One Hispanic American and the Star-Spangled Banner

September 28, 2017 by · 1 Comment 

Justice Robert Jackson’s opinion in one of the most famous Supreme Court decisions, 1943’s (West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette):

“To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous, instead of a compulsory routine, is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to free minds.”

Fast forward to Sunday, September 24, 2017, one U.S. Army veteran, Hispanic American (former Capt. Of Army Rangers) 29-year-old Alejandro Villanueva became an instant hero to many Americans – football fans and otherwise.

Certainly, he has become a hero to the President of the United States as Villanueva is a living, breathing patriotic American not just because he served three tours in Afghanistan during the years he was required to serve in the Army after he graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, but because he rejected the suggestion from his boss, Mike Tomlin, the Black coach of the NFL Pittsburg Steelers who “suggested all team members” present themselves as a team in Sunday’s league wide protest after being called “sons of bitches” by the U. S. President.

Is Villanueva the embodiment of a failed U.S. Army promotion of “An Army of One” that flunked the marketing test to the far better and brilliant U.S. Marine Corps marketing ads? Is he really an Army of One? He was on Sunday.

Aside: Never in its marketing history has the United States Marine Corps objected to a Navy or Army advertising campaign; on the other hand, the United States Army complained to the Department of Defense that the eye and ear catching “I didn’t promise you a rose garden” Marine television recruiting ads made the Army look bad. Thus, “an Army of one” was born.

Since television cameras caught Villanueva standing off the field at the tunnel entrance from which players come on to the field, he has apologized for “throwing his teammates under the bus” by embarrassing them with his solo attention to the Star Spangle Banner.

He shouldn’t apologize. He signed a $24 million-dollar contract offered to him because he has developed into a fine offensive tackle. Neither should his teammates be embarrassed either. The reacted to what they think is an insult by the President and they did so in a manner fitting, take a knee on national television’ they were insulted on national television so their pushback had to be on national television.

The fact that some of the team owners either spoke out against President Trump or participated in the actual demonstration of team pushback is interesting. Though some of the owners popped for millions of dollars to support Trump or his inauguration, we should not forget that none of them like Donald Trump enough to even allow him to bid for ownership of the NFL Buffalo Bills. Moreover, some of the owners were NFL defendants against Donald Trump’s anti-trust law suit against the NFL that he and his fellow Trump professional football league’s that they won but were only awarded One dollar trebled to one dollar plus three for damages. The United States Football League (USFL) died, many people blame Trump and his law suit for the league’s demise.

So, the President insulted black players that dominate the league’s rosters and gave owners a chance to pay him back for insulting them years ago. It seems like NFL owners and President Trump share one “quality” i.e. NFL owners have very long memories.

Now that almost every NFL player has manifested an imaginary middle index finger at the President, how long will they remember being called “sons of bitches” and that they be fired for being good Americans and protesting like good Americans, peacefully as prescribed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Good thing the owners are not firing the “sons of bitches” for “taking a knee” – for Alejandro Villanueva, the 29-year-old for Army combat soldier and son of a Spanish naval officer starting offensive tackle for play-off regular Pittsburg Steelers would have a hard time playing against a team by himself.

Six-foot ten inches tall, 300-pound Alejandro Villanueva would not be enough in a game with another team. Standing at the tunnel entrance on Sunday by himself at attention during the playing of the national anthem, however, is a different story. Standing with him, I believe, was every Hispanic American that has ever served in the American military, I least I did.

Contreras is the author of “The Armenian Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” (Berkeley Press, 2017) and “The Mexican Border: Immigration, War and a Trillion Dollars in Trade” (Floricanto Press, 2016); he formerly wrote for the New York Times’ New America News Service.


Who Will Pay for Trump Tax Cuts?

April 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

President Donald Trump has just unveiled his tax reform plan. Though many financial analysts and tax experts say it lacks detail, one of its key, so-called reforms is cutting down the number of different tax rates from seven to just three: 15%, 25% and 35%.

Guess who will pay the lowest tax rates?

Why of course, it will be corporate America. It will be bankers and other major taxpayers, including companies owned by Trump and his family and his large corporate friends.

