February 19, 2018

Why March for Our Lives could be very important

Sam Smith- Change can’t always be predicted. In February 1960, four black students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College sat down at a white-only Woolworths lunch counter in Greensboro, NC. Within two weeks, there were sit-ins in fifteen cities in five southern states and within two months they had spread to fifty four cities in nine states

Are we experiencing something like that now? Are the post Millennial students of March for Our Lives the Greensboro the long awaited changers of our time? Stay tuned.

Philip Bump, Washington Post- This is the first premeditated mass shooting at this scale that involved people who both grew up entirely in a world in which mass shootings were common and which targeted people old enough to have a voice. They are at an age at which political awareness blooms

Not only are they old enough to be heard, those in their late teens are also at an age when politics surges in importance.

Voter turnout increases as people get older, a function of greater personal stability (moving less often), and that voting tends to be habitual. But there’s evidence that those who are newly able to vote do so much more heavily than people even slightly older, in part a function of the novelty of being able to do so.

More broadly, the events experienced when you’re 18 are three times as powerful as events experienced at age 40 in terms of forming political views, according to analysis conducted by Catalist in 2014. The ages from 14 to 24 were found to be the most formative years.

Young people are also more likely to be politically liberal, although they’re only slightly more likely to be supportive of gun-control measures. They’re not cynical

At ProPublica, Alec MacGillis writes that pessimism among liberals after years of seeing no significant changes to the nation’s gun laws can be self-fulfilling.

“This world-weary defeatism is self-fulfilling in its own way,” he writes, “and helps explain why Washington hasn’t taken action to address the killing.” Those pushing for change are dismissed as quixotic, he argues, and those who oppose new laws aren’t forced to defend their positions.

The teens in Parkland haven’t been part of the political discussion and don’t show that same defeatism.

Minimum wage laws poorly enforced

Politico- As Democrats make raising the minimum wage a centerpiece of their 2018 campaigns, and Republicans call for states to handle the issue, both are missing an important problem: Wage laws are poorly enforced, with workers often unable t recover back pay even after the government rules in their favor.

That’s the conclusion of a nine-month investigation by POLITICO, which found that workers are so lightly protected that six states have no investigators to handle minimum-wage violations, while 26 additional states have fewer than 10 investigators. Given the widespread nature of wage theft and the dearth of resources to combat it, most cases go unreported. Thus, an estimated $15 billion in desperately needed income for workers with lowest wages goes instead into the pockets of shady bosses.

How banks still engage in housing discrimination

Scholars misplace key presidents

Sam Smith- A recent NY Times survey of  scholars on who were the best presidents shows some bizarre results, particularly in its ranking of Lyndon Johnson, who got more good legislation passed in less time than anyone, albeit also being someone you wouldn't want near your daughter.

Democratic scholars ranked the unsubstantial Barack Obama two places ahead of Johnson and one place ahead of Truman. Independent scholars squeezed Johnson between Obama and Clinton.

The path of multigenerational home sharing

NY Times -After the late 1800s, as two economists pointed out in a landmark 2000 study, most elderly widows lived with one of their children — so common a practice that it developed a nostalgic sheen, enshrined as the way things ought to be.

In 1940, however, that arrangement started crumbling. The proportion of older widows living with children declined from about 60 percent that year to 20 percent by the 1990 census.

Did Americans stop loving their mothers in 1940? No, but their parents began receiving checks from a just-enacted New Deal program called Social Security and no longer had to rely financially on their families.

...A decade or so ago, as demographers began reporting an uptick in shared and multigenerational housing, the trend again looked to be economically driven, this time by the Great Recession.

A Census Bureau report noted that the number of shared households had jumped more than 11 percent between 2007 and 2010. The spike came primarily from younger people — buffeted by unemployment, foreclosures and student debt — moving in with their parents or other relatives.

Multigenerational households, which hit a historic low of 12 percent of American households in 1980, reached 19 percent in 2014, Pew reported.

Public radio hit hard by abuse cases

NY Times -Of all the realms of media that have been shaken by the #MeToo movement, perhaps the most surprising has been public radio, the home of virtuous journalism and thoughtful, warm-voiced commentary.

Like Fox News, Vice Media and NBC News, the tweedy world of public broadcasting — a complex ecosystem of local stations and national syndicators, with NPR at the center — has seen some of its most popular figures fall in recent months, including Garrison Keillor, Leonard Lopate, Jonathan Schwartz and John Hockenberry.

The reckoning is not over. On Wednesday, WBUR in Boston said it had fired Tom Ashbrook, the host of “On Point,” a call-in show heard on 290 stations, after an investigation found that he had “created an abusive work environment.”

These revelations may pose risks to the all-important bond that public media organizations form with their listeners, whom they also rely on for financial contributions. The stations already face the aging of their audiences, rising pressure from podcasts and streaming outlets, and a renewed proposal by the Trump administration to cut all federal funding for public broadcasting.

“The relationships that people have with the presenters and reporters on NPR feels very personal,” said Vivian Schiller, a former chief executive of NPR who has also held senior positions at Twitter, The New York Times and elsewhere.

“People make assumptions about who these people are based on their voice and what feels like an intimate, one-on-one relationship,” Ms. Schiller added, “so the potential for backlash is that much greater if you feel that you have been betrayed.”

