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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Home country: Citizen of the world whose address is in the U.S.
Current location: Detroit, Michigan
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 68,208

Journal Archives

Every Republican 2016 Candidate Turns Down Invitation From Latino Conference

WASHINGTON -- When hundreds of Latinos gather next week for a candidate forum at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute conference, they won't hear from any Republicans, though not for a lack of trying on the part of the organizers.

CHCI spokesman Irving Burbano said the group contacted every presidential campaign except that of GOP candidate Donald Trump about the Oct. 7 candidate session, but only two Democratic candidates are scheduled to attend: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley. Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton won't be at that session, but is speaking at the conference the following day.

The nonpartisan, nonprofit Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute hosts a public policy conference in Washington every year with Latino leaders and officials, as well as an appearance from President Barack Obama. Organizers expect more than 1,000 people this year for the conference and more than 500 at the candidate forum specifically.

Candidates often have busy schedules. But at a time when they are competing for Latino votes, very few are seizing the chance to speak to this ready-made audience. ...................(more)


The way to kill a complex city is to chase out all the poor people – and their food

The way to kill a complex city is to chase out all the poor people – and their food
Samantha Gillison

When greed makes a place like New York, London or San Francisco unaffordable, the non-wealthy leave, and the city loses the smells and tastes that made it great

(Guardian UK) Once upon a time, as Gore Vidal observed, New York City was a delightful place to live – especially if you were an impoverished foodie. Legendarily delicious eateries abounded, everyone had a favorite dive bar and, if you got bored of the local places, endless interesting, tasty yummies awaited discovery throughout the five boroughs. But the past is a foreign country: things are done differently there.

Here in the present (where we’re stuck) New York is the most expensive city in the world and much less delightful. Although, with an enormous amount of disposable income you can eat quite good food and, with an obscene amount you can dine adventurously – even, I’ve heard, sublimely.

Anthony Bourdain, professional authentic and globe-trotting foodie, is seemingly trying to address the Zurich-ification of Manhattan by converting one of the largest shipping piers on the Hudson River into a mega-food market. “Think of an Asian Night Market,” he described, attempting to help The New York Times’ reporter envision the incipient 155,000 square foot “Bourdain Market”. “Eating and drinking at midnight.” You know, fun? Remember that?

When economists discuss formerly-great American cities like New York and San Francisco, they use terms like super-gentrification, extreme gentrification and hyper-gentrification but, to put it simply, the way to kill a city as thrilling, complex and alive as the New York of Warhol and Basquiat, of Duke Ellington and the Ramones, of James Baldwin and Susan Sontag, is to unleash the hounds of unchecked greed and chase out all the poor folks. And when they leave, the city loses its savor: it loses its intoxicating smells, its unique flavors, its ability to interrupt your long night of the soul with life-affirming, belly-filling, joy. ...................(more)


More of that "collateral damage"

An airstrike on a hospital in Afghanistan, apparently launched by US forces, has killed at least 16 people including nine medical charity workers and three child patients.

Here is the Guardian’s latest story and here is what we know so far:

• The hospital, run by Médecins Sans Frontičres (Doctors Without Borders), in Kunduz, a city in northern Afghanistan, was hit several times and badly damaged during sustained bombing at 2.10am UTC on 3 October.

• The charity has confirmed 16 deaths, of whom nine were staff and seven were patients, and at least 37 wounded in the incident, of whom 19 were staff. At the time of the bombing, 105 patients and their carers, and more than 80 MSF international and national staff were in the hospital (see 3.46pm).

• None of the international doctors volunteering at the facility were hurt (see 9.41am). .................(more)


Sigh. A segment of the US population is hopelessly idiotic.......

(Guardian UK) The deadliest mass killing in the state’s history had taken place a few miles away and to the staff and customers of the Roseburg Gun Shop it was clear they faced a grave threat – from Barack Obama.

Authorities had just discovered a cache of 13 weapons possessed by the shooter, Chris Harper Mercer, but the man they feared was thousands of miles away in the White House, plotting, as they saw it, to confiscate their weapons and leave them defenceless.

“I’ve just ordered some more ARs,” said the owner, Candi Kinney, referring to assault rifles. “There’s always a rush on them after a big shooting. We can’t keep the stuff on the shelves.”

A lifesize cardboard cutout of the president with an Arab keffiyeh scarf stood at the door with a mocking sign: “Gun salesman of the year.” .........................(more)


"State repression, unbridled self-interest, an empty consumerist ethos, and war-like values"

by Henry Giroux

Ten people were killed and seven wounded recently in a mass shooting at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon. Such shootings are more than another tragic expression of unchecked violence in the United States, they are symptomatic of a society engulfed in fear, militarism, a survival-of-the-fittest ethos, and a growing disdain for human life. Sadly, this shooting is not an isolated incident. Over 270 mass shootings have taken place in the US this year alone, proving once again that the economic, political, and social conditions that underlie such violence are not being addressed.

