Militant again, ’60s hippies saddle up against Trump in Philly burbs
Updated: May 15, 2017
There weren’t any horses tied up outside a Montgomery County middle school Saturday, but inside the troops were ready to saddle up.
They had been on this ride before.
Noticeably lacking in piercings, tattoos, and dyed-purple hair, the mostly older crowd that gathered for an anti-Trump rally Saturday wasn’t short on passion, because they had already seen the trail map.
Now in their 60s, 70s, and 80s, they remembered marching on Washington in the 1960s for the civil rights movement and hearing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak in person. They had held up peace signs to protest the Vietnam War. They had watched the White House unravel in the 1970s as the Watergate scandal swamped American politics.
“We’ve got a whole bunch of hippies in the room,” State Sen. Vincent Hughes (D., Phila. and Montgomery) said, to laughter from the crowd of about 275 at the “Indivisible Rally — Uncover Trump’s CoverUps — Make Him and Congress Answer to Us” at the Sandy Run Middle School in Dresher.
“We have a whole bunch of ex-Woodstockers in the room,” he said, “singing ‘If I Had a Hammer.’ Lord have mercy.”
More laughter. The tribe had been recognized, so obvious when no one needed a printout of the lyrics to sing along to the Pete Seeger tune that had been one of the protest anthems in the 1960s and 1970s.
Hughes told the audience members that, as involved as they were, they needed to work harder to get others involved, to encourage those “who can’t figure out how to make the transition from feeling the pain to inflicting the pain.”
All of the speakers, U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, the Rev. Gregory Holston, Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh, Wharton business-ethics professor Eric Orts, Temple law professor Craig Green, and a representative from Common Cause PA, urged the group to resist President Trump and his policies in every way.
They listed their many complaints: Trump’s connection with the Russians; the odd timing of FBI Director James Comey’s firing coinciding with a White House visit of Russian leaders; the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act; the loosening of regulations designed to protect the environment; their fears that Trump was using the presidency to make himself and his family wealthier; the ban on travel from Muslim countries; the budget that would cut scores of programs that help the poor and the elderly; and plans to prosecute crimes more vigorously.
“I can’t stay home,” said Ilse Sakheim, 91, who carried a “No Tax Cuts for Trump” sign.
Sakheim belongs to Indivisible Gwynedd, a group of about 50 people who live at Foulkeways at Gwynedd, a retirement community in Montgomery County. Their group is one of hundreds of “Indivisible” groups around the country whose leaders are borrowing from the tea party playbook to combat and resist what they see as a full-frontal attack on democracy by Trump, his inner-circle, and his followers.
Sakheim and her husband were in their late 30s in 1963 when they joined 200,000 others in Washington at the march during which King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. “It was absolutely wonderful. The feeling was fabulous. We were all together and it was a joyous march — blacks and whites together.”
But her participation in Saturday’s rally has its roots in a frightening and tragic part of her past.
In 1939, when she was a 13-year-old Jewish teenager in Germany, her parents put her on a ship to England. Her parents never made it out of Germany alive. They were killed in Auschwitz.
“I see too many parallels now with what happened in Germany,” she said. “They also fired people” who opposed them. “They talked bad about minorities. They hated homosexuals. They lied about everything. They said they were going to make Germany great again, and that in 10 years we wouldn’t recognize Germany.
“You sure didn’t recognize it. It was in ashes,” she said, as she waited for the rally to begin Saturday.
“All the preaching of hate. All the talk about immigrants. The untruths about corporations. Corporations made the gas that killed my parents.
“My parents would have loved to be immigrants to this country,” she said. “And we who were immigrants, we contributed to this country with our work, with our brains, with our taxes,” she said.
“It means that I can’t stay home. I have to protest. I have to try and help to change it,” she said. “I can’t give up at 91. It’s up to everybody. I have to do it because my parents died, because my friends died. People went to jail. People were suffering. They are still suffering.”
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How Trump Could Get Fired
The path to impeachment or the invocation of the Twenty-fifth Amendment
(replacing an unfit president)
May 8, 2017
Hours after Donald Trump’s Inauguration, a post appeared on the official White House petitions page, demanding that he release his tax returns. In only a few days, it gathered more signatures than any previous White House petition. The success of the Women’s March had shown that themed protests could both mobilize huge numbers of people and hit a nerve with the President. On Easter weekend, roughly a hundred and twenty thousand people protested in two hundred cities, calling for him to release his tax returns and sell his businesses. On Capitol Hill, protesters chanted “Impeach Forty-five!” In West Palm Beach, a motorcade ferrying him from the Trump International Golf Club to Mar-a-Lago had to take a circuitous route to avoid demonstrators. The White House does all it can to keep the President away from protests, but the next day Trump tweeted, “Someone should look into who paid for the small organized rallies yesterday. The election is over!”
On Tax Day itself, Trump travelled to Kenosha, Wisconsin, where he would be among his supporters again, giving a speech at Snap-on, a manufacturer of high-end power tools and other gear. Wisconsin has emerged as one of Trump’s favorite states. He is the first Republican Presidential candidate to win there since 1984. He included the state in a post-election “thank-you tour.” Another visit was planned for shortly after the Inauguration, but it was cancelled once it became clear that it would attract protests.
By this point in George W. Bush’s term, Bush had travelled to twenty-three states and a foreign country. Trump has visited just nine states and has never stayed the night. He inhabits a closed world that one adviser recently described to me as “Fortress Trump.” Rarely venturing beyond the White House and Mar-a-Lago, he measures his fortunes through reports from friends, staff, and a feast of television coverage of himself. Media is Trump’s “drug of choice,” Sam Nunberg, an adviser on his campaign, told me recently. “He doesn’t drink. He doesn’t do drugs. His drug is himself.”
Trump’s Tax Day itinerary enabled him to avoid the exposure of a motorcade; instead, he flew on Marine One directly to Snap-on’s headquarters. Several hundred protesters were outside chanting and holding signs. But the event’s organizers had created a wall of tractor-trailers around the spot where Trump would land, blocking protesters from seeing Trump and him from seeing them.
Snap-on’s headquarters, a gleaming expanse of stainless steel, chrome, and enamel, provided a fine backdrop for muscular American manufacturing, though in fact the firm closed its Kenosha factory more than a decade ago. Nick Pinchuk, the C.E.O., led Trump past displays of Snap-on products, showing him a car hooked up to state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment (“It’s a different world!” Trump mused), and a table of Snap-on souvenirs, including small, colorful metal boxes that Pinchuk said some customers buy to hold ashes after a cremation. “That’s kind of depressing,” Trump said.
An auditorium was packed with local dignitaries and Snap-on employees. As “Hail to the Chief” played on the sound system, Trump stepped onto the stage. He stood in front of a sculpture of an American flag rippling in the wind, made from hundreds of Snap-on wrenches. Behind him was a banner: “BUY AMERICAN—HIRE AMERICAN.” For a moment, the President, wearing a red tie, leaning on the lectern, looked as if he were back on the campaign trail. “These are great, great people,” he began. “And these are real workers. I love the workers.”
“We don’t have a level playing field,” he said. It was a treasured campaign line, to which he now added a vow of imminent progress: “You’re gonna have one very soon.” After Republicans abandoned their first effort to enact health-care reform, and courts blocked two executive orders designed to curb immigration from predominantly Muslim countries, he was determined to dispel any sense that his Administration had been weakened. “Our tax reform and tax plan is coming along very well,” he assured the crowd. “It’s going to be out very soon. We’re working on health care and we’re going to get that done, too.”
Trump’s approval rating is forty per cent—the lowest of any newly elected President since Gallup started measuring it. Even before Trump entered the White House, the F.B.I. and four congressional committees were investigating potential collusion between his associates and the Russian government. Since then, Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, have become senior White House officials, prompting intense criticism over potential conflicts of interest involving their private businesses. Between October and March, the U.S. Office of Government Ethics received more than thirty-nine thousand public inquiries and complaints, an increase of five thousand per cent over the same period at the start of the Obama Administration. Nobody occupies the White House without criticism, but Trump is besieged by doubts of a different order, centering on the overt, specific, and, at times, bipartisan discussion of whether he will be engulfed by any one of myriad problems before he has completed even one term in office—and, if he is, how he might be removed.
When members of Congress returned to their home districts in March, outrage erupted at town-hall meetings, where constituents jeered Republican officials, chanting “Do your job!” and “Push back!” The former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, who is now a Republican congressman, told me that he’d held eight town halls in his district. Trump won South Carolina by nearly fifteen points, so Sanford was surprised to hear people calling for him to be impeached. “I’d never heard that before in different public interactions with people in the wake of a new President being elected,” he told me. “Even when you heard it with the Tea Party crowd, with Obama, it was later in the game. It didn’t start out right away.”
Trump’s critics are actively exploring the path to impeachment or the invocation of the Twenty-fifth Amendment, which allows for the replacement of a President who is judged to be mentally unfit. During the past few months, I interviewed several dozen people about the prospects of cutting short Trump’s Presidency. I spoke to his friends and advisers; to lawmakers and attorneys who have conducted impeachments; to physicians and historians; and to current members of the Senate, the House, and the intelligence services. By any normal accounting, the chance of a Presidency ending ahead of schedule is remote. In two hundred and twenty-eight years, only one President has resigned; two have been impeached, though neither was ultimately removed from office; eight have died. But nothing about Trump is normal. Although some of my sources maintained that laws and politics protect the President to a degree that his critics underestimate, others argued that he has already set in motion a process of his undoing. All agree that Trump is unlike his predecessors in ways that intensify his political, legal, and personal risks. He is the first President with no prior experience in government or the military, the first to retain ownership of a business empire, and the oldest person ever to assume the Presidency.
For Trump’s allies, the depth of his unpopularity is an urgent cause for alarm. “You can’t govern this country with a forty-per-cent approval rate. You just can’t,” Stephen Moore, a senior economist at the Heritage Foundation, who advised Trump during the campaign, told me. “Nobody in either party is going to bend over backwards for Trump if over half the country doesn’t approve of him. That, to me, should be a big warning sign.”
Trump has embraced strategies that normally boost popularity, such as military action. In April, some pundits were quick to applaud him for launching a cruise-missile attack on a Syrian airbase, and for threatening to attack North Korea. In interviews, Trump marvelled at the forces at his disposal, like a man wandering into undiscovered rooms of his house. (“It’s so incredible. It’s brilliant.”) But the Syria attack only briefly reversed the slide in Trump’s popularity; it remained at historic lows.
It is not a good sign for a beleaguered President when his party gets dragged down, too. From January to April, the number of Americans who had a favorable view of the Republican Party dropped seven points, to forty per cent, according to the Pew Research Center. I asked Jerry Taylor, the president of the Niskanen Center, a libertarian think tank, if he had ever seen so much skepticism so early in a Presidency. “No, nobody has,” he said. “But we’ve never lived in a Third World banana republic. I don’t mean that gratuitously. I mean the reality is he is governing as if he is the President of a Third World country: power is held by family and incompetent loyalists whose main calling card is the fact that Donald Trump can trust them, not whether they have any expertise.” Very few Republicans in Congress have openly challenged Trump, but Taylor cautioned against interpreting that as committed support. “My guess is that there’s only between fifty and a hundred Republican members of the House that are truly enthusiastic about Donald Trump as President,” he said. “The balance sees him as somewhere between a deep and dangerous embarrassment and a threat to the Constitution.”
The Administration’s defiance of conventional standards of probity makes it acutely vulnerable to ethical scandal. The White House recently stopped releasing visitors’ logs, limiting the public’s ability to know who is meeting with the President and his staff. Trump has also issued secret waivers to ethics rules, so that political appointees can alter regulations that they previously lobbied to dismantle.
On the day that Trump spoke in Wisconsin, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a prominent legal watchdog group, expanded a federal lawsuit that accuses Trump of violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution, a provision that restricts officeholders from receiving gifts and favors from foreign interests. The lawsuit cites the Trump International Hotel, half a mile from the White House, which foreign dignitaries have admitted frequenting as a way to curry favor with the President. (“Isn’t it rude to come to his city and say, ‘I am staying at your competitor’?” an Asian diplomat told the Washington Post in November.) The suit, first filed in January, in the Southern District of New York, is partly an effort to pry open the President’s business records. Two plaintiffs involved in the hotel-and-restaurant industry joined the current case, arguing that Trump’s businesses enjoy unfair advantages. “This isn’t about politics; I’m a registered Republican,” Jill Phaneuf, a plaintiff who books receptions and events for hotels, has said. “I joined this lawsuit because the President is taking business away from me.”
CREW is best known for its role in exposing the ethics violations of Tom DeLay, the former House Majority Leader, who, in 2006, resigned under indictment; and of Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist who went to prison for corruption the same year. Richard Painter, the vice-chair of CREW’s board, was formerly the chief ethics lawyer in George W. Bush’s White House. He said that the Bush Administration maintained a policy of forbidding senior officials from retaining business interests that conflicted with their responsibilities, as some in Trump’s White House have done. “We never had controversies over divestment,” Painter told me. “They’d ask, ‘What is Hank Paulson’ ”—who became Treasury Secretary in 2006—“ ‘going to do?’ ‘He’s going to sell his Goldman Sachs stuff.’ It was pretty cut and dried.”
Meanwhile, nine months after the F.B.I. started investigating Russian interference in the campaign, it continues to examine potential links between Trump’s associates and the Kremlin. Michael Flynn, who resigned as Trump’s national-security adviser after acknowledging that he lied about his contact with Russia’s Ambassador, is seeking immunity in exchange for speaking with federal investigators, raising the prospect that he could reveal other undisclosed contacts, or a broader conspiracy. Robert Kelner, Flynn’s lawyer, wrote in a statement, “General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit.” The F.B.I. is also investigating Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, after it was reported that Manafort received millions of dollars in cash payments from pro-Kremlin groups in Ukraine; and Carter Page, a foreign-policy adviser to the Trump campaign until last September. The F.B.I. has described Page, in court filings, as having connections to Russian agents.
The White House maintains that it was unaware of any links to the Kremlin, and the details of the investigations are classified. But select members of Congress who oversee the intelligence agencies have access to the findings. Recently, one of them, Senator Mark Warner, of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, privately told friends that he puts the odds at two to one against Trump completing a full term. (Warner’s spokesperson said that the Senator was “not referring specifically to the Russia investigation, but rather the totality of challenges the President is currently facing.”)
In a gesture intended to convey transparency, Jared Kushner and Trump’s outside adviser Roger Stone have offered to speak to the Senate Intelligence Committee, but Newt Gingrich, a Trump campaign adviser who, when he was Speaker of the House, led the push for Bill Clinton’s impeachment, believes it is a risky maneuver. “Anybody who goes in front of a congressional hearing for something that is being investigated by the F.B.I. is in immediate danger of perjury in the most innocent way, and I think that’s really dangerous,” Gingrich told me. “None of these guys understand that this is a war, and, if the left can put them in jail, they’re going to put them in jail.”
It’s not clear how fully Trump apprehends the threats to his Presidency. Unlike previous Republican Administrations, Fortress Trump contains no party elder with the stature to check the President’s decisions. “There is no one around him who has the ability to restrain any of his impulses, on any issue ever, for any reason,” Steve Schmidt, a veteran Republican consultant, said, adding, “Where is the ‘What the fuck’ chorus?”
Trump’s insulation from unwelcome information appears to be growing as his challenges mount. His longtime friend Christopher Ruddy, the C.E.O. of Newsmax Media, talked with him recently at Mar-a-Lago and at the White House. “He tends to not like a lot of negative feedback,” Ruddy told me. Ruddy has noticed that some of Trump’s associates are unwilling to give him news that will upset him. “I don’t think he realizes how fully intimidating he is to many people, because he’s such a large guy and he’s so powerful,” Ruddy went on. “I already sense that a lot of people don’t want to give him bad news about things. I’ve already been approached by several people that’ll say, ‘He’s got to hear this. Could you tell him?’ ”
There has been considerable speculation about Trump’s physical and mental health, in part because few facts are known. During the campaign, his staff reported that he was six feet three inches tall and weighed two hundred and thirty-six pounds, which is considered overweight but not obese. His personal physician, Harold N. Bornstein, issued brief, celebratory statements—Trump’s lab-test results were “astonishingly excellent”—mentioning little more than a daily dose of aspirin and a statin. Trump himself says that he is “not a big sleeper” (“I like three hours, four hours”) and professes a fondness for steak and McDonald’s. Other than golf, he considers exercise misguided, arguing that a person, like a battery, is born with a finite amount of energy.
