• Rep. Barragán Calls Out Secretary Zinke Regarding False Testimony

    • 04/09/2018
    • Reporters Desk
    • Briefs
    • Comments are off

    Washington Amid ethics concerns on taxpayer-funded travel habits, Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.) sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to seek clarification on comments he made during his testimony before the Committee on Natural Resources in March.

    Barragán and Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) sent Zinke a letter on Oct. 5, 2017, requesting information about his taxpayer-funded travel. In his testimony, Zinke falsely claimed that he had already responded to the letter.

    Zinke did hold up a letter during the hearing, claiming  that it was sent to “the ranking member” and chairman Rob Bishop (R- Utah) on Oct 31, 2017. But that letter was not a response to the letter from Barragán and Beyer and was never sent to any Democrat.

    Barragán and Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today reiterated their call for Zinke to apologize for misleading the committee, Barragán and the American people.

    “Secretary Zinke’s deception during a congressional hearing raises considerable questions about transparency and good faith,” said Barragán. “The secretary owes the public and this committee an apology for his misleading testimony, but more than that he owes us the truth about his questionable spending of taxpayer dollars. This is an opportunity for Secretary Zinke to clear up any confusion about his statements and provide the American people with documentation showing that their tax dollars are being spent wisely.”

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  • Dash Withdraws from 44th Congressional Race

    • 04/09/2018
    • Reporters Desk
    • Briefs
    • Comments are off

    Nearly five weeks after declaring her candidacy, Republican Stacy Dash withdrew her race from the heavily Democratic House District race. The district encompasses much of South Los Angeles, including largely black cities and neighborhoods like Compton and Watts, and communities that are increasingly Latino.

    Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama received high votes in the area for the last three presidential races, with Clinton receiving 83 percent of votes in 2016.

    The district’s current representative Nanette Barragán, a Democrat, has announced that she is running for re-election. Aja Brown, a highly visible Democrat is among Barragán’s challengers. Brown became Compton’s youngest mayor in 2013.

    Dash entered the political scene when she endorsed Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012. A Fox News contributor from 2014 to 2016 and an early supporter of President Trump, Dash’s endorsements of Republican candidates elicited attention, and backlash, in part because she is black.

    In her statement on Friday, she argued that constituents in the 44th District had been forgotten by the Democratic Party. Politicians, she claimed, had come to accept high crime, decaying infrastructure and staggering high school dropout rates as the norm.

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  • POLA Releases Draft EIR for Shell Marine Oil Terminal

    SAN PEDRO– The Port of Los Angeles has prepared a Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the marine oil terminal located at Berths 167-169 in Wilmington, operated by Shell Oil Company.

    Shell has a long-term lease with the Port for operation of the terminal through 2023, which would be superseded by a new 30-year lease. The proposed project is needed to comply with Marine Oil Terminal Engineering and Maintenance Standards (MOTEMS) — building standards that apply to all marine oil terminals in California. Other proposed elements include pipeline and pipeline support improvements, and topside equipment upgrades.

    The Draft EIR includes discussion of the proposed project’s environmental impacts and identifies mitigation measures to reduce these impacts as required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In 2016, the Port released an Initial Study/Notice of Preparation (IS/NOP) to prepare the Draft EIR. The Draft EIR includes all of the comments received during the IS/NOP public comment period.

    The 45-day public comment and review period for the Draft EIR is from March 27 to May 10, 2018. During this time, the Port will accept written comments and hold a public meeting on Wednesday, April 11, 6 p.m., at the Port of Los Angeles Administration Building, located at 425 S. Palos Verdes Street in San Pedro, to present its findings and provide opportunity for public comment.

    A copy of the document is available for public review at the following locations:

    Comments on the Draft EIR must be submitted in writing by the end of the 45-day public review period and must be postmarked by May 10, 2018. Please submit written comments to:

    Port of Los Angeles

    Chris Cannon

    Director of Environmental Management

    P.O. Box 151

    San Pedro, CA 90733-0151


    Comments sent via email should include the project title in the subject line and body of the email in letter format. Questions about this notice or project should be directed to the Port of Los Angeles Environmental Management Division at (310) 732-3675. For more information, visit portoflosangeles.org.

    The Port of Los Angeles is America’s premier port and has a strong commitment to developing innovatively strategic and sustainable operations that benefit Southern California’s economy and quality of life. North America’s leading seaport by container volume and cargo value, the Port of Los Angeles facilitated $284 billion in trade during 2017. San Pedro Bay port complex operations and commerce facilitate one in nine jobs in the five-county Southern California region.

    Comment and Review Period Ends May 10; Public Meeting on April 11

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  • Central SPNC Monthly Stakeholder Meeting

    The Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council will host its monthly board and stakeholder meeting.  The agenda will be posted 72 hours prior to meeting.

    Time: 6p.m. April 10

    Details: www.sanpedrocity.org

    Venue: Port of Los Angeles High School, 250 W. 5th Street, San Pedro

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  • Joe McBride Brings the Unexpected to Torrance Cultural Arts

    • 04/06/2018
    • Melina Paris
    • Music
    • Comments are off

    By Melina Paris, Music Columnist

    Keyboardist and vocalist Joe McBride performs a tribute to Ray Charles at the Torrance Cultural Arts Foundation, April 13. With nine albums released since 1992, his latest one, titled  Lookin’ For A Change, perhaps best describes McBride’s approach to creating music, unexpected.

    During a phone interview with Random Lengths News, McBride stated plainly, “If you’re going to do a cover, it’s got to be at least as good as the original or better. Another thing I like to do (is) completely change the music but keep the same ideas. It’s all about interpretation.”

    The idea of a jazz artist doing a cover of Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy, is a little unexpected, but McBride did cover it, purely for the creative aspect. It’s a pop tune, albeit one that goes a bit deeper and a hook that resonates with many. McBride elaborated a bit on his method for choosing songs to cover but the conversation turned more toward what really drives him—love.

    McBride noted sometimes musicians get lost in the industry and concerned about how many records are going to sell and what sort of audience to target. But making music comes down to being a labor of love.

