In a BBC News article relating the launch of Sen. Kamala Harris’ presidential bid to a resurgence of Democratic power in California, Public Policy lecturer Jim Newton weighed in on the so-called Golden Age for California Democrats. Harris, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Gov. Gavin Newsom represent a consolidation of the Democrats’ progressive wing. Newton explained, “You don’t have to look back very far for [California] to be fairly reliably Republican. This notion of it being an absolutely rock-solid Democratic bastion is a relatively new phenomenon.” After decades of economic failure, California is reaping the benefits of rapid economic expansion. Experts do predict a downturn, but Newton still sees opportunity for Democrats. “There’s going to be a downturn, and how Newsom handles that really will help send the message of whether this state is something different or just better than most at riding an upward business cycle,” he said.
Public policy lecturer Jim Newton recently published an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times denouncing police unions’ “blanket attempts to shield [police] records.” Police shootings across the country have prompted demands for more transparency in law enforcement. A new law in California, SB 1421, requires that “records of police shootings and other uses of force be made public,” including “cases in which officers were investigated for dishonesty or sexual assault.” According to Newton, police unions are resisting the law by arguing that it “only applies to new records created after the law took effect.” Newton compares SB 1421 to other sunshine laws like the Freedom of Information Act, where access to “old documents … shed substantial new light on American history.” Newton acknowledges the special circumstances that may require withholding certain records from the public, but stresses the importance of transparency as a “crucial tool for keeping police accountable.”
Jim Newton, UCLA Luskin lecturer of public policy, contributed a CALmatters “My Turn” commentary on proposed California legislation that would undo overly broad protection of police personnel records currently exempted under the California Public Records Act. “Senate Bill 1421 would undo a misguided effort in the 1970s to over-protect police from public scrutiny and yet preserve protections for officers who have done their jobs well,” wrote Newton, who also serves as editor-in-chief of the UCLA magazine Blueprint.
Jim Newton, UCLA Luskin lecturer of public policy, commented in the Sacramento Bee’s California Influencer series. “The biggest environmental challenge facing California — and the world — is climate change,” said Newton, who was among experts in public policy, politics and government asked to address the question. “The particular aspect of this challenge for California is defending a solid consensus here against a reckless, anti-intellectual attack from Washington,” added Newton, who also founded and serves as editor-in-chief of the UCLA magazine Blueprint.
Lecturer Jim Newton of UCLA Luskin Public Policy was interviewed on KPCC’s “Take Two” about police transparency, particularly police body camera footage released after a recent incident. Newton, who covered the LAPD during his 25-year career at the Los Angeles Times, said, “The new wrinkle here is audio and video obviously, but the tension between the department wanting to contain information and the public, principally the press, trying to seek that information certainly goes back at least to the early ’90s when I was covering the police department full time. … Now we’re coming up in this new technical iteration of it, which is the question of what to do with all this body camera footage that police are collecting and what to do with civilian footage and audio that people just have on their cellphones.”
By George Foulsham
To impeach or not to impeach? That was one of the questions put to former FBI Director James Comey by UCLA Luskin Public Policy lecturer Jim Newton during Comey’s sold-out appearance at the Aratani Theatre in downtown Los Angeles on May 24, 2018.
Comey’s answer? Impeaching President Donald Trump is not a solution to the current political divide in the United States; instead, it would likely exacerbate the split.
“In a way, [impeachment] would let all of us off the hook,” Comey said. “And not just off the hook, but drive a dysfunction and a divide deep into the fabric of America, leaving 40 percent — it’s probably less than that — 30 percent of voters believing there’d been a coup.” Comey said America needs a reset, “and that’s only going to come, I believe, if the American people, not just those who voted for Hillary Clinton, but so many others who didn’t vote, get off the couch … and vote your values in this country.”
Comey, a former Republican who now says he is unaffiliated politically, continued, “Vote for people who reflect a commitment to the rule of law, equal protection of the laws, and the truth. That will be a moment of clarity and inflection in this country that will not allow the angry wing to say, ‘It was stolen from us!’ No, it wasn’t. The American people stood up and said, ‘No more!’”
Comey’s appearance was part of the Los Angeles Library’s ALOUD series, and marked his first visit to Los Angeles since he was fired by Trump while speaking with FBI agents here a year ago. Since being removed from office, Comey has made appearances all over the country promoting his book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” currently the No. 3 best-seller on the New York Times nonfiction list.
Newton, who is also editor of UCLA’s Blueprint magazine, asked Comey to explain the meaning of the book’s title. Values, a recurring theme in his remarks, came up again.
