Monday, September 14, 2020

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Biden Error !


Biden pick creates furor, underscoring bitterness over Obama immigration policy

BY RAFAEL BERNAL - 09/09/20 06:00 AM EDT 1,296


Dime con quién andas !




Immigration advocates are livid over the Biden transition team’s addition of Cecilia Muñoz, a former Obama administration official who was the public face of that administration’s immigration policy.

Muñoz, who once served as the head of former President Obama’s White House Domestic Policy Council, was named by the Biden campaign Friday as part of a group of eight new senior transition advisers.

The pick was quickly criticized by immigration reform advocates, a reaction that exhibited both ideological divides within the Democratic Party and a lingering resentment felt by many immigration advocates over the actions of the Obama administration, particularly in its first term.


“Huge mistake. Huge. Huge mistake. Worst part? We have no other option. I guess we gotta pick our opponent. That’s what it has come down to,” wrote Erika Andiola, an immigrant rights activist and advocacy director for The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.

Muñoz, a policy expert who cut her teeth at UnidosUS, then known as the National Council of La Raza, before joining the Obama administration, became a lightning rod for criticism of Obama’s immigration policy.

“If Biden wins, no one from the Obama administration should be allowed to touch the immigration policy portfolio,” said Pablo Manríquez, a former Democratic National Committee spokesman who’s been overtly critical of Obama on immigration.

“Cecilia Muñoz is the one person besides [Trump White House aide] Stephen Miller who has spent years of her public service dedicated to the smooth execution of mass deportation policy at the West Wing level,” said Manríquez.

The criticism reflects in part the view that Muñoz did not advocate enough for immigration rights during internal discussions in the Obama White House. Instead, advocates say she too often defended policies that led to the deportation of more than 2 million people.

“She was the person in the White House who shielded Obama from all the flak,” said Amy Maldonado, an immigration lawyer whose clients include minors in detention.


“The whole reason she was in that room was to give a perspective they weren’t hearing, and instead she covered for them,” added Maldonado.

The criticism comes as Biden continues to underperform with Latino voters, a fact that is alarming to many Democrats.

An NBC News-Marist poll released Tuesday found Biden trailing Trump among Latino voters in Florida, 50 percent to 46 percent. In 2016, by contrast, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton beat Trump among Florida Latinos by 25 points, according to exit polls. 

Biden has slowly but surely distanced himself from Obama’s more aggressive immigration policies, and Maldonado said there was no question for her about backing Biden over Trump, even if Biden brought back all of the Obama-era policies.

“Between Trump and Biden there is no choice. Children literally die in detention under this administration,” she said.

Other voices defended the Obama administration, saying it changed in the second term.

“Immigration policy under the Obama-Biden administration was not a singular thing, it evolved over time for a lot of reasons,” said Tom Jawetz, vice president of immigration at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

“While there were some bumps in the road, they showed some growth,” said Jawetz.

Muñoz has both White House experience and immigration expertise, which makes her a natural fit for Biden’s team. In 2000, she won a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” for her work on immigration policy.

A former Capitol Hill staffer with deep knowledge of immigration deliberations during the Obama administration lauded Muñoz, saying “she was advocating for immigration reform and the president leaning in to immigration in a positive way.”

Muñoz remained publicly loyal to Obama when the then-president was referred to by some as the deporter in chief, something perceived by some in the immigration space as a betrayal.

“There were lots of moments when people thought she should resign in protest and she didn’t. She stuck with it and it earned her a lot of enemies on the pro-immigrant left,” said the former staffer.


But immigration advocates see Muñoz as a policy expert who will likely depend on the political leadership of Biden and his core team to mark a direction on immigration for the Democratic nominee.

“Cecilia Muñoz is one of several experienced advisors leading teams focused on establishing strong infrastructure for federal agencies dealing with domestic and economic policy. The transition team’s focus is ensuring there is a strong policy apparatus across government that can support the Biden-Harris Administration’s policies on day one,” said a Biden transition official.

Along with Muñoz’s appointment, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham(D) was announced as one of four co-chairs for the transition team, a hierarchical step above Muñoz.

Lujan Grisham led the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in the first two years of the Trump administration and was a vocal defender of immigrant rights and proponent of immigration reform.

Winning over Latino voters, in any event, is likely to come down to Biden himself.