Word

When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist. —Dom Helder Camara, Archbishop, Brazil 1964-1975

February 18, 2018

Department of Good Stuff: Politics links



POLITICS
Political news
Trump
GOP news
Obama news
Campaign financing
Facing the quarter century Democratic Party disaster
Joe Biden
 
GROUPS
Democracy for America
Democratic Socialists of America
Green Party news
Movement Voter Project
Our Revolution
People's Action
Progressive Democrats of America
Working Families Party
 
 
TRUMP ERA
 
The Trump investigation
Trump and fascism
How to revive progressive politics
What we can learn from the South
Trump didn't just happen
Yes, something's happenin'
Practical Guide for Resisting Trump Agenda
 
Issues
Targets
Trump's gang
Trump & business
Trump & the law
Trump & peoples
 
Misc
How Mad Men control politics
No one left but us
Brain drain: The hazards of grad school politics
A capital without doubt Why politics doesn't matter much anymore
Democratic Party news
Populism
Hints your country may becoming fascist
How minorities change America
The end of politics
Sex & politics in DC
All in the family
History's hints for third parties
The politics of myth
Bucking the system: A scorecard over time
Why you shouldn't vote for a corporate exec
Bringing politics home
The non political side of politics
 
Money
 
What's a bribe?
When bribery is called free speech
Sam Smith's 1999 speech on campaign financing

Jazz break

Your Mind is on Vacation

Mose Allison Trio

The GOP mind at work

Patheos -According to reports, when a plate of ribs was delivered to the table, Corbin claimed “they remind me of an old joke.”  [South Carolina State Senator Thomas Corbin] proceeded to call women a “lesser cut of meat,” explaining:

"Well, you know God created man first. Then he took the rib out of man to make woman.  And you know, a rib is a lesser cut of meat."

Two indicted Russians spent time in Michigan

WXYZ, Detroit-Two Russians charged by the FBI in an indictment traveled to Michigan in their efforts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election. According to the indictment, Aleksandra Krylova and Anna Bogacheva visited Michigan and 8 other states in a 12-day span in June of 2014 to "gather intelligence" and report back to the internet research agency - an alleged online troll group linked to the Kremlin in Russia.

Current polls

Margins in latest polls. Incumbents in bold

NEW HAMPSHIRE DEMOCRATS 
Biden 35
Sanders 24
Warren 15

TOP ISSUES
Economy 71
Jobs 62
Budget deficit 48



GENERIC CONGRESSIONAL BALLOT 
Democrats 11, 4, 3


SENATE
Florida: Nelson D - Scott R -  6, 1
Michigan: Stabenow D - Various R - 21, 21


GOVERNORHIPS
Iowa;
Reynolds R  Boulton D - 4
Maryland Hogan-R Baker-D - 10 
New Hampshire: Sununu-R  Various D - 10-14

Summary: One Democratic senator in potential trouble. One GOP governor in potential trouble
 

Philadelphia suing pharmaceuticals over opioids and dropping pot possession charges

Philadelphia Magazine -On the same day a Philly.com op-ed was published in which Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner (and Mayor Kenney) admitted the failure that was the “War on Drugs,” in the 1980s and ’90s, the DA’s office announced that it is suing 10 pharmaceutical companies in connection with the opioid epidemic and is dropping all outstanding marijuana possession charges.

In just a little over a month since taking office, Krasner has already built on the progress that began under former mayor Michael Nutter’s administration by further reforming the city’s drug policy to the point where getting busted with pot now no longer means a court date is in your future. Krasner says citations are issued approximately 90 percent of the time someone is caught with marijuana.

How the Trump regime is quietly destroying government

Salon -Mick Mulvaney warned us that it was coming. After all, in 2014 he called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the independent government agency he now temporarily heads, a "sick, sad joke."

Three years later, Mulvaney was installed as the head of the agency he once decried — a move that smelled like a hostile takeover by the the powerful financial institutions that are now running the show. It appeared calculated, and unmistakably placed Mulvaney at direct odds with the very purpose of the agency: to protect the consumer.

It certainly fits the broader theme of the Trump administration.

A few months prior, during a visit to CPAC — the pinnacle for conservatives in Washington — then-Trump aide Steve Bannon said that the administration's goal was "the destruction of the administrative state."

"Since he [Mulvaney] has taken this role on," Ruth Susswein, the deputy director of National Priorities at Consumer Action, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group, told Salon, "he has actively chosen to do whatever is in his power to dismantle the agency from within. That's his goal."

She explained that Mulvaney would "abolish the agency if he could, but legally he can't." In the past, as a former Republican U.S. representative, Mulvaney co-sponsored legislation that would eliminate the agency.

As the acting brass, Mulvaney has taken several drastic steps to reduce the CFPB's authority and ability to hold powerful financial institutions, such as banks, payday lenders and credit card companies, accountable for fraudulent or otherwise predatory behavior. He has put on hold a rule that imposed restrictions on short-term payday loans, and dropped investigations into at least one company that donated to his political campaign in the past.

February 17, 2018

What Donald Trump could learn from how Mueller handled the Gamino famly

Vanity Fair, December 2017- For over a year, stretching from 1990 to 1991, 10 South was the forbidding home of the triumvirate that still ruled the Gambino crime family as they awaited trial—John Gotti, Frank Locascio, and Sammy Gravano. But in the first days of October 1991, a cunning plan began to take shape to covertly transfer Sammy the Bull, in the pre-dawn hours, from his inhospitable cell.

Today, nearly three eventful decades later, what makes this Great Escape more than just a faded episode from yesteryear’s gangland chronicles, but rather relevant and even instructive, is the identity of the man who ultimately had to sign off on the operation: then U.S. Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Robert Mueller. This is, of course, the same hard-driving crime fighter who, as special counsel, is presently leading the federal investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. For months, Mueller has been working his way up the Trump food chain, beginning with a guilty plea by campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, and, more recently, a 12-count indictment against former campaign manager Paul Manafort. (Manafort has pleaded not guilty.) On Friday, after meetings to discuss a deal, the president’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, walked into a federal courtroom in Washington, D.C., and pleaded guilty in an arrangement that reportedly includes his testimony against more campaign officials, possibly including Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and the president himself.

It is, one person close the administration recently observed, a “classic Gambino-style roll-up.” To understand how Mueller might now proceed, to get a sense of the compromises he’d be willing to make to bag the larger prosecutorial targets in his sights, it’s eye-opening to go back to the deal he cut with Sammy the Bull.

