January 23, 2017

Word

Brooklyn homeowners taxed $1k a year to sit on front steps

NY Post - Nearly three dozen property owners in Boerum Hill say they are being charged more than $1,000 a year just to use the steps leading to their homes.... [34] residents bought their stunning town houses, on the leafy north side of State Street between Hoyt and Smith streets, for as much as $2.4 million starting in 2008. And they say their contracts included an “illegal” side deal between the developer and city.

The agreement allowed the builder to extend the homes’ stairways 6 feet 3 inches beyond the property line and onto the city-owned sidewalk, jacking up the sale price. In exchange, the city would receive a special annual tax — paid by the residents.

Trump regime wants to imprison protesters for ten years

Alternet -More than 200 people who were mass-arrested at the Washington, D.C. protests against the inauguration of Donald Trump have been hit with felony riot charges that are punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Those picked up in the sweep—including legal observers and journalists—had their phones, cameras and other personal belongings confiscated as evidence, a lawyer confirmed to AlterNet.

...Those kettled by police were forced to wait for hours in the street and on school buses, many of them going untreated for injuries, say supporters. “They are trying to set a tone to chill further demos of this nature, and I don’t think it’s going to work,” Bob Hayes, a Washington, D.C. resident who is helping coordinate legal support, told AlterNet. “They are trying to put pressure on individuals to collaborate with the investigations.”

.... Jeffrey Light, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer who provided legal support to the Disrupt J20 Collective, agreed with this assessment. “I have been representing protesters for 13 years now, and I have never seen felony rioting charges in Washington, D.C. It is not one of the standard laws that they tend to use. This is unusual. It is rare to use that charge.”

.... Acting DC Police Chief Peter Newsham, who oversaw this weekend’s crackdown, was the assistant police chief who presided over another mass arrest more than a decade ago. In the fall of 2002, the Metropolitan police department mass arrested hundreds of people at a World Bank protest in Washington, D.C.’s Pershing Park and hogtied them for up to 24 hours while in detention, before dropping all charges. In a 2015 settlement, the city was forced to pay $2.2 million to nearly 400 protesters. Newsham, who ordered the mass arrests in 2002, oversaw the police crackdown against inauguration protesters.

Trump bumps

As women marched, greater Washington’s troubled transit agency hosted more than one million riders, making Saturday the second-busiest day in Metro’s history and its busiest Saturday of all time. Only Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration brought more riders. 

A guide to Trump lies since his inauguration

Trump praises and hugs FBI director who helped him get elected 

The D.C. Trump International Hotel in the Old Post Office lost more than $1 million in net income during its first two months of operation and its revenues were $2 million less than estimates it provided to the General Services Administration, which owns the historic building, according to a letter released by House Democrats.

EPA Director-designate Scott Pruitt, as state senator, proposed one of the most onerous anti-abortion laws in the country, and as attorney general, he helped lead the opposition to the recent Department of Education guidelines on transgender students using gender-appropriate bathrooms... Pruitt has repeated the misleading claim that “scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connections to the actions of mankind.”

CIA director nominee Mike Pompeo has said he is open to changing the rules governing the interrogation of detainees, which could mean re-authorizing the use of the torture technique called waterboarding.

A team of prominent constitutional and ethics scholars filed the legal action with the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York early Monday, charging the billionaire real estate mogul with violating the constitutional clause that disallows officials from accepting benefits or gifts from foreign governments. Trump's refusal to divest from his business has left him in a position where he is receiving "cash and favors from foreign governments, through guests and events at his hotels, leases in his buildings, and valuable real estate deals abroad," CREW explains.

Two GOP senator propose bill to allow states to keep ACA

NY Times - Several Republican senators on Monday proposed a partial replacement for the Affordable Care Act that would allow states to continue operating under the law if they choose, a proposal meant to appeal to critics and supporters of former President Barack Obama’s signature health law.

Under the proposal, by Senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, a medical doctor, and Susan Collins of Maine, a moderate Republican, states could stay with the Affordable Care Act or they could receive a similar amount of federal money, which consumers could use to pay for medical care and health insurance.

“We are moving the locus of repeal to state government,” Mr. Cassidy said. “States should have the right to choose.”

The proposal shares some features with House Republican proposals: It would encourage greater use of health savings accounts and eliminate the requirement for most Americans to have insurance or pay a tax penalty. But its option to keep the Affordable Care Act alive in many states will rankle the most conservative Republicans who have been trying for nearly seven years to blow up the law.

How veteran homelessness was slashed

Governing - Homelessness among military veterans has long been an endemic problem at the intersection of multiple public-health disciplines. Issues from substance abuse to housing prices to mental health care to re-training workers to disability access all contribute to veterans' homelessness, and no one government agency -- or level of government -- owns the problem.