    “We’re out there having the time of our lives,” he said. “We want to make sure the audience is too. It’s our legacy. It’s a tradeoff because the music that makes the most money seems to be generated for profit or as a commodity. As far as jazz is concerned, a lot of us don’t make nearly that kind of money or have nearly that kid of stature.”

    McBride returned to the fact that as a musician, “You have to love what you do, to make it through the hard times and to come back and have something to say about it. That makes it more real for us and that comes through in the music.”

    As a popular contemporary jazz musician, McBride’s status is rooted in a solid foundation of talent. He began playing piano at four and started singing as a teenager. Around that time, he contracted a degenerative eye disease and eventually lost his eyesight. His passion for music, however, was never compromised.

    “I have learned from others and experienced myself, if you’re performing as an artist for a lifetime, you have to reinvent yourself,” McBride said.

    Taking heed of this knowledge, some of his recent material leans more to the acoustic side. He noted that it feels more organic and refreshing.

    As artists, musicians always look for inspiration. McBride’s criteria are, he has to like the song, it has to be well written and have audience appeal. There must be something he enjoyed in the original that inspires him, then he thinks, “This might be cool in another way.” But that’s only part of the puzzle.

    “It’s just as important to do originals and to have your own voice, he added. “To be able to speak to people and to share your spirit with others. I like both.”

    This will be his first time performing at Torrance Cultural Arts Center. McBride will also perform some of his own songs including, It’s Over Now, and An Evening In Dallas from his 1993 album, A Gift For Tomorrow. And he may include his rendition of Crazy.

    “Sometimes you just don’t think so much about why you do it but how you do it,” McBride said. “For Crazy, the song I was actually thinking about was a song by Paul Simon called Mother and Child Reunion. So I did apply that energy to (it) kind of a ska, reggae vibe.”

    He wanted to shock people a little bit too, he said, and show them you could take an original song and completely turn it upside down in a totally unrelated style. McBride looks for tunes with crossover value as well as a great hook or a great idea or melody.

    McBride and his band have been performing their Ray Charles tribute around the world. They featured it at the jazz festival in Cape Town South Africa in 2017 and again recently in Dallas. But to mix things up for this show they decided to also include McBride’s material.

    “I have a great deal of respect for Ray Charles,” McBride said. “He’s inspired my music for many years. He was one of the first crossover artists from country to jazz to pop back in the 50s. But I also love to share my gifts and where I’m coming from.”

    One of McBride’s favorite artists of all time is Prince. The artist said something that McBride adopted as his motto, “Any song can be an inspirational one.”

    “And you can touch others hearts if you play from your own,” McBride added. “ They will feel it.”

    You can find his music on several platforms including, Pandora, YouTube and Spotify.

    “We’re looking forward to coming out to Torrance and meeting everyone and playing great music.” McBride said.


    Time: 8 to 9:30 p.m. April 13

    Cost: $25

    Details: eventbrite.com/e/joe-mcbride-tribute-to-ray-charles-torrance-ca-tickets-37570504390

    Venue: James R. Armstrong Theatre, 3330 Civic Center Dr., Torrance.

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  • Rising Tide Conference at AltaSea

    • 04/06/2018
    • Mark Friedman
    • News
    • Comments are off

    By Mark Friedman, RLn contributor and LA Maritime Institute marine science educator

    A crowd of 125 innovators, entrepreneurs, environmental activists and marine biologists turned out for the first Rising Tide Conference at AltaSea’s City Dock No. 1 campus on March 28. The two-day conference included keynote speakers such as AltaSea’s new chief executive officer Tim McOsker and executive director Jenny Krusoe, as well as the co-founder of the nonprofit organization fighting plastic pollution 5Gyres, Marcus Eriksen.

    McOsker opened the conference by noting that “ 90 percent of the ocean is unexplored [and] AltaSea will expand our knowledge. San Pedro was the center of the tuna industry and in the future it will be the center of aquaculture and develop many jobs.”

    McOsker noted that the Southern California Marine Institute (SCMI), a collaborative of 23 universities, is moving  to the AltaSea site to expand its research and highlighted other collaborations.

    “We have a new alliance with the Boys and Girls Clubs, whose membership is thousands, and the continued collaboration with Robert Ballard’s “Nautilus” research vessel,” McOsker said.

    McOsker reviewed the stages of development of the multiple components of AltaSea construction including the business, education and innovation centers, including the Catalina Sea Ranch, which  has the first permit in federal waters for 1,000 acres to develop mussel production on floating “farms.” McOsker said  that this is a model for businesses the blue tech incubators  want to attract and have secured new grants for kelp research.

    Krusoe reinforced this view with the quip, “Building the blue economy, making the Golden State blue.” She noted that changing environmental conditions, like global climate change, the prevalence of marine plastic pollution and other factors have forced technology (new undersea robotics) to move rapidly and force humanity to look for solutions.

    “We want to inspire the next generation…Now is the time for everyone to contribute to the future, together.  Let us do it now,” Krusoe said.

    Eriksen of 5Gyres, delivered a presentation on ocean plastic pollution that found plastic fibers and particles from the high atmosphere come down in rain and are found in arctic ice, within 1,200 species of marine organisms and in every area of the world’s ocean. They carry their own toxicity; PBAs that are integrated into organisms. Then we eat them and incorporate these toxins.

    A study of the Great Lakes in 2013 showed even more plastic per sampling than in the ocean and so many were microbeads. Through collaborative efforts by many organizations and social pressure, President Barack  Obama signed a ban on microbead use.

    Referencing the top 20 polluting plastic items in the U.S. (www.5gyres.org) Eriksen addressed the question of bio-plastic products.

    “We took 20 different types and buried them in the ocean and same types in soil for two years. Cups, straws, bags. Wipes disappeared…not diapers,” Eriksen said. “Paper cup with liner — paper gone in two years, liner not so much. Cornstarch utensils-did not degrade at all. “Bioplastics are not a functional alternative to plastics.

