Polls Show Trump Now Leading Clinton, All Hands On Board!

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer/Andrew Spear/The New York Times Hillary Clinton button and Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) ORG XMIT: MIN2016040813524411

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer/Andrew Spear/The New York Times Hillary Clinton button and Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Little Rock  The latest average of all outstanding polls considering a two-way race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton for the first time shows that Trump has edged ahead of Clinton by a fraction of one-percent. Yes, there are many months to go before the election and polls will go up and down, but the consolidation of support around Trump is disturbing. Worse news indicates that with almost 70% of the November electorate likely to be white, Hillary’s support there is dropping like a rock. She’s now down to 33% support from white voters, and that’s men and women, brothers and sisters. Barack Obama in the 2012 election, a hater magnet for white voters like no others, polled 39% by comparison. We’ve got trouble in River City!

I’m not going to apologize for rooting for Trump to get the Republican nomination. I still think he is the best representative of everything that is most frightening at the confluence of all of the fringes of the right as they come together in elephantine proportions in that party. I still stand by the fact that the Cruz-Rubio-Bush-Etc group was even more rightwing and scary. I also still think that Trump is the best contrasting candidate for Hillary Clinton, giving her the best chance of mobilizing her potential base to win. Nonetheless, it’s like the NBA finals. It doesn’t matter what the record might have been in the preliminaries, she still has to get out there and beat him to claim the presidency, and she has not gotten her game together yet on her own.

Unfortunately, that is likely to mean that she can’t win without a full-court press from progressives as we hold our noses and cover our eyes at her neo-liberalism, war mongering, Wall Street ties, and myopic sense of self-entitlement. I’ve read a number of well written, thoughtful essays of advice for Sanders now that everyone in the country, but the Senator himself, seems to understand that he cannot and will not win the nomination, so he’s paying attention to no advice whatsoever, no matter how friendly or supportive. The papers and pundits are throwing bricks at his window trying to claim that he’s made his point, now he needs to move over, but every sign from inside the campaign is that he’s not hearing any of it and is still obsessed with every delegate. I get that. For sure, fight down to the last vote. Why listen to a bunch of self-serving advice from folks on the sidelines?

But, geez, man, help make a plan for tomorrow after the primaries are over to make all of this matter and help all of us join to move the base that’s now been built to a place to win in November and build a permanent fighting machine for progressives. You have demands, make them to the Clinton campaign. Have a say on the vice-presidential candidate, the potential president for the future, and make sure they are “one of our people.” Negotiate a role for your people and techniques in the structure of the party’s campaign from June to November. Agree to carry your weight until then, whether you go your own way or help build a new party or whatever once the election is over.

So, sure, Clinton is about as capable of change and listening to other voices as Sanders is being criticized for now, but with the election potentially hanging in the balance, there’s leverage there and opportunities that can now be seized. It’s time for all hands to get on board before Hillary sinks the ship, and Trump rides us all down to Davy Jones’ locker.

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Poisoned People and Poisoned Politics

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A coho salmon carcass in a small coastal Oregon river. (Photo: Justin Bailie/Getty Images)

Little Rock    We’re right to have issues with the police, but bad or good, at least we know when we’re hurt or shot or when someone is murdered, there’s someplace to go, there’s a direction to point our fingers, there’s someone, somebody, somewhere that’s supposed to do something. When we’re poisoned by thoughtless, indifferent corporations and practices embedded in business models, the damage is as real and as permanent and the death as devastating when it comes, even if slower, yet the long timelines provide cover for corporations, Congress, and others to hide, obfuscate, dissemble, and downright lie to prevent having to take responsibility in the full knowledge that it is unlikely that they will be held accountable. Let’s not forget, we’re still hurting, our children may have their health and futures robbed, and our communities destroyed.

The problem with being poisoned is that we can’t see or hear the shot being fired, over and over, even though the impact will eventually explode in our bodies the same way, just more gradually. After 40 years Congress is finally, in collusion with the chemical industry, coming up with a new law on handling toxins because the last one they passed in 1976 was so sorry that it has only allowed the EPA to ban five chemicals in the entire period. The law was so damaged that an attempt to ban asbestos, which everyone knows is eventually deadly, from products was overturned by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and 120,000 people still die from such products globally every year.