In 2007, veterans made up one in every four homeless people in the United States. Since 2010, however, veterans' homelessness has fallen by fully half. Thousands of families a year now receive combined HUD-VA vouchers, and as of the beginning of this year the country was down to less than 40,000 homeless veterans. More than a dozen cities, from Boston to Las Cruces, N.M., to Mobile, Ala., have declared that they have ended chronic homelessness among veterans.

The story of how this happened carries important lessons for other cross-sector, intergovernmental efforts to solve some of America's most pressing problems. It illustrates that what is called the "whole of government" approach is more than a buzz phrase.

MORE

January 22, 2017

Meanwhile. . .

Value of donations given to the American Civil Liberties Union in the week after the election : $7,200,000

Robert Jeffress: Another Christian heretic in the Trump gang

CNN - A pastor with a long history of inflammatory remarks about Muslims, Mormons, Catholics and gays preached at a private service for President-elect Trump and his family on Friday, shortly before Trump took the oath of office. The pastor, the Rev. Robert Jeffress, is a Southern Baptist who vigorously campaigned for Trump during the final months of the presidential election and is a member of his evangelical advisory board. "I love this guy!" Trump has said of Jeffress.

Rev. Robert Jeffress of the Texas megachurch First Baptist in Dallas...leads a 12,000-member megachurch in Dallas and is a frequent guest on Fox News. But to many Americans, he may be best known for his frequent condemnations of Mormonism as a "cult" during the 2012 presidential campaign. He urged Christians not to vote for Mitt Romney, a Mormon, during the Republican primary. He later supported Romney over President Barack Obama. Jeffress has also called Islam and Mormonism heresies "from the pit of hell," suggested that the Catholic church was led astray by Satan, accused Obama of "paving the way" for the Antichrist and spread false statistics about the prevalence of HIV among gays, who he said live a "miserable" and "filthy" lifestyle. In recent years, Jeffress has frequently denounced Islam, calling it an "evil religion" that "promotes pedophilia" because the Prophet Muhammed married a 9-year-old girl. (Many modern Muslim scholars disagree about her age.)

Jeffress' beliefs about other faiths -- that they are heresies and will not result in salvation -- are shared by many evangelicals. But the stridency of his condemnations sometimes confound fellow conservatives. "His sound bites are often incendiary, but his convictions — including the exclusivity of the gospel and the belief that homosexual behaviors are sinful — are clearly within the mainstream of American evangelicalism," R. Albert Mohler, a leading Southern Baptist, said in 2013, after former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow backed out of an event at Jeffress' church. But Jeffress' denunciations of gays and Muslims often stretch beyond the realms of sin and salvation. He has called homosexuality "degrading," and linked it to pedophilia, alcoholism, depression and suicide, while insisting that his remarks are rooted in concern for gays -- a way of showing them the true path to salvation. In a 2008 sermon, he urged his congregation to demonstrate compassion toward gays, even as he condemned their "filthy behavior." Likewise, Jeffress has said that Islam incites violence and is "inspired by Satan himself," while also arguing that "it is our love for Muslims that demands we speak the truth about Islam." On occasion, Jeffress has taken aim at evangelicals themselves. "I am getting sick and tired of these namby-pamby, pantywaisted, weak-kneed Christians who say they're going to stay home (on Election Day) in November out of moral principle," Jeffress said last year. On January 3, Jeffress tweeted that he had met with the incoming president in Trump Tower, and predicted he will be "the most faith-friendly president in our nation's history."

Things that we know thanks to Private Manning

Republican lawmakers seek ways to limit protest

Intercept - In some states, nonviolent demonstrating may soon carry increased legal risks — including punishing fines and significant prison terms — for people who participate in protests involving civil disobedience. Over the past few weeks, Republican legislators across the country have quietly introduced a number of proposals to criminalize and discourage peaceful protest.

The proposals, which strengthen or supplement existing laws addressing the blocking or obstructing of traffic, come in response to a string of high-profile highway closures and other actions led by Black Lives Matter activists and opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline...

In North Dakota, for instance, Republicans introduced a bill last week that would allow motorists to run over and kill any protester obstructing a highway as long as a driver does so accidentally. In Minnesota, a bill introduced by Republicans last week seeks to dramatically stiffen fines for freeway protests and would allow prosecutors to seek a full year of jail time for protesters blocking a highway. Republicans in Washington state have proposed a plan to reclassify as a felony civil disobedience protests that are deemed “economic terrorism.”

Chinese president warns about climate change

Guardian - The world must not allow the Paris climate deal to be “derailed” or continue to inflict irreparable damage on the environment, Chinese president Xi Jinping has said, amid fears the rise of Donald Trump could strike a body blow to the fight against global warming.

