The effort to block busses of Central American refugees travelling through Murrieta, California, over the July 4th weekend drew any number of fringe right-wing extremists, including radio host Pete Santilli, who offered a 24/7 live webcast of his stay.
In one webcast posted on July 4, Santilli approached a number of local police officers demanded that they bring him the county sheriff. He also told them that he had called 911 but that that strategy had also failed to summon the sheriff. (Many militia groups maintain that the sheriff is the only legitimate law enforcement officer).
“I almost died at Bundy ranch because the sheriff didn’t show up,” Santilli told one officer, referring to his time at the Bundy ranch in Nevada, where he spent time harassing a Mexican-American reporter.
Santilli told one Murrieta police officer that he was “here for a peaceful protest” but that by failing to put him in contact with the sheriff “what you guys are creating is a violent one.”
“Are you guys domestic terrorists now?” he yelled after the officer walked away. “You guys are terrorizing the public.”
“They’re going to deliver a bus here with a bunch of anarchists and create a volatile situation on the 4th of July. That’s an incitement,” he yelled.
At one point, Santilli got his hands on a bullhorn and earned a cheer from the crowd when he told the officers, “You want to send a bus to us right in front of the media so Obama can publicly display what happens to people who stop busses with infected immigrants. Obama wants to send a message and you’re helping to facilitate it.”
If the anti-immigrant protests in Murietta, California, and the gathering of militia groups at the border remind you of the anti-government standoff at Cliven Bundy’s ranch, that might be because the events are attracting some of the very same people.
Far-right radio host Pete Santilli, who we last saw harassing a Mexican-American reporter at Bundy’s ranch, has been broadcasting from Murietta for the past week or so and has mentioned that he has also driven down to join some groups along the Southern border, who he has been working with in an effort to shut down the Tijuana border crossing.
In fact, yesterday, Santilli interviewed Bundy himself about the similarities between the Bundy ranch standoff and the events in Murietta and at the border.
Calling the Bureau of Land Management “dirty rotten buggers,” Bundy told Santilli that the groups who faced off with the BLM at his ranch were “successful in bringing back freedom to America, at least in this area.”
Speaking of the militia groups gathering at the Southern border — including groups like the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters, who were strongly represented at his ranch — Bundy said that like at his ranch, federal agents are “pointing their guns at we the people” and not at the “enemy,” who he said is the “encroacher that’s illegally coming in here.”
Last Thursday, People For the American Way, joined by the UC Hastings Appellate Project (HAP) and the ACLU of Southern California, submitted an amicus brief to the California Court of Appeal in Velasquez v. Centrome, Inc. dba Advanced Biotech, a toxic tort case brought by an undocumented immigrant that resulted in a gross denial of justice.
Wilfredo Velasquez filed a lawsuit against a chemical manufacturer seeking damages for medical expenses after contracting a devastating lung disease due to exposure to one of the company’s toxic chemicals while on the job. During the jury selection process, where prospective jurors are questioned to discover potential biases, the trial judge wrongly disclosed Mr. Velasquez’s immigration status to the entire jury pool, despite the fact that it was not relevant to any issues in the case. The disclosure appears to have harmed Mr. Velasquez’s pursuit of justice: Even though the jury ultimately found the chemical manufacturer negligent, it awarded no damages to Mr. Velasquez. He effectively lost his case. The court refused to grant a mistrial for its error in possibly tainting the jury, and Mr. Velasquez appealed the verdict.
PFAW submitted its amicus brief in support of a new trial for Mr. Velasquez because of the highly prejudicial nature of the court’s wrongful disclosure of his citizenship status, explaining, “Rather than protect against prejudice, the judge’s statement unnecessarily injected prejudice into the [jury] selection process, making it impossible to know whether Mr. Velasquez received his constitutionally guaranteed fair trial by impartial jurors.” Given the ongoing hostility towards undocumented immigrants, as chronicled by PFAW’s Right Wing Watch blog, PFAW’s brief urges the appellate court to find that when a trial court erroneously discloses a litigant’s citizenship status to the jury during voir dire a new trial must be awarded.
Read the full text of the amicus brief for more information
People For the American Way Action Fund has announced an endorsement of Derek Cressman’s candidacy for California Secretary of State.
“Derek Cressman has been a consistent progressive leader, standing up against big money in politics and for fairness and the people’s voice,” said PFAW Political Director Randy Borntrager. “He will serve the people of California well as Secretary of State.”
Cressman is one of five primary candidates for Secretary of State. He served as director of the Democracy Program for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) and the state PIRG organizations, fighting for the environment, open government, and fair elections. He subsequently founded Earth Tones, an environmentally friendly communications company that donates 100 percent of its profits to environmental groups.