Secrecy about a President’s health has a rich history. “No one in the White House wants to emphasize the fact that the President might be too ill to carry out his responsibilities,” Robert E. Gilbert, a political scientist at Northeastern University who studies Presidential health, told me. “They want everyone to think that the President is able to surmount any problem, no matter how serious, because they are thinking of reëlection, and they are thinking of the judgment of history.” Although John F. Kennedy’s tan was often described as a sign of vigor, it was caused by Addison’s disease, an endocrine disorder, which Kennedy and his aides hid for decades, and which left him dependent on multiple medications.
Yet it is impossible to conceal the sheer physical strain of the Presidency. Studying the medical records of Presidents since Theodore Roosevelt, Michael Roizen, the chairman of the Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute, has concluded that “unrequited stress”—the absence of peers and friends—takes the greatest toll. Kennedy, who liked to compare his critics to hecklers at a bullfight, quoted a poem by the matador Domingo Ortega: “Only one is there who knows / And he’s the man who fights the bull.” A 2015 study, led by Anupam Jena, of Harvard Medical School, analyzed the life expectancy of five hundred and forty politicians in seventeen countries. Jena found that the lives of elected leaders are, on average, 2.7 years shorter than those of the runners-up.
The Framers of the Constitution planned ahead for the death of Presidents—hence, Vice-Presidents—but they failed to address an unnerving prospect: a President who is alive and very sick. Had Kennedy survived being shot, and been left comatose, there would have been no legal way to allow others to assume his powers. To fend off that possibility, the Twenty-fifth Amendment was added to the Constitution in February, 1967. Under Section 4, a President can be removed if he is judged to be “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” The assessment can be made either by the Vice-President and a majority of the Cabinet secretaries or by a congressionally appointed body, such as a panel of medical experts. If the President objects—a theoretical crisis that scholars call “contested removal”—Congress has three weeks to debate and decide the issue. A two-thirds majority in each chamber is required to remove the President. There is no appeal.
However, the definition of what would constitute an inability to discharge the duties of office was left deliberately vague. Senator Birch Bayh, of Indiana, and others who drafted the clause wanted to insure that the final decision was not left to doctors. The fate of a President, Bayh wrote later, is “really a political question” that should rest on the “professional judgment of the political circumstances existing at the time.” The Twenty-fifth Amendment could therefore be employed in the case of a President who is not incapacitated but is considered mentally impaired.
A study by psychiatrists at Duke University, published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, in 2006, made a striking assertion: about half the Presidents they studied had suffered a mental illness at one time or another. The researchers examined biographies and medical histories of thirty-seven Presidents, from Washington to Nixon, and found that forty-nine per cent met the criteria for a psychiatric disorder—mostly depression, anxiety, and substance abuse—at some point in their lives. Ten Presidents, or about one in four, had symptoms “evident during presidential office, which in most cases probably impaired job performance.”
Some of these illnesses had far-reaching historical consequences. Just before Franklin Pierce took office, in 1853, his son died in a train accident, and Pierce’s Presidency was marked by the “dead weight of hopeless sorrow,” according to his biographer Roy Franklin Nichols. Morose and often drunk, Pierce proved unable to defuse the tensions that precipitated the Civil War.
Years after the death of Lyndon B. Johnson, it emerged that, as the war in Vietnam intensified, he exhibited symptoms of profound paranoia, leading two of his assistants to secretly seek the advice of psychiatrists. Johnson imagined conspiracies involving the Times or the United Nations or élites whom he called “those Harvards.” He took to carrying, in his jacket pocket, faulty statistics that he recited about “victory” and troop commitments in Vietnam. “For a long time, Johnson succeeded,” one of the assistants wrote, “not in changing reality, but in deceiving much of the country and, perhaps, himself.”
Only one Administration is known to have considered using the Twenty-fifth Amendment to remove a President. In 1987, at the age of seventy-six, Ronald Reagan was showing the strain of the Iran-Contra scandal. Aides observed that he was increasingly inattentive and inept. Howard H. Baker, Jr., a former senator who became Reagan’s chief of staff in February, 1987, found the White House in disarray. “He seemed to be despondent but not depressed,” Baker said later, of the President.
Baker assigned an aide named Jim Cannon to interview White House officials about the Administration’s dysfunction, and Cannon learned that Reagan was not reading even short documents. “They said he wouldn’t come over to work—all he wanted to do was watch movies and television at the residence,” Cannon recalled, in “Landslide,” a 1988 account of Reagan’s second term, by Jane Mayer and Doyle McManus. One night, Baker summoned a small group of aides to his home. One of them, Thomas Griscom, told me recently that Cannon, who died in 2011, “floats this idea that maybe we’d invoke the Constitution.” Baker was skeptical, but, the next day, he proposed a diagnostic process of sorts: they would observe the President’s behavior at lunch.
In the event, Reagan was funny and alert, and Baker considered the debate closed. “We finish the lunch and Senator Baker says, ‘You know, boys, I think we’ve all seen this President is fully capable of doing the job,’ ” Griscom said. They never raised the issue again. In 1993, four years after leaving office, Reagan received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. His White House physicians said that they saw no symptoms during his Presidency. In 2015, researchers at Arizona State University published a study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, in which they examined transcripts of news conferences in the course of Reagan’s Presidency and discovered changes in his speech that are linked to the onset of dementia. Reagan had taken to repeating words and using “thing” in the place of specific nouns, but they could not prove that, while he was in office, his judgment and decision-making were affected.
Mental-health professionals have largely kept out of politics since 1964, when the magazine Fact asked psychiatrists if they thought Barry Goldwater was psychologically fit to be President. More than a thousand said that he wasn’t, calling him “warped,” “impulsive,” and a “paranoid schizophrenic.” Goldwater sued for libel, successfully, and, in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association added to its code of ethics the so-called “Goldwater rule,” which forbade making a diagnosis without an in-person examination and without receiving permission to discuss the findings publicly. Professional associations for psychologists, social workers, and others followed suit. With regard to Trump, however, the rule has been broken repeatedly. More than fifty thousand mental-health professionals have signed a petition stating that Trump is “too seriously mentally ill to perform the duties of president and should be removed” under the Twenty-fifth Amendment.
Lance Dodes, a retired assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, believes that, in this instance, the Goldwater rule is outweighed by another ethical commitment: a “duty to warn” others when he assesses that a person might harm them. Dodes told me, “Trump is going to face challenges from people who are not going to bend to his will. If you have a President who takes it as a personal attack on him, which he does, and flies into a paranoid rage, that’s how you start a war.”
Like many of his colleagues, Dodes speculates that Trump fits the description of someone with malignant narcissism, which is characterized by grandiosity, a need for admiration, sadism, and a tendency toward unrealistic fantasies. On February 13th, in a letter to the Times, Dodes and thirty-four other mental-health professionals wrote, “We fear that too much is at stake to be silent any longer.” In response, Allen Frances, a professor emeritus at Duke University Medical College, who wrote the section on narcissistic personality disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—IV, sought to discourage the public diagnoses. Frances wrote, “He may be a world-class narcissist, but this doesn’t make him mentally ill, because he does not suffer from the distress and impairment required to diagnose mental disorder. . . . The antidote to a dystopic Trumpean dark age is political, not psychological.”
To some mental-health professionals, the debate over diagnoses and the Goldwater rule distracts from a larger point. “This issue is not whether Donald Trump is mentally ill but whether he’s dangerous,” James Gilligan, a professor of psychiatry at New York University, told attendees at a recent public meeting at Yale School of Medicine on the topic of Trump’s mental health. “He publicly boasts of violence and has threatened violence. He has urged followers to beat up protesters. He approves of torture. He has boasted of his ability to commit and get away with sexual assault,” Gilligan said.
Bruce Blair, a research scholar at the Program on Science and Global Security, at Princeton, told me that if Trump were an officer in the Air Force, with any connection to nuclear weapons, he would need to pass the Personnel Reliability Program, which includes thirty-seven questions about financial history, emotional volatility, and physical health. (Question No. 28: Do you often lose your temper?) “There’s no doubt in my mind that Trump would never pass muster,” Blair, who was a ballistic-missile launch-control officer in the Army, told me. “Any of us that had our hands anywhere near nuclear weapons had to pass the system. If you were having any arguments, or were in financial trouble, that was a problem. For all we know, Trump is on the brink of that, but the President is exempt from everything.”
In the months since Trump took office, several members of Congress have cited concern about his mental health as a reason to change the law. In early April, Representative Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat and a professor of constitutional law at American University, and twenty co-sponsors introduced a bill that would expand the authority of medical personnel and former senior officials to assess the mental fitness of a President. The bill has no chance of coming up for a vote anytime soon, but its sponsors believe that they have a constitutional duty to convene a body to assess Trump’s health. Representative Earl Blumenauer, of Oregon, introduced a similar bill, which would also give former Presidents and Vice-Presidents a voice in evaluating a President’s mental stability. Of Trump, he said, “The serial repetition of proven falsehoods—Is this an act? Is this a tactic? Is he just wired weird? It raises the question in my mind about the nature of Presidential disability.”
Over the years, the use, or misuse, of the Twenty-fifth Amendment has been irresistible to novelists and screenwriters, but political observers dismiss the idea. Jeff Greenfield, of CNN, has described the notion that Trump could be ousted on the basis of mental health as a “liberal fantasy.” Not everyone agrees. Laurence Tribe, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard, told me, “I believe that invoking Section 4 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment is no fantasy but an entirely plausible tool—not immediately, but well before 2020.” In Tribe’s interpretation, the standard of the amendment is not “a medical or otherwise technical one but is one resting on a commonsense understanding of what it means for a President to be ‘unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office’—an inability that can obviously be manifested by gross and pathological inattention or indifference to, or failure to understand, the limits of those powers or the mandatory nature of those duties.”
As an example of “pathological inattention,” Tribe noted that, on April 11th, days after North Korea launched a missile, Trump described an aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Carl Vinson, as part of an “armada” advancing on North Korea, even though the ship was sailing away from North Korea at the time. Moreover, Tribe said, Trump’s language borders on incapacity. Asked recently why he reversed a pledge to brand China a currency manipulator, Trump said, of President Xi Jinping, “No. 1, he’s not, since my time. You know, very specific formula. You would think it’s like generalities, it’s not. They have—they’ve actually—their currency’s gone up. So it’s a very, very specific formula.”
Lawrence C. Mohr, who became a White House physician in 1987 and remained in the job until 1993, came to believe that Presidential disability must be understood to encompass “very subtle manifestations” that might impair the President’s capacity to do the job. A President should be evaluated for “alertness, cognitive function, judgment, appropriate behavior, the ability to choose among options and the ability to communicate clearly,” Mohr told a researcher in 2010. “If any of these are impaired, it is my opinion that the powers of the President should be transferred to the Vice-President until the impairment resolves.”
In practice, however, unless the President were unconscious, the public could see the use of the amendment as a constitutional coup. Measuring deterioration over time would be difficult in Trump’s case, given that his “judgment” and “ability to communicate clearly” were, in the view of many Americans, impaired before he took office. For those reasons, Robert Gilbert, the Presidential-health specialist, told me, “If the statements get too strange, then the Vice-President might be able to do something. But if the President is just being himself—talking in the same way that he talked during the campaign—then the Vice-President and the Cabinet would find it very difficult.”
The power of impeachment is a more promising tool for curtailing a defective Presidency. The Framers considered the ability to eject an executive so critical that they enshrined it in the Constitution even before they had agreed on the details of the office itself. On June 2, 1787, while the delegates to the Constitutional Convention, in Philadelphia, were still arguing whether the Presidency should consist of a committee or a single person, they adopted, without debate, the right to impeach for “malpractice or neglect of duty.” They gave the House of Representatives the power to impeach a President for “treason, bribery or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” by a simple majority vote, and they gave the Senate the power to convict or dismiss the charges, setting a high bar for conviction, with a two-thirds majority.
But what would “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” mean in practice? In 1970, during an unsuccessful effort to impeach the Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, Representative Gerald Ford argued that an impeachable offense was “whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.” That was an overstatement—the President was never intended to serve at the pleasure of Congress—but it contained an essential truth: impeachment is possible even without a specific violation of the U.S. Criminal Code. When Alexander Hamilton wrote of “high Crimes,” he was referring to the violation of “public trust,” by abusing power, breaching ethics, or undermining the Constitution.
The first test came with the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, in 1868. Johnson, who became President after Lincoln’s assassination, was a combative Tennessean, sympathetic to the Southern states, and was uncomfortable in Washington, which he disparaged as “twelve square miles bordered by reality.” He mocked the legislative branch as “a body called, or which assumes to be, the Congress,” and vetoed the Civil Rights Bill of 1866, which was intended to confer citizenship on freed slaves. Congress was incensed; Senator Carl Schurz, of Missouri, compared Johnson to “a wounded and anger-crazed boar.” Eventually, the President engineered a showdown with Congress, by deliberately breaking a law against firing a Cabinet secretary without Senate consent. As a result, the House moved to impeach him, accusing him of “denying” the work of another branch of government and “preventing the execution” of laws passed by Congress. Johnson was acquitted in the Senate by one vote.
David O. Stewart, the author of “Impeached,” a history of the case, told me that it established a crucial point: impeachment is not a judicial proceeding but a tool of political accountability. “Because of the unique powers of the executive, we are depending on a single person to be wise and sane,” Stewart said. “If, in fact, there are enough people who no longer think those are both true, impeachment is designed to deal with that.” For this reason, actual evidence of misconduct may not be the most important criterion in determining which Presidents get impeached. “The most important thing is political popularity,” Michael J. Gerhardt, a professor of constitutional law at the University of North Carolina, told me. “A popular President is unlikely to be threatened with impeachment. Second is your relationship with your party—how strongly are they connected to you? Third is your relationship with Congress, and fourth is the nature of whatever the misconduct may be.”
By far the most valuable lessons about impeachment come from Richard Nixon. In 1974, Nixon resigned shortly before he could be impeached, but his misjudgments—political, psychological, and legal—have illuminated the risks to Presidents ever since. In 1972, Nixon’s White House oversaw the bugging of the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate complex and the ensuing coverup. That was illegal and unethical, but it did not guarantee Nixon’s downfall, which came about because of two critical mistakes.
First, when the scandal emerged, the President underestimated the threat. “There were any number of steps that could have made it go away,” Evan Thomas, the author of “Being Nixon,” told me. “They could have cleaned house and fired people.” But Nixon assumed that his supporters would never believe the accusations. “He was ahead by thirty-four points in the polls in August, 1972,” Thomas went on. “He could have taken his clothes off and run around the White House front yard and he was going to win reëlection.”
As the scandal ground on, Nixon made his second mistake: he flouted the authority of a coequal branch of government. In October, 1973, Nixon refused to obey a federal appellate-court ruling that ordered him to turn over tapes of conversations in the Oval Office, and he forced out the investigation’s special prosecutor, Archibald Cox. For nine months, Nixon continued to resist—in effect threatening the basic constitutional system—until, in July, 1974, the Supreme Court ruled that he had to comply. By then, the damage was done, and the House Judiciary Committee launched impeachment hearings. By thwarting other branches, Nixon weakened his support in Congress and convinced the country that he had something to hide. Until that point, much of the public had not focussed on the slow, complex investigation, but interviews at the time show that Nixon’s stonewalling made people pay attention, and he never recovered. “Well, everything has added up to his incompetence over the last few months, and I don’t think the American people should stand for it any longer,” a woman interviewed in New York by the Associated Press said. “In fact, I just signed an impeach petition.”
By August, many of his top aides had been indicted, and polls showed that fifty-seven per cent of the public believed that Nixon should be removed from office. On August 6th, after a tape recording surfaced which captured him orchestrating the coverup, he was abandoned by Republicans who had previously derided the Watergate scandal as a witch hunt. Senator Barry Goldwater, of Arizona, told colleagues, “Nixon should get his ass out of the White House—today!” On August 9th, Nixon sent a letter to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger: “Dear Mr. Secretary, I hereby resign the Office of President of the United States. Sincerely, Richard Nixon.”