“It’s to try to convey the sense that the best leaders I ever worked for, and learned from a lot, were people who were always able to look above the angry and the political and the financial to the things that are above that,” Comey said. “When they’re making the hard decisions, they always ask, ‘What are the values of this institution? What’s the constitution? What’s the law? What’s the long run?’ And they’re able to, by focusing on those things, by being above the loyalty to a person or a tribe, make better decisions.”
Comey expressed concern that political battles over guns, immigration or taxes are causing citizens to lose sight of the core values that Americans share. “It should be the only thing we are truly loyal to. Which is the rule of law, freedom of religion, freedom of expression. The truth is the only loyalty that matters,” he said.
Comey’s controversial role in the 2016 presidential election was one of the subjects covered by Newton, who questioned whether it was appropriate for the FBI director — and not the attorney general — to announce in July of an election year that no charges would be filed against Clinton following the agency’s criminal investigation into her emails. At a pre-election press conference to announce that decision, Comey said that the FBI had found that Clinton and her staff had been “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”
Comey told Newton, “I’m not certain that I arrived at the right answer. I think I did, but I can see reasonable people seeing it differently. … I thought the least bad alternative was to make an announcement … and that would be the thing best-calculated to reduce the damage to the institutions of justice, and increase faith and confidence that the result was done in a decent and independent way.
“I know a lot of people characterize this as me criticizing Hillary Clinton,” he added. “That’s not how I thought about it. I felt I was giving the American people an honest description of what we found. … But I should have said really sloppy (instead of extremely careless).”
Among the many other issues that were discussed, Comey:
- characterized the FBI as being designed “to embody the blindfold that Lady Justice wears. There’s no peeking out to see whether the president is angry or happy with what you’re doing.”
- brushed aside charges that the FBI and Justice Department are part of a “Deep State.” “There is no Deep State. There’s a deep culture — in the military services, in the intelligence community, in the law enforcement community — that runs all the way to the bedrock. It’s about the rule of law, and the truth. No president serves long enough to screw that up.”
- said that the only way to effect change is to awaken the “sleeping giant.” “We need the American people more broadly to wake up to our norms and values, because it’s going to take a change in political culture. I think that’s only going to come with significant political changes, and that’s only going to come at the hands of the sleeping giant waking up.”
- revealed that his wife and children were disappointed with the results of the presidential election. “My wife considered Secretary Clinton to be a seriously flawed candidate, but very much wanted a woman to be president of the United States. So she was very disappointed, as were my children, including my daughters, who marched the day after the Inauguration in the Women’s March.”
By Zev Hurwitz
Chelsea Manning, a transgender activist and former U.S. Department of Defense intelligence analyst who was convicted of espionage, spoke at Royce Hall on March 5, 2018. Her Luskin Lecture, “A Conversation with Chelsea Manning,” focused on topics including ethics in public service, transgender rights activism and resistance in light of advancing technologies.
Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for handing over to WikiLeaks sensitive documents that demonstrated human rights abuses related to American military action in Afghanistan and Iraq. While serving her sentence, Manning began her medical transition from male to female after having publicly announced her gender identity.
Her sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama in 2017, after she had served seven years of her sentence. Since her release, Manning has been an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights, as well as government transparency. In 2018, she announced her run for the U.S. Senate in Maryland.
Manning spoke with reporters at a press conference prior to the Luskin Lecture. Asked if she had any advice for UCLA students, Manning said: “Think on your own. Don’t read a book and think you know everything. Question yourself and debate other people.”
Manning noted the significance of speaking to a crowd largely made up of students. “I like to speak to students who are going to be in positions of making decisions, or being in media or working with technology,” she said.
Manning said that when she works with students she focuses on topics beyond technology — like civic engagement.
“Not just showing up to a ballot box and casting a vote, but being actually engaged,” she said. “Sometimes that means protesting; sometimes that means resisting, fighting institutional power and authority.”
Manning continued her student outreach the day after the lecture at a workshop sponsored by the Luskin Pride student group. She led about 60 Luskin School students in a wide-ranging dialogue about military tactics in law enforcement, communities abandoned by the left and whether universities are complicit in government surveillance.
“A system is legitimate because you give it legitimacy,” she cautioned the students.
UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura introduced Manning at the Royce Hall lecture and acknowledged the controversial nature of her appearance.
“There are some in this room who think Ms. Manning is a traitor,” Segura said. “A number of UCLA students asked me to rescind her invitation and reminded me that her actions may well have cost the lives of American servicemen and women. For the record, the Luskin School is opposed to treason.
“Others,” he added, “will argue that her actions, laying bare war crimes, acts of torture and the extent of civilian casualties, might well have saved the lives of some of those non-combatants. For the record, the Luskin School is opposed to war crimes.”
