Can Democrats Bring the White Voters Back Without Selling out?

I still vividly remember the analyses in the last year's presidential elections. Pundits and editorial writers were writing obituaries on the Republican Party for heavily relying on old poor white voters. Now, the conversation about these very same “poor white voters” has radically made a 360-degree change. Yes, these pundits are now saying that Democrats are doomed and that they don’t have a chance to win the House of Representatives next year if they don't bring these white voters back to the party. Latinos and African Americans are voting blocks that Democrats can not always count on. These two constituents don’t constantly vote and that has empowered the poor white working-class voters who support the Republicans. There are 24 seats that Democrats need to win next year if they want to control the House of Representatives in Congress. Seven of these seats are here in California and one has a lot of potentials to be flipped. That one is Darrell Issa's seat, he was almost beaten in 2016. Congressman Issa and other six Republican Congressional Representatives from California who voted for the repeal of Obamacare have become a target in next year Congressional's elections.

The fact that almost 4 million people in California gained coverage through this act was not a factor in these seven  California Congressional Representatives' decision when they cast their votes.  Good representatives, they first see what is for the best interest of the state they represent.  Then, they look for the best interest of the district.  These seven representatives might have done neither.  Their decisions were ideologically driven.

That recent close vote in the House of Representatives, that repealed the Affordable Care Act, has pundits now taken a closer look at California for next year's congressional elections.  They all think California can actually lead the effort for Democrats to win back the House of Representatives.  These experts are also making the case for the Democratic leadership to reach out to white voters in "a major way."

Since Bill Clinton became President and Governor Wilson ruthlessly went after immigrants in the 1990s,  for good or ill California became the most progressive and democratic state in the nation.  Both political parties have utterly ignored California in presidential elections ever since.  They don't spend a dime campaigning here.  They see California as an ATM machine. Hence most candidates running for federal government's offices just come to California to get some cash and get the hell out.

Experts have sliced and diced the presidential election last year and they are still puzzled as to how Trump was able to replace the coalition used by Obama when he won the last two presidential elections.  Poor white voters enthusiastically embraced Trump's nationalistic message of "American First."  It might be true that Democrats need to somehow reach out to poor white working-class voters if they want to be part of the process of governing.  But leaders within the Democratic leadership might be misreading these voters.  These leaders see this as a problem with messaging.  These white voters want more than just changing the substance of the messages.  They want the party to re-adjust their positions in the political landscape.

It truly begs the question as to why these poor whites voters have abandoned the democratic party and have to support a man who has enriched himself exploiting them. Granted, the Democrats have failed to address their issues and have been mired in the cultural wars that at times scapegoated them. Supporting Trump in protest for rejecting what they call  'left-wing politics' might be counterproductive.  Yes, how can these billionaires who have taken over Washington could ease the pain that these non-educated white voters might be feeling?  These white voters are clearly victims of this thing known as the “winner takes all” capitalism. Trump and the Republicans leading Congress in no way could help these poor white voters.

Whites working class and poor voters have been abruptly abandoning Democrats in the last two decades.  Even when they are consciously aware that embracing the Republican Party's platform might mean to sacrifice their own economic interests. All those Democratic so-called "firewalls" in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania were all blown up by Trump. These working-class white voters badly wanted to give the finger to the Democrats and voted for Trump.

Regaining the support from uneducated poor whites voters might, for the Democrats, mean to engage in some sort of soul searching as to what positions they will be re-adjusting. That is, their long-standing positions on abortion, guns and support the LGBT community are some of the issues that they might have to modify. Interesting enough, Bernie Sander not long ago supported a pro-life Democrat. Yes, Bernie Sander, the former presidential candidate who is hardly viewed as a centrist. Hey, if Bernie could do it then there is no reason why Democratic leaders can't, right?

It is important to highlight that Democrats don't appear to be strategizing to seize the future.  For starters, they elected Nanci Pelosi to lead them in the House and Senator Schumer to lead them in the Senate.  Both leaders have been major players in the Democratic party that has handed all branches of government to the Republicans. New voices and new visions are not emerging to take this party into a path for success.

The problems of vision and strategies are compounded by internal destructive in-fights between very destructive factions.  Bernie Sander's supporters want more purity and want true progressive policies and while centrist Democrats are calling for more time and more conversations.  There is nothing that Democrats can do if there is no compromise between these fractions.  Also, the progressive wing wants to have a more clearly defined direction other than just pushing back to Trump.  Indeed, at this point, there hasn't been a major change in strategy.  There is still no message for those who are not motivated by a distaste for him.  Although those who dislike Trump with a passion are unified.

Last presidential elections elicited profound dissatisfactions of constituents for both political parties.  It is being said that both parties have abandoned their ideological roots. Most people thought the Republicans were doomed. But it turned out to be that Democrats were the ones who appeared to have felt this dissatisfaction in a more profound way. They are no longer part of the process of governing. All branches of government are being controlled by the GOP.

One thing is crystal clear here, Democrats have their work cut out in getting back in the game and at the very least they should try to win the House of Representatives next year.  And they should do it by sticking to the politics of convictions not the politics of convenience.  Yes, bring those working-class white voters but without destroying the progressive foundation.

Thank you for reading.

Chamba Sanchez
06/07/2017
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Sources consulted.

Brownstein, Ronald. "Democrats Need These California Seats to Win Back, the House."  Atlantic 25 May 2017. Web. 2 June 20217

Griffin, Robert, John Halpin and Rui Texieira.  "Democrats Need to Be the Party of and for Working People of All Races: And  they can't take Congress unless they win over more white workers." American Prospect 1, June 2017. Web. 6 June 2017.

Scanlon, Kate.  "Sanders Responds to Backlash for Campaigning with Democratic Candidate who once backed pro-life bills."  the blaze.com 21 April 2017. Web. 3 June 2017.

The Editors. "The White Working Class:  An American, and a Democratic, dillemma."  American Prospect 1, June 2017.  Web. 4 June 2017.
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Photos credit: Photos used in this piece was purchased from iStock website.


Commencement Speeches, What Would You Say ?

Graduation season rolled in again a couple of weeks ago.  It is that time of the year when we hear all these commencement speeches.  Speakers are supposed to encourage the new graduates to go out and defy the gods. Many people wonder how one prepares for these speeches and what makes one qualified to give one.

Graduates this year are facing immense challenges economically, politically, and socially.  Their democracy is on life support, and the new "gig" economy does not produce good-paying jobs for them. It is all about surviving as opportunities are scarce for the new college graduates.  Moreover, socially, the country is divided into unending cultural wars.

I have heard many commencement speeches throughout the years.  However, the best speeches I have heard were delivered by Steve Jobs and David Foster Wallace.  Both of them were given in 2005.  Steve Jobs gave his speech at Stanford University, and Wallace addressed students at Kenyon College.  Both men offered some basics as to how students could directly deal with some of the challenges that they would face after finishing college.  These two men went beyond the flattery and the banal platitudes that characterized the substance of these speeches.

Steve Jobs's speech was funny, profoundly witty, and filled with compelling personal stories that appeared to have been taken out from the pages of a book about Greek mythology. Ironically, Steve Jobs was a college dropout.  He explained to students that he did not see the value of staying in college; hence, he dropped out.  That might have been tough for those students graduating that year.  They have made great sacrifices, and a college dropout is telling them that college education might not be worthwhile.

