August 26, 2016

You had to agree to be filmed nude to be on Apprentice

Daily Beast - Appearing on The Apprentice with Donald Trump required agreeing to a series of odd and invasive demands regarding sex, nudity, and food consumption. According to a copy of an NBC contract reviewed by The Daily Beast, contestants had to agree to be filmed, “whether I am clothed, partially clothed or naked, whether I am aware or unaware of such videotaping, filming or recording.”

2016 is the first election in American history in which lowbrow entertainment and politics have merged to such a degree that they are nearly indistinguishable. The requirements for The Apprentice contestants, while almost certainly not mandated by Trump himself, underscore just how strange this brave new world is.

The real economy

From 2000 to 2014, the average cost of in-state tuition and fees for public colleges in America rose 80 percent. During that same time period, the median American household income dropped by 7 percent.

August 25, 2016

The free trade myth

Economy in Crisis

FOR decades, free-trade agreements, called F.T.A.s, have been one of the most solid planks in the platform of economic elites and establishment politicians. True, the occasional political candidate like Ross Perot argued against one deal or another and even President Obama ran on “renegotiating” the North American Free Trade Agreement, but once elected, presidents of both parties sought and ratified trade deals with a wide variety of countries.

Those days may well be over. What changed?

For one thing, the economic populism of the presidential campaign has forced the recognition that expanded trade is a double-edged sword. The defense of globalization rests on viewing Americans primarily as consumers, not workers, based on the assumption that we care more about low prices than about low wages.

It is unquestionable that expanded trade has vastly increased the supply of goods and services and has thus contributed to lower costs for consumers. But basic trade theory connects prices to wages, and in the United States, globalization is widely accepted as a contributor to both wage stagnation and the growth in inequality. For example, the real wage for blue-collar manufacturing workers in the United States is essentially unchanged over the past 35 years, while productivity in the sector is up more than 200 percent.

We should no longer buy the statistically strained arguments about F.T.A.s delivering growth and jobs. The evidence just isn’t there, a fact not lost on those campaigning for president.

Second, various countries with whom we compete have historically managed their currencies to gain a price advantage (i.e., they keep their currency low to boost their exports to us and suppress ours to them), and this has long been a source of our persistently large trade deficits.

Third, the F.T.A. process has been captured by investors and corporate interests. According to The Washington Post, 85 percent of the members of the outside committees advising the administration on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership were from private businesses and trade associations (the rest were from labor unions, NGOs, academics and other levels of government).


Improvements in bike lanes

Christian Science Monitor -  Cities across the globe are building "protected" lanes or "cycletracks" to build barriers between cyclists and automobiles. These barriers can be concrete curbs, fences, planters, or even parked cars.

"For 50 years, we've just been putting down a stripe of white paint, and that was how you accommodated bikes on busy streets," Martha Roskowski, director of People for Bikes, a Boulder, Colorado-based advocacy group that's calling for better designed bike lanes, told the Associated Press. "What we've learned is that simply doesn't work for most."

The amount of people commuting to work via bicycle rose by about 60 percent from 2000 to the 2008-2012 period, according to the US Census Bureau. But with that shift come more fatal accidents with cyclists and cars.

In already bike-friendly European cities, like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, protected bike lanes have been around for decades. But other European cities are increasingly following suit. London, for example, has opened "cycle superhighways" that are planned across the city. On these lanes, a curb separates the bikes from the cars.

But the United States has been a bit slower on the uptake. New York started setting up protected bike lanes across the city in 2007. By 2013, there were about 100 miles of protected lanes in 32 cities across the country, according to People for Bikes. Now there are about 240 miles in 94 cities, but that's still just a small portion of all bike lanes, according to Roskowski.

Plans are in motion to expand these protected lanes in large cities across the country and at least two dozen citi

Best and worst states for women's equality

Colorado could lose one of its lakes

Ecowatch - The 16-year drought on the Colorado River has drained Lake Mead and Lake Powell to their combined lowest level in history. ... A new study from the State of Colorado... indicates that a drought like the one that happened in 2000 – 2006 "would empty Lake Powell," according to the Aspen Daily News. "Another potential conclusion from the risk study is that any new trans-mountain diversion would only make it more likely that Powell would go below target levels," the publication noted.

