Take a Break but Don’t Quit: from simply voting to being heavily involved, for a day or the year, here’s what you can do to take political action in 2020

 First: the number one thing you can do if you do nothing else, no matter how hopeless you feel, it’s no skin off your back: GO VOTE.

Check in 30 seconds if you’re registered: https://www.vote.org/am-i-registered-to-vote/

Find out how to register to vote and deadlines in your state and county here: https://www.usa.gov/register-to-vote

Do you want systemic change? You don’t have to do too much else but vote. And there’s proof.  Community Change Action, along with three others reached out to infrequent and never-voters in Michigan, Nevada and Florida. What they found was astonishing:

When you add new voices and change the electorate, you can shift what is politically possible. ..This method of deep organizing blows up business-as-usual electoral politics. It threatens the huge paychecks of political consultants and strategists on both sides of the aisle who parachute into communities for elections. The progressive political industry spent $5.7 billion on congressional races alone in 2018. Much of that went to the usual Beltway power brokers who focus on tired attack ads or the vote for so-and-so emails. 

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/09/opinion/voter-turnout-2020.html

I can’t say it any better than Karine Jean-Pierre did in this article, How to take action when you’re feeling disillusioned with today’s political climate:

“Now is not the time to give up. It’s not the time to be silent. And it’s certainly not the time to quit….we can’t afford your disillusionment, no matter what side of the political aisle you are on….

Do something. Do anything! Truly, anything. Sign up to make calls for a local candidate, or your favorite presidential candidate. Commit to canvassing one day a month. Text five friends asking if they’re registered to vote and helping them figure out how if they’re not.”

PROTEST

Join the millions who have protested in Hong Kong, India, Chile, and other countries who are tired of governments bordering on fascism, fueled off hate, supportive of gender and ethnic violence, denying climate change as our earth burns, and preventing progress into a more inclusive, economically and socially just world.

Women’s March is January 18, 2020. The Women’s March has planned a week of action in Washington, D.C. leading up to the march on Saturday. TEXT “WOMEN RISING” TO 40649 for updates.

Visit the Women’s March website to find events near you. If you’re a group leader, check out the Women’s March social toolkit

CAMPAIGN SUPPORT

THE STAKES

Today, January 14, 2020, voters will decide who will win a seat to the Pennsylvania Senate in the 48th District. It’s between Republican David Arnold (District Attorney for Lebanon County) and Democrat Michael Schroeder (college history professor and community/environmental activist) when former Republican Sen. Mike Folmer resigned following his arrest for child pornography in September.

But a lot more seats are empty in Congress and real change with the steps necessary to undo the harm caused by the Trump administration as the nation heals and thrives — needs a progressive Congress that supports a progressive President. Here are the people you can vote out of office, who have been Trump enablers no matter the cost down to overlooking racism, sexism, even crime and their Constitutional duties — and who to support instead.

CAMPAIGNS: DONATE, CANVASS, OR CALL

The House

The biennial election for representatives from all 435 Congressional Districts will take place on November 3, 2020. The Democratic Party currently controls the U.S. House, where 218 seats are needed for control (when there are no vacancies). We need to keep that lead.

https://www.270towin.com/2020-house-election/

Tedra Cobb (D, NY-21) who has spent the past 30 years in public service jobs is running against the incumbent, Rep. Elise Stefanik, one of the leading GOP defenders of President Donald Trump in the House impeachment inquiry.

Shannon Freshour (D, OH-4) has a solid Twitter game and is running against possibly the most obnoxiously loud member of Congress and sexual abuse enabler, #GymJordan aka Rep. Jim Jordan, founder of the far-right House Freedom Caucus.

The Senate

Democrats need to net three Senate seats — and win back the presidency — in order to control the chamber after Inauguration Day 2021. 

M.J. Hegar (D, TX) running in the most flippable Senate seat against Republican Senator John Cornyn. Hegar is a former Air Force helicopter pilot and mom who nearly beat an incumbent Republican House member in the heart of Texas last year. Donate here.

Sara Gideon (D, ME), the Speaker of the House for Maine is running against Sen. Susan Collins, Trump enabler who voted for Kavanaugh and for tax breaks for the wealthiest. Gideon isn’t just against Collins, she’s for progressive policies.