Friday, September 11, 2020

Voting Power

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is non-partisan but deeply committed to moral politics and public policy. For years we’ve demanded nothing less than a reconstruction of society around the needs of the poor and dispossessed. To do this, we must bring the agenda of poor and low-income people front and center in this election cycle and beyond.

Join us on Monday, September 14th at 7pm ET / 4pm PT for a National Moral Monday Mass Assembly and Teach-In: Voting is Power Unleashed,* a massive online event bringing together poor and low-income people and allies who will learn about voter power, engagement, registration and protection and how to organize our communities to defend the vote. 

Poor and low-income people hold the power to change the political calculus across the nation. The attacks on voting rights, voter suppression and in-person voter intimidation will only escalate in the weeks to come. That’s why we need to pull the movement family together for this massive teach-in to spread the tools people need to defend our democracy. Leading civil rights attorneys Caitlin Swain and Sherrilyn Ifill from Forward Justice and NAACP Legal Defense Fund will lead a powerful session on what grassroots leaders need to know as we enter the voting season. Organizers will lead us through the urgent voter engagement programs of the Poor People's Campaign.

RSVP to Join Us for this Historic Event During a Critical Election Season

We will be joined by PPC coordinating committees in 43 states and other civic, religious and social justice organizations and cultural activists Erika Alexander, Mark Ruffalo, Jane Fonda, D.L. Hughley and Charlamagne tha God. In addition, presidential candidate Joe Biden has accepted our invitation to directly address our agenda and the priorities of poor and low-income people. President Trump was invited to join us, but has not responded.

Imperfect, fragile as it is, our democracy is worth fighting for. 

Forward together, not one step back!

Rev. Dr. William Barber and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis

Co-Chairs, Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival

*This event will be fully closed-captioned and translated into ASL and Spanish. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Monday, September 7, 2020

UFW To Begin Boycott of Foster Farms

 On Monday, the United Farm Workers (UFW) held a virtual news conference —along with the Jakarta Movement Punjabi Sikh organization and Faith  in the Valley— pledging to boycott Foster Farms, the poultry processing plant in Livingston, California, after nine workers died from the novel coronavirus and 358 tested positive.

The Merced County Health Department had made several recommendations, including recommendations to conduct widespread testing, to Foster Farms during a survey back in June when the outbreak started.

According to the UFW, Foster Farms did not comprehensively follow many of the recommendations.

“United Farm Workers has tried to work as a team with Foster Farms since the early days of the pandemic. Until fairly recently, we have tried to take a collaborative approach with the company as we felt this was the fastest way for us to help protect as many workers as possible,” said Elizabeth Strater, UFW’s Director of Alternative Organizing. “As time has gone on, and especially since late July, we have been increasingly disturbed to realize that the company was not going to meet us or the workers halfway.”

A vigil for the nine workers who died was held on Thursday night.

According to an August 26 order from Merced County Health Department telling Foster Farms to close its facilities for not complying to the previous recommendations, “of the approximate 2,600 workers at the Livingston facility, 13.7 percent of the workforce has received a positive test result based on worker self-reporting.” However, this figure does not represent the extent of the outbreak in the facility because Foster Farms did not conduct universal testing.

“There are hundreds of families now affected by sickness. There are at least nine families grieving the death of people they love. Still, Foster Farms is delaying the closure of the facility and we still have not been provided clear details by Foster on the testing performed to date,” Strater said.

Martha Vera’s husband was a trucker for Foster Farms for 27 years. A few days before he passed away from COVID-19 complications, he told Martha that people were infected onsite, and that they were still working at the plant.

“I just want to say that this company, they obviously don’t care about the workers they only care about the money. I have worked there for 26 years,” Vera said during the conference. “I hope that someone can tell Foster Farms that they need to take action. How many more workers need to die before they are able to finally take action to protect employees.”

José de Piña Tovar, who has been working at Foster Farms for 15 years, said he and his wife were infected while working in the plant back in June during the conference.

“Foster Farms should have a clean plant. They need to provide the necessary equipment to protect us. I suggest that everyone working in the plant needs to be tested. At least every eight days, to ensure that we are all safe from COVID-19,” said Piña Tovar, who is still recovering from the virus.

During the conference, UFW members pledged to support a boycott if Foster Farms continues failing to provide a safe workplace, which includes complying with the county order to close the entire Livingston facility, testing all workers (including cleaning crews) with public results and weekly testing once the facility reopens, providing paid leave while the plant is closed and “quarantine pay,” supplying hazard pay, and to provide PPE equipment to all employees.

