Thu, Feb

Shocking GOP Poll?: Most Democrats Prefer Socialism to Capitalism

POLITICS--Lending credence to the momentum behind Bernie Sanders' grassroots campaign, a poll (pdf) released on Monday finds that Democratic primary voters prefer socialism to capitalism by a wide margin. Nearly two-thirds of those polled also believed that socialism has a beneficial impact on society.

The right-wing group American Action Network, funded by a Super PAC that supports House Republicans, conducted the poll. The conservative organization, among others, feigned surprise regarding its findings:

One might argue that the poll was intended to underscore how, as one conservative Super PAC official noted, far left Democratic voters have moved.

The poll was careful to avoid mention of the current election—and the candidate who is running as a "democratic socialist"—focusing instead on the differences between ideologies. "Which of the following statements do you agree with most?" the poll question was phrased, and went on to define the two systems. 

People who support free market capitalism, the poll told respondents, "say it's not the government's job to pick winners and losers and that government intervention only leads to inefficiency. They say that capitalism produces the greatest amount of personal and economic freedom" and the best outcome for society, "even if some people are left behind because they can't compete."

The poll stated that people who support socialism, on the other hand, believe that "corporations have too much control and that the capitalist system is set to favor the rich and powerful," and the government should "take a larger role in managing the economy to make sure that every individual has equal access to basic necessities and public goods, even if that means that some people have to transfer their wealth to others."

In response, 40 percent of those polled said they preferred socialism while only 25 percent chose capitalism. The preference for socialism held true for all demographic groups.

A new poll finds that most Democratic voters prefer socialism over capitalism. (Image: AAN/OnMessage Inc.)

By significant margins, a majority of poll respondents also supported a public, government-run healthcare system, free tuition at public colleges and universities, and more government regulation of private corporations.

While Bernie Sanders was not specifically mentioned, his running for president on a platform of democratic socialism prompted the poll, Politico reported. “Now you finally have someone who’s running for president — not just running, but doing very well, is very competitive, may very well be the nominee — who calls himself a socialist,” said Mike Shields, a veteran GOP operative and former Republican National Committee chief of staff. “So we thought it would be worth going past the leadership of the party to see what the primary electorate itself thinks."

The overarching concept of democratic socialism and such issues as free tuition for public universities and a single-payer healthcare system have defined Sanders' campaign. The senator's swift ascent among Democratic voters further supports the poll's findings, and such results also point to the potential for Sanders' momentum to build ahead of Super Tuesday.

(Nika Knight writes for the excellent Common Dreams  … where this report was first posted.)


Scalia’s Constitution Interpretation: Makes Case for Choosing his Successor Now

AT LENGTH-Antonin Scalia wasn’t dead for more than 24 hours before the political rancor in Washington D.C. started up in the press. Of course, there were praises from both conservatives and liberals regarding his 30 years of service on the U.S. Supreme Court. Scalia was described as the intellectual anchor of the conservative court majority, which subscribes to an originalist and textualist view of the U.S. Constitution. He and Justice Anthony Kennedy are also the last of President Ronald Reagan’s legacy appointments to the Supreme Court. 

The political uproar was launched initially by U.S. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R, KY), challenging whether President Barack Obama should rightly appoint a replacement justice to the court before he is termed out of office 11 months from now -- essentially a lame duck nomination by the president. 

McConnell and the rest of the Republican Party are just aghast that Obama will exercise his constitutional duty and send to the Senate a judicial nominee that could turn the 5-4 conservative majority into a more liberal one -- a majority that could continue for the next three decades. 

“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” said McConnell in a released statement. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.” 

I doubt that Scalia would support such an objection from beyond the grave. 

You see, Scalia’s mark on the law comes from his originalist interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, which basically argues that the meaning of the Constitution and its amendments are and should remain fixed and unchanging over time. 

This interpretation is contrary to the school of thought that the Constitution is a “living” document that evolves over time. 

Textualism on the other hand is a theory of the interpretation of law, holding that a legal text’s ordinary meaning should govern its interpretation, as opposed to inquiries into non-textual sources such as the intention of the legislature in passing the law. 

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (March 8, 1841-March 6, 1935,) although not a textualist himself, well-captured the philosophy, when he said: 

We ask, not what this man meant, but what those words would mean in the mouth of a normal speaker of English, using them in the circumstances in which they were used… We do not inquire what the legislature meant; we ask only what the statutes mean. 

In other words, make sure that what is written means what you think it means and don’t expect anyone to understand your intention for writing a law unless it’s clearly in the law. 

However, I’m drifting off my main point here trying to explain the peculiarity of Scalia’s legal position. He probably would have argued that Obama has the absolute right and duty to nominate his replacement on the Supreme Court, as written in the Constitution, and that the U.S. Senate has the right to review and confirm it. 

So let the battle begin. 

Why any of this matters and what the death of Scalia really means comes at the end of Reagan’s legacy -- a legacy that began when he was California’s governor during the Vietnam War and college campuses were erupting in protests and uprisings. 

Reagan’s influence stretches from the crackdown on University of California demonstrations to the Iran-Contra scandal to the trickle-down economics theory, to his wife Nancy’s popular, if not delusional, “Just Say No to Drugs” campaign. All have had a lasting negative effect over the past 30 to 40 years. 