Jamie Harrison (D, SC) running against Trump’s #1 supporter, Sen. Lindsey Graham. Harrison rose from poverty to become a teacher then became the first African American man to become South Carolina Democratic Party chair from 2013 to 2017, and is an associate chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Amy McGrath (D, KY), former Marine fighter pilot and 2018 congressional candidate coming in strong as a contender for the uber-GOP Trump enabler’s top spot, Mitch McConnell aka #MoscowMitch whom Julian Castro rightly described as the leader who “has done as much or more damage than Donald Trump over the years to our democracy” by packing courts with conservative judges while ignoring hundreds of bills languishing in the Senate, playing dirty to prevent a Merrick Garland appointment while rushing through Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, and making obstacles at every step of the way for the Mueller Report and the impeachment trials rather than do his Constitutional duty to investigate a President who may have conspired with foreign powers.

Senator Doug Jones (D, AL) beat Roy Moore, a former Alabama Chief Justice and District Attorney who sided more with sex criminals than the law and was accused by a long list of women of sexual assault, several when they were minors. Even pedophilia didn’t stop it from being a tight race in Trump country. Alabama keeps voting for leaders and policies that keep it as the poorest and one of the most undereducated states in the country. We need to keep Doug Jones.

Mark Kelly (D, AZ) runs against Sen. Martha McSally, appointed after the election to serve part of the late Sen. John McCain’s term. Kelly is a Navy veteran and retired astronaut married to former Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot and seriously wounded at a constituent event in 2011.

Cal Cunningham (D, NC) and State Senator Erica D. Smith are running against Sen. Thom Tillis , “a man with the backbone of a squid and zealous supporter of President Definitely No Quid Pro Quo Donald Trump, has the lowest approval ratings of any sitting member of Congress, according to a poll from Morning Consult.” Cunningham is an Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, an environmental services company leader and former legislator who served as Vice Chairman of the Governor’s Crime Commission. Smith currently represents Senate District 3 in her third term.

FAIR & JUST REPRESENTATION

Voting Suppression

Support Fair Fight. Efforts to discourage and disenfranchise voters—in voter registration, ballot access, or counting of votes—have a catastrophic effect on our democracy and our communities. Nowhere was this more clearly seen than in Georgia’s gubernatorial race between Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp, who was the Republican secretary of state in charge of state elections before he beat Abrams to become Georgia governor–in charge of the very elections in which 1.4 million voters were purged, majority black voters. Now Stacey Abrams is taking voter rights protection nationwide through Fair Fight.

Redistricting

Support All on the Line. With the redistricting process less than a year away, All On The Line is already in full swing — especially because 2020 is a census year. Here’s what you need to know about the role that the census plays in redistricting. 

→ The census is the foundation for redistricting. Without an accurate count, it will be impossible to create fair maps that truly represent the communities who live there. 

→ The census count will determine how many congressional districts each state will have for the next decade. With 435 representatives total, that means states could gain or lose a district based on population changes. 

→ The Supreme Court stopped the Trump administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the census, but we expect that map manipulators will try to find new ways to suppress the power of certain communities in an attempt to maintain their own power.  

Despite deaths and mumps outbreaks, doctors arrested and denied entry into detention camps to provide vaccinations

Protests have been ongoing this week after U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) denied doctors’ requests to give flu vaccines to detained migrants. Three of the six children who have died under US custody died of the flu in overcrowded, unhygienic detention camps.

Despite the conditions and these deaths and warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), federal authorities prevented doctors from entering the premises to administer flu shots. Six doctors were arrested.

Doctors for Camp Closure, an organization that opposes the detention of migrants and refugees attempting to enter the United States, protested with upwards of 70 people, including physicians, outside the Chula Vista, California, facility Monday.

A History of Negligence by the US Government and CBP

A June report by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general that found inhumane, disease-prone conditions at the centers, with immigrants packed in standing-room-only areas with limited access to baths.

In August 2019, as reported by CBS News, doctors associated with Harvard and Johns Hopkins called for an investigation into health care at border facilities months ago in a letter to members of Congress. The letter came in response to the deaths of six migrant children either in government custody or soon after their release.

Later that same month, a report by the CDC detailed at least 931 cases of mumps at CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities . The CDC called for immediate reform of the camps and vaccinations.

“In general, due to the short-term nature of CBP holding and the complexities of operating vaccination programs, neither CBP nor its medical contractors administer vaccinations to those in custody,” a CDC spokesperson said in a statement. 

A spokesperson from ICE said, will administer flu vaccines, alongside other vaccines, when requested.