Cutting the $39.6 tax rate now paid by pass-through entities to 15% will be a boon to high-income people who can use LLCs and other businesses to report their income, according to Joseph Rosenberg of the Tax Policy Center. Under Trump’s plan, corporations paying a 35% tax rate will also see their rate slashed to 15% if the president’s reforms are enacted.

The cuts Trump promised for the middle-class are largely missing from his proposal, according to tax experts. Also missing is a clear understanding of how the revenue will be made up so as not to increase the deficit as Trump promised during his presidential campaign.

Trump says that these huge tax cuts for the country’s highest taxpayers will generate more jobs and greater economic growth. We believe that trickle down economics have never worked, but the President seems convinced this time they will.

What the administration will actually do is add trillions of dollars to the nation’s deficit.

How he plans to make up this gap makes us really nervous.

It’s our feeling he will try to make up for the lost revenue by cutting services to the middle-class, the poor and seniors. So, right now, we recommend you hold on to your wallets.


Trump’s Watered-Down Ethics Rules Let a Lobbyist Help Run an Agency He Lobbied

February 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Geoff Burr spent much of the last decade as the chief lobbyist for a powerful construction industry trade group. Burr sought to influence a host of regulations of the Department of Labor, opposing wage standards for federal construction contracts and working against an effort to limit workers’ exposure to dangerous silica dust.

In the Obama administration, someone like Burr would have been barred by ethics rules from taking a job at an agency that he had lobbied.

In the Trump administration, Burr now has a top job at the Labor Department.

Burr is the first publicly known example of a former lobbyist who was able to take a job in the government as a result of President Donald Trump’s watering down of ethics rules in place during the Obama administration.

As a candidate, Trump regularly railed against lobbyists and led crowds in chants of “Drain the swamp!” But as president, Trump last month signed an executive order that weakened significant aspects of the Obama ethics policy, including scrapping a ban on lobbyists joining agencies they had recently lobbied.

Ethics experts say Burr’s hiring is a troubling example of how the new administration has greased the revolving door.

“A lobbyist like Burr may de-register on Monday and enter the Trump Administration on Tuesday,” said Craig Holman of the watchdog group Public Citizen. “The very same agency Burr has been lobbying as a hired gun is now Burr’s to help run. This is a grave problem for the public because the agency may well represent the special interest rather than the public interest.”

It also raises questions about ambiguous language in the Trump executive order.

Instead of banning lobbyists from working at agencies they lobbied, the Trump pledge, which has to be signed by all executive appointees, imposes restrictions on what such officials can work on. Specifically it says they cannot “participate in any particular matter on which I lobbied … or participate in the specific issue area in which that particular matter falls.”

Ethics lawyers are now puzzling over what exactly that language means.

That task is made more confusing because of an apparent error in the Trump executive order: It says the phrase “particular matter” has the “same meaning as set forth in section 207 of title 28, United States Code.”

That part of the U.S. code does not exist.

There is a definition for that term in section 207 of title 18. (The error is doubly strange because much of the Trump executive order was copied word for word from an earlier Obama order. The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment.)

While it was cited incorrectly, the phrase “particular matter” does have a clear legal meaning, which has been detailed by the Office of Government Ethics.

Another phrase in the Trump order, “specific issue area,” was also used in the Obama order but its meaning is unclear.

“It is not defined in the Trump pledge. There’s uncertainty within the government and outside the government about what that particular term means,” said Robert Walker, an ethics lawyer at Wiley Rein in Washington. “The same lack of clarity was a problem with the Obama pledge in this area.”

Because the Obama pledge included a blanket ban on lobbyists joining agencies they recently lobbied, the ambiguity of the restrictions on what lobbyists could do was less urgent.

The Obama administration was criticized for issuing a handful of waivers to allow former lobbyists to join the administration, thus skirting its own lobbyist ban. Out of thousands of appointees, there were five such waivers over the course of the Obama administration. None were at the Department of Labor.

Because Trump weakened the Obama rules, he won’t have to issue waivers in such situations. But if Trump issues a waiver allowing, say, a former lobbyist to work directly on issues that he lobbied on, we may not even find out about it: The executive order removed the mechanism for public disclosure of such waivers.