What happened

Progressive politics update: Kucinich

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dennis Kucinich rolled out a criminal justice plan. The former congressman and Cleveland mayor says it’s targeted at “ending private for-profit prisons in Ohio, stopping the warehousing of non-violent offenders, reforming the bail system, attacking the opioid epidemic and drug addiction in general, improving training for law enforcement personnel, establishing better police-community relations, and taking serious legal action against any public officials guilty of abuses of power in the performance of their jobs.”

“The criminal justice system, in Ohio as well as nationally, has a shameful record of disproportionately targeting, prosecuting, jailing, and otherwise discriminating against the African American and Latino communities,” Kucinich said in prepared remarks. “Arrest, conviction, and incarcerations statistics are clear and incontrovertible evidence of that fact.”

Kucinich said laws are needed “that prohibit those with mental health issues that make them a danger to themselves or others from owning a gun. No one with weapons under disability charges, a conviction of a violent felony, or a mental health issue presenting a danger should have access to weapons.”

He said his administration would support the right of local communities to enact laws about local gun bans. “For example, Cleveland attempted to ban assault weapons years ago and should have been supported, not opposed by the state.”

Kucinich wants to standardize probes of possible law enforcement misconduct. “The conduct of each and every law enforcement official shall be subject to a transparent process of public review in the event of unnecessary aggression, brutality, or the possibility or suspicion of wrongful death,” he said.

Kucinich called for demilitarization of police: “No military equipment or ordnance used by the U.S. Department of Defense shall be used for purposes of law enforcement or crowd control anywhere in the state of Ohio.”

Kushner investors asked for documents by tax authorities

Bloomberg News - U.S. tax authorities have requested documents from lenders and investors in real estate projects managed by Jared Kushner’s family, according to a person familiar with the matter.

They have gathered information from people who lent money and assembled investors for some Kushner Cos. real estate projects in New York and New Jersey, the person said. Those projects involve deals dating back to 2010.

The tax inquiry appears unrelated to other investigations that have since burst into public view.

Is Donald Trump a traitor?

James Risen, Portside- In Article 3, Section 3, the U.S. Constitution states that “treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”

Based on that provision in the Constitution, U.S. law – 18 U.S. Code § 2381 – states that “[w]hoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere” is guilty of treason.  Those found guilty of this high crime “shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”

What happens when a major city runs dry

Seattle commuters turn away from cars

City Lab -  Seattle is among the fastest growing cities in the U.S., thanks largely to Amazon’s addition of 35,000 employees since 2010... But thanks in part to considerable efforts by the region’s largest employers, the share of commuters driving solo into downtown Seattle is on a dramatic decline.

Just 25 percent of workers traveling into the center city drove themselves, according to the results of the latest annual commuter survey by the Seattle Department of Transportation and nonprofit partner Commute Seattle. This is the lowest share since the city started keeping track in 2010.

While Seattle has gained about 60,000 jobs since 2010, there are approximately 4,500 fewer single-occupancy vehicles.

Overwhelmingly, new workers are choosing transit. The share of commuters headed downtown by bus or train rocketed from 42 to 48 percent from 2010 to 2017, with about 127,00 such trips during the average morning rush hour.

Walking, biking and carpooling also picked up by thousands of trips per day, according to the survey. 

Minnesota blends background checks, high gun ownership, low violent crime rate

CBS Minnesota -  Minnesota set a record last year for the number of gun background checks the FBI conducted in the state.

More people are carrying guns than ever before, but the crime rate remains relatively low.

Minnesota’s violent crime rate hit a 50-year low in 2016, according to the FBI.

And in 2017, the state set a new record for firearms background checks.

Minnesota set another 2017 record, too. The State Department of Public Safety reports 283,188 Minnesotans now have permits to legally carry firearms in public.

Word: The importance of degrowth

Nature - Humanity faces the challenge of how to achieve a high quality of life for over 7 billion people without destabilizing critical planetary processes. Using indicators designed to measure a ‘safe and just’ development space, we quantify the resource use associated with meeting basic human needs, and compare this to downscaled planetary boundaries for over 150 nations. We find that no country meets basic needs for its citizens at a globally sustainable level of resource use. Physical needs such as nutrition, sanitation, access to electricity and the elimination of extreme poverty could likely be met for all people without transgressing planetary boundaries. However, the universal achievement of more qualitative goals (for example, high life satisfaction) would require a level of resource use that is 2–6 times the sustainable level, based on current relationships. Strategies to improve physical and social provisioning systems, with a focus on sufficiency and equity, have the potential to move nations towards sustainability, but the challenge remains substantial.

Details

Trump regime pushing court nominee who says gay marriage not part of God's plan

Washington Times -The Trump administration is defending one of the president’s federal court nominees, who has come under attack from LGBT advocates and his home state senator, after saying same-sex marriage is worse than abortion because of “the damage it does to civil society.”

Gordon Giampietro, who was nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, is a lawyer in Wisconsin and previously worked for the federal government.

In a radio interview in 2015 on “The Lydia LoCoco Show,” a program about faith and life, Mr. Giampietro, said the birth control pill is “an assault on nature,” and that Justice Anthony M. Kennedy “went off the rails years ago in Lawrence against Texas” when he issued the 2003 decision, which ended laws against sodomy.  “Whenever you go against God’s plan, bad things are going to happen,” he said in the recording, which focused on the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.

Cops called 39 times to Nikolas Cruz house over seven years

NY Post - Before Nikolas Cruz carried out his mass killing at a Florida high school this week, police responded to his home 39 times over a seven-year period, according to disturbing new documents.

Details about the calls to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office — obtained from police records by CNN — were not immediately available and it was impossible to determine if all involved Cruz.

But the nature of the emergencies at his Parkland home included “mentally ill person,” “child/elderly abuse,” “domestic disturbance” and “missing person,” KTLA reported.