To this day, we still can’t say that the war on drugs is over, or who won. 

Some argue, and I agree, that Reagan was one of least prepared persons to sit in the Oval Office over the course of the last 100 years and to some extent we’re still paying for it. 

Conservatives like to defend Reagan as a model of fiscal conservatism: he is clearly one of the leaders of debt creation in terms of total increase in “federal debt to GDP.” Looking at U.S. presidents in the post-World War II era, Republican presidents during terms have contributed far more to the debt load of the nation than Democrats. 

Presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush all added to the federal debt significantly on a percent-of-GDP basis. 

On the Democratic side, only Obama -- who inherited the worst financial crisis in this era from his predecessor -- also ranks high in terms of contributing to the federal debt. 

Antonin Scalia’s death -- as he was a significant actor in the Reagan era -- turns the page to a new chapter of American politics. It is one that pivots away from the Cold War politics and conservatism of my parents’ generation to one in which someone like Bernie Sanders, an avowed democratic-socialist, might actually have a shot at the Oval Office without people crying out that “the sky is falling.” 

America has changed culturally since the time Reagan was in office and we are only now beginning to realize what this means politically.


(James Preston Allen is the Publisher of Random Lengths News, the Los Angeles Harbor Area's only independent newspaper. He is also a guest columnist for the California Courts Monitor and is the author of "Silence Is Not Democracy - Don't listen to that man with the white cap - he might say something that you agree with!" He was elected to the presidency of the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council in 2014 and has been engaged in the civic affairs of CD 15 for more than 35 years. More of Allen … and other views and news at: randomlengthsnews.com )  Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


San Bernardino County: ‘FBI at Fault for Losing Data in Shooting Investigation’

STYMIED SECURITY-The FBI reportedly asked San Bernardino County officials to tamper with the iCloud account of one of the suspected shooters in last December's attack, in an effort that ultimately failed -- making it impossible to know if there were other ways of recovering encrypted information without taking Apple to court. 

Late Saturday night, San Bernardino officials contradicted the FBI's claims as to who was at fault for a bungled effort at recovering Syed Farook's private data from six weeks before the attack, stating that it complied with the agency's orders to reset Farook's iCloud password. 

That effort only worked to prevent an auto-backup of the data the FBI sought, rendering the information "permanently inaccessible." 

Apple executives said that means there may have been a way to avoid the momentous privacy battle currently underway between the tech company and the government. 

The Washington Post reports: 

In the chaotic aftermath of the shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., in December, FBI investigators seeking to recover data from the iPhone of one of the shooters asked a technician in the California county to reset the phone’s iCloud password. 

But that action foreclosed the possibility of an automatic backup to the Apple iCloud servers that might have turned up more clues to the origins of the terrorist attack that killed 14 people. 

“The county and the FBI were working together cooperatively to obtain data, and at the point when it became clear the only way to accomplish the task at hand was to reset the iCloud password, the FBI asked the county to do so, and the county complied,” David Wert, a spokesman for San Bernardino County, said in an email. 

The FBI admitted this mistake in a legal filing late Friday night, but deflected blame away from the agency, stating, "the owner [San Bernardino County], in an attempt to gain access to some information in the hours after the attack, was able to reset the password remotely, but that had the effect of eliminating the possibility of an auto-backup..." 

But a Twitter account associated with San Bernardino County said otherwise. 

"The County was working cooperatively with the FBI when it reset the iCloud password at the FBI's request." 

Wert added, "[t]he county said we could get to the information on the cloud if we changed the password or had Apple change the password." 

"The FBI asked us to do that, and we did," he said. 

(Nadia Prupis writes for Common Dreams where this report was posted earlier.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


Lessons from NASCAR? California Legislators Might have to Wear Donors on their Sleeves – Huh?

CALWATCHDOG-The movement to emblazon state legislators with the logos of their donors has collected tens of thousands of signatures for its would-be ballot initiative. “The measure, formally called the ‘Name All Sponsors California Accountability Reform Initiative,’ (or NASCAR. Get it?) would require all state legislators to wear the emblems or names of their 10 top donors every time they attend an official function,” the Los Angeles Daily News explained.  “The measure’s sponsor, Rancho Santa Fe businessman John Cox, takes delight in the idea and has already done some touring around California with 120 life-size photographic cutouts of politicians dressed up as they might have to under his plan.” 

Populists Wanted--Cox’s group announced it has already gathered 40,000 signatures out of the 365,880 valid ones necessary to make November’s ballot, telling the Huffington Post they “are confident they can muster enough support.” In an interview with U.S. News, Cox spoke expansively — noting the historically low threshold for signatures based on last election cycle’s low turnout, and banking on a high-energy California electorate in a year when political insurgents have shaken up national politics and captivated Golden State voters: 

“Cox says he’s seeking the endorsements of GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, both of whom have rallied passionate supporters in part by denouncing their rivals as indentured servants to corporations and other wealthy donors.” 

Cox’s grand vision may resonate especially with Sanders, whose fundraising has been driven almost entirely by small donations, and whose digital strategist is a 24-year-old Eagle Scout from California named Kenneth Pennington. (“Pennington began as a press aide to the senator, where he grew accustomed to typing out the Facebook posts that his boss would think of in the shower and dictate once he arrived in the office,” according to the Associated Press.) 