In 2006 Cressman began working with Common Cause on its groundbreaking voting rights and elections programs, eventually directing the organization’s Citizens United information campaign. While at Common Cause, Cressman led 35 state chapters as vice president for states. During his tenure, Common Cause expanded its coordination of grassroots organizing and advocacy on money in politics across all of its local chapters, pursuing local ordinances and referenda as a strategy to draw more attention to the issue.
Derek Cressman’s positions on women’s health, comprehensive immigration reform, public education funding, equality for all Americans, and money in politics – among other issues – distinguish him as quality progressive candidate for California Secretary of State. His campaign website is http://www.derekcressman.com.
The anti-immigrant group Californians For Population Stabilization (CAPS) is trying to appeal to California environmentalists with an ad hooked to Earth Day.
Despite the group’s attempt at a green image, it has rarely hidden its anti-immigrant nativism. The group’s chairwoman Marilyn Deyoung warned last year that children of immigrants allowed to stay in the country under the DREAM act would become communists and smugglers. Earlier this year, CAPS published a blog post saying immigration had turned Los Angeles “from an American city to something resembling Mexico.” The group’s employees include a founding member of the neo-Confederate League of the South and a contributor to the white nationalist website VDARE.
In CAPS’s Earth Day ad, a little boy asks why California is “so crowded” and has “so many cars.” “Let’s slow immigration and save some California for tomorrow,” a voiceover replies.
Brad Dacus and his Pacific Justice Institute have been leading the fight against laws designed to protect transgender students in public schools and Pastor Jack Hibbs has been very involved in the battle against just such a law in California.
Recently, Hibbs interviewed Dacus about the law and uncorked one of the strangest arguments against it that we have ever heard. Claiming that teenage boys will do whatever they can to "sneak a peek" at the girls in the school while they are in the bathroom or the locker room, Hibbs asserted that some kid will "pull a stunt" and claim to be transgender just so he can get access to the girl's locker room, which he will be allowed to due under the California law.
But after that happens, Hibbs predicted that word will spread around campus and "there's going to be young men that are going to target that kid and really, really lay it on him. It's going to make bulling worse."
"That's going to happen," he boldly declared, asking who will be held responsible when this kid has his teeth knocked out and winds up in the hospital:
PFAW’s 2012 report, “Predatory Privatization: Exploiting Financial Hardship, Enriching the One Percent, Undermining Democracy,” included a section titled, “The Pernicious Private Prison Industry.” We reported that across the country, private prisons were often violent, poorly run facilities that put prisoners, employees and communities at risk even while failing to deliver on promised savings to taxpayers. But state legislators, encouraged by ALEC and by private prison interests’ lobbying and campaign expenditures, continued to turn prisons over to private corporations, often with contract provisions that acted as incentives for mass incarceration.
A new story in Politico Magazine, “The Private Prison Racket” comes to the same conclusions. “Companies that manage prisons on our behalf have abysmal records,” says author Matt Stroud. “So why do we keep giving them our business?”
The Politico story slams “bed mandates” – guarantees given by states to private companies to keep prisons full. Contracts like that build in incentives for governments to lock people up – and punish states financially when they try to reduce prison populations.
Politicians are taking notice. Last month, In the Public Interest reported that reality has turned the tide against private prisons: “Coast-to-coast, governments are realizing that outsourcing corrections to for-profit corporations is a bad deal for taxpayers, and for public safety.” The dispatch cited problems with private prisons in states as diverse as Arizona, Vermont, Texas, Florida, and Idaho, where Gov. Butch Otter, a “small government” conservative, announced last month that the state would take control of the Idaho Correctional Center back from private prison giant Corrections Corporation of America due to rampant violence, understaffing, gang activity, and contract fraud.
But the huge private prison industry is not going away anytime soon. As In the Public Interest notes:
All of this momentum does not suggest the imminent death of the for-profit prison industry. Some states, including California and West Virginia, are currently gearing up to send millions more to these companies. But the past year has been a watershed moment, and we are heading in the right direction. In light of these developments, these states would be wise to look to sentencing reform to reduce populations, rather than signing reckless outsourcing contracts.
The arguments against private prisons are myriad and compelling. Promised savings end up as increased costs. Lockup quotas force taxpayers to guarantee profits for prison companies through lock up quotas hidden in contracts. They incentivize mass incarceration while discouraging sentencing reform in an era when crime rates are plummeting.
But more than anything else, the reality of the disastrous private prison experiment has turned the public against the industry.
