Archive for category American People

Finally, Righteous Pardons

Obama has been stingy with his pardons, but these are way past due and make me feel empowered. I’ve been getting a lot of petitions in my E-mail telling of terrible, family busting, life destroying injustices that have been going on for way too long. I’ve been signing them.

Seems like all I do these days is sign petitions. Nothing ever seems to happen, but now it has. You might think Obama is going way out on a limb here, but I think things have changed enough since the good old, “lock em’ up and throw away the key!” – unless you’re Scooter Libby – days of yore.

If your job is to test peoples urine for marijuana traces, it might be time to find another job. Lawyers might not be doing quite so well in the future either, unless we start arresting dangerous people. You can bet the drug cartels aren’t happy.

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Because a Policy is Wildly Unpopular in America Doesn’t Mean It Won’t Happen

Comcast

Consumerist’s Worst Company In America for 2014 (you guessed Comcast, didn’t you? – right on!) is trying to get bigger and more powerful. Where is democracy when we need it?

Comcast is trying to merge with another of America’s largest cable and Internet providers, Time Warner Cable. The proposed Comcast-TWC merger would create a juggernaut of a company that almost no one would be able to compete with. The merged company — which will be named Comcast — would control more than two-thirds of all cable television subscriptions in the country, and some 40% of the home Internet market.

Alternet:

Survey after survey shows that Americans wholeheartedly oppose the proposed merger. The latest survey, by Consumer Reports, finds nearly three-quarters of Americans believe it will result in higher cable and Internet rates, while two-thirds say it will likely have a negative impact on customer service and that Comcast would have no incentive to improve.

Let’s recall that Comcast is an enemy of net neutrality, which they underscored by the Netflix shakedown last summer. They are notorious for throttling your Internet connection. Comcast is currently trying to turn user home routers into publicly-accessible hotspots without telling customers. Their prices are too high (but it’s a local monopoly controlled by nobody). And of course their customer “service” is totally evil.

Will the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice roll over and play dead, letting this merger go through? Stay tuned.

More info:
You Thought Comcast Couldn’t Get Any Worse? Think Again
When Your Cable Company Attacks: Why Comcast Abuses Its Customers
Insults directed at consumers are proof that Comcast is rotten to the core.

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Robert Reich: TPP is Part of the Global Race to the Bottom

Republicans in Congress want to work with the Obama administration to fast-track the passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The TPP is the largest—and worst—trade deal you’ve never heard of, having been devised in secret by representatives of some of the world’s largest corporations.

It’s so big and has the potential to do so much damage, it’s been likened to “NAFTA on steroids.”

Once you’ve watched the video, please join the growing chorus of Americans who are saying no to fast track and the TPP by adding your name to this petition from Larry Cohen, president of the Communication Workers of America.

UPDATE:

Media Matters: Trans-Pacific Partnership Barely Noticed By Weeknight News Over The Past 18 Months

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Title II Is Necessary But Not Sufficient

Tom Wheeler
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

Via HuffPo:

Internet users haven’t won yet. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has indicated that he plans to reclassify consumer broadband Internet as a utility under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. However, this by itself does not guarantee the preservation of net neutrality.

[A]dvocates say that Title II authority won’t mean much unless the FCC creates enforceable rules and doesn’t allow loopholes.

“Right now, the big carriers are simply looking for a loophole,” said Marvin Ammori, a lawyer who advises major tech companies and supports net neutrality. He noted that there are multiple loopholes — like writing exceptions for mobile or specialized services — that could undermine the whole FCC rule. “They only need one,” he said.

…”Title II is necessary but not sufficient,” said Evan Engstrom, policy director at Engine, which advocates for startups. “We hope the FCC gets it right right away and comes out with a proposal that includes bright-line rules.”

Meanwhile, Tea-GOP members of Congress have introduced legislation to take away the FCC’s authority to save net neutrality.