And, whether you want to believe it or not, water agencies in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah are proposing to do just that. In fact, Denver Water, Northern Water (in Colorado), and the states of Wyoming and Utah are all proposing even more dams and diversions of water out of the river and its tributaries that would accelerate the draining of Lake Powell and cause serious legal consequences for the entire Southwest U.S.

Legroom on major airlines

August 24, 2016

Sanders revives his rebellion

Washington  Times - Wednesday marks the debut of Sen. Bernie Sanders‘ reinvention. The former presidential hopeful is launching “Our Revolution”, a new activist outreach to his many fans, in an online broadcast to 2,600 “watching parties” in every state — as far flung as Fort Yukon, Alaska; Gouldsboro, Maine; Brownsville, Texas; Naalehu, Hawaii, and Minot, North Dakota. The address begins at 9 p.m. ET.
In addition, Mr. Sanders will publish a book titled “Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In.” The work is due on book shelves Nov. 15, primarily recapping his campaign trail experiences and underscoring his progressive ideas for America.
Mr. Sanders‘ efforts have been greeted with new reports from The New York Times and other news organizations claiming that his staff is in a “revolt” because of financing issues, plus personnel and organizational changes. Mr. Sanders has not commented on the claims, and the debut of “Our Revolution” — both the cause and the book — is going on as scheduled


School corporal punishment still in wide use

Education Week -

Corporal punishment has declined so rapidly in the United States in the last 15 years that many people think it's practically nonexistent in modern American public schools.

To the contrary, more than 109,000 students were paddled, swatted, or otherwise physically punished in U.S. classrooms in 2013-14, according to Education Week Research Center analyses of the most recent wave of federal civil rights data.

Corporal punishment is often seen by proponents as a good alternative to suspending students. But in a field that requires specialized certification for all manner of programs and subjects, corporal punishment stands out for the virtual nonexistence of training or detailed procedures on how to paddle children of different sizes, ages, or psychological profiles. And in the absence of such training or guidance, the practice can leave students more vulnerable to injury and districts at greater risk of expensive lawsuits.

Federal civil rights data show students experienced corporal punishment in 21 states and more than 4,000 schools nationwide during the 2013-14 school year. Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Oklahoma physically disciplined the most students in 2013-14—though the practice continues to be the most widespread in Mississippi, where more than half of students attend schools that use paddling and other physical discipline. But students were physically punished even in a few states that prohibit the practice. Economic Variation

Trump's companies have accrued $650 million in debt

Washington Examiner - The New York Times published  a detailed analysis of Donald Trump's business dealings and found that his real estate holdings are racked in debt and he owes money to some organizations he has consistently criticized on the campaign trail.

The report into the "financial maze" of Trump's business dealings found that companies he owns have accrued $650 million in debt.

Trump released a 104-page federal financial disclosure form earlier in the campaign, which, according to the Times, claimed he only owed $315 million in debt, less than half of what the report found.

According to the Times, a building on the Avenue of the Americas in New York City's Manhattan borough that is partially owned by Trump has a loan of $950 million that was paid for by a few different entities, including the Bank of China and Goldman Sachs.

In most of his rallies, Trump will mention his plans to stop China's financial influence over the U.S., and bring up his theory that Goldman Sachs owns Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton because it once paid her $675,000 in speaking fees.

The corporate war against rural internet

American Prospect - For years, nearly 40 percent of people in rural America have been saddled with slow internet speeds and no opportunity to get broadband internet services which provide fast connections. Yet internet service providers (ISPs), such as AT&T and Verizon, that can’t turn enough profit from rural investments have also made it almost impossible for competitors to provide alternatives. With the assistance of groups like the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, a network of state lawmakers and corporate officials, they’re spending millions of dollars lobbying for laws that bar municipalities from implementing alternative services.

Local governments have been fighting back by building their own municipal broadband networks, and in some cases, using a new technology that facilitates more private competition and innovation. In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission issued an order preempting state laws that prevented two municipalities, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Wilson, North Carolina, from setting up their own broadband networks. Tennessee and North Carolina officials responded a few months later by suing the FCC.

But the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently sided with the two states and the telecommunications industry. The decision could be a setback for communities across the country that have invested millions of dollars in laying fiber optic cables, providing internet service on these networks, or working with smaller private service providers. The fight pits local officials, small entrepreneurs, and state legislators against the giants of the telecom industry and their multimillion-dollar lobbying machine.