Three themes ran through Steve Jobs' speech: "Connecting the dots, love, and loss, and stay hungry-stay foolish." There was so much wisdom in this speech. "Having setbacks are good for the soul, things that you do in life might not make sense to you in the short-term, but later in life, you will connect the dots,"  Steve Jobs told students. Moreover, what I thought was the best line in his speech, "life is a change agent; it clears out the old to make way for the new.  Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now; you will gradually become the old."

On the other hand, David Foster Wallace's speech given in May 2005 at Kenyon College was somewhat more abstract but immensely useful for students to engage. Wallace was a writer and a university instructor of English who taught creative writing. He published a novel Infinite Jest and it was considered one of the best English-language novels written in the last one hundred years. Tragically, David Foster Wallace hanged himself in September 2008.  Wallace started his commencement speech with this didactic little parable.  This speech became widely known as "This is water."

Wallace went on to explain to students that sometimes it is unexplainably challenging to see the most obvious things.  Yes, those things that are in our faces that we somehow are not consciously aware that they are there. Most of us can relate to this, sometimes the solutions to the problems we are facing might just be before us, but we somehow cannot see them.  Either by choice, as one might argue, we just avoid seeing the elephant in the room.

Wallace let students have it.  He told them point-blank that real education was not about accumulating knowledge.  It was about developing the skill of what to choose to think about the options we have in front of us.  Students were asked to take a look at their "default settings"; that is, the way how we are all have been wired and how those settings dictate our choices. He made the case that it is possible to alter this "default settings" and that students can develop that skill.  Furthermore, that they could start looking at things differently.  He also asked them to embrace the struggle of choosing and not letting their "default settings" dictate their choices.  That was what Wallace called "real freedom."  He wrapped up his speeches with this, "this is water, this is water." A genuinely brilliant commencement speech.

It would be tough to give a commencement speech in these times of economic and daunting political challenges facing this country. Yes, how does one tell students graduating this year that civility matters, that tolerance is good for our community and that social graces are vital for civil society?  Yes, how does an individual do this?  We have a president who was elected last year, who succeeded by breaking all the social norms of decency and that he continues doing it as President.

I have been in many graduation ceremonies, two of them as a student.  If I were to give one of these speeches, it would be the shortest one ever.

This is what I would say; I will start by talking about the humanity of their degrees. That is, talking about the usual suspects, the responsibilities of citizenship, global affairs, and the beautiful struggle of connecting with something bigger than oneself. In light of the new economic order in this country, I will also talk about their degrees as an economic payoff.  After all, these students have invested heavily in their education.

I will touch upon the following three themes: Flexibility.  I will tell students that they should know what they want in life and do whatever they can to reach that goal. But at the same time, they should be flexible enough and accept what life has in store for you.  This can also be applied in the political system we have in place.  They should defend their political positions.

Nevertheless, they must make an effort to make adjustments if things or circumstances changed or if they have been presented with a fact-driven persuasive argument.  In light of the corrosive partisanship in Washington, this will serve their country well.  I will also tell them that they should try to create their opportunities as good-paying jobs are no longer a reality in this country

Second,  I will make a case for them to develop a thick skin.  If you endeavor to avoid those who disagree with you, you will be excluding 99% of the people in this world, I will tell them.   Granted, some people might hate you, but the great majority of them might just disagree with your positions or ideas.  Always give people the benefits of the doubt unless they prove themselves otherwise.  You should know that in a free society, we let people say whatever they want in the name of liberty.  So, do not be a sensitive soul and smile even when people talk about your mom.  Rather than advocating for safe spaces where people have to act in a political corrected way, you should not care what people think of you and engage them whenever is possible.

Finally, I will tell students  to develop a strong foundation and have the courage and strength to say "No." This is tough.  Life is a road paved with many temptations. We should all pray for wisdom so we can identify those moments when all the stars appear to have been aligned, and the natural thing to do is to say "yes." Resist.

Thank you for reading.

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References used.

David Foster Wallace Transcript of 2005 Kenyon College Commencement Address. May 21, 2005. faculty.winthrop.edu. 21 May 2005. Web. 24 May 2017.

Krajeski, Jenna. "This is Water."New Yorker 19 Sept. 2008.  Web. 28 May 2017.

"You have got to find what you love,  Jobs says." News.Stanford.edu. 14 Jun 2005. Web. 24 May 2017.Weber

Weber, Bruce. "David Foster Wallace, Influential Writer, Dies at 46."  New York Times. 14 Sept. 2008. Web. 28 May 2017

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Photos credit: Photos were downloaded from paid websites with password-protected from one of the colleges where I teach.


Herbalife Targeting Immigrants with its Pyramid Scheme !

I was researching for new documentaries a week ago and came across this one, Betting on Zero,  aA documentary about Herbalife. I watched it. I knew that this company was being scrutinized for its business model, but I didn't know they were preying on Latino immigrants. In light of how this company is aggressively targeting humble immigrants, I was somewhat puzzled that Herbalife's business and how its strategies have been under the radar of many major Spanish speaking news organization.  This documentary profiles a group of immigrants in Chicago who have been victimized by Herbalife's ruthless marketing strategies.  These immigrants were easily deceived and lied to by recruiting their family members and close friends. Newspapers reported that 60% of the money that Herbalife makes come from Latinos in the US.

I was shocked witnessing how Herbalife with such an unethical business model has risen and done well.  They have persisted even when it has been exposed many times by major newspapers as to how they have defrauded people.  Any rational being who looks at this company from any angle will conclude that this company truly is fraudulent.

Any federal regulatory agency that monitors these companies would say that if a business entity and those who participate in the organization make money primarily from recruiting people instead of selling goods or services to consumers, this business organization is deemed to be operating a "pyramid scheme."  Now, how did they get away with this?  Herbalife is annually audited by powerhouse Pricewaterhouse-Cooper one of the most credible and prestigious accounting firms in the world. These accounting firms make sure that everything in these companies is real, legal and ethical so investors and consumers can be protected.

Herbalife has very strong PR and Law departments. This company also hires celebrities and well-known people in political circles. They have hired a soccer player, David Beckham and the big-time soccer player Ronaldo who plays in Europe. They also recruit politicians with a lot of credibilities to promote their products. Former Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton, Madeline Albright, and our very own former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to mention some.  These two have consulted or are currently consulting for Herbalife and see no problem with Herbalife defrauding people.

Former Mayor Villaraigosa comes up in this documentary.  He seems indifferent that this company is causing so much pain in our community. He consults for the company, and the company uses him to appease those in our community who question this company's legitimacy.  Any immigrant knows who this man is, and these poor immigrants feel more comfortable dealing with this company when they see this man working for Herbalife.  It is not hard to see that the man is selling out.  It was disgusting seeing him in this film making the case as to how good it is for our community that this company sells its products to us.

The former mayor argues in this film that our community has an obesity problem and that Herbalife has the solutions for said problem. We might have this obesity problem but what Herbalife does will not do anything to stop it. He conveniently ignored the fact that Herbalife is scamming these poor humble immigrants out of their savings.  Mayor Villaraigosa recently converted himself as a staunch defender of Latinos again.  Of course, he is seeking to become governor of California next year.

