Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, January 21, 2020

San Francisco BAY AREA Car Caravan 

END U.S. Support for WAR on YEMEN

Monday January 25, 2021

12:00 PM—2;00 PM

Starting Point at 444 Spear St, San Francisco, CA

On January 25th, 2021 almost 200 organizations around the world are calling on people to have online or COVID safe in-person actions for Yemen. Take action for Yemen on January 25th and make sure governments around the world hear loud and clear: the world is saying NO to war on Yemen!

The war is only possible because Western countries -- and the United States and Britain in particular -- continue to arm Saudi Arabia and provide military, political and logistical support for the war.


The disaster in Yemen is man-made. It is caused by the war and blockade. It can be ended.


Over 115 organizations from the US, UK, Yemen, Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, India, Italy, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, and across the world, are coming together to call for an end to the war in Yemen and solidarity with the people of Yemen. We demand that right now our governments:


*Stop foreign aggression on Yemen

*Stop weapons and war support for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates

*Lift the blockade on Yemen and open all land and seaports

*Restore and expand humanitarian aid for the people of Yemen.


We call on people around the Bay Area to join our car caravan protest against the war on January 25, 2021, just days after the U.S. presidential inauguration and the day before Saudi Arabia’s “Davos in the Desert” Future Investment Initiative.


ANSWER Coalition · United States 

In solidarity with the Global call to action we invite you to participate in a S.F. Bay Area Car Caravan on  January 25







Pass COVID Protection and Debt Relief


Stop the Eviction Cliff! 

Forgive Rent and Mortgage Debt!

Sign the Petition:




Millions of Californians have been prevented from working and will not have the income to pay back rent or mortgage debts owed from this pandemic. For renters, on Feb 1st, landlords will be able to start evicting and a month later, they will be able to sue for unpaid rent. Urge your legislator and Gov Newsom to stop all evictions and forgive COVID debts!


The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rock our state, with over 500 people dying from this terrible disease every day. The pandemic is not only ravaging the health of poor, black and brown communities the hardest - it is also disrupting our ability to make ends meet and stay in our homes. Shockingly, homelessness is set to double in California by 2023 due the economic crisis unleashed by COVID-19. [1]


Housing is healthcare: Without shelter, our very lives are on the line. Until enough of us have been vaccinated, our best weapon against this virus will remain our ability to stay at home.


Will you join me by urging your state senator, assembly member and Governor Gavin Newsom to pass both prevent evictions AND forgive rent debt?


This click-to-call tool makes it simple and easy.




Renters and small landlords know that much more needs to be done to prevent this pandemic from becoming a catastrophic eviction crisis. So far, our elected officials at the state and local level have put together a patchwork of protections that have stopped a bad crisis from getting much worse. But many of these protections expire soon, putting millions of people in danger. We face a tidal wave of evictions unless we act before the end of January.


We can take action to keep families in their homes while guaranteeing relief for small landlords by supporting an extension of eviction protections (AB 15) and providing rent debt relief paired with assistance for struggling landlords (AB 16). Assembly Member David Chiu of San Francisco is leading the charge with these bills as vehicles to get the job done.  Again, the needed elements are:  


Improve and extend existing protections so that tenants who can’t pay the rent due to COVID-19 do not face eviction


Provide rent forgiveness to lay the groundwork for a just recovery


Help struggling small and non-profit landlords with financial support


Ten months since the country was plunged into its first lockdown, tenants still can’t pay their rent and debt is piling up. This is hurting tenants and small landlords alike. We need a holistic approach that protects Californians in the short-run while forgiving unsustainable debts over the long term. That’s why we’re joining the Housing Now! coalition and Tenants Together on a statewide phone zap to tell our elected leaders to act now.


Will you join me by urging your state senator, assembly member and Governor Gavin Newsom to pass both prevent evictions AND forgive rent debt?


Time is running out. California’s statewide protections will start expiring by the end of this month. Millions face eviction. We have to pass AB 15 before the end of January. And we will not solve the long-term repercussions on the economic health of our communities without passing AB 16.




Let’s do our part in turning the corner on this pandemic. Our fight now will help protect millions of people in California. And when we fight, we win!


In solidarity,


Sasha Graham

[1] https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-01-12/new-report-foresees-tens-of-thousands-losing-homes-by-2023

ACCE Action





Elderly and Disabled Subjected to Horrific Conditions During COVID Outbreak at California Prison in Vacaville

For Immediate Release

For more information, contact:

Olivia Campbell




Vacaville-An outbreak of Covid-19 is raging out of control at the California Medical Facility, a prison in Vacaville that holds many elderly and high-risk people. On December 11, the number of positive cases at CMF was 2. On December 12, the prison went into lockdown. Within five days, the number of cases had risen to 58. As of January 17,, the number of positive cases was 260 (almost 13% of the population). At the height of the outbreak, the total was 463. In all, 520 people (almost 26% of the population) have been infected, and seven have died. 


D-dorm at CMF is currently being used as the triage / covid positive dorm. The dorm was formerly used to house the dogs that were part of the Paws for Life program. The dogs were removed shortly after the start of the pandemic, and the dorm was not cleaned prior to being used for quarantine. Staff are not stepping up to help clean, and the few incarcerated who are well enough to clean are not being given adequate cleaning supplies. Laundry is not being picked up. The strain of covid that is moving through CMF is causing severe diarrhea. Several people have soiled themselves and do not have access to clean clothes. Each person is only being given one roll of toilet paper per week. 


Around the end of December, a man fainted and defecated on himself. When medical staff refused to respond to calls for help, other incarcerated people in the dorm, who were themselves ill, cleaned him up and carried him to his bed before he was finally taken to an outside hospital. In a similar incident, a man fainted and was refused medical attention for hours before finally being carried out on a stretcher. Staff are hesitant to call ambulances because of Plata v. Newsom, the ongoing litigation against the corrections department for its substandard healthcare. 


As in other prisons ravaged by Covid, the layout of CMF, along with reckless actions by staff, are exacerbating the situation. Some correctional officers are not wearing masks or refusing to wear them properly. Many refuse to wear gloves. Some are moving around from positive to negative units. People who are sick are not being given access to over-the-counter medications, and only a select few are being given antibody treatments. Poor ventilation within the prison is also a facilitator of the spread.