How televison turned off politics

From our overstocked archives

Sam Smith, 2012  - The trouble began when television and politics discovered each other. It was about 1960. Now politics no longer had to be a product of long history, varied communities, conflicting policies, favors, friends and funds. Now it could be reduced to two dimensions, measured in minutes and controlled by a small, powerful elite. You no longer needed to understand, help, or deal with whole constituencies. Now they were just more consumers who walked into the voting booth like it was a convenience store. You didn’t have know them or make their lives better, only how to sell to them.

The first big beneficiary of this new relationship was a young guy named John F/ Kennedy. Because of his tragic end a few years later, he became larger than life. But at the beginning he had little but looks, charm and money. Robert Caro tells the story in his new book on Lyndon Johnson, quoting fellow senator George Smathers as saying, “While he did from time to time make some brilliant speech about something or other. .. he was not what you would call a really effective senator. . . He had a couple of pretty good ideas that he talked about, but I don’t know that anything he ever really passed. . . was of significance.” Johnson was even tougher, calling him “pathetic” and adding, “He never said a word of importance in the Senate, and he never did a thing.”

But it no longer mattered. Politics was becoming personality rather than programs and policies.

But since history moves in thumps and bumps, it would be some time before TV took charge again. And so we had our last four traditional politicians as president: Johnson, Nixon, Carter and Ford.

Then a real TV pro showed up.

Ronald Reagan is still regarded by some as one of America’s greatest presidents.

That was his skill. He sold political lies just like the ones that gave people lung cancer from his Chesterfield cigarettes. As Robert Lekachman put it, “Ronald Reagan must be the nicest president who ever destroyed a union, tried to cut school lunch milk rations from six to four ounces, and compelled families in need of public help to first dispose of household goods in excess of $1,000.”

Yet that was one of the great assets of TV. It could make virtue seem stupid and greed appear noble. As I wrote in my book, Why Bother?:
Sometime around the middle of the 1980s I suddenly noticed that the truth was no longer setting people free; it was only making them drowsy. This realization first came in the midst of a meeting held to discuss a worthy investigative journalism project. We had considered every aspect of the proposal save one and now, unbidden, a heretical question wiggled into my mind, never to leave: did the truth being sought really matter anymore? . . .
We were, I had belatedly noticed, embarked upon an age that denied the existence of objective truth and, by extension, the value of any facts that might point to it. This was now an age, as philosophy professor Rick Roderick put it, when everything once directly lived was being turned into a representation of itself -- news no less than anything else. As one frustrated television journalist explained, "I used to be a reporter for the Washington Post; now I play one on TV."
In the end we are left not with reality but with a recreated memory of reality, the repeated replacement of human experience. We watched Michael Jordan, Roderick argued, to remember what a life filled with physical exertion was about; similarly it can be said that we view C-SPAN to remember what democracy was about.. .

But if there is no value in truth and the real, then there is no value in challenging the lack of these qualities. If nothing is real then what is left to report other than the image of what was once real? Hence the disappearance of facts from the media and their replacement by polls, pronouncements, and perceptions. Hence the growing feeling as we catch the evening news that we are watching a movie about television news that we've already seen and didn't like much.

Even more troubling questions emerge. If there is no reality, what guides us in our choices? Do we simply become one more perception that we market to other perceptions?

Everywhere we turn we are confronted with the hegemony of the artificial, the sovereignty of the fake. . . .

In fact, an extraordinary portion of the gross domestic product is currently devoted to deception in one form or another, concealed though it may be as marketing, advertising, management, leadership seminars, news, entertainment, politics, public relations, religion, psychic hotlines, education, ab machine infomercials, and the law.

We have become a nation of hustlers and charlatans, increasingly choosing attitude over action and presentation over performance and becoming unable to tell the difference. It's not all that surprising because, whether for pleasure, profit, or promotion, and in ways subtle and direct, our society encourages and rewards those who out-sell, out-argue, and out-maneuver those around them -- with decreasing concern for any harm caused along the way. As they say in Hollywood, the most important thing is sincerity. Once you've learned how to fake that, the rest is easy. . .