Herbalife is a well-established company and is being alleged that it has made this pyramid scheme legal. Yes, this company has everything a legitimate business has, its corporate headquarters are right here in Los Angels and is being led by a CEO, Michael O. Johnson who came from the Disney Company.  In 2011, he was the highest-paid CEO in America.  Mr. Johnson made almost 100 million dollars running this company. Herbalife is also a public company currently being traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
Betting on Zero” is a fascinating documentary in which one of the masters of the universe from Wall Street, Bill Ackman uses his power and resources as a hedge fund manager to bet on Herbalife. In this documentary, a journalist who writes in the financial pages for Bloomberg joined forces with Mr. Ackman to expose this lie to the world.  The former is trying to exercise her journalistic responsibilities while the latter is in it to make a buck.  Not sure what to make of this but it can be argued that at the very least they are trying to get rid of a fraudulent company that has caused so much pain.  At the end of the documentary, the Federal Trade Commission in 2016 came down hard on Herbalife and formally "charged this company with four of unfair, false, and deceptive business practices." The company was fined with $2oo million and was asked to make major changes to its business model. The company is still operating as nothing happened.

There is no such thing as corporate citizenship any longer. Corporate citizenship is the idea that corporations have a social responsibility to society as a whole. The existence of a company must make the quality of life in communities better.  Better as they have to make principled centered decisions. Their business endeavors must somehow make society better, and that includes a corporation's investors.

It seems that we are reliving the era of the gilded age when the captains of industries were robber barons who had utter disregard for the welfare of society. Yes, Corporations don’t care about workers and see them as liabilities and subjects of exploitation. We are currently living in a society where very few individuals control obscene amounts of wealth; we have stunning low wage disparity and grinding poverty.  It is hard not to argue that America is not a "government of corporations, by the corporations, and for corporations.  From MCI WorldCom to Enron both of these companies engaged in massive fraud and caused so much damage to their employees, consumers, and investors.

It is easy to cave in to the forces of cynicism when you see people who govern us lying very casually and prominent players in our economic system making money by building companies that cheat people.  But we shouldn't.

Thank you for reading.

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Works used. 

Betting on Zero. Dir. Theodore Braun. Biltmore Films, 2017.

Brenner, Michael. "Plutocracy in America."  Huffington Post April 1 2013.  Web. 1st May 2017

Derber. Charles. Corporate Nation:  How Corporations are taking over our lives and what we can do about it. New York:  St. Martin Press, 1998.

Devos, Rich.  Compassionate Capitalism:  People helping people help themselves. New York: Penguin Group, 1993.

Pfeifer, Stuart. "Herbalife hires former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as an advisor." Los Angeles Times 5 Sept. 2013. Web. 3rd May 2017.

Pfeifer, Stuart. "Latinos crucial to Herbalife's financial health." Los Angeles Times 15 Feb. 2013. Web. 3rd May 2017.

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Photos credits:  Photos above were screenshots taken from the documentary listed on the works cited above.

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Immigrants and Trump's First 100 Days as President

Although many minority communities have been in the crosshairs, I will venture to say that no other community has been more affected by Trump's first one hundred days than immigrant communities throughout this nation.  Illegal Immigration was Trump's signature issue while he was campaigning for the White House.  He often talked about illegal immigration in vitriolic tones.  Okay, he used vitriol for most of his speeches.

White working-class voters blamed illegal immigration for their woes.  Candidate Trump managed to successfully tapped into these voters' dissatisfaction with this issue.  These voters believed that candidate Trump was going to stop or at least restrict illegal immigration.  Political pundits argued that this was the very reason as to why Trump was able to win the Industrial Midwest, a geographical area that had been controlled by Democrats for decades.

It is not hyperbole or exaggeration, but immigrant communities have been destabilized by Trump's first one-hundred days.  All the anxieties and fears undocumented folks were bracing for came to fruition when this man was inaugurated back in January.  ICE agents have been aggressively showing up in immigrant communities yanking out undocumented immigrants of their homes where they live where their families.  Undocumented parents have been arrested by ICE while dropping off their kids at schools or while dealing with a legal matter at courthouses and others had been detained for being nearby places where undocumented immigrants with criminal records were being sought.  The anxieties and fears are palpable in many immigrant communities.  Major newspapers have reported that approximately 22,000 undocumented immigrants have been deported so far this year. Under the Obama administration, this number was around 5,400 last year.

One might argue that we have an incoherent President with incoherent policy proposals, Indeed, President Trump told reporters that he first was going to start deporting "criminal aliens."  He calculated that there were around two or three million "bad hombres" in the country who had committed violent and grave crimes.  The following week, the man who runs Homeland Security for him, Secretary Kelly told the host of "Face the Nation" that any alien who has had some encounter with any law enforcement agency, regardless of the degree of the offense, was subject to deportation.  Then, Attorney General, Jeff Session also told reporters that the mere fact of an individual having come here illegally was a misdemeanor.  Therefore, whether or not an immigrant has committed crimes here in the US, said "alien" was subject to deportation.  There is no cohesiveness of the message being sent by this administration to immigrant communities. Hence, there is agony, fear, and anxiety among undocumented families.

In light of the aggressive immigration enforcement approach currently used by this administration, many immigrant families have begun to prepare for that potential day in which they might not come home.  It truly is sad seeing many immigrant families seeking legal assistance from community organizations where they can draw up plans and sign legal papers that will allow close relatives or friends to have custody of their children.  These undocumented parents are being pro-active, in the event that doesn't make it back home because they have been detained by ICE.   No parent should be living in the shadows and under this agony in this country.  Most of these immigrants have been here for years and they have contributed to the well-being of their communities.  Children shouldn't be separated from their parents, we shouldn't separate families who wish to be together.   These actions are inconsistent with the values that represent this country.  This ruthless enforcement is inhumane and mocks these very same values.

We should fix this immigration problem with a policy that is fair and inclusive.
Regardless of how you feel about the issue of immigration, it is important to acknowledge that eleven million undocumented immigrants can't just be rolled into buses and be deported.  If you feel that this can be done and that Trump will do it, you must be living in an "alternative reality."   Immigration in this country has been debated for too long in Washington.  It started back in 2000.  Then, the events of September 11 of 2001 happened and everything changed.  In the aftermath of 9/11, we learned that some of the 19 hijackers had violated federal immigration laws while they were in the United States.

Literally and figuratively every election whether presidential or congressional, the issue of immigration has taken front and center.  Both political parties mostly focused on the enforcement aspect of this matter.  Obama as a candidate promised a proposal for immigration reform in his first year in office.  He never fulfilled that promise and instead of getting comprehensive immigration reform we got comprehensive immigration enforcement. Obama's administration set records for deporting hard-working immigrants with no criminal records.  He was even dubbed "the deporter in chief."

