July 1, 2015

United Church of Christ to divest from Israel

Electronic Intifada

US-Cuba resume diplomatic ties

CNN

31 states don't ban sexual discrimination

Vox

Oregon legalizes recreational marijuana

Huffington Post - Oregon ended marijuana prohibition at midnight Wednesday, joining Colorado, Washington state, Alaska and the District of Columbia in legalizing recreational use of the drug.

The new law means Oregon likely will reap benefits that appear to have followed legalization elsewhere: Reduced crime, from a legal industry supplanting a black market; higher tax revenue, once weed is legal to sell; and police forces and courts unburdened by droves of misdemeanor pot offenders.

Oregon voters in November approved Measure 91 with 56 percent of the vote. Starting Wednesday, adults 21 and older can legally possess up to eight ounces of marijuana inside their home and up to one ounce outside. Adults can grow up to four plants per household, out of public view.

Maine's finds a presidential candidate as weird as he is

Washington Times - Maine’s Paul LePage became the first sitting governor to endorse a candidate in the 2016 GOP nomination race, throwing his support behind Christie Christie’s fledgling bid for president.

Mr. LePage said that the New Jersey governor has been an inspiration to him over his career and said Mr. Christie, as the head of the Republican Governors Association, played an instrumental role in helping him win re-election last year.

Morning Line

In our moving average Hillary Clinton is safely ahead of all Republican candidates.

In our moving poll average, Bush has a clear lead for the first time. Walker is in second, but 8 points behind Bush.  No other candidate has double digits

Clinton leads by 49 points over Sanders

Average Manhatten home price: $1.87 million

NY Times

I'm After flirting with records for more than a year, the average sales price of a Manhattan apartment hit a new high in the second quarter, according to at least two reports to be released on Wednesday by major real estate brokerage firms.

A strong local economy, combined with high demand and not enough listings, pushed the average sales price up 11 percent, to $1.87 million, compared with the same period in 2014, surpassing the previous peak of $1.77 million reached in the first quarter of last year, according to Jonathan J. Miller, the president of the appraisal firm Miller Samuel and the author of a report for Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

The median sales price, which measures the middle of the market and is less affected by high-end sales, was $980,000, just behind the record of $1.025 million set in the second quarter of 2008, before the financial crisis hit, according to Miller Samuel.

“It’s like everyone revved up their engines again,” said Pamela Liebman, the chief executive of the Corcoran Group, which put the record average sales price at $1.81 million and the median at $960,000. “We saw continuous demand across all price points, buoyed by some exciting new developments that have come on the market and a continued influx of buyers from China.”

“In all my years of doing this,” she added, “I have never seen such a hunger for New York City real estate.”

Another fire at southern black church

Huffington Post

fire broke out at a prominent black church in South Carolina on Tuesday night, the latest in a series of blazes at places of worship in the South serving the African-American community.
A federal law enforcement source told the Associated Press that the fire was not the work of an arsonist, and that preliminary investigations show that it was not intentionally set. 
It is the seventh prominent African-American church in the South to burn down since a gunman killed nine people at the historic black church Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal in Charleston two weeks ago.

You don't have to agree on everything to unite on some things

One of the ways that the Progressive Review differs sharply from conventional liberals is that we believe alliances should be built issue by issue rather than by declared political identity. This not only serves the cause of the issues but helps otherwise antagonistic groups learn how to work together on some things. It is an approach that has become unpopular as liberalism has become less of a movement and more of a religion. Here's a good example we came across recently: 


Ted Williams, Audubon Magazine, 2005 - "Environmentalists don't reach out to sportsmen," remarks Chris Potholm, founder and CEO of the Potholm Group, a polling and strategic-advice company that has engineered 60 environmental referenda victories in 30 states. Every time Potholm hauls sportsmen and environmentalists together, he's marshaling a minimum of 65 percent of the population—"an absolutely irresistible political juggernaut that can win anywhere," he says. For example, enviros are united in their contempt for the ultraconservative, anti-environmental, pro-coyote-control, access-at-any-cost  Sportsman's Alliance of Maine, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't work with it toward common goals.

Five years ago, thanks in part to Potholm, they did just that, winning a ballot initiative that got the state a $50 million bond issue for the purchase of wild land. When the Potholm Group first polled voters, only 38 percent were in favor. After a brilliant TV ad campaign featuring No Trespassing signs and a Maine guide paddling his grandchildren in a canoe, the measure won with 69 percent of the vote.

By far the biggest obstacle facing environmentalists who seek to forge alliances with sportsmen is the hook-and-bullet press. Aldo Leopold's lament more than half a century ago is truer now than then: "The sportsman has no leaders to tell him what is wrong. The sporting press no longer represents sport, it has turned billboard for the gadgeteer." Today owners of some hook-and-bullet magazines not only publish billboards for gadgeteers, they are the gadgeteers. For every publication such as Field & Stream—which, under a new editor, has recently taken to running honest articles about real issues—there are a half-dozen that run disinformation aimed at boosting circulation and ad revenue by playing to readers' fears about the dreaded and ubiquitous "antis." In terms of journalistic integrity they're right down there with the supermarket tabloids.

Herewith, a strategy for leveling the field. First, leave your personal values out of it. It's okay to detest blood sports; it's even okay to detest people who engage in blood sports. But it's not okay to sacrifice vanishing fish and wildlife to make political statements. There are plenty of real enemies out there without concocting new ones. If you truly want to save and restore fish and wildlife, you'll welcome and recruit help where you find it. If you have a hard time working with people you consider morally tainted, consider that virtually no game species is hurt and most are helped by legal hunting and fishing, and that powerful, ruthless special interests depend on and perpetuate the rift between environmentalists and sportsmen.

Adopt the philosophy of Winston Churchill, who, when questioned about throwing in with Stalin, replied: "I have only one purpose, the destruction of Hitler, and my life is much simplified thereby. If Hitler invaded Hell, I would make at least a favorable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons."

Second, as the NRA has figured out, alliances depend on communication. Wherever you live in the United States, there is a local rod and gun club or a nearby Ducks Unlimited chapter. Join and attend meetings. If you don't hunt or fish, tell the members so. But also explain that you want to help them protect fish and wildlife habitat. You can't restore or create a wetlands for ducks (which is what Ducks Unlimited does) without also benefiting thousands of other creatures, from otters to marsh wrens to avocets to turtles. If there isn't a good project you can collaborate on, come up with one yourself. Your participation and support will deeply touch members, because they feel unloved and unappreciated and have repeatedly been told that enviros and animal-rights zealots are one and the same.
Finally, choose your battles wisely.

A good example of an unwise battle is trapping. Sportsmen ardently believe (often with good reason) that the ultimate goal of anti-trappers is to ban fishing and hunting. With rare exceptions trapping is a humane issue, not a management issue. Leave it to the animal-rights folks. My wife, Donna, is the conservation advocacy coordinator of the Massachusetts Audubon Society (independent of and older than National Audubon). In 1996, much to Donna's anguish, her organization joined with ardent anti-hunting groups in a successful effort to outlaw quick-killing bear traps. Since then the state's beaver population has increased from about 18,000 to 70,000.

