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Reposted from jpmassar by jpmassar

A simple tweetpic essay.

Putting the final touches on chalk art at Oscar Grant Plaza before the march arrives. The March in Solidarity Against Police Terror, called by ILWU Local 10 and community organizations united against murder by police, left the Port of Oakland as scheduled at 10:00 AM and arrived at Oscar Grant Plaza outside of City Hall in downtown Oakland at 11:30 AM.

The pre-march rally at the Port of Oakland. Mollie Costello, of the Alan Blueford Center for Justice, revs up a crowd that reached nearly one thousand people.

Out of the Port, into West Oakland.

The post-march rally at Oscar Grant Plaza. I'm in there! One of more than a thousand.

More tweetpics and tweetvideos below.

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Reposted from greywolfe359 by greywolfe359

I was born in 1979. It's a year that many economists have now found to be a turning point. From the end of the Great Depression until the year I was born, American productivity and prosperity increased steadily over time. Wealth, productivity and wages followed the same basic trend upward. Then, in 1979, something happened. Wealth and productivity continued to climb. But real wages, adjusted for inflation, have stayed flat for 90% of us. This is the single biggest issue of our time and if we don't fix it we aren't going to fix any of our other problems either. Can we bring hope and renewed prosperity to Baltimore if 99% of all our growth in wealth is sucked up by Wall Street? Can we restore it anywhere without changing that single basic fact?

The 1980s introduced us to trickle down economics. Trickle down economics are an abysmal failure for everyone except the top 1%. But even Democratic presidents and Congresses have failed to halt their spread. Clinton and Obama may have put the brakes on trickle down trends (tapping those brakes ever so slightly less they offend the people who fund their campaigns) but no one has been serious about not only stopping the evisceration of the middle class but reversing the trend.

Until now.


Which candidate would actually stand with workers and stand up to Wall Street?

76%80 votes
4%5 votes
13%14 votes
4%5 votes

| 104 votes | Vote | Results

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Sun Apr 26, 2015 at 10:32 AM PDT

A Photo from Baltimore.

by jpmassar

Reposted from jpmassar by jpmassar



There is nothing wrong with families framing their struggle solely in terms of their child who was killed; similarly, there is nothing wrong with the community framing their uprising within the context of police murder after police murder with nothing but an increasingly armed and hostile police force killing more young black men on the horizon...


Sun Apr 26, 2015 at 10:14 AM PDT

The Failure of Privatization

by T C Gibian

Reposted from TCG by Ojibwa

Sell Yosemite! Dump the Post Office, the prison system, education, Social Security!!  Conservatives have been pushing this agenda for decades, insisting that private ownership would increase efficiency, but would it?

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Reposted from joe shikspack by joe shikspack

Back in 2013, in the aftermath of his murder of Americans Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16 year old son, when Mr. Obama was trying to justify his arrogated powers to incinerate people with his fleet of flying death robots, he made certain assertions about the process by which he and his merry minions selected victims [bolding mine]:

First, there must be a legal basis for using lethal force, whether it is against a senior operational leader of a terrorist organization or the forces that organization is using or intends to use to conduct terrorist attacks.  

Second, the United States will use lethal force only against a target that poses a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons. It is simply not the case that
all terrorists pose a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons; if a terrorist does not pose such a threat, the United States will not use lethal force.

Third, the following criteria must be met before
lethal action may be taken:

1) Near certainty that the terrorist target is present;

2) Near certainty that non - combatants will not be injured or killed;

3) An assessment that capture is not feasible at the time of the operation;

4) An assessment that the relevant governmental authorities in the country where action is contemplated cannot or will not effectively address the threat to U.S.
persons; and

5) An assessment that no other reasonable alternatives exist to effectively address the threat to U.S. persons.

Further on in the document Obama states:
These decisions will be informed by a broad
analysis of an intended target’s current and past role in
plots threatening U.S. persons.
Fast forward to 2015.

From recent news coverage:

The White House was forced to concede on Thursday that it killed two innocent hostages – one American, one Italian – in a drone strike that targeted an al-Qaida compound despite officials not knowing precisely who was in the vicinity. ...

Conceding that the operation was not ordered against any individual targets, Earnest said the administration only discovered later that the compound was occupied by Weinstein, La Porto and another American named Ahmed Farouq, who the White House says was a “leader” of the terrorist group.

