October 21, 2017

How America can rediscover progressive politics

Sam Smith -A consistent, but little appreciated, theme of this journal has been that having a cultural  identity shouldn't prevent political coalitions with those of other identities. In fact, if you want real political and economic change, nothing will do it better than bringing together constituencies that don't normally play well together.

There is a long history of this in America including, for example, the success of the Irish minority in reaching out to others in urban politics and Martin Luther King, who we tend to forget was organizing whites as effectively as he was blacks. This reached a peak with the Poor People's Campaign. Here are some notes from that multi-ethnic campaign:
King emphasized the need for poor whites, Blacks, Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans to unite. He asserted that the Poor People’s Campaign would only be successful if the poor could come together across all the obstacles and barriers set up to divide us .. In August 1967, he preached:

"One unfortunate thing about [the slogan] Black Power is that it gives priority to race precisely at a time when the impact of automation and other forces have made the economic question fundamental for blacks and whites alike. In this context a slogan ‘Power for Poor People’ would be much more appropriate than the slogan ‘Black Power.’"

And the night before his assassination, in his “Promised Land” speech, he reminded the people that being disunited only benefited the rich and powerful:

"You know, whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite, favorite formula for doing it. What was that? He kept the slaves fighting among themselves. But whenever the slaves get together, something happens in Pharaoh’s court, and he cannot hold the slaves in slavery. When the slaves get together, that’s the beginning of getting out of slavery."
As noted here before, one of the big costs of identity politics is that it has damaged the former liberal  economic influence. Labeling low income, low educated whites - of whom there are twice as many as there are black of all incomes- as racist and displaying  "white privilege" has been a disaster and helped to elect Donald Trump. In fact Franklin Roosevelt got more good economic programs going in his first one hundred days than liberals have done in the past 30 years.


A new book,  The Once and Future Liberals: After Identity Politics, by Mark Lilla, confronts this issue. Here are some excerpts from an interview he did with NPR

Mark Lilla - Rather than saying the personal is the political, it became the political is personal. That is, that my politics and my interest in politics and my commitment in politics does not extend beyond how I understand myself. And so politics becomes an expression of self rather than kind of getting out of one's personal self and connecting with other people for common purposes and common goals, which is what the feminist movement was doing back in the '60s and early '70s.

...There are two basic principles that I think have been consistent for American liberalism ever since the New Deal. One is solidarity and the other is equal protection under the law. And most of the concerns of identity groups can be put under the latter category. And most of the issues that today's progressives worry about can be put under the rubric of solidarity.

... Imagine that you're canvassing door to door somewhere in Missouri or Mississippi and you knock on someone's door and you say, I'm here from the Democratic Party, and I'd like to ask for your vote. But before I do, I have a series of tickets to give you. The first ticket is for your privilege. The second one is for being a racist. And the third one is for being homophobic. I hope to see you on Tuesday.  Now, that is not going to attract to persuade anybody.

... In order to understand America's history and America's current social problems, you need to understand identity. That's absolutely right. However, elections are not seminars. They are not about giving an account of how we got here. They are about persuading people in any way you can without falling into some sort of contradiction or making some moral mistake to convince them that the principles you stand for they should stand for and they will protect them.

Sam Smith - When I think of why I am such an advocate of cross cultural politics, two little experiences come to mind. The first was in 1949, when this then 12 year old boy went to stuff envelopes in a campaign that would end 67 years of Republican rule in Philadelphia. Why I remember it is because it was the first time in my theretofore mono-cultural life that I had been in a room working with people who were labor union organizers, Jews and blacks. Hey, I thought, these guys are great, we won the election, and thus began a life of political activism.

The other experience came in 1995 when, as part of the Green Politics Network, I joined a number of other Greens in hosting a conference of third party activists. Over a hundred showed up, ranging from one of the founders of the American Labor Party to Greens, Libertarians, Ross Perot backers, Democratic Socialists of America, and followers of black activist Lenora Fulani. It was a recklessly dangerous idea for a Washington weekend, but John Rensenbrink, Linda Martin, and Tony Affigne seemed to know what they were doing and I was happy to go along. We established two basic rules:
- We would only discuss issues on which we might find some agreement.

- We would reach that agreement by consensus.
I was one of the kickoff speakers and said:
"As a simple empirical matter you can say that one of the great characteristics of Americans is not merely opposition to a system of the moment but antipathy towards unnatural systems in general -- opposition to all systems that revoke, replace or restrain the natural rights of humans and the natural blessings of their habitats.

"This, I think, is why we are here today. If nothing else binds us it is an understanding of the damage that heartless, leaderless, mindless systems have done to the specifics of our existence. . .

"Further, in our distaste with the systems suffocating our lives, we are very much in the mainstream. These systems have done half our work for us, they have lost the people's faith. . .

"We must stake out a position with real programs for real people, with our enthusiasm on our sleeve and our ideology in our pocket, with small words and big hearts, and -- most of all -- with a clear vision of what a better future might look like. We must tackle what Chesterton called the "huge modern heresy of altering the human soul to fit its conditions, instead of altering human conditions to fit the human soul.". . .

"This then is our task. Let's embrace it not as sectarians or as prigs but as a happy fellow members of a new mainstream. Not as radicals permanently in exile but as moderates of an age that has not quite arrived. Let's laugh and make new friends and be gentle with one another. Let's remember Camus' dictum that the only sin we are not permitted is despair. . ."
We then broke up at tables that each discussed a different subject areas. Everyone was invited to propose ideas that would then listed on a panel. Each of us had three yellow stickers with our names on them to put up on ideas we liked and if we were the only ones who had selected a proposal we could change our sticker.

We then gathered as a whole and despite the wide range of views present, despite the near total absence of Robert's Rules of Order, the final document, with full consensus, called for nothing less than a major transformation. The group unanimously agreed to support proportional representation, campaign finance reform "to provide a level playing field in elections;" initiative, referendum and recall; better ballot access; the end of corporate welfare; strong environmental policies; sexual and reproductive freedom; an end to the war on drugs and treatment of addiction as a health matter rather than as a crime; a dramatic cut in military expenditures; workplace democracy and the maximum empowerment of people in their communities "consistent with fairness, social responsibilities and human rights."

So it can happen and it can work. What is needed now is for blacks, latinos, labor unions, women, and others to come together and tell America what our progressive priorities should be. Such a conference would seriously shake the establishment and the results could be the beginning of a new America. 

More than half of US prisoners are slaves

Talk Poverty _ Last week, a Louisiana sheriff gave a press conference railing against a new prisoner release program because it cost him free labor from “some good [inmates] that we use every day to wash cars, to change oil in the cars, to cook in the kitchen.” Two days later, news broke that up to 40 percent of the firefighters battling California’s outbreak of forest fires are prison inmates working for $2 an hour. Practices like these are disturbingly common: Military gear, ground meat, Starbucks holiday products, and McDonald’s uniforms have all been made (or are still made) with low-wage prison labor.

Inmates are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires that workers are paid at least the federal minimum wage. That makes it completely legal for states to exploit inmates for free or cheap labor. More than half of the 1.5 million people in state and federal prisons work while incarcerated, and the vast majority only make a few cents per hour.

Most inmates work in their own prison facilities, in jobs such as maintenance or food service. These jobs pay an average of just 86 cents an hour, and are primarily designed to keep the prison running at a low cost. Others may be employed in so-called “correctional industries,” where inmates work for the Department of Corrections to produce goods that are sold to government entities and nonprofit organizations. The highest median wages for these jobs top out at less than $2 an hour, and they’ve dropped over time—an incarcerated worker is paid less today than they were in 2001. In Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, and Texas, most inmates working in prison facilities aren’t paid at all.