To those conservatives who are influencing the President on this issue, I understand your concerns in not wanting to reward immigrants who came here illegally. Okay, make us earn that citizenship, make us pay fines and taxes and make us learn English.  But give us some sort of legalization.  So, our undocumented immigrants can come out of the shadows and become full-fledged members of their communities.  Study after study shows that legalizing these law-abiding immigrants makes sense economically as they will contribute more to the output of this nation.  We just want an opportunity.

Two positive things that I would like to highlight in these one hundred days about this administration: First, it is great to see that this president has not reversed President Obama's executive order that protected the "Dreamers" from being deported.    These "Dreamers" as they are being called were brought to this country when they were children by their parents. President Trump has told reporters that as long as these young people don't engage in any illegal activity they shouldn't be concerned about being deported.  Although it has been reported that one or two of these dreamers have been detained and one has been deported for allegations of having committed crimes.  Second, the level of activism that I have witnessed in these first one hundred days has given me hope.  I have seen people from all walks of life marching literally every other weekend since this president got inaugurated in January.  The forces of activism have been ignited and the challenge here is to continue organizing and agitating for true radical progressive change.

Finally, leaders in immigrant communities need to bring a vibrant passion whenever advocating for undocumented immigrants in this debate about immigration reform.  They have to be as intense, organized, and adamant about immigration reform as the anti-immigrant forces on the other side. Taking it to the streets and marching is great but there must also be some sort of legislative endeavors being pursued in Washington.

Thank you for reading.

Chamba Sanchez
4/27/2017

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Works used.

Bannon, Brad. "Trump's first 100 days anything but presidential."  The Hill 24 April 2017. Web. 25 April 2017

Camarota, Steven. "The Case Against Immigration:  Why the United States should look out for itself." Foreign Affairs 31 March 2017. Web. 24n April 2017.

Horsey, David. "Trump should claim victory on the border and abandon his foolish wall." Los Angeles Times 12 April 2017. Web. 24 April 2017.

Krikorian, Mark. "On Immigration, Fighting the Last War." National Review. 1 Oct. 2015.

McManus, Doyle. "Trump's populist revolution is already over — for now." Los Angeles Times 16, April 2017. Web. 25 April 2017.
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Photos credits:  Photos downloaded from websites with password-protected that my employer pays.

 


25 Years Ago, LA Went Up in Flames. Can It Happen Again?

In balance, 1992 was a great year.  We, voters, in the state of California sent two women to the US Senate, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. Bill Clinton became our president by defeating George H. Bush; Spain held the awesome Summer Olympics in Barcelona; and unfortunately here in LA, riots broke out after the acquittal of four white police officers accused of beating black driver Rodney King after a high-speed pursuit.

I have been reading articles and watched a couple of documentaries about the LA riots that took place 25 years ago.  Then I realized that this week, our City's Mayor was going to give his annual State of the City Address. I thought it would be only fair to expect our Mayor Garcetti to give us an assessment of what happened that important day of April of 1992 when all this city's institutions collapsed.  And what we are doing collectively or not doing from stopping another civil unrest here in Los Angeles. Stunningly, there was nothing in his speech about that sad day in Los Angeles.  How could that be, the man is a student of history?  It might have been because Los Angeles is still mired in the current crises Angelenos were facing then.  Yes, abject poverty in many communities, a very profound crisis of lack of affordable housing, homelessness, still corrosive tensions between the LAPD and communities of color,  underperforming schools and no living wage jobs for people to adequately provide for their families.

I appreciated the optimism that our Mayor always displays.  Optimism is always used by our civic leaders to lift our spirits and to communicate a message of hope. Although I have to say optimism can't be disconnected from the facts on the ground.

The riots that took place in Los Angeles on April 29, 1992, had a tremendous impact on me. I was young and was trying to find direction in my life.  I was an immigrant, I had come to LA back in the 1980s when I was sixteen years old. The riots forced me to engage in some soul-searching, I felt helpless and hopeless.  I didn't know much, I could understand the struggles facing the different communities in this great city. I couldn't connect the dots of what had happened in this city that day. I quickly realized that I couldn’t just be a bystander anymore.  I immediately endeavored to educate myself in the struggles of this community.  I was majoring in business in college for my undergraduate degree. But I began reading books in public policy, history, power, philosophy, religion, and political economy. I wanted to learn as much as possible so I could understand things better.

Witnessing all the irrational violence and destruction was hard.  It truly was difficult for me to fathom that people would actually destroy their own communities out of anger.  It saddened me seeing many communities going up in flames, people looting businesses, and some people beating up other people for no reason. It was utter anarchy that day in Los Angeles.

The riots devastated Los Angeles. After the three day ordeal, 55 people had been killed and nearly 2,000 had been injured, more than 12,000 people were arrested and civic leaders claimed that there was approximate $1 billion loss in the destruction of properties. Then California Governor, Pete Wilson sent the National Guard and President George H. W. Bush sent military troops and riots-trained federal officers to restore order in our city. It truly was a war zone.

Furthermore, I had a difficult time comprehending how such destruction of one’s community could be condoned by many out of sympathy.  Then, I read Dr. King’s writing and speeches. Dr. King was a big advocate for militant, powerful, massive, non-violence direct action.  He thought that it was the only way that radical change could be brought into an unjust and racist society. Nonetheless, as he delved into his moral reasoning, he conceded that he couldn’t condemn the riots that had been taking place in many cities during his struggles for social and economic justice. Dr. King saw the destruction of communities as the result of the “intolerable conditions that existed in society. He viewed the riots as the language of the unheard.  Dr. King appears to have made an exception here and argued that said destruction was not only necessary but morally justified. I found this not only intriguing but very fascinating.

The violence on that sunny day in April of 1992, led me to conclude that we, indeed, are one people of many communities with different backgrounds.  And regardless of our differences, everyone must be treated with dignity and respect no matter one's social and economic status.  Moreover, for communities to be peaceful, we have to understand that everyone living in our communities has a voice. And that we must do whatever we can to make sure that all voices are heard.  These voices can't be expunged from the narratives of power.  Because these silent voices will somehow find their way to be heard. Dr. King was right, "the riots can be the language of the unheard" when they are being oppressed. The riots of 1992 in Los Angeles were the voices of those who have been ignored and oppressed for too long.

After the riots were over in Los Angeles in 1992 and order was restored, the voices of reason emerged and they forced this city to engage in a vigorous conversation.  They looked into what led to such violence and how leaders in this city could become more responsive in creating a more fair community. Many promises were made and depend on whom you ask, you will get a different view of whether or not Los Angeles has created the conditions for a more fair and just community.

When experts examine the Watts and the LA riots of  1965 and 1992 respectively, they identified common themes that led to these two cities to go up in flames.  Today's challenges are no different from the ones in those years of desperation.  Yes, we currently have a challenge in the distribution of wealth of this community. There is no secret that Los Angeles is home to both abject poverty and unprecedented excess.   We have a "new Gilded Age of obscene wealth perpetuated by the new economic order of a "gig" economy where very few individuals are becoming billionaires and everyone else make starvation wages and a crisis of affordable housing that civic leaders are unable to solve.  There is also a profound lack of civic engagement. People in communities of color are not civic-minded and don't care about who governs them. They do not vote. It seems like the steam is pressing against the engine cap again.  LA's leaders take note.

Thank you for reading.

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Works Used.

