January 31, 2015

The real economy

Washington's Blog

After adjusting for inflation, median household income has fallen by nearly $5,000 since 2007.

In 1967, 53 percent of Americans were considered to be “middle income”. But today, only 43 percent of Americans are.

For each of the past six years, more businesses have closed in the United States than have opened. Prior to 2008, this had never happened before in all of U.S. history.

According to the New York Times, the “typical American household” is now worth 36 percent less than it was worth a decade ago.

Tip to the media: Scientists and the public are concerned about population growth, so maybe it's safe to write about

Huffington Post -  A new poll of American scientists suggests that a large majority of them (82 percent) regard population growth as a major challenge, almost as many as those who believe that climate change is mostly due to human activity (87 percent). The poll, which was conducted by the Pew Research Center, indicates that a clear majority of the American public (59 percent) are concerned that there won't be enough food and resources to accommodate a growing world population, but the level of concern in the scientific community, as with climate change, is noticeably higher...

What is remarkable, however, is that given the levels of scientific concern about humanity's impact on the planet, more scientists are not talking publicly about population. When it comes to climate change, there is no shortage of scientists willing to speak out about the need to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. So if humanity is breaking "planetary boundaries" and imperiling, in the process, humanity's future, why aren't more scientists speaking publicly about the human-population trajectory and its implications?

And you thought all paranoid psychopaths were Republicans

Politico - Reporters covering the House Democrats' retreat in Philadelphia tare having a much different experience than when they’re on their home turf on Capitol Hill.

Reporters are being escorted to and from the restroom and lobby and are being barred from entering the hotel outside of scheduled events, even if they've been invited by a member of Congress.

During Vice President Joe Biden’s remarks at the retreat, reporters were required to have a staff member, usually a junior member of the press team, escort them when going to the bathroom or to the lobby.

“It was a police state. It was absurd how heavy handed the capitol police and Democratic staff were in trying to control everywhere the press went,” New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters said in an interview.

Peters said at one point he was also barred from entering the hotel where the retreat was taking place, despite the fact he had an invitation to eat breakfast with a member of Congress.

“I was an invited guest into this hotel, into the restaurant of the hotel. The staff from the Democratic caucus refused to let me into the hotel, and the Capitol Police told me to leave, even after the congressman went to them and said 'no, he is my invited guest,'" Peters said.

Peters said he was told by a staffer they were being escorted to prevent them from talking to members of Congress.

The incident is reminiscent of the Clinton Global Initiative conference in September, where reporters were being escorted by staff right up to the bathroom stall.

Montana police dub peace group "extremist" because they left "a mess" at gatherings

Missouiian - The Missoula Police Department got the nod to have the mayor sign off on a Homeland Security grant proposal – one that names the Rainbow Family as an "extremist" hazard in western Montana.

The $254,930 grant will purchase a mobile communications vehicle the Missoula police will share with other law enforcement and emergency responders in seven western Montana counties, according to Assistant Police Chief Scott Hoffman. The city's contribution is $29,200.

On Wednesday, the Missoula City Council's Public Safety and Health Committee voted to recommend the full council sign off on the project and related spending.

"It's a mobile command unit," Hoffman said before the meeting. "It's just like a motor home with communications and computers and radios and things like that. I don't know what the hazards of the Rainbow people are."

The draft letter from Mayor John Engen is addressed to the state Department of Military Affairs in Helena, and the proposal names natural, technological and man-made hazards. Among other specifics, the list cites avalanches, train derailments and extremist groups, naming the Hells Angels and Rainbow Family in particular.

The Rainbow Family of Living Light describes itself as a nonviolent group spreading the message of peace and love. It gathered in Montana in 2000 and 2013.

The U.S. Forest Service has said the 2013 camp west of Dillon was rowdy and required a strong law enforcement presence, but some participants said the number of officers was excessive.

In a phone call, Missoula Police Lt. Scott Brodie said the Rainbow Family was named in the grant because of the problems it has caused in the past.

"When they have their gatherings, they historically have created a mess that needs to be cleaned up," Brodie said.

To that end, he said the communications unit would help if multiple jurisdictions were headed to the cleanup effort. A Rainbow gathering could involve the Forest Service, police, deputies, fire departments and other agencies.

If Bush is elected he'll be the fourth criminal in the White House in a row

Thanks to our drug laws, if Jeb Bush is elected president he would be our fourth criminal [albeit all unprosecutred] - to occupy the White House. Jeb Bush has admitted that " I smoked marijuana when I was at Andover."

We even have a photo of Obama smoking. As for George Bush, he once said, "I wouldn’t answer the marijuana questions. You know why? Because I don’t want some little kid doing what I tried.”