A quarter century later, the Bill Clinton impeachment yielded two related lessons—one about the path into crisis, and one about the path out of it. The first lesson was that investigations beget investigations. In January, 1994, when a special prosecutor started looking into Bill and Hillary Clinton’s investments in Whitewater, a failed Arkansas real-estate deal, there was no way to anticipate that it would conclude, nearly five years later, with Clinton’s impeachment for trying to cover up an affair with Monica Lewinsky, a twenty-two-year-old White House intern. Many raged against the conduct of that inquiry, accusing Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel, of abusing his powers, but the outcome demonstrated that a White House under investigation is in danger of spiralling into crisis.
The second lesson of the Clinton impeachment comes from the strategy adopted by his legal team. Learning from Nixon’s fate, the lawyers realized that congressional Democrats would abandon Clinton if they concluded that he had lost the trust of the public. Gregory Craig, one of the lawyers who directed Clinton’s defense, told me recently, “The fundamental point is that it’s a political process.” He and his team spent less energy on disputing the details of evidence than on maintaining support from fellow-Democrats and from the public. They painted Clinton as the victim of a partisan quest to exploit an offense—covering up an affair—that was not on the scale of abuse that the Framers had in mind. “To be honest, we pursued a strategy that embraced polarization,” Craig recalled. “I gave a statement to the press that said this is the most unfair process since the Inquisition in Spain. Some arcane historical reference came out of my mouth. I said, ‘It’s like they’ve tied up President Clinton, put him in a closet in the middle of the night and turned off the lights, and they’re whipping him.’ ”
The strategy succeeded. By the time the House impeached Clinton, on December 19, 1998, his approval rating had risen to more than seventy per cent—his highest level ever. “It’s a vindictive party that just went out to get him,” a man at an American Legion post in San Diego told a reporter, in December, just before the House voted to impeach. When the case reached the Senate, Clinton’s lawyers capitalized on his popularity and presented his misdeeds in the broader context of his Presidency. In closing arguments, Charles Ruff, the White House counsel, asked, “Would it put at risk the liberties of the people to retain the President in office?” The Senate acquitted Clinton on all charges.
Were Trump to face impeachment, his lawyers would likely try to present him as a victim of a partisan feud, but his unpopularity would be a liability; Republicans in Congress would have little reason to defend him. Nonetheless, the Clinton impeachment may contain an even larger warning for Democrats in pursuit of Trump. “It’s pretty important to be seen in sorrow rather than anger,” Stewart, the historian of impeachment, said. “Don’t emerge red in tooth and claw. That’s not merely tactical—it’s good for the country, because you should only pursue impeachment if you really have to.”
Not long ago, the topic of impeaching Trump occupied a spot on the fringe of Democratic priorities somewhere around the California secessionist movement. “If you’d have asked me around Election Day, I would have said it’s not realistic,” Robert B. Reich, Clinton’s Secretary of Labor, told me in April. “But I’m frankly amazed at the degree of activism among Democrats and the degree of resolution. I’ve not seen anything like this since the anti-Vietnam movement. ” In April, Reich, who is now a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, released an animated short, mapping out the path to impeachment, and it became an unlikely viral hit, attracting 3.5 million views on YouTube in the first twenty-four hours.
Because the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives will almost certainly not initiate the ouster of a Republican President, the first step in any realistic path to impeachment is for Democrats to gain control of the House. The next opportunity is the 2018 midterm elections. Republicans have been relatively confident, in part because their redistricting in 2010 tilted the congressional map in their favor. But Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a Republican economist and the president of the right-leaning American Action Forum, believes that the chances of control shifting to the Democrats is greater than many people in either party realize. “After a party takes the House, the Senate, and the White House, they typically lose thirty-five seats in the House in the next midterm,” he told me. “Republicans now hold the House by twenty-three seats, so, as a going proposition, they’re in trouble. They need to do really, really well.”
Unfortunately for the congressional G.O.P., unpopular Presidents sow midterm fiascos. Since 1946, whenever a President has had an approval rating above fifty per cent, his party has lost an average of fourteen seats in the midterms, according to Gallup; whenever the rating has been below fifty per cent, the average loss soars to thirty-six seats. Steve Schmidt, the Republican consultant, is concerned that, in 2018, the Party faces a convergence of vulnerabilities akin to those which pertained during the 2006 midterms, whose outcome George W. Bush characterized as “a thumping.” Schmidt told me, “The last time Republicans lost control of the House of Representatives, it was on a mix of competency—Iraq and Katrina—and corruption in government, with the Tom DeLay Congress.” The Trump Administration has a comparable “basic competency issue,” he said. “The constant lying, the lack of credible statements from the White House, from the President on down to the spokesperson, the amateurishness of the threats to the members of Congress, the ultimatums, the talk of ‘enemy lists’ and retribution.”
Tom Davis, who twice led Republican congressional-election efforts during fourteen years as a representative from Virginia, believes that his former colleagues are overly complacent. “These guys need a wake-up call. They’re just living in la-la land,” he said. He pointed out that regardless of the final outcome of an attempt to impeach—the two-thirds majority in the Senate remains a high bar to clear—Democratic control of the House would immediately make Trump more vulnerable to investigations. “If the gavels change hands, it’s a different world. No. 1, all of his public records, they will go through those with a fine-tooth comb—income taxes, business dealings. At that point, it’s not just talk—they subpoena it. It gets ugly real fast. He has so far had a pass on all this business stuff, and I don’t know what’s there, but I’ve got to imagine that it’s not pretty in this environment.”
If Democrats retake the House, the Judiciary Committee could establish a subcommittee to investigate potential abuses and identify specific grounds for impeachment. The various investigations of Trump already in process will come into play. In addition to allegations of business conflicts and potential Russian collusion, Trump is facing dozens of civil proceedings. In a case in federal court, he is accused of urging violence at a campaign rally in Louisville, Kentucky, in March, 2016, where he yelled, referring to a protester, “Get ’em out of here.” In a New York state court, he is facing a suit brought by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice,” who alleges that he sexually assaulted her in 2007. The constitutional question of whether a President could be impeached for offenses committed before he took office is unsettled, but, as Clinton’s case showed, civil proceedings contain risks whenever a President testifies under oath.
Many scholars believe that the most plausible bases for a Trump impeachment are corruption and abuse of power. Noah Feldman, a Harvard Law School professor who specializes in constitutional studies, argues that, even without evidence of an indictable crime, the Administration’s pattern of seemingly trivial uses of public office for private gain “can add up to an impeachable offense.” Last week, after the State Department took down an official Web page that showcased Trump’s private, for-profit club, Mar-a-Lago, Feldman told me, “A systematic pattern shown through data points would count as grounds for impeachment.” He said that economic analysis of the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s self-enrichment proves the concept. “Berlusconi is said to have gained at most one per cent per business transaction from his Presidency, but that added up to more than a billion euros,” Feldman said.
Allan J. Lichtman is an American University historian who has correctly forecast every Presidential election since 1984 (including Trump’s victory). In April, he published “The Case for Impeachment,” in which he predicted that Trump will not serve a full term, because of a “Nixonian” pattern of trespassing beyond constitutional boundaries. He cited an incident in late January, during the legal battle over Trump’s first executive order on immigration. James L. Robart, the U.S. district judge who blocked the order, rejected the White House’s claim that the court could not review the President’s decision, ruling that the executive must “comport with our country’s laws, and more importantly, our Constitution.” Trump’s response was a further violation of democratic norms: he disparaged Robart as a “so-called judge” and said that he should be held responsible for future terrorist acts on Americans. “If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!” Trump tweeted.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat who is on the Judiciary Committee, believes that the Administration’s actions denigrating or denying the power of equal branches of government portend a “constitutional crisis” akin to Nixon’s refusal to accept the appellate-court judgment regarding the White House tapes. Last week, lawmakers from both parties announced that White House officials had refused a request from an oversight committee to turn over internal documents related to the hiring and resignation of Michael Flynn. In a letter to the House oversight committee, Marc T. Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, said that the Administration is withholding documents because they “are likely to contain classified, sensitive and/or confidential information.” Blumenthal told me, “I foresee a point that there will be subpoenas or some kind of compulsory disclosure issued against the President or the Administration by one of the investigative bodies—the F.B.I. or the Intelligence Committee or an independent commission, if there is one—and, at that point, there may be the sort of confrontation that we haven’t really seen in the same way since United States versus Nixon.”
Trump campaigned as a dealmaker who could woo disparate Republicans. Though there was no natural Trumpist wing of the Party, he was expected to ally with the three dozen conservative members of the Freedom Caucus, who tended to admire his anti-establishment populism. But the relationship descended into acrimony almost immediately. After the caucus objected to part of Trump’s effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, leading to the collapse of the bill, Trump publicly threatened to target its members in next year’s elections. “The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast,” he tweeted. “We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!”
He went after individual members as well. At one point, he threatened to support a primary challenger against Mark Sanford, the South Carolina congressman. I asked Sanford if he regarded the threat as a bargaining tactic. “I think it was genuine,” he said. “It certainly wasn’t said in a way that suggested a bluff and then a wink and a nod.” Sanford said, of the level of support for Trump among Republicans in Congress, “In general, the mood of the conference is that we’re in the same boat together.” But he added a caveat: “This has to fundamentally be a game of addition, not just subtraction. I’m not sure the Administration has fully grasped that concept yet. You’re probably not adding to the list of permanent allies and friends.” He went on, “I think that there’s a degree of immunity that has come with the way that he has broken all of the past molds. But I would also argue that there’s a half-life to that.”
Trump is not faring much better with moderate Republicans. At a meeting in March, Charlie Dent, a seven-term centrist congressman from Pennsylvania, expressed misgivings about the health-care plan, and Trump lashed out. “He said something to the effect that I was destroying the Republican Party,” Dent told me. “And that the tax reform is going to fail because of me, and I’d be blamed for it.” In targeting Dent, Trump found an unlikely antagonist. Dent co-chairs an alliance of fifty-four moderate Republicans so resolutely undogmatic that they call themselves simply “the Tuesday Group.” Dent said that he remains ready to back Trump “when the President is on the right track,” but he left no doubt that he would break when his conscience requires it. “We have to serve as a check. I mean, that’s kind of our one power. We should accept that.”
William Kristol, the editor-at-large of The Weekly Standard, one of the most prominent conservative critics of Trump, told me that the Administration’s failure to get any bills passed was stirring frustration. “Most Republicans, I would say, wanted him to succeed and were bending over backwards to give him a chance,” Kristol said. “I think there was pretty widespread disappointment. You kind of knew what you were getting in terms of some of the wackiness and also some of the actual issues that people might not agree with him on—trade, immigration—but I think that just the level of chaos, the lack of discipline, was beginning to freak members of Congress out a little bit.”
Trump has been meeting with congressional Republicans in small groups. By and large, they have found him more approachable than they expected, but much less informed. “Several have been a little bit amazed by the lack of policy knowledge,” Kristol said. “God knows Presidents don’t need to know the details of health-care bills and tax bills, and I certainly don’t, either—that’s what you have aides for. But not even having a basic level of understanding? I think that has rattled people a little bit.” He added, “Reagan may not have had a subtle grasp of everything, but he read the briefing books and he knew the arguments, basically. And Trump is not even at that level.”
When I asked Kristol about the chances of impeachment, he paused to consider the odds. Then he said, “It’s somewhere in the big middle ground between a one-per-cent chance and fifty. It’s some per cent. It’s not nothing.”
The history of besieged Presidencies is, in the end, a history of hubris—of blindness to one’s faults, of deafness to the warnings, of seclusion from uncomfortable realities. The secret of power is not that it corrupts; that is well known. “What is never said,” Robert Caro writes, in “Master of the Senate,” about Lyndon Johnson, “is that power reveals.” Trump, after a lifetime in a family business, with no public obligations and no board of directors to please, has found himself abruptly exposed to evaluation, and his reactions have been volcanic. Setting a more successful course for the Presidency will depend, in part, on whether he fully accepts that critics who identify his shortcomings are capable of curtailing his power. When James P. Pfiffner, a political scientist at George Mason University, compared the White House crises that confronted Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton, he identified a perilous strain of confidence. In each case, Pfiffner found, the President could not “admit to himself that he had done anything wrong.” Nixon convinced himself that his enemies were doing the same things he was; Reagan dismissed the trading of arms for hostages as the cost of establishing relations with Iran; Clinton insisted that he was technically telling the truth. In Pfiffner’s view, “Each of these sets of rationalizations allowed the Presidents to choose the path that would end up damaging them more than an initial admission would have.”
Law and history make clear that Trump’s most urgent risk is not getting ousted; it is getting hobbled by unpopularity and distrust. He is only the fifth U.S. President who failed to win the popular vote. Except George W. Bush, none of the others managed to win a second term. Less dramatic than the possibility of impeachment or removal via the Twenty-fifth Amendment is the distinct possibility that Trump will simply limp through a single term, incapacitated by opposition.
William Antholis, a political scientist who directs the Miller Center, at the University of Virginia, told me that, thus far, the President that Trump most reminds him of is not Nixon or Clinton but Jimmy Carter, another outsider who vowed to remake Washington. Carter is Trump’s moral and stylistic opposite, but, Antholis said, “he couldn’t find a way to work with his own party, and Trump’s whole message was pugnacious. It was ‘I alone can fix this.’ ” Like Trump, Carter had majorities in both chambers, but he alienated Congress, and, after four years, he left the White House without achieving his ambitions on welfare, tax reform, and energy independence.
Oscillating between the America of Kenosha and the America of Mar-a-Lago, Trump is neither fully a revolutionary nor an establishmentarian. He is ideologically indebted to both Patrick Buchanan and Goldman Sachs. He is what the political scientist Stephen Skowronek calls a “disjunctive” President, one “who reigns over the end of his party’s own orthodoxy.” Trump knows that Reaganite ideology is no longer politically viable, but he has yet to create a new conservatism beyond white-nationalist nostalgia. For the moment, all he can think to do is rekindle the embers of the campaign, to bathe, once more, in the stage light. It lifts him up. But what of the public? Does he understand that all citizens will have a hand in his fate?
When Trump’s speech in Kenosha was over, he walked across the stage to sign an executive order. “Get ready, everybody,” he said. “This is a big one.” Since taking office, he had issued twenty-four executive orders, and the signings had become a favorite way of displaying his power. The scope of this order was modest—it merely established studies of visas and imports—but he described it as “historic.”
He uncapped a pen and, just before he signed the order, he said, “Who should I give the pen to? The big question, right?” There was nervous laughter, and he called some local and visiting politicians up to the stage to stand beside him while he signed. Then he said, “This is a tremendous honor for me,” and tried his joke again: “The only question is, who gets the pen?” He held up the signed order to the cameras, as always, pivoting left, then right, and grinned broadly.
He stepped down from the stage and walked along the front row of the audience, shaking hands, before his Secret Service detail escorted him toward Marine One. He was going straight back to Washington. The audience, kept in place until he was safely extricated, milled about awkwardly. The theatrical atmosphere dissipated, leaving behind the remainder of an ordinary Tuesday at work.
I approached a woman who introduced herself as Donna Wollmuth. She was sixty-eight years old, and she worked in Snap-on’s warehouse, packing boxes for shipment. I asked her what she thought of Trump’s comments. “I believe in it,” she said. “And I believe in America. I want the jobs back here.”
At first, I wondered if she was merely repeating Trump’s slogans, but it became clear that she had thought hard about his message. Her story was of the kind that has become a stock explanation for Trump’s rise. For twenty-three years, she operated a sewing machine, making briefs and sportswear at Jockey. When the plant closed, in 1993, and production moved offshore, she found a job at the Chicago Lock factory (“Five years later, they closed”) and then one at Air Flow Technology, making industrial filters. After fourteen years there, she was earning almost seventeen dollars an hour, but in 2015 she was laid off. “I lost my job there because they hired somebody that they could pay seven dollars less. It was a lot of immigrants there. Let’s put it that way. I’m sure you know what I mean.” She didn’t like the way it sounded, but she wanted me to understand. “I’m just so stuck on this immigration thing. I really am, because I’ve lived through it, giving benefits and everything to people that aren’t here legally.”