And a schoolmate, Brody Speno, told the network that cops were called to Cruz’s home “almost every other week.”

“Something wasn’t right about him,” Speno told CNN. “He was off.”

Second congressional campaign unionizes

Intercept -  Wisconsin Democrat Randy Bryce’s campaign workers shocked the political world when they became the first congressional campaign to announce that they had unionized. The candidate went even further, saying he would welcome not only his campaign staff unionizing, but would back Congressional staff doing so as well.

The organizing drive was led by the Campaign Workers Guild, a group of former campaign workers who are working with campaigns nationwide.

Now, a second congressional campaign has announced that it, too, unionized.

That campaign is Jess King’s in the 16th District of Pennsylvania. She’s one of four Democrats who are competing in a May 2018 primary, the subject of a recent Intercept article on Democratic primaries between progressive and centrist Democrats. King startled longtime Pennsylvania politicos by relying on small-dollars to out-fundraise her opponent in the final quarter of 2017.

Is the world getting better or worse?

World Economic Forum - A recent survey asked “All things considered, do you think the world is getting better or worse, or neither getting better nor worse?”. In Sweden 10% thought things are getting better, in the US they were only 6%, and in Germany only 4%. Very few people think that the world is getting better.

In fact, in many ways it is. Some examples



Gun owners are not the NRA

Sam Smith -As noted here before, one of the main reasons  we don't have better gun laws is that liberals have gone it alone on issue instead of building alliances with rational  gun owners. Gun owners are not the NRA as a recent CBS poll shows.

For example:
  • 56% of gun owners do not believe gun control supporters are trying to take away traditions and a way of life.
  • 55% of gun owners do not believe gun control supporters are trying to take away all guns.
  • 60% think gun control supporters are promoting public safety and lower gun deaths for everyone.
  • 43% of gun owners think the NRA is too extreme in its positions.
  • 55% of gun owners disapprove of the way the NRA handles the debate.
  • 54% of gun owners are concerned about the possibility of gun violence at their children's school
  • On a scale of one to five, with the latter representing pro-control 42%  of gun owners place themselves at 4 or 5.
In short, the image projected by liberals and the media of gun owners is markedly wrong. They should recognize that the view of these owners is quite varied and start to work with hunters and other owners who favor a rational approach.

February 16, 2018

The real costs of war

Truth Out -  In a counterpoint to the relatively limited estimates issued by the Pentagon, the Costs of War Project has come up with a comprehensive estimate of what the war on terror has actually cost this country since 2001: $5.6 trillion. It's an almost unfathomably large number. Imagine, though, if we had invested such funds in more cancer research or the rebuilding of America's infrastructure. .

That $5.6 trillion includes the costs of caring for post-9/11 veterans as well as spending to prevent terrorist attacks on US soil ("homeland security").

The media also commonly draws on another set of striking figures we issue: our calculations of deaths, both American and foreign, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. As of 2016, about 14,000 American soldiers and contractors and 380,000 inhabitants of those countries had been killed. To these estimates, you have to add the deaths of at least 800,000 more Afghans, Iraqis, and Pakistanis from indirect causes related to the devastation caused by those wars, including malnutrition, disease, and environmental degradation.

Latinos more in favor of gun control

National Institute for Latino Policy -Latinos are more likely than both whites and African Americans to favor strict gun control laws, according to a report released by the Pew Research Center on Wednesday.

The survey found that 57 percent of whites "say it is more important to protect the rights of Americans to own guns" while "just 37 percent say it is more important to control gun ownership."

Latinos responded very differently. Just 29 percent of Latinos said that it is more important to protect gun ownership rights, than it is to control gun ownership. African American opinions fell in the middle of the two groups, with 35 percent of subjects answering that it is more important to protect the rights of Americans to own guns.

Poll finds young Californian Jews not warm towards Israel

Mondoweiss - The latest study of U.S. Jewish attitudes towards Israel only confirms the trend:  Zionism is tanking;  there is growing indifference to the idea of a Jewish state among younger, unaffiliated Jews.

Here’s that survey of over 3500 Bay Area Californians, 96 percent of whom consider themselves Jewish or partly Jewish, released by the Jewish Federation in the Bay Area.

When 18-34 year olds are asked if they’re “very attached” to Israel, only 11 percent say yes, compared to 25 percent of those 50 and older. Is a Jewish state very important? 37 percent of the young say yes. Only 40 percent of the young are “comfortable with the idea of a Jewish state.”

Ask the same questions among those 50-64, and the numbers are, 61 percent regard a Jewish state as very important, and 64 percent are comfortable with the idea of a Jewish state. Zionism is age-related, of course: Over 65, that number is 73 percent comfortable with the idea of a Jewish state.

Other tidbits: Among 18-34-year-olds, the intermarriage rate is a whopping 66 percent, compared to 42 percent of those over 65.

How personal care products contribute to air pollution

Washington Post - In a major study, a team of government and university scientists say that the nature of air pollution is changing dramatically as cars become cleaner — leaving personal-care products, paints, indoor cleaners and other chemical-containing agents as an increasingly dominant source of key emissions.

“Over time, the transportation sector has been getting cleaner when it comes to emissions of air pollutants,” said Brian McDonald, lead author of the study in Science, who works for the University of Colorado at Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “And as those emissions come down, the sources of air pollution are becoming more diverse.”

Vermont joins net neutrality drive

Vermont Digger - Gov. Phil Scott signed an executive order that would require state bodies to uphold net neutrality protection when contracting internet service providers, effective April 1.

The House and Senate recently proposed bills to push back against the Federal Communication Commission’s December decision to repeal Obama-era net-neutrality rules — a highly controversial move in line with President Donald Trump’s focus on deregulation.

The governor’s order directs the Agency of Administration to amend its procedures to ensure that internet providers who contract with the state comply with net neutrality standards, according to a news release from the Scott administration.

