August 19, 2017

The issue the Democrats ignored: the collapse of the white working class

To understand the rise of white nationalism, it helps, although Democrats show little interest in it, to understand what has been happening to the white working class. Beginning in the 70s, the Democrats lost interest in America's working class and have paid a considerable price for it. It's not an error too hard to correct. For example, Bernie Sanders' campaign revived economic issues and, according to a report last year, by June 2016 Sanders had gained more young people's votes than Trump and Clinton combined.  And in the end economic fairness supports ethnic and gender equality. The fairer the economic system the less anger and prejudice drive politics. 

Atlantic, March 2017 - A new study by the Brookings Institution finds that mortality rates are rising for those without a college degree.

Nearly 20 years ago, the mortality rate for high-school-educated white Americans ages 50 to 54 was 30 percent lower than the rate for all black Americans in the same age group. As of 2015, the rate was 30 percent higher. “This is a story of the collapse of the white working class,” Angus Deaton, the study’s co-author, told The New York Times. “The labor market has very much turned against them.” (Conversely, mortality rates are falling among middle-age white Americans with college degrees.)

It’s not just that lack of education has led to declining incomes, although that is certainly the case. The authors find that white men of all ages without a four-year college degree are less likely to participate in the labor force. But there seems to be a broader effect among white Americans in middle age: Not having a college degree often results in fewer economic opportunities, which in turn may trigger things like divorce, poor health, unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide, or raising children in unstable conditions.

The study’s authors say that working-class whites have faced “a long-term process of decline, or of cumulative deprivation.” This process, they argue, started with “those leaving high school and entering the labor force after the early 1970s—the peak of working-class wages, and the beginning of the end of the ‘blue-collar aristocracy.’”

As economic opportunities have dwindled for those without higher education, marriage rates have declined and divorce rates have risen, causing more men to lose regular contact with their children. These social trends promote distress—and in many cases, the effects are fatal. Since 1999, middle-age white Americans with only a high-school degree have seen a steep increase in “deaths of despair”—suicide, drug overdose, or alcohol abuse. Although opioids are not the primary cause of rising mortality rates, the authors say they are certainly adding “fuel to the flames.” Additional research finds that half of all working-age, unemployed men in America are taking pain medication—and two-thirds of them are taking prescription painkillers. Meanwhile, for middle-age white Americans of all educational backgrounds the average mortality rates from heart disease and cancer have slowed to just 1 percent per year.

Overall, rising mortality rates were most pronounced in states with large rural populations like Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi, though the authors find this to be both a rural and urban phenomenon. It is also, for reasons uncertain, a racial phenomenon. The study finds a decline in mortality rates among black and Hispanic Americans, despite seeing little difference in their income profiles.

Word: "Christian" right extremists

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Women's news






No good idea is too small for Trump to kill

Eco Watch - The National Park Service (NPS) announced Wednesday that it has rescinded the 2011 "Water Bottle Ban" that allowed parks to prohibit the sale of disposable plastic water bottles. That same day, news emerged that the Trump administration removed a nine-slot Capital Bikeshare station at the White House that was requested and installed during the Obama years and used by staffers.

The NPS said that the bottled water ban "removed the healthiest beverage choice at a variety of parks while still allowing sales of bottled sweetened drinks."

According to the Wilderness Society, 23 national parks had adopted the policy, including Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Zion National Park. The group said the Water Bottle Ban—an effort under President Obama's Green Parks Plan to promote the use of tap water and refillable bottles on federal lands—helped parks "simultaneously reduce park waste and carbon emissions."

August 18, 2017

Furthermore. . .

Ex-Trump business partner reportedly talking about prison for POTUS

Alternet - Felix Sater, one of Donald Trump’s shadiest former business partners, is reportedly preparing for prison time — and he says the president will be joining him behind bars.

Sources told The Spectator‘s Paul Wood that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s deep dive into Trump’s business practices may be yielding results.

Trump recently made remarks that could point to a money laundering scheme, Wood reported.

“I mean, it’s possible there’s a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows?” the president said.

Sater, who has a long history of legal troubles and cooperating with law enforcement, was one of the major players responsible to for selling Trump’s condos to the Russians.

And according to Wood’s sources, Sater may have already flipped and given prosecutors the evidence they need to make a case against Trump.