Moderator Jim Newton, UCLA Luskin Public Policy lecturer and Blueprint magazine editor, began with a conversation about Manning’s conviction. Manning said she feels her actions reflect her true self.
“I have the same values I’ve always had,” she said. “I acted on those values with the information I had.”
As an intelligence analyst deployed in Iraq, Manning took a data-based approach to the American presence in the country. Over time, she came to understand the humanity behind the data. “It was a slow realization that what I was working with is real,” she told the audience.
At one point, Newton asked Manning if she thought the government had a right to keep secrets.
“Ten years ago I would have said, ‘of course,’ ” Manning said. “But who even makes these classifications?”
Manning went on to discuss what she sees as the political nature of classified information. She spoke at length about the process for data classification and her skepticism about its role in protecting national security.
Newton asked Manning if she sees herself as a role model. Manning said no, and then described the role model she would like to have had, adding she has aspired to be that person, though it has been challenging.
“I went from being homeless to being in college to being in the military to being at war to being in prison,” she said. “I haven’t had the time to do the things people are expected to do.”
Following the lecture, Manning held a question and answer session with Ian Holloway, professor and assistant chair of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare. The fireside chat, which focused largely on Manning’s identity as a gay man and later a transgender woman in the military, was held in front of a small group of UCLA Luskin board members and friends of the School.
Holloway asked Manning about her being a whistleblower. Manning said she didn’t agree with the term.
“I’ve never used the word whistleblower to describe myself,” she said. “I’ve never really related to it because it’s hard to reconcile.”
She added that she felt her actions, regardless of their classification, were just.
“Institutions do fail, and when they do, you can’t rely on them, you have to go around them,” she said.
View a video recorded during Manning’s lecture:
View a video recorded during the fireside chat that followed Manning’s lecture:
Co-hosted with UCLA Advocacy, you are invited to attend a screening of “Just Another Version of You,” a documentary on the life and work of legendary philanthropist and television producer Norman Lear, followed by a live conversation on American government, politics, and civic engagement moderated by Blueprint editor Jim Newton. Watch the trailer here.
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NORMAL LEAR – Television producer, philanthropist, and co-founder of People for the American Way
JIM NEWTON – Editor-in-chief, UCLA Blueprint
By Jonathan Van Dyke
As the country reckons with President Donald Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, expert panelists discussing immigration at a UCLA event Sept. 12, 2017, noted that now is the time for everyone who supports immigration reform to advocate for legislation that would protect those who are undocumented.
“I feel 100 percent protected at this point,” said Marcela Zhou, a UCLA medical student who is undocumented, as part of the discussion held at the Cross Campus gathering space in downtown Los Angeles. “But we really need the support from the community to continue fighting.”
Zhou was speaking as part of “Public Discussion: L.A. Leaders on Immigration and Civic Action,” which included immigration experts from UCLA and beyond, all trying to make sense of what transpired a week ago and what needs to be done now.
Hosted by the policy magazine UCLA Blueprint, in conjunction with the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and UCLA Advocacy, the discussion featured Abel Valenzuela, professor of urban planning at UCLA Luskin and director of the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment; Dae Joong Yoon, executive director of the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium; Maria Elena Durazo, longtime Los Angeles labor leader and immigration activist; and Zhou. Blueprint editor-in-chief Jim Newton, who is also a lecturer in public policy at UCLA Luskin, moderated.
On Sept. 5, 2017, the Trump administration announced its decision to rescind DACA in six months, a move that would affect nearly 800,000 young adults across the country. These people, who are often called Dreamers, were typically brought to the United States as children, and have worked to gain access to higher education and a job, while maintaining a clean legal record (no felonies or major misdemeanors).
Valenzuela, who is also a professor of Chicana and Chicano studies, and has authored numerous work on day labor and immigrant labor markets, lamented that it “took years to get [President Barack] Obama to finally change his mind” and create DACA. Rescinding the order is “not politics as usual in any way,” he said.
Durazo’s experience has spanned decades, working in the hotel employees and restaurant employees union back in 1983, and then as the vice president for UNITE HERE International Union. In 2003 she became national director of the Immigrant Workers’ Freedom Ride, a campaign to address immigration laws, and from 2006 to 2015 she was the first woman elected executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.
All that experience leads her to the belief that the public needs to examine the immigration issue beyond just the current administration.
Despite their concerns, the panelists implored the crowd to remain positive. The event comes on the heels of a push by UC system leadership to convince members of the House and Senate from California to get an immigration reform bill through Congress.