UPDATE:
FCC Chief Announces Big Win For Net Neutrality Advocates

In a Wired op-ed, Wheeler said he is proposing the FCC use its authority under Title II of the Communications Act to protect consumer broadband Internet. This move will allow the FCC to stop Internet service providers from charging content providers like Netflix more money for reliable Internet access.

“Using this authority, I am submitting to my colleagues the strongest open Internet protections ever proposed by the FCC,” he wrote.

UPDATE:
Think Progress: Conservatives Do Their Best To Bash Net Neutrality

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Robert Reich: Low Unemployment Won’t Lead to Higher Pay

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich:Low wages

Jobs are coming back, but pay isn’t. The median wage is still below where it was before the Great Recession. Last month, average pay actually fell.

…Insecure workers don’t demand higher wages when unemployment drops. They’re grateful simply to have a job.

To make things worse, a majority of Americans have no savings to draw upon if they lose their job. Two-thirds of all workers are living paycheck to paycheck. They won’t risk losing a job by asking for higher pay.

Insecurity is now baked into every aspect of the employment relationship. Workers can be fired for any reason, or no reason. And benefits are disappearing.

…Since 1979, the nation’s productivity has risen 65 percent, but workers’ median compensation has increased by just 8 percent. Almost all the gains from growth have gone to the top.

This is not a winning corporate strategy over the long term because higher returns ultimately depend on more sales, which requires a large and growing middle class with enough purchasing power to buy what can be produced.

But from the limited viewpoint of the CEO of a single large firm, or of an investment banker or fund manager on Wall Street, it’s worked out just fine – so far.

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Americans Rank 26th in Median Wealth

Inequality cycle
Source: Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook 2014

Financialization of the economy is both a symptom and a major cause of inequality. Financialization is when making money from money becomes more important than providing real goods and services. It’s characterized by risky asset bubbles and periodic crashes that affect everyone in the 99 Percent because we’re not “too big to fail.” Les Leopold: “Wall Street is out of control. Once deregulation started 30 years ago, money has gushed to the top as Wall Street was free to find more and more unethical ways to fleece us.”

The result: Despite the fact we’re the richest country in the world, U.S. median wealth is just $53,352 according to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook (PDF).

Les Leopold, again:

The U.S. continues to lead the world in billionaires (571 in 2014, with China a distant second at 190). But after decades of financial deregulation and attacks on employee rights, Americans rank 26th in median wealth (defined as assets owned, minus debts owed for the person on the middle rung of the wealth ladder).

The Gini index for the USA has risen to 84.6 (with 0 representing perfect equality and 100 representing perfect inequality). Very few countries can top that, and not by much.

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How Fast Will YOU Be Able To Innovate?

Get Ready To Wait

Get Ready To Wait

No matter what political stripe you are, you are excited about Obama’s fierce defense of Net Neutrality lately. The problem is that he is standing up for something he can’t personally affect. It’s the FCC that will make that decision and the big downer is that the man Obama appointed to head the FCC , (Tom Wheeler), used to be a cable lobbyist.

Perfect. :(

Anyway, the best debate you’ll probably hear about the issue was on the Diane Rhem show from November 12th, since I don’t think there’s any way a public hearing will take place. The last time the FCC did that, it was an embarrassing spectacle for the commission as they faced an auditorium of very angry citizens back in the Bush days.

Diane likes to have a fair discussion, but I thought I could tell what side she was on. It’s not hard to be on the side of “Net Neutrality” because 4 million Americans have sent letters to the FCC about the issue, and I can guarantee you that a tiny fraction of the letters were for letting internet providers discriminate about the speed of the websites we choose.

It was a sensible discussion except for one panel member who was obviously there to bolster a corporate controlled internet. he’s Rob Atkinson, the president of something called, “The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation”. I get weary when ever I see the word innovation these days, because it usually means something like ‘get out of the way little man; we’ll decide what’s best’.

Atkinson doesn’t waste much time using the fear of government meme so popular with liars these days.