The request was given this week by Doctors for Camp Closures — and denied.

“This is intentional cruelty. People are needlessly suffering and dying. You can’t lock people up in inhumane conditions, watch them get sick, and then refuse them access to medical care,” said Marie DeLuca MD.

At least three of the children died from the flu, according to autopsies. The doctors wrote in their letter that flu deaths “are fairly rare events for children living in the United States.” That’s nine times the mortality rate of the general pediatric population, according to Doctors for Camp Closure.

The three children who have thus far died of the flu are:

felipe-gomez-alonzo-promo.jpg
Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 2018:  8-year-old Felipe Alonzo
Image result for wilmer vasquez
April 2019: 2-year-old Wilmer Vasquez 
carlos-hernandez-vasquez-02.jpg
May 2019: 16-year-old Carlos Hernandez Vásquez, just a week before what would have been his 17th birthday

Several healthcare providers —supported by Doctors for Camp Closures (D4CC), Families Belong Together (FBT), and Never Again Action, as well as advocates, fellow physicians, and local community members— will continue rallying through this week to demand a meeting with CBP. They hope to discuss the urgent need for immigration officials to end their policy of denying detained migrants access to routine flu vaccinations.

Myths surrounding immigration and the border crisis

The United Nations has called what the United States has been doing to migrants at the border “a human rights abuse.” Congress has done nothing despite visits to these overcrowded detention centers where malnutrition, sexual abuse, disappearances, and deaths have rampant. The most traumatizing aspect of the process has been family separations where even babies have been separated from their caregivers. Many of these children have disappeared, many more have been abused, and all have been traumatized.

Defendants of these laws say that it is “the law” and the law has been broken by these migrants. That is false. Before getting into the laws, let’s debunk the myths with data.

MYTHS

The biggest problem with our immigration is that our policies and public understanding of immigration is circa 1997 instead of 2019. Consequently, we are ill-prepared to meet the challenges of the current immigration crisis.

From population data and subsequent report by the Bipartisan Policy Center:

You can download the full infographic, “Top 10 Facts About the Immigration Trend,” parts of which are included below.

MYTH 1 The number of migrants is unprecedented. FALSE.

Border crossings are at their lowest levels in decades, and current research estimates more unauthorized immigration is caused by visa overstays than illegal entry.

Foreign population breakdown 1997 vs 2017:

  • 1n 1997, European descent 17% in 1997 substantially declined to 10.3% in 2017. 
  • In 1997, Asians accounted for 26.1%; today, Asians account for 30%.
  • In 1997, Central Americans accounted for 6.3%; today, they are at 8.1%
  • In 1997, South Americans accounted for 5.9% and increased to 7.3%.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection

There has not been major growth in the unauthorized population for many years.

MYTH 2: Those damn Mexicans. FALSE

Today there are more Asians than Mexicans living in the United States. Mexican born population has remained steady for over 20 years, between 27-29%. Mexicans are a smaller percentage of the overall U.S. population than they have been for many years. 

The Pew Research Center has reported extensively on the undocumented population and estimates that there are approximately 11 million undocumented individuals in the United States. The “Northern Triangle” countries—Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador—have all consistently increased as shares of the undocumented U.S. population. India has driven the growth in the Asian undocumented U.S. population, as the levels from countries like China and Korea have largely remained constant for the past 15 to 20 years.

The growth in Mexicans’ usage of legal visas (evidenced in the growth of H-2A and H-2B visas), coupled with a major decline in Mexican illegal immigration based on total apprehensions from the US Customs and Border Protection, has changed things dramatically at the border compared with the mid-1990s.

MYTH 3 Illegal immigrants are uneducated. FALSE

Currently, almost half of all immigrants in the United States have more than a high school education. A recent Migration Policy Institute study found that between 2011 and 2015, nearly half of all new immigrants were college graduates. 

Medical neglect by the US Border Patrol causes the death of a migrant teen, Carlos Vasquez

On May 19, 2019, Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, a 16-year old Guatemalan migrant was taken into custody by US Border. Last week, a video obtained by ProPublica shows Border Patrol officials held the sick teen, who had already been diagnosed with a 103-degree fever by a nurse, locked in a concrete cell without any medical attention where his condition worsened. He died by the next morning and his body was not discovered until his cellmate alerted guards. 

Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) acting commissioner at the time, John Sanders, called Carlos’ death a “tragic loss.” However, this damning video shows that guards ignored him despite an obviously ill Carlos, writhed in pain, vomited blood, and collapsed on the floor where he lay for four-and-a-half hours until his cellmate notified guards when he discovered Carlos’s collapsed body in the morning.

“Why is a teenaged boy in a jail facility at all if he is sick with a transmissible illness? Why isn’t he at a hospital or at a home or clinic where he can get a warm bed, fluids, supervised attention and medical care? He is not a criminal,” said Dr. Judy Melinek, a San Francisco-based forensic pathologist who reviewed records of Carlos’ death at the request of ProPublica.

Carlos crossed the border along with 144,000 other migrants. Once in custody, he was separated from his adult sister to be processed at the McAllen processing center. That warehouse was already beyond capacity. When a nurse diagnosed Carlos with possible flu given his high fever and chills, rather than take him to a hospital and notify his sister, he was put into isolation to avoid contaminating other held migrants.

Children and teenagers crossing the border illegally without parents or guardians generally must be placed with the Office of Refugee Resettlement at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) within 72 hours. But in May, HHS and CBP were at overcapacity.

In a spot check soon after Carlos died, the DHS inspector general reported that a third of the 2,800 unaccompanied minors in CBP custody in the Rio Grande Valley had been there longer than 72 hours.

Why are any children or people seeking asylum in cages as if they were inmates? Also, the agency held Carlos for six days, though the agency is supposed to transfer children within 72 hours. Within 72 hours? That is not acceptable.

The entire legal framework of the processing and holding of migrants is unacceptable, unethical, and a human rights violation as designated by the United Nations. More information as to the laws and regulations can be found here.

The question must be asked:

WHY ARE CHILDREN SEPARATED AT ALL?

The border situation has changed since Carlos’ death. As reported by ProPublica:

  • CBP now has 250 health staffers at its facilities across the Southwest
  • Border Patrol cells have largely emptied out since July.
  • HHS is building out its shelter capacity from 15,000 beds to 20,000, with emergency influx facilities that can handle thousands more.
  • The number of migrants crossing the border has declined sharply due to the Migrant Protection Protocols program, which sends them to wait in dangerous Mexican border cities while U.S. courts consider their immigration and asylum claims.

John Sanders resigned soon after Carlos’s death, citing unprepared agencies and an unresponsive Congress that allowed children in custody to suffer in harsh conditions

“I really think the American government failed these people. The government failed people like Carlos,” Sanders said. “I was part of that system at a very high level, and Carlos’ death will follow me for the rest of my life.”

When I say RIP, I mean Rest In Power. Carlos’ and other kids’ deaths and abuse and trauma should not be in vain. When will Congress respond?

Kamala Harris’ departure signals bigger campaign policy issues and undermine our votes

We vote because we have a voice. That voice may not win out but our democracy is based on the constant struggle to make this “a more perfect union.” That’s why so many of the ills of society could be amended: to make way for the African American voice, to make way for the voice of women. That is what our vote should be. That is at the heart of how our system works and why we critique it to make it better.

Right now the biggest obstacles for a fair election are:

  • Election security: given 2016, not to mention issues in other close elections, foreign government interference and our own methods of counting votes needs major security beef ups.
  • Voter Suppression: not everyone is able to vote, which Stacey Abrams is tackling;
  • Gerrymandering: which manipulates how votes are counted giving an unfair political advantage to one party, the GOP in this case, that therefore ensures the other party’s voice is never heard
  • Special interests: the money driving candidates and elected officials.

This last issue of money is the major factor of what has driven Senator Kamala Harris out of the presidential race. Whatever you thought about Sen. Harris as a candidate, her departure was abrupt, and her voice was crucial, especially in an election where the black electorate is heavily coveted and she was a black and South Asian woman that gave voice to that community — the very demographic being wooed.

If money is the sole determining factor in elections, then it will continue to reflect the economic gaps based on racial inequalities. The only other minorities left are Sen. Corey Booker who is struggling to stay in the game, and Julián Castro, a candidate already active in the black and Latino communities and in touch with the issues of the times, who had to drop out but now is back in for the next debate.

That Castro was forced out so early is also a sign of inequity. While the black population may be the target of candidates, Hispanics are projected to be the largest racial or ethnic minority group in the U.S. electorate when voters cast their ballots next year. 