Castaneda, Ruben. "25  Years After the Riots: The Washington Post's Ruben Castaneda Recalls a Near-Suicide Mission." LA. Weekly. 18 April 2017. Print.

Florida, Richard. "L.A. and New York are expensive, but they're not about to become creative deserts." Los Angeles Times 14 April 2017. Web. 20 April 2017. 

Halloway, Kali. "9 MLK Quotes the Mainstream Media Won't Cite." Alternate.org. 16 Dec 2015. Web. 21 April 2017.

"The Lost Tapes-The LA Riots." Smithsonianchannel.com. Web. 20 April 2017.

Photos credits:  Photos were downloaded from websites with password-protected from one of the colleges where I teach pays.


Save the Republic-Defend the Truth !

In light of how our political leaders are currently dealing with the truth in our political dialogues, I looked up its definition.   Webster's dictionary defines "truth" as "Fidelity, Constancy," "sincerity in action, character, and utterance."  Many Americans see how the "truth" as they understand it, is being under attack by the current Trump's administration.  This is neither hysteria nor hyperbole. Often we see the President and his subordinates talking to media organizations and making serious claims with no supporting evidence.  This administration is radically changing this country's civic landscape.  Our public space has become a public entertainment space where everything is infantilized.  There is an utter disregard for evidence, truth, and civility.

Anybody with some basic understanding of the structure of civil societies knows that for these societies to function they must be premised on the very simple conviction that a thing called "truth" actually exists and that it can be substantiated. We have certain disciplines that have managed to develop some rigorous process that allows the truth to rise. Whether it is in medicine, law, politics, business, or even journalism, these disciplines have established certain checks within their systems that search for the truth. I am not sure about "politics" anymore.

I recently read a piece in the editorial pages that said how the Oxford Dictionaries website, an organization that monitors new words being used or invented in this world. They choose one every year. They chose “post-truth” as its 2016 word of the year. Sadly, they looked as to how candidate Trump manipulated the truth and got away with it. The man, while campaigning,  literally said many things that were not factually correct and still managed to become President of this country. His presidential campaign was filled with lies and he reacted angrily whenever he was being called out. Well known fact-checkers in major newspapers constantly evaluated candidate Trump’s claims in his speeches and they repeatedly pointed out that just a little over 50% of his allegations were truthful. His supporters didn't care.

Here is how "post-truth" was defined by Oxford Dictionary: “Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” If this is not the end of the Republic, it certainly is the beginning of the end the intellectual class in this country argues.

The Greeks gave us democracy, but it wasn't a very inclusive one. They left out a whole bunch of people whom they thought were a threat to freedom if they were given citizenship rights.  Yes, the “illegal aliens,” the productive class-those who did physical work to make a living and the property-less.  They were not part of the political community. These excluded people, the Greeks argued, lacked the ability to competently participate in the community affairs. They couldn't deliberate and were not able to tell the difference between fact and opinion and they could easily be persuaded by leaders who could appeal to their emotions.  Citizenship’s rights were only given to those who have the ability to deliberate the affairs of the state with the objective of finding the truth in the process. Yes, freedom heavily relies on good citizenship, and those who were privileged to be part of the political community must have had the faculties to question leaders, argue the complexities of proposed policies, able to research claims made by other citizens, etc. The truth was out there, and it could only be found through the conversation those lucky enough to be called citizens held with each other in the political community. A commitment to the truth was vital to advance the collective interest in the “polis.”

There have been times in which President Trump has looked into cameras and with a straight face made claims that were totally disconnected from the facts on the grounds.  This led people to question whether their president is able to tell when he lies. Now, it is fair to say that this country has always had political leaders who lied to advance their self-interest. There is that story, “Washington couldn’t tell a lie, Nixon, couldn’t tell the truth, and Bill Clinton couldn’t tell the difference.” Nevertheless, any fair-minded pundit out there would attest that Trump’s lies have reached a deeper level, a level of near insanity.  He appears to be genetically unable to distinguish between his own reality and collective reality. Trump angrily claimed that his crowds at the inauguration were a lot bigger than they were being reported. Then, he provided no evidence when he made the horrific accusation that former President Obama had bugged him.

Everyone thought that once the election was over, the man would stop and that he would finally pivot. Nope. He immediately doubled down and made silly claims that he had won the electoral college in a landslide and that millions had voted illegally.  Trump's advisors followed suit, Senior adviser Kellyanne Conway in one of the Sunday’s political shows presented silly and false claims as “alternative facts.” The journalist conducting the interview almost fell off his chair after hearing such stupidity coming from a senior advisor to the leader of the free world.
The current state of the Republic is not sustainable.  Indeed, this thing will not work if the truth is not taking seriously. Since governments were established, truth in politics has always been vital for any political arrangement that values freedom. The truth is autonomous and doesn’t care whether those in a position of power validate it or if the masses like it. Fortunately, it needs no validation and it doesn’t care about popularity. But the truth has to be searched and honored by people and they must commit themselves to find it. It might take some time, but eventually, the truth prevails.

If we think about it, one might argue, the truth is a public good, just like a freeway or a park.  A public good that benefits everyone.  If we realize this, then we should all become activists for truth in politics and do whatever we can to mobilize people for a "pro-truth movement."  As a pundit so eloquently stated it while being interviewed on one of the political talk shows. "Without truth, we don’t have trust. Without trust, we don’t have the rule of law. Without the rule of law, we don’t have democracy.”  Yes, let's fight for the truth, this country deserves no less.

Thank you for reading
____________________________________________________________________________

Works used.

Malone, Matt. "Alternative Facts and the Coming Constitutional Crisis." America, vol. 216, no. 3, 06 Feb. 2017.

Rodgers, Daniel. T. "When Truth Becomes a Commodity." Chronicle of Higher Education, vol. 63, no. 20, 20 Jan. 2017.

Tsipursky, Gleb. "Towards a Post-Lies Future: Fighting "Alternative Facts" and "Post-Truth" Politics." Humanist, vol. 77, no. 2, Mar/Apr2017.

"Truth." Def. 1a. Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. Ninth ed. 1988. Print.

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Photos credits:  Photos were taken from a website with password protected that one of the colleges where I teach pays.
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These women were warned, they were given an explanation and no, they didn't persist, at least not this time

People who run elections in the county government will make the final results available soon. "Provisional and late-arriving mail-in ballots are still to be counted." Not sure if there is still hope but it is being reported that there are at least 13,000 ballots in this race that are uncounted.  The second-place candidate Robert Lee Ahn leads third-place candidate, Maria Cabildo by almost 3,000 votes.  There might still be hope for this woman who finished third place.  That will surely be a nightmare for the establishment's candidate if he has to battle it out with this woman who has a real progressive record of accomplishments.

It is somewhat difficult to fathom what really happened Tuesday in the 34th Congressional District's race. I am deeply disappointed because I really was looking forward to seeing a woman winning this thing.  Indeed.  I was stunned seeing many very competent women running and not one making it to the runoff.  So much for this district being progressive, really voters in this district voted for a no vision establishment's candidate and a former Republican Korean American candidate?   This is the district that rejected the establishment presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.  I just hope that these women stay put and run for other offices. After election night, I have heard  candidates uttering the usual platitudes when one loses an election. “this thing is not over," “this just started,” I am not going anywhere” etc.,  Maria Cabildo, Sara Garcia, Wendy Carrillo and Vanessa Aramayo should  continue on this fight for an opportunity to lead. Yes, I would like to see them running for school boards, city council seats, the Assembly or State Senate and yes Gomez or whoever wins in June should be challenged next year.

