The pandemic is a wakeup call to live with Nature #EarthDay2020

We have no choice but to live with Nature #EarthDay

While we mourn and fall sick and live in anxiety, Mother Earth is sighing a breath of relief. And fresh air. This virus may be horrible for us but everywhere else the earth is healing.

Our actions now will define our future as we navigate this unprecedented crisis. We are being forced to look at not just climate change but our very relationship to Nature as we witness in stark focus our sick and our dead.


Water is directly tied to our health, safety, and economy. Since the coronavirus, rivers are purifying after decades of pollution.

These environmental concerns tied to public safety are also highlighting economic inequality and how the privileged in society have access to basic needs, like water. Hand washing is essential for any virus and especially during this COVID-19 epidemic. Yet, we cannot do this if we don’t have clean water and clean water starts with access to clean water sources, keeping lands intact around water sources.

“In the United States, about two million people lack access to running water, indoor plumbing, or wastewater treatment. In many rural and urban areas, communities of color and historically marginalized communities are disproportionately impacted, with limited access to clean, safe and affordable water.” (American Rivers)

Black and indigenous communities in the United States, the lower castes and tribals in India, the tribals and indigenous of Brazil, the Kurds and non-majority Muslims in Iraq, whoever is in power has access to the most basic of needs. On the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, as we face an epidemic as a world community, as we face it as a nation, let’s remember that we must shift priorities and outlooks towards each other and our environment.


Worldwide air quality has significantly improved in recent weeks and drastically so in nine major cities across the globe according to a new report produced by Swiss company IQAir that pulled together government data from Delhi, London, Los Angeles, Milan, Mumbai, New York City, São Paulo, Seoul, Wuhan, and Rome.

Delhi saw up to a 44% reduction in PM10 air pollution levels on the first day of its restrictions, India’s Central Pollution Control Board found. People in northern India saw the Himalayas for the first time from their homes. 85 cities across India saw less air pollution in the first week of the nationwide lockdown.


With half the world’s population on lockdown, wild animals are roaming freely in cities and regions usually bustling with people. Some of this information isn’t true: dolphins and swans didn’t enter Venice canals; drunk elephants didn’t pass out in China.  As this 2016 research shows, the spread of social phenomena is so powerful that it can follow the same models that trace the contagion of epidemics.

But, many other reports are true for obvious reasons. Due to overpopulation that leads to development in the natural habitat of animals, these animals are reclaiming their land as people are forced to stay inside. Coyotes walk through San Francisco, wild monkeys brawl over resources in Thailand; goats window shop in Wales; deer roam Japan; turtles that were almost extinct and other species are reproducing like never before.

Great Orme Kashmiri goats on the streets of Llandudno, Wales.Credit…Andrew Stuart


Instead, Trump has done the opposite and used the coronavirus as an excuse to continue the deregulation of environment he began since taking office.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a sweeping suspension of its enforcement of environmental laws Thursday, telling companies they would not need to meet environmental standards during the coronavirus outbreak.  This is a so-called temporary policy, with no end date.

Recently, right before the epidemic hit the United States, Trump challenged EPA water rulescreated a loophole to allow pipelines to avoid environmental review, and axed Obama’s signature climate change policy, the Clean Power Plan.

Overall, a New York Times analysis has found that the Trump administration has rolled back nearly 100 environmental rules and regulations. Its actions have made it easier to drill in wildlife refuges, slashed regulations meant to combat overfishing, and narrowed safety assessment requirements for potentially toxic chemicals.

In the 24 hours since the EPA freeze:

  • a private company is set to take over inspection duties at a Tyson Foods beef slaughterhouse
  • Obama-era rules have been rolled back raising fuel-economy standards on new vehicles aimed directly at California
  • review has begun of a proposed 211-mile road that would cut through a portion of Alaska’s Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve and open up an area rich in copper, zinc and other minerals

These environmental deregulation has nothing to do with the coronavirus or concern for public safety. It has to do with Trump and his administration’s rulebook of benefitting corporations and rolling back any Obama-era policies or laws. As of December 2019, Trump had set back and deregulated over 95 environmental laws and policies.