The Senate is scheduled to vote to end filibusters and then to confirm four federal district court nominees tonight and tomorrow morning, two for the Northern District of California, one for the Eastern District of Arkansas, and one for the District of Connecticut. All four of these nominees were thoroughly vetted and approved by unanimous voice vote by the Judiciary Committee last year. They should have and could have been confirmed months ago. (In contrast, George W. Bush’s confirmed district court noms only waited about a month on average between committee approval and confirmation.) However, because of Republican obstruction, all four nominees have waited months for a simple confirmation vote. And Senate Republicans are indicating that they won’t stop their obstruction anytime soon. In fact, it looks like they are willing to waste weeks of time in “post-cloture debate” on these and subsequent nominees.
Judge Jeffrey Alker Meyer of Connecticut has been waiting for a confirmation since he was first approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 19. Judge James Maxwell Moody, Jr., of Arkansas has been waiting since November 14. The two nominees from Northern California, Judge James Donato and Judge Beth Labson Freeman, have both been waiting since October 31st.
This frustratingly slow process is the result of layers of delaying tactics by GOP senators. Republicans refused to hold votes on these nominees for months, and now that they are being called on their obstructionism through filibuster-ending cloture votes, they’re making the votes take as long as possible by demanding that each take hours of “post-cloture debate.” This is especially ridiculous for nominees whom the Republicans actually support. Not only is this delaying confirmation of judges in these particular states; it’s also delaying nominees in other states waiting in line for their turn, including many for posts that have been deemed “judicial emergencies.” This delaying tactic from Republicans not only slows what should be a simple process, it deprives these states’ constituents the fully functioning justice system they deserve.
The anti-immigrant group Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) is warning that immigration has transformed Los Angeles “from an American city to something resembling Mexico.” In an open letter to House Speaker John Boehner published on the group’s blog this weekend, activist Les Blenkhorn writes, “My only surprise is that there is anyone left in Mexico.”
I have little idea if these comments are even read by your staff, I hope they are. You have little idea the frustration of middle America over this issue, and their lack of a voice in regards to it. I have lived in Los Angeles long enough to see it transformed from an American city to something closer resembling Mexico. My only surprise is that there is anyone left in Mexico. The border is completely open to illegal aliens. They have been welcomed by you, the federal government, one and all.
Since I know you definitely won't read the entire novel which deserves to be written and read on this issue, I will close by saying that you the Republicans will get your comeuppance for any amnesty that may come eventually. The Republican party no longer exists in California in any viable sense, I look forward to seeing this happen to the Republican party nationwide as you are naive enough to believe illegal aliens will somehow vote Republican in thanks for your giving them amnesty. You should know they will never do this, but you still have to bend to the will of your corporate masters, even if it means your extinction. Fools.
It’s unclear why CAPS posted Blenkhorn’s letter; the only other mention of him we could find on CAPS’ website was a 2002 newsletter mentioning him as a member. Last week, a commenter named Les Blenkhorn posted the same remarks on Speaker Boehner’s House website. Comments from the same user on other articles in the past few months include, “[N]o one seems to have a problem with China being all Chinese, we are being replaced in our own country and those Americans afflicted with White Guilt are okay with it,” and, “Time to end the insanity of mass third world immigration before we have a revolution, wait the revolution wouldn't be a bad idea.” A 2002 article in El Universal newspaper reports that a radio producer named Les Blenkhorn offered to make a “citizens’ arrest” of a young undocumented activist.
CAPS is one of the anti-immigrant groups that aims specifically to convert environmentalists to the cause. A new web ad from the group combines the environmental message with racial coding, lamenting that Los Angeles has transformed from a bucolic paradise to a “cesspool of gang-bangers, drug dealers and vagrants.”
CAPS is tied to the anti-immigrant network started by white nationalist John Tanton and its main spokesman has written columns for a prominent white nationalist website.
Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver is concerned that California’s ban on “ex-gay” therapy for minors is “very dangerous” because it will allow gay people to “entrap” and “groom” children into homosexuality.
Stave, who has appealed his challenge to the California law to the Supreme Court, told the American Family Association’s OneNewsNow today:
Staver notes that especially in California, children are being indoctrinated in public schools that homosexuality is normal.
"And then when someone is either abused or begins to struggle with these issues, when they're bombarded with it day after day after day, they won't be able to get any help from a licensed professional Christian counselor," says Staver. "So that's why it's very dangerous."
The law allows homosexuals to "entrap" and "groom" children into the homosexual lifestyle, without providing any opportunity for help, says the Liberty Counsel attorney.
On Friday, Staver discussed the ban with Janet Mefferd. “We’re talking about life and death situations here,” he said, blaming LGBT rights activists for “forcing homosexuality on everyone by force of law” and claiming that the reparative therapy ban “will force people into a lifestyle of destruction."