The ramifications of the outbreak extend beyond the physical illness caused by the virus. The incarcerated have been moved from one area to another in hopes of containing the virus. This has presented additional problems of loss of property. Access to phones has been restricted drastically so families are not in contact with their loved ones. The hearing impaired are further restricted, as they are barred from the specially-equipped phones they would normally use. The disabled population at CMF, who are supposed to have assistance with various daily living tasks from other incarcerated people have seen this help severely hampered by the outbreak. People with disabilities are required to be accommodated under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and no alternative accommodations for the disabled at CMF have been offered. Many of the population at CMF are over 60, with medical conditions such as diabetes, HIV and high blood pressure--all of which put them at higher risk of serious complications. Some have covid risk scores, as defined by California Correctional Health Care Services as high as 16. 


The sudden and relentless spike in cases, as well as the prison's failure to take any substantive steps to mitigate the spread of the virus, have caused shock, fear, and outrage among loved ones of those inside. 


"This outbreak has been climbing steadily for an entire month with cases increasing almost every day," said Olivia Campbell, an advocate for the rights of the incarcerated. "Efforts to get it under control have been insufficient and incompetent at best. But I think it's much more sinister. When you have correctional officers purposely infecting people, and so-called medical professionals neglecting elderly, sick, disabled people, leaving them to their fates in appalling conditions, in a congregate setting, in a facility that is supposed to have adequate medical services, I really don't even have words for how cruel and despicable that is."



Reporters Without Borders

We must impose democratic obligations on the 

leading digital players


After overlooking the fake news and hate speech that Trump posted throughout his four years as US president, Twitter unilaterally decided on 8 January to permanently close his @realDonaldTrump account and then, a few days later, 70,000 other accounts linked to the pro-Trump QAnon movement. Facebook, Instagram and Twitch also suspended the presidential accounts for an unspecified period, while Amazon then suspended the pro-Trump social media Parler.


All of these decisions were taken by private-sector companies without any democratic or judicial control!


The laws of the public arena used to be established by parliaments and enforced by judges, but private-sector corporations are now in charge. Their norms are not defined within a democratic framework with checks and balances, they are not transparent and you cannot appeal to any court before they are carried out. The organization of the online public arena should not be left to market forces or individual interests. 


It was to propose democratic safeguards for the digital arena that RSF launched:


The Forum on Information and Democracy in November 2019 with 11 organizations, research centers and think-tanks based in all continents. In November 2020, it published 250 recommendations on platform transparency, content moderation, the promotion of the reliability of information, and messaging apps when their massive use goes beyond the bounds of private correspondence.


The Journalism Trust Initiative (JTI), which is producing a set of machine-readable standards so that search engine algorithms can give preference to media that adhere to journalistic methods and ethics. These standards, which can also be used by advertisers, are the result of a self-regulatory initiative in which entities from all over the world collaborated under the aegis of the European Committee for Standardization (CEN).



Stop the oppression!

Justice for Malik Washington!

We’ve learned about the situation outlined below from our work with the Free Them All coalition and we urge you to take action.


Stop the oppression! Justice for Malik Washington!


—Click on the below article to read up:




—And then write and call Maria Richard, Director of the Taylor Center:


Email: mnrichard@geogroup.com

Phone: 415-346-9769


Follow the script or write your own!


Subject: Violation of First Amendment Rights of Malik Washington


Dear Ms. Richard:


I am [insert name here] and have recently learned that you are retaliating against Malik Washington, a resident of your halfway house. Mr. Washington recently learned about the dangerous COVID outbreak at your facility and as a journalist, he wrote about it.


I was deeply disturbed to learn that on Sunday night, his phone was confiscated and that he has now been confined to his room, a kind of house arrest. Mr. Washington's job as editor of the San Francisco Bay View newspaper is a critical position for the Bay View community. He should be viewed as a frontline essential worker and should not be denied access to his job.


This retaliation is a direct violation of Mr. Washington's first amendment right of free speech. I demand that you release Mr. Washington from house arrest, return his phone and end this illegal retaliation for exercising his freedom of speech.


Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss this matter further. I look forward to your immediate action on this urgent situation.


Sincerely for justice,

[insert name here]

Here's my letter to Ms. Richard:

Dear Ms. Richard,

Malik Washington is the Editor of the San Francisco Bay View newspaper. This newspaper has been published in the Bay View/Hunter’s Point district of San Francisco for many years. It is an icon in this community. 

How can you possibly think that the editor of this newspaper would not report on crucial health and safety issues—especially those related to the COVID-19 pandemic—when he personally comes across them? He would be remiss in his job if he didn’t follow through with this news, not to speak of his right to free speech!

The purpose of the halfway house is to allow for the adjustment of ex-inmates back into society responsibly. Certainly, becoming an editor of a renowned newspaper qualifies as a respectable, and responsible career. 

Let him do his job which is in service to his community and to the City and County of San Francisco.

Free Malik!


Bonnie Weinstein, Co-Editor, Socialist Viewpoint magazine
60-29th Street #429
San Francisco, CA 94110

Administrator of: Bay Area United Against War Newsletter:





Urgent Demand For Mumia's Release
Mumia Abu-Jamal #AM 8335
There is a serious outbreak of COVID 19 in Mahanoy Correctional Facility, where Mumia and 2,400 other men live.  As of now 20 guards have tested positive 4 COVID 19, and the prison is frantically testing those housed in the prison.  Obviously, this a a huge cause for concern.  Despite the prison being on lockdown, meaning no one leaves there cell except for showers and emergencies.  Food is brought to the cells. 


Needless, to say, Mumia quite worried as he should be.  He is 66, years old, has liver damage and prison personnel are the ones bringing in the virus. 


Please call Governor Tom Wolf to demand Mumia and other aging elders with underlying vulnerable health concerns be considered for compassionate release.  Clearly, there is no such thing as social distancing in prison.  The only way to stop this virus from spreading and killing those in its' path is to send our elders home
who pose no threat to our community. 