It is impossible to discuss prison labor without acknowledging the deep ties the criminal justice system has to the legacy of slavery in the United States. Targeted mass incarceration policies, racial bias, and other structural disadvantages have led to an overrepresentation of people of color—particularly African Americans—in prisons and jails. As activist and author Shaka Senghor notes in Ava DuVernay’s 2016 documentary 13th, “The 13th amendment says, ‘no involuntary servitude except for those who have been duly convicted of a crime.’ So once you’ve been convicted of a crime, you are in essence a slave of the state.”

Though we run the risk of stating the obvious, there is a clear solution available: treating prisoners like people rather than chattel. That means paying prisoners a minimum wage for their work, and making sure the employment options in prison are designed to help people transition into their communities once they are released. The median starting wage is 7 cents an hour.

If these programs paid decent wages, they could increase economic stability of inmates, effectively easing the path to re-entry. They would allow inmates to pay off debts from their interactions with the justice system and reduce recidivism. They’re not a panacea, but well-paid apprenticeships can help put returning citizens on the road toward a good job and a secure future.

The criminal justice system has historically relied on a system of punishment and exploitation instead of rehabilitation, but we can change this going forward. Treating incarcerated people like human beings by paying them for their work is a good place to start.

Putin says to stop criticizing Trump

Huffington Post - If you want to be a good American, listen to Vladimir Putin and stop criticizing Donald Trump.

That’s the “helpful” suggestion the Russian president made Thursday at a foreign affairs conference in Sochi, according to the state-run Tass news agency.

“Mr. Trump was elected by the American people. And at least for this reason it is necessary to show respect for him, even if you do not agree with some of his positions,” Putin said, before adding this dig: “Inside the country, disrespect is shown for him. This is a regrettable negative component of the U.S. political system.”

Question for the media

Why are you giving so much attention to Richard Spencer and so little to leaders on the left? In the past month Google lists 31.5 million news hits for Spencer as opposed to only 5.6 million for Bernie Sanders.

Word: Similarities in the Vietnam and drug wars

Deborah Peterson Small, Alternet -The Vietnam War was not winnable, in much the same way as the war on drugs is not winnable. As President Lyndon Baines Johnson admitted to an aide in 1965, “there ain’t no daylight in Vietnam." Yet he couldn't admit mistakes in judgment or defeat in battle, so he and his administration engaged in a campaign of deliberate public deception. As noted in the Burns/Novick documentary, the CIA broke down the motivation behind the government's continued involvement in Vietnam: 70 percent to avoid humiliation; 20 percent to contain communism; 10 percent to help Vietnamese. I estimate much the same could be said about the federal government's motivation to retain what are admittedly disastrous drug policies, even with respect to marijuana: 70 percent to avoid humiliation (can't admit they were wrong); 20 percent to reduce drug-related crime; 10 percent to help people struggling with addiction.

The most striking parallel between the two wars is the disastrous results of the adoption of the wrong set of metrics for success. As noted by one of the Vietnam War commentators: "when you can't count what's important, you make what you can count important." In Vietnam, the principal metric was body count–how many of the enemy were killed and/or wounded in any given action, with the goal of reaching what was termed the "crossover point" where the number killed was higher than the enemy's ability to replace them. In the drug war the primary metrics are arrests and/or drugs seized, motivating police to make every arrestee a drug user and/or seller and incentivizing them to rack up large numbers of arrests by targeting vulnerable people indiscriminately or by misrepresentation–aka "juking the numbers" of arrests. In the theater of war–especially guerrilla warfare–soldiers are taught that anyone can be an enemy–any age or gender. Consequently, in Vietnam everyone was suspect until proved otherwise.  Failure to assist in the search for the enemy made you the enemy, much the same way that drug conspiracy laws work today.  Mothers, daughters, grandmothers, and cousins were routinely arrested, tortured and sometimes killed as co-conspirators in a war they just wanted to avoid. The routine destruction of entire villages and the livelihood derived within was considered collateral damage of the war, much the same way we view as collateral damage police looting under the guise of "civil asset forfeiture laws" and denial of basic civil rights–including the right to employment–to persons convicted of drug offenses. Today entire families may find themselves targeted by prosecutors who've been instructed by this administration to aggressively use drug conspiracy laws to win convictions and impose maximum terms of imprisonment.

The intense focus on increasing the body count and/or "kill ratio," led some soldiers to engage in atrocities and wanton acts of violence that cast a shadow on all U.S. military personnel in much the same way that the money and violence endemic with the drug trade has provided cover for bad police to hide corruption and shelter brutality against the people they're charged with protecting. In both cases, the lack of accountability for such behavior led to widespread community disdain and distrust.

Finally, the parallels in the government's response to dissent are alarming. The anti-war movement grew out of the civil rights movement. Many of the students that had traveled south to participate in the civil rights struggle began to see the relationship between racial justice and pacifism–opposing unjust wars. Many civil rights activists also understood that the cost of the ongoing Vietnam conflict threatened to undermine the government's ability to wage the domestic "war on poverty." As opposition to the war grew, the anti-war movement was increasingly demonized along with the press. LBJ claimed journalist Morley Safer had ‘defaced the American flag and given support to the enemy” when he reported accurately what was happening with the war.  Safer’s interviews with soldiers revealed their routine dehumanization of the Vietnamese people similar to the dehumanization of black men, women, and children we've witnessed by some current members of law enforcement. Johnson referred to Safer’s employer–CBS–as the Communist Broadcasting System–sound familiar?

... Ultimately, history has shown the anti-war protesters to be on the right side of the argument. There was a point where the movement shifted from one protesting U.S. involvement in Vietnam to a movement committed to ending U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. I wonder if we've reached that point in the movement against the 'war on drugs'. Are we committed to more than protesting what's wrong with the drug war–pointing out all the harm it is doing to individuals and communities? Are we committed to ending drug prohibition? If so, what does that movement look like? What are its tactics and measures of success? More importantly, like those who fought to end the Vietnam War–what price are we willing to pay to win?

Bill working its way through Congress wouldn't have allowed the Grand Canyon to be a national monument

Guardian - If a bill quietly working its way through the House of Representatives right now were law 111 years ago, Devil’s Tower wouldn’t have qualified as a national monument. Neither would the Grand Canyon, which Roosevelt protected as a monument in 1908 before it was made a national park. Nor would the Petrified Forest national park, Utah’s Zion national park, Bryce Canyon or many of America’s other legendary protected lands.

... The Upper Missouri River Breaks wouldn’t qualify as a monument under the bill, sponsored by Republican Rob Bishop of Utah. Like many monuments, it’s too big. The measure would cap the size of monuments and, critically, remove the ability to protect monuments of scientific interest, ruling out places selected for their unique formations like the giant sequoia trees of California and Wyoming’s Fossil Butte.

October 20, 2017

Pollution kills more than wars

Web MD - Pollution led to more than 9 million deaths worldwide in 2015, or 1 in 6 deaths that year, a new report reveals.

Air pollution, the worst culprit, was linked to 6.5 million heart- and lung-related deaths, The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health said.

Water pollution was tied to 1.8 million deaths, mostly from gastrointestinal and parasitic infections. And workplace-related pollution and lead pollution also played a role, contributing to 800,000 deaths and 500,000 deaths, respectively.

"Pollution is much more than an environmental challenge -- it is a profound and pervasive threat that affects many aspects of human health and well-being," said Dr. Philip Landrigan, co-lead of the commission. Continue Reading Below you might like

The report is published in the Oct. 20 online issue of The Lancet. Two years in the making, it involved more than 40 international health and environmental authors.

Progressive Review -  In contrast there were 180,000 deaths worldwide form wars in 2014.

Texas city won't give hurricane aid unless citizens promise not to boycott Israel

Independent, UK - A Texas city devastated by flooding after Hurricane Harvey is forcing recipients of financial aid to sign a pledge not to boycott Israel.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the clause on Dickinson city council's application form for relief funding violated free speech rights and was "reminiscent of McCarthy-era loyalty oaths" requiring Americans to disavow Communism.

The city, 30 miles from Houston, was one of the areas hardest hit by Harvey.