The appeal to King’s memory is more than a little ironic coming from a group that is tied to white nationalist John Tanton and that just this fall hired a founding member of the new-Confederate group League of the South. CAPS spokesman Joe Guzzardi, who announced in a press release that political leaders have “lost sight of Dr. King’s dream” has written dozens of blog posts for the white nationalist website VDARE .
The following is a guest post by Campbell, California Mayor Evan Low, a member of People For the American Way Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network.
In 2009, I became the youngest openly gay mayor as well as the youngest Asian-American mayor in the country. Some journalists wrote about how I was making history, but I like to point out that I was preceded by a number of other courageous “firsts.”
I became mayor 35 years after Kathy Kozachenko was the first openly LGBT person elected to public office, and 32 years after Harvey Milk – affectionately known as “the mayor of Castro Street” – was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in the same state I serve today.
This week marks the anniversary of the tragic end of Milk’s short time in office, when he and Mayor George Moscone were shot and killed by Supervisor Dan White. But the legacy of Harvey Milk and other LGBT trailblazers is very much alive. Today there are more than 500 openly LGBT elected or appointed officials serving our country. Through their service and that of public officials representing other marginalized communities, it is clear that our democracy works best when our lawmakers reflect the nation’s diversity.
That’s not to say that things are always easy for LGBT elected officials. Like Milk, I have received my share of hate mail, with messages like: “We don’t want the homosexual agenda in our community.” As I have told reporters before, I don’t know what is on that so-called agenda, other than basic equality for all people.
One issue that’s certainly on my agenda is the end of the FDA’s ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men. In a petition that now has more than 62,000 supporters, I wrote:
…recently, I hosted a blood drive on city property, but was banned from donating blood myself.
As the mayor of Campbell, providing for the welfare of the general public is a top priority. As a gay man, however, I am conflicted in my advocacy for blood drives. Under current U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines, a man who has sex with another man is deferred for life from donating blood. The ban was imposed in 1983 when there were no reliable tests for screening blood for HIV/AIDS. It was also made during a time of mass medical confusion and cultural homophobia associated with HIV/AIDS. The current FDA ban is wildly outdated and perpetuates unfair labels against gay and bisexual men that live on through decades of discrimination.
These kinds of stereotypes are not unlike the ones Harvey Milk was fighting nearly four decades ago, and why he, like I do today, encouraged LGBT people to come out whenever possible – to dispel the harmful lies about our community with the truth. Stuart Milk, nephew of Harvey Milk and founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation, continues his uncle's legacy, and we are so fortunate to have Stuart carry the torch.
In a tape Milk recorded before his death, he said, “I have never considered myself a candidate. I have always considered myself part of a movement.” I think he would be proud of the movement that lives on in his spirit today.
Jim Garlow has begun hosting regular webcasts seeking to mobilize pastors in California on behalf of a petition drive that is seeking to repeal a California law that will allow students in the state to use whatever bathroom and participate on whichever sports team they believe matches their gender identity.
He hosted another one this week that featured Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage and Pastor Jack Hibbs in which Hibbs warned that God would judge the Body of Christ if it fails to rise up and repeal this legislation.
"This [bill] is an affront to God," Hibbs declared. "It's an affront to California's kids and those of you who are listening from across the nation, keep this in mind: what happens in California doesn't stay in California. If this is allowed to become implemented on January first, it will eventually get to your state. But, again, this is the most aggressive, the most dangerous bit of legislation against the child and against family than any other in the history of the United States. We've never seen a government pass such an insane bill as this":
“I may be an old fuddy-duddy, what is transgender?” Robertson asked co-host Wendy Griffith.
Despite Robertson’s admission that he doesn’t know what it means to be transgender, that didn’t stop him from criticizing the law. Robertson said that while he is “not opposed” to gender reassignment surgery, “but this whole business about transgenders, you’re saying they’ve got boy parts but they want to go to the girls’ restroom, that’s absurd.”
Robertson said he is sticking up for “the normal people” against the “insane” LGBT rights movement:
Why are we exposed to this stuff? They are driving the agenda, driving everybody crazy, all this sexual identity, sexual politics, ‘Mommy Has Two Mommies’ [sic] and all that stuff, it’s a tiny fringe but they seem to have control of the levers of power in the media and especially in Hollywood. But it’s insane. I just cannot believe that the normal people in America, the people who want to just live their lives can’t be allowed to do it without having this stuff imposed on them constantly. You’ve explained to me, I’m not sure we know yet.
Later in the broadcast, Robertson said: “now, we talk about transgender, I have a former stallion who is now a gelding.”