Governor Tom Wolf -1(717) 787-2500  Fax 1 (717) 772-8284
Office of the Governor
508 Main Capitol Building
HarrisburgPA  17120    
After calling the governor, send an online communication about our concerns.   https://www.governor.pa.gov/contact/#PhoneNumber
Let us know what there response was, Thank you.  Mobilization4Mumia@gmail.com



Defend Kshama Sawant

Freedom Socialist Party Editorial: DECEMBER 2020

Feb. 12, 2020. Kshama Sawant goes after Amazon. PHOTO: Seattle City Council

Seattle’s lone socialist city councilor is again under attack. Kshama Sawant had the audacity to demand Mayor Jenny Durkan resign after unleashing the cops against Black Lives Matter protesters. In retaliation Durkan instigated a recall of Sawant.


The recall against Durkan was tossed out by the courts, but not the one against Sawant … interesting.


Democrats and downtown businessmen have tried for years to get rid of Sawant. Why? Because she was able to get a tax, albeit a small one, on corporations like Amazon.


In 2020, Durkan tried unsuccessfully to convince the council to investigate Sawant for “disorderly” behavior. This time around Sawant is charged with collaborating with her political party, Socialist Alternative, rather than taking orders from the Mayor! How hypocritical. And ridiculous. The rest of the city council takes directions from the Democratic Party kingmakers but that’s okay. This is anti-communist redbaiting plain and simple, and part of an anti-left hysteria sweeping the country.


Sawant is really under attack for challenging the status quo. This recall needs to go down in flames. End redbaiting. Defend Kshama Sawant!


To show support for Sawant, visit Decline to Sign – Kshama Solidarity



A Plea for the Compassionate Release of 

Leonard Peltier

Video at:


Screen shot from video.




Resources for Resisting Federal Repression

Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests. 

The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page. 

Please visit the NLG Mass Defense Program page for general protest-related legal support hotlines run by NLG chapters.

Emergency Hotlines

If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities. 

State and Local Hotlines

If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for: 

National Hotline

If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:

Know Your Rights Materials

The NLG maintains a library of basic Know-Your-Rights guides. 

WEBINAR: Federal Repression of Activists & Their Lawyers: Legal & Ethical Strategies to Defend Our Movements: presented by NLG-NYC and NLG National Office

We also recommend the following resources: 

Center for Constitutional Rights

Civil Liberties Defense Center

Grand Jury Resistance Project

Katya Komisaruk

Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources

Tilted Scales Collective






1) New York Police Arrest Dozens as M.L.K. Day Marchers Gather Near City Hall

The confrontation came days after the state’s attorney general sued the New York Police Department for its handling of protests following the death of George Floyd.

By Azi Paybarah and Alex Traub, Published Jan. 18, 2021, Updated Jan. 19, 2021


Police officers near City Hall in Lower Manhattan on Monday night. Officers made dozens of arrests as they tried to disperse the crowd.

Police officers near City Hall in Lower Manhattan on Monday night. Officers made dozens of arrests as they tried to disperse the crowd. Credit...Jose A. Alvarado Jr. for The New York Times

Dozens of people were arrested on Monday night in Lower Manhattan as hundreds participated in a march on Martin Luther King’s Birthday organized by Black activist groups, according to the police and witnesses.


Videos posted online by witnesses and participants show New York Police Department officers with helmets, batons and zip ties trying to clear protesters who had gathered on the streets and sidewalks near City Hall. Some of the marchers went to the area after walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.


A spokesman for the department said dozens of arrests were made between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. in the vicinity of Chambers and Centre Streets. According to some videos posted online, the police began arresting people after urging the crowd to disperse.


The episode came in the late hours of Martin Luther King’s Birthday, and just days after the New York State attorney general, Letitia James, sued the New York Police Department over its handling of protests this summer after the death of George Floyd.  


Ms. James is seeking to have a court-appointed monitor installed to oversee the department’s policing tactics at protests. If successful, this monitor would join another monitor appointed in 2013 to oversee how the city implements changes to its stop-and-frisk policy.


One witness to Monday night’s events, Jordan Plaza of the Bronx, said a relatively small number of protesters had spilled off the sidewalks and into the street when the police announced that they were obstructing the road and would soon be arrested.


“They weren’t approaching the police in a violent manner,” Ms. Plaza, 20, said. “Police randomly surged.”


Ms. Plaza said she had stumbled upon the protest earlier in the night on the way to see friends and joined on a whim. She said she was startled by what she saw and contrasted the treatment of protesters in New York City with the treatment of those loyal to President Trump who rioted inside the U.S. Capitol two weeks ago.


“It baffles me because the Capitol building, they were able to get in,” Ms. Plaza said. “Here, they were protesting outside a courthouse.” (The New York County Surrogate’s Court is on Centre Street, as is the Tweed Courthouse, which houses the New York City Department of Education.)


Hani Bello, a 27-year-old from Brooklyn, belongs to FreeBlackRadicals, one of several groups that she said responded to that evening’s “call to action” to protest.


After a gathering outside Barclays Center at 5 p.m. that featured speakers who frequently invoked the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ms. Bello said she and others walked onto the Brooklyn Bridge, which bikers with the protest closed off to vehicular traffic. At one point, the group broke into ballroom dancing and vogueing. Ms. Bello said it warmed her up and that she took off her gloves and scarf.


“It is a form of resilience, being on that bridge, taking it over,” Ms. Bello said. “To feel resilient is part of Black liberation.”


After the marchers crossed the Brooklyn Bridge, the police blocked the road leading from the bridge to City Hall Park, she said. “The park is for the public,” it was open for use, she said. “People have the right to voice their opinions on taxpayer-funded land.”


On Monday night, images of officers yanking individuals out of a crowd of protesters began circulating widely on social media, and echoed scenes from last summer, when Black Lives Matter demonstrators flooded the streets in New York and other cities. A number of those videos helped fuel the lawsuit by Ms. James, the state’s attorney general.


The lawsuit she filed in federal court in Manhattan is the first time that the state attorney general has sued a police department, according to Ms. James’s office.