The huge ignored bias in the Senate

Nine states, with over half the population of the United States, have only 18% of Senate seats. The other half have 82%.

Why we need multi-seat House districts

Fair Vote - Most voters are locked in congressional districts that are increasingly skewed toward one party. With no power to affect outcomes, too many votes simply do not matter. The problem goes beyond gerrymandering, redistricting, and money. The problem is districting itself. The zero-sum, winner-take-all system in which only one person is elected to represent each district no longer works in this era of hardened partisanship.

The Fair Representation Act  gives voters of all backgrounds and all political stripes the power to elect House Members who reflect their views and will work constructively with others in Congress. Under the Fair Representation Act, there will be more choices and several winners elected in each district. Congress will remain the same size, but districts will be larger, each electing 3, 4, or 5 winners. Voters will be free to rank their choices without fear of "spoilers." No district will be “red” or “blue.” Every district will fairly reflect the spectrum of voters.

The U.S. Constitution does not say how states should elect their Members of the House of Representatives, and states used a variety of methods for most of the nation's history. However, since 1970, every state has elected only one per district in a winner-take-all election, due to a federal law passed in 1967. After nearly half a century of exclusive use of single-winner districts, we need a new standard.

More than 85% of U.S. House districts are completely safe for the party that holds them. and only 4% were true toss-ups in 2016. As a result, millions of Americans are perpetually represented by politicians they oppose, with little hope of changing things at the polls. Outcomes are distorted. Massachusetts Republicans haven't elected a House Member in more than 2 decades. Oklahoma Democrats are similarly shut out. Minor parties are nearly always shamed as "spoilers." One party can run the House even when the other earns more votes. In fair elections, those with the most votes should win the most seats, but every American deserves a fair share.

By electing candidates from multi-winner districts with at least three seats each, fair representation voting would allow every voter to elect someone from the major party they support. And, more of each party's "big tent" would have the opportunity to support - and even elect - a candidate in the general election.

Because election results with ranked choice voting would be proportional within each district, the skewed outcomes of our current system would be a thing of the past. Voters that are now shut-out, like Republicans in Massachusetts or Democrats in Oklahoma, would win their fair share of representation. In every state, the number of seats earned by each party would align far more closely to their share of the vote.

How multi-seat districts would work in your state

Washington DC links

  • DC MOMENTS: A timeline
    TUNES FROM A DC MUSICAL: Sam & Kathy Smith, along with Becky Brown, wrote a musical revue of DC history that was performed by the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop in 1978. The Washington Times listed the show as one of the "Sure Things" for the week. Mayor Marion Barry attended one performance Unfortunately, no recording was made, but years later Sam made a rough recording of some of the tunes for a curiuous reporter.
  • THE ATTICA THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN One year after Attica, there was a prisoner revolt at the Washington, DC Jail during which the director of DC Corrections and a number of guards were taken hostage. But, unlike Attica, no one was killed. Perhaps this is why so few remember what happened on a night when judges, politicians, U.S. Marshals, prisoners, and hostages all gathered in Courtroom 16 to see what could be done - brought together by a single judge who wasn't afraid o talk when others wanted to shoot.
1960s & 1970s
1980s & 1990s
The new century
DC Statehood

ACLU reaches settlement in CIA torture case

Popular Resistance - In a first for a case involving CIA torture, the American Civil Liberties Union announced a settlement today in the lawsuit against the two psychologists who designed and implemented the agency’s brutal program. A jury trial was scheduled to begin on September 5, after the plaintiffs successfully overcame every attempt by the psychologists to have the case dismissed.

The lawsuit was brought by the ACLU on behalf of Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and the family of Gul Rahman, who froze to death in a secret CIA prison. The three men were tortured and experimented on using methods developed by the CIA-contracted psychologists, James Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen.

The full terms of the settlement agreement are confidential.

... Until now, every lawsuit trying to hold people accountable for the CIA torture program has been dismissed at initial stages because the government successfully argued that letting the cases proceed would reveal state secrets. But unlike previous cases, this time the Justice Department did not try to derail the lawsuit. The defendants attempted to dismiss the case multiple times, but the court consistently ruled that the plaintiffs had valid claims.

Maine's governor actually said this...

NY Post - Maine’s Republican governor likened the removal of Confederate statues across the country to tearing down monuments to those who died in the terror attacks on Sept. 11.