And, of course, there was cocaine user Bill Clinton who was elected pesident one year after DC Mayor Marion Barry went to prison for using the same substance.

All four were entitled to, but avoided, a jail sentence and the media covers the drug story like it never happened.

Hillary Clinton apparently never used illegal drugs although she did play around with things like excessive cough medicine and so forth.

Here, according to Wikipedia, are some other pols who did mess with marijuana and remained on the loose:

Bruce Babbitt b. 1938 Governor of Arizona, Secretary of the Interior Democratic [9]
Michael Bloomberg b. 1942 Mayor of New York City Independent [10]
Bill Bradley b. 1943 Senator from New Jersey Democratic [11]
George W. Bush b. 1946 President of the United States Republican [12]
Jack Conway b. 1969 Attorney General of Kentucky Democratic [13]
Paul Cellucci 1948–2013 Governor of Massachusetts Republican [14]
Lincoln Chafee b. 1953 Senator from Rhode Island, Governor of Rhode Island Independent [15]
Lawton Chiles 1930–1998 Senator from Florida, Governor of Florida Democratic [16]
Bill Clinton b. 1946 President of the United States Democratic [17]
Steve Cohen b. 1949 Member of the House of Representatives Democratic [18]
Andrew Cuomo b. 1957 Governor of New York Democratic [19]
Howard Dean b. 1948 Governor of Vermont, Chair of the Democratic National Committee Democratic [20]
Joseph DeNucci b. 1939 Auditor of Massachusetts Democratic [14]
Mary Donohue b. 1947 Lieutenant Governor of New York Republican [21]
John Edwards b. 1953 Senator from North Carolina Democratic [20]
Newt Gingrich b. 1943 Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Republican [9]
Al Gore b. 1948 Vice President of the United States Democratic [22]
Gary Johnson b. 1953 Governor of New Mexico Libertarian [23]
Joseph P. Kennedy II b. 1952 Member of the House of Representatives Democratic [14]
John Kerry b. 1943 Secretary of State Democratic [20]
Ed Koch 1924–2013 Member of the House of Representatives, Mayor of New York City Democratic [24]
Richard Lamm b. 1935 Governor of Colorado Democratic [25]
Connie Mack III b. 1940 Senator from Florida Republican [16]
Kyle E. McSlarrow b. 1960 Deputy Secretary of the Department of Energy Republican [26]
John Miller b. 1938 Member of the House of Representatives Republican [27]
Susan Molinari b. 1958 Member of the House of Representatives Republican [28]
Jim Moran b. 1945 Member of the House of Representatives Democratic [26]
Evelyn Murphy b. 1940 Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts Democratic [14]
Richard Neal b. 1949 Member of the House of Representatives Democratic [14]
Barack Obama b. 1961 President of the United States Democratic [29]
Sarah Palin b. 1964 Governor of Alaska Republican [30]
George Pataki b. 1945 Governor of New York Republican [19]
David Paterson b. 1954 Governor of New York Democratic [31]
Edward W. Pattison 1932–1990 Member of the House of Representatives Democratic [32]
Claiborne Pell 1918-2009 Senator from Rhode Island Democratic [9]
Dana Rohrabacher b.1947 Member of the House of Representatives Republican [33]
Rick Santorum b. 1958 Senator from Pennsylvania Republican [34]
Arnold Schwarzenegger b. 1947 Governor of California Republican [35]
William Scranton III b. 1947 Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania Republican [36]
Bill Thompson b. 1953 New York City Comptroller Democratic [37]
Peter G. Torkildsen b. 1958 Member of the House of Representatives Republican [14]
Jesse Ventura

To round out the list, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison and Washington all raised hemp.

Education links

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Bill Gates
Michelle Rhee
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Let 'em play
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David Mallery
The missing predicate in my life
Fact sheet on Common Core assessments
How test obsession is hurting learning
Bad Ass Teachers
Chicago Teachers Union
Ed Notes Online
Susan Ohanian
Diane Ravitch
Teach 4 Real
Valerie Strauss

Race to the bottom: Scott Walker on drug testing

Daily Beast - According to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, what American employers are really looking for these days is “someone who can pass a drug test.”

Walker made that remark in a question-and-answer session in Washington, D.C... The Wisconsin governor is expected to formally unveil the drug testing proposal in his budget next week.

The imitative would require drug testing for recipients of government benefits like food stamps and Medicaid. Walker says his plan is justified because there are many open jobs waiting for people who can pass drug tests and know “how to show up [for work] everyday five days a week.”

Before it was overturned in federal court, Florida’s mandatory drug test law ended up costing the state more money than it saved.