ROB ATKINSON:

All the major carriers, Verizon, Comcast, all the rest of them have committed never to block legal content, never to degrade legal content.It’s a red herring that the other side is doing because what they want is they want a regulated utility model and ultimately they want a government-owned model. That’s their game.

MARVIN AMMORI, (attorney in private practice, affiliate scholar, Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet & Society):

… When you look at the people who have lined up against net neutrality, it’s just the big cable and phone companies and the organizations like Rob’s that got funding from them. That’s it.

I’ve never heard Diane Rhem prod all other panel members to give their opinion on whether another guest was lying before, but I was delighted to hear this part of the show:

ROB ATKINSON:

In the famous case that Marvin’s talking about with what’s called the Comcast BitTorrent Case, Comcast did not block anything

DIANE REHM:

Marvin.

MARVIN AMMORI:

So I think Rob is just trying to throw some fud out there. The FCC found that Comcast was blocking. We proved it.

ROB ATKINSON:

No, they did not.

MARVIN AMMORI:

They did. It’s in the order. I litigated that decision. I argued that decision. I wrote the complaint in that case. And the CE…

DIANE REHM:

Did they or did they not?

GIGI SOHN, (special counsel for external affairs, Federal Communications Commission):

Yes, they did.

ROB ATKINSON:

They were slowing up…

MARVIN AMMORI:

The CEO of BitTorrent is a friend of mine and we collaborated the entire time during that case, both CEOs then and now.

DIANE REHM:

Cecilia, did they or did they…

CECILIA KANG, (reporter, The Washington Post):

They did, they did.

Oops!

I also thought it was funny that Atkinson was trying to make the case that most people really don’t care that much about high speeds after a question from a caller:

ROB ATKINSON:

What is true is very, very few consumers will pay even 5 or $10 more a month for the next tier up. So there — I can get 100 megabits to my house where I live in Washington, D.C. I don’t get it because I don’t want to pay the extra. Most consumers are like that. They just won’t pay a few dollars more for high speeds.

CECILIA KANG:

…So the idea that people don’t want to upgrade, I mean, I would love, if I could afford, to get the fastest no matter what. Nobody would say no to that if possible.

Amen and amen Cecilia!

It’s an interesting debate and, as usual, the transcripts and audio can be found at Rehms site.

37 Comments

Mythical Religious Persecution Narrative and a New Jim Crow

Earlier this week, a story spread like wildfire about two pastors threatened with jail time and massive fines for not performing gay weddings. Attorneys from the right wing ADF (Alliance Defending Freedom) filed a lawsuit on behalf of the pastors. The story was breathless, controversial and inaccurate.

The pastors in question run a for profit business that as recently as two weeks ago was very clear that they offered both religious and civil ceremonies. They run a marriage mill, performing something like 1400 weddings per year. Oh, and the big error? The city of Coeur d’Alene had not threatened them with fines or jail time, there have been no complaints filed against them. The couple in question asked the city attorney what would happen if they failed to comply with the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance and refused to marry a same-sex couple; the city attorney spelled out the possible legal consequences. End of story. Not really. I’ll let Jeremy Hooper explain:

When I first learned about the story of Idaho’s Hitching Post, which was suddenly the far-right’s latest marriage “victim” for supposedly being threatened by the city of Coeur d’Alene for not marrying a same-sex couple, I thought the whole thing was too coincidental to be true. I didn’t focus on it in my last post on the subject since I had the much more newsworthy discovery that the business had changed its website so that they could seem much more faith-driven than they had been operating in the past. But a part of me was wondering how the same business that went to the press back in May with its preemptive marriage fears, well before Idaho had marriage equality, could now be in the spotlight in such a major way. it just seemed too perfectly orchestrated.

To wit (Gridley is the city attorney):

“Their lawsuit was something of a surprise because we have had cordial conversations with them in the past and they have never disclosed that they have recently become a religious corporation,” Gridley wrote.

Gridley wrote that the city will not prosecute legitimate nonprofit religious corporations, associations, educational institutions, or societies or other exempt organizations or anyone else as a result of their lawful exercise of their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and religion.