“To me, it’s just like going to New York City right now and taking down the monument of those who perished in 9/11. It will come to that,” Gov. Paul LePage told Maine radio station WGAN-AM in an interview Thursday.

War & Peace Links

War Department
Torture Veterans
Can we admit that we've failed in the Mid East and start to move on?
How war hurts the economy
What Vietnam failed to teach us and the French Behind the Paris killings Backing off of hate
The good thing about war
Essays on war
Mission creep: the militarizing of America
Spooks & spies
All war all the time
The biggest threast to us: ourselves
Why is the military sacred?
A speech CSPAN didn't like
American Friends Service Committee
Veterans for Peace
War is a Crime
World Beyond War
Daniel Ellsberg
Tim Shorrock
Spy Talk
Guide to how we helped create ISIS & other terror groups

August 17, 2017

George Washington and Robert E. Lee

Sam Smith

One of the hazards of not studying history is that it can badly distort the present and the future as well as the past. This is a particular problem for younger Americans as, over the past three decades or so, there has been so little evidence of cultural progress in government, the arts, the economy, or America’s reputation in the world. Rare exceptions include cyber technology and, somewhat surprisingly, the declining death rate of war. For an older American like myself, on the other hand, history was an act of progress for nearly my first forty years or so – from the New Deal to the 1960s and up to Reagan. I didn’t have to study this history; I lived it.

And besides, history was a more important item in the curriculum when I was young. One thing I learned from it was that mankind in many ways improved through time, not just technologically thanks to things like the printing press but morally through such things as the abolition of slavery and the empowerment of women. One of the reasons post-1980s America has discouraged me so much is that this improvement seems to be determinedly fading away.

I was reminded of this by the argument, offered by Donald Trump’s lawyer among others, that George Washington was no better than Robert E Lee because the former also owned slaves. This ignores the fact that one of the aforementioned help to create the republic while the other attempted to destroy it.  And if we as a people had not improved in decency and other ways since the 18th century, what purpose was there for us to be on the planet at all?

In other words, the fact that those  in the past were flawed  in ways that we now soundly reject is a sign of human progress and our judgment should be based on the time someone lived not by the standards that have evolved. As Barbara Tuchman put it, “To understand the choices open to people of another time, one must limit oneself to what they knew; see the past in its own clothes, as it were, not in ours.”

And though I far prefer Benjamin Franklin or Frederick Douglass to George Washington, for all the latter’s flaws I greatly favor him over Robert E. Lee who, even by the standards of his own time, tried to destroy something great and good.

Remember further, before judging the past, that some day we will share responsibility for the planet’s climate and, perhaps, even for still believing in war, which may have become the abolition cause of another era.

But there is no way we can handle such issues by listening to the likes of Donald Trump’s lawyer. A Don Dileo put it once, “History is the sum total of the things they're not telling us.”

Trump was wrong about the Civil War long ago

“Many great American soldiers, both of the North and South, died at this spot. The casualties were so great that the water would turn red and thus became known as ‘The River of Blood.’ It is my great honor to have preserved this important section of the Potomac River!” - Plaque at the Northern Virginia Trump National Golf Club 

Golf Digest - “No. Uh-uh. No way. Nothing like that ever happened there,” Richard Gillespie, the executive director of the Mosby Heritage Area Association, told the Times. Gillespie went on to say the closest thing to what Trump was describing was a battle 11 miles up the river in 1861. “The River of Blood?” he said. “Nope, not there.” During his campaign, Trump questioned how historians could dispute the battle. "How would they know," he told the Times. "Were they there?"

How the Democrats lost rural America

Roll Call, November 2016 - Democrats in rural America have a blunt message for the rest of their party: We saw the electoral disaster coming — and it’s your fault.

Strategists and party officials say their warnings about the party’s lackluster outreach to rural voters went unheeded by Democratic leaders for years, culminating in [the] shock defeat to Donald Trump.

.... To these old Democratic political hands — many of whom hail from well outside the cities where most party professionals live — the outcome would have been preventable if the party had developed and sustained an effort to win over these voters. Instead, they say a Democratic Party that focused on only the urban and suburban vote either ignored rural America entirely or badly mishandled the outreach it did undertake.

