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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 74,621

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Average Americans today have essentially zilch influence on public policy

from Too Much: A Commentary on Excess and Inequality:

Our ‘Stealth Politics’ of Inequality
APRIL 2, 2015

Average Americans today have essentially zilch influence on public policy. You don’t need to trust your gut on that. Political scientist Benjamin Page has the data.

What happens — to democracy — when income and wealth concentrate?

A half-century ago, that question hardly seemed worth asking. In the decades right after World War II, Americans were living in a nation — and a world, for that matter — growing ever more equal.

But that America no longer exists. Robber barons once again walk among us. Grand fortunes once again tower over America’s social landscape.


Last year, Page and Princeton’s Martin Gilens released what one commentator has called the “first-ever scientific study” of whether our contemporary United States still ranks as a democracy.


Ben Page: ........... But if you ask about concrete policies — like taxing the wealthy at higher levels or getting rid of loopholes that favor hedge fund managers — average Americans turn out to favor many policies that would have strong redistributive effects.

On the spending side, we see lots of support for things like jobs programs, the earned income tax credit, and Social Security. Most people want to increase these programs — at the very time when many political figures and pundits are telling us you have to cut, cut, cut. ................(more)


Dozens of Energy Regulators Applied for Industry Jobs in 2014

from In These Times:

Dozens of Energy Regulators Applied for Industry Jobs in 2014
Documents obtained by Greenwire show that FERC employees are actively and frequently seeking employment with the companies they regulate.


Apparently, much like an Ivy League business or law degree, having FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) on your resume makes you a hot commodity on the job market, especially in the very industries—power utilities, oil and gas companies and natural gas exporters—that FERC regulates. And FERC appears to have no problem with you actively seeking employment with companies in these industries while still on the FERC payroll, as long as you inform FERC and recuse yourself from cases involving those companies.

In These Times previously described FERC’s relationship with industry as a “revolving door,” but based on information recently received by energy and environmental website Greenwire in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, perhaps revolving door isn’t the correct term. It is more like there is no door at all, and FERC is just a springboard to lucrative private-sector employment.

The documents Greenwire received included letters of recusal filed by FERC employees notifying their superiors that they were actively seeking work with corporations that FERC regulated. While the practice of notifying your boss that you are applying for jobs elsewhere might seem foreign to private sector employees, these letters are required at government agencies if there may be a conflict of interest.

According to the newly released documents, more than 70 of these letters were filed in 2014 (FERC employs approximately 1,300 people). Most of the names of the employees on the documents are redacted, but it is likely that some of the letters are from the same employee seeking multiple opportunities. In one letter, an ambitious employee disclosed seeking employment with eight companies regulated by FERC. ......................(more)


Organizations opposed to TPP Fast Track

https://www.stopfasttrack.com/ (links to each organization are on this page)

350.org Seattle
American Civil Liberties Union
American Friends Service Committee
Ask Them
Backbone Campaign
BCTGM International Union
Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream
Campaign for America's Future
Cheezburger Inc.
Citizen's Environmental Coalition
Citizens Trade Campaign
Coalition for a Prosperous America
Code Pink
Communication Workers of America
Corporate Accountability International
CREDO Action
CyberGuerrilla AnoNneXus collective
Delaware Riverkeeper Network
Demand Progress
Democracy for America
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Fair World Project
Family Farm Defenders
Fight for the Future
Flush the TPP!
Food and Water Watch
Free Press
Free Software Foundation
Friends of the Earth
Global Exchange
Global Justice for Animals and the Environment
GMO Action Alliance
GMO Inside
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
International Forum on Globalization
International Rivers
Jobs With Justice
Labor Notes
New York Working Families
NorthWest Media ULC
NuWorld Media
Occupy Coachella Valley
Open Media International
Organic Consumers Association
Pirate Party
Pirate Party Oklahoma
Popular Resistance
Private Internet Access
Progressive Change Campaign Committee
Progressive Congress
Progressive Democrats of America
Public Citizen
Rainforest Action Network
Sea Shepherd
Sierra Club
SOA Watch
South Florida Voices for Working Families
St. Pete for Peace
The Episcopal Network for Economic Justice
The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace
United for Action
United Students for Fair Trade
US Action
Washington Fair Trade Coalition
Water Keeper Alliance
Witness for Peace
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

Why Michigan's same-sex marriage ban is doomed

from the Detroit Free Press:

This Tuesday, for the second time in as many years, the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the contentious issue of same-sex marriage.

