Thousands Gather in DTLA for Annual May Day March

May 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

A sea of humanity moved through the streets of downtown Los Angeles today for the annual May Day march, with organizers and participants saying distaste for the presidential policies of Donald Trump led
more people than usual to take part.

Tens of thousands of people gathered in MacArthur Park for the march dubbed “Resist Los Angeles,” designed to be a show of “resistance, unity and defiance” against such White House policies as ramped-up enforcement of immigration laws and an effort to build a massive border wall.

“It’s about showing that people who are working-class matter,” marcher Miguel Cruz told CBS2 as the crowd gathered at MacArthur Park, preparing for the trek to City Hall.

Various organizations that have planned marches in the past joined forces this year, uniting under the banner “May Day Coalition of Los Angeles” and organizing the march from MacArthur Park to Los Angeles City Hall.

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

It marks the first time in more than 10 years there has been such unity among organizers of May Day marches. Organizers predicted that more than 100,000 people would participate in the “Resist Los Angeles” event. While thousands of people were participating, the crowd appeared to be well short of
the six-figure mark as it neared City Hall. The Los Angeles Police Department had not given an official crowd estimate as of early afternoon.

At MacArthur Park, musician Tom Morello of the band Rage Against the Machine was among those rallying the crowd before the march began.

Juan Jose Gutierrez, national coordinator of the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition, said the march will send a message to the administration of President Donald Trump that “our just struggle for comprehensive
immigration reform with a path to citizenship is here to stay until we win it.”

Organizers also called for a general strike in recognition of May Day.

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Together we know that we can stop a Trump agenda, a Trump agenda that wants to build a wall, not build better lives, but build a wall. We know that if we march on May 1 we can continue to stop an agenda that seeks to penalize workers,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane
Immigrant Rights, or CHIRLA.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a candidate for governor, was among those taking part in the march.

“This year you’re going to see an unprecedented number of people here in Los Angeles, primarily because of what’s going on with Trump and his administration — the ban, the wall, the talk of deporting 11 million people.

“Nobody’s ever done that anywhere, he told KCAL9. “I think for all of those reasons you’re going to see an outpouring of people today.”

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Marchers carried a large U.S. flag, and many carried signs with messages such as “Rise Up LA,” “Stop LAPD cooperation with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement)” and “ICE out of California.”

Among those expected to speak at a May Day rally at City Hall are Mayor Eric Garcetti, County Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl, various religious and union leaders and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles.

At 3:30 p.m., another march will be held in Boyle Heights, beginning at Cesar Chavez Avenue and Evergreen Street and ending at Mariachi Plaza at First and Boyle streets.

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Meanwhile, a group of pro-Trump activists held a gathering of its own. About 100 Trump supporters stood in front of the downtown Federal Building, chanting and carrying signs and U.S. flags while police kept traffic moving on North Los Angeles Street. A dozen or so anti-Trump protesters – many wearing
black clothing with ski masks covering their faces – stood outside yellow police tape occasionally trying to shout down a Trump supporter. One person set fire to an American flag as tensions heightened, and an anti-Trump protester, his face covered, was handcuffed and placed in a police van.

Trump supporters chanted slogans including “Put America first” and “USA,” while some carried signs with messages such as “Repeal Obamacare” and “Trump – Make America Great Again!” Led by a phalanx of Los Angeles police officers, the Trump group marched from the Federal Building to LAPD headquarters.

Jo Reitkopp, chair of event organizer “Make California Great Again Inc.,” said Trump supporters wanted to “step up and stand for our country and its Constitution … for which millions of USA military men and women have lost their lives.”

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck vowed that officers would be out in force to ensure the demonstration remains peaceful. He asked marchers to remember that his officers are in support of them and are not representatives of the federal government.