Green Party 2017 election results

Green Party - At least 55 Greens in 14 states have run in 2017 elections through July 2017, with at least 21 elected nationwide.  Additionally, a sitting City Councilmember in California registered Green while in office, and two more Greens were appointed to elected Neighborhood Council seats in Los Angeles.

This brings the total number of Greens holding elected office in the U.S. as of August 1, 2017 to at least 136 in 18 states.  Among them are five county supervisors, 19 city council members and 35 college and school board members.

Greens won 21 out of 53 races for municipal office in 2017 - 39.6%, and 21/55 races overall (38.2%). Of the ten incumbents who have run so far in 2017, six have been re-elected. Among offices Greens have been elected to in 2017 are City Council (2), Town Council (1), Village Trustee (1), Select Board (4), School Board (3), Fire District (2), Library Board (2), Park District (1), Water Board (1) and Community Services District (1).

Green candidates per state in through July 2017 have been California (6), Connecticut (1), Illinois (11), Maine (3), Maryland (1), Massachusetts (4), Missouri (7), New York (3), Ohio (4), Oregon (7), Pennsylvania (1), South Carolina (1), Texas (3) and Wisconsin (3).

Health insurance reduced the 2014 poverty rate by one quarter

Center on Budget & Policy Priorities - Health insurance coverage reduced the poverty rate by nearly one-quarter in 2014, according to a new analysis in Health Affairs that factors the premium costs and benefits of health insurance into the poverty rate. That equates to lifting more than 14.4 million people out of poverty.

The one-quarter figure represents a reduction from a poverty rate that includes health insurance costs but does not include non-cash benefits, such as health insurance benefits. Public health insurance alone — Medicaid, Medicare, and federal tax credits and cost-sharing reductions that enable eligible families to more easily afford individual marketplace coverage — is responsible for more than half of that reduction, lifting more than 8 million people out of poverty. People living in households with someone with a disability (nearly 2 million) and non-Hispanic whites (nearly 3 million) were among those receiving the most significant benefits from public insurance.

Treasury department illegally spying on citizens' financial records

Buzzfeed - The intelligence division at the Treasury Department has repeatedly and systematically violated domestic surveillance laws by snooping on the private financial records of US citizens and companies, according to government sources.

Over the past year, at least a dozen employees in another branch of the Treasury Department, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, have warned officials and Congress that US citizens’ and residents’ banking and financial data has been illegally searched and stored. And the breach, some sources said, extended to other intelligence agencies, such as the National Security Agency, whose officers used the Treasury’s intelligence division as an illegal back door to gain access to American citizens’ financial records. The NSA said that any allegations that it “is operating outside of its authorities and knowingly violating U.S. persons’ privacy and civil liberties is categorically false.”

In response to detailed questions, the Treasury Department at first issued a one-sentence reply stating that its various branches “operate in a manner consistent with applicable legal authorities.” Several hours after this story published, the department issued a more forceful denial: “The BuzzFeed story is flat out wrong. An unsourced suggestion that an office within Treasury is engaged in illegal spying on Americans is unfounded and completely off-base.” It added that “OIA and FinCEN share important information and operate within the bounds of statute.”

Still, the Treasury Department’s Office of the Inspector General said it has launched a review of the issue. ... A senior Treasury official, who is not authorized to speak on the matter so requested anonymity, did not mince words: “This is domestic spying.”

October 19, 2017

Woman suing Trump seeks all other sex complaints againsst him

Buzz Feed - A high-stakes legal showdown is brewing for President Donald Trump, as a woman who said he groped her has subpoenaed all documents from his campaign pertaining to “any woman alleging that Donald J. Trump touched her inappropriately.”

The subpoena — whose contents have not been previously reported — was issued in March but entered into the court file last month. The White House did not respond to a request for comment, nor did Trump’s attorney.

Summer Zervos, a former contestant on the Trump’s reality TV show The Apprentice, accused Trump of kissing and grabbing her when she went to his bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 2007 to discuss a possible job at the Trump Organization. After Zervos made the accusation last October, just weeks before the election, Trump denied her accusation and called it a lie.

She responded by suing him for defamation. As part of that suit, her lawyers served a subpoena on his campaign, asking that it preserve all documents it had about her

NYC police don't even have a backup of its asset foreiture file

Hit & Run - New York Police Department admitted in court yesterday that it has no backup of the database that tracks the millions of dollars' worth of property it seizes each year through arrests and civil asset forfeiture.

Bronx Defenders, a legal aid group, had filed a suit to access public records on the NYPD's forfeiture program. In the course of the trial, Courthouse News reports, the city said it had no feasible way of querying its asset forfeiture database and no backup of the database:
[Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Arlene] Bluth appeared gobsmacked Tuesday to hear about the precarious position of data in the police department's PETS database, short for Property and Evidence Tracking System.

"Do you want the Daily News to be reporting that you have no copy of the data?" Bluth asked Giovanatti.

"That deserves an exposé in the New York Times," the judge added later.


As Courthouse News notes, the police paid a contractor $25 million to build the database.The NYPD's asset forfeiture program rakes in millions in seized cash and property from arrests every year. Bronx Defenders filed the suit after the department stonewalled the group's 2014 public records request for information from the property tracking database. In its response to the suit, the NYPD claims that it can't access such bulk data, but a technical expert for Bronx Defenders said in an affidavit Tuesday that such searches would be possible through direct queries of the database.

Where to hide during an earthquake

Study; Number of flying insects have collapsed by three quarters

Guardian - The abundance of flying insects has plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years, according to a new study that has shocked scientists. Insects are an integral part of life on Earth as both pollinators and prey for other wildlife and it was known that some species such as butterflies were declining. But the newly revealed scale of the losses to all insects has prompted warnings that the world is “on course for ecological Armageddon”, with profound impacts on human society.

Early New Hampshire poll puts Sanders on top


Washington Post - An early poll of the 2020 Democratic primaries, which kick off in roughly 820 days, finds Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) at the front of a crowded field — in a race that would bear little resemblance to 2016’s two-candidate marathon. The first 2020 Granite State poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire’s survey center, finds that 31 percent of the state’s Democrats would back Sanders if the first presidential primary were held today. Twenty-four percent would back former vice president Joe Biden, while 13 percent would back Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). No other contender, not even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, cracks double digits.

Fox News poll has Doug Moore and Roy Moore tied in race for Alabama Senate seat

Unemployment filings at lowest since 1973

The hidden costs of the GOP tax cuts

Center on Budget & Policy Priorities - As the Senate continues debating a budget plan that paves the way for a $1.5 trillion tax cut over ten years, the pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) law remains on the books, with potentially big implications for key budget programs.  Under PAYGO, which policymakers first enacted in 1990 and, after it expired, restored in 2010, the President and Congress must offset a tax cut or entitlement expansion with a compensating tax increase or entitlement cut.  A failure to do so triggers automatic spending cuts.

Under the law, were policymakers to enact a $1.5 trillion tax cut this year, as the Republican majority hopes, it would trigger automatic spending cuts to Medicare and a host of other programs by no later than January 15.  While policymakers will likely waive the PAYGO requirement and prevent such automatic cuts from taking effect, PAYGO is a timely reminder that tax cuts aren’t free.

Although many entitlements are exempt from PAYGO’s automatic spending cuts, many are not.  To offset the cost of a $1.5 trillion tax cut, Medicare payments to doctors, hospitals, and insurance plans would be automatically cut 4 percent for each of the next ten years, on top of the 2-percent cuts that those payments are already experiencing under the sequestration triggered by the 2011 Budget Control Act.

In addition, the automatic cuts would bring the complete elimination of more than 150 mandatory payments for farmers, health insurance, the military retirement trust fund, housing, social services, victims of crime, child nutrition, and many others, all lasting a decade.

Jazz break: Jimmy Rushing

October 18, 2017

Four Ann Arbor city council members knelt during Pledge of Allegiance

Polls: Most Americans support backgrund gun checks

 Gallup finds 96% of Americans support background gun checks.


Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) leads Republican Ed Gillespie by 14 points in the race to be the next Virginia governor, according to a Quinnipiac University survey ...An earlier Monmouth University poll in the Virginia governor's race shows Gillespie with 48 percent of support from likely voters compared to Northam's 47 percent - a statistical tie. 

A Morning Consult/Politico poll found 46 percent of registered voters think large outlets fabricate news about Trump, while 37 percent disagree. Three-in-four Republicans think the media creates fake news about the president.

The Republican and Democratic candidates in the Alabama Senate special election are in a dead heat, according to a new Fox News poll  ...with 42 percent of the vote each, the poll found. Eleven pecent of respondents to the poll said they were unsure who they were supporting in the race

Trump's big lie about Reagan

President Donald Trump said  that the Republican tax plan would lift the U.S. economy to heights not seen since the administration of Ronald Reagan, delivering a speech filled with economic optimism to a receptive audience of donors to the Heritage Foundation.

Now from our archives:

HOW THE REAGAN REVOLUTION DAMAGED THE AMERICAN ECONOMY

REAGAN GAVE BIRTH TO TODAY'S FISCAL CRISES
 
Robert Brent Toplin, History News Network - Ronald Reagan promised to take government off the backs of enterprising Americans. He told voters that government was not the solution to the nation's problems; it was the problem. "The nine most terrifying words in the English language," said Reagan, are, " 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.' " His speeches contained numerous warnings about the chilling effects of bureaucratic regulation. Government leaders think, he said, "If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.". . . The main problem with Reagan's outlook was a failure to recognize that government regulation can serve business interests quite effectively. Many of the regulatory programs started by Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal in the 1930s aimed to promote fairness in economic competition. That legislation required greater transparency so that investors could more intelligently judge the value of securities in the stock market. The reforms mandated a separation of commercial and investment bank activities, since speculative investments by commercial banks had been one of the principal causes of the financial crash. Roosevelt's New Deal also created a bank insurance program, the FDIC, which brought stability to a finance industry that had been on the verge of collapse.

These and other improvements of the 1930s worked splendidly. For the next half century American markets operated with impressive stability. There were periods of boom and recession, but the country's financial system did not suffer from the kinds of shocks that have upset the American economy in recent years. The turn away from rules that promote fair business practices fostered dangerous risk-taking. An early sign of the troubles occurred on Reagan's watch. When the requirements for managing savings and loan institutions became lax in the 1980s, leaders of those organizations invested money recklessly. Many institutions failed or came close to failure, and the cleanup cost more than $150 billion. Yet blame for that crisis did not stick to the Teflon President. Recent troubles in the American economy can be attributed to a weakening of business regulation in the public interest, which is, in large part, a consequence of Reagan's anti-government preaching. In the absence of oversight, lending became a wildcat enterprise. Mortgage brokers easily deceived home buyers by promoting sub-prime loans, and then they passed on bundled documents to unwary investors.
Executives at Fannie Mae packaged both conventional and sub-prime loans, and they too, operated almost free of serious oversight. Fannie's leaders spent lavishly to hire sixty Washington lobbyists who showered congressmen with campaign funds. Executives at Fannie were generous to the politicians because they wanted to ward off regulation. Meanwhile, on Wall Street, brokerage firms became deeply committed to risky mortgage investments and did not make their customers fully aware of the risks. The nation's leading credit rating agencies, in turn, were not under much pressure to question claims about mortgage-based instruments that were marketed as blue chip quality. Government watchdogs were not active during those times to serve the interests of the public and the investors. . . Reagan's views of the relationship between government and business helped to put the nation and the world into a good deal of trouble. It is time to recognize that the former president's understanding of economics was not as sophisticated as his enthusiastic supporters often claimed.


How Reagan got our disaster going

Iran leader says Tehran will shred nuclear deal if US pulls out

Reuters - Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tehran would stick to its 2015 nuclear accord with world powers as long as the other signatories respected it, but would “shred” the deal if Washington pulled out, state TV reported. .. “I don’t want to waste my time on answering the rants and whoppers of the brute (U.S.) president,” Khamenei said in a speech to students in Tehran quoted by state television. “Trump’s stupidity should not distract us from America’s deceitfulness ... If the U.S. tears up the deal, we will shred it ... Everyone should know that once again America will receive a slap in its mouth and will be defeated by Iranians.”

At least now presidents have time to call the war dead

Sam Smith - Missing from the debate over how recent presidents have handled the families of the war dead is a cheerful fact: we are having this debate.

As recently  as George Bush, there were enough war dead that most families got letters (and presumably thinly disguised form letters) rather than phone calls. Go back to the Vietnam war and imagine if Lyndon Johnson had called the famlies of each of the war dead. Assuming he did nothing else during a 16 hour day, it would take 302 days  to have accomplished this with a five minute call.

In other words, the very fact we are having this debate indicates a positive change in our perception of war, including the assumption that deaths will be few enough to  require a phone call to the families of its victims.


The failure of No Child Left Behind

Diane Ravitch - he Washington Post editorial board chastised Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam for admitting that the NCLB reforms have failed, and Virginia needs to find a new paradigm for school improvement.

...The Post is dead wrong. A new book by the eminent Harvard testing expert Daniel Koretz says in no uncertain terms that NCLB test-based accountability was a failure that seriously damaged American education. The high-stakes testing mandated by NCLB and now the Every Student Succeeds Act, produced, in Professor Koretz’s words, score inflation, cheating, and teaching to the tests. Any “gains” are an illusion, because they represent test prep, not learning.

Lt. Gov. Northam is right. The Washington Post is seriously out of step on education. It supported Michelle Rhee’s punitive, test-focused regime and never admitted its error, long after John Merrow revealed the D.C. cheating scandal and long after Rhee slipped quietly into oblivion.

What’s the ideal accountability system? Northam admitted to the editorial board that he doesn’t know. Professor Koretz admitted he doesn’t know either. He throws out some ideas drawn from Finland, the Netherlands, and Singapore. There may be others as well, but frankly no one knows. For sure, the Washington Post editorial board doesn’t know, and the little it knows is wrong.

What doesn’t work is one-size-fits-all standards like Common Core. What doesn’t work is promising rewards or threatening punishment to teachers and principals, tied to test scores. Yet that is what the Washington Post advocates.

Does patent licencing depend of the weather?

Improbable Research- Inventors have reason to squirm a bit over the weather, suggests this new study about the granting — or rejection — of  patents. The study is:

Too hot to reject: The effect of weather variations on the patent examination process at the United States Patent and Trademark Office,” Balázs Kovács [pictured here], Research Policy, vol. 46, no. 10, December 2017, Pages 1824-1835.

The author, at Yale University, explains:

“This paper documents a small but systematic bias in the patent evaluation system at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO): external weather variations affect the allowance or rejection of patent applications. I examine 8.8 million reject/allow decisions from 3.5 million patent applications to the USPTO between 2001 and 2014, and find that on unusually warm days patent allowance rates are higher and final rejection rates are lower than on cold days. I also find that on cloudy days, final rejection rates are lower than on clear days. I show that these effects constitute a decision-making bias which exists even after controlling for sorting effects, controlling for applicant-level, application-level, primary class-level, art unit-level, and examiner- level characteristics. The bias even exists after controlling for the quality of the patent applications. While theoretically interesting, I also note that the effect sizes are relatively modest."

October 17, 2017

Before Harvey Weinstein there was Bill Clinton

Clips from our stories about Bill Clinton much of it ignored by the mainstream media 

1978

Juanita Broaddrick, a volunteer in Clinton's gubernatorial campaign, will later claim she was attacked by by Clinton and her lip almost bitten off.

According to Roger Morris in Partners in Power, a young woman lawyer in Little Rock will later claim that she was accosted by Clinton this year and that when she recoiled he forced himself on her, biting and bruising her. "Deeply affected by the assault, the woman decided to keep it all quiet for the sake of her own hard-won career and that of her husband. When the husband later saw Clinton at the 1980 Democratic Convention, he delivered a warning. 'If you ever approach her,' he told the governor, 'I'll kill you.' Not even seeing fit to deny the incident, Bill Clinton sheepishly apologized and duly promised never to bother her again."