State repression, unbridled self-interest, an empty consumerist ethos, and war-like values have become the organizing principles of American society producing an indifference to the common good, compassion, a concern for others, and equality. As the public collapses into the individualized values of a banal consumer culture and the lure of private obsessions, American society flirts with forms of irrationality that are at the heart of every-day aggression and the withering of public life. American society is driven by unrestrained market values in which economic actions and financial exchanges are divorced from social costs, further undermining any sense of social responsibility.

In addition, a wasteful giant military-industrial-surveillance complex fueled by the war on terror along with America’s endless consumption of violence as entertainment and its celebration of a pervasive gun culture normalizes the everyday violence waged against black youth, immigrants, children fed into the school to prison pipeline, and others considered disposable. American politicians now attempt to govern the effects of systemic violence while ignoring its underlying causes. Under such circumstances, a society saturated in violence gains credence when its political leaders have given up on the notion of the common good, social justice, and equality, all of which appear to have become relics of history in the United States.

In the face of mass shootings, the public relations disimagination machine goes into overdrive claiming that guns are not the problem, and that the causes of such violence can be largely attributed to the mentally ill. When in actuality, as two Vanderbilt University researchers, Dr. Jonathan Metzl and Kenneth T. MacLeish, publishing in the American Journal of Public Health observed that “Fewer than 6 percent of the 120,000 gun-related killings in the United States between 2001 and 2010 were perpetrated by people diagnosed with mental illness.” ...............(more)


Reorganizing Labor

from Dissent magazine:

Reorganizing Labor
Andrew Elrod ▪ Summer 2015

Only One Thing Can Save Us: Why America Needs a New Kind of Labor Movement
by Thomas Geoghegan
The New Press, 2014, 272 pp.

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935 was intended to end a fifty-year-long era of court-enforced union repression and the disruptive and often violent responses it provoked from both workers and management. Regulating industrial relations, the argument went—licensing unions and settling employment disputes with binding arbitration—would restrain the force of class conflict with the reason of corporatist responsibility. “The door of a court of equity,” wrote federal judge Robert Wagner in a 1921 case enjoining a business to abide by a union contract, “is open to employer and employee alike.”

It is difficult to imagine a judge making such a statement today. Even though the NLRA, which Wagner went on to draft and sponsor as New York senator, is still in force, seventy years of judicial tinkering and two legislative amendments (Taft-Hartley in 1947 and Landrum-Griffin in 1959) have put organizers and negotiators, like their pre-NLRA predecessors, haplessly at the mercy of employer-side labor lawyers. The results will be familiar to those who follow labor politics: one in five workers are fired during NLRB election campaigns, according to Cornell’s Kate Bronfenbrenner, and a third of all elections involve such firings; unlawful threats and inducements against organizing workers are ubiquitous; organizers and employers have unequal access to workers; striker replacement is legal; Board remedies to unlawful activity take several years and do not act as a deterrent. Little of this was intended when Congress passed the Wagner Act in 1935. They are the results of the decisions of judges.

Once softened by a full-employment economy, the courts’ imprimatur on American employers’ anti-union regime has plagued anyone wondering how to increase workers’ bargaining power since the stagnation in real wages began forty years ago. So constrained are unions by contemporary labor law that some feel the need to act surreptitiously. The UFCW, in organizing Walmart workers, has denied that its goal is recognition by the corporation or bargaining on behalf of its employees. If it admitted these goals, it would, by force of law, be required to file a petition for a perilous NLRB election within thirty days. Unlike in the de facto restrictions listed above, here the statutory language is clear.

For four decades, organized labor’s insider strategy to amend the NLRA and escape these restrictions has been nothing short of quixotic. Four times union-backed amendments have passed the House, four times they have had some degree of presidential support, yet not one has become law. One might be inclined to give up the insider game, and this is what Thomas Geoghegan’s advice in Only One Thing Can Save Us amounts to. “e need something radically different than old-fashioned U.S.-style collective bargaining,” he explains. In its place, Geoghegan proposes a grand bargain: organized labor sacrifices fair-share dues from nonmembers covered by collective bargaining agreements in exchange for legislation strengthening organizing rights. His amendment would throw the established postwar bargaining paradigm, and the union bureaucracies it engendered, out the window. To win it he proposes a series of mass mobilizations of the sort that won the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. .........................(more)


Pfizer Raised Prices on 133 Drugs This Year, And It's Not Alone

(Bloomberg) A single, 5,000 percent price hike on an anti-parasitic drug made by Turing Pharmaceuticals garnered national media attention. But it’s just one of hundreds of smaller price increases drug companies make in the U.S. each year, a tactic the industry uses to generate more revenue from older medications.