And you didn’t even need a professional actor like Ronald Reagan to make it work. A reasonably appealing personality backed by well crafted scripts and a supportive media was enough. After all, the media was on TV as well and you didn’t get asked back for asking too many hard questions.

In Shadows of Hope I described it this way:
Without television, George Bush would have been just one more dull country club Republican. His media handlers, however, transformed him from a stiff flop in the early primaries to a television version of a president. To be sure, Bush was to JFK as Connie Chung is to Edward R. Murrow, but that was irrelevant because television no longer needed or wanted JFK or Murrow. It had discovered that complex, well-developed characters actually conflicted with the brutal simplicity of its message. It wanted primal symbols, Punch & Judy characters, myths and comfortable "concepts." If politics was to make full use of the medium it could not remain baroque theater occurring outside of television. It had to become simple enough for the camera to explain. It had to become television, each campaign another series pilot.
The disjunction between reality and appearance became our political way of life. Which is how Bush was able to get us into the Iraq War and how Bill Clinton was able to start dismantling 60 years of Democratic Party achievement.

With television, the public no longer mattered. Money and power increasingly called the shots, which is why our last two Democratic candidates were vetted by the rightist Democratic Leadership Council before the public was let in on the secret.

As for the Internet, which was meant to be a great liberating tool for democracy, it had exploded during a period when the U.S. has taken its most dramatic shift to the right in history. While this doesn’t mean it is to blame, it certainly - along with cellphones – redefined contact as a brief, one dimensional experience through Facebook, texting, or email - aiding the atomization of individuals. The media had become social but its users less so.

The struggle to change politics back from being just another TV show won’t be easy, but the best start is to help people step away from the myth. And one of the ways to do that is to make the issues – not the actors – the center of the debate.

There are other things we need such a counter culture that mocks and demythicizes flat screen politics. We need local democracy that redefines the real just as local food has redefined our groceries. And we need a revival of the sort of grassroots organizing that created the civil rights, environmental and labor movements.

If we use such tools and free our minds and methods from television’s definition of politics, we can seek, discuss and achieve the real and not just accept a Super PAC funded TV dream which ends in our real disaster.

Freeways to provide electric power

Ecowatch - The California Energy Commission has approved a pilot program in which piezoelectric crystals will be installed on several freeways.Piezoelectric crystals, about the size of watch batteries, give off an electrical discharge when they're mechanically stressed, such as when a vehicle drives over them. Multiply that by thousands of vehicles and it creates an electric current that can be harvested to feed the grid.

In fact, scientists estimate the energy generated from piezoelectric crystals on a 10-mile stretch of freeway could provide power for the entire city of Burbank (population: more than 105,000).

One reason your health insurance costs what it does

August 23, 2016

Schools requiring students to take military recruitment exa

World Beyond War - Data released by the Department of Defense  shows the military administered its 3-hour enlistment exam to nearly 700,000 students in 12,000 high schools during the 2013-14 school year, a 2% increase over the prior year.

The Military Entrance Processing Command administers the exam, known as the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery,

An examination of the data raises serious issues regarding student privacy and the integrity of the student testing program in America’s schools. The three-hour test is the linchpin of the Pentagon’s school-based recruiting program and provides MEPCOM an invaluable tool in prescreening candidates for military enlistment. Students are required to furnish detailed demographic information and their social security numbers before sitting for the exam.

According to the data, 81% of the Juniors and Seniors who took the ASVAB during the 2013-2014 school year had their results sent to recruiters without their parents’ consent. School officials blocked the release of test results to recruiters for the remaining 19%.

The ASVAB furnishes highly coveted information to recruiters regarding the cognitive abilities of potential recruits. Recruiters already possess detailed files containing personal information on America’s youth, gained through scores of commercial data dealers and countless hours trolling social media sites and chat rooms. For instance, recruiters know Johnny has a crush on country singer Rae Lynn, plays Mortal Kombat, works at Jiffy Lube, plays defensive end, and bench presses 180. The ASVAB, however, provides information recruiters can’t purchase – or find online. The ASVAB shows Johnny struggles with algebra I and has a reading comprehension level of an 8th grader. The ASVAB completes the valuable virtual dossier that assists recruiters before first contact. Military recruiting is a sophisticated psychological pursuit.