1988

According to journalist Philip Weiss, "In 1988, Bill Clinton chose not to run for the presidency, in part out of fear of personal disclosure about his sex life. The story goes--and now we are into rumor/recollection, but it's persuasive--that Hillary Clinton was angry that he had bowed out and wanted a divorce. She compiled a divorce file with her friend, lawyer Vince Foster, involving a number of women in Arkansas. Ultimately she dropped the plan.

1991

A Washington, DC, political fundraiser will later claim presidential candidate-to-be Clinton invites her to his hotel room during a political trip to the nation's capital, pins her against the wall and sticks his hand up her dress. She says she screamed loud enough for the Arkansas state trooper stationed outside the hotel suite to bang on the door and ask if everything was all right, at which point Clinton releases her and she flees the room. When she reports the incident to her boss, he advises her to keep her mouth shut if she wants to keep working.

1992

A massive "bimbo" patrol is established to threaten, buy, or otherwise disarm scores of women who have had sexual encounters with Clinton. The campaign uses private investigators in an extensive operation that will be joked about at the time but later will be seen as a form of blackmail as well as psychological and physical intimidation.

Gennifer Flowers records her last conversation with Bill Clinton. On the tape Clinton says, "If they ever ask if you've talked to me about it, you can say no." Clinton describes Mario Cuomo as a "mean son of a bitch" and when Flowers says, "I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't have some Mafioso connections," the reply is: "Well, he acts like one," followed by a chuckle. Of the press, Clinton advises, "If they ever hit you with it, just say no and go on. There's nothing they can do. I expected them to look into it and come interview you. But if everybody is on record denying it, no problem"

Many papers, including the Washington Post and the New York Times, fail to let their readers know what is on the tapes. In 1997 Gennifer Flowers, interviewed by Penny Crone and Curtis Sliwa on New York's WABC, will claim that she had received threats -- including death threats -- around the time of her tape recorded conversations with Bill Clinton and that this was why she had made the recordings. Asked whether she thought Clinton was behind the threats, Flowers replies, "What I thought, after my home was ransacked, was that he was behind that -- simply because I had called to tell him about it and it was his reaction it. I mean, he acted, he was aloof. Her didn't act that concerned. He said, 'Well, why do you think they came in there?' And I said, 'Well, why the hell do you think?' He said, 'Well, do you think they were looking for something on us?' I said, 'Well, yes.' And at that moment I thought, well, maybe you're behind this because he would have as much interest to know what evidence I might have as anyone else would." Flowers also said, "One thing that Bill said on those tapes that I think has run true throughout his presidency. He told me, 'If we stick together and we continue to deny it, everything will be OK."

Major media censor a second alleged sex scandal involving Bill Clinton that breaks in a supermarket tabloid just days before the New Hampshire primary. The story, in the Globe, charges that Clinton had a relationship with a woman who claimed that Clinton was the father of her child. The woman also claims she attended group sex sessions with Clinton. The woman is now reportedly in Australia.

Former Miss Arkansas Sally Perdue goes on the Sally Jesse Raphael Show and says she had an affair with Bill Clinton. She will later tell the London Sunday Telegraph that state troopers often dropped Clinton off at her place in his jogging gear: "He saw my Steinway grand piano and went straight over to it and asked me to play. . . When I see him now, president of the United States, meeting world leaders, I can't believe it. . . I still have this picture of him wearing my black nightgown, playing the sax badly. . . this guy tiptoeing across the park and getting caught on the fence. How do you expect me to take him seriously?"

After the TV show, Perdue says she was visited by a man who described himself as a Democratic Party operative and who warned her not to reveal specifics of the affair. "He said there were people in high places who were anxious about me and they wanted me to know that keeping my mouth shut would be worthwhile. . . If I was a good little girl, and didn't kill the messenger; I'd be set for life: a federal job, nothing fancy but a regular paycheck. . . I'd never have to worry again. But if I didn't take the offer, then they knew that I went jogging by myself and he couldn't guarantee what would happen to my 'pretty little legs.'"

Perdue says she later found a shotgun cartridge on the driver's seat of her Jeep and had her back window shattered.

1994
Wikipedia - According to Jones's account, on May 8, 1991, she was escorted to Clinton's (then Governor of Arkansas) room in the Excelsior (now Little Rock Marriott) Hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he propositioned and exposed himself to her. She claimed she kept quiet about the incident until 1994, when a David Brock story in the American Spectator magazine printed an account. Jones filed a sexual harassment suit against Clinton on May 6, 1994, two days before the three-year statute of limitations, and sought $750,000 in damages.

. . . On November 13, 1998, Clinton settled with Jones for $850,000, the entire amount of her claim, but without an apology, in exchange for her agreement to drop the appeal. Robert S. Bennett, Clinton's attorney, still maintained that Jones's claim was baseless and that Clinton only settled so he could end the lawsuit and move on with his life.

1997

Monica Lewinsky speaks to White House staffer Linda Tripp about telling Clinton that she wants to break up with him:
TRIPP: Well, let me put it to you this way. By hanging up and saying
you're telling your parents and then hanging up the phone, you're saying a whole hell of a lot more than you could ever do in a 20 minute
conversation.

LEWINSKY: I know (tape skip) (inaudible) my mom will kill me if I don't
tell him - make it clear at some point that I'm not going to hurt him,
because - see, my mom's big fear is that he's going to send somebody
out to kill me.

TRIPP: Oh, my God. Oh, my God.

LEWINSKY: So --

TRIPP: Shut up.

LEWINSKY: Well, that's what she thinks.

TRIPP: Oh, my God. Don't even say such an asinine thing. He's not that
stupid. He's an arrogant....but he's not that stupid.

LEWINSKY: Well, you know, accidents happen.
1998

The Lewinsky affair story breaks in the Washington Post. President Clinton appears on television and says that he "never had sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky," and that he "never told anyone to lie."

Hillary Clinton goes on the Today Show and blames her husband's problems on a "vast right wing conspiracy."

Linda Tripp is sequestered in an FBI safe house because of threats against her life.

Monica Lewinsky tells Linda Tripp that if she would lie under oath, "I would write you a check. " Also: "I mean, telling the truth could get you in trouble. I don't know why you'd want to do that." Also: "I would not cross these -- these people -- for fear of my life." Several reports have Lewinsky saying on another occasion that she didn't want to end up like former White House intern Mary Caitrin Mahoney, killed in the Starbucks execution-style murders.

Monica Lewinsky talks with Linda Tripp about filing a false affidavit in the Paula Jones case:
TRIPP: You - you are - are you positive in your heart that you want to do
that? I mean -

LEWINSKY: Uh-huh.

TRIPP: I'm only saying - I'm only saying that in case you should change your
mind.

LEWINSKY: No. I - I - I - first of all, for fear of my life. I would not – I would not cross these - these people for fear of my life, number one.
Wikipedia - Kathleen Willey (born June 2, 1946) is a former White House volunteer aide who, on March 15, 1998, alleged on the TV news program 60 Minutes that Bill Clinton had sexually assaulted her on November 29, 1993, during his first term as President.

Prior to her testimony in the Clinton investigation, Kathleen Willey claims that the tires on her car were mysteriously punctured with dozens of nails and the cat she had for many years suddenly disappeared. Reports ABC's Jackie Judd, "Then just days before she testified in the Paula Jones lawsuit in early January, Willey was out jogging near her home when a stranger approached her. . .The man knew what had happened at her home and that he asked her if the tires had been fixed and if the cat had been found." The man then allegedly asked Willey, 'Don't you get the message?' and jogged off."

1999

Federal judge Susan Wright holds Clinton in contempt for "intentionally false" statements under oath and "willful failure" to testify truthfully in the Paula Jones sexual harrasment case. This is the only time a president has been found in contempt of court.