Yoon just returned from a 22-day vigil in front of the White House. There, he spoke to many non-immigrants. Yoon said he was hopeful because many were able to open up their minds on the issue.
He was part of the founding of the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium in 1994, with successful campaigns including the “Justice for Immigrants” Washington Post ad campaign that opposed anti-immigration legislation. Now, efforts must be focused on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that protects those eligible for DACA.
“It’s their lives and future, and that future is in danger,” Yoon said. “This is a great opportunity to really pass the DREAM Act.”
Durazo called for business and education leaders to amplify the message of Dreamers and comprehensive immigration reform.
In the spring, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block formed an Immigration Advisory Council, on which Valenzuela serves, and the campus and UC system have supported immigrant students.
“There’s a lot we can do,” Valenzuela said. “Their history on our campus is real.” The council will continue to do what it can to mitigate fallout from federal immigration decisions, he added.
For the civically minded in the crowd, the panelists said there is no time like the present.
“Organizing at the street level is what I think is the next answer,” Valenzuela said.
“We’ve been on the defense for so long,” Yoon said. “Now we have something we want to push for.”
To change the narrative on DACA and immigration issues, Zhou said everyone can contribute, and that “organizing is huge.” Think about the terms you use when discussing these issues, she said.
“I am sort of the medical student people talk about positively in their narrative,” but what about field workers and others, she wondered.
Zhou, who was born in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico, but to Chinese parents, moved to Calexico, California. when she was 12. Her story defies easy categorization — 100 percent Chinese, but a native Spanish speaker.
Zhou questioned why it was easy for her as someone who looks Asian to walk along checkpoints, even though she’s also from Mexico.
Durazo said she has been out in the community providing resources, including pamphlets detailing how to deal with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. She noted that anyone can do something, for example learning to help with citizenship tests. “Everyone here can be a volunteer in providing these services. The push is to not settle for anything less.”
By Zev Hurwitz and Stan Paul
At the end of a daylong symposium during which journalists, scholars and media pundits debated whether truth matters in a polarized United States, reporter and news anchor Ray Suarez summarized the condition of American politics vs. American journalism.
“The job of telling the truth is different than the job of getting elected,” Suarez said.
The former host of Al Jazeera America’s “Inside Story” and contributor to PBS “NewsHour” delivered the final Luskin Lecture of the academic year on May 25, 2017, capping a full day of programming that addressed a pertinent question: “Do Words Matter? Journalism, Communication and Alternative Truth.” The lecture and preceding panel discussions were sponsored by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and held at the new Meyer & Renee Luskin Conference Center on the UCLA campus.
Suarez spoke about the role of the media in a world in which traditional journalism is trusted only marginally and the truth seems to matter less and less.
Referring to the recent contest for Montana’s only congressional seat in a special election, Suarez discussed newly elected Greg Gianforte’s body slam of a reporter from the Guardian on the eve of the election.
“Think about where we are — physical attacks on reporters asking questions. That’s the kind of thing that happens in Moscow, not in Montana,” Suarez said. “While we’re at a perilous time for the country and the world, respect for the news business keeps finding new lows.”
‘Truth Is Under Tremendous Stress’
Suarez told the audience of students, faculty and community members about a recent exchange he had on Twitter with a critic who was unhappy after Suarez appeared on Fox News. Suarez had argued for the use of unnamed sources in certain instances, and afterward he became engaged in a social media argument with the Twitter user, who was convinced that President Trump won the 2016 election’s popular vote. In fact, Trump lost the popular vote by almost 3 million ballots.
“Truth is under tremendous stress in the United States,” Suarez said. “Observable, countable, measurable, testable truth now has to fight on an even playing field with your feelings. At the risk of pointing out the obvious, your feelings don’t carry the burden of evidence that truth does.”
Most fake news has an obvious slant, but biased reporting leads to public distrust of reporting, Suarez said. This mistrust of media threatens the ability of journalists to cover stories.
Suarez’s lecture was followed by a conversation with Gary Segura, dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Segura, who had been interviewed by Suarez for stories in the past, talked about how much he admires the integrity of impartial journalists.
“I have great respect for journalists and especially those who persevere in pursuing objectivity — especially in the face of those who hold power in Washington,” Segura said during introductory remarks. “Ray Suarez is one of those journalists.”
Focusing on the state of media during the Trump presidency, the lecture followed these three panels: “The 2016 Campaign and Media Impact,” “The Face/Place of Media During the Trump Administration” and “Truth or Trolls.”
‘Truth is a Really, Really Big Deal’
Segura opened the day, talking about the importance of the UCLA Luskin commitment to “the value of information.”