Flooding of streets and cellars is now a major problem; and animal-control agents must be hired to catch beavers in "humane" traps that immobilize them all night so they may be clubbed to death in the morning. We've converted a resource to a pest.

The real damage in Massachusetts, however, has not been to property but to the potential for alliances with sportsmen. When Donna started stumping for the Massachusetts Rivers Bill—which would bar development from 200 feet on either side of perennial streams—she was informed by sportsmen that they would oppose it. If an anti-trapping outfit was for rivers, then, by God, they were against them. After the bill passed, Donna talked to sportsmen at every opportunity, telling them why natural floodplains are in their best interests, about new fishing and hunting opportunities in and around the cleaned-up Blackstone River system, about wild brook trout populations desperately in need of protection, about her own fishing with me.

She publicly defended hunting, explaining the need to control the gross irruption of white-tailed deer that is wiping out forest understories throughout the East and, with them, rare plants and shrub-nesting birds.

She attended rod-and-gun-club dinners and drank beer with members. Eventually, she was asked by a local club to help release snowshoe hares purchased from Canada as part of a press event promoting an alliance.

On a cold winter night Donna and I, accompanied by club members and a reporter and photographer from the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, lugged the hares up onto conservation land Donna and I had helped our town of Grafton purchase from a developer, and which—because sportsmen had assisted—Donna had posted with signs that welcome hunters. When the moon shadow of the last hare had melted into the snow-draped pines, Donna got a big kiss from the club's president. I can't report that the alliance is strong statewide, but at least there's a foundation.

Ted Williams sits on the Circle of Chiefs of the Outdoor Writers Association of America.
 

Many killed by police have mental problems

Common Dreams - One quarter of the men and women shot and killed by police in the first six months of 2015 were "in the throes of mental or emotional crisis," according to a new analysis published by the Washington Post, suggesting that law enforcement officers lack training on how to deal with the mentally ill.

"On average, police shot and killed someone who was in mental crisis every 36 hours in the first six months of this year," write journalists Wesley Lowery, Kimberly Kindy, and Keith L. Alexander.

The Post database shows that in the first six months of this year, 461 people have been shot to death by police—including 123 killings "in which the mental health of the victim appeared to play a role, either because the person expressed suicidal intentions or because police or family members confirmed a history of mental illness," the Post reports.

Nearly a dozen of the mentally distraught people killed were military veterans, many of them suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of their service, according to police or family members. Another was a former California Highway Patrol officer who had been forced into retirement after enduring a severe beating during a traffic stop that left him suffering from depression and PTSD.

And in 45 cases, police were called to help someone get medical treatment, or after the person had tried and failed to get treatment on his own.

The new way businesses mistreat workers

Robert Reich - These days it’s not unusual for someone on the way to work to receive a text message from her employer saying she’s not needed right then.

Although she’s already found someone to pick up her kid from school and arranged for childcare, the work is no longer available and she won’t be paid for it.

Just-in-time scheduling like this is the latest new thing, designed to make retail outlets, restaurants, hotels, and other customer-driven businesses more nimble and keep costs to a minimum.

Software can now predict up-to-the-minute staffing needs on the basis of information such as traffic patterns, weather, and sales merely hours or possibly minutes before.
This way, employers don’t need to pay anyone to be at work unless they’re really needed. Companies can avoid paying wages to workers who’d otherwise just sit around.

Employers assign workers tentative shifts, and then notify them a half-hour or ten minutes before the shift is scheduled to begin whether they’re actually needed. Some even require workers to check in by phone, email, or text shortly before the shift starts.

Just-in-time scheduling is another part of America’s new “flexible” economy – along with the move to independent contractors and the growing reliance on “share economy” businesses, like Uber, that purport to do nothing more than connect customers with people willing to serve them.

New software is behind all of this – digital platforms enabling businesses to match their costs exactly with their needs.

The business media considers such flexibility an unalloyed virtue. Wall Street rewards it with higher share prices. America’s “flexible labor market” is the envy of business leaders and policy makers the world over.

There’s only one problem. The new flexibility doesn’t allow working people to live their lives.

MORE

Word

The word `security' is a broad, vague generality whose contours should not be invoked to abrogate the fundamental law... The guarding of military and diplomatic secrets at the expense of informed representative government provides no real security for our republic. --- Justice Hugo Black, 1971

Things about Obamacare that liberals don't want to discuss

Trudy Lieberman,Harper's Magazine - It’s bad enough that the A.C.A. is fattening up the health-care industry and hollowing out coverage for the middle class. Even worse, the law is accelerating what I call the Great Cost Shift, which transfers the growing price of medical care to patients themselves through high deductibles, coinsurance (the patient’s share of the cost for a specific service, calculated as a percentage), copayments (a set fee paid for a specific service), and limited provider networks (which sometimes offer so little choice that patients end up seeking out-of-network care and paying on their own). What was once good, comprehensive insurance for a sizable number of Americans is being reduced to coverage for only the most serious, and most expensive, of illnesses. Even fifteen years ago, families paid minimal deductibles of $150 or $200 and copays of $5 or $10, or none at all. Now, a family lucky enough to afford a policy in the first place may face out-of-pocket expenses for coinsurance, deductibles, and copays as high as $13,200 before its insurer kicks in.

Of course, these out-of-pocket caps can be adjusted by the insurer every year, within limits set by the government, and there are no caps at all for out-of-network services, which means that some providers charge whatever the market will bear. In the post-A.C.A. era, you can be insured but have little or no coverage for what you actually need.


The A.C.A.’s greatest legacy may finally be the fulfillment of a conservative vision laid out three decades ago, which sought to transform American health care into a market-driven system. The idea was to turn patients into shoppers, who would naturally look for the best deal on care — while shifting much of the cost onto those very consumers. In large part, this scheme was the brainchild of J. Patrick Rooney, whose Indianapolis-based Golden Rule Insurance Company specialized in selling policies to only the healthiest customers.

Rooney, a vegetarian who wore plastic rather than leather shoes to avoid killing animals, pioneered the marketing of high-deductible catastrophic insurance policies, which could be coupled with tax-advantaged saving accounts to pay for non-catastrophic health-care costs. These medical savings accounts made perfect sense to a free-market ideologue like Rooney, even if they were initially regarded as a screwball invention that ran contrary to the basic concept of comprehensive employer-based insurance. Rooney channeled millions of dollars from his company’s political action committees to the campaigns of G.O.P. legislators. He walked the halls of the U.S. Capitol himself, sometimes making as many as ten thirty-minute visits a day to congressional offices.