Juanita Broaddrick, who accused Bill Clinton of having raped her, is being audited by the Internal Revenue Service. Among others involved with the president who have been audited: Elizabeth Ward Gracen; Billy Dale (fired in travel office affair); Fox News critic Bill O'Reilly; Kent Masterson Brown (brought lawsuit compelling Hillary's health care task force to reveal its members); and Paula Jones. Also: National Review, American Spectator, Christian Coalition, Citizens for a Sound Economy,Freedom Alliance, Heritage Foundation, National Rifle Association, Western Journalism Center, National Center for Public Policy Research, Fortress America and Citizens Against Government Waste.




 

October 16, 2017

Puerto Rican recovery hurt by incomplete maps

Portside - While pre-Maria maps of Puerto Rico were fairly complete, their level of detail was nowhere near that of other parts of the United States. Platforms such as Google Maps are more comprehensive on the mainland than on the island, explains Juan Saldarriaga, a research scholar at the Center for Spatial Research at Columbia University. This is because companies like Google often create maps for financial reasons, selling them to advertisers or as navigation devices, so areas that have less economic activity are given less attention.

This lack of detail impedes recovery efforts: Without basic information on the location of buildings, for instance, rescue workers don’t know how many people were living in an area before the hurricane struck—and thus how much aid is needed.

Nearly half of Republicans want war with North Korea

A Quinnipiac University Poll showed 46 percent of Republicans favor striking North Korea before it strikes the U.S.

Young losing interest in freedom

NY Times- According to the World Values Survey, only about 30 percent of Americans born after 1980 believe it is absolutely essential to live in a democratic country, compared with 72 percent of Americans born before World War II. In 1995, 16 percent of Americans in their late teens and early adulthood thought democracy was a bad idea; in 2011, the number increased to 24 percent.

Young Americans also are disproportionately skeptical of free speech. A 2015 poll from the Pew Research Center found that 40 percent of millennials (ages 18 to 34) believe the government should be able to regulate certain types of offensive speech. Only 27 percent of Gen-Xers (ages 35 to 50), 20 percent of baby boomers (ages 51 to 69) and 12 percent of the silent generation (ages 70 to 87) share that opinion.

A 2016 Gallup survey found that a majority of both Democratic and Republican students believe colleges should be allowed to restrict speech that is purposely offensive to certain groups. A survey of students’ attitudes concerning free speech released on Wednesday by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education found that 66 percent of Democratic and 47 percent of Republican students believe there are times a college should withdraw a campus speaker’s invitation after it has been announced. And a survey published by the Brookings Institution in September found that 20 percent of Democratic and 22 percent of Republican students agreed it was acceptable for student groups to use violence to prevent a person from speaking.

Trump spends $1.1 million of campaign funds on personal legal fees

Salon - The Trump campaign spent more than one-fourth of the nearly $4.1 million in expenses incurred from July 1 to Sept. 30 on legal fees, according to USA Today. ... While these expenditures were legal — campaigns are permitted to use funds for legal expenses related to the campaign itself — the amount of money spent reflects the ongoing troubles faced by the Trump camp over its alleged collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.

GOP pol of the day

Miami Herald - A congressional candidate from Miami ... Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera says she’s been aboard a spaceship ... crewed by aliens.

Three blond, big-bodied beings — two females, one male — visited her when she was 7 years old and have communicated telepathically with her several times in her life, she says.

Rodriguez Aguilera, 59, a Republican who is running to replace retiring Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, recounted her experience with the ETs during a 2009 television interview.

She described “going up” inside the spaceship — though whether it went into space or just hovered around town was left unclear.

“I went in. There were some round seats that were there, and some quartz rocks that controlled the ship — not like airplanes,” Rodriguez Aguilera said.

Among the things she said she found out from the aliens:
- There are 30,000 skulls — “different from humans” — in a cave in the Mediterranean island of Malta.

- The world’s “energy center” is in Africa.

- The Coral Castle, a limestone tourist attraction South Miami-Dade, is actually an ancient Egyptian pyramid.

- “God is a universal energy.”
She also said that the aliens had mentioned Isis, though she didn’t clarify if they meant the terrorist organization or the ancient Egyptian goddess.

Major labor case before the Supreme Court

Governing - The U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will add a case critical to the future of public-sector unions to its docket. With President Donald Trump's appointment of conservative-leaning Justice Neil Gorsuch, many expect the court to rule against the unions.

Such a decision would energize the recent resurgence of state laws that effectively reduce the power of unions in both the public and private sector. Expecting the worst, unions are already preparing for a potential exodus of members and a loss of revenue.

Illinois is currently one of 22 states where nonunion members still have to pay so-called agency fees to unions that negotiate on their behalf.

If the Supreme Court rules that making agency fees mandatory is unconstitutional, unions in those states fear the loss of revenue from existing nonunion members and the loss of more members, who could quit unions if granted the right to avoid the paycheck deduction. Such a scenario would weaken unions' bargaining power and their political clout.

Public-sector union membership has already been on the decline. Between 2000 and 2016, it dropped about 8 percent, to 34.4 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Still, that's far greater than in the private sector where only 6.5 percent of employees belonged to a union in 2016, according to the BLS.

The shrinkage of unions can partially be attributed to the recent rise of "right-to-work" laws, which prohibit unions -- private or public sector, depending on the state -- from forcing people to pay dues. Of the 28 states that have passed right-to-work laws, six did it in the last five years. (Most of the rest passed this legislation in the 1940s and 1950s.) In general, the states with the lowest union membership have right-to-work laws.

Films produced by Harvey Weinstein

October 15, 2017

Hurricane Donald damage report

An interesting question is what has caused more damage: natural hurricanes or Hurricane Donald. To help calculate, here are some facts on the latter storm

Trump shuts down halfway houses


Trump budget would cut $2.5 trillion from programs for low and moderate income Americans

66 federal programs that Trump wants to kill

Millions of children could be hurt by Trump's plans

Trump administration arrests of noncriminal immigrants up 150 percent

Trump wants to starve millions of poor Americans

Trump's latest victims: hibernating bears

Trump's Florida vacations may force Palm Beach to raise its taxes



Alternative sex


Trump used anniversary of military desegregation to ban transgender persons in military

Arts

Trump's arts defunding would hurt communities

The Trump war against the arts



Civil liberties


Trump wants Christian extremist Sharia law

Civil rights

Trump's quiet war against civil rights

Climate change

Trump regime demotes climate scientist who spoke out

Trump undoes climate change rules

Trump thinks dealing with climate change is "a waste of your money"

Trump to emasculate NASA climate change research

Civil rights

Trump regime slashes civil rights enforcement




Economics


Trump has already hurt lower income homeowners

Education

Education programs Trump wants to eliminate

Environment

48 environmental rules the White House is working to undo

Pruitt wrecking EPA


List of Trump's anti-environmental actions

27 national monuments that could be dismissed by Trump


Trump freezes all EPA grants

FCC

Trump may send your cable and internet bills soaring

Food stamps

How Trump plans to hurt the food stamp program



Healthcare

Trump finds new way to kill people helped by Obamacare

How Trump is damaging Obamacare

Trump's proposed mass health manslaughter more deadly to Americans than Vietnam war

Trump plans to damage American healthcare even if Obamacare survives

Trump regime using Obamacare funds to attack Obamacare

Housing

Trump slashes housing support for millions. . . but not for himself

Trump makes it harder for low income home owners & first time buyers

Immigration


Trump regime killing tourism

Labor


The anti-labor plans of Trump and allies

Mexico

Trump's Mexico wall will cost about $115 per American taxpayer

Trump's wall will cost billions

Poverty

Trump wants to cut off heating aid to the poor


Trump's latest victims: low income Americans who need legal aid



Seniors

How Trump's budget would hurt older Americans

He wants to cut your Social Security

Transportation

Trump wants to kill train service for 140 million Americans

Trump wants to privatize highways and charge more tolls


Women

Trump limits women's access to birth control

Trump ready to restrict women's right to abortions

Trump regime slashes $210 million from teen pregnancy prevention programs


Youth

DeVos acts to protect colleges from students defrauded by them

Stat of the day


Harper's Magazine - Percentage of US pet-custody cases that involve dogs : 96 That involve cats : 1

Travelers in nine states will need passports to fly effective January 22

Forbes - Nine states will no longer allow travelers to board an airplane with just their state issued driver’s licenses as of January 22, 2018. To get past TSA security checkpoints, another form of identification will be required: passport, permanent resident card/green card or a military ID.