In addition to exempting those groups, Gridley wrote that the anti-discrimination ordinance states that it “shall be construed and applied in a manner consistent with First Amendment jurisprudence regarding the freedom of speech and exercise of religion.”

When contacted by The Press for comment, Don Knapp said the Hitching Post is not operating as a not-for-profit religious corporation. He also said he does not know ADF Attorney David Cortman.

Let’s be clear – almost everything you’ve heard about the case is wrong. No complaint has been filed against The Hitching Post. If they are a legitimate religious organization, they are exempt from the city’s ordinance. (It’s worth noting that they have been an ordinary, for profit business up to this point and have a history of performing both religious and civil ceremonies; they have not been, up to this point, a church or religious organization.)

The facts haven’t stopped hosts of religious people sanctimoniously declaring that “no one should be forced to do something that violates their conscience” and “no one should be forced to participate in a same sex wedding.” Utah legislators have obviously seen the story and are alreayd discussing a bill that would allow people to declare they have a religious objection and exempt themselves from participating in same-sex weddings (if history is any guide, the bill will pass, but will be so overly broad it will fail constitutional muster and be struck down, leading to all sorts of public hysterics over activists judges and repeated sharing of bathetic overhyped tales of bakers and florists and photographers and poor picked on pastors). It’s clear that a great many religious persons oppose same-sex marriage, and believe their opposition is entirely based on theological reasons and fear that at some point, some legal change will force them to “accept” same-sex marriage.

I don’t want to minimize the difficulty marriage equality presents for many religious persons. People do not lightly give up tradition or traditional teachings about sexuality and relationships.

Until very recently, most people casually accepted the idea that something was “wrong” with gay and lesbian persons. The idea that sexual minority persons are not inherently sick, immoral or incapable of forming long-lasting, stable relationships is relatively new in our society. The idea of same-sex marriage is also relatively new (although the Boston Marriage is a fascinating bit of history). Many socially and religiously conservative persons continue to embrace the belief that gay persons can become straight through therapy and prayer, that being gay is a choice and a bad one.

For some persons, the idea of a same sex couple marrying seems absurd at best. These individuals define marriage as a man and a woman and exclude anything else (one suspects Utah State Rep. Kraig Powell is such a person). It’s not uncommon in discussions to hear someone declare that marriage is between a man and a woman and anything is fake and the law can’t make “real” what isn’t real. The “love the sinner hate the sin” motto employed by religious persons reveals more than most people think – for many religious persons, gay people are less than straight people and same-sex couples are less than heterosexual couples.

With the Supreme Court’s decision to not hear the various cases coming to them, the number of states in which same sex marriage is legal increased dramatically in one week (at JoeMyGod, Joe observed that there had been 9 separate marriage equality maps in the week of October 6).

Religious conservatives have very visibly and vocally expressed their dismay. We’ve heard all the usual buzzwords about out of control judges, judicial activism, and the usual predictions of coming tyranny. Religious conservatives are asking “What next?” with a combination of weariness and trepidation.

There is a challenge for religious conservatives. They’re being asked to acknowledge and live with the reality that same sex marriage is legal and to recognize that means some changes on how they conduct their business. I am certain there will be some lawsuits when religious business owners try to refuse family insurance coverage to same-sex spouses. We will, no doubt, hear paeans to the free market and dreamy invocations that gays can just go elsewhere for jobs and services. Thus far, the courts have not be amenable to such arguments. From a legal standpoint, a marriage is a marriage. Treating married couples differently will not be acceptable.

Religious conservatives are also going to have to face activism within their churches. Although legally there’s no reason to fear that churches will be forced to recognize same-sex marriage, gay persons can be incredibly effective activists. Churches will feel pressure to perform marriages for same-sex couples.