Another reason Trump would be fired if he were merely a White House secretary

USA Today - A former Playmate, who says she has been emboldened by the Me Too movement and declining health, has confirmed to The New Yorker that she authored an eight-page, hand-written document about her alleged affair with Donald Trump that the magazine said was quietly buried by the National Enquirer after buying exclusive rights to it.

The deal, which netted Karen McDougal $82,500, has prevented her from discussing the alleged relationship with Trump.

McDougal, who was judged runner-up for "Playmate of the '90s," allegedly met Trump in 2006 at the Playboy mansion after Trump had been married to Slovenian model Melania Knauss for less than two years.

Building a gun control coalition

We have periodically argued that liberals should stop going alone on gun control, that they should seek alliances with hunters and other groups that are in favor of gun ownership but are willing to deal with the problems involved. The liberals go-it-alone approach to this issue has not only made them ineffective, it is the basis for a lot of anti-liberal antagonism. Here, for example, are reforms the conservative NY Post has proposed:

NY Post

  •     Reinstate the federal assault-weapons ban, or at least revive its key features. Passed in 1994 but allowed to lapse 10 years later, that law prohibited the manufacture of semiautomatic firearms that bore certain features, like detachable magazines, that made them more dangerous. Perhaps most important, it also outlawed “large capacity” magazines. Critics argue that the ban did little good — but the fact is that the average toll from mass shootings has been growing. It’s surely worth trying to trim a casualty from the next killer’s total. Note, too, that the ban did no real harm. And it certainly didn’t lead the nation down the “slippery slope” toward eliminating other weapons, let alone a repeal of the Second Amendment, as the NRA and other Washington lobbyists warned.
  •     Raise the age to buy firearms. While Nikolas Cruz’s background and motives are still being investigated, it’s already clear he had issues — and people knew it. But at 19, his record wasn’t enough to prevent a gun sale. Background checks are no good if you hardly have a background. Most states ban drinking under 21; there’s no reason not to similarly curb gun purchases. Ban gun sales to “fugitives from justice.” Such sales have long been illegal, but last year, Team Trump opted to exclude fugitives from the background-check database unless they crossed state lines; that removed 500,000 names from the list. Shouldn’t everyone who flees justice be kept from buying guns?
  •     Target bump stocks. These let shooters turn semiautomatic weapons into ones that fire almost as rapidly as fully automatic ones, which are illegal. The idea of a ban got attention last year after the devices helped the Las Vegas shooter carry out his massacre — but soon died. Congress should act. If it won’t, Trump can order a bureaucratic ban: No one claims the Second Amendment protects these things.
  •     Kill the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act. This bill would effectively impose some states’ loose gun-control laws on states with tighter ones; it’s arrogant and anti-federalist. It’s probably going nowhere — but the president can send a clear message by denouncing it. Why mess with places like New York City, which is already the safest large city in America? No doubt other steps can help address the mass-shooting horror. We’re all for better reporting of threats and better security — but no one wants America’s schools turned into fortresses. Nothing can be sure to prevent another Parkland or Las Vegas or Sandy Hook. But that’s a poor excuse not to act. America needs to stand up to these attacks — to make it harder for those who shouldn’t have firearms to get them, to send a message that the nation is cracking down. If it’s possible to prevent or limit even a few tragedies, why not?

February 15, 2018

Department of Good Stuff : Music links

Music news

ESSAYS
The attack on jazz
Thelonius Monk
Bass players
Factories of fame
Punk and protest
Joan Baez' first radio appearance
Music and politics: The sounds of change
Essays on music
A half century of American music
Upright falldown
Jocko Henderson
Why you don't have to like Michael Jackson
 
Recording industry
Why we need a natural music movement
Recording industry vs. music
Where the music went
Music's real problem is downgrading, not downloading
 
Play It Again, Sam - Some recordings of Sam Smith playing with various bands

Recovered History: Trump made it easier for the mentally ill to get a gun

NBC News, February 28, 2017  -  President Donald Trump quietly signed a bill into law rolling back an Obama-era regulation that made it harder for people with mental illnesses to purchase a gun.

The rule, which was finalized in December, added people receiving Social Security checks for mental illnesses and people deemed unfit to handle their own financial affairs to the national background check database.

Had the rule fully taken effect, the Obama administration predicted it would have added about 75,000 names to that database.

President Barack Obama recommended the now-nullified regulation in a 2013 memo following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which left 20 first graders and six others dead. The measure sought to block some people with severe mental health problems from buying guns.

22 agencies and programs Trump's budget would eliminate

Over 130 in White House have only interim security clearances

Salon -As of November of last year, over 130 political appointees working in the Executive Office of the President did not have permanent security clearances, and 47 of them report directly to President Donald Trump, internal White House documents obtained by NBC News have revealed.

Those in the White House without a permanent security clearance as recently as November include Trump's daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump, Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, social media director Dan Scavino and Christopher Liddell, a strategic initiatives assistant.

Judge rules you can't copyright the banal

Variety -   A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit that accused Taylor Swift of copyright infringement on her hit song “Shake It Off.”

Songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler brought the suit last fall, arguing that the chorus of the song borrowed from their 2001 composition, “Playas Gon’ Play.”

In his ruling, Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald held that combining the phrases, “Playas gonna play” and “haters gonna hate,” does not entail sufficient originality to warrant copyright protection.

“By 2001, American popular culture was heavily steeped in the concepts of players, haters, and player haters,” Fitzgerald wrote. “The concept of actors acting in accordance with their essential nature is not at all creative; it is banal.”

Boston pulbic radio fires Tom Ashbrook

The Hill -Boston public radio host Tom Ashbrook has been dismissed amid allegations that he created an abusive workplace, WBUR said. Ashbrook, the host of the call-in radio show "On Point," was suspended from the station in December as he faced allegations of sexual misconduct. An independent investigation cleared him of those allegations, but determined that Ashbrook created an "abusive work environment," WBUR and Boston University, which runs the station, said.

