Protest Inside the Corporate Castles and Behind the Government Walls

New Orleans   If you ever wondered whether mass protests bring social change or just more miles on your wrist FitBit, the evidence of the protests’ impact whether the Women’s March or the mass airport actions around the Trump travel ban are now everywhere including inside corporate castles and behind the walls of government throughout the country.

Perhaps there were no surprises that some of the hipper set of tech companies were quickly forced to get in formation with the protests. More than 127 of them joined the Amicus brief in arguments to the Appeals Court to freeze the ban. Many were caught in a double bind between their employees and the fact they depend on easy entry of foreigner labor for a portion of their best-and-brightest talent. But, other tech companies, less cutting edge and more mainstream, are feeling the heat as well. Almost 1000 “verified” IBM employees signed a petition to their CEO demanding that the company refuse any contract that would restrict American rights and liberties. Several young women who were part of a new acquisition by Cisco began a similar petition, and women seemed to be leading many of these inside challenges.

This is not an isolated phenomenon. More than 1000 State Department workers had earlier signed a “dissent” cable around concerns around the travel ban and the diminishment of core American values. Justice Department officials jumped on their swords on the same issue.

Five members of the Super Bowl winning New England Patriots have said they will not be traveling to the White House for the ceremonial photo op, because they do not feel welcome. Steph Curry, the NBA MVP for the last two years, and a spokesman for the Under Armour athletic wear company said he would walk away from a multi-million dollar contract with the company until the CEO backtracked from his overzealous comments seeming to give a blanket endorsement to Trump. Steve Kerr, his coach at the Golden State Warriors, said essentially that these are times of protest when players need to speak out.

Other companies from Wall Street to Main Street are hunkering down and caught between crazy at the White House and concerns expressed in employee meetings, emails, and local watering holes. Workers are scrubbing social media posts and going encrypted for conversations because of concern about increased surveillance in the new era.

This is what social change looks like. Long hair on the street and suddenly even CEOs have hair over their ears and collars. Pantsuits and low heels start showing up and ties are left at home. Those who were always quiet realize that threats to home, family, community, and country are real enough that silence is no longer acceptable.

When protest leaps over the walls and goes viral, popping up everywhere and anywhere, a tipping point may be reached where the forces of change can’t be stopped and there is a culture shift that legitimizes all protest. When all Americans believe they now have to protect American’s values and reputation, no government is secure.


The Delete Uber Drive

New Orleans   There’s an old saying that “what goes around, comes around,” and that was never truer that the huge hit that the arrogant, bullying, worker exploiting Uber ride sharing service has taken since the company once again tripped over its own greed this last weekend when it showed its true colors once again in the wake of President Trump’s immigrant bashing ban.

I started out calling this one a little wrong. I could tell on social media that there was a “delete Uber” drive that was going viral, but at first I just thought they were simply getting outshone by their competitor, Lyft, which had shrewdly ridden the wave of protest and opposition and garnered publicity worth many times the value of their contribution by dropping a cool million on the ACLU to help in its legal fights to break the ban. They weren’t alone, since ACLU collected $20 million total over the weekend, proving that there are rewards for doing the right thing.

One of my Facebook friends clued me in that the Uber fury was based on their strikebreaking. I had known that the well regarded, 18,000 member New York Taxi Workers Alliance, a quasi-union affiliated with the AFL-CIO, had called a one-hour strike around New York’s JFK Airport to protest the Muslim-ban. Many of its members are immigrants, including a fair number of Muslims, so this was a righteous action for them.

Almost all of us who travel have succumbed to Uber somewhere or another, in my case it was in Mexico City, Christmas, 2015, when it was the only way I could get a ride for my family to the airport to head home at 430 AM in the morning, after I was defeated by the cab company and in desperation. So, we know about the way “surge” pricing works. The price of the fare goes up when demand goes up. Demand goes up during sporting events, parades, rain, snow, and it turns out taxi worker strikes. Halfway during the one-hour strike, Uber turned off its surge so that people could get a ride from JFK during the protests more cheaply. Later when they realized they had also run into a wall of protest, they dissembled with some “alternative facts,” claiming that they had turned off the surge to make it easier for people to get to JFK in order to protest. The real facts were that they left their surge on getting to the airport and turned it off for those leaving the airport. Sounds like strike breaking and boost the ban activity, doesn’t it? Now thousands have surged to delete Uber from their smartphones in protest.