Two summers ago, in a landmark ruling known as United States v. Windsor, a divided court struck down a law barring federal recognition of same-sex marriages performed lawfully in the 13 states that then recognized them.

Writing for a 5-4 majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the government had demonstrated no legitimate reason to treat same-sex marriages different than their opposite-sex counterparts, and that the principal effect of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act had been to demean gay couples and humiliate their children.

But the same justices who struck down DOMA hesitated to declare all state laws banning same-sex marriages unconstitutional, dodging the opportunity presented in another lawsuit challenging California's ban. ..................(more)


Eugene Robinson: Strikes Against Morality

from truthdig:

by Eugene Robinson

WASHINGTON—Drone strikes, by their nature, are bound to kill innocent civilians. It is all too easy to ignore this ugly fact—and the dubious morality of the whole enterprise—until the unfortunate victims happen to be Westerners.

Only then does “collateral damage” become big news and an occasion for public sorrow. President Obama acknowledged Thursday that a January strike in Pakistan against a suspected al-Qaeda compound killed two men who were being held as hostages by the terrorist group—Warren Weinstein, an American, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian.

“I profoundly regret what happened,” Obama said. “On behalf of the United States government, I offer our deepest apologies to the families.”

Obama said he took “full responsibility” for the deaths of Weinstein and Lo Porto. The president’s demeanor in revealing the tragedy was grim.

I have no doubt that Obama’s regret is sincere. Nor do I doubt that every attempt is made to avoid killing innocents, or that the president has ordered fewer drone strikes recently than in previous years. But history tells us that good-faith effort is not enough to guarantee that sound moral choices are being made. .................(more)


"Hillary is a hard core liberal"

In what alternate universe?

Roundabouts: Contentious Intersections Inspire Rage, Relief

from We Are Mode Shift:

If you've ever found yourself cruising around a giant paved donut while driving, you're no doubt familiar with roundabouts.

For those who aren’t, a roundabout is a circular intersection where vehicles travel in one direction around a central traffic island. Anyone who’s traveled one where motorists aren’t following the rules understands it’s a subject that can get folks’ blood boiling.

Created as an improvement over early traffic circles, modern roundabouts first emerged in England in the 1960s. They're now fairly commonplace in Europe, but have been slower to catch on in the United States. The circular intersections didn’t really start appearing in force on U.S. roads until the 1990s; about 3,700 now exist here.

As road elements go, the vehicular merry-go-rounds are quite contentious. People tend to praise or revile them. Anna Kohn, director of Detroit's downtown synagogue, tells Mode Shift she isn’t a fan. .................(more)


Walking the dog in Wisconsin (cartoon)


Free the Buses: Riders Say Transit Is a Human Right

Free the Buses: Riders Say Transit Is a Human Right

Saturday, 25 April 2015 00:00
By Amy Roe, Equal Voice | Report

Mariluz Rangel takes the bus everywhere in Tucson, Arizona: to work, dentist’s appointments, grocery shopping. She’s been a bus rider for 25 years.

Rangel works at Wendy’s, where she makes $8.05 an hour, the state minimum wage. Her income qualifies her to buy a discounted bus pass that gives her unlimited rides for $15 a month.

“When you earn the minimum, it’s hard to afford a car. So it’s better to use the bus,” she said.

Rangel is a member of Tucson Bus Riders Union, one ripple in a wave of grassroots activism based on the belief that affordable public transit should be available to all. By organizing a previously invisible constituency, transit riders unions have emerged as an unlikely source of political power.

The transit movement took off in Los Angeles in the 1990s, when bus riders, most of them Black and Latino, came together to protest what they said was a separate and unequal transit system that penalized riders from low-income neighborhoods. ...............(more)


Venti computer failure leads to free cups of coffee

(Bloomberg) Starbucks Corp.’s point-of-sale register system crashed on Friday evening, preventing the chain from accepting payment and -- in some cases -- leading to customers getting their coffees for free.

The system went down in the U.S. and Canada during a daily update, affecting company-owned stores, the Seattle-based coffee chain said in a statement on its website. Starbucks’ Evolution Fresh and Teavana stores were also struck by the outage. While the company initially said that stores would remain open while the problem was addressed, it later indicated they would close early.

“We are actively working to resolve the outage,” Starbucks said. “We apologize to our customers for any inconvenience or confusion and will update this statement once systems are back online.”

The disruption brings a black eye to a chain that’s long been praised for its payment technology. The company has a popular mobile app that lets customers pay with their phones, and it’s testing a system for pre-ordering coffee. But the crash on Friday extended to all kinds of payments, including cash and credit cards. ..............(more)


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