“There was ample ability and opportunity for the city and N.Y.P.D. leadership to make important changes to the way that officers interact with peaceful protesters, but time and time again, they did not,” Ms. James said.



2) Hours After Biden Inauguration, Federal Agents Use Tear Gas in Portland

Protesters who spent months in the streets over racial injustice and inequality said they don’t expect immediate change from President Biden, who they declared “will not save us.”

By Mike Baker and Hallie Golden, Jan. 21, 2021


Law enforcement deployed tear gas Wednesday at a protest outside an Immigration and Customs Enforcement building in Portland, Ore.

Law enforcement deployed tear gas Wednesday at a protest outside an Immigration and Customs Enforcement building in Portland, Ore. Credit...Alisha Jucevic for The New York Times

Demonstrators in Portland continued to challenge the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

Demonstrators in Portland continued to challenge the Trump administration’s immigration policies. Credit...Alisha Jucevic for The New York Times

PORTLAND, Ore. — Protesters in the Pacific Northwest smashed windows at a Democratic Party headquarters, marched through the streets and burned an American flag on Wednesday in a strident challenge by antifascist and racial-justice protesters to the new administration of President Biden, whose promised reforms, they declared, “won’t save us.”


In Portland, Ore., lines of federal agents in camouflage — now working under the Biden administration — blanketed streets with tear gas and unleashed volleys of welt-inducing pepper balls as they confronted a crowd that gathered outside an Immigration and Customs Enforcement building near downtown. Some in the crowd later burned a Biden-for-President flag in the street.


Another tense protest in Seattle saw dozens of people push their way through the streets, with some breaking windows, spray-painting anarchist insignia and chanting not only about ICE, but the many other issues that roiled America’s streets last year under the administration of former President Donald J. Trump.


“No Cops, Prisons, Borders, Presidents,” said one banner, while another proclaimed that the conflict over racial justice, policing, immigration and corporate influence in the country was “not over” merely because a new president had been inaugurated in Washington, D.C.


“A Democratic administration is not a victory for oppressed people,” said a flier handed out during the demonstrations, during which protesters also smashed windows at a shop often described as the original Starbucks in downtown Seattle. The communiqués used expletives to condemn Mr. Biden and “his stupid” crime bill, passed in 1994 and blamed for mass incarcerations in the years since.


Hours after the inauguration of Mr. Biden, federal agents in Portland used tear gas and other crowd-control munitions to disperse demonstrators who had gathered to protest the harsh arrest and detention practices wielded by federal immigration authorities under the Trump administration.


Mr. Biden has signaled that immigration is going to be a key issue of his presidency, using some of his first executive orders on Wednesday to end construction of the border wall and bolster the program that provides deportation protections for undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children.


The conflict in Portland capped a day of demonstrations in the liberal city, where different groups of protesters either decried Mr. Biden or called for activism to pressure the new president to take forceful action on immigration, climate change, health care, racial justice and income inequality.


Earlier in the day, a group of about 200 people — a mix of racial justice, antifascist and anarchist activists — marched to the local Democratic Party headquarters, where some of them smashed windows and tipped over garbage containers, lighting the contents of one on fire. “We don’t want Biden — we want revenge,” said one sign, referring to killings committed by police officers.


In a city that has seen months of demonstrations over racial injustice, economic inequality, federal law enforcement and corporate power — and some of the harshest law enforcement responses to such protests — protesters have vowed to continue their actions no matter who is president. “We are ungovernable,” one sign in the crowd said.


In Seattle, about 150 people marched through the streets. Some spray-painted buildings with an anarchist symbol and broke windows, including at a federal courthouse. They chanted both anti-Trump and anti-Biden slogans.


One member of the group handed out fliers to people on the street that said, “Biden won! And so did corporate elites!” The fliers explained that a “Democratic administration is not a victory for oppressed people” and that “Biden will not save us.”


“I came out here because no matter what happens, Biden and Kamala aren’t enough,” said one of the protesters, Alejandro Quezada Brom, 28, referring to Vice President Kamala Harris. He said the new president needs to know that “the pressure’s not off” for progress on immigration and policing reforms.


Seattle police officers followed the group and began to surround it as night fell. At least two protesters appeared to be arrested.


At yet another demonstration in Portland, people gathered to hear speakers who celebrated Mr. Trump’s departure but also called for continued pressure on the new government.


“The fight has just begun,” said Ray Austin, 25. He said that the damage done by Mr. Trump could not be undone by the likes of Mr. Biden and that the nation needed a groundswell of people demanding more.


Speakers at the event called for a Green New Deal to fight climate change, a “Medicare for All”-style health insurance system, overhauls of police departments to address racial disparities and other fundamental changes. But that event was more subdued than others around the city.


In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis last May, protesters in Portland mobilized on the streets nightly, much of their ire targeted at the mayor and the police force that repeatedly used tear gas to subdue them. The crowds swelled during the summer after Mr. Trump issued an executive order to protect federal property and agents wearing camouflage brought a crackdown to the city.


Those conflicts have since subsided, but protesters in Portland have continued to mobilize.


Mike Baker reported from Portland, and Hallie Golden from Seattle.



3) The Electoral College Must Go

By Kevin Cooper

—Sheerpost, January 19, 2021


George Washington gives his first inugural speech in the old city hall, New York, after being made president by the state electors in April 1789. Painted by T.H. Matteson; engraved on steel by H.S. Sadd.

Death Row, San Quentin State Prison—Ain’t it a bitch! It was stunning to see such a sorry spectacle at the Capitol. We can’t be too surprised, though, to see how differently violent white rioters are treated by law enforcement (one cop even wore a MAGA hat!) than peaceful Black protesters have been, historically and even recently. The drama does at least provide an opportunity to force examination of another remnant of racist history that should expire: The Electoral College. 

I know that times have changed. The late Congressman John Lewis stated as much while he was still alive and fighting to make sure that blights on this country like voter suppression, police brutality and overall racism did not regress to what they were when he was growing up in the South.