...More than anything, these strategists say the Democratic Party simply needs to show up. According to some strategists, the party didn’t even bother to organize a voter outreach effort in rural America, they say, much less send candidates to hold rallies there.

...When Democratic officials did show up, Sadler and others said they were ill-equipped for the nuances of a campaign in rural America.

“When they do show up, it’s 22-year-old kids from the Ivy League,” Sadler said. “And they’re telling you what do, as opposed to stopping and listening.”

To these strategists, the Democratic Party has become captive by a set of city-dwelling political professionals who personally don’t understand the important differences of urban versus rural campaigns. It’s a blindness that led them to dismiss the results of successive midterm elections, electoral wipeouts that many Democrats believed was mostly a consequence of the party’s urban base failing to turn out.

“The brilliant ones at top know better,” said Nancy Larson, a member of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. “And they come down and say, ‘This is what you do, this is what you say, this is what you have your candidates do, and don’t stray from this.’”

Anti-depressant use soars

Web MD - The number of Americans who say they've taken an antidepressant over the past month rose by 65 percent between 1999 and 2014, a new government survey finds.

By 2014, about one in every eight Americans over the age of 12 reported recent antidepressant use, according to a report released Tuesday from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Women are nearly twice as likely as men to be taking the medications, the report found, with antidepressants used by 16.5 percent of females compared to just under 9 percent of males.

Trump's Deutsche Bank support coming under investigation

Vanity Fair - The New York Times reports that banking regulators are currently “reviewing hundreds of millions of dollars in loans made to Mr. Trump’s businesses through Deutsche Bank’s private wealth management unit . . . to [see] if the loans might expose the bank to heightened risk.” Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that executives at Deutsche are “expecting that the bank will soon be receiving subpoenas or other requests for information from Robert Mueller,” and that the special counsel’s investigative team and the bank have “already established informal contact in connection to the federal investigation.”

There’s certainly plenty to look into. Over the last 20 years, Trump has received more than $4 billion in loan commitments and potential bond offerings from the German lender, despite suing the company in 2008 when he fell behind on payments on the $640 million loan he was given to build Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago. Incredibly, in order to avoid paying the $40 million he had personally guaranteed, Trump and his lawyer argued that “Deutsche Bank is one of the banks primarily responsible for the economic dysfunction we are currently facing”—i.e. the global financial crisis—and therefore it should pay him $3 billion in damages under the extraordinary event clause in his contract. Naturally, the bank countersued, calling the real-estate developer’s claim “classic Trump.” In the end, after threatening to take his name off the building if he wasn’t granted more time to pay, the bank gave Trump extra time; when he did pay the money he owed to the firm’s real-estate lending division, it was with another loan he got from Deutsche’s wealth-management unit.

In addition to Donald, Ivanka Trump is also said to be a Deutsche Bank client, as is Jared Kushner and his mother, who, per the Times, have “an unsecured line of credit from Deutsche Bank, valued at up to $25 million.” In addition, the Kushner family business, Kushner Companies, got a $285 million loan from the bank last year.

Polls: 40% support impeachment

Political Wire - A new PRRI survey finds that 40% of Americans — including nearly three-quarters of Democrats but just seven percent of Republicans — back impeaching President Trump and removing him from office.

Schools, not statues, are the real problem

Removing Confederate statues does little to help our real history problem: the minimal role that history and civics play in our public school education. The rise of Nazism in the US can be attributed in part to our abysmal failure to educate our children about the past and what it means to live in a democracy. This problem has grown thanks to the new policies mistakenly known as school reform. 

Karol Markowicz, NY Post, January 2017 - A 2014 report by the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that an abysmal 18 percent of American high school kids were proficient in US history. When colleges such as Stanford decline to require Western Civilization classes or high schools propose changing their curriculum so that history is taught only from 1877 onward (this happened in North Carolina), it’s merely a blip in our news cycle.

A 2012 story in Perspectives on History magazine by University of North Carolina professor Bruce VanSledright found that 88 percent of elementary school teachers considered teaching history a low priority.

The reasons are varied. VanSledright found that teachers didn’t focus on history because students aren’t tested on it at the state level. Why teach something you can’t test?

A teacher I spoke with in Brooklyn confirmed this. She said, “All the pressure in lower grades is in math and English Language Arts because of the state tests and the weight that they carry.”

She teaches fourth grade and says that age is the first time students are taught about explorers, American settlers, the American Revolution and so on. But why so late?

