Archive for Informational Articles

How Does Supreme Court Nominee Stand on Gun Control?

The late Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger called the misrepresentation of the Second Amendment as guaranteeing an individual right to own guns “one of the greatest pieces of fraud on the American public” that he had seen in his lifetime. In responding to questions from California Senator Dianne Feinstein during his confirmation hearing on March 21, Judge Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump’s nominee to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, demonstrated that he was a party to that fraud. Please contact your U.S. Senators today and urge them to oppose the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. (Click on this link for contact information for your U.S. Senators.) For more information regarding Judge Gorsuch’s fraudulent misrepresentation of the Second Amendment during his confirmation hearing, please read on.

The Second Amendment states, in its entirety:

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Prior to 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court had never ruled that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to own guns. On the contrary, it had been repeatedly established in Supreme Court decisions, in decisions of lower courts, and in reviews by legal historians that the Second Amendment was intended to protect a collective right of the people to maintain armed state militias, such as the current day National Guard, not a right of individual citizens to own firearms. In particular, the Supreme Court ruled in 1939 in the case of U.S. v. Miller and reiterated in 1980 in Lewis v. United States that, “The Second Amendment guarantees no right to keep and bear a firearm that does not have ‘some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia.’”

In 2008, however, a narrow 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court reversed over 200 years of legal precedent by ruling in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment did, indeed, confer an individual right to own guns, at least handguns of the type kept in the home “for protection.” The majority opinion in Heller, written by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, is internally contradictory and relies heavily on literature published in law journals over the past two decades by a small group of authors with direct ties to the gun lobby. Prior to the Lewis decision, it was virtually unheard of for any legal history expert to argue that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to own guns.

Scalia’s majority opinion in the Heller decision effectively deleted the phrase, “A well regulated militia” from the Second Amendment. In doing so, it opened the floodgates for a torrent of lawsuits challenging all sorts of gun control laws. Although handgun bans in Washington DC and Chicago were overturned, most other gun control laws, including bans on assault weapons, withstood post-Heller challenges.

In questioning Judge Gorsuch during his confirmation hearing, California Senator Dianne Feinstein asked him if he agreed that bans on civilian ownership of weapons such as M-16 rifles that are typically used in military service are consistent with Scalia’s majority opinion in the Heller decision. Gorsuch evaded answering the question directly.

Gorsuch: Senator, Heller makes clear the standard that we judges are supposed to apply. The question is whether it’s a gun in common use for self defense and that may be subject to reasonable regulation. That’s the task as I understand it. There’s lots of ongoing litigation about which weapons qualify under those standards and I can’t prejudge that litigation.

Feinstein: No, I’m just asking you do you agree with this statement, yes or no.
Gorsuch: The statements of, the, uh, Heller decision?
Feinstein: Justice Scalia’s statement.
Gorsuch: Whatever’s in Heller is the law, and I follow the law.
Feinstein: Do you agree?
Gorsuch: Well, it’s not a matter of agreeing or disagreeing, Senator, respectfully, it’s a matter of it being the law, and my job is to apply and enforce the law.

Judge Gorsuch clearly knows, or should know, that the 2008 Heller decision represented a radical reversal of the Court’s prior interpretation of the Second Amendment. He also knows, or should know, that courts have ruled post-Heller that bans on assault weapons do not violate the Second Amendment, but the gun lobby, which enthusiastically supported his nomination by Donald Trump, wants the Supreme Court to rule that civilian ownership of AR-15’s, the civilian version of the M-16 military assault rifle and currently the most popular gun in America, is protected by the Second Amendment. Finally, Gorsuch definitely knows that the Heller decision could be reversed by a change in a single justice on the Supreme Court, and that had Hillary Clinton become President instead of Donald Trump, she almost certainly would have nominated a Supreme Court Justice who would have tipped the balance on the Court and reversed the Heller decision.

In stating, “Whatever’s in Heller is the law, and I follow the law,” Gorsuch is endorsing what the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger called “one of the greatest pieces of fraud on the American public” that he had seen in his lifetime. In refusing to answer Senator Feinstein’s question concerning a ban on assault weapons, Gorsuch is also signaling that he would likely vote to expand the category of constitutionally protected firearms beyond handguns protected by Heller to include assault rifles such as the AR-15’s which are currently “in common use.”

It’s ironic that Gorsuch, like the late Antonin Scalia, claims to be an “originalist,” basing his decisions on the original intent of the framers of the constitution. In his introductory comments before his Senate confirmation hearing, he paid tribute to the late Antonin Scalia, stating: “He reminded us that words matter—that the judge’s job is to follow the words that are in the law—not replace them with words that aren’t.”

If words matter, then what is it about the phrase, “A well regulated militia,” that Neil Gorsuch doesn’t understand? And where in the Second Amendment does he find the words, “a gun in common use for self defense?”

Recognizing that Gorsuch was not going to give her a straight answer concerning whether he thought bans on assault weapons were consistent with the Heller decision, Senator Feinstein went on to ask him whether he agreed with Fourth Circuit Court Judge Harvey Wilkinson who wrote in the case of Kolbe v. Hogan that the Second Amendment was ambiguous and that the ambiguity should be resolved by legislators representing the people who were directly affected by gun violence, not by judges who were relatively insulated from it. Again, Gorsuch refused to give a straight answer.