The president has cultivated a relationship with the building trades unions. But early hires at the Department of Labor are opponents of wage standards for construction contracts.

As President-elect Donald Trump picks his top officials, we’re laying out the best accountability reporting on each. Read the story.

In the case of a former lobbyist like Burr, who worked at the Associated Builders and Contractors, there was a consultation with a Labor Department ethics lawyer. “If recusals were deemed to be necessary, it’s likely that there would be some documentation of the contours of those recusals,” Walker said.

Department of Labor spokeswoman Jillian Rogers declined to detail how Burr will comply with the ethics order. She offered the following statement:

“Mr. Burr has signed the Ethics Pledge and received a full ethics briefing on his first full day at the Department. He has been in frequent consultation with the DOL Ethics officer to ensure he is fully compliant with all ethical obligations in his role at the Department.”

Enforcement of the Trump’s ethics rules will also be at the discretion of the administration, as it was with the Obama order.

Whether Burr’s work at the Labor Department will be significantly limited by the president’s ethics rules depends on how the administration interprets the order.

Burr is now a member of the so-called beachhead team at the agency and is reportedly in line to be chief of staff to Labor Secretary nominee Andrew Puzder.

That role is shaped by each labor secretary’s needs, according to Seema Nanda, who was chief of staff through January 20 of this year.

Under Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez “anything significant that is happening in the department or anything that is a change in policy you are discussing as chief of staff,” Nanda told ProPublica.

That includes reviewing documents that need the secretary’s signature, such as new regulations, reports to Congress, or letters.

The chief of staff and his or her deputies “regularly meet with the agency heads to see what they’re thinking about. You are really going over in depth what each agency is working on.”

CA Leaders Rebuke Trump’s Orders on Border Wall, ‘Sanctuary Cities’

January 26, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Southland and California elected officials and activists wasted no time today lashing out at President Donald Trump’s executive actions calling for construction of a wall along the Mexican border and slashing funding for so-called “sanctuary” cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities and substantially beefing up the ranks and enforcement authority of border agents.

“These are serious times that call for serious solutions,” said Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Los Angeles in response. “Yes, border security is a crucial pillar of comprehensive immigration reform, but a huge wall won’t make us any safer, morally upright, reduce the deficit or energize our economy.

“We need reform that provides real border security, unites families, protects American workers and offers an earned pathway to citizenship — something that Democrats and I will continue to champion in the face of the crazy conservatism of Trump world,” he said.

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said Trump’s orders will “harm public safety, tear families apart and jeopardize national security.”

“Forcing taxpayers to foot the bill for a wall isn’t a solution, it’s a political gesture,” Harris said. “And telling cities they must deny public safety, education and health care services to children and families living within their jurisdiction will not make us more secure, it will mean fewer crimes reported and more families living in fear.”

Rusty Hicks, executive secretary treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said the organization would continue to stand in support of the roughly 1 million immigrants without legal status living in Los Angeles County.

“We have already strengthened protections for immigrant workers in collective bargaining agreements,” Hicks said. “Now, with our state legislators and county Board of Supervisors, we will grow the 100 attorneys we have already organized into a much larger force to make sure every immigrant has a lawyer to defend their rights to a fair process.

“For decades, Los Angeles and California have been stronger, more progressive and more prosperous than the rest of the nation,” he said.

“Unfortunately, President Trump has chosen to take our nation down the dark path of division and exclusion.”

Building a border wall was a hallmark of Trump’s presidential campaign, and he continues to insist that although the United States will be moving ahead with construction, Mexico will ultimately foot the bill — something Mexican leaders have steadfastly denied.

“I’m just telling you there will be a payment,” Trump said in an interview with ABC News. “It will be in a form — perhaps a complicated form. And you have to understand what I’m doing is good for the United States. It’s also going to be good for Mexico. We want to have a very stable, very solid Mexico.”

California’s new Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, issued a statement saying, “It is important to put these White House executive actions in context.”