“My message is this: I know there are a lot of folks that are upset about recent immigration issues, have other issues with the federal government. You know, remember this is our city. Your police department supports you,”

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Beck said during a recent appearance on ABC7. “We depend upon your cooperation. And let’s make this a demonstration of L.A. unity and not the things that divide us.”

Representatives from some community groups have called for a general strike in conjunction with the marches, even encouraging students to either not attend school or walk out of classes. There was even a call for the Los Angeles Unified School District to close for the day, but the district rejected the request.

“At the heart of this decision is our unwavering commitment to keep kids safe,” LAUSD Superintendent Michelle King wrote in a letter in early April. “Civic engagement undeniably plays a vital role in our democracy, and we embrace the rights of all students, families and employees to unite and magnify their voices locally so that their messages can resonate on a larger scale.

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

“Nevertheless, schools continue to be the safest places for students to incubate an interest in civic engagement, and we encourage all schools to use May 1 as an opportunity to discuss matters of civic importance,” King wrote.

Some students have taken part in walkouts during past May Day events, but it was unclear if any similar actions were planned.

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.

 

Editorial Cartoon

March 30, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Trump's 3am Tweets1

A Time of Political Uncertainty for DACA

March 30, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

With President Trump’s inauguration came the beginning of an era that has instilled fear and worry amongst the country’s most vulnerable, including undocumented immigrants, and DACA recipients in particular.

Information attained during meetings and psychological sessions conducted at the California-Mexico Dreamers’ Network, for example, strongly suggests DACA recipients living in mixed-status homes are showing increased concern for family members in the country without authorization.

Lea este artículo en Español: Tiempo de Incertidumbre Política Para DACA

“Since learning about the numerous ICE raids taking place in various parts of the country … students are more afraid and concerned that their parents could be deported at any time” than they are of losing their DACA status,” said Lidieth Arévalo, director of multi-media at the California-Mexico Studies Center, Inc. The center offers a graduate-level, study-abroad program for young people, commonly referred to as “dreamers.”

Stephanie M. Ryan, supervising attorney at the Central American Resource Center, said she too has seen clients with U.S.-born children or other family members with lawful status who are “afraid about the possibility of their families being split up if DACA is ended.”

“Losing DACA means losing work authorization, and losing work authorization means losing good, secure jobs. The prospect of losing all of that is worrisome.”

The worry is well justified.

Under the federal government’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, as many as 750,000 undocumented young immigrants brought to the country as children received deportation relief. The program, approved through executive action by former President Barack Obama in 2012, had given work permits and an emotional relief to many that has now faded.

A few weeks after Trump took office the definition of “criminal” as it applies to people in the country illegally was broadened, consequently expanding the deportation priority list for immigration officials.

Under these new rigid policies, even the three-quarters of a million young people with DACA status aren’t exempt, as seen in the Seattle, Washington case of Daniel Ramírez Medina, the first DACA recipient reported to have been arrested and who was detained for more than a month before being released this week pending a future hearing.

“There is increased fear among DACA recipients,” said Arévalo. “Some are willing to take a chance and risk studying abroad under the new administration, but others demonstrate a greater sense of concern, asking us many questions before they decide to apply to our program.”

While Trump’s tough immigration stance has remained unchanged since taking office in January, it is still unclear whether DACA will remain untouched or if he will handle the program “with heart” as he’s previously said.

Angelica Salas is executive director of The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), an organization that has helped more than 7,700 young people apply or renew their DACA permits. She called the possibility of a repeal “ill-advised” and the basis for chaos.

(EGP photo archive)

(EGP photo archive)

“We call on the nearly 800,000 young immigrants who have signed up for DACA thus far not to panic, seek verifiable information and guidance from trusted sources, and actively engage in the fight for a permanent solution,” she said in a statement to the press.

This is exactly what Jacqueline Garcia, a Mexican-born DACA recipient since 2012 has done to fight the uncertainty surrounding her.

“I am not one bit scared because I have never committed a crime,” Garcia said. “Also, I am very informed and know what my rights are. I know what I can and cannot say if I’m confronted by an ICE official,” she told EGP.