Although a somewhat related measure, Prop. 89, previously went down to defeat because voters didn’t want to foot the bill for its public financing regime — which “would also have required every privately financed political ad, whether on television or in newspapers or mailed fliers, to list its three biggest financiers in type as large as the biggest print anywhere else in the ad,” as the Daily News noted, adding that Cox, once a Chicago Republican, has pledged to foot $1 million of the bill for NASCAR.

Dem Dollars--In that same 2014 election cycle with historically low turnout, analysts noted that Democrats made out better than Republicans in California, overturning the conventional wisdom that big business interests tip the scales in favor of the GOP. “The biggest donors to statewide races in California for the 2014 election cycle were Kaiser Permanente and Anthem Blue Cross of California, pulling $23 million and $19 million, respectively,” as Al Jazeera America reported. “For the state races, Democrats actually received almost three times as much ($145 million) as Republicans ($52 million). Much of the health care lobbying was around Proposition 45, which would have required insurance companies to provide public notice when raising rates.” 

Despite contempt among some for those perceived to be buying influence, few have raised objections to a twist on the formula. Some high-profile California candidates have begun raffling off perks gained through privileged access in exchange for small donations. Although presidential hopefuls have indulged in the strategy for years, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has gained notice for taking the idea to new heights. Last month, the San Francisco Chronicle reported, he dangled special seats at the Super Bowl before constituents willing to send at least $5 to the gun-control package he has been touting as part of his early-bird run for the governorship. 

“This isn’t Newsom’s first venture into online raffles. In May, for example, the former San Francisco mayor offered the chance to win a pair of tickets to a Giants-Dodgers game to people donating to his 2018 campaign for governor. And in October, that $5 contribution could have turned into seats at a private concert by the band Train and the chance to hang out backstage with Newsom, his family and the band.”


(James Poulos writes for CalWatchdog  … where this perspective was originally published.) Photo courtesy of California is Not for Sale. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


Justice Scalia’s Replacement is Important to Latinos, Here’s Why

LATINO PERSPECTIVE-In the next few months, citizens in Los Angeles will face the very important responsibility of choosing a presidential candidate to represent them in the general election this coming November. This election is particularly important for Latinos in Los Angeles because of the Supreme Court vacancy. With the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, President Obama is on his way to nominate his replacement. But it seems like Republicans in the Senate will block the nomination process and will leave it to the next President to choose a replacement. 

Last week the Latino Victory Project contacted me to ask me a few very important questions regarding the Latino participation in our communities -- about how the vacancy of Scalia will influence my vote, what this vacancy means to the Latino community, and a little bit about my immigrant experience. 

As the primary election approaches, I’d like to share with you three questions they asked me. Latinos who will be voting should answer these questions about the Supreme Court as part of their decision making process. 

I hope these questions and my answers to them will help the Latino community in LA to start thinking about who, of all the candidates running for President, will best represent and protect their interests for many years to come -- not only here in Los Angeles but all over our country. 

  1. Based on your experiences, why do you think it is important for Latinos to be civically active in the community? 

The government can only do so much. That is why I believe that if Latinos want to improve their quality of life and their political clout, they must get involved in their communities, give back and do all they can to change things for the better.  

  1. How have your experiences influenced your civic participation? 

Our Declaration of Independence says that we have certain unalienable Rights and among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. This is what has made America great. As an openly gay man, a Latino and an immigrant, I’m driven and influenced by the desire to fight and protect the rights of all citizens. This is important if we are all to have true liberty, live life to the fullest, and pursue the happiness and fulfillment as we want and not just what some politicians would want us for us. 

  1. With Justice Scalia's seat open in SCOTUS, how do you think this will impact your vote? What do you think this means for the Latino community? 

Because Supreme Court rulings impact our country for generations to come, picking a Supreme Court Justice is the most important decision a President can make. 

I’d like our President to pick someone who will not get mired in religion-based moral quandaries like Scalia did. I’m going to vote for a candidate who will nominate someone who understands that legal arguments are secular, and that they are based on a secular document, the U.S. Constitution, which was written during the founding of a secular democracy.  

This year the Supreme Court will rule on issues affecting Latinos in a very meaningful way. Therefore, the implications for the Latino community are huge, like President Obama’s executive action on immigration, or Evenwel v. Abbott (One Person, One Vote.) The Court will also vote on Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (affirmative action), and on Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (Public Union Dues) as well as many other important cases. Latinos need to be informed and choose carefully.


(Fred Mariscal came to Los Angeles from Mexico City in 1992 to study at the University of Southern California and has been in LA ever since. He is a community leader who serves as Vice Chair of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition and sits on the board of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council representing Larchmont Village. He was a candidate for Los Angeles City Council in District 4. Fred writes Latino Perspective for CityWatch and can be reached at: [email protected].) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


Gloria Steinem Stirs an Old Debate: Socialism vs Feminism

EDITOR’S PICK--In 1905, Eugene V. Debs, the popular labor activist and Socialist Party leader, had a speaking engagement in Rochester, New York and went to visit the aging women’s rights pioneer Susan B. Anthony at her home there. They exchanged memories of their previous meeting; then Anthony took Debs’s hand and, with good humor, said, “Give us suffrage and we’ll give you socialism.” Debs’s good-natured reply was: “Give us socialism and we’ll give you the vote.” 