... Rooney and his G.O.P. allies (with, it should be said, Democratic acquiescence) moved American health insurance in a direction contrary to that taken by most every other nation in the developed world. It is also contrary to the needs of those unlucky enough to get sick. Whereas insurers once asked policyholders to pay a nominal $25 or $50 for a doctor’s visit or a CT scan, they now require them to foot as much as 25 or even 50 percent of the bill. What looks like a reasonably priced policy, at least in terms of premiums, can bring on sky-high bills and serious debt in no time.

For employers, of course, these policies are a bonanza: every dollar insurers save by shifting medical costs to consumers will lower the tab that employers pay for coverage. In 2011, Helen Darling, who was then head of the National Business Group on Health (which describes itself as the “only non-profit organization devoted exclusively to representing large employers’ perspective on national health policy”), was quite frank about this equation. Moving from copays to coinsurance, she said, amounted to “a more subtle way to increase what the consumer pays. We are clearly seeing a march toward a more aggressive consumerist system.”

Coastal parks threaten by sea level rise

Eco Watch - Many of the U.S.’s loveliest national parks—favorites for tourists, families and recreational athletes—lie along its shores. They attract millions of visitors a year and they are under threat from rising sea levels caused by climate change.

Just ahead of the two-year anniversary of the announcement of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, as well as the heavy summer tourist season, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell released a study, Adapting to Climate Change in Coastal Parks: Estimating the Exposure of Park Assets to 1 m of Sea-Level Rise, compiled by the National Park Service and Western Carolina University’s Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines. It looked at 40 parks in the contiguous 48 states considered most threatened and found that more than $40 billion in park infrastructure and historic and cultural assets is at risk of being damaged by rising sea levels. And those comprise only a third of those considered at risk—the study is ongoing and an analysis of an additional 30 parks will be released later this summer.

“National Park Service coastal units contain the last remaining large stretches of relatively undeveloped shorelines in the nation,” says the study. “These parks contain a wide range of natural resources, cultural resources and recreational facilities. The parks also contain infrastructure providing access to each unit. Over the next century (and beyond), more NPS resources will be exposed to and threatened by rising ocean waters. Numerous coastal units, particularly low-lying barrier parks, are already dealing with sea-level rise threats to resources and assets.”

Most endangered are the low-lying barrier parks on the country’s southeastern Atlantic seacoast. The cost of rebuilding or replacing historic structures such as lighthouses and tourist centers at North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina alone is estimated at nearly $1.2 billion—without even factoring in loss of lands and tourist income.

Ten NPS national seashores listed most at risk are popular destinations for millions of Americans including some of its most visited and beloved beach areas.

They include:

1. Assateague (Maryland/Virginia)

2. Cape Cod (Massachusetts)

3. Fire Island (New York)

4. Cape Hatteras (North Carolina)

5. Cape Lookout (North Carolina)

6. Canaveral (Florida)

7. Cumberland Island (Georgia)

8. Gulf Islands (Florida/Mississippi)

9. Point Reyes (California)

10. Padre Island (Texas)

Other popular parks under threat include Redwood National Park in California, Florida’s Everglades National Park and Maine’s Acadia National Park, as well as heavily visited urban parks such as Gateway National Recreation Area and the Statue of Liberty National Monument in New York City and Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco.

How the Trans-Pacific Partnership Gives Corporations Special Legal Rights

Truth Out

June 30, 2015

The real economy: Teen employment

USA Today - According to a Pew report released June 23, employment among 16- to 19-year-olds has declined over the last two decades. Less than a third of 16 to 17-year-olds working a summer job last year. For 18- to 19-year-olds, the summer employment rate last year was approximate 44%, which is still below the 62.6% average rate in the summer of 2000.

Fewer than 32% of teenagers were employed between June and August last year.  The current percentage is close to the all-time low of approximately 30% in 2010 and 2011.

In 1978, 58% of teens had summer jobs, the highest rate of teen summer employment. Between the 1940’s and the 1980’s, the all-time low was 46% in 1963.

Amazon tribe creates 500-page traditional medicine encyclopedia

Monga Bay - In one of the great tragedies of our age, indigenous traditions, stories, cultures and knowledge are winking out across the world. Whole languages and mythologies are vanishing, and in some cases even entire indigenous groups are falling into extinction. This is what makes the news that a tribe in the Amazon—the Matsés peoples of Brazil and Peru—have created a 500-page encyclopedia of their traditional medicine all the more remarkable. The encyclopedia, compiled by five shamans with assistance from conservation group Acaté, details every plant used by Matsés medicine to cure a massive variety of ailments.

"The [Matsés Traditional Medicine Encyclopedia] marks the first time shamans of an Amazonian tribe have created a full and complete transcription of their medicinal knowledge written in their own language and words," Christopher Herndon, president and co-founder of Acaté, told Mongabay in an interview.

The Matsés have only printed their encyclopedia in their native language to ensure that the medicinal knowledge is not stolen by corporations or researchers as has happened in the past. Instead, the encyclopedia is meant as a guide for training new, young shamans in the tradition and recording the living shamans' knowledge before they pass.

Word

I know only one thing for sure: If you want to make crime pay go to law school.” - Whitey Bulger

Foreign investment in Israel in major drop

Mondoweiss - Foreign direct investment in Israel dropped by 50% in 2014 according to a 2015 World Investment Report issued by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
Newsweek cites one of the authors of the report, Dr. Ronny Manos from the Open University of Israel, as speculating the declining investment is fallout from the Israeli military onslaught on Gaza last summer and “international boycotts” against Israel for “alleged violations of international law.”  Ynet adds that, according to Manos, “these are only conjectures that can explain the sharp decline”
As we reported in 2013 investment committees for European banks were considering recommending their institutions bar loans to Israeli companies that have economic links with the Palestinian occupied territories. At the time Haaretz reported the investment committees “submit a report to their clients with recommendations about where to invest − and where not to invest. The process of examining the Israeli companies that operate in West Bank settlements involved the exercise of due diligence.”

Post-modernism comes to politics

From our overstocked archives

Sam Smith, February 1993

Politics used to be a lot about remembrance. The best politicians were those who remembered and were remembered the most -- the most people, the littlest favors, the smallest slights, the best anecdotes tying one's politics to the common memory of the constituency.

Politics was also about gratitude. Politicians  were always thanking people, "without whom" whatever under discussion could not have happened. You not only thanked  those in the room -- as many as possible by name -- you even thanked those without -- for "having prepared the wonderful meal which we have just partaken of."  The politician was the creation of others, and never failed to mention it.

Above all, politics was about relationships. The politician  grew organically out of a constituency and remained rooted to it as long as incumbency lasted.

Today, we increasingly elect people about whom we have little to remember, to whom we owe no gratitude and with whom we have no relationship except that formed during the carnie show we call a campaign.

At the beginning of the 1992 campaign, few of us knew -- let alone remembered -- anything about Bill Clinton. If  we were not from Arkansas,  we had nothing for which to thank him. And our whirlwind relationship  has been under the preeminent control of  the great American matchmaker: the media. Clinton's past is not only unimportant to him, but to us as well.