Garcia advises current beneficiaries of the program to follow the guidelines of proper behavior outlined by the government when you first apply.

“Don’t do things that are obviously violations of moral conduct like driving under the influence,” Garcia said. “For U.S. born citizens a DUI means receiving a ticket, but for DACA recipients it means losing everything.”

Ryan reiterated this and added that it is essential for current recipients to stay up to date with any government announcements and stay out of trouble.

(EGP photo archive)

(EGP photo archive)

“If you have any prior criminal history (either arrests, charges, or convictions) or if you have had any prior contact with immigration, you should first consult with an experienced immigration attorney or accredited representative before renewing your DACA” permit, Ryan said.

For those who are under the program and wish to travel abroad, CHIRLA’s immigration experts advise against it. According to the organization, under the current political climate, those who leave the country and try to return “are at greater risk to not be allowed back into the U.S.”

Because of the warnings, the California-Mexico Studies Center, Inc. initially 2017 California-Mexico Dreamers Study Abroad Program, but has since decided to go ahead with the program this summer.

“After giving it some thought, and seeing the continuous interest from DACA recipients to study abroad, we decided to take the chance to do what could possibly be the last [trip],” Arévalo said.

Most importantly, however, the consensus between experts is for individuals to stay up to date with new law and immigration policy announcements and to stay alert.

“Don’t be afraid to seek information or to simply talk about the subject with your family members,” Garcia said. “When you avoid talking about subjects like death or immigration, thinking it will bring bad luck, you are just setting yourself up for failure once it happens.”

Cities, County Support Challenge to Trump ‘Sanctuary City’ Order

March 30, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The city and county of Los Angeles were among three dozen jurisdictions filing a court brief Wednesday in opposition to President Donald Trump’s executive order threatening to withhold federal funds from sanctuary cities.

The brief was filed in federal court in San Francisco in support of that city’s pending lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Trump’s proposed crackdown on cities that fail to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

The court papers argue that pulling funding from cities would threaten public health and safety, while noting that forcing local law enforcement agencies to become arms of federal immigration agencies would lead to a loss of cooperation between immigrants and police, with victims or witness of crimes opting not to come forward out of fear of deportation.

“Today, 36 cities and counties across the nation, representing over 24 million people, joined together to stand up for the health and safety of their communities and oppose President Trump’s ill-conceived and unconstitutional executive order that would require local jurisdictions to perform federal immigration work or risk losing unrelated federal funding,” said Kelly Dermody, an attorney for the coalition of jurisdictions. “Local jurisdictions are in the best position to set these priorities and they understand that driving some residents underground in fear of any interaction with local authorities makes every resident in that community, and those adjacent, less safe.”

Trump signed an order in January threatening a crackdown on cities that fail to report arrests of people potentially subject to deportation.

“Sanctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States,” the order states.

“… We cannot faithfully execute the immigration laws of the United States if we exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.”

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday reinforced that stance, saying local jurisdictions seeking U.S. Department of Justice grants must first demonstrate they are not sanctuary cities.

Sessions said jurisdictions must prove they are in compliance with Section 1373 of U.S. Code Title 8, which requires notification of federal officials about the immigration status of people in local custody. The policy was issued under the Barack Obama administration in 2016, but was not enforced.

“The American people know that when cities and states refuse to help enforce immigration laws, our nation is less safe,” Sessions said.

 

The First Brick in the Wall

March 23, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

President Donald Trump’s administration announced a $600 million bidding contest late Friday night to kick off construction of The Wall, a towering physical barrier between the United States and Mexico.

The process will start with little walls — an unknown number of barriers of concrete and other materials that will serve as models for the bigger wall, which Trump made central to his political campaign.

Construction will proceed with unusual haste. Companies have just two weeks to submit proposals. Finalists will make a 2 1/2-hour-long oral presentation to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, which is overseeing the contest. Winners will be announced by late May.