    “Going after single-product bans is not a solution. We need to bundle the top 20. Let’s go after brands most often found in the ocean and landfills.…McDonalds, Burger King, Subway.”

    Heal the Bay representative Sarah Sikich, gave a presentation on producing seafood on a sustainable basis for the  restaurant industry. Others spoke of innovations to remove plastic from landfills or the ocean — from plastic eating worms to floating plastic catching devices.

    Others spoke of convincing businesses to support ocean-friendly legislation.

    Algalita Marine Research Foundation leader Katie Allen presented a panel of youth from local high schools and explained  how plastic pollution on the beaches and in the ocean inspired them to get involved.  Members of the San Pedro LA Maritime Institute Youth Crew presented their microplastics project at the conference.

    The first Rising Tides conference ended on a positive note with acknowledgement of scores of  business innovations, public campaigns and protest actions to help end plastic pollution.

    The public can participate in AltaSea’s Make Earth Day Blue, April 21, 10 a.m.,  with a focus on  robots and sharks, featuring Dr. Chris Lowe from Cal State University Long Beach and Dan Pondella, Southern California Marine Institute. RSVP at www.altasea.org

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  • Restoring America— A Post-Trump Agenda

    • 04/06/2018
    • Paul Rosenberg
    • News
    • Comments are off

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    It’s beginning to sink in that Democrats are likely to regain the House in November, and Trump’s base-only governing strategy is unlikely to win re-election two years after that. So ideas are beginning to surface about what Democrats should do if they regain power in 2020.

    In his 2009 book, The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came to Be, Democratic strategist Mike Lux argued that progressives have fundamentally reshaped America in a series of relatively brief “big change moments,” lasting only a few years each, in which the vast majority of significant new laws and constitutional amendments have been passed.

    We had a taste of what that could be like with Barack Obama’s election, but an excess of caution, a fruitless search for consensus with Republicans and insufficient issue organizing in advance all limited the scope of what was achieved, particularly in the face of the unexpected financial crises. The best way to avoid falling short once again is to prepare in advance.

    Some actions should be no-brainers: immigration reform, gun control and climate change all cry out for swift action, and command broad enough popular support to act quickly, within a few months… except for the Senate filibuster, which could block action on any or all of them. Which is why abolishing the filibuster should be a top priority, along with other democratizing reforms, such as reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act.

    Beyond that, as explained in the 2016 book Asymmetric Politics: Ideological Republicans and Group Interest Democrats, by David Hopkins and Matt Grossman, Democrats have a long-standing problem of how to satisfy multiple constituencies. There should be a premium on policies that benefit their diverse urban base and rural swing voters who are crucial in supplying Senate majorities and were a key part of New Deal coalition. Broadly beneficial economic policies play a key role in this regard—such as a $15/hour minimum wage, a national job guarantee, and a $4,000 child allowance. In addition, the concept of a “just transition” to a post-carbon future, supporting workers and communities in fossil fuel-producing areas, is vital to ensuring that future arrives in time, and its fruits are shared by all.

    There are many more things that will need to be done, but getting a few big things right early on will help set the stage for much more to follow. Here, then, is a brief overview of some big ideas worth considering:


    Abolish the filibuster. The lack of U.S. climate change action alone in 2009/10 is reason enough to get rid of the filibuster. A larger stimulus, a public option, card check unionization, the list of other lost opportunities is filled with major Democratic goals. It would be foolhardy to go through all of that all over again. And if we do, it would be foolhardy to expect voters to keep coming out, just to elect Democrats to do nothing noticeable to improve their lives. Of course that will make it easier for Republicans to do evil in the future. That puts a premium on passing legislation that really makes a difference in people’s lives. And on the next two reforms.

    Statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico:

    The Trump administration’s colossal failure to respond to the devastation of Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria sharply underscores Puerto Rico’s need for statehood, and the representation in Washington that comes with it—especially in the Senate. And both would give Democrats more strength in the Senate, making a wide range of other progressive changes more possible.

    Renew, strengthen and expand the Voting Rights Act: Under GOP control, Congress has refused to act after the Supreme Court effectively gutted the Voting Rights Act’s preventative “pre-clearance” powers by throwing out the maps used to identify covered areas. Democrats should respond by strengthening the VRA—adding an explicit federal right to vote for all citizens and legal residents, including prisoners and ex-cons—and applying pre-clearance universally, with a broader mandate than protecting minority voting rights: ensuring easy, universal access for all. To facilitate this process, best practice templates should be created for plans to follow.

    Expand the Supreme Court to 11 Seats:

    The court’s size has long been set, not by law, but by an informal norm. But there are more important norms to consider, as Harvard Law professor Mark Tushnet has argued: “The rationale is not (on the surface) to ‘seize control of the judiciary’…. The Democratic proposal for changing the small-c constitutional norm about the Court’s size would be an offer of a new norm – ‘You can’t steal a Supreme Court seat and expect to get away with it.’ Seems like a good new norm to me.”


    Conservative economic policy turns on the perverse notion that the poor have too much money and the rich have too little. This supports tax cuts for the rich on the one hand and fiscal austerity on the other, so the tax cuts are never blamed for the massive deficits they create, and the broadly shared benefits from social spending aren’t considered, much less counted. Progressives need policies that argue the opposite, and do so in appealing, easily graspable ways. Here are four key examples.

    A $15/Hour Minimum Wage:

    The federal minimum wage today lags far behind inflation compared to its 1968 peak, and even farther behind the growth in productivity. A $15/hour minimum wage would help set that right. The Fight for Fifteen has been one of the most successful grassroots movements of the decade. Where it has been implemented—even partially—it has demonstrated that a much higher minimum wage is not the catastrophic job-killer that anti-labor ideologues have made it out to be, but instead helps raise the floor for everyone. While a dramatic overnight increase would be needlessly disruptive, a staged increase—such as California’s, which goes up each year, reaching $15 in 2022—gives businesses plenty of time to develop plans about how to accommodate. This is the model Democrats should adopt for a national minimum wage hike, which should be a cornerstone for a broader package of labor law reforms, including much stronger wage theft enforcement which especially targets low-wage workers, as well the next major proposal.

