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Barbara Lee

COMMENTARY: Ageism Behind Smear of Sen. Dianne Feinstein

The more senior you are, the more power your state has. In the Senate, where every state, regardless of size, has two votes each, those two votes backed by seniority are magnified. Feinstein, who has been in the Senate since 1992, is more powerful for all Californians and its 6 million Asian Americans than a rookie senator with blind ambition.

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Senator Diane Feinstein
Senator Dianne Feinstein (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

By Emil Guillermo

So how would you like the idea of Barbara Lee, Oakland’s member of Congress, getting a bump up to the big house, the U.S. Senate?

Lee’s name has risen to the top of the list after some sitting members of Congress went to the San Francisco Chronicle to air concerns that Senator Dianne Feinstein is “mentally unfit” to do the job.

This is nothing less than a blatant smear of Feinstein by cowardly anonymous sources. Rumors about Feinstein’s memory lapses have been around for at least three years. That’s when I first heard them. But for some reason everyone has been civil about things until now.

The Chronicle didn’t have to publish the story. But knowing it would create a splash, it readily agreed to protect all involved. Except Feinstein.

The paper cited a Democratic member of the House, and four U.S. senators (three Democrats, one Republican). One of the Democratic senators said Feinstein’s memory is “rapidly deteriorating,” and that “it appears she can no longer fulfill her job duties without her staff doing much of the work required.”

This is serious stuff. But it was a mistake to not name all the sources. Every last one.

The Chronicle said the sources “who expressed concerns about Feinstein’s acuity said that doing so was painful because of their respect for the senator and her groundbreaking career. Each spoke on condition of anonymity, because they said they did not want to jeopardize their relationship with her and their mutual friends and colleagues.”

Those are backstabbing friends Feinstein doesn’t need.

Indeed, it would help to know who is sharing this information because one of them may be interested in running for Feinstein’s seat should this story generate the push that forces Feinstein’s resignation.

Think about this. The Chronicle is protecting those using innuendo of the possible medical condition of a sitting U.S. Senator. And then casting aspersions on her ability to govern.

That’s the cover. It’s a governance thing.

No. It’s a cheap shot, enabled by journalism’s use of the “anonymous source.”

The paper editorialized: “If Feinstein is mentally unfit, Democrats need to tell her openly. And she should resign.”

The conditional “if” is intended to make everything seem fair. But how fair is it after the Chronicle puts out a sensationalistic story and protects all the naysayers?

That’s just dirty. In the meantime, the scuttlebutt has already begun as to who will replace Feinstein. For what?

There is nothing in the Constitution that makes memory lapses illegal.

What you are seeing is unmistakable, unabashed AGEISM.

Ageism is a form of unfair discrimination and oppression toward older people based on stereotypical views.

It is a form of othering no less virulent than racism or sexism.

Yet society hasn’t quite come to terms with ageism, and it remains a disgusting form of discrimination that we allow to go unchallenged.

In response to the story, Feinstein issued a statement, but declined an interview:

“The last year has been extremely painful and distracting for me, flying back and forth to visit my dying husband who passed just a few weeks ago,” she said. “But there’s no question I’m still serving and delivering for the people of California, and I’ll put my record up against anyone’s.”

The fact is some impatient Democrats want Feinstein’s job, and they’re not ashamed of attempting to push her out this very minute and resorting to ageism.

This, unfortunately, has become standard practice.

I saw it happen before when Rep. Mike Honda, who succeeded Norman Y. Mineta in Congress and served from 2001 to 2017, was pushed out by Ro Khanna.

It’s a pure power grab by the upstarts. But no one ever stops to consider how the Senate actually works.

The more senior you are, the more power your state has. In the Senate, where every state, regardless of size, has two votes each, those two votes backed by seniority are magnified.

Feinstein, who has been in the Senate since 1992, is more powerful for all Californians and its 6 million Asian Americans than a rookie senator with blind ambition.

If there’s a problem with Feinstein, these things should be discussed in private among party leaders. We are talking about a health issue after all.

Ultimately, Feinstein, who has been a dedicated public servant from the time she was a San Francisco supervisor in the 1970s, deserves the right to decide when she steps down.