Wollmuth had almost always voted for Democrats, but she had come to believe that her family—she has seven grandchildren and stepgrandchildren—faced a dark future. When Trump entered the race, Wollmuth was turned off by his antics. “He’s gotta learn to keep his mouth shut,” she said, but his pledge to reënergize American manufacturing was too specific and attractive to ignore. She took a chance on Trump, as did many of her neighbors. After going for Obama by large margins in the previous two elections, Kenosha County sided with Trump, by just two hundred and fifty-five votes out of more than seventy-one thousand cast.
That is a fragile buffer. In late April, Trump promoted the results of a Washington Post/ABC News poll showing that only two per cent of those who voted for him regretted doing so. When I asked Wollmuth if she had any regrets, she made it clear that it was the wrong question. “I don’t want to be disappointed, and I hope he’s really trying,” she said. “I’d like to believe that. I’d like to see it happen. I’ve got mixed emotions with him so far.”
Walking out of Snap-on’s headquarters, through the chanting crowd, I wondered whether Trump could see the protesters from his chopper. He knows the unpredictable potential of a crowd. I remembered something that Sam Nunberg, the Trump campaign adviser, had told me about Trump’s fixation on crowds. “I said to him once, ‘I understand it’s the biggest. Who gives a shit? Who cares at this point? What we care about is votes,’ ” Nunberg said. “And he says, ‘No. It’s got to be.’ Some of it was he was seriously concerned about the country. He also wanted to see where this went and what it was. The crowds and energy showed him it was a movement.” ♦
This article appears in other versions of the May 8, 2017, issue, with the headline “Endgames.”
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Emails released to the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) reveal close ties between (Oklahoma) Attorney General Scott Pruitt, the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the fossil fuel interests that fund ALEC, including the Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity Group.
Emails released to the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) reveal close ties between (Oklahoma) Attorney General Scott Pruitt, the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the fossil fuel interests that fund ALEC, including the Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity Group.
The emails were obtained after the Center for Media and Democracy filed an open records lawsuit against Pruitt for his two-year-long failure to respond to our open records requests for his email correspondence with major fossil fuel corporations. The court ordered Pruitt to release thousands of emails which are now online and available for public inspection, but CMD is still in court seeking to obtain 1,600 pages withheld and responses to eight additional open records requests.
Pruitt an ALEC Alumnus Who Kept in Touch
Pruitt was an Oklahoma state senator from 2002-2007. As a legislator, Pruitt chaired the ALEC Civil Justice task force in 2003 and perhaps other years. ALEC is a corporate bill mill where legislators and industry lobbyists work together behind closed doors to draft industry-friendly bills that are then introduced in state houses across the nation as “innovative” public policy stripped of their industry origins.
But Pruitt touted industry influence as a plus in an interview. “ALEC is unique in the sense that it puts legislators and companies together and they create policy collectively,” Pruitt said.
One cookie-cutter bill approved by ALEC’s Civil Justice task force in 2003 was the Asbestos and Silica Claims Priorities Act. It is one of many ALEC bills geared toward protecting the deadly asbestos industry and companies that don’t protect their workers from known asbestos or silica hazards. The bill increases the burden on a person bringing a lawsuit alleging an asbestos and silica-related injury.
Asbestos-related diseases kill at least 10,000 Americans every year, in many cases from mesothelioma, an incurable and painful cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. For decades, asbestos was used for insulation and industrial purposes, and the diseases particularly affect veterans, firefighters, construction workers, and individuals who worked in factories with high-heat machinery. In Wisconsin, veterans groups have been some of the most vocal opponents of the legislation: veterans make up just 8 percent of the population, but are 30 percent of mesothelioma cases.
Crystalline silica is also deadly. It can be found in sand, gravel, and stone as well as sidewalks and building materials. Silica dust has been classified as a human lung carcinogen and results in fatalities and seriously disabling illnesses. According to OSHA, silica exposure “remains a serious threat to nearly 2 million U.S. workers, including more than 100,000 workers in high risk jobs such as abrasive blasting, foundry work, stonecutting, rock drilling, quarry work and tunneling.” ALEC wants to make it harder for injured workers or their families to seek compensation.
Other bills approved by ALEC around that time include:
- Jury Patriotism Act (2002-2003)
- Notice and Opportunity to Repair Act (2003-2004)
- Drug and Alcohol Defense Act (2002-2003)
- Constitutional Guidelines for Punitive Damages Act (2003)
After Pruitt became attorney general, he stayed engaged with ALEC on energy and environmental issues. ALEC is funded by a number of big polluters including Devon Energy, Peabody Energy, Koch Industries, and ExxonMobil. In 2014, the New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize after it filed an open records request and exposed the fact that Pruitt received a letter from Devon, put it on his state letterhead, and sent it to the EPA. The Devon lobbyist lauded this move as “Outstanding!”
A February 2013 email from Amy Anderson, the ALEC Civil Justice task force staffer, asked for the AG’s digital signature for an ALEC letter. Pruitt’s office zipped over the signature minutes later. The letter was not disclosed. Another email from Anderson to Pruitt and others, provides details of Pruitt’s participation in an energy workshop at ALEC’s May 2013 meeting. Included in the email was an invitation to “a reception on the evening of the 3rd at the Petroleum Club.” The Petroleum Club is a swank private club for industry executives at the top of the Chase Tower in downtown Oklahoma City. Anderson also requested Pruitt’s attendance at a luncheon sponsored by Koch Industries because it “would be delightful to have our current legislative members benefit from his experience as a former state legislator, an ALEC member and a now attorney general.”
Pruitt spoke at a December 2013 ALEC meeting on a panel called “Embracing American Energy Opportunities: From Wellheads to Pipelines.” Now we know from the Pruitt emails that he was invited to speak at ALEC by an industry lobbyist named Peter Glaser, a partner at the law firm Troutman Sanders LLP. Glaser has represented Peabody Energy and other energy companies fighting EPA efforts to address climate change.
In 2014, Pruitt spoke at another ALEC meeting that was sponsored by Peabody Energy, ExxonMobil, Chevron, and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE). During his speech about the President Obama Clean Power Plan, Pruitt touted a line that polluting industries would love: “Beyond the regional haze case, we have something on the horizon, something more troubling. And that’s the proposed rule under 111(d) with respect to CO2 regulation. We have an EPA that is engaged in rulemaking, proposed rulemaking, that seeks to exert itself in a way that the statute doesn’t authorize at all.” Pruitt would join a group of states in a legal attack on the Clean Power Plan, a historic effort to rein in power-plant pollution by one-third over a span of years.
Keeping Up With the Kochs as Oklahoma Attorney General
The stack of Pruitt emails received by CMD reveal email exchanges between Aaron Cooper, Director of Public Affairs for the attorney general’s office and Matt Ball, Oklahoma State Director for Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the right-wing political advocacy arm of the Koch political empire.
July 2013 emails show Ball organizing an August 22 event featuring Pruitt, Sen. James Lankford (OK-R), and William Yeatman, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). Both Lankford and CEI have received Koch funding. In organizing the event, Ball helpfully instructs the AG’s staff on what he wants Pruitt to say,
“Frankly, I just assume the AG and Lankford talk sue and settle, how the EPA is deploying these tactics and what their respective offices have done on oversight and litigation, and let Yeatman from CEI give an objective analysis of costs to ratepayers from revised state implementation plan on regional haze (which includes the PSO rate increase). That way you guys don’t have to deliver those messages and can focus on what the AG does best, opposing the Obama administration and its nasty tactics on the environment.” Industry groups and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce claim that agencies like EPA are “regulating” outside the normal rule making process when they are sued by environmentalist groups, like Greenpeace and Sierra Club, for not following the law and then settle those lawsuits in legally binding, court ordered agreements without inviting states or industry to participate.
Cooper promptly responds, “I think that what be good from our standpoint.” Ball, on August 14, sends an email with the final schedule detailed in which he praises Pruitt for “all they are doing to push back against President Obama’s EPA and its axis with liberal environmental groups.” Pruitt led a group of state attorneys general in suing the EPA for its correspondence with environmental groups.
In another email, Ball requests a same day meeting with Pruitt’s Chief of Staff and Assistant Attorney General, Melissa Houston and she agrees to meet him the next day in the AG’s conference room. The fractured emails do not indicate what the meeting was about.
Yet another email from December 2013, invites Dean Kuckelman, Senior Counsel, Litigation and Discovery, for Koch Companies Public Sector to a conference call with two of Pruitt’s assistant attorneys general and the Solicitor General. The topic of the conference is not known. This email followed an email from Kuckelman to Houston with an attachment produced by the American Tort Reform (ATR) entitled, “Judicial Hell Holes.” The Kochs share ATR’s goals to make it harder for consumers to sue over products and services that kill or injure people. Judicial “hell holes” refer to states where it is easier for consumers to sue or unite in class action suits against giant, deep-pocketed corporations.
This is only a small sampling of the emails between Koch and ALEC staff and Pruitt staff, CMD is fighting for 1,600 pages withheld by Pruitt’s office in the lawsuit and additional emails, which will likely shed further light on these meetings and relationships.
The cozy relationship between Pruitt, the Kochs, ALEC crew, and the big polluters who fund ALEC will no doubt continue as Pruitt begins to dismantle the EPA.
Upon his appointment ALEC released a statement lauding Pruitt and claiming that Trump has “found just the right person to bring fresh leadership and much-needed reform to an agency currently out of control. Anyone who values striking a balance between sensible environmental regulations and the rule of law should delight in Pruitt’s appointment.”
While the corporate-fueled ALEC may be delighted, Americans concerned about the future of America’s lakes, bays, rivers, and more find Pruitt’s close relationship with polluters not very charming.
This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.
David Armiak is a researcher and writer at the Center for Media and Democracy. He is a cultural anthropologist who has research interests not only in US politics, but also in South Korea’s social movements.
* * * * *
Chief search turns SFPD inside out
An art installation by Shimon Attie, “Spiral of Gratitude,” honors fallen San Francisco police officers inside the Public Safety Building. (Gabrielle Lurie/2015 S.F. Examiner)
With just over a week until the Aug. 31 deadline closes for applicants to become San Francisco’s next police chief, law enforcement experts are questioning whether The City will keep with tradition by hiring a chief from within or if it will break with the past by picking an outsider.
The search comes at a time when police violence and meaningful reforms are at the center of the national debate on policing, and appointing an insider versus outsider to lead the Police Department offers various advantages and disadvantages, according to observers who are watching the process carefully.
The last chief, Greg Suhr, was dismissed in May in the wake of a third fatal police shooting in six months and mounting pressure for his ouster. Since then, Toney Chaplin, who has been with the department for more than two decades, has served as acting chief and recently announced he would like to be considered for the permanent role.
Chaplin has little executive experience, but his tenure with the department includes a stint on the gang task force and the homicide unit, among other roles.
“There are many departments who select their chiefs from within their ranks,” said Darrel Stephens, executive director of Major Cities Chiefs Association. “It’s, I think, kinda all over the board.” While some may place great significance to the distinction, Stephens cautioned that narrowing down a choice between insiders and outsiders is too much of a simplification for a very difficult call.
Whomever is finally chosen — the Police Commission will forward three finalists to Mayor Ed Lee, who has the final say — San Francisco has a tradition of promoting from within the ranks to lead its force. There have only been two chiefs appointed from outside the force in recent decades, and both had controversial tenures.
District Attorney George Gascon, appointed chief by former Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2009, was the SFPD’s last appointed outsider. (Interim Chief Jeff Godown, who filled in as the department’s leader after Gascon left, was also an outsider.)
Gascon, who spent much of his career in the Los Angeles Police Department, was not beholden to anyone in San Francisco and known for dealing with police accountability issues. But some in the department took his outsider status, and department shake-up he enacted, as marks against him instead of seeing such attributes as a positive.
That mixed legacy included shaking up the command staff and bringing new training to the department, said Police Commissioner Petra DeJesus.
“He brought a real diverse police experience with him and he brought things other departments were doing but we weren’t doing,” said DeJesus. “Before that they were doing things because it was the way they always did it.”
In the past 40 years, the only other outsider named chief was Charles Gain, whose legacy, according to some, was also mixed.
Gain’s attempts to humanize the force only acted as a lightning rod among some rank-and-file officers, and his irregular antics didn’t help. He once posed at a Hookers Ball with a prostitute and seemed to pay far more lip service to segments of the community than the officers he commanded.
During his tenure from 1975 to 1980, during which time he is perhaps best known for changing patrol cars’ color to baby blue, Gain recruited gay officers and tried to soften the negative image many had of the department. For his efforts, the police union led a campaign to oust him, and some rank and file officers even put anti-Gain bumper stickers on their patrol cars.
Despite these two examples, Stephens cautioned that it’s difficult to conclude whether hiring internally versus externally has meaning in and of itself, but he did say that traditionally outsiders are brought in to push reforms.
Insiders have advantages, at times, since they are familiar with department staff, the community and city politics, said Patrick Oliver, a former Ohio police chief with the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.
But internal candidates also may have loyalties that could hamper their effectiveness, he said, such as not promoting the best officers, or being less willing to change systems and processes that can be part of the department’s problems. Also, if they have only worked in one department, Oliver noted, they may not have been exposed to other ways of operating and therefore might find it hard to be the catalyst for change that many both inside and outside the department are calling for in San Francisco.
“If the agenda is for reform, an external candidate is going to have a better perspective on making that major reform,” said Oliver. But he cautioned that reforms have only been successful in places where the political establishment backs whoever is made chief, such as Philadelphia under Charles Ramsey and New Orleans under Richard Pennington.
World class cities like San Francisco deserve the best candidates from around the U.S., said Cedric Alexander, who heads the Dekalb County Police Department in Georgia and was appointed to President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. So when Alexander learned that The City won’t require the next chief to have a bachelor’s degree, it sent a message that San Francisco may not be reaching for the stars.
“In a big, sophisticated, well-educated, high-tech city like San Francisco, it all needs to match up,” Alexander said.
For former ACLU lawyer John Crew, a noted police watchdog, the wider the search, the better.
“If the SFPD chief finalist pool proves to be demonstrably less experienced and qualified than those produced in other cities, the public has a right to know that so the underlying problem creating that result can be understood and addressed,” Crew wrote in an Aug. 15 letter to the Police Commission.
Meanwhile, Officers For Justice, a black police organization in The City, has released a list of internal and external candidates they want the commission to consider, as well as the qualities they would like to see in the next chief.
The group said all candidates should have a bachelor’s degree — not a requirement in the current search — and should move to The City within 90 days of being hired. They should also be committed to reforms and have a long track record of leading large organizations.
“If someone with these character traits cannot be identified within the San Francisco Police Department then you have a duty and responsibility to find the most qualified competent candidate to lead by utilizing the best practices of unbiased policing,” noted the Officers For Justice in the memo.
The group’s internal list includes Chaplin (who has said he wants to the job), Deputy Chief Garret Tom, Deputy Chief Mikail Ali (who has been making public appearances at several meetings on police reform), Cmdr. Ann Mannix, Central Station Capt. David Lazar, Capt. Una Bailey and Capt. Glenn Mar, among others.
The group’s outsider list includes a group of big hitters from across the country: former Philadelphia Chief Charles Ramsey, federal Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services Director Ron Davis (COPS is currently reviewing the department), Denver Police Chief Robert C. White (who has told the San Francisco Examiner he has not applied), DeKalb County Police Department’s head Alexander and Dallas Police Department Deputy Chief Malik Aziz (who did not return a call for comment). All are black.
The issue has been compounded by the fact that some high profile candidates have reportedly backed out of the search or fear the SFPD is leaning toward an internal choice.
“Often times it is generally telegraphed that a city already knows who it is going to pick,” said Alexander, the Georgia chief. “I think any potential police administrator who has the strength that many cities are looking for are going to struggle with the fact: Is this already a fix?”
Alexander said The City’s search firm has reached out to him, but he has not decided whether he will apply.
Lee told the San Francisco Examiner last week that he is waiting until he is given the list of finalists by the Police Commission before making his choice. He disputed a recent story by KTVU — which has since been taken down — claiming Lee favored Chaplin for the role. While he praised Chaplin’s job as acting chief in recent months, Lee said he trusted the process to deliver the best finalists to him.