Many have sliced and diced the results since Wednesday morning. Some have been making the silly argument that it was a fierce fight between the Berniecrats and Clinton's people. Nonsense, none of that took place.  It was just a very low turnout and that usually greatly benefits candidates who are being backed by establishment institutions and candidates who are able to organize their ethnic group.

Yes, the Korea American candidate who was on nobody's radar until the night of the election ran a successful absentee voter program for his campaign and he made it to the runoff.  Indeed, Robert Lee Ahn must have devoted the adequate resources needed for an absentee voter program. According to the LA Times, “Korean Americans, in particular, were outperforming in early returns: They makeup just 6% of voters in the district but had cast 35% of ballots as of Monday.” And on this very same evening, “17,458 voters” in the district, had their ballots mailed in. This is huge, while some of the candidates were making cute videos this guy was busy making sure the new people whom he had registered to vote had sent their ballots the week before the election. Future candidates take note.

When we talk about the establishment's candidate, we usually solely focus on the individual who has been tapped to run. And yes, he is the one who has been going along, getting along and who might have been waiting for his turn patiently. Jimmy Gomez was clearly not the establishment's first choice. As some of you might remember, he stepped in after John Perez decided he couldn't do it this time around. It is consequential to understand what the establishment entails. Yes, it is not just the candidate, there are also establishment voters and establishment institutions that engage in this game that makes sure that said candidate who has been tapped is actually elected. To disrupt such a corrosive system that just serves those connected to the status quo requires resources, strategic thinking, innovation, and thoughtful candidates.

We always have the should’ve, the could’ve, and the would’ve after elections. Yes, maybe women running in this race could have made the effort of having met outside the debates and see if they could have been more strategic. For starters, they might have coalesced behind one woman and to go to war against the establishment candidate, as one of my friends on Facebook alluded to the night of the election.  No candidate made a real effort to go after the influence of the establishment voters either.  Yes, no candidate was agitating, educating and organizing new voters. Establishment voters’ influence can be diluted by registering new voters. Obama allocated substantial resources in registering new voters back in 2007 when he was battling out with Hillary Clinton. Hadn’t he done that, he would have been defeated easily?

The profound lack of inclusiveness and fairness in the democratic party should be a source of concerned for all of us who would like to see new voices and new opportunities being afforded to those who can. We need to have a robust conversation in the democratic party and demand profound structural changes. If that is not possible then maybe it is time for us to come up with a new party where our own people have a real chance to be heard. The lip services that these so-called leaders keep giving us should no longer be acceptable. Yes, Rome is burning and these leaders in the democratic party keep doing the same “finger democracy” that has been done for too long.

There must be some sort of moratorium in this democratic party here in LA.  No man should be allowed to run for public office until we achieve a critical mass of women serving in public offices.   Those of you who argue that we shouldn't be focusing on gender should know that we have very talented women out there, who are eager to serve.  If you think women and talent don't go together, you are either asleep, disconnected from reality or you simply don't like women.

Finally, Robert Lee Ahn faces some serious challenges that will require some extraordinary uphill climbs.  I don't see a former Republican forming the needed coalitions to beat Gomez.  His message and base is so limited and has no chance to expand.  He will certainly be crushed in June.

Thank you for reading.

Chamba Sanchez
4/6/2017 ___________________________________________________________________________

Sources used

Mai-Due, Christine.  "Ahn and Gomez appear headed to a runoff in L.A.'s congressional race." Los Angeles Times 5 April 5, 2017. Web. Accessed April 5, 2017.

Mai-Due, Christine and Javier Panzar. "Korean Americans have his back, but Robert Lee Ahn will need more to become L.A.'s next congressman."  Los Angeles Times 6 April 2017.  Web. Accessed. April 6, 2017.

Mai-Due, Christine.  "As polls opened, thousands of 34th Congressional District voters had already cast ballots." Los Angeles Times 4 April 2017.  Web.accessed April 6, 2017.

 


High Crimes and Misdemeanors

It has not even been a hundred days yet since President Trump was inaugurated and chaos appears to be the new order in Washington.  As Democrats see all the chaos that Trump constantly engages day in and day out,  they scream at top of their lungs "impeachment."

Americans are not only stressed but they are also pessimistic about their futures. Surely, Democrats and progressives who despise this man are constantly anxious about Trump's executive orders, his tweets and his daily encounters with the media.  People are still puzzled as to how “a billionaire demagogue” managed to win the presidency even as he broke forty years of tradition with others before him in making his tax returns public. Tax returns give backgrounds of presidents’ wealth and they can be used to see if there is a conflict of interest when presidents make decisions on behalf of the public interest. Furthermore, Democrats are really in a hole, as all three branches of governments are controlled by the Republicans, some of them don't see the light at the end of the tunnel. Indeed, they feel not only helpless but also hopeless as they see Trump assaulting the truth, our institutions and the rule of law.

Democrats in Washington literally have been expunged from the conversations on policy decisions.  Policy conversations currently taking place are within the party's different factions that emerged in the last decade. Although I have to say that, at times, it seems like there might some sort of dissent among these factions as they stunningly failed to repeal Obamacare-a signature promise of both Trump and many members of the GOP in Congress to voters.

Going back to impeachment, are there any merits for impeaching the current president, or a better question do we want to put the country to another crisis like the one this country went through back in the 1990s when President Clinton was impeached? Yes, if Trump engages in criminal activity then the sky is the limit and Americans should make the needed sacrifices to preserve the republic. Nonetheless, to pursue an impeachment for purely political reasons will further divide this country.  It might also be the last nail of the coffin of this little democracy that we still have left.

Nevertheless, progressives and others who utterly dislike this president are arguing that it is only a matter of time for this president to be impeached. Legal scholars, pundits, ethics officials, and this president’s critics see many things that Trump does that might fall under those magic four words in the Constitution: “High crimes and misdemeanors.”  Most of his critics believe that once his financial resources and documentation begin to unravel more people will join the chorus of those calling for impeachment.

President Trump’s problems, at the very least, started with financial conflicts with his responsibility as president and his family business. Then, we have that “Emoluments clause” in the Constitution that nobody even knew these were English words. This deals with “foreign financial corruption.” And there are even calls for “treason.” Yes, Democrats are appalled about this President's cozy relationship with the Russians and allegations that Trump's top lieutenants have knowledge of Russia’s efforts to manipulate the outcome of last year’s presidential election.

On Russia’s ties and the Trump’s people, FBI director, James Comey dropped a bombshell when he told Congress recently that the FBI has been investigating Trump’s and his campaign operation since July 2016. That was a consequential revelation that prompted Democratic leaders to ask to suspend the confirmation hearings for the current nominee for the Supreme Court until that investigation is finalized.  And within days, Michael Flynn was asking for immunity if he testifies before federal and congressional investigators in their probe of the Russian meddling in the presidential elections last year.  This is the same guy who told reporters last year that those who asked for immunity must be guilty of something.