The data released by the DOD identifies 900 schools that require students to take the test, although the number is actually much larger. For instance, North Little Rock High School tested 680, almost all of its juniors and seniors. All of the data was shipped to recruiters without mom and dad in the loop, while the Pentagon’s database reports that the students took the test voluntarily. (70% of the students are economically disadvantaged, and the school is 89% minority.)

The real reason not to worry about Clinton's health

Increasing number of stories are raising questions about Hillary Clinton's health, including tid bits from Wikileaks. Is this a plot or reality? Well, it may not matter that much. In fact, if Clinton has to get out of the race her probable successor would be Tim Kaine, a much more likable candidate who comes from the south but still has a 90% positive voting record as gauged by the liberal group, Americans for Democratic Action.

August 22, 2016

Trump's new foreign policy advisor

Huffington Post -  Former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who has claimed President Barack Obama’s foreign policy would lead to the rapture, says she is advising Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on foreign policy.

Bachmann also serves on the real estate mogul’s evangelical advisory board, working on outreach to conservative voters.

Last fall, when she visited Israel, she argued that there is violence and unrest in the country because Jesus is “coming soon.” She warned Christians that they must convert as many people as possible, “even among the Jews.” 

Over half of Israeli and Palestinians want two state solution

Christian Science Monitor - More than half of all Palestinians and Israelis are in favor of a two-state solution to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a recent poll has found.

The survey found that 51 percent of Palestinians and 59 percent of Israelis would like to settle the conflict peacefully and establish an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. The findings come as Israeli authorities have confirmed that they granted permission to plan the expansion of an Israeli settlement in the West Bank city of Hebron.

Levels of support for an independent Palestinian state varied among Jewish and Arab Israelis, with 53 percent of Jewish Israelis and 87 percent of Arab Israelis in favor. Only 20 percent of all Israelis and 34 percent of Palestinians voiced support for a single shared state.

More evidence of a generational election

Talking Points Memo -  Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump falls a distant 36 points behind Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, edging near an unprecedented unpopularity among young voters, according to a new USA Today/Rock the Vote poll of individuals age 18-34.

When asked presidential preference between the two major-party candidates, Millennial voters preferred Clinton, 56-20.

The recent poll puts Trump even further behind President Barack Obama's Republican opponents in the 2008 and 2012 elections among millennial voters. The 36-percent gap exceeds Obama's wide leads in the 18- to 29-year-old population, beating John McCain by 34 percent in 2008 and leading Mitt Romney by 23 percent in 2012, according to exit poll results collected by the Roper Center at Cornell University.

With former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders out of the race, 72 percent of his supporters plan to switch their vote to Clinton, despite Trump's attempts to lure the Vermont senator's supporters. Trump successfully wooed 11 percent of Sanders' supporters, and another 11 percent say they will not vote in the election.

Clinton's lead over Trump shrinks slightly when third party candidates are added to presidential poll, 50-18, with 11 percent supporting Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and another 4 percent supporting the Green Party's Jill Stein.

How hot America will be by 2100

NY Times

Illinois domestic workers win bill of rights

In These Times

Worldwide, 90 percent of domestic workers—the vast majority of whom are women—do not have access to any kind of social security coverage, according to the International Labour Organization. In the United States, an estimated 95 percent of domestic workers are female, foreign born and/ or persons of color. They frequently lack protections and face near constant adversity.        

In 2010, New York became the first state to sign such a bill into law. Illinois is now the seventh, joining Massachusetts, California, Oregon, Hawaii and Connecticut.

The Illinois Domestic Workers Bill of Rights gives nannies, housecleaners, homecare workers and other domestic workers a minimum wage, protection from discrimination and sexual harassment and one day of rest every seven days for workers employed by one employer for at least 20 hours a week.

Best and worst state economies

As rated by Governing based on six variables from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Bureau of Economic Analysis: the current state unemployment rate; the improvement in the state unemployment rate over the past year; the per capita state GDP in 2015; the percent change in real state GDP between 2014 and 2015; the percent change in state personal income per capita, from the third quarter of 2015 to the first quarter of 2016; and the percentage growth in year-to-date increases in jobs for 2016.