Trump, who will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Friday, has threatened to pull out of the historic Paris agreement and dismissed climate change as a Chinese “hoax” and “expensive… bullshit”.

Trump dumps

Trump won't release his tax returns

34 promises Trump broke on first day in office 

Since the inauguration Friday afternoon, WhiteHouse.gov, the official website for the White House, has purged all reference to civil rights, LGBT rights, health care and climate change.

Many Trump supporters were sporting his trademark red "Make America Great Again" baseball caps that were made in China, Vietnam and Bangladesh.

 

Huge crack in Antarctic ice shelf

USA Today -A crack in an ice shelf in Antarctica grew by six miles in the past few weeks, British scientists say, and now measures more than 100 miles long.

Once the crack is complete, a giant iceberg larger than Rhode Island will break or "calve" off of Antarctica. The iceberg would be one of the biggest on record.

Only a final 12 miles of ice now connects the future iceberg to its parent ice shelf.

DEA lies about marijuana

Activist Post - Americans for Safe Access found 25 falsehoods about cannabis still being peddled by the DEA on its website, and has filed a petition to force their removal. ASA points out that DEA is violating federal law called the Information Quality Act which requires agencies to ensure the “quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information” when developing guidelines.

One reason we know their information is false is because the DEA contradicted those very falsehoods – with references to studies – when it refused to reschedule cannabis in 2016. Even though DEA accepted these studies, it somehow concluded ‘more research is needed’ to show cannabis has medical value.

Israel apartheid revived by Trump

Examiner - With Donald Trump safely in the White House, Israel has resumed building settlements, issuing permits for hundreds of homes in East Jerusalem.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had put a stop to the new settlements over concerns about the response by then-President Obama, who staunchly opposed new construction in the mostly Arab section of Jerusalem...

"I was told to wait until Trump takes office because he has no problem with building in Jerusalem," said Meir Turgeman, the chairman of the municipality's Planning and Building committee, according to Reuters. He added there were hundreds more units in the pipeline awaiting approval.

Handling Trump lies

Sam Smith - If I were to tell a reporter that I had built Trump Tower or that 250,000 people had come to my birthday party, before the reporter wrote that story there would be a check of the facts. And if the story ran it would do so only as evidence that I told some lies.

The media needs to follow a similar pattern with Trump and his aides. Maybe put a time delay on news conferences (as TV already does where there might be obscenities) until the basic facts have been checked. Publishing or broadcasting Trumpish likely lies without double-checking them merely plays into his game.

Politico - White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Sunday defended press secretary Sean Spicer's statement criticizing media coverage of the crowds at President Donald Trump's inauguration, saying he presented "alternative facts."

In an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," host Chuck Todd pressed Conway on why Spicer, who blasted the media coverage of the crowds from the White House briefing room Saturday evening, would appear "in front of the podium for the first time and utter a falsehood."

"You're saying it's a falsehood. ... Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that," Conway said.

"Look, alternative facts are not facts. They're falsehoods," Todd responded.

Without taking reporters' questions, Spicer called Trump's inaugural crowds "the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period." Photographs, however, show the crowd to be considerably smaller than former President Barack Obama's inauguration in 2009

Checking Spicer's lies

Newt Gingrich sideline

Sapiens - A consulting company owned by Newt Gingrich, a regular from the Trump campaign trail and an apparent adviser to the transition team, earned more than $1.6 million from Freddie Mac, a government-backed home mortgage and loan company, in the lead-up to the 2008 financial crisis. Gingrich denied direct lobbying (at one point arguing he was merely a “historian” for Freddie Mac), but his firm “reported directly to Freddie Mac’s public policy and lobbying office,” according to one account. This one-step-removed arrangement is now commonplace and enables shadow lobbyists plausible deniability. Gingrich also denied lobbying for ethanol interests, so it raised eyebrows when industry IRS filings revealed he took in more than $300,000 from that industry in 2009. He also founded a so-called think tank, the Center for Health Transformation, to promote the policy desires of its health industry sponsors. Gingrich is now making money from his association with Trump, reportedly increasing his speaking fee by $15,000 because of his close ties to the president-elect.

January 21, 2017

Word: former KKK leader David Duke

Trump's inaugural lies

 Washington Post


“Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered, but the jobs left and the factories closed.”

Among the 25 most populous metropolitan areas, the D.C. metro area has the highest median income in the nation — $93,294 versus a U.S. median of $55,775 — though growth has slowed in recent years, in part because of reductions in defense spending. Indeed, income in the D.C. area has grown essentially at the same rate as the rest of the nation since 2006, including a dip in median income during the Great Recession.

“Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities … and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”
In 2015, 13 percent of people lived below poverty level inside metropolitan statistical areas, according to census data. That is on par with the national poverty rate in 2015, which was 13.5 percent. Overall, the poverty rate has remained relatively flat under Obama. .... Violent and property crimes overall have been declining for about two decades, and are far below rates seen one or two decades ago. Homicides have spiked in major cities in 2015 and 2016, but the rates remain far below their peak in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

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

Independent, UK - One of Donald Trump’s first acts as President was to increase the cost of mortgages for low-income and first-time buyers. The Republican suspended one of the final decisions by former President Barack Obama that would have cut Federal Housing Administration insurance premiums by 0.25 per cent, meaning the average borrower would save around $500 a year. The cut was expected to help a quarter of a million more people afford home loans over the next three years.

January 20, 2017

Primates threatened with extinction

Tree Hugger - A report in the journal Science Advances  – the most comprehensive review of primate populations so far – says that 60 percent of primate species are currently threatened with extinction and some 75 percent have declining populations.

"This truly is the eleventh hour for many of these creatures," says Paul Garber, an anthropology professor from the University of Illinois, who co-led the study with Alejandro Estrada of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

"Several species of lemurs, monkeys and apes – such as the ring-tailed lemur, Udzunga red colobus monkey, Yunnan snub-nosed monkey, white-headed langur and Grauer's gorilla – are down to a population of a few thousand individuals. In the case of the Hainan gibbon, a species of ape in China, there are fewer than 30 animals left."

Trump dumps

A short tour of great moments with Donald Trump

A new  poll  finds 50% supporting Obamcare while only 42% viewing Trump favorably

The rotten business world of Steve Mnuchin

From anal sex, to pooping, and sleeping around — recently uncovered footage of Donald Trump appearing on the Howard Stern show multiple times in the 1990s....And when it came to even the most personal questions about his life, Trump didn’t hesitate to answer them.

A Saturday Night Live moment in the nomination hearings

A collection of Trump lies, misstatements and hyperbole

 

Huge cost overruns in California high speed rail

Learning from the inefficiencies, lack of adequate service and cost of the DC Metro, the Review has been a long time supporter of more rational transit approaches such as dedicated bus lanes and regularly rather than high speed rail. Here's more evidence:

Reason -  Clifornia's ongoing "high-speed rail" project connecting Los Angeles with San Francisco continues to run up against the same, recurring problem since voters gave the plan initial bond funding in a 2008 statewide initiative. There's a growing chasm between the promises supporters made to the state's taxpayers—and reality.

In the latest bombshell, a confidential federal report points to cost overruns of at least 50 percent on the easiest, mountain-less leg of this complex infrastructure undertaking. The Federal Railroad Administration analysis, obtained by the Los Angeles Times last week, detailed a variety of other problems within the state's rail administration, as well.

For instance, the project already is at least seven years behind schedule in building the first segment, which connects Merced in the northern part of the San Joaquin Valley to Shafter, a small town just north of Bakersfield in the southern part of the valley. That section was supposed to be completed this year, but isn't slated for completion until 2024.

"The federal document outlines far-reaching management problems: significant delays in environmental planning, lags in processing invoices for federal grants and continuing failures to acquire needed property," according to the Times. Rail officials said the numbers are just projections, but the newspaper described the assessment as "a troubling critique by an agency that has been a stalwart supporter and longtime financier of the nation's largest infrastructure project."

There's a two-fold problem here. The project faces increasing cost overruns—and its supporters continue to rely on funding sources that are far from secure. "In its 2012 draft business plan, the Authority identifies the federal government as by far the largest potential funding source for the program, yet the plan provides few details indicating how the authority expects to secure this money," explained the California State Auditor in a 2012 follow-up report.

British Labor Party leader argues for maximum wage

institute for Policy Studies -In 1942, Franklin Roosevelt advanced what may have been the most politically daring policy proposal of his entire presidency. FDR called for the equivalent of a maximum wage. No individual American after paying taxes, Roosevelt declared, should have an income over $25,000, about $370,000 today.

A half-century later, in 1992, Bernie Sanders — then a relatively new member of the House of Representatives — marked the 50th anniversary of FDR’s maximum wage initiative. Sanders placed a commentary on FDR’s 1942 proposal in the Congressional Record.

Last week, in the 75th anniversary year of Roosevelt’s 1942 proposal, British Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn gave FDR’s income cap idea a considerably wider public airing. In a series of media interviews, Corbyn called for a ceiling on UK individual income.

“There ought to be a maximum wage,” Corbyn told The Herald, a Scottish newspaper. “The levels of inequality in Britain are getting worse.”

The Labor Party leader repeated that call for “some kind of high-earnings cap” the same day in a radio interview with the BBC.

“We cannot set ourselves as being a sort of grossly unequal bargain basement economy on the shores of Europe,” Corbyn explained. “If we want to live in a more egalitarian society and fund our public services, we cannot go on creating worse levels of inequality.”