Here’s the reality. We have been brought to our knees by the coronavirus, and the worst has yet to hit, economically and in terms of lives lost. Mother Nature could care less if we made it through this. We as a species are responsible for our own survival. We must learn. And the moral of the story is that we must live alongside the environment and not treat it as a commodity.

The current administration does not see this message as plain as it is. If we do not shift directions now, what is already a tragedy of epic proportions will signal the decline of our way of life as those nations who will figure out how to live more with the environment are healthier, more resource-laden, and prosper economically and as a society as a result.

Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), vice chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, outlined three major laws she’s authored in an op-ed today:

As American Rivers states, “we must invest in clean water and healthy rivers to improve public health and our economy.” How can we wash our hands for up to 20 seconds if millions of Americans don’t even access to running, clean water?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting major to moderate flooding in 23 states this spring. If a flood threatens a community during a coronavirus “stay at home” order, where will people turn for safety and shelter? With scarce resources and supplies, how will communities, states and the federal government respond to both flooding and the epidemic?

American Rivers recommends:

Congress must act to prioritize healthy rivers and clean, safe, affordable water for all. This should include, for the duration of the pandemic emergency, a ban on water shut-offs nationwide and restoration of water services for anyone without access.

Congress must also increase water infrastructure funding to ensure clean water and sanitation for communities most in need, and increase funding for innovative, cost-effective solutions that strengthen communities in the face of flooding and other impacts of climate change.


These inequities have been fatally reflected in the loss of black and brown lives as the coronavirus rages on. The New York Times predictions have come true: “the vulnerabilities of resource-strapped minorities…[has had] devastating consequences.”

Sandra Blackshear received oxygen treatment to help with her coughing and wheezing. She had only just started hearing about coronavirus.Credit…Alexandra Hootnick for The New York Times

Recent reports show black people comprise 32% of Louisiana’s population—but a startling 70% of the coronavirus deaths. In its first release of racial data, New York City reported that Hispanics died from COVID-19 at a rate of 22 per 100,000 and black people died at a rate of 20 per 100,000—double the rate of white people.

Worst hit has been Chicago where black Chicago’s African Americans are dying at a rate nearly six times greater than white residents. About 68% of the city’s deaths have involved African Americans, who make up only about 30% of Chicago’s total population, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.

And that’s not even the full picture. Until last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and most local health departments weren’t releasing data on race. Many still are not.

Senator Elizabeth Warren ran the first intersectionality focused campaign and specifically mentioned the toll environmental issues have on black communities. As Teen Vogue reported:

Elizabeth Warren is paying attention, and it shows in the environmental justice plan she released this week. Her plan is informed by the 17 Principles of Environmental Justice, an equity-based framework written by activists of color in 1991 that no presidential administration has acted on to date.

Nelini Stamp, Working Families Party director of strategy and partnerships (Teen Vogue)

Senator Warren has been one of the Democrat’s primary architects of the stimulus package and roadmap out of this pandemic crisis — and she continues to highlight intersectionality factoring in this inequality.

In her recent New York Times April 8, 2020 op-ed outlining her plan forward to tackle this crisis, she pointed out that intersectionality is key to this plan: “Early data shows people of color are infected and dying at disproportionately high rates.”

We are not the owners of Nature but part of it. We cannot even thrive or survive if we do not acknowledge how we are interconnected. This is not a clarion call to return to some pure state or start hugging trees. It is a matter of survival. Even from a purely selfish standpoint, if a significant portion of the population gets a disease due to lack of access, they will spread the disease to everyone else.

In other words, Mama has had just about enough. She tried to warn us. Fires, volcanoes, you name it, we lived through it as climate change red flags were ignored. Finally, she’d had enough of the New Age, gentler approach and went fire-and-brimstone, plagues-and-scorpions because she did not have any more time for our tomfoolery. It’s time we listen.