Suhr, the former chief, last week told the San Francisco Chronicle he wants Chaplin to keep the job, as does the San Francisco Police Officers Association.
ACLU lawyer Alan Schlosser said the news that the choice might have already been made is damaging to the reach of the national search, especially during a time of major reforms that the next chief will be responsible for implementing.
“Given [there’s] only a week left, The City or commission should make some strong statement to let potential candidates … know that this is gonna be an open, thorough, transparent process,” said Schlosser, who added that an extended deadline may be a good idea.
“I think a strong statement from the mayor would be the most important thing.”
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story miscredited former Police Chief Charles Gain as the SFPD head from 1970 to 1980. Gain’s tenure was from 1975 to 1980.
July 9, 2016
New Police Chief Chaplain claims reforms saved this man… But look closer.
And look at the militarization of the beat cop: war-grade equipment, and attitude.
It is time for everyone to come out against the police war on civilians, especially black ones.
Most likely if a person is in an altered state they are not going to be able to tell you that they are!
A little different story than what Chaplain told us. I suggested that they file reports with the OCC to cover their bases.
A “mentally ill” black man may or may not have held a gun to his head when approached by cops in SF today. Witnesses claim he was unarmed, and did not even have a knife. When he refused to take his hands out of his pockets, he was shot with rubber bullets. He layed unresponsive and unmoving on the ground for several hours. Witnesses say that a cop stood over him and shot him again at point blank range with rubber bullets. Another witness says the bullets are military grade, and are illegal in the US. Flashbangs were used and snipers were on roofs. He was shot again, then removed on a gurney.
“A gentleman in an altered mental state had a gun to his head. He’s not dead because of the reforms we’ve implemented,” said SFPD Chief Toney Chaplin. “We created a situation where this gentlemen walked away with his life.”
ARE YOU IN AN ALTERED STATE ALSO, SIR??
THIS IS NOT “REFORM”. THIS IS DECLARING WAR ON ONE LITTLE CRAZY DUDE IN THE MIDDLE OF DOWNTOWN SAN FRANCISCO ON A WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON.
Acting Police Chief Suspends Public Comment Meeting Which Follow SFPD Murders
The new acting SFPD Chief Toney Chaplin stands beside San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee (not pictured) during a press conference at City Hall in San Francisco, on Thursday, May 19, 2016. San Francisco’s police chief, Greg Suhr, resigned Thursday at the request of the mayor hours after an officer fatally shot a young black woman driving a stolen car — the culmination of several racially charged incidents in the past year. (Connor Radnovich/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)
“Can Toney Chaplin Change the Culture of SF Police?” asked SF Weekly earlier this week, and now we know the answer: Yes, if you’re talking about the way they engage with the community after police officers shoot someone. The new question, it appears, is if the change is for the better.Under the leadership of former San Francisco Police Department Chief Greg Suhr, there was one thing you could count on after a police officer shot a citizen: Within days, police would hold a community meeting in the area near the site of the shooting, around the time of day the shooting occurred.This was, Suhr said many times over the years (and was reiterated by countless SFPD spokespeople), an effort to have as much transparency around the situation as possible, to answer questions on the circumstances of the shooting, and to, as one spokesperson put it to me, to “help heal the trauma” of the event.Did those meetings achieve those goals? That’s arguable — sometimes, in cases where the person who was shot was considered a clear danger (for example, the St Luke’s Hospital shooting), the meetings were moderately-attended affairs that focused more on what police were doing to protect residents from future threats.Other times, as in the shooting of Mario Woods or Luis Gongora, the meetings were more contentious, as cries from members of the community over what’s seen as a rising tide of unjustified police shootings drowned out the cops at the podium.It’s been more than a week since a 17-year veteran of the SFPD shot Jessica Williams as officers attempted to remove her from an allegedly stolen car, and a community meeting her death has been conspicuous in its absence. It appears, however, that that event just didn’t fall through the cracks in the wake of Chief Suhr’s firing — in fact, reports the Chron, SFPD won’t routinely hold those meetings any more.According to SFPD spokesperson Sergeant Michael Andraychak, community members with questions about Williams’ slaying won’t get a meeting to discuss their concerns, because past meetings “have been unproductive and disruptive.”In a written statement to the Chron, Andraychak said “Community members have expressed concerns to the Police Department that they felt unable to speak at these events.” So the solution, according to the police, is not to have them anymore. That way nobody gets to speak, I guess?It’s an odd decision, given Chaplin’s stated platform of transparency and reform! It is true, the town hall following Gongora’s shooting was a contentious affair, with cries for Suhr’s firing from the crowd and an angry statement from Supervisor David Campos. It is disappointing to hear that these harsh words were too much for current SFPD leadership to bear!Oakland-based civil rights lawyer Adante Pointer would likely share my disappointment. Speaking with the Ex Thursday, he said that “Suhr’s practice to hold town hall meetings was a sign the department was trying to be open, even if at times the information often seemed justify the shootings.”
“I would love to see him continue” the town halls, Pointer said, “even if it was couched in ‘This is our story.'”
Perhaps the reason not to have a meeting for Williams is because police have yet to pull together their story — as noted by the Chronand Ex, police have released few details on her May 19 shooting, and even Mayor Ed Lee remains in the dark, he told the Chron Thursday.
“I don’t know what the circumstances were in the Bayview that caused the officer to need to shoot,” Lee said Thursday, noting that “there has to be consequences” for the officer who fired the fatal shots.
“So let’s find out what happened here…What went wrong? Because I think it was, in my view, generally, this was not supposed to happen.”
In response, Andraychak says, “I think it’s important to point out that this incident occurred a week ago and is still under active investigation.”
One thing the police department does know, however, is the name of the Sergeant who pulled the trigger. But that, too, has yet to be shared with the public. That’s because, reports the Chron, SFPD is “saying it has 10 days from the time of the shooting to do so.”
Will that mean a public announcement on the Sunday of the long Memorial Day weekend? That, too, is unclear, as is Chaplin’s plan for future post-shooting town halls.
“Town hall meetings play a role in transparency, and we want to keep something like that in order to keep the public informed,” Andraychak says.
“Acting Chief Chaplin has stated that he will consider holding a town-hall-type meeting in a case-by-case basis.”
But the highly controversial shooting of an unarmed Jessica Williams, the death of whom is why Chaplin has his current position, is apparently not one of those cases. Good to know.
* * * * *
Angry Crowd Calls For Suhr’s Job At SFPD Town Hall Meeting
Channel 5 News
Group at forum demands firing of San Francisco police chief following police shooting of homeless man
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A meeting in San Francisco to discuss the latest officer-involved shooting in the Mission District on Wednesday was filled with members of the community angrily demanding answers.
It was billed as a town hall meeting for the San Francisco Police Department to explain what happened last Thursday morning.
Police opened fire on Luis Gongora, a homeless man who was shot dead in a hail of bullets when he allegedly lunged at police with a 12-inch knife.
Speaking before an angry crowd at a community meeting held by police to discuss the shooting, which occurred Thursday just after 10 a.m. on Shotwell Street near 18th Street, Suhr said the homeless outreach team members were in the area to investigate a report of a crying baby near a tent encampment.
They did not find a baby, but they saw a man later identified as Gongora, 45, first kicking a basketball off of parked cars in the area and then later walking down the street “swinging indiscriminately” with a large kitchen knife, and agreed they needed to call police, Suhr said.
Two officers responded, one of them a sergeant with 17 years of experience and the other an officer with 13 years of law enforcement experience including four years in San Francisco, and a third arrived just as they made contact with Gongora, Suhr said.
The officers told investigators they found Gongora seated on the sidewalk with a large knife in his hands with the blade pointed up. They ordered him to put it down multiple times, speaking in both English and Spanish, Suhr said.
Watch surveillance video of shooting scene obtained by KCBS below. WARNING: Graphic Audio
“They ordered him to put it down multiple times,” said San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr. “Mr. Gongora briefly placed the knife down, his hands still on top of the handle only to quickly pick the knife back up again.”
At that point, one of the officers shot Gongora with less-lethal beanbag rounds, Suhr said.
Gongora then “stood up and ran at the officers with the knife in his hand,” Suhr said. “The officers stated they feared Mr. Gongora was going to kill one of them.”
The two officers who arrived first on the scene fired seven rounds, six of which struck Gongora according to a preliminary report from the medical examiner, Suhr said. Gongora was taken to San Francisco General Hospital but died a short time later.
Some witnesses have made statements to reporters indicating that Gongora was not holding the knife in his hand but had it strapped to his hip. Suhr today said the knife was found in Gongora’s hand, and released excerpts from witness statements that appeared to support police assertions that he was holding the knife when he was shot.
Video circulating in the media showing the time from the officers’ initial response to the time of the shooting was well under a minute. When questioned by an audience member about the department’s recent statements that officers would be encouraged to deescalate situations as a matter of policy, Suhr said the goal was to create “time and distance.”
“This event obviously went very quickly,” he said. “We will be looking at tactics to see if anything could have been done differently.”
Matthew Castro, a friend of Gongora’s, said descriptions of him as running toward police with a knife were “completely out of character.”
“I’m going to get a little emotional,” said Castro. “Luis Gongora was a good friend of mine since 2003. Luis was the most kind-hearted soul. He didn’t have a hostile bone in his body.”
Castro, who said he had known Gongora since they worked together at a Mel’s Diner restaurant, described Gongora as “selfless” and “so, so docile.”
Castro said Gongora, who had three children and a wife in Mexico and two brothers here in the United States, did not speak English and might not have understood what police were saying to him. He does not have a history of mental illness, Castro said.
Statements from others familiar with Gongora’s family have described Gongora as a Mayan from Mexico’s Yucatan, and indicated that Spanish might have been a second language for him.
Castro said he had been trying to persuade Gongora to move back to Mexico because he didn’t want him to keep living on the street.
“I would love to see some justice for him but it just seems like that isn’t going to happen,” he said.
Between 75 and 100 people showed up at Wednesday’s meeting, many of them activists and residents angry about the death of Gongora and other recent San Francisco police shootings, including those of Mario Woods, Alex Nieto and Amilcar Perez-Lopez.
While the crowd listened closely during Suhr’s initial recounting of the shooting, the rest of the meeting was punctuated by shouts of “murderers!” and “This is a department out of control!”
At several points, the crowd chanted “Fire Chief Suhr Now!” and “How do you spell murder? SFPD!”
Supervisor David Campos, whose district includes the area where Gorgona was shot, angrily questioned why police had held the meeting at noon on a weekday and failed to notify his office ahead of time. He also accused police of “prejudging” the case.
“You’ve had a number of press conferences where you are already prejudging what has happened in this case,” Campos said. “I ask you to please stop saying anything until your own investigation is complete.”
Members of the Justice for Mario Woods Coalition held a rally at City Hall shortly before the police town hall meeting, repeating calls to fire Suhr and criminally prosecute officers involved in shootings and other misconduct.
Public Defender Jeff Adachi also spoke at that event, reiterating calls he made last week with the American Civil Liberties Union for state Attorney General Kamala Harris to investigate the department’s use of force and recent scandals involving racist text messages.
Harris’s office Wednesday released a statement noting that the U.S.
Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services is currently conducting a “comprehensive” review of the department. In addition, the Police Commission is reviewing use of force policies, and the Mario Woods shooting is being investigated by the district attorney’s office, the Office of Citizen Complaints and the police department’s internal affairs division.
Harris said she would “continue to monitor whether local officials are cooperative” with the federal investigation in progress.
“If investigators face resistance and the implementation of reforms falls short, I intend to launch a civil pattern and practice investigation,” Harris said.
Suhr said the names of the officers involved in the shooting will be released within ten days, as per standard department policy.
TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.
* * * * *
Who sent the mayor to Brazil? A group that wants to turn the Mission into tech offices
So we haven’t seen much of Mayor Ed Lee for a while, partly because he doesn’t seem to want to hear protesters go after him, and partly because he’s been out of town, in Brazil, on a business junket paid for by PG&E, Silicon Valley Bank, a big real-estate firm, and a few other corporate types.
What’s the mayor doing in Brazil? Well, according to a press release from his office, he’s looking to lure more businesses to San Francisco:
The LatinSF initiative aims to promote San Francisco and the opportunities for companies and investors in Brazil and Panama to expand and take advantage of what the city and the region has to offer. … the goal of LatinSF is to create a welcome environment for established Latin American companies to expand and startups to locate in San Francisco.”
LatinSF is part of a group called the San Francisco for Economic Development, which also runs ChinaSF and SFAsia. The group’s overall goal is to convince more businesses, particularly tech businesses, to move to this city.
It’s one of those strange hybrids, funded in large part by big corporations and the Chamber of Commerce but operating out of City Hall, through the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development. It puts some of the biggest business interests in the city directly in the middle of public policy.
But here’s what’s particularly interesting: The outfit did a study a couple of years ago, which got very little news attention, that looks at great places in the city for tech companies to set up shop.
The results are a bit alarming.
For example, the study notes that
The 3rd Street Corridor — or Dogpatch as some call it — has great potential for further redevelopment and expansion of tech companies. Filled to the brim with vacant industrial sites waiting to be reawakened, this neighborhood has a bright future ahead of it, and not only because it is known for the sunniest weather in San Francisco.
Oh, and then there’s the Inner Mission and the Central Waterfront:
The area contains large-scale former industrial buildings as well as numerous little workshops and warehouses. While Inner Mission and Potrero Hill are close to established tech neighborhoods, the area along the central waterfront contains some as of yet undiscovered neighborhoods – and real bargains.
With an edgy, artsy feel, Inner Mission is an ethnically diverse neighborhood that evokes a strong sense of community between the young professionals that are attracted there to live, work, and be hipster (sic). Its (sic) an environment that fosters creativity and innovation among the fun-loving urban intellectuals that bask in its lively, cultural atmosphere. These young proffessionals (sic – this outfit really needs an editor) are driving the technology and design industries, and the Inner Mission is full of large, unique office spaces ready to be called home by expanding tech companies that wish to hire them.
The message of this city-sponsored, city-backed group that operates out of the Mayor’s Office and sponsored his trip to Brazil: Let’s take what little industrial space is left in San Francisco, and turn it all in to tech offices. Oh, and let’s celebrate the gentrification of the Mission! Hipster! Edgy!
There is, of course, a bit of a problem with this plan: Much of the area under discussion isn’t zoned for office space. In almost all of the Inner Mission, zoning allows only community-serving businesses – that is, medical and dental, accounting, legal offices, nonprofits – but bans the kind of office space that tech companies need and use.
There are, nevertheless, tech companies moving in – illegally, for the most part – and for the most part, the city hasn’t done anything about it. The problem with this, of course, is that it drives up rents, which means it drives out small community-serving businesses and nonprofits.
That, of course, is the model we’ve seen too often: Airbnb and Uber would not exist as billion-dollar companies if they and their contractors followed the laws on the books at the time they started up.
The reason that the city uses zoning for what’s called PDR – production, distribution, and repair – is that restrictive zoning keeps property values down and thus keeps rents affordable to these types of uses. Once you allow wholesale conversion of industrial space to office use, you lose the industrial space forever.
It also means that community-serving nonprofits get forced out – which has been the story of mid-Market ever since the Twitter tax break turned that area into Tech Central.
There are those who argue, as some people quoted in this NY Times story do, that the tech market in SF is way, way too overheated, and that it might be a fine thing if the biz slowed down a little bit.
Most of that discussion focuses on the housing market, and what the boom has done to working-class tenants, who are getting forced out by the tens of thousands.
But the loss of PDR space – and space for community-based nonprofits – is also a huge deal. And now the mayor is taking a junket to Rio with money from the folks who have an agenda that involves breaking the zoning laws the mayor is supposed to enforce and destroying what’s left of the city’s low-rent space.
I shouldn’t be surprised.
* * * * *
Leno’s bill SB1286: allows greater public access to peace officer records related to serious uses of force and sustained charges of misconduct.
March 20, 2016
Idriss Stelley Foundation endorses Leno’s bill SB1286:
SACRAMENTO – In an effort to improve transparency, accountability and trust between law enforcement and the public, Senator Mark Leno has introduced SB 1286, a bill allowing greater public access to peace officer records related to serious uses of force and sustained charges of misconduct.