Farouq was not, however, the target of the operation. The drone strike was not targeted at known al-Qaida members; instead, it was directed against anyone in the vicinity of what the US believed was a compound being used by the terrorist group.

Here's one of today's headlines:

White House admits: we didn't know who drone strike was aiming to kill

Here's a little additional information:

The targets of the deadly drone strikes that killed two hostages and two suspected American members of al-Qaida were “al-Qaida compounds” rather than specific terrorist suspects, the White House disclosed on Thursday. ...

The two US civilians killed, longtime English-language propagandist Adam Gadahn and Ahmed Farouq of al-Qaida in the Indian subcontinent, were not “high-value targets” marked for death, he confirmed.

What we have here is very strong evidence that at best Mr. Obama is operating in bad faith with the American people and at worst he is a devious liar.

The standards that he proclaimed in the document entitled "U.S. Policy Standards and Procedures for the Use of Force in Counterterrorism Operations Outside the United States and Areas of Active Hostilities" are nothing but a sham.

To wit: Obama did not know that the persons he incinerated posed "a continuing, imminent threat to US persons," Obama did not know to a "near certainty that the [or any] terrorist target [was] present," and one can only hope that he isn't lying that he did not know to a "near certainty that non - combatants will not be injured or killed."

Further, since Obama had no idea of who he was incinerating, it would be impossible to know whether they could have been captured, that the relevant authorities would not have cooperated in "effectively addressing the [unknown] threat" that the unknown persons posed, nor could Obama have known of any other reasonable alternatives existed.

There's good reason to wonder if Obama ever really knows who is present when he sends his flying death robots. Amy Goodman points out on Democracy Now:

Despite hundreds of hours of surveillance, the White House said it had no reason to believe the U.S. and Italian hostages were being detained in the al-Qaeda compound targeted during the operation.
It appears that the methods by which Obama collects information in order to verify to a "near certainty that non - combatants will not be injured or killed" is horribly unreliable and hence amounts to a violation of his stated standards. Frankly, if the intelligence that Obama collects "hundreds of hours of" is this poor, then there would seem to be no reasonable basis for his flying death robot attacks at all.

Regardless of whether use of the intelligence was negligent, it is quite plain that no "broad analysis of an intended target’s current and past role in plots threatening U.S. persons," was ever conducted, since of course, there was no intended target.

It's not like this, "let's blow some stuff up and see who we kill," is something new for Obama, though:

Secrecy, misdirection and lies have shielded much of the public from the realization that US drone strikes have killed countless civilians in the past decade

For years, the vast majority of drone strikes victims have never been positively identified as terrorists. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which has the most comprehensive data on drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, published a study last year showing only 12% of victims were identified as militants and only 4% were identified as members of al-Qaida. This study is backed up by the excellent reporting by McClatchy’s Jonathan Landay, who gained access to years of classified CIA reports to show that the vast majority of drone strike victims were not high level terrorist operatives like the administration claimed.

And we know the government thinks it can kill US citizens overseas without a trial or even a finding by any independent body. Despite a clear public interest in knowing about such an extreme claim to power, the Justice Department has fought to keep its supposed legal authority for drone strikes on Americans completely secret.

When will there be accountability?
Unfortunately, members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committee have been the biggest cheerleaders of drone strikes, rather than their biggest skeptics. ... If there’s ever going to be accountability for the CIA and military drone program, we need a fully independent commission, divorced from the intelligence committees. Without it, this controversy will just fade back into the background, where it will stay hidden under the government’s ever-expanding veil of secrecy.
Obama has irresponsibly used the vast powers that come with the office of President. His use of the fleet of flying death robots under his command is both a crime and a national disgrace.

To use an idiom that the President is known for, it is time for Americans to step up and take away the car keys.


Wed Apr 22, 2015 at 05:33 PM PDT

Campaign Cost Reform?

by stancutler

Reposted from Two Democratic Conventions by stancutler

Regulating the money contributed to election campaigns, Campaign Finance Reform, is a failed approach. Can the problem be approached from the cost side? Rather than trying to limit contributions, wouldn't it be more effective to cut the costs?


Regarding campaign cost reform,

14%1 votes
28%2 votes
0%0 votes
57%4 votes

| 7 votes | Vote | Results

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In case you missed it, the billionaires' final solution to the problem of the American middle class (as created by FDR) has been underway since the 2008 crash.