Time to make humility and respect cool again–and Elizabeth Warren is doing just that

Healing and unity sound “soft” but when you talk FDR or Dr. King or Dolores Huerta or Dorothy Height or Margaret Sanger, that is EXACTLY why they were so beloved to get people through wars and depressions and tough times. It’s always toughest before great change. They didn’t whip people up into an angry, unchanneled frenzy. They didn’t go it alone. They built alliances. They knew how to work with power structures and systems even as they fought to change them. They were painstakingly detailed in their strategy. They knew the power of words and crafted them as much as their plans.

One of the most admirable qualities of Elizabeth Warren is that she LISTENS to others…she LEARNS from others. Warren has rolled into her platform the ideas of Kamala Harris (reproductive rights), Kristen Gillibrand (paid family leave), and Julian Castro (pre K and early childcare) with the permission from and credit to each of them. Her plans are developed through coalitions and teamwork, talking to the actual communities affected as well as the experts.

She knows any human institution, like the Democrat National Committee, is subject to flaws but she believes what’s more flawed is the electoral process (unsafe, based on money, and the outdated electoral college) which she plans on fixing.

She also has hope for the now-defunct GOP which are almost all Trump lackeys. As Sheila Blair wrote, former chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. with senior appointments in four Republican and Democratic administrations: Elizabeth Warren simply wants the market to work for us all. Right now it’s only working for the top-shelf wealthy and stacked against the working and middle class. In that, Warren is the great unifier.

As fun and deliciously rewarding it was to watch, Sen. Warren’s performance in the debates that I care about. She’s been fierce all along if you recall. She just also possesses the highly underrated quality of discretion as to when and how to bring it out.

I believe in the necessity for humility in leadership. She didn’t “decimate” Bloomberg in the debates to be all badass: she brought up facts that had to be paid attention to then she spoke to him afterward in a real conversation. It speaks volumes that the next day, he didn’t retaliate but grew in his respect for her. This clip about how she engaged with Bloomberg even after pointing out his unworthy candidacy is what leadership looks like. After a crass bully at our helm, our country needs this kind of leadership now more than ever.

I’ve seen her talk to Nobel Prize-winning economists who focus on alleviation of poverty as well as children she got down on her knee to talk to — as well as nonprofit boards, governors, CEOs, homeless families, and celebrities all alike. WHY is that important?

Great leaders like Sen. Warren know when to show their righteous indignation. For those of us who are “tired of being overlooked, dismissed, ignored, and left out,” who are survivors having PTSD every time a family separator, racist predator elected to our highest office shows his face, who watch teenagers get more time in jail as our treasury is emptied through unchecked, public corruption — Warren is here for our anger.

She is also here to show us how to channel our anger — not at each other or those in a different wealth class but so we can create change from the ground up. She knows how to battle so that our fervent hopes can actualize into reality. Anger can destroy us if unchecked. What good is anger unless it provides respite from our suffering, a solution to our problems, or balm for our healing?

Most of all, great leaders know what the public needed. Inspiration. Hope. Caring. Healing. Discretion. Ability to wield words that unite. Connection. Policies and visions are not enough.

Is your 2020 Presidential candidate good enough?

Is your 2020 Presidential candidate good enough?

It can get confusing at times whether or not a candidate is for you or not. There had been a Washington Post quiz going around to see which candidate you’re most aligned with, like an e-harmony between voter and candidate. This isn’t that.

Here’s a simple list of how to judge candidates given who has been President since 2016.