According to Becerra, executive orders do not change existing law nor can they contradict existing law. He noted they can be challenged in court for “violating constitutional and legal standards in their enforcement.”

Becerra said his office is “prepared to protect the public safety and general welfare of all Californians as well as their privacy and property rights,” adding the state “will protect the rights of all of its people from unwarranted intrusion from any source, including the federal government.”

Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) called the president’s actions “ deeply troubling.”

“With today’s executive orders, this president has transformed his anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric into destructive action which is intolerant, fiscally irresponsible, and dangerous, Roybal-Allard said, adding it would force “Local jurisdictions will be forced to choose between their share of federal funding and keeping faith with their local communities.”

Pres. Trump has yet to take action on his promise to deport anyone in the country illegally, especially those with criminal backgrounds, or to reverse former president Barack Obama’s executive actions to protect people brought to the country illegally as children, often referred to as Dreamers.

DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans), temporarily normalized the status of more than 750,000 undocumented immigrants, allowing them to legally work in the           U.S. among other benefits.

Trump’s supporters believed overturning Obama’s two executive orders would be among his first actions after taking office, and were disappointed his action on the border wall Wednesday did not also include an order to end DACA and DAPA.

Sen. Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) said in a written statement Wednesday that he “is encouraged that the Trump Administration and the U.S. Senate are working together to resolve our immigration crisis through consensus legislative action, not executive fiat or alarmist rhetoric.

“Hardcore criminals should rightly be the focus of deportations, not hard-working families and students,” Vidak said.

He said Trump Chief of Staff Reince Priebus has made it clear “Trump has no immediate plans to deport the youngsters, but would instead work with the House and Senate leadership “to get a long-term solution on that issue.”

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said Monday that DACA is “unconstitutional and has to be replaced,” ideally in conjunction with “measurers that ensure that our immigration laws are being enforced.” He said he believes however, that there is broad consensus that Dreamers should not be deported but allowed to stay in the country.

Trump’s actions coincided with the first meeting, scheduled for Wednesday night, of a Los Angeles City Council committee on immigrant affairs.’

Among the items on the panel’s agenda is a reaffirmation of Los Angeles Police Department Special Order 40, which prevents officers from stopping people solely to question them on their immigration status. The department also does not detain people based solely on their immigration status.

Mayor Eric Garcetti, however, said the city does cooperate with immigration authorities, “particularly in cases that involve serious crimes, and always comply with constitutional detainer requests.’’

“What we don’t do is ask local police officers to enforce federal immigration laws, and that’s an official LAPD policy that has been enforced for nearly 40 years,” he said. “That is for everyone’s good, because trust between police and the people they serve is absolutely essential to effective law enforcement.

“Everyone in L.A. should feel safe stepping forward if they have witnessed a crime or been victimized themselves — and immigration status shouldn’t interfere with the cooperation and partnership we need to keep our neighborhoods safe,” Garcetti said.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell reinforced that position Wednesday on behalf of his department. McDonnell said the president’s “executive order does not change the mission of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Our priority continues to be protecting our public … Our department policy clearly states that our deputies do not ask for one’s immigration status. Immigration enforcement remains a federal responsibility.”

Women’s March L.A.: A ‘Celebration of Human Rights’

January 26, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Observers said Women’s March-Los Angeles, which drew a massive crowd that filled the downtown streets around Pershing Square, was the city’s largest demonstration in nearly a decade.

Saturday’s gathering was held in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington, similar events in cities nationwide and in other parts of the world to protest the presidency and policies of Donald Trump. Worldwide crowds have been estimated at up to three million people.

The size of crowd seemed to eclipse even the expectations of organizers, who estimated at one point that as many as 750,000 people showed up. The Los Angeles Police Department estimated the crowd at “well past one hundred thousand.”

The Los Angeles Fire Department also pegged the crowd at “over 100,000” and said 10 people were assessed by LAFD personnel for non-life-threatening illnesses or injuries, with one person taken to a hospital. On Tuesday, Metro officials reported that roughly 592,000 passengers — 360,000 more riders than on a typical Saturday — boarded its trains.