VanSledright also found that teachers just didn’t know enough history to teach it. He wrote there was some “holiday curriculum as history instruction,” but that was it.

Arthur, a father in Brooklyn whose kids are in first and second grade at what’s considered an excellent public school, says that’s the only kind of history lesson he’s seen. And even that’s been thin. His second-grade daughter knows George Washington was the first president but not why Abraham Lincoln is famous.

As the parent of a first-grader, I’ve also seen even the “holiday curriculum” in short supply. First grade might seem young, but it’s my daughter’s third year in the New York City public school system after pre-K and kindergarten. She goes to one of the finest public schools in the city, yet knows about George Washington exclusively from the soundtrack of the Broadway show “Hamilton.” She wouldn’t be able to tell you who discovered America.

So far, she has encountered no mention of any historical figure except for Martin Luther King Jr. This isn’t a knock on King, obviously. He’s a hero in our house. But he can’t be the sum total of historical figures our kids learn about in even early elementary school.

For one thing, how do we tell King’s story without telling the story of the Founding Fathers, the Constitution or of Abraham Lincoln? King’s protests were effective because they were grounded in the idea that America was supposed to be something specific, that the Constitution said so — and that we weren’t living up to those ideals.

The Brooklyn teacher I spoke with says instructors balk when it comes to history: They don’t want to offend anyone. “The more vocal and involved the parents are, the more likely the teacher will feel uncomfortable to teach certain things or say something that might create a problem.” Which leaves .?.?. Martin Luther King.

She cited issues around Thanksgiving, like teaching the story of pilgrims and the Native Americans breaking bread together as one that teachers might sideline for fear of parents complaining. Instead of addressing sticky subjects, we skip them altogether.

As colleges around the country see protests to remove Thomas Jefferson’s statues from their campuses, it’s becoming the norm to erase the parts of history that we find uncomfortable. It’s not difficult to teach children that the pilgrims or Thomas Jefferson were imperfect yet still responsible for so much that is good in America.

August 16, 2017

Most Confederate statues weren't erected for decades after Civil War

A striking graphic from the Southern Poverty Law Center revealed that the majority of Confederate monuments weren't erected until after 1900 — decades after the Civil War ended in 1865. Notably, the construction of Confederate monuments peaked in the 1910s and 1920s, when states were enacting Jim Crow laws, and later in the 1950s and 1960s, amid the Civil Rights Movement:

Washington Post - In the Capitol's National Statuary Hall Collection there are three times as many statues of Confederate soldiers and politicians as there are statues of black people in the entire Capitol complex, according to records maintained by the Architect of the Capitol.

Blacks 8 times more likely to be homocide victims than whites

Hit & Run - Black Americans are eight times more likely than white Americans to be the victims of a homicide...  In 2015, homicide rates were 5.7 deaths per 100,000 for the total population, 20.9 for non-Hispanic blacks, 4.9 for Hispanics, and 2.6 for non-Hispanic whites.

The good news is that U.S. homicide rates declined steeply over the past three decades. As the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports, the homicide rate increased from 4.6 per 100,000 U.S. residents in 1962 to 10.2 per 100,000 in 1980. The rate then fell to 7.9 per 100,000 in 1984, rose again to another peak in 1991 at 9.8 per 100,000, and then started plunging back down. It reached a nadir of 4.5 per 100,000 in 2014 before rising back to 5.7.

Trump plans weaker bridges and roads than Obama

NPR - The president [announced] a new executive order with serious repercussions. Among other things, he is rolling back an Obama-era order that infrastructure projects, like roads and bridges, be designed to survive rising sea levels and other consequences of climate change.

President Barack Obama signed the order in 2015, but the changes have not taken effect; FEMA has been soliciting input and drafting new rules.

Now, the order has been revoked as part of an effort to "slash the time it takes" to approve new infrastructure projects, as Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao put it in a statement.

Supporters say the Obama flood rules would protect lives, by positioning new roads and buildings on safer ground, and protect financial investments by ensuring that infrastructure projects last as long as they were intended.

Why people vote against their interests

From our overstocked archives
Sam Smith, 2012

It is always sad to see large numbers of people engaged in a politics that opposes their true self interest.

It is one of the things that defined the American south for a century after the Civil War.