Walker first touted the idea while running for re-election last year, and pledged to “require a drug test for those requesting unemployment and able-bodied, working age adults requesting Food Stamps from the state.” But, sadly for Walker, the plan is almost certainly unconstitutional.

Federal courts have found that laws that require all recipients of welfare benefits to be drug tested violate the 4th Amendment as an unconstitutional search and seizure. However, states have recently passed laws that only require drug tests for those on government assistance for whom there is “a reasonable suspicion” of illegal drug use. This is considered far more likely to pass constitutional muster than blanket drug testing of everyone who applies for public assistance.

The real economy: Young worker earnings, 1980 and today

News Republic -  In 1980, the typical young worker in Detroit or Flint, Michigan, earned more than his counterpart in San Francisco or San Jose. The states with the highest median income were Michigan, Wyoming, and Alaska. Nearly 80 percent of the Boomer generation, which at the time was between 18 and 35, was white, compared to 57 percent today.

Three decades later... Michigan's median income for under-35 workers has fallen by 26 percent, more than any state. In fact, beyond the east coast, earnings for young workers fell in every state but Hawaii and South Dakota.

The real economy: Home ownership


Big march in Spain against the political elite

Common Dreams - Fed up with conservative economics and fueled by Syriza's recent victory in Greece, tens of thousands of Spaniards flooded the streets of Madrid to say: "No to Austerity and Yes to Change!"

The march, dubbed the "March for Change," is the first mass demonstration in support of the country's new leftist party, Podemos, which is Spanish for "We Can."

According to reports, demonstrators chanted "yes we can" and "tic tac tic tac" suggesting the clock was ticking for the country's two main political parties. Many waved Greek and republican flags and banners reading "The change is now."

"This is not about asking for anything from the government or protesting. It’s to say that in 2015 there will be a government of the people," said party leader Pablo Iglesias when the march was first announced.

"People are fed up with the political class," Antonia Fernandez, a 69-year-old pensioner from Madrid, told reporters at the demonstration. Fernandez explained that she previously supported the country's socialist party but reportedly lost faith in it because of its handling of the economic crisis and its austerity policies.

Since its inception last year, Podemos's popularity has surged. Caputuring the momentum of the populist wave currently sweeping Europe, the party surprised many when it won five seats in the European Parliament in the May 2014 elections and a poll published earlier this month found that nearly half of Spain's population would support Iglesias if he ran for Prime Minister.

Iglesias, a 36-year-old political science academic, is frequently compared to Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras. Like Syriza in Greece, Podemos has captured the country's attention by running on a slogan that politicians should "serve the people, not private interests," and promising to write off a portion of Spain's debt, which has caused soaring unemployment.

Huge library fire in Moscow

Independent, UK - A library containing over 14 million books, historic texts and other important documents has gone up in flames in the Russian capital of Moscow.

The Academic Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences has 14.2m texts in ancient and modern languages and includes the biggest collection of Slavic language books in Russia.

It was founded in 1918 and holds documents from the League of Nations, UNESCO, and early parliamentary reports dating back as far as 1789.

A fire which started on the building’s third floor spread over 2,000 square meters and caused extensive damage to the building and possibly its collection of literary artifacts, according to a report from Russian news agency Interfax.

According to Kremlin-owned broadcaster Russia Today a total of 147 rescue workers and 38 fire appliances were brought to the library to fight the fire, which has been contained.

A law enforcement source told the RIA Novosti news agency that “a short circuit in the electrical system is currently being regarded as a primary lead” in the cause of the fire.                                                                

Morning Line

In our three poll moving average, for the first time, Clinton is only single digits ahead of a Republican. She leads Bush by nine points and is ten points ahead of Paul and Christie.

With Romney out, Bush leads leads by three points over Carson and Huckabee. They are the only Republicans in double digits. Huckabee leads in southern states such as AK, MD, NC, SC. Rand Paul leads in CO. Christie leads in NJ, NY. Walker leads in WI

Clinton has been sliding slightly among Democrats, getting just under 60 percent for the first time. But she still leads Warren by 44 points and Biden by 51.


A lot of people play music for the wrong reasons. I never played to get women, though I had my share. I didn't do it for the money, though it pays the bills. I realized early on that I could create something beautiful that would build love within the people who came out to hear it. Music is the best medicine in the world, man. - Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown

Native Americans bring peacemakng to Brooklyn

Center for Court Innovation - Peacemaking is a traditional, non-adversarial form of justice practiced by many different Native American tribes. It is designed to heal damaged relationships and restore harmony to the community. Peacemaking brings together the immediate parties to a conflict (such as defendant and victim), along with family, neighbors, community members, and others who wish to support the participants. In a peacemaking session, the participants sit in a circle with one or more peacemakers, who are respected community members trained in peacemaking, to discuss the underlying causes of the conflict. Peacemaking not only seek to resolve the immediate conflict but to foster healing and help the participants avoid future problems.