The rise of southern black populism

Jim Hightower, Alternet  - A fresh, "Reclaim the South" movement of young African-American populists is emerging, kindling long-suppressed hope in the racially scarred Deep South and offering the possibility of real economic and cultural progress.

Guess who's mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, the state's capital city? Chokwe Antar Lumumba, a 34-year-old African-American lawyer who was raised in Jackson in a family and community of longtime Black Power activists. Last June, backed by Our Revolution and Working Families Party, Lumumba was elected with 93 percent  of the vote, and he promptly pledged to make Jackson "the most radical city on the planet." By radical, he means aggressively innovative in developing policies and programs focused directly on lifting up Jackson's middle-class and poor residents, rather than adopting the failed trickle-down model of nearly every other city. For example, instead of giving away government subsidies to lure rich corporations, Lumumba is trying to make the city a national showcase of home-grown cooperative enterprises owned by the people themselves.

In August, the incumbent mayor of Birmingham, Alabama—an old-style, don't-rock-the-boat politico favored by the city's power brokers—thought he was cruising to an easy re-election. Then wham! An underdog populist challenge by a 36-year-old black attorney, Randall Woodfin, stunned the city powers with a first-place showing that forced the mayor into an October runoff. Woodfin, a city prosecutor and school board member, went on to defeat Birmingham's corporate and political establishment by winning the mayorship with 58 percent of the vote. He did it by proposing an all-out populist agenda, building a broad coalition of local progressive activists and running a dogged ground game with the full support of Our Revolution, Working Families Party and other national groups.

Likewise, other full-bore black populists won big in races for local offices across the South, including:
  •     Khalid Kamau, a Black Lives Matter activist and national Democratic convention delegate for Sanders, won a South Fulton, Georgia council seat with 67 percent of the vote.
  •     Braxton Winston, a young community activist and battler against rampant inequalities in the enforcement of justice in Charlotte, NC, won a city council seat.
  •     La'Shadion Shemwell, a 30-year-old barber and Black Lives Matter proponent, pulled 57 percent of the vote in his extraordinary run for a city council seat in McKinney, Texas. The suburban city on Dallas' north side had long been considered a safe Republican bastion.

Was Stormy Daniels hush money an improper campaign contribution?

Independent,UK-A government watchdog organization has filed a complaint to the Federal Electoral Commission over the $130,000 Donald Trump’s lawyer paid to actor Stormy Daniels before the presidential election, suggesting the payment could have influenced the outcome of the vote and should have been declared at the time.

The US president could potentially face another FBI investigation during his time in office if it transpires the money paid to Daniels in an attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election.


Common Cause, a Washington watchdog, has asked the FEC to investigate the source of Mr Trump’s lawyer’s $130,000 payment and determine whether it constituted an excessive campaign contribution.

U.S. court says Trump travel ban unlawfully discriminates against Muslims

Mass shootings are awful, but not America's worst

Activist Post  -  In the 20th century alone, governments were responsible for 260,000,000 deaths worldwide. That number is greater than all deaths from illicit drug use, STDs, homicides, and traffic accidents — combined.

Now, on to the micro-comparison.

According to a comprehensive database of all American mass shootings that have taken place since 1982, constructed by Mother Jones, there have been exactly 816 deaths attributed to mass shootings that have taken place on American soil.

As Mother Jones notes, in their database, they exclude shootings stemming from more conventional crimes such as armed robbery or gang violence. Other news outlets and researchers have published larger tallies that include a wide range of gun crimes in which four or more people have been either wounded or killed. While those larger datasets of multiple-victim shootings may be useful for studying the broader problem of gun violence, our investigation provides an in-depth look at the distinct phenomenon of mass shootings—from the firearms used to mental health factors and the growing copycat problem.

Already, in 2018, American police have killed 153 people. When we add that to 1,189 people killed by police in 2017, that number is 1,342. This number is set to increase by one, on average, every 8 hours.

When comparing the total number of mass shootings over the last 35 years to just the last 14 months of police killings the ratio is 1.6 to 1, citizens killed by cops vs. citizens killed in mass shootings. That is a massive difference.

Since 2015, cops in America have killed 3,733 citizens.

How Bronx court handles opioid addiction cases

Bronx District Attorney  - District Attorney Clark said her Alternatives to Incarceration Bureau and other trained Assistant District Attorneys will offer defendants charged with seventh - degree Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance  the opportunity to take part in [the overdose and recovery program] . In addition to linking defendants with intensive treatment, Bronx Community Solutions will offer job training, housing and other needed services. Those who are assessed as high - risk of overdose and accept the program will have their cases adjourned to one of two specialized drug court parts with prosecution of the case withdrawn pending the OAR outcome. Participants who meaningfully engage in and fulfill treatment will, upon consent of the Court, have their cases dismissed and sealed, eliminating the burden of a criminal record. There are no penalties for defendants who forego the use of OAR and their cases will move ahead in the criminal court process.

The unnoted relationship between American militarism and domestic murders

Instittute for Public Accuracy - Coleen Rowley — a former FBI special agent who exposed some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures and was named one of TIME magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002 — writes on Facebook: “It looks like this latest Florida school shooter besides having a number of psychological problems was in JROTC. Most reporters are not mentioning the connection between mass shooters and military training/service. Research shows a significant correlation. I’ve been saying for years now that the steep increase in mass shootings in the U.S. can be traced to blowback from the extreme ‘war is the answer’ militarism (all over social media, Hollywood, violent video games, etc.) used to sustain and promote U.S.-NATO-Israel’s perpetual war.”