    A Universal Job Guarantee:

    America is the richest nation in human history, but its wealth is highly concentrated in the hands of a few, while enormous public needs go unmet: infrastructure, healthcare, education, environmental protection, etc. Unemployment has dropped steadily but slowly since the Great Recession, but millions remain outside the job market, wages lag far behind what they should be, and almost everyone’s job is insecure.

    A universal job guarantee—federally funded, but locally administered to meet prioritized public needs—would change all that, and more. A job isn’t just a source of income, it’s part of one’s identity. A job guarantee means everyone belongs in America—from inner-city youth, whose unemployment rates sometimes top 50 percent to rural residents watching their communities slowly die as their youth move away in droves. It helps those out of work by giving them a job. But it also helps those already employed. When workers compete over a scarce supply of jobs, they have no power, but when employers must compete over an inadequate supply of workers, the shoe is on the other foot. Even the lowest-paid workers can demand higher wages, more benefits, and better working conditions, if they know they can always get another job.

    On a macro-economic level, it will mean less severe recessions, which in turn means greater long-term growth. Instead of millions being thrown out of work, drastically reducing demand, dragging the economy down with them, they would simply be shifting to other sorts of public sector jobs, with lower pay, perhaps, but still contributing to the economy both as workers and consumers. Preventing mass joblessness will be far cheaper—not to mention far more humane—than spending years struggling to reverse it.

    A $4,000 Child Allowance: 

    Since 1970, US child poverty has averaged 20 percent, far more than in other developed countries, with a cost of $500 billion annually, due to lowering productivity (and income), increasing crime rates and raising health expenditures. A $4,000 child allowance would cut child poverty to 14.8 percent — more in line with other countries — at a cost of $160 billion, for a net savings of $340 billion. America lacks a range of other family-friendly policies other countries take for granted, most notably paid family and sick leave, universal pre-K and daycare. Democrats should support all of these as a comprehensive federal pro-family agenda, but the child allowance plays a unique role by clearly demonstrating the logic of a progressive economic approach.

    A Just Transition to a Post-Carbon Future:

    Climate change is an existential threat to human civilization as we know it. An estimated $50 billion annually in new public investment is needed for a successful federal climate stabilization program, and just one percent of that—$500 million per year—would be sufficient to provide income, retraining, and relocation support for workers who will lose their jobs in the process as well as transition programs for the broader fossil fuel–dependent communities. The “just transition” concept was pioneered by visionary labor leader Tony Mazzocchi, of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union, who played a leading role in the creation of OSHA. Well before climate change emerged as a threat, Mazzocchi argued that society as whole should provide a just transition for workers and communities involved in industries whose toxic downsides have long been ignored or denied. The logic and justice involved are straightforward: all of society has benefited from them in the past, and thus owes them assistance in finding new productive livelihoods in the future.

    Summing Up:

    Collectively, the above lay out a progressive economic approach that materially benefits the vast majority of the American people—and helps to begin reorienting how people think about economic policy more generally. It’s not offered in place of more specific urgent concerns of core Demographic constituencies, such as immigration reform, gun control, climate change, criminal justice and policing reform, etc. Nor is it meant to neglect the need for increased taxes on the rich and corporations (such as a stock trading transaction tax) or the need for renewed antitrust and other corporate regulation. I do not include those both for matters of space, and because they’re already more widely circulated and discussed, but they definitely warrant inclusion as well. This is merely a starting point for others to join.

    But there is one more thing to address: Foreign policy. In that realm, there has been so much done wrong for so long, with one layer of folly laid on top of another, that it’s exceedingly difficult to begin laying out what a popular alternative might look like.

    But we can at least begin by reasserting what was originally a conservative response to the Vietnam War: the so-called “Powell Doctrine” (originally the “Weinberger Doctrine”) governing when the US should commit troops to military actions: only when vital national interests are involved, with clearly defined and achievable political and military objectives, a “reasonable assurance” of public support, and only as a last resort.

    Had the Powell Doctrine been taken seriously by Colin Powell himself after 9/11, we would have never invaded Afghanistan, much less Iraq. Instead, we would have pursued a criminal justice approach toward the terrorists responsible, and the world today would look dramatically different, dramatically more peaceful than the world we live in now. That seems like an excellent foundation on which we could start to build.

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  • Ain’t I A Woman?

    The Formation of Sexual Harassment Law by Black Women 

    By Karani Johnson

    Before Times Up, before #MeToo, and almost 20 years before Anita Hill, black women filed the first sexual harassment cases in our nation’s courts. They won, set precedent and giving us the very first laws that criminalized sexual harassment.

    Before these cases, judges considered sexual harassment a personal matter. They feared the lawsuits that might flood the courts if it were deemed a violation that affected women as a group. After these cases, the courts recognized sexual harassment as gender-based discrimination that reinforced women’s subordination as a group, which was prohibited by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

    Dianne Rennay Williams was the first successful case in history, which made quid-pro-quo sexual harassment a crime in 1976. Williams was a 24 year-old information specialist for the District of Columbia’s Justice Department when her harassment began in 1972. Her supervisor, also black, promised career advancement in exchange for sex. He also requested she wear her dresses shorter, sent her love notes, and accused her of having sex with other men in the office. When she rejected his advances, he found fault with her work, publicly humiliated her, refused to inform her of matters pertinent to her job and then fired her.

    Williams understood procedure because her job was to provide mediation services against racial discrimination, so she immediately filed a complaint with an EEO officer. It was denied on the grounds she was no longer an employee. At trial, the government portrayed Williams as a loose and immoral woman. Her harasser claimed he fired her for poor job performance. The lower courts upheld this claim. Her case climbed up and down the judicial ladder for almost 9 years, in what she described as a degrading and emotionally-draining experience. Her mother even testified in court that her daughter was not the disco queen of D.C.  

     Finally, a federal district court judge found the only poor job performance to be related to the environment her supervisor had created. He then ruled in her favor, proving quid-pro-quo sexual harassment was sex/gender based discrimination, covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The decision sent shock throughout the country.

