately supported. The question was asked on a Facebook page with about 1,000 members. The answer? Trump, overwhelmingly.”

Rothwell, the Gallup economist, determined that “the prototypical Trump supporter” is white, male, Christian (but not Mormon), heterosexual and without a college degree. He found Trump supporters significantly correlated with low intergenerational mobility, weak income growth and employment in “blue-collar occupations that have been exposed to competition with immigrants and foreign workers.”

The higher-income figures of Trump supporters relative to Democratic primary voters and non-Trump supporters is largely explained by race. Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to be white, and whites receive considerably higher average incomes than nonwhites.

The Elite Liberal Thesis

So what’s this white working-class preference for the bombastic Trump all about? It might seem counterintuitive, even absurd, that a vicious, opulence-flouting, uber-narcissistic plutocrat and Republican like Trump garners more support than a Democrat from working-class people of any race. We can be sure that many residents of affluent, liberal enclaves nodded their heads in approval when Obama said this about Trump at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia: “Does anyone really believe that a guy who’s spent his 70 years on this earth showing no regard for working people is suddenly going to be your champion? Your voice? ... If so, you should vote for him. But if you’re someone who’s truly concerned about paying your bills, if you’re really concerned about pocketbook issues and … creating more opportunity for everybody, then the choice isn’t even close. … You should vote for Hillary Clinton.”

Then why are so many white workers failing to vote in accord with their purported obvious economic interests, Mr. President? How do we explain this great anomaly? When it isn’t simply writing non-college-educated whites off as irredeemably racist, the standard, elite, liberal-Democratic, campus-town line is that all those poor, pitiful, xenophobic, gun-clinging white proles have been tricked into foolishly “voting against their own pocketbook interests” by clever Republican strategists who divert white workers with convenient scapegoats and social issues—inner-city black criminals and “welfare cheats,” Mexican immigrants, guns, gay rights, abortion and religion. All these ugly cards are played to prevent the white working class from fighting the selfish billionaires who profit from the plutocratic agenda of the Republicans, “the party of big business.”

There’s some truth in this venerable, liberal trope, of course. The divide-and-conquer Machiavellianism this “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” (WTMWK) narrative points to has helped Republicans win white working-class votes since the days of Archie Bunker (at whom much of Trump’s rhetoric seems aimed) and through the age of blue-collar Reaganites and “Joe the Plumber.”

What’s the Matter With the Limousine-(Neo)Liberal Democrats?

Still, the prevailing, liberal, WTMWK narrative is plagued by four basic difficulties. The first and most obvious problem is that post-New Deal era, neoliberal Democrats are no less captive to the 1 percent than the GOP. Like the Bill Clinton and Obama presidencies, the likely presidency of the heavily Wall Street-backed Hillary Clinton will be loaded down with economic elites linked to the top financial institutions and transnationally oriented corporations and to elite corporate policy-planning bodies like the Council on Foreign Relations, the Center for American Progress and the Brookings Institution.

It’s true that the Sanders challenge and the broadly populist mood of U.S. voters in the current New Gilded Age of extreme inequality pushed Clinton’s rhetoric to the progressive-sounding left during the primary campaign. But this is just another example of what Christopher Hitchens once described, in his bitter and acerbic study of the Clintons, as “the essence of American politics”—“the manipulation of populism by elitism.” Clinton’s Wall Street backers have never been concerned about the populace-pleasing rhetoric she’s had little choice but to wield in chasing middle-, working- and lower-class votes. They know “it’s just politics.” They expect a President Hillary Clinton to drop her current opposition to the arch-corporatist Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as soon as possible.

Look at her first major action after locking down the Democratic nomination: She selected Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate. Kaine is a financial-sector darling who backed fast-tracking the TPP and supported his state’s anti-union, right-to-work laws.

It is little wonder that top Wall Street operativ