Right-wing think tanks chimed in with more vituperation. Corbyn, the Adam Smith Institute charged, had gone “bananas.” The leader of Donald Trump’s favorite UK party, the anti-immigrant UKIP, claimed that Corbyn was practicing the “politics of envy.”

Franklin Roosevelt’s critics made the same sort of hyper-ventilating attacks 75 years ago when FDR proposed his cap on the income of the awesomely affluent. In the end, Roosevelt didn’t get from Congress everything he wanted on the pay-cap front. But the political courage he showed helped pave the way for the much more equal — and average-people friendly — America of the mid-20th century.

Growing interest in food distribution centers

Pew Trust - In New York City, where shoppers and diners can find delicacies from all over the world, there is hefty demand for food grown closer to home.

The taste for products from farms in the Northeast has led South Bronx-based Greenmarket Co., a nonprofit regional food distributor that serves as the middleman between farmers and buyers, to constantly expand the size and scope of its operation over the last half-decade.

The state of New York has taken notice of its role in the regional food supply chain and in August allocated $15 million of the $20 million needed to build Greenmarket’s new 20,000-square-foot distribution center, commonly known as a food hub. The hub’s staff, which is raising the remaining money from other public and private funders, expects to move in by 2019 and eventually sell $18 million worth of produce, grains, eggs, maple syrup and honey a year.

Like New York, other states such as Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Vermont, and the federal government are investing in food hubs as a way to connect small and midsize farmers, who may not have the volume or do not have the capacity to work with large food wholesalers, with businesses and consumers to increase sales.

“It’s not just about buying from local producers but being able to tell the consumer, ‘This is from Farmer Jane, and Farmer Jane has this much acreage, and she grows her food this way,’ ” said James Barham, an agricultural economist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Today, there are more than 400 food hubs across the country, about 30 percent of which are nonprofits. Most are not as expansive or expensive as Greenmarket has become and only require a couple hundred thousand dollars to get off the ground.

Paul Ryan on black urban men

”We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with." - Paul Ryan

Where the women's marches are

GOP Know Nothings plan to gut DC home rule

Washington Post - Congressional Republicans are making an aggressive push to gut the District’s progressive policies, introducing bills in recent days to repeal the heavily Democratic city’s gun-control measures, undo its new law allowing physician-assisted suicide and ban the District from using local tax dollars to provide abortions for poor women.

The bills have begun arriving on the eve of President Obama’s departure from the White House, where he has stifled repeated attempts to pass similar measures with a veto threat.

Those decisions will soon be in the hands of President-elect Donald Trump, and conservative House members said they think that Trump will not impede the will of a newly emboldened ­Republican-led Congress.

The District’s status as a federal district makes it uniquely vulnerable to the whims of Congress. Unlike in the 50 states, Congress has supreme authority, including veto power over local laws and voter-approved measures. It can even reach in and dictate how local tax money is spent if the president agrees.

More people live in the nation’s capital than in Vermont or Wyoming, and they pay more in federal taxes than their counterparts in 22 states, but the federal district has no voting member of Congress.

Trump plans to stage military parades in Washington

Washingtonian - In an interview Wednesday with the Washington Post, President-elect Donald Trump was asked just exactly how he plans to make good on his promise to make America great again. One potential he floated to the Post‘s Karen Tumulty: military parades in DC and New York showing off the armed forces’ human and materiel strength.

The Post reports:

“Being a great president has to do with a lot of things, but one of them is being a great cheerleader for the country,” Trump said. “And we’re going to show the people as we build up our military, we’re going to display our military.

“That military may come marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. That military may be flying over New York City and Washington, D.C., for parades. I mean, we’re going to be showing our military,” he added. While Trump says later in the interview that he has other plans for fulfilling his campaign slogan, the suggestion of military parades in DC feels a little, well, foreign. There are plenty of parades in Washington that include military participation, including those on July 4 and Memorial Day, to say nothing of the one on Friday that will follow Trump’s swearing-in.

January 19, 2017

Action links

Action news
What to do now
How to plan your own Moral Monday
Building peace teams
Cellphone guide for protesters
Why we need history
 
Essays
Post empire survival guide
Why cross cultural coalitions are important
Where change really comes from
Running out of change
The Clinton-Obama-Alinsky myth
How minorities change America
 
Activism
Becoming and being an activist
Rebellions contain multitudes
No retirement age for rebellion
The gadfly thing
Ralph Nader
Leading the majority: how minorities change America
How one guy became an activist
On rebellion
 
Bad times
Getting through the bad times
The hat trick of survival
Why everything's so hard today
Notes on the end of the First American Republic
 
Counterculture
Getting the counter culture out of the closet
Where is the counterculture when we need it?
Change the culture & politics will follow
 