Feinstein is owed at least that. If she can do the job and deliver for the people of California, her seniority is a benefit.

Besides, ageism is not a good look in a democracy.

NOTE: I’ve known Feinstein since the 1970s and will talk about this column and other matters on my “Emil Amok’s Takeout” at 2 p. m. PDT. Livestream on Facebook; my YouTube channel; and Twitter. Catch the recordings on www.amok.com

Barbara Lee

Black Californians Split on Supreme Court Gun Rights Ruling

Late last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom fired back by signing two pieces of new legislation intended to strengthen the state’s hardline position on possessing firearms in public. He says, together, the bills, AB 1621 and AB 2571, will take on ghost guns and prohibit the gun industry from “advertising to children.”

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U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-13) says the current right-leaning Supreme Court has shown a double standard in the way the justices ruled on gun rights and women’s rights to abortion.
U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-13) says the current right-leaning Supreme Court has shown a double standard in the way the justices ruled on gun rights and women’s rights to abortion.

By Tanu Henry, California Black Media

A little over a week ago, the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) handed down a 6-to-3 decision making it more difficult for a handful of states – including California – to keep strict laws they have in place against carrying guns in public.

Late last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom fired back by signing two pieces of new legislation intended to strengthen the state’s hardline position on possessing firearms in public. He says, together, the bills, AB 1621 and AB 2571, will take on ghost guns and prohibit the gun industry from “advertising to children.”

“From our schools to our parks to our homes, our kids deserve to be safe – in California, we’re making that a reality. As the Supreme Court rolls back important gun safety protections and states across the country treat gun violence as inevitable, California is doubling down on commonsense gun safety measures that save lives,” said Newsom, who also pointed out that gun violence is the leading cause of death among children.

“The lives of our kids are at stake and we’re putting everything on the table to respond to this crisis,” the governor added.

News about the SCOTUS decision on guns June 23 was drowned out by coverage of the national outrage, and applause, that followed its ruling on Roe. V. Wade the next day.

Reactions nationally to the court’s gun restriction decision – the most significant change to the country’s firearm laws in a decade — were swift, passionate and strong. But the protests and celebrations mostly happened on the sidelines of the country’s more intense reactions to the abortion ruling.

In California, where more than 60% of all adults favor stronger gun laws, elected officials, activists and civil rights leaders have blasted the SCOTUS’ decision.

But not everyone agrees.

Micah Grant is Black, Republican, a father, husband and Natomas School Board member in Sacramento County. He agrees with the SCOTUS’ decision on guns, arguing that the New York law had a built-in racial and class bias.

“I think it’s a fundamentally sound ruling that comes at, obviously, a very sensitive time,” Grant said. “But the laws as they were created two separate classes of people, where in many regions, only the connected and elite could exercise their fundamental right to protection.”

Grant says with crime on the rise in many cities across California, just going outside is “cause enough” to carry a gun.

“The state can simply implement reasonable training requirements to ensure those who apply for permits are knowledgeable, responsible, trained and that they understand the liability that comes with gun ownership,” Grant added.

California is one of five states with gun restrictions on the books, both statewide and municipal, that are affected by the ruling. The others are Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Hawaii.

SCOTUS Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanagh said states are still allowed to ban handguns in certain sensitive places like courthouses, statehouses, polling places, etc.

Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA-37) is running for mayor of Los Angeles, a city where the homicide rate has seen a steep 50% increase between 2019 and the end of last year.

“Only 31 days after 19 students and 2 teachers were murdered in one of the most devastating mass shootings in the history of this country, the Supreme Court has responded by striking down a law that was on the books for more than 100 years, making it easier now to carry a weapon in public,” Bass said in response to SCOTUS’ ruling.

Craig DeLuz is Black and Republican like Grant and also the publisher of 2ANews, an online news and opinion outlet focused on gun rights.

“When you have a patchwork of laws from one city to another you don’t know what the regulations are. You are setting someone up to violate the law,” he says.

DeLuz says as Gov. Newsom and state legislators draft new public safety laws to comply with the SCOTUS’ ruling, he hopes they do not violate the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that grants citizens the right to bear arms.