Gorsuch: I begin by saying I hold Judge Wilkinson in high regard. He is a very fine man and a very fine judge.
Feinstein: Can you say yes or no?
Gorsuch: No, I’m, I wish I could, um, but…
Feinstein: I wish you could too.
Gorsuch: You know, the Supreme Court of the United States isn’t final because it’s infallible, as Justice Jackson reminds us. It’s infallible because it’s final. And, uh, Judge Wilkinson had his view, and the Supreme Court has spoken, and, and, Heller is the law of the land, and Judge Wilkinson may disagree with it and I understand that, um, and he may, but he will follow the law no less than any other judge in America. I am confident of that. Um, he’s a very fine judge who takes his oath seriously.

Gorsuch knows that the Supreme Court is neither infallible nor final. It’s not uncommon for the Supreme Court to reverse a previous ruling. According to the Government Accounting Office, the Supreme Court has issued rulings that overturned all or part of previous decisions on 236 occasions from 1810 through 2016. The 2008 Heller decision has been called by some legal scholars one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in U.S. history. Heller may be the law of the land today, but Heller overturned the rulings in Miller in 1939 and Lewis in 1980. If confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice, Gorsuch himself could choose to be the deciding vote in overturning the radical Heller decision and in returning the Second Amendment to its original meaning. It’s clear from his answers to Senator Feinstein’s questions, though, that Gorsuch does not intend to do so.

The issue of the Second Amendment is only one of many on which Judge Neil Gorsuch refused to provide a straight answer to questions from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee during two days of confirmation hearings. His evasive answers on the Second Amendment alone, though, along with his endorsement of a fraudulent misrepresentation of the Second Amendment as guaranteeing an individual right to own guns, are reason enough to deny him a position on the Supreme Court. Please contact your U.S. Senators today and urge them to oppose the appointment of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Thanks for your support of Americans Against Gun Violence and our efforts to stop the shameful epidemic of firearm related deaths and injuries that afflicts our country. If you haven’t already done so, please become a paid member and consider making an additional donation if you’re able. Please also visit the Facts and FAQ’s page of the Americans Against Gun Violence website to learn about other actions that you can take right now to help stop gun violence.

We can’t call ourselves a great nation until the day when rates of firearm related deaths and injuries in our country are at or below the rates in other high income democratic countries. In order to achieve that goal, we must reverse the fraudulent misrepresentation of the Second Amendment in the Heller decision and adopt stringent gun control laws comparable to the laws that have long been in place in every other high income democratic country of the world. I look forward to working with you to make that day come sooner rather than later.

Bill Durston, MD
President, Americans Against Gun Violence

Reaching Out to Muslims

The American River Democrats welcomed Yannini Casillas, a representative from CAIR—the Council on American-Islamic Relations—to their March meeting. Ms. Casillas spoke about pre-conceptions, misconceptions, and the nature of Muslims in the U.S. and around the world, and Senate Bill 31, the California Religious Freedom Act.

Yannini Casillas speaks to the American River Democrats

Casillas opened her talk with “Islam 101.” She said that the Islamic faith is very diverse, and that the largest percentage of Muslims are Asian, with Indonesians being the greatest number. She said the media does a poor job covering the Islamic faith, and that there is a big difference between certain cultures and the Islamic religion. ISIS does not represent Muslims any more that the Ku Klux Klan represents Christians.

Muslims are largely peaceful and diverse, and will adapt to the culture they belong to. The tenants of their faith are prayer, fasting, charity, and pilgrimage. They believe you cannot force anyone to do anything; it is the “hand, tongue, and heart” that will guide people to social justice on earth. Women have rights as well, and repression seen in places like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan reflect their culture, not the religion. When asked about LGBT rights, she said that everything is between the individual and God; that Muslims are to respect the human, and it is not okay to hurt anyone.

Casillas said that CAIR is working hard fighting the Trump administration’s Muslim ban. She pointed out that even people like Muhammad Ali Jr., the American-born son of the world famous boxer, was detained and questioned by officials. CAIR is training people on their rights, and working with law enforcement officials to fight harassment and vandalism against Muslims.

Particularly concerning are actions by the FBI. There are over 100 cases in California alone of agents coming to investigate Muslim people at their homes and workplaces. They are fishing for terrorist leads, and intimidating people to provide information, threatening to report uncooperative people to ICE agents.

California Senate Bill 31, authored by Ricardo Lara, prohibits state or local agencies from providing or disclosing to federal authorities information regarding a person’s religious affiliation for use in a national database. Though such a database would apply to all religions, the target is clearly Muslims. (Though, of course, any group, including Jews, Hindus, or atheists, could be next.) The bill requires a two-thirds majority vote, but fortunately enjoys some bipartisan support, with a Republican listed as a co-author. It passed two committees unanimously and, as of this writing, awaits a Senate floor vote, before moving to the Assembly. (It requires a two-thirds majority vote because it is an “Urgency Bill” which will take effect immediately on passing.) Casillas encouraged everyone to contact their state representatives to support this bill.