The company released a statement saying in part that “the Central Valley in California, where many of Foster Farms’ facilities are located, has been especially hard-hit. Foster Farms is initiating a comprehensive testing program across all of its California facilities beginning on August 12, at its main Livingston plant. Foster Farms tested nearly 2,900 employees and found a COVID-19 prevalence of less than 1%. We are encouraged by these results but recognize there is even more to do and will begin additional testing and sanitation this week.”

County officials ordered the facility to close on August 27, but Foster Farms delayed its closure, asking workers to come back to work the next day. It closed its main plant on September 1, but other parts of Foster Farms are still open.


Diego Jesús Bartesaghi Mena is a 2020 Latino Rebels summer correspondent. A recent graduate of Columbia Journalism School, he is based in Newark, NJ and tweets from @bartesaghi_mena.




State of the Unions 2020

State of the Unions 2020: On Labor Day 2020, the state of American unions is strong; but an AFL-CIO official finds changing attitudes toward immigrants concerning.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Defend Public Schools

src="" style="margin: 20px auto; max-width: 420px; outline: none;" />

Back-to-school season has been chaotic and confusing for students, parents, teachers and school staff everywhere. President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have refused to help with either national guidance or dedicated federal aid. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to negotiate resources after the House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act relief package in May. So today, across the country, people are taking part in a day of action to #DemandSafeSchools. 

The House-passed COVID-19 relief bill, the HEROES Act, would fund what schools need to reopen safely and provide the necessary academic, social, emotional and mental health services for our kids. But Senate Republicans and the White House won’t negotiate, and the senators won’t call a vote. Their inaction will soon force deep cuts to essential services and cause a massive wave of layoffs that will affect every single community—yet they still have no plan.

We won’t sit back idly; we are going to make sure they know we are watching and we demand that they fund our schools, fund education and fund our future. And we need you to help make sure McConnell and Trump feel the heat. 

Please add your voice today. Host a small, socially distanced rally outside a school, join a car caravan, or organize your child’s class to post signs and pictures to social media, for example, calling on the Senate to act.

Check the map to see if there’s an event near you. 

If you can’t join one of these events, make sure you tweet with the hashtag #DemandSafeSchools. We need this to trend on Twitter.

You can also call the Senate and demand that they finally take up a COVID-19 relief bill to help schools and frontline workers.

Have a great day of action!

In unity,
Randi Weingarten
AFT president

AFT president

Monday, August 31, 2020


Violence and Violence

The election could well turn on which candidate does a more compelling job of defining the nature of the violence now plaguing cities from Kenosha to Portland.

For Trump, the violence is the fault of radical protesters who are no better than common criminals, and who are representative of what Joe Biden stands for. "You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America," as Mike Pence told the RNC, is the mantra.

What’s clear, of course, is that Trump promotes the violence, eggs on right-wing provocateurs and out-of-control cops, and hopes that the left will respond in kind. In the general chaos and definitional confusion that ensues, he stands for law and order.

Trump’s definition of events doesn’t fool most people who are not already part of his hardcore base. But it needs to fool only a few swing voters in key swing states. The pictures of violence, and the occasional far-left agitator welcoming the clashes, may give a few queasy suburban moderates the permission they need to vote for Trump.

On Sunday, Biden put out a strong statement condemning violence whether of the left or the right, and saying of Trump: "He may believe tweeting about law and order makes him strong—but his failure to call on his supporters to stop seeking conflict shows just how weak he is."

But the violence of the left and the right is far from symmetrical. Ever since 2016, Trump and his storm troopers have been escalating the violence and engaging in hate-killings that Trump foments and then excuses.

It is Trump’s America where people don’t feel safe. Biden, speaking today in Pittsburgh, nailed that. "This president long ago forfeited any moral leadership in this country. He can’t stop the violence—because for years he has fomented it," Biden said. "Does anyone believe there will be less violence in America if Donald Trump is re-elected?"



Sunday, August 30, 2020

Pass a Stimulus Bill -Stop Evictions

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell must stop playing politics with the lives of poor and low-income people, who are being forced out of their homes during a pandemic. As of Aug. 24, the last remaining federal protection established by the CARES Act vanished, leaving an estimated 30 million to 40 million Americans facing eviction. And that number doesn't include those who could lose their homes from foreclosure.