If any candidate passes the muster then remember to vote even if it’s not your absolute favorite person! If treason, corruption, and erratic behavior that endangers national security is A-OK with you — as is possibly sending off your young adult to war and ensuring you never have social mobility as you wait for billionaires good fortune to trickle down not to mention living with sticky moral issues like children in cages torn from their families — then, by all means, vote for that candidate or don’t vote at all!
  1. The Mueller Report makes it clear that: i.) the Russian government tried to help Trump win; ii.) the Trump campaign was eager to benefit from hackings targeting Democrats; and iii.) Trump’s campaign advisers had a lot of troubling ties to Russia.
  2. See all articles and news clips dealing with “Trump Impeachment.” At televisions near you.
  3. Trump paid a $2 million settlement to 8 charities admitting that he misused funds from Trump Foundation for his campaign and settle business debts.
  4. 25 cases of sexual assault and harassment and counting.
  5. Trump faced two lawsuits in California and one in New York against fraud allegations that were wrapped into one civil suit against Trump University. A federal court approved a $25 million settlement with students who said they were duped by Trump and his now-defunct Trump University.
  6. a) The US Department of Justice under the Nixon administration sued the Trump Management Corporation for violating the Fair Housing Act. Federal officials found evidence that Trump had refused to rent to black tenants and lied to black applicants about whether apartments were available, among other accusations. He signed an agreement in 1975 agreeing not to discriminate to renters of color. There’s a lot more where that came from! Here’s a full timeline.
    b) Senior advisor to Trump and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon on Saturday told a crowd of far-right French politicians to let people label them as “racist,” and to consider it “a badge of honor.” Bannon was the founder and once executive editor of Breitbart News, which he “proudly” told a Mother Jones reporter at the 2016 Republican National Convention is “platform for the alt right,” referring to Breitbart News. The alt right is a loose network of individuals and groups that promote white identity and reject mainstream conservatism in favor of politics that embrace implicit or explicit racism, anti-Semitism and white supremacy. Bannon was only let go by Trump due to seemingly disparaging remarks he made in a book about Trump and his family.
    c) Stephen Miller is a Trump senior adviser and architect of Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda as well as a far-right political activist. In November 2019, over 900 emails were made public that reveal him to be a supporter of white nationalism. 59 civil rights groups cited Miller as a promoter of “white supremacy, violent extremism, and hate,” and demanded Trump fire him. Given the revolving door of his staff and inner circle, this should’ve been easy. Miller has yet to be fired.

I mean, how important is it to vote? It’s not like you’re marrying the person. That person will only be in charge of your health, like whether you die from diabetes or can afford insulin or are ever able to see a doctor or go broke trying to; if you can ever afford a home or watch as Jeff Bezos buys his tenth home paying a $1 in taxes as you fork over half your paycheck; whether you have clean water or fresh air to breathe; if your children can get a fighting chance in this world with a good education (if they aren’t traumatized due to school shootings or chronically ill due to an inability to pay for health insurance); and whether we are embroiled in a world war. So it’s not to the level of marriage but it does bear some importance.

Stop saying Trump will win

Stop Saying Trump Will Win

An admirable quality of Trump supporters and enablers is their unflagging faith, whether due to fear, ignorance, or bullying, there is a resoluteness that Democrats lack. The sky can be blue, and yet if Trump says it’s green, so say they. What I am hearing as of December 2019, before even the primaries kick-off is a “woe-is-me” cry that Trump will win. “I don’t want him to but…”

But what? It is entirely within your control. The outcome may not be but let’s not forget three very important factors:

1. It’s not over until it’s over. Just ask Al Gore. Politics is an endurance game and you have to be like Serena Williams fighting down to the last point of the last game in the last set.

Image result for venus williams tennis playing to the last point

Part of me wants to scream and curse because WHY? There’s no hard data that he’ll win. It seems so obvious that if you are so against something then why believe something that will make it come true? Up until a month, even two weeks before the election, Hillary Clinton seemed a “shoo-in” even by the Trump campaign internally.

There will always be doubt as to an outcome, so fight to the tooth for the candidate you believe in — or do your values mean so little? Does a candidate have to razzle and dazzle with oratory flair in order for there to be groundswell of support? Doubts weaken your candidate. In either case:

Stop Saying He’ll Win.