Music
Punk & protest
Music and politics
 
Non-profits
Care and feeding of non-profit boards
 
New America
Building little republics in a failing empire
America 2.0
What a populist rebellion might look like
Time for a movement
Rebuilding America
Ideas for a better U.S.
A cooperative commonwealth

Recovered history: The Silent Generation

Some things I’ve written about the silent generation

Sam Smith - Places such 47 Mt. Auburn brought Boston's poets, folksingers and the explicitly disenchanted to suggest into a mike or over expresso that the 1950s were not all they had been cracked up to be. It was a gentle message, because it carried little suggestion that there was anything we could or should do about it. We were strong on analysis and abysmal at action. We, the minority who felt something was wrong, were like dinghies come adrift, lacking the power to do more than to rock aimlessly in inchoate discontent. I bought a beret and shades, which went well with my cigarillos and my Balkan Sobrani-filled pipe, but had not the slightest idea what to do with them other than to feel slightly superior, somewhat existential, and probably condemned to a future in which one could expect to achieve little except the maintenance of personal honor and the avoidance of banality.

It was, after all, what we were being taught at the Brattle Theatre. The Brattle, two years before I arrived at Harvard, began running Humphrey Bogart films in repertoire throughout reading period. We gathered faithfully and repeatedly to learn from the master, mimicking such lines as "I stick my neck out for nobody."

Later, in the sixties, when I was over thirty, it was said that people my age couldn't be trusted; It wasn't true, though. We could be trusted. We just couldn't be relied upon. Our cultural heroes didn't man the barricades. They hit the road. Our goal wasn't to overthrow the establishment, someone would say later, but to make it irrelevant. Or, like Miles Davis in concert, to play with your back to it. Some of us made Bogart an anti-hero in part, I think, because we already suspected that America was our own Casablanca, a place of seductive illusions and baroque deceptions, where nothing was as it appeared. Bogart, with skill and cool, knew how to adapt to the chaos and deceit without betraying his own code. It was a model we needed.
o
We had been taught that if we crawled under our desks, we would be safe from The Bomb. Even our teachers lied to us. Yet it never occurred to us to try to change the world. When change finally did come, we would do what we did best. We adapted. From conventional sex to free sex to frightened sex, we adapted. From mass movements to monomaniacal interest groups, we adapted. From integration to nationalism to political correctness, we adapted. From communes to condos, we adapted. From Beatles to rap, from bongos to cell phones, and from Aquarius to apocalypse, we adapted. And given that these weren't even our revolutions, we did it pretty well.

The one revolution that was truly ours, the civil rights movement, the boomer braggarts would claim for themselves. And, being the silent generation, we let them. Our virtue and our failing was that we would never enjoy the hubris of those older and younger than ourselves. Our virtue because we were modest enough to actually have learned something from what happened; our failing because the footing never seemed solid enough to permit us to do much with what we had learned.
o
They called my generation the "silent" one, the one America skipped in moving from George Bush to Bill Clinton. Maybe some of us were quiet because we were trying to figure out how to avoid becoming the man in the gray flannel suit or part of the lonely crowd. The struggle, we thought, was about individuality and no one spoke of movements. Our cultural heroes didn't organize anything. They hit the road. Our goal wasn't to overthrow the establishment, someone would say a decade later, but to make it irrelevant. When we were in our 30s, we were told that we already were too old to be trusted. It wasn't really true; in many ways the 60s was just the mass movement of something that had started in the 50s with our coffee houses, music and conscious political apathy. We were the warmup band for the 1960s.

Music vs. politics splits Maine Greens

Bangor Daily News -A high school band’s performance at President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration has struck the wrong chord with some on Maine’s far left.

Tom MacMillan, a 2015 candidate for Portland mayor, and Seth Baker, who lost a November bid to represent the city in the state Senate, say they’re leaving the Maine Green Independent Party because a party leader will be attending the presidential inauguration.

Instead of sticking with a party that “is unwilling to keep its own leadership in line,” MacMillan said he and Baker would be joining the Socialist Party, which is not currently on the ballot in Maine.

“That was the last straw,” said MacMillan. “It’s really a betrayal of values.”

The thing is, Green Secretary Ben Meiklejohn says he isn’t going for political reasons. He’s a music teacher and director of the Madawaska school band, which was invited to perform in the “Make America Great Again! Welcome Concert” at the Lincoln Memorial on Jan. 19. Trump will be sworn in the following day.

“The students are really excited,” said Meiklejohn, who served on the Portland school board from 2001 to 2007. “I think it would be an injustice to deny them the opportunity they would get because of my political views.”

Democrats only fully control four states

Alternet - The incoming Trump administration understandably frightens liberals, but right-wing successes at a state level would have moved forward regardless of who won the election. Only four states currently have a Democratic governor and a Democratic state legislature. What's more, bipartisan support for policies of austerity and neo-liberalism have led to vast social spending cuts across the country regardless of political affiliation.

Here are five proposed budget cuts that should have progressives up in arms.

1. Maine's Tea Party Governor Wants to Kick Thousand of People Off Medicaid and Block a Tax Increase for the State's Richest Citizens

2. Texas Is Cutting Disabled Kids' Therapy Service: Texas' GOP-controlled state legislature recently cut its Medicaid program by $350 million. Critics warn that the cuts could be particularly devastating for disabled children in the state, as it drastically reduces the amount of money paid toward therapists who assist vulnerable kids.

A group of citizens attempted to block the cuts through a lawsuit, but the Texas Supreme Court refused to hear the case. Stephanie Rubin, CEO of an advocacy group called Texans Care for Children, sent the Texas Tribune an email about the potential impact of the cuts:

"This is terrible news for Texas kids with disabilities and developmental delays and their families. Kids with autism, speech delays, Down syndrome, and other disabilities and delays rely on these therapies to learn to walk, communicate with their families, get ready for school, and meet other goals."

3. Massachusetts Is Cutting $12 Million in Education

4. Connecticut Is Cutting $50 Million in School and Municipal Funding

5. New Mexico Is Cutting Take-Home Pay For State Workers and Teachers

Details

Sonny Perdue on the Civil War

Trump's agriculture secretary pick on the Civil War during a gubernatorial proclamation: "Among those who served the Confederacy were many African-Americans, both free and slave, who saw action in the Confederate armed forces in many combat roles. According to the Georgia government's website on Confederate History Month, they also participated in the manufacture of products for the war effort, built naval ships, and provided military assistance and relief efforts..."

2016 hottest recorded year

Ecowatch - 2016 was the hottest year ever recorded, smashing records set in 2014 and 2015. This marks the third consecutive year of record-breaking heat, a first in the modern era. 2016 is the hottest year on record by a wide margin, 1.69 F (0.94 C) warmer than the 20th century average.

Trump is only the leader of this disaster

Sam Smith  - It is good to keep in mind that Donald Trump is only the leader of this disaster. What he is leading is the most reactionary and prejudiced party since the days of the Dixiecrats. Consider the times that Jeff Sessions has undermined black progress in his state, or Mike Pence has attacked - in the name of fake Christianity - gays and lesbians, or Paul Ryan has twisted the House towards policies that only aid the most wealthy in the country and it is a reminder that our problem is not just Trump but the Republican Party.

The party now belongs in the category not only of the pre-civil rights southern Democrats but of the mid 19th Century Native American Party - later the American Party and nicknamed the Know Nothings - with its vehemently anti-immigrants policies.

The media in particular needs to avoid giving credence to the new Know Nothing Party in the false name of objectivity, but to recognize it for what it is: a civil war against the bulk of America and its historic and constitutional values.


Trump dumps

Only 22 percent of Americans want to see the Obamacare repealed. 47 percent of them want the law to be repealed immediately, while half – 50 percent- think it should be repealed only after Congress has agreed on a new health care law to replace it.

Some reasons you don't want Perry as Energy Secretary

How school voucher program worked out in Pence's Indiana:  Five years after the program was established, more than half of the state’s voucher recipients have never attended Indiana public schools, meaning that taxpayers are now covering private and religious school tuition for children whose parents had previously footed that bill.


Ryan out to kill Medicare

Huffington Post - House Speaker Paul Ryan is working hard to destroy Medicare and force seniors and people with disabilities into the arms of private, for-profit health insurers. Ryan wants to end Medicare as we know it and, instead, simply give seniors and people with disabilities fixed cash stipends to fend for themselves, unprotected, on the private market.

Ironically, Ryan is proposing to convert Medicare into the very system he is rushing to repeal — the Affordable Care Act  — but without its protections, such as the requirement that private insurers cover those with pre-existing conditions.

Trump may dump public broadcasting and arts/humanities endowments

The Hill - Donald Trump is ready to take an ax to government spending.

Staffers for the Trump transition team have been meeting with career staff at the White House ahead of Friday’s presidential inauguration to outline their plans for shrinking the federal bureaucracy, The Hill has learned.

The changes they propose are dramatic.

The departments of Commerce and Energy would see major reductions in funding, with programs under their jurisdiction either being eliminated or transferred to other agencies. The departments of Transportation, Justice and State would see significant cuts and program eliminations.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized, while the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely.

The proposed cuts hew closely to a blueprint published last year by the conservative Heritage Foundation, a think tank that has helped staff the Trump transition

How cooperatives can help economic recovery

Nathan Schneide, Yes Magazine - At the start of the Great Depression, much of the U.S. countryside had no electricity, even after most cities and towns had been electrified for decades. Power companies refused to make the investment, which would furnish lower profits than urban projects; some even claimed, astonishingly, that rural communities were better off in the dark. I don’t think that my grandfather, who grew up on northern Colorado beet farms without electricity, would have agreed.