The majority of viable presidential candidates are primarily those who do not resemble today’s America, such as two white male billionaires, a white man who is a career politician, a white man who may identify with LGBTQ community but openly has no issues with big money in campaigns; and the white supremacist favorite as per polls (can we do away with “alt right”), Tulsi Gabbard. 

Who remains do not represent those who are part of the most coveted voting demographics and those who did no longer have the national stage for 2020.

That points to systemic issues here, folks.

1) One part is the overt sexism. There always needs to be caution to view every situation or individual through the lens of an -ism but not only has the 2016 election clearly showed sexism but as early as last month, one-third of voters say they don’t believe in female leadership as per a recent voters’ poll by Ramussen.

Castro today echoed this in a video he tweeted after Sen. Harris’s announcement about the media’s double standards that worked against her campaign from the start. Whatever other issues her candidacy may have had, as even Sen. Amy Klobuchar pointed out in the last debate: Women are held to a higher standard (like this LA Times’ op-ed which cites Sen. Harris’s apparent lack of qualifications in a race where Pete Buttigieg is soaring — whose sole political qualification is that he has been a mayor since 2012) and women of color doubly so. This isn’t to say one needs decades of qualifications nor that Buttigieg isn’t qualified, it simply means Sen. Harris, with actual decades of experience, is held to a higher standard by the media and voters.

2) Campaign finance needs an overhaul. This is an obvious issue when two billionaires are able to buy their way onto the next Democratic debate while qualified candidates who polled reasonably well with voices that need to be heard on the national stage have been forced to exit.

3) Castro also pointed out another issue that cripples diverse candidates: the order of the Democratic primaries which take place in states like Iowa and New Hampshire that have predominantly white populations.

“I think there’s a narrative that emerged early in this campaign cycle that in order to win, candidates needed to appeal especially to white working class voters in the Midwest,” Castrol said. “I actually believe that in addition to the white working class in the Midwest, we also need to be able to appeal to diverse communities [in cities in the battleground states.]

Election security, the electoral college, gerrymandering, and voter suppression are outside the scope of voters other than voting in reps who will fight for reforms or for the judicial appointees that will overturn these systemic issues. The electoral college is a Congressional issue so indirectly it depends on whom you vote for.

Castro, Warren, and Sanders have publicly stated that they will not accept big money for their campaigns. Castro, the former Housing and Urban Development secretary under President Barack Obama, has not accepted money from lobbyists, political action committees and executives in the fossil fuel industry.

Only one candidate has actively addressed this issue and who, you guessed it, has a plan: Sen. Elizabeth Warren. (This is not an endorsement.) Here’s her statement to get big money out of politics and her very specific plan to get it done. Warren isn’t to be trifled with given she has already single-handedly conceived of and established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a watchdog agency that helps protect the little guy from Wall Street’s schemes.

No doubt that Sen. Harris will be a success in other capacities. She may become our next Attorney General. She will continue making her mark in the Senate and is going to kill it at the impeachment hearings — and has promised Trump the same.

But we can’t overlook or not examine what’s happening and why if we want this campaigning process to improve. AND we must elect the reps who will support such improvements — campaign finance reforms, the order of the primaries, a push to eliminate or revise the electoral college. Otherwise, it’ll be a vicious cycle as candidates we want can’t progress and others do who may be poorly qualified or can be bought. Such a system doesn’t reflect our choice nor our values we strive for and with poor leadership, no matter who wins, we all lose.

There was corruption in Ukraine: on the part of Guiliani, his associates, and GOP Congressman Devin Nunes

Photo Illustration by Kristen Hazzard/The Daily Beast/Getty

On Nov. 21, Daily Beast broke this story that Democrat Rep. Eric Swalwell read and submitted in the impeachment inquiry: Lev Parnas, the indicted Giuliani associate, helped arrange meetings and calls in Europe for the Rep. Devin Nunes in 2018. U.S. government funds — $57,000 of our tax dollars — paid for Nunes and three of his aides to travel to Europe from Nov. 30 to Dec. 3, 2018. Nunes is the minority ranking member of the Intelligence Committee and has been driving the GOP messaging, stance, and defense of Trump regarding the impeachment inquiry.

It was confirmed today on Nov. 22 by the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith, that Nunes will likely face an ethics investigation into the claims.

Why should this matter? For one, Nune is overseeing an investigation into corruption in Ukraine, which he himself abused power to investigate. It is a conflict of interest at best and outright corruption. Impeachment is serious and the crimes for which a president can be accused strike at the very heart of our democracy. Such manipulation and tampering undercut our need to ensure a fair impeachment inquiry and trial.