Women from all walks of life marched to support the rights of all people in Trump era. (Photo by Fred Zermeno)

Women from all walks of life marched to support the rights of all people in Trump era. (Photo by Fred Zermeno)

Whatever the numbers, observers said it was the largest demonstration in downtown Los Angeles since an immigration rights march in 2006 drew an estimated 500,000 people to downtown’s streets.

Police said no arrests were made.

Organizers stressed that the event was non-partisan and not a protest, but a “celebration of human rights.”

(Photo by Fred Zermeno)

(Photo by Fred Zermeno)

The mission statement for the march read, in part, “We stand together in solidarity for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health and our families — recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”

That spirit was borne out by peaceful crowds singing “This Land Is Our Land” and a general air of exuberance despite the pedestrian gridlock downtown.

Individuals and groups backing a wide variety of priorities were on hand, advocating for issues ranging from women’s rights to environmental protections, access to healthcare, criminal justice reform, voting rights, immigrant, and LGBTQ rights.

“Women’s rights are human rights,” read many signs.

(Photo by Fred Zermeno)

(Photo by Fred Zermeno)

A 6-year-old being pushed in a stroller by her dad carried a poster board bedazzled with peace signs and glitter reading, “The power of a girl is to change the world.”

Her father was one of many men joining the march, including at least one wearing a pink “pussy hat,” and one of many marchers who brought their children and grandchildren to the rally.

The Washington, D.C., march that sparked local “sister” marches similar to the one in Los Angeles was deliberately planned for the day after President Trump’s inauguration. And many of the individuals and groups taking part opposed Trump and the policies he laid out on the campaign trail and during his transition to office.

This includes possible mass deportations of undocumented immigrants, repealing the Affordable Care Act, a health insurance initiative also known as Obamacare, and repealing funding for Planned Parenthood, the National Endowment of the Arts and humanities programs.

“In a time when we are all wondering what we can do, we can do this … let them hear our voice!” march organizer Deena Katz said in a statement.

(Photo by Fred Zermeno)

(Photo by Fred Zermeno)

Others were more outspoken about their distaste for the new president, with some briefly taking up a chant of “You’re fired,” echoing Trump’s catchphrase from his days hosting “The Apprentice” reality show.

Some carried signs with messages such as, “Not my president” and “Can’t build a wall. Hands too small.”

About five dozen celebrities, including Barbra Streisand, Jane Fonda, Natalie Portman, Kerry Washington, Alfre Woodard, Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato, Jamie Lee Curtis and Laverne Cox signed up to attend the local event.

Trump briefly crossed paths with protestors in Washington, D.C., and posted his reaction on Twitter, in addition to a formal White House statement.

“Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn’t these people vote?” the president tweeted.

He also criticized the celebrity participants and the media coverage.

(Photo by Fred Zermeno)

(Photo by Fred Zermeno)

The White House statement singled out Madonna for telling the Washington, D.C. crowd that she thought about “blowing up the White House. But I know that this won’t change anything.”

“Comments like these are absolutely unacceptable,” the statement said.

His defeated opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, posted a tweet that said in part “Thanks for standing, speaking and marching for our values.”

In Los Angeles, public officials were out in force, with many speaking before or after the approximately one-mile march from Pershing Square to City Hall, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Councilmen Paul Koretz and Mike Bonin and former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

They served to underline the fact that this was far from a women-only event.

Residents of all ages joined in. One 74-year-old woman said she was marching for the first time in her life.

“This stirred me,” Linda Fenneman said.

As many as 750,000 people participated in the Women’s March-Los Angeles Saturday. (Photo by Nancy Martinez)

As many as 750,000 people participated in the Women’s March-Los Angeles Saturday. (Photo by Nancy Martinez)

She was joined by Linda Lopez, who said she had protested on behalf of migrant farm workers in 1971 in Calexico and for the civil rights of Native Americans at Wounded Knee in 1973.

“I’ve been protesting for 45, almost 50 years,” Lopez said.

State Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, who was among the speakers on a stage across the street from City Hall, made a plea to protect access to health care.

“I know everything isn’t perfect,” Mitchell said of the Affordable Care Act. “I don’t know about you, but I’m not going backwards … We cannot allow the federal government to replace Obamacare with trumped up care.”