For six centuries there has been a Jewish Krakow. By this evening those six centuries will be a rumor. They never happened. Today is history.

  - Amon Goeth in Shindler's List

Of course, three generations of the post-WW2 middle class cannot objectively be compared to the six hundred years of the Kracow ghetto; but it is one-third of American history. We are watching an entire economic class being thrown out of decent jobs, healthcare, and education while having their every button-push, utterance, and public appearance recorded. It is not a concentration camp; but it is an open-air panopticon prison/sweatshop. In short, it is "an historic event".
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Reposted from joedemocrat by joedemocrat

I'm tired of the war on the poor. I'm tired of running into people, including Democrats, who support the war on the poor. This is not a rebuttal to any Daily Kos diary. This is a rebuttal to what I've run into in real life.

In Missouri, Republicans have proposed a new law to prohibit SNAP program recipients from buying "junk food" and expensive food such as steak and seafood.  

This bill is not aimed at helping food stamp recipients eat healthier, low cost meals. This is a Republican ruse to cut the program. The Republican Party doesn't have any interest in the food stamp program except to cut it. The linked article from Politicus USA points this out:

Furthermore, the rationale for banning specific types of food is based more in right-wing mythology about the poor people eating lavishly off of SNAP (more commonly referred to by critics as “food stamps”) benefits than it is based on any objective reality.
In real life, someone I thought was a liberal Democrat is all in favor of this law. She has seen "first hand" the kind of junk food SNAP recipients buy. I didn't comment because I wouldn't have been nice. The people who did made neutral comments such as "there are two sides of the food stamp debate" and "cooking is a skill."
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Reposted from Senator Bernie Sanders by Libby Shaw

The good news is that the economy today is much better than it was six years ago when George W. Bush left office. The bad news is that, despite these improvements, the 40-year decline of the American middle class continues. Real unemployment is much too high, 35 million Americans continue to have no health insurance and more of our friends and neighbors are living in poverty than at almost any time in the modern history of our country.

Meanwhile, as the rich become much richer, the level of income and wealth inequality has reached obscene and unimaginable levels. In the United States, we have the most unequal level of wealth and income distribution of any major country on earth, and worse now then at any other time since the 1920s. Today, the top one-tenth of 1 percent of our nation owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, and one family owns more wealth than the bottom 42 percent. In terms of income, 99 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent.

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Reposted from jpmassar by jpmassar

 photo refusal-poster-3-2012_zpsr2u69zhq.jpg

Although Prock finally has the degree,
the only potential job the college helped her find was a janitorial position...

Strike 1:

This morning the Debt Collective announced that a hundred more students and former students have joined a Debt Strike, creating the Corinthian 100.

A month ago the Debt Collective, the brainchild of Strike Debt, itself an offshoot of Occupy, organized the Corinthian 15 - a group of students who went to a cheating, lying, and now bankrupt for-profit university and were willing to announce publicly that they were refusing to pay their student loans. The announcement garnered national and even international attention.

The Corinthian "debt strike" ... has expanded from 15 to 100 former students... The strike is part of a broader effort to pressure the government into forgiving the debt of former students of the controversial college chain, which is in the process of shutting itself down in the wake of lawsuits and investigations. The strike has gained supporters in Washington and nationally, with several prominent legislators criticizing the Education Department for bailing out the struggling for-profit college operator last summer, but continuing to hold students on the hook for their loans.
 photo still-owe-45k_zps9f447a25.jpg

Strike 2:

Representatives from the Corinthian students, along with organizers from the Debt Collective, have been invited to talk to an official from the Department of Education at a meeting tomorrow (Tuesday, March 31st) between people from the Consumer Financial Protection Agency and the Department of Education. DoE has so far refused to do anything about Federal loans Corinthian students obtained after being told fraudulent claims on Corinthian's part.

Protesters representing about 100 current and former Corinthian students are meeting on Tuesday with officials with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) as well as the DOE. Though the financial watchdog agency lacks direct regulatory authority over the DOE, it has expressed general concern about unjust financial practices that have fueled the for-profit college model.