Two, you, as a taxpayer, need to know where your money is going and that your political representatives are not using it for their personal gains, such as overseas trips and entertainment unrelated to political office.

In 2018, he used political donations to pay for nearly $15,000 in tickets to Boston Celtics basketball games as well as winery tours and lavish trips to Las Vegas, according to reports from the Federal Election Commission and two nonpartisan watchdog groups.

Three, corruption left unchecked increases the harm to our communities because our reps are no longer working for us but for the highest bidder, and the system of law is weakened. Nunes has long been under scrutiny for his abuse of office in using taxpayers’ dollars for personal use since at least 2018. Instead, he became the House Intelligence Committee chairman and Trump’s foremost supporter and has sought to obstruct all inquiries for Robert Mueller’s investigation and Congress’s impeachment investigation.

In turn, his name has grown as much as his PAC. Nunes’ own PAC, New PAC, has raised $7 million, almost four times as much as the $1-2.5 million he has raised in previous years. There’s no way of knowing whether its due to the favors he curries by supporting Trump that led to such a meteoric fundraising rise because of how intransparent PACs are but it’s worth noting.

report by the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center and Issue One, released Thursday, spotlighted the various ways members of Congress use leadership PACs to “subsidize lavish lifestyles on their donors’ dimes.”

Campaign Legal Center

All of this speaks to bigger systemic issues voters need to know is the dire need to reform the regulations and laws of PACs:

  • The House Ethics Committee rarely enforces the ban on the use of leadership PACs for personal use.
  • The Federal Elections Commission has not issued clear directives on whether or not the funds can be used for personal matters.
  • The CLC and Issue One report cited numerous trips by Congress members to Las Vegas. Why?

The person with the most trips to Vegas: Devin Nunes.

Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence: FOLLOW UP ACTION to June 26, 2017 Town Hall

Federal Action: Support Disarm Hate Act H.R. 2841 and S. 1324

Similar to current federal background check procedures for domestic abusers, these companion bills would prevent individuals convicted of misdemeanor hate-related violence and intimidation from obtaining a firearm -as they present a greater risk to commit more violent crimes.

Download: Disarm Hate Act: Letter of Support to Sen. Feinstein

Call your Congressional Representative and both U.S. Senators to support the  Gun Violence Prevention Order of 2017  – H.R. 2589 & S. 1212

Mirrored after California’s Gun Violence Restraining Order passed in 2014, this law temporarily prohibits individuals from purchasing a firearm or ammunition where evidence shows an individual may become violent and allows law enforcement immediate warrants to temporarily seize firearms from potentially violent people for 30 days to a maximum of 3 years. Under a higher burden of proof, a court can also remove firearms or ammunition already in the possession of an individual in question. This law is sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, introduced to congress on May 24, 2017 and is in the first stage of the legislative process.

  • U.S. Senator Feinstein –  (202) 224-3841
  • U.S. Senator Harris – (202) 224-3553

Call your State Senator (Sen Jerry Hill) to support the Disarm Hate Act (AB 785)

Hate crimes have surged in recent years as per FBI reports. These crimes are precursors to more serious crimes. This legislation puts a 10 year firearm prohibition on individuals convicted on a misdemeanor hate crime. It will be on the Governor’s desk in July.

  • State Senator Jerry Hill –  (650) 212-3313 and (916) 651-4013
  • Governor Jerry Brown – (916) 445-2841

More information on our gun panel reform will be available on our website this week and in a follow-up newsletter. 

Get Involved with your local chapter of The Brady Campaign to turn our current gun culture around!www.bradycampaign.org/ca

To join the San Mateo Chapter, email Karen Arntzen at smc@bradymail.org

Obama continues his unprecedented pardons and focus on criminal justice reform with a pardon for Chelsea Manning

President Obama continues his streak of pardons and commutations with a pardon for Chelsea Manning, freeing her in five months rather than 2045. Manning is the army intelligence analyst who made Wikileaks popular.  Pres. Obama could have also just saved her life given she had twice attempted suicide and faced what the Times calls “an uncertain future as a transgender woman incarcerated at a male military prison.”

obama-commutations1The President and his DOJ staff have been on a roll. On Dec 19, he pardoned 78 people and granted another 153 commutations — the most acts of clemency granted by a US president in a single day. SO far, the President has pardoned and lessened the sentences of more people than the previous 12 presidents prior to him combined.

