April 24, 2017

Trump out to wreck an agency started by a Republican president

Wikipedia - President Richard Nixon proposed the establishment of EPA and it began operation on December 2, 1970, after Nixon signed an executive order. The order establishing the EPA was ratified by committee hearings in the House and Senate.

New film about the woman who took on urban planners and developers

Guardian - She was a beaky, bespectacled architecture writer, hardly a figure likely to ignite protests that changed the shape of one of the world’s great cities. Yet such is the legend of Jane Jacobs and her bitter struggles to preserve the heart of New York from modernisation that a film charting her astonishing victories over some of the most powerful developers in the US is set to inspire a new generation of urban activists around the world.

Citizen Jane: Battle for the City tells the story of Jacobs, author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, who made herself the bane of New York’s powerful city planners from the 1950s to 1970s. Her nemesis was Robert Moses, the city’s powerful master builder and advocate of urban renewal, or wholesale neighbourhood clearance – what author James Baldwin termed “negro removal”.

Moses dismissed the protesters as “a bunch of mothers”, and attempted to ignore their efforts to attract wider attention, which included taping white crosses across their glasses in the style of Jacobs.

But through a combination of grassroots activism, fundraising and persistence, Jacobs blocked Moses and successive city overlords from running Fifth Avenue through the historic Washington Square, tearing down much of SoHo and Little Italy to make way for a billion-dollar expressway, and building a six-lane highway up Manhattan’s west side.

Grad students at American University form union

Union City - Graduate student workers at American University voted earlier this month to organize a union with SEIU Local 500, which also represents AU’s adjunct faculty. It will be the District’s first union for working graduate students.

“Forming a union was never about quick fixes to issues, but about creating a space for developing long term solutions to issues like economic and academic uncertainty," said Scott Patrick, a first-year doctoral student in government and comparative politics. The National Labor Relations Board said last summer that graduate student employees at private institutions are entitled to collective bargaining.

While a number of private institutions have challenged the NLRB’s decision and their students’ right to collective bargaining, AU spokesperson Camille Lepre said via email that the university "respects the choice of the majority of the graduate students who voted, and it does not intend to file a legal challenge to the election results. We look forward to engaging in a constructive dialogue with the union about issues related to our graduate students."

Hollywood writers' strike?

LA Times -Members of the Writers Guild of America are expected to give their leaders authority to call a strike against the major film and TV companies after their contract expires May 1.

If writers walk off the job, scores of productions would be halted at a time when Los Angeles is enjoying a surge in the number of TV shows that shoot in the region.

Both sides remain far apart on key issues, people close to the negotiations said. The writers maintain that they have suffered from the brunt of dramatic changes that have reshaped television, the economic engine of the industry. The guild, which has nearly 13,000 members, also has asked the companies to contribute more to the union’s health plan, which has incurred deficits in recent years.

The escalation of labor tensions has caught the industry off guard. TV networks and studios have been scrambling to come up with contingency plans, including delaying the premieres of scripted shows they planned to roll out in the summer months and brushing up scripts for movies nearing production.

“This just kind of sneaked up on us,” one programming executive said.

At least Trump isn't this bad

Portland Ptress Herald - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warned Sunday that he could be “50 times” more brutal than Muslim militants who stage beheadings and said he could even “eat” the extremists if they’re captured alive by troops.... The foul-mouthed president said that if a terrorist was presented to him when he’s in a foul mood, “give me salt and vinegar and I’ll eat his liver.”

Loneliness as a public health issue

Jessica Brown, The Week -  Humans are inherently social animals, and our health suffers if we're cut off from social ties. So it's no wonder the so-called loneliness "epidemic" is being called a public health crisis. But as we sit on the cusp of massive technological advances, the near future could exacerbate this growing problem.

Loneliness can happen to anyone. It is indiscriminate of age, country, and social status. In Britain, more than one in eight people say they don't consider anyone a close friend, and the number of Americans who say they have no close friends has roughly tripled in recent decades. A large proportion of the lonely are young; almost two-thirds of 16- to 24-year-old Brits said they feel lonely at least some of the time, while almost a third are lonely often or all the time.

One pervasive source of our loneliness is technology. While it offers an easy way to keep in contact with friends — and meet new people through dating and friendship apps — technology's omnipresence encourages shallow conversations that can distract us from meaningful, real-life, interactions. Researchers at the University of Essex found that having a phone nearby, even if we don't check it, can be detrimental to our attempts at connecting with others. Smartphones have transformed post office lines from a chance for some small-talk with the neighbors to an exercise in email-checking, and sealed the fate of coffee shops as nothing more than places of mutual isolation. And technology will only become more ingrained in our lives.


Facing the quarter century Democratic Party disaster

Sam Smith – Buried in the second to last paragraph of a Washington Post story on its new poll with ABC that found Trump having only a 42% approval rating, was one of the most stunning survey results seen in years:

The new survey finds 46 percent saying they voted for Clinton and 43 percent for Trump, similar to her two-point national vote margin. Asked how they would vote if the election were held today, 43 [percent] say they would support Trump and 40 percent say Clinton.

This is further evidence of two major stories that Democrats and major media have been unwilling to face, namely that the Democratic policies of the past quarter century have been a disaster and that the Clintons (and, to a lesser extent, Obama) were a significant part of that disaster. 

While both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama stayed in office for two terms, what was unreported was what was happening to their party as a whole. but based in part on stats from Associate Professor Nick Hillman of theUniversity of Wisconsin:

Democrats won 11 new Senate seats during the Reagan years for a 7 seat majority. Two years into Clinton’s administration the Democrats had lost nine of those seats and by George Bush’s election had suffered a tie in the Senate.

Obama started with a 6 seat Senate majority but by the end of his administration had a four seat minority.

At the time of Clinton’s election, Democrats had an 82 seat lead in the House. By the end of his term, the Republicans had a 9 seat lead. At the time of Obama’s election, the Democrats had a 78 seat lead in the House. At the end of his terms, the GOP had a 47 seat lead.

At the time of Clinton’s election, Democrats controlled 19 more state legislatures than the GOP.  By the time of Bush’s election, the GOP controlled 2 more than the Dems. When Obama won,  the Dems controlled 13 more state legislatures that the GOP. By the time of Trunp’s election the GOP controlled 18 more than the Dems.

And in 1995 the Democrats controlled 30 governorships. By 2016 that was down to 18.

This is a loss that is all the more remarkable given that the media almost entirely failed to report it.

Ironically, liberals bought into both Clinton and Obama despite their being creations of the conservative Democratic Leadership Council which was trying to move the party to the right. While Obama tried to disassociate himself from DLC, the fact is that he remained far from a traditional liberal.

But then liberals in general had become increasingly an upscale cultural demographic rather than a political ideology and in the process had dumped their loyalty to lower wage workers, especially non-urban ones. Economic issues helping the lower classes disappeared from the liberal agenda.

It’s well past time for Democrats to dump the Clintons and Obama and rediscover their roots. They’ve had a quarter century trying something different and it’s been a disaster.

Jazz break