Gun homocides vastly vary by state

 
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Secret ICE guide shows how it abuses denaturalization

intercept -For 10 years, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s investigative office has worked to keep its internal handbook out of American courts. The handbook could have been used in court to show how ICE’s push to lead on denaturalization cases stands in contrast to the language of federal law governing the process, an immigration lawyer said. “We could have used it as an exhibit in a motion to dismiss” in previous denaturalization cases, said Philip Smith, an immigration attorney from Portland, Oregon, noting the contrast.

The handbook, which was issued on January 15, 2008, and published by the independent media outlet Unicorn Riot, makes clear that the priority for ICE’s investigative division, Homeland Security Investigations, or HSI, in denaturalization proceedings is to use the most efficient means possible to fulfill a single-minded goal: leveraging the bureaucratic process to strip citizenship from naturalized Americans.

“Their objective is to inflict the most pain as possible, as efficiently as possible.

February 14, 2018

israeli police call for Netanyahu to be indicted on bribery charges

Corporations not policed for misconduct by Trump regime

Good Jobs First - Federal penalties imposed on the largest U.S. companies for all kinds of misconduct fell sharply during the first 12 months of the Trump administration, with combined fines and settlements dropping to a fraction of the levels seen during the Obama Administrations. The Fortune 100 list of the very largest publicly traded U.S. corporations paid $1.1 billion in penalties to federal regulatory agencies and the Justice Department during Trump’s first year, compared to an annual average of more than $17 billion during the Obama years.

These findings come from the latest information collected by Violation Tracker, the country’s first wide-ranging database of corporate crime and misconduct. It covers banking, consumer protection, false claims, environmental, wage and hour, unfair labor practice, health, safety, employment discrimination, price-fixing, bribery and other civil and criminal cases. Violation Tracker, a free public service produced by the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First.

“Along with the massive tax cut, the Trump administration has given the largest corporations billions of additional dollars of benefits in the form of reduced penalties for misconduct,” said Good Jobs First Research Director Philip Mattera, who leads the work on the database.

Trump math

Bernie Sanders reports that  Donald Trump will receive a tax break of up to $11 million a year as a result of the Republican tax plan he signed into law. Meanwhile, President Trump’s budget would eliminate after school programs for more than one million children.

Fake news was just the beginniing of the Internet's problems

Buzzfeed -   In mid-2016, Aviv Ovady realized there was something fundamentally wrong with the internet — so wrong that he abandoned his work and sounded an alarm. A few weeks before the 2016 election, he presented his concerns to technologists in San Francisco’s Bay Area and warned of an impending crisis of misinformation in a presentation he titled “Infocalypse.”

For Ovadya — now the chief technologist for the University of Michigan’s Center for Social Media Responsibility and a Knight News innovation fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia — the shock and ongoing anxiety over Russian Facebook ads and Twitter bots pales in comparison to the greater threat: Technologies that can be used to enhance and distort what is real are evolving faster than our ability to understand and control or mitigate it. The stakes are high and the possible consequences more disastrous than foreign meddling in an election — an undermining or upending of core civilizational institutions, an "infocalypse.” And Ovadya says that this one is just as plausible as the last one — and worse.

Worse because of our ever-expanding computational prowess; worse because of ongoing advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning that can blur the lines between fact and fiction; worse because those things could usher in a future where, as Ovadya observes, anyone could make it “appear as if anything has happened, regardless of whether or not it did.”

Second judge rules Trump can't just dump DACA

Mother Jones -   A second federal judge has temporarily blocked the Trump administration from ending protections for Dreamers—undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. The ruling requires the Department of Homeland Security to continue accepting renewal applications for Dreamers protected by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Child Arrivalsprogram, which President Donald Trump moved to end last year.

Tuesday’s ruling from New York district court judge Nicholas Garaufis follows a similar preliminary injunction issued last month by California judge William Alsup. As Mother Jones has written, the Trump administration has taken the rare step of appealing Alsup’s decision straight to the Supreme Court. But it has not sought not to immediately stop, or “stay,” the injunction. As a result, DACA renewals are likely to remain open for months, and possibly through the November midterm elections.
 

How to keep Russians and other manipulators out of our elections

Bradblog -Now that both the U.S. intelligence community and Democrats --- and even a few Republicans --- have finally begun to figure out that Election Integrity requires, at a bare minimum, a paper ballot for every vote cast, how long will it take them to figure out that those ballots need to be hand-marked (not computer-marked) and, preferably hand-counted, so that the American public can truly begin to restore confidence in election results and know that their votes actually matter? There is some --- precious little, but some --- encouraging news out of Pennsylvania on that front, and even from the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee.

The Governor in PA, a state which still hates its voters so much that it forces the vast majority of them to vote on 100% unverifiable touch-screen voting systems, has decreed that any new voting systems purchased to replace the old ones, must have some form of "paper trail" or "paper record" or "paper backup". That's a very low bar, but better --- for the most part --- than the current 100% unverifiable touch-screen systems used across the state. Yet, the Democratic Governor, Tom Wolf, has yet to propose any new funding to purchase those new systems. So, like PA votes, they remain vapor ware for the moment.

At the same time, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, Ranking Democrat on the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, seems to have noticed the cost of trying to secure elections (like "the Dutch elections, where they hand-counted all the ballots") versus the price of one single F-35. Hand-counts, like those carried out by the Dutch, is, in truth, a pretty inexpensive deterrent against foreign manipulation of our computer tabulation systems, if our elected officials were truly concerned about it. (It would also help to deter the much greater threat of domestic manipulation, by the way.)

But, even if we had a hand-marked paper ballot for every vote cast and even if we counted them all by hand, publicly at the precincts, before ballots were moved anywhere (as per Democracy's Gold Standard), Democrats would still have a mountain to overcome this year in the shape of the GOP's systemic partisan gerrymandering of state legislative districts and U.S. House seats.