How else can you help? Get to know your Muslim neighbors! Visit an Islamic center, like The Islamic Society of Folsom, and meet the people there. (I have a friend who is a Christian pastor and visits the center on a regular basis, and finds it quite rewarding.) And watch out for hate incidents against Muslims, or any people of a different culture. Women are more often victims of these crimes because they are usually more visible due to their dress. Report these incidents and intervene if possible. If you see a stranger, especially someone who may be from another culture or religion, smile and say hello!

Ken Kiunke, Communications Secretary

Report from Ami Bera Town Hall

Recently Louise Lopez attended Ami Bera’s Community Engagement Forum, and shared this report on the Moms (and Friends) on the Left Facebook page.

Congressman Bera addresses the crowd at his community forum. (Twitter – @RepBera)

March 11, 2017

Following topics were covered as responses to questions that were asked of Ami Bera.

1) Investigation of Russian Interference in the Election

Bera’s response: We need to protect the integrity of our democracy with an independent investigation. The congressman supports the Protect Our Democracy Bill which calls for such an independent investigation of Russian interference.

2) Travel Ban

Bera’s response: Co-sponsored the bill opposing the first Muslim Ban and is co-sponsoring the bill which opposes the Muslim Ban 2.0. This ban provides the wrong message to the world. It is dangerous and is also causing an increase in hate crimes at home.

3) President’s conflicts of interest

Bera’s response: A resounding ‘yes’ to an investigation. We need to ask for his tax returns.

4) Format for Town Halls (a Town Hall where he is the only speaker)

Bera’s response: Has held regular Town Halls from his first term. He started out as the sole speaker, but found that questions were often posed that would be better directed to others—State Assembly Persons or local city council members, for example. So he began inviting others respond to specific questions along with him. He has no problem with holding some meetings with no one else present on stage.

5) Is Donald Trump mentally ill?

Bera’s response: We should keep in mind that Donald Trump legally won this election via the Electoral College. He does not want the presidency or the government to fail. Bera is, however, concerned about Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric, both before and after the campaign. Trump should listen carefully to his own words. The president also needs to step up: Post-9/11, President Bush visited a mosque. Trump is doing nothing along those lines to speak out against hate crimes. Also, “Someone needs to take his Twitter account away.” We are not the only ones reading his tweets, they become front page news in foreign countries as well and are cause for concern among our allies. Also, with regard to foreign countries, Bera is concerned about the diminished role that foreign diplomatic policy is being given by this administration while the military is being built up at diplomacy’s expense. When pressed on the question as to Trump’s mental health, Bera did say he felt Trump was a narcissist.

6) Rising Cost of Health Care

Bera’s response: Bera has publically rejected the current Republican bill, the AHCA. There are two things a federal health care plan should address: access and cost. The original ACA addressed access, but did not change the cost structure. The thought was to address this as well after initial passage, but the Republican majority’s complete opposition made this impossible previously. We don’t want to take away access, but we do need to find a way to make health care more affordable. We also need to address the cost of prescription drugs. The president should be bringing us together to work on these issues. Presently, we need to continue to protect the 20 million people who have gained healthcare under Obamacare as well as looking at cost. We have a good example of a successful plan in Medicare—this is a system that works well for older people and we should be talking about how to get younger people to be able to buy into this type of health care. Bera returned to the topic of health care later in the meeting with the following comments: He stands firmly with Planned Parenthood. It is disappointing to have an exchange with only 1 option. This creates a monopoly, not competition. To be viable, younger folks need to participate. Allowing people under 26 to remain on their parent’s policy is an example of this. We need to expand the possibilities by expanding different options.

7) Gun Violence and the Gun Lobby

Bera’s response: The majority of Democrats and Republicans– -at least those not in Congress—can find common ground with regards to gun laws. This is not about repealing the Second Amendment, it’s about keeping our communities safe. People with a history of violent criminal activity including domestic violence, as well as mental illness should not be able to easily acquire weapons. To that end, Bera supports background checks and a waiting period before a gun can be obtained. We should all be contacting members of congress regarding this issue.

8) HR 1215, which would limit the right to sue in Elder Abuse cases and negate California laws already on the books.

Bera’s response: Bera was not familiar with this bill and will look into it.

9) Stance on Refugees and Sanctuary Cities (this question seemed to reference votes which were not in support of these issues during previous terms).

Bera’s response: He is not against refugees. These are people in need of our help. With regards to illegal immigrants: police officers, nurses, and teachers should not be working as immigration officers. Children shouldn’t be living in fear that their parents may not be there when they get home. He did vote against a specific Sanctuary City bill because he does feel that illegal aliens who are criminals should be held by local agencies for deportation.

10) How can we achieve our objectives when Republicans control the majority of the Senate, Congress and the Presidency?

Bera’s response: As a result of the recent election, people are coming out from all over the country and speaking out. We need to continue making our voices heard. There will be elections this year as well as in 2018 and 2020. If we don’t show up and vote, we lose our voice.