RSVP to join us on Monday August 31 at 3:30pm ET /12:30pm PT to hear from those on the frontlines of this crisis and once again flood McConnell’s phone lines with thousands of calls.


Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement - Aug 28 On the National Mall

Choosing Democracy: Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement - Today on t...:   Fulfilling our Obligations, and   Passing the Torch   "When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime...

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Stephen Colbert: I Didn't Watch The RNC Tonight, And I Feel Great About It

Trump and LAW and ORDER

The first three nights of the Republican convention have been devoted to convincing any viewers who are swing voters that everything they know about Donald Trump is wrong. In fact, we’ve been told ad nauseam, Trump respects women and would never bad-mouth minorities. He’s built a vibrant economy and conquered the pandemic. And if any of that comes as a surprise, the fault lies with the media, which have missed these stories or twisted them beyond recognition.

We’ve also learned that only Trump’s re-election will guarantee your safety and the preservation of Western civilization. As Mike Pence put it in his speech last night, "You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America." Indeed, Pence continued, Biden would so utterly change the nation that when voters go to the polls, "the choice is whether America remains America" (a line that’s been voiced several times over the past three nights).

But reality has been knocking on the convention’s door, at times loud enough to have shouted down the script.

Try though the Republicans may—and Pence made a run at it last night—it will be hard to convince anyone but Trump’s staunchest supporters that he has dealt well with the pandemic. It will be almost as hard to persuade Americans that the economy is a success story at a moment when more businesses are failing than at any time since the 1930s. To get around this annoying detail, some speakers (Lara Trump, on Wednesday) have actually cited the unemployment statistics from last February as though they were the figures for last week.

Several speakers, including embattled Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, have praised Trump for the aid he provided to Iowa after its devastating derecho and flooding earlier this month, which Ernst termed a "once-in-a-hundred-year storm." As the evening wore on, later speakers, including Pence, offered prayers for Louisiana and Texas, which were about to be ravaged by another once-a-century hurricane. Meanwhile, Northern California continues to burn down in yet another wave of hundred-year fires, which now occur annually.

The prayers and the thanks are all well and good, but three of the convention’s four evenings have come and gone, and not a single speaker has so much as mentioned climate change, much less a climate crisis. At least a dozen of them have attacked Biden and the Democrats for being controlled by "environmental extremists," though literally as they speak, environmental extremes threaten to burn down and wash away whole sections of the land they profess to love.

Then there’s the seemingly ineradicable plague of police violence against African Americans. Another "officer-involved" shooting erupted this week in Kenosha, Wisconsin, unleashing both completely necessary protests and outbursts of rage, in turn countered by the armed legions of the Trumpian right. On day three of the Republican counter-reality show, police arrested a 17-year-old zealot, who’d stood in the front row at a recent Trump rally, for shooting and killing two of the Kenosha protesters.
It’s clear that Republicans came into the convention determined to position Biden and the Democrats as either indifferent to or encouraging of the outbreaks of property destruction and defiance of police that a number of cities have experienced. Pence doubled down on that message last night, while choosing not to note the police violence that sets off the protests, and the gun-toting militias, white nationalists, and other flotsam that have come out of the woodwork as Trump has summoned them forth. Not only have the Republicans failed to acknowledge the existence of these forces of disorder, but Pence shifted the blame for the deliberate killing of a police officer in Oakland earlier this year from the actual assailant—a Boogaloo Boy, among the most dangerous of armed right-wing lunatics—to the left-wing protests which, the Boogalooer believed, would bring out a cop he could kill.

The militias, the Charlottesville neo-Nazis, the Kenosha killer, the QAnon Republican congressional nominee whom Trump has praised, the woman whom the Republicans pulled from their convention speaker list at the last minute on Tuesday when her anti-Semitic tweets were discovered—they’re the natural excrescence of Donald Trump’s presidency, and may well be on alert to show up at polling places to keep the wrong people from voting if Trump needs them this November.

The law-and-order president is really the prince of disorder, and the evidence of that disorder—both the right’s and that of the self-subverting enragés—has provided the loudest knocks on the convention’s doors this week. The Republicans welcome the property destruction disorder, and magnify it into a national threat, even though, as I wrote earlier this week, the ratio of small businesses Trump has destroyed by his incompetent handling of the pandemic to small businesses destroyed by rioters is roughly 10,000 to 1.