Mitchell was among those who sought to engage the crowd to organize beyond the one-day march.

One woman from a contingent representing the League of Women Voters said they were downtown to educate residents and motivate them to vote for the policies they support.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport,” she said.

(Photo by Fred Zermeno)

(Photo by Fred Zermeno)

Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson told participants that “California is the state that invents the future” and then aimed her remarks directly at Trump, saying, “Two out of every three Californians didn’t vote for you because we know that we stand for what is better and what is good and what is just and what is right in this country.”

Metro officials added service and beefed up security to accommodate the anticipated crowd, though several station platforms were jam-packed with would-be riders as full trains stopped, unable to take on more people.

The diversity of concerns raised by those at the rally was highlighted by the fact that at least one group scheduled its own alternate ending to the day.

AF3IRM and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network left the main march at noon and lead a “Chant Down the Walls” action at the Metropolitan Detention Center.

Another sign of diversity? A plane circled over the downtown area towing a banner that read, “Congratulations President Trump.”


Thousands ‘Unite’ In Passionate, But Peaceful Inauguration Day Protests

January 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Several thousand protesters converged on City Hall today to voice their outrage over the inauguration of President Donald Trump.

Two different groups — one starting in Boyle Heights and another near Staples Center — met up on Spring Street outside City Hall’s west entrance a little before 1 p.m.

“We organized this event to make sure to cross the bridge and protest Donald Trump,” Sol Marquez, an organizer with Centro CSO who marched with the Boyle Heights group, told City News Service.

“We are here to say that we won’t stand for his hatred.”

While marchers were vocal while chanting slogans like, “The people united must never be divided,” the protest was peaceful. Law enforcement presence at the scene was minimal, featuring several dozen officers and sheriff’s deputies in regular uniforms.

Officer Tony Im with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Media Relations Section said no arrests had taken place anywhere in the city related to an inauguration protest.

An officer on scene around 1 p.m. estimated that about 3,000 to 4,000 protesters were on Spring Street, but by 3 p.m. the size of the crowd had diminished, as had the size of the law enforcement presence. By 4:30 p.m. the protest was winding down and its organizers were packing up.

The number of protesters was below the 10,000 predicted Thursday by some organizers.

The morning rainstorm may have kept some at home, but not long after the protesters started to assemble the rain paused and the sun came out for a few minutes, causing many in the crowd to cheer.

The Boyle Heights protest began at Mariachi Plaza before moving to the Federal Building and then City Hall. The protest that began near Staples Center was organized by more than 90 groups and began at Olympic Boulevard and Figueroa Street.

A common point of anger for the protesters at City Hall was Trump’s stated proposals to begin mass deportations of immigrants living in the country illegally.

“We are working toward building a coalition that can defeat Trump’s agenda. That means defending immigrant rights,” Lorenzo Osterheim, a student at Pasadena City College and member of Students for a Democratic Society, told CNS.

But there were other issues on the minds of protesters as well, including the hacking campaign allegedly orchestrated by the Russian government to help Trump during the election, his refusal to release his tax returns, his views on the environment and the crude audio recording that caught him bragging about sexually assaulting women.

One protester held a sign that said, “I pay legitimate taxes, I want a legitimate president,” while another sign simply said, “Rapist.”

A large bus with a digital billboard on it that read “United Against Hate” was parked in front of the City Hall steps on Spring Street and a number of speakers addressed the crowd from the roof of the bus through a P.A. system.

“Trump will deregulate the little restrictions we have on Wall Street,” Carolyn Gomez of the Party for Socialism and Liberation told the crowd. “He will smash environmental regulations so that resources can be extracted and profited from by corporations while leaving the environment in an abysmal state.”

Skirmishes in Washington did turn violent today, with protesters breaking store windows and tear gas being used on some of them by police.

Other protests were held today across Los Angeles, including the “Caravan of Justice” in South Los Angeles that included several dozen groups, such as Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, Los Angeles Community Action Network and United Teachers Los Angeles.