This fast and furious wave of pardons is warranted given fears that President-elect Donald Trump and his administration will dismantle Obama’s clemency initiative, which has resulted in the early release of 1,176 drug offenders. In addition to his ban on solitary confinement for juveniles, his directive to not renew contracts for private prisons, and his recently published Harvard Law Review 56-page article on criminal justice reform, it seems as if the President’s post-presidential professional life may be revealing its focus: our broken criminal justice system.

Given that the US has the largest number of prisoners in the world despite holding just 5% of the world’s population, Pres Obama would be a welcome and powerful ally in the fight for criminal justice reform. Nearly 1 in 4 adults in this country are imprisoned. The mass incarceration system is driven by racism, favors the wealthy, and is nothing but a swinging door that fosters a life behind bars. The criminal justice system is steeped in history of racism, is driven by profit, and criminalizes poverty and drug addiction continuing such inhumane treatment as solitary confinement. The time for reform has long past and legislators may finally pay attention if a political force like President Obama champions the cause.

Meanwhile, California continues its quest to reduce prison populations. California’s prisoner reductions came from a court order to cut prison populations after a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court ruling found that conditions inside the state’s prisons — which were 200 percent over capacity — violated the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The state has passed some initiatives, such as Prop 47 in 2014, which released about 4,500 in its aftermath by reducing some felonies, like drug crimes and nonviolent property theft, to misdemeanors.

But that did nothing except shift the problem from state to local jails. The underlying roots of this issue (and see “13” by Ava DuVernay on Netflix for an in-depth look) such as racism, LGBT bias (like how transgenders such as Manning are viewed, convicted and treated), drug rehabilitation programs, mental health facilities, and focusing on reform over retribution for nonviolent crimes and youth have not been seriously addressed by legislation. With civilian Obama and the tide shifting to a greater focus on mass incarceration, the tides may be shifting. If not, we must make them shift.

On MLK Day, let your remembrance be in action

On Martin Luther King’s Day we might make the mistake that today is a day where we simply remember a courageous hero of humanity but if anything, this is a day where we must reflect and act. Dr King was, as he himself said, on the shoulders of hundreds of years of resistance and thousands of people who made sacrifices, who did small acts daily — or even once in their lifetime — that resulted in a societal shift. People who had families, who were sole income providers, who didn’t have the mental or emotional or economic reality or sometimes, even the interest, to be a part of the Civil Rights Movement yet still did so by merely living their life with inclusion and justice. Justice isn’t simply in a court, it is how you act towards your fellow human beings daily.

I just saw “Hidden Figures” with my daughter and learned three things. One, those women were heroes as much as anyone but so were their parents and spouses and bosses who chose not to live as society demanded, either as part of patriarchy (at that time when women weren’t working much) or as part of the white male class. True, they didn’t have the same repercussions for going against the grain but without them — the boss, the judge, the husband, the boyfriend, the parents — there would have been no forward movement.
 
Two, there is a long way to go. I live in the Bay Area and my spouse works in the heart of Silicon Valley. I still rarely see African Americans. If STEM is to work, we have to start in the area where I focus: early childhood. If children don’t have access to the education and school books and resources, they cannot hope to compete in high school or for college to become scientists or engineers. We can’t just have programs that start at the intern level. It’s too late by that time.
 
MLK Poor Peoples Campaign Poster 1968
Three, in order for the above to happen, we must focus on economic progress. Anyone who lives in a city and takes its public transportation as I did for 20+ years knows which stops has which demographics sadly, and it is almost always along economic lines as much as ethnicity lines. We have a long way to go. Dr King’s last campaign was the Poor People’s Campaign. He knew even before the term was coined about intersectionality. You cannot have racial or gender justice without economic justice, and the two must be advanced simultaneously.
Without economic stability and opportunity, there was little hope for African Americans to advance, indeed for anyone whether they be black, undocumented immigrants, or women. The degree of advancement an individual can achieve of course has to do with systemic bias as much as anything. After all, if the legal system and law enforcement are against you at every step, there is little hope for recourse. In “Hidden Figures,” had the judge not granted Mary Jackson the right to attend an all-white school — granted, it was only at night — but if he had not allowed that, no amount of courage on her part as an individual would have sufficed.
Together with eradicating systemic obstacles, in order for change to come to areas like Silicon Valley, there must be more resources devoted to education, job training, child care (so parents can get to the schools and jobs they need to advance), and economic initiatives. It must all happen together as we work on all fronts, and on the fronts where we can — promote whom we can, give where we can, lend a fellow parental hand where we can. 
 