The exchange crystallized what has often been a less good-natured debate on the American left. Over the course of this year’s Democratic primary, arguments between socialists and feminists have again come to the fore—never more so than in recent weeks, after the feminist icon Gloria Steinem claimed that young women were flocking to support democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, instead of Hillary Clinton, in order to meet young men. “When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys?” Steinem said during an interview on Bill Maher’s TV show. “The boys are with Bernie.” 

Clinton has been counting on women’s votes to win the Democratic nomination and the presidency. Unlike in her 2008 campaign, when she downplayed the breakthrough possibility of becoming America’s first woman president, this year she’s made it a centerpiece of her stump speeches. 

But polls and election results reveal that the strategy isn’t quite working. In the New Hampshire primary, for example, Sanders won 53 percent of the female vote compared to Clinton’s 46 percent, according to ABC News’s exit poll. Among women under forty-five, 69 percent of Democratic women backed Sanders. National polls have found similar trends. And Steinem’s remarks triggered a backlash from women, especially younger women, who quickly spread the hashtag #NotHereForBoys across social media. (“Women for Bernie” signs were already a fixture at the candidate’s rallies.) Steinem soon apologized for her intemperate comment, but the controversy hasn’t died down. 

It is easy to understand Steinem’s consternation. She was born in 1934 and came of age in the 1950s when women were treated like inferiors and second-class citizens in almost every aspect of society. She had to overcome many gender barriers to make her way in the world of journalism, which helped trigger her evolution as a feminist. Her work as a writer and activist catalyzed the “second wave” of the women’s rights movement that began in the late 1960s. She helped popularize feminist ideas. Her frequent articles, speeches, and appearances on TV made her feminism’s most prominent public figure. 

In 1969, there were only ten women in the House of Representatives (there are eighty-eight today) and one in the Senate (compared with twenty today). At the time, the idea of a woman president felt like a distant dream. In fact, in 1969, only 53 percent of Americans said they would vote for a woman for president “if she were qualified in every other respect,” according to the Gallup Poll. By last year, that figure had increased to 92 percent.  Now that it is finally possible to envision a woman in the White House, many veteran feminists like Steinem are eager for Hillary Clinton to turn that dream into a reality. 

Many young women, who have benefited from the work of Steinem’s generation of feminists, take the accomplishments of the women’s movement for granted. Though much remains to be done to defend abortion, redress the gender pay gap, and stop domestic violence, millennial women don’t think that their gender limits their ability to enter most professions (including law, medicine, journalism, and engineering); they play sports in high school, college, and professionally; they count on male partners to do their fair share of housework; and they feel empowered to run for any office. Thanks to feminism, attitudes about gender have changed dramatically over the past few decades among Americans of all ages, women and men. But differences remain. For example, among Steinem’s generation (sixty-five and older), only 88 percent are willing to vote for a woman for president. Among those under thirty, 96 percent are willing to do so. 

In that context, Steinem’s comment about Sanders’s female supporters seemed at best stuck in a time warp. Many young women activists resented Steinem’s implication that they had to support a mainstream liberal woman candidate over a progressive male candidate. Indeed, many of them believed that, based on his policy ideas, Sanders was not only more of an economic radical than Clinton but also as much of a feminist, as a longtime advocate for women’s right to an abortion, paid family leave, and LGBT rights, including support for same-sex marriage years before Clinton came around on the issue. 

Both socialists and feminists—and, of course, the socialist-feminists who refuse this split altogether—recognize that the nation’s widening wealth and income gap, and the persistent difference between men and women in terms of pay and promotion, are part of the same problem and can’t be solved in isolation. 

Indeed, despite what Debs and Anthony’s 1905 exchange might suggest, radicals of many stripes have long understood issues of class and gender as intertwined. In 1912, Charlotte Perkins Gilman—a writer, editor, lecturer, and activist who could be called the Gloria Steinem of her day—captured this attitude in her poem “The Socialist and the Suffragist.” Published in the socialist newspaper Appeal to Reason (which reached a paid circulation of more than half a million people), it is perhaps the most well-known testimonial to the ongoing debate about the relative importance of workers’ rights and women’s rights—class and gender—in the struggle for human emancipation. 

In the poem, Gilman imagines a conversation between a socialist and a feminist. Its final verses offer a reconciliation between the two: 

“A lifted world lifts women up,”
The Socialist explained.
“You cannot lift the world at all
While half of it is kept so small,”
The suffragist maintained.
The world awoke, and tartly spoke:
“Your work is all the same:
Work together or work apart,
Work, each of you, with all your heart—
Just get into the game!” 

Around the time that Gilman composed that poem, feminism was making significant headway. In 1910, emulating the mass protests of the burgeoning labor movement, the Women’s Political Union organized the nation’s first large-scale suffrage parade in New York City. That year, Washington granted women the right to vote followed by California in 1911. By 1912, nine states had granted women the vote. In 1913, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns organized the Congressional Union, later known as the National Woman’s Party, which published a weekly paper and staged demonstrations, parades, mass meetings, picketing, hunger strikes, and lobbying vigils to push for women’s suffrage and women’s rights at the federal level. 