Clinton is part of a generation which grew up as many of the communal support systems of society were disintegrating. Family, church, and neighborhood were all on the ropes. Politics was also breaking down: not only had the machines faded, but the parties were faltering  and Congress splintering.

Extraordinary national common symbols were gone as well: the Kennedys, Rev. King, and -- just as the 80s began -- John Lennon. Young America entered the decade very much alone.

The egocentrism of yuppie America did not spring originally from greed, but from an apparent reality; it truly seemed a struggle between oneself and the rest of the world. Quietly, and unnoticed at first,  the economy was following community into disarray and a Darwinian imperative took hold.

It was, it turned out, just what rapidly changing American corporations needed, a crop of well-schooled, mobile, undistracted young warriors to boost productivity and profits. Working until early in the morning at an investment banking firm became the new machismo, so much so that in one year a majority of the graduating class of Yale attempted to pursue that course.

The purported skill of the yuppies was that they knew how to "manage" and they knew how to "communicate." They did these things so assiduously that before the decade of 80s was over, process and words appeared to have become the country's major products. With the avid assistance of the media, the 80s brought us the largest collection of euphemisms ever to invade the English language -- like  managed competition and investing in people. And it brought us sly words that mean something far from what they seem to mean -- like Progressive Policy Institute or national health insurance.

It was not only our manufacturing base that eroded,  our base of understanding of what we meant when we spoke to each other was in shambles as well.

The 80s were filled with constantly reiterated sincerity. There was too much of it around, too much that didn't pan out, from the waiter's hyperbolic preview describing what would turn out to be a third-rate meal to the sign on my ATM that announced that "for your  convenience" the device had been moved ten blocks away. When an Arkansas union leader said that Bill Clinton will slap you on the back while he's pissing down your leg, I knew well the feeling even if I couldn't vouch for its specific applicability. It was the classic sucker punch of the 80s.

The 80s also gave great weight to analysis, but often penalized action. Those most skilled in the analytical arts found themselves moving up -- lawyers, journalists, economists and the politicians who could talk like them. The recent Clinton economic conference seemed a giant 1980s potlach ceremony -- 329 warlords of industry and academia  demonstrating their power by tossing the wealth of their ideas into the bonfire. Facts were presented, alternatives proposed,  concern expressed -- Clinton found one chart "very moving" -- but what finally emerged was a magnificent justification for not doing much. The problems, as always these days, are just too complex. How, one wonders, did FDR ever managed to fight the depression with a White House staff smaller than that now allotted the president's wife and World War II with less staff than Dan Quayle?

The 80s also taught us that all politics was office politics; voting became a personnel decision rather than an ideological or policy choice. We hired politicians. Clinton, like many pols reared in the 80s, is strong in skills and weak in creed. His new chief of staff is said to be "apolitical," a description used in praise. Politics without politics. He is someone who, in the words of the Washington Post, "is seen by most as a man without a personal or political agenda that would interfere with a successful management of the White House." 

"What part of government are you interested in?" I asked a thirtysomething lawyer who was sending in his resume. "I don't have any particular interest," he replied, "I would just like to be a special assistant to someone." It no longer surprised me; it had been ten years since I met Jeff Bingaman at a party. He was in the middle of a multi-million dollar campaign for US Senate; he showed me his brochure and spoke enthusiastically of his  effort. "What brings you to Washington?" I asked. "I want to find out what the issues are." 

 If you got the right grades at the right school and understood the "process," it didn't matter all that much what the issues were or what you believed. Issues were merely raw material to be processed by good "decision-making."

The Washington media is very comfortable with the Clinton crowd. Much of it rose in the same era, an era when "objectivity" was  supposed to have adequately supplanted media competition. The journalists and the politicians share a mutual assumption that life can be distilled of the impurities of ideology,  inclination, influence, faith and prejudice. Leonard Downie, executive editor of the Washington Post, exemplifies the new creed; he refuses to vote and asks his reporters to "cleanse their professional minds of human emotions and opinions." Non-ideology has become the great ideology of America's professional elite. It is, of course, a lie and it is also Clinton's biggest campaign promise.    

While the 80s literally crashed in 1987, the cultural disintegration didn't really occur until the initial graduating classes of prospective yuppies of the 90s went out and couldn't find a job. This young president, despite his saxophone and his appearances on MTV, already has a cultural gap with the young.

Even during the 80s,  as a study by economist Frank Levy of MIT shows, the yuppie phenomenon was a rarified one and hardly reflected what generally happened. In the ten years ending 1989, for example, the income of male workers aged 25-34 with a college education rose 7% while those with only a high school diploma fell 15%. And Robert J. Samuelson reports that the gap between the best and the worst paid college graduates increased, as did the gap between the best and the worst paid lawyers.

What it all means is still hard to grasp but there are important clues to be found  in Marshall Blonsky's  remarkable American Mythologies. Blonsky is a semiotician, yet an unusually  readable one. He describes Umberto Eco, the semiotician turned novelist, balling up a wad of paper and throwing it at a startled student.

"Is that a sign?" he asked while wadding another piece of paper.

The student nodded.

"No," said Eco. "is not a sign. That was stimulus response. Step on a dog, he barks. A stimulus is something present clashing with something else present. It's not a sign situation. This paper now" -- he raised the ball as if to throw it  -- "is a sign. I am looking around with a menacing gesture, but I do not throw the ball. All of you have associated a possible consequence. The consequence didn't happen, therefore the presence of my body is a physical presence sending you back to something expected but absent.  My body is a sign."

Bill Clinton, to a degree greater than any previous president, would understand not only what Eco said but how to use it.  He knows that we live in a time in which the major clashes are between things that are not present.  And he knows his body is a sign. Like constantly being photographed in a warm-up suit and baseball cap. Like riding a 'bus' from Charlottesville to Washington for his Inauguration -- even though it's really a  fully outfitted motor coach rather than, as columnist Tony Kornheiser put it, "891 hard miles with a warm Dr. Pepper and a stale cheese sandwich."

Other presidents have engaged in periodic  symbolic extravaganzas -- Bush particularly liked military invasions in the months around Christmas  -- but mostly have relied on stock symbols (the Rose Garden, the helicopter) for everyday use. Clinton, on the other hand, understands that today all power resides in symbols and devotes a phenomenal amount of time and effort to their creation, care and manipulation.

The co-chair of his inauguration announced that people would be encouraged to join Clinton in a walk across Memorial Bridge a few days before the swearing-in. "It signifies* the way that this president will act," Harry Thomason said. "There are always going to be crowds, and he's always going to be among them."

Clinton is, I believe Blonsky would agree, a very post-modern man. Blonsky, in an early chapter on men's fashion,  says:

 High modernists believe in the ideology of style -- what is as unique as your own fingerprints, as incomparable as your own body. By contrast, postmodernism. . . sees nothing unique about us. Postmodernism regards "the individual" as a sentimental attachment, a fiction to be enclosed within quotation marks. If you're postmodern, you scarcely believe in the "right clothes" that take on your personality. You don't dress as who you are because, quite simply, you don't believe "you" are. Therefore you are indifferent to consistency and continuity.