Steven Schooner, a professor of government contracting at George Washington University, tweeted that the process was “extremely/uniquely complicated (and confusing).”

But CBP officials said the approach was designed to get the best value for the government.

“Through the construction of prototypes, CBP will partner with industry to identify the best means and methods to construct border wall before making a more substantial investment in construction,” the agency said in a statement.

The bidding documents released Friday provide important clues as to what the Trump administration hopes to erect on the 1,200 miles of border with no physical barriers. Some 650 miles are already fenced.

The little walls are supposed to be tall. They should be “physically imposing in height” — 30 feet is preferred, though 18 feet is acceptable. However, the prototypes will be as little as 30 feet long, and cost as little as $100,000.

The little walls are supposed to be strong. They must be able to withstand attacks from “sledgehammer, car jack, pick axe, chisel, battery operated impact tools, battery operated cutting tools, Oxy/acetylene torch” for at least one hour, preferably four. They should also be able to span 45-degree slopes, and block tunneling. Contractors will build prototypes of concrete — Trump’s preferred material — but also other materials that will allow visibility between the two sides. Once the government has determined a model, the prototypes may be demolished.

Finally, the little walls are supposed to be pretty — at least on the U.S. side of the border. The agency wants the walls to be “aesthetically pleasing” so that the color and texture blends into the environment on the “north side of the wall.” There is no similar language for the Mexican side of the wall.

In addition to the tough building conditions, the agency clearly understands another difficulty will be political: Interested builders are urged to discuss their experience in “executing high profile, high visibility and politically contentious” construction projects.

Immigration activists are expected to protest construction of the wall, deploying tactics learned during the long, bitter protests over construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. The bid calls for companies to hire their own private security contractors to protect their projects.

The final cost of the wall — and even whether it will be built — is a matter of debate. Trump has said he anticipates the final bill to be from $10 billion to $12 billion. The Department of Homeland Security has suggested a cost of around $21 billion. Trump’s proposed budget has called for $2.6 billion to begin construction.

In Congress, some Republicans and many Democrats have opposed spending billions for an untested and possibly ineffectual border barrier. Trump has said he will force Mexico to pay for the wall. The Mexican government has rejected the possibility.

What is clear is that the Trump administration’s methods will favor large, experienced government contractors with demonstrated experience in big construction projects. Companies such as KBR, Tutor Perini Corp., Parson Corp. and Fluor Corp. have all indicated an interest in building the edifice.

At the same time, the agency has asked bidders to explain how they will meet the agency’s goals to deliver contracts to small, minority and veteran owned companies. Customs and Border Protection aims to pay 38 percent of its contract to small business, 5 percent to woman-owned firms and 3 percent to companies owned by disabled veterans.

In practice, the likely outcome is a few large government contractors overseeing a small army of subcontractors to build the wall.

More than 700 companies signed up for notifications about the building of the wall, including more than 140 minority-owned firms — about 20 percent of the total. It is unclear how many of the firms possess the necessary experience and ability to participate in the bid.

Christian Miller joined ProPublica in 2008 as a senior reporter based in Washington, D.C. He spent the previous 11 years reporting for the Los Angeles Times.

 

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.”

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.

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.

The Real Danger of Trump’s Alleged ‘Pee Party’

January 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The week leading up to the presidential inauguration brought streams, if not floods, of pee jokes. You might even say it was the number one opportunity for scatological humor since the poop cruise of 2013.

My heart goes out to parents who have to find an appropriate way to explain this to their children.

The occasion for the pee jokes was a leaked, unverified report on Russian anti-Trump intelligence. Someone described as a former British intelligence agent claims the Russians have been cultivating Trump for years, in part by gathering compromising information on him to hold over his head.

In one especially lurid example, the source claims, Trump allegedly paid sex workers to engage in lewd urination-related acts in a Moscow hotel known “to have microphones and cameras in all the main rooms.”