Down by nine or ten points to Biden in the polls, however, Trump’s embrace of law and order is one of the few ways he believes he can claw his way to an Electoral College victory. He has counted from the start on white racial anxiety. That’s what he and his fellow Republicans mean when they say the election is about whether America will remain America—that is, with whites still in control, and safe behind the walls he’s erecting to keep out other races, whose numbers will someday surpass the whites’. But that demographic threat is too abstract by itself to turn the election in his favor; the protests and the anger in the streets present a seemingly more immediate and palpable threat, even if the overwhelming majority of Americans view them only on television or social media. They’re the grist for Trump’s law-and-order mill.

You can be certain that grist is going to be part of tonight’s script. Trump will proclaim, as he did four years ago, that our country stands on a precipice and only he can save it. He will, as Pence hilariously stated last night, "Make America Great Again, Again." Outside, the waters rise and fires rage, the pandemic continues to kill, and the Trumpian right is armed and dangerous. None of that, of course, will be in the script.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Enough Is Enough

Are You a Socialist ??? Bernie Sanders

 If you have watched the first two nights of the Republican National Convention, and I am sorry if you have, you have probably seen speaker after speaker accuse Joe Biden and the Democratic Party of being SOCIALISTS who, if elected, will carry out the agenda of Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ilhan Omar.

If only that were true… 

But while they scream "socialist" as an epithet in their videos and from the stage, what everyone needs to know is that Trump and the Republican Party just LOVE socialism — a corporate socialism for the rich and the powerful. 

And let's be clear. Their brand of socialism has resulted in more income and wealth inequality than at any time since the 1920s, with three multi-billionaires now owning more wealth than the bottom half of our nation. Their socialism has allowed, during this pandemic, the very, very rich to become much richer while tens of millions of workers have lost their jobs, their health care and face eviction.

While Trump denounces socialism let us never forget the $885 million in government subsidies and tax breaks the Trump family received for a real estate empire built on racial discrimination.

But Trump is not alone. 

The high priest of unfettered capitalism, Trump’s National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, spoke in a video last night. 

And who could ever forget when Larry was on television begging for the largest federal bailout in American history for his friends on Wall Street — some $700 billion from the Treasury and trillions in support from the Federal Reserve — after their greed, recklessness and illegal behavior created the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression.

But it is not just Trump and Larry Kudlow.

If you are a fossil fuel company, whose carbon emissions are destroying the planet, you get billions in government subsidies including special tax breaks, royalty relief, funding for research and development and numerous tax loopholes.

If you are a pharmaceutical company, you make huge profits on patent rights for medicines that were developed with taxpayer-funded research.

If you are a monopoly like Amazon, owned by the wealthiest person in America, you get hundreds of millions of dollars in economic incentives from taxpayers to build warehouses and you end up paying not one penny in federal income taxes.

If you are the Walton family, the wealthiest family in America, you get massive government subsidies because your low-wage workers are forced to rely on food stamps, Medicaid and public housing in order to survive — all paid for by taxpayers.

This is what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. meant when he said that “This country has socialism for the rich, and rugged individualism for the poor.”

And that is the difference between Donald Trump and us. 

Trump believes in corporate socialism for the rich and powerful.

We believe in a democratic socialism that works for the working families of this country. We believe that in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, economic rights are human rights.

So yes, progressives and even moderate Democrats will face attacks from people who attempt to use the word "socialism" as a slur.

There is nothing new of that.

Like President Harry Truman said, "Socialism is the epithet they have hurled at every advance the people have made in the last 20 years … Socialism is what they called Social Security … Socialism is their name for almost anything that helps all the people."

Our job in this moment is to stay focused. 

First priority: defeat Donald Trump, the most dangerous president in modern American history — and defeat him badly.

Then on Day 1 of the Biden administration, we will mobilize the working families of this country to demand a government that represents all of us and not just the few. We will fight to ensure that every American has a right to a decent job that pays a living wage, to health care, to a complete education, to affordable housing, to a clean environment, and to a secure retirement — and no more tax breaks for billionaires and large corporations.

Add your name to say you’re in this fight:

Sign my petition: add your name to say you’ll fight for a 21st Century Bill of Rights that guarantees everyone in this country a decent job with a living wage, quality health care, a complete education, affordable housing, a clean environment, and a secure retirement. 

The one percent in this country may have enormous wealth and power, and they will use it to try and stop our agenda. But they are just the one percent. And if the 99 percent in this country stand together, defeat Trump, and go on to fight for the values we share, we can transform this country.