Change the sign from clothes to politics and the 1992 campaign begins to emerge. Later, Blonsky writes, perhaps illuminating why Gennifer Flowers and the draft and ever-changing policy positions don't matter:

Character and consistency were once the most highly regarded virtue to ascribe to either friend or foe. We all strove to be perceived as consistent and in character, no matter how many shattering experiences had changed our lives or how many persons inhabited our bodies. Today, for the first time in modern times, a split of multiple personality has ceased to be an eccentric malady and becomes indispensable as we approach the turn of the century.

If Clinton is post-modern, he is in some interesting company. Such as Vanna White, of whom Ted Koppel says "Vanna leaves an intellectual vacuum, which  can be filled by whatever the predisposition of the viewer happens to be."  Koppel sees himself as having a similar effect and implicitly ascribes Bush's political resilience in a post-modern age to his very dullness: "You would think that the voter would become frustrated... but on the contrary he has become acclimated to the notion that you just fill in the blank." And then Koppel warns: "It is the very level of passion generated by Jesse Jackson that carries a price." Clinton understands the warning and the value of the blank  the viewer  can fill in at leisure.

Blonsky sums up:

Connotation today -- far beyond advertising phenomenon -- is no longer merely 'hidden persuasion' but is in fact a semiosphere, a dense atmosphere of signs triumphantly permeating all social, political, and imaginative life and, arguably, constituting our desiring selves as such.

The 80s began with the murder of John Lennon.  Mark David Chapman now explains it this way: "I wasn't killing a real person. I killed an image. I killed an album cover."

Within days of the election, Ford began running a TV ad using a voice-over that sounded just like Clinton delivering a speech to an enthusiastic audience. Or was it really Clinton delivering a speech to an enthusiastic audience? Or really Clinton  selling cars a few days after his election?

We have helped put Clinton in the center of this semiosphere. He knows how it works and how to work it. Do we know how to read it?

Word

I heard the song
Of the world's last whale
As I rocked in the moonlight
And reefed the sail.
It'll happen to you
Also without fail
If it happens to me
Sang the world's last whale.


- Pete Seeger

What happens when lawyers get hold of sex.. . .

, NY Times - Though most people think of “yes means yes” as strictly for college students, it is actually poised to become the law of the land.

About a quarter of all states, and the District of Columbia, now say sex isn’t legal without positive agreement, although some states undercut that standard by requiring proof of force or resistance as well.

Codes and laws calling for affirmative consent proceed from admirable impulses. (The phrase “yes means yes,” by the way, represents a ratcheting-up of “no means no,” the previous slogan of the anti-rape movement.) People should have as much right to control their sexuality as they do their body or possessions; just as you wouldn’t take a precious object from someone’s home without her permission, you shouldn’t have sex with someone if he hasn’t explicitly said he wants to.

And if one person can think he’s hooking up while the other feels she’s being raped, it makes sense to have a law that eliminates the possibility of misunderstanding. “You shouldn’t be allowed to make the assumption that if you find someone lying on a bed, they’re free for sexual pleasure,” says Lynn Hecht Schafran, director of a judicial education program at Legal Momentum, a women’s legal defense organization.

But criminal law is a very powerful instrument for reshaping sexual mores. Should we really put people in jail for not doing what most people aren’t doing? (Or at least, not yet?) It’s one thing to teach college students to talk frankly about sex and not to have it without demonstrable pre-coital assent. Colleges are entitled to uphold their own standards of comportment, even if enforcement of that behavior is spotty or indifferent to the rights of the accused. It’s another thing to make sex a crime under conditions of poor communication.

Most people just aren’t very talkative during the delicate tango that precedes sex, and the re-education required to make them more forthcoming would be a very big project. Nor are people unerringly good at decoding sexual signals. If they were, we wouldn’t have romantic comedies. “If there’s no social consensus about what the lines are,” says Nancy Gertner, a senior lecturer at Harvard Law School and a retired judge, then affirmative consent “has no business being in the criminal law.”

Perhaps the most consequential deliberations about affirmative consent are going on right now at the American Law Institute. The more than 4,000 law professors, judges and lawyers who belong to this prestigious legal association — membership is by invitation only — try to untangle the legal knots of our time. They do this in part by drafting and discussing model statutes. Once the group approves these exercises, they hold so much sway that Congress and states sometimes vote them into law, in whole or in part. For the past three years, the law institute has been thinking about how to update the penal code for sexual assault, which was last revised in 1962. When its suggestions circulated in the weeks before the institute’s annual meeting in May, some highly instructive hell broke loose.

In a memo that has now been signed by about 70 institute members and advisers, including Judge Gertner, readers have been asked to consider the following scenario: “Person A and Person B are on a date and walking down the street. Person A, feeling romantically and sexually attracted, timidly reaches out to hold B’s hand and feels a thrill as their hands touch. Person B does nothing, but six months later files a criminal complaint. Person A is guilty of ‘Criminal Sexual Contact’ under proposed Section 213.6(3)(a).”

Far-fetched? Not as the draft is written. The hypothetical crime cobbles together two of the draft’s key concepts. The first is affirmative consent. The second is an enlarged definition of criminal sexual contact that would include the touching of any body part, clothed or unclothed, with sexual gratification in mind. As the authors of the model law explain: “Any kind of contact may qualify. There are no limits on either the body part touched or the manner in which it is touched.” So if Person B neither invites nor rebukes a sexual advance, then anything that happens afterward is illegal. “With passivity expressly disallowed as consent,” the memo says, “the initiator quickly runs up a string of offenses with increasingly more severe penalties to be listed touch by touch and kiss by kiss in the criminal complaint.”

The obvious comeback to this is that no prosecutor would waste her time on such a frivolous case. But that doesn’t comfort signatories of the memo, several of whom have pointed out to me that once a law is passed, you can’t control how it will be used. For instance, prosecutors often add minor charges to major ones (such as, say, forcible rape) when there isn’t enough evidence to convict on the more serious charge. They then put pressure on the accused to plead guilty to the less egregious crime.

The example points to a trend evident both on campuses and in courts: the criminalization of what we think of as ordinary sex and of sex previously considered unsavory but not illegal. Some new crimes outlined in the proposed code, for example, assume consent to be meaningless under conditions of unequal power. Consensual sex between professionals (therapists, lawyers and the like) and their patients and clients, for instance, would be a fourth-degree felony, punishable by significant time in prison....

It’s important to remember that people convicted of sex crimes may not only go to jail, they can wind up on a sex-offender registry, with dire and lasting consequences. Depending on the state, these can include notifying the community when an offender moves into the neighborhood; restrictions against living within 2,000 feet of a school, park, playground or school bus stop; being required to wear GPS monitoring devices; and even a prohibition against using the Internet for social networking.