Uber is getting all the trouble it has earned. The Uber CEO Travis Kalanick then was forced to try to explain why he has been all cozied up to Trump since the election, including agreeing to serve on a transportation committee appointed by the White House. He responded that he would “work with anyone” trying to deal with transportation. Anyone is a broad list which includes most of the autocrats and dictators around the world, many of whom have already seemed to close to Uber, since bullies like bullies sometimes in a birds of a feather kind of thing.

Whatever problems Uber is having now couldn’t happened to a more deserving gang of folks. Now, we’ll see how they like a little disruption and a lot of deletion.


Refugees Stuck in Place, Countries Banned, and Airport Actions Everywhere

New Orleans   I use Facebook, but I don’t trust it. Nonetheless, I have to say it was valuable yesterday and as shocked and humiliated as I was, along with all Americans who love their country and its ideals by President Trumps banning orders, I was proud of my friends.

There was a moment when I could scroll down my timeline and see my friends protesting at airports from Chicago to Atlanta to San Francisco to Washington to New York City to Boston, and even New Orleans. There were videos of rallies and actions, so even though I was coming out of ACORN’s annual Year End / Year Begin meeting, I felt like I was there at least by proxy. In New York City, 10,000 made the schlep to JFK airport within hours of social media blowing up over the Trump edict. A second rally at Battery Park – with a great view of Ellis Island — drew 20,000 in less than 10 hours of posts, texts, and tweets. A new watchword in the age of Trump will have to be to stay flexible and ready to move on a moment’s notice to keep them from storming the gates.

I also loved the fact that I was finding out that there was an quick response boycott of the ride-sharing service, Uber, that has bullied its way into cities all around the world, displacing taxi workers everywhere, not for something that they did exactly, but for something they did not do. Lyft, their ride-sharing competitor, pledged $1 million to the ACLU in support of their work fighting the ban and winning court orders in four different jurisdictions around the country, while Uber was silent. I’m not sure that Lyft is all that much different than Uber really, except that it allows the drivers to be tipped, but, hey, any port in a storm. AirBnb made a pledge to provide housing to any refugees that needed it, though I’m not sure that was anything more than a press release. Starbucks said it would hire something like 10,000 refugees over the coming five years, but given the turnover of baristas and the number of their employees, I bet they already do that. But, hey, I don’t want to quibble, at least they are sending messages to our foot soldiers that they don’t go for this mess, joining the Catholic Church, veterans groups, slews of mainstream politicians, and others.

The message so far seems to be that protests work, at least a little, and that’s good.

The Trump team is confused. They don’t seem to understand the important distinction between having power and being able to govern.

Yes, they now have the power to create mayhem and bring their chaos and crazy to the country and the world. No, that is not the same as governing, especially where there are laws, courts, other elected officials, and a free and vocal population. Verified reports indicate that they were briefing the former general who is the head of Homeland Security at the same time his staff, listening to the call was watching Trump on television signing the order. Regardless of the breach of our beliefs, values, and the foundations of our country, we pay taxes for something better than a Mickey Mouse operation where one arm has no idea what the other arm is doing, and the mouth seems completely disconnected from a mind.


Please enjoy One Small Voice by Carole King.

Thanks KABF.


Stadiums are Public Playgrounds, so Protests Should be Common

Bonnabel High School Football Team in Jefferson Parish, LA kneels during National Anthem. Jefferson Parish Deputies have since refused to work detail at the games.

Bonnabel High School Football Team in Jefferson Parish, LA kneels during National Anthem. Jefferson Parish Deputies have since refused to work detail at the games.

New Orleans   Colin Kaepernick may never start another football came in his career. He pushed out a 49ers quarterback who has gone on to success as a starter in Kansas City, but after getting the 49ers to the Super Bowl and failing to win, he’s been in decline, despite his exciting promise. But, that’s sports. In real life, Kaepernick has started something that continues to grow and speak not only to his fellow players on his team and other sports teams, both amateur and professional, and that is the need to protest injustice. Given that his protest is about the continued racism in American society that manifests itself not only in discrimination but in crime and violence, his actions are timely. This protest isn’t declining, but spreading.