10) Climate Change

Bera’s response: Climate change is real. As a member of the Science and Technology Commission, he will fight to protect the EPA. He noted that the EPA had being scrambling to save data out of concern that it could disappear. He lauds the return of investigative journalism as also having a positive effect in this area. He will fight to protect California’s climate laws.

11) What can be done to better represent the middle class?

Bera’s response: We cannot just be a party of opposition, we need to be a party that stands for something. To that end, we need to maintain a strong public education system. We need to provide an affordable college education, this is a forming of paying it forward. We need to create jobs which pay decent wages. We need to figure out how to rebuild trade and manufacturing jobs. An example would be coding technology. We’re not teaching our kids how to code but other countries are. We should also focus on America’s infrastructure, but we also need to teach kids these skill sets. It would be a good idea to bring instruction of vocational skills back to high schools.

Note: *At this point he also stated he was against school vouchers. This would only take away from public schools which all children already have access to.

12) Deregulation of Wall Street

Bera’s response: Will vote against the repeal of Dodd Frank. He will also fight against assaults on the media and gives them kudos for the job they are doing.

12) Why don’t you partner with local progressive groups?

Bera’s response: Because he is responsible for representing all 720,000 members of his district, it would be inappropriate to do so. He is willing to come as a private person to speak to various groups, according to his availability.

13) Hate crimes/hate speech

Bera’s response: We will do what we can to fight back. When this occurs in schools, schools need to figure out a way to deal with it. Incidents need to be reported and CARE as well as other groups can help with diversity training and instruction on how to push back against bullying.

At the end of the allotted time, Bera made these additional statements, not in response to specific questions:

Democrats and Republicans must come together. Different states may have different challenges, but we still must come together. With consideration to executive orders, if Republicans hated them when Obama made them, they should hate Trump making them as well. The founders designed the legislative branch to be the strongest—this is where our laws should be coming from. The job is to negotiate, debate and find a middle ground so that we can move forward. Otherwise, we will be stuck in a cyclical back-and-forth and stay the same.

Our thanks to Louise for this great report, and all who showed up to let Congressman Bera how we feel and how much we care!

(Note: Louise Lopez is not a currently a member or affiliated with the American River Democrats.)

Indivisible Sacramento Rep Visits ARDems

Scarlette Bustos addresses a packed crowd at the American River Democrats meeting

It was a packed house at the American River Democrats’ February Meeting, as many current and brand new members filled every seat and then some, while the club welcomed guest speaker Scarlette Bustos, representing Indivisible Sacramento, part of a nationwide movement to resist the Trump and Republican agenda.

Ms. Bustos introduced herself the the Sacramento-born daughter of Nicaraguan refugees who grew up inspired by people stepping up to contribute to their community. She got involved in campaigns and issues herself. She opened with a sobering thought—the Republican establishment will happily give up Donald Trump, and impeach him if (or when) he gets too far out of control, leaving everyone else in the Congress and his appointees (like VP Mike Pence) behind, running the government. Should that happen, the people who are so energized today may not care so much any more—but we cannot allow that to happen! His agenda—or worse—will remain a devastating legacy that will still need to be fought against.

The room was packed at the February American River Democrats meeting!

Bustos introduced the Indivisible Guide, a Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda. She said the best way to affect your leaders is to call their office, as an individual citizen or as part of a group—like the American River Democrats, or whatever clubs or groups you may belong to. Make you call concise and short, talk to a single issue and thank the staff member who deals with you. Calling is usually the most effective method, as it is hard to ignore, but mailing postcards is also a good way. Emails to the office are easier to ignore, so not as effective. If you have the time, showing up at the office is by far the best way to make your point—it shows a strong commitment to being heard!

Besides the Indivisible Guide, Bustos recommended signing up for Jennifer Hoffman’s Weekly Action Checklist for Democrats, Independents, and Republicans of Conscience to get a weekly email of action items. She also recommended breakupwithyourmegabank.org, by Green America, dedicated to encouraging banks to invest in a just and sustainable society, and pulling your money out if they don’t! (More information on contacting your representatives, and other progressive groups may be found on our Information & Links page on this website.)

Besides reading the Indivisble Guide you can sign up to join their Facebook group—search Indivisible – Sacramento, or email IndivisibleSacramentoCA@gmail.com to subscribe to their newsletter. You can also follow Sacramento Indivisible Regional Action Network on Facebook. Bustos noted that these organizations are not chartered Democratic Party clubs, as they also wish to involve independents, Green Party members, and even Republicans who see the need to stop the “Trump Movement.”

Groups like Indivisible, and the many others now becoming active, are taking a cue from the “Tea Party” movement that rose to prominence early during the Obama administration. They were very effective in stopping a lot of the progress he tried to make, and turned-over both the House and Senate within two years of Obama’s election. The stakes are even higher for us now, as the progress we did make is being torn down daily by this administration. Can we hope to do as much as the Tea Party did – or even more? It will take a lot of grassroots efforts. That old saying is still true—Think Global, Act Local—and call your representatives today. If it gets to to the point where they know you when you call, Scarlette said, you know you’re being heard!