    Paulette Barnes, a payroll clerk at the US Environmental Protection Agency, followed in 1977. Her supervisors, at the agency’s Equal Opportunity Division, abolished her job after a daunting campaign of humiliation that included belittling her publicly, stripping away her duties until they simply abolished her job completely.

    Initially, her complaint to the Civil Service Commission was rejected. The commision ruled that Barnes was not penalized because she was a female, but because she rejected her supervisor’s advances. In 1974, a lower court judge agreed and dismissed her case, stating that requests for sex, from her supervisor, did not violate the law.  In 1977, the federal appellate court reversed that decision, and ruled that she was asked for sex because she was a woman, and the resulting retaliation was sexual harassment and a crime. Her case proved that retaliation is sexual harassment and is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Acts. 

    In 1981, Sandra Bundy prevailed in a case that revolved around a hostile work environment at the District Of Columbia Department of Corrections (DCDC).  Although she earned several promotions, she did so while harassed by multiple male supervisors beginning in 1972.  They questioned her about her sexual taste, asked to share a room on out of town trips and when she complained to the lead supervisor, his response was, “Any man in his right mind would want to have sex with you.” He propositioned her, too. The District Court originally ruled that her rights had not been violated, citing sexual harassment as simply “standard operating procedure at the DCDC”. Upon appeal the prestigious D.C. Circuit Court reversed that decision, and made history as the first federal appeals court to declare a “Hostile Work Environment” to be discrimination even if one is not fired. 

    It was also in 1981 that Willie Ruth Hawkins won the first co-worker sexual harassment case. Hawkins’ harassment began in 1974, by multiple male co-workers, as one of two women, working a blue-collar factory job at the Continental Can Company in Eagan, Minnesota. She was physically assaulted, threatened at gunpoint and told that any woman who worked in a factory had to be a tramp. Another harasser said “He wished slavery days would return so that he could sexually train her and she would be his bitch.” When she complained, their supervisor stated, “She should expect such, being a woman.” After several years of litigation, the court ruled that companies are liable for the actions of their supervisors and managers.

    Karani Johnson is the author of the award winning play “The Trial Of One Short-sighted Black Woman vs Mammy Louise and Safreeta Mae. She is also a former television writer and a victim of sexual harassment.

    Mechelle Vinson’s abuse included rape upon threats of death. She was only 19 years old, and a bank teller trainee, when the bank’s manager, a white male, solicited sex from her in exchange for keeping her job. He did so after dinner at a local Chinese restaurant – one with a motel conveniently connected. He was a church deacon, married and father of seven and she accepted his dinner invitation because he had meticulously gained her trust. But when she declined his request for sex, he turned or her and told her he would have her killed. He abused her for four years. He fondled her publicly.  He exposed himself after following her to the ladies’ room.  He constantly told her that she was nothing but an animal, and he was there to make her understand how nothing but an animal she was. He even raped her on the bank vault floor.  Amidst the abuse, she was promoted to bank assistant. But depressed and demoralized, Vinson took a sick leave, whereupon he fired her.

    Vinson’s attorney, Verna L. Williams, said her case amounted to sexual slavery. Still, the judge ruled against her saying the sex was consensual, and since she had been promoted she had suffered no discrimination. The decision was reversed by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that a woman could be sexually harassed even if there was no evidence of job discrimination. The bank appealed the reversal to the Supreme Court, but the court ruled in favor of Mechelle Vinson, unanimously. 

    Many of the extraordinary people instrumental in these cases came out of the civil rights movement. One is Judge Spottswood Robinson III, considered the most influential judge in most of these early cases. It was his ruling that reversed the lower court decisions giving Paulette Barnes, Sandra Bundy and Mechelle Vinson their wins. He also served on the panel responsible for upholding the favorable ruling for Dianne Williams.  Prior to his appointment to the bench by President Lyndon B. Johnson, he was one of the civil rights attorneys who helped to argue Brown v The Board of Education before the Supreme Court. 

    Another name worth mentioning is that of Eleanor Holmes, now congresswoman for the District of Columbia. Active in the civil rights movement since college, in 1970 she represented 60 female employees who sued Newsweek over its policy against employing women as reporters.   In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed Holmes the first female chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and released the first guidelines in 1980 adopted by the EEOC declaring sexual harassment to be sex discrimination.

    Instrumental in drafting those guidelines was Catharine MacKinnon, a white feminist attorney and co-counsel with Patricia Barry in the 1986 Supreme Court case of Mechelle Vinson. MacKinnon wrote the appellate brief argument that sexual harassment in the workplace was sex discrimination.  In 1978 she authored the ground-breaking book Sexual Harassment of the Working Woman: A Case of Sex Discrimination. 

    Other cases brought by black women either changed laws or changed the course of history. 

    Margaret Miller, an NCR machine operator for Bank Of America, was fired because, in her supervisor’s words, she was “’a black chick,’ who had refused his demand for sexual favors.”  He once stood at her front door, with a bottle of wine,  and declared, “I’ve never felt this way about a black chick before,” promising to get her “off the machines” if she complied. Miller was one of the earliest plaintiffs to include race discrimination as a part of her complaint. The court dismissed her complaint in 1976, citing she obtained a right to sue letter without first availing herself of the bank’s grievance procedure. 

    Maxine Mumford, an assistant collections manager for the James T. Barnes Company, was asked by her white male boss on her very first day on her job, “if she would make love to a white man, and if she would slap his face if he made a pass at her.”  She lost her case in 1977 when the judge rejected the testimony of expert witnesses who would place sexual harassment in a historical context, stating black women are more often harassed. Still, her case inspired a statewide campaign that led to the passage in 1980 of one of the most progressive state laws against sexual harassment in the state of Michigan.

    While Pamela Price was a student at Yale University, she was propositioned to have sex in a quid-pro-quo exchange for a better grade on an exam. It was a pivotal case in Title IX history. Nonetheless, she lost as the 1981 ruling did not force Yale to establish grievance procedures to protect students.  Still her case galvanized students around the nation to push for grievance procedures on their campuses. Pamela is now an attorney in Oakland, California and has won huge sexual harassment cases for her clients.