For those who support Trump, it’s a heinous and untrue case of scurrilous journalism. For those who oppose Trump, it’s an opportunity to laugh at him. And laugh and laugh and laugh.

If any of the allegations are true, though, it’s no laughing matter.

Surprisingly, the two media outlets that got it right on this story are Saturday Night Live and Teen Vogue.

Saturday Night Live made a lot of jokes, but they also portrayed Vladimir Putin using a tape of the “Big Russian Pee Pee Party” to blackmail Trump.

Teen Vogue put the issue in less funny terms: “If allegations are true, and the Russian government does have compromising financial and personal information about Donald Trump, then we should be more concerned about whether or not this will have an effect on his foreign policy — and not laughing at his sexual preferences.”

In other words, there are two possible scenarios. The better one, no doubt, is that there is no tape, there was no pee pee party, the Russians have nothing on Trump, and the whole thing was made up.

Another fake news crisis is the last thing we need, but it’s better than the other option. Imagine what Russia could do if it were actually able to blackmail a sitting president of the United States.

“Don’t interfere with us in Ukraine or we’ll release the tape.”

“Let us do what we want in Syria or we’ll release the tape.”

“Keep NATO out of countries near Russia or we’ll release the tape.”

And so on.

Trump has lashed out against the claims, calling them a “political witch hunt.”

But rather than attacking anyone who mentions the allegations, Trump should take them seriously. If a foreign country has damaging material it could use to blackmail a U.S. president, that’s a serious matter that the president should investigate.

And he shouldn’t handle it by disparaging or disbelieving his own intelligence agencies whenever they give him news he doesn’t like.

As for the rest of us, there’s no harm in making jokes, so long as we remember that the real issue is blackmail, and not just a salacious (if unverified) story that’s good for a laugh.

OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

For Trump, Billionaires Know Best, Even If They Are Mexicans

December 29, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Mexico City—Throughout his unorthodox campaign, Donald Trump kept sending mixed signals about Mexico and his ideas about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

He denounced Mexican immigrants, who comprise a significant share of the undocumented labor force in the U.S. today. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best … They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists,” he said. Then, during one of the debates, he praised Mexican leaders. In a retort to Jeb Bush, Trump claimed that Mexico’s leaders were “much smarter, much sharper, much more cunning” than American officials in Washington.

This love-hate attitude toward Mexico—vilifying Mexicans in the U.S. but praising Mexican leaders as pulling a fast one over Americans—made no sense to Mexican observers.

Former Mexican President Vicente Fox denounced Trump as a “a crazy guy” and “a false prophet.” Former Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda opined in the New York Times that Mexico should “fight back” against Trump: “By threatening to deport all undocumented immigrants, about half of whom are Mexican; to build a wall on the Mexican border; and to rip up the North American Free Trade Agreement, which is far more important for Mexico than for the United States, Donald J. Trump made Mexico one of the central issues of the campaign.”

(New America Media)

(New America Media)

Yet, while Mexican politicians expressed outrage, Mexicans continued to be perplexed by the campaign as it unfolded. Most Mexicans consider immigrants, legal or undocumented alike, as men and women who want honest work, often times resisting the trap of joining gangs or drug trafficking, and therefore worthy of being praised. Trump’s claim that Mexican leaders are “smart,” on the other hand, was considered ridiculous: Mexicans consider President Enrique Peña Nieto to be an idiot.

So when Donald Trump invited Carlos Slim, one the world’s richest men and the single-largest investor in the New York Times, to dinner at his Palm Beach estate, Mar-a-Lago, it became clear that Trump’s admiration for Mexican “leaders” meant businessmen, not politicians.

“What President-elect Trump wants to do in coming closer to the Mexican business community has an impact, not only nationally but regionally with Latin America, and opens the doors for good business relations overall,” said Larry Rubin, president of the American Society of Mexico and one of several candidates to serve as Trump’s ambassador to Mexico. “The closer that the administration is to businesses and governments in Mexico and in the region, the better for the U.S.”