And, yes, I do understand that some things have gotten better over time. For example, there is now a moratorium on the death penalty in the state of California, marijuana is legal in many states and gay and lesbian couples have the right to marry. There are now more women, people of color, gays, lesbians and transgender people serving in public office. The U.S. House of Representatives is more diverse than it has ever been in the history of this country, and the traditionally Republican states of Georgia and Arizona just helped elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the next president and vice president, and Georgia will soon be represented by two Democrats in the Senate—one of whom will be the first African-American to represent Georgia in that role and only the 11th Black senator in 244 years of U.S. politics. 

However, when it comes to certain aspects of politics, change doesn’t seem to be happening as much or as fast, if at all. This is especially true when it comes to the historical slave-era anachronism called the Electoral College. Voter disenfranchisement and suppression, racism, false claims of illegal ballots and illegal votes being cast and cheating in various forms are plainly evident in the political area in this divided country. Why? Because all these have to do with political power, which political party runs and controls every aspect of life in this country, from politically appointed judges, to the very purse strings that financially support everything from education and infrastructure to relief from this once-a-century pandemic.

The only reason certain changes have happened is because of the grassroots efforts of everyday people. They made this country change through their hard work, their organizing, their marches and protests and not taking “no” for an answer. Many did that and were beaten, and in some cases murdered, by either the powers that be or their supporters for doing what the late John Lewis did: getting into “good trouble.”

Now it’s time for this new generation of people, as well as people from previous generations, to join together to make the still needed changes in this country that include passing the Equal Rights Amendment and ending the Electoral College. Here in 2021, with this country’s ever-growing diverse population, there is no longer a need for the Electoral College, created in the 18th century and amended in the 19th. While certain people want it to stay in effect so they can win the presidency without winning the majority vote of the people, this country doesn’t need it and would be better off without it. 

While it will not be easy to eliminate, this country must start to think about it seriously if they want to avoid the continued decline in credibility of our democracy. How damaging is it to that faith when a presidential candidate leads by millions of total votes, as Hillary Clinton did against Donald Trump in 2016, and yet does not receive the majority of Electoral College votes? We should move to direct popular vote system of presidential election.

This distortion of the alleged intent of the system can happen because every state’s Electoral College vote total is based not on the number of people who vote, but rather on the overall population of the state (represented approximately by the number of House of Representatives seats they have) plus two (the number of senators). Since there are a number of very low-population states, what could be a marginal boost (the bonus two) ends up being huge statistically for states like Wyoming, where a vote is worth three times that of a California voter. Further disrupting the equality for voters is that if your state has high voter turnout compared to its population, the weight of each vote is further shrunken—Colorado (5.7 million) and South Carolina (5.1 million) have roughly the same population yet a Coloradan’s vote had nearly 30 percent less weight than the South Carolinian voter in 2016.

And most importantly, this system also makes the votes of those in “swing states” much more valuable than those that live in heavily “blue” or “red” states, which is a major form of disenfranchisement—particularly for African Americans in the South:

“Despite Black voting patterns to the contrary, five of the six states whose populations are 25 percent or more Black have been reliably red in recent presidential elections. Three of those states have not voted for a Democrat in more than four decades. Under the Electoral College, Black votes are submerged. It’s the precise reason for the success of the southern strategy. It’s precisely how, as Buckley might say, the South has prevailed.”

—Wilfred Codrington writing in The Atlantic in 2019 

Each election, about four-fifths of the states are noncompetitive; for example, here in California, where Democrats are now dominant, the Republican votes for president are essentially “thrown away” while the Democrat votes are taken for granted, with the general election presidential candidates only coming to the most populous state to raise money from the wealthy rather than convince voters they are the best choice. 

This affects the shaping of the political platforms of each party and which candidates make it through the primaries to represent the party. While the swing states change over time—welcome Arizona and Georgia—three-quarters of Americans live in states almost completely ignored by presidential candidates. 

Keeping the Electoral College is like staying in yesteryear, relying on an outdated artifact maintained through inertia and the help of certain people and organizations that want to take us backward and not forward in this country. Sure, it has been the law for a long time, but laws can be changed, even the Constitution—just as has been done with formerly accepted aspects of life that were to the detriment of certain citizens of this country, most notably chattel slavery, denying women the right to vote, and child labor, to give a few examples. Any law can be changed, even the Electoral College, even if it will not be easy to do. But ending chattel slavery wasn’t easy, nor getting women the right to vote, or gaining any other rights worth having that were denied to the oppressed.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was aimed at ending insidious voter suppression of Black people in the South. But a disastrous ruling by the Supreme Court in 2013 aided much of the voter suppression we see today, when a 5-4 Republican-Democrat majority in the case of Shelby County v. Holder, gutted the historic Voting Rights Act by relieving the Southern states of federal oversight of their election laws.

For people who do not know the history of voting in this country, when it comes to non-white people, especially Black people, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 came into being after then Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson signed it into law. He did so because of the historic proven voter discrimination, voter suppression, voter murder(s), literacy tests, jellybean counting, poll taxes, scare tactics, grandfather clauses and all other forms of Black voter intimidation in ex-slave holding states in the South by certain white people, even though Black people were first given the right to vote in 1870 when the 15th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified.

Just last month, voter advocates in Georgia filed a lawsuit charging that 198,000 voters—young, people of color and low-income—were removed from the voting rolls in 2019, again falsely claiming they had all moved.

The five conservative justices who derailed the 1965 Voting Rights Act said it had been passed to address racial discrimination that, 48 years later, was no longer much of a problem! In other words, “times have changed.” They determined that the country “has changed,” that “[r]egardless of how to look at the record, no one can fairly say that it shows anything approaching the ‘pervasive,’ ‘flagrant,’ ‘widespread,’ and ‘rampant’ discrimination that faced Congress in 1965.” 

In what universe? Ask the 340,134 voters in Georgia in 2018, many of them Black, who had been purged from the voting rolls for having allegedly moved, when they were still living at the same address as where they were registered, making them unable to vote in the 2018 election. Who purged them? Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a white Republican running for governor in that same election against Stacey Abrams, a popular Black leader in the state legislature. He won by 54,700 votes. Was that not “rampant discrimination?” Just last month, voter advocates in Georgia filed a lawsuit charging that 198,000 voters—young, people of color and low-income—were removed from the voting rolls in 2019, again falsely claiming they had all moved. 