On March 4, 1913, the duo organized an elaborate parade on the eve of Woodrow Wilson’s presidential inauguration. About 8,000 women marched with banners and floats down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House. The crowd watching the march was estimated at half a million people. Many onlookers harassed the marchers while the police stood by. Troops were called to restore order and to help the suffragists get to their destination—six hours after the parade started. The melee generated headlines, making the issue of women’s suffrage a topic of conversation around the country. 

Simultaneously, the Socialist Party was gaining momentum. In 1912, about 1,200 Socialist Party members held public office, including seventy-nine mayors in cities including Milwaukee, Buffalo, Minneapolis, Reading, and Schenectady as well as state legislators and even two members of Congress. That year, Debs, the party’s presidential candidate, garnered nearly 1 million votes for president—6 percent of the total in a four-person race that included Democrat Woodrow Wilson, Republican William Howard Taft, and Progressive Theodore Roosevelt. In the early 1900s, some of the nation’s most influential activists and thinkers—including philosopher John Dewey, settlement house founder Jane Addams, novelist Jack London, women’s suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, muckraking journalist Upton Sinclair, sociologist and civil rights leader W.E.B. Du Bois, public health pioneer Alice Hamilton, workplace reformer Frances Perkins, working women’s rights activist Florence Kelley, crusading attorney Clarence Darrow, labor leaders “Big Bill” Haywood and Rose Schneiderman, birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger, and the blind visionary Helen Keller—embraced socialism. 

Many socialists were involved in the struggle for women’s rights, and vice versa, but each movement had its own organizations, publications, and legislative agendas. 

Gloria Steinem’s grandmother, Pauline Steinem, was a prominent women’s rights activist, president of the Ohio Suffrage Association from 1908 to 1911, a leader of the National Woman Suffrage Association, and the first woman to be elected to the Toledo Board of Education. In a testimonial to her grandmother, Gloria Steinem noted that in her campaign for the school board, “she was elected on a coalition ticket with the socialists and the anarchists.” 

Given that feminist pedigree, Steinem must surely be familiar with Gilman’s poem and her book, The Man-Made World, published in 1911, which advocated for women’s economic equality, social freedom, and a new approach to family and gender roles. 

Like Gilman, Steinem is both a feminist and a socialist. She was a cofounder of the National Women’s Political Caucus and of Ms. magazine and is a longtime honorary co-chair of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). 

In her 1971 speech at the founding of the National Women’s Political Caucus, Steinem insisted that feminism had to embrace issues of racism and class. Feminism, she said, “is no simple reform. It really is a revolution. Sex and race because they are easy and visible differences have been the primary ways of organizing human beings into superior and inferior groups and into the cheap labor on which this system still depends. We are talking about a society in which there will be no roles other than those chosen or those earned. We are really talking about humanism.” 

One of Steinem’s great achievements was pushing the women’s movement to address the concerns of working-class women and women of color. Steinem is not only a member of DSA but also a cofounder of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, helping find common ground between the women’s and labor movements. She was also a consistent bridge between the predominantly white middle-class women’s movement and African-American feminists. As a founder of Ms., she made sure that the pioneering feminist magazine regularly reported on issues of poverty, inequality, and racism as well as sexism. Under her leadership, the magazine published investigative stories about overseas sweatshops, sex trafficking, the gender wage gap, the glass ceiling, women’s health (and the medical establishment’s sexism), sexual harassment, and date rape, and fought to address the race and class differences within the women’s movement. 

Steinem was an early advocate of what today’s young activists call “intersectionality”—the overlapping problems of race, class, gender, and sexual preference. 

So it couldn’t have been easy for her to endorse Hillary over Bernie. Perhaps she thought Clinton had a better shot at winning the White House or perhaps she simply believed that the time had come for a woman to be president. (Since she planted her flag in Clinton’s camp, she’s been all in, urging women to rally behind the former First Lady, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State.) 

A century ago, Charlotte Perkins Gilman understood the importance of forging unity among socialists and feminists, radicals and reformers. And, throughout her four decades as a public figure, so has Gloria Steinem. Her recent remarks about Sanders’s female supporters was an unfortunate misstep in a lifetime otherwise devoted to building bridges between activists for economic, racial, and gender justice. 

We can’t address issues like women’s access to abortion and health care, domestic violence, and paid family leave, as well as declining living standards, persistent poverty, and abusive corporate practices, without a coalition of Occupy Wall Street-like radicals, feminists, unionists, and racial justice activists. No matter who’s in the White House, it will be up to social movements to carry the momentum for real change.


(Peter Dreier is professor of Politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. His latest book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books, 2012). This piece first appeared in Dissent Magazine, reposted in CommonDreams.  Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Do You Know the Way to San Jose?

PERSPECTIVE-Apparently the California High Speed Rail Authority does. Dionne Warwick knows, too, as memorialized by her hit song. But the only music CHSRA chair Dan Richards hears is his own whistling in the dark as he considers the odds against the system’s completion. 

Read more ...

California History and the Movies: Schools Kids Need More Screen Time

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA-California teachers, you should be showing your students more movies. And not for babysitting purposes or to fill holes in your lesson plan. As our state considers new frameworks for the history and social science taught in each grade, now is the time to incorporate that signature California art – film -- into classes at every grade level. And the most important movies should be placed at the center of our efforts to teach history -- especially the history of California.