But how can impeachment take place? The process itself is laid out in is the Constitution, the House of Representatives are vested with the power for impeachment.  "Art. I, Sec. 2, Cl. 5: The House of Representatives ... shall have the sole Power of Impeachment. Here the House of Representatives acts as a prosecutor. And, according to Art. I, Sec. 3, Cl. 6 & 7: The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that purpose, they shall be on oath or affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no person shall be convicted without Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present." In a nutshell, members of the House prosecute the case against Presidents and The US Senate acts as a jury in a trial. This takes place in the US Senate and Senators hear and examine evidence being presented by House of Representatives members. The Supreme Court chief justice presides the trial.

The Framers were deeply concerned about the abuse of power and they distributed the power among the different branches and make each branch autonomous and gave each one real power to check one another.  All these fall under the ideals of "Separation of Power" and "Checks and Balances" among the different branches.  Currently, the "Checks and Balances" appears to be somewhat more difficult to be realized as both houses of congress are being c0ntroled by the President's party.

For an investigation to take place, The Republican-run Congress must be willing to do it. Since they control both houses in congress. There might be a couple of reasons why Republicans in Congress might not take action into investigating Trump's questionable decisions.  The first one is pure preservation, Republicans are keenly aware that Trump has a very well-organized and strong base that supports him and defends him for whatever this man does. Republicans in Congress know that they will hear from these people if they call for an investigation. Second, Republicans relish having Trump in the White House.  They have been busy in rolling back many of the regulations that Obama was able to put in place. They are breaking up many federal rules that will help Wall Street, the energy industry, and weakening rules dealing with background checks for those people who buy guns.

It is also important to point out that the rules for filibustering legislation were changed by Democrats in 2013. Most legislation just requires simple majorities, only Supreme Court appointments can be filibustered.  However, since the US Senate is being controlled by Republicans, they can use what is known as the "nuclear option" and they can change those rules too. We will see this week if they decide to take the option as they will decide the fate of the nominee for the Supreme Court this coming Friday.  Yes, democrats are really screwed.  And there is not a clear plan of action as to how they can claw their way back to relevance.

But, do Democrats really want to impeach Trump?  Democrats know that if they are successful in impeaching Trump they will get Vice-President, Mike Pence.   Then, they struggle with that option, Democrats and all those who dislike Trump see the Vice-President as the real evil.

Thank you for reading.

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Sources cited

Colleen Shalby, Colleen. “Timeline: What we know about the events leading to Michael Flynn's resignation.” Los Angeles Times 14 Feb. 2017. Web. 1 April 2017.

Feldman, Noah. “Trump's Wiretap Tweets Raise Risk of Impeachment.” Bloomberg View 6 March 2017. Web. 20 March 2017.

He, Alan. “GOP Rep. Darrell Issa backtracks on call for Trump special prosecutor.” CBSNEWS.com 27 Feb. 2017. Web. 15 March 2017.

Hennessey, Susan., Helen Kelin Muerillo. “The Law of Leaks.” Lawfare 15 Feb. 2017. Web. 1 April 2017.

Mascaro, Lisa. “With Trump in the limelight, Congress has been quietly working to undo Obama-era regulations.” Los Angeles Times 14 Feb. 2017. Web. 28 March 2017.

Willis, Jay. “How to Impeach a U.S. President (Say, Donald Trump), Explained.” GQ.Com 20 Jan. 2017. Web. 30 March 2017.

 

 


Three Weeks of Chaos Under Trump

We all thought that the Trump’s administration was going to be chaotic.  But, no one thought it was going to start from the very minute that man sat on the chair behind the desk in that oval office. It has been a very intense three weeks since President Trump took over. And at the beginning of the fourth week, the Nacional Security Advisor, Michael Flynn resigned over an allegation that Flynn held conversations with the Russian intelligent people during the presidential campaign. This took place while the Russians were allegedly trying to help Trump to win the presidency. Tensions are palpable and many people are concerned about the constitutionality of some of the actions taken by the new administration. Evidently, Mr. Trump is still in campaign mode, the only coalitions he sees are those formed with people who voted for him. Whatever happened to that political maxim that in the primaries the presidential candidates solely focus on the party’s voters, it is understood in the political firmament that during the major’s elections, the candidates focus on the nation’s voters.  Once a candidate wins the presidency, this candidate focuses on the citizens of the world.  this man is still with primaries' voters.

On day one, President Trump started rolling out executive orders and presidential memorandums. Yes, from Mexico to Russia to oil pipelines to ban refugees from seven Muslim countries.”  On this very first day, he signed an order that would start the process of dismantling Obamacare. Then, he picked up a fight with Mexico and made the business community very nervous as Mexico is the second-largest trading partner of the US.  On the issue of immigration, Trump also signed an order to remove undocumented people with "criminal records."  He also signed an order on what is known as "sanctuary" cities.  This order would allow the President to use his discretion to cut off federal funds to those cities in the nation that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration law.

He didn't stop there, he also signed an order known as "Travel Ban."  This order was not clear and might not have been properly vetted hence it created much confusion and chaos at many airports. This said order was later overturned by the courts.

In these three weeks, Mr. Trump also managed to nominated Judge, Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court. Most conservative pundits argue that this man has a brilliant legal mind and he follows judicial precedent and that "he resides in the mainstream of American jurisprudence.” His background is being looked at and we will soon find out.  This will surely be a contentious confirmation hearing. Democratic voters want their Democratic Senators to engage in an all-out war on this nomination. There will clearly be political wounds on display in this contentious confirmation hearings.  Democratic Senators still remember last year when President Obama nominated Merrick Garland for this Supreme Court and he was denied a hearing by Republicans.

Two groups have risen in these three weeks, group one is being called "the faithful" and the other one is being called the "resistors."  The former thinks that Mr. Trump’s actions in these past three weeks were long overdue and they are delighted to see a candidate finally fulfilling promises made while campaigning. In addition, they defend him against all of those who have concerns about the constitutionality of his actions. The latter is being guided by left-wing Democrats who utterly dislike Trump with a passion.  They reject everything Trump does and they are eagerly waiting for the day when this man is impeached or removed from office.  These progressives see the end of the Republic as we know it with this man in the White House. And they are making urgent calls for actions. Indeed, they want people to roll up their sleeves and engage in more militant activism, one that could mirror the activism of the 1960s. Yes, they are asking progressives in this country to become some sort of Berkeley’s radicals, the ones that sacrificed a lot trying to make this society a more inclusive one. People in the 60s didn’t ask why to bother if it doesn’t affect me they just dived into the fights for social justice because they knew it would somehow make their communities a better place to live, these Democrats claim. These progressives see Trump as a threat to all the social gains made in the last 50 years and they are going to war with him.   Trump may not be able to forge peace in the Middle East, but he is doing wonders for uniting progressive activists. Literally, there have been marches every weekend since inauguration day.