1, Massachusetts 
2. Oregon 
3. Delaware
4. Colorado 
5. California
6. Tennessee
7. New hampshire
8. Utah
9, Virginia
10, Maryland


1. West Virginia
2. Alaska
3. Wyoming
4. Mississippi
5. New Mexico
6. Louisiana
7. Oklahoma
8. Alabama
9. Connecticut
10. Arizona

Infrequently asked questions

I always thought that some famous athletes were meant to get drunk, pee on the floor and do other stupid things. After all, what else would sport casters talk about after the games?

A word from the Green Party's Big Mac Caucus

Sam Smith

I’m taking it in the chops from some Green Party members for not supporting Jill Stein for president. It’s nothing new for me. I’ve tried to discourage Green Party runs for president for a long time, feeling that, in most cases, building from the bottom up is the most useful thing a third party can do and – absent fusion politics or ranked choice voting – there is little to come of a presidential run other than a lot distraction from more meaningful efforts.

My third party experience goes back four decades as I was one of the founders of the DC Statehood Party which would have representation on the city’s council and/or school board for many years. I was also involved in getting the national Green Party off the ground.

In looking back, there was a striking difference between the two parties. The Statehood Party was formed by 1960s civil rights, anti-freeway and anti-war activists. For my part, I saw politics not as salvation but as a tool largely unused during the previous decade. It wasn’t designed to replace 1960s activism but to serve and add to it. Further, we organized by issue rather than by ideology or social identity. For example, strange is it may seem today, DC’s successful anti-freeway movement was kicked off by black and white middle class homeowners who didn’t want their neighborhood wrecked. And nobody asked them where they stood on other matters.

When, in the 1990s, John Rensenbrink called me about coming to a gathering aimed at a launching a national Green Party, I told him that I wasn’t good enough to be a Green. He said that was all right and that there would be a Libertarian there as well. I ended up helping to get the Green Party started, albeit declaring myself chair of its Big Mac Caucus to help cover for my imperfections.

Although I would make many friends in the party, my first reaction reflected what I now perceive as a difference between the DC Statehood Party and the Greens. The former’s only real test was whether you supported its issues; the latter was more a formal community, like say a church or club, complete with ten key values.

When I was in the Statehood Party, I even kept some voting registration forms in a file so if I wanted to switch to Democratic for a few months when a hot primary fight was going I could do so. I would never admit doing so as a Green.

In fact, the only important matter on which I would split from the Greens was presidential candidacies. These struck me as a waste of time, money and, except in special cases, an invitation for the powerful – as they falsely did with Nader in 2000 - to blame Greens for the Democrats’ problems. There was a century’s history of third party failure to back this up. And the exceptions were special – like Populists who were so successful at fusion politics (where candidates appeared on two tickets) that this system was outlawed in most American states.

The record of the Green Party’s presidential races finds that in 2000 Ralph Nader got only 2.7% of the popular vote and in her last effort Jill Stein got only 16% of Nader’s total. And there is little evidence that these White House contests improved the Greens overall condition in any way.

What I had also hoped was that, like the DC Statehood Party, the Greens would put their emphasis on more local politics. As I wrote back then:
Liberals are afraid to criticize big government because they think it makes them sound like Republicans. In fact, the idea of devolution -- having government carried out at the lowest practical level -- dates back at least to that good Democrat, Thomas Jefferson. Even FDR managed to fight the depression with a staff smaller than Hillary Clinton's and World War II with one smaller than Al Gore's. And conservative columnist William Safire admits that "in a general sense, devolution is a synonym for 'power sharing,' a movement that grew popular in the sixties and seventies as charges of 'bureacracy' were often leveled at centralized authority." The modern liberals' embrace of centralized authority makes them vulnerable to the charge that their politics is one of intentions rather than results.
The Greens have been showing this same top-down bias to their own disadvantage. It is, among other things, ahistorical, as the bulk of serious positive change – such as with abolition, the environment, marijuana and gay rights – starts at the bottom and works its way up.

You get a sense of this in my state of Maine, where the American Greens not only got their start but has been one of the party’s more successful centers. Its major city, Portland, has had elected Greens since 2001 and there are about 40,000 party members statewide.

You are not a nut if you are a Maine Green but a member of a group that best defines progressivism in that state and one that has helped in no small way to create a culture that this fall will vote on referendums calling for a three percent tax on household income over $200,000, a minimum wage of $12 an hour, an end to marijuana prohibition, $100 million in bonds for transportation projects, and statewide ranked choice voting (which Portland already has)

But despite the role the Greens have and could have in moving us, a check of the Maine and other Green websites finds an obsession with the Jill Stein campaign for president.