Democrats Moving Forward in 2017

In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, our club president, Barbara Leary, presented an informational session about how our club and others like us fit into the overall structure of the party, and how we can make an impact on elections and issues.

This is basically how the Democratic Party is organized, from grass roots to the presidential elections, and how we may get involved!

The Clubs – organize fundraising, notify members to help phone bank, canvas neighborhoods, educate members about candidates and issues, host elected official speakers for Q&A, host advocacy representatives for ballot measures.  Working with other clubs to share ideas, voter registration, booths at fairs is an important component of success in a “red” district. Terry Schanz, the Chair of the Sacramento Democratic Party, stated the the local clubs are “the roots of the party” that make the party strong.

Democratic Party of Sacramento County (DPSC) – chartered clubs each have one group representative and one alternate; the club pays dues.  Individuals may also run for a 4 year term seat, individual pays dues.  Monthly meeting at which endorsements are considered, resolutions and platforms are reviewed and endorsed.  Selects representatives to CADEM convention.

CADEM – the California Democratic Party. Delegates selected to each Assembly District every 2 years through elections held in each District (7 Men, 7 women). The County parties have a set number of delegates as well, assigned by each chartered County party. Annual meetings take place, resolutions and party platform changes are considered in alternate years by the E-Board.  Candidate endorsements take place every 2 years. E-Board meetings take place twice a year. Meetings alternate between sites in Northern and Southern California. Caucuses—Progressive, Environmental, Senior, Latino, Veteran’s, etc. CADEM.org

Democratic National Committee – delegates chosen to attend the convention every 4 years.  There are 3 ways of being selected and the application process is outlined and applications are available on the CADEM website.

Why do we need to organize? What and who do we need to organize? Volunteers of all ages, willingness to research, time taken out of the day to day routine

OUR COMMON PRINCIPLES:

Here are few:

  • Universal Health Care
  • Freedom of Religion for All
  • Social & Economic Justice
  • Ending Citizens United—taking money out of politics
  • Comprehensive Public Education
  • Climate change action
  • Universal Health Care
  • Social & Economic Justice
  • Public (not private charter school) education
  • Gender Equality
  • Reducing Gun Violence
  • Immigration Reform
  • Prison Reform
  • Resisting the Trump Agenda

There are barriers to progress, including hate speech and divisive language within the party. This doesn’t mean we don’t strive to make change, but name calling, yelling, and blaming with less than all the facts at hand will not help unite us.

What our club needs to keep growing and be strong:

  • More active board members, transition to new participants to survive as a thriving club.
  • A Membership Chairperson/Outreach
  • Voter registration coordinator – Folsom Lake College, New Citizens Events, and other opportunities.
  • Members who will research and become active in issues, and report on progress or other information to include on the website, Facebook page, and to present at a meeting.
  • Precinct captains
  • Hosts for phone banks
  • Educational outreach coordinator/liaison to like-minded groups
  • Activity coordinator – marches, inter-club tabling

Other ways to help:

501 C-4 Political donations to clubs and the Democratic Party are used to support the election of candidates/issues—End Citizens United, DPSC, CADEM, candidates. 501 C-3 organizations file Lawsuits, defend of protesters, support for programs facing massive cuts, etc. Sample list of Organizations to join/donate to – the ACLU, Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Center, Planned Parenthood, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, Southern Poverty Law Center, the Brady Foundation, Americans Against Gun Violence, etc.

Despite everything, we are lucky to live in California. We just elected two-thirds majorities in both houses of the legislature, we have a Democratic governor, and our officials have made it clear they are behind the fight against Trump and his efforts to undo climate change laws, take away affordable health care, deport millions, and the rest. If any good can come from this, California may once again try to institute a single payer health care system, if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. They passed a system in 2008, only to be vetoed by then Gov. Schwarzenegger. We may have another chance to show the country a system that works!

But we must hold our leaders accountable, pay attention to their votes and action, and contact them regularly. Most of us in this area are represented in the state houses by two Republicans—Kevin Kiley and Ted Gaines. They will need to hear from us on those important issues! Some of us are represented by Ken Cooley, a Democrat who doesn’t always vote the way we like (he didn’t support overtime pay for farmworkers, for example.) He needs to hear from you as well. And our Congressman, Ami Bera, who many of us worked hard to elect, to his credit tries to cross party lines to get things done. But that sometimes means he will also sometimes vote for issues you may not approve of. Let him know as well!

Help for Childhood Immigrants

dacaDeferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is an immigration option for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before the age of 16. Although DACA does not provide a pathway to lawful permanent residence, it does provide temporary protection from deportation, work authorization, and the ability to apply for a social security number. But President-Elect Trump has promised to end DACA when he takes office. Whether he keeps that promise or not, Trump will not be President until he is inaugurated on January 20, 2017. Until that time, DACA will remain in place and USCIS, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, will continue to process both initial and renewal DACA requests.

It should also be noted that if Jeff Sessions is nominated and confirmed as Attorney General, he will likely push ending DACA and any immigration reform.

But our Congressman Ami Bera, (whose re-election was just recently confirmed), offers support for those in need.