    Then there was the case of 10-year-old LaShonda Davis, groped and grabbed by a fifth grade classmate until she became suicidal. She came home one day and told her mother, Aurelia Davis, she needed a lawyer. Her mother filed on her behalf, and after a vicious 6-year court battle that landed in The United States Supreme Court, they finally won.  Sandra Day O’Connor wrote the majority opinion in the 1999 bitter 5 to 4 decision. The opposition included Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, who scorned the decision as a federal intrusion into public schools where “Little Johnny” was only acting out due to puberty. The ruling made it clear that school districts, in K-12 schools, can be held liable under Federal law (Title IX) from failing to stop severe and pervasive sexual harassment. 

    Before all of these women was Carmita Wood, the assistant to a highly regarded science professor at Cornell University. Although she never went to court, Wood’s experience was allegedly the impetus for the coinage of the term “sexual harassment”  by a group of women that included Lin Farley, then a professor at Cornell University and author of the 1978 book, Sexual Shakedown: The Harassment of Women on the Job.

    Wood resigned her job assisting the science professor in 1975 because of debilitating pain due to his persistent harassment. He would stimulate himself in the office, telling her how aroused he was, pinning her against her desk. In one incident he grabbed her to dance at a university function, then proceeded to grope her, in front of co-workers, lifting her sweater, to reveal her bra, as his wife looked on.  The university denied her request for a transfer from his department. When she quit, Cornell also denied her unemployment benefits for voluntarily left her job for personal reasons. After publicly speaking out against the professor, she was ostracized and unable to find work. She eventually left Ithaca, New York for Los Angeles, but before doing so, was instrumental in founding a group called Working Women United. The group hosted an event, where many women from various professions, openly spoke about their experiences which included threats, requests for sex in exchange for promotions, and displays of masturbation.  It was then clear that sexual harassment was a pervasive problem that crossed all professions.

    Given these stories, it is a wonder why sexual harassment was ever portrayed as just a white middle class working woman’s issue.  But why were so many early precedent-setting cases by black women?  The answer lies In that part of American history with which we have yet to truly come to grips. These cases brought under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 place the history of sexual harassment law within the context of civil rights history, and hence within the historical context of slavery – a system of patriarchal domination by elite land-owning white men over everyone else. It must be understood, that within this system, the control over black women’s bodies had no rival, as black women not only labored alongside enslaved men, but they also labored as suppliers of sex as well as reproductive laborers to increase the free labor workforce. Professor Adrienne D. Davis, in her 2013 published article, “Slavery and the Roots of Sexual Harassment”, asserts that, “The brutality of slavery’s overt racial repression often causes people to miss its sexual atrocities…neither feminist nor slave scholars have confronted slavery as sexual harassment. In fact, slavery was one of the most extraordinary instances of gender supremacy in U.S. history and one of the first to institutionalize and perfect sexual harassment.”

    So, it is no wonder black women were responsible for many of the early cases.  These black women rejected the notion that sexual harassment was just another obstacle to overcome or another navigational skill to master in the workplace. Kimberlé Crenshaw, black feminist legal scholar, who popularized the term “intersectionality,” was quoted in a 2017 online article by The Nation Magazine, on this same subject, as speculating that, “Racism may well provide the clarity to see that sexual harassment is neither a flattering gesture nor a misguided social overture but an act of intentional discrimination that is insulting, threatening, and debilitating.” Catharine MacKinnon states,“ Black women’s least advantaged position in the economy is consistent with their advanced position on the point of resistance. Of all women, they are most vulnerable to sexual harassment …”

    Yet the patriarchy affects us all. It is a system that subordinates women throughout the world. We must embrace that understanding as we acknowledge America’s patriarchy, its roots and it’s emulation by every institution in our nation. Doing so provides clarity and a deeper and more nuanced conversation as to why we have sexual harassment throughout every aspect of our lives. 

    The need to examine institutions of power as well as power itself is beyond urgent. Our collective reasoning has come to understand that sexual harassment is not just about the sex, but mainly about power. So the question is, “Can we imagine another system where power does not lie in making others feel insignificant; where the symbol of power does not seek ownership of another person’s body?” Our bodies belong to us!!  Anything less is horrendous and unconscionable!!

    Thankfully, the #Metoo movement has reintroduced this discourse into the mainstream. Yet, there is much to be examined if we are to move towards re-imagining our institutions, towards healing our men our boys, and those victimized by this abuse of power, as well as those so-called feminists, or “hipster racists” who are still often guilty of disbelief when claims of abuse come from women of color, and poorer working class women.   

    On May 29, 1851, Sojourner Truth, gave her famous speech, “Ain’t I A Woman?” at a woman’s convention in Akron Ohio. It was a classic cry for women’s rights. Sojourner Truth was well aware of the commonality of gender, but she lived the differentiation of race. Those who have not heard her speech would be wise to google and read as her words resonate today and counsel us to honor these courageous women who have earned their position as leaders in this continuing movement. Not to do so is to once again erase and marginalize the accomplishments of black women. These women were making a way out of no way.  They were the original silence breakers, the original voices that started a movement.  Their stories must be told. 

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  • The American Crisis of the Infowars

    • 04/05/2018
    • James Preston Allen
    • At Length
    • Comments are off

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture.”

    — Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, 1776

    The (ultra-right wing) Conservative Caucus is out drumming up patriotic support for the coming conflict over Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation — an investigation that by all appearances will catch Trump in an increasing tangle of lies and deceit. If it comes to any conclusion before the midterm elections, it might just cause an implosion that will shake the very foundations of our government and the economy, or maybe not. My guess is that when his actual taxes are eventually investigated it will be exposed that the president is neither as rich nor as smart as he keeps telling everyone. In the meantime, blind followers have their marching orders and it’s beginning to show.