The dinner between Trump and Slim set the stage to clear the table between the two moguls so they could proceed on how best to work together. While Slim has expressed skepticism at Trump’s wild campaign promises, such as building a wall along the border and tearing up NAFTA, he understands posturing and how to leverage it. He has amassed a sweeping fortune, with investments in countries around the world. If Trump wants to negotiate better deals that will strengthen the American economy, he could use a partner like Slim—who knows how to make profitable deals globally.

More important for Trump, who has alienated the mainstream media in the United States, he has to reach out to former adversaries. Slim, as the single-largest investor in the New York Times—which published a negative story on Trump just about every day for a year and a half—can offer guidance to the incoming administration. During the campaign Trump accused Slim of being part of a “conspiracy” against him—and the source of the sexual assault stories where Trump is heard on tape bragging about touching women inappropriately.

What did they talk about over dinner? What both billionaires have in common is infrastructure. Trump has promised to rebuild America’s infrastructure and Slim has more than a decade’s experience in the field: In 2005 he started Impulsora del Desarrollo y el Empleo en America Latina SAB de CV, or “IDEAL,” which could very well undertake large-scale infrastructure projects along the border, such as building a wall. Which, of course, would use lots of cement from CEMEX, the largest cement company in the world, and it’s in Mexico.

It is clear that Trump is a modern-day Calvin Coolidge in his philosophy. Coolidge famously said that “the business of America is business.” Trump believes politicians have ruined the country, getting us in useless wars while neglecting the homeland. While “trillions,” as he said throughout the campaign, have been squandered in the Middle East, America has been neglected, its infrastructure in need of repair, good jobs being outsourced to foreign countries, trade deficits draining the country’s wealth, and an opioid epidemic ravishing the heartland.

Trump, who has long admired (and been jealous of) Carlos Slim’s success, is reaching out to Slim as he fills his administration with billionaire businessmen.

If the business of America is business then it will take “billionaire businessmen” to turn things around—as if the purpose of his administration were akin to a hostile takeover and new management was needed for a turnaround to make the shareholders (voters) happy.

Trump ran a haphazard campaign. Yet, perhaps to his own amazement, he won. And now, to realize his vision of making America great again, he’s betting that he needs to enlist the most successful people on the planet to get the job done.

Trump “is surrounding himself with the 1 percent: billionaires and millionaires, investment bankers and venture capitalists, Wall Street insiders and family fortune heirs, many educated at elite schools. It is the most brazen embrace of big money since the 1980s era of Ronald Reagan, Tom Wolfe’s Masters of the Universe and Oliver Stone’s Gordon Gekko,” David Smith wrote in The Guardian.

In his selection of billionaires and millionaires for key administration positions and his reaching out to Slim, bypassing the Mexican president, it is clear that Trump believes the problems facing the United States—and its neighbors, Canada and Mexico—arise from incompetent politicians who don’t know how to run businesses.

If Barack Obama’s administration was a period of inclusion, diversity, and opening the White House to people who had formally been excluded, then Trump is preparing to launch a “by the 1 percent, for the 1 percent” plutocracy.

One of Coolidge’s favored sayings was, “Don’t expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong.”

As Trump has shown in his career, strength—or its appearance—is a strategic position when negotiating an artful deal. “It’s a million dollars a minute in trade that goes across our border,” said Earl Anthony Wayne, a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico under President Obama. “The CEOs [on both sides of the border] are very interested in preserving what they see as mutually beneficial relations. There’s a lot of attention to what the policies will turn out to be and a desire to have a dialogue with whoever the new officials will be.”

In other words, for the Trump administration—and the Trump organization—welcoming Carlos Slim into the fold is of strategic importance: Billionaires know best, even if they’re Mexican.

 

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