Look at lead, which we also know is deadly and a crippler of children particularly. Even with the calamity in Flint, Michigan, which has now also been found in Newark, Detroit, and other cities and their schools, has there been a rush to test? Heck, now! There’s been a rush to posture. Local 100 has tried to get the Houston and Dallas school districts to test for lead, and even found authorization in federal funds that would pay for them to do so, but, ridiculously, we’re gathering soil samples ourselves and depending on a national expert at Xavier University in New Orleans to test them with the help of board members of the Lead Safe America Foundation. One water district after another has sent out letters to their customers assuring them the water has been tested and it’s all good, without telling them about the plethora of lead pipes between the drain and the street. There are city-based ordinances forbidding dry sanding of paint because of the lead and other particulate matter disbursed into the soil, neighbors’ yards, and air, but please let me know of a city that actually enforces this at all.

Now Congress has come to a bipartisan compromise, so whenever we hear that we’re waiting for another shoe to fall, because it’s not like that are coming to any true religion of putting people and their health ahead of companies and their lobbyists. Sure enough, they are partially doing something here in order to preempt some states, like California, that have stiffer laws and enforcement mechanisms, to have to abide by the federal protocols on chemicals that will be developed through this bill. There are waivers on anything done before passage and waivers available after passage which give hope that a failure to receive a tough waiver might be exposed. On the other hand many of us, millions of us, live in “red” states or places like Louisiana and it’s chemical plants that have earned the nickname of “cancer alley” along the Mississippi River, so in such states where we have had little or no hope of effective regulation and enforcement on the state level, finally putting some teeth in EPA’s mouth might give us hope for the future.

Of course on the same day we read the news with a little hope here on this front, we also read about Monsanto being sued for putting PCBs in Oregon rivers for 40 years when they were the sole manufacturer of that deadly concoction. We also read about the NFL giving millions to supposedly fund research into the connection between hard hitting and brain damage to the players, but really only doing so in order to cover up the damage. We also read about the struggle to get ExxonMobil to own up to its impact and knowledge of climate change and the destruction of life as we know it.

It takes a very active imagination to feel secure in the news that we’ve learned our lesson about corporate practice, chemical poisoning, and the need for government accountability.

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Gentrification Assault, Oakland Housing Market Out of Control

DARWIN BONDGRAHAM - Martin and activists outside of Community Realty's offices in April after delivering a letter requesting a meeting with Marr.

DARWIN BONDGRAHAM – Mr. Martin and activists outside of Community Realty’s offices in April after delivering a letter requesting a meeting with Marr.

Vicksburg, Mississippi   It was hard to believe a friend’s claim that Oakland, California has now become one of the three most expensive cities in the country in no small part because the housing market has gone berserk. He said that Oakland now only followed New York City and San Francisco, and had bypassed Seattle, San Jose, and other famously, exorbitant cities. What happened here? Oakland used to be where people moved for affordable housing who couldn’t afford to live in San Francisco, famous for its port, industry, and blue collar grit, and Jack London. The city where Gertrude Stein famously stated, “there’s no there, there.”

But, now they are all coming there. Suddenly, it is also one of the most diverse cities in the country with the population almost evenly split between Latino, African-Americans, whites, and Asian-Americans, so much so that one controversy, when I recently visited, had to do with racial profiling of neighbors in the Nextdoor.com application that is used by one-third of this highly connected city, exposing the well-known, little discussed racism that stalks almost all of these sites with their constant alerts of anyone with a hoody and a tan.

Not without a fight though. Visiting the weekly paper, the East Bay Express, I picked up a recent issue featuring a cover story on one of Oakland’s biggest landlords, Michael Marr, who had specialized in vulture investing of foreclosed properties after the 2008 real estate crash, ending up with 333 houses and apartment buildings in the city with 1300 rental units under management. Now he’s in federal court though for what the FBI characterized as a conspiracy to “rig foreclosure auctions” along with eleven other East Bay real-estate investors who “made a pact not to compete with one another at foreclosure auctions.”