In January 2013, the Center for Court Innovation launched a pilot project to test whether peacemaking could be effectively applied in a state court setting. The project was implemented at the Red Hook Community Justice Center, a multi-jurisdictional community court located in southwest Brooklyn.

Peacemaking was made available as a pretrial diversion option for selected misdemeanor criminal cases or juvenile delinquency cases.  Defendants who successfully completed the program—which involved an average of 2.74 peacemaking sessions lasting approximately two to three hours each—generally had their cases dismissed, whereas defendants who did not complete their obligations had to return to court for further dispositional hearings.

The Red Hook Peacemaking Program largely, but not exclusively, adhered to the original implementation plan, which sought to adapt a traditional peacemaking model learned from Native American experts to a state court setting in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Core elements of the model were as follows:

·       The program had four goals: 1) healing relationships; 2) giving victims a voice; 3) holding participants accountable; and 4) empowering the community.

·       All criminal and juvenile delinquency cases heard at the Red Hook Community Justice Center were technically eligible for peacemaking regardless of charge, except for cases involving intimate partner violence, child abuse, elder abuse, and sexual assault. Defendants with a severe mental illness or need for intensive substance abuse treatment were also ineligible. Generally, participating cases involved a victim or complaining witness, although it was not a requirement.

·       One of the goals of peacemaking is for defendants to accept responsibility for their role in the conflict. While most participants in peacemaking accepted responsibility, some maintained through the peacemaking sessions that the victim or cross complainant was to blame, at least in part, for the conflict. Even among those who did not fully accept responsibility, participants in research interviews expressed a perception that peacemaking was beneficial in beginning to heal the relationship and identify steps to avoid future conflicts.

Over the course of the 18–month study, 42 defendants and 24 victims or support persons participated in peacemaking. Some cases involved multiple defendants or cross- complainants; thus, in total, there were 31 separate peacemaking groups.

·       Sixty-two percent of peacemaking participants were arrested for misdemeanor assault. Other charges included petit larceny, graffiti, harassment, menacing, trespass and disorderly conduct.

·       Forty-three percent of participants were arrested due to a conflict with a non-spousal family member. Other relationships included roommates, neighbors, and friends. Only eight of the 42 cases had no victim or cross-complainant.

·       Seventy-nine percent of peacemaking participants completed peacemaking successfully, of whom 90% received a straight dismissal of their case and 10% received an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, which typically leads to a dismissal after a period usually lasting six months. Thirteen percent of participants did not complete peacemaking due to noncompliance, and 8% did not complete peacemaking as a result of staff finding them inappropriate after the first session.

Peacemaking participants, including defendants, victims, and other complaining witnesses, were generally supportive of the program. Court stakeholders also perceived that the program had a positive impact on the lives of the participants and the community.

·       The peacemaking staff provided food for the participants and peacemakers at the beginning of each session. This was described as a highlight by nearly all the participants, and a few commented that it helped to alleviate an otherwise tense situation.

·       Some cases were completed with one peacemaking session, while the longest took eight sessions to complete, with the group meeting every other week (or as frequently as schedules allowed). A case could take months to complete. Even for cases that completed in one session, it sometimes took several weeks before the case was then called back to the court for a final hearing. The most common complaint participants made about peacemaking was the length of time it took to complete the sessions.

·       Everyone in attendance received an opportunity to speak and respond without interruption in the peacemaking circle. Both defendants and victims/complaining witnesses reported that they felt comfortable and that they could open up in the peacemaking circle; however, some expressed concerns about potential re-victimization through the process by interacting with someone who previously hurt them. Overall, when asked in how they felt sharing their story, the most common words participants used to describe the experience were comfortable and supported.

·       During the peacemaking sessions, the parties in the circle discussed what the defendant could do to heal the relationships damaged in the conflict, provide restitution, or improve their own lives in order to avoid future conflicts. The healing steps were designed to be flexible and individualized; they included obligations like letters of apology, volunteer work, or resume writing. To retain confidentiality these healing steps are not shared in court nor with court actors; however, some stakeholders expressed interest in hearing about the healing steps in court, when appropriate, to help them better understand the peacemaking process.

Peacemaking gave participants the opportunity to talk through a conflict in a safe setting in ways that a conventional adversarial process. Depending on the relationship and willingness of the participants, those interviewed generally perceived that peacemaking had succeeded in starting the process of healing relationships.