One of the staff at Dr. Bera’s office contacted us with more information. They are advising people with DACA status to contact an immigration attorney through the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).  They noted that each case is approached individually, depending on each person’s needs, and that this group is the most trustworthy resource for up to date information. There is a link under their quick links to find a lawyer in each area and there are a number of attorneys in Sacramento.

The staff suggested contacting several and asking enough questions to sort out who would be the best fit for you.  Right now the US Congress and State Legislators are also trying to sort out how to work various issues out.

Lawyers can be expensive, and larger firms are usually more costly than smaller or individual firms, so be sure to ask what the costs are for a consultation, for hours of work, etc.

Also, if you’d like to talk to someone in Congressman Bera’s office you can call 916 635-0505 and ask for Jeanine.

17 Propositions in the Fall Election

At the American River Democrats meeting in August, Ken presented a discussion of the seventeen choices California voters will be facing in the November Election.

Here is a handy guide to what they each mean, and recommendations on each.

2016 props

Of course, the get the full details of any of them, review your Voter’s Information Guide when it arrives in the mail, or visit the California Secretary of State’s website.

Senator Richard Pan speaks at September meeting

For many of us in the American River Democrats, 2010 was a special time. After 5th District Assemblyman Roger Niello left office due to term limits, Dr. Richard Pan won his first state elective office, and for 2 years, represented many of the club’s members – our first Democrat in years!

Then the boundaries were changed in re-districting, and we lost him to the 6th District, and he went on to win a seat in the state senate. And even though few – if any – of our club members are in his current senate district, he was still happy to reach out to the club, and spoke at our September meeting.

Of course, if you follow California politics, you are aware that Dr. Pan was one of the leading voices and proponents of Senate Bill 277, which insured much higher vaccination rates for children in public schools, eliminating the “personal belief” exemption some parents had been using to not vaccinate their children.

Senator/Doctor Pan pointed out, as he spoke to the club, that this measure was aimed at protecting the community rather than the individual children who may now get their vaccinations. A certain population of children for medical reasons cannot get vaccinated, or need to delay the process, and they are at greater risk of getting some of the debilitating diseases from a larger population of other non-vaccinated kids. The greater the number, the more chance that a single exposed child will spread the disease to the others, as was seen at Disneyland earlier this year when 147 people contracted measles.

The most notable vaccination opponents have the belief that vaccines cause autism, because their children have shown the first signs of autism soon after a vaccination. They even cite a study from England that supposedly proved a connection. But as Dr. Pan, and many others have pointed out, that study has been completely de-bunked, and there is no credible evidence to support any connection.

Pan reminded us that ten California babies died in 2010 from pertussis, or whooping cough, as a result of their exposure to the disease that many thought had been totally wiped out. But over 9,000 people contracted it then, and infants too young to be vaccinated were victims of exposure to people who were old enough, but did not.

But now that SB277 is law, the opponents march on! One effort, led by former Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, sought to place a referendum on the ballot to overturn SB277. They needed over 365,000 signatures to qualify, but fell over 100,000 short, so it will not be on the ballot this time. It can happen again, and the danger, Pan pointed out, is that voters in favor of vaccinations would need to vote “No” on the ballot, so even if most Californians want kids vaccinated, they would still need to be educated on how to vote, so time and money would have to be spent just to keep the status quo.

The other effort opponents are making seems more like a revenge move against the most vocal and notable proponent of the measure, Senator Pan. There is an active recall effort to remove him from office. Of course, there was no mystery about where he stood on the issue when the voters chose him, but a recall is always dangerous for an incumbent. An expensive special election may only draw the most “passionate” voters, and many supporters of Pan may not bother to vote, while the anti-vaxxers would certainly come out in droves.

One way to show your support for Senator Pan is to go to KeepDrPan.com and show your support, even if you are not in his Senate district.

Richard Pan answers questions from the American River Democrats.

Richard Pan answers questions from the American River Democrats.

While at the American River Democrats’ meeting Senator Pan also answered questions from the club. He was asked why he was not supporting the bill to ban microbeads in California, which was recently signed into law by Governor Brown. (Microbeads are the tiny plastic grains in some exfoliating hygiene products that find their way into the environment, fish and wildlife.) Pan said that while he did support eliminating them, he hoped a better bill could be developed that more correctly targeted non-biodegradable varieties, and allowed improved alternatives to be brought to market.

He also talked about legislation he has proposed to increase the tax on tobacco, both in order to raise the price and decrease demand, especially from young people, and to fund medical care and disease prevention. He pointed out that $18 billion is spend each year in the state on tobacco related illness. The tax would go part of the way towards making up that cost. When you ask smoking parents if they want their kids to smoke, almost all of them say no. They know how hard it is to quit – they all have their own addiction stories.

While Pan is proud of how much he and the Democrats in the state legislature have accomplished, he is also very aware that passing bills is fine, but it is equally important to follow up to make sure they are implemented. Some programs, especially related to health care, are great on paper, but come up against roadblocks when it comes time to help the people who need it most. That is where active monitoring by the bill’s sponsors is so important. “Passing a law only works if it helps people on the ground” Pan said.