Kaepernick, when he was playing, was a wild, unpredictable, boundary breaker. He was an exciting runner and passer and in his moment it seemed like no one would ever be able to stop him. But now in this protest in the time of Black Lives Matter, he has been dignified and straightforward. He even added generosity to the mix. The public has responded to his protest by making his football jersey the number one selling shirt in the National Football League, and he has pledged to donate his share to charity in addition to another one million he has pledged to community groups engaged in issues at the heart of his concerns. As the Wall Street Journal has pointed out, he also has reached out to teammates and opponents who disagree with him, listened, and explained his position, and earned their respect if not their agreement. The New York Times noted that high school teams around the country are picking up the protest. The Women’s NBA has also stepped into action in their own way.

This is all a good thing. Athletes have opinions. They play on teams, but they are – and should be – individuals. They should be able to express themselves, and do so to the biggest audience possible. That’s just good tactics. Sports has already been hurt too often by being politicized, which makes the opposition to these protests harder to understand. The embrace of militarism and a sort of kneejerk conservativism has pigeonholed too much of sports into a cookie cutter conformity that is not the best of America. But I understand there are many who want there to be a bubble where they can pretend the real world doesn’t exist or, more accurately, that their world must dominate, but it’s definitely not professional sports.

Mostly because no matter what the superrich owners pretend, almost all of these stadiums are publicly financed and public properties. John Angelos, the chief operating officer of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team in defending the playing of Woody Guthrie’s anthem, “This Land is Your Land,” in addition to “God Bless America” at their games, hit the nail on the head saying,

“People forget a lot of these stadiums are publicly funded buildings and by law, they have to welcome people from all different walks of life. Sometimes sports can be narrowcast in the causes and groups focused on. Our idea is that everyone should be included; let’s not leave anyone out.”

Angelos is right. Not only is that something we need to remember about sports and public buildings, but something we need to keep in mind about every aspect of American life.


Republicans Dilemma: Can Fear and Hate Alone Win an Election?

Immigrant rights activists hold up a fabric wall to protest against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, Wednesday, July 20, 2016, in Cleveland, during the third day of the Republican convention.(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Fabric wall to protest against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, Wednesday, July 20, 2016, in Cleveland, during the third day of the Republican convention.(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

New Orleans   Having just returned from euro-world, I have to admit that I was surprised I wasn’t asked more questions about Donald Trump. During George W’s time, the questions were endless and strident. War does that to people. Folks brought up Trump for sure, but mostly with a smile on their face, not taking him seriously, though that would be a mistake, and in some ways not so much frightened by him as they were by Bush, but more amused at what they saw as America’s embarrassment at the hands of the crazy uncle coming out of the closet after the dignity, regardless of any disappointments, of Obama.

Now that I’m back and parsing the recent Republican National Convention, I have to ask myself, “can fear and hate alone win an election?” The answer is of course, yes, but we’ve never seen ourselves as pre-war Germany or Bosnia or Rwanda or modern Poland or Turkey after the recent coup, so it’s a stretch. Even jaded observers like myself, keep repeating a mantra to ourselves that “it can’t happen here.” But, in some ways that’s channeling our inner-Pollyanna, because it is happening here at the state level in places like Arizona, Kansas, and way too much of Texas. There’s also something that has been in the water in Wisconsin in recent years that makes you wonder what happened to that bastion of liberalism and labor strength?

Hillary Clinton to her credit is still holding the line against hate trying to position her candidacy and the Democratic Party as a more inclusive alternative for a wider demographic in the United States. There is certainly polarity. I can’t remember reading a poll like the recent one by the Wall Street Journal where a presidential candidate – in this case, Trump – literally polled zero among African-Americans. Needless to say all of his talk about building an even bigger wall between the US and Mexico has not helped his numbers get higher among Latinos either.