Have a problem with that? Well, I suppose I could quote a former mayor of Carmel and state parks commissioner and suggest that you “Go ahead, make my day.” Or I could utter a single word: “Rosebud.” 

You’d be surprised how many people have no idea where those references come from. As someone whose life revolves around dealing with young Californians -- as father, coach, occasional teacher, and journalistic colleague of millennials with fancy college degrees -- I’m struck by how little they know of films, and thus of California’s history, cultural and otherwise. The film critic and historian Neal Gabler has warned that movies that once united the generations now divide us, “leaving us with an endless stream of the very latest with no regard for what came before. Old movies are now like dinosaurs, and like dinosaurs, they are threatened with extinction.” 

What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate. (Cool Hand Luke.) And this is not a trivial matter; it is the loss of the essence of our state’s history. The California we know -- in reality and image -- was made and remade by the motion picture. Hollywood remains a signature industry (one supported by state taxpayers at that.) And our greatest films are California monuments. To be ignorant of them is akin to being Chinese without knowing of Confucius, or to being German without having read Goethe. 

So let the education begin now. “Rosebud” is the signature word of the 1941 film Citizen Kane, ranked No. 1 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 greatest films of all time. 

Any Californian who does not know the film intimately simply does not know their state. Citizen Kane is a fictionalization of the life of a towering figure of American and California history: the newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst. His story remains relevant today, in a state of new media titans with outsized appetites. The Hearst Corporation now owns the San Francisco Chronicle, and his mansion, the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, is a public landmark that every California child should visit.

But when you look through the state standards for class content -- what all California children are supposed to learn -- you won’t find one word about Hearst or Citizen Kane. Indeed, in the 68 pages of standards for history and social science classes, there is exactly one sentence that mentions the entertainment industry. 

The good news is that there is now an opportunity to fix the problem. In the midst of creating new instructional frameworks, California now has a draft of the new history and social science framework -- long outlines of what California student should be taught in each grade and subject -- available for public comment through February 29. 

The bad news is that the draft on California history says nothing about film, movies, or Hollywood. (There are the briefest of mentions of film in the U.S. and world history drafts -- but only in reference to the Cold War-era black list, ’60s counterculture, and globalization). And the draft framework on California history focuses far too much on the era before statehood and the diverse racial and ethnic origins of the people who came to California in different eras -- to the detriment of focusing on what the children and grandchildren of those migrants did once they came here, and the culture that bound them together. 

To this inexcusable omission of film from California history, my reaction is the memorable line from Network: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” (This line has been a staple of California political discourse, from Prop 13 through the 2003 recall of Gov. Gray Davis, and might be heard during the tax fights on the ballot this November.) 

Any California content guidelines worth a damn, my dear (Gone With the Wind), must include films that shaped America’s very conception of itself, from Casablanca to The Searchers. (They also should require California history in high school, not just elementary school, so more mature themes can be taught.)

And no one should get a degree from a California high school without seeing the classics that are signatures of our state’s history. These should start with Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo -- the essential film of Northern California -- and Chinatown -- which still explains, better than any other document, Southern California’s dark view of itself. Other California movies that should be in the canon, along with Shakespeare and great works of literature, include Sunset Boulevard, The Graduate, Some Like It Hot (shot at the Hotel del Coronado), The Grapes of Wrath, The Maltese Falcon, Annie Hall (to understand why New Yorkers are so dismissive of us), and Blade Runner. I’d also add, for cultural relevance, California movies like El Norte, Stand and Deliver, Pulp Fiction, and The Joy Luck Club

Incorporating film into class is not a new idea. My own quick search found electives in film -- taught in both art and history departments -- in dozens of California high schools. Websites for teachers are full of lesson plans built around movies from High Noon to 12 Years a Slave, with advice on how to present movies (with the class lights on, so no one goofs off or nods off.) Films illuminate historian Kevin Starr’s juxtaposition of “the California of fact and the California of imagination.” For example, you could teach California’s essential water history by comparing the fictions of Chinatown with the very different facts from any number of books. 

“Schoolchildren should be taught how to ‘read’ films just as they are taught to read literature,” writes Ronald Bergan, author of the compendium The Film Book, in arguing for teaching film so young people can decipher the visual propaganda that deluges us today. “They should learn how films systemize time and space and communicate ideas and emotions; how the patterns and structures of film genres allow us to engage specific historical and social rituals.” 

Of course, basing California history in films will require overcoming the prejudice that movies are entertainment, not educational tools. I’d point out that, if you look for places showing classic films, you’ll find yourself near our finest institutions of higher education. I was glad to see Laura, the 1944 film noir, and The Philadelphia Story, the 1940 romantic comedy, playing at the Stanford on University Avenue in Palo Alto last weekend. 

Let’s also keep in mind the words of Audrey Hepburn: “Everything I learned I learned from the movies.” And if you’ve never heard of her, get yourself to the next classic movie night at the Vine Cinema in Livermore. They’ll be showing Breakfast at Tiffany’s.


(Joe Mathews is Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It [UC Press, 2010]. This column was posted first at Zocalo Public Square.)  Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.



What’s Next for SCOTUS: The California Connection

HERE’S WHAT I KNOW-With the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia last Saturday, two Californians were speculated to be on the short list of President Obama’s potential nominees: State Attorney General Kamala Harris and Jacqueline Nyguen, an Obama-appointed United States Circuit Judge for the United States Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit. 