The Real ID Act of 2005 states that state-issued IDs from these nine states do not meet the minimum security standards of the federal government:

Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Washington

Oscar Peterson's drummer denied entry into US

Mount Vernon, New York native Alvin Queen was recently notified that U.S. Homeland Security will not allow him to enter the United States to perform at a prestigious, long-planned concert in Washington.

Mr. Queen, the former drummer for Oscar Peterson, whose career includes memorable collaborations with a veritable who’s who of music royalty, including Nina Simone, Horace Silver, George Benson, Ruth Brown, Buddy DeFranco, Wynton Marsalis, Billy Taylor, Wild Bill Davis, George Coleman, George Braith, Larry Young, Harry Sweets Edison and Johnny Griffin, was set to perform at a concert in Washington, DC on November 15th, 2017, at the behest of The French-American Cultural Foundation.

The evening, has Wynton Marsalis as its honorary chairman, and Dr. David Skorton , Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution , is master of ceremonies. The event marks the centenary of the US entry into WWI and specifically honors the Harlem Hellfighters . Ironically, these were the African-American soldiers who served in WWI, and who introduced jazz music to France and the rest of Europe, yet whom were never officially honored, until now.

Mr. Queen, who has held a Swiss passport for thirty years, was informed this week that, due to a run-in with the law as a youth, a half century ago, while a minor, he would have to apply for a Waiver from the U.S. Dept of Homeland Security, despite the fact he was born in the USA. This would take months, making it virtually impossible to participate, barring Presidential decree, and we know that’s unlikely. But this is not “fake news.”

“Sadly, this doesn’t surprise me one bit,” comments Mr. Queen, 67, from his home in Geneva. “Funny thing, I gave up my U.S. passport to make life simpler at tax time. I never dreamed I would one day be denied entry, and with such ridiculous reasoning. I am frankly disgusted to be disrespected in this way, after a half century devoted to music.”

Latinos now largest minority in Chicago

National Institute for Latino Policy - Latinos have surpassed other minorities in Chicago, including African Americans, in population, making it the second largest racial and ethnic group in Chicago after U.S. Whites, according to the most recent Census data.

"Hispanics", the label invented and applied by the U.S. Census-which includes Latinos and Latin American descendants-now make up nearly a third of the city's total population of 2.7 million residents.

The driving force behind the Hispanic growth are births and not immigration, as had traditionally been the case.

The African-American population, which has lost about 250,000 residents since 2000, has also declined considerably.

Tillerson: Staying in the Iran deal in best interest of the US

The Hill - Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he believes staying in the Iran nuclear deal is in the best interest of the U.S. During an interview on CNN's "State of the Union," Tillerson was asked whether he agrees with Defense Secretary James Mattis that he would not want Congress to immediately impose sanctions that would end the multilateral deal. "I do agree with that," Tillerson said. "And I think the president does as well."

Psychologists march through NY to call for Trump's removal

The Hill - A group of psychologists and mental health professionals on Saturday marched through New York calling for President Trump to be removed from office. The group — which included more than 100 psychologists and mental health professionals — are pushing for Trump to be ousted from his post, according to The New York Post.  “We can sense the power of Trump’s underlying fear that he is worthless and weak by how intensely he resists and retaliated against any criticism,” said Harry Segal, a Cornell University psychologist.

Blasphemous Christians curse Jesus with Trump

Huffington Post - At the annual Values Voter Summit in Washington this weekend, former congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who serves on Donald Trump’s evangelical advisory board, said in an interview on SiriusXM Progress that Donald Trump is now a “committed believer” of Jesus Christ and a “man of faith” who has “asked God for help and wisdom.”

"We were in a meeting with the vice president and the president, about 25 of us. I know the vice president. I served with him in Congress, and he is a vocal, committed believer of Jesus Christ himself. And he said, ‘I want all of you to know that the president is a committed believer. He is a man of faith.’

Bachmann also said that Trump “understands who put him into the White House, and that is people of faith,” and that “he’s asked God for help and for wisdom” and wants prayer.

Attendee Joel Brind of New Hamburg, New York, a college biology professor, explained that Jesus would have tweeted like Trump.

“If there were twitter then, [Jesus] would have used it in a similar way, I think,” Brind said.

"I wouldn’t restrict it to just [Trump’s] tweets. His communications in general are tactically [emulating Christ]. I don’t want to be misinterpreted to say that everything he says is equivalent to gospel. I mean, he’s on the right side, and his tactics are more reminiscent of Christ, of the tactics that Christ used when he walked the earth and which he admonished his followers to use also."

Trump was the first sitting president to speak at the anti-LGBTQ Values Voter Summit, where a pamphlet titled, “The Hazards of Homosexuality,” was included in promotional materials given to all attendees.

October 14, 2017

Pro life vs. pro choice license plates


Harper's Magazine -Number of states that offer pro-life license plates : 29 That offer pro-choice license plates : 3

The case for expanding electric rail

Word: Gorbachev's Plea to the Presidents of Russia and the United States:

About those statues

Sam Smith - I've been trying to figure out why statues of history's bad guys don't bother me as much as they do younger Americans. What I've come to realize is that for at least half my life history kept getting better and many, including myself, just assumed that we would  - and in fact were put on this earth to - continue to make things better. The unspoken assumption was that those statues were a reminder of how things had improved. History was just full of bad stuff and my own reaction was typically "glad I didn't live back then."

But if you are under 60 years old, that is not the case. History has been overwhelmingly the story of the deterioration of American politics and culture.  Thus there is far less hope concealed in it. The Confederates have returned as a part of today's story, as in Charlottesville, and the statues are too close to today.

But before you get too judgemental across the board, bear in mind that even otherwise good people once accepted slavery just as otherwise good people today accept war. What if in a few generations, war inspires a new abolition movement that is eventually successful.What will those generations have to say about us?

As Barbara Tuchman noted, "To understand the choices open to people of another time, one must limit oneself to what they knew; see the past in its own clothes, as it were, not in ours."









Weinstein had contract that protected his sex attacks

TMZ - Harvey Weinstein may have been fired illegally by The Weinstein Company, a company that wrote a contract that said Weinstein could get sued over and over for sexual harassment and as long as he shelled out money, that was good enough for the Company.

TMZ is privy to Weinstein's 2015 employment contract, which says if he gets sued for sexual harassment or any other "misconduct" that results in a settlement or judgment against TWC, all Weinstein has to do is pay what the company's out, along with a fine, and he's in the clear.

According to the contract, if Weinstein "treated someone improperly in violation of the company's Code of Conduct," he must reimburse TWC for settlements or judgments. Additionally, "You [Weinstein] will pay the company liquidated damages of $250,000 for the first such instance, $500,000 for the second such instance, $750,000 for the third such instance, and $1,000,000 for each additional instance."

The contract says as long as Weinstein pays, it constitutes a "cure" for the misconduct and no further action can be taken. Translation -- Weinstein could be sued over and over and as long as he wrote a check, he keeps his job.

The contract has specific language as to when the Board of Directors can fire Weinstein -- if he's indicted or convicted of a crime, but that doesn't apply here.

How Israel has abused the Gaza Strip

Abby Smardon, Mondoweiss - I’ve visited the Gaza Strip for each of the past six years, including in 2014 a few months after Israel’s devastating military assault. And yet, I’ve never seen Gaza like I did when I had the privilege of visiting this summer.