Marr is letting his lawyers handle that mess and meanwhile is trying to jack rents in some cases by more than $1000 per month. Rent controls in Oakland only cap increases for homes built before 1983, as the impact of such increase would cause massive displacement of many long term residents. It was good to see that standing in the way and organizing the tenants was the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, known as ACCE, and formerly California ACORN. The tenants and the organization have demanded a rent freeze while the court case is pending, a sale of Marr’s ill-gotten properties to the Oakland Land Trust, and action on lingering issues with mold, bedbugs and other problems. ACCE is not only fighting these issues in Oakland either. Fighting a foreclosure with a late night rally at a vulture investor’s house in Los Angeles has found them defending their free speech and association rights in Los Angeles as well.

ACORN has recently won rent controls in Edinburgh and throughout Scotland with the Living Rent Campaign, and more landlord accountability in Toronto and Bristol, but there is little in any of our arsenals to prevent sweeping gentrification without a public and governmental commitment to diversity and affordability in a city. Oakland could become the battleground where we have a chance.

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James O’Keefe is Just a Clown Now

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Illustration by Mike McQuade; Source: Chip Somodevilla / Getty (man)

New Orleans    I’m tired of hearing anything about James O’Keefe, the discredited video scammer, whose one infamous claim to notoriety was his heavily edited attack on ACORN in 2009 in concert with conservative pundits and Congressional representatives. Luckily, I’m now in the vast majority as one escapade after another further exposes him as nothing more than an unethical, unscrupulous jerk. Even better than being little more than a boring footnote of these dark times, we can all find some joy in the fact that increasingly he is nothing more than an embarrassment to the conservative cause and a source of ridicule as the poster boy for sheer incompetence.

None of us can forget the Keystone Kops affair at former US Senator Mary Landrieu’s field office in New Orleans, where he and his co-conspirators were caught monkeying with the phones in a ridiculous effort to try and prove her office was not answer the phone about the Affordable Care Act. Huh?!? Well, they got off without having to do time on a felony beef for breaking-and-entering, and eventually pled out and outlasted his probation, but wow….what a bunch of boneheads.

He and his flub-a-dub crew have had one blunder after another to their credit from ACORN on. They stumbled around Texas looking for some evidence of mischief in Obamacare signups and were chased out of the Local 100 office in Dallas when busted. They bought a Hillary t-shirt with cash and claimed it was dirty money. Small potatoes. Thin soup. No one’s eating any more.

The latest from the O’Keefe gang that can’t shoot straight was some kind of attempted sting they were planning on George Soros’ Open Society Foundation. Supposedly they were trying to make a point about how groups are networked or something, but god only knows.

Anyway, according to reports in The New Yorker and on the Media Matters website, they were trying to set up their operation claiming some Hungarian émigré wanted to work with them, as if that’s the way OSI operates. They had someone with a British accent who was going to pretend to be Hungarian. The whole scene already sounds unbelievably bizarre.

As they reported:

Conservative media darling James O’Keefe accidentally detailed his plans to infiltrate and smear progressive organizations on the voicemail of Dana Geraghty, an employee of liberal philanthropist George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, continuing a string of embarrassing missteps in his attempts at undercover stings. After leaving Geraghty a voicemail claiming to be “Victor Kesh,” a “Hungarian-American who represents a, uh, foundation,” O’Keefe held “a meeting about how to perpetrate an elaborate sting on Soros,” unaware that his phone was still connected to Geraghty’s voicemail. During the call, O’Keefe outlined plans to send an “undercover” operative posing as a potential donor to the foundation in a project he named “Discover the Networks.” O’Keefe’s plot involved using an English orthopedic surgeon with “a real heavy British accent” to secretly film Soros-linked progressive organizations. He later admitted that “some of us just forget to hang up the phone. The New Yorker continued:

 

The accidental recording reached farcical proportions when Kesh announced that he was opening Geraghty’s LinkedIn page on his computer. He planned to check her résumé and leverage the information to penetrate the Soros “octopus.” Kesh said, “She’s probably going to call me back, and if she doesn’t I can create other points of entry.” Suddenly, Kesh realized that by opening Geraghty’s LinkedIn page he had accidentally revealed his own LinkedIn identity to her. (LinkedIn can let users see who has looked at their pages.) “Whoa!” an accomplice warned. “Log out!” The men anxiously reassured one another that no one checks their LinkedIn account anyway. “It was a little chilling to hear this group of men talking about me as a ‘point of entry,’ ” Geraghty says. “But—not to sound ageist—it was clear that these people were not used to the technology.”