In solidarity,

Bernie Sanders

More on the Republican Convention

 The Republicans, Day Two
The Melania Mystery, the Kudlow Confusion, and the Two-Track Convention
Donald Trump has whetted my appetite for more.

Now that he’s pardoned Jon Ponder (former bank robber, now a God-fearing, cop-supporting, Trump-backing helper of ex-cons) as a feature of night two of this year’s Republican Convention, hope springs eternal that Trump’s just warming to the task and will pardon still more people on nights three and four. Too bad he can’t pardon Roger Stone again, but how about Paul Manafort and Steve Bannon (who may not be convicted yet, but a proactive pardon could cover a multitude of sins)? Or Michael Flynn? And in the spirit of Christian charity, how about pardoning himself? If nothing else, it would boost the convention’s sagging ratings.

The convention is now clearly barreling down two very different tracks. The first is aimed at inflaming Trump’s base and those susceptible to his racist, nativist appeals. For those militia-heads yearning for civil war, Trump’s son Eric sounded the tocsin last night. America, he noted, had "defeated fascism, defeated communism, and in 68 days will defeat the radical left," which has seized whole quadrants of Joe Biden’s mind.

The other track appeals to those who yearn for the kinder, gentler Republican Party of yore—mythic though it may largely be. (Recall that George H.W. Bush, who promised such a party, also deployed the racist Willie Horton ad to defeat Michael Dukakis in 1988.) For those who seek signs of sensitivity from the Trumpified Republicans, the party rolled out its sole sensitivity spokesperson last night: Trump’s wife Melania.

If these two strategies coexist only uneasily, well, a campaign whose standard-bearer is down by ten points is in no condition to be hemmed in by consistency. Like Walt Whitman (in this if nothing else), Trump’s Republicans unabashedly contradict themselves. My favorite contradiction of the evening came from Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez’s depiction of life under Joe Biden, who would lead us, she said, down "the dark road of chaos and government control." The specters of wild riots and authoritarian regimes can each be invoked, but not if they’re bound together.

The evening also doubled down on what is supposedly Trump’s strongest point: the economy. In so doing, it managed to erase the time period between March 2020 and today. Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow apparently has issues of time and tense, mixing up mythical pasts, presents, and futures. He spoke of the pandemic and its accompanying economic collapse in the past tense, noting gleefully that "Americans are going back to work" now that those dark days are over.

Yesterday, more than 1,100 Americans died from the virus.
If one goal of the convention is to stoke the passions of those Americans whom Fox News summons to dubious battle every night, most recently by turning Joe Biden into Joe Stalin, the other goal is to allay the anxieties of those once-reliable Republican voters who abhor how divisive the party has become. To that end, the convention has created counter-messaging: OK, lady, you don’t like the thuggish tweets and policies the president puts out? Look, here’s his hitherto concealed human side, his passion for justice. See, he’s naturalizing immigrants, talking to frontline workers, being validated by people of color.

I doubt any of that really works. It runs headlong into Trump’s every public action. The humanizing project was dead as a doornail, until Melania came down to the Rose Garden. Hers was the one speech that actually suggested someone in the White House is aware of a world beyond the one that Fox News creates.

Unlike any other speaker so far, Melania noted that the pandemic still exists and expressed sympathy not just for its direct victims but for all who struggle with its myriad dislocations. She acknowledged the ubiquitous pain. She spoke directly to mothers. She sounded tolerant, speaking of "the three great religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism." (Fortunately, she wasn’t refuted by a Trump backer pulled from the speaking schedule at the last minute due to her tweet about the Jews conspiring to take over the world.) Unlike Trump’s children, his aides, and his stooges, she didn’t sound like she wanted to cast the Democratic half of the country into the burning pit. It’s worth noting that Melania rejected the assistance of campaign speechwriters and had a top aide work on the speech.

Whether true or not, it was a convincing depiction of who Melania is. Well, almost convincing. Melania may well believe, as she said, that "helping children is not a political goal; it’s a moral imperative." How she squares that with her husband’s policy of separating toddlers from their parents and putting them in cages, however, isn’t easy to understand. Nor is squaring her characterization of Islam as a "great religion" with her husband’s Muslim travel ban. Perhaps her speech was a quiet critique of Trump’s policies, her way of saying she didn’t like the cages or the travel ban. Then again, perhaps it was the greatest act of cynical misdirection of this entire repulsive convention.