 

There is hope for Veterans in need

If you heard that over in Iraq and Afghanistan 22 servicemen and women were dying in combat every day, you would probably demand answers from the President and our military leaders, and insist on bringing home our troops.

The sad fact is that they are dying – not from enemy fire and roadside bombs, but by their own hands. Yes, on average twenty-two American Veterans commit suicide each day.

And just as troubling, many of our vets have come home from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other assignments and now have to deal with physical wounds and disabilities, psychological impacts such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or even just finding a job! But the good news is that there is help. The challenge is getting vets connected to the resources available.

Matthew Ceccato speaks at the American River Democrats May meeting

Matthew Ceccato speaks at the American River Democrats May meeting

The American River Democrats at the May 20, 2015 meeting welcomed Matthew Ceccato, a field representative and case worker from Congressman Ami Bera’s office, specializing in veterans’ affairs.

Mr. Ceccato is a veteran himself, having served with the 82nd Airborne Division of the US Army. Like many young men and women, he joined the military after 9/11, and while preparing to deploy to Afghanistan, he and his unit were instead sent to Iraq. He served two tours of duty, and would likely have done more if he had not been wounded in the second tour. He was shot in both legs, and while recovering at Walter Reed Hospital, he began to deal with adjustments both physical and mental. Like many servicemen and women, his greatest feelings were that he did not want to leave his team behind.

Ceccato joined the Wounded Warriors Fellowship program, and earned the position of Field Representative and Case Worker with Congressman Bera’s office. With over 100,000 veterans located in the Sacramento area (second only to San Diego in California), the need for veteran outreach is especially high in congressional Districts 6 and 7. Ceccato has taken on the responsibility to reach out to, not only Irag and Afghanistan vets, but to Vietnam vets, and even the aging Korean War and World War II vets who still need support. Peacetime vets, and those who may have served during smaller scale combat missions are also eligible for, and often in need of support.

Dr. Bera welcomes Matt to his team (courtesy bera.house.gov)

Dr. Bera welcomes Matt to his team (courtesy bera.house.gov)

Ami Bera has made veterans’ issues a priority as well, sponsoring legislation such as the Veterans Choice Accountability Act, which allows vets to get healthcare outside the VA Hospitals when the wait is too long or location is too far, and the Health Care For Heros act, which will reconcile health records from active duty military to the VA systems, so doctors in the VA will have full knowledge of the medical history of their patients. Ceccato said it was particularly gratifying that Bera worked with New York Congressman Chris Gibson, who is also a veteran of the 82nd Airborne, on the legislation. Bera and Gibson, a Republican, are part of a group who have pledged to work “across the aisle” to get important work done.

But the sad thing is, many veterans don’t know where to turn, and when they do seek help, they may have trouble navigating the system to get the assistance they need. And, frankly, some are simply too proud to reach out for help. After their heroic service, they may feel they shouldn’t need help from anyone, they can handle anything. But these issues can leave vets homeless, unemployed, alone, sick or disabled, suffering from depression or other mental illness, and far too often suicidal. Another growing problem is women vets with children who find themselves homeless, and even hopeless.

But that is where people like Matthew Ceccato come in. As a Veterans Services Representive for a local Congressperson, their mission is to help insure all veterans get all the support that is available, and that they deserve! Agents like Matt can help vets find all the support they need, in areas like medical care, housing, job training and recruitment, and financial security. The government can be infamous for rejecting an application because of one small mistake on a form, but people like Matt can help vets fill out and submit forms to insure they will be accepted.

There are several local options for vets to get help, including the US Veterans Service Center at 1111 Howe Avenue, #390, 566-7430 or 877-927-8387; California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet.ca.gov) 1227 O Street, 800-952-5626; the County Veterans Services office at 2007 19th Street, 874-6811, and others. But those needing extra help may contact Matt at representative Bera’s office at 635-0505, or email him at matthew.ceccato@mail.house.gov. Personal help and a special resource packet are available for those in need, or their families.

The Mather Veterans Village is also under way to provide veterans with critically needed housing options and supportive services located adjacent to the Sacramento Veterans Administration Medical Center in Rancho Cordova.

An HBO documentary film, which won an Oscar for best documentary short film, titled Crisis Hotline, Veterans Press 1, shows the heroic efforts of those on the receiving end of thousands of suicidal calls each month. It is time to insure America’s veterans get the help they need before they make that call, or even worse, don’t make that call and become another tragic loss. Veterans, rather than becoming victims of their service, can be a hugely valuable resource for America to tap into. As Matt said, “It is time for veterans to propel this country into greatness.”

For more information see Representative Ami Bera’s website with information on getting help for Veterans.

Ken Kiunke, Communications Secretary, ARDems

Fracking in California? Why not?

When I was a kid, I did some fracking of my own. In my Orange County back yard, I would take the garden hose, and at full pressure, I could start a hole in the ground, and as bits of dirt would come out, the hose would continue to go in. Dirty water would come out as I dug, and the hose just kept going down! I must have burrowed a 20 foot deep hole in my backyard, but only about 2 inches wide. And to my amazement, when I pulled out the hose, the remaining water would just sink quickly away. If I added more, it would just sink – you could see it go down!