The Hobby Lobby case was probably the most high profile but it is one of many in which the religious right is trying to carve out a separate public and legal sphere for itself in which the devout serve solely the devout and can refuse to serve the sinful masses – a modern Jim Crow – using religious freedom as the rationale. I get this – I’ve read Martha Nussbaum’s Hiding from Humanity: Disgust Shame and the Law – it’s about fear of moral contagion. Although it’s emotional appeal is undeniable, I think it will ultimately fail of its own weight.

This afternoon, I read that The Hitching Post has re-incorporated itself as a religious corporation. The ACLU and the city of Coeur d’Alene agree that in keeping with their newly filed corporate status, The Hitching Post is a “religious corporation” and exempt from the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance. IOW, the whole brouhaha has basically evaporated.

The public spaces from which religious conservatives can exclude gay people are going to become increasingly constrained. The option of declaring one’s self a religious corporation isn’t going to be available to a great many religious conservatives. If, however, claims of religious freedom and religious conscience become publicly linked with discrimination – against women, gays and lesbians, “immoral people” – then very quickly the mythical “war on Christianity” will become a very real public disgust for anyone claiming to be Christian and for Christianity itself.

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Half of the Country Hasn’t Taken a Vacation Day Yet In 2014

The Go-Go’s – Vacation from Dan Hunter on Vimeo.

h/t Think Progress.

From the travel website Skift:

We asked Americans, using Google Consumer Surveys, “Heading into Fall, how many vacation days have you taken so far this year?” The majority, almost 51 percent, say they haven’t taken a single vacation day in 2014 so far.

About 15 percent of Americans say they have taken more than 10 vacation days this year, while the rest is split between those who took fewer than 5, and those who took between 5-10 vacation days this year.

The other topline result from the breakdown, as you will see in the charts below: Women, young, old,and the lower-income Americans are the ones taking the least amount of vacations.

Of course, nearly 1 in 4 US workers don’t get any paid vacation days.

Nearly a quarter of the American private-sector workforce, some 26 million workers, doesn’t get paid time off, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — compared with less than one-fifth in the 1990s.The United States is the only advanced economy that doesn’t guarantee paid vacation and one of only 13 countries in the world not to do so, according to the World Policy Analysis Center at the University of California Los Angeles.

The American middle class was great, while it lasted.

131 Comments

Posted Sans Comment part something or other, the revenge

Posted sans comment: the never ending series. This time, since I don’t comment, the quoted commentary is provided by some of the rightwing blogs that I read each week. Enjoy….

Read the rest of this entry »

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Colorado students learned their civil disobedience lessons…

Colorado students and teachers alike have been staging walkouts over the new conservative version of history that is being forced on schools by the rightwing school board. And this story is just full of irony. For one thing, among the subjects being removed is all mention of civil disobedience. Thus the students are teaching the topic to the school board. At least a thousand students walked out of class Tuesday, at three separate schools. More followed Wednesday and still more were planned for today.
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People’s Climate March Livestream

Because cable TV news has this event blacked out, even MSNBC. It’s happening in Manhattan, right under the noses of the media elite, and they won’t report about it.

Tom Engelhardt: Is Climate Change a Crime Against Humanity?

From two scientific studies just released, for example, comes the news that the West Antarctic ice sheet, one of the great ice accumulations on the planet, has now begun a process of melting and collapse that could, centuries from now, raise world sea levels by a nightmarish 10 to 13 feet. That mass of ice is, according to the lead authors of one of the studies, already in “irreversible retreat,” which means — no matter what acts are taken from now on — a future death sentence for some of the world’s great cities. (And that’s without even the melting of the Greenland ice shield, not to speak of the rest of the ice in Antarctica.)

UPDATE: OK, MSNBC is now reporting that well over 100,000 marchers are on the streets. They have a reporter doing a live shot now (10:30 am).

UPDATE: Hundreds Of Thousands Turn Out For People’s Climate March In New York City

NEW YORK — More than 400,000 people turned out for the People’s Climate March in New York City on Sunday, just days before many of the world’s leaders are expected to debate environmental action at the United Nations climate summit.

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