To that end, we've got some similarly-qualified encouraging news out of Pennsylvania as well, where the state Supreme Court recently ordered new U.S. House maps to be drawn in time for the upcoming May primary elections in the commonwealth, after finding the ones drawn by Republicans following the 2010 census were in violation of the state constitution's right to a fair vote. The battle over those new maps --- which have given the GOP a 13 to 5 advantage in U.S. House seats in the largely 50/50 state over the last three elections, where Dems outnumber Republicans --- is now moving forward on a very tight court-ordered deadline.

Meanwhile, similarly partisan gerrymandering by the GOP in Wisconsin, North Carolina, and many other swing-states continues, thanks in no small part to the U.S. Supreme Court delaying lower federal rulings that determined Republicans had unconstitutionally given themselves a steep enough advantage on district maps that they were able to retain huge majorities in state legislatures and the U.S. House, despite being consistently out-voted by Democrats.

We're joined by Fair Vote gerrymandering expert David Daley, former editor-in-chief at Salon and author of RATF**KED: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy:

"The courts have been consistently outraged by what the Republicans pulled off in 2010, 2011," Daley says. "The problem is, here we are in 2018, we've been using these unconstitutional maps now this entire decade. There is no sense we're going to have new maps in most of these states, with the possible exception of Pennsylvania, in time for the 2018 election. We may well have the fourth of five elections in all of these states held on unconstitutional maps."

By way of one example, Daley notes: "In 2012, 52% of Pennsylvanian voters vote for Barack Obama, 51% of them vote for Democratic members of the U.S House. Republicans however, take 13 of the18 seats that year --- 71% of them! Democrats get 28% of the seats, even with more votes."

Brad Blog podcat on this topice

Olympian Shaun White wa subject of sexual harrasment suit

February 13, 2018

Free Forest schools offer free play in the natural world

Minneapolis Star Tribune - Free Forest School, [was] set in motion on this December morning at Dowling Elementary School in Minneapolis.

Dowling is an environmental magnet school, but [Anna] Sharratt’s idea of free play in the natural world — kids leading the play — is new terrain in Bejay Johnson’s class of city kids. Sure, they get regular recess, but this test run in a school setting was different. Messy is OK.

Students look forward to Sharratt’s weekly visit (“a different kind of play”), and what it means: 60 minutes in the school’s little slice of woodland, the Nature Acre. What’s more, the free time has changed them, she said. They sense that they’re in charge, and they are engaged, more confident, and more curious.


... Free Forest School is white-hot across North America, with the Twin Cities one of its newer anchor points. There currently are more than a dozen play groups that make up Free Forest School-Twin Cities, mushrooming out from a network of 60 other Free Forest School locations across North America. Sharratt said that worldwide, there were 34 requests to start new locations since the beginning of the year, some from Australia, Turkey and Singapore.

Before it had a name and a board of directors, Free Forest School was embodied in ideas Sharratt had as a parent to her children, Miles and Ellen (now 6 and 4). While living in Brooklyn in 2015, she said she discovered a small nature play group in Queens that inspired her to try her own version. One night she started a Facebook page called Free Forest School. By the morning, she said, it had attracted 100 members.

Sharratt said she recruited people to continue the group before her family moved cross-country to Austin, Texas. She helped Free Forest School ignite there, too, before a return to where she grew up: the Twin Cities. At last check, the Austin school had nearly 3,900 members in its Facebook group.

Pushing local control over electric power

Bloomberg -  For more than 25 years [Paul Fenn's] been pushing the idea that local communities ought to be able to set up their own power agencies to compete with established utilities. Local control, he says, can produce lower rates and greater use of renewable energy.

Fenn’s campaign is finally getting traction, especially in green-minded California....The combination of local power providers and rooftop solar panels last year took an estimated 25 percent of the state’s retail electricity business away from the big, investor-owned utilities. That could rise to 85 percent within about 10 years, regulators say.

In other parts of the country, the shift has been slower. Still, hundreds of cities in Illinois, Massachusetts, and Ohio have formed local energy providers. In Westchester County, N.Y., one began in 2016 that serves 20 municipalities, and Governor Andrew Cuomo is keen for more. Boston is poised to start one shortly. At least seven states now allow the programs. “I wanted a solution that harnessed the power of local democracy,” says Fenn, 52.

Work requirements for Medicaid make no sense

Southern Poverty Law Center - Work requirements for feed a false public perception: that poor people who receive Medicaid benefits are unwilling to work. The fact is that the majority of non-disabled adults on Medicaid are already working.

More at Nation


Nearly half of states found well being fall in 2017

Gallup  Nearly half of U.S. states saw their well-being scores decline by a statistically significant margin in 2017, according to the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index. And, for the first time in nine years of tracking changes in state well-being, no state saw statistically significant improvement from the year before. The 21 U.S. states that saw their well-being drop in 2017 shattered the previous record set in 2009 amidst the Great Recession, when 15 states

20180122_StateoftheStates_Wellbeing2@2x 
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Sea levels could rise two feet by end of century

Ecowatch - Global sea levels are rising at a rapid rate and could be another two feet higher by the end of the century compared to 2005 levels, a study based on 25 years of satellite data shows.

The research, published  in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, shows that global sea levels have risen roughly three millimeters (0.1 inches) per year in the past. However, that rate is not constant—it may jump to 10 millimeters per year by 2100.

One of the main drivers behind that acceleration is the melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.

Significantly, the projected sea level rise is a "conservative" estimate and may likely be higher, the researchers warn.

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NYT CEO: Print media may have anoher ten years

CNBC -The newspaper printing presses may have another decade of life in them, New York Times CEO Mark Thompson told CNBC .

"I believe at least 10 years is what we can see in the U.S. for our print products," Thompson said on "Power Lunch." He said he'd like to have the print edition "survive and thrive as long as it can," but admitted it might face an expiration date.

"The key thing for us is that we're pivoting," Thompson said. "Our plan is to go on serving our loyal print subscribers as long as we can. But meanwhile to build up the digital business, so that we have a successful growing company and a successful news operation long after print is gone."