It was what allowed the Nazis to take power in Germany.

The reasons are numerous and varied but key to them is often a culture under great stress believing false promises being made to it by the powerful. White southern sharecroppers were taught to romanticize a plantation society they could never join and to blame blacks for their problems. For Germans the target was Jew.

While the scale and ultimate evil of these examples differ enormously, the strategy was the same: false stories, false demons and false solutions.

It is, however, the reality that America will face in coming months, so it may help to look at some other important factors affecting the outcome:

Money:. The right spent about $23 a vote to win in Wisconsin. Transferred to the fall election, that would mean - thanks to the despicable Citizens United ruling - any of the following could buy the election and still have  from 83 to 98 percent of their wealth left: Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, either of the Koch brothers, Geoge Soros, any of four Waltons, Michael Bloomberg or Mark Zuckerberg.

The media - Television remains the major source of information and misinformation for American families, who spend over six hours a day with their TVs on. The networks they are watching are overwhelmingly run by corporations whose bias is towards the right. To get a sense of how television affects our view of politics, notice how often TV journalists refer to a candidate's ads as opposed to their actual positions. TV has made political propaganda equal to or superior to actual facts in its coverage. This doesn't even have to be malicious. For example, last night Howard Fineman on MSNBC was pushing the Republican line that public employee pensions are a serious issue. If Fineman had bothered to look into the matter he would have found, as Robert Reich has reported, that "public-sector workers now earn 11 percent less than comparable workers in the private sector, and local workers 12 percent less. (Even if you include health and retirement benefits, government employees still earn less than their private-sector counterparts with similar educations.)" These days it is considered good journalism just to pass on the lies of politicians.

Extremist group culture - The secret of extremist groups is that they offer salvation with little demanded other than cash and loyalty. The Republican Party is increasingly sharing the characteristics of the KKK, the Church of Scientology or Skull & Bones, namely offering a safe haven without the need for thought.This has a powerful appeal to the troubled.

The collapse of civic education: One of the seldom discussed characteristics of corporate-driven school testing is that it takes major time away from those former activities in a school that made students good citizens able to function with others. The victims include not only civic education but joint activities - including the performing arts - that teach the young how to live in a community. Another victim is history. Where does a young person today learn about the role labor unions have played in making America the country it is? Or come to  understand the importance of a recall?:

Labor unions - Labor unions aren't what they once were, not because the problems that created them don't still exist but; like so many other American institutions. they have become more often iconic instruments of power rather than effective advocates and practitioners of their own cause.  Unions have been losing members for quite a while, yet - with a few notable exceptions - not much imagination has been applied to the problem. For example, the labor movement could have launched a workers' equivalent of the AARP, one of the powerful non profits in the country - creating its own constituency for organizing. Unfortunately, nothing like this happened.

The collapse of liberalism - In recent decades, liberalism has turned into a upscale social demographic rather than a political movement. As it has done so, its historic connections with the working class and labor have suffered badly. For example, Franklin Roosevelt's labor secretary, Frances Perkins, was central to more progressive economic legislation than the entire liberal movement has been able to come up with in the past thirty years. It's hard to get liberals excited anymore about issues like pensions or the minimum wage and eventually politics reflects this fact. Consider the example of the women's movement, which - with a few exceptions like the group Nine to Five - has been stunningly uninvolved with the most oppressed women in the country, those of lower incomes and social class. Further, treating those you should be organizing as just a bunch of  Bible thumping, gun toting idiots doesn't help much.

The case for municipal banks

Salon - A municipal bank is a city-licensed public bank that operates much the same way private banks do: providing regular checking and savings accounts, and making loans to promote policy objectives like affordable housing. There are a lot of ways one might do this: a city can create the bank (as a line-item appropriation) in a mayor’s budget; through an ordinance passed by a city council; or if the citizens vote for it.

Arguably the biggest benefit of municipal banks is that, unlike Wall Street, their priorities are in the community, not in profit. Indeed, municipal banks are one of the best ways to ensure a bank serves local interests and prioritizes community needs. Cities can hardwire economic and social equity goals into the charter of a municipal bank, which makes it a useful tool for ensuring a city serves its most vulnerable residents. People in need are often the most susceptible to budget cuts, so it’s valuable to have a public institution catered specifically to low-income residents.