Pfizer Inc., the nation’s biggest drugmaker, has raised prices on 133 of its brand-name products in the U.S. this year, according to research from UBS, more than three-quarters of which added up to hikes of 10 percent or more. It’s not alone. Rival Merck & Co. raised the price of 38 drugs, about a quarter of which resulted in increases of 10 percent or more. Pfizer sells more than 600 drugs globally while Merck has more than 200 worldwide, including almost 100 in the U.S.

Drugmakers have long said these increases aren’t felt by most consumers because intermediaries like insurers negotiate what is ultimately paid -- meaning what they really charge for their drugs is far below the list price. Pfizer and its rivals say they can’t make those negotiated prices public for competitive reasons.

Like its competitors, Pfizer has been raising prices on older drugs in its portfolio for years. The increases in the U.S. have added $1.07 billion of quarterly revenue from mid-2012 to the middle of this year, helping limit the company’s total decline in quarterly revenue over that time period to $2 billion even as patents on blockbuster drugs expired, according to estimates from SSR, an investment research firm. In the case of Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., increasing the price of existing drugs in the U.S. brought in $435 million of revenue over the past three years, leaving the contraction of the company’s global sales at $280 million, SSR estimates show. .................(more)


This Chart Truly Depicts New, Terrible Trend in Jobs Mess

This Chart Truly Depicts New, Terrible Trend in Jobs Mess
by Wolf Richter • October 2, 2015

The jobs report today has been described as “ugly,” though it certainly didn’t, or shouldn’t have, come out of the blue: Layoffs in the energy, Big Tech, retail, and other sectors have recently mucked up our rosy scenario.

“The third quarter ended with a surge in job cuts,” is how Challenger Gray, which tracks these things, started out its report yesterday. In September, large US-based companies had announced 58,877 layoffs. In the third quarter, they announced 205,759 layoffs, the worst quarter since the 240,233 in the third quarter of 2009!

Year-to-date, we’re at nearly half a million job cut announcements (493,431 to be precise), up 36% from the same period last year. And they’re “on track to end the year as the highest annual total since 2009, when nearly 1.3 million layoffs were announced at the tail-end of the recession.”

These dogged references to crisis-year 2009!

It’s been going on all year. In the first half, it was the energy sector. But more recently, Big Tech and others jumped into the fray. ..................(more)


Alabama, Birthplace of the Voting Rights Act, Is Once Again Gutting Voting Rights

from The Nation:

Alabama, Birthplace of the Voting Rights Act, Is Once Again Gutting Voting Rights
Alabama passed a strict voter-ID law and then closed 31 DMV offices in the state.

by Ari Berman

 It was Alabama that brought the country the Voting Rights Act (VRA) because of its brutality against black citizens in places like Selma. “The Voting Rights Act is Alabama’s gift to our country,” the civil-rights lawyer Debo Adegbile once said.

 And it was a county in Alabama–Shelby County–that brought the 2013 challenge that gutted the VRA. As a result of that ruling, those states with the worst histories of voting discrimination, including Alabama, no longer have to approve their voting changes with the federal government.

After the Shelby County decision, Alabama’s strict voter ID law, passed by the GOP legislature in 2011, was allowed to go into effect without federal approval. And now Alabama is making it much tougher to obtain the government-issued ID required to vote by closing 31 DMV locations in the state, many in majority-black counties.

 The state is shuttering DMV offices in eight of the 10 counties with the highest concentration of black voters. Selma will still have a DMV office but virtually all of the surrounding Black Belt counties will not. “Every single county in which blacks make up more than 75 percent of registered voters will see their driver license office closed,” writes John Archibald of the Birmingham News. “The harm is inflicted disproportionately on voters who happen to be black, and poor, in sparsely populated areas.” ........(more)


There have been more mass shootings this year than days

(Boston Globe) So far this year, there have been at least 294 mass shooting incidents. There have been 274 days.

That’s according to the Mass Shooting Tracker. The project tracks incidents in which four or more people are shot — but not necessarily killed — in a spree or setting.

Of the mass shootings, 84 incidents can be categorized as spree murders, including the shooting Thursday at Umpqua Community College in Oregon that left at least 13 people dead and more injured.

Spree murders are defined by the FBI as the murder of two or more people committed without a cooling-off period, according to the Mass Shooting Tracker. ................(more)


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