If certain people and organizations can’t find one way to keep Black people from voting, then they find another way to do it. Closing down polling places in Black neighborhoods, imposing voter ID laws, and gerrymandering—redrawing district lines to favor candidates of a particular party—are being used to this day to stop Black people from voting or reducing the power of their vote because certain white people fear that if enough Black people cast their vote, white people will lose privilege and power. This country cannot have it both ways, that on one hand that is no longer much of a problem, and on the other hand allow the racism that elevates white people can still be used! 

The Supreme Court excused gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act by saying times have changed for the better, but their ruling now allows those same Southern and ex-slave states that historically disenfranchised Black people to continue to do so. Times have changed, but history is repeating itself. For example, in 2000 in the state of Florida, during the Bush-Gore presidential campaign, Black people who had voted had untold numbers of their votes destroyed, and many other Black voters were barred from voting for various reasons. This also helped hand the presidency to Bush—that and hanging chads. 

It is worth noting that Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion in 2013 eviscerating the Voting Rights Act, had worked on Bush’s legal team in Florida in 2000, as did Trump-appointed Supreme Court justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. That’s when the high court intervened and stopped the ballot recount in that state when Bush was ahead by only 537 votes. Although Gore got 550,000 more popular votes nationally, the 25 Electoral College votes from Florida handed the election, and presidency, to Bush. Where does democracy fit into this picture? It doesn’t. 

All of this voter suppression in these divided states of America is an ongoing stain on our history. This historical racism dates back to the creation of the Electoral College, and it hasn’t stopped. It is just like a chameleon, the small lizard whose skin changes colors, this is how racist and political opponents operate and change their tactics of voter suppression, even using felony convictions or arrest records or court fines to disenfranchise people. 

If it’s true what the Supreme Court ruled in 2013 concerning the 1965 Voting Rights Act, that racial discrimination is no longer much of a problem, that “times have changed,” then the same has to be true about the Electoral College, which came into being in the 18th century. It was born when the Founding Fathers were writing the Constitution and were torn between having the president chosen by popular vote or members of Congress. One reason they hesitated about the popular votes was that they believed citizens of the states would not be able to learn enough about the candidates to vote intelligently. 

They finally compromised on a system of electors chosen by the states after a divisive debate over how to count the population to see how many electors each state would have. The Northern “free” states had larger populations than Southern slave states, in part because slaves were considered property, not human beings, and therefore could not be counted in the population. The slave states were crying out that the North would win every presidential election due to the imbalance of the voter population, so in order to appease the South, those states were allowed to count each slave as three-fifths of a person to take away the population advantage of the north.

The southerners did not want to count a slave as a whole human being because if they did, it would go against their historical lies that slaves weren’t fully human beings, and that they as slave owners were not in fact enslaving human beings. If they said in any way, shape or form that enslaved Africans and Black Americans were in fact whole human beings, this would undercut their long-held argument and belief that they weren’t, so they settled for the bizarre partial-person compromise.

The Electoral College today has 538 electors, totaling the number of senators and representatives from each state. Then, as now, it is only to choose the president. Nobody in Congress is chosen by the Electoral College. No other electoral contest in the United States is determined by any “electors” other than the citizens who vote in regular elections, and the candidate who gets the most votes wins. That is democracy. 

Democrats have won the popular vote five out of the last eight presidential elections and twice were denied the office due to fewer electoral votes despite more popular votes. Maybe that is why more Republicans want to keep the Electoral College than anyone else. Fully 58 percent of Americans in March 2020 wanted to amend the Constitution to get rid of the Electoral College; 81 percent of Democrats/leaning Democrat want the voters to choose the president; only 32 percent of Republicans/leaning Republican want that. 

This makes no sense, especially since times have changed, and African Americans are no longer considered three-fifths of a human being…well at least by most people we aren’t.

Here in 2020 and beyond, there is no way to honestly think about the Electoral College logically as preserving or advancing democracy. It only makes sense to think of it historically as a remnant of a bygone era when Black people were determined to be three-fifths of a human being, and the excuse that Americans cannot learn enough about the candidates has been buried by the massive saturation of print, broadcast, internet and social media that exists.

Democracy is about one person one vote. That is what the popular vote is. The Electoral College is not about one person one vote. It is in fact the only way that the loser of the popular vote who was not chosen by the majority of the American voters, can win the presidential election. One person, one vote is democracy plain and simple. The Electoral College must go. It’s a relic, a thing of the past, it does not belong in a real democracy. If the Voting Rights Act is no longer needed, then the Electoral College is most definitely no longer needed.

If it’s true that in the presidential election of 1800-01 that Thomas Jefferson metaphorically rode into the White House on the backs of slaves with the Electoral College vote, then here in 2020 and in the future, whoever rides into the White House must metaphorically do so on the shoulders of the majority of the American voters, the free people who make the popular vote. 

There is no more going back, no more of the same old same old. It’s a new day, a new time, the future is ahead of us, and we can no longer afford as a free country to retain practices from the past that were not made to help all of us but created to help a certain few in order to oppress others. The Constitution is a living document, just as we are living people. We must stop using and misusing old laws from yesteryear in today’s and tomorrow’s world.

I know that hypocrisy runs rampant in this country, so it’s going to take all of us who honestly believe in one person one vote and real democracy to make all the people in power in this country start to make this country what those so-called Founding Fathers said it could be when they put pen to paper and wrote it down.



4) Biden Wants to Raise Taxes, Yet Many Trump Tax Cuts Are Here to Stay

While Democrats have vowed to repeal the former president’s signature 2017 law, his successor is more likely to tinker with it, given constraints.

By Jim Tankersley, Jan. 22, 2021

President Biden could end up doing more to cement the Trump administration’s tax cuts than to roll them back.
President Biden could end up doing more to cement the Trump administration’s tax cuts than to roll them back. Credit...Kenny Holston for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Donald J. Trump has left the White House. But many of his signature tax cuts aren’t going anywhere.