... Affirmative-consent advocates say that rape prosecutions don’t produce very many prisoners. They cite studies estimating that fewer than one-fifth of even violent rapes are reported; 1 to 5 percent are prosecuted and less than 3 percent end in jail time. Moreover, Stephen J. Schulhofer, the law professor who co-wrote the model penal code, told me that he and his co-author have already recommended that the law do away with the more onerous restrictions that follow from being registered as a sex offender.

Affirmative sexual consent is hardly a radical concept. It's been the law in Canada since 1994. I think it's a good standard. If you have... lulu 15 minutes ago

Looks like rape culture is alive and well reading these comments. So many seize on holding hands as a possible illegal move. Don't you... jeoffrey 15 minutes ago

I guess I'm worried about the ambiguity of the slogan. A lot of people who would sign on to "Yes means yes" (who could object?) wouldn't...

See All Comments Write a comment

I visited Mr. Schulhofer in his office at New York University Law School to hear what else he had to say. A soft-spoken, thoughtful scholar and the author of one of the most important books on rape law published in the past 20 years, “Unwanted Sex: The Culture of Intimidation and the Failure of Law,” he stresses that the draft should be seen as just that — notes from a conversation in progress, not a finished document.

But the case for affirmative consent is “compelling,” he says. Mr. Schulhofer has argued that being raped is much worse than having to endure that awkward moment when one stops to confirm that one’s partner is happy to continue. Silence or inertia, often interpreted as agreement, may actually reflect confusion, drunkenness or “frozen fright,” a documented physiological response in which a person under sexual threat is paralyzed by terror. To critics who object that millions of people are having sex without getting unqualified assent and aren’t likely to change their ways, he’d reply that millions of people drive 65 miles per hour despite a 55-mile-per-hour speed limit, but the law still saves lives. As long as “people know what the rules of the road are,” he says, “the overwhelming majority will comply with them.”

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He understands that the law will have to bring a light touch to the refashioning of sexual norms, which is why the current draft of the model code suggests classifying penetration without consent as a misdemeanor, a much lesser crime than a felony.

This may all sound reasonable, but even a misdemeanor conviction goes on the record as a sexual offense and can lead to registration. An affirmative consent standard also shifts the burden of proof from the accuser to the accused, which represents a real departure from the traditions of criminal law in the United States. Affirmative consent effectively means that the accused has to show that he got the go-ahead, even if, technically, it’s still up to the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he didn’t, or that he made a unreasonable mistake about what his partner was telling him. As Judge Gertner pointed out to me, if the law requires a “no,” then the jury will likely perceive any uncertainty about that “no” as a weakness in the prosecution’s case and not convict. But if the law requires a “yes,” then ambiguity will bolster the prosecutor’s argument: The guy didn’t get unequivocal consent, therefore he must be guilty of rape..

It's probably just a matter of time before “yes means yes” becomes the law in most states. Ms. Suk told me that she and her colleagues have noticed a generational divide between them and their students. As undergraduates, they’re learning affirmative consent in their mandatory sexual-respect training sessions, and they come to “believe that this really is the best way to define consent, as positive agreement,” she says. When they graduate and enter the legal profession, they’ll probably reshape the law to reflect that belief.

Sex may become safer for some, but it will be a whole lot more anxiety-producing for others.

Earth Policy Institute closes today

Earth Policy institute - All good things must come to an end, and we at the Earth Policy Institute  find ourselves sadly at the end of a road filled with many successes. With our president and founder, Lester Brown, stepping down at the age of 81, we are closing our doors on June 30.

We are delighted to say that our website and all of its information, data, and research publications will remain available to you. The School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University has agreed to keep our site available as a legacy website.

Word: The Greek crisis

Joseph Stiglitz, Guardian The rising crescendo of bickering and acrimony within Europe might seem to outsiders to be the inevitable result of the bitter endgame playing out between Greece and its creditors. In fact, European leaders are finally beginning to reveal the true nature of the ongoing debt dispute, and the answer is not pleasant: it is about power and democracy much more than money and economics. Greece debt crisis: Thousands of no supporters protest, as EC urges yes vote - as it happened Governments of France, Germany and Italy all warn that Greeks are voting on their eurozone membership on Sunday, as banks remain shut Read more

Of course, the economics behind the programme that the “troika” (the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) foisted on Greece five years ago has been abysmal, resulting in a 25% decline in the country’s GDP. I can think of no depression, ever, that has been so deliberate and had such catastrophic consequences: Greece’s rate of youth unemployment, for example, now exceeds 60%.

It is startling that the troika has refused to accept responsibility for any of this or admit how bad its forecasts and models have been. But what is even more surprising is that Europe’s leaders have not even learned. The troika is still demanding that Greece achieve a primary budget surplus (excluding interest payments) of 3.5% of GDP by 2018.

Economists around the world have condemned that target as punitive, because aiming for it will inevitably result in a deeper downturn. Indeed, even if Greece’s debt is restructured beyond anything imaginable, the country will remain in depression if voters there commit to the troika’s target in the snap referendum to be held this weekend.

In terms of transforming a large primary deficit into a surplus, few countries have accomplished anything like what the Greeks have achieved in the last five years. And, though the cost in terms of human suffering has been extremely high, the Greek government’s recent proposals went a long way toward meeting its creditors’ demands.

We should be clear: almost none of the huge amount of money loaned to Greece has actually gone there. It has gone to pay out private-sector creditors – including German and French banks. Greece has gotten but a pittance, but it has paid a high price to preserve these countries’ banking systems. The IMF and the other “official” creditors do not need the money that is being demanded. Under a business-as-usual scenario, the money received would most likely just be lent out again to Greece.

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How the test tyrants encourage cheating

NY Post - How do you fix a failing high school? Change the grades. Under pressure to boost student achievement, the state-designated “out of time” Automotive HS has resorted to rigging Regents exam scores. The failing scores of five students who took the Regents in January were switched to passing scores of 65 or higher on their transcripts, the city Department of Education has confirmed. One junior saw his scores upped to pass two exams required for graduation — Living Environment (biology) and algebra — even though he had failed both classes. ...

June 29, 2015

Governor: Puerto Rico can't pay its debt

NY Times - Puerto Rico’s governor, saying he needs to pull the island out of a “death spiral,” has concluded that the commonwealth cannot pay its roughly $72 billion in debts, an admission that will probably have wide-reaching financial repercussions.

The governor, Alejandro García Padilla, and senior members of his staff said in an interview last week that they would probably seek significant concessions from as many as all of the island’s creditors, which could include deferring some debt payments for as long as five years or extending the timetable for repayment.

“The debt is not payable,” Mr. García Padilla said. “There is no other option. I would love to have an easier option. This is not politics, this is math.”

It is a startling admission from the governor of an island of 3.6 million people, which has piled on more municipal bond debt per capita than any American state.

A broad restructuring by Puerto Rico sets the stage for an unprecedented test of the United States municipal bond market, which cities and states rely on to pay for their most basic needs, like road construction and public hospitals.