CFPB's student loan ombudsperson Rohit Chopra has written to the strikers, stating that the CFPB would like to discuss potential "ways to address the burden of their student loans."

 photo refusal-everest_zps298fid3o.gif

Strike 3:

The Debt Collective has initiated another tactic against Corinthian: a legal manuever called Defense to Repayment. This involves asserting fraudulent representations on the part of Corinthian representatives as they convinced people to sign up and take on student loans, legally rendering the debt so incurred dischargable without payment.  Tomorrow (March 31st) they will be sending hundreds of Debt to Repayment demand letters to the appropriate state officials on behalf of Corinthian students and former students, some debt strikers, others not.

Under a little-known regulation called the Defense of Repayment law, students are eligible for a full discharge on their loans and refund of money paid if the schools they attended have violated state consumer protection laws. To date, 300 people have filed Defense of Repayment forms under the Debt Collective banner, which will be turned into the Department of Education in advance of the strikers’ meeting on Tuesday. The department will have 30 days to respond.
Those exploited by Corinthian's tactics (attendees of Everest, Heald and Wytech colleges) can fill out a form to create a Defense to Repayment letter courtesy of the Debt Collective.   

These are tactics in an overarching battle against all student debt, and even more generally, against all unjust debts.

The central principle is that if you want to pursue a higher education, you should owe nothing to anyone. The education-debt crisis reflects the financialization of the education system - whether through usurious for-profit institutions, or high-risk private student loans that finance both public and private schools, or the student loan industry in general. The push to marketize college not only drains resources from public institutions and core instructional programs, but also potentially hampers long-term social mobility for lower-income students.
Strike Debt has calculated how costly it would be to make all higher public education free (answer: almost nothing per year, when looked at as a fraction - 0.3 percent - of the Federal budget).

Many countries have made their higher education free. Student debt in the United States has reached epic proportions, and it is both ridiculous as a concept and a drag on the economy.  

It should be abolished, and the first step in doing so is fighting back. May the Corinthian 100 grow into the Debt Strike 1,000,000!

 photo never-pay-off-my-debt_zpsd9orhxeg.png

Fri Mar 27, 2015 at 03:22 AM PDT

Why The TPP is a Game Changer

by praenomen

Reposted from praenomen by gulfgal98

In February 2008, with only two candidates left in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Barack Obama distributed a flier to Ohio voters denouncing Hillary Clinton’s support of NAFTA. The pamphlet was deceptive, not because the accusations he leveled against Clinton were untrue, but because it sent a message to workers that the young senator was a strong supporter of union labor and that he was a vigilant crusader against unfair trade practices.

And like so many populist ideals that Obama has championed in public, while repudiating them in private; the position he staked out in the flier was designed to mislead voters, as was evidenced by his tepid support of Wisconsin union members during the battle over Act 10, Scott Walker’s lead-in to the passage of right-to-work legislation. And Wisconsin workers are still suffering the sting of that defeat; one year after Act 10 was enacted, union membership in Wisconsin dropped from 50% to 37%. In fact, under Obama’s leadership, union membership has hit a 100-year low; just one of the many embarrassing records that will taint his legacy.

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Reposted from joe shikspack by joe shikspack

Leaders in Congress, particularly John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi are preparing another bipartisan fiasco in order to reward a particularly powerful constituency and stop them from engaging in their annual screamfest.

Every year, due to the structure of Medicare created by previous legislation, doctors and healthcare providers face an adjustment of their pay from the government for services to Medicare recipients. There is a provision in the current Medicare law that creates a "Sustainable Growth Rate" (SGR) for Medicare payments based upon economic growth. Since medical costs have far outpaced economic growth for years, this means that doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers face a cut in their pay for services to Medicare patients every year.

Because doctors and the healthcare industry have incredibly powerful lobbies working for them, Congress hears their screams loud and clear.

This has resulted in congressional action:

On 17 occasions in the last 12 years, Congress has passed legislation to block such cuts without fundamentally changing the payment formula.

The screaming for Congress to fix this has got Congress' attention:

With deep pockets and huge memberships, politically influential physician organizations think they’re on the cusp of achieving something they’ve aggressively sought for years: a congressional cure for a Medicare payment system that regularly threatens to cut their fees. ...

“We’ve finally got Medicare’s  Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formulaon the ropes,” Texas Medical Association President Austin King wrote to the group’s members earlier this month. “Let’s deliver the knockout punch right now.” ...