Of course, the water was just returning to the ground water table, perhaps to be sucked up again by a well, as most of our water there (I later learned) came from ground sources. So I guess I wasn’t really wasting – and who cared? This was the 60’s after all, and there was plenty to go around.

Move forward many years, and the brilliant engineers for the oil and gas companies have taken my clever idea and expanded it many times over. But their wells are dug thousands of feet deep, and also move laterally. And the water – which is also fresh water, but mixed with sand and chemicals to make it more effective – is injected at 10,000 pounds per square inch of pressure to break up the rock, and release un-tapped oil and natural gas.

Damien Luzzo

Damien Luzzo

The American River Democrats were proud to welcome special guest speaker Damien Luzzo to our March meeting. Damien is probably the most active and prolific organizer of the anti-fracking movement for the Environmental Caucus of the California Democratic Party.

He studied physics and philosophy at UC Santa Barbara, and is now an Assembly District 4 delegate for the CA Democratic Party. Since 2012, he has been the President of SaveWithSunlight; a non-profit organization working to streamline rooftop solar installations. He is a member of the Progressive Democrats of America’s Climate Action Team, and much more.

Damien shared that two of the crucial impacts on California’s water from the practice of fracking, or “hydrolic fracturing”, are waste and contamination. It takes about five million gallons of fresh water to drill and frack a single well – some use over ten million. So while we ordinary citizens do our best by lettting our lawns go brown, skipping a few flushes, and maybe even jumping in a cold shower, all our efforts are literally a drop in the bucket compared to the water wasted in fracking.

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But wait, doesn’t the water pumped in get back to us? Yes and no, and that’s the other part of the problem. The water going into the wells is already contaminated by the chemicals added in to make it more effective, and is blasted into the deep rock, releasing heavy metals and more deep earth chemicals. So the water that does come up is contaminated, and not suited to drinking or irrigation. It is then usually “treated” in evaporation pools, meaning it sits there to evaporate away, leaving toxic sludge behind. It may also be sent to treatment plants, but that still leaves the waste material, and all too often the waste water leaks into the environment through runoff into streams, lakes, or into the ground water.

But not all of the water comes out. Much of the contaminated liquid remains in the earth, and affects the aquifers and ground water tables, which feeds the wells that farms and municipal users need to access when river or reservoir water is not available. Arsenic, strontium, selenium, and barium are some of the harmful chemicals that have shown up in groundwater after fracking has been done nearby.

Did you know that fracking is even done in the ocean? Well, no harm – there’s plenty of water to use out there, right? No! I asked Damien about that, and he shared the amazing fact that to frack an ocean well, fresh water is pumped from land sources into the ocean! Apparently salt water is not effective in fracking, so we in effect “resalinate” our fresh water, and bring all the contamination straight to the ocean environment.

But hey, at least fracking helps us access natural gas, which is cleaner than burning coal, right? No, not really. First of all, most California fracking, which currently goes in in Kern County (Bakersfield area), is done for oil, not gas. And it is the heavier shale oil, like Canada’s notorious Keystone Pipeline stuff – not the light sweet crude. (And unlike oil haven Texas, we don’t even have an oil severance tax!) But methane gas still emerges from these wells, and the efforts to contain it are notoriously error prone. Methane, being 80 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas, makes a 3% well leakage turn natural gas power worse than coal burning, as far as climate impact. And the wells tend to leak more like 17% than 3%.

And what about earthquakes? We’re Californians right, we’re used to a little seismic activity now and then. Maybe so, but do we want to make it worse? Areas along the heavy faultlines, like San Francisco and LA try to prepare for quakes, but they are never welcome. And fracking has been shown to dramatically increase earthquakes in areas that were never prone to them before. Oklahoma, Damien pointed out, now has three times the frequency of quakes than California. And Kansas, West Virginia, and good old Texas are getting quakes where they never had them before, thanks to the major geologic disruption fracking is causing. Does California want to reclaim the crown of earthquake activity?

A recent anti-fracking rally at the state capital

A recent anti-fracking rally at the state capital

The problems with fracking are myriad, and too much to list in detail here, but FoodandWaterWatch.org has a wealth of information to share. Luckily, in California we have a Democratic controlled legislature and Governor Jerry Brown, who recognizes the environmental dangers and is actively leading the state in anti-global warming measures. Not so fast – the Governor has shown unbelievable support for fracking, and the legislature has done nothing to stop it either. True, we have more transparency in the process thanks to them, but that’s not enough. Even the best politicians often rely on money from big donors, like oil companies, which often silences their opposition.

But some of California’s counties have taken their own steps. San Benito and Mendocino have banned fracking, and others, like Monterey and Los Angeles are considering it. People concerned about fracking should urge their local, state and federal representatives to put an end to the process, and push even more for alternative energy resources. Writing letters, making calls, and sending emails can be very effective, and lets your representatives know you care. Especially Governor Brown, who should be on the right side of the debate!

Ken Kiunke, Communications Secretary American River Democrats 3/29/15

Please click on comments below to see more information from Damien Luzzo: