Monthly Archives: February 2016

The U.S. has Gone F&*%ing Mad

by James Allworth, published February 22, 2016 at Medium

On December 2, 2015, an absolute tragedy occurred. 14 Americans were killed and 22 were seriously injured in a mass shooting in San Bernardino.

Which of the following would you attribute responsibility for what happened:

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Let me give you a hint. It’s not the one that comes in five flavors.

Next question: in the wake of San Bernardino, which one is the US Government going after?

Do you know how a properly functioning society would react to an event like San Bernardino? I do — because I’ve had the misfortune of living through such an event. On the 28th of April, 1996, a gunman equipped with an AR-15 assault rifle — the same kind that the San Bernardino shooters used — opened fire in Port Arthur, in Australia. 35 people were killed and 23 were wounded. It remains one of the world’s deadliest shootings by a single person.

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Bernie Sanders in 1995: A Brutal Assessment of Bill Clinton’s First 2 Years as President

by Bernie Sanders, published on February 24, 2016 at In These Times 

In this 1995 column for In These Times, Bernie Sanders laments then-President Bill Clinton’s ties to corporate money—and lays out a progressive program that looks strikingly similar to his own 2016 presidential platform.

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Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 1.09.57 PMWritten in January 1995, this never-before-published-online article by then-Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) assesses the first two years of Bill Clinton’s presidency, taking Clinton to task for not pushing hard enough for progressive goals including raising the minimum wage and economic stimulus spending. Sanders explains why, under Clinton, there was “virtually no organized and effective opposition to the American ruling class,” and criticizes the former president for his focus on welfare reform, crime and free trade as ways to “placate corporate America.”

Before we can analyze Bill Clinton’s presidency and its prospects, we must discuss the social context in which the Clinton administration is currently functioning.

For the vast majority of its people, the United States is becoming a poorer country. The standard of living of the average American worker continues to decline, people are working longer hours, and new jobs are often low-wage, part-time and without benefits. The average American is nervous and angry—and has every reason to be.

The rich are growing richer—and the power they hold over the economic and political life of the nation makes them ever more arrogant as well. No apologies are needed when millionaires and billionaires spend vast sums of money to buy elective office. No apologies are made when striking workers are permanently replaced. No apologies are even expected when profitable corporations “downsize” their workforces and replace full-time employees with “temps.” The wealthy have the power, and are fully prepared to use it for their own selfish ends.

Never before in American history has the mass media’s construction of reality been so divorced from the experience of the average American. Workers see with their own eyes the jobs in their communities being exported to Mexico and China, while television gives them endless hours of the O.J. Simpson trial. Working people see with their own eyes the corporate CEO earning 150 times as much as the line worker, while television gives them rapt descriptions of the Dallas Cowboys’ offensive strategy.

Continue reading Bernie Sanders in 1995: A Brutal Assessment of Bill Clinton’s First 2 Years as President

Why We Need Democratic Socialism to Fix Our Educational System

by Paul Buchheit, published February 22, 2016 at Common Dreams

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Rural schoolroom, Wisconsin, September 1939. (Photo: Archive/John Vachon)

Latoya and Jalesa, both 26, grew up on the west side of Chicago, attending Calhoun Public School during the day and stepping across the street to Marillac Social Center for after-school programs. They lived in a tough neighborhood. Latoya said the summer gunshots came as often as the sound of ice-cream truck bells in the suburbs. But everyone knew each other on those two blocks; kids walked together, to and from school and in the evenings. Parents—most of whom had gone to Calhoun—also knew each other, often through volunteer work at the social center.

In 2013 Calhoun was one of 50 schools closed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. It was shut down despite a committee recommendation that it remain open. Jalesa and Latoya, who still work at the center as they pursue other career interests, said the children are scattered now. Most of them take buses to a variety of public and charter schools outside the once-intimate neighborhood. Some have to walk a few blocks, some have to cross busy streets. None of them gather together before and after school, as they used to do on the grounds of Calhoun.

K-12 Education is Getting Worse

A shocking new OECD report says that among developed countries the U.S. has the highest percentage of youths ages 16-19 with low numeric skills, and the 3rd-highest percentage with low literacy skills.

SAT scores in 2015 were the lowest since the test was revised in 2005. Math scores for fourth-graders and eighth-graders dropped for the first time since the tests were first administered in 1990.

Market “Reform” Isn’t Working

The unsatisfactory results, according to the Washington Post, “reflect a troubling shortcoming of education-reform efforts.”

Continue reading Why We Need Democratic Socialism to Fix Our Educational System

The scariest thing about the gig economy is how little we actually know about it

by Alison Griswold, published February 23, 2016 at Quartz

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Gig-ing along. (Collage by Quartz. Images courtesy DoorDash, Handy, TaskRabbit, Lyft, Uber, Washio.)