“I’ve heard nonstop from doctors without ceasing since I was a candidate in 2011that there needs to be a permanent fix,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va. “It has never not been intense." ... Rep. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, said, “I’ve heard the argument that if we don’t vote for the doc fix that doctors will campaign against us.”

Repeal of the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate has long been the main target of the physicians’ lobby. The 232,000-member American Medical Association alone  spent $19,650,000 on lobbyinglast year, according to the Center for Responsive PoliticsOpen Secrets website. ... The AMA’s political action committee  contributed nearly $1,679,800to House and Senate candidates last year. ... The American College of Radiology’s political action committee doled out $1,781,750 in campaign contributions last year on top of $3,884,585 in lobbying expenses, according to Center for Responsive Politics figures.

David Dayen has a really good article up on Fiscal Times explaining what Bipartisans Pelosi and Boehner have come up with:
There would reportedly be more means-testing for Medicare beneficiaries, increasing premiums for seniors showing income over $133,000 and couples over $266,000. These seniors would have to pay 65 percent of their total costs under the new plan. This would go up at higher incomes. Means-testing historically dips lower and lower as budgeters try to get more out of beneficiaries, so this continues that ratcheting process for Medicare. It’s not necessarily where this line is set now but where it might go in the future that should cause concern.

Under the deal, new Medigap policies — privately sold but publicly managed plans which fill in spaces in Medicare coverage — would need a $250 deductible starting in 2020. Virtually every senior I’ve ever spoken with says that they need supplementary coverage because Medicare doesn’t stretch far enough. But this would raise out-of-pocket expenses on all 9 million seniors with a Medigap plan, including the 86 percent of these beneficiaries who have incomes under $40,000, and almost half with incomes below $20,000. So this cut hits those who can’t really afford it. (This idea, along with the means-testing, was in President Obama’s budget, incidentally.)

See who gets to pay the bill for this?
The proper term for this is cost-shifting, pushing funding for a public program onto those who get the benefits. Medigap was created to deal with cost-shifting in Medicare, and now Congress may look to shift costs within it as well. And like means-testing, cost-shifting is prime terrain for double-dipping over time.
And look at who doesn't have to take a haircut:
All of this is being done to protect doctor salaries, which are among the highest in the industrialized world.
Dayen links to this article in the New England Journal of Medicine that shows the majority of healthcare spending goes to salaries:
Of the $2.6 trillion spent in 2010 on health care in the United States, 56% consisted of wages for health care workers. Labor is by far the largest category of expense: health care, as it is designed and delivered today, is very labor-intensive. The 16.4 million U.S. health care employees represented 11.8% of the total employed labor force in 2010. Yet unlike virtually all other sectors of the U.S. economy, health care has experienced no gains over the past 20 years in labor productivity, defined as output per worker (in health care, the “output” is the volume of activity — including all encounters, tests, treatments, and surgeries — per unit of cost). Although it is possible that some gains in quality have been achieved that are not reflected in productivity gains, it's striking that health care is not experiencing anything near the gains achieved in other sectors. At the same time, health care labor is becoming more expensive more quickly than other types of labor. Even through the recession, when wages fell in other sectors, health care wages grew at a compounded annual rate of 3.4% from 2005 to 2010.
Those doctors must have a really effective union representing them!

Dayen also points out one other less obvious way that the bipartisans will be robbing patients to reward the screaming healthcare industry:

Doctor payment rates are tied to Medicare premiums, as the Congressional Budget Office has explained: “Beneficiaries enrolled in Part B of Medicare pay premiums that offset about 25 percent of the costs of those benefits.” This means that any permanent change to a new doctor payment formula will likely result in a hike to Part B premiums.
Those folks that aren't represented by powerful lobbies apparently have a couple of days to scream at their "representatives" to stop this monstrosity that will likely cause people with lesser incomes to forego needed medical care. The bipartisans are feeling good about their prospects for getting the doctors off their backs and sticking us with the bill:
House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said on Tuesday that prospects were good for passage of a permanent fix to Medicare's flawed doctor-pay formula that would spare physicians from impending steep pay cuts. ...

Earlier on Tuesday, Boehner and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi announced that bipartisan legislation had been introduced to change the way doctors are reimbursed for Medicare costs. A vote is expected on Thursday.

Thursday. Hey, that's today!

Better call your congressperson and share the Secret Word with them. The secret word is "Medicare."

You know what to do when somebody (even you) says the secret word - scream real loud!

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