Rural Americans took the matter into their own hands. Well before the Great Depression, they started forming electric cooperatives—utilities built, owned, and governed by customers themselves. These efforts added to a long legacy of rural cooperation as a means of economic inclusion, including 19th-century organizations like the Grange and the Farmers’ Alliance, whose purchasing and marketing cooperatives enabled farmers to compete in markets increasingly controlled by urban capital. Electric co-ops started taking advantage of hydroelectric dams built under President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal to distribute cheap, renewable power, and the federal government finally recognized their success enough to invest in it. In 1936, the Rural Electrification Act provided low-interest loans and technical support; by the end of World War II, around half of U.S. farms had electricity, up from around 10 percent a decade earlier. It turned out that, without investors clamoring for profits, powering the countryside was a perfectly sensible business proposition.

Today, nearly a thousand local cooperatives provide electricity to the inhabitants of around three-quarters of the landmass of the United States. They have formed larger co-ops in order to build and manage their own power plants. They’ve formed cooperative banks to finance new projects, lessening the need for public loans. Together with the rural phone co-ops that emerged in the same period, some electric co-ops are now bringing broadband internet service to underserved areas. Some have also become leaders in transitioning to renewable energy sources.

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Joblessness at four decade record low

Portland Press Herald  - 234,000 Americans sought jobless aid, a drop of 15,000 from the previous week and lowest since November 1973. The four-week average, which is less volatile, fell by 10,250 to 246,750, also the lowest since November 1973. The total number of people receiving unemployment benefits was 2.05 million, down 7.7 percent from a year earlier.

January 18, 2017

Just a reminder

It is not normal for Congress to repeal and replace laws. The more sane approach is to amend them. It just doesn't sound as exciting.

100 CEOs' retirement plans equal entire savings of 41% of U.S. families

Daily Kos - Institute for Policy Studies demonstrates how inequality follows us into right into our golden years, or as the subtitle states: “As Working Families Face Rising Retirement Insecurity, CEOs Enjoy Platinum Pensions.” Co-authors Sarah Anderson and Scott Klinger point to some startling statistics. 
Just 100 CEOs have company retirement funds worth $4.7 billion — a sum equal to the entire retirement savings of the 41 percent of U.S. families with the smallest nest eggs.

This $4.7 billion total is also equal to the entire retirement savings of the bottom:
  • 59 percent of African-American families
  • 75 percent of Latino families
  • 55 percent of female-headed households
  • 44 percent of white working class households 

On average, the top 100 CEO nest eggs are large enough to generate for each of these executives a $253,088 monthly retirement check for the rest of their lives.
  • Among ordinary workers, those lucky enough to have 401(k) plans had a median balance at the end of 2013 of $18,433, enough for a monthly retirement check of just $101.
  • Of workers 56-61 years old, 39 percent have no employer-sponsored retirement plan whatsoever and will likely depend entirely on Social Security, which pays an average benefit of $1,239 per month.

Solar now major energy employer

Eco Watch  - U.S. solar employs more workers than any other energy industry, including coal, oil and natural gas combined, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's second annual U.S. Energy and Employment Report.

6.4 million Americans now work in the traditional energy and the energy efficiency sector, which added more than 300,000 net new jobs in 2016, or 14 percent of the nation's job growth.

Trump dumps

Trump referred to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla. as the "Winter White House."

President-elect Donald Trump’s newest White House adviser - Reed Cordish - runs a real-estate company that’s being sued by black patrons who accuse it of racial discrimination and hiring white men to physically attack and eject them.

The terrible record of Betsy DeVos

Pruitt's EPA lawsuits are really bad

Erik Prince, America’s most notorious mercenary, is lurking in the shadows of the incoming Trump administration. A former senior U.S. official who has advised the Trump transition told The Intercept that Prince has been advising the team on matters related to intelligence and defense, including weighing in on candidates for the defense and state departments.


Donald Trump's choice to head the Interior Department on Tuesday rejected the president-elect's claim that climate change is a hoax, saying it is indisputable that environmental changes are affecting the world's temperature and human activity is a major reason. "I don't believe it's a hoax," Rep. Ryan Zinke told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee at his confirmation hearing... An admirer of President Theodore Roosevelt, Zinke said management of federal lands should be done under a "multiple-use" model set forth by Gifford Pinchot, a longtime Roosevelt associate and the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service.

D.C. residents are planning to stage a pre-inauguration queer dance party outside the home of Vice President-Elect Mike Pence, complete with biodegradable glitter, glow sticks, rainbow suspenders and “bomb music,”