At a San Jose campaign event Tuesday, however, Ms. Harris told reporters that she had no intention of putting in her name up for consideration and will remain focused on her responsibilities as Attorney General, as well as her Senate campaign to succeed Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Ngyuen was appointed by Gov. Gray Davis to the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, where she stayed until her May 2012 confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit. Prior to serving on the Superior Court, she was Assistant District Attorney in the Central District of California. Ms. Ngyuen is a graduate of Occidental College and UCLA School of Law.

The sudden SCOTUS vacancy has added another battle to what is already a contentious election year. President Obama’s plan to nominate a successor “in due time” has met resistance from Republicans who are counting on winning the White House and keeping control of the House and Senate.

“The American people should have a vote in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” commented Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.”

The GOP presidential candidates back up McConnell’s estimation. On Sunday’s Meet the Press, Marco Rubio said, “There comes a point in the last year of the president, especially in their second term, where you stop nominating” both the Supreme Court justices and Court of Appeals judges.

Rubio overstated on both counts. A SCOTUS vacancy during the last year of a presidency is rare. In fact, since 1900, it’s only happened once to a lame duck president and twice to presidents who lost re-election bids and on all three occasions, the president made nominations. Presidents Wilson, FDR, and Eisenhower all made Supreme Court nominations at the end of their terms, just prior to re-election. Late-term lower court appointments are pretty common, though. George W. Bush forwarded nominees to the Court of Appeals during his last months in office.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid isn’t too pleased with the Republicans’ vow to raise the gloves. “The President can and should send the Senate a nominee right away. With so many important issues pending before the Supreme Court, the Senate has a responsibility to fill vacancies as soon as possible. It would be unprecedented in recent history for the Supreme Court to go a year with a vacant seat. Failing to fill this vacancy would be a shameful abdication of one of the Senate’s most essential Constitutional responsibilities.”

Should the Republicans stall the appointment, the Supreme Court will be effectively impotent. Cases will end up “undecided” with a 4 to 4 vote, or they will be delayed until there is an appointment, or, they will result in liberal rulings. The past several decades have seen a rise in decidedly conservative rulings on issues like voting rights (Shelby County v. Holder), campaign finance reform (Citizens United v. FEC; McCutcheon v. FEC), and environmental regulation (Michigan v. EPA.)

Should the White House go to the Democrats, the previously mentioned cases will probably be reversed and a host of controversial issues like the death penalty, abortion, the power of unions, affirmative action and issues of equality will go before the Court, ending in more liberal rulings.

The timing of the vacancy left by Scalia’s death raises the stakes for the 2016 presidential and senate elections. Will the country continue on the trajectory launched by the Tea Party Takeover of the House and Senate? Will SCOTUS continue issuing conservative-leaning rulings?

The Senate has a constitutional obligation not to create a roadblock for matters that are scheduled to be brought before the Supreme Court. By vowing to block any Obama nominee, the Republicans are playing dirty ball, a move that may backfire with the voters.

(Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles-based writer and writes for CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

We Now Join the US Class War Already in Progress

NEW GEOGRAPHY-Neither Trump nor Sanders started the nation’s current class war -- the biggest fight over class since the New Deal -- but both candidates, as different as they are, have benefited. Class is back. Arguably, for the first time since the New Deal, class is the dominant political issue. Virtually every candidate has tried appealing to class concerns, particularly those in the stressed middle and lower income groups. But the clear beneficiaries have been Trump on the right and Sanders on the left. 

Read more ...

LA City Hall: Putting the Brakes on Developer Deals

PRESERVING LA--Who decides what LA’s 114 diverse neighborhoods should be like? Those who call the communities home? Or real estate developers? In Los Angeles, “density” deals among developers, elected leaders and planners are destroying the character of beloved and livable neighborhoods, and steamrolling communities. 

Read more ...

If Scalia Wanted Respect In Death, He Should Have Shown It To More People In Life

GUEST WORDS--In the wake of Antonin Scalia's timely death, officials announce he will lie in repose at the Supreme Court, Republicans scramble once again to obstruct the rule of law and conspiracy wingnuts declaim the need for another Warren Commission because obviously the "razor-thin savior of the traditional ways of America" was murdered by the "forces of Green gangsterism in the White House." 

Read more ...

The California Impact of Justice Scalia’s Death

PERSPECTIVE--The death of Justice Antonin Scalia ends, at least for now, the 40-year conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court.  That majority began with justices chosen by President Nixon, and his picks ended a liberal majority that also went back four decades to President Roosevelt.  So Scalia’s death has a profound impact on the court, and on several cases that directly affect California.

Read more ...

Obama Protects 1.8 Million Acres of Fragile California Desert

EDITOR’S PICK-President Obama designated three new national monuments in the fragile California desert today, Sand to Snow National Monument, Mojave Trails National Monument, The move protects 30 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, desert grasslands, and a wide range of recreational and cultural activities in 1.8 million acres of Mojave and Sonoran Desert landscapes, between Los Angeles and the Nevada border. 

Read more ...

Reality Check for Democrats: Would Martin Luther King Be Supporting Bernie?