FBI investigating six black church fires

Independent, UK - Federal investigators are investigating a string of fires at black churches in the US – at least three of which have been named as arson.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives are involved in the investigation into the incidents — though the FBI says it’s too soon to tell if they’re at all connected. The churches targetted have majority black congregations.

“They’re being investigated to determine who is responsible and what motives are behind them,” FBI spokesperson Paul Bresson told BuzzFeed News. “I’m not sure there is any reason to link them together at this point.”

The probe into the fires comes days after Dylann Roof was charged with nine counts of murder over the deaths of nine people shot and killed on June 17 at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The outcry over the deaths has seen a campaign to remove the Confederate flag – seen by many as symbolising racism and which Mr Roof posed with in photographs – gather pace.

Six churches have burned in the past week, according to the Southern Poverty Law Centre. Three of them have been certified as being acts of arson. While investigators are still probing a possible link, the SPLC said the incidents may not be a coincidence.

The College Hill Seventh Day Adventist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. was set ablaze on June 22, along with a church van outside of the building. Investigators suspect it was arson, though one local report said was not being investigated as a hate crime.

Church sources told WTLV that hay bales were heaped up by a church entrance then set alight, eventually engulfing the building.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, God’s Power Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia, was also set ablaze.

Authorities told the Macon Telegraph the attack looks like arson, though tests are still being carried out to discover how the fire stared.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, the Briar Creek Road Baptist Church started burning around 1am Wednesday

Fire authorities are sure that blaze was arson as well, though they have not revealed their evidence.

Despite the huge damage to the building, congregants had returned by Sunday to worship at the site.

Also on Wednesday, the Fruitland Presbyterian Church in Gibson County, Tennessee, caught fire. According to local news station WBBJ, fire investigators there are keeping open the possibility of arson.

Friday morning saw the Glover Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Warrenville, South Carolina, catch fire as well.

Authorities there have yet to announce whether the fire was arson.

The College Heights Baptist Church in Elyria, Ohio, also caught fire on Saturday and authorities are investigating.

The Lorain Morning Journal said churchgoers held hands and prayed in the building’s car-park on Sunday while the building remained unusable.

A seventh church, the Greater Miracle Temple in Tallahassee, Florida, also caught fire on Friday. But the WTXL news station said the fire was probably caused when a tree fell onto power lines

Supreme Court rules independent commissions can redistrict

Washington Post - The Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4  that independent commissions may draw electoral district lines, saying that the people have a right to try to make the congressional redistricting process less partisan.

The case arose after Arizona voters opposed to congressional gerrymandering had taken the power away from state legislators.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg rejected the legislature’s contention that it alone has power over redistricting. She said the decision by voters to turn reapportionment over to an independent commission “was in full harmony with the Constitution’s conception of the people as the font of governmental power.”

California is the only other state that has diminished the legislature’s role similar to Arizona, but 11 other states have created commissions that have some sort of say about reapportionment.

American workers are burned out

Salon - A new study from Staples Advantage and WorkPlaceTrends — an HR-focused research firm — polled over 2,500 workers and reached troubling results. According to the data, 53 percent of American workers report feeling burned out at work.

With current working conditions, it’s easy to see why. A 2012 study concluded smartphones and tablets enable employers to further colonize a worker’s time to the tune of two extra hours a day since they can be reached at all hours. In 2014, Gallup estimated the typical American workweek was 47 hours, not 40; the American worker was toiling for almost a full extra day. Of the workers this recent study polled, more than half worked a day longer than eight hours.

Infrequently asked questions

From Forward Progressive:

Why are those so concerned over the sanctity of marriage not pushing for a ban on divorces?

Recycling helps the environment but not its workers

Michelle Chen, Nation - The industries that pride themselves on being friends of the earth are often hostile to workers, according to new research on the safety conditions in recycling plants. Published by the Massachusetts Council for Occupational Safety and Health, National COSH, and other advocacy groups, the analysis of the industry shows that, despite the green sector’s clean, progressive image, workers remain imperiled by old-school industrial hazards. Workers face intense stress, dangerous machinery, and inadequate safeguards, while toiling in strenuous positions amid constant toxic exposures.

Often the sorting of recyclables requires directly handling hazardous materials and improperly disposed waste, such as plastic bags that accumulate and cause potentially deadly clogs in machines. Some cities allow dumping of “mixed” trash, leaving workers to separate metal cans from organic waste, or battery fluid from old meatloaf (cities could prevent such dangers through the slight inconvenience of simply requiring people to separate garbage beforehand).

Though they might lack proper safety training or protective gear, workers might routinely encounter used syringes, glass shards, noxious oil residue, or the odd squirrel.

In MassCOSH’s announcement of the report, former Boston recycling worker Mirna Santizo recalled, “We would find lots of glass, and needles. Sometimes workers are punctured and hurt from the needles. We would find dead animals in the bins and it really stinks.” Research shows composting and recycling workers also suffer “exposures and illnesses associated with inhaling endotoxins” emitted by rotting waste.

According to federal statistics, “The rate of nonfatal injury incidents in [recycling facilities] was 8.5 per 100 workers in 2012. This is much higher than the rate for all industries (3.5 per 100 workers) higher than the average for all waste management and remediation services (5.1 per 100 workers).”

A 2013 survey found seven in ten recycling workers suffered workplace injury or illness, including “musculoskeletal disorders such as injuries to the back and knees (reported by 57 percent of workers), and scrapes and cuts (reported by 43 percent of workers).” Between 2011 and 2013, 17 recycling workers died on the job.

America's record breaking police kill rate

NY Daily News - Journalists with both the Washington Post and the Guardian are organizing an important databases of fatal police shootings with information about the victims’ age, gender, location, race, and other circumstances. This is a tremendous step to shed light on the understudied question of how many people police kill.

 The overall homicide rate is 5 per 100,000... Although official statistics have historically been scant, we now know that police killed 1,100 Americans in 2014 and 476 Americans in the first five months of 2015. Given that America has roughly 765,000 sworn police officers, that means the police-against-citizen kill rate is more than 145 per 100,000.

In most countries in Europe the national homicide rate is 1 per 100,000, so that means American police kill at 145 times the rate of the average European citizen. The two most violent countries in the world are Venezuela and Honduras with national homicide rates of 54 and 90 per 100,000.

The American police kill rate also compares poorly to the police kill rates in other countries. Nationwide in England and Wales, Netherlands, and Scandinavian countries police average killing less than two people per year, giving police kill rates between a high of 9 per 100,000 in Denmark and a low of 1.6 per 100,000 in England and Wales. That means American police are killing citizens at a rate 15 times higher than police in Denmark and 90 times higher than police in England and Wales. For the first quarter of 2015, police in England and Wales have shot and killed a total of zero people, whereas American police killed 392 citizens in that time period. That rate is 205 kills per 100,000 police, infinitely higher than the zero in the land we once rebelled against for having standing armies on our soil. Last year police in Japan killed zero and police in Iceland reportedly have killed one person in their entire history.