“His lack of knowledge on the issue of firearm policy and firearm technology is evident every time he speaks about it,” DeLuz said, criticizing the governor.

“Gun control laws in the state of California and nationally have been about disarming people of color going back to the 1870s,” he said. “It has been about making it illegal for Native Americans, Chinese Americans, Blacks and other people of color from owning firearms.”

Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-Carson) has been the strongest voice in the California Legislative Black Caucus calling for strong gun control laws.

“Alarmingly, we are finding that more and more, no region or demographic is exempt from gun violence – our hospitals, grocery stores, schools, and even places of worship, are no longer safe. The proliferation of ghost guns, which are intentionally untraceable weapons to evade law enforcement, has only worsened the issue,” Gipson said.

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-13) says the current right-leaning Supreme Court has shown a double standard in the way the justices ruled on gun rights and women’s rights to abortion.

“This conservative Supreme Court has ruled that states shouldn’t be trusted to make their own laws on gun control but can keep people from making their own health care decisions. It is unconscionable,” Lee said. “We are seeing the horrific consequences of minority rule playing out in real time—and this is only the beginning of their radical agenda to take America back in history and take another step toward eroding our democracy.”

There is overwhelming support and widespread commitment among elected officials in California for finding ways to strengthen gun laws in the wake of the SCOTUS decision.

In the state budget that Newsom signed last week, lawmakers and the governor’s office agreed to fund $176 million in gun violence prevention grants going to 79 cities and nonprofits.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced that he is working with the state Legislature on Senate Bill (SB) 918, to preserve California’s existing concealed carry laws. He reminded residents of the state that “general prohibitions” against carrying firearms in public are still in effect.

“The data is clear, and the consequences are dire — more guns in more places make us less safe. In California, we are committed to passing and defending common-sense, constitutional gun laws that save lives,” Bonta said.

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Activism

Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s Fourth of July Remarks

Independence and liberty for all were not achieved in 1776. Instead, it’s taking centuries to realize true freedom — for Black people, women, LGBTQ+ communities, and so many more marginalized groups.

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“Remembering my friend and personal hero, John Lewis, I wanted to share some of my favorite memories with you all,” (Photo: Barbara Lee, March 2020 / Wikimedia Commons)
“Remembering my friend and personal hero, John Lewis, I wanted to share some of my favorite memories with you all,” (Photo: Barbara Lee, March 2020 / Wikimedia Commons)

On July 4th, we celebrated 246 years since our nation gained independence. And on this holiday, I’m mindful of what freedom really means to many Americans.

Independence and liberty for all were not achieved in 1776. Instead, it’s taking centuries to realize true freedom — for Black people, women, LGBTQ+ communities, and so many more marginalized groups.

It’s why we celebrated Juneteenth two weeks ago — honoring the emancipation of people who were enslaved in Texas and the struggle for Black liberation. And it’s why we celebrated Pride last month — commemorating the Stonewall Uprising led by trans women of color and the ongoing fight for LGBTQ+ rights and equality.”

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Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Lee Comments on Bipartisan Senate Framework for Gun Reform Legislation

“The bipartisan Senate framework on gun reform legislation is a crucial first step. This legislation will make critical investments in mental health resources, school safety, and increased vetting for weapons purchases. But while this is a start, much more must be done to address the gun violence epidemic,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee.

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Rep. Barbara Lee. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Congress.
Barbara Lee.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee released a statement on the bipartisan Senate framework on gun reform legislation that was announced on June 12:

“The bipartisan Senate framework on gun reform legislation is a crucial first step. This legislation will make critical investments in mental health resources, school safety, and increased vetting for weapons purchases. But while this is a start, much more must be done to address the gun violence epidemic.

“I’ve recently met with gun violence prevention groups in my district who are doing the work on the ground in our community to end the cycle of violence and trauma. Their message to me was clear: they want Congress to take bold action.

“Our next steps should include banning assault weapons, taking ghost guns off the streets, incentivizing more comprehensive background checks, promoting gun buy backs and much more. Gun violence is a uniquely American problem. We cannot stop until our schools, grocery stores, churches, hospitals, and all of our communities are safe.”

Congresswoman Lee is the highestranking Black woman in the U.S. Congress.

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