On a more positive note, it is notable that President Trump has not reversed the executive order done by then-President Obama which provided temporary relief to those who were brought to this country illegally as children. Yes, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals also known as DACA has survived these three weeks. Second, at the very least, the man has begun to understand the limitations of the executive power and that this country has three coequal branches of government. Three, Americans have gotten to know how decisions are made in this administration and who leads these decisions. For example, Steve Bannon wields a lot more power than anybody would have thought, This Machiavellian man appears to have his fingerprints on most of Trump’s decisions.

Finally, the fourth week started with the resignation of Michael Flynn and it was followed by a bombshell  dropped by the NY Times on Valentine's day that confirmed that Trump's aids "had repeated contacts" with Russian intelligence officials in the year before an election."   Progressives are calling for an independent investigation.  Now, Republicans who control both houses of Congress will have to make a decision whether they are Republicans or Americans first.

Thank you for reading.

 

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Sources Consulted.
Alcindor, Yamiche. “Liberal Activists Join Forces Against a Common Foe: Trump.” New York Times 14 Feb. 2017. Web. 15 Feb. 2017.

Ford, Matt. “Trump Nominates Neil Gorsuch for the U.S. Supreme Court.” Atlantic 31 Jan. 2017. Web. 12 Feb. 2017.

Shalby, Colleen and Melissa Leu. “Here’s everything you need to know about Trump's first week in office.” Los Angeles Times 28 Jan. 2017. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.

Schmidt, Michael S., Mark Mazzetti, and Matt Apuzzo. “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence.” New York Times 14 Feb. 2017. Web. 15 Feb. 2017.

Zapotosky, Matt., Robert Barnes and Brian Murphy. “Former top diplomats, tech giants blast immigration order as court showdown looms.” Washington Post 6 Feb. 2017. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.


Measure S Might shake things up at City Hall !

The biggest fight in the March's election will not be about all these folks from city hall facing challengers. There is no serious campaign being mounted by any challenger against the mayor or any council-member who is up for re-election. Most of these politicians will be returning back to their offices after the election.  The looming fight though, in the next eight weeks leading up to March, will be about Measure S.

According to the Measure S website [www.voteyesons.org], the measure will basically impose a two-year moratorium on mega construction projects that require changes in city planning rules.  There is an exception for projects aiming at building affordable housing units. The measure is backed by Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and a longtime maverick in gay activist circles. He argues that “mega-developments” are changing the character of this city and are destroying neighborhoods after neighborhoods by displacing poor residents.  Mr. Weinstein appears to have an apocalyptic message about the dire consequences of letting developers determining how to build in Los Angeles.  He clearly has the resources to make his voice boom through the rooms and halls of the city hall.  Michael Weinstein has been dubbed as the "biggest political spender in the 2016 elections." He has been likened to big political spenders to the caliber of George Soros, Kock brothers, and even the NRA. This is interesting because his organization is a well-financed non-profit with millions to burn in electoral politics. And, just in 2016, this foundation spent $22 million on two statewide measures. Michael Weinstein is well known in political circles and in in the halls of powers at city hall, county board and Sacramento.

In light of the current voters’ dissatisfaction with political elites, it would be interesting to see if this man leading this powerful non-profit organization is able to make the case to Angelenos that the current "City Hall’s pay-to-play culture" is no longer sustainable and that power must be taken away from developers.   Michael Weinstein has literally declared war to politicians at city hall.  He has forced conversations about political contributions and he is exposing council-members and the mayor's cozy relationships with rich and powerful developers in Los Angeles. He hopes that Angelenos will revolt just as voters did last year when they voted to elect Trump for President.  Voters just wanted Trump to blow up the system. They wanted radical change.   They wanted something new, they didn't care if the cure was worse than the disease.

Labor, developers, businesses, and anti-gentrification forces they are all sharpening their political knives for this fight. Yes, Labor and the Business community have joined forces to defeat this measure. Millions will be spent and those defending the status quo have already started scaring voters. Indeed, lawsuits have been filed and these groups are battling it out in courts.  "The sky will fall, jobs will be killed, the economy will tank and poor people will be the real victims because stopping the constructions of fancy housing is not good for the poor," the forces against this Measure are screaming at top of their lungs. Their logic here is that if we keep building at one point supply will surpass demand.  Then, the poor will start getting the housing they can afford. The problem with that is that it is the very same argument that has been made by developers for the last 10 years.  And, poor people and people of color kept moving to the desert, a place they have found affordable.  Labor, being led by construction workers’ unions, has had many opportunities to ask for housing the poor but they have just gone along with developers. They just wanted those construction jobs to keep coming. In November last year, Labor swung and missed with Measure JJJ. They collaborated with developers to sell this measure to voters and it passed. Said measure was nothing more than about cosmetic changes and really didn’t do much or will not do much to alleviate the housing crisis poor people are facing in this city.

In politics, timing is everything pundits tell us. Indeed, many Angelenos have grown cynical as they have seen nothing but very small incremental changes being made about the crisis dealing with affordable housing in this city. They see this “pay to play culture” at city hall and see that this city is truly a city of developers, by developers and for developers.  Rarely is the week that goes by without the media publishing articles about the political contributions given to the Mayor and City council-Members by developers trying to get exceptions from city land-use laws to build projects worth millions. Disturbingly, sometimes checks were issued to these city political leaders while projects were being under consideration.

It is also sick and ridiculous how these real estate people endeavor to find ways to give political contributions to these politicians.  Developer, Samuel Leung, for example, cut checks for friends, relatives, and associates so these checks could be channeled to politicians in City Hall. Then, billionaire and powerful developer, Rick Caruso and other powerful organizations with projects being considered gave large checks to the mayor’s non-profit organization and his pet project, “Measure M.”  To add insult to injury these politicians have the audacity to tell Angelinos that all these political contributions play no role in their decisions when approving these developments.  All development projects are solely evaluated on the “merits,” these politicians from the city hall tell us. Laughable.  So far, I am leaning to vote "Yes" on this Measure.

Thank you for reading.

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Sources used. 

Aron, Hillel. “L.A.'s Biggest Spender in the 2016 Election Is a Nonprofit With Millions to Spare.” LA Weekly 5 Nov.  2016. Web. Accessed Jan. 9, 2017. <http://www.laweekly.com/news/las-biggest-spender-in-the-2016-election-is-a-nonprofit-with-millions-to-spare-7575242>.

“City Hall’s pay-to-play culture.” Editorial. Los Angeles Times 6 Jan. 2017, A12. Print

Dembosky, April. “From Maverick AIDS Activist To Porn Cop: The Man Behind Proposition 60.” npr.org 2nd Nov. 2016. Web. Accessed Jan. 10, 2017. <http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/11/02/500039336/from-maverick-aids-activist-to-porn-cop-the-man-behind-proposition-60>.

Lopez, Steve. "When it comes to political donations in L.A., what's legal can be worse than what's not." Los Angeles Times 11 Jan. 2017. Web. Accessed Jan.12. <http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-0111-lopez-campaign-donations-20170110-story.html>.

Platin, Dick. “A Must for LA in 2017: More Hard-Hitting Investigative Reporting.” CityWatch 29 Dec. 2016. Web. Accessed Jan. 11, 2017. <http://www.citywatchla.com/index.php/los-angeles/12362-a-must-for-la-in-2017-more-hard-hitting-investigative-reporting>.