“California is behind the times when it comes to providing transparency in law enforcement records,” said Senator Leno, D-San Francisco. “The public has a right to know when officers apply deadly force and when serious cases of misconduct have been confirmed. Failing to disclose such important information can fuel mistrust within our communities and threaten public safety.”
While California statutes and case law prevent the disclosure of most peace officer records, states such as Texas, Kentucky, Utah, and several others, make information available to the public when an allegation of misconduct has been confirmed. At least 10 other states, including Florida, Ohio and Washington, also make these same records public regardless of whether the incident has been confirmed.
“California is among a minority of states that makes police disciplinary records confidential,” said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón. “If the public can’t determine whether an officer has been disciplined they can’t assess if accountability mechanisms are working. This contributes to the feeling that police departments are hiding something – even if they’re not – which ultimately adds to the mistrust between police and the communities they serve. This dynamic has a detrimental effect on our public safety.”
A recent Pew Research Center poll found that only 30 percent of Americans, and just 10 percent of African Americans, believe law enforcement agencies are doing a good or excellent job of holding officers accountable for misconduct. Separate polling data shows that nearly 80 percent of Californians believe the public should have access to the findings of police misconduct.
“Police can’t earn the public’s trust when there is a wall of secrecy shielding how departments address misconduct and when they allow officers to use deadly force,”said Peter Bibring, director of police practices for the American Civil Liberties Union of California. “Providing greater transparency in state law is crucial to holding police accountable to the communities they serve, which is an important first step in improving public trust – particularly with communities of color.”
In addition to increasing access to records related to uses of force and confirmed misconduct, SB 1286 gives residents who file complaints alleging misconduct access to information related to those complaints. The bill also allows local governments to determine whether public hearings and administrative appeals should be held on allegations of peace officer misconduct. Additionally, it aims to balance the needs of public disclosure and individual privacy by allowing courts to withhold records if there is a risk or danger to an officer or another person.
“We are still at the back of the bus in areas of criminal justice” said Alice A. Huffman, president of the California-Hawaii State Conference of NAACP. “Every day we are still being victimized. Police misconduct and racial injustice is at an all-time high in our country and one has to wonder just what did the civil rights movement accomplish. That’s why the California-Hawaii State Conference of the NAACP stands with Senator Leno on this very timely bill to ensure that the veil of secrecy on inappropriate behavior among law enforcement personnel, who have a sworn duty to protect and serve all citizens, will be lifted.”
“This bill will allow Californians to see how law enforcement agencies handle confirmed cases of misconduct and help eliminate the public’s doubts and suspicions that have recently plagued the state’s law enforcement agencies,” said Jim Ewert, general counsel of the California Newspaper Publishers Association.
SB 1286 will be heard in Senate policy committees this spring.
WHAT SUPPORTERS ARE SAYING ABOUT SB 1286
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi
“Citizens frequently entrust their lives to police officers. In return, we ask for transparency,” said San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi. “Senator Leno’s proposed legislation will allow public access to information regarding officers who have been found to use excessive force and other misconduct. This bill provides potentially life-saving information to citizens while boosting accountability for police departments. In San Francisco, officers with serious misconduct records that should have disqualified them from duty have gone on to harm city residents. Sen. Leno’s bill will help prevent future tragedies.”
President of the Board of San Francisco Supervisors London Breed
“We need to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve,” said President of the Board of Supervisors London Breed. “Improving transparency about officer misconduct is an important part of that effort. I am proud to work with Senator Leno in support of this legislation.”
San Francisco Supervisor Malia Cohen
“I applaud Senator Leno for prioritizing transparency and accountability in law enforcement. This legislation is key for strengthening and building trust with the public,” said Supervisor Malia Cohen. “San Francisco is already helping pave the way for accessibility to this critical information. If we are not keeping track of this data, then we can’t move forward.”
San Francisco Police Commissioner L. Julius M. Turman
“Being transparent with the public about proven misconduct of our officers, not mere allegations or claims, is not only in step with modern policing, but it demonstrates a level of respect and openness for our community and their right to know who is serving them,” said San Francisco Police Commissioner L. Julius M. Turman. “SB 1286 is necessary to ensure public trust and confidence in our police force.”
California Public Defenders Association (CDPA)
“The California Public Defenders Association supports the public’s right to know about police officers who violate the public trust,” said Margo George, co-chair of the CPDA legislative committee.
Conference of California Bar Associations (CCBA)
“Current law, as interpreted by the Copley Press decision, prevents the public from knowing the depth and extent of misconduct and discipline of police and correctional officers,” said Larry Doyle, Legislative Representative for CCBA. “This undermines public efforts to achieve police accountability and to deter future misconduct. But it also undermines public trust in law enforcement by perpetuating the belief that misconduct is so pervasive that it must be completely shielded from the public eyes. In both these regards, the greater transparency provided by Senator Leno’s bill will benefit both the public and law enforcement.”
* * * * *
Merchandised Consumer Democracy: The Cause of the Economic Cancer in the United States
by Deni Leonard
Accumulating the largest financial capital in the history of the United States, the financial owners have committed an Act of Violence against their society as their wealth is hidden offshore, while children are starving, lack health care, the fossil fuel industry expands climate change damages to the planet, the military consumption of citizens taxes is out of control and the U.S. legislators have chosen to ignore legislative reforms to correct this criminal toxic financial reality perpetuated by the commercial owners of financial institutions leading to a larger financial crisis than that of 2008.
In 2008 there was a ‘bail out’ process using tax dollars to rescue the bankrupt financial institutions as their complicity in illegal sub-prime financial packaged loans were essentially junk rated banking instruments. Instead of imposing a penalty on those financial criminals, the United States Federal legislature created legislation to allow them to have a ‘bail-in’ process in which the depositors become liable for the illegal action of these new bankrupt financial institutions. This is the Dodd-Frank Act which is altered to protect the banking owners. The Economic Cancer is allowed to expand its’ toxic effects on the American Citizens.
These financial institutions have created individuals founding a wealth cartel in which instead of assisting the U.S. citizen with correcting the harmful effects of this economic cancer, lack of health care, housing, food, and education, have created new prisons(the U,S, has the highest prison population in the world) to respond to criticism of their government. To make things simply very clear regarding their objectives, they have moved their illicit profits from the illegal packaged loans to off-shore entities in an amount exceeding 2.7 trillion dollars. This protects their assets from future bankruptcy of their financial institutions. This is an Act of Violence against their fellow citizens.
To finance their complicit illegal banking structures, the financial owners have taken over the U.S. election with complicity of the U.S. Supreme Court in a decision, Citizens United, essentially giving these criminal financial corporations the right to raise campaign funds recognizing them as person and therefore having rights to campaign using unregulated hidden funds to elect legislators openly supporting their arrogance. This process guarantees their protection against citizens opposing this illegal banking methodology by electing legislators who are bought to comply with these illegal banking instruments. This is a major ‘Act of Violence’ against the common citizen and openly threatens those who would oppose a U.S. Department of Justice ignoring any prosecution to correct these violations of the laws regarding financial institutional theft of citizen assets. The Economic Cancer is allowed to grow unabated.
This economic cancer must be treated with a citizen’s action removing the history of complicity between Wall Street, the U.S. federal government and the U.S. federal legislators. Iceland, when presented with bankers who violated prudent regulations regarding citizen deposits were prosecuted and the banking institutions were allowed to go bankrupt. Iceland now has one of the strongest economies in the world. The bankers went to jail and the financial institutions were reorganized into a legal compliant part of the Iceland community and government.
International hegemony has been the U.S. foreign policy for many decades as the financial criminal institutions used the military to secure sources of raw materials, primarily oil, to support their industrial corporations. This use of force foreign policy has cost the U.S. taxpayer citizen trillions of dollars of their tax revenue to the U.S. federal government. The estimated cost of the illegal invasion of Iraq is exceeding three trillion dollars. More trillions were obligated to hegemony invasions of Afghanistan, Syria and bombings of Libya to support a U.S. foreign policy of ‘Regime Change’ to compel new leaders to comply with U.S. corporate appetite for oil. This western pattern of hegemony has created the largest ‘international refugee’ immigration in the history of the world and there may not be sufficient funds to manage this new human emergency originating from the criminal corporate complicity for profits over human rights.
Political change and a new consciousness within the American Citizenry is a necessity to establish a foundation for social justice to cure this Economic Cancer. The goal is returning the fundamental citizen control back to each individual citizen in elections, prosecuting the criminals in the financial institutions and restoring the use of federal tax dollars to cure the national social needs for food, housing, health and education. A socially democratic citizens’ revolution to secure a new and just government and economy is an immediate necessity.
New domestic legislated regulations restoring control of the financial institution is necessary and the removal of the Citizen United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court returning constitutional citizen participation in elections is another major necessity. The control of campaign funding whereby the common citizen influences elections and legitimately elects someone who represents his/her interests also restores a democratic system that has been hijacked by the corporate multi-national interests.
New international policy to remove hegemonic foreign policy as a United States standard is necessary before a mutual diplomatic accommodation relationship can become the new standard. Use of western military forces to extort acceptance of economic compliance has created the largest refugee crisis in the history of this world. Bombing to insure regime change is an act of violence against the common citizens of the sovereign countries including, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria and Gaza. This bankrupt U.S, foreign policy has cost the taxpayer well over 3 trillion dollars which is a business welfare contribution to the fossil fuel industry well exceeding any such government transfer payments in the domestic social programs in the United States.
Today, the United States has over 17 trillion dollars of national debt related directly to military costs and an unregulated control of the many corporations who manipulate the financial, health and education system costs. They, using Citizens United, elect legislators sympathetic to their process of a ‘Economic Cancer’ by creating wealth at the expense of the citizens’ human right to food, health, housing and education. These predatory corporations, knowing their management of the U.S. business sector is bankrupt, as it goal is to accumulate wealth for their owners, have purposely moved their profits ‘offshore’ insuring that they are not subject to the federal acts, such as Dodd-Frank, in which, when financial institutions fail, the unsecured depositor is held responsible to ‘bail in’ these failed corporation using up to 25% of their deposits, of which they receive bankrupt stocks, to save these institutions once again. A’ financial user fee’ must be imposed on these renegade corporations to return their ill-gotten profits back into the United States to be used to provide citizen human right obligation as a new standard for America.
Using the newly acquired funds from ill-gotten gains fees there can be a process to begin a social revolution in the United States to prevent this economic pandemic from every happening in the future. Within the context of our Constitution, a new set of standards to insure that manipulation of our financial system is never used again for unconstitutional control of the U.S. economy and government will not happen again. A new documented Bill of Human Rights for every citizen will be memorialized into this new constitutional document.
The young people of America are now the real political future power and have now access to a new avenue to address major national issues in the United States. It is the ‘Virtual Social Revolution’ where cloud interconnectedness may be able to reach a majority of the U.S. citizens and issue a ‘Call to Action for a National Vote on a Social Revolution Referendum’ permitting a national dialogue on the issue of the citizen right to bills of rights to protect their constitutional rights. There are many social networking organizations and technological capabilities to become a foundation for a new ‘Democratic Social Revolution’ in this century.
Here are some of the Bill of Rights issues which need to be in a new dialogue to create a revision to update the living U.S. Constitution.
- Economic Bill of Rights
- U.S. Dept. of Justice Failed American Citizens by not prosecuting the financial institutions that created the largest financial crisis in the history of the United States. Reinstate Glass Steagall to control banks from making risky investments with depositors money and imposing penalties
- Financial institution owners have moved their money, estimated at 2.7 trillion dollars, to off shore tax haven banks not trusting their own banks. Require them to retain their personal capital within the borders of the United States with a financial fee for them to pay their fair share to America
- Require a minimum wage of $15 for each worker to secure a livable standard of life to provide for their families food, clothing , shelter, health care and education
- Establish Community Banks that provide capital to communities without charging interest on social infrastructure projects (Web of Debt by Ellen Brown)
- Housing Bill of Rights
- Acknowledge a minimum standard that in America, Housing is a Human Right
- Create national, regional and local laws that establish standards in whichpredatory housing prices and rentals, when eliminating domicile facilities for families is ‘an act of violence’ and this sociocidial pattern will not be permitted in your community
- Education Bill of Rights
- Declare that Education for all citizens is a ‘human right’
- Provide public funds to educate all citizens from early education to college
- Educate each student to understand and accept all culture and their values
- Environmental Bill of Rights
- Establish a decade national presidential pledge to penalize destruction of our environment by businesses which use scientists to establish methods of energy production at the cost of a healthy environment
- Direct major federally funded research and development to transfer fossil fuel energy methodology into renewable products which are environmentally safe
- Prosecute major energy companies that evidence complicit actions to prevent or disguise potential damage to the Climate using fossil fuels with significant fines and such moneys be used to establish major clean fuel initiatives
- Medical Bill of Rights
- Declare that medical care is a Human Rights for each and every person and is a responsibility of our national federal government
- Remove medicine as a capitalistic financial business to insure that all medicineis affordable to each person and fine major pharmaceutical companies if they market products for profit over people’s health conditions.
- Establish a national program to remove lethal products from production such as cigarettes, GMO foods, and chemically treated toxic processed food manufactured to increase shelf life at the expense of each person’s health
- Establish a secure invested national trust for the protection of each person’s Social Security and medical cost federal insurance to escape depletion of this fund from internal governmental fiscal borrowing to pay for their mismanaged federal debt
- Legislative Bill of Rights
- Constitutionally or at the state level impose the one person, one vote criteria and remove the financial purchase of campaigns through corporate Citizens United hidden funds
- Amend the Dodd Frank act to secure the depositors fund as an asset which they own while in the bank and as such cannot be used as a bail-in process in which up 25% of their deposits can be used to pay mismanaged banks’ bankruptcy obligations
- Remove the artificial role of the Federal Reserve Board and print our currency in the U.S. Treasury without any obligations of interest to buy our own national currency for our use in our economy
- Create a ‘Secretary of Culture’ to recognize and celebrate the diversity of people’s cultures within the United States
- Employment Bill of Rights
- Each person is entitled to a job within our economy as a human right without imposed bias on race, economic community, religion or political status
- Each person is entitled to a living wage to provide for his family
- The national economy is obligated to be the foundation for jobs for the people of this country and by exporting production to lower wages at the expense of the worker for excess profits is ‘an act of violence’.
- Voting Justice Bill of Rights
- Each citizen in the United States has a right to vote in all elections throughout this country
- A voting rights act is necessary to insure equal voting participation for each citizen
- A transparent voting process is necessary to insure voting place integrity
- Voting precincts should reflect the people, population and community
- Business Bill of Rights
- All businesses should contribute to their tax obligation in an equal contribution percentage based on their revenue and profit margins
- Each business is obligated to provide health, social security contributions and fair wages/working conditions to their employees
- Products produced by scientists working on products must adhere to standards which create manufactured products that are non-toxic to consumers and to workers
- Federal Budget Bill of Rights
- All obligated moneys to Social Security, Medicare and Education must be maintained at a level able to provide for quality services to each person and no bill or internal governmental authority allowed to reduce these fiscally obligated moneys
- Significant research and development federal funds be obligated to create major renewable energy projects as a strategy to stop destructive climate change
- Community banking methodology using the North Dakota State Banking system be established to insure reducing external borrowing and interest obligations by establishing an internal lending system interest free
- Technology Bill of Rights
- Establish citizen privacy protection in the internet as a basic constitutional safe Guard against government agency illegal surveillance
- Establish a Secretary of Technology in the president’s cabinet to institutionalize the importance of internet technology within our society
- International Trade Bill of Rights
- Integrate Trade with all countries around the world with a specific emphasis on our major trading partners
- Protect federal, state, local and Tribal governments from legal interaction from international trade partners regarding financial agreements which may permit harmful business lawsuits reducing laws to protect our own citizens with regard to health, environment and wages
- Authorize the United States to join the International Criminal Court in which they can equally be responsible for any illegal actions in a mutual court of international law
- Trade is becoming the new vehicle to attack economically countries in disagreement with U.S. foreign relations with a devastating diplomatic cost
- Military Industrial Complex Bill of Rights
- Replace hegemony international policy with accommodation policy in foreign relations
- Research proactive military action costs regarding invasions, bombing and military aid to ground forces as they have created, through the U.S aid, the largest immigration crisis in the history of the world
- Cease and desist from supplying criminal insurgents who have become, through the use of U.S. supplied arms, money and air support, the new terrorist
- Stop using military to secure oil reserves to the U.S. as the cost of such military intervention which has caused the $42 barrel of oil to have a real value, after our 3 trillion dollar added citizen tax cost of the Mideast misguided military intervention, to have a value of over $200 a barrel
The young people have the energy and vision to seek a ‘National Virtual Referendum of the People and from the People’ recognizing and acknowledging a Peoples Unrepresented by their own Congress and Government and that a Time For Change is now!