Either way, while Melania went a long way toward establishing a separate public identity for herself (not for nothing did she walk in unescorted), I don’t think she succeeded in altering Donald Trump’s public identity, which is, after all, one of the convention’s goals. I assume it was one of her goals, too, but who knows? Maybe, like Trump’s sister and niece, she’s had it with him, but has decided to stick it out.

More important, I doubt the public can be made to believe there’s a kinder, gentler Trump, and I don’t think his strategists believe that’s possible either, save among a handful of white suburbanites seeking some excuse to vote for the guy. The bulk of his voters will come, they believe, if he can summon them to join in civil war.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

A Democratic Socialist at Sacramento City Hall


Sacramento Bee.  August 22, 2020

Katie Valenzuela kept refreshing her computer.

She was waiting for the City Council agenda to be posted to reveal what changes, if any, the mayor’s office had made to its “strong mayor” ballot measure proposal,which Valenzuela strongly opposed.

When it finally posted, it was clear the mayor’s office had not done what Valenzuela asked. The incoming Sacramento City Council member was irritated, but unsurprised.

Read more here:

A self-described democratic socialist, Valenzuela, 34, has been called Sacramento’s Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. When she is sworn into her council seat in December, she will be the youngest member and the only renter.

After winning her March primary to unseat Councilman Steve Hansen for arguably the most high-profile council seat, Valenzuela is about to exercise her power for the first time from the inside. Many are wondering if she will be able to achieve her vision.

Valenzuela has been an activist for more than a decade. For years she has worked for organizations lobbying state lawmakers around environmental, education and equity causes.

Her passion for environmental issues comes partly from growing up in Oildale in Kern County, the birthplace of Merle Haggard and firmly connected to California’s petroleum industry for more than a century. She has suffered from severe asthma since she was a kid, and now works as the policy and political director for the California Environmental Justice Alliance. 

“I was one of the few kids of color in any of my classes,” she said. “It’s a very poor community. They’ve never had a lot of resources and they’ve had to innovate.”

She attributes her community organizer streak to her father,who died from bladder cancer in 2012. He was a well-known activist for veterans affairs issues in Bakersfield. He brought her to a youth leadership conference, where she ended up as the emcee when she was just 13. She was hooked.

“I actually feel closer to him now, which is weird,” Valenzuela said. “I think about him all the time.”

Valenzuela’s experience in Sacramento is not an anomaly. Around the country, progressive political activists are surprising the political establishment. Earlier this month, progressive activist Cori Bush defeated 10-term incumbent U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay Jr., and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan easily fended off a more moderate challenger for her U.S. House seat.

Before Valenzuela decided to run, people had been approaching her for years, she said. She always said no – seeing herself as more of a behind-the-scenes activist than an elected official.

And then rent prices soared.


After graduating from North High School in Oildale, she decided to attend UC Davis because it offered her the best financial aid package, she said. 

She’s worked at several progressive organizations, including Breathe California, Public Advocates law firm, and the now-defunct Ubuntu Green. She also worked in the state Legislature as a consultant for a joint legislative committee on climate change policies, and as a staffer for Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella.

In 2014, Valenzuela was renting a one-bedroom midtown apartment with a garage and balcony for $850 per month. She moved to Oak Park, where she and her then-husband could afford to buy a house. When she returned in 2017, following a divorce, the cheapest two-bedroom apartment she could find was $1,495. It was considered a “good deal.”

Many Sacramentans could relate. Studio apartments now rent for more than $1,000 a month. The typical apartment rent here soared 45 percent in the last seven years, adjusting for inflation, a Sacramento Bee analysis found last year

Her story won over voters such as Zoe Kipping, who pays $1,200 for her midtown studio. A block away sits the spacious one-bedroom apartment she used to rent for half that amount in 2012.

“I really related to Katie on that level,” said Kipping, 31. “It’s definitely a struggle.”

In early 2019, pressure was building to do something about rising rents. Tenant advocate organizations had collected more than 40,000 signatures to put a rent control initiative on the ballot. The City Council at the time was standing by without agreeing to place the measure on the ballot.

The local elected officials’ inaction prompted Valenzuela to announce her council run in April 2019.

