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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: 67,581

Journal Archives

Quarterly Increase in U.S. Worker Pay Smallest on Record

(Bloomberg) Wages and salaries in the U.S. rose in the second quarter at the slowest pace on record, dashing projections that an improving labor market would boost pay.

The 0.2 percent advance was the smallest since records began in 1982 and followed a 0.7 percent increase in the first quarter, the Labor Department said Friday. The agency’s employment cost index, which also includes benefits, also rose 0.2 percent in the second quarter from the prior three months.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and her colleagues are counting on rising wages to boost the economy and bring inflation closer to their 2 percent goal. The setback may prompt some officials to call for a delay in raising interest rates for the first time since 2006.

“You’re really not building up the tightness that everyone says,” said Steven Ricchiuto, chief economist at Mizuho Securities USA Inc. in New York, who projected the overall ECI would rise 0.5 percent, among the lowest estimates. “For the people who were saying the Fed’s got to raise rates in September, this is a shock,” ..................(more)


Remembering Michael Harrington: The vision of the democratic socialist leader remains a heroic one.

(In These Times) In a lifetime of political engagement, Michael Harrington must have given ten thousand speeches, and of those, probably a thousand in New York City, where he had made his home since his arrival in 1949, age 21. He gave his final speech in the city 40 years later, in May 1989. Suffering from the cancer of the esophagus that would end his life in less than three months, he spoke that day to reporters and editors from the city’s union press.

Dinah Leventhal, a 22-year-old activist, was in attendance. She was about to take on the job of youth organizer for Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the socialist group that Harrington helped found and led, and welcomed the chance to speak with him for a few minutes afterward. Mike reminisced about his own days as a young socialist organizer in the 1950s. “He said,” she recalled, that “he had felt an incredible degree of freedom and learned so much in those years”

He said I should make the most of it, being an organizer and traveling around, getting to see the country and getting to know what the country was all about. He really loved this country, and thought that you had to love the country to be a radical, to be a socialist, and to want to change it.

Over the years, Mike met and worked with many important and famous people, including Dr. Martin Luther King, United Auto Worker president Walter Reuther, Ms. Magazine founder Gloria Steinem, U.S. senator and presidential candidate Robert Kennedy, and Prime Minister Olof Palme, leader of Sweden’s ruling Socialist Party, to name but a few. The publication in 1962 of his landmark study of poverty, The Other America, helped spark the Johnson administration’s War on Poverty. He had another best-seller in 1972 with the unlikely title of Socialism, which sold over 100,000 copies in paperback and influenced many readers with its argument that the “real Karl Marx” was a radical democrat, not a would-be dictator. His last book, Socialism: Past and Future, came out shortly before his death. He was an editor of Dissent, a commentator on National Public Radio, a frequent contributor to leading opinion magazines like the Nation and the New Republic. As a public intellectual and a moral tribune, in the 1970s and 1980s, he had few equals on the left, or indeed across the political spectrum. Harrington, Senator Ted Kennedy would write, “has made more Americans more uncomfortable for more good reasons than any other person I know.”

Perhaps Mike’s greatest political impact was on several generations of young radicals coming of age between the 1950s and the 1980s. He spoke before all kinds of audiences, in churches and union halls, and won applause from listeners who had probably never heard a socialist before. But he was most in his element when speaking on college and university campuses. He liked young people; he knew how they thought; he could reach and inspire them. He was, he liked to joke as the decades turned and his hair grew grayer and then white, the nation’s “oldest young socialist” and “a closet youth.” ...........(more)


Refusing to Comply With Structural Racism: From Emmett Till to Sandra Bland

Refusing to Comply With Structural Racism: From Emmett Till to Sandra Bland

Thursday, 30 July 2015 00:00
By Zachary Norris, Truthout | Op-Ed

Like Emmett Till before her, Sandra Bland wound up dead not so much for what she did as for what she didn't do: comply to the structurally racist order of things.

On August 28, 1955, two white men, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, killed 14-year-old Emmett Till in Money, Mississippi, after Till reportedly made a flirtatious remark to a white woman. An all-white jury summarily acquitted Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam. Just months later, the two men talked with a reporter and admitted to torturing, killing and mutilating Till.

Till's mother Mamie Till Mobley heroically insisted on a public funeral with an open casket to expose to the world the brutality of what happened to her son. The funeral and images focused national and international attention on lynching and the apartheid character of American life under Jim Crow, and ignited the civil rights movement.

The death of Sandra Bland, while hidden behind the walls of a jail cell, is also galvanizing an already active movement for Black lives. ..................(more)


Consumer Comfort in U.S. Drops Most in Five Months on Finances

(Bloomberg) Consumer confidence fell last week by the most in five months as households’ attitudes about their finances and U.S. economy deteriorated.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index declined to 40.5 in the week ended July 26, matching the second-lowest level since November, from 42.4. The measure of attitudes about personal finances suffered its biggest weekly setback in 10 months.

Sentiment has soured recently as concerns about Greek debt and China’s economic slowdown ignited stock-market volatility in the U.S. Continued improvement in the labor market that pushes wages higher would help reassure Americans the recovery remains on track, giving them the confidence and the means to boost spending.

The personal finances gauge fell to 54.9 from 57.8 in the previous week, the biggest drop since September, while the measure of Americans’ views on the state of the economy fell to an eight-month low of 30.4 from 32.2. .................(more)


The Distracted Driving Menace .......

I swear it's to the point where at least once a day, I have to swerve, stop or take some other evasive action to avoid colliding with someone tapping away at their cellphone and drifting out of their lane. Yesterday I had 3 near-misses. Driving requires so much vigilance these days!

Hedge funds tell Puerto Rico: lay off teachers and close schools to pay us back

from the Guardian UK:

Billionaire hedge fund managers have called on Puerto Rico to lay off teachers and close schools so that the island can pay them back the billions it owes.

The hedge funds called for Puerto Rico to avoid financial default – and repay its debts – by collecting more taxes, selling $4bn worth of public buildings and drastically cutting public spending, particularly on education.

The group of 34 hedge funds hired former International Monetary Fund (IMF) economists to come up with a solution to Puerto Rico’s debt crisis after the island’s governor declared its $72bn debt “unpayable” – paving the way for bankruptcy.

The funds are “distressed debt” specialists, also known as vulture funds, and several have also sought to make money out of crises in Greece and Argentina, the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the near collapse of Co-op Bank in the UK.

The report, entitled For Puerto Rico, There is a Better Way, said Puerto Rico could save itself from default if it improves tax collection and drastically cuts back on public spending. ......................(more)


What’s Left of the American Dream Withers at Record Pace

What’s Left of the American Dream Withers at Record Pace
by Wolf Richter • July 29, 2015

The current housing boom has Dallas solidly in its grip. As in many cities around the US, prices are soaring, buyers are going nuts, sellers run the show, realtors are laughing all the way to the bank, and the media are having a field day. Nationwide, the median price of existing homes, at $236,400, as the National Association of Realtors sees it, is now 2.7% higher than it was even in July 2006, the insane peak of the crazy housing bubble that blew up with such spectacular results.

Housing Bubble 2 has bloomed into full magnificence: In many cities, the median price today is far higher, not just a little higher, than it was during the prior housing bubble, and excitement is once again palpable. Buy now, or miss out forever! A buying panic has set in.


That’s true for many cities, including San Francisco. The “Boom Town,” as it’s now called, is where the housing market has gone completely out of whack, with a median condo price at $1.13 million and the median house price at $1.35 million. This entails some consequences .

The fact that Housing Bubble 2 is now even more magnificent than the prior housing bubble, even while real incomes have stagnated or declined for all but the top earners, is another sign that the Fed, in its infinite wisdom, has succeeded elegantly in pumping up nearly all asset prices to achieve its “wealth effect.” And it continues to do so, come heck or high water. It has in this ingenious manner “healed” the housing market.

But despite the current “buying panic,” the soaring prices, and all the hoopla round them, there is a fly in the ointment: overall homeownership is plunging.

The homeownership rate dropped to 63.4% in the second quarter, not seasonally adjusted, according to a new report by the Census Bureau, down 1.3 percentage points from a year ago. The lowest since 1967! ..............(more)


Movie shooting response (cartoon)


Say Her Name: Protesters in Chicago Demand Justice for Sandra Bland

Say Her Name: Protesters in Chicago Demand Justice for Sandra Bland

Wednesday, 29 July 2015 00:00
By Kelly Hayes, Truthout | Report

This week, from Dallas to San Diego to the Midwest, activists and community members around the United States are answering a national call to demand justice for Sandra Bland, a Black woman and activist who died in police custody on July 13.

In Chicago, protesters lifted up Sandra Bland's name on Michigan Avenue on July 28, as hundreds of protesters lined a bridge over the Chicago River, urging those who believe Black lives matter to "say her name." While a great deal of public discourse has focused on whether or not Sandra Bland committed suicide, or died as a result of police brutality, participants in Tuesday night's event carried a broader message - that the system was responsible for Sandra Bland's death regardless of the specifics of her death. In the words of organizer Mariame Kaba, "I don't care about the CSI version of how she died. The system killed her. The rest is superfluous."

Attendees loudly stated - through speech, song and imagery - that Sandra Bland's unlawful arrest was, in of itself, an act of violence and a manifestation of a culture of anti-Blackness in US policing. Connections were also drawn between Black and Indigenous struggles, with the name of Sarah Lee Circle Bear - an Indigenous woman who recently died in a jail cell - being called out alongside that of Sandra Bland and Rekia Boyd, an unarmed Black woman shot down by police in Chicago, whose family continues to seek justice. ................(more)


James Hansen on Hillary Clinton's climate change proposal: "It's just plain silly"

(Guardian UK) Hillary Clinton’s pledge on Sunday to support renewable energy and boost subsidies for solar panels was set up as a great unveiling – the Democratic frontrunner’s first public remarks on how her presidency would tackle climate change.

“I personally believe climate change is a challenge of such magnitude and urgency that we need a president who will set ambitious goals,” she said in a video posted to her campaign website.

It wasn’t difficult to draw a sigh of relief from the progressive electorate that has heard only climate change denial – loud and triumphal – from Republican frontrunners. (Ted Cruz proudly announced in May that he had just come from New Hampshire, where there was “ice and snow everywhere”. Trump took up the issue with typical savoir faire on Monday, declining to call climate change by name: “I call it weather.”)


Environmentalist Bill McKibben said that while Clinton’s support for solar was necessary, it was far from a comprehensive energy policy. “Much of the impact of her climate plan was undercut the next day by her unwillingness to talk about the supply side of the equation,” he said. “Ducking questions about the Canadian tar sands or drilling in the Arctic makes everyone worry we’re going to see eight more years of an ‘all of the above’ energy strategy, which is what we do not need to hear in the hottest year ever measured on our planet.”


“It’s just plain silly,” said James Hansen, a climate change researcher who headed Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies for over 30 years. “No, you cannot solve the problem without a fundamental change, and that means you have to make the price of fossil fuels honest. Subsidizing solar panels is not going to solve the problem.” .............(more)


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