Web of Debt; Ellen Brown
The Three Trillion Dollar War: Joseph E. Stiglitz/Linda J. Bilmes
The Devils Chessboard: David Talbot
No Place to Hide; Glenn Greenwood
The Great American Stickup; Robert Scheer
Playing President; Robert Scheer
Liar’s Poker; Michael Lewis
The Big Short; Michael Lewis
This Changes Everything; Naomi Klein
Democracy At Work, A Cure for Capitalism; Richard Wolff
The Tyranny of Oil; Antonia Juhasz
Trade War; YashTandon
9-11; Noam Chomsky
Virtually You; Elias Aboujaoude. MD
Less Safe, Less Free; David Cole & Jules Lobel
Economics Unmasked; Philip B. Smith & Manfred Max-Neef
Justice in Everyday Life; Howard Zinn
The Clash of Generations: Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Scott Burns
The Bush Agenda: Invading the World One Economy At A Time:
Straight To The Heart: Angela Alioto
Remaking Scarcity: Costa Panayotakis
after Scaling State Building
for Porter Ranch Gas Leak Protest
Activists arrested after scaling state building
in Porter Ranch gas leak protest
By Gregory J. Wilcox, Los Angeles Daily News
Posted: 02/16/16, 9:31 AM PST | Updated: 2 mins ago
Two Bay Area residents scaled the entrance to the headquarters of the California Public Utilities Commission today to protest the massive methane leak that dragged on for more than 100 days at Southern California Gas Co.’s Aliso Canyon storage field above Porter Ranch.
The protestors have deployed a banner under the large state seal of California on the front of the building.
California Highway Patrol officers were at the San Francisco building removing the protesters.
Two of the protesters were arrested.
“We’re doing this in response to the lack of regulated natural gas facilities around the state, which were having serious impacts on community health — and they are also having an impact on the climate,” said a spokesperson for the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of Rising Tide North America.
The protest comes as U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz arrives in the San Fernando Valley to tour the Aliso Canyon storage facility.
The leak was stopped last Thursday.
“While plugging the leak at Aliso Canyon has been a good step, today we are demanding that the PUC shut down all gas storage facilities; until they do, we are occupying the PUC,” Christy Tennery-Spalding from Diablo Rising Tide, the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of Rising Tide North America, said in an email.
Congrats to our compadres at Rising Tide! Thanks, y’all!!
And it seems we’re eager to get played. Again.
The love affair between black folks and the Clintons has been going on for a long time. It began back in 1992, when Bill Clinton was running for president. He threw on some shades and played the saxophone on The Arsenio Hall Show. It seems silly in retrospect, but many of us fell for that. At a time when a popular slogan was “It’s a black thing, you wouldn’t understand,” Bill Clinton seemed to get us. When Toni Morrison dubbed him our first black president, we nodded our heads. We had our boy in the White House. Or at least we thought we did.
Black voters have been remarkably loyal to the Clintons for more than 25 years. It’s true that we eventually lined up behind Barack Obama in 2008, but it’s a measure of the Clinton allure that Hillary led Obama among black voters until he started winning caucuses and primaries. Now Hillary is running again. This time she’s facing a democratic socialist who promises a political revolution that will bring universal healthcare, a living wage, an end to rampant Wall Street greed, and the dismantling of the vast prison state—many of the same goals that Martin Luther King Jr. championed at the end of his life. Even so, black folks are sticking with the Clinton brand.
What have the Clintons done to earn such devotion? Did they take extreme political risks to defend the rights of African Americans? Did they courageously stand up to right-wing demagoguery about black communities? Did they help usher in a new era of hope and prosperity for neighborhoods devastated by deindustrialization, globalization, and the disappearance of work?
No. Quite the opposite.
* * *
When Bill Clinton ran for president in 1992, urban black communities across America were suffering from economic collapse. Hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs had vanished as factories moved overseas in search of cheaper labor, a new plantation. Globalization and deindustrialization affected workers of all colors but hit African Americans particularly hard. Unemployment rates among young black men had quadrupled as the rate of industrial employment plummeted. Crime rates spiked in inner-city communities that had been dependent on factory jobs, while hopelessness, despair, and crack addiction swept neighborhoods that had once been solidly working-class. Millions of black folks—many of whom had fled Jim Crow segregation in the South with the hope of obtaining decent work in Northern factories—were suddenly trapped in racially segregated, jobless ghettos.
On the campaign trail, Bill Clinton made the economy his top priority and argued persuasively that conservatives were using race to divide the nation and divert attention from the failed economy. In practice, however, he capitulated entirely to the right-wing backlash against the civil-rights movement and embraced former president Ronald Reagan’s agenda on race, crime, welfare, and taxes—ultimately doing more harm to black communities than Reagan ever did.
We should have seen it coming. Back then, Clinton was the standard-bearer for the New Democrats, a group that firmly believed the only way to win back the millions of white voters in the South who had defected to the Republican Party was to adopt the right-wing narrative that black communities ought to be disciplined with harsh punishment rather than coddled with welfare. Reagan had won the presidency by dog-whistling to poor and working-class whites with coded racial appeals: railing against “welfare queens” and criminal “predators” and condemning “big government.” Clinton aimed to win them back, vowing that he would never permit any Republican to be perceived as tougher on crime than he.
Just weeks before the critical New Hampshire primary, Clinton proved his toughness by flying back to Arkansas to oversee the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, a mentally impaired black man who had so little conception of what was about to happen to him that he asked for the dessert from his last meal to be saved for him for later. After the execution, Clinton remarked, “I can be nicked a lot, but no one can say I’m soft on crime.”
As president, Bill Clinton mastered the art of sending mixed cultural messages.
Clinton mastered the art of sending mixed cultural messages, appealing to African Americans by belting out “Lift Every Voice and Sing” in black churches, while at the same time signaling to poor and working-class whites that he was willing to be tougher on black communities than Republicans had been.
Clinton was praised for his no-nonsense, pragmatic approach to racial politics. He won the election and appointed a racially diverse cabinet that “looked like America.” He won re-election four years later, and the American economy rebounded. Democrats cheered. The Democratic Party had been saved. The Clintons won. Guess who lost?
* * *
Bill Clinton presided over the largest increase in federal and state prison inmates of any president in American history. Clinton did not declare the War on Crime or the War on Drugs—those wars were declared before Reagan was elected and long before crack hit the streets—but he escalated it beyond what many conservatives had imagined possible. He supported the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity for crack versus powder cocaine, which produced staggering racial injustice in sentencing and boosted funding for drug-law enforcement.
Clinton championed the idea of a federal “three strikes” law in his 1994 State of the Union address and, months later, signed a $30 billion crime bill that created dozens of new federal capital crimes, mandated life sentences for some three-time offenders, and authorized more than $16 billion for state prison grants and the expansion of police forces. The legislation was hailed by mainstream-media outlets as a victory for the Democrats, who “were able to wrest the crime issue from the Republicans and make it their own.”
When Clinton left office in 2001, the United States had the highest rate of incarceration in the world. Human Rights Watch reported that in seven states, African Americans constituted 80 to 90 percent of all drug offenders sent to prison, even though they were no more likely than whites to use or sell illegal drugs. Prison admissions for drug offenses reached a level in 2000 for African Americans more than 26 times the level in 1983. All of the presidents since 1980 have contributed to mass incarceration, but as Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson recently observed, “President Clinton’s tenure was the worst.”
Some might argue that it’s unfair to judge Hillary Clinton for the policies her husband championed years ago. But Hillary wasn’t picking out china while she was first lady. She bravely broke the mold and redefined that job in ways no woman ever had before. She not only campaigned for Bill; she also wielded power and significant influence once he was elected, lobbying for legislation and other measures. That record, and her statements from that era, should be scrutinized. In her support for the 1994 crime bill, for example, she used racially coded rhetoric to cast black children as animals. “They are not just gangs of kids anymore,” she said. “They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators.’ No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.”
Both Clintons now express regret over the crime bill, and Hillary says she supports criminal-justice reforms to undo some of the damage that was done by her husband’s administration. But on the campaign trail, she continues to invoke the economy and country that Bill Clinton left behind as a legacy she would continue. So what exactly did the Clinton economy look like for black Americans? Taking a hard look at this recent past is about more than just a choice between two candidates. It’s about whether the Democratic Party can finally reckon with what its policies have done to African-American communities, and whether it can redeem itself and rightly earn the loyalty of black voters.
* * *
An oft-repeated myth about the Clinton administration is that although it was overly tough on crime back in the 1990s, at least its policies were good for the economy and for black unemployment rates. The truth is more troubling. As unemployment rates sank to historically low levels for white Americans in the 1990s, the jobless rate among black men in their 20s who didn’t have a college degree rose to its highest level ever. This increase in joblessness was propelled by the skyrocketing incarceration rate.
Why is this not common knowledge? Because government statistics like poverty and unemployment rates do not include incarcerated people. As Harvard sociologist Bruce Western explains: “Much of the optimism about declines in racial inequality and the power of the US model of economic growth is misplaced once we account for the invisible poor, behind the walls of America’s prisons and jails.” When Clinton left office in 2001, the true jobless rate for young, non-college-educated black men (including those behind bars) was 42 percent. This figure was never reported. Instead, the media claimed that unemployment rates for African Americans had fallen to record lows, neglecting to mention that this miracle was possible only because incarceration rates were now at record highs. Young black men weren’t looking for work at high rates during the Clinton era because they were now behind bars—out of sight, out of mind, and no longer counted in poverty and unemployment statistics.
To make matters worse, the federal safety net for poor families was torn to shreds by the Clinton administration in its effort to “end welfare as we know it.” In his 1996 State of the Union address, given during his re-election campaign, Clinton declared that “the era of big government is over” and immediately sought to prove it by dismantling the federal welfare system known as Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC). The welfare-reform legislation that he signed—which Hillary Clinton ardently supported then and characterized as a success as recently as 2008—replaced the federal safety net with a block grant to the states, imposed a five-year lifetime limit on welfare assistance, added work requirements, barred undocumented immigrants from licensed professions, and slashed overall public welfare funding by $54 billion (some was later restored).
They are not just gangs of kids anymore…they are ‘super-predators.’ —Hillary Clinton, speaking in support of the 1994 crime bill
Experts and pundits disagree about the true impact of welfare reform, but one thing seems clear: Extreme poverty doubled to 1.5 million in the decade and a half after the law was passed. What is extreme poverty? US households are considered to be in extreme poverty if they are surviving on cash incomes of no more than $2 per person per day in any given month. We tend to think of extreme poverty existing in Third World countries, but here in the United States, shocking numbers of people are struggling to survive on less money per month than many families spend in one evening dining out. Currently, the United States, the richest nation on the planet, has one of the highest child-poverty rates in the developed world.
Despite claims that radical changes in crime and welfare policy were driven by a desire to end big government and save taxpayer dollars, the reality is that the Clinton administration didn’t reduce the amount of money devoted to the management of the urban poor; it changed what the funds would be used for. Billions of dollars were slashed from public-housing and child-welfare budgets and transferred to the mass-incarceration machine. By 1996, the penal budget was twice the amount that had been allocated to food stamps. During Clinton’s tenure, funding for public housing was slashed by $17 billion (a reduction of 61 percent), while funding for corrections was boosted by $19 billion (an increase of 171 percent), according to sociologist Loïc Wacquant “effectively making the construction of prisons the nation’s main housing program for the urban poor.”
Bill Clinton championed discriminatory laws against formerly incarcerated people that have kept millions of Americans locked in a cycle of poverty and desperation. The Clinton administration eliminated Pell grants for prisoners seeking higher education to prepare for their release, supported laws denying federal financial aid to students with drug convictions, and signed legislation imposing a lifetime ban on welfare and food stamps for anyone convicted of a felony drug offense—an exceptionally harsh provision given the racially biased drug war that was raging in inner cities.
Perhaps most alarming, Clinton also made it easier for public-housing agencies to deny shelter to anyone with any sort of criminal history (even an arrest without conviction) and championed the “one strike and you’re out” initiative, which meant that families could be evicted from public housing because one member (or a guest) had committed even a minor offense. People released from prison with no money, no job, and nowhere to go could no longer return home to their loved ones living in federally assisted housing without placing the entire family at risk of eviction. Purging “the criminal element” from public housing played well on the evening news, but no provisions were made for people and families as they were forced out on the street. By the end of Clinton’s presidency, more than half of working-age African-American men in many large urban areas were saddled with criminal records and subject to legalized discrimination in employment, housing, access to education, and basic public benefits—relegated to a permanent second-class status eerily reminiscent of Jim Crow.
It is difficult to overstate the damage that’s been done. Generations have been lost to the prison system; countless families have been torn apart or rendered homeless; and a school-to-prison pipeline has been born that shuttles young people from their decrepit, underfunded schools to brand-new high-tech prisons.
* * *
It didn’t have to be like this. As a nation, we had a choice. Rather than spending billions of dollars constructing a vast new penal system, those billions could have been spent putting young people to work in inner-city communities and investing in their schools so they might have some hope of making the transition from an industrial to a service-based economy. Constructive interventions would have been good not only for African Americans trapped in ghettos, but for blue-collar workers of all colors. At the very least, Democrats could have fought to prevent the further destruction of black communities rather than ratcheting up the wars declared on them.
Of course, it can be said that it’s unfair to criticize the Clintons for punishing black people so harshly, given that many black people were on board with the “get tough” movement too. It is absolutely true that black communities back then were in a state of crisis, and that many black activists and politicians were desperate to get violent offenders off the streets. What is often missed, however, is that most of those black activists and politicians weren’t asking only for toughness. They were also demanding investment in their schools, better housing, jobs programs for young people, economic-stimulus packages, drug treatment on demand, and better access to healthcare. In the end, they wound up with police and prisons. To say that this was what black people wanted is misleading at best.
By 1996, the penal budget was twice the amount that had been allocated to food stamps.
To be fair, the Clintons now feel bad about how their politics and policies have worked out for black people. Bill says that he “overshot the mark” with his crime policies; and Hillary has put forth a plan to ban racial profiling, eliminate the sentencing disparities between crack and cocaine, and abolish private prisons, among other measures.
But what about a larger agenda that would not just reverse some of the policies adopted during the Clinton era, but would rebuild the communities decimated by them? If you listen closely here, you’ll notice that Hillary Clinton is still singing the same old tune in a slightly different key. She is arguing that we ought not be seduced by Bernie’s rhetoric because we must be “pragmatic,” “face political realities,” and not get tempted to believe that we can fight for economic justice and win. When politicians start telling you that it is “unrealistic” to support candidates who want to build a movement for greater equality, fair wages, universal healthcare, and an end to corporate control of our political system, it’s probably best to leave the room.
This is not an endorsement for Bernie Sanders, who after all voted for the 1994 crime bill. I also tend to agree with Ta-Nehisi Coates that the way the Sanders campaign handled the question of reparations is one of many signs that Bernie doesn’t quite get what’s at stake in serious dialogues about racial justice. He was wrong to dismiss reparations as “divisive,” as though centuries of slavery, segregation, discrimination, ghettoization, and stigmatization aren’t worthy of any specific acknowledgement or remedy.
But recognizing that Bernie, like Hillary, has blurred vision when it comes to race is not the same thing as saying their views are equally problematic. Sanders opposed the 1996 welfare-reform law. He also opposed bank deregulation and the Iraq War, both of which Hillary supported, and both of which have proved disastrous. In short, there is such a thing as a lesser evil, and Hillary is not it.