    Besides screaming that “the liberals are coming for your guns” and the liberal media and universities are trampling “free speech,” the following is The Conservative Caucus’ to-do list to stopping the “coup” against Trump, including:

    • Recruit up to 2 million patriots for Trump using e-mail, postal mail, the internet, and videos;
    • Flood the Republican-controlled congress with a tidal wave of petitions;
    • Create an information war room to push back on fake news reports about the Trump Administration;
    • Produce and air TV, radio, print and internet ads that are pro-President Trump and anti-impeachment, anti-Deep State, and anti-coup;
    • Build a campaign war chest of $10 million that the TCC can draw on each time the liberals and the establishment forces launch a phony new Trump scandal.

    Curiously, these talking points are the same ones being parroted by Fox News and the Sinclair Broadcast Group.

    These are the offensive actions of a narcissist who will never admit to being guilty of anything. These are not the actions of an innocent man.

    First, the “liberal media” accusation — some 90 percent of the media in this country are controlled by a handful of corporations. Only a few could be accused of “being liberal.” Fox News and SBG are in hundreds of markets and are clearly partisan and proud of their very conservative bias. Trump and his Fox friends’ attack on the news media has only resulted in fewer news media outlets to defend what they consider to be mainstream, which from my perspective is often bereft of anything more left of center than a car chase or the weather lady in a tight dress.

    However, when truly threatened by Sinclair’s heavy-handed propaganda — forcing all of its affiliates to read scripted political attacks — several TV news stations in Los Angeles and elsewhere stood up to call it out.  I was actually shocked that the normally banal chatty news teams and their editors broadcast something of critical importance.  Maybe, just maybe, this fake news attack will produce some backbone in the otherwise feckless newsrooms of America — the ones who are suppose to be the defenders of the First Amendment, the purveyors of truth.

    Yet, what we are now witnessing is the power of the press being used in a disinformation campaign by embattled right wing partisans to undermine American confidence in the veracity of the news distributed by establishment corporate media. I have my own criticisms of the corporate media, but being too liberal isn’t one of them.

    They are mostly siren chasers, caring more about the next car chase or homicide than they are about investigating truly important news stories.  The news as we know it today has drifted far afield from when Walter Cronkite reported on the Vietnam War and concluded that it was a lost cause.

    Now we are confronted daily with talking heads who only read the news and opinionaters who have never seen a battlefield or reported on a crime scene. On the far right of the spectrum, the opinionaters are nothing more than political partisans implanted in news rooms acting like shock-jocks on talk radio. They are only there to provoke and insinuate, not to expose and reveal. I’m afraid it’s only going to get worse as the Mueller investigation uncovers the unseemly truth about Trump, the Russians, the 2016 election and money laundering.

    There’s going to be a right wing backlash against revealing the facts about Trump and we are already beginning to see it being played out in Orange County with their uprising over immigrant sanctuary status in California and the plight of the homeless. These people are scared and have been whipped up into frenzy with disinformation and propaganda by the same “news” media bringing you the “liberal fake news” message.

    The failure of the press now — as is often the case — is the failure to place current events into historical context.

    What we are offered instead is a cacophony of visual excitement with a few seconds of narrative, a crying relative or a shocked neighbor, and the police saying the obvious about a dead victim. This kind of infotainment is now being converted into a form of information warfare where everything is opinion and nothing is fact, where the outrageous lies of a few extremists are balanced against the proven facts so the evidence of global warming goes unheard and the data showing white people commit more crimes, yet more people of color are locked up in prisons is ignored. Or how about the biggest lie that recently came out of the NRA: banning military assault rifles will mean that the liberals are taking away all of your guns.

    This and much more is circulating out there on the internet and social media and now the uber-right media is shaping public opinion against common sense and reason.  It is a war of words using some very basic psychological warfare techniques that have been employed by our own government abroad to manifest confusion and create the conditions for regime change.  And as much as Putin and Trump deny it, it’s being used as a weapon right here at home.

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  • The Port Missed the Boat

    • 04/05/2018
    • Paul Rosenberg
    • News
    • Comments are off

    Community members respond to port’s waterfront dog and pony show

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    “It was a great big snow job.”

    That’s how Doug Epperhart—President of Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council—summed up his impression of the Port of Los Angeles’ March 20 waterfront development presentation at the Warner Grand Theater.

    “I told the person I was sitting next to, my God, don’t be surprised [if I] pass out from superlative overdose. Everything was awesome, everything was fantastic, everything was storied.”

    Others were more charitable.

    The presentation “showed that they are proceeding with the work,” former port attorney Pat Nave said simply, describing what he liked about the presentation.

    “I am very happy that the port is making progress on this project, as it has been a very long time in the process,” said Darlene Zavalney, who sits on the board of the Northwest San Pedro Neighborhood Council, although she also had strong objections to how Ports O’ Call Village redevelopment was being planned. (Read her letter to the editor, p. 19.)

    But some were even more critical than Epperhart.

    “[It was] a sham in every sense of the word,” said Peter Warren, who chaired Coastal’s Port Committee for a decade. “It was not a public meeting under California law because it lacked comment time and the audience was there to be talked at. They had zero interest in learning what people thought.”

    It’s nothing new. For almost 20 years, public demands, port promises and actual results have repeatedly ended up wildly at odds. It shouldn’t have been like this, according to John Papadakis, the driving force behind getting the original study done.

    “The Bridge to Breakwater Plan (in 2000) was originally funded by the State Coastal Conservancy, because its principles expressed two major public precepts by which all state seasides and ports must operate,” Papadakis said. They were:

    1)  That the public must have ‘primary access to the Waterline’

    2) That the waterline must go to the ‘highest and best use of the true owner citizens’

    “It is nearly 20 years since these principles totally united the entire community and the city,” he said. “Today, many years later, the Bridge to Breakwater remains only partially built. The plan has been chopped up for scrap, and buried.”