EDITOR’S PICKS--Martin Luther King Jr. and others march in Washington, DC in August 1963 demanding economic reforms, including full employment and better wages. (Photo: CWA/Local 7076)

Corporate mainstream media have sanitized and distorted the life and teachings of Martin Luther King Jr., putting him in the category of a “civil rights leader” who focused narrowly on racial discrimination; end of story. 

Missing from the story is that Dr. King was also a tough-minded critic of our capitalist economic structure, much like Bernie Sanders is today.

The reality is that King himself supported democratic socialism – and that civil rights activists and socialists have walked arm-in-arm for more than a century.

The same news outlets that omit such facts keep telling us that the mass of African American voters in South Carolina and elsewhere are diehard devotees of Hillary (and Bill) Clinton – implying that blacks are somehow wary of Bernie Sanders and his “democratic socialism.”

Here are some key historical facts and quotes that get almost no attention in mainstream media:

1909:  Many socialists – both blacks and whites – were involved in forming the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), our country’s oldest civil rights group.  Among them was renowned black intellectual W.E.B. Dubois.

1925:  Prominent African American socialist A. Philip Randolph became the first president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, a union that played a major role in activism for civil and economic rights (including the 1963 “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”).

1952:  In a fascinating letter to Coretta Scott, the woman he would marry a year later, Martin King wrote: “I imagine you already know that I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic. . . . Today capitalism has out-lived its usefulness.” 

1965:  King wrote an essay in Pageant magazine, “The Bravest Man I Ever Knew,” extolling Norman Thomas as “America’s foremost socialist” and favorably quoting a black activist who said of Thomas: “He was for us before any other white folks were.”

1965:  After passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965, King became even more vocal about economic rights: “What good is having the right to sit at a lunch counter if you can’t afford to buy a hamburger?”

1965-66:  King supported President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” but urged more – calling for a “gigantic Marshall Plan” for our naton’s poor of all races.

1966:  In remarks to staffers at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), King said:

“You can’t talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You’re really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry. . . . It really means that we are saying something is wrong with capitalism. There must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.”

March 1967:  King commented to SCLC’s board that “the evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism.”

April 1967:  In his speech denouncing the U.S. war in Vietnam at New York’s Riverside Church, King extended his economic critique abroad, complaining about “capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries.”

May 1967:  In a report to SCLC’s staff, King said:

“We must recognize that we can’t solve our problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power . . . this means a revolution of values and other things. We must see now that the evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism are all tied together . . . you can’t really get rid of one without getting rid of the others . . . the whole structure of American life must be changed.”

August 1967:  In his final speech to SCLC, King declared:

“One day we must ask the question, ‘Why are there forty million poor people in America?’ And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising a question about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I'm simply saying that more and more, we've got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life's marketplace. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. It means that questions must be raised. And you see, my friends, when you deal with this you begin to ask the question, ‘Who owns the oil?’ You begin to ask the question, ‘Who owns the iron ore?’ You begin to ask the question, ‘Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that's two-thirds water?’” 

Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated as he and SCLC were mobilizing a multiracial army of the poor to descend nonviolently on Washington D.C. demanding a “Poor Peoples Bill of Rights.” He told a New York Times reporter that “you could say we’re involved in the class struggle.”

A year before he was murdered, King said the following to journalist David Halberstam: “For years I labored with the idea of reforming the existing institutions of the South, a little change here, a little change there. Now I feel quite differently. I think you’ve got to have a reconstruction of the entire society, a revolution of values.”

Unlike what Hillary Clinton professes today, Dr. King came to reject the idea of slow, incremental change.  He thought big.  He proposed solutions that could really solve social problems.

Unlike corporate-dominated U.S. media, King was not at all afraid of democratic socialism.  Other eminent African American leaders have been unafraid. Perhaps it’s historically fitting that former NAACP president Ben Jealous has recently campaigned for Bernie Sanders in South Carolina.

If mainstream journalists did more reporting on the candidates’ actual records, instead of crystal-ball gazing about the alleged hold that the Clintons have over African American voters, news consumers would know about the deplorable record of racially-biased incarceration and economic hardship brought on by Clinton administration policies. (See Michelle Alexander’s “Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote.”) 

With income inequality even greater now than during Martin Luther King’s final years, is there much doubt that King would be supporting the progressive domestic agenda of Bernie Sanders?

Before Bernie was making these kinds of big economic reform proposals, King was making them – but mainstream media didn’t want to hear them at the time . . . or now.

(Jeff Cohen is an associate professor of journalism and the director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, founder of the media watch group FAIR, and former board member of Progressive Democrats of America. Posted most recently at Common Dreams.



Beyoncé's Super Bowl Activism was Misguided

GUEST COMMENTARY-Celebrities, by the very nature of the attention they attract, have built-in bully pulpits. They most often use them to shed light on honorable causes encompassing everything from disease and world hunger to animal rights and anti-bullying campaigns. 

Read more ...

Time to Break Up the California PUC … the Foxes are in the Hen House

HERE’S WHAT I KNOW-The California Public Utilities Commission has seen better days. Between San Onofre, the San Bruno pipeline explosion and the Aliso Canyon Leak, the commission’s responses are being scrutinized and with good reason. State and federal authorities have been investigating the agency for its alleged friendly relationship with the very same private utilities the agency is charged with overseeing.

Read more ...

More Articles ...