Talking to Randy Cunningham, a veteran community and tenant organizer and longtime activist in Cleveland, on Wade’s World was inspiring to hear about the success of peoples’ nonviolent attempts to have their voices heard by the Republicans in Cleveland over the last week. The “Wall Off Trump” action put together by unions and progressive organizations from the Working Families’ Party to Chicago’s La Gente and our old friends at the Ruckus Society, he described as very effective and lots of fun. The opening action on Monday that he and a large coalition put together pulled more between 1500 and 2000 and despite the fear mongering by the Trump team that there would be “blood in the streets.” He described the event as the largest action in Cleveland since the late 1970s and early 1980s. More positively, he believed that there may be an unexpected legacy of the RNC hate and fear mongering in Cleveland this week, and that is a resurgence of organizing and action in Cleveland.

Let’s hope that might be the result nationally of this fear-and-hate campaign. Trump thus far has no program other than “vote for me.” Clinton is matching the fear factor reportedly with a vice-presidential partner who will have some credibility there. She is still lacking a bit in what Sarah Palin famously called the “hope-y” thing that for all of the derision actually has been winning recent presidential elections.

The one thing that is certain: this is going to be a frightening several months until November!

abc_mk_rnc_01_jc_160718_31x13_1600 group-of-RNC-protesters-marching-in-Cleveland-jpg protest 1_1468803616833_42589481_ver1.0_640_480 trump_protest_759 Trump protest RNC

Please enjoy Regina Spector’s Bleeding Heart. Thank you KABF!


Best to Remember the South is a Violent Place

Police in Baton Rouge after blocking protestors

Police in Baton Rouge after blocking protestors

Grenoble   As I mark the calendar closer to the finish on my euro-hella-road-trip, reading the news and seeing the videos on-line first from Dallas, where of course we have an office and members, and then over and over again from Baton Rouge last weekend and now more recently, where we also have a union hall and lot of union members, I have to admit, it’s unsettling. It was also unnerving to be in Brussels the night of the truck massacre in Nice, France, but Texas and Louisiana are home, so I understand the fear and fury there much better.

The killing of police in Dallas and Baton Rouge is tragic, chilling, inexcusable, and insane. The fact that the law-and-order message is likely to finally give the Republican Convention in Cleveland some coherence is both unsurprising and scary in its own right. If the public is angry, confused, uncertain and scared, that sets the table for authoritarian platforms and candidates. I’m currently reading a book about Germany and five generations by a lake near Berlin and reliving the rise of Hitler against this backdrop and just finished the Nobel Prize winning book of interviews ten years after the Chernobyl disaster in Belarus, so the impacts and aftermaths of such tendencies are perhaps too much on my mind, and I apologize for that.

The killings by the police of African-Americans and Latinos is also tragic, chilling, inexcusable, and insane though. Last weekend, my daughter shared several videos with us of the police riot and sweep up of demonstrators in Baton Rouge protesting the killing there. I’m a veteran organizer and have been on the other side of police lined up in a phalanx, marching forward on crowds. I’ve steered marches away from mounted police and the power of their horses. Nonetheless, I can hardly ever remember a more foreboding and intimidating situation than watching the videos of the police forming up in line in Baton Rouge and then advancing on the protestors there, while police runners moved from the main body of the formation to chase down the slow footed, beat them down and arrest them over fences and behind trees and bushes. This was not police work, but armed and dangerous mayhem. Two hundred were arrested, including friends of my daughters and other well-intentioned people exercising their right to protest. Many ended up stranded and staying with friends of friends and their families. Charges against one hundred of them have now been dropped. If reports have touted the Dallas police chief and its force as clamming and effective in that city’s recovery, the same cannot be said in Baton Rouge.

Peaceful protests, even ones that are a bit sparky, and police killings are apples and oranges and completely unrelated. Most public figures have been on message both defending the police against death by public service as well as the fundamental right to protest, but wisely spokespeople for Black Lives Matter and others are saying that no matter they are afraid to protest right now given the events that this is all triggering.

“Rap” Brown was from Baton Rouge and famously said decades ago that “violence was as American as apple pie.” For all of the gun happy crowd that refuses to countenance any restraint in purchase or use, it’s worth remembering Brown’s words and adding the fact that if there is any area of the country more violent than another, as Dallas and Baton Rouge are proving again, it’s the South. When global observers wonder in the words of a Times’ headline how to sort out the difference between a “terrorist and the deranged,” they are talking about France, but they could as easily be talking about Baton Rouge and Dallas.

We’re playing with fire if we don’t move to fix these problems on all sides of the debate and do so immediately.