As neighbors, co-workers, supervisors, friends, acquaintances, we can all do our part. A movement is not just a protest or march. It is the thousands of daily acts that reinforce the changes we seek towards greater societal equality.
 
Although just this year I began formally working in policy and legislation, I’ve worked in social justice my entire adult life. I keep Dr. King’s quote in my home and on my Facebook profile page as a reminder in my work in public policy as well as in my life that it doesn’t take much but it does take participation. Listen and engage. How will you engage?

Don’t blame Trump supporters. Democracy didn’t fail us. We failed us. Apathy, selfishness, and a dash of sexism got him elected.

Don’t blame Trump supporters. Democracy didn’t fail us. We failed us. Apathy, selfishness, and a dash of sexism got him elected.

[originally published on Medium 11/14/16]

For the past year, I’ve worked vehemently on something more than the Hillary campaign: Get Out the Vote. Through interviews that led to videos, researching for stories, and plain old canvassing, I met more than a few Trump supporters. They always planned to vote even if it was more an anti-status quo rather than a Trump vote. They did their civic duty and made their voice heard.

They were energized through direct meetings in churches and schools and wherever else, they posted memes and messages on Facebook like liberals did after the election but did so when it meant something because whatever else, they did not want Hillary to win. They never lost sight of the goal:

Michael Moore in his prophetic, and best analysis of the outcome predicting Trump’s win, said it succinctly months ago:

…if people could vote from their couch at home on their X-box or PlayStation, Hillary would win in a landslide.But that is not how it works in America. People have to leave the house and get in line to vote…And therein lies the problem for November — who is going to have the most motivated, most inspired voters show up to vote? You know the answer to this question. Who’s the candidate with the most rabid supporters? Whose crazed fans are going to be up at 5 AM on Election Day, kicking ass all day long,

The people who handed him this election is not rural America, it was not white women, it was almost half this country who didn’t vote. 49.4%.

Sure, protest now but where was that energy for Get Out the Vote? I rarely debated Trump supporters about voting. There was no lack of warning about what a Trump win could mean or lack of calls for mobilization during the campaign reminding voters that he had a real shot at winning — and all that happened was “eh I’m not thrilled with her.”

The only people I actually debated about voting itself were “liberals” and “progressives” still sore about Sanders or were sore that there was no third party or who thought all the sexist talk wasn’t a big deal because some other right or issue was all that mattered to them, screw all else.

No facts in the world could make them see the process through which third parties can become a reality or that it takes voting to dissolve the electoral college, because in addition to mass mobilization, what you need above all is a majority of Congress and President who is open to those reforms. Given the odds, not voting was a vote for Trump and would set those kind of agendas back even further.

Meanwhile no such debates happened in Trumpland. They galvanized. Some of them did believe in climate change but put that aside for the greater good. Some of them were appalled by his behavior but put that aside to get him elected for all else he represented. You can say they put it aside due to racism or selfishness but the selfish argument swings both ways.

If one believes Trump supporters are sexist, voting him in despite his misogyny, then I wouldn’t put those who didn’t vote due to soreness about the Democrats so far behind. After all, not voting, not participating in the political process most definitely won’t change a party. It is sexist to pit this election as a “replacing a 40 year old black man with a 70 year old woman” (as per Chris Rock in this past week’s SNL) without keeping in mind — especially if you are a minority or woman about to be radically affected — that the 70 year old woman has 40+ years of public service experience who, whatever else she may be, would not be on board with racist, sexist, xenophobic policies and would keep to Obama’s agenda. To boot, she had progressive watchdogs like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who she made political deals with and would make her toe the line so there’d be a real shot at ensuring a Democratic party was its progressive ever.

And by the way, the alternative to that “70 year old white woman” is an even older white man who would, and has, put forth a Cabinet and policies that would work against every progressive, social justice, women’s rights agenda. If that’s not sexist then that is dangerous stubbornness and that is the other side of the coin of the dangerous stubborn ideology of the most ardent Trump supporter.

Bottom line: on November 8th we had two choices. Whosoever did mobilize, whosoever voted even if they weren’t thrilled about him spoke up, and won. Democracy didn’t fail us; we failed us.