As we were saying. . . .

The Review has been one of the few progressive journals willing to report on how conservative Bill Clinton actually was, the furthest to the right since at least Woodrow Wilson. So we're glad to see Alternet catch up with the facts.

Alternet
 Prison-loving president. In May, on the heels of the unrest in Baltimore sparked by Freddie Gray’s death in police custody, Clinton apologized for locking too many people up. Thanks, Bill.  The 2.4 million people in prison and the 160,000 Americans serving life in prison largely because of his policies might be excused for not accepting Clinton's apology. Tag-teaming with ex-President Ronald Reagan, Clinton is the president most responsible for the mass incarceration of Americans on an epic scale. The gung-ho crime fighter-in-chief passed the single most damaging law with his omnibus federal crime bill in 1994, which included the infamous “three strikes” law (three felony convictions means a life sentence) and ensured that mandatory minimum sentences imprisoned even low-level, non-violent offenders for a long, long time....

Clinton’s Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 helped set the national mood. Dozens of states followed with their own mandatory minimum laws. While there is some talk today of criminal justice reform on a minor level (like for low-level drug offenses), no one is talking about the all-but-forgotten population doing hard time thanks in large part to Clinton.

Punitive welfare reform. The consequences of Bill Clinton’s welfare reform bill have been devastating for millions of American families. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 took a page directly from Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America. In an atmosphere steeped in decades of conservative scaremongering around the specter of sexually reckless “welfare queens,” Clinton’s 1992 campaign promise to “end welfare as we know it” played directly to white voters' fears of black crime and poverty. Twenty years after scrapping the longstanding Aid to Families with Dependent Children in favor of the right wing’s underfunded and more punitive vision, the number of poor American children has exploded and black welfare recipients are subject to the system’s most stringent rules.

In 2012, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that while “in 1996, for every 100 families with children living in poverty, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families provided cash aid to 68 families,” that number plunged to 27 out of every 100 families living in poverty by 2010. Conservatives trumpet these numbers, often citing the fact that nationally, TANF enrollment fell 58 percent between 1995-2010. But they neglect to mention that the number of poor families with children rose 17 percent in the same period.

Sociologist Joe Soss, who has examined the long-term racial consequences of welfare reform, which allowed states to decide how funds were allotted and eligibility determined, also noted that, “all of the states with more African Americans on the welfare rolls chose tougher rules…Even though the Civil Rights Act prevents the government from creating different programs for black and white recipients, when states choose according to this pattern, it ends up that large numbers of African Americans get concentrated in the states with the toughest rules, and large numbers of white recipients get concentrated in the states with the more lenient rules.”

Wall Street’s Deregulator-in-Chief. As president, Clinton outdid the GOP when it came to unleashing Wall Street’s worst instincts, by supporting and signing into law more financial deregulation legislation than any other president, according to the Columbia Journalism Review.

He didn’t just push the Democrats controlling the House to pass a bill (Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act) that dissolved the Depression-era Glass-Steagall law, which barred investment banks from commercial banking activities. He deregulated the risky derivatives market (Commodity Futures Modernization Act), gutted state regulation of banks (Riegle-Neal) leading to a wave of banking mergers, and reappointed Alan Greenspan as Federal Reserve chair. In recent years, Clinton has ludicrously claimed that the GOP forced him to do this, which led in no small part to the global financial crisis of 2008 and the too-big-to-fail ethos, with the federal government obligated to bail out multinational banks while doing little for individual account holders.

CJR concludes, “The bottom line is: Bill Clinton was responsible for more damaging financial deregulation—and thus, for the [2008] financial crisis—than any other president.”

Gutted manufacturing via trade agreements. Bill Clinton helped gut America’s manufacturing base by promoting and passing the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, in 1993, when Democrats controlled Congress. That especially resonates today, when another Democratic president, Barack Obama, and Republicans in Congress, are allied against labor unions and liberal Democrats to pass its like-minded descendant, the Trans Pacific Partnership. “NAFTA signaled that the Democratic Party—the “progressive” side of the U.S. two-party system—had accepted the reactionary economic ideology of Ronald Reagan,” wrote Jeff Faux, on the Economic Policy Institute Working Economics Blog.

In 1979, then-candidate Reagan proposed a trade pact between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. But the Democrats who controlled the Congress would not approve it until Clinton pushed it in his first year in office. NAFTA has affected U.S. workers in four major ways, EPI said. It caused the permanent loss of 700,000 manufacturing jobs in industrial states such as California, Texas and Michigan. It gave corporate managers an excuse to cut wages and benefits, threatening otherwise to move to Mexico. Selling U.S. farm products in Mexico “dislocated millions of Mexican workers and their families,” which “was a major cause in the dramatic increase in undocumented workers flowing into the U.S. labor market.” And NAFTA became a “template for rules of the emerging global economy, in which the benefits would flow to capital and the costs to labor.”

Expanded the war on drugs. Although Clinton called for treatment instead of prison for drug offenders during his 1992 campaign, once in office he reverted to the same drug war strategies of his Republican predecessors. He rejected the U.S. Sentencing Commission's recommendation to eliminate the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences. He rejected lifting the federal ban on funding for needle exchange programs. He placed a permanent eligibility ban on food stamps for anyone convicted of a felony drug offense, even marijuana possession. And he prohibited felons from living in public housing.

He also championed the 1994 crime bill, a $30 billion effort that included more mandatory minimum sentences for crack cocaine, extra funds for states that severely punished convicts, limited judges' discretion in sentencing, and allocated billions for federal prison construction and expansion. During Clinton's tenure, federal prison spending jumped $19 billion (171%), while funding for public housing declined by $17 billion (61%). Under Clinton, nearly $1 billion in state spending shifted from education to prisons.

The U.S. prison population doubled from about 600,000 to about 1.2 million during the Clinton years, and the federal prison population swelled even more dramatically, driven almost entirely by drug war prosecutions. Yet a month before leaving office, Clinton said in a Rolling Stone interview that "we really need a re-examination of our entire policy on imprisonment" of drug users and that pot smoking "should be decriminalized." If only he had acted on those sentiments when it mattered.

Expanded the death penalty. When running for president in 1992, then-Arkansas Gov. Clinton allowed his state to execute Ricky Ray Rector, a convicted murderer with severe mental impairments. Despite much criticism, Clinton's decision not to commute the sentence not only established his tough-on-crime credentials as a national candidate, it also became a precedent to the expansion of the federal death penalty under his White House.

Clinton’s 1994 crime bill expanded the death penalty to 60 additional crimes including three that don’t involve murder: espionage, treason and drug trafficking in large amounts. Throughout his presidency he ignored calls for a national moratorium on federal executions. In April 1996, Clinton followed up and signed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act into law. Introduced by Kansas Republican Sen. Bob Dole in response to the Oklahoma City bombings in 1995, it severely restricted the ability of federal judges to grant relief in cases, reduced trials for convicted criminals and sped up the sentencing process.

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