I mean, really, need I say more?

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A Book Provides a Good Excuse to Celebrate Organizing and Organizers

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La Familia Peña-Govea

San Francisco   As luck would have it, I had gotten a notice that there was going to be an event to publicize Gabriel Thompson’s excellent book, America’s Social Arsonist: Fred Ross and Grassroots Organizing in the Twentieth Century, at the Crossroads Café in San Francisco on one of the nights that I was in town, so I stopped by. Thompson ably presented the book and a bunch were sold, but this was this was more of a reunion, than a reading.

Dr. Mimi Silbert of Delancey Street Foundation

Dr. Mimi Silbert of Delancey Street Foundation

The Crossroads Café turned out to be a of the signature efforts of the justly famous Delancey Street Foundation, one of the bright lights of the rehabilitation movement for prisoners and others. Dr. Mimi Silbert, the general and CEO of this all volunteer, self-help operation, was one of the livewire story tellers, introducing the program and cementing the bonds between the farmworkers and the foundation and its people. Fred Ross, Jr., also a career organizer, didn’t give an inch of ground though in telling stories about his father as well, including one legendary family tale that Thompson had not been able to authenticate, but had famous Hollywood moviemaker Cecil DeMille seeing Fred Ross and his brother in their youth and muscle building stage working as extras in one of his productions where they were Roman slaves, and reportedly saying, “who are those two assholes with the Hollywood haircuts!”

Gabriel Thompson

Gabriel Thompson

Thompson did a fine job of understanding the crowd and focusing on a few of the Ross’ axioms and reading several sections of the book and taking the opportunity with this group of thanking many for paving the road to getting the book done. Social Policy in its most recent number did a special feature on the book, but somehow hearing from Thompson that June 9, 1952 was the exact date that Fred Ross recruited Cesar Chavez, speaks volumes in and of itself about the value of the book and the wealth of its information.

But the night belonged to the people who came to share their memories of Ross and the work, and that was a special celebration to be able to witness. There was testimony from old comrades remembering the struggle and what they had shared, shoulder to shoulder with Ross, and what it had meant to them, while also making it clear when speaking of Ross that there was no sacrifice involved, no regrets expressed, because he “loved organizing.” What a wonderful truth, rarely realized!

Fred Ross Jr.

Fred Ross Jr.

Henry Weinstein, the veteran, former labor reporter from The Los Angeles Times told the story of the Gallo fight with great vigor, and his anger, even as a supposedly objective observer, subtly demonstrated another, often missed, truth that universally motivates organizers and animates the work. Christine Pelosi, one of the daughters of the former House Speaker, told a story about taking off a semester from Georgetown to help in her mother’s first Congressional election. Ross and Ross, Jr. were both working in the guts of the campaign. Ross, Jr. had told an earlier story about Pelosi’s father having sent someone over from Baltimore where Pelosi’s father had been mayor to make sure the “house meeting” strategy was for real. Christine described showing up to work on a phone bank and telling Fred Ross that she didn’t know what she could do, because she didn’t have a phone list. Ross told her, “Use the book.” He meant the phone book, which he sat in front of her. She described him sitting there, silently, arms and legs crossed to observe her as she began doing what she had felt impossible and ridiculous moments before, and started cold calling through the numbers. She also told about a boot camp preparing for the 2008 election and bringing the Clinton and Obama teams together, and the fact that using house meetings came up in the discussion. The Clinton team, said, why bother, “we didn’t use them in South Carolina.” The Obama veterans shouted, “We did!” Obama had of course won the South Carolina primary, a turning point in his campaign.