“If we did not take Mr. Trump seriously before, we sure do now,” Segura said. “We have to understand the demonization of the press. … We find ourselves in a moment where reporting the truth is a really, really big deal.”
Sasha Issenberg, journalist and author of “The Victory Lab, the Secret Science of Winning Campaigns,” served as moderator of the first panel, which addressed the question of whether the news media played a key role in President Trump’s upset victory on Nov. 8, 2016.
“Should we be thinking differently about that question as it pertains to 2016?” Issenberg asked Lynn Vavreck, professor of political science and communication studies at UCLA.
“I think the answer to that question is no,” Vavreck said. “The media doesn’t really tell voters what to think, what positions to hold on issues, for example, but it does do a great job of telling voters what to think about.”
With nearly four decades in public service, panelist Zev Yaroslavky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, said of the 2016 election, “Overall, what troubled me about that campaign was that it set a new low on what constitutes acceptable for discourse in the political realm in our country.”
Segura moderated the second panel discussion, asking how the press will be able to cover a new administration that is seemingly playing it by ear, intentionally excluding select larger mainstream media from some press briefings.
‘The Leaky White House’
Adam Nagourney, West Coast bureau chief of the New York Times, said that, as a former White House reporter during the Clinton administration, he found the day-to-day job could be boring: “You’re getting fed stuff” that may be inconsequential, he said. But, he added, “You want someone in the White House keeping track of what’s going on.”
Of Trump, Nagourney noted that this has been “the most leaky White House that has ever existed.”
Nick Goldberg, editorial page editor of the Los Angeles Times, said he once spent time on the East Coast as a reporter but now loves covering national politics from the West Coast. “I Iike being in a place where we think about different issues” outside of the Washington bubble, Goldberg said.
For VOX video producer Carlos Maza, the “palace intrigue” is fascinating, but he explained, “The problems or risks of being so close to the White House is that it may not affect the material conditions of most people’s lives.” It all amounts to background noise for most Americans, distracting from other issues, Maza said.
Segura asked La Opinión writer and editor Pilar Marrero, who has years of experience covering social and political issues in the Latino community, if policy issues are being drowned out by the current “circus environment” in Washington.
“We’ve always lived in a different universe from the mainstream media,” Marrero said. “We all know this particular White House is focused on immigration issues and on what happens to a large part of the audience I cater to.”
Marrero said that her coverage concentrates on budget cuts or executive orders that impact her audience. “Our main focus continues to be the person who was deported next door,” she said. “Every day we are covering heartbreaking family separations,” which the mainstream media seldom do.
Kevin Roderick, director of UCLA Newsroom and a former editor at the Los Angeles Times, is the longtime editor of the media watchdog website L.A. Observed. He moderated the panel “Truth or Trolls,” which featured five former or current journalists and UCLA Professor of Communication Studies Tim Groeling, who has researched historical media trends.
“I do not like the term fake news,” Groeling said. “It is so nebulous and open to interpretation that it is easily appropriated by a lot of different figures, including the President, to attack news in a variety of ways. I think it’s too unspecific to be useful.
‘We’ve Seen This Before’
The current era is closer to 19th-century news than 20th-century news, in Groeling’s view. “The period of time that most social science theory was developed regarding the media is a time that was historically weird. We are much closer to something like the 19th century where you have a lot of competing organizations. It’s very easy to start a new competitor. They’re very personalized. They’re very emotional. They’re less attached to the truth and professionalism than we’ve been used to,” he said. “So we’ve seen this before.”
Panelist Doris Truong, Washington Post home page editor, recalled how she was trolled by thousands of Trump followers after someone saw a video of a woman snapping photos near the table where Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had testified during his confirmation hearings. Trump fans posted the video on social media and wrongly decided that it was Truong. Her life turned upside-down for several weeks.
“It was a little bit shocking,” Truong recalled. “Some right-wing Twitter account said, ‘Oh, this is Doris Truong of the Washington Post. She should be fired.’ People just ran with that.”
The next day, “I wake up around 7 and I have all of these messages from my friends saying, ‘Oh my god, your accounts are exploding, and I wanted to rebut this.’ Then Drudge Report picked it up. That’s where it snowballed,” Truong said.
Two major conservative websites ran with it, and Truong faced a deluge of vicious criticism. Washington Post officials sent notes to Drudge and other websites to clarify that it wasn’t Truong, but that didn’t stop Reddit users and other web commenters from touting what Truong called a “conspiracy theory.”
“It was so crazy and so far-fetched,” she said.
To view more photos from this Luskin Lecture, go here.
View videos from the panel discussions and the keynote address by Ray Suarez below.