I learned my politics in places like Philadelphia, greater Boston and Washington. Call me – as Marion Barry once did – a “cynical cat” but I’m conscious of the huge difference between treating politics as a tool as opposed to an ideology, theology or certification of one’s own virtue. It is actually like protests and boycotts, and the trick is to use it wisely, not to prove how good you are.

Which is why I am voting for the Democratic candidate for president – who sadly is Hillary Clinton - because that seems the best way to save the Supreme Court, the Senate, our laws such as Social Security, and other pieces of our democracy. I’m choosing a battlefield over pointless proof of my own virtue.

And one week later, I will attend the next meeting of  the Brunswick, Greens to talk with others about what we do next.

August 21, 2016

Morning Line

Based on an average of recent polls
Nationally, Hillary Clinton is 4 points ahead of Trump, a statistical tue. She is 6 points better than her worst to date. Her average of 42% is 4 below her best to date.

Clinton is leading with 251 of the needed 270 votes, down 34 from her best. Another 117 electoral votes are possible Democratic. Only 57 electoral votes are definitely in the Trump column. Another 56 are possible.

The rise of Iceland's Pirate Party

Guardian - One of Europe’s most radical political parties is expected to gain its first taste of power after Iceland’s ruling coalition and opposition agreed to hold early elections caused by the Panama Papers scandal in October. Iceland PM steps aside after protests over Panama Papers revelations Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson steps aside amid widespread anger over allegations his family attempted to hide millions in offshore account Read more

The Pirate party, whose platform includes direct democracy, greater government transparency, a new national constitution and asylum for US whistleblower Edward Snowden, will field candidates in every constituency and has been at or near the top of every opinion poll for over a year.

As befits a movement dedicated to reinventing democracy through new technology, it also aims to boost the youth vote by persuading the company developing Pokémon Go in Iceland to turn polling stations into Pokéstops.

The election, likely to be held on 29 October, follows the resignation of Iceland’s former prime minister Sigmundur Davið Gunnlaugsson, who became the first major victim of the Panama Papers in April after the leaked legal documents revealed he had millions of pounds of family money offshore.

Justice Department says poor can't be held in jail for lack of funds

NBC - Holding defendants in jail because they can't afford to make bail is unconstitutional, the Justice Department said in a court filing  — the first time the government has taken such a position before a federal appeals court.

It's the latest step by the Obama administration in encouraging state courts to move away from imposing fixed cash bail amounts and jailing those who can't pay.

"Bail practices that incarcerate indigent individuals before trial solely because of their inability to pay for their release violate the Fourteenth Amendment," the Justice Department said in a friend of court brief, citing the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection.

The filing came in the case of Maurice Walker of Calhoun, Georgia. He was kept in jail for six nights after police arrested him for the misdemeanor offense of being a pedestrian under the influence. He was told he could not get out of jail unless he paid the fixed bail amount of $160.

Where median incomes have fallen the most

A deep account of Trump

From an interview with David Cay Johnston who has been one of the nation’s premier investigative reporters for decades... He first met and covered Donald Trump in the 1980s. He talks about his latest book, The Making of Donald Trump with Steven Rosenfield

Rosenfield - These stories in your book remind me of the badly behaving men in my grandfather’s generation. They were born around WW1, grew up in Brooklyn, didn’t have much to do with people outside their ethnicity and religion. They were sexist, bigots, didn’t need or want college education. They felt if they could just bluff and boss their way around and take whatever they could home, that they were big-time successes. Am I imagining something there?

DCJ: That’s a perfectly accurate way to view this… Donald is a product of his family history, of his time and place, and of his belief that he’s a really superior person, therefore all these other things don’t matter. You either worship and recognize Donald’s greatness or he has a word for you: loser! And it has worked for him. You do things that work for you.

His skill at shutting down law enforcement investigations—I cite those four grand juries, etc.—is extraordinary. He knows when to run to the cops and rat out people, or tell them information that will help them. He knows how to use the court system to cover up what he’s done by making a settlement on the condition that the record be sealed. And he’s masterful at this. It’s just astonishing how masterful he is at it. And then he’s masterful at the conventions of journalism. 