In some ways that said it all about Ross, a legacy written in the work and in the leaders he developed and trained. Fred, Jr., still organizing as well, understood that the book is simply a platform, almost an excuse, to call the troops back from memory lane and into battle.

In the rare opportunities to celebrate, there is a rekindling of conviction.

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Glenn Beck Says Facebook is Cool, No Problem

 The entrance to Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., where a group of 16 Republican pundits and politicians met with Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg and other top executives on Wednesday. Credit Jason Henry for The New York Times

The entrance to Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., where a group of 16 Republican pundits and politicians met with Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg and other top executives on Wednesday. Credit Jason Henry for The New York Times

San Francisco    So, Mohammed went to the mountain. Supposedly a dozen or so big name conservatives were rolling into Silicon Valley and, more specifically, Facebook’s headquarters to meet with be top brass there to make sure the Facebook news feed and trending stories weren’t being slanted to the left. There was a lot of buildup to this peacekeeping mission before the meeting several days ago, but pretty much radio silence after that.

Somewhat surprisingly, I was sent the report from one of the big names at the summit, our old nemesis, Glenn Beck, dot connector and conspiracy hunter on radio and television. Beck’s report boiled down to the bottom line was, no problem, this is a much ado about nothing, they’re making a mountain out of a molehill.

He reports that between 25 and 30 folks met with Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg. He listened to what they had to say, and though being clear that he was a techno-peasant like most of the rest of us, he had listened carefully to his own tech people, and he thought it was one of those things where they were sincere, and it was just one guy with one beef crying that the sky was falling, and not a real problem to his lights. He was clear he had been a long time Facebook fan, and was nothing but positive about Zuckerberg. All of the concerns in the mainstream media about the responsibilities of Facebook as major news source without the proper protocols and accountability to be whispering in the ears and infiltrating the eyes of 1.6 billion, didn’t faze Beck in the least. He was good on all that.

On the other hand, he had some worries he wanted to share, presumably not with the likes of me, but with his conservative readership, that offered an interesting peephole into what the other folks and the room might have been saying. And, what his compadres were saying was worrisome to Beck, because they sounded like a much liberals to our guy, Glenn.

Reading between the lines some of the fire breathers must have seen a meeting with the big whoops of Facebook as a chance to put their noses under the tent and convert this dustup into a permanent presence. They had demands about diversity, Mormon representation, a 6-month training program for the employees so they understood conservatism, etc, etc. In Beck’s words,

It was like affirmative action for conservatives. When did conservatives start demanding quotas AND diversity training AND less people from Ivy League Colleges. I sat there, looking around the room at ‘our side’ wondering, ‘Who are we?’ Who am I?

He also mentioned some folks that must not have left the meeting in the same “happy place” that Beck had found, like the CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Committee and some other people unknown to me.

But, before you think, wow, Glenn Beck, what might a meeting have been like where he was the voice of reason, the more worrisome thing to take away is not Beck’s astute note on the similarity of demands from any aggrieved group, but the fact that Beck felt at home with the political philosophy being expressed in Silicon Valley and at Facebook, the sort of libertarian, conservative anarchism that permeates the space. As Beck said elsewhere in his piece,

I understand why conservatives are suspicious of Silicon Valley. It can feel a lot like the main stream media. But I’ve told you many times that I feel at home in Silicon Valley. I love the energy. These are people who want to innovate and disrupt, they want the government to stop regulating their businesses, they want small business to succeed, they value personal responsibility, etc. Why they are liberal? I don’t know, but in general, they’re not Progressives, at least not the folks I met with today (though I’m sure there were a few).

For anyone who thinks Silicon Valley and tech-world is somehow a bastion of progressive folks because you like your IPhone and your Amazon Prime and your Facebook, Beck is giving you the skinny. He’s “sure there were a few” out there, but he’s still looking. He observed that the real problem that under-girded the meeting and this incident is that there was no trust between conservatives and Facebook. Progressives should have the same caution and reserve trust, and perhaps like Beck, even judgement, no matter how much we love the tools. These people are scary.

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