Karl Beitel, director of the Public Banking Project, describes how municipal banks can play a significant role in creating affordable housing supply. By partnering with credit unions and community development financial institutions, municipal banks can be a major source of funding for city property acquisitions, which can be used to take housing off the private market to be converted into affordable housing. Municipal banks can also coordinate investment from public-sector unions, non-profits and socially responsible investment funds to support additional acquisitions and development.

Municipal banks can offer more competitive interest rates for student borrowers and lower-cost financing of public works. Rather than paying massive interest rates on bonds to individual financiers and banks, municipalities can issue their own loans — meaning the interest payments that would otherwise go to Bank of America or Wells Fargo can instead be reinvested in the city. Municipal banks have the added benefit of being more publicly accountable. Seattle City Council recently voted to cut ties with Wells Fargo over its role in financing the Dakota Access Pipeline. A city can narrowly define the scope of a municipal bank’s charter to make ethical investments that further the city’s policy goals.

Word: End Tuesday voting

Rep Louise Slaughter (D) and Norman Ornstein, American Enterprise Institute

President Trump’s faux commission on voter integrity is all about voter suppression. It is another sign of a disturbing trend in our broken politics and a move to restrict, rather than encourage, the most fundamental pillar on which our democracy has been constructed: the right to vote. At a time when our past strides to increase access to the ballot box are under siege, we must do more to encourage participation in our elections. Eliminating the obstacles Americans face when trying to cast their ballots begins with asking why we vote on Tuesday.

Voting on the first Tuesday after the first Monday is not enshrined in our Constitution. It is an arcane tradition enacted as a law in 1845 to help people in an agrarian society make it to the polls without interfering with Market Day on Wednesday. The challenges faced by Americans in 1845 are not the same as those we face today, and our laws should reflect this.

Long lines in recent elections kept voters waiting more than one or two hours. In some cases, during the rush hours in the mornings and evenings, that wait was much longer. Too often voters are forced choose between going to work, caring for their child or loved one, or voting. No one in a democracy should have to make that decision.

Elected representatives have an obligation to ensure our voting system makes it as convenient as possible for our friends and neighbors to exercise their right to vote. Our democracy will be best served when our leaders are elected by as many Americans as possible, with everyone eligible having a convenient opportunity to cast their ballots.

Weekend voting increases turnout. We don’t have to look far to see its effectiveness. Elections in France are held on a Sunday, and just this year the French saw a voter turnout of 75% of eligible voters going to the polls. In our 2016 presidential election, less than 56% of voters made it to the polls. In 2012, France’s voter turnout was 80%, while U.S. voter turnout was 54%. A Pew Research poll released this year ranked the United States 27th out of 35 of most developed countries in voter turnout. We can and must do better.

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Heatwaves of 131 degrees can be expected

Think Progress - In Europe, the recent heat wave was so extreme — with temperatures reaching 111°F, fueling wildfires and wasp attacks — it was nicknamed “Lucifer.” In the Middle East, as temperatures soared to 121°F, “birds in Kuwait have reportedly been dropping from the sky,” the International Business Times reported Friday.

But, new research says, we ain’t seen nothing yet. A new study by the Joint Research Centre the European Union’s science and research lab, finds that “if global temperatures rise with [7°F], a new super heat wave of 131°F can hit regularly many parts of the world, including Europe” and the United States.

...These are truly heat waves the likes of which have never been seen. Yet they will become commonplace around the globe. The Southeastern United States would be one of the hardest hit places

The summer hell of prisons

Mother Jones - All across the country, prisons and jails are not equipped with air conditioning, and when temperatures soar, inmates are often trapped in unbearable, life-threatening conditions. The southern United States faces the greatest risk of extreme heat in the future, and cities in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas are projected to see the greatest increase of dangerously hot days. All three rank in the top 10 of states with the highest incarceration rates and already serious problems have emerged.

In Texas, only 75 percent of state prisons have air conditioning.... Since 1998, 22 people have died in Texas prisons and jails because of heat-related issues.

In Florida, where most state-run prisons do not have air conditioning, Climate Central, a nonprofit climate science news organization, estimates that by 2050 the average number of days above 90 degrees in Miami will increase from 86 to 134. At Dade Correctional Institute, which lies within the Miami area, even the staff describe the prison as a “squalid, un-airconditioned, putrid hell.”