The “Caravan of Justice” began at Leimert Park at 9 a.m., with about 100 protesters boarding three busses to travel to other sites around the city before returning to Leimert Park at 2 p.m., said Jasmyne Cannick, who is doing media promotions for the protest.

“The reason why these groups came together was because they did not feel like the protests that are taking place in downtown Los Angeles were being inclusive of people of color,” Cannick said.

The Los Angeles Unified School District declared today “Unity Day 2017” at its campuses  ”to encourage students to participate in the civic-engagement process and to promote schools as safe and appropriate venues for meaningful dialogue about the presidential election,” according to the

District officials said they developed lesson plans and activities for the day geared primarily to high school students, but available for students in all grades. The activities included “unity dances,” poster-making gatherings and “justice circles” to discuss the issues.

For Trump, It’s Time for “NAFTA 2.0”

November 17, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

New America Media – On September 6, 2001 Mexican president Vicente Fox addressed a joint session of Congress in the nation’s capital. George W. Bush promised to work to take NAFTA to “the next level,” meaning additional agreements to ameliorate the shortcomings in the present agreements.

Both leaders knew these shortcomings would result in “market failures” that would harm both countries.

Less than a week later, the U.S. was attacked on September 11.

The Bush administration became a war presidency, and Mexico fell by the wayside. His successor, Barack Obama, never showed much interest in fixing NAFTA’s shortcomings.

And, fifteen years later, these “market failures” produced a ground swelling of anger among the middle and working classes throughout America’s Rust Belt that propelled Donald Trump to the White House.

What happens next?

That depends on what the U.S., Canada, and Mexico want to do: fix this trade agreement or scrap it altogether.

It’s important to revisit how NAFTA came into being. A response to the creation of the European Union (EU), the North American Free Trade Agreement was designed to make the U.S., Canada, and Mexico more competitive. But Washington didn’t want to go as far as the EU: no common currency, no open borders, not “North American Parliament.”

Another omission—a North American Development Bank that would compensate and retrain affected workers—was also scrapped.

Without a mechanism for ameliorating market failures, the U.S. has experienced deterioration in the standards of living outside normal economic cycles. The states Donald Trump turned from blue to red—Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa, and Wisconsin—reflect the disaffection of Americans living in the states that have suffered because of NAFTA.

These voters, far from being bigots and xenophobes, are decent, plain-spoken people who have been neglected. George W. Bush was too busy prosecuting the “War on Terror,” and Barack Obama was dismissive of their plight.

Donald Trump seized on their anger and patriotism—and turning attention to the unfinished business of NAFTA is in order.

Rather than seeing this as a calamity for Mexico, it should be seen as an opportunity.

Barack Obama began each term indifferent to Mexico. Come January 2017, Trump’s focus will be on Mexico—and Canada.

This is an opportunity to decide whether to stay the course—and perfect NAFTA, or whether to scrap the agreement and each country go solo.

Money talks, and the economic integration among the NAFTA countries exceeds $1 trillion. Donald Trump may have envisioned tearing up the trade deal, but he will find it more sensible to correct its market failures.

And each country has concerns that have been long-neglected.

In Mexico, for example, NAFTA allowed cheap American agricultural products that put hundreds of thousands of small farmers out of business. Their children had to move to large cities—or migrate, often illegally, to the U.S. Worse still, the changed dietary habits unleashed an epidemic of diabetes and coronary disease.

In the U.S., a feckless and pompous political class ignored the hardships that American workers whose jobs were shipped to Mexico suffered. Whenever Ford or Maytag closed shop in the American Midwest, a familiar pattern unfolded: laid off workers, most of whom were not retrained, used their unemployment checks, became under-employed, went on welfare—and then descended into depression and despair. Is it any wonder there is an opioid and heroin epidemic in the American heartland?

The Obama administration was complicit in looking away. Is it any wonder that this election is a complete repudiation of his administration by White working class America?

Mexican politicians and social commentators are not aware of the anguish of the millions of Americans who have lost out because of NAFTA. All they hear are the apparently-bigoted rhetoric Donald Trump used to make his case.