Democrats have spent years promising to repeal the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which Republicans passed without a single Democratic vote and was estimated to cost nearly $2 trillion over a decade. President Biden said during a presidential debate in September that he was “going to eliminate the Trump tax cuts.”


Mr. Biden is now in the White House, and his party controls both chambers of Congress. Yet he and his aides are committing to only a partial rollback of the law, with their focus on provisions that help corporations and the very rich. It’s a position that Mr. Biden held throughout the campaign, and that he clarified in the September debate by promising to only partly repeal a corporate rate cut.


In some cases, including tax cuts that help lower- and middle-class Americans, they are looking to make Mr. Trump’s temporary tax cuts permanent.


Mr. Biden still wants to raise taxes on some businesses and wealthy individuals, and he remains intent on raising trillions of dollars in new tax revenue to offset the federal spending programs that he plans to propose, including for infrastructure, clean energy production and education. Much of the new revenue, however, could come from efforts to tax investment and labor income for people earning more than $400,000, in ways that are not related to the 2017 law.


Mr. Biden did not include any tax increases in the $1.9 trillion stimulus plan he proposed last week, which was meant to curb the pandemic and help people and companies endure the economic pain it has caused.


His nominee for Treasury secretary, Janet L. Yellen, told a Senate committee this week that the president would hold off on reversing any parts of the tax law until later in the recovery, which most likely means as part of a large infrastructure package that he is set to unveil next month. Republican lawmakers repeatedly questioned Ms. Yellen about Mr. Biden’s tax plans, warning that repeal of the 2017 cuts would hurt American workers and businesses and push companies to ship jobs overseas.


Ms. Yellen said Mr. Biden had made clear that he “would want to repeal parts of the 2017 tax cuts that benefited the highest-income Americans and large companies.” But she added that “he’s been very clear that he does not support a complete repeal.”


Mr. Biden could end up cementing as much of Mr. Trump’s tax cuts as he rolls back. To meet a budget constraint that was necessary to pass the 2017 law with no Democratic votes, Republicans set tax cuts for individuals to expire at the end of 2025. On Thursday, in follow-up answers to written questions from Senator Charles E. Grassley, an Iowa Republican, Ms. Yellen said she would work with Congress to make tax cuts permanent for families earning less than $400,000 a year.


Such a move would most likely reduce the tax revenue that Mr. Biden could otherwise claim to raise from his proposed changes to the Trump tax by at least half and as much as two-thirds, according to calculations by The New York Times. The calculations used analyses from the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, the Tax Policy Center, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Wharton Budget Model.


All told, over a decade, Mr. Biden’s proposed changes to the law could net just $500 billion in additional revenue. In contrast, he has proposed roughly $2 trillion in tax increases unrelated to the law, by the Budget Model’s calculations.


The 2017 law cut taxes for individuals and lowered the corporate rate to 21 percent from 35 percent. It created a new deduction for owners of certain businesses, like limited liability companies, whose owners pay taxes on their profits through the individual tax code. It also overhauled how the United States taxes the income that companies earn overseas, which Republicans said would encourage them to invest and create jobs in America.


Most American workers received at least a small tax cut under the law. Its benefits flowed heavily to high earners: The Joint Committee on Taxation’s initial estimates suggested that more than one-fifth of the tax savings from the law in 2021 would go to people earning $500,000 a year or more. That share is set to rise sharply by 2026 if the individual tax cuts expire as scheduled.


Democrats denounced the law as a giveaway to the rich, and it has struggled to attain widespread popularity. An online poll for The Times by the research firm SurveyMonkey found last month that Americans remained evenly split on whether they support or oppose the law. Only one in five respondents was certain of having received a tax cut from it.


During the presidential campaign, Mr. Biden proposed trillions of dollars in tax increases on corporations and the rich, but his plans stopped short of a full repeal of Mr. Trump’s tax law. He said he would raise income taxes to pre-Trump levels only at the top bracket, an increase to 39.6 percent from 37 percent. He called for raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent, where Mr. Trump set it — still short of the top rate of 35 percent that preceded the law.


Even Mr. Biden’s international tax plan, which is meant to encourage domestic investment and job creation while raising revenue from large corporations, would work within the boundaries of what Mr. Trump and Republicans did in 2017. Instead of scrapping the overhaul, Mr. Biden would double the rate of the tax — while eliminating a new exemption that Democrats say encourages corporate investment abroad.


The upshot is that Mr. Trump’s 2017 cuts will govern tax policy for years to come, said George Callas, a managing director at Steptoe, a law firm in Washington, who helped write the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as an aide to Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin. Mr. Callas said the Biden plan “does in a way concede that the new architecture of the international tax system that the T.C.J.A. created is being accepted as the architecture going forward.”


Democrats say the changes that Mr. Biden is proposing for the law would rebalance its incentives for investment and hiring toward the United States, while ensuring that corporations and the rich paid their “fair share” of taxes.


Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the chairman of the Finance Committee, which will be the starting point in the Senate for any tax changes Mr. Biden wants to make, said in an interview that his top tax priorities in many ways matched Mr. Biden’s.


They include limiting a deduction for high earners who run companies that are not organized as corporations and overhauling the exemption for qualified business asset investment overseas — the provision that Democrats say encourages offshoring, though Republicans like Mr. Callas disagree. Mr. Wyden also wants to raise taxes on heirs of large fortunes and on investment income for high earners, through a variety of avenues.


“There is a broad swath of Senate Democrats who are in agreement that the 2017 bill was a giveaway” to the rich and multinational corporations, Mr. Wyden said. “Certainly there is support for rolling back the corporate rate provision, the individual rate being pushed up again.”


Republicans have already begun to mount a defense of those portions of the law, both inside and outside Congress, warning that the changes that Mr. Biden proposes would drive more companies to move overseas.


“Raising the U.S. rate or making the international regime more burdensome would have an adverse effect on U.S. global competitiveness,” said Rohit Kumar, co-leader of PwC’s National Tax Office and a former deputy chief of staff to Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who was the Republican leader during the tax cut debate.


“Doing both would be a double whammy that would ultimately harm U.S. workers and anyone who has a pension or 401(k) invested in U.S. companies,” Mr. Kumar said.