Earlier this month, hundreds of Uber drivers gathered outside the company’s office in Queens, New York, to protest a 15% reduction in fares.

It was the latest bout of labor unrest to flare since Uber began slashing prices in 100 North American cities in January. Uber insists these cuts benefit everyone by spurring demand in the slow winter months, but drivers watching their per-trip earnings plummet are unconvinced. “This is not partnership,” Mohsin Alvi, an Uber driver of three years, told me at the protest. “This is dictatorship. Uber is dictating this and telling us to do this whether we choose to or not.”

The scene outside Uber’s office that rainy Monday in Queens was familiar. New York drivers also assembled here in September 2014, after Uber lowered its pricing and tweaked the rules concerning which passengers they were required to pick up. Back then, hundreds of protesting drivers were too many to ignore, and the demonstration morphed into a small-scale public relations crisis that led to Uber partly backtracking on its policy changes. This time around, the company had 34,000 drivers in New York City. When a few hundred went on strike, Uber didn’t blink.
Continue reading The scariest thing about the gig economy is how little we actually know about it

21 New Numbers That Show That The Global Economy Is Absolutely Imploding

By Michael Snyder, published February 23, 2016 at the Economic Collapse Blog

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After a series of stunning declines through the month of January and the first half of February, global financial markets seem to have found a patch of relative stability at least for the moment. But that does not mean that the crisis is over. On the contrary, all of the hard economic numbers that are coming in from around the world tell us that the global economy is coming apart at the seams. This is especially true when you look at global trade numbers. The amount of stuff that is being bought, sold and shipped around the planet is falling precipitously. So don’t be fooled if stocks go up one day or down the next. The truth is that we are in the early chapters of a brand new economic meltdown, and I believe that all of the signs indicate that it will continue to get worse in the months ahead. The following are 21 new numbers that show that the global economy is absolutely imploding…

#1 Chinese exports fell by 11.2 percent year over year in January.

#2 Chinese imports were even worse in January.  On a year over year basis, they declined a whopping 18.8 percent.

#3 It may be hard to believe, but Chinese imports have now plunged for 15 months in a row.

#4 In India, exports were down 13.6 percent on a year over year basis in January.

Continue reading 21 New Numbers That Show That The Global Economy Is Absolutely Imploding

The Yelp employee who wasn’t making enough money to eat

by Lindsey Bever, published February 23, 2016 published at The Washington Post 

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Talia Ben-Ora, 25, wrote an open letter to Yelp’s chief executive about her low wages. Soon after, she lost her job. (Courtesy of Talia Ben-Ora)

The Yelp employee who said she was fired after she blogged about the financial pressures she felt while working for the multibillion-dollar business said Monday that her breaking point came one night when she went to sleep — and woke up “starving” two hours later.

Talia Ben-Ora posted an open letter Friday afternoon to Yelp chief executive Jeremy Stoppelman, saying she wasn’t earning a living wage while working in customer support at Eat24, Yelp’s San Francisco-based food delivery arm.

She was out of work hours later, she said.

“They knew that I was picking up pennies and that I was having trouble sleeping and that I was cutting back on every single possible thing I could think of,” Ben-Ora told The Washington Post. “But I was still working as hard as I could — and being as good as I could possibly be at the job.”

In her letter to Stoppelman, which she posted on Medium, she had expressed concerns about how Yelp treats its employees.

Continue reading The Yelp employee who wasn’t making enough money to eat

Bernie Sanders Wanted to Abolish the CIA—Good!

by Sam Biddle, published February 22, 2016 at Gawker

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Photo: Getty

The CIA has a long history of torture, assassination, botched regime change, extrajudicial executions, opaque drone slaughter, and general disdain for democracy. Bernie Sanders apparently wanted to dissolve it in the 1970s, and that’s a great reason to vote for Bernie Sanders.

The incredulous tone Politico’s Michael Crowley uses to describe Sanders’ decades-old views makes it sound like Bernie the raving left-wing radical had called for abolishing church bake sales, elementary school plays, and the World Series, instead of an unaccountable spy organization with a long history of violent fuck-ups:

The CIA is “a dangerous institution that has got to go,” Sanders told an audience in Vermont in October 1974. He described the agency as a tool of American corporate interests that repeatedly toppled democratically elected leaders — including, he said, Iran’s Mosaddegh. The agency was accountable to no one, he fumed, “except right-wing lunatics who us it to prop up fascist dictatorships.”

[…]

While Sanders’ extreme leftist past is well known, many of his specific views from the 1970s and ’80s remain unfamiliar even to Democratic insiders. And while those views have mellowed considerably over time, Sanders’ unexpectedly strong performance in the presidential race has party leaders increasingly alarmed that Republicans would make devastating use of his early career should he win the Democratic nomination.