    Papadakis helped get everything started, but San Pedrans are notoriously contentious, and it took Herculean efforts to come up with plans that diverse factions could all agree upon — plus Wilmington residents as well. Key concerns have repeatedly included environmental sustainability, jobs, balancing downtown and waterfront development, and preserving history and heritage, But whenever consensus has been reached, the port has inevitably blown things up, starting with the first planning process conducted by Keith Gurney of RRM in 2001, who was unceremoniously dumped later that year.

    After that, the newly-formed neighborhood councils and the Port Community Advisory Committee played a major role in this planning process, with similar results: stunning the port with balanced community consensus proposals, which the port repeatedly rejected. Most memorably, the “Sustainable Waterfront Plan”— endorsed jointly by the Sierra Club and the Chamber of Commerce — was rejected by port staff in advance of the September 2009 environmental impact report, which has guided development ever since.

    “It’s been my experience with port people, all through the process, they never got the answers they wanted from the public,” said Epperhart, summing up.

    The port dissolved Community Advisory Committee in 2013, and the neighborhood councils have struggled to be heard since then, without the larger framework Community Advisory Committee provided. Meanwhile, the port has used the projects it has supported to create an echo-chamber alliance of support: Crafted, the Battleship Iowa, AltaSea, the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce etc. All these voices were marshalled at the March 20 meeting.

    But community voices? Not so much.

    Both Coastal and Central San Pedro neighborhood councils have passed resolutions objecting to the shutting down of Ports O’Call Restaurant, which many see as typifying a profoundly out-of-touch approach. Neither was allowed to be heard.

    June Smith, community co-chair of Community Advisory Committee when the port disbanded it in 2013, took a balanced of view of the meeting, recognizing both pros and cons. Things she liked about the Ports O’ Call redevelopment included the interest in local businesses as possible lessees, the landscape architect’s spatial ideas, “the open space for big concerts, the park space and the children’s playground,” and “the promenade, of course,”

    On the minus side, she faulted the sterile “industrial look” and trite, generic name. “A ‘public market place’ is not distinctive and doesn’t reflect anything special about San Pedro,” she said. “There seems to be no central focal point except to ‘make money’ in the marketplace.  If there is no historical context (aside from keeping a fish market) why should people come here to ‘do their shopping’?” she questioned. “Why not capitalize on what Ports O’Call advertising has already done and build on that concept?” she continued. “It could be renamed Ports O’Call Inbound, or some such slight change that would show something new but keeping the old recognition in place,” she suggested. “The premise is that Ports O’Call is a complete failure — except for the Fish Market?— and I don’t really think that is the case.”

    Finally, Smith noted, “The arts community wasn’t even given a breath of air.”

    Artist, curator and arts district resident Ron Linden had similar thoughts about continuity and development process.

    “Staging development projects is the solution to this situation. Build around successful existing businesses and relocate them to new quarters before scraping the old,” Linden said. “This would save the established, some rightly described as iconic, locations that are the linchpins of Ports O’Call Village, and save hundreds of viable jobs,” he added. “It’s unconscionable to destroy existing jobs on the speculation that in three or more years down the road new opportunities will arise.”

    “This is urban renewal in its worst form, where businesses or residents who have supported the community for years get pushed out when things are about to turnaround economically,” Warren said. “That is a bankrupt system.”

    While much of the criticism focused on Ports O’Call redevelopment, the deeper problem, Epperhart noted, was “the death of consultation”…or even “simple communication,” he said. “It’s not even one way, let alone two-ways.” As he described it, the port starts off with “a dog and pony show and everybody’s going to come and look at it these plans with Ferris wheels and glitzy lights and blah, blah, blah,” followed by… Nothing, for two years. Until “They come back with the real plan. Which is pretty minimal, because at some point, somebody has to figure out that oh yeah, this is going to have to make money to sustain.”

    “That’s been another part of the problem going all the way back,” Epperhart recalled. “The questions that got asked about economic viability over and over and over again were never answered by the port,” he said. “Supposedly they had studies. They would never even share them with people at PCAC.”

    The question of money has always been crucial, of course. But it only makes sense in terms of resources, goals, partnerships, and time-frames—the entire policy framework.

    For the port, that framework is one of a sideline to its main business—the only one it really understands: moving containers and fossil fuels.

    But for the community, it’s something very different: a chance to rebalance the scales and put an end to being treated like a sacrifice zone.

    “We consume, pay for and absorb tens, perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars of the port’s externalized costs each year,” Warren said. “We pay them in the cost of health care, traffic, road impacts, car damage, soot pollution, reduced home values, etc. We have lost recreational and green space to the port. Thousands of acres.”

    An early homeowner concept envisioned a complete reversal of this situation: a “Griffith Park by the sea,” a completely non-profit, public investment that could — like Central Park — generate enormous long-term wealth in the surrounding community. But only small fragments of this vision have been carried forward. Economic necessity is the port’s rationale, but its conceptual framework is severely limited.

    “It is very important to create jobs, but this is a bankrupt process,” Warren went on to say. “Yes, the port creates jobs and some select few in the thousands, low tens of thousands, get well-paid union work, but the vast majority of those paying the port’s bill for externalized costs are not in this group of beneficiaries. Instead, they pay, get no benefits and suffer.”

    We can have both a thriving port and a healthy community. That’s what community activists have been fighting for since at least the Riordan administration. From this perspective, the closing of Ports O’Call Restaurant — even temporarily — is painfully indicative of a much larger heedlessness to the worthiness of their lives. Does it really have to be this way? Or can the community, once again, come up with a better, richer, more inclusive solution? Does it make sense for Random Lengths to convene a true public meeting to explore this possibility, which the port refuses even to consider?

    Nave thought not. “It would only be disruptive and continue our city-wide practice of getting nothing done,” he said. But others disagreed.

    Former Port Engineer Vern Hall, who convened the first Community Advisory Committee-like body to deal with Cabrillo Marina development, was typical. “Great idea for Random Lengths to host a town hall focused on the former Ports O’Call situation,” Hall said, noting it “would provide the opportunity to hear from those immediately affected, as well as the long term impacts on downtown San Pedro and the entire community.” He, too, suggested partnering with “one or more of the neighborhood councils.”

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