Congressional Republicans have also pushed through, as part of economic stimulus efforts over the last year, several changes to the law they wrote and passed. For example, they relaxed restrictions that the law placed on companies’ ability to deduct operating losses from previous years’ taxes, in order to reduce their tax bills.


Those provisions alone amount to a $160 billion change in the law — which is more money than Mr. Biden could expect to raise in a decade by reversing Mr. Trump’s cut in the top income tax rate for the rich.



5) Strike at Largest U.S. Wholesale Produce Market Threatens Supply Chain

Six workers at Hunts Point Market died from Covid, and hundreds fell ill. They say they deserve higher wages after risking their health to supply New York City with food.

By Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, Jan. 22, 2021

The market moves about 300,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables every day, supplying grocery stores and restaurants across the city and around the region. 
The market moves about 300,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables every day, supplying grocery stores and restaurants across the city and around the region. Credit...James Estrin/The New York Times

It is the country’s largest wholesale produce market — described as “Costco on steroids” —and the nerve center for New York City’s food supply, providing more than half the fruits and vegetables that end up in takeout boxes and on restaurant plates and supermarket shelves.


But a strike over a $1-per-hour pay raise demand at the Hunts Point Produce Market in the Bronx, the first in over three decades, has dented its operations, leaving some produce to rot and threatening to snarl a normally seamless supply chain.


The last strike, in 1986, led to shortages of everything from artichokes to grapes.


This time, workers, members of a powerful Teamsters local, entered the sixth day of their strike on Friday after negotiations over a three-year contract broke down over pay. The union has asked for an increase of $1.60 per hour in each year of a three-year contract, with $1 of the raise to go toward wages. The market’s management, a cooperative made up of 29 vendors, countered with an offer of 92 cents an hour each year, with 32 cents of the increase going to pay.


The dispute raises questions about how employees are treated at a time when the pandemic has set off a stark divide between people who have had to keep showing up to work and others who have been able to work from home.


The workers, who earn between $15 and $22 an hour, say they deserve a better raise because they are risking their health to supply the city with food during the outbreak.


Six workers have died and about 300 have gotten sick after contracting the coronavirus, said Charles Machadio, the vice president of the union, Teamsters Local 202, and a veteran worker at the market. Still, the market has remained open around the clock, seven days a week.


“We’re all living in an uncertain world. I might be dead tomorrow, you might too,” he said. Mr. Machadio said that the market’s merchants should recognize that workers “have been coming to work, keeping your businesses going, risking their lives.”


A dollar raise, he said, would be a way of saying “thank you guys for coming to work, you really are heroes.”


None of the merchants contacted would speak about the labor disagreement, but they provided a joint statement.


It said the cooperative had spent $3 million on personal protective equipment for workers and shifted work flows and work stations to make the market safer, without having to lay off anyone.


“Despite all of these challenges, we are very proud to have kept our union workers — the vast majority of whom live right here in the Bronx — working and on payroll with full health benefits as the Bronx has seen an unemployment rate of 40 percent,” the statement said.


Though hundreds of workers have walked off the job, the strike so far does not seem to have had a significant impact on the food supply, according to some grocery stores supplied by the market.


Union members have set up picket lines outside the sprawling market every day, and on Tuesday the police arrested six of them for obstructing traffic.


Several prominent politicians, all Democrats, have waded into the dispute. Representative Ritchie Torres and Andrew Yang, who is running for mayor, rallied in front of the market terminal on Monday. And on Wednesday, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez distributed hand warmers and coffee to strikers.


“There’s a lot of things upside down right now in our economy,” she said. “One of those things that are upside down is the fact that a person who is helping get the food to your table cannot feed their own kid.”


The strike comes as labor groups have pushed the city to grant greater protections to workers, particularly those in the food industry. Last month, the City Council approved two union-backed bills that ban major fast-food companies from firing employees without a valid reason and allow them to appeal terminations through arbitration.


But at Hunts Point, the cooperative has pushed back, saying that the pandemic, which has closed many restaurants permanently, had dealt a blow to their business, costing it tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue.


Merchants at the cooperative purchase goods from farms and importers and then distribute products across the city and the broader region. The market moves 300,000 pounds of fruit and vegetables every day — about 60 percent of all the city’s produce by some estimates — and says it makes about $2.3 billion in revenues every year.


Despite the strike, the market remains open, and the cooperative has hired temporary strike-breaking workers to load and unload trucks, prompting angry outbursts from strikers whenever a truck arrives at the market’s entrance.


Noah Lea, who manages a branch of the CTown supermarket chain on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, said he gets all his green vegetables from Hunts Point, hauling in 400 pounds five times a week.


“I’m not worried right now,” he said, adding that the chain hedges against possible disruptions by relying on various markets, including the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market, a competitor to Hunts Point.


Other grocery chains, including Gristedes, have also looked to other markets beside Hunts Point since the last strike to avoid potential shortages and to get lower prices. Large chains, like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, do not depend on the market for their produce.


The striking workers at Hunts Point said that despite the safety measures adopted by the cooperative, the market is still filled with employees working at times in close quarters. The market is “so crowded, like Penn Station,” said one worker, Francisco Soto.


About 3,000 employees, 1,400 of them union members, work at the vast 113-acre produce market, Mr. Machadio said, which, along with separate meat and fish markets, makes up the Hunts Point Distribution Center.


“We’ve been exposing ourselves to get sick and get our families sick, but we haven’t slowed down one bit,” said Diego Rutishauser, 49, who has worked various jobs at the produce market for 27 years.


Mr. Rutishauser wakes up at 2 a.m. everyday and takes two buses and a train from his home in Jamaica, Queens, to make it to work at 5 a.m.


“We’re not asking the impossible,” he said.


Charles Platkin, the director of the New York City Food Policy Center, said the longer the strike continued the greater the likelihood that supplying produce would become more difficult.


But he said the workers deserved some acknowledgment for keeping the market functioning during a major public health crisis.


“Because it accounts for so much of our food supply, it’s important to recognize the power of that market and how important those frontline workers are,’’ Mr. Platkin said, “and how important it is for your city to pay attention to the labor force there.”