2. In February 2017, Ezra Klein wrote the “real reason” Hillary Clinton lost which applies today. She lost due to us. Put aside the numbers and Wikileaks and emails and Russia. Swing states, electoral votes, and scandals aside, Trump was Trump. The candidate who said that the Mexicans are rapists, made fun of the disabled, was heard saying “grab’em by the pussy,” rife with sexual assault allegations and corruption lawsuits, links to white supremacists on his team, riddled Russia and mafia ties, and with zero qualifications (almost as an aside). None of that was fake news. He said it. There’s footage. We all heard all of the above. And half of us didn’t. And he won.

Republicans aside, it’s not that Clinton lost due to a narrow margin that should give us pause. It’s that Trump won due to a narrow margin.

Much of that was due to half the country not voting. Nonchalance. The kind of thinking then fueled by “she’ll win but I don’t like her for some vague reason,” that pervades to this day.

Whether sexism is involved or not (it is as polls and data show but that aside), that senseless purity for candidates had once been fueled by “I don’t like her” to now “I don’t want Trump to win, but I don’t like any of the others. No one can win.”

Well, progressives and any champion of sanity, due to that thinking in 2016 we not only threw the baby out with the bathwater but we burned the house down. If we still insist on having “tests,” here’s a list of qualities candidates to judge candidates by since 2016 , ex. have any of the other candidates been found guilty of less than 3 corruption cases? DING! Better than Trump! Less than 25 sexual assault cases? DING! Whiffs of treason? DING! White supremacist ties? DING!

If anyone you like has any of those qualities, then Stop Saying Trump Will Win.

3. Even if Trump is in the lead: what will you do to stop it?

Here’s a guide as to what you can do to be proactive in getting a Democrat elected. Think what you will of Dems, but as our current 2020 party system stands, it will either be a Republican or Democrat as a winner so given all you know of Trump and the GOP, if they don’t sit well, then do what you can. This guide shows you how and what with links, everything from how to submit a vote to actively campaigning, there’s a wealth of options to choose from based on your resources, time, and level of involvement. Choose ONE.

And Stop Saying He’ll Win.

4. Politics is a number game: voters, electoral votes, gerrymandering, districting. I’ve outlined this in another post but this ties into “it’s not over until it’s over.”

Rail against the electoral college all you want but it’s here for 2020. Nothing at the systemic level, like the electoral college, will change unless we have the right judgeships which can only happen if they are appointed, which takes a steady stream of progressives in the Executive and Congressional branches. Why do you think Mitch McConnell is so focused on judgeships? Voter suppression, gerrymandering, the electoral college have all worked in the GOP favor so they won’t make any changes.

To make any of that happen, we need the votes. For the votes, we need voter turnout. For voter turnout, we have to fight for every vote — at the mass media, social media, mailbox, door knock, phone call levels.

And we have to Stop Saying He’ll Win.

5. The data does not support that Trump is a shoo-in winner. Not only do I firsthand speak to thousands of voters and know it not to be true from my slice of life but national and state polls do not bear this up. By the way, merely three weeks prior to the 2016 election, Trump’s own team told him that he had a 15% chance of winning based on polls. It’s not over until it’s over.

More importantly, we need to go forward with steadfast resolution. What has happened — whether it’s climate change, the environmental policy deregulation, the corruption, the inhumane immigration policies — pick one that most resonates and fight for it.

I don’t believe much of this country is Trumpland. I don’t believe most of this country is seething with racism and predators. I believe any country can bring out its ugly with the right cocktail at the top and we now have that cocktail of hate and vitriol, shaken not stirred. Don’t drink it.

Go into this election year holding your values close and speaking out loud for those values with the confidence of a rich, white man or Lizzo.

And stop saying he’ll win.

Take a Break but Don’t Quit: quick guide on what you can do to take political action in 2020

HOW TO BE CIVICALLY ENGAGED IN 2020: from casting a vote to donating to canvassing and everything in between

 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:

Find out how to register to vote and deadlines in your state and county here:

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.

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.”


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



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.


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.

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.


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.


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.  

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.

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.

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.