August 20, 2016

The generational election

The fact that Trump and Clinton are the presidential candidates represents a probable last political gasp of older Americans. The Sanders campaign showed that something different was just under the surface and here's another hint from Gallup: "Only 38% of Democrats and Democratic leaners between the ages of 18 and 39 are satisfied with Clinton, compared with 67% of those 40 and older." Times are a changing.

How to improve a TV news report

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-. is the worst publication I've ever worked as a freelancer. Their editors are trained to think that anybody not an elite is scum.

Climate change damaging national parks

Care 2 - 

Climate change is increasingly putting our nation’s wilderness in danger. Rising global temperatures and changing weather patterns are already having wide-reaching effects on these wild places. Nowhere is this more apparent than in areas that used to be thick with ice and snow.

Glacier National Park in Montana is just one disturbing example. Since the early 1900s, the number of 90 degree or higher days in the park has tripled, resulting in staggering damage to the landscape. The area was once home to 150 glaciers, but today only 25 of them remain.

The loss of glaciers has much more devastating effects than simply altering the view. Melting glaciers and reduced snowpack across the country massively impact the surrounding ecosystem: streams are drying up, cold-water fish are dying out and snow-loving species like wolverines are under threat.

The increasingly dry conditions also create prime conditions for wildfires. Tuning into the news on a summer day in recent years, it seems there’s always a massive blaze somewhere in the Western U.S. – usually more than one. In just the past decade, every single Western state has seen a dramatic rise in the number of wildfires each year. In 2015, the area burned totaled more than 10 million acres.

American healthcare: Pay more, live less

 Max Rosner, Institute for New Economic Thinking  -  The US stands out as an outlier: the US spends far more on health than any other country, yet the life expectancy of the American population is not longer but actually shorter than in other countries that spend far less..

If we look at the time trend for each country we first notice that all countries have followed an upward trajectory – the population lives increasingly longer as health expenditure increased. But again the US stands out as the the country is following a much flatter trajectory; gains in life expectancy from additional health spending in the U.S. were much smaller than in the other high-income countries, particularly since the mid-1980s.

This development led to a large inequality between the US and other rich countries: In the US health spending per capita is often more than three-times higher than in other rich countries, yet the populations of countries with much lower health spending than the US enjoy considerably longer lives. In the most extreme case we see that Americans spend 5-times more than Chileans, but the population of Chile actually lives longer than Americans.


Judge refers Sheriff Joe Arpaio for criminal prosecution

NY tTimes - A federal judge referred Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his second-in-command for criminal prosecution, finding that they ignored and misrepresented to subordinates court orders designed to keep the sheriff’s office from racially profiling Latinos.

In making the referral to the United States attorney’s office for criminal contempt charges, Judge G. Murray Snow of Federal District Court in Phoenix delivered the sharpest rebuke against Mr. Arpaio, who as the long-serving sheriff in Maricopa County made a name for himself as an unrelenting pursuer of undocumented immigrants.

Sheriff Arpaio and Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan “have a history of obfuscation and subversion of this court’s orders that is as old as this case,” Judge Snow wrote in his order.

Sheriff Arpaio and Mr. Sheridan had also made numerous false statements under oath, Judge Snow wrote, and “there is also probable cause to believe that many if not all of the statements were made in an attempt to obstruct any inquiry into their further wrongdoing or negligence.”

Evangelical Lutherans want aid to Israel stopped

Popular Resistance - The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has become the latest US denomination to take economic action against the Israeli occupation.

At its triennial assembly  in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the four million-member church, one of the largest in the US, voted on two separate resolutions targeting Israel’s occupation and human rights abuses, passing each by a landslide.

The US gives Israel more than $3 billion every year, despite laws that prohibit aid to countries with persistent records of human rights violations. The Obama administration has vowed to increase that sum over the coming decade in what would be the largest military aid package the US has ever given any country.

The Lutheran church has deep ties to Palestinian churches which are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. Reverend Mitri Raheb, whose Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem is one such congregation, was one of the authors of the Kairos Palestine Document which calls on churches around the world to use “boycott and disinvestment as tools of nonviolence for justice, peace and security for all.”

Most Millennials Have Less Than $1,000 in Savings

Jazz break

Ella Fitzgerald; Summertime