Crowley also describes recent remarks by Sanders about the 1953 CIA-backed Iranian coup as “arcane,” as if that disastrous foreign policy decision had no further consequences for the United States in the Middle East. It would be great if that were true!

Continue reading Bernie Sanders Wanted to Abolish the CIA—Good!

The Public Is Being Looted By Privatization And Deregulation

by Paul Craig Roberts, published February 23, 2016

The privatization movement and the deregulation movement have turned out to be failures.

Privatization in Britain under the Thatcher government had its origin in the belief that the absence of incentivized managers and shareholders with a stake in the bottom line resulted in nationalized companies operating inefficiently, with their losses covered by government like the big private banks’ losses today. Thatcher’s government believed that privatizing socialized firms would reduce the UK budget deficit and take pressure off the British pound.

Today privatization is a way that governments can reward cronies by giving them valuable public resources for a low price. When the UK government privatized the postal system, there were news reports that one postal property in London alone was worth the purchase price of the entire postal service.

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The U.S. Economy Has Not Recovered and Will Not Recover

by Paul Craig Roberts, published February 18, 2016

The US economy died when middle class jobs were offshored and when the financial system was deregulated.

Jobs offshoring benefitted Wall Street, corporate executives, and shareholders, because lower labor and compliance costs resulted in higher profits. These profits flowed through to shareholders in the form of capital gains and to executives in the form of “performance bonuses.” Wall Street benefitted from the bull market generated by higher profits.

However, jobs offshoring also offshored US GDP and consumer purchasing power. Despite promises of a “New Economy” and better jobs, the replacement jobs have been increasingly part-time, lowly-paid jobs in domestic services, such as retail clerks, waitresses and bartenders.

The offshoring of US manufacturing and professional service jobs to Asia stopped the growth of consumer demand in the US, decimated the middle class, and left insufficient employment for college graduates to be able to service their student loans. The ladders of upward mobility that had made the United States an “opportunity society” were taken down in the interest of higher short-term profits.

Without growth in consumer incomes to drive the economy, the Federal Reserve under Alan Greenspan substituted the growth in consumer debt to take the place of the missing growth in consumer income. Under the Greenspan regime, Americans’ stagnant and declining incomes were augmented with the ability to spend on credit. One source of this credit was the rise in housing prices that the Federal Reserves low inerest rate policy made possible. Consumers could refinance their now higher-valued home at lower interest rates and take out the “equity” and spend it.

Continue reading The U.S. Economy Has Not Recovered and Will Not Recover

Illinois’ Manufactured Budget Crisis

by Anthony DiMaggio, published February 11, 2016 at Counterpunch

Much nonsense has been spewed by local media in Illinois about Republican Governor Bruce Rauner’s “Turnaround Agenda” and his alleged efforts to save the state from runaway spending and taxes. Most of this vomit is from the Chicago Tribune’s editorial page, which makes no bones about the paper’s love affair with Rauner since he rose to prominence in 2014. A closer look at Illinois’ budget and finances, however, demonstrates that, contrary to Rauner’s claims, the ongoing inability of state Democrats and Republicans to pass a budget has little to do with whether it can “afford” previous spending on social programs.

Illinois has been without a budget for more than half a year now, as Rauner, Democratic Speaker of the House Mike Madigan, and Democratic Senate President John Cullerton are at loggerheads over issues such as spending levels, taxes, and state labor laws. Illinois Democrats have traditionally relied heavily on organized labor for campaign contributions and votes, but the party itself has a horrid record of representing working class interests. Current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has an atrocious history when it comes to worker’s interests, particularly related to his education policy. Under Emanuel, the city continued the trend started by the previous mayor Richard Daley in shutting down public schools in favor of privately run, publicly subsidized charter schools. Academic studies suggest these charter schools function no better academically than public schools do, but this hasn’t stopped Illinois Democrats from pursuing their fantasy of a privatized education system. Emanuel has shut down more than 50 public schools since he took office, and has called for shutting down another 80 moving forward. Twenty percent of the city’s schools are now privately run charter schools. Mass public school closures provided much of the impetus for the Chicago teacher’s union strike of 2012. Since charter schools are non-union, their growth provides a clear material motivation for public school teachers to resist Emanuel’s privatization effort. Aside from charter schools, Emanuel’s other education policies are also anti-labor – including the introduction of “merit pay” for teachers (it already exists for city principals), which ties teacher pay to student grades, the destruction of tenure, cuts in teacher salaries, and high-stakes performance-based funding (which was shown to be a spectacular failure under “No Child Left Behind”). These policies prompted the teachers union to vote in December 2015 to authorize Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) leaders to consider going on strike, which would mark the second strike in the last four years. Support was overwhelming, with 88 percent of CTU membership voting in favor of strike powers, and against Emanuel’s reactionary education policies.

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