The biggest problem with Bernie, in the end, is that he’s running as a Democrat—as a member of a political party that not only capitulated to right-wing demagoguery but is now owned and controlled by a relatively small number of millionaires and billionaires. Yes, Sanders has raised millions from small donors, but should he become president, he would also become part of what he has otherwise derided as “the establishment.” Even if Bernie’s racial-justice views evolve, I hold little hope that a political revolution will occur within the Democratic Party without a sustained outside movement forcing truly transformational change. I am inclined to believe that it would be easier to build a new party than to save the Democratic Party from itself.
Of course, the idea of building a new political party terrifies most progressives, who understandably fear that it would open the door for a right-wing extremist to get elected. So we play the game of lesser evils. This game has gone on for decades. W.E.B. Du Bois, the eminent scholar and co-founder of the NAACP, shocked many when he refused to play along with this game in the 1956 election, defending his refusal to vote on the grounds that “there is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I do or say.” While the true losers and winners of this game are highly predictable, the game of lesser evils makes for great entertainment and can now be viewed 24 hours a day on cable-news networks. Hillary believes that she can win this game in 2016 because this time she’s got us, the black vote, in her back pocket—her lucky card.
She may be surprised to discover that the younger generation no longer wants to play her game. Or maybe not. Maybe we’ll all continue to play along and pretend that we don’t know how it will turn out in the end. Hopefully, one day, we’ll muster the courage to join together in a revolutionary movement with people of all colors who believe that basic human rights and economic, racial, and gender justice are not unreasonable, pie-in-the-sky goals. After decades of getting played, the sleeping giant just might wake up, stretch its limbs, and tell both parties: Game over. Move aside. It’s time to reshuffle this deck.
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Hell, no: Ground broken at the Gill Tract! —
Action, Education, Music and More
The southernmost parcel of the Gill Tract (south of Monroe Street) has been fenced off, and trenching and surveying has begun, in preparation for it to be bulldozed and paved for the high-end senior housing complex. The shopping center site will surely be next.
Tenacious folks have been mobilizing around this terrible news, captured in this video titled “We’re Still Fighting!”. In it, a group takes action to disrupt the development, and local elders explain why an over-priced senior housing project is the WRONG solution—both for seniors and for some of the last remaining farmland in the East Bay.
The struggle is far from over, and we applaud direct action to resist this latest attack on the land! Fill out this short survey to plug into our organizing from wherever you are, and…
Join us for upcoming actions!:
- Sprouts Supermarket Now In Our Own Backyards
We oppose Sprouts not only because they are the anchor tenant of the shopping center that threatens to pave the historic Gill Tract, but also because their greenwashing undermines *real* farmer’s markets and locally owned groceries. Sprouts opened a new store last week in downtown Oakland, and we are UNwelcoming their arrival with repeated actions almost everyday.
Sprouts management has been sweating, and called out twenty Oakland Police officers last week to remove us, only to be informed that this time, we have the law on our side, and can’t be stopped from protesting on Sprout’s grounds. Help us keep up the pressure and inform neighbors about the boycott. Ongoing dates and times will be announced on our FB event page. The next one is: Wednesday Jan. 20th, 2-5:30pm, 3035 Broadway, Oakland
- THIS WEEKEND, January 23rd & 24th : Building with local communities through PeopleSkool, Music, and A Walk on the Gill Tract Sacred Land.
Saturday and Sunday in Oakland: We invite you to join other OTF organizers and supporters in attending the inspiring two-day PeopleSkool, offered by POOR Magazine and Homefulness in East Oakland. Through deepening our relationships and understanding of colonization and gentrification, we hope to build power together with POOR communities, especially around land liberation.
From PeopleSkool event page: We Teach thru verse, prayer, talk-story, theatre, poetry and love. As poor & indigenous peoples practicing what we call poverty skolaship/lived education taught, shared outside the institution we teach through the mulitple actions of poetry, verse, song,talk-story,theatre and prayer, all rooted in our own real life experiences.
Sliding scale & flexible tuition with proceeds supporting the important work at POOR. Please register at: http://www.racepovertymediajustice.org/registrationFee.html More info on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/448787848661623/
Sunday 3-5pm at the Gill Tract, San Pablo + Marin Ave, Albany: Whether you’re able to attend PeopleSkool or not, join us for the culminating event, on the Gill Tract with music by RedStar and a walk, ceremony, and prayer on sacred land, lead by the Indigenous Land Access Committee. More info at https://www.facebook.com/events/1693590484213343/
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Other Ways to Support:
Fill out this short survey to plug into the action and other support from wherever you are! (We are especially in need of more videographers.)
Invite folks to watch the documentary, now available online.
Donate online, we can only do this with your support.
Occupy the Farm
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BIG win for people vs. fossil fuel industry this morning:
Obama halts coal leases on public lands
A big win for people vs. the fossil fuel industry this morning — and YOU made it happen! President Obama halted new coal mining leases on public lands.
Today, the Obama administration announced a complete overhaul of how the government manages coal mining on public land — including a moratorium on new coal leases. Halting coal leasing will keep billions of tons of coal in the ground where it belongs. This is HUGE and the type of climate leadership we need!
This was an amazing people-powered victory —YOUR victory. These changes are in direct response to hundreds of thousands of people like you across the country who spoke out to stop the outdated and wasteful federal coal leasing program. Climate change is not just a problem for future generations, it is a problem now, and the Administration must act swiftly to control the greenhouse gas emissions that are threatening lives and livelihoods.
With this change President Obama just took a major step to move us away from dirty coal and transition to clean, renewable energy. We applaud these major efforts to keep fossil fuels in the ground and will look for his continued action for climate in the last year of his presidency.
Join us now in sending President Obama your thanks for this bold action for our climate!
P.S. This is a huge victory that shows that the power of people can win vs. the fossil fuel industry! But our work isn’t over. Let’s keep this momentum going to stop all new oil, coal and gas extraction. It’s time to #keepitintheground. Stay tuned!
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After a 12 year battle, the first contracts for the CleanPowerSF community choice program have at last been signed, ensuring that CleanPowerSF will enroll its first customers on May 1, 2016!
Below and attached is a press release on the victory. Feel free to forward it widely.
For Immediate Release: January 13, 2016 Contact: Eric Brooks, 415-756-8844
CLEAN ENERGY & COMMUNITY ADVOCATES CHEER LAUNCH OF CLEANPOWERSF!
San Francisco, January 13, 2016 – After 12 years of diligent advocacy, local environmental and community groups today cheered the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s (SFPUC’s) launch of the CleanPowerSF community choice energy program.
Shortly after 4 PM on Tuesday, January 12, 2016, following the Commission’s unanimous approval, SFPUC General Manager Harlan Kelly signed the first power purchase contract to officially launch the program. CleanPowerSF will have a cleaner energy mix and lower rates than those of Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and begins service to customers on May 1, 2016.
The program will provide the option for both commercial and residential customers to begin receiving 35% clean renewable electricity at a slightly lower rate than PG&E, or instead opt up to 100% clean energy for a slightly higher price. PG&E’s energy mix is currently around 27% renewable. SFPUC Assistant General Manager for Power Barbara Hale announced at Tuesday’s meeting that both commercial and residential customers can now pre-enroll to join CleanPowerSF at http://cleanpowersf.org
Outstanding issues with program implementation include the speed at which the program will be expanded citywide to provide savings to all residents and businesses, as well as the timeline and robustness of plans for comprehensive citywide and regional installations of local renewables. Advocates noted that this buildout must be engaged much sooner than currently planned in order to provide greater savings to residents and secure the program’s workforce development objectives of creating thousands of new jobs in the near term.
Rebecca Evans, Chair of Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter said, “This action by the SFPUC to sell greener energy at lower rates is truly groundbreaking in a major city the size of San Francisco. Sierra Club’s members, and the planet, thank the SFPUC for launching this program and boldly leading the rest of the nation into a clean energy future. We call on other cities to quickly follow San Francisco’s lead.”
Jed Holtzman, Co-Coordinator of 350 San Francisco, said, “This crucial step forward for San Francisco comes at a key moment in the history of our planet. The international community agrees we need to move to 100% clean energy as soon as possible. If fully implemented, CleanPowerSF can take us there, provide a model for cities all around the world to follow, and play an outsized role in making our global renewable energy future a reality.”
Bruce Wolfe of the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council said, “The strong inclusion of commercial customers from the start in CleanPowerSF is so vital. San Francisco’s small businesses have been crying out for relief from PG&E’s high priced polluting electricity for decades. Now they are finally getting the choice of a cleaner and lower priced alternative.”
Eric Brooks, Campaign Coordinator of Our City SF, said, “The gas disaster in Southern California sounds the death knell of fossil fuel energy. San Francisco just made a decisive move toward ending dependence on such disastrous fossil fuels. Now it’s time to hire thousands of local union workers to build an infrastructure to deliver 50% of the City’s electricity from clean local sources by 2025, and 100% by 2035.”
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The Delta 5 Verdict Is In: Guilty and Not Guilty, But In the End No Jail Time for Blocking Oil Train
The Delta 5 Verdict Is In: Guilty and Not Guilty, But In the End No Jail Time for Blocking Oil Train
A six-person Snohomish County jury has found the Delta 5 defendants guilty of criminal trespass on BNSF Railway property, but not guilty of obstructing or delaying a train.
Supporters of the Delta 5—the five people who staged an oil train protest in the fall of 2014 by blocking train tracks—say that today’s verdict reflects the tough decisions the jury faced. The jury had been presented with all the evidence for a “necessity defense,” a landmark argument for a civil disobedience trial. (Essentially, a “necessity defense” is an argument that the harm of whatever was being protested exceeds the harm caused by the civil disobedience itself.) But right before closing arguments, Judge Anthony E. Howard denied the defense’s motion to let the jury consider that defense.
Had the jury been able to consider the “necessity defense,” they would have had to weigh whether the harm of blocking the train tracks outweighed the health and safety risks from crude oil trains and climate change.
Judge Howard sentenced the five defendants—Abby Brockway, Michael Lapointe, Patrick Mazza, Jackie Minchew, and Liz Spoerri—to two years of probation, with 89 days of suspended jail time if they violate that probation. In other words, zero jail time. (Unless.)
Judge Howard added that while he was beholden to precedents established by higher courts, even “this guy in a black robe” had learned something from the case.
After the verdict was read, three jurors came outside and talked to the defendants. Some exchanged hugs. One, 61-year-old truck driver Joe Lundheim, wiped away tears.
“I’m actually really pleased with what you delivered to us, because we have options now and there’s more we can do with this, and this was probably the best verdict that could have been returned to us,” Brockway told Lundheim and Sue McGowan, 49, another juror.
“It was hard to take the emotion out of it,” McGowan said. “I mean, for myself, I didn’t want to convict you of anything, but I had to uphold the law. Emotionally I was like, ‘No, they’re good people, I don’t want to deliver guilty!'”
“That was huge in itself, that you guys were able to bring this matter to a jury trial,” Lundheim told MJ McCallum, the lawyer representing protester Jackie Minchew.
“Eventually we will have achieved what we wanted to achieve with the climate change problem, but the problem is that we don’t have the time,” Michael LaPointe, one of the Delta 5, said. “By the time we’ve achieved it, at this pace, we will have all died.”
“That’s the point about legal methods,” Bridge Joyce, protester Liz Spoerri’s lawyer, said. “You guys were trying to draw attention to that.”
“There’s this very narrow window of time when traffic is going to exponentially increase on this toxic product coming through our neighborhoods to make a buck—while a buck is able to be made—before it closes,” Lundheim, one of the jurors, said.
He continued: “It’s not going to be available forever, this whole fossil fuel thing. China’s not going to want coal forever, they want to get off it as soon as they can. And people know that. But there’s this, ‘Quick, let’s make money here, we’ll push it through Washington.’ And I know this because I’ve been listening to this stuff all week long, so thank you for that.”
“We don’t want to be the corridor,” McGowan, his fellow juror, added.
They discussed other new climate developments before LaPointe, one of the Delta 5 defendants, had a thought about the jurors: “May I say welcome to the movement?“
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O C C U P Y F O R U M O F F – S I T E M E E T I N G
Monday, January 4th at 6:00 pm
SEIU Local 1021 350 Rhode Island, Suite 100 San Francisco, CA 94103 near 16th Street
Enter on Rhode Island, turn to left up the stairs, conference room is to the right.
Office: (415) 848-3611 Toll-free: (877) 415-1021
Justice 4 Mario Woods
Everywhere across this nation, people gather in shock, despair, rage as another black person is murdered by police without accountability. This is a national emergency.
For the third Monday, OccupyForum will be taking place at the Justice 4 Mario Woods Coalition Meeting. Because so many of us showed up (17 out of 70 members so far) for the Bayview and for Mario, and against police executions of blacks in the streets of our country, we are becoming significantly involved. We have been at many actions, including the Town Hall Meeting with Police Chief Suhr, the Police Commission Protest at City Hall, the Rally at 850 Bryant and march to the District Attorney’s office, the Press Conference at City Hall, the Kwanzaa Protest, the Tamir Rice protest in downtown SF, and the Rally at the African American Community Police Board Meeting (which was cancelled and barricaded because they heard we were coming and they were afraid to face our questions about why cops executed Mario Woods, and their accountability). We join in the outrage, and in the planning process of how we will address this national emergency.
The Coalition’s demands are:
- Fire Chief Suhr
- Indict, Convict and Jail the cops who murdered Mario Woods
- An independent investigation into the murder.
Please join us and become part of the Coalition. We need all hands on deck. Please bring friends, groups, family.
On Wednesday, December 2nd, Mario Woods was gunned down by a firing squad of San Francisco Police officers in the Bayview, allegedly for brandishing a kitchen knife and “threatening” police at the scene. Videos showed Woods confusedly stumbling around after police shot bean bags filled with lead pellets and pepper spray at him; then being assassinated by police as he attempted to limp away. Citizens of the Bayview and throughout the city held a vigil that night, followed by testimony at a Town Hall Meeting called by Police Chief Suhr. A meeting at the San Francisco Police Commission characterized by the rage of the community was held December 9th with at least 200 protesters packing into City Hall filing public comment, including Archbishop Franzo King who said, “If the chief continues to defend the right to kill and slaughter people on the street under his command, then he becomes a co-conspirator to murder.” On December 18th, hundreds of youth, families, community and religious leaders throughout San Francisco and the Bay Area held a massive rally on the steps of 850 Bryant Street. Following the rally, the group marched to the offices of District Attorney George Gascón.
In a Times.com article, John Burris, attorney for the Woods family states, “our view is that this was a person who was shot multiple times at a time when he did not put officers’ lives in imminent danger.” Attorney Burris goes on to mention that the San Francisco Police Department broadly exhibits a “continuing pattern and practice of misconduct.” Other witnesses claim police shot Mario Woods (+20) times. The national trend of police abuse is all the more troubling in the City of San Francisco as the African American makes up 3% of the population, but continues to be disproportionately impacted by police murders and abuse.
The Justice for Mario Woods Coalition formed to unify citizens who are outraged and sickened by the shooting which is one in a long series of racist police brutality and violence against members of the black community. The Justice for Mario Woods Coalition is made up of concerned residents of San Francisco, advocates, leaders and community organizers who want to stop the trend of violence experienced by the black community in San Francisco at the hands of the police. The coalition demands are:
- The immediate removal of Police Chief Gregory Suhr
• Officers be charged with the murder of Mario Woods
An independent investigation of the execution
Video of the shooting of Mario Woods (GRAPHIC CONTENT) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grcd1JlbXN8
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O C C U P Y F O R U M O F F – S I T E M E E T I N G
Monday, December 28th at 6:00 pm
Justice 4 Mario Woods
Coalition Meeting: Next Steps
“You need to come out and be a part of this. Activate yourself.
Ignite yourself. Come out and stand with the People. You need to be here.
I need to see you here. We need to do this as a Human Race.”
— Maurice Tatum in front of City Hall for Justice for Mario Woods
Come out Monday night at 350 Rhode Island at 16th street for
Mario Woods Coalition planning meeting 6 pm.
Now that there are videos of these killings, it makes it a lot harder for police and authorities to deny to the public what’s happening. And the People won’t allow it.
This is a great time to join in and put a stop to police violence/murder against people of color, and the racist system that permits it to keep happening.
OccupyForum is showing up in solidarity for these meetings through this period of time. Please step up and stand up!
Updated video of shooting of Mario Woods (GRAPHIC CONTENT) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grcd1JlbXN8