I call it a privilege because, due to the blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel (with the support of Egypt), which is part of Israel’s now 50-year-old military rule over Palestinians in the occupied territories, internationals allowed in and out of Gaza are few, and Palestinians even fewer. This illegal land, air, and sea blockade, which has just entered its tenth year and amounts to collective punishment, as has been noted by the UN and human rights groups, has decimated the economy of Gaza and allowed for the near complete destruction of critical infrastructure. Experts use the term “de-development” to describe this once-bustling Mediterranean coastal enclave of two million Palestinians.

Nearly half the population are now unemployed and 80% rely on humanitarian assistance from organizations like UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. Nearly one million refugees require UNRWA food assistance now, up from 80,000 people in 2000, before the blockade was in place. At its heart, UNRWA is a human development agency, running the largest and one of the best performing public school system in the entire Middle East, 10 times the size of DC Public Schools. But due to decades of Israel’s dispossession, occupation, and systematic oppression of Palestinians, UNRWA is forced to prioritize emergency interventions like food assistance and emergency protection. It’s an affront to humanity.

Health and consumer groups not funded by medical industries

Pharmed Out- Here is a list of health advocacy and consumer groups in the U.S. and Canada that take no funding from pharmaceutical, medical device, or biotech companies. The voices of independent groups that truly represent patients and consumers are drowned out by the thousands of groups that take money from industry and push industry viewpoints – or stay silent on drug safety, drug costs, and other issues vital to patients. This list is meant to be a resource for media and consumers who want to listen to – and support – independent groups whose opinions are not swayed by industry.

Word: Winnie the Pooh

Via Sharon & Peter Childs

Delaware's suburb, artist colony and radical political experiment.

Trump victims: Halfway houses

Reuters - The administration of President Donald Trump has been quietly cutting support for halfway houses for federal prisoners, severing contracts with as many as 16 facilities in recent months, prompting concern that some inmates are being forced to stay behind bars longer than necessary.

EU says Trump can't cancel Iran accord

Politico - The EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said Friday that the United States had no right to unilaterally terminate the Iran nuclear accord. She called the agreement “effective” and said there had been “no violations of any of the commitments” in the deal.

“More than two years ago, exactly in July 2015, the entire international community welcomed the results of 12 years of intense negotiations on the Iran nuclear program,” Mogherini said, adding: “It is not a bilateral agreement. It does not belong to any single country. And it is not up to any single country to terminate it. It is a multilateral agreement, which was unanimously endorsed by the United Nations Security Council.”

Joining Mogherini in what amounted to extraordinary isolation of the U.S. president, French President Emmanuel Macron, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a joint statement reaffirming their support for the accord, which they described as “in our shared national security interest.”

October 13, 2017

From our overstocked archives

I started out as a political reporter. Now I’m a crime reporter. The kind of people I cover hasn’t changed, only what they do. - Sam Smith

What Donald Trump has in common with Kaiser Wilhelm

69 House Republicans voted against aid to Puerto Rico

The Hill  -Legislation to provide $36.5 billion in aid for communities affected by recent wildfires and hurricanes, including Puerto Rico, secured widespread support in the House osave for 69 Republicans. The votes in opposition included many members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, who believe government spending should not add to the deficit.

Paris to ban non-electric cars by 2030

Common Dreams -  Paris officials announced a new goal to ban gas-powered cars from its streets by 2030.

The proposal would accelerate existing efforts to reduce air pollution in the city after French President Emmanuel Macron promised to ban the sale of vehicles with combustion engines by 2040.

Under the rule, only electric cars would be allowed in the city. Paris is already home to an electric car-sharing service, Autolib, which has become wildly popular since its launch in 2011 with the goal of reducing carbon emissions by 20 percent over a decade.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo also said that diesel vehicles would be banned in the city by 2024. She has established bike paths and new bus lanes in an effort to reduce the city's dependence on cars.

Roy Moore fought to keep segregation in Alabama constitution

Talking  Point Memo - In 2004, a bipartisan coalition of Alabama leaders moved to eliminate sections of the state constitution mandating school segregation and poll taxes. They assumed it’d be an easy feat — until Roy Moore got involved.

Democrats and Republicans led by then-Gov. Bob Riley (R) worked together on an amendment to remove language in the state constitution mandating “separate schools for white and colored children” and allowing poll taxes, Jim Crow-era requirements that people to pay to vote that disenfranchised most black people.

The changes were purely symbolic — all of the state constitutional language had already been struck down by state and federal courts — but civil rights and business leaders saw it as a way to heal old wounds and make the state more attractive to big business.

The opposite happened instead, and Moore’s fierce opposition likely made the difference.

When conservative evangelical activists including the Alabama Christian Coalition began warning about adverse effects of the segregation amendment he stepped up to be the amendment’s most prominent foe — a move that kept his name in the headlines and sent the amendment down to a narrow defeat.

“This amendment is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and the people of Alabama should be aware of it,” Moore told the Birmingham News in 2004, warning it would “open the door to an enormous tax increase” — one of many broadsides he issued.

His argument worked. The statewide measure failed by about 2,000 votes, out of 1.4 million cast. Every subsequent attempt to remove the language since that initial failure has failed, most recently in 2012.

Joan Baez to retire from touring

Variety - Joan Baez was one of several singer-songwriter luminaries to appear Tuesday night(Oct. 11) at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles for a benefit concert supporting the JRS (Jesuit Refugee Service). The folk icon and recently inducted Rock And Roll Hall Of Famer was joined by Lucinda Williams, Patty Griffin, Steve Earle, and Brandi Carlisle, and revealed to Variety shortly before taking the stage, that she’s winding down live performances in the near future.

“Next year is my last year of formal touring,” said Baez. “There will be four different tours, one month each, and then that’s it. I can choose if I want to go sing at a protest, or do something like this. The voice is so difficult to deal with now that having a point where I don’t have to do it anymore will be wonderful.”

Sam Smith - Mount Auburn 47, which opened in 1958 and later known as Club 47, was a coffee house located just around the corner from my entry of Harvard's Adams House. The current owners of what is now called Club Passim, described the early days:
"The first few months were rocky as the club was shut down by the Cambridge police. The local blue laws at the time prohibited more than three stringed instruments in a place that served food and beverages. So they got a non-profit educational charter and reopened as a private club, making people members at the door. It wasn't long before it earned a reputation for good music, coffee, and company. And it was here that a friend of then unknown 17-year-old Joan Baez rented the club out just to get her on stage. Baez quickly built a worshipful following and became a regular feature. Here, she introduced Bob Dylan who played between acts. The Club was shut down by Cambridge police once again, but the performers rallied and held their own hootenannies to keep the music going."
The club [for which I still have my membership card] would become increasingly famous with time, eventually becoming more important for folk singers than similar spots in New York. Bruce Springsteen was refused a gig there, Bonnie Rait hung out there, and Muddy Waters attracted the Cambridge police who, according to one account, "couldn't believe that the loud music could be coming from a place that only plays 'folk' music." Other musicians who cut their teeth at the club over the years included Tom Rush, Peter Wolf, Taj Mahal, Judy Collins, Suzanne Vega, Nanci Griffith, and Shawn Colvin

There was also Eric von Schmidt, with whom I even played a couple of practice sessions when he was wondering how guitar and just brushes on snare would sound together. And Joan Baez made

And Lew Waling, a friend of Joan's, who was the guy  her first radio appearance on WHRB, the Harvard radio station where I was news director.

A few years later, Lew's luck would turn. He was part of a classified Air Force mission in Vietnam. His plane went down and according to an accoun,, "Dawn found the SAR team getting off a Vietnamese Army helicopter on a dirt road several miles from the crash site. The team, led by Colonel Gleason, hiked across the side of a mountain where they found the C-47 had plummeted into a ravine and burned almost completely." Walling's name is one of the first forty on the glazed black wall of the Vietnam Memorial.