When Donald Trump descended the escalators at Trump Tower in New York to announce his candidacy for president on June 16, 2015, one paragraph in his speech stood out: “The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems … When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. … They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems [to] us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

Enrique Krauze, a Mexican historian, bemoaned that “for Mexico and the United States, Mr. Trump’s victory is a great tragedy. But Barack Obama’s eight years of benign neglect hasn’t been such a great thing.

The Obama administration failed to deliver comprehensive immigration reform, a North American Development Bank, a resolution to the endless War on Drugs, assistance on securing Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala, stopping the flow of guns into Mexico, or nurturing bilateral progress on border environmental issues.

Indeed, it is an opportunity to have an American president in the Oval Office who wants to pick up the phone and speak with Mexico’s president to talk about solving problems. It is an opportunity to invite the young, dynamic, and intelligent Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to join that conversation. It is an opportunity to speak honestly and assess, two decades after it was implemented, on what’s good about NAFTA, what’s bad about NAFTA, and what needs to be done to make this agreement work better for everyone.

And this includes not just the CEOs and shareholders who have profited handsomely from outsourcing, but the rank and file workers throughout the American heartland, the good, decent, hardworking people who want to have the chance at having better lives.



Louis E. V. Nevaer is the author of The Rise of the Hispanic Market in the United States (M. E. Sharpe) and NAFTA’s Second Decade (South-Western).


Trump Win Stuns Dem-Centric L.A.

November 9, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Republican Donald Trump’s victory in Tuesday’s presidential election left some local Hillary Clinton supporters stunned, but Democratic elected officials tried to maintain a positive attitude as they looked to the future.

“Let me just speak for a moment from my heart, because I know for a lot of people tonight, your heart is heavy,” Mayor Eric Garcetti told Clinton supporters in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday night. “I know it is in the little girls who I talked to this morning who joined their mothers and fathers at the ballot box to try to change history. I know it’s in the faces and the conversations I’ve had with immigrants, who are so fearful about their future in this America.

“Let me tell you, America is in this room tonight. Our America is right here. We’re an America that says each one of us has worth,” Garcetti said.

“We’re an America that doesn’t ask you where you come from or what your religion is. We’re an America that doesn’t degrade you or insult you.”


Garcetti said he and other Democrats who supported Clinton “will stand up for who we are and what this campaign has represented” and show that “we can come together across those divisions.”

City Councilman Paul Koretz said Trump’s victory gave him pause.

“I’ll have to take a deep breath and think about what things will be like for a city in a Trump administration,” he said.

He called the prospect of a Trump presidency “pretty frightening,” but said he was encouraged that voters backed a $1.2 billion bond for homelessness and were narrowly approving another half-cent tax for transit and transportation projects.

“I think that’s particularly important because I don’t think the federal government is going to be giving us a lot of help, so we need to be self-reliant,” he said. “And that’s what these initiatives are about.

“… It would certainly be better to get the federal help that we were hoping for too, but it makes these measures more important than ever,” Koretz said. “I think if we knew that we were going to wind up with a Trump administration, I think more people would have even voted for (Measures) M and HHH.”

Sue Dunlap, CEO of the Los Angeles chapter of Planned Parenthood, an organization that has been criticized by Trump and other Republicans, told Clinton supporters that Tuesday’s election results simply means they need to “roll our sleeves up and keep on working.”

“At Planned Parenthood, we know what it is to work hard,” she said.
“We know that we don’t win and lose, but that we stand up each and every day and do hard work.”

Elizabeth Peterson, a 53-year-old Clinton campaign volunteer who works as an interpreter for Spanish-speaking students at Fontana High School, said Trump’s victory caught her off guard.

“We’re volunteers, and we started very early, so we were working very hard for months, so to see this — I mean this morning I was talking to people in North Carolina and Michigan and everything looked very good,” she said.

“… This is a surprise. It’s really, really sad.”

She said Trump’s victory raises questions about the future of her students.

“I work in a high school in a low-income area and I know that there are a lot of my students who don’t have legal status, and they’re ready to go to college, and now I’m thinking ahead — What is going to happen to them next year?” she said. “Where are they going to be, now that their government is going to have their information, their family’s information? What is going to happen to them?”

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