“It was really about rent,” said Valenzuela, sitting in a midtown coffee shop the day after her March 4 win. “It’s very unusual to run if you don’t have $10,000 in your bank account or someone backing you and at the time nobody was backing me. So I got together some friends who know how to do this and said, ‘OK, tell me what I need to do.’ ”

They launched a grassroots campaign, knocking on more than 15,000 doors, with a pledge not to accept campaign donations from developers or public safety unions – the two entities most local politicians have traditionally relied on to fund their campaigns.

Then, in August 2019, Hansen announced a proposal – the council would adopt a less-strict version of rent control in exchange for the ballot initiative to be dropped. The council unanimously adopted it the following week.

To Valenzuela, it was another weak compromise. 

While Hansen could say he brought rent control to Sacramento while still appeasing some of his more conservative supporters, Valenzuela was able to paint the deal as a watered-down, rushed-through endeavor to silence the wishes of more than 40,000 people. 

She and her team delivered that message, and Valenzuela’s personal story as a renter. They knocked on the doors of nearly every apartment in the central city, one of the areas most severely affected by rent hikes.

Since then, she’s continued to push the city to put the stricter rent control measure on the ballot, which a judge ordered the city to do last week. She also has been demanding the city and county spend their federal coronavirus stimulus funds on rental assistance to tenants. In recent months, she also has been a leading proponent of “defund the police” and “no strong mayor”.

Valenzuela works with a growing coalition of activist groups – those that focus on homelessness, the Black community, tenant rights and prisoner rights – that have been increasing their sophistication and power during the pandemic.

“It’s just such a fascinating intersection of really tragic things,” Valenzuela said. “You’ve got a pandemic, you’ve got the shooting deaths of multiple Black individuals … you’ve got folks stuck at home, a lot of folks unemployed. This activism that had been happening ... all kind of converged on each other and gave us a very straight focus.”

Success so far has been mixed. The city this week agreed to nearly $5 million in rental assistance, but Valenzuela says more is needed. The council placed a “strong mayor” measure on the ballot without including the changes demanded in a letter signed by more than 300 people.

But ultimately it will be up to the voters on Nov. 3. So will the stricter rent control Valenzuela is pushing, though a judge could still decide the city does not have to implement it.

“Is she more progressive than the others? Sure,” said Andrew Acosta, local political consultant and South Land Park resident. “Is she more effective than the others? Unknown.”


Once she takes the seat in December, her activism will be challenged with her ability to create change in a system of more moderate Democrats where Steinberg, strong mayor or not, basically runs the show.

Under the council’s current structure, any measure needs five of nine members to vote “yes.”

Steinberg, a master at whipping votes dating back to his days running the state Senate, almost always gets the five votes he needs (often it’s unanimous), even on controversial topics. 

Councilman Jeff Harris, who agrees with Valenzuela on some topics, such as “no strong mayor,” said she should focus on compromise and cooperation when she takes the seat.

“You can’t go it alone and expect to push your own agenda,” Harris said. “I appreciate her having a voice and her idealism and I’m not trying to squelch that. I’m just trying to say that activism doesn’t work that well once you’re already on the council.”

Valenzuela said she has no plans to scale back the activism or act any differently.

“I’m considering this a trial run for when I’m in office,” Valenzuela said.

If anything, this summer she’s increased her activism. In addition to leading the campaign against “strong mayor,” she’s spearheading a project giving residents the opportunity to rewrite the entire city budget, modeled after a movement in Los Angeles called the People’s Budget.

In L.A., the budget proposal includes big cuts to the police department and reallocating that money toward housing, healthcare, mental health and parks. Valenzuela launched the project after the Sacramento City Council adopted a budget that included an all-time-high $157 million to the police department.

Acosta said he hasn’t seen an incoming council member take on those types of major projects while waiting to be sworn in, he said.

“They usually just do a victory lap, they’re not putting together the People’s Budget,” Acosta said.

And then there’s the statewide activism. As part of her day job, Valenzuela was part of a group that earlier this month placed replica oil rigs on the Capitol Lawn in support of a now-dead bill that would have created buffer zones between fossil fuel production and schools, homes and hospitals. That action and her comments prompted Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, to name her several times during his comments on the Senate floor opposing the bill.

At City Hall, even if she’s unable to get Steinberg on her side, when it comes to the issues, Valenzuela is confident she can get at least four other members to vote her way. Three members opposed putting “strong mayor” on the ballot earlier this month, Valenzuela pointed out.

It’s a strategy her father perfected in conservative Oildale.

Read more here: